Getting a fresh start in the New Year, allows you to begin again and gives you yet another chance to collect and preserve moments of your life. January is a great time to start thinking about penning and painting the details of your daily life. So many times I think back and wish I had paid more attention to my parents or grandparents and the stories they told and the things they shared with me. The simple stories of their lives and memories of times past. Many of those precious memories have since been forgotten. However, it is never too late to start penning your past, present, and plans for the future by keeping a life journal.
What we now call a journal, was in the past called a diary. However, when you hear the word “diary”, you think of young girl’s shielding their writings put down in a small locked notebook. The entries were never meant to be seen by others. A life journal is different. It is meant to be shared. It is something that is as individual as the person creating it. Something that can pass a family’s history from generation to generation.
Journaling is an excellent way to archive your past and memories or perhaps just what you had for breakfast or what you see out your kitchen window. It is a creative way to express day to day thoughts, feelings, inspirations, aspirations, or just the things that make you, YOU. There is no right or wrong way to do it, anything goes. It is your art, your thoughts, your writings. Do it the way you want. It is completely yours.
Any subject is worth writing about.
- You can create a simple life journal with thoughts, aspirations, dreams, ideas, or daily occurrences.
- Or maybe, a creative journal with ideas for paintings, or projects, or color schemes or what ever inspires you to paint.
- You might start a travel journal for each vacation you take and various locations you have visited or maybe places you wish to visit. It is very easy to journal during a vacation, or just after because the details are very fresh in your mind. Use the pictures you have taken to paint small vignettes, or simple sketches of the food you experienced or people you saw.
- Childhood memories are another great subject for journals. These are great to pass on to your children to document their history, as well.
- Flower and plant journaling is great if you are an avid gardener.
- Animals you see in your backyard like birds or deer can be fun to follow.
- Recipes are great to illustrate, record the source of the recipe and details about the ingredients. This would also make a great gift for family and friends.
- Start a holiday journal and set down the guests, locations, and details of the events. You can even have each guest to include a note of their own.
- Interviewing a relative is another way to capture the past. Then transcribe what you have learned into the journal and create artwork about the person. Make an extra copy for your subject.
- Track the progress of a new baby or a toddler. Add pictures or illustrate special clothing, or toys.
- A decorating and design journal noting patterns and color schemes.
- Collections Journal to record multiple things you collect like baskets, dish patterns, or various antiques.
- A nature journal created while discovering the great outdoors. Hiking provides lots of plant and animal material to draw and study.
- Poetry Journal to save your daily thoughts and muses.
These are just a few ideas. You can journal about anything!
With the art of journaling gaining ground as a daily art activity, the supplies for journaling are getting more and more attention. The materials can be as basic or as complex as you choose. Like I said, this is your art journal and no one even has to see it but you. Journaling is personal and the only one you have to satisfy is you. That’s the best thing about journaling, it’s your story!
Choosing basic and simplified supplies allows you to be spontaneous and enjoy the practice on a daily basis. You can narrow your list down to just two necessary items, paper and a writing instrument.
Paper is an easy choice. You can use just about any weight, quality, size, bound, unbound, spiral, hardbound, cotton rag or watercolor paper, sketch pad, handmade journals, or even just plain old school notebook paper. Ok, so the choice may not be that easy! But, if you know what you want, you should be able to find anything that will fit your needs. Truly, if you are doing more than just writing, which is what the art of journaling is all about, you will want a heavy weight, blank surface so you will be able to collage, paint, cut and embellish directly on your daily entries.
Many sketchbooks are designed just for this purpose. I will tell you, though, one of my favorites is the Kilimanjaro Paintbook. It is an all around, suitable journal for most every purpose. It comes with professional quality Kilimanjaro watercolor paper, 140lb or 300lb, Bright white or Natural for creating full watercolor paintings and now has a 300lb watercolor cover reserved especially for your Title Page Art. This gives you the rare opportunity to express yourself in designing a unique cover for every new journal. The Paintbook is also filled with 70lb sketch paper sandwiched in between the watercolor paper to allow you to do pencil sketches, make notes, or just to write your dreams for the future. All of this wrapped up in a variety of spiral bound sizes at very affordable prices!
