Artist Spotlight

How art journaling gives Tanyalee Kahler the confidence to create without judgment



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Tanyalee is a mum to three grown up kids, a wife to her childhood sweetheart, a full time graphic designer and a part time crafter/art journaler. She loves growing veggies to feed her family, she loves raising her fur babies (cats, rabbits and guinea pigs) and she loves spending her spare time just pottering around her house. Tanyalee LOVES being at home more than anything else – as long as her family is nearby.

Describe your art journaling process.

My art journaling process is very basic. I try not to think too much about what I am going to do. I have a few tried and tested mediums that I tend to head straight for every time I make a page. They are magazine collages, watercolours and brush script. I guess you could call it my formula. I also tend to create very minimalist pages. This flows into my ‘day job’ as well where I am a graphic designer. I always end up creating very minimal designs with heaps of white space – you’ve just gotta let that page breath. In my opinion anyway.

What tips do you have for beginners?

Anyone new to the game should just jump in. I totally get that it seems daunting at first. In fact, it kind of still is for me – especially when it involves deep journaling – but honestly, just do what you feel comfortable with. There are no rules, no boundaries, and no judgement. Create beautiful pages because you want to – not to impress anyone else, just to express yourself and to get messy. Play around with different tools and mediums and find your safe zone and just roll with it.

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

We all have times when our creativity is blocked – in fact, mine is blocked right now so what do I do? I look around at other people’s work – visit the Get Messy blog and check out other people’s work, surf around Pinterest (but be careful not to get sucked down the rabbit hole – happens to me all of the time), check out Instagram, look through pretty magazines (my favourites are Frankie Magazine or Peppermint Magazine) or just get out a scrap of paper and scribble, sketch or play. Eventually, something will come to you.

Sometimes I can get something pretty down on paper like a background or some watercolour shapes and then get stumped on journaling. I’ve decided that it’s ok not to include any words if they aren’t coming naturally – it’s still journaling and being creative. Sometimes I find a quote that explains how I am feeling, or a song lyric even. And other times I just cut out random word from magazines and glue them down. Whatever works, and whatever looks nice is my answer.

What are your must-have supplies?

As I mentioned earlier, I have a few staple supplies that I just can’t live without. They are:

  • My Windsor & Newton watercolour half pans (I scored mine on eBay for a fraction of the price that my local art store sells them)
  • Pentel water-filled brushes – these make creating pages on the go just so easy. So portable and not messy at all
  • Gouache for brush script – usually black but I have silver and pink too
  • Magazines – as I said earlier my favourites are Frankie magazine and Peppermint Magazine. Both are Australian magazines I think, but I believe you can get them all over the world.
  • Gesso to seal my pages before getting creative
  • Glue to stick things down
  • Scissors
  • Washi tape
  • My favourite sharpie fine-liner for journaling

What is your journal of choice?

My favourite journal at the moment is from Signature Sensations. Its pages are made from recycled cotton and it is just heavenly. I’m not even sure if they are still making them so I grab one every time I am at my local art store to keep my supply going.

I am also using a Moleskine Cahier for the Get Messy seasonal prompts. I like them – but the pages are a little too thin for me but only because I love watercolour so much.

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How did you get started in art journaling?

I started seeing art journal pages on Instagram in June 2014 and it sparked my interest. I had just finished my degree and found myself with a lot more spare time, and creativity exploding from my core so I made a page. I had intended to journal about my goals and intentions and just use it as a way to get my thoughts down on paper. I posted the page to Instagram and used the #getmessyartjournal tag without realising what it actually was. And before I knew it Lauren had sent me a message asking if I would like to join their group. It was a perfect way for me to get started. There was so much inspiration to be taken from the group and I have been participating ever since. You can see my early art journal pages on my blog.

Tell us more about your art journal calendar?

For those who aren’t aware, I started an art calendar and an art diary as different forms of journaling this year. Obviously I have way too much time on my hands, and the Get Messy prompts aren’t enough – haha.

It all started when I purchased the Frankie diary for 2014 and it sat in my cupboard all year because it was too pretty for me to write in. What a waste I thought. Late in the year, I thought about using it for little journal entries but the OCD in me wouldn’t let me start that midway through the year. Sabine starting her 365CraftingTime project also inspired me.

So in January, I started using my diary. At the same time, I was trying to work out the best place to put a calendar my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas. The little squares just seemed perfect to me for arty goodness. So I started the calendar as well. You can see my first entries on my blog.

But of course, that wasn’t enough was it. My love of watercolour took over and the calendar I was using just wasn’t suitable for using watercolours so I found another calendar – you guessed it – a Frankie calendar. The stock they use is thick, and uncoated so the watercolours just suit it perfectly.

It really has been the best project for me, and I was really surprised when other people took an interest and started playing along. I started a hashtag #calendarartjournal and it’s growing all the time.

Do you have a routine to art journaling or a habit? Is it something that you are trying to be more consistent with?

Last year my routine for creating was a bit all over the place. I would often create two or three layouts on the weekend and felt a bit rushed and pressured to make sure I had something to post on Thursdays. This year I wanted to change that up and form more of a habit or routine. The diary and calendar helped with that for sure but it doesn’t work for the Get Messy prompts – for me anyway.

I’m still working out my strategy for that. But I try not to put too much pressure on myself with my art. It is meant to be fun not a chore so if I don’t feel like creating one day, then I don’t. I just catch up on my entries the next day or the next day. Like I said before – there are no rules – otherwise, it wouldn’t be fun anymore.

I do make sure my calendar and diary are finished for the week by Sunday though. And I try to post on my blog on Mondays. That’s about the only routine I have.

What is your “secret” to white space? Is it something that happens organically in your art, or is it something you aim for?

White space kind of just happens for me. I don’t deliberately aim for it, in fact it’s often the opposite. I try to make a layered, textured background and it just never turns out that way. I always stop at a certain point.

I really can’t say how or why it happens. I like simple things, not too much colour, and to me, the white space accentuates the words and the patterns that I do use. And it allows everything to breathe and directs the reader/viewer’s eyes to the important bits.

What are your top three tips for clean, minimalist pages?

  1. Keep colours to a minimum – maybe two or three at the most
  2. Aim for a visual triangle (three items in the shape of a triangle) and leave the rest as clear as possible
  3. Simple backgrounds with only a few layers.

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Tanyalee Kahler

Tanyalee is a mum to three grown up kids, a wife to her childhood sweetheart, a full time graphic designer and a part time crafter/art journaler. She loves growing veggies to feed her family, she loves raising her fur babies (cats, rabbits and guinea pigs) and she loves spending her spare time just pottering around her house. Tanyalee LOVES being at home more than anything else – as long as her family is nearby.

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