Category: Visual Journals

These posts deal with my visual journals, also known as altered books. My start in the art education world aligned with my start in visual journals. It became an integral part of my high school art curriculum, and I continue to teach it today. Once a week my students have the opportunity to work in their visual journals, and so do it. They offer a chance for the students to experiment, try new materials, and express themselves independently.

To create my journals I reuse old hardback books and collage, draw, paint, and more in them. Every page has an important connection to my daily life as well as major events. I love sharing the inspiration for these pages as well as the techniques used to create them.

Do you do visual journals in your classroom? Do you have techniques you would like to share? E-mail me at [email protected] to team up for a guest post.

Visual Journal Page 32: Panetta Makes Me Think of Butter?

A visual journal page made using colored pencils.

Before I was a Panetta I was a Ward. For 23 years I had a simple, four letter, easy to pronounce last name. There was never any confusion or stuttering over letters. I never realized the benefits of a simple name until I got married and became a Panetta. While I do sometimes have fun with the “Are you related to Leon Panetta?” question, dealing with mispronunciations have already gotten old. I’m no longer Whitney Ward I am Whitney P-A-N-E-T-T-A, Panetta. You have to spell it out. Every time.

Over the past nine years of my teaching career my students have come up with many creative nicknames for me. They always stay pretty close to the original: Mrs. Pinata, Panera, Picasso. I’ve also had shortened versions, Mrs. P, Mrs. P-Net. My students get the Italian heritage. I once had a student decorate my white board with a drawing of spaghetti and baguettes because, according to her, Panetta made her think of spaghetti and baguettes (check out that visual journal page here).

All of those nicknames and thought processes made sense to me. But one day a student told me my last name reminded them of butter. Panetta, butter, Panetta, butter, I just don’t see the connection. And since I couldn’t figure out the logic behind it, I dealt with this new interpretation of my name the best way I know how. I made a visual journal page about it.

Panetta reminds me of butter?

SUPPLIES:

  • Visual journal
  • Colored pencils
  • Pencil
  • White paper
  • Book pages
  • Glue
  • Scissors

HOW TO

To create this visual journal page, I decided to keep it simple. I opted to use colored pencil and book pages to create a simple collage that got to the point.

First, I used colored pencils to create lines in the background.

Next, I sketched out butter on a butter dish and a knife on a separate sheet of paper.

I filled the sketch in with colored pencil, slowly building up the colors in thin layers. With each new layer I tried to vary the color and add shadows and highlights to create depth. As I built up the color in the butter, I used darker shades of yellow to create text in the butter: “Panetta reminds me of butter?” While the text blends very well into the shape of the butter, it is difficult to read. Looking back, I would’ve cleaned up the text to make it more legible. Check out a lesson that goes in depth on using colored pencils here. 

Once the colored pencil drawing was complete, I cut it out, and glued the two pieces on top of old book pages. I cut the drawings back out, leaving an edge of book pages around both drawings.

I glued the butter dish down first, then overlapped the knife to complete the page.

TIP: use a credit card to push paper into the crease of your visual journal book.

CHALLENGE

Create a visual journal page about your last name.

Thanks for taking to the time and checking out my blog. Help spread the word about visual journaling by sharing it with others. Are you interested in teaching visual journals in your classroom? Check out my visual journal bundle here and my how to worksheets here. Thanks for stopping by!

 

A visual journal made with colored pencils and book pages.

 

Visual Journal Page 31: Atlanta Adventures

A visual journal page about a lifelong friendship and a trip to the aquarium. Visual journal tips, techniques, and challenges are included.

So far, my best friends have been made in high school and in college. These are the people I know will be in my lives forever, the ones my kids will refer to as aunts and uncles. The difficult part of developing these deep friendships during this time, is its a pre-root time period. My friends scattered across the US for college, and even more after college. As we all graduated from college some stayed and some left. As we moved onto our adult jobs and adult relationships, adult roots also began to take hold.

Nick and I ended up settling near the areas we grew up. Luckily, some of our good friends decided to do the same, but some others opted for new scenery, 3,000 miles away.

