Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Giveaway Winner Announced!!!

Doris Prichard you won the giveaway, congratulations!! Please contact me so I can ship your gifts to you!!

Thank you SO much to everyone who commented... you all really make blogging a true pleasure!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Mixed-Media Bag Of Tutorials!

Last week, I posted about modifying my Stacked Journaling technique on a piece of painted printmakers' paper. I didn't do a step-by-step tutorial or take any photos. Week before, I blogged about mounting a painted piece of paper onto a wooden cradled panel. I didn't do a step-by-step tutorial or take (hardly) any photos. Big mistake, both weeks! I never know exactly what will strike a chord in folks, so I often just go and work in the studio without a thought about how I'll blog the experience later. Well, silly me. Turns out I got a LOT of questions about both things, so today, I'm showing it all.

This will be a HUGE post, with lots of step-by-step instructions and photographs.

Mounting Paper On Cradleboard

You may be wondering why you might want to mount (permanently adhere) paper onto an already paintable surface like a wooden cradleboard (a thin piece of wood, often birch, mounted to a wooden frame to give it stability). After all, why bother going to the extra trouble and time? I can think of several reasons right off the top of my head. While it is absolutely true that you can gesso and then paint on a cradleboard and get great results, you may have already painted and/or collaged a wonderful piece of art onto paper, unstretched artist canvas, or even fabric, and now you need a way to display it. Or, if you're like me, you like the way paint absorbs into paper, want to make art with it regularly, and don't want to be forced to mat and frame the piece for display. Finally, you may simply want the smoother surface with no signs of wood grain that you can only achieve with paper.

Whatever your reason may be, mounting paper onto a cradleboard is easy and quick, and nothing to be intimidated by!

~What you'll need:
  • Cradleboard (also called a wooden painting panel), any size.
  • Paper, canvas, or fabric of your choice. Watercolor paper is a good choice for starting out, and makes a wonderful surface to paint on. It is what I am using for this demonstration.
  • Heavy gel medium
  • Paint brush or squeegee to apply glue
  • Parchment paper or other non-stick surface
  • Heavy weights like hardbound books, dumbbells, plywood scraps, etc.
  • Gesso (optional)
~What you'll do: 
  •  Cut your paper to fit your cradleboard. You can either cut it to the exact measurements, or leave a little hanging off each edge to trim away later. (In my demo, I've cut my paper to the exact size of my cradleboard and used my fingers on each corner to make sure it was well aligned.)
  • If you want to gesso the cradleboard, this is the time to do it. For this demo, I didn't bother.
  • Using a paintbrush, apply an even coating of gel medium to the panel. Make sure your brush strokes are random, so that they won't show under the paper after the gel medium has cured. Work quickly before the glue dries. If you're working on a large surface and worry about drying, a light spritzing of water across areas you've just covered with glue will help keep the whole thing moist until you've covered the entire cradleboard.
  • Align your paper to fit the cradleboard, being sure that all edges of the board are covered with paper. 
  • Using your fingers or a brayer, burnish the paper, starting from the inside and working your way outward to smooth the glue beneath and remove any air pockets. 
  • Cover with parchment paper or other non-stick surface.
  • Cover with a heavy weight, like books or plywood. For my example, I've used a piece of plywood with two, 8-pound dumbbells.
  • Have Patience! Allow your cradleboard to dry at least overnight, if not 48 hours before removing the weights. Presto, you now have a paper painting surface on a sturdy frame that will be ready to hang!

Painting In Layers

~What You'll Need:
  • Acrylic paint and ink in various colors
  • Paint brushes, texture tools, gel plate, stamps, stencils- anything around the house that will make an impression in paint or help you get paint from a tube to your cradleboard
  • Baby wipes or damp paper towels
  • Patience
  • Imagination
  • Fearlessness
My mixed-media paintings always have many layers of paint, some obliterating the layers underneath. I use a lot of different techniques to create the look I like, such as stamping, gel plate printing, scraping, splashing, spraying, and stenciling. I cover up layers and then wipe the fresh paint away to reveal them again. I scratch into fresh paint, reintroduce areas of white with thick, opaque paint, stain with inks, and never fall in love with any one look until something in me says, "It's finished, don't touch it again." Sometimes, I ignore that voice.

