fanciful experimental pages on apples
fanciful experimental pages on apples – 15cm x 15cm (6″x6″) pages prepped with masking tape to add ‘tooth’, napkin apples, stamped images, hand-lettering; learning to circumnavigate failure (created around 2009)

One is full of good intentions at the start of a new year; there is almost an inevitability about making resolutions. So often no more than ‘must do better’ at the tasks that overtake one as the months go by. All that sowing and transplanting, thinning and weeding, clipping and mowing. Or “this year, I really will …..” What? Cudgelling oneself to do better at what we know (though we may not admit it) are personal failings? How about branching out (no pun intended): something maybe you have always wanted to try that can be accomplished in odd spare moments and which will build into a virtual garden of personal delights.

'book-in--box': calico base, fused herbal napkin images, embroidered text and free-machine daisy embellishments
Experimental piece for 2010 workshop attended to create a ‘book-in–box’: calico base, fused herbal napkin images,
embroidered text and free-machine daisy embellishments

I’m talking about hand-made garden journals – so much more than a notebook, diary or scrapbook. Giving yourself permission to play, to experiment – no need to share – a secret garden made from paper, words, photos, textiles if you wish and mixed-media (anything goes). Such an exploration into what is possible has been a personal crusade for me over the last few years and I share with Dobies readers at the end of this New Year’s Day some jumping off points – to show that anything is possible. But I am no artist; so please forgive the lack of finesse in my illustrated pieces.

A5 notebook - pages coloured with acrylic inks and paint
‘Journal Spilling’ – bought A5 notebook – letting go (more experiments!)
Pages coloured with acrylic inks and paint, scraped with old credit card; napkin images applied with acrylic wax; words added using a white Pentel pen (I’ve since experimented with layered napkin images so that the background does not impinge on the finished result (2010)

Many people ask how or where to begin. To tell you to “just start” isn’t that helpful, and a single blog post can hardly encapsulate every conceivable jumping off point. Most important of all is that you want to try. Honestly, any cheap notebook, paper or textile will do – see what you can re-cycle (charity shops are a good source). If you are given a beautiful and expensive journal, open it a few pages from the beginning and just write anything: a list of seeds just sown, a wish-list of equipment or plants. Shut your eyes and scribble, making a pattern on a page. If you are confident to draw, add thumb-nail sketches; or photos, or images from magazines.

Moving on: 'Nature Trail'
Moving on: ‘Nature Trail’, commissioned for a gardening magazine article in late 2010 – map (distressed with ink and white tempera paint); napkin images applied to cheesecloth, fused and stitched; scanned diary entries (words and sketches), photo transfers onto 45gsm layout paper. The techniques with which I experimented in 2010 developed throughout 2011 into ‘map trails’ as a way of conveying a sense of history, time, place and memories.

Words can be a catalyst, but for me words alone are no longer enough. The adage “a picture tells a thousands words” is so very true. Use whatever falls to hand – utilise paper napkin images fused to fabric or to brown paper bags painted and folded as book pages; collect old books and maps; outworn clothes, stitched and ‘antiqued’  with strong tea.  Experiment – and keep a notebook of what you do, so you can replicate any effect that pleases you. The seasons come and go; no one year is like any other, set in aspic, and interpreting what you sow and grow in a personally created garden journal somehow encapsulates precious moments forever.

local art exhibition
Coming together: in October 2011, I was invited to participate in a local art exhibition; most of the exhibitors are professional artists – I share this image of my ‘illustrated journal’ table to show that what began for me some years ago as a ‘New Year Resolution’ to work in more than just words has become another way of life – and my passion for gardening and nature – that sense of place – was the original catalyst.

Double click on any image to see it full-screen; and, if you wish, follow my experiments and tutorials on my personal creative blog. Happy new year – may it be productive on and off the page.


One thought on “Illustrated Garden Journals”
  1. Lovely idea. In terms of the delineation of tasks, I do words (ex-music journalist) and Howard does pictures (graphic designer). I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, but I have a good eye for colour. Hence my gardening plans are mapped out on squared paper, colour coded with the aid of assorted water colour pencils. If I have an idea for a structure, I make a rough sketch with a detailed written description, so Howard can draw a more accurate sketch to work from.

    Having a digital camera handy over the allotment helps too. One day I may even learn how to post them on my blog.

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