One of our dearest friends is a friend we each met separately before Nick and I began dating. I knew Jared in high school. Although our friendship didn’t develop until our senior year, we quickly began hanging out in the same group of friends and got to know each other better. Jared was my senior prom date and we ended up attending the same college. I always felt comfortable with him and could talk to him easily. I was excited to have such a dear friend be a part of the next journey in our lives.

Nick lived on the same hall as Jared freshman year. The tiny UGA dorm rooms forces students to spend more time hanging out in the hallways and spilling into hall-mates rooms. Jared and Nick hung out more and more as the year continued on, they kept in touch sophomore year after moving into apartments, and ended up living with each other the last few years of college.

Nick and I began dating our sophomore year of college after meeting at a party at Jared’s apartment. With Jared being such a huge part of both of our lives, it was inevitable that the three of us would spend a lot of time together. When I think back to college I always think of Nick, Jared, and Elly (my other dear friend who also moved to LA. You can read about the visual journal page I used to process my feelings about that move here). It wouldn’t have been college without them.

After college Jared and his girlfriend, Ashley, moved to LA (very much against the will of Nick and I). We were both sad to see them go, but excited for their new adventure, on what felt like another planet.

Every year, at the very least, Jared comes home for Christmas. This particular year, we decided to meet up and do some stereotypical Atlanta tourist things: visit the World of Coke, the Atlanta Aquarium, and eat at a downtown restaurant. The three of us spent the day together gallivanting the city, and it felt like not a single day had passed since we graduated college. That was when I knew no matter the distance or length of time between catching up, we would always be friends.

Jared and Ashley are now the godparents of our first born, little man Cooper. Now they are forced to be a part of our lives forever (a very selfish, calculated decision on Nick and my part). The best friends are the ones that feel like they never left when they move far away and come back and visit.

SUPPLIES

  • Visual journal
  • White paper
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Water
  • Shallow cup
  • Straw
  • Dawn soap
  • Scissors
  • Sharpie
  • Glue

HOW TO

One of my favorite parts of that day was looking at the jellyfish at the aquarium. I decided I would focus on that as the visual for the page. I recently began playing with bubble paint prints, was slightly obsessed (check out my visual journal worksheet on making bubble paint prints here),  and this would provide another way for me to use them.

I wanted to paint the background blue and green, so I ripped two pages out of my visual journal, painted them, then set them aside to dry. By ripping the pages out and gluing them back in, it prevents the paint from bleeding through the paper onto other pages.

While the background was drying, I working on painting the jellyfish. I looked up a few pictures to reference, then loosely painted them. I kept the colors warm, to contrast the cool background. Once they dried, I cut them out.

Once the background dried, I added the white bubble paint prints on top. To do that I took a shallow dish, added white acrylic paint, water, and dawn soap. I mixed it together, then used a straw to blow bubbles. Once the bubbles were just over the rim of the dish, I lightly placed the background paper on top, causing the bubbles to either stick to the paper or pop on the paper. I popped any bubbles that stuck to the paper after lifting it. The white coloring in the bubbles created a print of the bubble shape on the paper.

After the bubble paint prints dried, I glued the pages back into my visual journal. I simply glued them on top of the next two pages of my book. Next, I glued the cut out jellyfish paintings down. Last, but not least, I added the words using sharpie.

CHALLENGE

Create a visual journal page about an important person in your life.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog and read today’s post! Help me spread the word about visual journals by sharing this post with others. If you are interested in teaching visual journals to your art students, check out my visual journal handouts here and yearlong lesson plan pack here.  Would you like more visual journal how tos delivered straight to your inbox? Become a subscriber: fill out your e-mail address in the form at the bottom of the page. Thanks for stopping by!

A visual journal page about a lifelong friendship and a trip to the aquarium. Visual journal tips, techniques, and challenges are included.

Visual Journal Page 29: Even Brighter

A visual journal page about adding Christmas lights to my home and how to use colored pencils.

Hands down, Christmas is my favorite time of year. Although I refuse to decorate until after Thanksgiving (each holiday needs a moment to shine), I start feeling the Christmas spirit as soon as Halloween starts approaching. This is yet another visual journal page about Christmas (check out visual journal pages about past Christmases here, here, and here), and it definitely won’t be the last.

