Let's Talk About Sketchbooks Volume 4

 After a bit of a break I'm back at it with the sketchbook posts! As I mentioned in the last installment, I started working on "anything goes" journals complete with sketching, collage, art, and writing. 

Like the last anything goes book, I worked in a Moleskine softcover journal, but this time it was an unlined sketchbook in a square format. Not my favorite cover, but I covered this one in packing tape so it will hold up a bit better than my other anything goes journal.

I didn't stick the pages together in this one and the pages held up pretty well, but there was some bleed through in spots. Not really enough to bother me though.

Obviously really going through a washi tape phase while working on this journal.

For a while I was writing thoughts of the day or things I read that seemed particularly relevant in my planner. Once I had amassed a good collection I would copy them into my journal where I'd be more likely to see them.

Always, notes to self. Good advice, even if it is misspelled.

Lots of flowers, experimenting with watercolor and acrylics in the book.

I am a big fan of gratitude lists or lists of things that are making me happy to help me focus on the positive things, even if they are small. I used to have a dedicated notebook for such lists, but in the spirit of "anything goes" I started writing them down in my sketchbooks.

Sometimes I just need a place to put angsty feelings.

Pasting cool random things into my journal is my favorite. The comic/business card is from Laughing Redhead Studio

One of the best ways to save pages I don't like is to write in block letters over them.


Drawing through feelings.


I don't typically try to make two page spreads coordinate with each other, but sometimes I really dig the way they look side by side.

I brought the journal on a trip to Puerto Rico with my mom and sister. Travel journaling is so much fun! Small sketches and doodles, minute observations that I'll love to look back on, and collecting more stuff, like postcards.

My anything goes journal is also a place to stick in random extra photos, which I tend to have a lot of from other projects.

These journals serve as both records of my life and art/lettering practice.  It is so cool!

I freaking love these flowers on neon paint. The flowers are drawn in white paint pen over the yellow, but I'm super into how it kind of looks like the white of the flowers is the paper underneath the paint.

Always inspired by Van Gogh and Starry Night.

Thanks for checking out my latest sketchbook!  I've really enjoyed looking back at the work in this one. This one is from almost exactly a year ago, and I'm really happy with what is inside. It is really cool to see how far I've come in the past year, but also what has stayed the same. I'll be back with another sketchbook post soon!

Let's Talk About Sketchbooks - Volume 3

I am giving a guided tour of my sketchbooks, art journals,and art books of the past. Check out part one and part two.

Today, I'm getting into one of the things that trips me up whenever I go to write one of these posts: the difference between an art journal, a sketchbook, a journal, and something else. To me, a sketchbook is a place for drawing, a place to practice and to work out ideas. An art journal feels like a place to make more "finished" artwork (I could write a whole bunch on that idea as well), but it is also a place for more personal, emotional work. Not a place to go to practice but a place to go when I had a message to impart or something to express. My first two art journals also seemed to be a place for art and when I would get an urge to just write in my art journal I felt the need to make it look more pretty or more interesting than just words on a page. It felt weird to flip through an art journal and come to a page with just writing or of sketches that were completely random and unfinished.  It felt weird to flip through a sketchbook and see paint. But I still felt the need to include these "off topic" pages in my art journals and sketchbooks. 

I started to get really tired of all of the restrictions and the pressure I was putting on myself. I just wanted one book where I could just write or just make art or just sketch or stick in anything without feeling like I was betraying the purpose of the book. So I created my first "anything goes" journal.

The book was made out of a lined Moleskine cahier journal. The pages are extremely thin, so I stuck two of them together so that the pages would hold up to more media and writing without bleedthrough. I embraced the "anything goes" idea by collaging the cover with stickers and scraps - anything I found and liked. I worked on the cover over time as I worked in the journal, instead of all at once.  (Fantastic "not your babe" sticker from Starchild Stela, C.S. Lewis quote card from Elise Joy, fantastic mermaid sticker (and most of the others) from the dollar store).

Probably because of the lines in this journal I did a lot more writing than in previous journals (like, a lot more). Mostly just recapping my days, but also a lot about feelings. (Writing is blurred in case I wrote anything identifying about other people - I didn't bother to reread it all - nothing super embarrassing or interesting here!)

Lots of lists and little notes. And space for random extras of photos, like this one of a strawberry illustration.

This is the first journal that I took with me while traveling. I brought it with me while visiting family and friends in Ann Arbor, MI and became completely hooked on travel journaling (more on this in future posts). I loved capturing small things in the moment, like the shape of the hotel room key and a list of what I saw, ate, heard, felt, etc. And I'm obsessed with collecting interesting bits of paper (like that coffee sleeve), so a travel journal is the perfect place to put them. At this time I was also super inspired by Teesha Moore (her membership site, the Artstronauts Club is a wonderful fairyland of happiness and creativity) so those two quirky little people in snowsuits are completely inspired by/learned from her.

Again, lots of writing. Still loving bold statements. Using Tim Holtz distress stain to make the pages a little more colorful (100% inspired by Courtney Diaz over at Little Raven Ink for that one).

Journaling or making art is one of my favorite things to do when I can't sleep and/or have anxiety. Also, I should probably alter photos more because I like this.

Journaling from a pretty disastrous journey home to Massachusetts for Thanksgiving and I had to include my ticket, of course (also, so cold in Massachusetts in November - kind of forgot that since moving to DC).

I still love pages with flip outs and interactive elements. Drawing and writing about what I'm doing at the moment is one of my favorite things. I don't have to come up with an idea about what to draw or write and I also get to look back and remember super mundane, random details, like watching What Not to Wear. Also, my mom is super sweet about my weird need to collect paper and record everywhere we go, so she gave me one of her business cards to put in my journal.

Journaling on the road means getting/needing to use random paper and supplies, like this page from a catalog or something.  See also little notes about art supplies to try in the top right corner.

The return journey on that same trip was also a bit of a disaster and I had enough plane tickets to create a little book. 

Using scrap paper for backgrounds.

When working on this journal I carried around a little pouch with paper pieces, like paint chips, stickers, and labels that I used to break up the pages and add interest, instead of using only found papers. 

I did some painting and more traditional art in this journal, but a lot of it was used to create backgrounds or to add interest to written words.

I love pockets in the backs of my journals. I normally stash notes, or collage pieces inside.  

Looking back, this journal is definitely one of my most personal. These pages are very far from my more minimalist art style now. I can see myself working to find the sweet spot between writing and art (which definitely fluctuates with my mood and needs at the time). I don't think this is my favorite body of work, although there are definitely some bits that I can pick out to reuse. This journal has my favorite cover of them all - chaotic in the best way.


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!