Letter Journal Love – 3. What materials to use

Here are some questions that we get asked in the group again and again. It’s worth reading this before you start making art in your journal, especially if you are new to mixed media, mail art or art making.

DOES IT HELP TO HAVE SOME THINGS READY TO USE?

Absolutely. If you don’t already you might like to gather some art materials around ready to begin using. You could:

  • pack a pencil case or tray of supplies that you can easily move around the house
  • start gathering words and pictures from magazines
  • make a little corner of your desk that has a jar of pens ready to use
  • decide which work surface you will use if you’re going to paint (desk? A tray on your lap? Outside? Kitchen table?)
  • go shopping and buy a few modest bits to get started if you have no art materials at all

ARE THERE SPECIAL BRANDS OF THINGS WE SHOULD BE USING?

No! Use what you have. It’s probably already enough. If you have ANY art making materials at home just use those. Think COLOUR. If you have none at all (or only ball pint pens and lead pencils) go get yourself some coloured pens, pencils, paints and anything else you feel like.

If you want to add to your existing kit try wash tape, white uniball pens, paint pens, flow acrylic paints, gouache paints, water soluble crayons, glitter, stencils, stamps and ink pads. Not to say you have to get any or all of those, but any one of these things could be things to try next if you haven’t already. Try kids sections of stores as well as art supply shops. Try craft sections of large sewing shops. Try office supply stores.

WHICH ADHESIVES SHOULD I USE?

Adhesive: whatever you like. Yes you can use matt medium or similar but to be honest I like a glue stick – good for the handbag! So whatever works. Just be aware though that pages need to be seriously dry before posting or they stick to themselves. If they are a wee bit tacky you can insert a loose sheet of baking paper before posting to stop it sticking.

SHOULD I AVOID COLLAGE OR PAINT TO KEEP IT LIGHT?

You can totally use paint and collage, but if the journal you receive is already heavy or bulky then pens, paint pens, stamps, pencils, water colours can be a good option. If there is very little paint or collage feel free to add some. If in doubt pop it on the kitchen scales to get a feel for how heavy it is. Local (just within Australia or just within another country) swaps generally have a higher weight limit (up to 250g in Australia – go check it out for your own country). International swaps are much more weight sensitive as it must be under 50g for a regular international letter stamp (in oz). So if anyone prefers collage and lots of paint sticking to local swaps gives you more room to use those materials freely.

LAYERS ARE LOVELY

If you are starting out and the blank page feels daunting – get rid of it. Smear some paint or do some stamping, stick on some patterned paper, add some colour and texture and then come back and start working on top of that. It really is more fun to let an image emerge than know from the outset what it will be (I personally think! But then again I’m also an art therapist so I’m biased), so let yourself do a little doodling, a little play.

WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE ACCESS TO FANCY SUPPLIES?

No problems. This is meant to be fun, we just all use what we have. Please don’t get fear of missing out if someone in the group is using a material you don’t have – if you can’t afford it or get to the shops, just think of it as a creativity challenge! You can use re-used papers that would normally go in the recycling bin for making your journal. You can use very simple materials or even a limited colour range and still have a lot of fun and get great results.

 

Congrats! You’ve finished this module. The next one is Module 4 – Working in my Journal. This is the fun bit – you get to start making art!