Our Peek Inside… series takes a look inside people’s personal journals to celebrate their creativity and inspire others. Send us an email if you have a project that you would like to be featured.

This month we talked to the very talented Biljana about her illustrated journal:

Ever since I can remember I’ve had a journal-type notebook where I doodled and collected my favourite quotes, magazine clippings and anything else that inspired me. During my teen years the journals also contained lots of quotes on love with images of flowers and other romantic things, as well as short conversations that I had with my friends. I keep them to this day because I think they capture my childhood and teen years even better than photographs do.

Today my sketchbooks/journals have more of a free-flowing style. In them I keep doodles, quotes, figure and nature studies, tips and ideas. I write things down that I might find useful for a future project. It helps me think more clearly and organize my thoughts. Because I’m an illustrator/graphic designer I always have a notebook nearby and they have become my journals; they reveal a lot about me as a person and an artist. They are where I can be free to write or draw anything.

On a recent trip to Italy my husband and I had a 15-hour delay at the Milan airport, and I found myself without anything to draw on as we waited to board our first of many connections. With so much time to spare I wandered around the airport looking for somewhere to buy pen and paper and spotted the Paperblanks section at a small bookstore. I’ve always wanted a journal/sketchbook with a pretty cover, and I had such a hard time choosing between all the beautiful Paperblanks journals.

Knowing a little bit about printing, I appreciate how much care went into creating the embossing and gold and silver foil stamping, and achieving such great colour. I’ve often wondered why most of the sketchbooks I’ve bought at art stores have a boring black cover, and many times I ended up gluing a collage of magazine clippings or my own drawings on the outside. I felt like I had to beautify the books so I could get inspired to pick them up and use them. With Paperblanks, I didn’t have to do that because their covers are exquisite.

My first Paperblanks book was Saint-Exupery’s Wind, Sand and Stars from the Embellished Manuscripts Collection, and I also have one of the French Ornate Dayplanners. Since my current journal is filling up quickly I’m already planning my next Paperblanks purchase – I think it will be an unlined journal from the Lindau Gospels Collection.

I was very happy to discover that Paperblanks has unlined versions since I use them to sketch. Most of the time I start with a thought or a quote which I quickly jot down, and then I develop the sketches around it. Sometimes these sketches develop into larger, more complete drawings. Currently I’m in the process of illustrating a series of old fairytales. One of the most recent storybooks I’ve completed is Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, which can be seen and/or purchased here.

When I was in Italy I got inspired by many of the things I saw there – beautiful architecture, nautical decor, Rococo paintings and frescoes, gardens, statues, etc. I took lots of photos then used them as reference when I got home to sketch some ideas, and many of them ended up in my storybook illustrations for The Little Mermaid. In fact, every illustration in the storybook was an idea born in my journal.

I feel most comfortable working small scale at first, while I try different compositions or facial expressions. I am also very interested in calligraphy and hand-drawn lettering, and I’ve used many of my type sketches to develop further into fonts. I am currently also selling a variety of hand-drawn prints at Society6, all of which started as doodles in my sketchbook.

Thanks, Biljana!


  1. These are fabulous! I found them by accident while looking for fonts – printing is not my forte! What a treat of come across your work! It’s nice to see true talent, not just cartoon like (more like mine) drawings!


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