Thursday, February 4, 2016

giving art journaling a try

Do any of you keep an art journal? I never have, and when I first noticed the term "art journaling" popping up on the social network sites, I didn't think it was for me. I don't need any further stimulus to paint every day, and I'm fine with scribbling ideas for new work on the backs of envelopes or in the blank spaces of bills or receipts. I did keep a diary as a child, and I have kept writing journals of various kinds as an adult, but they have never been for art.

Then, a few weeks ago, I got it into my head to join an Art Journaling group on Facebook. They have strict rules about only posting art that is obviously part of a journal. So I looked and looked for a notebook made up of washi postcards so that I could stay true to the purpose and methods of etegami. The closest thing I could find to what I wanted, was this ring-bound Maruman notebook of gasenshi cards with a very low level of bleed. Each page is perforated so that it can be pulled out and sent by mail as a postcard.

My paper of choice is hon-gansenshi with the highest level of bleed available in Japan, and much of what distinguishes my etegami is only possible because of the cards I use. In the beginning, painting on the low-bleed gasenshi cards in my new notebook was a painful experience, requiring a serious compromise in the way I use my brush, and a lowering of my expectations in the results.

 I also tried using a white gel pen to outline this butterbur sprout, thinking I might have better results with it than with sumi ink applied by brush. But the image was so hard to distinguish even after adding the color, that I ended up drawing over the white lines with a black gel pen just to make it visible.

And this morning, I used a thin-tipped black marker to outline a chameleon, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the paper responded better to the marker ink than it did to the sumi ink in the earlier green pepper etegami. It actually allowed the marker ink to bleed a little, giving the lines just a tiny bit of that wobble that every etegami artist aims for.

The other issue I have with this low-bleed gasenshi is that it doesn't allow the gansai (mineral-based watercolor blocks) colors to bleed into one another the way I like it to. But I'm learning to adjust. In fact, I'm learning to appreciate what the paper can do, and not blame it for what it can't do. At least I can start posting my work on the art journaling site. I'll stick with it until I run out of pages in the notebook. Can't say yet what I'll do after that.


  1. Wow, always a treat to view your words and work --thanks for sharing! Pax et bonum, Carol

  2. Have you tried making your own journal? The easiest way is to punch 3 holes and use a ribbon to hold together each hole. Or try the various inexpensive Muji paper journals, one I have bleeds nicely. The other option is a Moleskin journal, if you can get these in Japan? Lots of journal sketchers use this. Good luck and have fun!

    1. Making my own journal counts!? If I could paint on the paper of my choice and then just insert or glue (or like you say, hold it together with string) each piece in any old notebook, that would be wonderful. I tried Moleskin before and the paper is just wrong wrong wrong. I have trouble walking, so I do all my shopping online. I haven't come across a Muji notebook that bleeds, but I'll look into it. Thanks!

    2. Lots of watercolorists can't find a journal, so they purchase the paper they like and make a simple binding. I will post a link below. There are so many beautiful Japanese ways to bind books, I am sure you can find something on-line you can do! The link shows the binding method I have seen most often used for art journals.

  3. Most interesting to read sbout painting / drawing issues & solutions. That lizard is just plain adorable. (I've never said that about a lizard before!) 🌞