Art Journal

Art Journal Backgrounds

There has been a growing fascination with art journals and all that they entail over the last couple of years. Is it a journal? Is it a book of art? Is it a giant play book? Is it a practice book? It seems to me that it’s all of the above. I think there are many different people that keep more than one at a time… one for personal reasons, one for art reasons, one for techniques and learning reasons.. You name it, there are many reasons and many books.

You can search Google, Pinterest, Facebook, or any other area online and find image after image of inspiration, tutorials that tell you how and why things were done. Some of the tutorials are detailed and some are vague. I find myself liking both equally. Sometimes I need the detail in order to understand how it happened, sometimes the idea is plenty.

I’ve kept a sketchbook for years. But it was just that… sketching, drawing, light and vague doodles, etc. I never put a lot of time into it because it was just mine.. just a place to flesh out a thought for either embroidery, a craft, sewing project, or something entirely off beat like digital work. The thought of what I needed to do sometimes needed to be sketched into a thought before it would finish forming.

Recently, I ripped out the best of the best from my sketchbook and was about to retire it to the trash when I had a thought. Maybe I should save it for a while as I finish digging into the art journal thing. This week, I took the plunge and began covering pages with gesso. Each page below is an acrylic background. I used two layers of gesso over previous sketching (ink and pencil) and then attacked with acrylic craft paint.

See? Just a regular old sketchbook! This one is completely a play art journal. I do not intend to fascinate you with amazing art work. I do intend to play and share and learn more about the art journaling process. I like the way the paper feels after being coated with gesso and paint. It feels like a soft, unstretched canvas. It’s kind of amazing actually!

Because the pocket on the front is that deep kraft orange, I decided to coordinate that first page. I used a sponge brush that still had gesso on it. (Firm believer in not wasting!!) I began with a yellow and kept adding oranges and smooshing it around. No real techniques for me, just smooshing and watching the paints mix and play.

I did not expect this one! I poured a dollop of seriously lime green onto the paper and using the same (uncleaned) sponge brush began smooshing it all around. When I applied the gesso, I used a chipboard brush that left some great texture in there. It really shines through on some of these.

I got tired of the brush and was ready to try something different. Enter regular table napkins. I grabbed one up and folded it into quarters. I placed drops onto the napkin corners and then just dragged and swiped them straight down. I used lime, dark green, and then a touch of pavement gray on the side.

Again, paper napkin and paint. Instead of straight down, you can see I just sort of let go and swirled it on. (The letting go was the fun part in this entire process. I’ve had to let go of rules and structure and just play. I’m 37, I’ve got responsibilities and chores and a family and I was able to just let go…. soooooooo worth it!)


Before I actually decided to DO this.. I decided to play with paints and inks on one page. There is no rhyme or reason for the above page. It was a prior sketch of heart and wood grain that I’d meant to turn into an embroidery pattern. Instead it got abandoned in the sketchbook and I decided to start from there. No gesso, just water colors, paints, inks, and various found items dipped in paints.. Bottle cap, end of my micron pen, beer bottle cap.. 

This one is all acrylic, using the chipboard brush, drops of blue on the paper and then the dirty gesso brush to smear it all in.


A goof on another page ended with too much purple on my napkin.. So I smeared it off on the opposite page and just swished it any which way for multiple directions. After I misted with water and lifted a streak back off at the bottom just to see how it would react.Pavement and red! Love the two together and the smeared and the grungy feel to all of these pages.. Another napkin smearing good time!


Yup, another napkin page. Straight down strokes with different colors.


Chipboard dirty brush from the blue page above and I just added a drop of pink towards the outside and let it blend back in for a light mix.


Bored with the brush, I grabbed a baby wipe. Smear, swirl, smear, wipe and then wiped until I was removing the interior block again. Love how the paint caught up in the grooves of the gesso texture.


I had some leftover purple in a plate, so I added a touch of tan and a bit of water. With a half ass twist of my brush I mixed it a tiny bit and then began dabbing and painting.I got it all really wet, really fast. Then I took that trusty old napkin and pressed it into the entire page. I pressed hard and rubbed it down to pick up what  I could. Then went on to the next page.


I used what was left of that tan/purple mixture and painted the background. This page has no gesso. I decided I wouldn’t KNOW until I did it myself on how it would react and feel. For obvious reasons, I like the gesso pages because you can not see the junk sketched underneath. But this could have promise down the road if I’m out. At least I can’t be stopped completely! After painting the background, I used a piece of plastic to scrape on some darker purple.I’m afraid at the end of the day, I’m a big fan of the washed on quick and messy look. It appeals to me, to my inner child. Just slap and go!


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