For my current art journal, I chose to use a PooPooPaper spiral-bound notebook. This notebook has a hard cover, and square pages of rough paper made from elephant dung. It's rather awful as an art journal. The rough paper is a challenge to work with. Many inks bleed through and feather. Even the pigments of my watercolour pencils will bleed through after I add water to them. But despite all of this (in fact, because of it), this is the perfect art journal to use to work with mistakes and imperfections.
First, a mistake: On the above page, I doodled with Diamine Meadow ink, but when I looked at the page afterwards, I realized I didn't like it. The colour seemed too bright for the page. It wasn't the look I had been thinking of when I began. So I moved on to another page. Sometimes we need to sit with our mistakes for a while, and give ourselves time to think about what we're going to do, and whether this mistake is really a mistake at all. Later, I went back. I used my waterbrush to lightly brush over the doodled lines (but not my writing; I blurred out the words in Photoshop in the photo above because it was a bit too personal to make me feel comfortable sharing). Because Diamine Meadow is not a waterproof ink, this softened and blurred the lines. I still think the colours are too bright, but I like the softer look and I'm more comfortable with this page, mistakes and all.
Next, an imperfection: This is the back of the first page. Because the paper in this notebook is very imperfect, you can see that the green fountain pen ink bled through. I used a brown Staedtler Triplus Fineliner pen to trace over some of the lines of bleedthrough, incorporating them into a new page, rather than covering them up. I circled the darkest spots of bleedthrough, turning them into floating bubbles. (Readers of Quinn MacDonald's book Raw Art Journaling may recognize this design from one of the exercises in that book.) I also used a white Uni-ball Signo Broad gel pen to cover some of the green spots, but because the paper is not white and white ink is not completely opaque, this doesn't really hide anything so much as it gives the appearance of scar tissue.
This page, like the first one, is not finished yet. I will continue to work on them, bit by bit, working with the imperfections in the paper and with the mistakes that I have made. These pages may never be completely finished. That is okay.
Some art journal blogs and books recommend painting over mistakes so you can start again or prepping all your pages with gesso so you can start with a smooth surface every time. While those can be useful techniques, I think it can be equally useful to let our mistakes and imperfections stand, work with them if we can, and even embrace them.
How do you work with mistakes and imperfections in your art?