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  • Writer's pictureKaaren Poole

Purple and a Raccoon

It was a happy milestone to have finished the owls and towers spread I wrote about last week. That was the last spread in the fifth volume of my art journals, and it's exciting to have stuck with art journaling for so long. Then it was time to make the cover. But what should it be?

I had been working on a small raccoon portrait and decided to use it, so my next step was to gather collage elements I might combine with it. There must have been more than a hundred clippings in my "florals" box and it seemed certain I'd find something that would speak to me. But I was more than halfway through it, and nothing!

Then there was the lovely bouquet of lavender blossoms tied with a peach ribbon. I'd never have predicted purple, but it worked well with the raccoon! And wouldn't you know it? In rapid succession, several more floral clippings featuring purple - and white - showed themselves. "Choose me! Choose me!" And they all had similar backgrounds. Perfect!

Here's how I began, covering the whole space with rather large collage pieces. By the way, I had the journal open with the middle spread facing down on my table so I could work both the front and back covers at once.

I worked on the design of the front cover first. It was obvious that the raccoon and that beautiful full bunch of lavender would go there. Then on to the back. To balance the "visually heavy" lavender bunch on the front, I chose an image of another bunch of lavender for the back. After considering different placements, it occurred to me that if I ripped it lengthwise I could arrange the halves at the top so there would be a more or less blank space down the center of the back cover. This space would do very well for my sort-of table of contents.

I glued the pieces down and let it dry overnight.

When I returned to it the next day, it was clear that my first step needed to be integrating the various elements by getting rid of as many of the edges as possible. For this task, I used craft paints in whatever colors I could find or mix to match colors in the clipping backgrounds. Using these paints allowed me to soften the clipping edges and create an overall color pattern in the background that I liked.

I kept the front cover fairly simple. After integrating the background, I saw I needed to strengthen the raccoon which I did by going over him with ink. All along I'd been thinking about whether I wanted to add color to the little guy. But in the end I decided against it. I thought black and white, especially strengthened with ink, went better with the other elements than color would. It felt stronger, and the color in this piece is quite strong.

In the course of integrating the background, I'd covered up most of the pretty purple script. But I intentionally left the capital L because it was so beautiful and elegant and then repeated the shape in the upper right with paint and a liner brush. I always have the number of the journal on the front cover of my journals, hence the large "5." More about the text (including this 5) below. I created the lacy edge to the white paper it's on with a punch. The last element I added was the bit of washi tape in the lower right. After a while, it began peeling up, so I went back and glued it down with matte medium, no longer relying on the adhesive on the tape itself. Finally, a few more paint lines with the liner brush, spatters, and some rubs with a purple ink pad.

Now, about the back. I'm writing about the covers separately, but I worked on them together.

I used the same procedure on the back as on the front, integrating the pieces with paint.

In addition to the volume number, another feature I've used on most of my journal covers is some sort of table of contents. In past journals, I've actually listed the titles of all the spreads in the order they appear, but I did something different here. I just listed the subjects, using that conveniently blank space between the halves of the lavender bunch. And when I did so - leafing through the journal a few times to compile the information, I realized I didn't have any purple anywhere, nor did I have a raccoon. That became the rationale for the cover design, as explained in the sideways text along the outer edge.

For these two pieces of text, as well as the number on the front cover, I simply wrote it in Word on my laptop, choosing the font, size, and color I thought would work best. I printed it on my ink jet printer, sealed it with a coat of Krylon spray fixatif, ripped the pieces out, and glued them down.

Then the spirals, spatters, and ink pad rubs.

All my other journals have a closure. I'm not sure I'll use one here, and if I do, I'm not sure what it will be. But except for that detail, it's finished! Onwards to journal volume 6!

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Nancy W. Johnson
Nancy W. Johnson
Apr 20, 2023

Thank you for sharing your process, Kaaren. I used to teach decorative painting classes for about 25 years. It was through this adventure I began to exgplore watercolor. Sketchbook layouts are a new adventure. I was introduced to your work last year in the Sketchbook Revival. Nice to paint the platypus design in this year’s lesson from you. Thank you. Your sweet, appealing paintings are lovely. Thank you so much in sharing your talents with us. ❤️ I’m also interested in our shared background in decorative painting, which I basically did with acrylics. I had the pleasure of taking classes with some of the icons in the industry. At 85, I’ve slowed down, but still enjoying the journey.


Stephanie Hardy
Stephanie Hardy
Mar 23, 2023

oh my goodness, gorgeous!


Mar 22, 2023

Oh I love hearing about your detailed process. It really helps to see the raw pieces and then how you blend them so nicely. I also love to read about your stumblings and recoveries from them! I just managed to tear a glued down piece of tissue paper and now need to make the repair but you have given me confidence that it can be fixed. 😊

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