The Art Journaling Habit: First Steps

Once I’d stumbled upon the idea of keeping an art journal on the Trumpetvine Travels, I immediately began gathering the supplies I’d need to recreate the system that Martha had outlined as her favorite.  While I enjoy a bit of creativity, when I find an existing system that I like, that also seems to be perfect for someone else, I like to start there.  Trying to reinvent the wheel to start a habit that I’ve never even attempted just seems too overwhelming!

Just in case you are interested in starting up an art journal, and feel the same way about reinventing the wheel, here’s how I started up:

Journal Making

The easiest way to start an art journal is to go to your favorite craft store (think Michaels or Hobby Lobby), and buy a blank notebook filled with watercolor paper.  First step is done!

Ironically, that is not at all what I did…

I was taken in by Martha’s step by step tutorial on how to make your own custom sketchbook, and found myself learning to how to Coptic stitch a book block before ever putting pen to paper!  Over the years I’ve made several of these little black books, but I’ve also gone off the beaten path with bought books and smaller Coptic stitched books.  I’ve found that the original version is the best for me, and that my best journals (the ones I actually finished!) were always the original style.  It’s worth the work to me, but I could see it as being a stumbling block to others, so you’ve been warned!


Another “aha moment” that came as a result of reading the Trumpetvine Travels blog was my discovery of the waterbrush and a travel watercolor palette.  The waterbrush is simply a paint brush that stores water in its body, so there’s no need to find a cup of water when you want to stop and paint on the go!  You can just pull out your waterbrush and treat it like a pen…if you have watercolors with you of course…  Which brings me to the watercolor travel palette!

If you visit your local craft store, you will most likely be able to find a watercolor travel palette like this:

That’s the easiest way to get started, but if you tend to enjoy DIY projects (like this blogger), you might want to consider making your own travel palette.  The tutorial that inspired my personal palette can be found at:   Although, you can find many more options online these days.

I ended up using a Whitman’s Chocolate tin that I had on hand,  with some white enamel paint and plastic paint pots that I just cut apart and Velcro-ed into the tin.  The lovely thing about watercolors is that once they dry, they keep to themselves until re-activated by water, so perfect for mess-less travel.  Awesome.  I just tuck a piece of paper towel into the top of my tin, and I’m ready to go.

Other handy supplies would be a pencil, a good eraser, and a waterproof ink pen.  That’s it!  You are now ready to go out and start art journaling.  Stay tuned for the next installment of the Art Journaling series!


The Art Journal Habit: A History


Roughly a decade ago, my past self stumbled upon an art journalist’s blog and I began what has been an on-again/off again relationship with art journaling.  The blog was called “The Trumpetvine Travels,” and Martha’s posts about her travel sketchbooks made a huge impact on how I saw my own artistic abilities and inclinations.  I’d say it completely opened my eyes to the possibility of pursuing art when for years I’d assumed that I had no talent and had missed the boat for mastering any art form whatsoever.

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A bit of history: Like many rural kids, I attended a small school with little to no funding for developing artistic talent.  Once I graduated out of the elementary school construction paper projects, there were no longer any classes available to explore art.  None.  My little school dealt exclusively with the major classes required to help its students make their state and federal requirements.  If I had been an art prodigy, with above average talent and drive, I’m sure this wouldn’t have stopped me from learning on my own, but I wasn’t.  I was an average kid, with average talent, and a slightly above average interest, but not enough to challenge the system in any way.  I accepted that I wasn’t artistic.  It was a shame, but it was reality, and I honestly didn’t lose any sleep over it.


Martha’s San Francisco Bay sketch

I took my first art class my junior year of college, a design theory elective, and I’d say that this experience began the “awakening.”  I followed it with a couple of graphic design courses the next year, and found out that though I was not at the prodigy level, I really enjoyed making time for artistic projects.  The instructors also affected the way I saw my capabilities and encouraged me to pursue my artistic inclinations further.  I was a history major in my senior year, so a career in art wasn’t on the table, but I felt inspired to figure out a way to make it part of my life.

After graduating from college, I went home to find a “real job,” and to prepare myself to start grad school.  The next 3 years would be some of the most frustrating of my young life!  I felt stuck, without any real drive to enter a grad school program and I really really HATED my office job.  I was certain that I was wasting my life away and treading water, but low and behold, I was wrong!


An adventure was just around the corner, and it was during this waiting period that I developed some of the habits that I most cherish now.  I learned how to play the piano using the chords method, which is now a big part of my life and a great source of joy for me.  I also discovered the world of art journaling, and I began another habit that continues to bring me joy.

There concludes my (lengthy) backstory!  Next time: The Art Journal Habit: First Steps

Do you have any habits/hobbies that brought you joy in a difficult time?

Everyday Life in an Art Journal


There’s just something magical about starting a new art journal, at least for awhile!  Art journaling has been part of my life for almost 10 years now, and I’ve definitely had my ups and downs.  Want to know what the greatest obstacle has been to my art journal practice?

My amazing iPhone!


