Basic Starter Art Journal from a Grocery Bag

And by “basic,” I mean basic. I’ve been wanting to explore whether art journaling could be for me but 1) found the idea of altering a book or something really overwhelming and 2) knew that if I did manage to do something on that scale, I’d be too scared to do anything in it and “ruin” it.

So set out to create something that I would be a lot less precious with. I cut out a bunch of 10 x 7 rectangles from an Aldi bag, put a coat or two of gesso on each side, folded them in half and stacked them up, and stapled the spine in a couple of places. (Actually a lot of places, because my stapler doesn’t understand its basic function. But among all the holes where failed staples were pulled out, there are two closed staples.)

Cover (really did not think through background of these photos in respect to the journal color):

A couple of random pages:

Center spread; if you look closely, you can probably see the staple situation:

The pages are 5 x 7, which turned out to be smaller in reality than it was in my head. But I think that will also help fight overwhelm. Using all the space was always one of my problems in art class anyway. Thanks for looking!


There’s an excellent free art journaling class by Carolyn Dube that may help with being stuck. But the paper bag idea is a great way to get started. And a perfect place to experiment and find what excites you.


I love using other things besides a real journal…it does feel more free so as not to use up precious supplies…ha ha you stapler must be related to mine…but you did it!

have fun filling it in…so great to see you in Zoom!

Thanks, I’ll have to check it out! I started following Amanda Grace after the Make Create Express retreat, and she has some videos I want to dig into as well.

That’s the next hurdle…

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Yes! Such a good idea! And if you finish it and decide parts of it ought to become a masterboard or serve some other purpose, no big deal tearing them out. I really like the look of starting out off-white like this; a big bright white empty page can be rather intimidating.
And never underestimate how awesome a paper bag book may be! I have a feeling you’re going to be pleasantly surprised with what you come up with. :grin:

I’ve found one way to really tear into a book for altering: if you have already read it, and considered it to be irredeemable rubbish! Like at the level where anything that makes a copy of this book unreadable is doing a service to humanity. :rofl: When you find that one special terrible novel, you will be slinging paint over those pages with reckless abandon. :laughing: (No, I’m not a fan of censorship or book bonfires, but repurposing something widely available that sucks, I’m all for. And I’d go with fiction rather than a nonfiction political or ideological book that boils your blood, since it doesn’t feel good to play with art supplies with boiling blood.)

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this is a great idea! Using things you have on hand to create art is a great way to go.

Another tip if a blank book is intimidating to start in - don’t start on the first page - flips somewhere in the middle and start. I read that a while back and now I almost always start in the middle of the book.


This is a great way to begin your own “junk journal” or arty collage journal. I have made a few journals with random papers too. Using paper bags and junk mail is a good way to recycle all that stuff we collect or throw away. And then you can always just paint over it if you change your mind about a page. Sometimes it is good to jump from front to back when you are working to make the book turn out more balance weight-wise.

What a fantastic way to get your feet wet! I agree that using a book or blank journal is intimidating!

Thanks for the tips, everyone! A lot of them I wouldn’t have thought of, so I really appreciate your sharing your expertise.

I can think of at least one book I’d like to deface journal in :laughing:.

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I love it!

Thanks, @Awerryjemmy, and welcome to LC!

It’s kind of wild to revisit this post almost exactly 3 years later and when I just got a big box of supplies to make a journal. Funny how things are different (actual binding) and yet very much the same (junk).

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