Journal Pages: No-Layer Backgrounds

An image becomes recognizable when they eye sees 30 percent of it.

Put down the paint–all of it. Acrylics, watercolors, pastels. Lay down your  sizers, distressers, macro- and micro-glitter,  mica shards and flower petals. Put them down. Now. You don’t need them to journal.  Breathe. Clean off your desk.  Breathe again. Just for now, we are going to keep it simple. You can go back to layers-upon-layers tomorrow.

You don’t need “layers upon layers” in your journal pages. Just for today, allow your journal to be a quiet discovery of what’s in your heart and soul. It doesn’t need six layers of paint, crayons, punchinella stencils, gloss varnish, sprinkles and hot chocolate sauce. The last dozen journals I’ve seen were heavy and colored and had ephemera stuck all over them, but not a single word that helped the owner make sense of her life.

I believe in slow art–and I call it Raw Art. It’s yours. It has your fingerprints in it and your mistakes throughout it. Because it is original and raw. I believe that the original digital art was done by hand–ten digits, including an opposable thumb– with a pencil on paper. After that, pens and maybe watercolor pencils were added. That’s all you need to make meaning. Meaning might not come from words alone, but it doesn’t comes from pressure to buy pounds of tools to create busy, color-laden, thick, but word-empty pages, either.

Below are some pages from a journal I made without a painted background.  Simple. Spare. With words. If you feel that your journal pages have become the boss of you, and meaning has taken the back seat, throw everyone out of the art van and rearrange the seats.

Put creativity and your good common sense in the front seat. Everyone else who is clamoring for attention (“But X puts paint in her hair and puts her journal on her head to get color!” “Be like Y and use that new archival peanut-butter-and-jelly stain to create an inner child page!” ) has to sit in the way-back and be quiet. Give them a coloring book and ketchup packets.

Now you are ready to drive. Here are some pages that use only Pitt pens and watercolor pencils and my own weird handwriting. I loved making every page. Remember when you loved making things? Go back to that time. It was rich in content, satisfying in the doing. Here are 4 examples of raw art.

Use simple lines. Write with your own handwriting. It's yours. That's enough.

Lines make perfectly good backgrounds. And your pen isn't lumping over paint.

Stick with black and white. Or use color. In some places and not in others.

I created these flowing, intersection, organic lines. They leave space for writing divide up the page and let you meditate as you fill a page.

–Quinn McDonald writes and creates journal pages with raw art journaling. Her book, Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art is now available.

13 thoughts on “Journal Pages: No-Layer Backgrounds

  1. Thanks Quinn- it’s easy to lose sight of the content, some of the best pages are the simplest. My journal is also a record of my life, the art aspect of it should not overwhelm. Some pages do “go big”, but it has to NEED to, because of what is being said. Layers just for layers’ sake is a little inauthentic.

  2. Wonderful!! I have word journalled for years, and have just discovered art journalling. I have been a bit (to say the least) overwhelmed with the layers and paint and stamps and sparkles… I am still passionate about my words and I am just adding some doodling and using Copic markers to bring in my heart’s message. Your post makes me feel free to do it however I want to!

  3. Quinn, I enjoyed this post. I liked your humor, and I definitely liked your message. Sometimes the paint and layers get a little overwhelming, don’t they? My most recent art journaling has left the paints behind. It has felt so much simpler and more accessible to me, but I miss some of the “creative play” of the messier and more complicated supplies.

  4. Though sitting in the back seat IF you are really providing coloring books AND ketchup packets is downright appealing, for the long haul I want to sit in the front of the art van with my journal, pen and colored pencils. I never did get much past the doodling stage, so I love the ideas in Raw Art Journaling. I’ve been having fun letting my words follow the lines. Who knew that could feel so right, just the right amount of flow?

    Now about that ketchup on the back seat cover….

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