Saturday, December 17, 2011

My Etsy!

Well, I finally did it. I'm very late in posting about this, but back in the summer I finally opened my own Etsy shop. It's a humble little spot on the web I've named Blue Monkey Market. Currently, there are cards listed and some polymer clay ornaments, all made by yours truly, of course. In the future, I hope to offer more, like hand carved rubber stamps, possibly some crocheted items, paper craft kits, other polymer clay doo-dads and what-nots, and more.

I'm running a sale right now. Just enter the coupon code BLUEWINTER to get 15% off your order. I provide fast shipping, too! Many thanks to those that have already placed an order.

Here's a few of the things up for sale right now:

Handmade polymer clay Christmas ornaments.

Handmade cards.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Pulse: Technique and Tool

I'm happy to report that I'm one of the featured artists on today's chapter of The Pulse. This time around, Seth asked the participating artists what technique or tool they can't live without. Head on over to read my response, as well as the other artists' responses.

Have an artful day!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My blog on Be@Home

Just a quick post to share some exciting news. My humble little blog was featured on Be@Home's Best of the Web series yesterday! I was excited to be noticed among all the wonderful and prolific bloggers out there. Go check out their site and see the other bloggers who inspire and entertain!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Why not Halloween?

Those who know me know that my love to create means I'm always working on some kind of project, and usually several at once. I've found that I feel most inspired and creative during the colder months of the year. Autumn and winter suit me just fine; I'd take cold over hot any day.

Considering this, it's odd that I almost never create anything with a Halloween theme. I enjoy makings things for other holidays, so why not Halloween? This year, a dear online friend mentioned that she loved Halloween and the ensuing crafty endeavours, and for some reason, it sparked something in me to make some Halloween-inspired items. Looking back, I realize it had me thinking outside the box, and getting out of my comfort zone. So I had some fun with traditional Halloween colors and images. These little creations helped me break through the wall that is artist's block, and got me back on track, artistically-speaking.

 Witchy Woman ATC

Witchy Woman ATC #2

These artist trading cards may not be masterpieces or artwork on a grand scale, but they're fun to make and trade, and there's not much I let get in the way of my fun.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I'm still right here, giving blood, keeping faith.

My apologies to my readers for my silence. I am making art, which is always a good thing. It appears the slump has passed, or at least just faded away. There was no big bang, or major revelation that spurred my recent creativity, it just crept back in, silently, as it's done many times in the past. I'm grateful, but wish I had more insight to the workings of my own artistic mind. I'd love a guidebook on how to not fall into a rut again, but I know at some point, I'll feel less than inspired, and the cycle will repeat. For now, though, I am creating.

Lately, my mind is all over the place. Many days, my mind, as well as my heart, is in a secluded spot by Rush Creek, off of Highway 395 in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains of California. It's a familiar place that I've been many times. Nearby, several aspen trees bear the carvings my brothers and I made on past visits. Behind me is a flat-topped hill with 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains. It's so quiet there you can hear the earth breathing.

Other days, I find myself thinking of the high desert of the American southwest. Red rock country. Another home for my heart.

The traveler in me is restless, and has been for a very long time. I yearn for the ocean, canyons, sagebrush, mountains the scope of which Virginia can't touch, endless night skies where the stars burn brighter than you could ever imagine and roads that lead to new, magnificent discoveries that take your breath away. Forever the dreamer, that's me.

I seek to pour this longing into my artwork. Not sure if I'm succeeding yet, but that's never stopped me before.

Mixed media tentacle triptych made for a swap with an online friend and fellow artist.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The state I'm in.

So, I'm currently working stumbling my way through a bit of a slump. Actually, this "slump" has been off and on for a few months now. I know how to change it, and sometimes I manage to climb over the wall, but I can't seem to tear down the wall, and that's what I really want to do.

Mt. Pilchuck, Washington. Sunset. 

Somewhere, amidst the slump, I found myself realizing I was making it even worse by trying to force what cannot be forced. Oh, sure, I can mold any idea into something pliable, but this feels more like barely scratching the surface. I know there's so much more below, but I struggle to reach it.

Beach at Deception Pass.

My brother, who is younger than me but full of wisdom, said to ride it through, let the slump hang around for a bit, let it run its course. Just the idea of that sparked a small something today, and I managed to eek out a couple small works. I also had success the other day when my dear friend Barb advised going into the studio just to play, with no set plan to "make something". And I also know that the best way to cultivate new ideas is just by working, doing something, anything, to get the juices flowing.

Isn't it just lovely to know these things, yet still find yourself staring down the wall? *sigh* Yup.

Another friend mentioned perhaps I was a bit depressed after the big build up to, and then returning from, my trip to Washington. She may be onto something.

The Cascades.

Regardless, here I am. I have the tools to break through, I know how, and I know I'm only making things worse by focusing on it. I am. At the same time, I can feel that once I break through this, something amazing awaits on the other side. I'm on the cusp of...something, and that's exciting.

Mt. Pilchuck.

And my trip to Washington? It was amazing, just what I needed. Meeting Barb for the first time "in real life" was...awesome. It just solidified what I already knew to be true, that Barb and I are a lot alike, and that I cherish her presence in my life. Barb doesn't demand anything of you, she allows you to be you, and at the same time she challenges you, in a good way. We laughed, a lot. We watched movies, and laughed some more. We made art. Mostly, we spent time just enjoying being together. We also took a jaunt over the Cascades to meet up with some other online friends, which was a most unforgettable experience. What happens when you get 4 intelligent, creative, funny and unabashed friends together, who have never met in person before, in a random Denny's in the middle of the afternoon? Laughter and many smiles ensue. You might also get a few stares, and your table may be referred to by an employee as "where the party is!" I pretty much just stayed laughing the entire time.

Snoqualmie Falls.

Anyway, I'll keep going the direction I am, working a bit here and there, trying not to worry too much and just letting it flow. And I'll try my best to not beat myself up about it, which is, of course, much easier said than done.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Art journal inspiration.

I don't yet have a new post ready for my art journaling series, but I'm (slowly) working on that. I thought today I'd share some inspiration for all you art journalers out there. Yesterday I ran across (thanks to the new addiction that is Pinterest) this, a tumblr page dedicated to art journals, collected by Barb. It's a wonderful source to get the creative juices flowing, and to see how others use their journals.

