Monday, May 28, 2012

Intro to Visual Journals, Part 2: Supplies

(Not sure what visual journals are all about?  Start here: Part 1.)

I have a "less is more" philosophy to supplies for visual journals.  The best supplies, I have found, are simple, inexpensive, and very basic.  Start with what you have and with what you are already comfortable with using, and gradually start experimenting with other supplies as you gain confidence.  Remember, it's not the supplies that make you an artist.  If your goal in keeping a visual journal is to improve your artistic skills, then practicing your art on a regular basis will be far more valuable to you than having all the "right" tools.  And if your focus in keeping a visual journal is more on the writing, then you'll probably be happy with a minimal supply kit - perhaps nothing more than a handful of coloured pens.

All of that said, here's an overview of the basic supplies that you'll probably want have on hand:

The Book
The book can be whatever you prefer to work in, but you may find it helpful to keep these tips in mind:
  • Don't choose such a fancy journal that you feel intimidated to use it.  If you can't bear to make a mark in even the most basic of notebooks, try stapling together some sheets from old brown paper bags.  You may be amazed at what you can accomplish when you don't have to worry about "messing it up."  (And check out this video: "Junk Journal".)
  • If you want to do a lot of collage, use a spiral-bound book.  If you're adding a lot of bulk to the pages, the pages will start to splay out, so you'll need to remove some of the pages to compensate.  And trust me, it's lot easier to do that in a spiral-bound notebook
  • If you want to use a lot of paint or other wet media, make sure you're using paper that's relatively heavyweight.  Similarly, if you're using markers or pens that are prone to bleeding through, make sure the paper you're using can cope with that.
  • It is probably best to steer clear of lined notebooks for visual journals, but if you plan to do a lot of writing and you're obsessive about getting your words lined up, try a dot grid notebook.  The dots still provide a guide to your writing, but aren't as intrusive as lines.
  • Finally, the book itself is entirely optional!  It is possible to keep your visual journal on loose pieces of paper, or on loose-leaf pages that can be inserted into a binder.  This is also a great option if you're still feeling intimidated by or hesitant about working in a bound book.

Pens, Pencils, Paints, etc.
This is an area where you can go crazy with way more stuff than you really need.  Again, start with the basics:
  • A basic black waterproof pen.  This is essential for me.  I use it for adding text to pages, drawing mandalas, and sketching.  I prefer the Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen, but a Sakura Pigma Micron or even a Sharpie Pen would also be a good choice.
  • A few basic pencils in different hardnesses.  I don't use pencils much myself, but if you're working in a bound journal, you may want to steer clear of the very soft pencils, as they can smudge quite a bit.
  • A handful of coloured gel pens.  The Sakura Gelly Rolls are a good choice for multimedia, as they are available in a multitude of different colours and styles and write on all sorts of surfaces.
  • A basic palette of paints.  Stick to a basic palette that you can mix to create all the colours you need, rather than trying to buy individual tubes of every colour under the sun.
Of course, your list of basics may be different from mine, but your main objective is to find supplies that are of a high enough quality that you can get the results you want, but not so expensive that you're afraid to use them and experiment with them.  If you're hesitant to try certain supplies, see if you can find easier to use or less intimidating alternatives.  For example, if you want to try watercolours but are intimidated by paints, try watercolour pencils, which are as easy to use as your kids' pencil crayons but still give you great colours and effects.  If you want to get into fountain pens but are not sure if you want to spend that much money on one pen, try an inexpensive disposable model such as the Platinum Preppy or Pilot Petit1.

Other Tools
These include items such as scissors, glues, tapes, stencils, stamps, rulers, erasers, sharpeners, sprayers, rollers, punches, and the like.  Again, it would probably be really easy to just go crazy here and pick up one of each until you're drowning in supplies, most of which you'll rarely use.  I'd recommend that if you find that you need one of these items, first look around your house to see if you have anything that will work.  If not, then you can go out and buy a basic tool that will do the job for you.  The best tools are the ones that are flexible enough to be used for multiple purposes.


My main advice when selecting supplies for your visual journal is, as I said earlier, to start with what you have and with what you know, get comfortable doing whatever it is you want to do in your visual journal with that, and then gradually expand to other supplies that you're interested in trying out.  But as for actually how to get started in your visual journal . . . that will be the topic of the next post in this series, which will be coming out in about two weeks!


This series of posts is focused on the basics of keeping a visual journal, especially for people who don't think of themselves as artists, who aren't interested in spending a fortune on fancy art supplies, and who might be a bit intimidated by many popular sites on art journals or sketchbooks.  If you have any questions about visual journals or suggestions for future topics in this series, please let me know!

(See Part 3: Getting Started)

1 comment:

  1. Heather, you're right in commenting " . . . not so expensive you're afraid to use them . . .". My rough tests for price vs. benefit are: (1) if I like Product X, am I willing to buy a second one as a spare or alternate? (2) if I like Product X, am I willing to become a regular user?

    Those two tests have kept me from costly gold-nibbed European pens, allowed me to use relatively costly drafting pencils freely, narrowed my selection of inks, etc. Jack/Ohio


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