Category Archives: Art Explorations

Art Journaling or Daily Planning?

I’ve been in love with planners and organizers for a long time now. But in all my planner geek experiments, I’ve never really considered combining planner functions with bullet journals, notebooks, journals, and art journals too carefully. I started to give it some thought after being asked to write a guest post about it, and realized that over time I’ve been trying to combine lots of different elements into my planner. And maybe that’s why lately my planners never seem to quite “fit” what I want them to do? It’s hard to put my finger on what that is exactly, but something is missing. I’ve been trying to carry around quotes notebooks, planners, art journals, sketchbooks, notebooks for ink samples and fountain pen tests …. and it’s so hard to pick and choose each morning what to take with, when I might want any, all or none of the above that particular day!

So I was reading this blog post from Hali Karla about keeping an everyday art journal, and these words really resonated with me:

I can say that deciding to carry an “everyday art journal” was a game-changer for me. It’s really just an art journal or sketchbook that goes with me everywhere… I actually broke up with my standard planner after getting to know my everyday art journal (it really never worked out between me and the conventional planner no matter how hard we tried anyway).

I use it to jot down ideas, sketch or doodle when I have time to kill or need to pause and be present, to tack in photos and fodder, or capture wise or inspiring words from others that may come my way. Sometimes I write prayers in it, or recipes. I even keep my lists in it. To-do lists, not-to-do lists, shopping lists, gratitude lists, travel itinerary details – all of which can be painted or glued over later if I feel the urge… It really isn’t just an everyday journal – it’s an everything journal for me.

The real beauty of it, though, is that having it all within one cover, over a period of time, makes it really easy to begin to see patterns in my life… I keep other art journals, too – and they often have a variety of styles and flavors within the pages. Yet, while the everyday journal isn’t the prettiest journal I keep, by any means, it’s one of the most precious to my journey.

So I think this might be the next step in my art journal/planner evolution – create an informal planner that’s an “everything journal” first, and a calendar second – instead of the other way around. It seems so revolutionary! But now I really want to try it. But it’s kind of an intimidating thought. I’d love to hear from someone who has done something similar – I can’t find many other examples online.

I’ll leave with this description of an Art Journal from Jane Davenport:

It’s a mix of diary, travel memoir, autobiography, art therapist, visual diary, notebook, scrapbook and sketchbook….plus more… It’s a place, YOUR space, to record and work through your life experience in images, words, colours and collage.

There are NO RULES.

Some links on other great blog posts about art journals, planners and commonplace journals:

“You may want to keep a commonplace book which is a notebook where you can copy parts of books you think are in code, or take notes on a series of events you may have observed that are suspicious, unfortunate, or very dull. Keep your commonplace book in a safe place, such as underneath your bed, or at a nearby dairy.”

Lemony Snicket, Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography

“In my Commonplace book, I jot down snippets, quotes, stanzas. They can be words from a novel, from a poem, from a picture book, from the side of a cereal box. Anything I read that causes me to pause and read again- to stop and savor the words or ponder the message- it all belongs in my book.

This is the heart of my book and what really makes it a treasure, I think.”

– Sarah Mackenzie , amongstlovelythings.com

“Their commonplace then became a kind of personal reading/life log, where they kept notes on anything they wished to remember.

What it’s not is a journal or diary. While some people did use their commonplace for both purposes, many kept them separate, and a commonplace tends to refer to a book of information, not daily logs.”

– Devon Henderson, Chirmer Graphics

“But writing original stuff is damn hard, and as if I needed another diversionary tactic I’ve found myself adopting a delicious little habit of collecting quotes from books and films, words, ideas, snippets from overheard conversations, phrases, epigrams and poems that I see around and about the place.”

Maz, Diving For Pearls

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Somewhere, Beyond The Sea

I’ve been drawn to the Tombow marker medium over and over again in my Stillman & Birn 7×7 Zeta Series sketchbook. I love the bright white paper that gives my brightly colored markers that visual “pop” I’m looking for, cause I’m always about the color! I also like the smooth Zeta Series finish, as it works great with the markers and fountain pens I use, but is still sturdy enough to handle watercolor washes too, for whenever I get that urge. It’s really developing into the ideal combo for me, and as I do more of these sketches I feel like I’m developing a personal style – which is honestly kind of a cool feeling!

