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Reverse Engineered Journal Pages

Are you a reverse engineer? I try to be. I will sometimes try to recreate a dish I've had at a restaurant by parsing out all the tastes and ingredients. I will create a necklace or bracelet I see in a store that I can make at a lower cost. It's probably like that for a lot of creative (and maybe poor ;) people.

For these journal pages, I did not film my process or take still photos of the steps, but I've received questions about how I made them. So here's my attempt to reverse engineer these pages for ya! Since I made them myself, I figure I can describe the process! I'd love to see if you try making pages and reverse engineer them for yourself!


I made this spread in my altered book art journal. I already had a couple of journal spreads in it when I decided to use it for the Get Messy Season of Steven. This month Caylee has us altering a book inspired by an author's work. I chose Shauna Shapiro's "Good Morning, I Love You" which is a book about mindfulness. For me, creating pages in my art journal is a mindfulness "practice" in the way Shauna describes it: Paying attention (really being focused) having intention (guided by our dreams and values), with an attitude of kindness and curiosity. I really am focused and in the moment when I'm creating, and I get to follow my love of color and beauty. My attitude is one of curiosity, and I continue to learn as I practice. I am kind to myself, in that I know mistakes sometimes turn out to be the best part of my pages. I can let go of perfectionism, which is just another way we judge ourselves...a way we are unkind to ourselves.

This journal is an art publication called "Stolen" and I heard of it from Roxanne Coble, who does a lot of her art journaling in altered books. I think it is from Australia. It already has some really rad art in it. For this spread, I found pages that had some red-violet flowers and doodles on one side. In this close-up photo you can just see some of the flowers peeking through.

Here's another spread I have started in this journal. I started the same way with my reverse engineered spread. I collaged in some book text and dictionary text, and then spread a thin coat of gesso over most of the pages.

Here are all the supplies I used for the spread:

Once I had prepared the pages with collage and gesso, I scribbled a horizon of sorts across the pages with some Neocolour II watercolor crayons (red, magenta, purple), a Stabilo Marks All (black) and a china marker (black). I created the little flower doodles with the China marker. I chose reds and violets because I was following Char Derouin and Claudette Hasenjager's Color Concepts Collaboration series on YouTube, and that week their chosen color was red-violet.


Next I added acrylic paints with a square brush and my fingers. I also used a credit card to scrape paint in some places. Continuing along the horizon and at the corners, but not covering up the scribbles entirely. The paint did activate the Neocolour II's a little. I like that random effect. I chose paints in the same family: Golden Titan Mars Pale, Primary Magenta, and Cobalt Violet Hue. I mixed them right on the pages as I applied them. You can't see much of this paint layer, because there are so many layers on top, but they are there, and the pages wouldn't be the same without them!


Once I had the heavy body paints down, and before they dried completely, I added Golden Fluid Acrylic in Quinacridone Magenta and Daler Rowney Acrylic ink in Primary Magenta, letting them puddle and drip. And, using a #4 round brush, I painted in the petals of the flower doodles and made some random circle shapes over the pages.

At this point the pages were looking all pink and red and purple and this was a bit too monochromatic for my taste! I thought I should use a complementary color so I chose two soft pastels and mixed them together in certain spots on the pages where there was some white space. I blended them with my finger and then layered more color on top of that. I used that round brush to add a little water, and added more color where needed until I had the right saturation of color.

After this, I added some lines and marks with an oil pastel in yellow oxide. I added some scribbles and journaling (some quotes from Shauna's book) with a soft graphite pencil using my non-dominant hand to write. Then, I wanted to mellow all of this out a bit, so I sponged some gesso through a floral stencil by Tim Holtz, and also added some smudges of the gesso in a few areas.

The pages were starting to come together! At least I had a nice background going. I added leaves with a Stabilo Woody (turquoise green), wanting them to lead the eyes across the pages. I then painted in the negative space around them. I used a mix of Golden High Flow Acrylic in Phthalo Blue (Red Shade) and Daler Rowney Acrylic Ink in Primary Magenta, watered down, in the negative space just underneath the leaves/vine; and added Fluid Acrylic, also watered down, in Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold above the leaves. Now there was more variation in color and the leave stood out more as little windows into the layers below.

I used the leftover purple mix of Fluid Acrylics, adding some white acrylic ink for a bit more opacity, to brush letter the words "Grow Stronger" on the right side, and glued in a printed strip to the left to complete Shauna's quote "What we practice grows stronger." I blended this strip into the background using coordinating colors of Neocolour II's.

Finally, I added doodles and dots with white gel pen, Senelier dimensional paint (black dots) and bronze gel pen. I used Pentel Touch pens to make little colored circle doodles over the pages and elements. Some more scribbles with a Neocolour II in Venetian Red and graphite pencil, and additional black china marker flowers, and I'm almost done! The last touch was to add a final bit of color (primary magenta) with watered down acrylic ink by coloring in the new doodled flowers and adding a few more circles with that round #4 brush. I used some of this ink to layer over the purple in the negative space under the vine, to give it a little more variation....It was looking too "grape" to me!


I hope you can understand this! It's the first reverse engineered art journal spread I've done. It may be the first in a series, if it is helpful, so please leave a comment below and let me know how you liked it! :)


Thanks for visiting my blog!


XO, Sarah


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