Archive for the ‘Past Work’ Category

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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I am in the beginning stages of a new journal. I started it with no intent or theme, but as it has progressed, the journal has become one about the eternal flow of abundance. While some of the artwork has been more abstract this one manifested as a gently flowing stream.

Flowing stream illustrated in a Moleskine Watercolor notebookfor an art journal on abundance.

Flowing stream illustrated in a Moleskine Watercolor notebookfor an art journal on abundance.

I used a Moleskine Watercolor journal because the wide format seemed appropriate for the subject matter. The elongated shape is more interesting than a traditional rectangle and it inspired me to see things differently than usual.

This illustration is on the reverse side of a page with acrylic paints and sealant, so I had little, if any issues with buckling. I was so pleased with how the paper performed on the page that backed up to the page with acrylics, that I am considering painting every other 2-page spread with acrylic so my watercolor pages stay flat.

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The soft colors and appearence was a welcome deviation from my normal style.

The soft colors and appearance was a welcome deviation from my normal style.

My life has been chaotic lately and I haven’t had much time to journal or play with art the way I would like to. With limited time and no reasonable idea in mind, I sat down with a Moleskine Watercolor Journal and my watercolors without a clue of what to do. I decided to just go with the flow and just do whatever feels right.

I was drawn to the blues and greens and laid these down in with a mop brush in large areas on the page in horizontal lines. It was odd for me to use such soft colors, but I didn’t want to judge it and continued on. A thin, dark line of green seemed right after the background dried and I softened the edges with water intending to keep everything soft. I was left with a page with two large blocks of color that needed something more.

With a quick glance around the studio I spotted some skeletonized leaves that I have been holding onto. The color was a natural buff and wouldn’t be enough contrast to the background, but his wasn’t a problem. I pressed them into a metallic white ink pad to lighten them and add a little sparkle. Once dry, I used a spray adhesive to affix the leaves to the paper.

The result is a soft, calm image which is quite a deviation from my normal style. A small peaceful spot amid the chaos of my life. It was just what I needed at the time.

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I love Moleskine’s Pocket Watercolor Journal. It is perfect for toting around in your back pocket and just the right size for capturing small details or thumbnail sketches of future projects.

This watercolor was created in a Moleskine Watercolor Journal a couple of year’s back. It was inspired by an old marker illustration I did in the 1980’s of a Clown Fish I bumped into on a dive trip in the Pacific. At the time, I wanted to create large 3-D sculptures of undersea images and this illustration was a study of one of the fishes I intended to do. I never got around to creating the sculpture I had envisioned, but thanks to sketches in this journal, I can always revisit the idea later.

Watercolor of a Clown Fish done in a pocket sized, Moleskine Watercolor Journal.

Watercolor of a Clown Fish done in a pocket sized, Moleskine Watercolor Journal.

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I have water lilies blooming in my backyard pond and I love them. They are the perfect subject for a watercolor illustration and they offer me another opportunity to play around with my art supplies. It’s time to break out the Moleskine watercolor Journal!

I chose the Moleskine Watercolor Journal because I love the way the paper handles ink, watercolor, marker etc, and I planned on using all of these mediums. It is also a convenient size and can be carried around in a purse or large pocket and the cover gives me a hard surface for sketching on.

I chose the Watercolor Journal from Moleskine becasue of the versatility of the paper.

I chose the Watercolor Journal from Moleskine because of the versatility of the paper.

My favorite part of a lily pond is the shiny edges where the lilies meet the water. Because of surface tension, this area is highly reflective and appears white to the eye. I made sure to leave these edges white as well as the area around the small rings created by a tiny bug that landed on the water’s surface.

I wanted to use bright, fresh colors for this illustration. In most cases, when water comes in contact with green plants, the result is bright yellow-green. So I used Caran d’Ache Neocolor II Aquarelles for the greens and blues to make the color pop.

Aquarelles are heavily pigmented sticks that look like crayons. The color goes on like pastels, but when you add water, they blend like watercolors. The color is slightly opaque and is similar to thinned tempra paint, but it is translucent enough to give a watercolor effect. The colors are intense and are brighter than my watercolors so I like using them when I want to make a bold statement. These are great to use outdoors if you want a watercolor effect but don’t want to carry brushes and water. Color the image while on site using the sticks like pastels and blend in the water later in your your studio or home.

Caran dAche Neocolor II Pastels are watersoluable and blen like watercolors.

Caran d'Ache Neocolor II Pastels are water soluble and blend like watercolors.

My set of Aquarelles are close to 20 years old and the colors are still intense. The packaging has changed since I purchased them, but they are still available online and in some art supply stores.

My set of Aquarelles are close to 20 years old and the colors are still intense and the blends are still smooth. The packaging has changed since I purchased them, but they are available online and may be in your local art supply stores.

The outlines were done using my favorite Tombow Ultra Rollerball Pen. I wanted the edges to appear sharp and in my opinion, the Tombow roll pens are the best. The ink is waterproof so it won’t bleed or smudge when wet color is applied and the black is really rich. Because the pen is refillable, I can choose from a variety of point sizes and colors as my needs change.

If you have had experiences using the Aquarelles, I would love to hear about it. Feel free to post your comments!

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