Art Journaling? What for?

I ended 2019 scratching my head wondering what’s this art journal craziness? The main question I had was why do they do it?

Don’t go looking for answers on Youtube. You’ll get bombarded with videos that take 20 minutes to finally get to the point of what they want to say and then they forget what they wanted to say. Or those that never get to the point. I wish Youtube had a noise meter with each video…

I continued hearing this buzz on social media with journal this, journal that images; everyone seemed to have one. Some were actually quite nice, but then I ran into junk journals…why would someone call their art junk?

Purposeful Journaling

I use a journal now and then to try out color palettes, like a recipe book of combinations I liked and those I wanted to forget. At least I had a record! I like my journals “dedicated” to one thought, concept, exploration…a way to categorize and find stuff (you know, like with a purpose). Using a square journal, I test pigment combinations with an inspiration photo on one side and then draw and paint using those colors on the other side.

inspired by one of my fav artists Charles Dwyer


This type of journaling has a defined purpose; learn something. But other people were having fun with no purpose at all. To me it looked like going in circles. What’s wrong with just creating something for no reason at all? I was about to find out.

When in Doubt, Learn

When in doubt about the value of something, dive deeper into it. Now I needed to find a course. Wanderlust 2020 on the Kasia Avery network, is a year long, weekly challenge in art journals. Weekly seemed plenty fast enough for me so I joined.

Two months into the course, it’s amazing! Not that I’m pumping out great art, but that the nasty critic in my head has finally quit screaming at me to produce a pretty and perfect piece of art. Now I can really just PLAY!

Ok, it is not that easy or simple, although it should be. I’m not there yet, but I’ve collected a bunch of attempts. But I’m learning that it’s okay to collect failures. I’m challenged by wonderful teachers with all sorts of new ways to make art and be creative. And isn’t that really the bottom line? We just need to create, no matter what it looks like? Don’t we learn something every time, even if the paper goes in the basket? I do, I learn what I like and what I don’t like. And I take a piece of every lesson to my next piece of “pretty” art.

When One Door Opens

Now here’s the funny thing. When you open one door, yep, another door opens. I hear about a class called The Down Deep with Fonda Clark Haight on the Art is Magic site. Here’s the hook line: “Mining your truths on the creative journey”. Is it calling you? It did me.

In this month long class, we created art in search of our “true” art calling…digging deep down there…in our internal psyches to find authenticity. Scary? It was kind of…at first… but Fonda provides such a wonderful, safe place to share it was never scary. We learned to create animals, creatures, people and stories from what she describes as ugly backgrounds. We shared those stories and it was inviting to do so. I don’t want to give away any more lest I get in trouble, but it was a game changer for me! I was now mining something out of a blank page that I’d never even considered before.

here’s my ugly background and finding something…

…here’s my finished piece “The Third Eye Door”


In the final project for the month there’s a challenge to create a piece connecting with our shadow sides. The course really was perfect for me…just the right instruction just when I needed it. This work was my favorite.

“Embrace the Shadow” by Lynne Furrer

What’s Journaling for? For anything! Make a background and just leave it for something you don’t even know you’re going to do yet. Try new things, new artists, new instructions, explore, test and fail with abandon. Remove intentions, rewrite how you create art. Keep it categorized in separate journal books or just mess it all up into 50, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you show up and do it. This is the way art thrives. Go for it!

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Tutorial Review: Artist Lynne Hoppe

I’ve admired some of Lynne Hoppes’ art for awhile. First, because I love painting faces. Second, because the simplicity of her art is divine and third the color combinations!

The artist has written out the steps for her face painting process in her blog “how I paint faces” so let’s give it a try! (I won’t repeat her steps here, you can read her on your own.)

Artwork by Lynne Furrer

The Start

Any mixed media artist has lots of old books, probably too many. To start, I decided to go small…this page is from a book called “The Letter” and is about 4×6 inches.

Following the artists’ directions, I drew the outline of a face similar using hers as a reference. I’ve been practicing faces, so felt good about being able to draw my own. I didn’t have a lot of the supplies she listed, but I had a 4B pencil and turns out that is just fine. Next comes the creamy oil pastel…didn’t have her color, so I used white.

