Artist’s Corner: Art Book (or Journal)

C.J.'s Artist Corner

Artist’s Corner | The Art Book (Journal)

This is the perfect project to kick-off my artist corner with, since it is sort of like the OneRing of Sauron. It is the art project that binds all my other projects together and keeps them organized and ongoing.

It’s also something of a throwback project, because I visualized and used it for at least 10 years & I’m about 3 (filled) art books down now. I’m show ‘n’ telling my first one, because my latest is actually a repurposed “daily planner” but I admit I fell in love with the cover.

Finally, it’s great because it’s versatile. I use a similar system to track and organize my writing—and to be honest, I can’t recall whether my “fic brains” (as I coined them) or my art books came first. It was all so long ago. The point is that this “Cut ‘n’ Paste” scrapbook-style project can be used to organize a lot of different ideas, which I think makes it useful.


So, this is similar(-ish) to a Bullet Journal— though I had never heard of those when I came up with this idea years ago.

I dreamed this up because I used to write down/&/sketch out ideas for new projects on random bits of scratch paper, then losing all my handwritten notes long before I got on board with the project . . . (or washing them in pants pockets, or dropping them in restaurants, or crumpling and tossing them out with old receipts or . . .)

Also, sometimes I’d see a picture that inspired me, or maybe something in a store or on a Google search (etc) but then I walk out, or scroll away and the idea was lost forever. No way of recapturing what I saw when the item (picture . . . slogan . . . design . . .) was gone next time I went looking for it.

One centralized location was key. And it needed to be portable “on-the-go” so that anywhere I had/saw an idea (now I’m good about quickly snapping a photo on my phone, but at the time phones didn’t have good cameras), I could capture it instantly, to work out the details and recreate it later.


I’d call this a successful project, seeing as how its been my favorite system for so many years. 😊

I guess maybe there are apps now, or “digital methods” to do this on your phone—but for me, I like the cut ‘n’ paste scrapbook style of the hard journals, because I get my inspiration from so many sources (not just online).

This offers me the same method of preserving digital inspirations such as a live photograph or online screen-capture and physical ones, as I’ve also pasted in swatches of ribbon or cloth (to match in a store) dabbed pages with wet paint to match the shade, or stuck other physical project pieces, such as stickers (designs) and cut up pieces of store brochure/magazines that allow me to rearrange them.

So I like the versatility of being able to keep either online and physical inspirations on hand.

Art book cover (organized with page tabs, for a simple flip-thru system)

(Art book sample project. This was a small gift wrap center I designed based off a wine rack I saw on Craigslist.)

See below for the details.


  • A good solid journal. I like Markings brand, which I see at Walmart, Ross & Target all the time (stationary section). Look for one that’s small to fit in a purse. I also like an expandable pocket and a rubber band closure. But both are easy enough to add to any journal. The ruled pages are great for lists.
  • Small & strong Write-On page tabs. I love these by RediTag, which I ordered on Amazon. I’ve carried my art books around in my purse for years and never had one tear off.
  • Stickers & Embellishments to decorate (optional). Michaels & Hobby Lobby have lovely scrapbooking sections, respectively. As this is very similar to a scrapbook, you can hand-decorate it accordingly.
  • Invisible tape. I get it in two-packs at Walmart and sometimes I even find two-packs in Target’s dollar bin. Usually around gift-wrapping season.
  • Craft scissors.
  • Fine print colored Sharpies. (or any fine print permanent marker will do.)
  • Pencils or pens. I prefer pencil for its erasable quality—so I can alter my project notes/steps taken, as needed.
  • Scratch paper. I take plain white copy paper and cut it in quarters. Usually that’s about the right size.

    This is more challenging because my art book isn’t exact science. For me, it just migrates with each project and many different art projects have many different needs and steps. No two of my art books look the same and post of my finished projects don’t look the same either.

    For some projects, all I did was make a notated (bulleted) list—things like supplies, prices from various stores (if I was shopping around) or exact measurements. For others, there were pictures I pasted in to help me remember what I was wanting the finished project to look like.

    Still others took longer to do (I quit them and came back to them, but had all my notes neatly waiting in my art book) and were much more complicated, with things like paint chips or fabric swatches (so I could match them in a store). My current art book, for example, has a photo of a canopy bedframe I’m dying to dopple (DIY) and has a list of stain colors, pricing for canopy covers and photos of ones I like, the dimensions of my bedframe and so on.

