Archive for the ‘Past Work’ Category

One of the journals in the Journey of Journals was themed “Journey”. I thought it would be interesting to create a spread that represented my journey of life in the form of a passport.

The first of two spreads designed to look like a passport, starting with my early life. I used PhotoShop to layer illustrations to give the images a stamped look.

A selection of images I created in CorelDraw and by hand were layered in PhotoShop to create a passport collage. I altered the illustrations to look distressed and to give the appearance of being hand-stamped. Once I was happy with the layout of the pages, I printed them out on my ink jet printer and pasted them into the journal. This type of collage can be created using any combination of photographs and images that you may have using PhotoShop’s powerful layers feature. The great thing about doing this digitally is that you can open it and make changes or additions in the future for  similar or entirely new images.

The second spread features the latter part of my life using similar stamped images.

If you click on the photos, you will see a larger version of the image.

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One of the journals in the worldwide journal swap I participated in was filled with nature inspired illustrations.  My entries were of leaves, created with 2 types of markers, Copic Sketch Markers and Tombow Dual Brush Pens. Color blends were used in both images, but the Copic markers produced blends that were more translucent and ethereal in appearance, while the Tombow markers seemed bolder. Part of the difference may be due to the more graphic appearance of the first illustration, or maybe it is because the Tombow markers are water-based and the Copic markers are alcohol-based. Whatever the reason, the Tombow markers seem to produce bolder, sharper looking color.

This illustration was rendered using Tombow Dual Brush Markers. I added water drops to the surface of the paper using a glossy gel medium in small blobs.

The leaves were created using Copic Sketch Markers. The center of the paper was crimped to cover the spiral binding, the left and right sides of the paper was glued to the journal pages. The left side of the leaf in the center was cut out of the watercolor paper so it would pop up when the pages are opened.

Both markers are high quality, professional grade products but you may prefer one over the other depending on your project. The water-based Tombow markers are appropriate for use on paper-based surfaces and can be thinned with water like water colors. The ink is not permanent and will not bleed through your paper’s surface unless you you saturate the paper with too much ink. The permanent, alcohol-based Copic markers can be used on a variety of surfaces including paper, ceramic, glass, fabrics, metal, leather, plastic and more. Unless you are using Copic’s special marker paper, the Copic markers will bleed through most papers, however.

Copic markers are available in a variety of different sets and color combinations in both Ciao and Sketch marker styles in sets of 12, 24, 36 and 72.

Tombow Dual Brush Markers are available in sets of 6, 10 and 96. Primary, secondary, landscape, portrait and other color sets are designed to fit the needs of individual artists.

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Now that another journal has arrived home, I can post more of my journal entries made to Sue’s journal which was themed We Are All Unique. I found this topic challenging because I am constantly finding things I have in common with others and the world around me.

This illustration was created with embroidery thread, glue and tiny bead pearls.

For my first spread, I wanted to express that while we are all unique, we are part of something larger. I decided to use embroidery thread in varied colors to create a tapestry, which included hundreds of individual threads which contributed to a larger picture of swirling spirals. In the center of each spiral, I glued small pearls to add some sparkle and dimension. Since the tapestry was so thick, I stitched it onto the spiral binding rather than glue it to the pages of the journal. I used the pages of the journal as a background to the tapestry. Pan Pastels were used to get a smooth, graduated color and press-type letters were added on top. The type behind the tapestry reads We Are All unique Threads in the Fabric of the Universe.

The tapestry was stitched onto the spiral binding because it was too thick to glue to the journal pages. I used Pan Pastels to create a smooth background for the transfer type.

Using transfer type in your journals is a great was to add artistic text. It is available in a variety of sizes and styles from professional art supply stores.

On the next 2 pages, I continued the thread theme by scratching words and a scribble design into a bold background of oil pastels.

A thick layer of oil pastels provides a great surface for scratching designs and words.

