I AM...

It has become my tradition to make the first page of a new journal an "I am..." page. It's a nice introduction page, and it's interesting to see how I've approached the page in different journals. This page was from a journal that I retired back in October.

A journal is never really complete. But there just comes a time when I am transitioning from the old to the new, and I just no longer work in the older journal. It gets placed on the shelf with all the other retired journals. So, far I'm up to eight retired journals, and I'm slowly wrapping up number nine.

Fun Word Activity

One of my favorite activities is to pick a random dictionary page and browse the words and select a word that I am simply drawn to. I repeat this, and list each word to create a list of juxtaposed words. It is almost like found or Surrealist poetry. I find the strange juxtaposition of words rather fascinating. So, the pages are selected randomly, but I conscientiously pick the words based more on immediate reaction.

The list of words on the left page of this two page spread, was done this way. This spread was created by layering pencil and pen drawing, writing, watercolor pencil, and watercolor. The photograph is a packaging tape transfer of actress Hedy Lamarr. More about that technique in a future post.


For us the thing that separates the visual journal from a sketchbook or art journal is the inclusion of written language as an integral and visual element. The visual journal is the melding of the visual and verbal languages. Words help us to reflect on life and art. They help us process the good, the bad, and mundane of life. Words provide the impetus for thought and reflection. Words help us express ourselves, our intentions, and our feelings. Words provide meaning. Words are powerful.

Beginning visual journalists often have a hard time mixing the written and visual. Below are some easy ways to get words, thoughts, text, writing, reflections, and such into the art and, thus, creating rich pages.

1. Random Words - Pick random words from a dictionary, book, newspaper, magazine, or thesaurus. Write, draw, or stencil the word large on a page.

2. Stream of Consciousness - Write uninterrupted for 7 minutes or 15 minutes or a half hour. Write directly in the journal or on a separate piece of paper. Maybe highlight key words and phrases.

- Find great quotes, and use them to spark a page.

4. Stencils
- Letter stencils are a quick and easy way to draw words.

5. Cut Words
- Look for big words and phrases in newspaper and magazine headlines. Cut them out an collage them into the journal. Or cut individual letters and collage them in "ransom letter" style.

6. Lists
- Make lists - shopping lists, to-do lists, favorites lists, places-to-go lists, if-I-had-a-million-dollars lists, etc.

7. Prompts
- Pick themes to write about such as "I believe..." "I don't believe..." "I want..." "I need..." "Today I feel..."

8. Found Poetry
- Pick random words from a source and form them into a poem.

9. Printed Text
- Print writings, instructions, or information from the computer, or photocopy book and magazine pages, and glue into a page.

10. Scrabble Letters and Magnetic Poetry
- Glue the actually letters or words into the journal, or make a photocopy of the best words or letters, and collage them in.

11. Take Notes
- Jot down notes from meetings, readings, and what not. Did you learn about a new technique or material? Jot down the details so you don't forget.

12. Rubber or Hand-carved Stamps - Use stamps to stamp in letters, words, and numbers.

13. Questions - Ask yourself a bunch of big, thought-provoking questions, and write them in your journal. Better yet, draw them in or create a Question Page. It's OK not to have answers.

14. Stories - Create stories. Use drawings, photos, or pure color to illustrate the stories. What's your story?


Rich and beautiful pages can be built up with layers of simple techniques. This page began with writing I had done on index cards and glued in. Then I used watercolor and watercolor pencil. I often get to a point where I'm not certain what to do with a page, and I'll leave it until months later when I have that one piece of fodder that just seems to fit or something I have done on one page leads to a solution. This page developed slowly over months. Freeing myself to work in this nonlinear fashion has allowed me to have pages that feel more finished.

But it is still all about the process. I rarely have an idea in mind of what I want the finished page to look like. I allow each page to develop it's own way often employing similar techniques from page to page. More and more, I am trying to be more spontaneous, hence the bold words on this page: "Dive In. Throw Down." The idea of "throwing down" in the journal is to really get caught up in the process.