Nick and I were about to spend our third Christmas in our Atlanta, GA bungalow, and each year we got more and more serious about our Christmas decorations. Thanks partially to my Mom’s commitment to giving each of the kids a nutcracker every year for Christmas, our interior decorating game was on point. I will never forget our first Christmas together when I started unpacking no less than twenty nutcrackers and my husband of less than a year commented: “I didn’t know you had a nutcracker collection…” Five years together and you would think he would’ve known everything about me.

As the interior of the house filled up, we began thinking about the exterior. We had always managed to get at least get a few wreaths out and some lights on the bushes, but never attempted to add lights to the house. Our roof is incredibly steep, and even though we live in a small house, Griswalding it up was a little daunting. However, despite the risk of falling off our roof, Nick decided it was time to step up our exterior decorating game.

He didn’t get out of control, we didn’t cause a neighborhood blackout (Yes, another Christmas Vacation reference). He simply lined the top and edge of the roof with the round bulb style white lights. But that little touch was enough. It brightened up our sweet house and our street. He slipped, slid, and held on for dear life as he clipped the lights on, and he got it done. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it. However, I will admit, Nick asked if we could just leave them up on the house until the following Christmas (no) after the amount of time it took.

For the next month, every time I arrived home from work I couldn’t help but smile. It brightened up each afternoon and reminded me that Christmas was almost here.

SUPPLIES

  • Visual journal
  • White paper
  • Scissors
  • Prisma colored pencils
  • Pencil
  • Glue

HOW TO

Compared to a lot of my other visual journal pages, this page uses very few materials. I wanted to keep it simple, to the point, and I was in the midst of a minor colored pencil obsession. So, naturally, I did a full colored pencil drawing.

I started by cutting a 2 sheets of white paper to the size of my book spread (two pages facing each other). I then sketched out my house on one sheet. Next, I began layering Prisma colored pencils. When I use colored pencils I typically start dark and move light. I get at least three different hues of one color (dark, medium, light at the minimum) to layer together to create more depth. I also like to color in circles to create a softer look. Once I had the house fully filled in, I cut it out. Read more tips on using colored pencils here.

Next, I began adding the background to the second sheet of white paper. I wanted a loose look around the edges, so I spread out the lines as I approached the edge of the paper. I layered many different shades of blue for the sky and green for the ground. Once it was filled in, I cut it out, making sure I cut close around the loose lines at the edge of the paper.

I glued the background to my visual journal first, then centered my house drawing on top. To finish the page, I added the text: “it made me smile everyday when I pulled up… it made my afternoons even brighter” using colored pencil around the edge of the drawing. I exaggerated the letters to help them blend in with the background. I also used the same blues and greens so the text blended with the sky and ground.

CHALLENGE

Create a visual journal page using nothing but paper and colored pencils.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! Help spread the word by sharing it with others. Are you interested in teaching visual journals to your students? Check out my visual journal basic lesson here and bundle pack here. Thanks for stopping by!

A visual journal page about decorating the exterior of my house with Christmas lights. Visual journal tips, how tos, and challenges are included plus specifics on colored pencils.

Visual Journal Page 28: The Sound of Trains

Learn the inspiration behind this visual journal page as well as the supplies and steps I took to create it. Learn how to start your own visual journal by reading about mine. This particular post focuses on a memory/sensory tie I experienced with the sound of trains. Read more here.

There is something about the sound of trains.

It first started on trips to visit my grandparents. They lived in a small town, it’s biggest claim to fame being their proximity to another small town, known only for their major, annual golf tournament. They were on the South Carolina side of the Georgia, South Carolina border. A place full of ya’lls and yes ma’ams.

I remember driving down the small town roads, turning onto their street, finding it odd they didn’t live in a traditional neighborhood. Commercial areas transitioned into residences without the signage and dead end streets of the neighborhoods I was so accustomed to. This was reminiscent of a different era, which was reflected in so many ways in their home. From the split level, ranch style house, that lived on a non-neighborhood street, to the objects it held within it’s walls.

This was the house my mother grew up in, and it felt like home.

