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 38: Whispers Make My Ears Itch

This visual journal page is one of those quirky, fun pages that I love falling back on when inspiration just doesn’t seem to hit. I have an ongoing list of visual journal page ideas, and this one lived there for a long time before it became a reality.

Sometimes it seems like inspiration is overflowing. I have too many ideas and never enough time. But what happens to all of those ideas when dry spells hit? We all have our moments of inspiration road blocks, and this page represents one of those.

I had been steadily visually journaling about my life, all things big and small, when suddenly I had no ideas left. Nothing current seemed journal worthy and I didn’t have a vision for my bigger page ideas, but I was itching to create. That’s when I turned to my visual journal folder and ideas list. When nothing jumped out from the folder of odds and ends I had been collecting, I turned to my list.

My list contains big events that have happened that I know I want to include when I have time: births of nieces, anniversaries, big trips, plus little things that don’t necessarily need to fit in a timeline: I love walking barefoot outside, red and purple skittles are my favorite combination, and whispers make my ears itch.

When I had no ideas to start pages for the big events, the one that jumped off the page was the whisper one. Because although it is insignificant, it tells something about me, and reminds me of all the times my hubs has tried to catch me off guard with an ear itching whisper.

Out of nowhere his hot breath is quietly telling tales of “sad Sally selling seashells at the seashore,” because sad Sally is full of high pitch, whistly, and breathy Ss.

So although this is minor it does give my readers a piece of me and it gives me a memory of my husband that immediately makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up and goosebumps appear on my arms.

SUPPLIES:

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

HOW TO

To create this visual journal page I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, including parts of the face in a drawing. Drawing is not my strength, and I knew it was something I needed to work on. I taught a drawing class and had many AP Art students who were drawing focus and needed help creating colored pencil portraits. I had yet to jump in, and decided this would be a good way to test out some techniques.

So I wasn’t too overwhelmed, I only focused on the nose and mouth of one figure and the ear of the other. I sketched them out with pencil on a separate sheet of paper before going in with colored pencil. I started dark and moved in a circular motion to get a smoother look. As I moved from dark to light I overlapped the colors and the circles to create a more even transition from light to dark. I worked on the faces and hands simultaneously, so the skin tones would match as closely as possible. Although looking back I see a lot of issues, it looks flat, the nose and hands aren’t in proportion, the teeth aren’t realistic, at the time this felt like a big accomplishment.

After completing the portraits, I cut them out, then moved on to the text. I was very happy with the way the text curled around the page in my bee sting page. So I decided to create a similar look with this. It helped add excitement, as if the words float through the air before reaching their intended destination. I wrote the words on a separate sheet of paper, then added lines and colored pencil. I cut them out and used an Xacto knife to cut out the hole in the center.

To emphasize the text, I glued it to a book page I had ripped from another book, then cut it out again leaving an edge of book pages showing around the block of text. Next, I glued the portraits to the pages of my visual journal, then added the text. I overlapped the portrait on the text block, making it look like the words were coming out of the figure on the lefts mouth. I used an Xacto knife to slice an opening in the ear of the figure to the right, then slide the text block through the opening to make it look like the words were going into the figure’s ear.

CHALLENGE:

Create a visual journal page about one of your pet peeves.

Interested in more visual journal stories, tips, and how tos? Check out my visual journal blog page here and my visual journal bundle on TPT here. Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! Help spread the word and get involved with visual journaling by following, sharing, and commenting!

Visual Journal Page 37: Foggy Mornings

Looking at this visual journal page immediately takes me back to my commute to my first job.

My first art position was at a high school outside of Atlanta. I drove 40 minutes straight east everyday until I hit the small town where I worked. It was a very boring drive, straight highway lined with trees. But many mornings in the fall and spring brought beautiful fog that rolled through the trees, making me forget that I was speeding along a highway.

I loved seeing it, and it brought a odd combination of comfort and eeriness watching the white, translucent fog moving through the silhouetted trees. It brought be a sense of calm before I started my crazy, jam-packed day.

