While I'm going to stay with a theme of 'Keep It Simple, Stupid', I am doing things a little differently this year. Instead of making a journal or buying one specifically for this year's journal, I'm going to finish up some of the journals I've already been working in. The main one will be a Stillman & Birn's Delta sketchbook. I reviewed one of these a while back if you are interested in learning more about them.
For this weeks prompt--Pathways--I decided to paint the cover of my journal. Although last year was the first year I joined up with a challenge group, I've been creating art in journals since 2010, so I decided my pathways would be symbolic of my artful journey.
I didn't have a camera on hand while I was painting this, but I've explained some of the reasons for my choices below, for those who are interested.
The first thing I wanted to discuss was my composition--the layout of my painting. It would have been stronger if I had moved either the ground higher or started the sky lower. Convention would have had me move the sun off-center. Since I had chosen a symbolic theme though--the passing of the years--I decided I wanted to imply a duality dominated by sunlight. These years have been half-grounded, half pie-in-the-sky filled with both shadow and light.
That's what art journaling is about, right? Making artistic choices based on what you feel even if it doesn't agree with what you 'know' about the rules of artistic composition.
The second thing I want to discuss is why I chose this Stillman & Birn Delta sketchbook. I know that at this time of the year, many people are wondering what they should use for an art journal, so I thought I'd summarize why I like this one. My choice is subjective--based on experience about what I personally like in a sketchbook or journal.
I like the 7x7 square size-it's great for my Zentangle-Inspired art. The 180 lb paper is capable of taking a lot of weight and doesn't buckle easily, so it's fantastic for mixed media. The paper is also an ivory color. That would be a plus for some and a negative for others who might prefer a bright white. I really like the way colors appear on this paper, feeling that it gives them a richness and an elegance,
For an experienced art journalist, the choice is whether to go with a sketchbook/journal that you know you'll like or to pick one that will provide a new experience. I did the new experience in making my own book last year, and this year I chose a tried and true friend.
For someone new to art journaling, I'd recommend reading a few reviews and choosing something that sounds interesting to you. Consider things like:
- What kind of art do you think you'll do? Look at the information on the book and see if it is formulated for the tools you'll use. Books good for pen and markers might be too slick for pencil, colored pencil and paints. Books good for pencil, colored pencil or paints might be too rough for fabric-tipped pens and markers. Mixed media is a good choice if you use lots of different mediums. It may not be the best for any given tool, but should work with most of them. Paper with a mixed media label is usually heavy enough to take lots of glue and glued on items.
- How much time will you have? A smaller book limits how much you can do with each prompt, but a larger book will have pages that take longer to fill up. I've found something around a 5 x 7 works well for me when I'm keeping things simple. A 9 x 12 is fantastic to work in, but is too large for me to use on a regular basis (unless I'm painting with watercolors). If I intended to spend more time planning out my work, and going for lots of detail, I'd choose 9 x 12 or larger.
- What kind of subject do you like? Portraits? Animals? Landscapes? I chose a square 7x7 sketchbook, but square might not be best for everyone. It's good for abstracts and non-objective art like Zentangle, but harder for portraits and landscapes. Portraits work best in books that are taller than wide (portrait orientation), while landscape work best with the opposite (landscape orientation). Choosing a book with the right shape for your preference gets overlooked, but it can make your life easier.
- Do you intend to glue things in your book, or use texture pastes? A wirebound book might be best for you. It lies very flat, the pages can be folded back and best of all--it has room to expand as you add those items without worrying that the spine will crack. On the other hand, you can only use one page because the wire coil gets in the way, and for some, lefties especially, that wire coil is an annoyance. With a hardbound book, you can choose to do a two-page spread. This gives you choice. When you have time for a larger piece you do two pages. When time is less, you go for a one-page piece. Do make sure, though, if you choose a hardbound, that the pages lie fairly flat even when it opens in the middle.
The only other choice I made was in choosing my acrylic paints. I went with Martha Stewart Multi-Surface Satin acrylic paints for the landscape, and Golden Liquid Acrylics for the dates, title and pathways.
I wanted the texture of the sketchbook cover to show through, and I knew this would give me a chalky sort of look with the right paints. Martha Stewart Multi-Surface Satin acrylic paints are a good choice for non-paper surfaces. They're opaque, tending towards a pastel appearance. I knew they would cover adequately, even when thin enough to show the texture. Where I actually wanted some of the book's black color to show a bit, I used a damp brush with just a little paint and dabbed.
Golden Liquid Acrylics, especially the colors I chose, are highly pigmented but transparent. Almost an exact opposite of the Martha Stewart acrylics. I knew they would make a dark contrast to the landscape while still allowing some of the landscape color to show through. Very much like shadows do.
The colors I used:
Martha Stewart Multi-Surface Satin--Canteloupe, Jacarand, Artichoke, Ballet Slippers, Canteloupe, Green Olive, Summer Haze.
Golden Liquid Acrylics--Phthalo Blue (GS), Quinacridone Magenta, Zinc White