Now, let's talk about what you'd like to see in future art journal posts. In the last several months, I've been regularly checking my stats here (something I rarely, if ever, did before). I've had this blog since 2007, and by and large, the number one post people are reading is my Fearless Art Journaling post on backgrounds. I'm not too surprised, as that post goes in line with a lot of the art journal questions I am asked. I myself find the backgrounds the easiest part - it's the focal point that sometimes does me in. I have some ideas for the series, but I'd like to know if there's anything my readers would like to see. Any questions about art journals you'd like answered? Any techniques you'd like me to cover? Feel free to add your ideas, comments and questions in the comments.

Hope you all have an artful day!

Buried Treasure 2011

It's time, once again, for Seth Apter's Buried Treasure. To take part, all you need do is repost one or more of your favorite blog entries going back to the beginning of your blog. I believe this is my 3rd time joining in, if memory serves. This time, I'm not going back very far. This post was part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2011 that I took part in. Thanks for stopping by!

The following was orginally posted on April 26, 2011. I didn't have to go back very far this time to find a favorite.

Veil (n.) A cover; disguise; a mask; a pretense.

There are many things in this world hidden behind a veil. For a multitude of reasons, often fear, people hide parts of themselves from others. We fear someone may not like what they see and may ridicule or alienate us, and most everyone yearns to feel they belong somewhere. Our own government hides behind pretenses, to keep us uninformed and controllable. That's not conspiracy theory; you're kidding yourself if you think they tell us everything.

i can understand sometimes feeling the need to keep a part of yourself tucked away, safe from mocking and misunderstanding, but more and more i seek to let out those "secrets". i'm finding the release necessary to feel that i'm really presenting myself as who i am, and also necessary towards making strides to becoming the me i am and am meant to be. Often, when we share a hidden part of ourselves, someone else feels the courage to respond with "Me, too!", and instead of feeling alone, you both find common ground and let out a little sigh, thinking, i'm so glad i'm not the only one. By remaining behind the mask, we isolate ourselves. If we are free and open and honest, we make connections.

But let's say you pull aside the veil and someone doesn't like what they see? All you can do is be honest and true to yourself, and if someone has a problem with that, better to find out sooner rather than later.

If more of us let down our guard and shared those things we most fear sharing, i think we'd find we're a lot more alike than we think. We may find common ground with our worst enemies, and maybe, just maybe, a lot more people would feel less like weirdos or freaks or outsiders. A small connection can go a long way towards understanding and compassion, and the world can always use more of both.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Frida, and finding my voice.

Last week, while visiting my dear friend Barb in Washington state (more about my visit in a future post), we watched the movie Frida.  I'd seen it before, but it had been awhile, and this time it struck a chord with me that it hadn't during the first viewing. I had an epiphany of sorts concerning an artist's life and how it affects their work.

Ever since the first time I laid eyes on Frida Kahlo's work, I've been a fan. One of the many things I find very appealing about her paintings is their personal aspect. It struck me during the movie, while ruminating about her life and the obstacles she had to overcome, this is something I should strive for more in my own work. Often, when I don't like a piece, I find it's because it feels contrived and lacks my true voice. Frida's paintings are her paintings; no one else could have painted them, ever. They are true to her, and she allowed so much to be spilled onto the canvas. There are times when I am forcing the work, and struggling. I'd do much better to allow the art to come through. I tend to forget this, and then a wall goes up.

I'm very interested in Frida herself, aside from the artist. She intrigues me. This leads me back to her artwork as my interest in her makes me want to hear what she has to say. Some of the most valuable messages are related through art, maybe especially of the variety without words. Often, the most important things can't be contained with words.

Frida shared herself through her art. We are so lucky to get a glimpse into this other world, a world of deep emotions, secret desires (or not so secret), dreamscapes...nightmares. The meat of it.

Everything I create will have my voice attached in some way, even when I'm "forcing" it; it can't be helped. Because I am the creator, part of me comes through. But I crave more. I often end a day in the studio feeling like I didn't create the art I really wanted to, the art I see in my mind and feel in my heart. Sometimes I tap into it easily, and it just flows, and reaches a point where it feels like the art is making itself. Other times, not so much.

I will not be satisfied until I feel I really allow my voice to speak more often than not. I want to create my art. I want my work to have a personal connection to me, even if veiled and only seen through my eyes. I'm getting closer to this, I can feel it.

Still...the wall has been up. I returned from Washington reinvigorated, refreshed and inspired, yet when I sit down to work, nada. I've turned out a couple small things, stumbling all the way, but it feels like there's something hidden, just beyond, and I can't quite make it out...

This life is a learning process, and so can be creativity. In both, it's important to let go of control (or the illusion of) sometimes and just go along for the ride. Letting go of fear is key if you want to really live, and if you want to realize the potential of the person and artist inside you. (I think I should heed my own advice.)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Coming to you from the left coast.

I just wanted to do a quick post to say that you can find one of my answers on today's Style File, part of Seth Apter's The Pulse series. Be sure to check out the other artists included today; there is much inspiration to be found!

Also, I'm currently in Washington state visiting my dear friend Barb, and having a wonderful time. I'm thrilled to finally be "live and in person" with her, someone I've known online for 6 years or more. I'm also happy to have a much needed getaway and a shift in perspective. I wish I could take these cooler temperatures home with me...

Thursday, June 30, 2011

New edition of Seth Apter's The Pulse!

I wanted to do a quick post to let you all know about Seth Apter's latest incarnation of The Pulse. This time around over 125 artists contributed to this "online survey in words and pictures" (quoting Seth), and I'm thrilled to be a part of this 5th edition! It begins this coming weekend, with posts on Saturday 7/2, Sunday 7/3 and Monday 7/4. Following this big kick off, The Pulse will be posted every Sunday following.

Seth describes the series this way: The Pulse is a collaborative project that has been part of The Altered Page since January 2008. Its purpose is to "tap into the pulse" of the mixed-media arts community and share with you the "state of the art." This project will introduce you to new artists, help you get to know familiar faces even more, and provide a window into the creative hearts and minds of the talented pool of artists working today.

