This article was first posted about a year and a half ago.. This ended up being Deb’s last round of chemo. The spots they found in her spine traveled to her brain and she died this Feburary. She loved her Healing Hands book…it was one of the few things she brought with her to hospice.
One of the best things about the Internet is that it enables you to make friends all over the world. It is an amazing gift to be able to create community that isn’t defined by geographical borders. However, when one of these long distance friends becomes ill, it is frustrating not to be able to go out for coffee with them, or to be able to reach out and give them a hug.
The Healing Hands project stems from just this predicament. A friend of ours has been fighting illness for several years now and was recently informed she would have to take 20 straight days of treatment; a daunting and terrifying undertaking. We wanted to let her know we cared for her and to find a tangible way to send her strength when we couldn’t be with her. But most importantly, we wanted her to heal. Not just physically, but emotionally. The amount of emotional courage it takes to fight illness for months and years on end is something that most of us can only imagine. We wanted her to know that we were with her.
The idea of creating a collaborative journal, where everyone contributed a page struck me almost immediately. So did the theme: “Healing Hands” in honor of the wellness work she was undertaking. Most collaborative journals are done by round robin. A journal is started by one person and then sent to another person who does a page and sends it on to something else. Most projects of this nature take months to complete, and many get lost in the passing. We wanted our friend to be able to have this journal in her hand during her last few days of her 20 days of treatment, so I struck on the idea of everyone creating a page and sending it to me so I could put the entire book together and have it sent to her within weeks.
Because bookbinding isn’t my forte, I decided to make the journal a three ring binder with plastic sleeves to slip the pages in. This worked best for several reasons:
§ It allowed us to continue to add pages to the book as late arrivals filtered in.
§ It allowed for 3D embellishments be added to each sheet and various mixed media techniques to be used on each without them altering the entire book or making the book uncloseable.
§ It allows our friend to move pages around, take pages out, or even frame certain pages if she wishes too.
§ It allowed people to include personal notes and other trinkets with their pages. I was able to slip these extras into the back of each plastic sleeve so she would be surprised with the extras when she found them.
Many different media were submitted by different artists. I used beads to create spiral embroidery on a felt hand, which I then attached to a colorful paper background. Other techniques people used included paint, collage, photography, and stamping.
Our friend’s response to her journal once she received it? It made her feel special…and cared for. Even though it was a time crunch project, everyone really pulled together to make it happen…and we all felt that every minute was worth it.
I am posting the scan of my page below. The original article had scans of everyone’s artwork and I will post them all again once I contact the rest of the artist’s on the project for their as for their permission.
Board books can make wonderful journals! They are so thick and heavy duty they can withstand a beating that most paper journals cannot, so they are wonderful to take on trips or to create mixed media projects with. This is especially nice for me since I am forever breaking the spines in my art journals as I bend, fold, manipulate, and mutilate the pages! Do keep in mind that they have significantly few pages than a regular journal, however, so if you are wanting something for lots of space for a long term project, these aren’t the best resource!
There are two different board book options out there. It used to be, if you wanted to create a board book journal, you had to buy a regular child’s board book and sand and gesso all the pages to give yourself a new white surface. This isn’t so bad if you find your books cheaply and don’t mind putting in a little elbow grease, but there is a new product out that makes board book journaling much easier! You can now buy blank board books designed just for journaling projects! The pages are already white, and are non-glossy, which means they are ready to take pen, paint, and other embellishments. They are also the same price as your average children’s retail board book…which is a great deal!
I recently wrote a blog entry that I really loved and I wanted to preserve as a separate journal. It was just the right size for a board book! I seperated the different points and printed them off to be glued to each separate board book page. Since the book was so heavy, I was able to add a lot of embellishments to it that I can’t get away with in my regular art journal. I cut a window out of the front cover and glued a vintage key on the first page where it would show through the window.
I blended acrylic paint with pigment powders, used rubber stamps, and collage elements to create each page and blend with the journal entries themselves that I ripped out of each page to give them an interesting torn edge. On this page, I used a large black and white picture of a building, and cut out three of the windows. Behind the windows I placed small vintage photos so it looked like these figures were peeking out of them. It added depth and interest to the page and it looks greally great!
Your board book journals can be as simple or as intricate as you want! You may carry a board book journal because its so heavy duty and use it to jot down field notes, or you may want to go all the way and embellish your board book into a work of art until itself.
Create&Treasure, the makers of the new blank board books also have a wonderful book out called Altered Board Book Basics And Beyond By Jan Bode Smiley. Don’t let the small size of the book fool you…this is a densely packed resource! It goes beyond basic painting and collage, and gives directions on incorporating fabric, setting eyelets, and even how to press and dry plant material in your microwave so you can add pressed flowers and other nature finds! There is also a huge gallery of sample board books to get your creative juices flowing…the eye candy is well worth the cover price all on it’s own!
