Friday, February 19, 2010

upcycling & art journaling: reusing the usual

Upcycling, though not a real word recognized by spellcheckers, is in fact a very real word, concept, some might say a philosophy or movement, developing and expanding today. For those unfamiliar or unaware, we can all be thankful, we have the Urban Dictionary to help us out a bit. I searched Upcycle which returned three definitions. I thought I would just share the search results here:


See that? There. Three somewhat similar yet very different definitions. I like all three and think they all have some relevance. Especially the third. HA! It is true though, Upcycling, like any artform past, present or future, sits on that fine line between presenting something new, making something extraordinary, and creating frankenstein. Lets be honest about it. It is a wide definition and subject to interpretation.

My own approach to upcycling involves a few key areas.

  • I have a basic love of anything early to mid 20th century design,
  • I love the challenge of finding vintage items,
  • I love giving vintage items new life in unique yet practical, functional ways

Both in multi-media artwork and in creating functional housewares, this approach fuels me. So, in a HUGE nutshell, this is how I see myself approaching upcycling.

Enter the latest project I have been excited to share. My newest, latest art journal. It is a honker. When the clunker arrived on my doorstep last month I all, ah crap, the phone book arrived. Time to peel the plastic off of last years and throw it in the recycle bin so I can jam the new one in its place on that prime real-estate shelf located in the hall closet. Not this year, my friends, not this year. I grabbed that bad boy (with both hands cause I am weak and clumsy and did not want to risk dropping it on my toe) and upstairs to the studio we went.

I covered the front, spine and backs covers with some podge and some thick patterned paper I had been saving, so it looks just like a huge book now. I am in love! Specifically? The thin newsprint pages are perfect for gessoing on both sides; that thickens them up enough so they dont rip so easily, and still remain fairly thin when the book is closed. Their thin weight is also perfect for layering papers on, watercolour paper and pages from old books are perfect for adding weight to a page too. If a page does rip, I tape it up or rip it out. There are 700+ or more to go through. The end is not the point, just having a space that you can only improve by adding your own free fun and play is the entire point of using this thing. Not like a leather bound journal. Those things make my heart pound some days. Some days I need to be creative free to expectation, free of squeeky clean white paper.

Here is what I speak of. My new art journal. So far I have the inside cover pages started, and 6 more pages in progress as well.


I dont really start one page, finish it and move on. No no no. That would make too much sense. I need to digest and work through each page. I treat them with the same intensity as anything else I create, be it a piece of furniture or a painting.




Most of my ideas start in a sketchbook, but art journals allow me to create with abandon. I like to start without an idea of what will come out. I make a mark, gesso a page, paste on a weird shape, start a pattern or all of the above, and then wait. I then gesso the next page, and do the same thing. When that page has dried, I flip back and look at the first and second pages. I make a mark on the newly dried third and fourth pages, paint a background, pick a colour or a pen I havent used in a while and just see what happens when it meets the paper. Then I go back to 1 & 2, and add papers, block out text and add in pencil drawings that I fill in with acrylic, or pastel. Add more details, wait to dry, flip back to 3 & 4. Gesso pages 5 & 6. Wait to dry, flip back to 1 & 2, add in marker details, add text. Finish. Move to 5 & 6, make first marks, paste on papers, go back to 3 & 4 etc, etc, etc, until the entire book is through. (note: none of these pages are actually done yet!)







Some basic supplies for journaling include:

Paper: ANY paper. the cheaper it is the more relaxed i am about it. go figure. I also enjoy Moleskin journals and use them as well;

Gesso: the white primer stuff that creates a coating on paper allowing you to paint on it. available at any michaels or art supply store. You can also get spray primer at the hardware store, but remember with spray, comes fumes. Not great for indoors;

Paintbrushes: the packages of bulk brushes from the dollar store or michaels are perfect. you want a few choices, but 3 of varying sizes to start will suffice. cheap is perfect;

Paint: cheap Acrylic is a great place to start. Go for a set or individual colours. (an inexpensive set at michaels) or little ones from the dollar store to start. Worry about quality later, not to start out!) Cheap watercolours are also fun for washes and experimenting;

Adhesives: you can use tape, glue stick, spray adhesives or podge (my personal favorite) to apply pages, papers and accents to your journal. Mod-Podge, available at Michaels and art supply stores, protects the surface, but does leave a tackiness on paper at times, depending on the type you get and the thickness applied;

Additional: Pencils, coloured pencils, watercolour pencils, markers, crayons, water-soluble crayons, oil pastels, stamps, ribbons, pages from old books, stickers, glitter glue, watercolour paper, magazine images, poems, quotes... whatever you like can go into your journal. I like layering, so a combination of most of the above goes into mine.