I have enjoyed the inspiration and insight provided by this series in the past, and being able to participate this time around is the icing on the cake. I invite you to visit Seth's blog and join in on the fun!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blog break, it seems...

I had hoped to have a post up yesterday, or even today, but it appears I am needing to take a bit of a break from this series and my blog. The art journaling posts entail quite a bit of work, often taking me a few hours to write up. "Real life" is demanding quite a bit of my attention right now, and I just can't seem to devote as much to my blog. I have a getaway coming up in July, so I shall return after that with new posts.

In the meantime, I encourage you to utilize my previous journal posts and their tips/techniques, as well as search out links on the web for other art journal artists. There's a ton of inspiration out there. Keep playing and experimenting in your journals, and remember, don't fear the mistakes - there are lessons to be found there.

Hope you all have an artful day, and thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fearless Art Journaling returns on Monday, and...

Thank you to everyone who has been reading and enjoying my art journal series. I had hoped to have a new post up by now, but alas, this week has been very full. I'll be back on Monday with Part 6, where I'll begin a page and show some of the process.

I want to extend a call for requests. Is there something you'd like to see discussed in a future post in this series? Please share any thoughts on what you'd like to see as this series goes along, as well as any questions, in the comments.

Hope you have an artful day!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fearless Art Journaling, Part 5: Own It.

I want to talk today about making your art journal your own. As with most any art form, there is a tendency for artists to jump on the bandwagon, so to speak, and follow the lead of those before them. While being inspired by another's art or learning a technique from someone else to use in your own journal is helpful, outright copying of another's style is not something I am a proponent of. Right now, in the art journal community, I am seeing a lot of the same kinds of pages done over and over. Sometimes your own style and the art you tend to make just happens to be the current trend, and that can't be helped. I'm not saying you should stop what you're doing if your pages look very similar to someone else's, but try not to get caught in the trap of thinking that your pages have to look a certain way to be art.

I hope I'm getting my point across here without being preachy. What I'm basically saying is, make your own art, not someone else's. Getting ideas from other artists is one thing, but don't try to force yourself to recreate someone else's pages. You have your own voice, and your own story to tell, in your own way. And even if you do attempt to copy someone's work, either for practice (as is sometimes done to learn a medium or style) or because you've reached a creative road block, know that your own style can't help but come through anyway. You can't silence the artist in you; even if you try, your voice will find a way to come through.

To give you an idea of the variety art journals out there, I'll share some links to other artists. Feel free to share links to your favorite journal artists in the comments.

John Copeland One of my favorite artists. His own website once showed many of his journal pages, but unless I'm missing something, doesn't seem to now. He is an amazing artist who has been inspiring me for years.

Barron Storey Barron was responsible for getting John Copeland into art journals. Amazing work to be seen here!

Sabrina Ward Harrison I first discovered this artist not long after her first published journal, Spilling Open: The Art of Becoming Yourself, was released. I didn't know anything about her at the time, but after only flipping through a few pages, I bought the book right then.

Traci Bunkers I really enjoy her raw and vivid pages.

Aisling D'Art You may already be familiar with this artist. Lots of info to be found on her site about journaling and other arts.

Amanda Kavanagh A link to her blog where you'll find further links to her sketchbooks and other book arts. On a side note, her blog name is "craftmonkeys", which was one of my ideas for a blog name when I was ready to start my own blog here. I was actually shooting for "craftmonkey", but alas, it was taken here at blogger, and elsewhere on the web.

Margaret Huber

Guylaine Couture

This is just a very small sampling of journal artists out there, but I hope it gives you some idea of how varied art journals can be, as varied as the artists themselves.

To further lessen any fear you may have, how about I share some of my own less-than-successful pages?

This page is a mess, in my eyes. It has no direction at all, no purpose. A page doesn't necessarily need purpose, but this one isn't saying anything especially meaningful to me. What a waste of good, vintage children's book pages! Ok, it's hurting my eyes. Let's move on.

Another doozy. My only goal in making this page was wanting to use crackle medium. Well, I did succeed there, but again, this page isn't saying anything, and it's visually very unappealing to me.

Ay yi yi. Ok, this page is not me, at all. I was playing around with using painted tissue paper, and somehow I channeled whimsy, which is generally not my style. Nothing wrong with whimsy, it's just not me.

Art being relative, there are those that might actually enjoy these pages, and that's fine. But it's my journal, so the audience I'm looking to please is myself. The reason these pages feel "wrong" to me is not as much their visual aspect (though they're not too pleasant to look at) as the fact that they aren't "me". I was trying to create a certain look and missed being true to myself and the artist inside me. These pages do not read authentic to me, because they're not. They're kind of empty and lacking soul.

I hope showing these pages can help you feel better about making mistakes and learning from them. Everyone has "ugly" art hiding somewhere, it's just that most of us don't like to show it off. Maybe we should. Those just starting might feel less intimidated if they knew other artists don't always hit the target.

I feel it very important that I say this, in regards to any kind of art or craft you'd like to pursue (and this can apply to most anything in life, as well): you can. I'm not saying every one of us is going to be the next Van Gogh. What I am saying is you can do this. You can make the art you see in your mind, you can learn the ways others make use of their tools and mediums, and you can take your knowledge and apply it to your own art. It's not difficult; it simply takes time, practice and a willingness to learn.

Make your journals authentic by being you. Let it out. Don't be afraid to get messy and make mistakes. Don't be afraid to make something "ugly" - it can always be reworked or covered entirely. You have to let go of the fear to really get where you want to be. It sounds like a platitude, but it really is true. Fear will hold you back, in so many ways. It's your journal; claim it as such.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fearless Art Journaling, Part 4: Prompts.

So far in this series, I've discussed supplies, moving past the blank page, reasons why people keep a journal and getting started with backgrounds. For today's post, I'll share some prompts to get your creative juices flowing and aid in giving your page personal meaning. Is it necessary for a page to have personal meaning? Certainly not. I've created plenty of pages just because I felt like playing with my supplies, or wanted to experiment with a new technique, or just wanted to be creative. Remember, there are no rules! While keeping that in mind, it's also very satisfying to lend a personal aspect to your journal. After all, it's your journal, it's your place to express your thoughts, feelings and ideas, without fear of judgement or concern of whether what you create is "good enough". Let it reflect who you are. Be yourself! Even if you don't want to "spill your guts", these prompts can hopefully give you a place to start on days when you're at a loss of what to journal about. All combined, I hope the posts so far will make you feel more at ease in getting started, or continuing on, for those who've already jumped in.

