Excuse to Experiment

 An art journal is an excellent excuse to experiment with new techniques and materials. I bought several colors of Inka Gold Metallic Rub because they just simply looked like fun! The size of the jar and the application process reminds me of shoe polish. I wrapped my finger in a paper napkin, dipped it in the waxy-vibrant-metallic material and experimented by drawing different flowers on pages coated with black gesso.
 I was killing time as a passenger on a long card ride and had no plan for the journal page other than to experiment with the new product I'd purchased in So. Cal. I added the detail of the leaves & stems with colored pencil...as car doodling. Then the page sat in my journal for awhile until I was at a meeting and reminded to "stop and smell the roses" and name/count the joy. I filled in the petals with names of people and churches who have been supportive of my new church development during the journey. Instead of racing on to the next thing-as I often do-the journal pages helped me to give thanks and to celebrate.

Black Gesso and Soap with Colored Pencils

 One of my favorite art techniques combines black gesso, white soap, and colored pencils. Leave a few "exposed words" and coat the rest of the two-page-spread with two coats of black gesso. Once dry, decorate the pages using the corner of a white bar of soap-like the mini bars you get at a hotel. Then completely cover the entire spread with colored pencils. I generally use several layers and colors.

You will see portions of the soap design when you are done with the colored pencils. Put a piece of wax paper topped with a sheet of paper toweling between the pages before and after the black gesso & soap pages. Then, quickly run the completed journal pages under running water to rinse off the soap. Blot gently with paper toweling. Check other pages for possible water damage-blow dry with hair dryer.
Quickly run the completed journal pages under running water to rinse off the soap.
The completed (wet) piece (left and below) includes the strong black lines where the soap was with the vibrant colors of the pencils. 

Colorful Notes

 An art journal is a great place to experiment with different art techniques which then provides a colorful background for note-taking. Here I experimented with masking tape to mask out a simple symbol and then used several layers of liquid acrylic glaze over the white gesso background. Once dry, carefully remove the masking tape. This sat in my journal for several weeks "waiting" for the right moment/situation for reflection. While attending a workshop on renewal for small churches I was struck by how
 much of what is "normative" at Community Fellowship is something unknown-and yet desired-for other congregations. Whereas there is a tendency to "dump" when things are not great and to disregard joys, I decided to "Rejoice in the Lords always" and name what is good, and true, and uplifting for worship at Community Fellowship. I used Neocolor II water-soluble wax pastels to take the simple notes which are related to the workshop. Later I slowly went over each word with a slightly damp watercolor
 brush. It was interesting to go over each written word for the tedious action allowed time to reflect-again-on the strengths of Community and also the process for "mini-renewal" which was delineated during the workshop. It is the interaction of art-reflection; reflection-art which allows [me] the time and space to listen for the presence of God.
Notice the torn pieces (lower L & R) caused by the pages sticking together.

The pages stuck together, and I easily "repaired" the damage with layers of the same color acrylic glaze.

Index of Ideas

An index on the last two pages of an art journal helps ID themes & reflections.
 In one of my nearly completed altered book journals I tend to flip the pages back-and-forth looking for particular pages. While I was a passenger on a long road trip, I decided to make an index of ideas on the last two pages of the journal. First I used a post-it note on each page to give it a number and ID the main art themes. Then I took the total number of double-page-spreads (38) and divided that number by four to make columns. To ensure I saved the appropriate space for each index entry, I put a piece of washi tape for each position (plain masking tape would work also; but I used what I had on the road trip). With the spaces saved/masked, I sponge painted the background with watercolors on top of the previously laid down white gesso. Then I took each post-it note and wrote the page heading and materials & techniques used. Now I have an easy reference page to locate whatever art/reflection entry I'm looking for.
The washi tape "masks" out the space below.

The completed index.

Detail of the completed index.

Fixing a Rubber-Stamped "Typo"

Typo: Insights is misspelled.

 Spelling is not my strength, and it seems to be particularly bad when I'm rubbing stamping words into my art journal. Inevitably the next day (or week) I look back and notice the damage done...long after the ink has permanently set. To repair, you need to paint over the "typo" misprint with multiple layers of your original color. In this example, I used white gesso to white-out the incorrect letters. White on bright orange required 6-8 light coats of gesso with drying time between layers.
"White out" the letters using multiple layers of white gesso.
 Next: re-do the stamped letters with correct spelling. Voila! Good as new.
Re-stamp with the correct spelling using the original ink color.

Block Prints in Liturgical Shapes

It's easy to make your own block printing design blocks. I created a collection of copyright free Christian symbols; sized them to 3-1/2 inches; used each as a pattern to cut out the shape from thin sheets of craft foam available at Hobby Lobby & Michael's. Clue the shapes on blocks (my husband cut a cedar 4x4 into 4" cubes). Paint with the desired color of acrylic and block print to your heart's content. In this example, I chose symbols that connect with the theme of the journal page ["Community of Dreams"]; the dove represents the Holy Spirit; Trinity (right side); PAX (Peace of Jesus); and crosses. I created a simple "site map" of the Community Fellowship "campus" as of October 2013. The simple line art shows the layout of the buildings of this new church development. The postcard makes the connection to my experience of church as a child to the DNA of the church I was called to "plant" in South Texas.

Preaching Prep Experiment

After attending a workshop on preaching, I gave myself a self-assignment to intentionally experiment with my preaching preparation and "performance" style(s). Immediately following the workshop I used a journal page to identify specific resources that I could use during the next few months for my "continuing ed" on preaching. Some portions of the homework assignment were open-ended as I asked myself to remain open to the muse of preaching prep. After several months I went back and wrote on top of the original layout what I had learned about the experience in experimenting with preaching prep and presentation. Tip: Sharpie oil-based markers are excellent for writing the "top layer" as they easily mark on top of most surfaces.

Might Could

 I like the creative and reflecting thinking which occurs during the process of "eliminating text." Begin with a page of written text-either as part of your altered book journal or a separate page that you can glue to your journal. Read and re-read the page of text and mark out ("eliminate") words that do not apply to what you are thinking about. Let the words that keep jumping out at you remain uncovered.

It will take numerous careful and reflective readings before you have a small portion of text remaining. Then, write a bit of prose on the opposite blank page (pre-coated with white gesso). You can write free-hand or use small rubber stamp letters to individually stamp the words. You can leave the completed "re-composed" text stand alone, or you can continue to embellish it with artsy theology...now or later.

Planning Grid

 Use masking tape to make a pattern on prepared pages. Then experiment with different colors, brushes, and sponges in the white gesso areas left exposed. When dry, carefully remove the masking tape. Use the grid pattern for planning, day-dreaming, or list-making. I used mine to list the various themes for art journals (larger lettering) with the sub-themes for each category (small lettering).

Paint two pages with white gesso and make a pattern with masking tape.

Use different watercolor combinations and sponges to create unique textures.

Make each block different.

Carefully remove tape.