Artist Spotlight

How Art Journaling Frees Karen Gaunt to Just Create



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Karen is an Artist. She arts like a boss and believes that you should too. Karen loves Poppies, triangles, colour and hand lettering. She’s all about the process and loves to complete pages that take days to make and ones that take minutes to make as well.

Why do you love art journaling?

There are many things I love about Art Journalling, but mostly I love the freedom it gives me to explore any ideas that come into my head. Unlike lots of hobbies that I enjoy like knitting, embroidery and photography there is no “right” way to make my art journal page. I can explore a new medium I want to try, use a cool embellishment I’ve been saving or anything at all that comes to mind. Plus what’s the worst that can happen? It’s just a piece of paper! If I really don’t like what I’ve made I can just paint over it and start again!

Describe your art journaling process.

I will always start with the background. I love to use lots of colour in my journal so I start here by picking a colour out. Sometimes I have an idea in my head of how I want the page to go sometimes I just see what comes out. I love to use Gesso to prime my pages first, it gives them a bit more stability for anything that comes next. I love to use acrylic paints in my backgrounds and I love using stencils and modelling paste to add some texture and dimension.

Once I have the background I usually move onto the main decorative element of the page. Sometimes I like to keep things nice and balanced, sometimes I like to mix it up. I don’t really have a formula I just like to let it flow and see it grow in an organic way. Using magazine photos and stamps are something I really love to do and I always try to use some handwriting on my page. I think adding your own personal touch is important as it’s your journal after all and it should be personal to you.

What tips do you have for beginners?

I’ll tell you a secret ok? I’m a beginner. No really. I’ve only been doing this since March of this year. I’ve gone through many phases of hobbies all of which I think have helped me to get to where I am today as a creative person. I’ve gone through card making, to scrapbooking to knitting to embroidery and sewing. I love them all but since starting art journaling I really feel like I’ve found the one thing that I can really express myself and grow my abilities.

So for myself, I just told myself to start. That’s the best advice I can give. Just do it. What’s the worst that can happen? Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Don’t start off with the thought in your head that “mine won’t be as good as this person” “It looks rubbish” just go for it. Have fun. If you feel like sharing, share. If you don’t, don’t. Everyone here at Get Messy is so lovely and supportive and there is so much wonderful talent around in all shapes and sizes.

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

I have a Pinterest page that I keep which is good to help me get inspired. This can be dangerous though as you can get carried away looking and then feel depressed that yours isn’t as “good” as someone else’s.

I have a little notebook that I jot things down in. Things like quotes or a song I really like, some lyrics that are special. I can carry this around with me and when I’m stuck I can flick through and something will jump out. I made a page based on “Rebecca” by Daphne Du Marier. My Dad used to read her books to me all the time when I was a kid. “Rebecca” has always been a favourite and I found a photo in a magazine and as soon as I saw it the two things clicked and I was off. It’s probably one of my simplest pages yet I love it the most because it means so much to me and brings up so many memories.

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

I have to have paint. I mostly use acrylic and I don’t think I’ve made a page yet without it. Journals are tricky for me to answer as I’ve yet to fill one to try another to compare it to. My current journal is a hardback book with a black elastic tie. It’s just got plain paper in it. nothing special and I bought it from Lidl (a supermarket for those on the other side of the pond from Europe!) It’s not got amazing paper and I have to stick the pages together to get them strong enough to hold up to the work on them. I love it though because I started in it. It just shows you really don’t need anything special or expensive to get started. Even the simplest of notebooks will get the job done.

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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).

How do you decide on colour schemes in your journal? You really have a talent. Do you plan beforehand, or do you just put one colour down and go from there?

I’d love to say “Ah yes I have a great plan before I start every page I make,” but that would be a lie. Normally I just grab a colour I am drawn to and go from there. I seem to gravitate towards blues and greens but I love to use all colours I have to hand. I think you should use colours that make you happy so that when you look back through your journal, that is what you feel.

Is the script in your journal something that flows or do you practise beforehand?

I’ve always loved writing and my handwriting. I’m always the one “volunteered” to write on a whiteboard or to write a card. I took a hand-lettering course online through Studio Calico recently and it really helped me to develop the more artistic placement of writing. Plus it’s a lot quicker than digging or a stamp set or printing off something from your computer.

I try to plan what I will write and often I’ll draw in lines and mark the centre etc so I can get the placement where I want it. Sometimes I will practice the sizing beforehand and then trace it using some carbon paper. I find grid paper very good for this as you can vary the line size very easily and centre your work without too much hassle.

How do you decide what to journal?

The Get Messy prompts are always a great place for me to start and they provide a lot of inspiration. I love to make pages around what I love or a song I love like my Portlandia page. I adore that show and introduced a very good friend of mine to it. Now we are always saying goofy stuff like “Put a bird on it!” or “We can pickle that,” so I felt it was important for me to record this in my journal.

I think you should journal pretty stuff just because you like to use it but you should also journal personal things that mean a lot to you. I like to think of my journal as a kind of diary. It’s a snapshot of who I am and what I love at a particular point in time.

What are your tips for incorporating more handwriting into your pages?

I think that you should just go for it. It will get easier with time and practise really does make perfect. My daughter is five and she loves to look through my art journal. I even got her one of her own and she’s made pages based on some of my pages. I want her to be able to look back on my pages and get a feel for me as a person and I don’t think she would get that without some of my handwriting on the pages.

Please don’t worry about “liking” your writing or being “perfect” with placement. It’s important to document yourself in your pages, and I really think handwriting adds a very unique element to your page. If you want to draw it out before and then trace it onto your page, that way to can play until you get it the way you like it.

How did you learn your mixed media techniques? What tips do you have for someone wanting to start mixing paint with collage with layering etc? Which part is your favourite?

I learnt a lot from watching some youtube videos, there are so many amazing ones out there it’s not hard to find some inspiration. I love to use printed tissue paper first on my background and then paint over it. It gives a really interesting background and is a quick and easy way to get rid of the “blank page” which can be very intimidating sometimes!

I think a really good place to start is with one element and, when you get confident, you can branch out. A great one to start with is some modelling medium. It’s easy to get as most art supply shops stock it and you can easily mix it with acrylic paint and make it any colour you want. If you have some stencils you can use it with those or you can just slap it on roughly and give the page some texture.

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Karen Gaunt

Karen is an Artist. She arts like a boss and believes that you should too. Karen loves Poppies, triangles, colour and hand lettering. She’s all about the process and loves to complete pages that take days to make and ones that take minutes to make as well.

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