Alphabet Discovery

Alphabet Discovery Workshop  Journaling Guidelines For Beginners

1. Slow Down.
2. Think before you Ink.
3. Enjoy the process.
4. Experiment.
5. Art is never finished.

Slow Down – this is not a race! This is not a contest about who can make their pages the fastest. Think before you ink, dont sweat about how its going to look, instead enjoy the process of painting and experiment with building layers. Take your time with it.

Try not to aim for a polished looking page which resembles handmade cards or atcs. This is an artist journal, its supposed to looked a little rough around the edges.

Remember this quote by Leonardo Da Vinci: art is never finished, only abandoned.

What You Need:

Artist Sketchbook with strong watercolour paper inside, strong enough to withstand abuse.


A hard back book to alter.

Books should contain at least 26 pages, one for each letter of the alphabet. If you plan to do book spreads instead of single pages you will need double that amount.

Book Size: As big as your comfortabke with and as small as you dare to 🙂

Landscape v’s Portrait – whichever you prefer. Why not do both? Flip your book around from time to time to work with a different page size.

Other Basic Items Needed:

Paintbrushes, Pens, Markers, Paints, Glue, Mediums and other stuff you normally find in your stash 🙂

Remember its YOUR book, there is no right nor wrong way to decorate your pages; just YOUR way 🙂
<h2Guide To Finding The Right Sketchbook –


Regarding sketchbook size, whatever your comfortable with.

Bear in mind that some pages in your sketchbook are going to be double spreads – so open up a sketchbook and see how big the double page spread is – if it feels too big then go for a slightly smaller one.

The one I’m working in is approx the size of a sheet of standard copier paper when closed, when it is opened up to a double spread it is the size of 2 sheets of copier pages side by side.

This is a good size to work with, as its not too small and not too big and you can experiment more with colours and textures on this size because on smaller sized pages you don’t have as much room to work with.


As for the paper thickness in your book, I recommend watercolour paper. It comes in different thicknesses and surfaces – you can get it in a smooth ‘hot pressed’ or rough surface.

I find the best thing to do when buying a sketchbook is to actually go into an art or craft shop and FEEL the pages of the book yourself, because if you like the feel of it, chances are you’ll love working in it.

That’s something I always do as I have a real stupid phobia about certain types of papers which make my skin crawl and I cant use those types of paper How weird is that!!


There are pluses and minuses on the types of book binding you go for, here’s some thoughts to consider for both types:

Spiral Bound:
On the positive side; if you go for a spiral bound book you’ll be able to lay your book completely flat and work across both pages with ease, you can actually stamp directly onto the pages. I love working on spiral books because of this.

But on the negative side I find the spiral bound books will split your pages into 2. Especially with the coil binding running through the middle which can split the whole feel of the page, especially if your working on a double page spread.

You will need to work around that and may have some problems making an image flow easily across the pages.

Regular Sewn Binding:
Sometimes it can be harder to work in a sewn bound book because you cant lay it completely flat, you may have problems stamping on the pages of these books and also people who have joint problems with hand movements etc might find a sewn bound book a bit of a challenge.

Also after a while I find these kind of books will start to warp outwards and don’t close properly.

Which is fine really as any book you work on like this will be subject to this problem. The one thing that art journals and altered books have in common is how they increase in volume as you add things to them 🙂

If your undecided on what kind of sketchbook to go for, why why not make your own book using good quality watercolour paper – you could use a bind-it-all if you have one, or sew or punch your pages together.

The book I’m going to use for this project is a book one of my art friends made for me and it has a hand sewn binding known as ‘signatures’ in book making speak. Basically this means large sheets of paper have been folded
in half and sewn along the folded seams together to make a signature bound book.

Also the most important thing about buying your journal is to remember to count the pages when you go to buy the books so that you have enough!!!!

You will need at LEAST 26 pages – you can choose whether you do single or double spreads BUT everyone will be doing SOME double AND single spreads at some point. So make sure you have enough pages

So make sure you have more than 26 pages – allow for at least 5-6 double spreads if your working single page style.

The sketchbook brands I recommend here in the UK are Daler Rowney and Pink Pig books – both are great books to work with. The papers in the pink pig books can be a little on the thin side but you can toughen it up with a coat
of gesso.

