The Painted Art Journal: 24 Projects for Creating Your Visual Narrative

The Painted Art Journal: 24 Projects for Creating Your Visual Narrative

by Jeanne Oliver
The Painted Art Journal: 24 Projects for Creating Your Visual Narrative

The Painted Art Journal: 24 Projects for Creating Your Visual Narrative

by Jeanne Oliver


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Take a mixed-media journey to the very heart of your creativity!

The Painted Art Journal opens doors to your most personal and authentic art yet. Tell your story as only you can, through a series of guided projects that culminate in a beautiful, autobiographical art journal worthy of passing along to future generations. Along the way, you will hone your own unique style of artful storytelling, filled with the images, colors and symbols that resonate most powerfully with you.

Twenty-four inventive, step-by-step prompts help you to:

 • Set the scene for making art—from establishing rituals that unlock creativity to curating a personal storyboard.
 • Draw inspiration from photos, typography, sketches, childhood memories, quotes and more.
 • Shape your story with timelines, gathered-word poetry and simple approaches to portraits.
 • Express yourself through an exciting range of mixed-media techniques, using everything from pen and ink, markers and watercolor to image transfers, printmaking with linocuts, acrylic and collage.

A book unlike any other, The Painted Art Journal is all about digging deeper, honoring your life, and coming away with a truer understanding of yourself and your art. 

"Each of our stories is so different, lovely and broken in its own way." —Jeanne Oliver

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781440351785
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/03/2018
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 518,485
Product dimensions: 8.30(w) x 10.80(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Jeanne Oliver grew up in rural Illinois and now resides in Castle Rock, Colorado. She is inspired by our personal stories, travel and nature.

Jeanne uses art to tell her current stories and those of growing up among gravel roads, cornfields and early life surrounded by open spaces. Through mark making, layers and mixed media, she hopes to convey that we all have a story to tell. Connecting with women and sharing that each of us has been creatively made is one of her passions. Visit her website at

Read an Excerpt


Tools and Basic Supplies

THE MORE YOU CREATE AND GET TO KNOW how you like to use your tools (and the different ways your tools work on different substrates and mixed with other mediums), the more freedom you will also have in your art and storytelling. Most creatives love to get new supplies and we also want to learn what other artists are using. With any art form we are drawn to the supplies and creativity of those around us whom we admire. I would only caution you to not buy any new supplies mentioned in this book until you first see if something you already have will do the job.

I do not want you to have to run out and buy art supplies that you may not use, nor do I want to confuse you into believing buying art supplies is essential to making art. With most of our projects, if I use a Daniel Smith watercolor stick in Yellow Ochre, you could substitute it with a watercolor pencil, water-soluble crayon or even acrylics in the same color. It is more important for you to use the tools in your color palette and to find the techniques that connect with your style than to worry about using the exact same supplies.

Here are some of the materials you'll encounter frequently in the projects in this book.

Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints are fast-drying paints made of pigment suspended in acrylic polymer emulsion. They are water-soluble, but become water-resistant when dry. There is a wide range of pricing and quality you have to choose from. The nicer the quality of paint, the higher the pigment. Because we are working in art journals, you can get away with a lower quality of paint.

Alcohol Ink, Walnut Ink, Black Calligraphy Ink

These inks bring pigment and transparency to your work. The dropper will allow you to add mark making in a semicontrolled technique.

Carbon Paper

A thin paper coated on one side with a dark waxy pigment, often containing carbon, that is transferred by the pressure of writing onto the copying surface below.

Caran d'Ache Neocolor II Artist Crayons

These are water-soluble crayons with beautiful pigments. They blend easily and are a portable alternative to watercolors. These can also be made permanent by mixing with clear or white gesso.


If there is a medium that I am deeply in love with, it is charcoal. This is one of my go-to tools, and I use many varieties. Some of my favorite forms are a charcoal pencil (easy to take on-the-go and not messy), willow charcoal for sketching and warming up, and Derwent XL charcoals for the size, colors and ability to help me get out of my comfort zone and create large. Charcoal is such a versatile medium and can be mixed with water and gesso to bring about different effects.

