How Rebecca Johnstone Finds Perspective Through Art Journaling
Rebecca Johnstone, aka Dainty Dora, is a Surface Pattern Designer and illustrator with a First Class honours degree in Textiles & Fashion Design Management specialising in Print, from Heriot-Watt University in Galashiels (formerly The Scottish College of Textiles). She grew up in the Cairngorm National Park in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, immersed in nature but craving the bright lights… Now living and working just outside Glasgow, she produces a range of local print designs layered with her own analogue and digital photography inspired by both Glasgow and Paisley; home of the iconic ‘Paisley Pattern’.
WHY DO YOU LOVE ART JOURNALING?
I love expressing my ideas on the page in a creative and visual way, using beautiful papers (especially wrapping paper or tissue paper I’ve received with a gift), stamped and stenciled words, photographs, magazine cut outs, sweetie wrappers – then I let my imagination take over. I quickly get into the ‘flow’ of cutting and sorting and find art journaling very soothing, allowing me to express my inner thoughts in a different way than simply writing them down.
Pages evoke feelings and I love preserving certain ‘life ephemera’ like cinema tickets, train tickets, envelopes and even dry-cleaning tags because they’re just so colourful…
And I love looking back and seeing the dates that are special or important to me and remembering the occasion all over again.
I’ve even imagined a stranger looking through my journals in years to come and having a little insight into my life now – perhaps in a way when I create, I create for that person as well as myself? I also write for the Mass Observation Archive here in the UK; I find diaries and journals fascinating so ‘the art of the art journal’ is a beautiful extension of that, complete with colour and texture like a living, breathing, messy tapestry. (I’ve already said to the MOA that I’d like to donate all my diaries to them when I die, so I guess they will be the ‘strangers’!)
DESCRIBE YOUR ART JOURNALING PROCESS
I tend to gather and sort and hoard and riffle through a ton of papers and cut-outs and scraps of envelopes that I’ve scribbled ideas onto – during the day, in the middle of the night, when I’m on a train – and set myself up with my glue stick and my washi tape and scissors. I start laying things down thinking about the theme of the season, the prompts, and what I want to say or where the bits and pieces I’ve gathered want to take me. Then I’ll start sticking.
I used to hesitate at this stage, worrying I’d ‘regret’ sticking a piece in a particular place or that I’d ‘waste’ my best scrap of special paper or whatever, but Get Messy has taught me to be bold and use the piece, the scrap, the GOLD, just get it on the page NOW because otherwise the time for it will be gone. I also like to make a statement now and then and for some of my more topical pages to be thought-provoking.
I’ve now got an old table in the living room to work on and it’s scattered with my art supplies and inks and paint. That’s going to make a big difference to my output because previously I didn’t have a dedicated space to ‘get messy’ so my art things were all over the place and not being used.
My goal for 2018 is to have a dedicated art journaling time to be at my dedicated messy table.
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR ART JOURNAL REFLECTS YOURSELF AND YOUR PERSONALITY? HOW?
YES! Incomplete, not in order, pages left blank, things stashed at the end for ‘later’, multiple journals on the go at once in all different sizes, shapes and colours…
If there is anything I’ve learnt about myself over the years and also as an art journaler it’s that I’m erratic, manic, chasing my tail, spontaneous, in a mess. But I can go really deep into my creativity and the more time I spend with and on my art, the better it gets. Even looking through my journals for this post has made me realise just how much I’d created and forgotten about and it conjured all sorts of memories.
HOW DO YOU USE THE GET MESSY PROMPTS?
I use the prompts very much as a starting point, a diving-off portal to my imagination. As I read them my mind starts sparking ideas and I scribble down words or phrases to capture that initial inspiration. I love to just write over my pages with whatever comes into my head – I did that a lot in the Season of Love.
As well as ‘finding’ poetry like I did here for a page in the Season of Words:
✨ Free class for creatives ✨
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?
