Pen Practice in my Junk Journal

10:10 AM

Pen and watercolor
Junk Journal
8 x 10 inches
One Thanksgiving evening some years back, I was puttering around in the studio without enough live brain cells left to actually create art, but still hankering for a creative outlet. In the days prior to the holiday, I had set aside some magazines and an old journal from my college days to be recycled.

My eyes fell on the journal and I decided to get some use out of it before I recycled it. It was old, the paper cheap. The pages were beginning to yellow just a bit, but other than the first 30 pages or so, it was blank.

I grab a couple of pens and went and plopped down on the couch and started to draw out some ideas that were buzzing around in my brain. I wanted them out of my head and into the world.

Too tired to care, I grabbed a turquoise and lime green Sharpie® markers.  Rather than go with the usual black ones, I played and scribbled and scratched.

It didn't take long for me to realize there was "gold" in this old, cheap journal. Creative gold!

There was no pressure to make "good enough" art. There was NO expectations that I would do anything with the journal other than test ideas, practice pen work or do thumbnails. I tried watercolor just to see what would happen...the paper puckered up like it had kissed a lemon!

The paper was so thin I started to use a piece of cardboard between pages to keep the ink from bleeding through to the next page, but if it did, no problem, I just scribbled on the page anyway. I was free to play without worrying about wasting "good paper." It felt fabulous!

If you're anything like me (and I think you are!), how often have you bought a fabulous journal thinking this will be the one, the one that you'll really start using today...only to get home and put it on the shelf with the other fabulous journals you have bought because you can't quite bring yourself to work on the "good stuff?"  

Do you make promises to yourself (like I did) along the lines of "when I get better" or "when I learn how to," then you'll start using the good stuff?

Let me suggest a compromise...get a junk journal and one pull out one of those fabulous journals you've put up on the shelf. When you have an idea for a journal page, use the junk journal to play, test out your idea, your layout, your lettering, or anything you're not sure about. Then, create the page in the "good journal."

You may still be nervous to be using the good stuff, but having played in your junk journal, you're much more likely to get results that you like.

I highly recommend either getting a junk journal or finding a journal you've purchased in the past and not used because of the paper quality/performance. Try playing and practicing in it before jumping into the good stuff—you'll be surprised.

The other cool thing about keeping a junk journal is that it becomes a treasure trove of ideas and progress! You can look back through the journal and see ideas that may spark a new idea for today as well as see the progress you've made with your drawing and layout skills.

My junk journals have become priceless tools!
The sketch above was done the other evening when, once again, I had very few active brain cells. It was fun to play with no expectations of finished art, but rather just an opportunity to create without expectation.

Adding the watercolor on a whim, I was surprised to see that this paper didn't buckle as badly as the very first junk journal I started with, however, ink bleed through is still an issue.

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14 Creative Thought(s)

  1. Oh yes, I have those junk journals and yep a shelf of "good" journals. Ha... it is nice to know we are all alike. I do lots of scribbling in front of the tv. It is liberating to have a junk journal. I don't have to share it with anyone either. :)

    1. Lisa, you're too funny! I do share mine, but only the pages I want to. There's lots of pages that are just for me.

  2. Great post Laure. My junk journal is well used and I laughed when my daughter saw me sketching something in it and asked if it was my idea journal. Ha, she has one too. Love the freedom of putting anything in there.

    1. An idea journal! Cool name. Interesting that the journal idea has so many interpretations. Yes, it's all about the freedom!

  3. All my journals are "junk journals" because I never feel my art is good enough for an expensive one. :) That's why I'm usually trying to paint on lined notebook paper.
    One day I may get brave and try a real good journal.

    1. Katie! You're art is wonderful and YOU are MORE than worth a good journal! Maybe you should treat yourself????

  4. I've started using my older sketchbook in just that way when I'm taking your classes! I sketch out my ideas there first, though I don't always put in the watercolor. Such a simple but effective idea.

    I notice there's a bag in that sketch, too!

    1. Glad it helps out, KJ. The bag was originally a feed bag that went astray so I repurposed it as a bag!

  5. Great post! Though I didn't quite know it, I have a "junk journal" going myself. I have an Aquabee Super Deluxe 9x12 in which I feel free to put anything I want into it. I have tons of color swatches in it, and every time I get a new pen, paint or brush I try it out in this book. On the backs-sides of the paper I've taken to writing lots of notes about my process or a tip I've found on the Internet. On the front side I do fun little sketches and value studies. I find myself referring back to this book often! But the best part is the creative freedom it provides because I've removed the element of "gotta do it right".

    1. Oh, I really like the idea of copying down tips and tricks from the internet! I have grocery lists or other pages where I've puzzled out an issue, but had not thought to add that type of info. Thanks for sharing!

      It all comes down to the freedom doesn't it?! It's nice to be able to play without expectation and I sometimes surprise myself with my results. I figure it's the freedom that makes the difference.

  6. I had to laugh at myself when I read Stacy's comment that her junk journal is an Aquabee Super Deluxe. I save my Aquabee for good stuff and have a way junkier journal for junk.

  7. Oh I missed this. Been so busy this summer Critter sitting and working in the yard but I use a lined notebook as an IDEAS journal for the journal I am doing for the yearly month by month seasons. I write down what strikes me on a particular day and a little doodle sketch of an idea and then go for there to my semi good book I am using. Still haven't progressed to a really good one but I will as soon as I finish the one I am working in. I feel I have to complete it as a whole body of work in one book. Great post.

  8. I use unlined "black marble" school notebooks (less than a dollar each at back-to-school sales) for thumbnails, doodles and practice marks. It was my dirty little secret - till now! Nice to know others are intimidated by expensive sketchbooks!

  9. Wonderful junk journal work! Would like to invite to participate in community junk journal weekly competition at!


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