Summer is here, and with it comes a lot of beautiful plants and flowers. It doesn’t take a special outing to the botanical gardens to fill a journal with floral paintings.

A walk around the neighbourhood, camera in hand, is enough! That’s what I like about journaling, I can make it about everyday moments, and it helps me notice the small things along the way. 

I like to journal with ink drawings and watercolour. It’s quick and easy, affordable, and lightweight to carry around. Watercolour lets you mix whatever you need from a few basic colours, so it’s good to tackle any challenge.  

Here is how I go about it:

Step 1: Snap a pic!

We all have a camera in our pocket (our phones); let’s make the best of it! I take photos of the flowers I find pretty, more than one angle if I can. It’s quick and easy, so it’s perfect for the shy journaler! (I know I can’t draw in public, it makes me feel too self-aware).

Step 2: Sketch!

Once back home or in the car, it’s time to take out the supplies and get started on the journal page. For me, I would usually snap a few pics of moments throughout the day and commit them to my journal before going to bed.

It’s an excellent way to wind down. I start by sketching out everything I want on my page, including text. It’s a great way to see how things fit and make adjustments if needed. 

Before drawing the flower, I look at it very intently. I try to take mental notes about the features of this specific flower. Is it round? Pointy? How many petals? A single flower or a cluster of them?

It helps me break down a complex object into chunks that feel more manageable. I also ask myself why I want to draw this specific plant, what I like about it. 

It might seem like a lot; after all, we are not going for the full botanical rendering here! As an example, I take into account the flower I want to draw (a panicle of lilac). I notice that it is larger towards the branch and smaller at the tip. It’s a tight cluster of flowers, and these seem to be the ones with double petals.

The petals themselves have four oval-shaped lobes. There’s a small, darker hole in the middle of the flower. These are things I can also document on my journal page if I want!

Text is optional, but if you want to have it there, it can indeed be anything—your thoughts about that moment, your observations about the flower, one of your favourite quotes.

Step 3: Inks!

Once my sketch is all set, and I’m happy with it, I proceed to ink it. Make sure you use a pen with waterproof ink, or it’ll make a mess when adding paint. I use my sketch as a guideline, but I also leave room to “fix” things when I ink them.

Once the inks are done, it’s capital to let them fully dry! It can be tricky with some combinations of inks and papers, so I suggest making a few tests when setting up your journaling kit. I check for the time the ink takes to dry, if I can erase over it when it’s dry and if it’s completely waterproof.

Step 4: Paint!

Here is my favourite part! Since I’m documenting a flower, adding colour will bring a lot of life to this drawing. I want to mix a lovely lilac colour, so I test out my mixes on the side of the page.

You can make the swatches into an element of the page itself by making them more structured. A sequence of lines or squares is an excellent way to set them up.

I carry a small colour wheel around with me as a quick way to check relationships between colours. Because my lilac painting is mostly violet and green, I’ll make the accents in orange (to complete the secondary colour triad).

There’s no right or wrong way to go about this; it’s just an easy way to figure out which colours are in a painting and how I want to balance them out if need be. You can journal in monochrome if you prefer; it’s more about what you’re comfortable with than what it “should” be.

I like to include a date stamp, but it can be a written date too. Since this is a journaling page, the date helps fix that moment in time. 

That is my basic process for journaling. I started journaling some time ago, and I noticed that drawing became easier with every new entry. Journaling helped me loosen up and focus more on the memory than the accuracy (see the orange cat above for a good example).

When travelling, I also try to journal every day, even if nothing significant happens. Looking back on those pages years later brings back memories and the mood of the moment. 

I hope this might help you get into the habit of journaling, too. Remember, always have fun with it!

Do you have any tips for paint journaling?

Share your insights in the comments below - we’d love to hear from you :-)

Eve Bolt is a French-Canadian artist and YouTuber living in Montreal, Canada. Her favorite tools are watercolor and inks. She really likes cats.

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