~What You'll Do:
  • You must be brave. 
  • You cannot make any mistakes, here. That's really the key. Stop looking at your work and thinking, "It sucks, look at all the mistakes!" 
  • Try everything. 
  • Try everything again. 
  • Try everything again in another color palette. 
  • Stamp.
  • Smear with your fingers.
  • Monoprint with a gel plate or a piece of plastic.
  • Scrape.
  • Walk away and drink some coffee.
  • Scribble your most personal thoughts into the wet paint.
  • Wipe it all away with a damp cloth.
  • Layer, layer, layer. 
  • The biggest sin is to give up too soon. 
  • Be unafraid to push through the ugly phases- and there will be ugly phases, count on it. 
  • Listen to your instincts, and... 
  • Paint, paint, paint.

I'll show you some steps in the progression of this particular piece. There were many more steps I didn't stop to photograph!

I usually start with my lightest and brightest colors, first. This will be your only opportunity to lay down a layer of pure yellow, or pure magenta. Later on, these colors- laying on top of other layers- will be influenced by the colors beneath.

I'm not concerned with composition, yet. I'm only creating an underpainting that will inform all the other layers. I've stamped using some of my own hand-carved stamps, and wiped paint away with a damp baby wipe. I've also scraped through fresh paint, immediately laid the waxy side of a piece of deli paper on top of it, burnished it lightly with my hand, peeled it away, and laid the deli paper- paint side down- onto another area of the painting, burnishing again. This easily transfers not only the paint but an interesting texture.

I'm just getting warmed up.

Next, I introduce complimentary colors... blues and blue-greens. I stamp, rub, scrape, monoprint, drink coffee, cover up ugly bits, make more ugly bits, cover those up, get up and walk away for an hour, come back and paint again. And then I reintroduce some white. Why? Because I like the contrast and it helps pop my bright color palette. 

Then I obliterate those layers and create new ones.

I turn the cradleboard as I work, always gaining a new perspective. And I layer. And obliterate, allowing only a little of what's underneath peek though to create mystery and depth.

I start to consider composition and define it.

I bring back some of the magenta, add more stamping and brush work. And finally I decide that I'm ready to move onto a layer of monoprinted Stacked Journaling in black.

And don't neglect the sides of your cradleboard, either, they deserve paint as well! Here, I squeezed a small amount of one color I was working with onto a soft sponge and then just buffed the color into the raw wood of the cradleboard.

Monoprinting Stacked Journaling (and then modifying it)

Yep, that's a long name and I should probably come up with some catchy phrase for it that rolls off the tongue easily, but I struggle just to name my completed artworks, you can't expect me to invent pithy titles for techniques, too! Dangit, Jim, I'm an artist, not a writer!

So let's briefly tackle each element of this technique individually. Stacked Journaling is a method I devised for getting my own personal and unique mark making into my work using my handwriting. It involves free-association journaling without any punctuation while smooshing all the words and each individual sentence together, turning the paper 90 degrees, and doing it again. A block of Stacked Journaling looks like this...

... and a full tutorial for it can be found here. The beauty of the technique is that it looks completely different when someone else does it using their own unique handwriting. And if you're a calligrapher, you can use all kinds of beautiful script to create it. It allows you to express yourself openly and honestly in your work, while still maintaining a measure of your privacy because it can't actually be read, and for that reason it's an excellent therapy tool. It makes a great background image or can be used in small doses for emphasis.

A really fun way of using the technique is to monoprint it. Monoprinting is a technique in which you use inks and/or paints on a non-stick surface to create an image and then transfer that image to a sheet of paper, a piece of fabric, a sketchbook page, etc.

When I'm monoprinting Stacked Journaling, I use a squeeze bottle filled with paint as if it was a writing instrument, like this:

Next, I place another piece of paper (fabric, canvas, book page, whatever) on top...

...and burnish lightly with my hand.

Then I peel the sheets of paper apart to reveal the monoprint.

As you can see, the monoprinted Stacked Journaling creates a whole other dimension to your mark-making, further obliterating the actual message in favor of creating a mysterious and intriguing texture.