SUPPLIES:

  • Visual journal
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • White paper
  • Book pages
  • Newspaper
  • Watercolor
  • Paint brush
  • India ink
  • Gesso
  • Water
  • Sharpie

HOW TO:

To create this visual journal page, I worked in sections. I first started in my book by gluing down ripped up strips of newspaper and book pages. I then painted the background using warm colors to mimic the look of a sunrise.

While waiting for the background to dry, I used India ink to paint treetop silhouettes on a separate sheet of white paper. I using heavier paper, because India ink can easily saturate printer paper and cause it to ripple and tear. I set that aside and waited for it to dry. TIP: Use a hair dryer to speed up the process!

Once the tree tops were dry, I used watered down gesso to loosely paint fog. I painted the gesso in spirals, circles, and waves to try to mimic the look.

Once the fog and trees dried, I cut them out using scissors. When collaging, I like the look of leaving an edge around objects I cut out. I think it emphasizes the fact that it’s a collage. Once the trees were cut out, I cut them down to fit in the book before gluing them in. TIP: Use a credit card to push pieces into the crease of the book.

When everything was finally put together I added the finishing touches using a thin Sharpie, text that said: “There is something eerie, yet comforting about a foggy morning.”

CHALLENGE:

Recreate a moment when you were in the car. It can be a commute, road trip, or similar! Have fun and good luck!

 

Interested in more visual journal stories, tips, and how tos? Check out my visual journal blog page here and my visual journal bundle on TPT here. Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! Help spread the word and get involved with visual journaling by following, sharing, and commenting!

Visual journal page 36: The Wedding Ring Incident

A visual journal page about my husband accidentally being buried in the backyard.

This visual journal page is about the day my husband buried his wedding ring.

I have heard many ways people have lost their wedding rings. Leaving it on the bathroom sink and it slipping down the drain, pulling it off in a pair of gloves and accidentally throwing it away. But, until my own personal experience, I had never heard of someone losing their ring because they accidentally buried it.

Yes, my husband buried the physical representation of our eternal love in our backyard.

My husband is a fidgeter. He drums his fingers on any flat surface, wiggles his foot, he is in constant motion. One of his favorite fidgeting pastimes is taking off his ring and spinning it on table tops. So naturally, one afternoon when he suddenly couldn’t find his ring, my assumption was he took it off and left it somewhere without realizing it.

We walked through his day, where he had been, what he did, when he last remembered having his ring. We searched the house from top to bottom, under furniture, on tables tops, in every nook and cranny. We came up empty handed.

When I decided it was time to throw in the towel, it hit Nick. He spent all morning planting plants in the backyard, surely it fell off while he was doing yard work. I was skeptical it could simply fall off, but Nick was determined. He spent the remainder of the evening searching over our not small backyard.

The next day I assumed it was time to start thinking about a replacement, while Nick decided it was time to rent a metal detector. He spent the entire next day combing the yard with headphones on, detector to the ground, listening for beeps and digging to find what was detected.

Let me give you some context.

Our adorable Atlanta bungalow was built in 1940. In it’s hey-day East Lake was a happening Atlanta neighborhood. A beautiful lake attracted Atlantians as a vacation spot and break from city life in the late 1800’s. But, as the years passed civil rights swept the nation and white flight began happening in many cities. This caused East Lake’s previous wealthy inhabitants to leave, attracting lower income residents, and creating the racial divide that honestly still persists today. The beautiful lake that once was a public attraction was purchased, gated off, and reserved only for wealthy golfers to play the course that now surrounds it. Like most Atlanta neighborhoods, East Lake became crime ridden, home owners couldn’t afford to keep up their houses, and things took a turn for the worse. However, the last 15 years has brought new life to these Atlanta homes with people moving back into the city who are able to rehab formerly run down homes. This is wonderful for our area, but also puts our older homeowners at risk with rising property taxes. But, that is a whole separate tangent that you don’t want me to get started on.

All of this brings me to the fact that from the 1960’s until we purchased the house, our backyard was essentially a trash dump. At a glance you wouldn’t think this. But over the years the rain, wind, and other elements would slowly push the junk just under the top soil. The amount of glass we have found, and still find, over the 8 and a half years we have lived in our house is astonishing. So, as my hopeful hub was searching for his wedding ring every few inches he instead found a random piece of rusted metal, an old oil can, a random tin, an empty soda can.