So this was last night’s creation. For this piece, I was inspired by artwork I saw that featured this idea of hiding fish in the curves of ocean waves, and thought it was so creative! I knew I had to do a similar theme in my sketchbook. But I had no idea what to do for the sky! So I just started making big random swirly clouds to fill up the space, adding color until it just seemed to complement the bottom half of the piece. I sketched a basic outline with my Lamy Safari fountain pen inked with Platinum Carbon Black ink, colored the areas in with layers upon layers of Tombow markers, and then outlined them with a black Micron brush pen. I’m never usually certain about the colors or when it’s “done” until I just decide I can’t do anything else with it. I quickly reached that point with the clouds after outlining them in, and was like that’s it! I’m calling it!

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Also, I’ve had the song “Beyond The Sea” stuck in my head EVER SINCE. I like the original Bobby Darin version best, but also my mind immediately thinks of Finding Nemo now too. Because, it is AWESOME.

DIY Altoids Watercolor Paint Box

Since I started exploring watercolors, I’ve come across the “use an old Altoids tin as a travel paint box” trick several times, and it’s always intrigued me. It just looks so easy to do! It combines being creative and MacGyver-y with materials you either already have on hand or that are easily accessible, so win-win right?

And also, regular watercolor tin boxes can get crazy expensive! Nobody said art was a cheap calling, but still – I’m just getting started and haven’t even graduated to all non-student-grade paints yet!

So I started reviewing all the different methods and suggestions people had for creating their own Altoids paint boxes, like in these links:

So, after perusing enough links to get an idea of how to get started, I decided to try using magnets to hold the watercolor pans in place. I assembled the following materials:

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Making A DIY Altoids Watercolor Tin:  Assembling The Materials

Step One: Determine Your Box Arrangement

First lesson learned – these paint boxes are waaay smaller than I thought they’d be!! I ordered 6 half pans and 2 full pans, thinking I wouldn’t be able to get all them in. But actually I have room for more – at least 2-3 half more at least. I think I’ll be ordering a few more in both sizes to experiment with finding the perfect combination. Right now I have a weird gap on the side because I had too few pans.

Step Two: Attach The Magnets

Once you’ve found a paint box layout you like, attach the adhesive magnets. The set I found had them pre-scored into 1″ squares. Cutting each square in half worked perfectly for the full paint pans, and in quarters for the half pans.  They stick to the Altoids tin firmly, and even when the tin is held upside down and shaken, they didn’t fall out.

Step Three: Add The Paint

I chose the following pigments as my test paint palette – all Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor tubes:

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Making A DIY Altoids Watercolor Tin:  Adding The Paint

Step Four: Final Touches

The paint will dry out to avoid messiness when traveling, and can be reactivated with drops of water, or kept moist by adding a drop of glycerine. I didn’t have anything handy to add to it, so am just going to let them air-dry and add water as needed. Ideally, in the future I will find a waterproof or enamel paint to coat the inside of the lid, so I can use it as a mixing surface. But for now, I created a mini watercolor chart to show what combinations I can get from the palette I chose. I also added a square of parchment paper to put over the paints just in case they did fall out of the pans or get messy.

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Making A DIY Altoids Watercolor Tin:  Adding Final Touches

Extra Step: Making a Watercolor Color Chart

Of course, whenever getting new paints I want to make a watercolor chart! So I made both a full (sketchbook sized) version, and a little mini version to keep with the Altoids tin. I think my beginner paint choices were good ones – I can get some pretty nice secondary colors like oranges, greens and purples from the 7 colors I chose. Some action shots of the color charting process, just for fun!

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The Final Result!

So, here it is in all its glory! It has some future tweaks – including coating the lid for a mixing surface, and adding some extra pans or a sponge or somehow using the blank space. But otherwise I’m really pleased with how it turned out!!

