There’s something about me you may not know: when I stumble onto something awesome it kind of takes over my brain. Maybe this is why if I find one great marker I have to have the whole set of colors? In every nib size? Hmmm. My latest obsession is handmade Altered Art Journals. Full disclosure: I’m making them and they’re for sale on Etsy. But that’s not why you should continue reading. Continue reading to find out why they’re so awesome! I’ve discovered that there’s something wonderful about journals with pages already full of text and illustrations. The lack of blank pages! But wait, you might be asking, aren’t journals supposed to have blank pages? Fair enough. I have dozens of journals: ones I’ve purchased, been gifted or made myself. They all have blank pages. The paper quality varies, though. So depending on what you want to do in your journal, you may need several with varying paper types.
But even though you may have all those journals, you will still confront our common enemy: the dreaded blank page. You know what I’m talking about. You feel all creative, sit down with your lovely pens or brushes or pencils and that blank page stares back at you. It’s so clean and perfect. You’re sure that anything you put down on this page now is going to wreck it. Transform it from perfect to ugly. You hesitate. You lose your mojo. You move on to another activity, telling yourself you’ll leave it for another time. Maybe those stretches of time get so long that you don’t even bother anymore. YIKES
That blank page is pretty darn powerful.
Well guess what?! You can take back your power! Altered Art Journals can help you do just that because its pages are already covered with text and images, making these ‘already been started,’ a place to begin. (If you want to dive right in, clean pages await for any medium you desire – more on that below.) There’s just so much already between the covers to work with making Altered Art Journals far less daunting that a journal filled with blank pages! And while artists of all levels can create in these, this can be especially freeing for the new or uncertain artist. I spend a lot of time choosing just the right vintage hardcover book. An artist’s eye is needed to assess binding, construction, condition, paper weight and, of course, existing art. Generally, these books have some value due to their vintage nature. Plus, they’re cool. Auditioning which illustrations are worthy enough to be in your Altered Art Journal is an intuitive process and each book is treated as though I was recreating it for myself; I have to love it to ensure it’s good enough for you.
I gently remove between 50% – 70% of the book’s pages to make room for the professional quality, 140lb hot press watercolor paper I’ve cut to fit. Of the vintage pages that remain I do my utmost to keep as much of the beautiful, original art between the covers as I possibly can. After carefully separate the book from its binding, I nestle the new signatures (sets of paper) among the original pages and bind them securely with Irish linen. Next, I put the book back together in such a way that the spine remains intact, making it appear as though the book has always had watercolor paper inside. I also reinforce any areas where the hinge might be vulnerable using artist’s quality, archival paper tape (which can be painted over). If a vintage book has been particularly loved, I go a step further and reinforce the spine and cover. After all, this book is meant to be used. At this point the one-of-a-kind Altered Art Journal is ready for sale. The watercolor paper can handle your water-based media (acrylic paint and watercolors) while the original pages are perfect for collage, stamping, sketching, paint pens, coloring… there are no limits. The original illustrations can be doodled on, painted over, collaged around… it’s yours to change in whatever way pleases you! It is possible to customize the journal further. For example, prepping some of the original pages for wet media with gesso or other mediums, tinting some of the pages to match corresponding illustrations, taping the spine… It’s also possible to request a certain size of book for altering. (Just contact me through Etsy.) I’m currently working on a commission to prep all the pages of an Altered Art Journal.
Here’s a very short video I made if you’d like to see a quick flip through of a finished art journal:
Whether you buy an Altered Art Journal or create your own, there’s just so much already between the covers to work with making Altered Art Journals far less daunting that a journal filled with blank pages! I encourage you to give it a try. And as always, I’d LOVE to see your creations which you can share on my new Facebook Group, Art Journaling 101 with StudioSeena. xo, seena