Art Journal Prompts:
  • A memory from childhood.
  • Your favorite place.
  • Favorite quotes.
  • The previous night's dream.
  • A memorable trip or vacation.
  • The seasons.
  • What 3:00 am feels like.
  • Favorite songs, and what they mean to you.
  • Favorite color(s).
  • Favorite book(s).
  • What makes you sad.
  • What makes you happy.
  • What gives you strength.
  • What scares you.
  • Daydreams.
  • A special moment from your day.
  • An important person in your life.
  • What "home" means to you.
  • The greatest gift you've ever been given.
Complete these sentences:
  • I am...
  • I want...
  • I miss...
  • I wish...
  • I wonder...
  • I will...
  • I have...
  • I can...
  • I enjoy...
  • I love...
  • I remember...
  • I am proud of myself for...
  • I dream of someday...
  • I am happiest when...
  • I am grateful for...
A journal page can revolve around a list:
  • Places you'd like to travel to.
  • Facts about you.
  • Good friends and why they're special to you.
  • Jobs you've had.
  • Pets you've loved.
  • Favorite foods.
  • What you love about your life.
  • What you'd like to change.
  • Favorite authors.
  • Favorite movies.
  • Goals for the future.
Be creative. You can write a response, or draw, paint, can come at it literally, or go abstract. It's all up to you.

Following my last post, reader Leanne asked, "What do you put in your art journal? Do you write about your day, draw, or just decorate pages?" My answer is all of the above, plus more! My journal is my place to write about the day's or life's events, my diary, my playground, a way to release pent up emotions, a free art space... The list goes on. I write, draw, paint, collage, attach photos and ephemera... I work in different ways, some days just doing a background, other days adding to a previous page or working an entire page in one sitting. Use your own journal in a way that feels natural to you. The key is to express yourself without holding back. No one ever has to see your journal if you so choose. While you may decide to share it with others, your art journal should be for you first.

To give you some concrete examples, I'll take a couple of the prompts and share how I might go about journaling them.

Your favorite place:

I have lots of favorite places, some very specific, like my studio, and some broader, like the American southwest. For this example, I'll go with San Fransisco.

Some things I might include on a page about San Francisco are sketches of the Golden Gate Bridge, photos I took during my time there, postcards, city maps, chopstick wrappers from a meal in a Chinatown restaurant or clippings from local newspapers. I might journal about my favorite ocean side spot in the city, or the concert I saw in Golden Gate Park, or how much I love when the fog rolls in, or how it feels to be in the city at night. Or I may forgo all of this and just paint a picture of the ocean.

The seasons:

For this prompt, I could write about my favorite season, which is autumn, and paint some leaves or make leaf prints, or even attach actual leaves to the pages. Or I could journal about what season it is currently. If it's summer, I could pick flowers and press them between the pages of a heavy book, then after a few days, when they're dry and have flattened out, I could put them on a page using clear tape to protect them. I could sketch the flowers, the trees, or use my own photos. I could write about favorite summertime activities or memories, or summer vacations as a child, or include quotes about summer, though knowing me, I would most likely lament about the crisp autumn air instead, as I've never been fond of the heat.

I'll close this installment by sharing a couple of my pages and how they came to be.

On the above page, I started with my background, not knowing what direction to go in. I added an image transfer, painted, inked, stamped. I was reading The Invisibles at the time, so I added a powerful passage that had stuck with me. This page initially had no direction at all, other than the need to create, and ended up having meaning for me and feels complete.

EDIT: Somehow, I must have deleted my explanation of how the above page came into being...

So, for this page, I started with a background using watercolors and acrylic paint. I added image transfers, including a photo of myself from years ago. On the left side, I glued down a piece of paper my son wrote on while we played board games one night. I added a favorite quote from Annie Dillard, and a little photo I took at a local park.

More often than not, I don't start my pages with any direction in mind; I find direction as I work. Other times I know exactly what I want to do and do it. But for those times when my mind feels empty and I have no inspiration, looking to a prompt can get me moving in the right direction, that direction being following the creative path where it leads.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fearless Art Journaling, Part 3: Backgrounds.

Last time, I touched on overcoming the blank page, and today's post goes in line with that. I'm going to give you some easy ways to create interesting backgrounds for your journal pages. Having these techniques at your disposal helps to overcome the fear of knowing where to begin.

I encourage you to search the web or seek out books on art for more techniques. Pick a medium and learn all you can about different ways to use and alter it. There's so much out there, and these are only a few, and only some of my personal favorites. The following techniques can be applied to all kinds of art, not just art journals, and in fact are taken from other sources, like crafts and fine arts.

For these techniques, I'm working on 140 lb. watercolor paper, cut to 3"x5", but of course, you can create these backgrounds directly onto your journal pages. If you decide you want to experiment first on swatches instead of your journal, add the technique info and instructions on the back. These will act as a quick how-to reference, complete with a visual example. If you punch a small hole on the same corner of each swatch, you can join them together with a ring. You could also put them in a file box for easy reference. Do the same with future experiments of your own, and you will soon have a plethora of ideas at the ready, plus you'll have a record of not only what worked, but what didn't.

The first background technique I want to show you is glazing with acrylic paint. This is really easy and yields fantastic results. It's one I use often. 

  • Acrylic paint. Any two (or more) colors (more detail on this below). Any brand; can be craft, student or artist quality paint. I used Liquitex Basics for these samples.
  • Water.
  • Paint brush.
  • Paper towels.
Optional supplies:
  • Gesso. (I did use gesso for this sample.)
  • Acrylic medium. Any brand, matte or glossy.
  • Baby wipes.

If you're not using gesso, begin by brushing your base coat onto the surface. For this first color, it's best to go with a lighter shade, and choose graduating darker colors for the next couple of layers. (You can go dark to light, it just gives a different look, and the top layers of color might get lost in the base color.) Brush on 2 coats of your base color, allowing to dry between coats.

