Creating in your art journal on those kind of days...

Yesterday, Cassandra wrote:

The last few days, I've been hit with a serious wave of weakness and fatigue to the point where getting dressed is a major accomplishment-- but I'm not sleepy. Getting chores done is nigh impossible, and I'd rather not turn my brain to complete mush via computer and tv. I know you've had "fibro days" that are at least somewhat similar, and your art journaling arose from those. I was wondering if you would be willing to put together a post on getting through sick days with the help of art-- what sort of things work best from the couch and such.

While I’ve written about my armchair art box before, I wanted to write about something a bit less involved than that overfull shoebox. I’ve been working out of a smaller box myself, as long days make for tired nights. Simple is best. So here’s a little overview of my current armchair box and a few pages I’ve done in the past few days. 


Waterbrushes are a sick girl’s best friend. They allow you to put down color without needing a cup of water next to you or messy brushes. I totally recommend grabbing one of the nicer ones you can get in the embossing/stamping/Tim Holtz section of your local hobby shop, as you really do get what you pay for. 

Pair one with pan watercolors, tube watercolors with a little palette, or watercolor pencils for instant color with little mess. I have dogs that like to jump after shiny things, so a cup of water isn’t the best idea. Also, watercolors are forgiving — let some dry on your palette and re-activate them later on! Curl up and doodle or simply spread around color! 

Smaller scraps you’ve collected in the studio, rub-ons, and photographs are easy page kits for when you just want to tape bits down and do a bit of collage. 

Markers are a nice alternative to watercolors if you want to do some doodling but don’t want to get out the water or any paint. I have a few Pitt brush markers, Marvy fabric markers, and Sharpie pens to color with, but have also pulled out Copics or colored pencils. 

Gel pens & multiliners are great for doodles to be colored later. White pens are great for adding embellishment to previously-finished pages. 

A small pair of scissors and double-sided tape are a must for any sick day art!



Here are some tips for working in your journal when you’re sick but need something to do. 



1. Practice lettering. This bit of journaling took me 45 minutes and kept my attention. Write the words with a marker first, then outline them. The first loosens you up, the second takes a bit of easy concentration. You can easily fill a page with this. Pair it with a photo, and you’ve got a nice looking page that allows expression without taking too much energy. 


2. Doodle. I recently started doodling with my waterbrush & watercolors, and have had a ton of fun with very little in the way of supplies. Use markers, or even a pencil, to doodle across a journal page. There is so much for you to discover by way of doodling, you shouldn’t discount it (I recently bough Stephanie Corfee’s book Creative Doodling and Beyond, which is full of amazing doodling prompts that can be done right in the book).

An alternative to this is zentangles. Oh, zentangles, how I love you so…


3. Give a page a colorful wash. You can use watercolors or colored pencils to spread color around doodled elements or words you’ve written across your page to pull everything together. Spread several colors around and then doodle on top of them, make fun frames for photos, or tint some of your found papers to make bright elements to collage onto the page.  

4. Be okay with less. When it comes down to it, a journal page created while sick isn’t going to measure up to one you work on in your studio with all your supplies. And that’s okay. Not every page needs to be full of color and collage and cool techniques. Allow yourself to have fun with the simple processes that come with doing less; get lost outlining a favorite quote, spend hours blending colored pencil colors, allow yourself time to refine your doodles. 


You may feel too tired or sick to do any art, or feel that whatever you make while curled up under a blanket isn’t good; it is. You’re working from a different place, one that is less flashy and bold, but no less important to investigate. All the little things can give way to discoveries that may, down the road, change and shift the art you create when you’re feeling better. Give yourself a break, get a mug of tea, and show your journal some love. 

I'm off to bed, as I'm teaching my first class here in Arizona tomorrow afternoon and want to make sure I'm well-rested for my students. There's still time to join us (just email me if you do call and sign up so I can make sure to bring enough supplies!).