Over the summer I bought a Pentel Aquash water brush so I could watercolour on the go, and found I love it so much and the water lasts for ages. It comes in different sizes to suit different projects/levels of control – I went for the medium and it’s working out perfectly for me. Apparently you can even use it for inks but I’ve not tried that yet (slightly concerned it might get stained…what do you think?)
It goes perfectly with my travel watercolour set which is another essential in my kit. Initially I considered buying the bigger set but I find I use my travel set so much more than I might if it was a bigger box, whether I’m travelling or not.
I also love my typewriter which has often come into play in my journals, though it’s old and the tape keeps snapping. The best examples are from the Season of Adventure:
My new special ingredient for the coming year is my sewing machine and hand needles, pretty threads and my awl for punching holes through paper. I bought the awl from the lovely Rachel Hazell, ‘the travelling bookbinder’ and it feels satisfyingly plump and weapon-ly in my hand!
When it comes to journals I have tended to go for spiral-bound. I know that’s a demon-concept for many in the group, but I think it’s a hangover from when I used to create sourcebooks for my textiles and fashion modules at university. Our books used to be literally bulging with fabric, paper and textile experiments like knitting or weaving samples so a spiral binding was essential.
My favourites then and now have super-thick pages with piggy paper at the beginning – you know the ones? I prefer them big and square so I can ‘spread out’ creatively, and I pimp the covers using pretty wrapping papers. I often opt for the neutral pale brown pages inside instead of white, and black is somehow magical. I used a black journal for the Season of Magic (one of my favourites) which felt like it fit the theme perfectly.
Having said that, I also loved making my ‘BRAVE’ zine for the Season of Brave, and following along with the first Get Messy Game, not knowing what to expect or which techniques and materials would be thrown together, as well as working in an altered book for the Season of Words (another favourite season!). That was such a special experience and I feel it had an impact on my pages too because they become more minimal and with a much tighter colour palette. That was an interesting take-out and I definitely believe the medium you choose changes what you create which is why Get Messy is so great as we are constantly being challenged to try new techniques.
WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE FOR BEGINNERS?
What I love about Get Messy is that it’s not about having the fanciest, most expensive art supplies (though that’s always good too!), so my big tip is have a look around you for everyday objects you can use to make marks, textures and interesting patterns and backgrounds in your art journal – it’s a cross-pollination from everything I’ve been learning about pattern design in the last 6 months.
For example: string can be dipped in paint. Pennies or different coins – even obsolete currency if you have it – can be dropped in an acrylic wash and make such a cool, fun and quick effect when you lay them onto your paper. You really don’t need anything more than some imagination and a few everyday things.
FOLLOWING ON FROM THAT I HAVE A QUICK, FUN CREATIVE EXERCISE TO SHARE:
If you have a rolling pin (if not an empty wine bottle will do!), wrap it in cling film – you could even skip this step for the wine bottle – then glue random shapes of card – ripped, cut, die-cut – whatever – onto the cling film and then paint those pieces. I did this with ripped (scrap) card and acrylic paint.
You need to be quite quick with the paint to avoid it drying too quickly, but then simply roll your new printing tool over your page and enjoy the repeating print.
You should get a few ‘rolls’ out of it before the paint runs out/dries up and could try starting from the opposite side of your page to build up texture or just go with one roll per sheet for a more minimal effect. I refreshed the paint a few times on mine and was really pleased with the results.
Other things to try include pieces of sponge, small bits of fabric, wrapping round a whole piece of bubble wrap (oh yeah!), a length of string, wool, thin cord, wire…anything you can think of. Have fun and I hope you Get Messy!
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Rebecca Johnstone, aka Dianty Dora, is a Surface Pattern Designer and illustrator with a First Class honours degree in Textiles & Fashion Design Management specialising in Print, from Heriot-Watt University in Galashiels (formerly The Scottish College of Textiles). She grew up in the Cairngorm National Park in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, immersed in nature but craving the bright lights… Now living and working just outside Glasgow, she produces a range of local print designs layered with her own analogue and digital photography inspired by both Glasgow and Paisley; home of the iconic ‘Paisley Pattern’.