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  • Writer's pictureKaaren Poole

A Favorite Page from the Book of Life

I had so much fun over the weekend working in my art journal. Even though it’s such a bother to look through all my magazine clippings for a selection of collage elements, that’s exactly what I did. I was inspired by a repeat pattern I made (more about that later) and wanted to use those pages for the background.

Since the repeat was leaves, I got out my box of floral images and started through them. I decided I also wanted to use some text, like a book page. And from there came the theme for the spread: “a favorite page from the book of life.” Yes, I found that inspiring. The book page would probably become the “page.” And I would probably surround it with images of life. But what would be on the page itself?

Once I had my initial images selected, I went into my art room to fetch my adhesive (Liquitex Matt Medium). My eyes fell on a pile of image clippings waiting to be filed. There was the sweetest, happiest cat right on top! She would be the “page!” I just love it when you give in to the process, be calm, and let the ideas and images come to you. That little cat wanted to be in the journal!

The other piece of inspiration coming from the page in the book idea was adding a ribbon bookmark.

My very first steps were to glue my repeat pattern pages all over the background, then dull areas by scraping thinned gesso here and there. After that, it was time for my first collage layer. Here’s what the page looked like at that point.

Most often, I tear my collage elements. But except for the carnations, the flowers didn't really lend themselves to tearing, so I carefully cut them out. But once they were glued down, I didn't like those sharp edges. I used a white Neocolor II water soluble crayon to blur all those edges.

Then the cat came on stage. What other symbols of life could I put around her? I'd saved an envelope that had several nice butterflies on it. At first, I selected a large, dark red one (like the carnations) and was going to center it right over her head. It was every bit as wide as the cat's head, and in the end, I decided it was too much. I settled on the two smaller, paler butterflies and I think they worked much better. I also liked that one of them is a 'side' view. The asymmetry seems to give more of a feeling of life.

I felt the cat needed to be grounded in some way, so I added the strips beneath her. And I added the title in messy writing. By the way, you might notice that the book page reaches all the way to the edges of the spread while all the other collage elements leave a narrow border of the background papers showing. I added green Neocolor II along those edges and smeared and fixed it with acrylic matt medium. I'm not convinced it was the right thing to do.

I often feel my journal spreads are done before they really are, and that was the case with this one too. But I told myself, no, it's not done. It's still a little raw.

So, I got out my paint pens and got fussy, as you can see in the first photo which is the finished piece. I wrote the title a second time to help fill up that space. Then I worked lots of dot spirals and added highlights to the flowers, especially the white carnation. The only thing I wish I hadn't done was adding the white dots all around the green edge. I think they don't add anything and maybe they detract.

But a little more about the background papers.

I've been interested lately in producing repeat patterns a low tech way. That's how the background papers for this project came about. The square above is the main, repeatable block for a leaf design I did. And below is a page with the pattern repeated over it. I also did a second page with a smaller repeated block. These are the two pages I used for the base of this art journal spread.

I actually made a free art video on how to do these repeat patterns. You can access it from the home page of my website, Check it out! I hope you'll find it to be a useful tool for your own art projects.

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