Monday, August 3, 2020

Art Journaling with StencilGirl® Stencils

            Hi! I’m Sarah Gardner, also known as Juicy*S. (Juicy*S is my DJ name. I'm not a DJ. I would love to be a DJ. It's one of my fantasy dream jobs, really.) I have found that being creative, that making stuff, especially art journaling, contributes to my well-being. It’s my self-care. 

            I am so honored to be posting as a guest here on StencilGirl® Talk. I admire all the artists whose work inspired these stencils. And I absolutely love working with them in my art journal. I hope you will enjoy learning about how I made this journal spread.
            I’m working in my Illo art journal, which is an 8”x8” journal resulting in an 8”x16” spread. When I work in my art journal, I usually work a spread. I’m just like everyone else when it comes to starting pages in my art journal…the blank page can be daunting. I often start by adding high contrast, black and white, and sometimes gray scale collage materials, or black Sharpie journaling. This solves the problem of the blank page and will create depth in the final spread.
            The “parts” (as Mary Beth calls them;) for my current spread are some black and white collage papers I made. First, I stamped a paragraph of words onto copy paper using letter stamps and black archival ink. Then, I scanned the paragraph, cropped the photo, and created a document with three copies of the photo to come up with a full page of “typing.” I printed this out on my inkjet printer and left it out overnight to “cure” so that the ink wouldn’t run when I glued it to my pages. For my other “part,” I pounced black gesso through a few stencils onto tissue paper, for some high contrast, interesting printed paper.  These are the stencils I used:  Traci Bautista’s Deconstructed series,  Chrysanthemum, Double Zinnia, and Zinnia; Rae Missigman’s, Playful Bloom and Nonsensical Bloom; and Mary Beth Shaw’s Layers of Scallop.

            I like to use soft gel medium to adhere regular paper to my pages. For tissue paper, I usually use matte medium.  I find that a more fluid medium helps make the stenciled features of the tissue paper stand out because the paper becomes more see-through.
            Once I have conquered the blank page in this way, I look to my collection of magazine cut outs and pages for inspiration for my journal spread.  Everything in this curated collection is something I liked, or that inspired me, so it is a ready source of inspiration for any journal spread.  From the images and elements I choose, I begin to find colors and imagery, themes and moods, that can inform my choices going forward in creating my pages. 

            I chose a face and lots of florals as elements to create a “garden” in my journal.

            With my high-contrast collage in place, it’s time to add color.  I start small, with scribbling, using water soluble media:  a Tim Holtz Distress Crayon in Peeled Paint and a purple Stabilo Woody.  I’m just playing around, adding colors I know will play well with the images I’ve chosen.

            Over this, I add absorbent ground.  This is a gesso-like ground that is chalky, but a little see-through.  So, it activates the water soluble crayons, and at the same time, covers the high-contrast elements with a cloudy white layer that unifies the spread into a cohesive whole.  I know I’ll be adding wet media at some point, so the ground will support that as well.
            Now I add some more scribbling with a Caran D’Ache Supracolor soft watercolor pencil in Grass Green.  The ground makes the surface of the pages gritty, so the color really comes off the pencil well.  Next, I use watered-down acrylic inks to add even more color to the spread in patches and puddles, letting these run together a little, and blotting where necessary.  I love these inks and try to find ways to use them every time I create in my journal.  I can create a watery, translucent look, knowing this layer of color will stay in place.  Because, unlike watercolor which will reactivate when you apply other wet media over it, these acrylic inks do not reactivate. I used Olive Green Light (Amsterdam); and Primary Magenta, Florescent Pink, and Flame Orange (Daler Rowney).
            Now I have a very bright couple of pages.  The next step is to push some of this color back by applying a white, or almost white paint.  I chose to stencil Paper Artsy Fresco Finish paint in Nugat through Traci Bautista’s Deconstructed Zinnia stencil/mask that I had already used in my tissue collage paper. (In the video, I mistakenly refer to this stencil as her Chrysanthemum!) I added some sponging of the paint around the stenciled images to unify the spread and create a new layer for the addition of even more color.
            So, you guessed it, the next layer is color.  The surface of my pages is matte and a little gritty from the absorbent ground and the Fresco Finish paint, so it will take marks well.  First, I add some fine scribbles with a Prismacolor pencil in black, and some marks with an Inktense watercolor pencil in Dark Aquamarine.  On top of this I add Dr. Ph. Martin’s liquid watercolor in Ice Blue, activating the Inktense pencil.  Then, I add Moss Rose, and Warm Brown.  I have a wet brush and I’m adding pools and patches of this color where I want it.  I know that a lot of the space is going to be covered by my collage elements, but at this point, I’m just having fun creating these layers, so I’m not too worried about what’s going to be covered.
            Next, I try to remove some of the color using a “subtraction” method. I rub off some of the color using a baby wipe with Rae’s Playful Bloom stencil over the pools of color.  I get some of the color off and blend the pools into the background a little, as well as create some mottling and marks using the stencil.  But I need to push back more of the color in this layer, so I brush on some gesso and blot and blend with the baby wipe.
            Are you noticing a pattern here?  Yes, you are.  I put down color and then I remove it, cover it or take it away.  Then I add more color back into the spread.  This way I’m creating a random layered effect that is rich and interesting.  And it’s fun to do because it’s all about playing with different media.

            So, the next layer of course, is color.  I decided to use some pieces of gel prints I had made using the same stencils on deli paper.  I wanted to select a couple that would coordinate with the magazine imagery I knew I would be adding last.  I also wanted a little contrast.  I chose a print that had a bunch of the colors already in my spread and images, as well as a purple print that would balance out the one dark dahlia image I planned to collage into the spread.
            Now it’s time for some final mark-making for this background. I scribble with that Prismacolor black pencil, adding some grunge and outlining some of the collaged gel print shapes. I add some oil pastel scribbles and marks in colors that are more neutral, but add interest.  Over these, I brush a thin layer of clear gesso.  It’s rough and has some tooth to receive the last marks:  leaf shapes with Stabilo Marks All in Green and Yellow.  I activate these with a wet brush and the background is done!
            I adhere my collage elements arranged the way I like, and then accentuate them by outlining in Stabilo Marks All in black.  With a wet brush I feather this black outline into the background and now my elements stand out better from that gorgeous background. 

            I add a handwritten lyric from the Led Zeppelin song “Goin’ to California” and integrate the torn piece of white copy paper into the spread by using Caran D’Ache Neocolor II watercolor crayons in coordinating colors around the edges of the paper. I add some splatters of Magenta India ink (Bombay) to further integrate the white paper into the pages.

(insert Image #15)

I add outlines in a fine Micro black ink pen to the magazine images, and add the “Eye of Horus” to the magazine image eye.  I add some butterflies and outline them as well. Finally, I add some white dots with a Posca paint pen to give the spread some movement.
            Wow!  That was fun!
            Here’s a video showing the process of making this spread.  Keep in mind, I did wait for some of these layers to dry between them!  I hope you will create an amazing layered background like this yourself!


  1. Beautiful Journal page, Amazing layers!

  2. Wow - what a complex process this is. I loved watching your video. Thanks for sharing this beautiful spread and your techniques in doing it. Love!

  3. Sarah, beautiful journal pages and great video!


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