3 Art Journaling Archetypes

So last week, when I showed you the small art journal spread in the BOUND lay-flat album, it got my mind spinning a bit more on the subject of art journals in general. I’d brainstormed a bit about creating an art journaling kit but, wow, did that get pretty massive pretty quickly!

See, there’s just so much that can be used in art journaling–it’s pretty much anything goes out there–and a lot of different ways to approach an art journal. The more I thought about it, I realized most art journals fall into one of three categories.

And it’s totally possible to straddle two types or find yourself somewhere in the middle doing all three–that’s where I am, after all, and all the examples in this post are from my own journals going back 10 years. Here, take a look at this to get a better idea of what I mean…

3 Art Journal Archetypes

The Artist

Embossing Foam Tape Experiment, ~2012

Embossing Foam Tape Experiment, ~2012

This is probably what most people think of when they hear the words art journal, and The Artist isn’t going to disabuse anyone of that notion. Artists journal their way through sketchbooks and hand-bound books of various make-ups. Words are not quite as important in an Artist’s art journal, often their journal chronicles a journey of artistic growth and new techniques and products.

In the journal page, above, I had tried my hand at embossing foam tape. The embossing went well, the removing it from the temporary backing not so much… I ended up with bits and pieces instead of pretty strips. Still, they reminded me of building profiles, so I went with it. This is the sort of thing you’ll find in a technique-focused journal of an Artist.

Artists edge over into Alterers when they incorporate mainstream scrapbooking and card making products into their spreads. Jennifer Engle (MixedMediaJenn on YouTube) shows this particularly well in her “Strength” page. When the techniques become background for lengthy journal entries they fall more into the Illuminator arena.

Artists are drawn to kits like Print Your heART Out for the tools and techniques.

The Journalist

Draining, 2006

Draining, 2006

Focusing on the journal-half of the title, The Journalist puts the words first, recording thoughts and feelings on a sparsely embellished page. Moleskines and blank books are the foundation for a Journalist’s art journal, but the writing instrument can range anywhere from a fountain pen to a Sharpie. Images, when included, will be small sketches or maybe a word drawn in ornate letterforms.

“Draining,” above, is one of my earliest official art journal pages. It was part of an online workshop I took and the prompt for that week was, I believe, the word drain. For an artist I tend to be pretty literal (at least at first glance) and ran with the imagery of thoughts dripping down a drain. And when I pulled out this book to take the picture I was delighted to see there were a lot of blank pages yet to be filled!

No Regrets, ~2013

No Regrets, ~2013

When the journaling shares equal space and time with painted techniques and drawings, but is still the focus of the page or spread, that’s when the Journalist becomes an Illuminator (so called for the Medieval illuminated manuscripts which could be quite ornate). A modern-day example of the Illuminator might be Kara, aka BohoBerry. I don’t think she considers herself an art journaler, but if you watch her Bullet Journal Flip Through I think the case could easily be made!

If the Journalist tends towards stamped images or added paper elements, they fall into the crossover category of the Diarist. You know who might be considered a Diarist? The planner community that has emerged over the last few years that incorporate stickers, stamps, and decorative lettering into their planners.  

The coptic-stitched book in our BOUND & Determined kit is the stuff of Journalists’ dreams with its leather cover and toothy paper.

The Crafter


But First; 2015

Finally, The Crafter is the category of art journal I was most surprised to find crop up over the last few years. As art journaling has become more mainstream (not a bad thing, it means more people have access to it and are exploring it), the scrapbookers and card makers of the world have put their own spin on it. Like the Artists, the Crafters focus more on skills but these tend to use more stamps and patterned papers than paints and media.

One artist of this sort that I stumbled upon was Vicki Popaiannou of Clips-n-Cuts.com. Her “Take life one cup at a time” spread is a good example of the Crafter aesthetic, and inspired my “But First” layout, above, as I tried out her background technique. Now, I’d say my layout veers over into Alterer territory rather than being strict Crafter, but it definitely has Crafter elements to it. If I’d included some journaling about favorite wines or a recent wine tasting, it might be more of a Diarist-style spread.

