Lesson 1








My nugget of wisdom:

The most important thing is to put aside your concept of what it "should" look like and instead, explore what it WANTS to look like! And, if you've used paint before or you're an experienced art journalist, I encourage you to allow yourself to stick with just this one medium. You may desire to make things more sophisticated and complex, but I want you to try to let that go in favor of a return to simplicity!

You may be very surprised by what your intuition (your unconscious) wants to do on the page!


Here's how it all will work:

  • Read the content.
  • Watch the videos.
  • Get out your sketchbook/art journal and begin trying out techniques.
  • Spend as much time as you'd like on the process.

That's it!

Note: The name of the game is EXPLORE the PROCESS.


1. So, what is art journaling, anyways? 

For me, art journaling is a no-rules artistic and creative practice that is both fun and transforming. I find that I go to my art journal to experiment and play with materials as much as to unload my heart onto the page. There's something very powerful about engaging my creativity in order to work through what's weighing heavily on my mind/heart/soul. In some ways, I find the work I do in my art journal is more healing than the work I do in any other setting. Engaging my right brain and getting out of my verbal centers is exceptionally helpful!

Here's a quick video on the topic. I'd be interested to hear what art journaling is for you (or what you think it is going to be) on our Facebook group page!


2. Approaching the page: The POWER OF PLAY and LETTING GO

The first thing I want to tell you is: It's time to let go of your expectations! It's time to just drop your plans to make some incredible work of art. (Not that you won't, but I want you to let that go anyways!) 


What that means is, allow the materials and your heart guide you rather than A Really Important Plan. Put aside any image you have in your mind of what you're going to create so that you can really FEEL what is bubbling up inside of you that WANTS to emerge on the page. And if you don't feel anything, that's fine too. We're not about forcing it here. We're all about ALLOWING.

Here are my top suggestions:

1. Meditate, relax or get centered in some way before beginning your process.

Here's a guided meditation I created just for you to help you get right into that quiet place so that you are out of your head and in your body.

2. Choose colors (paint or pastels, colored pencils or markers) that call to you. 

When you look at them, they are the ones waving their hands at you and saying, "Pick me! Pick me!" Don't worry about whether or not they "go together," that's not the point here. Choose colors that move you, intrigue you, entice you, or make you happy.

3. Play on the page.

Let go of your age, your education, your level of expertise...play like a preschooler. Scribble, fingerpaint, make hand and fingerprints, scratch, splatter, stomp. If you hear a voice that says, "I can't believe you are doing that! You're a grown woman. That's not artistic!" then you're doing the right thing. (More on those negative voices next week).

4. For right now...NO AGENDA, please... 

...other than to have fun, explore the materials and make some colorful pages. That is all.

Here's a short video on approaching the page and play.

4. Painted backgrounds

In my studio, I always direct my first time students to the paints. There's something very satisfying about playing with paint, and it's so easy to get a page going in a matter of minutes. You can leave behind a concern about words or images and just turn to color and texture. So that's where we're going to start!

There are so many ways to create a painted background. I want you to explore as many as you can come up with. Here are some ways to do it:

SPONGES: Try out make-up sponges, natural sponges, and kitchen sponges for blending and moving paint around on the page. Use sponges to paint one or more colors in the background then cover with more sponging. Try using wet and dry sponges to see how that makes a difference.

FINGERPAINT: I call this "Getting rid of the middleman" and it's super satisfying! Dip your hands in paint and get creative. You can really feel your energy surging in your hands when you put down the brushes and let your fingers guide you on the page. 

BRUSHES of all kinds: Bristle brushes (long, short, flat, round, fan) and foam brushes are great to experiment with. Also try out rough chip brushes from the paint department at the hardware store.


SCRAPERS: Use a credit card to spread the paint or some other kind of hard edge. Explore different edged scrapers (also from the hardware store) or try an old hairbrush or comb. You can also make a cool edge with a piece of cardboard and a scissor or knife. Try a skewer or toothpick or dried up ball point pen to scrape into the wet paint as well.

And one more thing...

Explore LAYERS!

Once you've tried out each of the above materials, try mixing it up.

  • Paint or scrape a background, then dry it, then come over it with sponging or fingerpainting.

  • Try layering over dry pages and over wet. What happens?

  • Try using a water spray bottle, too.

  • Try wiping away the paint with a baby wipe.

  • Try using a dry brush and a very wet brush.

How is it different? And how does it feel when you experiment with the materials? 


Here are two videos with lots of great technique examples. I promise that I had no plans but just followed my fingers, the brush and the colors around the page to see what would emerge. 


5. Next steps

You've created some backgrounds...now what? Well, over the course of the next several weeks, I'll be teaching you all kinds of methods for creating interesting and personal art journal pages. For now, at these beginning stages, you have a few options:

1. Leave it as is...just some backgrounds waiting for "content" to be added later. (I always use up my extra paint by wiping it on pages further along in my journal. Then they're ready for a future date and I don't waste my paint!)

2. Keep working on a page and see what feelings rise to the surface. Continue to use color and visual texture to express those feelings.

3. Keep working on a page and see what feelings rise to the surface. Add some images (with collage? rubber stamps? draw them with a Sharpie or a pencil?) AND/OR words to express that.


6. Sharing your journal pages with our community.

Once you've finished your pages, it's time to take pictures of them, upload them to our Facebook private group page and then check out everyone else's work, too!

Here's a quick photo tutorial on photographing your pages. 

You'll get less distortion of the image if your camera is level with the page. If it's not, the pages will slant in or out at the edges.

Hold your smart phone (or camera) horizontally over your open art journal page.

I like to use a black background under my journal when I photograph the pages. Less distracting.

I love taking photos of my pages and sharing them. I hope you do too!


Here is a a video tutorial on tweaking (cropping, rotating, adjusting lighting and color) your photos of your pages. Not required, but nice if you have the time, so that we see them in their best light!