Battling the Blank Page

My Journal Process: How I approach a blank page.

During the last Studio Chat, the topic of getting started in a new journal or facing the blank page came up. This is a common topic and I hear it from many students. Here is my process for creating a complete journal and playing with my white gel pens. 

This journal below is created from 8 pages of 9×12″ Canson XL Watercolor paper and took about 3 hours total to make. That includes all of the painting, doodling, and gluing. It was a repurposed journal so the paper had a light wash on it to begin. 

I also had the text from a notebook where I collect text and phrases to use, so I didn’t fall down the Pinterest rabbit hole looking for something. 

The Steps

  • Deconstructed original journal so I had 8 separate pages. 
  • NOTE: I would do one thing to every page and then change tools or techniques and then do the new thing to every page. This helped me work through this very quickly.
  • Painted one page solid black. 
  • Cut up one page of white paper into random shapes. 
  • Selected six shaped to collage onto the page to create my inspiration page.
  • Used India ink and a small flat brush to either paint a word on the page or paint the background to illuminate a word. (I painted whatever word popped into my head when I looked at the page.)
  • Let everything dry. 
  • Used my watercolors to add marks to each page. (I used my inspiration page to look for a shape if I hesitated or felt stuck.)
  • Divided the long text that I had into smaller phrases. 
  • Looked at my pages and decided how they should go in order. 
  • Glued the pages together. 
  • Added the text and more doodles. 
  • Flipped through it and enjoyed reading my new art journal. 

The Power of the White Gel Pen

White gel pens are used for adding the final embellishments or designs on art journal or doodle journal pages. This high contrast, additional details is what creates the POP on the page and visual interest to make your art stand out. 

Truth. Gel pens can be finicky! I hear this most from people who buy a lot of art supplies and don’t use them very quickly. I buy Sakura Black Glaze pens 50-100 pens at a time! I use them very quickly, so they don’t get gummy and stop working.

But this is about the white gel pens. They are notoriously gummy and sticky. 

3 Favorite White Gel Pens

Signo Uniball UM 153

The Signo Uniball UM 153 is a long-time favorite of mine. The bold line with smooth opaque ink always adds an interesting pop to whatever I am creating.

Pentel DX Hybrid Gel

Recently, I have also added the Pentel Hybrid Gel Grip DX. I like the barrel of the pen and how the gel ink flows. In my work, it seems a bit more opaque than the Signo. 

Gelly Roll 10

People love and rave about the news that Gelly Roll has the white pen in three sizes (06, 08, 10). Personally, I have never had great success with these pens. The ink is glitchy and not smooth for me. What I discovered is I was pressing too hard. These take a light touch to get the ink flowing and placing it lightly on the page.

Do You See What I See?

Students in Journal Jumpstart say they LOVE hearing me talk through my design choices. They learn a lot as I talk through where I am adding doodles and marks. 

Take a peak at the pictures below and look for these two things.

  1. How the composition looks before and after I added the white details and lettering. 
  2. How the different pens look on the pages