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I recently alluded to a new undertaking for 2016 for me and thought I’d share what I’ve learned about this new hobby of Bible art journaling so far. In the same way that I accidentally discovered digital scrapbooking in late 2004, in late 2015 I stumbled across some gorgeous Instagram photos of illustrated Bible pages and was immediately drawn to the craft. There are many wonderful resources out there where you can learn more about it, but my favorite so far is this blogger. She has an extensive library of YouTube videos that illustrate her techniques and I’ve found them incredibly helpful.
So what is Bible art journaling? As you can guess, it’s simply using a Bible as the inspiration and canvas for artistic journaling. The art part can be anything you want it to be. So far, I’ve used colored pencils, acrylic paints, watercolors (cake, liquid, and pencils), calligraphy brush pens, stamps, washi tape, stickers, and various paper scraps. Basically, whatever you enjoy using and have on hand is fair game! As for the devotional aspect, you can use it with whatever spiritual discipline you want to practice. There are daily and weekly art journal
If you have a spare Bible laying around that you no longer use, you may want to think about using it as your art journal Bible. However, most people purchase a Bible for this purpose, generally one with wider outside margins that allow more room for art without actually covering much text. This is the one I bought, and it seems to be the popular choice for most Bible art journalers. It’s the ESV version but I’m hoping they’ll come out with a greater variety of versions later. Although ESV happens to be my preferred version, I also love the everyday language of The Message and think it would be ideal coupled with art journaling. There’s also an interleaved version coming out in a couple of months, which means that every facing page is blank, allowing you to create as freely as you want without ever covering up any of the scripture verses!
With 5 pages under my belt now, I can say that it’s super important not to let the art outweigh the prayer/contemplation/devotional aspect of the process. If you’re a perfectionist, you may not be happy with how certain pages turn out (very true for me!). But it really should be more about the time you’re spending in scripture & prayer rather than the final product. In the end, you’ll have a visual record of the places that God led you throughout a certain period of time, and how you used your gifts of creativity to record those times. I think that’s an amazingly beautiful legacy of faith and I look forward to handing down art Bibles to all of my children at some point, Lord willing!
If this interests you, a great place to start finding out more—and getting incredibly inspired!—is Instagram. Search for #illustratedfaith or #bibleartjournaling and see where those tags lead you. There are some amazingly gifted artists creating beautiful things as they worship God in this visually creative way. The Illustrated Faith website and Facebook page are also great resources.
If you’re curious about how it works, here’s what has worked for me. First, figure out what materials you want to use on your page. If you want to use any kind of wet media (i.e. watercolors!), it’s imperative that you first protect the page with a light coat of clear gesso. Some people gesso the pages regardless of what they intend to use but it’s an extra step that you don’t necessarily need if you’re sticking to colored pencils, say. There seems to be a divided camp on whether gesso is necessary for acrylic paint: I’ve applied acrylics directly to my pages with great success but some people gesso before using acrylics, too. I think it probably just depends on how you apply it and how thick the paint is. Because the Bible pages are so thin, you really do need to give them the extra “tooth” that gesso provides, making them be more receptive to the colors you will be applying.
After your gesso has dried, you can start. I generally take an extra step and make sure my pages are good and flat before I begin. To do this, once I’m sure the gesso has dried, I’ll place the closed Bible underneath a stack of heavy books (or our home theater speakers!). I keep it there for a few hours until the page is flat again and then I start applying paint, markers, or pencil. Once you’re done, let everything dry out really well again, and then go through the same step of putting something heavy on your closed Bible so the pages will flatten out. Just be sure that your media is dry before you do it or else you’ll wind up with pages stuck together!
Here are the supplies I used in the pages above:
- Great Things. I printed “great things” in a font that I liked on a regular piece of computer paper. I cut it out, placed it behind the page, and then traced over it using a calligraphy brush pen. I smeared acrylic paint all over the page in various colors using a credit card to scrape across the page in big swaths. The acrylics covered up the marker text so I went over that again with markers/colored pencils, then drew and colored the olive branch with colored pencils.
- My Soul Waits for the Lord. I used the same technique of smearing acrylic paints over the page with a credit card, but this time only did it on the left side of the page, leaving the right side untouched. Again, I printed the words I wanted to trace on a piece of plain paper, placed it behind the page, and traced over it with my calligraphy brush pen (I really want to learn how to do modern calligraphy!), then finished the verse using an ultra thin marker. I felt that it needed more color, so I took a chance and tried some of my liquid watercolors (which I’d intially purchased for homeschool art projects) and they worked great! The color was super vibrant and it was incredibly easy to apply. After the page dried, I added washi tape and then highlighted part of the verse by drawing around it using the calligraphy marker.
- Romans 12:12. I made a stencil using a favorite font, traced the words “rejoice, patient, constant,” and then colored them in with colored pencils. I took tiny alphabet stickers and finished the rest of the verse, then added washi tape for a pop of color. At the last minute, I decided to do a watercolor wash so I gessoed the page *after* I had done the colored pencils and stickers. When the gesso dried, I added a light coat of watercolor that ended up coordinating perfectly with the washi tape.
- one column journaling Bible (ESV version)
- clear gesso
- acrylic paint (I got about 20 bottles of various colors of this brand from Hobby Lobby)
- watercolors (cake, liquid, and pencils)
- watercolor brush pen
- washi tape
- colored pencils
- calligraphy brush pen
- ultra fine-tipped marker
- stamp inks
I’ve only been doing this for a few weeks and definitely have a long way to go, but I can tell that it is going to be a wonderful new addition to my morning quiet time!
Have you ever art journaled in a Bible? What are your favorite techniques/materials? Any advice for this newbie?