I love making art journals using composition books but old books are another great way to make a journal….and it’s a great way to recycle old books!
Since I add layers of paint and collage, the first thing I do is thin out the book. If the pages are sewn in I just pull out a few pages from each section….if the pages are glued to the binding I use a razor blade to cut them out.
This is the thinned out book:
To make the pages I start anywhere in the book and put pieces of wax paper under each page I’ll be working with:
I coat the pages with gesso (a primer you can purchase in the paint section of the craft or art supply store):
Once both pages have been coated with one of two coats I let them dry:
Then I add some color using craft paints:
When I am doing a lot of coats I will pull out the hair dryer to speed along the process:
I usually add another coat of gesso…..
….and before it dries I’ll blot it with a paper towel so that the color will show through:
I add bits of old paper to the page using clean medium or mod podge:
To make sure my collage pieces are flat I use a brayer with some was paper sandwiched in between:
Here’s what the pages look like before I’ve added any text:
I like to use large font stamps to add some decoration:
The bicycle stamp was one I found in the dollar bin at Micheal’s:
Sometimes I just leave the pages as is….or add journal text later!
Now a few random pages from my journal…..
Read more journaling posts here!
Thank you for the great tutorial! Right now I use only words in my journal, and I’d love to start doing art journals, but I’ve been nervous. This makes it look easy! Each week I post journal prompts on my blog and I’d love to share this link with my readers too!
Melanie G says
i’m not good at writing journaling, but i love the idea of keeping an art journal. you do make it look very easy
I know I may sound boorish, and I really do love the look of this (it’s beautiful), but what is the point? Are these just for personal keepsakes or coffee table books or what? Is this really a good use of valuable time?
Please reply if possible.
I guess it would depend on how you want to spend your time. It’s probably not for everyone. I make them while the family is watching TV because I always have to be doing something. I make them and fill in the pages with collages, favorite quotes, drawing, diaries and paintings etc. I keep pages of things that inspire me. I love how they look and I know that friends love looking through them. I’m sure my daughter will appreciate them one day.
ira lee henson says
but isnt that what art is about? creating for the SAKE of creating? making something beautiful with your hands. who can determine if something is a waste of time for someone else? for example, i think reality tv is a waste of time. yet the whole u.s. seems to be obsessed with it. its not productive, its not a positive influence, its trashy, u sit on the couch wasting ur life away!!! and when your done what do u have to show for it? nothing. you havent learned anything!!!!! as a maker i totally love this idea and i make journals all the time. to me, i cant believe a reader of a creative blog thinks that making art is a waste of time!!! SMH
mary d says
well said ,i totally agree.it is just the same as keeping a diary but the great thing is you can add lots of inking and stamping to it.
Are blogs, internet, e-mail, TV, lengthy cooking, phone calls, texting a use of your valuable time?
At least journaling is a form of self-expression, like art or hobbies or photography. It’s creative, and there’s value in art and self-expression and enjoyable hobbies.
E-mail, reading blogs and even commenting, texting friends, sitting in traffic …. all arguable wastes of time.
Oops, I just wasted time replying to your comment… we both lost 30 valuable seconds… ahh! We “wasted” a few minutes reading blogs… double AAHH! Surely your comment was joking or not serious.
Texting, internet, blogs, TV, movies, phone calls, etc. all waste time.
Laundry, showering, and cooking are a waste of time, but a necessity, right?
In all seriousness, 80% or more of things we do in life is a “waste” of time. But, we do things we enjoy. Wasting TV is a waste of time, but we enjoy it… so it’s worth it. Music is a waste of time, but we enjoy it, so it’s worth it. Blog reading and commenting is a waste of time, but we enjoy it, so it’s worth it.
when you are a “Maker” or a person that feels an immense sense of relief from the act of making itself, frequently the process of creation is just as important as the finished object – Ashley is obviously someone who is constantly itching to create things, and through projects like this she is expressing herself, practicing her techniques (which is never a waste of time) and giving herself permission to be perfectly imperfect because the outcome is secondary to the process. (although the outcome is LOVELY!) Every artist friend I have keeps sketch books, idea books, and even just pages they have colored in a way that inspires them because it makes for an amazing record of process and ideas when they are looking for inspiration.
Ashley, this is adorable!
Is art a valuable use of time?? Seriously??
ira lee henson says
@ jenn: if u cant appreciate the process as well as the outcome of making art then why are u reading a lifestyle/art blog?
Nooo You took my post the wrong way. LOL I was saying Art is infinitely valuable!
Nancy Babb says
OH WOW! My mouth dropped when you asked that question! Seriously?? Ashley has over 24,000 followers! Besides the pleasure that she probably gets from making the book, look at all the folks she is “giving” to! I have a “how to” blog that I use to share, just for the pleasure of sharing what I have learned over the years….it is less about the end product than sharing the process and giving for me. AND, think how wonderful it will be for her daughter years from now to be able to read her mom’s thoughts, dreams, hopes…whatever… I WOULD LOVE, LOVE to have something like that from my mom! What an amazing legacy Ashley is leaving her baby girl! Not a minute wasted.
Nancy Babb says
Sorry, one more thing I just found on Ashley’s site…. check out this post from August 2009… this is also a way she spends time with her daughter.
OK, ANOTHER THING….I am so excited to see mothers creating again. It seems like there was a generation (or two?) that stopped making things that can be passed down to the next generation. I am 58 and I still have things that both of my grandmothers made! … (both have been dead for over 45 years) Precious, precious things to me… But, I have nothing from my Mom…except things she bought (rings and such)… the handmade things are far more precious because of the time and love that I know went into each thing. KEEP CREATING ASHLEY!
