“Ugly” Journal Pages & How To Deal With Them

I am struggling with an art journal spread right now. Unfortunately, it’s the first one in my newest journal, which is not the best way to start! I purchased the Dylusions brand Creative Journal a while ago from a craft store, and while it’s a well known art journal book now, I had never heard of the item upon purchase. When I saw the journal, I was in complete awe of it’s thick pages, hard cover, handy inner pouch, and it’s unique horizontal elastic closure band; I had to own it! Well…now we’re fighting, and I hate to abandon it. Because of this current situation, I wanted to discuss how I “fix” my “ugly” journal spreads, and what that even means to me.

In my opinion, an “ugly” art journal spread is not necessarily ugly to look at, but causes it’s creator to become stumped and ultimately abandon the journal spread. Do you find yourself thinking, “I don’t know what to do next!” because you don’t want to ruin what you’ve already created? The moment that happens, my page becomes an unfinished and lackluster piece. I sometimes believe that abandoning a piece that’s almost finished helps to tell my story, but other times, there’s not enough imagery to even call it “good enough.” When that happens, and I feel like I can go no further, I know it’s time to cover up and create something fresh. I’ve had to start telling myself, “If I don’t want to ruin my journal spread, then it’s time to ruin my journal spread.”

I would like to share with you some techniques that I use to purposefully alter a stumping  journal spread instead of abandoning it:
1. Take a XL paint brush, cover most of the spread in a dark colored (blue, purple, red, etc.) india ink, so that only hints of old shapes peak through.
2. Adhere collage material sporadically on the pages, covering the parts that originally controlled the spread.
3. Paint chunks of the page with a completely different color of opaque acrylic paint. (The change in color is always a huge inspiration!)
4. Drip inks and paints from the top of the page to the bottom, so as to hide some of the old imagery.
5. Use a large tipped marker (usually my black Big Brush Pitt Pen by Faber-Castell) and make huge doodles, creating new imagery or a new background to work on.
6. Find (or make) new imagery in a sketchbook that can be cut out and adhered to the spread as a new jumping off point.

I know that a lot of people will gesso an art journal page that they perceive as hopeless, but I don’t (always) mind if some of my original page peeks through; it makes for good background fodder. Also, unless you prefer to start with a stark white page, gessoing a page already thick with previous paint and collage material can be wasteful. If I plan to use acrylic paint or collage material in moving forward with a spread, then I know that the opacity of those items will be enough to hide my old pages, and there is no need to waste expensive thick gesso. If not using gesso to cover a spread, an artist does not need to step away for drying time, and the continuation of working on a piece will keep the artistic energy flowing. That being said, if you feel like you’re ready to just rip out your pages and throw them away, sometimes gessoing your piece and taking a breather is required!

Finished Spread: Space and Clusters

This is a spread that has been sitting quietly, half finished, in my art journal for about two months. The colors are great (pastel blues and greens paired with their more vibrant counterparts via india inks and transparent acrylics) but there is just something really off about the whole spread that kept me away. Honestly, I think that the biggest issue I have with this spread is how dense the right page appears as compared to how much negative space is seen on the left page. Understand: both pages are 100% my style…just not coupled together. To me, the pages on either side of this spread contrast so harshly that they may as well be different pieces entirely. But, good news: they’re just pages in art journal! Here I was able to be creative, explore a color palette, and lose myself in a world where the only thing that mattered was the time spent making something.

So, I’m sure you’re curious to see this monstrosity, no? Well, it’s really not that bad, so I’ll share. (Insert winking emoji here.)

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“Space and CLusters” Art Journal Spread

And, while the spread itself may be lacking, the individual elements are pretty fun. Here are some closeups for your viewing pleasure:

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Center Close Up of “Space and Clusters” Art Journal Spread

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Left Close Up of “Space and Clusters” Art Journal Spread

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Right Close Up of “Space and Clusters” Art Journal Spread

Thanks so much for blinding yourself on this spread (joking…kind of) and don’t forget to visit me here again Wednesday! I’m in the process of editing a new speed process art journaling video, which is of a page that I actually think is pretty cool! For a sneak peak, you can visit my instagram by clicking this link: EmK’s Instagram.

Finished Spread “Internal Tide”

It took me about a week, but I’m finally motivating myself away from Murder She Wrote (I’m judging me, too) and back to the paint splattered  beauty that is my desk. I’ve had a gorgeous mess of dried Bombay India ink sitting in my journal for five days, waiting to be transformed from colorful anarchy to repurposed chaos; today, I obliged.

