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.

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!

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.