Coffee and Tea

Listing coffee and tea in the supply section may sound odd, but I have found that both work well for painting and creating layers in my work. It is much more subtle than ink and is readily available. Try different strengths and see how you like it in your work. They are also both wonderful for instantly aging ephemera.


In my art I like to include vintage ephemera from my travels, wallpaper, spines of old books, old tea bags and words cut from magazines and newspapers. I love how the vintage papers bring so much interest and texture into my creating.


White, clear and black gesso are all staples on my table. Each one is a primer coat that you can apply to any substrate (any surface you paint on). Gesso prevents your mediums from absorbing into your substrate and becomes the first layer you build upon. It can also be mixed with different water-soluble mediums, and once dry, it becomes permanent. This allows you to build upon your creation without the layers blending. My favorite brand is Liquitex because of the grit, or tooth, of the clear and the fluidity of the white.


My glue of choice is Liquitex matte medium. It is the only adhesive I use because I have found that it doesn't bubble, and it gives me the best final product. I also use the matte medium to seal collage work and for image transfers. Always use what works for you.


All of the projects shared in this book will be in an art journal or vintage ledger, but you can also create them on canvas, cardboard, wood or the substrate of your choice. If I'm using a manufactured journal, I like to choose a journal that has mixed-media paper or watercolor paper so the pages can take more medium. Some of my favorite store-bought journals are Dylusions by Ranger or Moleskines. Other choices include the handmade journal in Chapter 6, a vintage ledger or old book such as you'll see in Chapter 5 or another store-bought journal.

Laser and Ink-Jet Images

Using your laser printer, print out images of your family, architecture, imagery from your story and more. We will use these images to do image transfers. If you don't have a laser printer, you can go to a local library to make copies of your images. I don't encourage you to go to a copy shop because their toner will be too high quality and your images will not transfer as well. We will also be photographing our work throughout the book and then printing those photos out on a laser or ink-jet printer and using them in other projects. This is a perfect way to use your art over and over again, and each time yields new results. It also encourages you to use sketches and mark making from previous work in your new work.

Linoleum Cutting Tools

Creating your own stamps is so fun in mixed media, and you can create exactly what your mind imagines. This is a fun and relatively easy way to bring your mark making into your work in a way that can be duplicated again and again. Buy a simple beginning set and you will probably find that you will never need to buy more.

Mark-Making Tools

These are tools that you can use in your art to create marks by scratching into dry or wet mediums. Some of my favorite tools are skewers, a craft knife and sculpting tools.

Mechanical Pencil

I bring in a mechanical pencil for mark making, quick contour sketches and journaling. I prefer a .05mm or .07mm lead size.

Natural Fabrics

I like to have different natural fiber fabrics on hand to include in my mixed media and especially my journal making. Muslin, flour sack or cheesecloth are inexpensive and also wonderful absorbers of coffee, tea and rust dyeing.


I have both nice and inexpensive brushes and I am not good at taking care of any of them, so I do not spend a ton on brushes. I use a no. 4 round long-handled brush the most out of all of my brushes for journal and smaller work. If I use different brushes on a project, I will always share the size.

Small Rusty Items

It is time to go through your junk drawers and garage because those rusty items are going to make the most amazing rust-dyeing tools. After you do some rust dyeing, you will never look at rust the same. Look for nails, screws, odd-shaped items and even broken-off pieces. All of it will be useful and will yield unique results.

Soft Pastels

I prefer soft pastels for easy mark making and blending. They are created with pure powdered pigment and a binder. My favorites are hand rolled and higher quality because they will have more pigment and blend beautifully. I recommend purchasing these individually and not in a set, so you get only the pigments you will use.


