Art Journaling 101 – an introduction.


Art Journals; artwork;art journaling, watercolour; artist; sketchbook

People often ask “What is art journaling?” Good question! I do my best to explain, but sometimes it’s easier to show you.

First you need a journal


Art Journal Stack, art journaling

Let’s start with the journal. You can use anything! This pile represents a fraction of the sketchbooks and journals I have accumulated – collecting journals and art supplies is my guilty pleasure! An assortment of paper types, sizes, page counts and constructions, there’s something I love about each of them. My favourites though will lie flat on the bench when opened to work in, and have a weighty paper that can withstand wet media (like watercolour, spray inks and paint). Other features that rate high for appeal are pockets in the covers – you never know what bits of flotsam and jetsam you might find to keep for addition to your journal ‘later’ – page marker ribbons, and elastic bands to keep the book from flying open as it expands from the inevitable addition of collage and tape and ephemera.

What goes in the journal?


Art Journal spread, art journaling

The real fun begins when you start to do stuff in the journals! What goes into them? Anything at all! I tend to describe art journaling as the intersection of keeping a written diary with keeping a sketchbook. There are journals like this one with a bit of writing and reflection for each day, and some colour and sketching or scribbling – playing, really. This particular spread is in a cheap visual art diary. The paper is pretty flimsy, so there’s a coat of gesso on the paper to give it a bit more substance, followed by collaged papers, washi tape hand carved stamps, water soluble pencil and watercolour paint.


Sketchbook doodles, art journaling


Then there are the more ‘traditional’ artist sketchbooks where reference sketches are made, and ideas are given a trial run before the detail is worked into a final piece. These snazzy arrows to mark North were explorations before committing the compass direction to a map created in a collaborative artists book.

Art Journal Page, art journaling

My favourite art journal is one where I experiment with ideas and media. Sometimes these pages end up a muddy mess, and that’s OK, because the purpose of it is to explore, to see what works and what doesn’t, and it’s this absence of pressure to produce something ‘worthy’ that is the best part of all. My brain knows I’m just mucking around, so it’s low stakes and no expectation.

The spread above is a great example. I’d been mucking around with spray inks and stencils, and the page was pretty ‘blah’. I had been reading about using indian ink in an aqua brush, and this ugly page was a very safe place to try that out – it couldn’t get any worse! The face happened with the inky brush,  a bit of extra colour popped into the eyes, mouth and hair with coloured pencil and a white Sharpie marker, and although she has a somewhat alien complexion, there’s something kinda cool about it.

That sense of freedom to play and explore because there is no pressure for a dazzling outcome is what makes me believe that art journaling is a wonderful way for anyone to begin to dabble in something creative, to learn a few techniques, to follow your imagination and let the hidden parts of yourself surface and come up for air in safety. Don’t ask me what hidden part of myself came up for air with a green eyed, green faced martian lady… reminds me a little of Salvador Dali’s Mum who said after looking at his paintings “I don’t know what what in his head, but I’m glad he got it out”!


Art Journal; Blue; Watercolour; art journaling

Right now, I’m exploring and experimenting in a different format again – the Disc A Day journal. Which is my own promise to myself that I’ll do something small every day (well, ok… I can’t honestly say that I’ve added to it every day, but I have added to it most days, and right now, I’m happy with that). This little journal is made from a large sheet of hot pressed watercolour paper, cut into three sheets and folded and stitched together, which is great for the wet media I mentioned earlier. What I love most about this little disc, is what the washi tape beside it says: “Make Time”. We’ve talked before about how important it is to make time for creativity, rather than wait till you find time.

That awesome tape, by the way, is designed by Kal Barteski and came from You Are Awesome Co, who are sadly wrapping up trading at the end of September, but they have some great bargains going on there for the next couple days.

So, there you have it. Art Journaling 101. Art journaling is my favourite thing to teach – if you’d like to know a little more about classes, check out my Art Journaling Workshop page.

