Dear Wonderful, Creative You:
One of the issues I hear most frequently from art journaling students is that they have no idea what to do with their backgrounds. My solution to this problem has always been to make sure journal pages don’t feel too “precious,” as this creates pressure and invites the inner critic to berate you, tell you to get to work, fold the laundry, or stop “wasting” time and money on art and creative self-care. To open up your art journaling practice, why not approach it as a process-oriented practice? Work in layers in your art journal.
Most of the time, I don’t try to force, control, or plan my journal pages. Whatever happens with those first marks becomes layer 1. Layer 1 might hang around for an hour, a day, or a year before I return to it. There’s no guilt, this is an art journal after all, not a painting for the National Gallery of Art. I think we sometimes need a reminder to let our art be a reflection of ourselves: a messy, imperfect work in progress. There’s beauty in imperfection.
Have a look at the journal page below. It’s the same page that I used to create the title image for this post. This is not a page I would call pretty, and I don’t know if it ever will be, but I’m working through some messy emotions on it, and if I get that out, the page is a success. It will go through more layers and transformations, and I have no idea how it will look in the end. I’ll have other pages for something pretty. This one has purpose.
Emotions are messy and imperfect - your art journal can be too. #artjournals Click To Tweet
Why Create in Layers?
I would invite you to start thinking about your art journal as an evolving process rather than a series of planned, perfected pieces of art. Aren’t we doing art journaling because it’s fun? Aren’t we creating because it’s a great outlet for our feelings? While you might not like every single piece when you work in layers in your art journal, it’s more expressive, more fun, and I’m guessing you’ll gain more skill, because you open up to take more chances artistically as you let go of perfectionism.
Making Layers on Your Art Journal Pages
You can combine these techniques in any order: Start with text, then draw a pattern, and then add a layer of paint. Experiment wildly. Close your eyes and point to the list 3 times to randomly choose techniques and the order in which to do them. Remember, this is for you, so have fun with it. Try a combination of these techniques on the same page, not necessarily all in one day:
- Tissue paper bleeds are a super playful way to create the first layer of a journal page. Learn how to do tissue paper bleeds here.
- A “messy background” is one of my favorite page starters.
- Finger paint like a badass 3-year old!
- Make your own hand-cut stamp and cover your page with it. I’ll show you how in this video tutorial.
- A simple hand-drawn pattern such as straight-ish lines or the shell pattern you see in this journal flip through video are fun for layering.
- Writing about your feelings is a natural way to use a journal page. You can see my art journaling process in this little video. I’m working with writing, drawing, and layering paint. This page stayed the way you see it in the end of the video for a month or two, and then it suddenly it seemed undone to me, and I transformed into the page below. If you look closely, you can see the text under the thin layer of high flow paint and Neocolor crayon on the right-hand side. Work in layers in your art journal and I believe you’ll discover so much more.
If you’d like some more guidance on how to take an intuitive approach to art journaling, check out Art Journaling 101. It’s great for beginners, or artists who want to go back to basics and re-learn to create in a free, non-judgmental way. If you find that your inner critic is preventing you from really creating in your art journal, you might try the guided exercises in Freeing the Muse to help the inner critic take a back seat so you can fire up your journaling practice.
Tips for Working in Layers
- Create many pages in one sitting.
- Open to a random page in your journal, don’t work front to back.
- Don’t plan.
- Let your art journal pages be abstract.
- Let pages evolve over time naturally.
- Mix and match writing, painting, doodling, and stamping freely.
- Make space for experimentation and less of a “right or wrong” approach, this helps the inner critic calm down and let you work!
I hope you love to work in layers in your art journal as much as I do! If you haven’t already, sign up for the Mindful Art Studio community mailing list for more tips and inspiration, and you’ll also receive the Free Guide to Creative Self-Care.
P.S. If you loved this post, please pass it on to someone who would also love it! Thank you!