Friday, December 31, 2010

Super-simple handmade journals

A lot of people have mentioned to me over the years that they'd love to bind their own journals but it's just too complicated or time consuming--or intimidating!  I'll never be a "real" bookbinder, but I do enjoy making a variety of sketch journals so I can have the paper I want.

I'd love to take a bookbinding class, maybe one of Roz Stendahl's, but so far I use books and DVDs as my guide... this Dover book by Aldren Watson was my first and still my favorite. Hand Bookbinding: A Manual of Instruction.

But if you're not up for case-bound or other traditional methods, here are a couple of VERY easy journal types to start with, if you just want good paper to work on...


You may have seen this type available in the online's a simple accordion style.  You just cut a strip of paper the height you want, fold in the middle of the strip, fold again, and again, zigzag style, till you get to the size you want.

You can glue book boards, cardboard, matboard or whatever, to each end to protect the edges and make it more book-like.  I make these fairly small and have one in both of our vehicles in case I go off without a sketchbook!

They can be quite handsome, as you see above.  (I sometimes add a little bit of embellishment so I can tell which end is the "front."

I often do more traditional bound books, but because I like a square format there's always some waste of a full sheet of paper.  I use that to make these small folders.

Granted, these ARE a bit more difficult to use sometimes...they want to unfold unless you have a nice flat place to work!  I did the ocean part of the folder above balancing the paper on my knees and fighting the wind!  I like the way you can continue an image across the pages, though...

Of course when you get to the end you just flip it over and fill the other side.

Single page FOLDERS

These are a bit more difficult to describe, so I did this little YouTube video to explain how they work.  You can use a full sheet of watercolor paper if you like, that's what I did above!


* Nina Johannson, one of our correspondents, did a wonderful post on her blog on this folding technique, which she found and sent me, HERE.  It's clear and beautifully photographed, thank you Nina, I'll add it to our links!

There are lots of other options, of course--I covered these in more detail in the CD I did on Super-Simple bookbinding.  You can find it in the bookbinding links at right if you'd like more information.

And I just realized as I was looking for the Aldren Watson book above that you might like to see this, as well--Bookbinding resources and supplies on Amazon!  I hadn't even thought about being able to get needles, binding thread, bookcloth, glue and more there...

Strathmore Free Art Workshops!

Just heard about this, and the first class starts tomorrow, but our own Roz Stendahl, one of our blog authors, is offering one of them--of course, I signed up, immediately!  (Hers starts May 1.) 

I believe they are self directed, but I'm intensely curious--and anything Roz is involved in is solid gold.  I'm sure I won't regret it, and I know you won't either...

You can find them at this link...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Next up, Australian Architect Liz Steel and her traveling companion!

I met Liz this summer when she'd barely begun her 10-week-long travels through America and Europe...sketching and journaling all the way!  We had a wonderful time, and I've loved having her be a part of the book, the blog, and my experience as a journal-keeper. 

Liz does enticing drawings of her art supplies to start each new journal, and experiments often...her drawings are energetic and colorful, a delight to see.  You feel as if you've traveled right along with her, seeing castles and cafe's, teapots and trains.  She is one of the most prolific journal-keepers I know.

And of course her traveling companion, the little bear you see above, captures everyone's imagination--he's been drawn by many, many other journal-sketchers besides Liz!  Quirky and charming, the bear is lots of fun.  (When North Light has their interviews and extras online, you'll get to see a number of Borromini sketches, by Liz, Joseph Ruckman, Vicky Williamson, Laura Frankstone and me...I know there are a lot more out there!) for it, Liz's interview should be up within the next week to 10 days!  (Yep, she's off traveling again!)

Monday, December 27, 2010



(..HaNDMadE TARTaN dRESs bY: FAi.. tHX Fai!)

(..UNiQUe 'No?!)

(..i'M taKiNg PiCtuRe witH MAC BeaUty aDViSoR PLaZA SeNaYAN..)

(..i GeT a GiFT fRoM MAC coNtAiNing MaKeUp WoRtH Rp.3.000.000 aT CHRiSMaS DaY aS THE BEST DRESS ~yEeYYy..)


foLLOw Me oN TWiTteR: @aldoakira (^,^)v

TIPS, IDEAS...and feedback?

