Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Book Review: The Decorated Journal

The Decorated Journal: Creating Beautifully Expressive Journal Pages by Gwen Diehn was one of the first books on art journals that I read and it remains one of my favourites.

The Decorated Journal begins with a detailed section on materials used for art journals. This section is helpful for people (like me) who may not be comfortable in an art supply store and who may be unaware of the range of materials available to journal keepers. Diehn also advocates a "less is more" approach to materials: "Try sticking to a small range of high-quality materials and practice with them to learn how they work. Once you can use these few materials well, you will be able to produce every effect you want." She discusses paper, blank books, paints, brushes, pens and inks, adhesives, pencils, crayons, and other materials and tools, covering the benefits and drawbacks of using each type of paper, adhesive, etc.

The second section examines "seven different ways of seeing the world and reflecting those visions in a journal." These range from the multi-dimensional world of layers to the simpler world of wabi-sabi to the worlds of the inventor and the naturalist. Interspersed throughout this section are additional essays on various topics including colour, drawing, and writing. This section is inspiring and beautifully illustrated with journal pages in many very different styles.

The third section breaks the creation of an art journal page into three stages: starters, middles, and toppers, and discusses various techniques you can use in each stage. This section would be particularly helpful to the beginner who is uncertain about where to begin and how to actually create a meaningful journal page. However, there is a lot of information and inspiration here for more advanced journal keepers as well.

Finally, the last section covers bookbinding for "the reluctant bookbinder." The bookbinding projects range from a simple single-signature pamphlet to a beautiful journal with a leather cover. If all you want to do is make a serviceable book for keeping a journal, I don't think you would need anything more than Diehn's instructions here. Even if you do not want to make your own book, Diehn offers some helpful information on how you can customize a purchased blank book to suit your needs.

Overall, The Decorated Journal by Gwen Diehn is an excellent resource and source of inspiration for anyone interested in keeping an art journal. The only complaint I have is that I wish some of the illustrations were larger, but that is really only a minor detail.


  1. I just discovered your blog and I just wanted to tell you that I am really enjoying it. It made me truly happy to find another book, journal, and pen addict. Also thank you for this book review, I know it will be very helpful for me.

  2. Great review! Thanks for sharing.


  3. Thanks Rachel and Jackie! I am so glad you are enjoying my blog.


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