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 haveĀ 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!