Instead of spending the day searching for his ring, it turned into a day where he uncovered every piece of trash buried in the dirt for the past sixty years. In defeat he returned the metal detector and claimed his ring a lost cause.

At the end of the day he walked out back one last time. He admired a row of newly planted bushes and noticed one bush was just a few inches out of line. He reached down and pulled the plant up in order to replant it in line, and as he describes it, his ring popped out of the ground as the plant came out, as if it were a coin in a video game.

A day of searching and the use of a high tech device had failed him. What paid off in the end was his OCD.

SUPPLIES:

  • Visual journal book
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Old book pages
  • Heavier white paper
  • Watercolors
  • Paint brushes
  • Water
  • Colored pencils

HOW TO:

When it came time to create this visual journal page I was excited because I already had a vision in mind. I knew I wanted to emphasize the bush that ate Nick’s ring, and planned all along to create it in watercolor. Once I had an idea for that, I began on the background.

I wanted an earthy look, so I pulled old book pages that had a variety of page colors. I ripped them in stripes to create a softer look, and glued them down in vertical lines. Once I had the background set I sketched out the bush shape with pencil before I started with the watercolor.

I wanted the leaves to be very bright so I used the wet on wet watercolor technique. I first filled the leaf shapes in with water, then loaded green on my brush before adding it to the water filled leaf shapes. When you add watercolor pigment to water, it will fill the water shape. As long as the area around the shape is dry, it typically won’t extend beyond the limits of the water. Once I had a green base layer I introduced a dark blue at the very edge of each leaf to create a shadow.

I repeated the wet on wet technique with the bark on the trunk and roots, although I used less water so the colors wouldn’t blend as much. To fill in the dirt I simply painted dots all around the bush roots, using different shades of brown.

I really wanted the ring to stand out, since it is the focus of the story, so I decided to draw it out with colored pencil, so the material would contrast against everything else. I drew it on a separate sheet of paper, filled it in with colored pencil, then cut it out and glued it to the page. I cut sections of the ring out to show the roots painted on the page to make it appear as though the ring was overlapped by the roots.

To add the words I wanted to create a space that made sense with the rest of the image, so I drew out and painted a scroll like bar. I painted the same texture at the end of the roll as the bark on the bush, to look like it was being pulled out of the trunk of the bush. I wrote the words using a thin paintbrush and watercolor.

Through the years this page has held it’s spot as one of my favorite visual journal pages I have created. I am very happy with the final image and the story behind it is one I will never forget.

CHALLENGE

Create a visual journal page about a piece of jewelry. It can be a sentimental piece, the loss of a piece, or the desire for something. Have fun and good luck!

Interested in more visual journal stories, tips, and how tos? Check out my visual journal blog page here and my visual journal bundle on TPT here. Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! Help spread the word and get involved with visual journaling by following, sharing, and commenting!

Story Bazaar LA: A Visual Journal Journey

I have been visual journaling for the past 8 years primarily for myself and my students. But, and a couple of weeks ago I packed up one of my visual journals to head off on a journey across the country from Atlanta to LA to an event called Story Bazaar LA.

One of my longest and dearest friends, Elly, has put her time and energy into an amazing cause for a local LA charity, Ruckus Roots. They focus on bringing the arts to underprivileged youth in the Los Angeles area, something I am also passionate about. The focus of her event is story telling through a variety of mediums: poetry, fiction, fact, film, photography, music, and other forms of art.

My visual journals focus on telling the story of my life through both mundane and milestone events. Naturally, my journals fit into the theme of Elly’s project, so when she asked if she could use one, I gladly got one ready to ship.

My “Between the Lines” visual journal was mailed to Los Angeles, CA a couple of weeks ago and will be on display at the event on Sunday (6/24/18). Elly plans to have the book open to a specific page, with a blurb about the page next to it. I couldn’t decide which page to choose, so I sent her three options to pick from. You can check out my “Breathe In, Breathe Out” page here, “My Hands” page here, and Don’t Stop Arts is below (a blog post about this one will be coming soon).

