Journal Fresh: Emily Kobliska Christians

An Art Journal Q&A by Dawn Sokol

This month, Dawn would like to introduce you to Emily Kobliska Christians, an artist from Ankeny, Iowa.

Why art journaling?

When you keep an art journal, you are essentially recording the story of your life, the story of you. And what’s not to love about that?

What inspired you to start art journaling?

I have been interested in art and have kept some type of journal for as long as I can remember. I’m not quite sure what exactly inspired me to start, I just know that I haven’t ever really stopped.

Growing up, my grandmothers were highly influential. One grandma was an oil painter whom I spent many afternoons with painting at her dining room table. Seriously, who would trust a 7-year-old with oil paints? In the living room? She taught me to keep a folder of images that inspired me, how to care for my supplies, and made me feel like my art was special (as only grandmas can do). My other grandmother kept tedious five-year diaries. I remember being quite young looking through her books amazed that I could go back in time and read about the day I was born. I found it incredibly fascinating how she had day-after-day recorded her life. Finally, I was lucky enough to have supportive parents that saved cardboard so I could paint on it and didn’t harp on me too terribly bad after I drew on the walls in the upstairs hallway because I had “run out of paper.”

Who are some of your favorite art journalers?

Dan Eldon: He incorporated photos into his journals in the most magical of ways. Plus he had Iowa roots! Sadly, his was a life taken too soon.

Sabrina Ward Harrison: An amazing professor introduced me to her work in college. Sabrina’s work is vulnerable and honest. I think every woman in the world can relate to her in one way or another.

Kim Smith: Kim’s work is such a treat! I am constantly inspired by the handwritten and collage elements she adds to her books. She possesses an all-round funky style I really admire.

Juliana Coles: Her pages are gritty and raw, in the best of ways. It’s a dream of mine to someday take a class from her.

Elkemay & Sparkleface: I discovered their work via Flickr and have been following ever since. Mondo-inspirational.

How about other artists you look to for inspiration?

Nista: Here is a girl that is so technically wise when it comes to alternative photography. She has a “no rules” attitude when it comes to art and is more than willing to share her knowledge. So cool.

Hula Seventy: Andrea’s photos are always uniquely dreamy and vintage looking. She is the queen of Polaroids.

Jesse Reno: Amazing process and jaw-dropping results. YouTube this guy, watch him paint and thank me later.

*** These lists could go on (and on) but I’ll stop here.

What important bit of advice can you give to those wanting to start art journaling?

First of all, don’t just think about it, do it! You’ll be addicted in no time.


  1. Carry your journal and camera with you every day and everywhere. Make art (in some way, big or small) EVERY DAY. I have only recently made this a daily practice and it has rocked my little art world immensely.
  2. Make your books your own. Learn from others, be inspired by others, but yours is a story unique to you. So go on and tell it as only YOU can.
  3. Don’t be afraid to share your journals. In the past I was incredibly bashful about sharing my pages. I feared people wouldn’t “get” it and would find it odd or (gasp!) foolish I spent so many hours documenting the mundane, and then I just got to the point I didn’t really care anymore. Don’t ask me how I got there but that attitude shift has been very liberating for me. I started a website, blog, posted to Flickr, joined a painting group, participated in a few art shows and even sold some pieces along the way. I have many art goals I haven’t even scratched the surface of yet but I’m slowly getting there. I know deep down these goals aren’t achievable unless I put my worries of what others think aside and share my work.

Tell us a little about your process. What mediums do you like to use?

My journal of preference is a Moleskine Large Sketchbook. Which, in reality, is really not that large (5.25 x 8.25 inches). However, over time I have found that this size is big enough to work in yet small enough to carry around all day. Plus, the paper is off-white and durable.

I usually begin by slapping a little paint on my paper with palette knife. Next, I glue down interesting paper scraps. I limit my stash to one drawer otherwise it would seriously be out of control. I play a lot with transfer images (packing tape and contact paper transfers, mostly). I rarely have the patience for gel medium transfers. I know many artists use them with great success but it just involves too much wait time for me! I work quickly without over-thinking the process too much. I love to incorporate drawings and doodles into my work. When I write I’m typically streaming whatever is on my mind at the moment. Usually it’s nothing overly significant—just my random thoughts, often in list form. My favorite tools are paint markers, Soufflé pens, charcoal, photographs and masking tape. Aside from that just about anything goes!

Do you also have other ways you like to create, and if so, what are they?

I also create mixed-media pieces on cradled panels. I use a similar process as I would with my journals but focus more on the transferred images and typically don’t include as much written journaling.

Since the new year I have also gotten into photography as a means of documenting daily life. I am participating in a 365 Photo Challenge on Flickr. This project has created wonderful “photo fodder” for my books.

Click here to follow Emily Kobliska Christians on her blog.

Click here to follow Dawn Sokol on her blog.


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