Let's Talk About Sketchbooks - Volume 2

I am giving a guided tour of my sketchbooks, art journals,and art books of the past. If you missed part one, check it out here.

After having the best time working in my first art journal I immediately started my second in a large spiral-bound Canson mixed-media pad (I still love the Canson mixed-media paper and you'll see it again in this sketchbook series!). I am always excited to switch up my sketchbooks and never work in the same book twice in a row. 

I think of/call this book the big journal for obvious reasons. It was refreshing to have so much room to spread out across a large page. After finishing the book I covered the front and back covers with some pieces of  newsprint paper that I use to protect my desk/wipe excess paint on/doodle and practice on - the messy drop-papers were so inspiring to me.

I started incorporating more drawing in this book: the telephone above was drawn and painted in with watercolor and then collaged onto the rest of the page which features one of many encouraging notes to myself.

For a while I was obsessed with monoprinting using acrylic paint and plastic bags (which I learned from this tutorial by Alyssa Burke). On this page you can see it used to create the teal background and the white pattern on the right.  I made a semi-transparent pocket with a Ziploc bag that I had used for monoprinting (the pink and scales pattern) and put a bunch of little notes and bits of writing inside. I was also very interested in trying to draw people while working on this art journal. I loved (and still love) how different artists and animators have their own stylized takes on the human form that are unique to them. I played with several different drawing styles throughout the book.

Trying to draw from a photo! I love this quirky pink little mansion that appears to be slowly sliding off the page. 

I experimented with mixing doodling with collage and I'm still happy with the chaotic look of this page.  It incorporates some of my own painted papers, scrapbook paper, magazine clippings, stickers, washi tape, a Hello Kitty playing card and more. The yellow index card is a pocket that holds a clothing tag with writing on it.

More drawing! I drew this to feature some of my favorite things when I was home on winter break from college. 

Lots of practice makes for some weirdly composed pages. Here I just drew whatever came into my head and practiced handlettering with a fancy T

More chaotic collage with doodles. Here I included stitching on the page and tried another style of drawing people.

This is still one of my favorite drawings ever. I love the sentiment because calling someone a gem is such a lovely compliment and that lettering style (which I find really time-consuming and difficult to space out, so I rarely use it anymore) is another fave. I had a copy of this hanging up on the wall in my dorm room.  And I'm still working with gemstones in my artwork. 

Not all of the pages in this art journal ended up finished. I am definitely not opposed to flipping the page and moving on if I hit a wall or am out of ideas. Sometimes I go back and add more, sometimes I don't. Here, I used a stencil to make the honeycomb pattern and outlined it in yellow, which I was happy with, but then I had no idea what to do next, so the page remains as is.

Not all art journal pages are good!  sometimes they end up being way too busy and covered in a neon paint explosion.

Maybe as a reaction to the busy-ness of some of the earlier pages I started making more calm pages with lots of white space, which is closer to what I do now.

Towards the end of the book I got tired of the big pages, so I started drawing 6x6 inch squares and drawing inside those.  It would also be cool to only work outside the square.

The Canson mixed media paper takes watercolor really well, so I started experimenting with watercolor techniques like the ones in this background.

This journal saw me through my last semester of college and the start of my post-grad life - a time when it was definitely useful for me to have a creative and emotional outlet. I still enjoy a lot of the work in this journal, but it also has many cringe-inducing pages that I have to flip past quickly. I'm surprised by how many of my early drawing attempts have a similar style to the way I draw now and how many of the same motifs pop up over and over again in my work.


While I was using the big journal I also worked in an altered book that allowed me to create double-page spreads (not as much of an option in a spiral bound book). I glued together several pages in this wilflower guide to make them sturdy and painted over the pages with gesso to obscure the original content (although I saved many pictures from the book as collage material). This book becamse a place to use lots of acrylic paint and to layer on lots of media because the pages were so thick (although I'm sure the Canson book would have held up to something similar). I used a wide variety of styles, media, and techniques on the pages of the big journal, but I worked in a much more consistent style in this journal. Something about the format drew me to work in a similar way each time.

This is the first spread in the book and my favorite by far. It contains magazine clippings, my own painted papers, hand carved stamps, and lots of washi tape. The color scheme and composition really draw me to these pages.

I created this page by painting the colorful background, drawing the flowers over the top in paint pen, and then painting the negative space surrounding the letters in black acrylic. Spreads in this book often came together in many steps over time and I worked in the other sketchbook in between.


I began using some of my own photos as college elements (the teal door on the pink page and the statue above)

This art journal still has blank pages in it, but I consider it finished for me. I stopped being inspired to pick it up to work in it, so it will stay a little capsule of the work that I was doing at the time. These days I don't use much acrylic paint or mixed media, but I'm slowly getting back into both - just in my new style. I would also like to revisit using my photographs in my artwork and hand-carving stamps.

The process of looking back through these old art journals has given me such a list of things that I'd like to try again or ideas that I'd like to expand on - I highly recommend doing something similar if you have old sketchbooks laying around. At the very least you will be impressed with how much your skills have improved, but you may also be impressed with all the cool ideas your younger self had.

Stay tuned for more sketchbook tours coming soon!