Encountering The Blank Page: Part 2

Watercolor pencils have to be one of our favorite media. They have the convenience of colored pencil, but the coverage of watercolor paint. Below are some basic techniques for using the watercolor pencil. If you think of others, leave a comment, and I'll add it to the post.

Watercolor Pencil
1. Activate with water. Simply color down the watercolor pencil and paint water over it. The key is to lay down a lot of pigment, and then paint the water. This allows the color to be rich and to spread a lot.

2. Activate with watercolor paint. Color the watercolor pencil down, and instead of clean water, use watercolor paint. Use a different color to create interesting color blends.

3. Activate with watercolor marker. Color the watercolor pencil down, and use a regular marker, such as a yellow Crayola, to color over the watercolor pencil. The marker picks up a lot of pigment, and this technique will eventually ruin the marker. But they're inexpensive.

4. Dip in water. Dip the watercolor pencil into water and draw or color with it. You may need to repeatedly dip the pencil in water, but it creates a rich color with a slight texture.

5. Draw into wet paper. Paint either clear water or some watercolor paint onto a page, and then use a dry pencil to draw or color into the wet paper.

6. Layering. Use any of the above techniques, and allow it to dry. Then use another color with the same or different technique on top. You can build several layers of watercolor pencil for a page with richness and depth.

7. All-at-once. You might not have the time or patience for layering. So, color several colors at one time, and blend with water.

From Webgrl:
8. Sprinkle watercolor pencil shavings onto wet paper, and smear with a finger.

9. Color with the dry pencil, spritz with a water bottle, and leave it to do its thing.

Encountering The Blank Page: Part 1

Opening a new journal and staring at the pristine, perfect, blank pages can scare the hell out of even the most seasoned visual journalist. The inner critic rears his or her ugly head and tells us that we're going to mess it up. The problem is that we start focusing on what we want that page to look like when we are finished. We focus on the end product not the process. It is good at times to not think much at all - at least at first. So, by just getting some color down, we can take the blankness away and not worry about the end result. Our habit of working is to work in a nonlinear fashion. We end up starting a lot of pages in some way and then going back and adding more and more things later. There's a lot randomness to this, but it keeps us from thinking about what it will end up like..

One way to begin is with one of the simplest media - watercolor. Below is a list of quick and easy ways to begin pages with out much thought. Experiment and have fun.

1. Paint a page a single color.

2. Paint a page with more than one color.

3. Paint random shapes on a page.

4. Apply the paint with a sponge.

5. Use a toothbrush to flick and stipple the paint on a page.

6. Paint a page with a color or two and sprinkle the wet paint with salt. Let the paint dry and brush the salt off to reveal a texture.

7. Paint objects like bubble wrap, plastic mesh, bottle caps, and cup bottoms and stamp the objects on a page.

8. Paint a page with watercolor and press a piece of wrinkled plastic wrap or a flat piece of bubble wrap into the wet paint, allow the paint to dry, and then remove the plastic or bubble wrap.

9. Paint the watercolor through a stencil - if there's a lot of water, it will bleed giving some unpredictable but interesting results. Use plastic or metal mesh as a stencil.

10. Splatter a page with paint.

The following techniques are from Webgrl:
11. Cut notches and 'waves' into a piece of cardboard box and use it to paint on random shapes.

12. Peel off the cardboard top later and use the wavy bit to stamp on your page (thicker paint gives interesting effects here)

13. Use resist techniques like a crayon or candle (great use for reusing birthday candles). Draw with the wax and then paint over it for a fun effect

14. You can lay random stuff into the paint and pick it up after its dry (just like your plastic wrap etc)

15. Finger paint!

16. Dragging a feather through paint is super cool.

17. Dip some string in paint and drag it over your page. A bit messy but so much fun. If you lay the paint covered string in random shapes and leave a bit hanging out at the top and bottom of your page you can shut the book and weight it down with someone's hand or another book and pull the opposite ends of string till you feel it get taught - when you open your book you get a VERY cool effect. I love doing this with ink.

