Visual Journaling–papers and media

I thought I’d share a little more of my personal “discoveries” (new to me, at least!) and what I synthesized out of all the investigation I did in preparation for my son’s middle school visual journaling project.

The first thing I decided needed to be determined was what paper to recommend to the teacher to use. Very quickly I realized that was determined by what media were going to be both available and feasible for the kids to use in the time & space they had to do their pages in. So I quickly had a go at making pages using the following papers:
Canson XL Series Mix Media notebook (7×10″), which is 98lb paper and recommends itself for acrylic, watercolor, and pen & pencil
Strathmore 400 Series cold press watercolor paper (9×12″)
Strathmore Visual Journal (5.5×8″), 90lb paper, recommends itself as “great for wet and dry media including watercolor, acrylic, pen and ink, pencil, crayon, charcoal, marker and collage”

Frankly, all of these papers had the problem that they weren’t going to fit well into the standard-size binder that the kids were using. I decided to put that issue to one side and just concentrate on the paper, since that could be addressed later.

The Canson Mix Media journal I did not like at all for watercolor, whether tube paints, pencils, or crayons (Neocolor II). Once it got wet, it started pilling, and that was not a desired effect! It wrinkled easily and didn’t dry flat like the heavier Strathmore 400 Series paper did. It was fine as long as reasonably dry media was used (markers, pens, colored pencils). I don’t even think it would do too well with glue.

I had a lot of fun doing pages on the watercolor paper. It took an UHU glue stick with no problem (carnaroli rice page), walnut ink & acrylic paint also no problem–paper stayed flat and sturdy. The problem, however, was that it is expensive (nearly $10 for a 12-page pad), and I thought the rough surface might put the kids off from a writing perspective. Here they are, not all what I would call “complete”:

These are the only two pages I’ve done in the Strathmore Visual Journal:

Both are done with watercolor tube paints, and the paper holds up great. In the blue one the tissue paper was adhered with Mod Podge applied with a palette knife, and that also is fine. I like this pad much better than the Canson XL Mix Media.

However . . . for my son’s class, as much as I was enthralled with either watercolor tube paints or acrylics, I didn’t think that was a workable offering for them. Little pots of water to get knocked over, brushes that wouldn’t get cleaned, papers that would need somewhere to dry, pricey papers that would need to be continually bought throughout the school year–nope. But I still felt they needed some way to apply color quickly to the entire page, and something with fuller & easier coverage than colored pencils or art stix. I also didn’t want them to use anything that required use of a fixative (pastels) or protective sheet to prevent sticking (acrylic paint).

Luckily, I’ve been busy making lots of Tim Holtz-inspired holiday cards (this is the only occasion for which I make cards each year) and familarizing myself with his techniques for the amazing products he’s got. I realized that the Distress Ink pads would satisfy all the requirements for this project. They can be used in the following ways:
–apply directly to paper with the foam pads & handle
–apply to nonstick craft sheet, spritz with water, and make a monoprint
–apply to nonstick craft sheet, spritz with water, and use a paintbrush to apply as paint
–use ink pad to ink up any mark-making object (end of a cork, corrugated cardboard, ruler) and then apply to paper
(I probably missed something, but these are the things I showed the class how to do.) Clean-up requires not much more than a paper towel.

And now that we weren’t going to use really wet media for applying broad swathes of color, I could tell the teacher to get a package of heavy cardstock (110 lb) at our local grocery store for about $5 per 150 8.5×11″ sheets. THAT is price-conscious!

Other media used in the journal pages shown in this post and the previous one include oil pastels, colored pencils, graphite sticks, Micron pens, china markers, watercolor pencils, watercolor crayons, multiple shades of walnut ink sprays, tissue paper, gel pens, . . . and probably a few other things that just don’t spring to mind right now. I really went all out to make sure that whatever I recommended to the teacher to buy was good stuff!

Bottom line regarding paper: if I were going to use a store-bought journal, then I would get either one with at least 120 lb. watercolor paper or the Strathmore Visual Journal. (My moleskine also does pretty well, and it definitely doesn’t pill like the Canson does.) If I were going to make one (which is my preference, since book-making is truly what gets me going), then I’d use a combination of hot and cold press watercolor paper plus some heavy cardstock.

Bottom line regarding media: that depends on how mobile one wishes to be. I think the watercolor tubes are huge fun, and I have no problem using them in the hallway of our community center while my son is in his taekwondo class. Seems to me the ink pads would be harder to carry around–they’d need to be in a box so they stay flat. Essentially I think one could use anything as long as you’ve got the right surface for it . . . just like the rest of the art we make!

I wrote this in response to an inquiry, but it’s rather long-winded b/c I also wanted to share my thought process on helping a classroom be successful with this. Please ask if you seek any clarifications.

About Elizabeth Ann's Studio

Artist. Musician. Mother. Wife. Me.
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