Over the last month I have fallen completely head-over-heels in love with art journaling! It has become my go-to art practice for most evenings because I find the process super therapeutic and relaxing. I adore sitting at my desk while playing some of my favourite songs or listening to podcasts, and just prepping the background of a spread, or cutting out the elements I would like to use. It almost becomes meditative. Of course there are moments that are less than sweet, like the colours in a spread not working together or making a mistake with the paint and ink! I don’t shy away from these moments though, because the reason I started art journaling in the first place was as a way to practice my creative thinking! When things go wrong then it is a perfect time for the creative brain to kick into action and start thinking how I can fix the problem or work around the problem. By practicing I can already see how it has effected the rest of my art & design work. My work looks and feels more cohesive, and I am able to think of creative solutions a lot faster. Needless to say, art journaling has really helped me in developing my creative practice and I would like to offer you five tips that I have learnt the hard way, so you can get a head start in art journaling if you desire!
TIP 1 : DON’T LIKE SOMETHING? COVER IT UP!
This tip is quite simple but I use it A LOT. When I’ve messed up a background or accidentally spilled some ink, rather than stress about it, I just cover it up with some book pages or something of the like and no one needs to know! You can then adjust your spread to incorporate this new background to keep it looking cohesive. I adore this tip because it takes off a lot of the pressure to create something amazing or pristine, you can experiment freely while knowing that you can always cover up the bits you don’t like!
I’m a big fan of the phrase “done is better than perfect” so my spreads are far from perfect, but I love that! I love how I can see my pages improve over time by just being able to make as many of them as I can. Another phrase I like is “create for the sake of creating” which ties in with practicing creative thinking and just getting it done without needing an amazing outcome. Even if you hate what you just made, you still made something and I’m sure you’ll be able to tell why you hate it, so you then know how to improve next time!
TIP 2 : USE PHYSICAL AND DIGITAL RULERS!
I use a mixture of found images from magazines and printed out images that I find online to create my collage spreads. This tip applies more so to the printed ones. Basically when you’ve collected all the images you wish to print for a spread it can be hard to tell how big or small they’re gonna be in comparison with your physical pages. I’ve learnt that by putting the images you wish to use into a word processor document and activating the digital rulers (usually CTRL+R on Windows or CMD+R on Mac) I can then get a bit of context to the size of the images. To take it a step further, I use a physical ruler to measure out how big I want the graphics to be on the page and then match them to the ruler in the word processor. That way I have full control over the size of my collage illustrations!
TIP 3 : BE AWARE OF PAINT FINISHES!
If using acrylic paint as a background, be wary of its finish. Metallic paints can dry with a slightly glossy finish which can cause your pen illustrations to smear if they’re not given enough time to dry. I find most acrylic paint to be lovely to work on top of though, so most of the time it’s fine! What you can do is keep a test sheet or a test spread at the back of your journal to keep paint swatches with different pen strokes on top to see how they react.
TIP 4 : PRINTER PAPER WRINKLES SUPER EASILY!
If you’re like me and like to print out most of the illustrations you use, then a way to cut down on the cost of printing is to use cheap printer paper as opposed to thicker and more expensive papers. However one of the downsides to this is that the thinner paper cannot hold a lot of water, or any water really! As soon as it gets even a little bit wet the paper will wrinkle and the ink will run or bleed. If using cheap paper then you need to be aware of this when creating your spreads. Only stick the illustrations into position when all the paint is dry, and try not to paint over them. Of course if you are after a wrinkled or ink bleed look, then disregard all this and just go for it!
TIP 5 : ONLY USE A FEW COLOURS!
This is how I like to create a cohesive looking spread! The less colours you use, the more striking it will look! The more colours you use, the more busy or muddled it will appear. There are pros and cons to both approaches when it comes to your art journal, perhaps you want a busy spread to represent how busy your mind feels that day! They do say rules are meant to be broken, and although I would hardly call these tips rules (Heck, I’m not the queen of art journaling!), but keeping this in mind while creating your spread can allow you to use it purposefully and with added effect!
I hope that was interesting or at least helpful to anyone who keeps an art journal or anyone who would like to start! Of course like I said in the last tip, these are not rules by any stretch of the imagination and I’m not trying to dictate what your own spreads should look like! This is just how I work and some tips that I have found helpful to keep in mind during the creation process. If you have any more questions then leave them in the comments below and I will try my best to answer them if I can!