What to put in your Art Journal/Insert when You aren’t “Artistic”

I don’t have a lot of artistic talent when it comes to paint, pen, colored pencils.  I still use them and draw.  What is in my head is never transformed to paper adequately.  However, I have kept what I call an art and inspiration journal for over thirty years.  How do I do that when I don’t have that kind of flare?  I’ve broadened my definition of what is ‘art’ and find inspiration in just about everything.

But first, why bother keeping an art/inspiration journal/insert?  Alan Alda said, “The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.”  I completely agree with him.  I don’t care how ‘uncreative’ someone thinks they are, everyone can create art, create a personal, unique statement of their perception of the world around them.  Frankly, some of the best stuff comes out of people who always thought they were ‘talentless’ in that regard.  I also believe that being creative every day opens new avenues, trains of thought, opportunities because you allow your mind to go where it normally doesn’t. Additionally, an integral part of creativity is not being afraid to fail.  There is NO such thing as failure when you are creative.  Who is to say your language of creativity is right or wrong?  Now let’s take a look at supplies.

The most popular kinds of supplies for an art journal are stickers, clip art, stencils, washi, project life components, etc.  If you want an extraordinary art journal/insert in your TN, look beyond the common place supplies.  It will take a little bit of extra work but it is totally worth it.  I’m going to list some of the components I’ve used in the past and still use today.  To start, you need base pages.  You can buy blank inserts (there are zillions out there, check out my past posts here and here for resources).  You can also use things like magazine pages, old wall calendars, even book pages.  Remember, your base pages do not need to be white, blank, and pristine, they can already have content on them that you just use as a jumping off point, inspiration…Also, the pages of your insert don’t need to match.  You can have a mixture of different base pages – let your imagination go wild in combining papers – magazine pages, construction paper, an old menu, old greeting cards, calendar pages, wrapping paper, scrap booking paper…If you want to make your own, figure out your TN size, decide how many pages you want in your insert, cut it down, staple or sew it together – and I always recommend a stiffer cover for the insert to protect the insides.  Now let’s look at ideas for supplies to build on those pages.

  1. Paper ephemera – when I say paper ephemera I mean ‘old’. My daughters and I have always loved going to antique 2015-05-25 08.04.39 (1)malls.  One of my favorite things to look for is old papers.  I love any kind of old papers – greeting cards, post cards, old documents, pictures (you would be amazed at how many old photos just seem to be tossed away), old pattern books, children’s books, old magazines and the great thing is most of these kinds of things are very inexpensive because there isn’t much value in them.  I don’t recommend chopping up the first Superman comic book…lol.   Be prepared to sift through stacks of stuff to find what catches your eye.  The search is worth it.
  2. Nature – leaves, flowers, grasses, pressed in to pages. You don’t need to get caught up in making it professional.  Here are some tips for pressing what you find.  Once your findings are pressed and sufficiently dried you can either glue or tape them in your insert.  I use wide, clear packing tape, I just like the way the shiny tape has the effect of a little window on my little piece of natural art.
  3. Wrappers – yes, I said wrappers/food boxes etc. If you really look beyond the thing and search for inspiration in the commonplace, you can find art in anything.  Think about things you use every day…what about that Starbucks paper cup?  That brown Snickers wrapper, soup label, gum wrapper, that expensive chocolate wrapper, wine bottle labels…I think all these pieces of ‘garbage’ can be transformed.  They can make a very personal statement about your day, what you were doing/thinking while sipping the coffee etc.  You don’t have to limit yourself to food wrappers, branch out, look at everything as a potential source of inspiration for your journal.
  4. Old maps – obviously I don’t mean the ancient Strabo maps. Old National Geographic maps, maps you come across on vacations – pieces of these can make great base pages but also can be components for a page if cut in to a shape.
  5. Google images – I use these all the time. I love google images.  I might be doing a beach theme page and want a vintage crab or vintage beach girl.  A simple search will pop up thousands of images.  If I click on the image I want 2015-05-25 08.06.19once, then right click, I can save just the image and then print it out any size I want or need.  (No, I am not addressing copyright laws here because I am not espousing use others images for commercial use, only for your private viewing in your insert.)
  6. Ticket stubs, parking stubs, even receipts – all of these can be little reminders/statements of your day, your life. I believe life is made up of all these little tiny moments and how lovely a thought it is to have a record of them.  Did you go to the beach, pay to park, and pick a little wildflower?  Combine them on a page and talk about your visit.
  7. Magazine images – I do not buy very many magazines. I can count on one hand the number I have bought in the last six months.  The ones I do buy have to do with scrapbooking or paper crafting.  They have great images in them that always find their way on to my pages…
  8. Single sheet wrapping paper – I love World Market and they sell the best single sheet wrapping paper that is usually made of really great paper. The paper is usually very graphically stunning and not expensive.  I think the most I’ve paid for a sheet is $5.99 and the sheets are fairly large.  University book stores often also sell them as well as some crafting stores such as Ben Franklin.
  9. Old family photos – color Xerox favorite photos and use them in your insert, you can shrink/enlarge to fit your pages appropriately.

This is by no means an exhaustive list.  Keep your eyes open during the day for potential content for you journal.  Keep an envelope or folder with you to put things in.  Jot little notes on the back of items if you are worried you won’t remember why you saved it.  I’m sure you noticed I haven’t addressed pens, adhesives, stickers, washi etc.  This wasn’t the place for that conversation.  I wanted to help you think outside the box for content inspiration.  These suggestions will help you focus on the ‘reason’ for that page you are putting together.  There are no rules for an art journal/insert, follow your longings, experiences, dreams and put them down on paper.  Creating little vignettes of your days is what this is all about and everything you use in the course of your day is potential inspiration for content.

Again, do not be afraid to just jump in and put your page together.  You cannot fail, you can’t make it wrong.  What is in your heart and soul, put on to paper, is never able to fail.  It will be beautiful, symphonic and even epic because it will be a snapshot of your life.

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