Art Supplies Needed For This Workshop:

Before we begin, most things your going to need for this workshop you will probably already have in your art stash 🙂

Just incase you havent got them or just incase you need an excuse to go out and do a bit of art shopping heres the basics you will need at some point:

  • A pencil
  • A good pencil eraser
  • Metal Ruler & Craft Knife to cut pages with – or you can use scissors or a paper trimmer
  • Regular White Gesso
  • Paint Brushes – One large decorators type paint brush for making ‘washes’, a smaller brush and a stubby type brush you can ‘stipple’ with.
  • Pens & Markers – you probably already have your own stash of markers so use these. I recommend investing in a black sharpie marker pen and a white signo or ranger gel ink pen to begin with.
  • Some form of paint medium – whatever you love working with best, be it acrylics, watercolours, gouache or inks. The choice is yours. (or all of the above!)
  • Clear Drying Glue or Gel Medium
  • A glue stick would also be useful
  • Either a set of A-Z stamps or a lettering stencil – if you dont have one, you can always cut and make your own so dont worry if you dont have either.

Newspapers & Magazines –

Start collecting magazines, newspapers and catalogues and skim through them looking for anything that catches your eye. Go for bright colours, patterns, words, pictures – you name it. Pictures of patterns on fabrics are especially good as you can use them in layers to make nice journal backgrounds.

Optional –

You may find it useful to keep a notebook or jotter pad and use it to write down any ideas or thoughts you have as you are working on your journal so you dont forget them. You can use them as a point of reference later on if your stuck for ideas.

Step One – Page Alterations

For the benefit of those who have never done art journals or altered books before I am going to list a few page alteration projects below to get you started. You dont have to follow my instructions to the exact letter; do it your own way and tweak it any way you can!

By Page Alteration, I am referring to the process of ripping or cutting the actual pages of your books or pages to make it look a little different to how it looks at the moment.

I find it best to do any page alteration before you actually begin the process of adding colour and decorating the journals because you dont ruin your artwork. Also by adding layers of papers and paints to any alterations
you make you will further enhance or strengthen the cuts and tears.

Heres a few ideas to get you going, as always please feel free to ignore my advice and do it your own way! The only rule here is – there is no rules 🙂

Before You Begin:

I can never decide where in my book I want to make the page alterations, so to make it easier I flip through the book and what ever page I land on, then that is the chosen space for the page alteration. Its up to you where in your book you make your page alterations. Please note at this point Im not even thinking about which letter is going on what page – that comes later 🙂

Please refer to all photographs I have uploaded for a better idea of the page alteration directions:

Half Cut Page:

Using a metal ruler and a craft knife I choose a page totally at random and cut it in half longways so that it only half a page wide. Keep hold of the half page you removed as you need to use it for another page alteration.
Page Alterations - HALF CUT PAGE
Page Alterations - HALF CUT PAGE

In this case I decided to do this for the very first page in my book – its up to you where you do your half cut page in your book.

Torn Paper Edges:

This option is one of the easiest of them all, flip through your book and pick out a random page and carefully tear off approx 1 cm- 1 inch from the edge to make it nice and rugged.

Page Alterations - TORN EDGE

Fold out Pages:

Remember the spare sheet you removed from your half cut page? Use that to make a fold out page anywhere in your book. You can affix the extra page portion using any number of methods, I used jump rings, but you could use sewing, tape, eyelets, brads, staples or whatever method you choose.

Page Alterations - FOLD OUT PAGEPage Alterations - FOLD OUT PAGE

Page Alterations - FOLD OUT PAGEPage Alterations - FOLD OUT PAGEPage Alterations - FOLD OUT PAGE

Layered Pages:

Use a craft knife and ruler to make perfect layered pages, cut each page slightly smaller than the next one so that they lie together in a nested layer.
Page Alterations - LAYERED PAGES
Page Alterations - LAYERED PAGESPage Alterations - LAYERED PAGES

Cut Out Pages:

Use a pencil to mark out a basic shape anywhere on your page, then take a craft knife and cut around that shape to make a shaped hole in the middle of your page.

