What You'll Find Here

I post daily (photos of my journal pages, things that inspire me and personal bits and pieces) to inspire and encourage others. I have always believed that if I can do it, so can you.

You'll find resources (my favorite supplies, books, slideshows of my art journal pages, favorite bloggers, etc...) listed along the right hand side of my blog.

I've been teaching both in person and online workshops for more than twenty years. You can find out more about my classes by scrolling down along the right hand side of my blog. I strive to make classes accessible to everyone (both beginner to advanced).

I love teaching and truly believe that deep down inside everyone is an artist, capable of creating something. There is power and knowledge in the act of creating something with your own hands, made from your own heart and head.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at EGorey99@sbcglobal.net

Thanks for stopping by!


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Journaling, Having Too Much Stuff (or Thinking You Don't Have The Right Stuff) and What Works for Me

There are two things that I encounter repeatedly as an art teacher: folks who think that they need a lot of stuff to create and folks who are overwhelmed with the amount of art stuff that they have and don't know where to begin.

Now don't get me wrong, I like my art toys as much as the next person but when it comes down to it, I have my absolute bare bones essentials that I need to make something: glue stick (I like something permanent like coccoina yet you should use whatever you can find that you like), a very small selection of favorite collage ephemera (I am finding more and more that I love using found papers from books and magazines more than anything else) and a favorite pen (probably my black .35 Rapidosketch but use what works best for you. My bare bones, basic list of favorite pens is here.) I usually like to use a gluing surface (like a catalog or old magazine that I can toss into the recycle bin when I'm done) and a burnishing rag (like an old rag, paper towel or even a paper napkin when I'm traveling.)

That's it. 

Some of my most favorite pages have come from when I limit myself to using only the tools that I mentioned above.

When did we get to the point where we're overwhelmed with the amount of stuff that we have? I feel bad when I repeatedly hear folks say that they don't know where to begin because they have too much stuff. I gently suggest rotating their supplies and picking a few to put in a small box or basket and limiting them to whatever is there. Then when they get bored with it, they can select new things to use. I call it "shopping in my studio (which is also my living room.)" 

I know a few folks who can't find anything because they spend more time buying than creating. All of that makes me sad. YES, I like my toys but I want to USE them and use what I have. When it boils down to it, I'd really rather spend my time MAKING than shopping. I save up and splurge a handful of times a year (usually when I travel to teach like Frenzy Stamper, Ink Pad, Northern CA, etc... where I know that I will usually find some things and that I should have a budget and some money saved in advance.) I do visit my favorite local used bookstores once a week with my family. It's our weekly family outing where we'll pick two or three bookstores to go to and rarely will I find something every week. I'm also very picky with finding collage materials in bookstores (it has to be dirt cheap and there has to be a lot of usable material for me to want to shell out a couple of bucks for it.) I rarely go art supply shopping unless I need something essential for classes and I can't substitute something else at home for it. (Those of you who think that I'm buying washi tape and pens/markers on a regular weekly basis are mistaken. I'd be living in a box on the street with my art supplies if that was the case.)

It's the same thing with collage materials. I know folks who spend hours trying to find the "perfect" focal image, having to sort through all of their stash trying to find THE PERFECT THING to use. That would make me nuts. It doesn't work for me. What works for me is working from ONE bag no matter where I am (some days that is my regular journal bag and other days when I am limited in what I can bring with me, it's a ziploc bag with what I mentioned above in it.) I rotate my stash like a little kid. I have my NOW bag that I work from and everything else is in a bag or a box in my studio. When I get bored with what I have, I rotate out or put stuff I don't want into my class collage bag where students will find new treasures.

This post isn't to knock anyone who loves to shop but to try to encourage folks to use what supplies they have instead of only collecting them. It's also to make those who think that they need a lot to make a journal page realize that they probably already have what they need somewhere in their home.

I live in a little apartment. When my stash seems to be too overwhelming, I sort through everything. I'll bring stuff to class for students to take. I also like to donate supplies to local places and public schools. Occasionally, I'll sell my excess stuff off. Purging my overflowing stash from time to time helps me also to sort through to see what I have, what I'm using and what I really don't need. 

Any advice that you want to share with folks who think that they are lacking in the tools to make art or folks who are overwhelmed with their art supplies?


Penney said...

*sigh* It has taken me years to "get" that I can actually use my art supplies. I feared that I would run out of something so I never used much! I know that sounds silly, but that was my thinking. I find that cleaning and sorting my studio frequently helps make sense of my supplies and I have been trying to use what I have. It helps that I don't have a steady job with the discretionary income I once had. I LOVE creating with few supplies and try to use what is within reach quite often. It really is overwhelming when one has lots of "stuff", especially if it is unorganized.

Jorin said...

It's so true what you say! Often, I have the same problem like Penney; I'm afraid that I would run out of something, especially if it was expensive or difficult to find, if I use it. But then there was the house of my parents: papers of all sorts, my father "needed" them - he needed them so much that there were papers of all sorts - yellow on the edges! He didn't use his papers!
Now, every time when I'm afraid and I don't want to use my supplies, I think of the papers of my father. And then, I use my stuff!

Anonymous said...

You are talking about me. I know you are! lol
I buy and buy, beat myself up and buy more anyway. I have a LOT of tape, but now discovered making my own, so I need new stamps for the patterns and new stamp ink pads for the deli paper..... And of cousre I need one more art technique book to show me the one thing I need to know ....

Anne with an e said...

