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Art Journal Basics: Making an Art Journal

My very talented artist friend, Lorraine Thomson CZT, invited me to come and play in her art studio this week. Since I downsized my own dedicated studio space by merging it with my home office space (a casualty of my recent move) I jumped at the chance to spread out and do something messy! Lorraine’s been interested in learning more about my process of creating and working in my mixed media visual art journal, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to share the paint and make a proper mess.

Some samples of different art journals I’ve made:

I discovered art journaling after suffering a brain injury a few years ago. Part of my prescription for wellness was to find something to do that brought me joy (hard for a type-A personality who could no longer work). When my therapist discovered that I’d loved art in school she encouraged me to dive back in. Little did she know the addiction to art supplies she’d begun! Art journaling and mixed media art saved my sanity. There are many types of creativity. For you, it might be music or baking or photography. The outcome of these pursuits is the same: a state of happiness and satisfaction. Note I said satisfaction, not perfection!

I believe so strongly in creativity as a cornerstone of wellness that I’m inviting you, figuratively speaking, to join me in Lorraine’s art studio via my blog posts. We’re meeting every Thursday to go step by step to create mixed media art in our art journals. I have had so many people ask me to lead workshops on this! At this point, I’d love to introduce you to this art form and my process through my blog for free. So if you’ve been looking for an excuse to do something creative or just want a new project to try, then I hope you’ll keep up with my blog to follow along. I think I might even be able to persuade Lorraine, a certified Zentangle teacher (CZT), to teach us a few tangles for our journals!

If I’d thought of this while we were actually doing this I could have turned on the video camera! Written instructions will have to do. We’re going to start at the very beginning (a very good place to start!), so if you’ve never picked up an art supply before or if you’ve been frustrated by other attempts at creativity you’re in the right place.Trust me, this is easy-peasy! If you’re a professional artist like Lorraine interested in trying something a little different, you’re still in the right spot!


Let me just start off by saying that this doesn’t have to be expensive. Use what you have if that’s what suits you right now. Often, though, I get asked what I use so I’m going to list that for those who want to know.

Supplies I used in week 1:

  • 22″ x 30″ sheet of 140lb Fabriano Artistico hot press watercolor paper (Fluid is another brand that works well) [!avoid cold press watercolor paper – the one with texture/bumps – as it doesn’t work as well for collage!]
  • acrylic paints (I prefer Dylusions, but use what you have)
  • baby wipes
  • waxed book binding thread, awl, bone folder & embroidery needle; if you don’t have these supplies you can order them here or look for equivalents at a fabric store
  • cutting board, yardstick, craft  knife

If you feel like something simpler, purchase a ready-made journal with pagesno less than 110lbs (this will allow you to use by dry and wet media). My favorite is the Moleskine Sketchbook. Aim for a 5×8 size. (If you’re making the one Lorraine and I made, the pages will be approximately 8×10.)


  • Use clean baby wipes dipped in paint to spread a thin layer of paint on the watercolor paper; use colors that make you happy. (That’s me waxing on / waxing off below.) There’s no right or wrong here so don’t over think this part (I’m talking to you, Lorraine!). Let dry. (PS: Totally ok to leave the paper white if you like.)


  • When the first side is dry, turn the paper over and paint the other side. Let dry.
  • Measure the paper across the shorter side so that when cut, you’ll have 3 even strips of paper, approx. 22×10 (the orange rectangle)
  • Fold the left edge of the paper to the 8″ mark on all three sheets (see red dotted line)
  • Fold the right edge of the paper to the 6″ mark on all three sheets (see black dotted line)
  • Use the bone folder to make your folds crisp
  • You now have three folded folios.
  • The red line (the “center” line) will become your journal’s spine


  • Take one folio and open it so the red fold line is exposed
  • Take a second folio and turn it 180 degrees. Nestle it inside the first.
  • Take the third folio and nestle it inside the second.

If you stood them upright, your folios would look like this:



Isn’t it cool how the different sections look when they’re put together? There’s no “right” combination of colours, just play aroudn until you find something that pleases you.