You never know what ideas will expand or retire as you go through this journal, new advertisements and images shine through the gesso layers, the watercolours, and add to the richness of each mark you make. The surprises that arise never fail to inspire me. It never fails either, if I feel stuck I open a completed page in an old journal, and I am fueled to keep going. I love seeing how ideas emerge; a very rarely have intent when I start anything!

I encourage you to search art journals on youtube for some additional, live, in action inspiration. They were the thing that got me going, and providing guidance and motivation to try one in the first place. (You can even see my own art journal video from early 2009 online.) If you are interested in taking an on-line class I can vouch for my online sista Connie from Dirty Footprints Studio. She is currently teaching an online class (for a VERY reasonable fee) called Art Journal Love Letters, as we speak. It just started this week, and you can register & start any time. Her warmth and knowledge will blow you away. It is on my list of things to do, online instruction is a gold mine for me; it fuels.

So what do you think of upcycling? Are you inspired? Any fun journal ideas to share? Questions?

Lemme know :)

& Enjoy! leel

14 comments:

Maggie May said...

This is beautiful!!! I do journal and I also make art with my 8 year old daughter Lola:)

Red Shoe Artist said...

Great idea Leel.. I did the same thing with a small, hard bound copy of E A Poe's poetry I got for a present but already had one.... the paper was so thin and crisp I couldn't help myself. And because some pages were illustrated, I worked around them. So much fun...
Thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

Thanks! This helped a lot! I've seen a few
rather confusing sites lately, this cleared up some confusion I had.

LazyBones said...

This is the best idea ever! I came over to say that it doesn't much matter where the comments go, as long as they're eventually found, but then I got all distracted looking at your art journal. I am an amateur at most artistic endeavors, and tend to flit in and out with ideas and motivation, but upcycling is right up my (cheap) alley! I love this & will show my art teacher husband. I also teach parenting classes to families in poverty--what a great activity to do with kids over time--make a family art journal with reusable materials. I love it!

Heather Plett said...

Love this idea!

I did something similar, but with an old Bible! I'd visited the studio of an artist who did amazing art work that she often embedded pieces of Bible pages into. I was intrigued, so I bought an old Bible at a thrift store. It's been sort of liberating and spiritual all at the same time. (I'm writing about it and may post about it some day.)

leel said...

hey all! thanks so much for your generous comments and IDEAS!

@maggie may: hi! thanks for dropping by! I love to hear about people doing journals with their kids. Tell me more!

@red: Sister, that is a perfect idea for a 2nd copy of a fave book. Illustrations and poetry would be amazing! Are their pics posted anywhere to share? I love this idea - thank YOU for sharing!

@LazyBones: I hear you on the in and out of ideas and motivation. I think thats part of my personal process, I work best on multiple projects simultaneously. I guess I just enjoy doing it so much now that I like the highs and lows of the process itself. And I get some sort of freaky high out of making something from nothing. Weird, OH -and cool re: your husband being an art teacher (jealous) - share away! I love that idea as a family scrapbook. What I GREAT idea! Again, share away!

@Heather: OMG I can only imagine how great that bible must be. Awesome idea! I had never thought of doing that! Point me to your post on it; i would love to read it and see your pics! Inspiration ftw!

Again, thanks guys. I am feeling great about sharing this stuff with you. Your support means the WORLD to me :)

Hugs all around!

Red Shoe Artist said...

Holy Moly, it was a while ago when I did it, but I'll try and find it. It's really very cute. I'll look for it today and send you some pics

leel said...

share the love Red, share the love! we all wanna see! yay!

Evangeline said...

Your pages are so awesome Keel! And I never evah would have thought of using a phone book...but, of course.

bblissful said...

Absolutely brilliant post -- as ever! Again, more inspiration to pull a journal project of mine out of the ditch and on its wheels again. Reading your blog gives me SUCH a boost!

Jacqueline@Bliss

leel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
leel said...

hey girls :)

@E: thanks girlie. you ares sooo sweet to me! you and the boys might want to give it a try. its freeing to work on something pretty plain that has a different background to alter.

@Jacqueline: why thank you! *blush* Thats the great thing about journals, you can tuck them away and pull them back out again. So pull it out and give it a little stab if you feel like it. And please, feel free to share with me!

So thanks, ALL that leave comments. I love that these posts give you such a boost - what a boost it is for me! I appreciate the time you take to read these, and to find a comment is a little treasure in my world. I am easily amused, but also very grateful.

♥ leel

sarala said...

I love the journal. I am currently filling up a furniture catalog. It has been a lot of fun.

serenity said...

WOW full of cleverness is the leel =D

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