The Stabilo All pencil is also another tool that is always with me, and there is rarely a piece that doesn't include this versatile tool. The Stabilo comes in many colors, is water-soluble and can write on almost anything (hence, the name). There are pieces that I have "painted" with only a black Stabilo plus water and have been able to create beautiful values and emotion.


Daniel Smith watercolors are my favorite because of the pigment and quality. But I also use the Daniel Smith watercolor sticks, watercolor markers, watercolor pencils and pan sets. Use what you can afford and slowly add to your collection. I buy only the colors I will use and never buy supplies in a set.


The Story

FOR SOME, THE IDEA OF FINDING THEIR STORY can be daunting, and for others, it is clear and exciting. It is a process, and, like anything else worth your time and energy, it may not come easily. Not everyone wants to tell all of their story and there may be parts you skip over. That is as it should be. There may be others who don't know the full extent of their story because of life experiences, and to those I say: Your story can even be imaginary and what you want it to be. Don't let not having all of the facts or having areas that are too painful keep you from telling your story. Honoring your story doesn't always mean telling it as it was. It is honoring you and your process. Be content with what that looks like.

There is not one way to tell your story, and as you begin I believe you will find the process that fits your creativity and personality. I love research, gathering, note taking, collecting and organizing before I begin my storytelling. I pull from many different areas and then keep only what speaks to me the most. I see clearly only when it is all out in front of me, and then my creativity is set so free that it can be hard to rein it in.

When I first began being intentional about my story, it began with simple note taking and sketches. As I was drawn deeper into the research of my story, I began to pull out not only symbolism, imagery, stories and photos, but also emotions and thoughts I had long ignored or forgotten. Each piece — joyful, indifferent or painful — became a treasure. Whether or not I chose to share them, I was still changed. I was remembering and honoring that part of who I am and where I came from.

There is no one way to Tell your story

So, how do you begin finding your story and what you want to include in your art? These are some suggestions to get you started: T here is no one way to tell your story

> Find a quiet place and set a timer for fifteen minutes and write as many things as you can remember about your life. Start chronologically if that is your personality or just write in any order.

> Brainstorm ideas of what you wish you would have done differently in major moments of your life or what you believe were defining moments.

> What imagery can be represented from your story? Some examples of mine are cornfields, farmhouses, dirt roads, farmers, cows and barns.

> If your memories are painful, then come up with the places, moments, imagery, architecture that bring you joy and peace now.

> If you do not have photos of where you grew up or where you are living now, do general Internet searches and begin collecting stories and photos.

> Join a site like to trace your genealogy.

> If you have access to photo albums, go through them and photograph the photos, architecture and imagery you are most drawn to. You can later print these images out to use as reference.

> Take a road trip by yourself or with a close friend and go in search of your story. Make it an adventure! Record your thoughts, take photos, interview friends and family, videotape the journey.


Creative Rituals

HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT ABOUT HOW CRUCIAL IT IS TO PREPARE your heart, mind and space for creating? For years I ignored this fact and would find myself disappointed with my creative time for one reason or another. Maybe I had only thirty minutes, or it had been a hard day with the kids, or my creativity was at an all-time low, or a million other reasons why our time creating is not treated as sacred and honored. We are busy, and, if you are anything like me, it can be hard to jump back and forth between the different parts of who you are. There was a time when I would skip creating altogether because I was afraid of the failure that would come out of my efforts or lack of time.

No matter what your spiritual beliefs are, I think we all can agree ... Art is spiritual. No matter where you believe the creativity comes from, we know that when we give ourselves the time to connect and create that we are connected to something bigger than ourselves.

My time in the studio changed when I acknowledged the creative force (I believe in the Holy Spirit) and made room. I come into my space and slow down. I put on music that helps me to slow down. I change the scent of the space to slow down. I stretch and breathe and follow a ritual that reminds my heart and mind that I have come to create. I encourage you to develop a creative ritual that lets your spirit know you have come to create. This is no different than stretching before an athletic event or warming up your fingers before a piano competition. It is being intentional with yourself and honoring the time you are about to give ... no matter the results.