Try Something New

What does it say about your personality when you have an idea to try something you know bugger all about, and think “I can’t do this, but I’m doing it anyway?” I don’t know, either, but here are the results! For a long time, I have thought that adding a few videos of works unfolding and techniques in action might be fun for me, and interesting for you. I have a lot to learn, and will possibly need to relocate to an area where I can access a much bigger Internet data quota (apologies to the Aussie Government, but this NBN thing isn’t working out so well for us out here), which isn’t such a realistic idea. I think there is a lot of research and education in my immediate future if I’m to follow this notion any further. 
However… this was fun for me, and I hope you find the video a little bit interesting. It’s a time lapse look at creating a background with tissue paper on canvas for a mixed media work. The background was done without any firm idea of what the focal point might be. That realisation came a little later.

Small Wonders 

©2015 Tracey Hewitt  Watercolour and mixed media on canvas

After the addition of some acrylic paints to introduce a little colour, it occurred to me that this would be the perfect background for another challenge I’d been hankering to take on. A photo of our Granddaughter, Payton, in a rare moment of stillness, had been whispering it’s longing to be drawn or painted for a couple of months. For someone who, a few years ago, wouldn’t even attempt to draw a face or human form, because “that’s not my thing, I just can’t do them”; I’m pretty excited to have captured a resemblance to a human being, much less enough of a resemblance to a particular human for her parents to know she was the model!
 Her features were sketched in, with Derwent Graphitint pencils. These babies might be my favourite art supply. (Even as I type that, a hundred other little special art supplies are clamouring in my mind to be named favourites, as well!) These pencils – as the name suggests – are much like a graphite pencil, with the added appeal of a range of beautiful, subtle colours, as well as being water soluble. They’re not as intense as some of the other water soluble pencils out there, so the results are soft and delicious. A little watercolour for the pink in her dress and lips, a few touches of inky black for details, and she was done.
That little butterfly she’s so intently looking at? That is a perfect example of the glorious serendipity of layering materials and media. It wasn’t until after I’d drawn Payton in, that I noticed that little butterfly on an underlying layer of tissue paper, perfectly placed to seem to be sitting on her hand, and the focus of her rapt attention. Sometimes, there are forces at work when we create that simply cannot be explained. Happens to me all the time. And, it’s the best feeling. 

Cunnamulla… I’ll See You Soon!

In a month, I’ll be off to Cunnamulla! A town in South West Queensland, which I have never visited, to hang an exhibition in the Cunnamulla Fella Centre Art Gallery. I’m a bit excited, a bit nervous and kind of busy.
Some of the pieces that will be getting loaded into the car:
Keeper of the Mystery 101cm x 76cm
Acrylic, tissue, oil stick, lace and pencil on canvas
© 2013 Tracey Hewitt
If you’ve been visiting here for a while, you’ll know that the human face is not something I generally look to for subject matter. Keeper of the Mystery certainly didn’t start out with any intention of a person appearing, yet, as it evolved, she insisted on making an appearance! (My family of practical males are bewildered when I suggest that an ‘inanimate’ object like a painting  might be telling me secrets, or what is to happen next…but, that’s how it works sometimes). And, I have to tell you – she knows the answer to all those questions that we mere mortals struggle with. But, no matter how hard I look into her eyes and plead with her to share them with me – she doesn’t. You see, she’s not called the Keeper of the Mystery for nothing!
I’ve been having a great time with resin, as well. This lovely ring (I keep wondering if I can, in fact, bring myself to part with it? I LOVE this) has a bunch of tiny millefiori glass pieces set in it. How cool would this look with your jeans and favourite white shirt?

My awesome framer, Les Rigby, is currently weaving his magic with this piece, as well as a number of others. This is a concoction of woven felt strips that had all sorts of goodies applied which was then dry felted with a machine felting technique. Have to give a shout out to my sister here – that triangular piece in the top centre was in fact one of her earrings in 1986. ( If you hang onto something long enough….)
This one is in need of a name – any suggestions? Coming up with suitably engaging names for a number of works is just one of the things that will be keeping me busy over the next month. (Containing my excitement about the wedding of our middle son is another – but that’s a story for another day!)
Do you know anyone in Cunnamulla? I’d love you to share with them that the exhibition “Feeling My Way” will open there at the Cunnamulla Fella Centre Art Gallery on Friday 5th April from 6pm; and I’d love to meet them!

Creating Texture – With Old Tomato Paste Tubes!