Hi all...

We plan to add journaling tips to this site, between interviews, but what else would you like to see?  Book reviews?  Websites?  Videos?  Classes?

We want to know what YOU need...please put your suggestions into the comments here!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Interview #1--Danny Gregory

Danny Gregory has been an inspiration to many of us, from the time his first journaling book, Everyday Matters, first appeared on the scene. It was followed by The Creative License; Giving Yourself Permission to Be The Artist You Truly Are (which I am currently re-reading with delight!) and then a group effort, An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers, in which I was honored to be included.

These are only a few of Danny's no-nonsense, get-it-done books, and tens of thousands of us reap the benefits.

No stranger to personal tragedy, New York resident Gregory has turned to journaling again and again to cope with--and celebrate--life.  He fearlessly invites us along for the journey and shows us ways to deal with our OWN ups and downs.  More importantly, he proves that every day--every single day--really does matter.

Danny, thank you for all you've done, including being part of the book and the blog.

So to the interview!

Q. First off, a tough one.  You started journaling in response to a tragedy in your life.  Do you feel up to sharing what it meant to you, and means now that life has handed you another one?  (If this one isn’t comfortable, not to worry; I used one of your pieces of art from the recent adjustment and your notes really do speak for themselves.)

A. I start writing and drawing in my journal less than a week after Patti's death.  It was the only confidante and sounding board I had, a refuge that had always given me a way to gain perspective and insight. I find that continuing to record and paint my life and its changes has been key to dealing with my grief. And it kept me in touch with Patti; I had always shared the pages of my journal with her and somehow continuing to fill them kept me connected. 

Q. You started an incredible groundswell movement with your books.  How do you feel about that?  You’re an icon for a lot of people; it’s got to be humbling, and sometimes even perhaps a bit of a burden.  Do you feel that you’re still sketching for yourself, or for others?  Is this good, or bad?

A. I am always surprised when people give me any sort of credit for the growing interest in illustrated journaling.  Certainly I have written about journaling and shared my own pages but I don't feel responsible for or even terribly connected to the people who have taken up their own sketchbooks. I certainly don't feel like an icon and remain somewhat embarrassed by my drawings. I have however felt pressure from keeping a blog over the years.  There are times when it is terrifically inspiring to me to share my work and thoughts, and it keeps me going even if I am out of ideas or new directions. However at other times I can feel a nagging sense that I must post,must share and that oppressive obligation has occasionally driven me to take a hiatus from online life and retreat into my own world. I can also feel like I am over-sharing and get self-conscious and shy.    

Q. You've drawn a lot of dogs, and even have published a whole book on them (which I love, by the way.) Why dogs?  I LOVE your dog sketches, and your book on bad dogs.  You’ve got a special feeling for the subject, it’s obvious. 

A. Dogs have always been very important to me. When i was a child I fantasized about being a vet. I have always owned dogs and drawn them since I was able to hold a crayon. 

Dogs make great models. They will hold still for ages, have great personalities, don't mind posing nude, and work for snacks. They allow me to draw bones, muscles and fur, and come in so many shapes, colors and sizes.  

Oh and my initials are D. O. G.   

(You can find Danny's dog book, Bad to the Bone, HERE.)

Q. What’s your favorite medium?  Looks like you’re mostly using dip pens and ink now…with watercolor?  Advice?

 A. I have become fairly committed to dip pens and India ink. I use sum-I ink for tone but recently have become devoted to Dr. pH Martins liquid watercolors.  

Q. I understand you’re doing some teaching, now.  How do you like the in-person stuff?

A. I rarely teach. Partly that's because most places don't really get what I want to teach or how. I also find that I have never been able to teach in an appropriate environment. Teaching illustrated journaling in a sterile academic classroom feels stilted and cold. 

That being said I have always loved my students. It is so great to see people get hooked on drawing and start compulsively documenting their lives. If I can share my enthusiasm for journaling, my life has been worthwhile.


And it certainly has.  Thank you, Danny...