    So I guess the best way to break it down is pictures of my system. I started with a cute Markings journal.

    Maybe $2 or $3 dollars at Walmart? I like the size that fits in your purse so I can carry it in stores. I’d advise not spending too much (but make sure it’s a sturdy cover) because anything you carry banging around your purse for a year (. . . or shoulder bag . . . car trunk . . .) isn’t going to look as pretty by the end. Seriously. 😊

    I used gold foil stickers from Walmart to add “Art Book” to the spine. I think they all peeled off in my purse later but since they cost me $1, I wasn’t exactly heartbroken. 😉

    This particular journal came with an inside (folding) pocket on the back cover, and I loved it! Great place to store odds ‘n’ ends. But you can create one in your own journal, simply by cutting a piece of cardstock slightly smaller than the cover, and taping it at the bottom, then cutting two triangular side pieces and folding them “fanstyle” to make your pocket expand out. Use a Velcro dot to close the pocket and done!

    To organize the interior, I used these tiny binder tabs, but you do have to write small and abbreviate. I never could find these in stores, I had to buy them off Amazon. I particularly love they were so strong, I’ve never had one tear free in my purse. But I reinforced them too.

    I wrote each of these with a fine-tip black Sharpie and then used invisible tape to “seal them” (so the ink won’t smudge) and used another strip to reinforce the piece of tab stuck to the page (as if you were laminating them). Trim away the excess tape with scissors.

    Of course, you can use bigger page tabs if you prefer.

    So here’s my very first art book entry. As you can see, it was a simple bulleted list and nothing more. Funny enough, its about my idea for an art book. 😊 Guess that proves I conceptualized it, huh? *LOL!*

    Now here is a more complicated design, where I cut up/redesigned a brochure of an office desk I was eyeing (while it was on sale and I had a store credit, can’t remember why?) and was checking the measurements against the space at home & seeing if it would fit my needs.

    Ended up working out great; I bought with the store credit and its still the computer desk I’m using now (with visible wear of course. *LOL!*)


    To be honest, if this project didn’t turn out as I planned, I don’t remember it. I probably revised or fine-tuned it with time, but that was clearly so long ago I don’t remember what I changed or when I changed it.

    The shelf over my computer desk is where I store all my past (retired) art journals and I still do reference them, especially if I redo or do a 2nd version of an old projects because that’s where all my notes (measurements, color scheme, etc-etc) are and it refreshes my memory on how I did it and what I learned. Kinda like Artist’s Corner . . . which is the digital record of my art book, I guess. 😉

    Notes -> Supplies -> Show ‘n’ Tell photos with the final result.

    Plus, it’s a scrapbook of all the art I’ve done and ideas I’ve had over the years. Scrapbook, gallery and instruction manual all in one volume! So that’s cool too!


    1. Use invisible tape (not frosty finish Scotch tape) to paste with. I found that to be best. I’ve tried double-sided tape; glue sticks; craft paste; glue dots; photo mounts and spray (glue) adhesive—but invisible tape will not dampen or damage your paper/pages and won’t obscure your print or sketches.
    2. Use Sharpies (or some kind of permanent marker) to write on your tabs. Gel pens and other pen ink smears right off (smears off invisible tape too) but permanent ink dries quickly and holds. And Sharpies come in so many pretty colors now too! To be safe, I usually “seal” my tabs after I’ve written on them with invisible tape so I don’t run the risk of scratching the ink off in my purse, but that’s just a precaution.
    3. I find a 8×11 sheet of regular white copy paper (cut into quarters) to be perfect, size-wise, for “spur of the moment” sketches and lists when I don’t have my book handy. Then I just paste them to an interior page later. For a sturdier option, you could always use white cardstock.
    4. To correctly size printed (color) photos: in the Microsoft print app, you can choose different print sizes and I find “wallet size” (I think its 2×3) to be just about perfect for most photos to paste into the journal. But, sizing probably depends most on what size journal you bought.
    5. Could you do this project as a mobile app?
      I addressed this above, but I’m sure it could be done– even if you found a digital scrapbooking app and sorta adapted it to your purposes. Frankly, I haven’t tried that, so I don’t really know.


    Suggestions, thoughts, comments? What do you think of this art book project? Have you embarked on a similar project and want to share your results?

    Weigh in, fellow artists! As always, I look forward to seeing what you create next!


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