Creating contrast by juxtaposing moods

Hi, lovely Messians.  Elizabeth here with some wisdom from Victor Hugo.  (And, hopefully, some workable inspiration for you and your art journaling). First, Victor:

“Sublime upon sublime scarcely presents a contrast, and we need a little rest from everything, even the beautiful.” –Victor Hugo

Today we’ll be creating a spread that give us both the sublime and a bit of rest.  Rest for our eyes, rest for our art supplies, rest for the part of us that may struggle with adding too little or too much to the page. We’ll start by creating something really beautiful, layering up our favorite colors, images, words, supplies — those bits we’ve been saving for ages.  We’re going to use them today.  This first part will likely be really comfortable for those of you who are “more is more” artists.  It might feel a bit uncomfortable for those who are in the “less is more” camp (that’s where I live most of the time). A note on discomfort:  Growth is often uncomfortable.  Hang in there. Once we’ve created that beautiful, sublime artwork… we stop.  This is the part that might feel like a relief to the minimalists and a travesty to the maximalists.  Again, hang in there.

Exploring Contrast: Sublime and Rest

exploring contrast sublime and rest

How you choose to approach this page is entirely up to you.  My only suggestion or direction is that you create two very distinct things:

  • Something that feels sublime for you
  • An area of rest (i.e. straight up blankness)

I don’t do much planning when it comes to my art journaling. I tend to trust the process (that’s my general cover for laziness and skipping as many steps as possible), and sort of just… go for it. If you prefer, however, you can decide in advance how big or small your contrasting sections will be.  If you need or want to, you can begin by taping or marking off an area designated for rest.  Same goes for which and how many mediums you use.  If you want to preselect supplies, or limit yourself to a set number or color palette, please do. Do what feels good for you.  (Isn’t that the best rule?)

exploring contrast sublime and

I dug through my stash of favorite magazine clippings (mostly flowers and… heads #creepy) and then chose other supplies from a limited (and sublime) color palette of pink and gold.  I started with a wash of gold watercolor, which eventually got covered up, but felt like a great first step.  A blessing of the page, if you will.  Next came strips of gold tissue paper, acrylic paint, magazine clippings, some ink drawings, mark making and lines, a little more paint…

exploring contrast sublime and rest

  And then I stopped.  I had a few more things I wanted or hoped to include, but I intentionally held back and took a break.  I didn’t let myself look at my art journal for an hour or so (fairly easy to do when you’ve got two little ones chasing you or asking to be chased).

exploring contrast sublime and rest

When I came back to this spread, I let go of the disappointment I initially felt about leaving a few things off.  I made as much peace as I could with both sides.  I embraced the sublime of those pinks and gold, lovely ladies and beautiful blooms… as well as that restful blankness. 

Action Steps


Your turn!  Carve out some time to create an art journal page that brings you a slice of the sublime, as well as a bit of rest.


Elizabeth lives in Boston with her husband, two young children and not-so-young French bulldog.  She is passionate about encouraging others in their creative pursuits and building peaceful communities. She almost always laughs at her own jokes.


  1. Misty Granade

    Love this!! Great advice!

    • Elizabeth D.

      Thanks, Misty! <3

  2. Emily@squiggleandswirl

    Lovely words and images Elizabeth, they really convey that space where you get in the zone of creating. Thanks for sharing x

    • Elizabeth D.

      Thank you so much, dear Emily! xx

  3. EmK Wright

    Glorious color palette! I’m so a more is more kind of girl. But I’ve gotta give it a go!! ❤️

  4. Gilly Welch

    I long for rest on a page without thinking it’s only half done, that I’ve stopped before the end! I’m going to bite the bullet and see where it leads me, thanks so much Elizabeth.

  5. Sasha Zinevych

    This is literally the most gorgeous thing I’ve seen in a while! So light and magical! I really want to try this. Thank you for sharing your art with us, Elizabeth! <3

  6. julia Thomas

    Oh! I am so excited to try this out and then to be showered in heart eyes!

  7. Riet

    I love every page that has been created with this tutorial! I’ll tackle this next!

  8. TC Larson

    Love it! This is so hard for me to do — to leave that space for the eyes to rest. I love the way it looks and admire those who can do it, so maybe this tutorial will help push me to try it. You’ve unified the piece in the way you let your faces and flowers drift across both pages. I’m always worried it will actually look like I stopped in the middle of the process, rather than intending it be complete with that white space as PART of the composition. Thanks for sharing this!