The art of journaling really opened up for me once I realized that it didn’t have to be neat, tedious rows of writing my innermost thoughts, or laundry listing everything I had for dinner that week. To me, journaling is as much about art as it is about writing. Your journal is your place to express yourself and that can be hard to do with words alone! At the same time, there are some incredibly intricate art journals out there and it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Remember that your first goal is to express yourself and have fun! Here are some of the basics to get you started art journaling.
Page Thickness: Regular, unlined journals work fine for art journaling, but the pages may be too thin. I often glue together 3 to 5 pages with Mod-Podge or Golden’s Acrylic Gel Medium to give myself a thicker surface to work with. This will keep paints and inks from seeping through and is cheaper than by heavy-weight paper journals! When I buy a new journal, I prep a bunch of pages in one sitting (if not all of them) so I have plenty of pages to work with when I feel inspired!
Backgrounds: Watercolors make great backgrounds for art journals. Buy an inexpensive set in the school supplies section and have fun! Watercolor washes dry quickly and can be written and painted over without smearing. On the first journal page above (“Strength”) I started with a watercolor wash over the whole page.
Painted Embellishments: Water based paints such as watercolors and acrylics make great journal embellishments! Acrylics will give you a thicker, heavier finish so they don’t work as well as watercolors for backgrounds…but don’t be afraid to mix and match! On the “Bluebonnets” journal page, I used watercolor for the road and the bluebonnet leaves, and acrylics for the lines on the road and the bluebonnet flowers. The two different media used together gives the page a lot more depth!
Collage Elements: The best sources for collage elements are ones that are not under copyright…especially if you are interested in publishing or sharing your art journals in the future. Sometimes you can find public domain images in magazines, or find images that you can alter enough to make them unrecognizable from the original (for example, individual flower images cut out of gardening catalogs). The best bet is to use your own images (such as your own photos or sketches) or images from collections that have been labeled public domain or permission free. Don’t discount using textured papers, or even small flat objects instead of images and photos….they can be a fun addition! I adhere my collage elements with either Mod-Podge or Golden’s Gel Medium, but I don’t seal over the image until I’m done writing on the page. Then I seal the whole page at once time! Any area you seal over won’t take pen and ink very well, so it is better to seal after the whole page is finished! A wonderful all-in-one source for collage techniques is the book The Crafter’s Complete Guide To Collage By Amanda Pearce. It covers paper collage, found objects, mixed media, fabric collage, three-dimensional objects, decoupage, photomontage, and computer collage. If you are interested in playing with collage, this book covers all the basics! The “strength” journal page includes a cut-out magazine word and a Rosie The Riveter image from the classic WWII government war production campain. It’s a simple example of collage on a journal page, but it gives you an idea of some of the things you can do!
Last But Not Least – The Text: You will notice that both of these journals still have regular journal text…you don’t have to give up your writing to keep an art journal! I like to use fine tipped markers that coordinate with the other colors I am using on the page. Combined with the writing, the art enhances the story. I bet you can tell, without even reading the text, what both of my journal pages are about! Next time you sit down to journal, see what you can create to help tell your story!
Using altered books for journals can be a wonderfully creative exercise…and a great way to recycle old hardbacks into a new piece of art! My brother had a summer project assigned by his school to create a visual representation of his personal “toolbox”…the strengths and qualities he draws from that makes him a successful student and person.
After some research, he chose the altered book journal format as the best way to for him symbolize his insight into his personal strengths and qualities. Regular book pages are usually too thin to handle a lot of alteration on their own. Most altered book artists start by gluing pages together to make a thicker canvas to work on. In this book, I glued 5 pages together using Mod-Podge and about ten pages together when I wanted to cut out windows to add in embellishments. As you go along, you may also want to rip some pages out so the book closes easier. But as with most altered books, you will probably have to tie the book shut when finished…pulling out extra pages just helps make it possible!
Pages glued together, five at a time, make a thicker work surface in altered books.
Use an X-Acto knife to cut out windows. You can place 3D items in them or regular pictures.
After the pages are glued and dried you can prime and gesso them if you don’t want any writing to show through!
Creating your own pockets in your altered journals is super easy….no extra materials required! It is also a wonderful way to tuck in notes, letters, and bits of ephemera that you want to keep in your journal!
By folding each corner of a page towards the middle to create a triangle (I usually do a couple of pages folded together) you create two pockets on each page. Just make sure you glue along the middle of the book and down the middle of the triangle but NOT down the sides of the triangle or you won’t be able to stuff your pockets!
Little matchbox drawers are another unique way to add bits of ephemera and content to your altered book journal! In our journal, the drawer pulls out to reveal a slip of text and an antique watch face (the text is about time management). Our book has only one matchbox drawer, but most standard size hardbacks can hold three to a “page.”