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Another one of the journals I worked on in the Journey of Journals project and returned home and I am able to post photos of the pages I created as well as the few pages that were in the journal when I received it. The theme of this journal was Strength.

Note: if you right-click any of the images and select View Image, you will be able to see a larger, more detailed image.

The journal is handmade with a vibrant fabric wrapped around paper signatures that are stitched into the fabric. Paula, the journal’s creator, did a beautiful job of connecting her imagery to the journal’s design.

The theme of this journal was strength. Paula's intro page included a small envelope for everyone to include their name.

Her first spread is a mixed-media illustration. I love how she used different patterns and textures to create the design. The layering of items gives the pages a sense of depth and history.

Paula's second spread is layered with rich, vibrant colors and images.

My spread was created by altering a photo of a wolf I took at the International Wolf Center in MN. The image was printing on plain paper using an ink jet printer. I used a translucent, white, iridescent paint on the photo to give the image an otherworldly glow. Inks were added to the dark areas to increase contrast.

Another photo from my visit to the wolf center was used for my second spread. Multiple paint and gel medium layers were used to give the photo a painterly effect.

You can view the Strength journal in its entirety at the following link: Paula’s Journal.

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The completed journal from a recent journal swap.

I was fortunate enough to be a part of a worldwide journal swap that took place between the members of CoachCreativeSpace.com. Not only did I start a journal that was sent to 6 other artists, but I also had the privilege of creating pages in those 6 artists journals. The results were awesome and I feel like I really got to know my artist friends by working in their journals and seeing the work they created in mine.

My journal was themed Connected. I chose the theme because eventually, we would all be connected by our work. I used a large Moleskine Accordion Journal (Japanese Album) to enhance the theme because its pages are connected, zig-zagging throughout. The only request I made to my artist friends was that they somehow found a way to connect their art to the previous artists. How they did that was entirely up to them.

The first 2 pages included the front cover ilustration and a note to my fellow artists.

For my illustration, I sketched a marker illustration of a distant treeline with a lone, bare tree.

I created my illustration using my Tombow Dual Brush Pens. Since the markers are water-based, I didn’t have to worry about them bleeding through the paper. I ended my illustration diagonally, half way through my page and the next artist’s page with the hope that she would start on the empty space on my page, which she did.

Nita's connecting images used the same colors that I did to make the transition. Her images were more abstract at first, but morphed into the image of a jet.

The images following the jet were created by Sue which perhaps were inspired by the journey of this particular journal which traveled to the UK and Canada before making its way home to the US.

Sue's post box illustration blends fluidly into the next 2 images by Nancy. The page on the right is the last page of the front side, so Nancy had to continue her illustration on the second side.

Nancy had the task of having to create something that flowed in the middle of the book. She had to illustrate the last 2 pages of the front side of the accordion and the first 2 pages of the back side.

This is the continuation of Nancy’s artwork from the front side.
The next spread shows the journey the journal made, highlighted by tiny rhinestones for the location of each artist.

Jean illustrated a map of the journey the journal took to the various artists. You can see more of Jean’s work on her blog, A Joyful Spirit.

The next spread continued the dotted graphics from the previous spread, blending with images and names of all the artists involved in the journal swap.

Lotus, created an illustration, connecting all of the artist in the swap. You can see more of her creative journals at her blog, WhymsicalLotus.

The final spread in the journal ends with more travel inspired images.

Finally, the final spread in the journal features birds in flight illustrated by Paula in New Mexico.

An overall view of the completed journal and its zig-zag pages.

Once the other artists journals are finished, I will be posting some of the artwork I created, so be sure to check back for more art journal images.

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I’ve been dabbling in photography as an adjunct to art journals and sketching. I struggle with creating technically correct photographs, but a recent experiment yielded some interesting images that didn’t require me to be technically perfect. The subject was a dull, winter, Kentucky landscape, that would be boring, even if taken by a professional photographer. With a little help from Photoshop, I was able to transform these lifeless photos into something artistic.

