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Every surface is a canvas.  For the new artist, the array of options and ‘rules’ can feel overwhelming.  The trick is not to follow any rules. As an ardent rule breaker myself…I learned long ago, that the pages of a novel make a great painting surface when you run out of watercolour paper.  The goal is to pick up a brush and start somewhere…anywhere. The second trick is that art and perfection do not go hand in hand. The goal isn’t a perfect petal or a perfect feather.   I have heard many new painters express fear at a lack of drawing experience which is why I encourage the transfer of designs. It is a great place to start and you learn how by viewing the following tutorial, “How To Transfer A Design”.  A simple sketch or drawing can be traced onto just about any surface as a guideline for your work.

An art journal is a great way to begin. They aren’t restricted to a specific art medium unless you want it to be. You can experiment and explore. It can be used as a diary to work through thoughts and feelings or just a fun way to decompress.

The first thing I’d like to note is that you definitely don’t have to spend a fortune in order to start an art journal. Art journals should be fun and shouldn’t make you feel like you have to buy “all the things”.

You can use whatever you have laying around your home or studio to contribute to it, or you can gather some supplies from this list below. These are just a few ideas of things you can use in an art journal.

The Basics

  1. Paper, notebook or old books. If you don’t have access to the purchase of good art paper journals, start with anything you find around the house. If you can grab a good journal, I suggest one with watercolour paper in it.
  2. A few basic brushes like a fine round, round, flat and filbert.
  3. A few basic watercolour paints. You can use any medium, but I recommend Van Gogh watercolour by Royal Talens. They come in small sets that are perfect for on the go painting.
  4. Permanent pen or markers.  I almost always use a black pen in a .3 from Pigma Micron. They are great for defining lines, adding borders or signing work.

Extra Fun Stuff

  1. Some other additional fun art supplies are calligraphy pens (the traditional kind), ink and coloured pencils.
  2. As far as mixed media…the options are endless. Stamps, stencils, glue, wax, strips of coloured paper, old pictures, adhesive and parchment paper. Not to mention real dried flowers which are my favourite.
  3. Decoupage or hot glue if you are going to adhere items to the journal.

Where to Begin

Your journal is a place to tell a story. Here are some ideas to get you started:

1.  About Me Page:  About you…this can be a simple array of your favourite colours, a picture of your favourite place or items that you love. Paste a photo, paint some strokes of colour or paint your favourite food.   Make this page or pages all about you.

2.  Botanical Page:  Add dried flowers and leaves from your garden or neighbourhood. Use dried foliage from places you visited or flowers you were given.  You can also use patterned paper with flowers or greenery. Pictures or drawings of gardens or a written list in rough script of flowers you love.

3.  Favourite Quotes, Songs and Poems: Write your favourite quotes or song lyrics on the page. Use markers, coloured pens or calligraphy to cover the page.

4. Moodboards: These are my favourite. I love to decorate and often look back at the swatches I’ve chosen. A moodboard can be anything…the mood you are in today…how your family makes you feel. Your favourite textures of colours. The options are endless.

I hope you get started today and I’d love to see some pictures of your work!

With Love, Willow



Written By:

Willow Wolfe

Willow Wolfe is widely recognized for challenging and modernizing today’s world of art supplies and education. An award-winning art teacher and the author of a library of internationally available learn to paint books and articles, her approachable style and step-by-step painting methods have taken her to events, seminars and engagements across the globe.

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