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“Internal Tide” Art Journal Spread Close Up: Center

Working with the India ink was a lot different that my usual acrylics. The thin ink moved more freely than what I’m used to, creating organic shapes and colors, whereas my usual paint needs more guidance. Painting with acrylics provides the artist with a substance that requires manipulation, but letting a drop of India ink flow freely next to a drop of a different color will create unexpected swirls or patterns that the user cannot control. Of course, this could be avoided with precision, paint brushes, and plentiful drying time, but where’s the fun in that?

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“Internal Tide” Art Journal Close Up: Left Page

Working with a more controllable substance has taught me to cause chaos that looks accidental, so being provided with a medium that does most of the hard work for me is both exciting and a little baffling. When I create splatters or blocks of paint, I already have a mental arsenal of the designs and patterns I can add to these acrylic arrangements of colors; when I lay inks down and let them move across my page, motivated only by gravity and surface tension, the movement of color is unique, which pushes me to find new ways to create atop it. Which is great…if I’m not in a slump.

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“Internal Tide” Art Journal Spread Close Up: Right Page

Well, luckily I decided my fingers needed a little busy work today, and working on art outweighs dish washing any day of the week. For those of you who have never worked on dried puddles of India ink, there is a gloss to the transparent ink that you will not find with inexpensive acrylics. I’ve discovered the matte white ink dries much chalkier, and as seen above, can even crack slightly after drying.

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“Internal Tide” Art Journal Page

 

I used Faber-Castell Pitt pens, Sakura of America gelly roll pens, and UniPosca Paint pens (my review is HERE) on this spread, accenting only slightly with tan acrylic craft paint. I’m not quite sure that I’ll flood my journal page the next time I work with India ink, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results of it. If you didn’t see the post where in which I talked about the set of Dr. Ph. Martin’s India ink that I purchased, which was used in the creation of this spread, you can find it HERE coupled with a YouTube video!

Art Journal Speed Process: “Ink Blot Buffalo”

Forgive the tardiness of this post, as I was involved in a pretty intense car accident that left me so shaken and exhausted that I collapsed on my sofa upon return instead of blogging to you, dear follower. (I have a feeling you might be understanding in realizing that the situation was an unexpected incident which could alter anyone’s schedule.) But I thank you for your patience and present you with almost 20 minutes of an art journal speed process video!

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“Ink Blot Buffalo” Art Journal Spread

I created the above spread as my first week’s participation in the Get Messy group (discussed in this blog post), which offered multiple prompts as part of the current week for this six week season. The theme for these six weeks is introspection, and I chose to do an inkblot type design with my acrylic paint. The Get Messy prompt inspired a great many of us to see what we would find in our homemade “inkblots,” which mimics the famous Rorschach test.  I’ve done this before, as you can see in the photo below, but it’s been a long time since!

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“Not All That Bites Is Bad” Art Journal Spread

This video took me quite a bit of time to put together, as it not only shows an entire start-to-finish process for my newest art journal page, “Ink Blot Buffalo,” but I also took the time to add commentary though out the video. This commentary provides you with my rationale during the creation of this spread, detail of the art supplies used, and gives you a little insight on how it is that I create my spreads. The video is sped up to four times the original, so there is a lot of content crammed into it! Enjoy!

 

More photos of the “Ink Blot Buffalo” art journal spread can be seen below.

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“Ink Blot Buffalo” Close-Up: Bottom

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“Ink Blot Buffalo” Close-Up: Right Page

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“Ink Blot Buffalo” Close-Up: Right Page

I hope you gained a little insight and a lot of inspiration, and I will see you Friday with a new post! Feel free to contact me before then by leaving me a comment below; I’d love to hear your thoughts!!!

Finished Spreads: Week of 5/29-6/4

I’ve been on a roll this week at my desk: painting, drawing, gluing and more! It seemed like I was working in both art journals consistently for about 3 days, switching back and forth in order to allow paints and inks to dry. I’ve finished 3 spreads, started 2, and worked on 2 others, totaling in 7 different spreads in progress at one time! Today I am sharing just the 3 finished spreads, so as to not overwhelm you…or my camera. Enjoy!