These landscape blurs were created by moving my camera while exposing the shot. Using Adobe Photoshop to edit the images, I pumped up the color to enhance the otherwise dull images and the results are more art than photography. The real surprise was the rich textures and colors that appeared when I pushed the colors beyond safe levels.

I can see using this technique to create rich colorful backgrounds in future art journals or as a base for a collage or mixed-media art. If you have used this technique in one of your art journals or artwork, I’d love to know more about your project.

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I have had a series of images floating around in my mind involving the beautiful environment that I live in. Inspired by this, my daughter and drove through the local countryside with our cameras, capturing anything that caught our eyes. We took a lot of photos, most of which we didn’t like, but looking through my images, I noticed a trend. Nearly every photo I took was included vivid blues and greens.

I decided to create a quick  illustration to sum up my  experience using oil pastels in my trusty Moleskine A4 Watercolor journal and this was the result.

I used oil pastels in the Moleskine Watercolor journal to capture the vivid colors on my photo shoot.

Oil Pasts in Moleksine Watercolor Journal

I underpainted the illustration using purple watercolor so it would show through the blue. I like this effect better than effect of white showing through.

The final result is not an exact duplication of the photos I took, but a simple expression of my view of the experience. To give you an idea of what the illustration is based on, I have included a few photos from my outing.

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I have heard from many of you who are uncomfortable starting an art journal who are worried that your ideas and first sketches are ugly or unattractive. If you experience this, don’t worry! They all start out that way. An art journal is all about the process and not every page in your journal is destined to be a work of fine art. If you focus on the process and forget about the final result, you will enjoy art journaling more and your journals will be filled with unique and interesting art that is meaningful and thought-provoking.

I thought it would be interesting to show the steps I take when illustrating a page in my art journal so you could see the process. This 2-page spread is from a journal on abundance I am in the process of working on. If you compare it to the final illustration at the end of the post, you will find it is only a rough representation of the final image.

Art Journaling Abundance in Moleskine Watercolor Journal

This is the rough, pencil sketch for the abundance concept. Notice the images and text is loose and incomplete, only there to indicate position. This sketch will be painted over or erased during the process of journaling. It is only a guide that can be changed as the illustration progresses.

Many beautiful journal pages start as dirty-looking, gray scratchings on the page. In my journal, I started with rough pencil sketches. Notice that these are not perfect little drawings, just basic images and indications of what I see in my head.

Art Journaling Abundance

I used more precise pencil lines as a guide to cut the shape of the reflections from the tape. The lines were dark enough to be visible through the tape.

Once the rough sketch was in place, I started to make the pencil lines more detailed. Since I wanted to create glare on the water that would be white in the final piece, I had to find a way to make these areas white. Since I didn’t want to add white paint, I decided to use masking tape to mask the areas I wanted to be white. This protected the paper from paint, creating white areas wherever tape was used. Using the pencil lines as a guide, I cut the tape and removed the tape on areas that were to be painted. Once these areas were taped, I could paint background colors that had a continuous flow, giving a more uniform appearance.

Art Journaling Abundance

You need to exercise care when cutting masking tape that has been place on your paper. If you cut too deep, you could go through the paper or paint might collect in the small cut you made. If you are new to this, you might want to practice on a scrap piece of paper to see how much pressure you will need to cut to the correct depth.

Removing the tape requires some patience and care. If you are hasty, the surface of the paper will be removed. If this happens, don’t worry, it can be concealed if it causes a problem. In many cases, it is simply not visible in the final product.

Art Journaling Abundance masking

Use care when removing the tape. If you pull too hard or too fast, you may remove the surface of the paper. The pencil marks can be erased once the tape is removed so they don't show through the paint washes.

Once the reflections had been masked, I filled in the background with a blue wash with varied tones. To make it more interesting, I made the lower left corner much darker. This would draw the eye from the lower left into the center of the image where is was much brighter.

