My favorite journal is gone from the shelves of Hobby Lobby. It was similar (but much less expensive) than the popular Moleskine 5 x 8 sketchbook. The generic came in a watercolor version–The Hobby Lobby generic brand–with a rubbery cover, an elastic closure and sewn-in pages. The watercolor paper was sturdy and stood up to a lot of mixed media abuse. But now it’s gone. No one at Hobby Lobby remembers it, even when I show them mine.
It may be time for me to move to loose sheets and bind them myself later. Working with loose sheets is fun because you can make what you want and arrange them later. I found the new Strathmore Ready Cut watercolor sheets really convenient. Watercolor paper, in a a choice of cold- or hot-pressed, 25 sheets to a pack. Cut straight to 5 x 7 inches. My idea of a time saver.
I wanted to start by trying some paper mosaic. Using slivers of printed pages cut from magazine, I assemble images on paper. I’ve done it since I was 10, taught myself, made up rules, and call it paper mosaic.
One of the problems I have with loose sheets (or postcards) is painting the front means getting paint on the back. I paint flat on a paper, and the water loves slurping from one side to the next. Here’s how I avoid that.
Tip: Take a piece of freezer paper, the kind that has a plasticized front and plain back. Rip off a piece slightly larger than the working paper. Put the back of your working paper on the plastic side of the freezer paper. Heat your art iron to “cotton” setting. Cover the working paper with parchment (in case the iron isn’t flawless) and iron slowly across the working paper. It sticks to the plastic, forms a seal, and you are ready to paint.
What happens when you paint? Well, the paper curls. Doesn’t matter, the seal sticks. In this photo, you can see how much the paper curls.
You can see that I’ve painted right over the edge. No paint gets on the back, the paper is protected by the freezer paper. Be kind, though, no soaking or lifting the corner–once the seal is broken, all bets are off.
I painted the grass on the page, sketched in the tree, then used paper clippings from catalogs to start the tree image with shades of brown. The small pieces of paper go over a layer of glue, and I paint glue right over them. You have to work fast, as the cut magazine paper curls and twists. I use a small brush, dipped often in water, then in glue. You want to work wet for this.
When the paint is dry and I need to turn the sheet to work from both the long and short sides, the page is ready to pull from the freezer paper. You can see the back of the page here. No paint. Nice and clean. Easy, too.
Here’s the tree, as far as I am going tonight. Before I put on the leaves or write on it, it needs to dry completely. The paper strips are very wet, so a night of drying and a few hours in the book press will make it ready to add the leaves–which I will do with watercolor. Then I’ll approach the writing.
–Quinn McDonald is the author of Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art, ready for delivery in July–just a few days away!