Next, she adds some earthy yellow to the shadow areas and rubs in some spots. At this point, I realized I covered up too much with the oil pastel and the watercolor just sits on top of it. Easy to remember to fix next time, but she also rubs in the watercolor and that worked well for the rosy cheeks.

I added watercolor for the turban, lips and eyes in the colors she suggests (or best substitute I could find). Rubbing in the watercolor really worked to tint the white oil pastel. I liked this technique so much, I used it a lot!

The picture at right shows all these steps and one more that was not in the tutorial that I dreamt up myself. The paper is very thin and of course it has very straight edges. I tore the edges to create a deckled edge, then I used matte medium to glue it to a piece of 300 lb. watercolor (very stiff). I used a hairdryer for a quick 2 minutes and then set it under a heavy board for about 10 minutes to make sure it dried flat.

For some reason, I thought it was a good idea to “fix” the top side with matte medium (and I still do). So, I put a thin layer on top of all that wonderful watercolor…and yes, it ended up muted and diluted. No worries, it’s easy to fix.

Artwork by Lynne Furrer

The End

I loved the deckled edge, but she needed a darker background – and I knew I had to re-energize the colors in her face and turban from my matte medium faux pas. The artist doesn’t go into creating the background, but read her blog, it’s pretty easy to figure out. I used some purple and gray on the darker, left side. and some rose and white on the opposite side. I let that dry and then re-saturated other colors and added some more white oil pastel to help her face pop out.

I’m really happy with the result! Final size is 5×7 and fits beautifully behind a 5×7 white mat or frame.

Go Again

After a successful first start, I wanted to go again, but with my own style this time. I chose a larger size and glued a few extra papers on top to create more texture. Since it had matte medium on it, I made sure it was dry with a hair dryer. Then, I pulled a reference photo from (great place to get free photo resources) and drew my face on. Here’s a closeup of the papers from the finale shot (sorry I forgot to take pics all the way through)…click it to enlarge. That line coming down from her left eye is all texture and some watercolor smear…but I LOVE it. Embrace these happy accidents and forget about perfection (yuck!).

Artwork by Lynne Furrer

You can see I love color and went a bit crazy adding greens, pinks, blues as well as the colors from the first try. After painting, I felt I needed another coat of matted medium, but I lost a lot of the color…again. I’ll have to remember to spray fix the watercolor or go gentler with the matte medium. But it’s easy to fix by adding another layer of color and oil pastel, so don’t sweat it. Layers to me are a record of your journey and I like them. Without smearing the watercolor with the matte medium, I’m not sure that line down her left eye would exist. Rubbing the oil pastel can rub off a layer and that’s what happened at her neckline. All good, just leave it or fill it in with white or color.

When I applied the matte medium, the underlying page buckled (it was really thin!) and I got some folds at the edges. I ended up liking that effect and didn’t try to fix it.

I added more watercolor, more rubbing, more white oil pastel to “lift her face”. The oil pastels were really luscious, and I needed more saturation in her hair, so I added them there as well, rubbing in some of it so I had hard and loose edges. I thought her eyes were a bit dark, so I added a mixture of cobalt blue and white and just dotted the lower pupils. Using a bright, lime green, I rubbed it on the edges of some of the papers to help the texture stand out and decided her cheek needed a bit more punch, so added some green there. Finally, I used a dark charcoal pencils to go over some of the contours of her face and added some strands in the hair to give it more contrast overall. I could have softened the charcoal by rubbing or with water, but I liked it as it was. Maybe next time.

Artwork by Lynne Furrer

I adhered my music paper to a 140 lb. piece of watercolor paper just to see if it would stand up. It’s perfect for when you want the piece to go behind a mat. If you want to use the artwork by itself, no mat, in frame, I would recommend the 300 lb. paper. I didn’t deckle the edges because I plan to put this behind a white mat.

I might purchase the creamy color oil pastel that Lynne has in her tutorial supply list. It’s a pretty, special color, but white works too, especially if you are into color like me. The charcoal pencil left really yummy dark lines that I love. Maybe try a stabilo pencil next…

I hope you give her tutorial a try to get the hang of it and then venture out in your own style…these are really fun to do!

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