Making A DIY Altoids Watercolor Tin:  The Final Result!

Making A DIY Altoids Watercolor Tin: The Final Result!

Color to drive the Snow Blahs away! (UPDATED)

*UPDATED 3/19/15* Stillman & Birn featured the Summer Breezes sketch on their blog and social media feeds! Check out the post here.

This weekend, while it was cold and snowy outside, I finally had the chance to play with my Tombow dual brush markers, and am so impressed by how bright and vibrant they are! As soon as I got started, these warm happy colors just had to come out and play. I was unusually inspired, as I did not one but SIX sketches with them.

Technique: sketch lightly with Micron .03 pen, color in sections with Tombows, adding layers and details as needed, then finishing and outlining with either a Micron 1.0 or brush pen.
Sketchbook Used: 7×7 Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook. The Zeta Series has “Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm” paper, smooth and in a bright white. This size in particular is unique in that its square, very portable, and takes washes and fountain pens and watercolors and most everything I’ve thrown at it well. I love bright saturated colors, and the Zeta’s white paper really makes them pop.

Summer Breezes:
This particular picture – with the green palm fronds on yellow background – reminds me a lot of a past vacation to Miami – summer breezes, green trees and bright bright sunshine.
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“Summer Breezes” – Tombow Markers in Stillman and Birn 7×7 Zeta Sketchbook

Sunflower:
Saw something similar somewhere online (Pinterest, Instagram, I can’t remember exactly), with a side profile of a yellow flower on a blue background, and loved the yellow/blue combo so much had to try it.
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“Sunflower” – Tombow Markers in Stillman and Birn 7×7 Zeta Sketchbook

More Sunflowers:
I just really liked how the yellow flowers turned out so I wanted to keep playing with them.
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“More Sunflowers” – Tombow Markers in Stillman and Birn 7×7 Zeta Sketchbook

Red Blossom:
Similar to Sunflowers, but with luscious RED.
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“Red Blossom” – Tombow Markers in Stillman and Birn 7×7 Zeta Sketchbook

Ocean Sunset:
Tried something different with the clouds, but not entirely sure I like the combination of sunset colors with the pink clouds and blue water. But that’s why art is an experimental process!
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“Ocean Sunset” – Tombow Markers in Stillman and Birn 7×7 Zeta Sketchbook

Tulips:
Trying something a little more minimalistic, with some pops of red.
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“Tulips” – Tombow Markers in Stillman and Birn 7×7 Zeta Sketchbook

Full sketchbook spreads:
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Tombow Markers in Stillman and Birn 7×7 Zeta Sketchbook

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Tombow Markers in Stillman and Birn 7×7 Zeta Sketchbook

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Tombow Markers in Stillman and Birn 7×7 Zeta Sketchbook

Visiting with the Happy Yellow Rhodia

Just because it’s been a long time since I posted any peeks into my art journal.

Attending the first ever Colorado Pen Show in October:

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Exploring the French Quarter in New Orleans:

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More vacation travels:

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Spending time on this beach in Honduras:

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DIY Circa Sketchbook Follow-Up

I posted back in October about creating a watercolor sketchbook in a discbound format, and thought ‘d show how it currently looks.

I’m still using clear plastic front and back covers as in my previous post, but in the interest of an even slimmer and more portable sketchbook, swapped out the pretty 3/4″ Spectra discs for the plain but smaller 1/2″ discs. I’ve added a matching black adhesive Leuctthurm1917 pen loop. The coversheet is from the now-defunct Office Depot Revolution brand notebooks.

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My DIY Discbound Sketchbook

Side view:

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Open layout:

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Another view:

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All in all, still very pleased with how it turned out, but now its even more purse-friendly!

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Strathmore Black Artist Tiles

Grabbed these goodies at my local art store today during my lunch break, they seemed like so much fun I couldn’t resist! Strathmore Artist Tiles with black paper, and a white Sakura Gelly Roll pen.

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White ink on black paper definitely adds an interesting perspective to doodling!

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I even added some gold touches with another Gelly Roll pen at the end.

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