If you're using gesso, begin by brushing it onto your surface. I often like to brush mine going in one direction first, and after letting it dry, brushing in the opposite direction for the second coat. This gives a bit more texture, and mimics the look of canvas. Allow to dry, then brush on 1 coat of your base color.

Once the base coat is completely dry, choose a color for glazing. You want a color that's darker than your base; it can be a color in the same family as your base, or even a contrasting color. Squeeze out a small amount of paint, add a few drops of water and mix. The more water you add, the more easily the paint is wiped off and the less gets left on the page. Depending on the effect I'm going for, I tweak the ratios, but generally, I prefer the consistency of heavy cream. After you do this a few times, you'll be able to compare the differences when using less vs. more water. Paint this mixture onto your surface.

Now take a paper towel and begin wiping off the second coat. Some of the areas may have already begun to dry, as acrylics dry quickly. Wipe away as much or as little as you want. Either dampen the paper towel just a bit or use a baby wipe to remove even more paint. Let dry.

You can add more layers of color if you want, or just stop here. Already, in a few simple steps, you have some interest going on. There's detail and a little texture.

Optional tips:
  • Better quality paints do have more pigment vs. filler, so they maintain their vibrancy and color better craft paints when watered down. Craft paints will work just fine, though.
  • Try adding a little fluid acrylic medium to the second coat water/paint mixture for a thicker glaze. More paint will adhere to the page, and by using either matte or glossy medium, you can change the surface's sheen.

For the second background technique, I want to show you one way to apply paint without using a brush. This results in a grungy look and is also easily accomplished.

  • Acrylic paint. Any brand, quality or color.
  • Old credit/plastic card. If you don't have an old plastic card laying around, you could also use a piece of cardboard, chip board or similar.
Optional supplies:
  • Gesso. (Again, I used gesso before applying the paint.)
Squeeze out a small amount of paint. Dip the edge of your card into the paint a couple of times, then drag across your surface. Experiment with more or less paint on your card. Make lines by tapping on paint using the card's edge, or scrape lines into the paint. Allow to dry.

Squeeze out a second color of paint and apply in the same way. This time I picked up less paint with the card.

You can, of course, add more colors or stop at one or two. Remember, no rules!

Here are a few other quick and easy ways to do backgrounds:

Acrylic paint mixed with a little water, then painted onto a gessoed surface. While the paint is still wet, add drops of or spray rubbing alcohol. The wetter the paint, the more the paint wicks away. Since alcohol and paint don't mix, you can create some interesting effects.

Torn book pages were glued onto a gessoed surface, allowed to dry, then painted over with a light wash of white acrylic paint and left to dry. For the final step, I glazed on a wash of acrylic paint and wiped with a paper towel. Experiment with using different papers, like tissue paper, handmade paper or scrapbook paper.

Green and blue watercolors painted onto the surface. While the paint is wet, sprinkle on salt. Experiment with different kinds of salt, from table salt (finer granules) to kosher salt (coarse granules) to rock salt (very coarse granules and small chunks). Allow to dry completely before wiping away the salt.

Watercolor pencils were used to draw basic shapes onto the surface, then water was painted over the entire thing with a brush.

Blue and green soft pastels were colored onto the surface, then blended with a finger. Be sure to apply fixative or sealer before adding more layers or when the page is complete. You can also paint over the surface with fluid acrylic medium. It will blend the colors more as well as add a protective seal.  

A rubber stamp was inked with Distress Inks by Ranger, spritzed with water, then stamped onto the surface. By spritzing with water before stamping, it adds a watercolor effect.

These are just some of the many techniques out there for use in creating interesting backgrounds. A good background is a foundation for you to add to, or even to use alone with only some journaling added on top. Try using a combination of these techniques in the same background. Don't be afraid to experiment with your supplies to create new effects! You may discover lots of techniques to add to your arsenal. After all, if your experiments don't work, they can always be covered up, and you're learning what works and what doesn't.

I hope this has helped give you a good place to start. In the next installment, I'll share prompts to get your juices flowing and the ideas brewing, as well as give your page some direction.

As always, share any of your favorite ideas for backgrounds in the comments section. I am always happy to answer questions, too!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Fearless Art Journaling, Part 2: Getting Started.

Welcome to the second part of my series for those new to art journaling. Thank you to everyone who read and/or commented on Part 1!

I'd like to quickly mention that the supplies listed on my previous post are my favorite supplies, and not at all necessary to jump into the world of art journaling. Many journal artists simply use paper and pencil or pen, and create gorgeous and authentic journals. So don't feel that you simply must run out and buy all the things I mentioned before you can take part. I'd like to stress that you can use whatever supplies you already have on hand and feel comfortable working with. To quote one of my very favorite artists, Lynne Perrella, "It's not what you have, it's how you use it."

I'd also like to repeat reader spinjenny's comment about referring to an art journal as a "visual journal" instead. The word "art" sounds scary to some people, and I can understand that. The notion of what is art can be debated 'til the cows come home, and I'm not going to get into that here. We all have our own ideas about what art is. An art journal, simply put, is a journal with a visual aspect. A journal may only contain writing, while an art or visual journal may contain photos, drawings, bits of paper, etc. I hope this way of looking at it can help you feel less intimidated to join in on the fun.

I'd been keeping these types of journals for years before I ever heard someone refer to them as "art journals". For me, it was a natural progression. I used to filled pages upon pages with words alone, then at some point added bits of ephemera from my life and photos, then later little sketches, until finally the paint and images eclipsed the words. I found myself more and more at a loss for words, mostly because what I wanted to say couldn't be contained by words. Now, there is a lot less writing in my journals and a lot more of the visual nature.

So, let's talk about why someone would want to keep an art journal. There's a multitude of reasons, and I doubt I'll be able to touch on them all, but here's a few that I have found to be true for me and other artists I've talked to or read about.