Page Alterations - Cut Out Pages 2

Pocket Pages:

Roughly measure the centre of the page and use this as a point to fold your pages back into a triangle shape, once you’ve creased the folds you can affix a sheet of card over the top to make the pocket complete

Page Alterations - POCKET PAGE STEP 1Page Alterations - POCKET PAGE STEP 2

Page Alterations - POCKET PAGE STEP 2 BACKPage Alterations - POCKET PAGE STEP 3

Page Alterations - POCKET PAGE STEP 3 BACKPage Alterations - POCKET PAGE STEP 4

Page Alterations - POCKETPAGE TRIMMEDPage Alterations - POCKET PAGE TRIMMED 2

All full sized photos can be seen on the following url:

Dont forget to keep any paper offcuts as you can use them on your pages later on.

For those who are working in actual books

(not single pages)

AFTER you have made some page alterations, take a pencil and go through your book, on the top of each page letter it chronologically from A-Z lightly mark it. Only do it lightly as you want to be able to rub it out again easily afterwards. This will help you when we work through the alphabet in a random order so that you know where in your book your letter is supposed to go.

If you plan on making single side pages only in your book – please include at least 4-5 double page spreads (or more if you wish) so that you can have a bit of a change. Suggestion – use the pages you altered as double page spreads.

For those of you who are working mainly in double page spreads – mark at least 4-5 as single pages only.

The reason for this is so that your books break out of a typical uniform same pattern – it helps to stretch us creatively!

As luck would have it, when I came to letter my pages I found that the page Id cut an arch shape out of ended up being on the letters V and W pages!! I couldn’t believe my luck!!!

And Now To The Alphabet!

To make it more interesting, instead of going through the alphabet from A to Z, I am going to pick letters at random and go through that way – more of a challenge and keeps you on your toes 🙂

Im starting with the letter N…


Letter N Theme Ideas: Nature, Nonsense, Neverending, Night, Newspaper, Numbers, Nests, Nevermore, New, Nightmares, Noah’s Art, Nudes, Nymphs

Letter N Colours: Navy, Nile Green, Navajo white, Naples yellow, Neon green, Neon orange, Neon pink, Nude beige

Letter N Art Products and Brandnames: (Winsor &) Newton, Natural Sponges, NEOART AQUARELLE PASTELS, Neocolours Watercolour Crayons

Letter N Techniques: Napkin Art


Letter F Theme Ideas: Fabric, Fantasy, Faux Postage, Femmes, Fibers, Flowers, Fern, Footprints, Found Objects, Fruit, Flourish, Fate, Foliage, Family, Fairs, Fairy, Fish, Flora

Colours begining with F: Fern Green, Falu red, Faun, Fire engine red, Firebrick, Flax, Flesh, Fleshtone, Floral white, Forest Green, French rose, Fresh grass green, Fuchsia, Fuchsia pink

Art products & brand names beginning with the letter F : Fantasy Film, Fimo, Fusible Film/Fibers, Foil, Foam, Freezer Paper, Fusible Webbing, Floor Wax, Fibers

Techniques begining with the letter F: Faux Leather, Faux Washi, Freezer Paper Background

8 thoughts on “Alphabet Discovery

  1. This helps a lot in getting me started. I am going to use a book I just made in a class that has three rings like a notebook binder so I can make my pages and then insert them as they are finished. I like your ideas on altering them before even painting or anything.

  2. brilliant !!!! I’ve been looking for a large project to do through the winter and this is it!!!! Thanks Trish for giving me the kickstart I need. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with next

    Happy Crafting


  3. This looks like just want I am searching for to see if I can make an art journal. Thanks so much for doing this.

  4. Hello, I am trying to sign up to join this workshop and the group, but my membership has been pending for quite some time. Is this workshop closed? Please let me know. Thank you.


  5. Future Challenges on Groups & Blogs Postponed Indefinitely

    Due to constant ill health I have decided it is best to postpone all challenges on this blog and my other blogs until further notice.

    I had hoped rather optimistically that I would be able to overcome health issues and be able to be back in the thick of things running challenges and posting new techniques and ideas but my mind and body have other ideas!

    One day when my health is in a better state I may be able to return to doing all of that but for the time being I am postponing all challenges etc until further notice.

    I will continue to make artwork in my spare time and occasionally upload what Ive done to my flickr gallery and my main blog but that is all I can commit to at this present moment in time.

    Apologies to everyone in advance for any dissapointment caused with this decision. I wish I had half the energy I had 4 years ago but sadly I havent anymore.

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