How do I decide what journal to work in?

How do I decide what journal to work in? Often it comes down to how much time I have to spend. If I have enough time, I just make a new book.

Sally asked me this question this week and I can’t even begin to tell you how much it delights me! You know me, I always have a story to go with these questions and this one is no different. How do I decided what journal to work in? I have an entire, somewhat arbitrary, system for deciding!

Get Messy days

When I first started art journaling I was very involved in the Get Messy Art Journaling community. Get Messy is organized in seasonal themes. Currently a season is three months long and each season has a theme. Season 70 is going on right now and it is the Season of Whimsy and Curiosity.

When I first joined, I was just figuring things out so I just used one journal for everything. It was a big 8×11″ Dylusions journal and it was a mess because well, I didn’t know what I was doing but I was determined to do it largely! When I finished all the pages in it, I was so proud. Maybe the most proud of anything I had accomplished artistically so far.

One of the things the Get Messy seasons encourage you to do is have a new journal to work in for each season. Preferably one you’ve made yourself. I quickly got bit by the bookmaking bug. I love the possibilities of what making my own journals afford me. Take a look at my Season of Art 101 or my Season of Contrast photo flip throughs.

So as I learned and grew, so did the kinds of journals I would make.

Because Get Messy encouraged me to start making journals for the seasons I have many, many books that are dedicated to a particular season. One of my favorites is my Season of Music book. I altered a large coffee table book on REM for it and it absolutely sings. (Pun all the way intended.) I’ve never filmed a a flip through of it before so here is my new video of this journal that I made in 2016.

I mention Katie Smith in this video and you can find her work here. If you want to see more live action journals, I have a YouTube playlist of journal flip throughs.

Making books

There’s something addicting about making books. I particularly love taking unusual materials to make books. I’ve made a book out of a dried resin puddle my friend Renée gave me and then the book was in Art Journaling magazine. And I’ve made books out of cardboard boxes and used books. I’ve made them out of junk mail, sheets of watercolor paper, and used dried tea bags. I’ve made giant books and small books. I assess so many objects by whether or not I can make a book out of it. There’s a lot of pleasure in taking something that’s maybe mostly junk and making it into something that is interesting or beautiful or maybe even profound.

Book made out of a used tea bag.

Making a book is very much like making a crocheted thing for me. I have these raw materials: paper, cardboard, string or glue for books or yarn for crocheted things. There is a jumble of those raw materials and I apply a bit of knowhow and ingenuity and suddenly I have a thing that previously didn’t exist. It’s not magic exactly but also it kinda is. I never get tired of looking down at a book I’ve crafted and thinking about how it literally didn’t exist the day before.

Here’s my point: I will make a new journal/book anytime I’m stumped for what to do next. And deciding where to work sometimes is secondary to making a new one. Do I ever need a new journal? Probably not. But if I make too many that’s what my Etsy store is for!

Current day-to-day

At this very moment in time I have five journals going. I have #MDGRandomMovieLinesJournal #YellowLeatherArtJournal #MDGBrownLeatherJournal #FruitOfTheSpiritMeditationJournal (I’ll admit I’ve stalled out a bit on that one) and an untagged journal that’s full of yummy watercolor goodness.

Much of the time, which one of those I work in depends on how much time I have to spend. The Movie Lines journal is small and so is the yellow leather one. I can work in those books quickly. The Brown Leather one and the watercolor journal are biggy so I’ve got to either have a very specific idea brewing or a good chunk of time or both.

The watercolor journal and the Fruit of the Sprit journals have very specific themes. So when I work on those, I have to be willing to abide by their rules. The other three are anything goes books where I can use whatever media and flail about as needed.

The Movie Lines journal has been particularly experimental because I started it for a class. So there are a few spreads at the beginning of the book that were from the class lessons. Then I worked in it last fall when I was quarantined in my bedroom with Covid. While resting, I watched a truly stupid movie that had some banger one liners so I started writing them in the book and it morphed into the Movie Lines journal. Most recently I’ve taken another few classes so some lessons have ended up in that book again. It’s probably been one of the truest sketch book/idea book I’ve ever attempted.

New New

I have to say, talking about journals makes me want to make new ones. Sometimes I think I could spend most days making journals and then selling them. It’s hard to beat the feeling of possibilities that gets baked into them as I make them. Edited to add on Monday morning: Yeah, I made a new journal over the weekend. I am at least, true to form.

What about you? Do you make your own books or do you prefer store bought? Find me on the socials or email me with your best journal story. I want to hear them.

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