Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Some art journal tips - Part 1

I've been feeling a bit uninspired lately. Or maybe over-inspired, rather. There's so much inspiration to be found online, that it can easily become a bit overwhelming. Especially when you're in a "phase" where you're feeling a bit unsure about where to go artistically. How to develop your style. What you want your art, your style to be. How you think it should be (that is definitely the point where you need to switch off the computer for a bit).

Two weekends ago, I found myself "tidying up my studio" (i.e. finding an excuse for once again putting off doing something arty) again. I looked at shelves filled with all kinds of art materials. And I decided that it was time to play. To just slap some paint on some pages, without thinking too much about colour mixing, composition, subject matter... Actually not thinking at all. Instead, getting out some of the materials I haven't used in ages, and see what I can do with them. Over that weekend, I filled more than half of the sketchbook. I just couldn't stop. I kept coming back again and again til late into the night, adding a bit here and there, covering another page with a colour, that I suddenly felt was missing. It felt great. And I would like to share some of the pages and techniques with you.

Some of the supplies used
  • a square sketchbook with very thick watercolour paper (that I've been saving for about three years for some really serious watercolour painting)
  • Thalens acrylic paints, which I hadn't used since I stopped going to a painting class I had been going to for years over 1 1/2 years ago
  • watercolours
  • patterned papers
  • washi tape
  • brayer
  • Gelli printing plate (it's been a while since I used one of those, and I've actually never even used my square one)
  •  acrylic and oil-based paint markers, various pens, ink
  • polaroids
  • index cards with some drawings made with ballpoint pen and felt tip pen
And here's a few of the pages. Some are finished, some are half finished, and some are just a background that I can come back to later.

Watercolour and stencils

I like using alphabet stencils to add text, and they work well with watercolours too.

Or use a stencil with a nice pattern or subject, and add more layers of watercolours afterwards, and bring out details with pen and ink.


Applying the paint with a brayer gives great and interesting results. You can fill the whole page, creating a page of richly textured layers and vibrant colours. Or apply it loosely, layering colours and leaving lots of white space.

You can use the brayer to deliberately add colour to your page, or you can create an interesting background by using the page to roll clean your brayer when you're using it for some Gelli printing.

Playing with different colour combinations (here: yellow ochre, burnt sienna, manganese/cyan blue and Payne's grey) in different ways and mediums (watercolour and acrylics). If the page turns out too dull because of the (too) many layers, a pattern applied with a light medium, such as a white paint marker, lightens it up.

There's some more techniques and pages, which I'll share in another post later this week, otherwise this post would just be far too long.


  1. Well, from the amount on your post I wouldn't have thought you were uninspired at all! It's all gorgeous! I think most Artists go through this. I found myself in a real slump at the end of last year, mainly because I just didn't know what to paint. It just so happened I got talking to another Artist who was in the exact same place, so we decided to create a joint 'monthly challenge blog', that anyone can join in if they want to. At the beginning of each month, one of us lists five words and the other picks one of those words. Then throughout that month we will explore that word in paint aiming to complete 2-4 paintings per month. We started it on the 1st Feb and it'll be interesting to see how we differ in how we depict the same word. If you're ever in a slump, pop along and join in. This moths word is 'Solitude'. If you join in, let me know and at the end of the month we will link back to your own painting! It's been a fabulous boot up the bum for me and I've been spending much more time in the studio. Just having that one word really helped me to get some ideas :0)

  2. Oops! I ought to add the link!

  3. Kay, I think all artists can absolutely relate to what you're feeling at the moment - although like Sandra says you really wouldn't think you were uninspired looking at all these delicious creations on this post! I went through the exact same thing last year where I felt I was trying too many different things and not really focussing on any one style or medium, wanting to change the way I painted but not really knowing what I wanted to change it to. I think it's a natural part of an artist's evolution - if we just stuck with the same medium and style of painting/drawing forever I think it would be boring. I'm happy with the direction my art is taking at the moment but that's not to say I won't find myself in the same position in 6 months or a year and that'll be a sign that it's time to evolve again! It's a good sign that you are perhaps overwhelmed with inspiration rather than uninspired at all and I think Sandra's Naked Artist blog is a great idea - I hope to join in at some point.