I remember lying in bed, full of “grandmommy macaroni and cheese,” dreaming about the animal shaped pancakes that would surely be waiting for me the next morning, hearing a train whistle in the background.

I feel asleep to that sound many times as a child and the memory traveled with me into adulthood. The funny thing about memories associated with senses is you often don’t realize they are tied together until you experience it.

At twenty-three it had been years since I spent the night at my grandparents house and I had just bought my own house. My new husband and I moved into our sweet 1940’s Atlanta bungalow our first year of marriage. In the days and weeks that followed, we unpacked and settled in. I distinctly remember slowly drifting off to sleep one night when I suddenly heard the sound of a train.

I was immediately thrust back into my grandparent’s house, sleeping next to my sister, looking out the window of the only slightly second story. My new house didn’t quite feel like home yet, but in that moment it began to.

Eight years later I am still living in my adorable house, listening to train whistles, fully feeling like this is my home. My adult home, with the train whistles of my childhood, with my babies now falling asleep to the same sounds in a different town.

SUPPLIES

  • Visual journal
  • Rubber cement or another type of adhesive
  • Scissors
  • White paper
  • Magazines
  • Watercolors
  • Paintbrushes
  • Water
  • Gesso
  • Pencil

HOW TO

For this visual journal page, I knew I wanted to focus on a train. After searching for an image of a train, I came up empty handed. I couldn’t find the exact angle or size that I wanted and needed to fill the two pages of the book. After brainstorming. I finally decided to paint the train myself using watercolor.

I sketched out the body of the train, referencing images online to plan out the design and colors. Once I had a base sketch, I began filling it in with watercolor. I started light and slowly added in the shadows. If you go too dark too quickly with watercolor it is difficult to add highlights back in. It’s best to work light to dark and plan ahead. Once the paint dried, I cut it out.

Once the train was finished I decided to create a background using magazine images. I liked the contrast between the realistic imagery and painterly train as well as the difference in the shiny texture of the magazine and the matte finish of the paper. I knew I wanted to create a color fade in the background to create a feeling of dusk. As I flipped through magazines I kept my eyes peeled for any large sections of black, dark blue, purple, yellow, and green fields and grass. Anything I thought could work, I ripped out.

Once I had a sizable stack of magazine pages, I began ripping them up. I love the look of collaging with ripped pages. The soft, organic edges create a more interesting pattern than cut edges. I separated the ripped up pieces into piles according to color. Because I wanted it to look like night was pushing out day, I began layering the lightest colors first. As I moved from the middle of my visual journal page up, I overlapped the dark colors over the light colors until I had black at the top of the page. Check out a post that details the process of creating a magazine fade here and here as well as a Youtube video here.

Next, I worked from the middle of the visual journal down. I used fields as the background of the landscape and worked my way forward to grassy patterns. As I glued the foreground down, I kept checking the placement of the train until it was positioned the way I wanted it. I glued the train down, than continued overlapping the grass over the bottom of the train and continued to move towards the bottom of the page.

After the page was finally filled up, I added the steam coming from the train. I decided this was a perfect space to incorporate text in a way that blended with the image. I used gesso and a paintbrush to loosely add the steam, then painted the letters in a similar way so they would blend in with the steam. Once the gesso dried, I used pencil to emphasize the text a little more.

CHALLENGE

Create a visual journal page about a memory/sensory tie you have experienced.

Thanks for taking the time to read about my visual journal and check out my blog. You can find an image of my grandmother in a recent post here. She unknowingly became the subject matter for a printmaking project. Don’t forget to save this project for later by pinning it, or saving it on your social network site of choice. Thanks for stopping by!

Interested in teaching a visual journal lesson in your classroom? Check out my teaching resources here and my magazine fade visual journal handout here.

Learn the inspiration behind this visual journal page as well as the supplies and steps I took to create it. Learn how to start your own visual journal by reading about mine. This particular post focuses on a memory/sensory tie I experienced with the sound of trains. Read more here.

Visual Journal Pages 26 and 27: At Least Pretend You Care…

During this period in my life, my visual journal pages often focused on my discontent with the school I was teaching at. After three years, I felt like I was becoming a bit jaded. I didn’t feel like the art program was recognized as an important part of a well rounded education. I rarely saw my administrators. I would show up for work, do my job, and felt like no one really cared if I was there or what I was doing.

