Sunday, 11 November 2012

Art Journal Page–Remembrance

My latest art journal page is for Remembrance Day. It seems unbelievable that we are only two years from the centenary of the beginning of the First World War; I remember seeing on TV a few years ago, a programme entitled “The Last Tommy,” about the very last survivor of that terrible conflict, which was supposed to be “The War to end all wars…” The veterans of World War Two are now becoming very elderly, and soon that war will pass from living memory, too.

The conflicts go on, of course. At this time of year we remember not only those who died in the two World Wars, but also all of our armed forces fighting around the world, especially at present in Afghanistan. Our nephew returned home from there just a couple of weeks ago, and we are very glad to have him back, safe and sound, but this is not the case for far too many. Our hearts go out to the families of those who will never return, and for those whose lives are forever changed because of devastating injury.

Last year I designed a new service sheet for Remembrance Sunday for our church:

Remembrance Sunday Service Booklet

I have based my journal page loosely on this design.

When I did my Tyger Tyger page, I was disappointed at first that some of the green ink had bled through to the next page, but on balance I was glad, because it formed the basis for the left-hand page of my Remembrance layout.

Here is the page with the background text mapped out in pencil.

02 Background Text Pencilled In

These words were then filled in with brown water-based pens.

03 Background Text Completed with Pens

Here is a detail of this text.

04 Background Text Detail

I knew this would obviously be much too strong to be a background, so an acrylic glaze was required, to tone it right down. Before I could apply this, though, the water-based ink had to be sealed to prevent it running when the paint was applied. I recently acquired this spray sealant:

05 Spray Sealant

It seems to work very well, but the only problem is, it stinks. Big time! You are supposed to use it in a well-ventilated space, but it’s far too cold to open all the windows at the moment! I left my ARTHaven door open to get rid of it, and then the whole house stank of it. Ah well. One must suffer for one’s art…

Here is my pizza box spray booth, with scrap paper under the pages of the art journal that I’m working on, to protect what is underneath.

06 Sealing the Page Prior to Painting

Here are the materials for the acrylic glaze.

07 Materials for the Background Glaze

I used a mixture of brown and white acrylic paint, with some acrylic polymer to thin it to a glaze. This is what it is like mixed.

08 Mixing the Background Glaze

Here is the first layer of the glaze applied.

09 Painting and Blotting the Background Glaze

I painted it on, and blotted it off with kitchen paper several times, until I was happy with it. The text was still too obvious in the centre where I wanted to put a picture, so a lighter layer needed to be applied.

10 Background Glaze Almost Complete

11 Background Glaze Complete

You can see that the text is still visible, even through several layers, but it is much more subtle, and forms a varied and more interesting background than just leaving it plain. I dried this off with my heat gun. I did this for each stage of the project from now on – mixed media is great, but the most frustrating thing is waiting for each stage to dry before you can move on, so I bless the inventor of the heat gun!

Now I was ready for the interesting part: painting the details. First I painted some war graves and a Spitfire.

12 Spitfire and War Graves

I deliberately kept these fairly muted, but ultimately the gravestones were a little too muted and there wasn’t a lot I could do about that after I’d added the text.

13 Lest We Forget

To complete the right-hand page I painted a silhouette of a lone Tommy in a blighted landscape with some barbed wire. Again, I kept the palette muted, to suggest an old black and white photograph.

14 Centre Picture

Now came my first disaster! I wanted to splatter some red onto the foreground to represent the blood shed in the great world conflicts, and thought my best bet was Barn Door Distress re-inker. I should have remembered from the last page that what soaked through the page was Distress Ink! I spattered it on OK but it took an absolute age to dry, despite several sessions of blasting it with my heat gun, and it turned out quite translucent and not that bright – not the effect I was after. Worse still, when I turned back to my Tyger page, the wretched stuff had bled through, despite my having sprayed the Remembrance page with sealant!! All is not lost, though, because I think I can touch it up and cover up the red spots. Now I’ve managed to get a nice random spattered effect, I can go over the pale red spots with acrylic paint. (Looking back at the Tyger page subsequently, I think I’m going to leave the red spots because I find I’ve grown to like them!!)

I also managed to get a couple of somewhat linear spatters which I didn’t like, but these could be covered up with the barbed wire to be drawn in the foreground – these marks now determine the course of the barbed wire, which was going to be pretty random anyway. There aren’t usually mistakes with mixed media and art journals – merely challenges which can be covered over or incorporated into the ongoing design! However, from now on, I think I am going to miss alternate pages of this album so that any bleed-through won’t be a problem, and glue these blank pages together. (That way, I may actually be able to fill the book in my lifetime, too!)

In this picture, the darker spots are the ink which had not yet properly dried.

15 Red Ink Spatters

The next stage was to add the border. The famous words are “The Ode of Remembrance” from a poem by Laurence Binyon, entitled “For the Fallen,” first published in The Times in September 1914; it is read each Remembrance Sunday after the Last Post and the two-minute silence.

16 Border and Barbed Wire

The gaps in the text, and the space in the top left-hand corner, are where painted poppies would be inserted.

Here is a detailed shot of the journaling and the foreground barbed wire. I wrote it first with a red water-based marker, and then went round each letter with my size 08 permanent black marker that I use for zentangle drawing. These colours mirror the colour of the poppies and their centres.

17 Detail of Journaling and Barbed Wire

To complete the page, I cut some poppy shapes with Sheba, my Black Cat Cougar cutting machine (see my sidebar for details of this machine). To see how I made these flowers, please see my blog post here.I designed the poppies and leaves in Inkscape. This is a bitmap image of the svg file which is available for free download from my Skydrive. I cut two sizes of the poppy and leaf pieces.

01 Poppy and Leaves Cut File

I saved an image of the outline of the pieces as I wanted them to appear on the page, and printed this out. I cut it out and laid on the page to show where the various pieces would go.

18 Poppies Layout

19 Mock-Up of Poppy Layout

I drew some small poppies using water-based marker pens to fill the gaps in the text. The paper poppies, with their leaves, were then adhered in place on the page, according to the arrangement of the printed piece. This is the finished page.

20 Completed Page


  1. this is beautiful work and a tribute to the many who fought for freedom. Have you thought of making this one of a series of cards?

  2. All your hard work was well worth it. This is a beautiful page and a fitting tribute.

  3. wow, great page, looks amazing as does the church service flyer. You lettering is very pretty too!

  4. What amazing pages and what a wonderful tribute. I remember seeing that programme called The Last Tommy - it was very moving - my grandfather was in the trenches in WW1 and I often wonder how he coped with the terrible conditions. We owe so much to those very brave men who fought and the many, many that lost their lives - your journal pages are touching and so sensitively drawn. Beautiful work.

  5. wonderful step by step. it's great to see how a page progresses!


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