  • To keep a record of one's days. This may be one of the most common reasons. As I said, I have kept a journal for years. In the last few years, I've not been as prolific as I once was (I used to journal everyday), and sometimes I regret not recording some of my life's treasured little moments, some now forgotten. A photo or a scrapbook page can yield a record, too, but an art journal is different in that it can be more personal. Photos, say from a trip or vacation, are wonderful, but sitting down with your journal and sketching the scenery, or pasting ticket stubs and other ephemera (or your photos) onto pages and writing about how the scenery makes you feel or about your experiences or activites adds a whole other dimension.
  • Experimenting with new supplies or techniques. Maybe you just got your first set of soft pastels and are anxious to use them, but not yet ready to commit to a canvas or big art piece. Your journal can be a virtual playground for trying out supplies and hashing out ideas, and these pages can be a jumping off point for future art projects. When I'm feeling less than inspired or in a creative rut, flipping through the pages of my journals helps. I rediscover ideas I want to flesh out more, and sometimes I find myself adding to existing pages that I previously considered finished.
  • As a means to release emotions and creativity. Art is a lot of things to me, one of them being therapy. I find that the more I explore my creativity, the better I feel. I have suffered with depression since I was 13, and have found art to be, for me, the best way to combat the deep sadness that threatens to overcome me if I allow it. Art fills me with a sense of pride, nurtures my self esteem, abolishes boredom and offers joy and a feeling of accomplishment. Art journaling in particular results in these feelings, as I can be as free as I want to be with no worry of what someone else thinks of it. It's for me, and though I may choose to share my journals with others, I don't have to. No one ever has to see what's between the pages, so allow yourself to express anything and everything, "good" or "bad", happy, sad or angry, with no thought of whether it's "good enough".
  • Because it's fun! Period.

So, let's get started!

Here it is, the dreaded blank page. Just look at all that scary white space! Instead of seeing the blank page this way, I invite you instead to see it as ripe with possibility. There are so many directions we could go, which can be a little scary sometimes, but can also be exciting. "Where do I even start?" You start by just doing it. Having a predetermined idea is wonderful, but that doesn't always happen. In that case, let's just get something on the page, anything, just to do away with the vast white.

That's better! I first spritzed my page with water (so the paint will flow and blend on the page), then added a watercolor wash of blue and yellow. Then I spritzed with water again, just to blend the paint a little more and lessen any brush marks where the paper was a bit drier. If you spritz with water after the watercolor paint has dried, you get little flecks of white, which is a nice effect.

Don't like watercolors or don't have any at your disposal? Use acrylics, either using a watered down wash of color(s), or even right out of the tube. Or forget paint all together and doodle some swirls or random shapes with a pen or marker. Or glue down clippings from magazines or books. Or grab a pencil and do some automatic writing or a favorite quote or song lyrics. The writing doesn't even have to be legible, and can be covered completely with additional layers. The idea here is just to get something on the page to banish the white and the fear it may bring.

If I wanted, I could just write directly on this watercolor wash and call my journal page complete. Personally, I am all about layers and adding depth and details, but there is already some interest here as is, and makes for a perfectly good foundation for journaling. You could also bump it up a bit with some doodles, sketches or rubber stamping and then add your journaling. There are no rules! (You'll hear me say this a lot, I'm sure. It's worth repeating.)

I'd say this installment is long enough, so we'll stop here. I do want to mention that before you begin slathering paint or wet media in your journal, it's a good idea to put a piece of wax or deli paper or something similar between the page you're working on and the next page in your book. This will keep bleed through and the mess of stray media to a minimum. An added bonus is these protective papers end up with some interesting effects all their own and can later be used in collage and other projects.

In Part 3, I'll talk more about different techniques for creating backgrounds. Please feel free to share your own ideas for getting started and overcoming the blank page in the comments section, as well as any questions you may have. I'd also love to hear your reasons for keeping an art journal.

Thanks for stopping by!

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Fearless Art Journaling, Part 1: Supplies.

    I am often asked questions about art journaling. Some people seem to harbor a little fear of this medium, and are uncertain of where to start or even how to go about keeping an art journal in the first place. Some of these people are prolific artists already, but mention art journals and they panic a little.

    For any readers who feel that way, too, I say this - I hope you're not too attached to that fear, because I aim (and hopefully, will succeed) to wipe it all away. I plan to post several entries related to art journaling, some with tips and techniques, some just sharing pages. My hope is that anyone who is uncertain of where to begin will feel like they have somewhere to start, and can begin their own journey into art journaling, page by page.

    An art journal is like a regular journal, only with a visual aspect. This can be through your own drawings, paintings or photographs. You may also want to incorporate rubber stamped images, clip art images, images cut from magazines or books, specialty papers, bits of nature like pressed leaves and flowers or anything that can be attached in some form to your pages. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

    I have been a journal keeper for over two decades. I talk more about that here. The evolution of my journaling style has brought me to the art journals I keep today. I can't speak for the experiences of others, but I will share with you my own experiences with this medium in the hopes of getting you over your fears, giving you a jumping off point and showing you how to take the art you already make and put it on the page. And even if you don't consider yourself an artist, or haven't added color to a page since you were a child with your coloring books, know that you can do this, too. It's not difficult and requires no special skills or a background in art. All you really need is a book, a few basic supplies and a willingness to let go of reluctance.

    I am not the first to talk about fearless art journaling/art making, nor do I claim to be. This is just a way to share with others what tips I've garnered over the years.

    So, let's start with supplies:

    • Obviously, the first thing you will need is a journal. Give some thought to what mediums you already enjoy using or would like to explore. Do you mainly work in pencil or pen and ink? If so, the book you choose can have drawing paper for its pages, possibly with bleed-proof paper if you're using pens and inks. Are you fond of watercolors or acrylic paints? In this case, you'll want a book with heavier-weight pages; watercolor paper would be a good idea here. For mixed media work (which is my main outlet), you'll find it desirable to have at least 140 lb. watercolor paper pages to help avoid the paper buckling and to withstand the added extra layers. There are some blank books on the market now that say they are specifically made for mixed media - I have not tried them and can't speak on their benefits or drawbacks. If a reader has had experience with these, please feel free to comment. Aside from consideration of paper, your journal can be done in almost any kind of book. It does not need to be a blank book. Some people enjoy using hardcover books from a thrift store or their own bookshelves. This falls along the lines of an altered book, and you can cover all the text with media or leave some words and images peeking through. If you go this route, and plan to add extra layers in the form of paper/collage, or even just paint, I recommend removing some of the existing pages before you begin to help your book lay flatter and close properly. Just use a metal ruler for a guide and cut every other few pages with a hobby (exacto) knife. You don't have to spend a lot of money on your new journal; a regular spiral-bound or composition notebook is very inexpensive and may work fine for you, just keep in mind that if you start adding paints and layers to the pages, you may see some bleed-through and buckling. If you're fine with that, then go for it! You can also make your own book; some artists prefer this because they can add exactly the kinds of papers they prefer, maybe even mixing and matching between watercolor, drawing or copier paper. And having said all this, you can even just work on loose pages, then bind them together in some fashion when you're ready.
    • A way to make marks. These can be pencils, pens, markers, colored pencils, pastels, crayons, etc. (details below) 
    The above is all you need to get started if you intend to only write or draw/sketch in your journal. But maybe you're interested in other ways to develop a page. In that case, read on for some of my personal favorite supplies:

    (I don't just use the following for art journaling, but for nearly every medium I work in. If you already have art supplies on hand for your other work, then you may not need to buy anything new to start art journaling.)

