"It's Haunting" Art Journaling

"It's Haunting" Art Journaling

Note: This blog post includes photos from a long weekend vacation, an art journal spread, and a video (speed paint) of this spread being created. The video also includes the story of this long weekend, detailing the imagery pulled from specific photos taken at the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. This video is located at the end of this blog post!


In the month of May of this year, 2019, my husband and I took a four day weekend out of state. We decided to pack up a couple bags, hop in the car, and a find an inexpensive, off-season place to go. We settled on a mountain top trip to the lush forests and quiet spaces of West Virginia. We had no plans, other than a reserved place to sleep, which was a condo located in a vacant ski lodge. Our base of operations, for four days, was a mountain peak.


The first few days, we visited several different tourist locations, such as the Green Bank Science Center and the worlds largest steerable telescope, toured a couple caves, and drove over the border to visit a few towns in Virginia. The roads were winding, the curves were harsh, and drive was slow. We spent a lot of the time in awe of the rolling mountains, as we weaved back and forth through them. The trip was unplanned, however my husband and I did a little bit of research each night, finding things to do for the following days.


One of the things we found to occupy our time was to tour an old mental health hospital. It was located in the north of the state, now abandoned and set up to offer tours to the public. This place is now called—as an homage to its original title—the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. It offers several different tours of several different buildings on the premises, as it is an impressive historical landmark. We decided to stop here and tour the 150+ year old facility on the last day of our vacation, giving ourselves ample time to spend within its walls.


Perhaps it was because the Trans Allegheny-Lunatic Asylum was the last (and therefore most recent) thing that we did on vacation, but it really seemed to have made the most impact on me. The renovated spaces were beautiful, the architecture was impressive, and the urban decay was haunting. The impact the building made on history pertaining to both Psychology and America during the Civil War was interesting, and the building itself was so grand. Stretching at almost a quarter of a mile in length, the asylum offers much to see, including long empty corridors, a ballroom space, and and several purportedly haunted rooms.


The art journal spread I have created, pictured in this post, is fully inspired by the time that we spent in the Asylum, having taken two tours, totaling out to about three hours of exploring and learning. We also spent time in the small museums on the first floor, but I was mostly impressed by the architecture, history, and urban decay found on the upper floors of the building. There are several tours offered by the asylum, including renovated spaces, restored to early styles of the 1800’s. However, to me the most fascinating parts of the building were what remained from being beautified during the 1980’s: large, smooth arches covered in pastel paints; rows of solid wood doors hanging from large metal hinges; grungy green bathroom fixtures encrusted in dust. Many of the images found in this art journal spread are inspired from these haunting spaces, including my color palette.


This spread took me more than eight hours, referring back to photos that I had taken while touring the Building for the Criminally Insane, as well as the “Paranormal Tour,” which covers several floors of the main building. I pulled patterns and imagery from the photos, as well as the color scheme, which is of drab pastel paints. I tried to grunge up the spread with Art Stix (a woodless colored pencil), drawing lightly in order to make scratchy, half finished marks. The entire list of supplies used in spread is below the following photo!


Supply List:

  • Golden brand black gesso

  • Liquitex brand acrylic gauche in Peach

  • Golden brand fluid acrylic paints in Naples Yellow Hue, Titan Green Pale, Titan Buff, Interference Orange, and Interference Green

  • Utrecht brand acrylic paint in Sapphire Blue

  • Amsterdam brand acrylic ink in King’s Blue

  • Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay brand India ink in Black

  • Prismacolor Art Stix brand woodless colored pencils in White, Black, and Light Blue

  • Faber-Castell Pitt brand pens in Black in sizes Small, Extra Small, Medium, and Brush

  • Blick brand Matte Acrylic Varnish

  • Krylon brand varnish spray UV-Resistant Clear Acrylic Coating

Too see a time lapse speed paint of this art journal spread, titled “It’s Haunting,” and to hear the whole story of my long weekend among the mountains, check out the video below!

Mixed Media More: Collage

Mixed Media More: Collage