Start a Creative Ritual

Here are some examples of ways you can start your own creative ritual:

> Music

> Candles or essential oils

> Notice how you breathe and take deep breaths.

> Speak out loud the work you want to produce that day.

> Meditate or pray.

> Organize your space as you warm yourself up to create.

> Review some of the printable art prompts I have included in the back of the book.

> Begin practicing to warm up with one of the audio art prompts I have included in the links at the back of the book.

> Your ritual can also be jumping jacks and loud music! Whatever connects you with your creative force and reminds your heart, mind and spirit that you are serious about this thing called your creativity!


Gathering Your Story Elements

EACH OF OUR STORIES IS SO DIFFERENT, LOVELY AND BROKEN IN ITS OWN WAY. Being an artist and a very visual person, I enjoy the act of gathering. I like to collect, sort and curate the beautiful things around me. I like to be intentional. It helps me see clearly. Over the years I have found that by gathering and then intentionally sifting through the bits that I have collected that I have come to understand myself better, the art I want to make, the palette that authentically calls to me and even the lines and designs that are waiting for me to reach out and create.

The act of gathering and creating a storyboard will help you narrow down what is really calling to you. As you begin this journey to discover your stories, I believe you will be surprised with all the beautiful and broken parts that make up your story that you may not regularly consider. This exercise gives you the opportunity to pull together the story that is already all around you ... you just need to see it.


Collecting Your Story

Your board will not look like anyone else's, and it is a reflection of whatever you choose to focus on. Your storyboard can be general and include a little bit of everything, like mine, or you can make is as specific as you wish. As you gather for your storyboard, remember: This is just for you.

1 Use whatever space and tools you have on hand to display your board. This will be based upon whether you create a large storyboard or one in your art journal, on cardboard or on corkboard. There comes a time when you need to stop collecting and begin creating. Just like any form of supplies it can become a procrastinating tool if we aren't honoring of the process.

I find the gathering part of this exercise extremely relaxing and meditative, and it is fun to bring together all of these collections.


Excerpted from "The Painted Art Journal"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Jeanne Oliver.
Excerpted by permission of F+W Media, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction 4

Chapter 1 Tools and Basic Supplies 8

Chapter 2 The Story 14

Chapter 3 Creative Rituals 18

Chapter 4 Gathering Your Story Elements 22

Project 1 Collecting Your Story

Project 2 Displaying Your Story

Chapter 5 Alternative Journal Options 28

Project 3 Setting up a Vintage Rook as Your Journal

Project 4 Hand-Binding a Journal

Chapter 6 Creating a Portable Studio 36

Project 5 Create a Portable Watercolor Palette

Project 6 Assemble a Tackle Box Studio

Chapter 7 Seeing Your Story In Color 44

Project 7 Creating Your Story's Color Paletic

Chapter 8 Mark Making and Symbolism 50

Project 8 Finding Your Marks

Project 9 Alternative Mark Making

Chapter 9 Creating Your Timeline 68

Project 10 Creating Your Timeline

Chapter 10 Gathering a Poem 78

Project 11 Gathering a Poem

Chapter 11 Composition 101 84

Project 12 Composition 101 and Elements of Design

Chapter 12 Your DNA 90

Project 13 Your DNA

Chapter 13 Gathering Your Story 98

Project 14 Gathering a Story

Chapter 14 Secret Thoughts 106

Project 15 Secret Thoughts

Chapter 15 Class Photo 112

Project 16 Class Photo

Chapter 16 Cast of Characters 120

Project 17 Cast of Characters

Chapter 17 Portraits 126

Project 18 Contour Sketch

Project 19 Oil Sticks and Image Transfers

Project 20 Collage

Project 21 Painted Contour Sketch

Project 22 Linocuts

Project 23 Breaking Down a Face

Chapter 18 Beyond the Journal 150

Project 24 Beyond the Journal

Resources 156

Index 157

Dedication and Acknowledgments 158

About the Author 159

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