After the background was dry, I carefully removed the masking tape to reveal the white reflections.

Art Journalng Abundance watercolor

I painted the background while the masking tape was in place for a smooth, consistent look. Once the tape was removed, the background and fishes contrast with the white reflections. Although I tried to be careful removing the tape, I did manage to pull some of the paper up, but the watercolor paint covered my mistake without a problem, so you really don't notice it. If you right-click the image and choose View Image, you can see a larger version of the image.

I used a metallic pen to write the text I had roughed out on the original pencil sketch. I chose metallic pen to simulate the reflections on the water and to give the piece a little bit of flash. I used a cursive text to mimic the shape of the reflections. By doing this, your eye is tricked and it is not obvious at first glance that this is writing.

Art Journaling Metallic Pen

I used metallic pen to simulate the reflections in the water. I didn't want the words to be obvious at first. The cursive style was used to mimic the shape of the reflections.

The final art, while far from detailed or visually accurate, communicates the graphic, figurative image I wanted.

Art Journaling "Reflections of Abundance" in a Moleskine Watercolor Journal.

The final illustration is titled Reflections of Abundance and is just another set of pages in my abundance journal. I like the upward movement and the flow of golden fishes and it encourages me to continue the journey on the next page.

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As an artist and art journaler, I am always on the lookout for high-quality, convenient journals I can use for making art. For basic doodling with pencil I can use anything, but when making art, I need a journal that can handle marker, watercolor, charcoal, ink, colored pencils, as well as pencil and pen.

The cover is made from thick, textured cardboard that begs to be embellished with metallic markers and collage. It opens flat and would be an excellent choice for creating an art or travel journal.

The cover is made from thick, textured cardboard that begs to be embellished with metallic markers and collage. It opens flat and would be an excellent choice for creating an art or travel journal.

When I received a package of journals to review from Karen at Exaclair, there was an Exacompta Sketchbook in the box. It appeared innocuous enough with its textured black cover, but the silver edged pages, cloth spine and the silver embossed cover intrigued me and urged me to explore the paper within. Was it as nice on the inside as the outside?

The pages have silver edges that sparkle against the black background and add a sense of elegance.

The pages have silver edges that sparkle against the black background and add a sense of elegance. You would never guess that the sketchbook retails for about $12.00.

The Paper

According to Exaclair, the Exacompta Sketchbook contains heavy weight 100g paper that is ideal for use with a fountain pen, calligraphy nib, rollerball or felt-tip pen. The cream-colored paper is pH neutral, made up of 25% cotton, and has a bit of texture to it. The cotton fibers and a water mark can be seen when held up to the light and the sketchbooks are sewn and bound, meaning the books open flat while pages won’t become loose and fall out with use. I didn’t use a calligraphy nib or fountain pen in this review, but I did used a very wet Tombow roll pen, markers, charcoal and watercolor. I was pleased with the results, the paper performed beautifully.

The paper color is soft ivory in color, which is easy on the eyes and the perfect backdrop for pencils and charcoal. It is fairly thick, but it is not near as thick as Moleskine Sketch paper. Rather than being smooth, the paper is slightly textured with a laid finish.  If you look closely, you’ll find the texture is more pronounced on the front side of the page than the back, making the vertical pattern more visible on some pages and the horizontal texture more visible on the others. If you want a consistent paper texture on a 2-page illustration, you will need to use the center of one of the paper signatures where the 2 pages are from a single side of the sheet, thus having the same texture all across.

This charcoal rendering of the wolf was done across 2-pages. The lft page is the backside of the page and is smoother than the right side, which is the front side of the page. On the left, the vertical texture in the paper is more visible while on the right, the horiaontal textures are more prominent.

This charcoal rendering of the wolf was done across 2-pages. The left page is the backside of the paper and is smoother than the right, front side. On the left, the vertical texture in the paper is evident while on the right, the horizontal textures are more prominent. While some of you might find the paper's texture and pattern distracting, I like it and think it adds some vertical energy to the rendering.

