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(and skip reading this note about its construction)

In my visual journaling classes I encourage students to create layered pages using mixed media. I bring in some of my journals so that they can see my work in person. There are always questions relating to the process of creating backgrounds for a page. Students are looking at a completed page. Often they've never used any of the paints or media I work with. They are unclear what was on the page before I actually started journaling.

In October of 2005 I started a new journal which was approximately 8 x 8 inches when closed. When opened the page spread was approximately 16 x 8 inches. I used 2-ply Strathmore Museum Board (white) for the text pages when I made the book. This paper takes all media well: inks, watercolor, pencil, pen, colored pencil, crayon; etc.; it is also thick enough to support elaborate collage and window or foldout construction. (Alas, I didn't do any constructions in this journal so you'll have to see those elsewhere.)

When I started this journal I decided to scan all the pages I pre-painted or collaged before I journaled on them. I could then save these images and show them to my students with the completed journal pages. I hoped that this would clarify some of their sequence questions.

I journal in casebound books of my own construction. Typically when I start a new journal I do one thing: I immediately remove several pages from the book, leaving a 1/2 inch tab (so the opposite page in the signature doesn't fall out). I do this because collage added to the pages will bulk up the book, but if I remove pages, while leaving a stub to hold the page thickness in the spine, I can fill the book with collage and the spine won't burst and the book won't yawn open. You can see the same principle at work in photo albums.

How many pages I remove depends on a couple things: how thick the text paper is, and how much I think I'll feel like collaging during the time I work in that journal. Over time I've found that I'm pretty consistent. Removing 4 to 6 pages in a 6-signature book will usually do the trick for me.

Once I've removed the pages I deem necessary, I'll start decorating the pages randomly, with paints, ink, paper collage, just about anything. My usual practice is to work a couple signatures ahead of where I am actually journaling. Pages can easily be decorated when I'm taking a lunch break. When approached piecemeal they take no time at all.

For this particular book, I had a couple hours of free time and decided to decorate pages throughout the entire book all in one session. (Some pages were left blank.) All the background painting and collage you see in this journal was completed in under two hours. I mention this so that you can understand the process is really just play, not elaborate thought or planning. That would take the fun out of it for me.

My first idea is to get paint down on the pages, anything that is wet. Then to dry it. (Since I was going to do everything in one session I used a hair dryer to speed dry the pages.) Once all the wet media had been applied I started to collage papers randomly throughout the book. I collage papers after wet media have been used so that I don't have moisture interfering with my glue. Also, by doing all the background collage in one session I only had to put the book under a weight once.

So that's the background on this journal. (No pun intended!) Posted here for your viewing you'll find first the altered page with paint and paper, but no journaling. Next you'll find that completed page, with the journaling. In some situations I did not post the final page: it contained something personal; it contained items I didn't have copyright to, such as an artist's business brochure which I inserted into my journal after a meeting with the artist. In those situations you'll unfortunately only be able to see the before pages; unless you're one of my students and see the journal in person.

I also posted journal pages on which no background work had been done if they were pages I thought might be of interest to people who usually look through my website.

One of the reasons I bothered to present this journal in this way was so that students could refer to examples we might have discussed in class. Another reason is that this method of journaling, predecorating the backgrounds, has throughout my life been one of the most interesting and fun aspects of journaling for me. Everyday something serendipitous happens. I turn a page and there is a background and it suits perfectly what I want to do on that page (or I somehow make it work and learn a lot in the process). Because of that I really encourage everyone to try this.