Less of an Intimidation Factor with These

Art journals can combine several media including watercolor, collage, text, and drawing. Page from an art journal from artist Jacqueline Newbold.
Art journals can combine several media including watercolor, collage, text, and drawing. Page from an art journal from artist Jacqueline Newbold.

Pen Drawing in Art Journals

So many of us keep sketchbooks to make quick drawings, work through compositional possibilities, and just practice mark-making. You can do all that with an art journal too. In fact, now that I think about it, the pen drawings in my sketchbook are a little more like a slice of my life. Maybe I’ve been making an art journal all along, but just didn’t know it. And now that I think about it, art journal sounds much more invested than sketchbook.

An art journal can be personal, meaningful and also artful. It’s essentially a bound book of artistry that can take all of your exploration to the next level. Many artists create art journals that are stunning works of art in and of themselves. They can build around a single theme or vary throughout the book, with each page taking on a new concept or idea, or showing a different series of events — a trip, perhaps — or a collection of overlapping drawings of the same subject (people in the park or your cat sleeping in different poses).

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Pen drawing in an art journal for Nina Khashchina is all about returning to the same subject in a different way.
A collection of open art journals featuring ink drawings, watercolors, and sketches from Cathy Johnson's book.
A collection of open art journals featuring ink drawings, watercolors, and sketches from Cathy Johnson’s book.
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Pen drawing by Cathy Johnson.

No Stage Fright Here

For me, though, the empty expanse of a canvas still gives me a bit of stage fright, so an art journal is right up my alley. There’s less of an intimidation factor because:

  1. I can work in a small format, but can still fully execute and complete an artwork.
  2. If I want to experiment I can, because an art journal allows me to work a page at a time. If I want to try a mixed media painting with elements of collage or ink wash or embroidered text–I can. I don’t feel like I’ve committed to a really drawn out project when it is just a single page or spread in my art journal.
  3. Mistakes are impossible. I can be creative with covering drawings that go a little off the rails with patches, stickers (lately I am obsessed with stickers — it is like being 10 all over again!), collage, a wash, or just a series of artful pen drawing designs.

And what’s more, working in this pressure-free yet still highly creative format means you can really transform and broaden your fine art with the ideas you come up with in your art journal. Instead of just painting a landscape, an art journal can allow you to encapsulate your sensory impressions of a place–a leaf from a tree collaged with paint washes that represent the color of the light, and then a line from a proverb or poem that comes to mind when you think about the place. All of a sudden you’ve bridged art with memory and experience.

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A single page in an art journal can be an opportunity to sharpen your expertise, in watercolor and collage, for example. (Artist Jacqueline Newbold.)

Your Life in Words and Pics

If you want to know where all this inspiration came from, it was one source–Artist’s Journal Workshop by Cathy Johnson. A book that shows you how to create your life in words and pictures within the bounds of an art journal, Artist’s Journal Workshop appeals to me on all levels of artistic practice. It features 27 amazing artist sketchbooks with incredible pen drawing art that I pored endlessly over. Maybe because I love to dabble and learn new things, an art journal is the perfect way for me to focus my energy and bring a small work to completion, which I find really rewarding. It could be the same for you, so why not explore art journaling and see where it takes you? Enjoy!

 

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

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