Charcoal is my favorite medium for this paper. It goes on smoothly and does a good job of picking up the paper’s texture. The charcoal stick makes a lovely, rough sound as it leaves a mark that really adds to the sketching experience. The deep color contrasts well with the paper and it is very satisfying pressing the color onto this paper. The texture can be enhanced by blending or rubbing the charcoal into the crevices and wiping the surface free of the excess powder. For areas that need to be to be dark black, extra pressure will push the charcoal down into all of the nooks and crannies.

In this close up image, you can see the horizontal texture of the paper on the right page. On the left page, the vertical texture is more visible.

Ink and Markers
I also used ink and marker on the paper to see how well these mediums performed, and like most other journals from Exaclair, the paper performed beautifully. The ink from my Tombow Ultra Roll Pen went on smoothly without skips. This is a wet pen and yet there was no bleedthrough and only a minimal amount of showthrough. I was surprised to find that the raised lines created by pen pressure were more visible than the ink on the backside of the page. I was pleased to use a paper that handled ink so gracefully, and was thrilled to know I can use both sides of the paper for my work.

The results of the marker test were similar to the ink test in that there was no bleedthrough and very little showthrough. The color appeared rich and saturated and the surface remained intact and unblemished. I was able to use multiple layers of color without the surface of the paper turning to mush.

Markers and pen in a Exacompta sketchbook. The paper's surface seemed unaffected by the watercolor markers and Tombow roll pen. There was no bleedthrough with either medium and little, if any of showthrough.Watercolor Paint
Then came the real challenge; wet, sloppy watercolor. So many have sketchbooks failed this test so I was interested to see how well the paper performed with this medium. The first light layers of wash went on with minor buckling, but the paper produced colors similar in brightness and clarity to watercolor paper. After the paint dried, the paper flattened a bit, but there was still some buckling and cupping. Unlike some coated sketchbook papers, there was no beading up or resistance. Each subsequent layer went on like the first and I was able to apply multiple light layers to achieve a reasonable depth of color, but the more layers I applied, the less stable the paper became. After completing the yellow areas, I managed to remove some of the surface of the paper, creating some small lumps of colored paper.

The watercolors were bright and lively on this paper, but I don’t plan on using watercolors with this paper for anything other than quick color sketches or for testing certain effects. The paper buckles less than most, but it is still enough to make using watercolors a less-than-rewarding endeavor.

Watercolors are clear and bright on the paper, but the paper buckled from the wet medium. While it was less than expected, I wouldn't recommend it for anything other than light, quick watercolor sketches. In the areas that received the most wet paint, the surface started to break apart resulting in some lumpiness on the page.

Final Impressions
I love this sketchbook. The paper is exquisite and it is a good value if you are inclined to bargain shop. The street price is about $12 although you can purchase it online with a Madeira leatherette cover for about $20.

This would be an excellent sketchbook to use for art journaling. It handles a variety of mediums, lies flat when opened and is big enough to comfortably draw in and small enough to transport. The cardboard cover can be easily customized with paints, collage, metallic pens, fabric giving you limitless options for creating a journal as unique.


  • Superb, Clairfontaine paper
  • Excellent choice for art journaling
  • Handles a variety of mediums well, especially wet pens
  • No bleedthrough and minimal show through, so you can use both sides of the paper
  • Colorful ribbon bookmark for easy page retrieval
  • 200 pages of high-quality paper for just $12
  • Opens flat
  • Cardboard cover can be easily customized


  • Paper buckles when using watercolor paint
  • Hard to find in stores

Exacompta Sketchbook “Livres d’Or” Sketchbook Specifications:

  • 10 signatures of 20 pages
  • 100 gsm which is roughly a 65 lb. paper.
  • Multicolor ribbon.
  • Black cover & silver edge
  • Cloth binding to match cover
  • Textured hardboard covers
  • Sewn binding

According to Karen at Exaclair, this Sketch Book is going to get more of a prominent spot in Exaclair’s 2010 catalog. The paper comes from the same mill in the Netherlands that produces Clairefontaine’s fine art paper – http://jherbin.com/schut_mill.shtml. Thank you, Karen, for supplying me with this great little sketchbook to review. I really enjoyed it!