Another example of the Crafter style is Nichol Magouirk and her Paper Doll Art Journal project.

Crafters are naturally drawn to the patterned papers, stencils, and stamp pads in our Winter Whimsy and Classic Christmas CPR Kits.

Meeting in the Middle

Of course, in the middle is where I most often find myself: The Eclectic. As you can see from the images above, I’ve spent time in all the various realms of art journaling over the last decade and range all over the styles and hallmarks of each archetype. It hasn’t been a constant pursuit–some art journalists are very committed to the form, working on a weekly or monthly page as part of their regular art practice–but it’s nice to know a blank page is waiting for me whenever I need to work something out.

I tend to use words even in my non-journal art, so my personal feeling is that an art journal isn’t complete without at least a single word somewhere on the page. A strict Arist-journaler might disagree, a Journalist would consider that not nearly enough, and a Crafter would want a nice stamped sentiment. That’s totally fine. There’s room for everyone.

What do you think of the archetypes I’ve identified? Do you see yourself anywhere on this spectrum? If so, where, and if not, what have I left out?

Beyond the Kit | BOUND Mini Art Journal

Hey, did you know that March is National Craft Month? If you didn’t, now you do!

Of course, at TCB HQ we’re always looking for and making time to be creative and do something crafty, and last night I created this art journal spread in the little lay-flat album made from our BOUND & Determined kit.

"The Invisible Artist" by Jennifer "Scraps" Vanderbeek

“The Invisible Artist” by Jennifer “Scraps” Vanderbeek

It turns out that the little hardcover, lay-flat album is pretty much perfect for art journaling! Not even something I’d really thought about when I included the instructions in BOUND. (I figured it’d be good as a photo album for instagram prints, since the pages are 3″ square.) But in trying it out last night, I realized three things:

  1. Each page is actually a double layer of cardstock. A lot of art journalers (journalists?) reinforce the pages of a sketch book or journal by gluing 2 or more together so it can stand up to wet media. Since the construction of this mini-album does that already, you’ve all set!
  2. The lay-flat binding allows you to work across both facing pages without having to fight the natural inclination of a book to close up on itself. Sure, you get that with spiral-bound books, too, but the lay-flat album does it without a gap between the pages for seamless creating.
  3. The small size (3″x6″ per spread) is perfect for a quick project being just slightly larger than an index card and way less intimidating than a full-sized blank canvas. The spread above took less than an hour to complete, start to finish. Plus, the small size means you can tuck it into a travel bag with a few chosen supplies and be able to create on the go without a lot of bulk!

A few things I did take into consideration with this layout was that, because it’s a bound book, I didn’t want to add too much bulk. While I did a little collage, I kept things pretty much flat for this layout. I may choose to add thicker elements on future spreads (after all, it’s not the end of the world if a book doesn’t close flat), but flat worked just fine, here.

I snapped some quick cell phone shots while I was working:

Prepping my pages.

Prepping my pages.

I may not have needed to reinforce my pages, but I always like to start with some pattern tissue torn and decoupaged to my surface. The lines from the patterns add a little something to the background (if they show through–they don’t always by the time I’m done) and the torn edges and inevitable wrinkles add texture.

I used to use Mod Podge or Helmar’s Decoupage and Craft Paste for this step, but I recently picked up a jar of Matte Gel Medium and finally see why all the artists love it so much! Not only does the gel medium glide onto the page much easier than traditional decoupage pastes, the surface it leaves behind is far more workable.

And to speed things up, I used my heat gun to dry each layer. If you have more time or are crafting in between other tasks, you can certainly stretch out the project by waiting for it to dry naturally. I’m impatient.

Laying down color.

Laying down color.

I had my tube watercolors still out from the gift canvases so I used Ultramarine Blue to paint over the tissue layer. The thinned paint did a great job of tinting the page all-over, but then I used some of the more concentrated color along the corners and edges to create a vignette effect.