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Finished Art Journal Spread 1: “Bull’s Eyes and Blood Stains”

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Art Journal Spread 2: “Flea Market Vacation” (or “Fish in a Bottle”)

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Finished Art Journal Spread 3: “Labor”

New Endeavors: Arting on Records & ‘Get Messy’

The big artsy thing I began this weekend was a new way to display my art: painting directly on vinyl records. Below is a photo of my current work in progress. I’d be lying if I said it was a new idea, but I plan to create art that is similar to my art journaling style, so I know that will be original! Acrylic paint is holding exceptionally well to the record, and I’ve been pleased with the way my Uni-Posca paint pens are handling on the vinyl as well. I’m still in process of painting my first record, but I’m having tons of fun with it, so I’m sure more will follow. I was lucky enough to have a friend with a collection large enough to contain duplicate records, which I was given specifically with the intention of crafting with; things took only a small turn, and my attempt at crafting with the records have turned to arting on them!

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Painted Vinyl, WIP, Unnamed

This weekend, I also placed it upon myself to discover what the hubbub on Instagram is about involving this whole ‘Get Messy‘ organization. Many of my art journaling peers are #hashtaging about this group. After a little googling, I discovered that this is a very private community for art journalers. It involves prompts, a lot of art sharing, some videos, and a private blog. It’s only $10/month (or $100/year), so I decided to give in and kill the cat. (In the curiosity way, not the animal abuse way. I’ll have you know I donate to animal shelters.) I chose the the monthly route to make sure it was going to be worth my time, but I honestly don’t know yet; it’s going to take more than a weekend to be sure that ‘Get Messy’ is for me.

Every Monday ‘Get Messy’ posts prompts, Wednesdays feature techniques, and each Friday there is new “inspiration,” though I’m not quite sure what that means yet. This happens for 6 weeks with a 2 week break, and of course I joined during a break, so I’ll have to browse through all of the archives for my information. (I won’t actually get to see the site in action for about a week and a half.) It doesn’t have 1000’s of videos, or anything like you’d find in an online class—but I didn’t expect that after seeing the price tag. That being said, if you’re curious, I think it’s worth checking out for $10.

Note: You must have or create a PayPal account, which you can do on-site, to purchase even a month of ‘Get Messy.’

Finished Spread: Printed Reminder

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Printed Reminder AJP

I still have the illness, but apparently that’s good for my creativity as I have created a new spread from start to finish in a day! I love everything about this spread, except that it’s in my private journal, which means that I won’t be sharing with anyone in person. Luckily for you, I can show it off online! All collage imagery (7 pieces in spread above) comes from a large coffee table book about National Geographic photography, which I recently purchased for under $6. I recommend it for any collage junkies out there. I found mine in a discount store, but it is also available online at Amazon, here: Odysseys & Photographs. During the writing of this post, it is currently for sale (as used) for $0.95 plus shipping, which is a total steal for this collection of beautiful images.

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I used so many different materials to create this spread, including my new fine point Uni-Posca paint pens. (If you haven’t read my short review on these, click HERE.) These opaque pens are %100 living up to my expectations! I also used the new KRINK K-90 permanent paint pen, which isn’t the greatest to draw with, but makes perfect little dots…and trust me when I say that I could use a tool which does only that! I’ve been playing around with oil pastels too, and used an incredibly soft yellow-orange Expressionist pastel by Sakura (which is becoming my favorite brand of non-paint supplies) to do a few markings throughout the page. More supplies include: Gelly Roll pens, Golden fluid acrylic paints, Faber-Castell Pitt pens and , Dr. Ph. Martins Bombay India ink. This spread is truly mixed media!

 

WIP and Business Cards

I don’t have much to share today: it seems that I’ve caught a bug that causes such incredible fatigue so as to have made it impossible not to sleep 20/24 hours a day. The good news is that, besides the fatigue, my only symptom is an itchy throat, which is easily calmed with a cough drop. I’m hoping that it does not progress.

So, for the mere purpose of content, I have two small things to share today:
1. A sneak-peak at a work in progress in my art journal, and
2. my NEW business cards.

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Detail of WIP Pink & Red AJP (1)

Here is the sneak-peak of my current work in progress. I’ll be keeping a fighter plane visible (above), which was already printed in the book that I’m altering. For the most part, I have only applied my usual base of acrylic paints, and have added  very few details atop. I have really high hopes for this spread, as it contains a new doodle that I’ve developed; it is a design of connecting circles formed only by stippling. Part of this new design can be seen in the photo below.