Although my administrators let me down over the years, my students rarely did. I did not like my enormous class sizes (35 students per Introduction to Art class), but I loved all of my students. I especially loved my Intro to Art course, because many of the students signed up to check the “fine arts credit” box in order to graduate from high school, but many of them ended up loving, or at least having an appreciation for, art. There is something incredibly special about seeing the moment that it clicks for a student. They find the subject matter or material they like best, they feel encouraged by the way their artwork is developing, and they suddenly put in the time and effort to their project because they truly care about it.

With 35 students per class, it was nearly impossible for me to display every project for every student in the school. Instead, I would select the top examples from the class. Although this may have singled out some, I felt it gave recognition to the students who worked for it and deserved it.

Every year, one of the major  projects my students create is a portrait drawing of their personal hero. It can be a celebrity, family member, politician, the choice is theirs. Every year, many of the students are overwhelmed by the prospect of having to draw a person realistically, but every year I am blown away by the results. This year was proving to be no different, and I selected 8 drawings to display outside of the school library.

The following day, one of the students whose work was displayed came into class with a concerned look on his face. His drawing was no longer hanging in the hall. I assumed it had fallen off the wall, had been picked up by a teacher, and taken to a safe place. But after trying to track it down, I began to realize someone had taken it. This student had worked incredibly hard on this piece. He was so proud of the end result, his work was selected to be displayed, and instead of creating a sense of pride, he was let down. His artwork was gone.

I immediately went to my administrators. Items were stolen regularly, the school had cameras, they could often track things down. But instead of finding help and encouragement I was told there wasn’t anything they could do. There was no point in screening the cameras, it seemed like they didn’t even care.

I felt completely helpless. I had a devastated student, an unsupportive administration, and an unfair theft. I was fed up but I could do nothing about it. My sweet student accepted the fact that his drawing was not coming back, and he moved on. But I know how much he cared.

Even if you can’t do anything… at least pretend you care…

SUPPLIES

  • Visual journal
  • Scissors
  • Printed pages with text
  • Watercolor paint
  • Brushes
  • Salt
  • Printed images
  • Black paper
  • Magazines
  • Rubber cement
  • Xacto knife

HOW TO

When I began working on this visual journal page, I decided fairly early on to create two spreads that tied together through a cut out. That would show two sides of the story. the missing artwork and my ever growing discontent with my administrators.

I started with the artwork display. I printed out a few sheets of paper with the text “even if you can’t do anything… at least pretend you care…” I then added a hint of color using watercolor. While the watercolor was still wet on the paper, I sprinkled some salt on top. The salt absorbs the water, which pulls the watercolor pigment around the salt grains. After the paper dries, you wipe the salt off, and it leaves a speckled pattern. This was done in an effort to create a cinderblock look. I then cut up the paper into rectangles and glued them into my book, leaving a small space between each “cinderblock.”

Next, I printed the actual artwork that was on display. I cut them out, glued them to a black sheet of paper, then cut them out again leaving a thin black edge around the artwork. This mimicked the look of mounted drawings. I placed the artwork in the same formation as the display, leaving a blank black rectangle for the one that went missing. I then used an Xacto knife to cut out the rectangle to tie to the next page.

On the next page, I decided to create a very dark look. I found magazine pages with black and grays and ripped them up into smaller pieces. I then glued the pieces down, going from dark on the left page to light on the right page, using rubber cement.

I then printed a larger version of the text, “even though you can’t do anything… at least pretend you care…” I did the same watercolor and salt treatment to the paper, then cut it into a strip once it dried. I glued the text to the page so the “at least pretend you care” text overlapped the lightest section of the background.

Interested in teaching visual journals to your students? Check out my visual journal lesson plan here and bundle pack here.

CHALLENGE

Create a visual journal page that utilized two spreads in your book (a spread is two facing pages).

Need more inspiration? Check out cut out pages about book oddities, furniture, and fortune cookies.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! Help me spread the work about visual journals, art, and crafts by sharing on your social media website of choice. Thanks for stopping by!