Have you used this sketchbook? If so, leave me a comment and let me know what you think about it!

Exacompta SketchbookThe Exacompta Sketchbook has a textured, black, cardboard cover that begs to be embellished with metallic markers and collage. The logo on the front cover is in a silver foil and measures just over an inch. This would make an excellent art journal or travel journal.

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A month or so ago, I started a personal art journal. I didn’t have a plan, I thought I would just start drawing, go with the flow and see what happened. The result was the beginnings of an abundance journal.

The first pages in my personal abundance journal was done in pen and ink, acrylic paint, and rubber stamps impressed into thick layers of gel medium.

I started with a pen and ink illustration of curly, swirling, lines as the base image. In the photo, it is just barely visible through the sun’s rays and golden paint. This image was the inspiration for the entire journal, but the process of discovering this unfolded slowly. The organic shape of the lines reminded me of a flowing river and the circular shape of the curls reminded me of coins. I kept these images in mind as I layered on the paints and gel medium.

Because water was used to thin the acrylic paint, the color is translucent and the original line drawing of the swirls is visible. The coins were created by pressing a rubber stamp of a coin image into wet gel medium. Once the gel medium dried, diluted ink was rubbed into the depressions left by the stamp and the raised areas were wiped clean. This resulted in an antique look on the coins and surrounding area. The sun's rays were created with water-soluble pastels applied after the background was finished and then the entire spread was sprayed with a protective coat of acrylic spray.

The acrylic paints were thinned with water to keep the color translucent. By applying multiple thin layers the color was constructed slowly, adding depth and dimension to the background while allowing the pen and ink illustration to show through. In the golden-orange areas, thin layers of metallic gold acrylic were applied to add some shine that would relate to the coins I imagined earlier. Multiple washes of the metallic paint created a luminous effect that is soft and beautiful. More layers of gold made the paint more reflective, but by adding subtle, watery layers of the metallic paint over other areas of color added subtle movement to these areas.

Moleskine Watercolor Art Journal

The red background was created using watercolor. I avoided adding too much yellow to the red because I wanted it to contrast with the gold tones. The coins were created with a rubber stamp and black and red inks. Kanji character was stamped using black ink and the light areas near the top of the character were filled in using ink and a brush to define the edges.

In the left corner, the red background was created with multiple layers of red watercolor paint along with black to add some much-needed intensity and contrast to the image. I resisted the urge to add too much yellow to the red because I wanted it to contrast with the golds and make it pop. Shading was done with purples and blacks to enhance the dark areas. The coin images you see on this part of the illustration were done by using a rubber stamp with black and red inks. The Kanji character was done with a rubber stamp and black ink the light areas near the top of the character were filled in with a brush to define it.

At this point, the background was finished but it needed a focal point. A sun seemed to be the perfect choice and reinforced the circular imagery in the line illustration and coins. Because I wanted the sun to be opaque to cover the intense background, I chose vivid, water-soluble pastels. The bright color struck a nice balance to the background and the swirling rays added the concept of swirling water that I was looking for.

Once I felt the illustration was finished, I sealed it using a clear acrylic spray to protect it an to give the entire image an even sheen.

Material Used

  • Red and yellow acrylic paint
  • Metallic gold and silver metallic acrylic paint
  • Watercolor paint
  • Pen and ink
  • Rubber stamp of coin
  • Red and black ink pad
  • Gel medium
  • Water soluble pastels
  • Acrylic sealant

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