    • Gesso. This will prep the page for paint and other media. Gesso provides tooth, lessens the paper's absorbency and gives some strength to the page. I use Liquitex or any of the cheaper brands found in art and craft stores.
    • Acrylic paint. The paints I use run the gamut from craft acrylics to artist quality brands, but most often I use Liquitex Basics. They are reasonably priced and have a higher pigment load than craft acrylics. Artist quality acrylics are wonderful, and have the highest pigment load of all, but they can be pricey. If you're not on a strict budget, get the artist quality, otherwise, I'd recommend getting the best paints you can afford. Really it comes down to experimenting with different brands and finding what you like best.
    • Acrylic mediums. The variety and selection of these is wonderful, and they have many uses. Aside from being used in combination with acrylic paints (to change consistency of or extend paint, alter sheen, create texture, etc.), they also have great adhesive qualities, so many collage artists and art journalers use them as a glue. Image transfers are another use. I use fluid matte and gloss mediums often, mostly to thin down my thicker acrylics for washes or to aid in the transparency/translucency of the paint. Regular gel medium is thicker and better as an adhesive than the fluid. It holds some texture, but if you want to break out the big texture guns, go for the extra heavy gel medium (dries clear) or modeling paste (dries opaque). Some amazing effects can be had with this magical stuff, and it can also adhere heavier weight item to your surfaces. There are a multitude of different mediums on the market - some with iridescent qualities, some with ground pumice, some with fibers...the list goes on. Play around, experiment and see what appeals to you for the kind of art you want to make. Oh, and as with most things, I buy whatever is on sale. I have tried Golden, Liquitex, Winsor and Newton and more, and I've had great results with each. Be advised: adding acrylic mediums to your art journal can sometimes cause the pages to become tacky and stick together. I spray with a non-yellowing sealer to help prevent this, though sometimes my pages are still a bit tacky. So far, it hasn't been a major problem or caused pages to tear or not come apart.
    • Watercolor pencils/paints. I own a few brands, some cheaper, some middle of the road and my very favorites, Inktense pencils by Derwent. I first discovered these last year, and oh my. They really are like ink in a pencil, and they yield bright, rich and vibrant color. They are well worth the price, especially if you're a bargain hunter like me and order them from Dick Blick.
    • Paint brushes/Palette knives/Sponges. My favorite brushes are white synthetic hair brushes. They're inexpensive, work well and last a long time when well cared for. I find it's better to get those with plastic handles and not wooden. I use sponges to apply inks and paints, and the ones I like best are the yellow kind for household grout work. They don't dry stiff like other kinds of sponges and are easily cleaned, sometimes only requiring a rinse with water.
    • Soft pastels/oil pastels. Again, get the best quality you can afford. Price, as with paints, dictates pigment load vs. fillers. Some are water soluble, some are not. Finish with a fixative or sealer after applying to your surface, especially when art journaling as they'll rub off as the pages rub together.
    • Rubber stamps. Need I say more?
    • Ink. This includes rubber stamping ink as well as acrylic inks. For the former, I recommend a permanent dye-based ink (my favorite all-around black ink is Ranger's Archival), though I've also used water reactive and pigment inks. (If you apply the last two over a gessoed or an acrylic-painted background, you'll have to wait a considerable amount of time for it to dry.) Acrylic inks are akin to very watered down acrylic paints, but with a very high pigment load and for most colors, amazing transparency. They are permanent and can be painted onto the page, used in calligraphy or with fountain pens, watered down and used in spray form or airbrushed, and more. I have only tried the Liquitex Ink! brand, so I can't compare, but I'm very satisfied with those.
    • Photos/Images. Your own, those cut from magazines or from clip art, etc. A toner-based copy of an image can be used to make image transfers when paired with acrylic mediums, acetone, clear tape or solvent-based blender (clear) markers. There are also techniques using magazine pages to do image transfers. I don't use ink jet printed images for transfers as I have heard they fade quickly.
    • Sharpie/permanent markers.
    • Gel pens. I find I use white most often, to journal on top of a dark or black background. My favorite brand so far is Sakura Gelly Roll. It writes on acrylic paint better than other brands I've tried.
    • Mica powder, embossing powder, fabric, fibers, embellishments, die cuts, ephemera, found objects, stencils, etc. There's nothing to limit what you use in your art journal, aside from your imagination. For practicalities sake, I don't often use big, bulky embellishments on the inner pages (unless seated inside a cut-out), for obvious reasons, and I shy away from oil paints as they take so long to completely dry. Other than that, I try not to limit myself.

    I'm probably forgetting a few of the supplies I use, but this is a good start. Feel free to share your favorite art journaling supplies in the comments. For the next post in this series, I'm thinking of just jumping right in on getting a page started. I'll address the "blank page" syndrome and talk more about the whys of art journals, as well as their effects on one's emotional and artistic well-being.

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    Work in progress.

    Art and life are both works in progress. i enjoy taking the journey, even with the bumps in the road.

    Monday, May 9, 2011

    Reorganize, rearrange, remember.

    Mixed Media Canvas, made for a swap.