Ok, now that you have something to journal on, what will you use to record all of your great information? Many professional artists prefer waterproof pen. When you use a pen you will be less concerned about making mistakes. There are no mistakes. It teaches you to be more confident and deliberate with your marks. Allowing you to be creative, not worrying about perfection. This is much more spontaneous than trying to plan every little line. Again, there is no right or wrong way. Using a fine tip waterproof pen will enable you to go in later, if you choose, and add color, wet or dry.
There are many great pens available that are perfect for journaling, completely waterproof, permanent and archival. They range in price from a buck-fifty to over twenty dollars each. Of course, the less expensive versions will deliver many of the same basic benefits of the more expensive ones with the exception of being able to change colors and refilling them, which can be more cost effective if you continue your daily journaling long term.
I have a few favorites for journaling, an inexpensive disposable choice, The Identi-pen, and a long term investment, the Copic Refillable MultilinerSP. Each has its own unique qualities and purposes. I find that having both available is preferred.
The Identi-Pen by Sakura is a great pen for use on just about any surface. If fact, it was developed to allow you to “identify” your own personal possessions, as it is permanent, waterproof, and can write on many different surfaces like CDs, photos, glass, plastic, wood, leather, and metal. Then, artists discovered what an asset it was for pen and ink paintings and it became a staple for artists everywhere.
The Copic Multiliner SP is very convenient and useful having many different nib sizes and many different colors to choose from. The cartridges are easy to change and the nibs can be replaced as well. This is definitely going to be a life long friend to any journalist!
The Rapidograph Technical Pens by Koh-I-Noor are another great choice; state of the art quality with more versatility than most other disposable drawing pens. This type of pen has been used by professional illustrators, graphic artists, architects, artists, and hobbyists for over thirty years. It is the only technical pen made in the USA. Rapidographs are best used with waterproof drawing ink that was designed especially for them, the Rapidograph Universal brand. They are available in several colors to provide you with lots of vibrant detail. You can even mix the ink to create custom colors. The pens come in several size nibs from very very fine to very heavy to provide you with clean consistent lines for any technique. They are meant to last a lifetime, and they will if they are properly used and cared for. They can be purchased in the set or individually.
If you find you don’t have the time to work on your journal everyday, at least allow yourself once every other day or once a week. Working with a group is another great way to keep you motivated to create on a regular basis.
Joe included this great tip of his own in his book, “Old Watercolorists Never Die, They Just Wet Their Sheets”.
I use artist tape to create a nice clean border when I’m journaling and occasionly on my watercolors. Good tapes come with more than enough stick-it-to-em. So BEFORE you put the tape on your paper, put it on your jeans or shirt, pull it off and then put it on the watercolor paper. This may save you heartache, as it will prevent the tape from tearing your watercolor paper. Be sure to allow your painting to dry completely before removing the tape. I like using the 1 inch wide artist tape. (Artist tape differs from masking tape in that it is made out of paper and leaves a nice sharp clean edge. Masking tape can stretch and allow the paint under the edge creating a messy edge.)
Draw with pencil or pen. If pen, be sure it says “waterproof” on the barrel or it might smear. Notice in the upper right-hand corner, my little sun on the top to remind me where the light is coming from.
Add color with American Journey Watercolors, of course! Notice the paint on the tape. Don’t be concerned about paint on the tape, as you will of course remove it when finished.
Add pen and ink if you’d like. See the messy tape? Now watch what happens when we remove it. (Make sure the painting is completely dry before removing.)
Carefully remove the tape. Now add interesting comments. This is the way the actual page looks in a journal. With a ruler, run a line around it for another mat. Add a light value with a Prismacolor marker Grey 20% for shadows.