Composition Book Artists Journals

Using composition books as artists journalsA composition book art journal is any journal that’s kept in a composition book.

Those are generally school-type, saddle-sewn (along the crease) notebooks with cardboard covers… similar to exam/test booklets, but a little more permanent.

Composition books are inexpensive.

So, many people like them especially for informal journaling. It feels less intimidating to use a journal that doesn’t cost much, and is familiar from our years in school.

They’re affordable, so you can buy several.

Put one in your car, one in the baby bag, one by your bed, and so on. Then, you’re ready to create a journal page when you have some free time.

These journals are so inexpensive, you can rip completed pages out and bind them into your more formal artist’s journal.

(“Binding” a loose page can be as easy as taping it into your other journal. Or, you can glue it, sew it, staple it, etc.)

Mead composition book for art journalingComposition books usually have lots of lined pages in them… as many as 100. They come in a variety of sizes, but the traditional ones are about 8″ x 10″ or so. The traditional ones often have a b&w cover that looks sort of marbleized.

You can also find composition books with red covers, plain manila covers, green covers, ornate covers, and so on. You may want to choose one with a color that reminds you of your childhood. (But, the color may not matter if you’re going to cover it with art anyway.)

Also, it’s easy to embellish the cardboard covers. I’d still use something (such as fusible interfacing) on the back so that threads don’t pull through, but you can sew through the cardboard with a crewel needle. Then, you can embroider on it, add beads & buttons, etc., in addition to other embellishments.

(For more about sewing on your journal pages and covers, see Sewing on Journal Pages.)

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Sewing Onto Your Journal Pages

You can sew embellishments onto your paper journal pages.

You can use any page in a book as if it’s fabric (to sew on, for example) by using iron-on interfacing on the back side of the page.

I’m talking about interfacing that is smooth on one side, and the back of it has an iron-on adhesive that melts when exposed to extreme heat.

First, cut it to size. Generally, I cut it slightly smaller than the dimensions of the book page… maybe 1/16″ smaller.

Then, iron that interfacing onto the back side of the page, the same as you would iron interfacing onto fabric. It won’t always stick 100%, but it will work well enough that you can sew through it.

(If you try to embroider or sew beads onto regular pages in a book, the thread tends to pull right through the paper, if the thread is tugged.)

Sewing to Embellish an Art Journal Cover

You can do the same thing with your journal cover. A strong crewel embroidery needle will usually sew through cardboard… but you’ll probably need a thimble to push the needle through.

Mixed media art journal coverYou can then embroider with embroidery floss, yarn, thin ribbon, etc. You can add buttons, beads, and so on, too.

At left, you can see one of my journal covers I’ve embellished with sewn-on buttons. Most of the buttons are just for decoration.

But, the biggest button is part of the journal closure.

When the journal is not in use, a string of hemp (secured to the back cover) is wrapped around the button on the front cover to hold the journal pages closed.

Concealing the Messy Back of the Page (or Journal Cover)

After you’ve finished your sewing (or other embellishment), you can glue a page or fabric over the ironed-on interfacing, so your stitches are concealed.

Or, you could cover the interfacing side with more paper… maybe a collage.

Sometimes, if I’m sewing many pages in a book, I’ll buy a second copy of the same book. Then,  I can glue a “backing” page that matches the one I’d covered with interfacing.

In other words, the un-embellished side of the page will look like it would have, if I hadn’t covered the original with interfacing. (Pop-up stores selling discounted books – at bargain prices – can be ideal for this.)

You’ll find iron-on interfacing at any fabric shop. It’s usually kept in a bin or on shelving next to where they cut fabric yardage for you.

Fusible Alternatives

You can also iron-on Stitch Witchery or another fusible adhesive. That gives you the option of sticking something wonderful on the other side… interfacing isn’t all that interesting.

For example, you could fuse an actual piece of fabric to the paper page. Or part of a favorite (but worn out) item of clothing. Or, print artwork or an image on fabric, and apply it.

Whatever you choose to support your art journal pages, you can sew onto those pages. It’s easy!

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What’s an Artist’s Journal?

Artist’s journals are illustrated diaries and journals on any theme.

When people talk about “art journaling,” that’s what they’re doing… putting art into a diary or journal.

Yes, it’s that simple.

A travel journal page, heavily embellishedAn artist’s journal – or art journal – can be any visual record of your daily thoughts, a travel journal, or an exercise or diet diary.

It could be a dream journal, a place where you jot down your goals or to-do lists, or… well, almost any record that you’d like to keep in a book or notebook.

They become “artist’s journals” when you add any kind of art, illustration or embellishment to the pages.

Rainbow colors divider

Above, on this page,  is a travel journal page I created after visiting “The Nubble” lighthouse in York, Maine (USA).

It’s a mixed media work, combining sketches, photos, beach glass, shells, and driftwood from that journey.

The original is part of a 9″ x 12″ spiral-bound sketchbook. And yes, with shells, feathers, and driftwood, that art (and travel) journal is very thick and bulky.

When I look at it, or touch it, that page brings back happy memories.

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