Video: How to make an altered book art journal

This is a lovely demonstration by Art by Silas. It shows how to create a mixed media artist’s journal. It includes torn paper collage – one of my favorite techniques. And it’s a good way for a beginner to get art journaling ideas. (The video is about five and a half minutes long.)

Here’s the video:

[ezps_tp_post_layout video=”GNJqKVtb_ac” description=”Welcome in my altered art journal tutorial when I´m showing you how to make an altered book journal. This video is also full of art journaling techniques and it´s great for beginners.”

#alteredartjournal #alteredbook #silasart” subscribe=”UCRRDf_Fljqsfh3S-AASHaqw”]

If you like this video, be sure to see Silas’ other videos at YouTube.

Art Journals v. Artist’s Journals

Art journaling or artists journals - the art matters more than the words“Art journals” and “artists journals” are (usually) the same thing.

They’re your personal, illustrated journals, and the illustrations are artsy, usually created by hand.

For me, an artist’s journal is an illustrated diary or journal representing the individual.

It’s about the person’s view of life – like a daily diary or any journal you write in.

The journal may have a specific focus, such as a travel journal, or a diet & fitness journal.

Or not.

It usually includes art… and, for some, the journal is a work of art, itself.

Sample Artist’s Journal Page

Below, you can see a page from one of my early, 2002 artist’s journals. It’s a collage I created when I was coping with an impending divorce. The original is about 6″ x 9″.

Artists journal page, 2004

Some artists include arts & crafts ideas in their artist’s journals & diaries. Some keep a separate art journal.

When I’m deeply involved in graphic arts, my art journal is separate. It’s where I keep notes about art I’m working on or might want to create later.  It includes visual inspiration – photos, articles, etc. – as well as my own scribbled notes, thumbnail sketches, etc.

It’s sort of my pre-art brainstorming, in a journal format.

Sample Art Journaling Pages

Art journal page showing inspirationAt left is a page from one of my 2011 art journals.

The page included photos from a magazine.

On that page, you may see a tiny pencil sketch at the lower center of the page.

That’s my initial thumbnail concept for a later painting.

Those photos & notes inspired the oil sketch shown below. The original is an oil painting on 16″ x 20″ canvas. (It’s a scene related to an Anasazi settlement.) The photo below shows the painting, when it was in-progress.

Anasazi painting


But… Not Just Paintings

I use an art journal as my on-paper memory of inspiration and original ideas.  It’s sort of a visual thumb drive of art ideas, for later use.

If I don’t jot down my ideas in a journal, they’ll vanish from my thoughts in a matter of days, if not hours.  I tend to have a steady stream of creative ideas, and one soon replaces another in my consciousness.

For me, it’s part of the creative process.

People often ask me where I get my original art ideas. Well, I’m not sure that they’re entirely “original,” but they are fresh and new, if only to me.

Where the Ideas Come From

Here’s a typical sequence: I start looking at social media & websites to see what other artists are currently working on.

That’s curiosity. I’m not looking for ideas to copy… just “ooh, isn’t that cool!” inspiration.

It might be a color combination that surprises me. Or a way of mixing textures, like gold leaf and sandpaper or bubble wrap.

When an art idea occurs, I note it in my art journal. I try to include everything that inspired me, with detailed comments explaining what and why it sparked an idea.

If all I do is note the website URL or a page in a book… well, a week or two later, I might have no idea why I thought that webpage or artwork was so inspiring. Carpe diem! 

For example, I once viewed a website called The Starving Artist’s Way, which included a project using second-hand woolen sweaters that had been washed and dried to shrink them in a “felted” style.

I didn’t think much more about that – not on a conscious level, anyway – but later in the day, after a nap, I woke up thinking about what else I could do with that kind of wool.

Another Art Journaling Page – Felt Ideas

While the thoughts were still fresh in my mind–and evolving–I jotted them down in my art journal. These are my two pages of notes:

Ideas for a felted jacket - art journaling

In a nutshell, I was thinking about the kinds of wearable art that I could make with felted-style wool.

(Geek note: It’s not actually “felted” wool when you wash & dry woven/knitted/etc. wool to shrink it. It’s called “fulled” wool. Felting is when you use the raw fibers and a tool to tangle and/or compact them.)

This merged with the Mondrian art that I was reminded of when I was playing a weird (really juvenile humor) online game, Kingdom of Loathing.

And, once I started jotting down these ideas, I remembered when I used to make stained glass windows. Those patterns would adapt nicely to this kind of wool treatment, too.

I’m not sure that I’ll ever actually do anything with this idea. I get a bazillion of these ideas, steadily.

What Do You Do With All the Ideas?

If you’re like most artists, you’ll never have enough hours in the day to follow-through with all your creative ideas.

That’s okay.

Sometimes, your journal is where you record the creative spark. A week, a month, or ten  years later, you may go back to that page and the idea develops new depth.

And then it becomes a finished work of art. Or at least a creative exercise, to stretch your sense of style, materials, or techniques.