Sometimes, I do weird things. 
It’s kind of fun, and keeps the people around me shaking their heads…
Today, it’s been reclaimed tomato paste tubes. (Yes, I cut it open and washed it carefully first – after we ate the spaghetti bolognese, which was awesome, by the way…)

The inside of the paste tube is the loveliest, soft, buttery gold colour, and it’s easy to bend, fold and generally manipulate. Here, it’s got some painted vliesofix and a chiffon scarf ironed over it, which gives it that orange-y colour in patches. Keeping it company is a piece of copper shim, with many holes poked through it with my trusty – and very blunt – awl. Don’t worry, I keep an old awl just for nasty, tough jobs like this. There does exist another pointier, sharper, better looking awl for the tasks awls were really designed to carry out. 
The copper shim becomes a kind of ‘claw’ to set the glass bubble in, and after a bit of free machine embroidery (plus three broken machine needles and countless broken top threads), the end result looks like this:
This little lumpy treasure is destined, along with some other lumpy treasures, to be the focal point on a canvas that’s been evolving in the studio.
If you promise to eat all your vegetables, I might even show it to you when it’s finished. (Yes, Carmel* – that means you!)
*Carmel is my Mum – who is awesome – and also happens to be the worst vegetable eater in the history of the universe!

Tea Bags, Doiley’s and Linen Napkins

Lillian’s Legacy 101cm x 76cm 

Acrylic, tissue, damask, tea bags, silk, oil pastel and paper collage.

© 2012  Tracey Hewitt

For the longest time, I have had these panels tucked away safely – waiting for the wonderful day when I might finally know exactly what to do with them. (It’s embarrassing to even mention how long…)
I am very lucky to have had a Nana who kept special things – like boxes and boxes of hand embroidered doiley’s and damask napkins, which she enjoyed giving to me to ‘do something with’. One of the napkins made their way into a natural dye bath. 
And waited. 
One of the doiley’s was used to take rubbing’s on used tea bags. 
They waited.
Until one day, some silk strips from the natural dyeing episode came to join them, and they were fused and seed stitched together.
As a pair of ‘panels’ they waited….for many years.

Lillian’s Legacy – detail

Every so often, they’d get pulled out, caressed, admired, promised something special would be done with them, and carefully put away.
To wait some more.
Finally, their wait is over. I’ve been wrestling a bit with work for the next exhibition. I’m not sure where my muse had been on holidays…but when she came back, this was what she brought with her. Quite a bit more subtle and restrained than my usual works – yet it feels good. There’s much more to explore here – I’ll keep you posted!

A Special Celebration for a Very Special Lady

This lovely lady is my Mum, Carmel. She turned 70 a couple of weeks ago. Because she’s awesome, and we wanted to do something she’d love, my sister and I took her and Dad off to Byron Bay for a little holiday (and she did love it!)
The totally delicious Chocolate Hazelnut cake was made by Charlotte from Let Them Eat Cake in Brunswick heads (I have to give Charlotte a plug here, as I don’t know a soul in that part of the world to recommend her to – and my word – she does deserve recommending. That cake was ah-maze-ing!)

Deb and I also put together a little book for Mum, in honour of this most auspicious occasion….

If the “ooh’s”, “aaah’s” and eye leakage were anything to go on, I think she kind of liked it…
Especially this page, where each of her Grandchildren and Grandchildren-in-law wrote her a message on a luggage tag – each one as unique as their authors – all precious in their own way.

The journalling part was left to work on while we holidayed…and a lot of happy time was spent reminiscing and cooking up the very best stories to commit to the pages.

We created some special memories while recalling special memories – how cool is that?
The pages were created on watercolour paper, with water colour paint over old letters and handwriting from her Dad; Starburst Stains sprayed over stencils, some stamping, photos transferred using Transfer Artists Paper, and a few bits and bobs of paper and ephemera collaged on.

Happy 70th Carmel…we are so lucky to have been blessed with you as our very own, very special Mum.

The Angels Anthology Evolves onto Canvas

After drawing lots of practice faces for Pam Carriker’s Angels Anthology class, I finally felt ready to tackle the canvas and paint. Firstly, a few bits and bobs were laid into impasto gel , which also had some marks scraped into it…along with the word: Grateful.