See Danny's website here:
and his blog here:

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Owls in the night

You need:

  1. blue construction paper 15 by 20 cm
  2. white tempera paint
  3. piece of cardboard
  4. brush
  5. saucer
  6. paper towel
  7. fine black marker
  8. yellow pencil

Draw a moon and colour it with yellow pencil. Paint the bottom of the blue sheet white with tempera paint.

Put a paper towel on a saucer. Put a stripe of white tempera paint on the towel. The paper towel will function as a stamp pad. Dip the edge of a piece of cardboard into the white paint and print a trunk. Drag the cardboard a bit to create a thicker trunk. Print several branches. Be sure to leave some space between the branches for the owls.

Use a fingertop and white paint to print the body of the owls. Leave the work to dry.

Draw eyes with a yellow pencil. Outline the eyes with a fine black marker. Draw details like feathers, beak and legs.

Print snow flakes using a q-tip or the end of a brush.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Blog co-authors!

We're up to 22 co-authors for this blog, from the wonderful artists who took part in the book, with a few more we hope will be able to join us--if you've clicked the links next to their names in the Book Artists list at right, you know there is a lot to look forward to!

We'll be posting interviews with all of them, starting, as noted, the day after Christmas with Danny Gregory. 

As time goes by, these co-authors will chime in with new insights, posts, and images.  I can't wait!

Some of the names in the blog co-authors list aren't entirely self-explanatory, but fun!  Veteran journal-keeper and all 'round inspiration Roz Stendahl, for instance, shows up there as "journalrat," and one of my earliest online inspirations, Spanish artist Enrique Flores, is 4ojos, whom you may have seen by that name on YouTube.  My dear friend Laura Frankstone's blog is Laurelines, and that's what you'll see in the co-author's list. 

We invite you to explore, bookmark these sites, and watch for the insights on journal-keeping you'll find here in future weeks and months!

And a most Merry Christmas and wonderful holidays to you all!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Upcoming December 26--an interview with Danny Gregory

DO watch for it--as I said, there wasn't room in the book for all the wonderful interviews with 27 artists--it would have become encyclopedic!  So,I'll share them and expand on them here. 

I was able to use much more of Danny's work, plus links to his books, blogs, website and more.  It's fascinating...

The Artist's Network will also feature some of these interviews--4-5, I think--so most of this resource will be available ONLY here.  You'll love it!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Penguins and polar bears

Made by Jorine, grade 6

You need:

  1. white drawing sheet A4 size
  2. plastic wrap
  3. watercolour paint
  4. brush
  5. jar with water
  6. black waterproof marker
  7. white tempera paint
  8. orange marker
  9. glue
  10. coloured cardboard
  11. white pencil

Paint a part of the sheet with blue water paint. Use lots of water. While the paint is still wet, push plastic wrap on it to create floes and then leave the sheet to dry. Remove the wrap.

Use a waterproof black marker to draw several penguins. Colour the black parts and draw wings. Use white tempera to paint the bellies. Leave the work to dry and draw eyes and beaks.

Draw a polar bear on the ice. Trace the pencil lines with a fine black waterproof marker. Paint the bear with white tempera paint, including the black lines to make them a bit hazy.
Paint the background with a mixture of white tempera and a little blue. In the example the mix is made of white tempera and the blue rinse water of the water paint.

Paste the work on a coloured background and draw ice crystals along the edges with a white pencil.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Come on, let's make a snowman!

You need:
  1. blue construction paper A4 size
  2. oil pastels
  3. pencil
  4. white tempera
  5. brush

Students sketch a part of a snowman on blue paper. Sketch the hat and scarf and other items too. By choosing an incomplete snowman, students are forced to draw big. An additional advantage is that there remains some to imagine, because wwhat would your snowman look like if he filled the complete sheet?

Tell students that they begin to colour with white. This is to prevent the other colors will mix with white, and to be sure the white crayons will remain white! When the artwork is ready, outline everything with black oil pastel. Paint snowflakes around the snowman with white tempera paint and a sturdy brush.

