Daydreaming on Paper
April 2001
Earth Day

In the month of April, thousands of people around the world celebrate Earth Day. Although there is some debate about when Earth Day occurs, it is agreed that this is a day for people to consider the physical world around them and their impact on it.

Almost everyone has heard the maxim "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle". Here are a few ways to apply this to your journal keeping.

Let's start with the notebook itself. Have you considered using a notebook that has pages made of post-consumer recycled paper? I have one such spiral notebook that I have been using for about 10 years. Ballpoint, roller ball, and gel pens glide easily across recycled pages. However, the use of fountain pens is not recommended, as the paper tends to absorb too much ink which shows through to the other side.

Do you like to decorate your notebook covers? Decoupage is easy to do and there are plenty of potential materials on hand in the average household that would make great, one-of-a-kind cover art. Candy wrappers, candy foil, food labels, pages from books, and text & art from magazines are just some of the possibilities. Decorate a gardening journal with the fronts of various seed packets. Your film journal can be covered with pictures of your favorite movie stars or stills from your favorite movies cut out from magazines. Use old receipts or amusing copy from catalogs on the cover of a money diary. Are you in a hurry or simply not interested in accumulating dozens of pictures for an entire cover? Never fear; one well-placed image can have a big impact.

Other cover ideas:

  • Use whole magazine pages as book covers for smaller notebooks.
  • Paste the front of an old greeting card on your notebook cover.
  • Cut small pieces from pictures in magazines or catalogs and use them for their color. Glue them onto your cover in a collage or mosaic.

Now that you've gotten your notebook fancied up, let's look at ways to decorate your journal entries. Art materials are everywhere. Unsolicited catalogs, weekly circulars, aluminum foil, candy foil, tissue paper, and just about any other kind of paper can be used for collages or mosaics. Make a collage to illustrate your dreams or to represent your daily life. If you are writing with the intention of passing your notebooks down to your children, paste in pictures of ordinary things to which you refer in your entries. Future generations may not know what cell phones or televisions look like.

If you enjoy rubber stamping, but are loath to pay extravagant prices for the tiniest designs, try making your own. Lots of sources tell you that you can make them from erasers or even potatoes, but I never have that many erasers around and I am not willing to mess up perfectly good food. However, if you order things through the mail or if you have recently bought a new appliance or computer, you probably have an abundance of good stamp material right at your fingertips - styrofoam blocks. I have had great luck with this. I use an X-acto knife to hack the styrofoam into pieces and to carve my designs. For the most part, I stick with simple shapes and carve them freehand, but you can use transfer or carbon paper to transfer a design onto the surface. Another thing that I do is to cut or tear the styrofoam in a cross section and use its spongelike surface for stamping or painting. You can make great clouds or spackled borders by using two or three different colors. This technique works well with inks, too; just use a paintbrush to apply the ink to the styrofoam.

If you have styrofoam trays from food products, you can use those to make stencils and templates. Light cardboard is good for this purpose, too. For help with the designs, turn to your kitchen. Cookie cutters make great tracing templates. When you are not using them to trace stencil designs, try using them to mark "clean spaces" on a notebook page. Draw or paint on the entire page except for those marked out spaces. Write your entry in the clean spaces.

Perhaps you are reading all of this and thinking "Why bother?". Well, for one thing, using recycled materials and reusing items that would otherwise be headed for the landfill helps to minimize your ecological footprint on the planet. It also saves you some money in materials as well as saves you some time in fewer trips to the store (and less time in the store trying to find what you want). Those things are important, but there is another reason that I'd like for you to consider. If you are visiting this web page, you are probably either a creative person or someone who wants to be. To you, I would like to emphasize the fact that finding new ways to use old stuff enhances creativity. Ingenuity and creativity go hand in hand. Woo them in one area of your life, and they will spill over into the others. The concept of interrelatedness is just as vital when considering our personal lives or the planet we call home.

Other Ideas and Some Prompts

  • Thoroughly wash food cans, cover them with fabric, wallpaper, or contact paper, and use them to hold pens, pencils, markers, or paintbrushes. Jars, cups, and bottles can be used for this purpose, too.
  • Use unwanted books as journals or scrapbooks. Use an X-acto knife to cut out every other page (trim it almost to the spine, but not quite) so that the book won't bulge as you fill it. Use the cut out pages for other projects.
  • All kinds of boxes can be reused for storing papers and other supplies.
  • "Hope for the earth lies not with leaders but in your own heart and soul."
    - Helen Caldicott, MD
  • Sit down and make your own list of 25 things that you can do to minimize your impact on the earth. Look for tiny things that would be easy for you to change. Then, commit yourself to doing them.
  • Cut the plastic part out of the tops of empty tissue boxes. Decoupage the boxes, paint them, or otherwise cover them; use them as stackable storage boxes in your art room. Cut the tops completely off and use them to store mix tapes of your favorite creativity enhancing music.
  • When you hear the word environmentalist, what immediately comes to mind? Does the word have positive or negative connotations? Why do you think this is?
  • Use an old briefcase, cooler, or lunchbox as a portable art kit.
  • Various lids can be used as paint palettes.
  • Save popsicle sticks from your favorite frozen treats in the summer. They are great for mixing paints and decoupage medium.
  • Junk mail reply envelopes can be spray painted or covered with stickers and used to hold ticket stubs and other paper ephemera. Paste them into your journal flap side up.
  • Discover other ways to bring recycling to the art room and send them to me so that I can put them on this web page.

Basic Decoupage Instructions:

  1. Find something to decoupage - a box, a can, a notebook cover, etc.
  2. Collect magazine cut-outs, strips of colored tissue paper, old pages from books - whatever you want to decorate your item with. Smaller pieces or strips are easier to handle.
  3. Get some newspaper or something to cover your work surface.
  4. Find a clean container with a lid, such as a margarine tub or a carryout container.
  5. Use the container to hold a mixture of one part glue, one part water. (I generally just eyeball the measurements.)
  6. Use a popsicle stick to stir the mixture well.
  7. Apply the glue mixture to the back of one of your cut-outs using a foam brush or a paintbrush or a popsicle stick - whatever you have.
  8. Place the cut-out on the item to be decorated wherever you want it.
  9. Brush more of the glue mixture onto the cut-out.
  10. Repeat. The way that is easiest for me is to do one side, let it dry to touch, and then do another side until all sides are covered. Then, if another layer is needed (to hide the fact that my art box used to hold detergent, for example), I start over with the first side and continue. Put the lid on your container of decoupage medium to keep it wet while each side dries.
  11. Once you've covered your item to your satisfaction, let it dry overnight.
  12. Apply acrylic gloss, if desired. This will seal the glue and give your item a shiny finish.
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