I’ve already worked past one of these page spreads in my journal (the red splotchy one) and realized that the post was set to come up next week (I try to work ahead in my posts). But I was sorting my photos and thought you might enjoy seeing the textures before something was painted on the pages.
The photos are a little dark because there weren’t any lights set up but you can get an over all impresssion from these photos.
I used acrylics applied thinly in a variety of ways: on dry paper, on wet paper, splattered with water while the paint was still wet, and even dabbed through a stencil (first image red splotches). Sometimes I would wait for a layer to dry and other times I’d just start in on another layer merging with the previous still wet layer.
I had no plan when I started these except to use the three colors I’d used for another project. I had left over paint from a non-journal project and wanted to use it up.
I guess I did have one other “plan.” I knew on the first spread that I wanted to use the stencil and that I wanted it to take slightly more than one page and be angled (you can see how it is sort of angled across the right-hand page, though that is mostly covered with other paints). My idea was that I could either use the splotches as the background to the focal point or use the other page area as a background to the focal point of the resultant sketch. Either way it would make a nice change in the background.
I’m always encouraging students to have a go at prepainting or decorating (with collage for instance) their journal page spreads. You can see a bunch of examples of this in one place in my “Before and After Journal” on my website.
Sometimes the advance work seems an impediment to working on the page, but I prefer to think of it as a bit of a game, How can I make this work? Other times I’m rushed and am not interested in making it work, I’m just interested in getting something down on the page. Either approach is healthy for me. The first pushes my problem solving brain, the second helps me let go of “perfect.”
You might want to test this approach gradually and think about how you use a page and where on a page you can place decoration that won’t interfere—the edges of a page make good places to add solid blocks of color to create margin columns. You can use paper, paint, stamp ink. In some of my journals, because of the paper I used when making the journal, reinforcing the glue seams between the signatures might be important to me so I’ll paste lightweight paper across the gutter there. (I’ll do this on other spreads as well, but on these particular spreads it actually has some utility.)
But I also think it is equally important to not plan and just go in with paint and splash around, make interesting strokes, play with color, and experiment.
You end up getting page spreads that look like the two shown in today’s post. They don’t look like much right now and that’s just fine. But later they will be fun to paint on. (And the first one was great fun to paint on and I’m looking forward to painting on the blue/yellow one.)
Note: I use acrylics to do this early work because I want future wet media layers to go on top of the background without bringing the background up. If you work in dry media for your final sketching you could do your background painting in watercolor, gouache, walnut ink, watersoluble markers, etc. Work you do later with dry media isn’t going to disturb that first layer. If you’re going to add more wet layers however you’ll want to use some sort of acrylic product that is at least water resistant.
Here’s a page spread where I only used two strokes to decorate the paper—one is made by a textured brayer and one is made with a just a single horizontal brush stroke. (The paper is cold press so the texture really shows in the stroke of the brush and in the line quality of the brush pen sketch.)
In this example of single stroke and a splatter I have no trouble building a page of bird studies at the Bell Museum.
So whether you want to go wild with color or only have enough left over paint to make a couple strokes go ahead and prepaint those pages. When you are out and about working in your journal and you turn the page to a prepainted page your creative mind will smile and go into overdrive.
Take some time today to get some page spreads ready for this week. Leave a blank spread now and then if you aren’t accustomed to painting on prepainted backgrounds. It will be a nice breather (even if you paint on pre-painted backgrounds all the time). And don’t forget that few strokes or many, these pages are great for mixing collage with your sketching. The prepainting helps provide anchoring for the mix of what is to come.
Remember: Don’t judge the final background texture—it isn’t finished. You’ve work left to do. Over time your choice of colors, blending, brushstrokes, placement of blends and splotches etc., will all begin to evolve in a way that supports how you use a journal page—but it can’t happen unless you start experimenting.