Review: Real Life Journals by Gwen Diehn

I’m happy to say that I was contacted by Lark Book’s craft publishing person to receive an advance copy of Gwen Diehn’s latest book, Real Life Journals to review. When I say happy, I mean, do a little dance around the studio happy. Seriously, I was stoked to get the book.

Like all of Gwen Diehn’s books this is well planned and executed. She has a particular design and art perspective that could put off some art journalers as she's very fine art focused but what I like about it is that it’s simple. She focuses on the fact that you don’t need a lot to art journal. You’ll notice throughout the book, most of the journaling spreads are done in pencil, pen, ink and watercolor. In the final section of photos some of the journalers get a little fancy with materials, but Diehn’s focus is simply pen, ink and watercolor. Sweet little watercolors dot the pages of the books as do well orchestrated photos of lovely journals.

Don’t take what I write as negativity, Diehn’s book is 100% a visual treat. It’s also well written in an easy to read conversational tone. Even if you’ve never bound a book this will be fairly easy for you to understand and make a book using her instructions.

I like the idea of choose your own adventure type of way to select a type of binding for your journal. With so many options it’s an easy way to make the choice. I highly suggest that you read the book cover to cover first. It’s good.

She begins by talking about design and then moves into discussing with people who have used particular designs. It’s good stuff to help you decide what you want for your journals.  The section on tools is particularly good, though I do wish one of the bookbinding authors out there would write a section on how to use regular things around your house as tools.  The discussion is through and complete.

She has a section on adding pockets, windows and ties. She briefly touches upon things to use in your journal. (I have to point out here that I disagree with her on Golden liquid acrylics not sticking, they do, unless you use very little.) It’s a great introduction to methods and materials. Of particular interest is the section on “why you should write.”

The book is jam packed full of instruction and tips for making some great journals. The instructions are clear, easy to understand and brief. The only one I had an issue understand at first was the Reverse Australian Piano hinge. After I read it again I got it, but it gave me pause. The illustrations are very helpful in understanding the directions.

She spends a lot of time on covers, decorating them and how they can be used to spark your creative juices. I particularly loved the section on journaling and its history. She finishes the book off with a gallery of great journal art.

Over all I’d rank this up there with Gwen Diehn’s other book and Alysa Golden’s as a must have for the beginning bookbinder or art journaler.*


*In full disclosure I received this book for free and as an advance copy. The publisher contacted me. I’m open to doing other reviews, so if you are interested in  me reviewing your books feel free to contact me, my email addy is in the side bar.