How do we apply this technique to our painted cradleboard? Glad you asked!

~What You Need:
  • Squeeze bottle with narrow tip. To achieve a thicker line of paint, remove the metal tip, which restricts to paint flow. To achieve a thin line of paint, use one of the metal tips. The tips come in .5mm, .7mm, and .9mm.
  • Plastic sheeting. I use stuff that comes off a roll from my big box hardware store (see link) but a plastic bag or sheet protector will do, as well.
  • Medium or thick paint color of your choice (I'm using black because I like the contrast.) Fluid acrylics won't work for this step as they are too liquid!
  • Water, transparent fluid medium, or some other acrylic paint thinner. Water works just fine as long as you don't add so much that your paint no longer adheres to your surface.
  • Sharpie marker.
  • Your finished painting.
~What You'll Do:
  • Cut a piece of plastic to size, making sure you have about three inches excess on all sides of your cradleboard.
  •  Using a sharpie, create a template by tracing around your cradleboard, giving yourself about a 1 inch allowance. This will be the space within which you'll create your stacked journaling.

  • Fill your squeeze bottle to about one inch with your paint. Thin as needed to get a consistency that will flow easily without running. You want your paint to maintain a solid line.
  • Hold your squeeze bottle as if it were a pencil and begin writing, keeping the pressure steady and making sure to start outside the lines you've drawn on your template. Leave out punctuation and spaces between words and sentences. Use some flourish with your handwriting to create a curvy, over-the-top look. Allow your letters and your rows of journaling to overlap slightly.
  • Fill the template with journaling and then turn the plastic sheeting 90 degrees and journal on top of the previous layer.
  •  Once you have two layers filling the inside of your template, with a little bit of the writing falling outside the lines you drew with your sharpie marker, it's time to transfer the journaling to your painted cradleboard. You can do this in two ways: 1) carefully lift the plastic sheeting and place it onto the cradleboard, paint side down, being sure to center it properly. Gently pat your hands across the surface, pressing the painted journaling onto your cradleboard. OR 2) Invert your cradleboard over onto the Stacked Journaling like this:

(I like using this method because the plastic can get wiggly and fold in on itself, and also because it can be difficult to center the plastic onto the piece of art. It also allows you to gently fold and burnish the plastic up along the edges of the cradleboard, giving your Journaling a seamless look that starts on the surface of your painting and cascades over the edges.)

  • Holding the plastic sheeting, carefully flip the piece right side up and peel away the plastic. 
  • Remove the plastic slowly and if you don't feel that you've gotten enough of the journaling to transfer to the painting, lay the plastic back down and gently pat with your hands. Try not to rub the plastic, which can smear the paint. When you're satisfied, remove the plastic completely.
  • Allow this layer to dry completely. 
  • To keep from wasting paint and the neat SJ you've just created, you can lay paper down on top of the sheeting and, using the same gentle patting you preformed on your artwork, take "ghost prints".

  • You'll wind up with the start of some neat collage sheets, backgrounds, journal pages, or your next art piece!

  • To reuse the plastic again for another project, immediately rinse in water until the paint is gone and then hang dry.

Modifying Stacked Journaling

You can leave the piece as is, or if you like, you can really make your Stacked Journaling pop even more by modifying it with a white paint marker. Zentanglers and doodlers will probably love this step!

~What You'll Need:
~What You'll Do:
  • Find all the negative spaces- the blank areas in between the Stacked Journaling marks- and trace them.
~Tips and Tricks
  • Try to make sure that each area you trace is clearly defined by a black outline, like this:
  • Fill in as many or as few negative spaces are you like. 
  • Just for fun, you can drop your white tracing down the sides of the piece, just like you allowed the SJ to fall over the sides!

This is the final piece. It measures 12"x12".


Thanks for reading! I hope you have fun with these techniques and if you have any questions, PLEASE feel free to contact me! Until next time, create with Sharpies!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Monoprinted Stacked Journaling

It's been a while since I broke out my squeezie bottles of paint and plastic sheeting  and did some monoprinting of my technique, Stacked Journaling. I was inspired last week by working with this piece to get it ready for its new home, and while it doesn't actually contain any SJ, it made me pine for playing with the technique again.