No creative impulse or idea is ever wasted. Sooner or later, they all contribute to your art, your life, or both. You may not see this in a direct, connect-the-dots way. But, looking back, you might. (I believe it’s there, whether it’s obvious or not.)

Why I Often Share My Art & Journaling Ideas

Back in 2004, I scanned the pages from my some of my art ideas journals,and put them into a (printed & mailed) art zine.

At the time, a few people thought that was a crazy thing to do. Why would I share something so unique to me and my work…?

(Well, hey, I was one of the first people with a blog, back in an era when it seemed utterly mad to write about your personal life, online. So, sharing my thoughts with the world is a long-time  tradition. It feels natural to me. So I still do it.)

For me, that zine documented where my ideas came from. It demonstrated my creative process, from the spark that started it, to the visual ingredients that transformed it, and then the materials & techniques that completed it.

Second – and more importantly – I like sharing ideas so that someone else might be inspired by them and adapt the concepts (or copy it line-for-line, which is fine) to his or her own art.

It’s a myth that lots of artists shamelessly copy each other. We don’t. We just see the same kinds of images in our everyday lives – on TV, online, in new books, in the changing seasons, etc. – and they can spark similar art projects.

So, I hope this article explains why some people call it “art journaling,” and others use the term “artists’ journals.”  Sometimes they’re the same thing. Sometimes, they describe slightly different kinds of journals.

You can call your artsy journals either one, or both, or make up your own phrase. It’s your art. It’s your expression.

Creativity matters more than the words!

Saving Paper Images for Your Collage Art

Art journaling can involve a lot of paper.

Saving and organizing paper images for collage artAfter all, you’re saving collage photos, papers and ephemera. It can add up, quickly.

Keeping it organized… that’s always a challenge. And, some systems work better in different settings.

For example, a system that fits under your bed will be different from one in a filing cabinet.

Other ideas: (Links will take you to Amazon, so you can see what I’m talking about.)

  • An accordian file. It’s easy to tote to workshops. But, be sure you can actually see everything in each section. Also, it can be inconvenient to reorganize your files… like by color instead of topic, or vice versa.
  • A ring binder with page protectors. You could have different notebooks for different categories (size, color, topic). The page protectors will get a lot of use, so I recommend heavy duty ones. (Even then, they’ll tear after a while.) Each page protector can hold up to four sheets of full-sized paper… or a lot more bits, torn or cut from larger pages.
  • Flat boxes. You can recycle cardboard boxes you received in the mail – like shipments from Amazon. If you do this, I recommend adding some type of closure on the top of the box, so the lid/opening stays flat. That could be anything from Velcro closures, to a string-and-button closure. (Bonus: You can collage or paint the outside of the box.)

Here’s one system that works well for me. It might help you, too.

Step One: Sort collage elements by themes

I save my collage elements – especially magazine photos – by color, in manila folders. I start with the major color groups (red, blue, green, etc.) and then expand (lime green, turquoise, etc.) as my collection of saved images becomes too large for anything simpler.

I include all kinds of papers in my folders. So, when I want something blue, I open my “blue” folder and I’ll see my primarily blue magazine images, but also blue tissue paper, maybe some bits of blue ribbons or fabrics that I intend to use in collage, and so on.

A collage from an art journalOf course, my collages are usually more color-driven than image-driven, per se. So, organizing by color makes sense to me. (If you’re not familiar with my torn-paper collages, you’ll see many of them online at

For someone else, it might make more sense to organize by other themes, instead of (or in addition to) by colors.

Your categories might be “faces” or even more specifically, “women’s smiling faces,” etc. Or, “dark-looking castles,” “cute cottages,” “kissing,” “fast cars,” “vintage images,” or whatever.

Step Two: Store the folders in a big portfolio

All of my manila folders are stored in one large, flat old-fashioned artist’s portfolio. I bought it at a traditional fine-art supply store, years ago, and it’s still almost like new. (I’m not seeing anything exactly like it at Amazon.)

Mine is one those huge, black folders made from heavy cardboard, that tie at the top and sides with cotton tabs.

Modern ones are usually cloth, vinyl or leather. Some have shoulder straps, which are convenient if you attend classes and workshops. Just be sure the portfolio is large enough for your needs.

Collaging or painting the outside of that big, cardboard portfolio is optional.

You may prefer a portfolio that’s easier to carry and comes in a color. But, any good, big portfolio will work fine.

In my studio, my portfolio fits horizontally on top of my chest of drawers.

That’s the same chest of drawers that holds my fabric art and mixed media supplies… like my iron, fusible webbing, frequently-used fabrics like muslin, etc.

(It’s a small chest of drawers that fits underneath my sewing table. So, the big collage supplies folder is pretty much hidden unless I’m looking for it.)

You can also hide the folder under a bed, behind a door, between or in back of bookcases, and so on.

What Works for You?

I’ve tried many organizing systems for my stacks of wonderful papers and collage images. For collage materials I’ve already selected for future use, this has worked the best for me.

If you have suggestions, or another systems that works well for you, I hope you’ll leave a comment at this site, to share your ideas with others.