I can't relate to having too many art supplies.. I am always running out! lol Except, I DO have a lot of cut out collage fodder since I do not do those kind of pages all the time. But I sort those into separate baggies as I collect them, so I have like "girls/woman" in one baggie, "plants/flowers" in another etc.

As for not having the right/enough supplies- a lot of my favourite things came about as a result of me trying to improvise or substitute for something I didn't have! Sometimes working within restrictions forces you to think creatively :)

Anonymous said...

Timely and profoundly helpful. I am totally overwhelmed with all my stuff, but I love my art toys so much, that I get a high, just thinking about the art supplies I am craving, and collecting the items I want at art supply and crapbook stores as well as online and in museum shops, is just simply nirvana. I may be inconsistent in creating art, but I am OK with that, just the experience of trying out new supplies and visual ideas, makes my life worth living. I used to get down on myself for my subpar level of productivity, but I am
less self-critical now, and realize that collecting art supplies and art toys at large, is great for my spirit and mental health. I guess my heirs will have a wonderful assortment of art supplies to look forward to---oh, and my art book collection, just to die for....and I hope my loving heirs appreciate it....nuff said. Keep recommending art supplies and books like you do--you have great taste!!!

Barbara Hagerty said...

I agree! I create every day, but Thursdays are art date days. I'm out, and I use what's in my bag at the time. If I forgot something that I planned on using, then the plan changes. I use what I have on hand. It's a challenge, and I love it.

Hagit said...

This is so true, and yet, so hard to explain to people just starting out, who are just seeing all the beautiful paper and supplies for the first time. I know it's taken me years, but I now work in a very similar way, doing "shopping" at home before I journal. :) However, I did enjoy A LOT of supply shopping until I understood it's counter-productive in that I literally drowned in supplies.
I have a blog in Hebrew where I interview art journalers, and one of the artists I interviewed, Rafi Peretz, started journaling as a teenager, when all he had was a black pen and 1-2 highlighting pens. His journals are fabulous!You can see some of his pages here:

Gina said...

Oh Kelly, you're so right! I'm guilty: never saw a sheet of decorative paper I didn't need. Or art supply that I could possibly resist but my stuff is fairly organized and at hand. I have donated boxes of stuff but still have more than I need. I would add that I struggle with using just the right image-I can find it but I tend to save my "best" images for some "better" piece that I'll do in the future. I wish I knew what the psychology is behind that but I know it would have something to do with courage.

Christy said...

I sadly am one of those that has too many supplies often to the point of paralysis -- thanks for the reminder to work with a small section and rotate. You are an inspiration!

Desert Mermaid said...

you taught me one of the most effective tricks I've ever learned: when I buy something new (i.e. a sheet of paper), I immediately tear into it and use it, a strip of it, a quarter of it, somehow making it IMMEDIATELY accessible and therefore not 'sacred', not something to wait for a 'perfect page'. I'm not prone to that anyway, but I do hesitate about using my vintage photos ... I don't make copies, so I want those pages, of all and any, to really be/reflect what the photo summons in me.

When my husband lost his job, 2 years ago, and after 6 months of him searching for a new one with no results, I decided to sell the bulk of what I had in my studio to help us pay our mortgage -- ephemera, inks, paints, books, Cricut machines and die cuts, punches, fabric, ribbons, beads, rubber stamps, old cabinet photos, bits of metal and old broken jewelry, a sewing machine/threads/trims ... you name it, I listed it, and sold it all, every bit, to one person - for enough money to pay our mortgage for 2 months!!! I was ruthless in what I purged and let go/offered ... and it was MIRACULOUS! I felt so LIGHT, so FREE, so RELEASED, so BACK IN TOUCH WITH MY MUSE, because I had clean space and only the absolute things I really used/loved at hand. That put a complete end to all my tendencies to horde, collect, buy, follow trends, any of that. I realized I could enjoy certain types of art/techniques, created/practiced by others, without having to jump in myself!

I actually feel really fortunate because I know, bottom line, all I really need is a pen and a sheet of paper, because written journaling is my core practice.

I love it, Kelly, when you ask these questions, and I get to read the comments -- very informative and helpful!

Anonymous said...

It is really hard for me to just get started. First the blank white page then what images to use then Kelly Kilmer's pages look better than mine, then another excuse, and another. LOL You have the best images! I don't seem to see the same stuff or I'm seriously blocked. I have taken your on-line classes and am desparate to take one in person with you. One of these days I will make a trip for the sole purpose of taking one of your classes. Thank you for all the inspiration.

Kelly Kilmer said...


What about using your images NOW and realizing that you can make color copies of your pages and reuse your images again later on that way? There are always new images to be found.

Plus, none of us really know what our "best" pieces are until they unfold upon the pages. Something to think about, perhaps?


Kelly Kilmer said...


I'm thinking of answering your comment in a blog post... It's something I hear a LOT.


Cat said...

All too often, I am the poster child for this post--I have way too much stuff that's way too unorganized!! Sometimes I will sit peering at my craft table and that "deer in the headlights" feeling overtakes me. Want it all, need it all, love it all, gotta have it all!!! Many of us know how that goes, right? I am not working on paring down my supplies--that would take a shrink and many hours of therapy--but I am starting to choose just a few supplies to work with at any given time. So far, so good!!

Kelly Kilmer said...

Thank you to everyone who has stopped by and left a comment. Your words help others and they are GREATLY appreciated.

laurie said...

my husband and I are in the process of downsizing so I totally "get" what you are saying about using what you have and not obsessing about what you think you might "need". I am trying so hard to recognize what I use and get rid of what I don't.