I started with a lovely sheet of printmakers paper, size 22"x30", and just started slapping paint and stamping around on it. When I was satisfied with the depth, texture and intensity of the color, pattern, and composition, I cut a piece of plastic sheeting to the proper size, squeezed some stacked journaling onto it in black paint, flipped it over onto the painted paper and burnished it with my hand until the paint had transferred. When that dried, I began outlining the negative spaces with a white paint marker.

Naturally, I didn't think to take any process photos, but this piece was so much fun to do that I might just do it again and if so, I promise to take more photos!

(acrylic paint on paper, 22"x30", untitled)


Have an awesome weekend!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Fun Week!

A couple of weeks ago, I sold this piece.

It is acrylic paint and paint markers on watercolor paper (18"x24") and because it is paper, it needed to be sealed and mounted in order to be hung.

I learned early on in my experiments with my gel plate that it provides an excellent and easy method for getting clear mediums onto something that would otherwise smear if I tried to brush it on. Using a brayer, I simply cover the gel plate (here, I've used my largest plate) with clear varnish and press it onto the paper. I do this all over the sheet of paper until it's coated in varnish. It takes a fraction of the time it would take me if I was trying to brush varnish on, not smear the pigments underneath, and remove brush strokes all at the same time!

Once I had the piece sealed, I painted the edges of the cradled panel with a complimentary paint color.

Then I mounted the artwork onto the panel using soft gel glue, allowing it to dry under heavy weights overnight.

 (side view of the work once it's been mounted, showing the painted cradle)

Voila! Once the gel medium cures, I'll add a hanging wire to the back and it can be delivered to the customer.

Also in the studio this week, I've been playing with this fun little tool that just arrived in the mail.

It is supposed to be used for paper and wood burning, and maybe one day I'll get around to trying those things (I'm especially intrigued by the idea of burning paper), but this week, I was using it to create stamps out of 1/2" foam core.

First, I cut the foam core down to my desired size (I did three that were about 4"x4", two that were 8"x10" and one more that was 12"x15") and then removed the paper from one side (soak it with water and rub it off with your fingers if it gets stubborn.)

This heat tool comes with various tips in different shapes and sizes. Being the impatient person that I am, I chose the one that was already on it when it came out of the packaging: a simple, straight, blunt tip.

I just started carving into the foam once the tip had heated. I didn't bother sketching my designs onto the foam before I went at it with the heat tool, but you certainly could if you wanted. Instead, I free-formed my designs. Google images is an excellent source of inspiration, if you can't think of designs to carve! Just input whatever kind of image you want to see (it helps if you tell it to give you a silhouette), and enjoy the eye candy!

The new stamps I created (they can also be used as texture plates for gel printing!) are on the top right and bottom row. I "proofed" the smaller stamp by covering it in blue paint and stamping it onto copy paper (top left).

In the next array, you can see four stamps (top and middle right) and three "proofs" of them on copy paper (top left and bottom row).

The burning tool makes short work of the foam and creates beautiful stamps in just minutes, much faster than traditional carving methods. If you're sensitive to odors, or have breathing difficulties, PLEASE be sure to wear the proper breathing mask before undertaking this technique!

Until next week, create with heat!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Life Happens!

Sometimes life happens and art doesn't have a chance to happen. That's the way things went this week for me. The only thing I've managed to do is to make a few foam stamps with a heat tool, which I'll probably show you next week, but I didn't even have a real opportunity to use them, so there's no eye candy to show you, yet.

I thought that instead, this week, I'd do a little show-and-tell of what's been happening in my life, lately. There's an important message at the end of this post, so I hope you'll stick with me until you get there!

Back in February of 2013 we lost our last kitty, who had been part of an ever-aging group of cats we'd had for many years. One by one, they'd passed away from age-related illnesses and finally, in February, we lost our beloved Pumpkin. I was crushed and it took me many months before I was even willing to think about having another animal companion again.

Thankfully, by November of 2013, my husband and I were both ready to bring some furry life back into our home, so we adopted this beautiful little rescue kitty.