    Thank you to everyone who took the time to stop by my blog during the A-Z Challenge; i really appreciate it!

    i have been so busy lately reorganizing my studio in preparation of opening an etsy shop. i've needed to do it anyway, but the prospect of opening a shop gave me that final push to just make it happen. i'm nearing the end, though later i may still need to tweak things a little, but my space will be much better utilized now, that's for sure. As i sort through boxes and piles of supplies, i am reminded again just how much one can accumulate after nearly 2 decades of being an artist/crafter. It's a bit overwhelming, but i'm not complaining one bit. Having these supplies makes me feel very grateful, and excited to create future projects.

    i'll be back to posting a bit more often soon, but for now, it's back to the studio to get this job completed.

    Monday, May 2, 2011

    Reflections on the A-Z Blogging Challenge

    i saw tonight (it being May 1 as of this writing) that Arlee Bird over at Tossing It Out has asked that participants of the A-Z Challenge do a reflections post, so i thought i'd play along.

    i didn't really have any expectations of the challenge. i first heard about it through my dear friend Barb over at her blog, Black Ink Pad, and thinking that i really ought to write more and keep my blog up to date, i just jumped in without thinking it over much. i told myself i had to stick with it, and i did. i sort of cheated on O and X, but i'm not about to beat myself up over it.

    i didn't give much thought to gaining followers, but i'm happy to say i did. i don't strive to have a huge number to display, but it's awesome to know people would want to hear what i have to say. i talk to myself, a lot, so blogging can sometimes feel a bit like that without knowing there's someone on the other side, listening.

    Another positive outcome was feeling the old writer in me awaken. That feels very, very good. (i wonder if i'd talk less the more i wrote...hmm. My family might appreciate that.) i originally began this blog as a way to mainly showcase my art projects, but i've enjoyed its evolution. While art is still my main focus here, its also satisfying to delve a little deeper. i hope my readers have enjoyed the journey thus far, and are interested enough to stay to see what's around the corner.

    My only disappointment in the challenge is not taking more time to read more of the blogs of other participants, but i plan to try and search out my fellow players more as time allows this week. Many thanks to all who took the time to stop here and read, and to those who chose to follow after doing so.

    Will i do it again next year? If i have the time, i just might. But that doesn't mean X will be any easier. Of course, i've got a year to come up with something.

    New look...

    i have been meaning to do a bit of remodeling here for a very long time. i'd say it was way overdue. i had a basic idea of what i wanted my blog to look like, but getting there was a bit of a struggle. As i write this, i have just finished tweaking the last bits, and the changes you see took me hours to accomplish. But, with the help of Gimp and my very patient better half, i managed to come up with something i'm pretty happy with. i may change the background and header to match the seasons, or just on a whim, and i think i could improve on this, but it's a good start, and certainly better than the previous (bland) layout.

    And now, i'm off for some well deserved sleep.

    Saturday, April 30, 2011

    Z is for Zach.

    This letter may have been the easiest of all, for me. Z is for my creative, intelligent, hilarious and unique son, Zacharius. He is 11, and my only child.

    i gave birth to Zach after suffering with a deep depression for 2 years straight. After he came into this world, the fog in my head lifted, and i devoted myself to him completely. He was an observant and very happy baby, though it wasn't long before i saw signs that depression and anxiety seemed to be in his future as well. i guess that's to be expected, considering my own battles.

    The road has not always been easy or free of hazards. Being a parent has been the most difficult thing i've ever done. Also the most gratifying, yes, but don't let anyone tell you it's all peaches and cream, because it just isn't. When once my decisions could only harm or benefit me, i must now consider, with every step i take, the impact it will have on him. i wouldn't change any of it, and he has given my life so much joy and laughter and purpose, but there are also dark days when i have no idea what step to take next. It's all worth it, of course, and i am more than grateful to have such an amazing person in my life, and to count that person as my own flesh and blood.

    My son: the reader, the comedian, the history buff, the dreamer. i was blessed the day he came into this world, and hope beyond hope i can do right by him. For in the end, being his mom is the most important role i will ever have. i love you beyond all words, Z. You are my heart.

    Friday, April 29, 2011

    Y is for yesterday.

    How many yesterdays make up a life? So many memories, millions of moments, many forgotten, some treasured, some changed by the mind over time, some burned in, some devestating, some beautiful, some mundane but stick with you, for no apparent reason, some life-changing. It's hard to capture the truth of a moment on film, but sometimes you get lucky.

    These are just a few moments i was reliving today while skimming the pages of one of my photo albums. So many yesterdays that brought us to today, this moment. So much to treasure, yesterday, today and tomorrow.


    Thursday, April 28, 2011


    Hugs and kisses, because i am completely stumped with x. i have higher hopes for y. See you tomorrow, then.

    Wednesday, April 27, 2011

    W is for Watts.

    Not long ago, my brother pointed me in the direction of Alan Watts, and i'm so glad he did. i'm including a few videos here of some of his speaking engagements. So much of what he says rings very true with me. So, grab a cup of your favorite beverage, sit back and enjoy!

    Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    See behind the veil.

    Veil (n.) A cover; disguise; a mask; a pretense.

    There are many things in this world hidden behind a veil. For a multitude of reasons, often fear, people hide parts of themselves from others. We fear someone may not like what they see and may ridicule or alienate us, and most everyone yearns to feel they belong somewhere. Our own government hides behind pretenses, to keep us uninformed and controllable. That's not conspiracy theory; you're kidding yourself if you think they tell us everything.

    i can understand sometimes feeling the need to keep a part of yourself tucked away, safe from mocking and misunderstanding, but more and more i seek to let out those "secrets". i'm finding the release necessary to feel that i'm really presenting myself as who i am, and also necessary towards making strides to becoming the me i am and am meant to be. Often, when we share a hidden part of ourselves, someone else feels the courage to respond with "Me, too!", and instead of feeling alone, you both find common ground and let out a little sigh, thinking, i'm so glad i'm not the only one. By remaining behind the mask, we isolate ourselves. If we are free and open and honest, we make connections.

    But let's say you pull aside the veil and someone doesn't like what they see? All you can do is be honest and true to yourself, and if someone has a problem with that, better to find out sooner rather than later.

    If more of us let down our guard and shared those things we most fear sharing, i think we'd find we're a lot more alike than we think. We may find common ground with our worst enemies, and maybe, just maybe, a lot more people would feel less like weirdos or freaks or outsiders. A small connection can go a long way towards understanding and compassion, and the world can always use more of both.