The focal image.

The focal image.

While I suppose I could have (and often would have) flipped through a magazine for an image to add to the spread, this time I sketched out my figure and painted the entire shape with opaque white acrylic paint to create a neutral background for the oil pastels since my background was on the darker side.

"The Invisible Artist" by Jennifer "Scraps" Vanderbeek

Finishing touches.

Again, I could have cut words out of magazines or even gotten out my old Olympus manual typewriter, but I was in the groove, had a couple strips of paper laying around, so I just grabbed a pen to write out my message. See, that’s the thing about art journaling, there are plenty of options and no right or wrong way to go about it, you just get in there as see what works.

The words are applied with more gel medium and then edged in black watercolor crayon (they worked better on this layer than the oil pastels). I also added some metallic Sharpie details to my figure–the dashed lines remind me of how the illustrator of the Casper the Friendly Ghost books I had as a child emphasized that he was there but not there, since he was a ghost and all.

This spread was all about visibility–do the people around us really see us for the creative beings we are? And if they don’t, is it their own preoccupation blinding them or are we flying under the radar intentionally? That’s where the power comes in: the power to surprise, the power to selectively share those vulnerable parts of ourselves with others (or not), and the power to create without the expectations of others weighing us down with all their shoulds and can’ts and don’ts.

Or maybe it’s own expectations and can’ts that keep us from creating?

In honor of National Craft Month, our own ongoing mission encourage you to create more, and because I had so much fun with the last giveaway, we’re going to have a contest this month. It’ll be announced tomorrow on our Instagram feed (if you’re not down with the IG, it’s okay, we’ll do another contest on another platform another time, or you could use this as a reason to sign up!) so make sure you’re following @thecraftybranch to be able to enter and win!

Wishing you creative days!

Well That Was Unexpected!

Yesterday afternoon, as I was trying to get back in the swing of not being on the cruise ship anymore (my inner ears have yet to get the message…makes for interesting times) my phone rang and it was Paul, my contact at the Big Distributor, the one that was so helpful getting the Pebbles papers to me in time for our last launch, and he was just checking in, making sure things were going well, and wanted to chat about some art journaling trends that they’ve noticed.

So, first, my question to you is: Do you art journal or do you even know what that is? (If not, watch this space come January because there’ll be more on that to come.)

Art journaling is pretty big in the art world right now, and has been for a while, with people using everything from sketchbooks, to old text books to journal in. It’s fun, messy, and super-expressive. I think it’s pretty awesome (if you couldn’t already tell).

While I’ve often said that anything can become a canvas, there are some things that I’ve refrained from altering or upcycling for various reasons. Top of the list? The books of various religions. Empirically I know that these are mass-produced words on paper, just like any other book. But I also know and respect that others see them as far more than the sum of their parts, so while I’ve contemplated turning them into creative canvases in the past, I’ve always shelved the idea in favor of less controversial foundation materials.

See what I did there?

But apparently, not everyone shares my reticence, because Paul tells me they’ve had to start stocking The Bible because bible-as-art-journal has recently exploded!

So my next question is: would you alter a religious book, be it the Christian Bible, the Koran, Torah, Book of Mormon or other works of note? And if you did, would you show it to anyone? Would you show me, because I’d love to see it!

I’m still not sure I would alter a Bible when I have so many other options before me, but it’ll be interesting to see where this trend leads. And anything that gets people tapping into their creativity is something I’m definitely in favor of, so there’s that!

Accessing that creative spirit is what the Creative Mischief Kits are all about, after all. If you’re still exploring you options for this year’s holiday cards, check out a recent post on my blog on just that topic and, of course, there’s still time to get your order in for our CPR Holiday Card Kits.


Here are 2o cards made with the Classic Christmas kit and the first cutting diagrams.


And here are 20 cards made from the Winter Whimsy kit and the second cutting diagrams.