Artist Spotlight

How Amy Schubert and Kam Altar Use Art as a Release from Their Type-A Tendencies

Why do you love art journaling?

Amy: I tend to follow a pretty structured, controlled, basic pattern in the rest of my life. I’m very type-A oldest child. I love that art journaling is not that. It’s my excuse to go. To not worry about the outcome. To try new techniques and make something way outside my usual box. Simple things like coloring in shapes or just painting the page can be so meditative.

Kam: I love that I don’t need to follow any specific rules or tell a specific story when I’m art journaling. I sometimes feel pressure to have a reason to create a scrapbook layout or a mini-album when I’m scrapbooking, but with art journaling, I can make a page just because! Art journaling helps me break out of my comfort zone of straight lines and minimal embellishments (my scrapbooking style) and try things I wouldn’t normally do like splattering paint on my paper or freewriting on a page.

Describe your art journaling process?

A: My art journaling process is …. to not have a process. Each time I have been starting in a different place — sometimes with a supply, sometimes with a technique, sometimes with someone else’s pages as inspiration. Art journaling for me is deliberate practice in NOT having a process.

K: My art journaling process is a lot like my scrapbooking process…but without my ruler! I have a box in my workspace with pages from magazines, embellishments I wouldn’t use for scrapbooking but think may be interesting for an art journal page, and paint. Having everything in one spot helps me move quickly through my general process of 1) establish a foundation, 2) layer colors and textures, 3) add words, 4) ignore for a few days.

What tips do you have for beginners?

A: My biggest tip is to just let go. Let go of expectations. Let go of any rules you think there are. Let go of being perfect. No one has to see these pages but you. You don’t have to impress anyone or meet anyone else’s standards. Just make. Just for you.

K: Ignore whatever rules you read about art journaling and make something! The biggest hurdle for me has been assuming I needed to have a million pots of paint and expensive markers in order to art journal, but there are so many different ways to approach this amazing creative outlet! What helped was sticking to what I already did with scrapbooking: making my own journal so I felt more ownership over my project.

What do you do when you don’t know what to make?

A: I am totally in love with @getmessyartjournal Instagram account. Since I’m still an art journaling beginner myself virtually everything is a new idea for me. I can’t even tell you how many of other creators’ Instagram photos I have saved on my phone for future reference and inspiration. Even something as simple as a repeating pattern can jumpstart my creativity.

K: When it comes to art journaling, if I’m not sure what I want to make, I think about the lyrics that are stuck in my head (lately: Hamilton Musical!) or use my iOS app: write 365 which has about 400 creative writing prompts that are perfect for art journaling. I just open the app and a prompt is randomly selected to get me started.

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In How to Start Art Journaling, we’ll walk you through the art of art journaling, including how to start doing (🙌) and make your very first art journal page (even if you’ve never even opened an art journal before).

What are your must-have supplies? What is your journal of choice?

A: I am obsessed with moleskines (blank pages, kraft covers, 5×8”). I have, like, 12 of them. They’re the perfect size for me + a blank canvas. Having multiple journals lets me have theme-focused art journals. I have one for my Core Defined Feelings (see Danielle LaPorte), I have one for my current One Little Word, one for the current Get Messy season and I’m about to start one specifically about the Hamilton musical (because obviously). I don’t really have a ton of art supplies — magazine clippings, basic watercolors, colored pencils. I mostly use scrapbooking supplies (washi, stamps, etc).

K: My #1 supply is the extra-fine point Sharpie permanent marker in black. I use it for everything! Journaling, list-making, outlining, doodling, and simple notes to myself. My journal of choice is whatever I’m making by hand. I love making my own mini-scrapbook albums with mixed papers so when I started art journaling I figured making my own journals would be the best way to go. I’m the type of person who gets first-page-of-a-new-journal anxiety but when I make my own, I know I can always go back and switch out pages if I want. My current book has a cardboard cover over old book pages and is bound with two large binder rings. Nothing fancy! I also made an art journal-type mini album for my March 2016 30 Days of Lists book using cardboard for the cover and watercolor paper for the pages. That book is also bound with large binder rings.

How did 30 Days of Lists start?

K: 30 Days of Lists started in March 2011 when I couldn’t find a creative challenge that was easy to complete and celebrated all types of talents (not just the prettiest pages or the most popular bloggers at the time) so I decided to create my own. I knew I wanted to do something list-based and as I was brainstorming, I opened a fortune cookie…the fortune instructed me to bring more people into my big idea and great things would come of it. “okay, cookie!” I contacted Amy, and 30 Days of Lists was born. We learned a lot from our first challenge and with the encouragement of our Listing community, we decided to make it a semi-annual thing. We eventually added December into the mix and the rest is history! This year is our 6th year hosting 30 Days of Lists.

Why do you believe in the power of lists?

A: There are so many reasons that listing is a big part of my life. First, because they’re easy. They’re short, they’re to the point. They’re ideal for recording the basic information, no matter what the prompt. But I also feel strongly that the physical writing out of lists can be beneficial for your mental health. It can be a form of meditation, and a reason to slow down and really think about what you’re journaling. Lists are accessible to anyone. Lists can be our common denominator. Anyone can make a list.

How do you prepare for a new 30 Days of Lists?

A: We’ve now been doing this challenge for something like 6 years? And each challenge I do something new. I like to use this challenge as a reason to use up some of the supplies I already have. I rarely buy something new *just* for the list challenge. For me, it’s about making this challenge a part of my life as-it-is. I tend to go super-simple with my lists. For me, the priority is the words. The lists themselves. I love (love) the look of doodles or embellished lists and all that can go with it. I just can’t do that for myself.

K: I like to decide how I will be listing well before the challenge begins so I have enough time to make my own album (my usual route) or purchase whatever supplies I need if I’m going with a pre-made scrapbook album. I pull together a small kit for myself using supplies I have on hand: adhesive, stamps, stickers, pens, embellishments, patterned paper, etc. so my album has a cohesive feel throughout the month and so I know I won’t be running out to the store late at night because I’m out of adhesive dots. I think preparing early really helps with getting through the challenge and Amy and I encourage our Listers to prepare at least a few days before the first of the month so they can hit the ground running once we start releasing the daily prompts.

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Amy Schubert

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