Hold your matchbox up to the side of the book to gauge the correct depth of pages you will need to cut out. Use the matchbox itself to outline the shape of the cutout on the top page. Use an X-Acto knife to cut through all the pages (this project works best at the end of the book), then glue all the pages together. Paint the matchbox casing and drawer, and add a little “doorknob” if you so desire. (Our drawer is decorated with an “For External Use Only” label.)
Glue the matchbox drawer into the cut out and let glue cure completely. You can paint or collage the page itself at any time during the process. You may want to paint the matchbox cover and the page at the same time if you want them to be the same color.
Add scrolls of text, trinkets, or ephemera to your drawer as desired!
Once you have glued enough pages together to make a thicker canvas to work on, you can paint or collage just about any kind of background you would like! The pictures below can give you some ideas to get you started. Some are painted in layers, with one layer combed through to show the bottom layer. Some have paint mixed with pigment powders, some are watercolored, and some are a mixture of paint and collage. You can think about what you will be journaling on each page and how the background paint or images can enhance this work or you can work purely by instinct and see what combinations are created in the end!
Most of the text in this journal was not written directly into the journal…although it can easily be…my regular mixed media journal features painted pages that I write on with fine tipped marker all of the time! Most of the journal entries were first written on a computer then printed out and added to the book. Some were glued in directly and others were tucked into envelopes or even folded up and put into the tiny matchbox drawer!
Other text including fortune cookie fortunes, stickers, magazine cut-out words, and even scrabble letters were also added to enhance the text.
These images will give you an idea of the different ways we added text to our altered book journal.
The pockets and envelopes are also wonderful places to tuck in ephemera such as postcares, photos, and other scraps of memory that are important to you.
There are several wonderful books on Altered Art on the market by some of the premiere multi media artists working today. The wonderful thing about this title, is it focuses expressly on the art of altering books. Altered books can be a wonderful journaling tool and a unique, creative way to express your thoughts and feelings. Altered Books Workshop By Bev Brazelton is a wonderful resource for beginners and experts alike! Bev devotes an entire chapter to getting started. She defines altered books, covers all the basic tools and materials and devotes time to choosing a book to alter and developing themes.
The basic techniques chapter covers collaging, stitching (with a really fold, punch, and stich technique that is user friendly for those of us who can’t cut a straight line), cutting doors and windows, adding tags (another unique technique that turns the tags into pages themselves that can be turned like any other page in the book), and lots of great information about adding inserts.
The intermediate techniques chapter covers glazing and adding texture, as well as information on cutting shadowboxes and cutting and collaging the covers themselves. But my favorite chapter is the fourth one that elaborates on some incredibly creative techniques such as creating drawers that pop out of the side of the book (using matchboxes), making image transfers, adding pop-ups, and adding other fiber and bead embellishments.
My mother, who is NOT a crafty person, picked up my copy of this book and immediately fell in love with it. She is currently working on a political campaign for John Courage who is running for congress in Texas. She decided to use a copy of the John F. Kennedy book “Profiles In Courage” to create a journal of the campaign process using many of these altered book techniques. We are going to scan pages of the journal as it progresses, and talk about the techniques we use from Bev Brazeleton’s book in order to create our own. So keep an eye out for upcoming articles that tie into the theme of altered book journals!
Finding the perfect journal to write in can be a frustrating experience. Any place where you put down your deepest, most intimate thoughts has to be just right! Making your own journals can sometimes be the best way to do this, plus a wonderful source of extra income if you want to make extras to sell!
Books On Bookmaking:
Creating Artists Books By Sarah Bodman is a wonderful resource from the printmaking series published by Watson-Guphill. The author is a practicing book artist who has curated numerous exhibitions on artists books, so she shares a wealth of information about not only the process of making the books but also how you can display, market, and exhibit your books should you choose to so. (The resource guide in the back of the book is full of contact information for galleries, organizations, book fairs, and websites to get you even further!) The book goes beyond the process of just selecting paper and binding books (though it does that well, with excellent photo guides to walk you through the process) to discuss inspiration and communication through shape and materials, the printmaking process, the use of text, digital output and computer based books, and collaboration between artists and writers. The book also has special sections on ways to make books with limited equipment and supplies, as well as chapters on making zines and offset lithos. This slim volume is a wonderful reference chock full of information about all of the various types of artists books!
Bookworks by Sue Doggett is a wonderful resource on all the different variations of bookbindings and styles that can be done by hand. While the above book is a wonderful overview of bookmaking, Sue Doggett’s book is an in-depth step-by-step guide on how you can make a variety of different books, journals, diaries, and memory and photo albums. The chapters include folded books, pamphlet sewing, multisection sewing, attaching covers and boards, variations on the fold, and containers. The book also includes ten projects that utilize the techniques discussed in these chapters including journal making, diaries with clasps, and photograph albums. If you are interested in teaching yourself a bunch of new binding and folding techniques you can utilize in your own art, this is the book for you!