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Mixed Media Art Journaling Ideas: UPCYCLE OLD BOOKS & THRIFT SHOP SHEET MUSIC!!
The thrift shop is AMAZING if you need mixed media art journaling ideas! Join me on a little field trip to one of my favorite shops in Durham called The Scrap Exchange. I'll show you EXACTLY what I look for when I'm on the hunt for old books to upcycle into mixed media art journals and altered book art journals! It's SO much fun, and you won't believe HOW CHEAP!!
I might have spent a whopping 8 bucks!!
And, yes... before you EVEN THINK IT... this is pre-covid, hence the NO MASK routine- when things were "normal." Sigh...
Before we even walk into the store, here are the TOP 3 THINGS I'm always looking for when I'm on the hunt for an old book to upcycle into an altered book art journal for my mixed media masterpieces!!
1. Matte pages that are super flat - not glossy
2. Threaded binding
3. Thin books (12 - 30 pages usually feels good to me because I like to FILL my art journals completely!!)
QUICK THRIFT TRIP TIPS: Head to the children's section & sheet music book section and you're sure to score!!
Grabbing an old book like the one pictured above is AWESOME to keep around when you're in the mood for collage!
I love these types of books because the pages are usually really thin and distressed looking already (another LOVE IT for me). Additionally the pages are usually very pourous and soak up whatever adhesives and primers I throw at them from matte medium to gesso!
Lots of people have asked if I feel bad taking these old books home to use for art. I'll tell ya what- I don't. Not one bit!! That's because I specifically look for the books that are super beat up and completely on their last legs anyway- with missing pages, no cover, etc. I take the ones that no one else wants. THESE are my treasures!
I also REALLY love picking up books that have a variety of font sizes and typefaces in them. It just makes things more interesting to look at if you mix these elements up in your collage art.
Magazines like the one above are GORGEOUS, but I really shy away from them because they are typically super glossy, and I know working on a matte surface is going to yield better results, so as much as this glamour shot is calling my name - back she goes onto the shelf for someone else.
The pages of the children's encyclopedia above are PERFECT and exactly what I'm looking for, but there are SO many pages in this book, it's a little overwhelming. If I can't find something, I may come back to this one, because it's possible to systematically score and remove pages to thin the book out without compromising it's integrity if it has threaded binding (see below). I don't know if I'm in the mood for that much effort though, and with SO many options in this thrift shop - I keep digging!
As you'll see in the video, we ended up with quite a few awesome finds! I found an old fashioned giant coloring book of "Alice in Wonderland" that felt just perfect to me. Mandi grabbed an old book of paper dolls, some sheet music, and a board book.
Board books like the one she found (below) can be great as altered books! They're super sturdy and this one has a particularly fun shape! Just a word of warning - board books often have a sheen or gloss to them, which can make art-ing on top of them tricky. A great work around is to literally spray them with paint primer, or to sand the gloss right off the page!
Once you've decided which book you want to turn into an art journal, it's super easy to get started. I often begin with shoring up the pages using some pretty duct tape down the center to reinforce the binding. This typically sets the stage for my entire color scheme for a piece!
If getting started feels hard (TRUST ME, YOU'RE NOT ALONE!!), I've got a Bob Ross inspired "Kick in the Pants" PDF for you to help you start art journaling so you can get over the fear of the blank page, and just start HAVING FUN already!! CLICK the button below and I'll send that fun art journaling cheatsheet straight to your inbox!!
After you grab your art journaling cheatsheet, be sure to binge this entire series on YouTube about art journaling. I promise it will help you get OVER the HURDLE and just start creating. Here is one of the funny, no stress projects we do! Aren't these emus hilarious?!
If you're in the mood to try addding human faces to your art journal, but kinda hate drawing or feel intimidated by it - I've got an entire NO DRAW series of art journaling prompts to help you try this as well. It's SO much fun!! You can download my FREE face shape template, and I teach you EXACTLY how to use her so you can play around with adding gorgeous faces in your art journal - without the stress of having to learn how to draw!
The children's book I bought on this thrift shop field trip turned out to be so much fun to work in. Here's one of my favorite pieces I created inside. She's actually a mixed media art tutorial as well. That tear wasn't meant to be there, believe it or not. Find out HOW it came to be by clicking HERE.
If hope you have just as much fun on your own thrift shop adventure and creating your own mixed media art journal as I did!! See ya back here next week!!
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Founder of Awesome Art School. Mixed Media Artist. Author of 18 Instructional Art Books!
"Karen is flipping hilarious and she's very real...I like the way she teaches in a way that really gives you confidence, whether you're a beginner or advanced there's always something new to learn!"
- Elizabeth W.
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Karen, you are absolutely fabulous! You make me feel like I can draw anything. I have recently retired and finally have the time to do some of the art that I have loved since I was in school. I am really at the beginning of my art journey and I hope to learn as much as I can. Thank you for all you do.