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Detail of WIP Pink & Red AJP (2)

Thursday, before the sickness hit, I ordered my very own business cards. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while, and am finally pleased with a design. (Let’s be honest, what kind of an artist would I be if I didn’t design my own business cards?!) I went for front and back full color to show off some of my art. I expect them here in about a week, and it feels like Christmas! Low quality image can be seen below.

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New Made By EmK Business Card

Alright, guys…bed is calling my name, and I better go try to sleep this off. But on the bright side, when I wake up, my business cards will be closer to being in my hands! Woo!

Finished Spread: The Magic

I accidentally took a week-long vacation from this blog. I’ll be honest: I had a touch of performance anxiety. I told myself that I needed to do the Art Snacks Challenge, which required me to use the four art supplies that came in my Art Snacks subscription box for the month of May. (Blog post and video for the unboxing of May’s Art Snacks can be found here.) Suddenly, I found myself in a predicament: uninspired by the only items I felt I was allowed to blog about. I let the items stare at me from the sidelines while I continued to make art in my book; I stayed far from my blog while I worked, convinced that any post excluding the results of my Art Snacks Challenge would be a betrayal to my readers. Forgive me, all five of you, for my mind is not always as exercised as my paint brush.

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The Magic AJP

I have abandoned my self doubt for the moment, and now come to you instead with another finished spread! This one is the page that I shared in this earlier blog post, which is now titled The Magic. As I mentioned in that post, I’m not exactly a professional portrait painter, but I’m delighted by this orange skinned lady! Her nose is too big, her lips are angled strangely, the highlights and wrinkles in her face are too contrasted, and the shines in her hair are not properly spaced…but oh well! I’ve put too much pressure on myself this week over my art, and I need to breathe easy about it (paint fumes notwithstanding) so that my muse may return!

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Detail of The Magic AJP

I hope to do the May Art Snack Challenge, but forgive me if I do not. I already have another video in the works for a current art journal spread that I will be sharing shortly; until then, I hope you accept my sincerest apology for disappearing  and trust me when I say: I shall return tomorrow with some lovely pages for your hungry eyes!

 

WIP: It’s No Mona Lisa.

Portraits! Oh my do I struggle with portraits. I can draw flora and fauna to my heart’s desire, but the second I want to create a face, my artistic abilities pack up and take a vaca. Being an avid acrylic user, I love mixing paints for light and darker hues, and find it so much easier than perfecting shades with graphic or water color, however shading is still far easier than line work! It’s still a work in progress, of course, but I’m at the point where things are starting to feel cohesive. I’ve always considered my style cartoony, as my drawings imply the proper shapes but never quite capture them. I chalk this up to my horrendous hand-eye coordination. My eyes can see the lines and shadows but my hands just won’t comply.

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Orange & Black WIP Spread

For my current spread, I’ve decided to paint a portrait, though it may not be my forte. I was over eager in creating my background, and while I made some amazing texture, it became far too messy to use small imagery  as the foreground—it simply would be lost in the chaos. Choosing something large and mostly opaque seemed to be the best option. I’m still in love with my background, and am leaving the most interesting elements alone. These elements include: paint that has dried raised, multicolored paint drips, stamped lettering, and circles created with my (new from the clearance) Tim Holtz paint dabbler.

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Orange & Black WIP Spread

The imagery that I’m most excited about came by accident, and not by the purposeful application of tools. The left page, which is currently dominated by a long paint drip that runs horizontally as well as vertically, was created with supplies I had not previously mixed. I used watered-down tan acrylic paint to make a very fluid mixture, which dripped down the page with ease. The amount I used was in excess, and when I turned the page sideways, it poured to the left from the original drip. I had done this before, but next I did something different: I used white India ink to add to the tan paint’s original drip. I then turned the journal on its right side, mirroring the tan lines with white ones. The India ink and paint mixed independently, making an unexpected marbled effect. It’s beautiful! I will definitely be trying to recreate that effect in later spreads.

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Orange & Black WIP Spread

The portrait needs line work to create facial features, but I’m 99% sure that the left page will stay just as it is. The only way I can think it may be necessary to alter the left page is if I find myself using other colors on my portrait. If other colors come into play, I may choose to incorporate them on the opposite page in order to keep my color scheme cohesive.

I’ll keep you updated on this portrait…as long as it doesn’t turn out too terribly. That being said, I’ve already accepted that it’s no Mona Lisa. (It is orange, after all.)