Made by students of 10-11 years old

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A new book from North Light...Artist's Journal Workshop

I've been filling illustrated journals for 40 years or so..."illuminated journals," as my friend Hannah Hinchman calls them, as so they are.  As an artist and writer, I enlist both sides of my brain to pay attention to my life, to work out problems, to celebrate the passing moments, to encourage creativity, to learn about love.

I've written on the subject in many magazines, from Sports Afield to Country Living, from Personal Journaling to The Artist's Magazine, over the years.

Last year, I decided the time was right to share my passion for journaling again, and offered a new online class.  The response--and the level of commitment and enthusiasm among the students--was astounding.  It was the best and most exhausting class I've ever taught, a whole different animal from covering techniques and materials.  Keeping an artist's journal touches something primal, something deep inside...and these wonderful students obviously felt it.

Shortly after, I turned the class material into a CD, for those who weren't able to take the intensive as my classes are, I can only teach 1-2 a year.  (You can see the link at right.)  And I tend to do, I approached North Light Books, my longtime publisher.  Again, the enthusiasm was immediate.  I signed a contract in January of 2010 and began contacting some of the best artist/journalists I know.  This subject is far too important to be the work of one person...

So in the book you'll see some very familiar names, and some who deserve to be moreso.  There are sketchers, writers, and some who do complete paintings in their journal sketchbooks.  Some write as much as they sketch, some barely use words at all.  Some plan more formal paintings, some simply explore this moment in time.  Some explore family history, some learn about nature, some are spiritual, some are everyday...and all are inspiring. There is joy and delight and challenge there, and even pain.

The journal gives us an immediate and invaluable tool to deal with life's ups and downs--both deserve our attention. new North Light book will be out in June of 2011, and I've had a marvelous time with this editor, Holly Davis, absolutely GETS it.  (The title now is Artist's Journal Workshop; Creating Your Life in Words and Pictures.)  Holly and I worked together very well, with lots of give and take, and her suggestions and questions have made it a better book by far.  She was a blast to work with.

So were the 26 terrific artists that shared their work and words.  I found a wide range of some of the very best artist journal keepers out there, from Hannah Hinchman to Danny Gregory, from Laura Frankstone to Enrique can see most of them listed in the sidebar at right, though I still need to add those who don't have websites or blogs yet.

I interviewed all of them, and we mined the interviews for quotes to explain and expand on the concepts in keeping an artist's journal. 

But there was FAR too much wonderful material to fit in the 144 pages of the book, so I started this blog just for these in-depth interviews and additional art.  There was too much of that to fit in the book too, and it needs to be seen and shared.

That was the beginning concept...

Again, it will grow beyond these boundaries.  Journaling is organic; it goes where it will.  There will be ongoing tips on journal keeping, recommended books, art, links to favorite books or websites, and much, more more, from me and from others involved in the project. 

We don't have the official book cover yet, just a working cover--a place marker, if you will, but it'll be along soon...hence the mystery cover in the banner above!  (I don't design the covers or pick the titles of my own books, something that always amazes my readers and students!)  I'm as anxious to see what the final cover is as anyone.

I'm looking forward to seeing where this journey takes us, as well...I hope it encourages you, the reader, to take up that journal book and begin your OWN journey...

So welcome aboard, and I hope you enjoy the interviews, journal pages, tips and hints...

Let it snow!

You need:
  1. black construction paper 20 by 20 cm
  2. white tempera paint
  3. saucer
  4. paper towel
  5. fine markers in black and white
  6. metallic gel pens

I found the idea of printed snowmen in one of Usborne's activity books. With music lines, I made my own lesson of it.

Draw curved music lines with a white or silver pen on the black sheet. Put a piece of paper towel on a saucer so it can serve as a stamp pad. Drip some tempera paint the paper towel. Use your thumb to stamp the bodies of the snowmen. Add a fingerprint for a head.

