Tools of the practice: Art Journal Lab

So now, I keep in my zippered pencil case for on the go art journaling: 

  • 2-5 sharpies in my favorite colors: neon pink, dark blue, black, yellow, gray (fine, ultra fine)
  • 2 mechanical pencils (1.3 mm, .5 mm)
  • one mechanical eraser
  • 1, 2 black Microns (size 01)
  • 1-2 Pigma brush tip pens, in black and green or brown
  • A yellow-green neon highlighter
  • My favorite writing pen is often hard to find here in Baja, the Pilot Precise V7 Rolling Ball, black in ultra fine tip.

In my purse, I keep a 5.5 x 8 spiral bound journal

In my vintage green Samsonite hard briefcase, which I use as my indestructible computer case, I keep my 8.5 x 11 spiral-bound journal

In other words, I am NEVER with out my journal. And almost never with out my computer.


In 2011, getting ready for a two month family trip to Europe, I decided I wanted to draw and write during my travels, so I bought myself a small square spiral pad, a varied selection of markers, pencils and pens and a little zippered pouch to keep it all in. I was so excited by the idea of creating my own travel kit of varied supplies, rather than just bringing one set of the same type of utensil.

My plan for that trip was to create a drawing for each city we visited, something that summed up my experience and impressions of the place. I made about three, but dropped the exercise after that. But, that book and that idea stayed with me, and I used it to create illustrations for my ZOELAB 365 project, when I blogged everyday for a year. 

Two years ago, I decided to try to sell art journaling supplies at the local Farmers Market, near where I live in Southern Baja, Mexico. I bought the same zippered cases I had bought myself for my trip, as it turns out the company that makes those cases, Blue Q, has its headquarters in the Berskshires, where my parents live, and they know the owners. I LOVE their products because they are made from 95% post consumer materials, 1% goes to charity, and they are so useful, clever and good-looking. So it felt like a win-win to sell their products as way to promote art journaling and meet new people. 

This November, my husband and I opened Luz Gallery, a photography and graphics gallery in the heart of Todos Santos. I knew I would continue to sell the tools that I love to use for art journaling. Spiral bound notebooks of different sizes, moleskines (which are lightweight and great for travel), Micron pens (brush tip and regular tip), Sharpies of different types, and those same zippered cases from Blue Q. 

And now, for this 31 Day Art Journaling/Blogging Challenge, I am motivated again to share my recommendations for the tools of art journaling. Of course, everyone is different. Some people love colored pencils (pencils of color), water colors, photography, collage, or even crayons! I have an amazing artist/illustrator friend who loves to buy herself a full box of 64 Crayola crayons as a treat. 

As for me, I am mostly a marker and pen girl. Always have been. I studied oil painting in high school and college. But then decided it wasn't for me. I also have dabbled in watercolor. And find it very fun and playful. But, when it comes to drawing in my journal. I have always been crazy for that more graphic-y, comic-book-y, children's illustration look. I love black pen. I love filling in those lines with markers. My drawings have a naive look to them (sort of on purpose, sort of out laziness). Sometimes I try to make things look more realistic, but I also love the spontaneity of creating a line in ink and committing to its irregularity. 

However, one day, I did rediscover the pencil, and things have changed for me. It all started when I decided I really wanted to learn hand-lettering (and eventually sign painting) I bought a book on the topic, which was very inspiring and useful. It's a book by Mary Kate McDevitt called: Hand-Lettering Ledger: A Practical Guide to Creating Serif, Script, Illustrated, Ornate, and Other Totally Original Hand-Drawn Styles. Mary Kate advises in her book to pencil out your hand lettering before you ink it in, and then erase original pencil lines. It makes total sense, right? But I had never before thought of sketching letters first in pencil and then inking them. Using a pencil was one of those obvious revelations. Immediately, I started to get that I was capable of making my lettering and drawing more technically correct, if I just allowed myself to take the time. And used an eraser! 

But more recently, I have developed another hand-lettering technique, which is spontaneous and improvisational, which truly is much more my style. It's block letters made with a sharpie, with no sketching involved. I used it for this promo I made for my new song Rock-n-Roll Thing using this technique, which I videos on time-lapse with my iphone. The iphone is another tool that is very new to me. I just received my first smart phone as a gift in May, and it has changed a lot of how I do my blogging and social media creativity. 


If you want to jumpstart your creativity, whether you are an artist, writer, performer or just someone who wants to feel more engaged with daily life, I highly recommend that you create a system of capturing that works for you. Keep a notebook by your bedside table. One in your bag or purse. One at your desk. Always travel with something to sketch and take notes with. 

This is how we develop ideas, capture insights and engage with our daily life, even the most mundane aspects. Nothing is too shallow nor too deep to capture. 

There are so many more tools out there. But I wanted to start with the basics. Those are my basics.

What are yours?