Nancy Babb says
sorry forgot the link:
Creating for some of us, brings a Joy from deep within.
Care Lynn says
What’s the point of doing a Puzzle?….or creating ANYTHING.. It’s all in the fun of doing it..And people adore these things..You have so many options with a journal made up this way…You can share pictures in it..Or make it into a cook book… A memoir of a vacation or trip that people would like looking at… It could be done for a wedding… I want to make one for each of my children with everything that has to do with them within it. I know they will cherish them forever. Do one!! make one..it’s relaxing ,vivid and so wonderful to share. Open your MIND and your heart. CREATE
vicki m says
love the art journal inspiration…. this summer when i have off from teaching i am definitely going to give either the old book or composition notebook a try… thx for sharing…. o, and btw…. i love dolly and ben stiller movies too
amy cornwell says
that is so cool!! I love it! What a neat thing to do with an old book.
Thank you for the tutorial. This has been on my things to do list for awhile but I was not sure where to begin and now I do. Thanks! Hope you are feeling well!
Nic Hahn says
So weird… I guess this just make since to creative people… to reuse a old book. I’m making a simular book right now. I was wondering if you have your pages stick together? If you have suggestions, please let me know what you do to prevent this?
i love your idea for creative expression 🙂
I made something similar for my grandmother. Her memorial service was in April and my dad asked all the kids to write down some memories for mom … I took an old book, “The Perfect Woman”, cut out a square space in the back half, mod podged about 10 pages together at a time, and journaled my memories along with pictures. There were extra pictures in the space in the back that didn’t get in the book for whatever reason. I kick myself for not taking pictures. Thanks for sharing your creativity – I hope this inspires many.
Thanks for the tutorial! I have wanted to get back into art journaling, and this has provided some great motivation! Your journals are lovely.
I have always loved looking at your journaling ideas/thoughts. I want to journal so badly but have no idea where to start. Any ideas?
If it means you are a happier more whole person I think doing whatever you love is a valuable use of time. A lot of the items I sew are just for fun and often only worn once or twice. This may seem like a waste of time to many but the process of creating something completely original and completely my own is extremely valuable to me. This creative outlet I believe makes me a happier person, more patient with my children and fosters that small creative flame that so often gets ignored because I need to clean the house, make lunches do the laundry, play leggos, wash hands and faces etc. What ever your ME time is spent doing it is valuable. I sure would love if my mom who is a very talented artist took more me time and I had some of her creations to treasure 🙂
I love this idea… what a fun way to showcase your art! I think it would be fun for kids too.
Totally not a waste of time! ; )
This is such a great idea! I have so many old books that I could do something like this with. Do you know I have never used modpodge. I don’t even think I spelled it right! 🙂 I walk by it all the time in Michaels and never buy it. One day I will 🙂 Great project 🙂
GO BUY THE MOD PODGE! Get the big bottle and a cheap paint brush! After that, try diamond glaze! It’s clear and shiny and makes a big round bubble! But Mod Podge first!
I just went back to teaching HS after several years off raising 2 girlies. A few months in, I rescued an old dictonary from a recycle bucket (nice loose spine!) and have been putting keepsakes in it, according to where it falls in the alphabet. It’s much easier than trying to keep stuff chronological, because you just never can. So I paste stuff in the dictonary, and date it. You should have seen the first time I took that old dictonary down (the English department still uses the same editon) and stapled something in it! A girl kept watching me out of the corner of her eyes in horror!
Amy K. says
LOVE this idea…. I think it would work so much better for me than trying to go chronological, or just random. I don’t do either of those very well. I’ll be keeping an eye out for old dictionaries at garage sales this summer!
Thank you so much for this tutorial, it was so helpful and inspiring! I love art journals, and especially the concept of using an old book, it’s a neat way to recycle and make art at the same time. It reminds me a bit of when I was a kid and would draw in my books when I ran out of paper, or used an old magazine to make a “new” one by pasting stories and drawings on the pages. You never get too old to play around and be creative! 🙂
Oh, how cool! Thanks a bunch for sharing your tutorial – this looks like so much fun:)
Michelle Gregory says
thanks for posting. i was wondering if i could use old books for art journals. (funny thing is that this morning, i saw your page with the woman on tumblr, posted in artjournals. the ironies of life.
My kids bought me an old story book off of Amazon for Christmas because if was the only way they could find my favorite childhood story. its filled with other stories some of which i know and some i don’t. Its a large hardbound book and would be perfect to do this with. I will just leave the stories i like and remember from my childhood intact and alter the rest of the book. I will probably fill it with memories from my childhood. The gift my children gave me for Christmas will someday be a gift for them from me that they will not be able to replace. Thanks for the inspiration.
Rhonda Williams-Parent says
What an excellent idea! I love it!
Hi, I had heard about doing this, but didn’t know exactly how. Your tutorial makes me excited to try! I just got 8 cool old hardback books at a yardsale this morning for about $1, and I want to get started. Thanks for sharing!!!
Claudia Schönmetzler says
I recently started my old blog anew and found interest in art journaling…it looks so easy, but the blank pages can really block you sometimes…..I just take it easy…
Tana Mitchell says
I go through every blank page in my art journal when it is brand new and pristine and fresh – and put SOMETHING on ALL of the pages. Paint or ink or cover them with a piece of paper I really like. This makes those blank pages feel less blank – and thus, less intimidating!
how creative! i really love it.
Ashley…let me first say that I am a huge groupie for your site. Your are a creative lady to the core and I am so inspired by your posts! I check your blog regularly.
I am excited today because I got to include this post (as well as a link to your journal prompts) in my recent post called “9 Creative Projects to Help You Become Your Best Self.”
Thank you thank you for the inspiration!