When the paint is dry, you can add eyes, nose, mouth, arms, buttons etc. Use gel pens and markers. Draw some music notes on the lines and write the lyrics of a winter song belof the lines.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas stamp

You need:
  1. brown paper bag
  2. markers
  3. correction fluid
Draw a little Christmas scene on a piece of a paper bag. Colour it with markers. Colour the white pieces with correction fluid. Outline everything with a fine black marker. Draw serrated edges with black marker or cut the stamp with pinking shears.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Angelic students

You need:
  1. paper doily
  2. black construction paper A4 size
  3. silver thread
  4. little silver clothespins
  5. glitter
  6. glue
  7. scissors
  8. black white photograph of the face
  9. cotton wool balls
Give all students a sheet of black construction paper and a doily. Fold the doily in eight parts. Cut two wings, both 1/8 part of the doilie.
Paste a photograph of your face on the black sheet. Take half of the doily and form a dress. Paste it spatial. Paste the wings behind the dress on shoulder hight.
Cut two pieces of the silver thread, the legs, and paste them under the folds of the dress. Paste two clothespins, the feet. Cut arms from a scrap of white paper. Paste pieces of cotton wool on the hair. Decorate with glitter.

Made by students of 11-12 years old

Thanks to Anneriek Adema, Dokkum

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Colourful Christmas trees

You need:

  1. two drawing sheets A4 size
  2. watercolour paint
  3. brushes
  4. jar with water
  5. tissue paper
  6. scissors
  7. glue
  8. ruler
  9. pencil
  10. gold or silver marker
  11. white correction marker
  12. glitter

Paint a background for the Christmas trees with water paint. Use different colours and let them blend into each other. Use plenty of water for nice bright colours.

Choose three colours of tissue paper. Fold the sheets several times and cut triangles and squares. Take a sheet of drawing paper and make it wet with a brush and water. Lay the pieces of tissue paper on this wet sheet. If the tissue paper is not wet enough, it won't bleed. Then make it wet again with a brush with water. Fill the sheet with these tissue paper parts and leave it to dry. Remove the pieces of tissue paper from the sheet when it is completely dry. The sheet will look like this:

Cut long triangles from the sheet that was coloured with tissue paper. You may use the schedule above (based on A4 size sheet of 21 by 29 cm - half cm will remain on both sides then). You can cut a piece from the bottom of the triangles if you want trees of various heights.

Paste these three trees with overlap on the water paint background. Don't paste the trees all at the same height, so you get depth. Cut some smaller triangles from the left overs if you want more trees.

Outline the trees with silver or gold marker. Draw a simple branch structure. Draw the strains with brown pencil or use the metallic pins. Draw snowflakes around and on the trees with a white (correction) marker or use chips from the punch. rond en op de bomen. Paste the artwork on a coloured background. Sprinkle some glitter on the forest floor.

All artwork is made by students of 11-12 years old

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wooden Christmas tree

Made by a student of 7 years old

You need:

  1. plywood 14 by 18 cm
  2. pencil
  3. ruler
  4. jigsaw
  5. nails
  6. hammer
  7. tempera paint
  8. brush
  9. block of wood 6 by 3 by 1 cm
  10. 2 blocks of wood 5 bij 2 bij 1 cm
  11. small Christmas decorations
  12. silver cardboard
  13. glue

Draw on the narrow side of the plywood a dot on 9 cm. Draw two lines from the corners below at this dot so you get a triangle. Saw this triangle. Paint it green with tempera paint. Spike at different spots on the front and back of the tree little nails for the Christmas decorations.

Create a standard of three blocks of wood by pasting the smaller blocks with a half cm space between them on the largest block. Paint the standard. Hang the balls and garlands on the nails. Cut a double peak out of silv and paste the two pieces together. Paste the peak on the tree.
Decorate the tree with little clocks, balls, socks, garlands etc.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas tree in strips

Made by a student of 11 years old

You need:

  1. white drawing sheet A4 size
  2. black construction paper A4 size
  3. tempera paint
  4. brush
  5. advertising leaflet with Christmas decorations or aluminum foil or scrapbooking paper
  6. glue
  7. glitter stars
  8. small piece of brown paper
Paint a white sheet with a broad brush and undiluted green tempera paint. Apply patches or streaks of different colours, to make the green sheet more vivid. Let the sheet dry.

Tear a trunk out of brown paper. Tear strips of the painted sheet that are about the same width. Place the paper strips on a black sheet in the form of a Christmas tree; the strips have to become slightly shorter. Put the trunk below the bottom strip and paste it. Paste the green strips, so that the trunk disappears partly under the lower strip.