I am flattered and excited to be a part of such an important and useful event. I wish I could’ve traveled alongside my visual journal to attend the event, but I will have to live vicariously through pictures and stories after the storytelling event closes.

If you live in the LA area and want more information check out the event page here, facebook page here, and get tickets here. Remember, all proceeds are donated to the amazing organization, Ruckus Roots.

Thanks for stopping by!

Visual Journal Page 33: The Bee Incident

This visual journal page reflects my attempt to enjoy a beautiful spring day.

My former classroom was large with a lot of windows and natural light. While it isn’t as beautiful as my current set up (I am so spoiled) I did have a door to the outside, which was a huge perk.

There was something about the ability to walk outside and take a breath of fresh air that felt freeing. It was also functional in classes that often used spray paint, fixative, and other hazardous materials. Many days I would prop the door open, letting the fresh air into my stagnant room, and more often than not, pretend I was not stuck in a classroom with a bunch of wild teenagers.

Every now and then a creature from the great outdoors would find its way into my classroom. It would cause momentary chaos until it found its way back out again, but it was worth the risk to have fresh air.

Or so I thought.

One particular day I was standing by my desk talking with a student, a class full of kids working hard behind them, when all of the sudden I felt an odd sensation on my leg. It started off with a tingle and quickly escalated to a burn. I immediately looked down and discovered the culprit, a bee had decided to attack me.

I resisted every urge to yell, curse, jump up and down, and cry. As calmly as I could I stated the obvious “A bee stung me!” and sent my student back to their seat. I was slightly incredulous, I was just standing there, that bee came into my room, why did it feel a need to sting me?

As the pain began to subside I couldn’t help but feel bad for the bee. All I wanted was fresh air, and instead I got a stinger in my leg and a dead bee on my floor. For the rest of class I walked around helping my kids and couldn’t help but bring up my injury. They smiled, nodded, and patiently waited for me to answer their actual art related questions. I’m sure they thought I was being dramatic but until I could no longer feel the stinger in my leg, I couldn’t help but discuss it.

My takeaway: at least I didn’t curse in front of 35 teenagers.

SUPPLIES

  • Visual journal
  • Glue
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Watercolor
  • Paintbrush
  • Water
  • Thin sharpie
  • Book pages
  • Scissors

HOW TO

This visual journal page was created shortly after the incident. I felt I needed to express my feelings, since my students weren’t interested in listening to me complain about my injury. I knew I wanted to focus on the bee since it was the cause of the incident, but also because insects are very interesting to draw and paint.

I started by sketching the bee shape out on a separate sheet of paper. I then began filling the bee in with watercolor. I quickly decided I wanted to splatter the the paint away from the bee to create a strong focal point and sense of movement. As soon as I filled in the color I would blow the watercolor away from my drawing. I did the painting in sections. I painted all of the black first, then let it dry before moving to the next part. This prevented the color from blending together. Watercolor will only stay where the paper is wet, if it’s surrounded by dry, for the most part, it will only stay in the wet section.

After painting my bee and letting it dry, I cut it out. I began playing with placement on my visual journal page, but had a hard time figuring it out. It was too simple to just put the bee down, but I didn’t want to fill up another page with ripped up book pages. I decided to pull two pages from different books and played around with overlapping them. I thought about gluing the bee down to one, cutting it out, then repeating to get a wider paper edge around the painting, but had also been using that technique a lot in my visual journal up to that point. I finally laid the full pages down on the right side page and liked the look. It almost looked like the bee was laying on paper left on the floor (a common occurrence in my classroom).

Next, I began brainstorming ways to incorporate the text and add some visuals to the left side page. I eventually landed on creating a line out of book pages that would mimic the bee’s flight line, until it’s untimely demise. I used the line as a space to incorporate my text: “I had a very difficult time trying to maintain my composure.”

CHALLENGE

Create a visual journal page about a bug. It can be an incident with a bug, a study of a bug, or your favorite bug.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! Help me spread the word about my blog and visual journals by sharing with others. Thanks for stopping by!