When I tried to figure out why I’ve been recently neglecting this hobby that I so consistently kept up for years, I realized that my habit fell off at the exact time I bought my first smart phone.


So now what?  Well, I’m not getting rid of the iPhone, I’m a modern woman after all!  I’ve just got to train myself to notice when I’m on my phone out of boredom, and draw instead…  Easy peasy?

What hobbies have you found yourself replacing with time on your smart phone?


Book of the Moment: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

It took me 3 months to read this book.  It wasn’t because this book was dull, or long-winded, or because the story was uninteresting.  It took me 3 months to read this book because:

A) I can be a slow reader…made slower by the ability to binge watch YouTube videos on no fewer than 3 devices.  There are many YouTube compatible activities, but reading a book is not one them.

B) I made use of the wonderful e-book lending system offered by our library!  This wonderful system is FREE, but, just like when you check-out a “real” book, there’s a time limit.  14 days.  There also seems to be a limited number of check-outs per book, so each time I want to borrow a popular book (like Wild, for instance), I have to wait between 30 and 45 days in between check-outs.

However, just like the formidable Cheryl Strayed, I was persistent in the face of my setbacks, and I’ve finished this book!

I can honestly say that I loved reading this book.  I loved the adventures, and the interwoven backstory.  This book covered so many struggles and successes that I’ve never pondered before, let alone experienced.  I’ve never given any thought to hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (or any “real” trail for that matter), but this book made me want to try something like it.  Strayed’s account made it seem possible for anyone that wanted it enough.

Don’t get me wrong, much of the book covered all the reasons a couch dweller like myself would be miserable.  A large part of the book just seemed to be counting the ways that Strayed herself was miserable, but it was very clear that it was worth every miserable moment.

What was worth it?  Well, that’s the mystery…  That’s what makes you want to strap on a “monster” of a back-back and head for the hills.

5 stars!

Cheryl Strayed – Wild

Art Journal Goings On


April 18th – Mr. Brown and I took my 2 eight year old nieces out for a day in the booming Kansas City. For the first time! We’re not the babysitting types. It was quite the experience… May 1st – Technically unrelated, but applicable just the same.


May 6th – Old news on this blog! See May 31th – After 3 weeks of cancer treatments, my Dad ended up spending a couple weeks in the hospital. Hopefully not an experience he’ll be repeating, but it did show me that I’m blessed to have a Dad that is so widely respected and genuinely loved. Also, the Oncology unit of the hospital was lovely, for a hospital unit!

Tidying Up: Paper Purging


Throughout my Tidying Up process, almost since I first decided I would take the purge plunge, I have dreaded the “Papers” category.  Honestly, using the “Does this spark joy?” method didn’t seem to have much application to papers…  I feel like this is fairly obvious, right?  Most of us don’t keep papers because they bring joy to our lives, we keep them because we’re trying to be responsible adults!  Now, there are some cases where people hang on to a surplus of papers out of some obsessive compulsive disorder, but I didn’t feel like I was one of those people.  In fact, quite the opposite.  I’m more likely to throw out papers that I should be keeping!

I also dreaded this category because Marie Kondo’s advice on how to deal with it is summed up in this statement:

 There is nothing more annoying than papers.  Throw them all away, unless they are absolutely necessary.


After purging the previous categories, I’d say that this is my first real roadblock with the KonMari method, but I don’t think that it’s really Kondo’s fault.  Kondo is from Japan, so the papers necessary for her clients in Japan are different than the expectations here in the US, or for any other country.

So what did I do?  I Google-d it, just like any sane person would do.

I landed on Suze Orman’s site, and followed her guidelines for the papers that I had at my disposal…hee hee, disposal…

A n y w a y…  I didn’t really have that many papers, so by following Suze’s advice, I was able to feel good about what I was able to discard.  I’d have to admit, that in itself sparked a bit of joy!  Most of my “joy” came from knowing that I hadn’t been discarding too much all along to be honest, I’m definitely not the paper hoarder.

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I also went through my magazines, which I had left out during my Books category purge by mistake.  This was a bit more difficult.  I ended up discarding ALL OF THEM.  They had served their purpose.  The hardest to rid myself of were my lovely Country Living UK magazines…  When I lived in Scotland, I had a subscription and absolutely loved it.  I looked through them multiple times, and even tore out enough pages to fill 3 binders.  I brought the binders home to the US, and even paid the extra money to have 2 years of the magazine delivered to Kansas.  It helped me to feel more connected to the life that I had left behind, and it was a hard decision to let them go.  I still haven’t been back to Scotland, and somehow felt like I needed to keep these magazines to remind me how important it is to return.

What really helped was a minimalism video by Light by Coco where she said that when you discard things from an important era in your life, it doesn’t mean that you are betraying the memories.  It doesn’t lessen the experience because the experience and memories are separate from any material things.  That was so helpful!  I think about Scotland everyday, and I didn’t need the magazines to remind me.

So, as I used to say in Scotland, sin agad e!  There you have it!  Papers, done.  Next stop, Hobby supplies!  Eeek!