Cut balls and a peak out of aluminium foil or advertising leaflets. You can also use scrapbooking paper. Paste balls and peak on the tree. Cut squares and rectangles (presents!) of coloured paper and paste them under the tree. Paste glitter stars around the tree.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

lari washburn : artists who blog

Fresh artist interview for you today! Wonderful, thoughtful, talented Maine artist Lari Washburn will delight your senses and your soul with her beautiful mixed media artwork and peaceful words. Enjoy.

Why did you decide to become an artist and could you imagine doing anything else? If so, what?

I don’t really remember deciding to be an artist. My mother was an artist so I grew up with that life…seeing creativity as a way to live. Pretty much everything in our home was made by one of my parents, or it was an antique! I do remember standing in a museum, in front of a painting and deciding to go to school and get a BFA. But I think I was motivated to do this because I saw the joy and power of creating. I can’t imagine doing anything else now.

Do you still believe “do what you love and the money will come“?

I think the saying should be “Do what you love, and be deeply devoted to the practice it will take everyday and maybe the money will follow, but for sure the happiness of being true to yourself will follow.” That’s what I want…to be true to myself.

How has blogging and the Internet influenced your work as an artist?

I see all the possibilities out there, and how endless they are, and that inspires me. I see all the ways people make their lives work, and that excites me. I see things everyday that I would never have thought of or been exposed to, and that is fun. I think everything I take in is food that will ultimately be used by me somehow. I rarely know how this will happen consciously, but I see it later in my work. And I try to take in the best nourishment possible…things that are positive.

Please name 3 of your favorite blogs and tell us why these blogs are special.

Natsumi Nishizumi I enjoy this blog for its simplicity and peaceful quality. I think this artist has a spectacular eye and sense of design, combined with an appreciation of nature that always renews me.

Pia Jane Bijkerk I think the way this artist styles everything is always so fascinating. I like all the texture she adds in her photos and graphics, and how she always focuses on magical and moody-feeling settings. I aspire to add more of this to my blog.

Stitch and Tickle I love Sophie’s blog because she is so curious and inventive about life and her work. She always has something unique and funny and refreshing to write about. She always makes me see things in new ways. And her work is stunning, and I always like to see how it is progressing.

What is your greatest fear and what do you do to overcome it?

I don’t enjoy it when access to my intuitive self is clouded or blocked by too much wishing to be like somebody else! This is a big and sad danger that I try to nip in the bud right away when I see it coming. A good dose of going into the studio and making myself do things that are “bad” and “ugly” and “trite” is my cure.

Who would you like to trade places with for one day? Why?

Oh, maybe Cy Twombly, just to see how it feels to be so in touch with that incredible flow. I love the truth and exploration in his work so much.

What are your secrets for managing your time wisely?

Having a list of things I will accomplish each day and being really diligent about working until they are done. And taking a short nap every day if I can!!

If you could live anywhere in the world – all expenses paid – for one year, where would that be? Why?

I think it would be India. There is such a rich culture there, and so many completely new things to experience. I have heard that it is a very difficult place to visit because the full force of the human condition is presented to you everywhere, but I think if I could be courageous enough to expose myself to that it would expand me. Also, think of the color!

How do you maintain a healthy balance between your professional and private life?

I have work times and not work times. My spiritual practice advises living each day so that 4 things are in balance: right livelihood, service to others, being supportive to those who are emotionally dependent upon me, and time for myself. I try to follow this.

What are your top 5 goals that you’d like to accomplish within the next 5 years?

Be a kinder human being.

Continue to develop my drawing and painting skills.

Continue to develop my textile design skills.

Find gallery representation.

Become a really good photographer.

What is your advice for someone who would like to turn his or her creative dreams into reality?

Write down what you want, picture it in detail, and make some kind of plan to achieve it. Surround yourself with like-minded people. Do at least one thing every day to accomplish what you have said you want to do. Keep swimming no matter what.

Thank you for sharing Lari. Your words and your artwork are both inspirational and poetic.