  • Set this nest of folios aside to prep for binding
  • Your binding thread should measure approx. 2.5x the length of one red spine (approx. 25″)
  • Thread your needle. If you’re using waxed thread, I find threading is made easier by flattening the waxed end with my bone folder
  • With your awl and threaded needle close by, pick up your journal (still all nestled together) and get the “red” spines as neat and tight together as you can (you could also use bull clips to hold it, but I find that fiddly)
  • Holding the journal firm with one hand. take your awl and punch hole 1 in the middle and holes 2 & 3 approx. 1.5″ from each end, like the black dots above. DON’T LET GO OF YOUR JOURNAL! You need to keep the holes lined up to get your needle through easily
  • Push the needle through hole #2 (middle) from the outside in, leaving a tail about 6″ long
  • Take the needle up to hole #1 and push through. Don’t worry if it’s a little loose, we can tighten the thread later
  • Now take your needle to hole #3 and push through
  • Finally, push the needle through hole #2 again
  • Your needle should now be on the outside of the journal, the same place where you started
  • Remove the needle and pull the thread in the direction in which it lies until the binding is very secure
  • Tie into a knot and then another
  • Cut off the excess, leaving about 3″,  just in case you ever need to untie and tighten or rebind (although I’ve never needed to do this)

Voilà! Your journal is ready to go! You did great!

Next week Lorraine and I search for collage fodder and begin the first page in our new art journal. So exciting! I’ll show you how I choose what to use and what I do with what I choose. I hope you’ll join us!

Did you make a journal? Let me know in the comments how it turned out. Did you buy one instead? Let me know what you chose. I look forward to hearing about your progess as we go along!


Syndication Story

This is such a fantastic story!

Mark Victor Young


This is a poster/teaser designed for my last comic strip collaboration with Tim Levins, called Built to Last. Here’s the story of how it came about:

When we sent out our strip Then Comes Marriage to the six or seven major syndicates, we had an amazing response. We had two development type offers and one request to see more strips. This beat all the form letters and the one or two encouraging handwritten comments we got in reply to Rivertown News hands down. We were ecstatic.

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An Arts & Crafts Book Like You’ve Never Seen Before!

I am so excited to have been asked to contribute my art to this amazing project! “Around The World With 80 Artists” is a compilation of arts and crafts projects curated by Mahe Zehra Husain, founder of The Creative Art Academy. From budding crafters to advanced artists, there is a project here for everyone! My contributions will include not only some of the coloring pages from The Art Journal Coloring Book, but also a tutorial on how to make your own coloring pages, easy-peasy!

Best of all, 20% of the proceeds from this project will go to The Malala Fund to help girls gain an education. Girls who might otherwise not get their chance at a basic human right so many of us take for granted.

Click the image linked below to sign up for your own FREE e-copy before it goes on sale!

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Adult Coloring Books: Mixing Copics & Colored Pencils

Have you tried mixing markers with colored pencils when you color in your favourite adult coloring books? It’s a technique I love not only because I get to use more of my stash, but also because markers can ensure a more even color base for adding depth & dimension with shading. Shading is half the fun! Here’s a quick video where I show you what I’m talking about.

Did you know that I’m giving away FREE stuff?! Subscribe to my monthly newsletter and get your first prezzie, a free coloring page from The Art Journal Coloring Book! Subscribe here and stay tuned for more fun, prompts, freebies and more!no bird soars too high colored page

And when you color a page from my book, please share it on Instagram and Facebook with the hashtag #theartjournalcoloringbook so I can see how your pages look – can’t wait!

Sunday Fun

This is a wonderful comic strip!

Levins and Young

As today marks the last Sunday of our Rivertown News run, we thought a formal thank-you was in order for our volunteer colorist. As previously mentioned, we didn’t do any official Sunday RN strips. But we thought it would be fun to add some color to a few regular strips to post on Sundays.

The coloring was done by Christina from (aka Mark’s wife) using markers on printed scans which were then re-scanned and uploaded. She turned this around in record time and we appreciate her great-looking work. Now, please understand that these “colorized” strips are not canon, and were provided for entertainment purposes only (and in a fashion much classier than when Ted Turner tried to colorize Casablanca).

You can see these colored strips at these links: week 1, 2, 3, and 4. Unfortunately, a scan of a scan of a scan loses some quality with each…

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