I missed taking photos of the stages between the first photo and the finished piece – I may have gotten just a little caught up in bringing her to life, and forgotten to pick up the camera. (By the way, her weird looking eye is a reflection picked up by the camera – she actually has pretty normal looking eyes in reality!)

She’s not the Mona Lisa, by any means, but I’m pleased with the result…it looks recognisably like a face!! 
And while I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say I conquered my fear (of faces); I will say I gave it a swift kick in the butt – and am keen to continue to give it a good shake up.

Drawing Faces

posted in: art work, collage, learning | 2

Drawing faces has always kind of terrified me…

Made me break out in sweat, or hives, or something. Yet, I really want to be able to draw a face, and I do have this belief that it does you good to do something every day that scares you (just a little). So…I signed up for a class with Pam Carriker – an online one, called An Angels Anthology – focusing on using the art supplies and ‘stuff’ you have, to create a mixed media collage. There happens to be a face in this class, so I figured that a fun class, focusing on all sorts of other things, rather than THE FACE, might be a sneaky way to trick my mind into letting go of the anguish surrounding faces.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should include an image here of my first attempt….Argh…
But, with Pam’s help and encouragement, I drew another and another, and in the end, got totally hooked on drawing faces, and even got a couple I thought were pretty good.
I may even be ready to tackle the face on my canvas sometime soon!
Pam has a bunch of tutorials on her website, Living Art at the Speed of Life, which make you just itch to grab that sketchbook or journal and get creative!
Have a great, creative, wonderful Sunday!

More Whispering

This will be the second last Whisper I work on in the Chinese Whispers Collaboration…I’m feeling a little sad about that – I’ve come to enjoy the monthly challenge of interpreting a theme from the artwork of the previous collaborator.
These pages belong to Jen, and they are folded in such a nifty manner that I had a little trouble working out how to refold them and send them on! You can see some of the fold lines in each of the images…

As always, can’t tell you too much about the the pages – just share these little clue squares with you, and tell you that they include acrylic paint, photo transfers, Xpandaprint, metallic wax, coloured pencil, graphite pencil and a few collaged paper elements. Oh, and a tiny bit of machine stitching on this one, too.
The Xpandaprint is fun stuff – quite like puff paint that was the rage years ago – paint on, heat, and it ‘puffs’ up – I get it from The Thread Studio – either black or white, and as you’d expect, I have both! The textured areas you can see in the photos are the result of stamping it on to the page, heating to ‘puff’ and then touching ever so lightly with metallic gilding wax. Delicious.
While I wasn’t necessarily expecting it – I like the way the photo transfers have cracked and crumbled along the fold lines…Which is a good thing – not sure what I’d be doing now if I hated it!
My own book has evolved in an interesting manner – quite appropriately in keeping with the game that inspired the collaboration – Chinese Whispers. I started by ‘whispering’ my theme to someone…and it has gone around the circle, morphing into something quite different, yet with recognisable elements….I cannot wait to share it with you! 

Whispering Time Again!

Do you have any idea how badly I want to show you the entire page in Peta’s book?
 This round of our Chinese Whispers Collaboration belongs to our fearless leader Peta Lloyd, who created the cleverest pages. This has been so much fun! I can’t divulge the theme…but what you can know is that included in this is a silk paper pocket (complete with treasures), handmade paper, a microscope slide, skeleton leaves, paint, stamps and embossing…among other things!
The studio looked like something had exploded in there by the time this was finished. It’s possible that every container had been opened and the contents spread far and wide in the hunt for the perfect ‘bits’ to grace these pages.
Each time I post these snippets, I wonder if it’s remotely interesting to any of you…or really only significant to those of us in the collaboration. Yet, the challenge of each month attempting to decipher the latest theme with nothing more than a few visual clues is quite consuming and I’m enjoying the stretch and learning that’s accompanying the process. This however means that there’s a little less time for producing other work that I can share in it’s fullness with you.
The important thing I want to suggest to you is to consider being part of a collaborative process…you will bend, stretch, get a headache and grow! It’s a wonderful, fun thing and a wonderful way to get to know people in a way that we don’t always get an opportunity to.
Consider yourself encouraged to give a collaboration a go!
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