These techniques and combinations of these techniques can keep you busy for quite some time. In a short time, you could have quite a few pages started. And I'm sure there are other techniques. If you can think of other ways to use and apply watercolor paint, please leave a comment and I'll add it to the list.

Getting Started

"How do you start?" is probably the number one question we are asked all the time. But getting started is simple if you have a few basic supplies. Below is a list of the basic materials that we prefer. Some are premium quality and brand matters to us, and others are not so premium and brand doesn't matter as much. Use the materials and brands with which you are comfortable.

We use:
11x14 inch Cachet Hardbound Sketchbooks
Uniball Vision Pens - black, blue, red - waterproof or water-resistant
Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils
Prang Watercolors
UHU Glue Stick - 1.41 oz.
Crayola Marker - yellow
Watersoluble Graphite Pencils
Packaging Tape
Paint brushes

There are other materials that we use, but the above are the basics. Putting them into a pencil pouch or small brush bag is a great way to make it a portable kit, and you can do a lot with these few simple supplies.
I'll cover starting pages with these materials in a later post.

What is Journal Fodder?

Fodder, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is coarse, dry food for livestock. So, in essence, journal fodder is food for your journal, and when you feed your journal, it gets fat. Journal fodder is all the ephemera that we as humans seem to collect and save. Fodder is all the mementos that people save - ticket stubs, photographs, labels, postcards, stickers, wrappers, maps, photocopies, etc. etc. etc. Most of the time people throw it all in boxes to keep for some time when they stumble across the box and paw through the memories. We, as Journal Fodder Junkies, glue those things into the visual journal and keep boxes, bins, piles, and stacks of fodder to use later.

We use mainly UHU Glue Stics to glue the collage material into the journals, and over time, the journals swell to 3 or 4 times their original thickness because of all the stuff glued in. The jumbo size lasts a while and is very portable.

How It Started

In 1993, twenty-two year old Dan Eldon, a photojournalist for Reuters covering the atrocities of Somalia, was killed. He left behind a legacy of seventeen black-bound journals. Dan’s story has touched countless lives aided by the publication of The Journey is the Destination: The Journals of Dan Eldon in 1997 by his mother Kathy. In the book, Kathy compiled selected pages from the journals, and these pages invite the viewer (or do I really mean voyeur) along on Dan’s journey. We were just two of the many who went along for the journey.

The two of us have spent countless hours pouring over the pages soaking in their richness and vitality. We feel a kinship to Dan Eldon, and we are grateful to have shared that journey. We are grateful to Dan’s family for bringing his story to light - for Dan was truly the impetus that has brought us to this point. He has inspired so many to journey through life and to leave a legacy for others, and so he has inspired us. Dan is at the heart of this, and so we want to thank Dan, his mother, and his sister for such a legacy. Without the journals of Dan Eldon there would be no Journal Fodder Junkies.
For more information on Dan Eldon, his journals, and his photographs, check out http://www.daneldon.org/.

Introducing the Journal Fodder Junkies

At the suggestion of a good friend and avid blogger, I decided to throw myself and what I do into the blogging realm. So here it is: The Official Blog of the Journal Fodder Junkies.

"Who or what are the Journal Fodder Junkies?" you might be asking yourself. Simply we are two guys, I'm Eric and my fellow Junkie is Dave, and we are out to start a revolution - a revolution of visual journal addicts. We are Artists and Educators who have spent the last eight or nine years working in a format known as the Visual Journal. For the last two or three years we have been sharing our passion with people throughout the land at various conferences, conventions, and workshops, and we have seen a growing interest in the visual journal.

So to spread the revolution, I've decided to launch this blog. I'm not certain what it will exactly consist of, but I'll figure it out as I go. Mainly, I just want to encourage and inspire people, share some of the things I do, and share some basic how tos. So, grab a journal, some pens, some paint, and join the journey.