Her name is Mysty, short for Mystique, and as you can tell by the photo, she has settled into her new life here quite comfortably. She's seven years old and all we really know about her past is that one day, a man walked into a local no-kill shelter, Friends For Life, carrying two cat cages. He set them down, said he forgot something in his truck, went outside, got in his vehicle, and drove away, abandoning two beautiful sister cats.

By the time we found Mysty, her sister had been adopted (or I would have insisted on bringing both of them home!) and Mysty wasn't faring well at the shelter.

Of course, the volunteers were wonderful to her and loved on her as often as they could, but without her sister she was lost and had no other cat friends. She was emotionally scarred, very likely low-kitty on the totem pole because of her lack of claws (her previous owners had her declawed), and ran from us the minute we tried to get near her.

She spent many weeks in our house learning that she was safe, that the whole house belonged to her, and that she wouldn't have to fight anyone for food again. Now, she's a spark of playful and sweet life in our hearts, and we love her as much as any kitty we've raised since kittenhood. We're grateful to have found her.

Another interesting tidbit is that I'm in the process of buying this stunning beauty.

This is a new Ford Explorer to replace my 14-year-old Ford Expedition. Now, I love my old truck, battered and tired and faded as she is. Shes been a loyal companion since I drove her off the lot, new and shiny, 14 years ago. But Big Red, as I call her, is ready for retirement. She squeaks like a rusty hinge if you even look cross-eyed at her, and her gas mileage has become shameful. She doesn't owe me anything.

I looked around at sedans, wanting to be a good citizen of the planet, but the sad truth is, we need hauling space, always have, and no sedan could cut it when we looked at the trunk size. So I found myself a new truck that will have respectable gas mileage and the hauling space we need, inside.

This is the first time in my life that I've been in the position to just go into a dealership and load up a car with absolutely everything I could want, so it's been delightful to purchase. It's got a dual-panel moonroof (front and back), full nav system with a back-up camera that pops on as soon as you put it in reverse, heated and cooled seats, a high-end sound system... the works! I will love her and snuggle her and call her Maggie Mae, and she will be a member of my family for as many decades as she will give me.

And finally this week, onto the not-great news. I wasn't sure where in my post to put this, or if I even should, but I'm going to because it's important.

My cousin Ken is fighting through his second occurrence of throat cancer.

The first battle left him nearly dead, but he clawed his way back to life and recovered fully. This relapse is worse, and requires a procedure that his insurance company considers "experimental". Despite being hospitalized with a feeding tube, he's using his strength- along with his wife and my first cousin, Mary's- to appeal his case with them. But you know insurance companies: their standard response is "no" and we all understand the dreadful strategy behind that "no".

So a GoFundMe page has been started to try and help him raise the money to have this very expensive treatment and pay for it, outright. He's already contributed everything in his savings, more than 80K put away over a lifetime of very hard work, but he's still 20K short. So I'm just going to leave this here. It's the link to his FundMe page, which contains his story, updates on his condition, and photos of his new grandbaby that just break my heart. We're racing against time. He needs to raise the money for this procedure before it's too late to do him any good. Read it, don't read it, but above all, hug and kiss your loved ones- it could be any one of us at any time in this same awful position.

Thank you, friends. I'll see you next week!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Spring Color!

The new design wall has me energized and inspired!


The first thing I did was break out some of my hand-dyed and painted fabrics and slap them up there. I have a large canvas begging to be used, and I'm trying to work out a fabric collage to go on top of it. These fabrics are a few years old now, but they evoke in me wonderful memories of my days, months, and years spent dying them and then painting over them.

Despite the fall-like color on the wall this week, my mind keeps turning to spring, and I couldn't help but break out my paints and some of my new printmaker's papers. These heavy papers have a handmade feel and look to them, with lovely deckled edges and a smooth, crisp surface. They accept paints wonderfully.

I started with this smaller piece onto which I had gel printed a couple of weeks ago. It began life with a garish pink/white/orange surface, and with a little work and many layers of paint, became this.

I used it as a jumping off place to create a much larger piece, measuring 25 1/2" by 35".

This, too, began with gel plate monoprinting and ended with some monoprinted Stacked Journaling in white.

While I was creating both of these pieces, I was using a third piece of the printmaker's paper to off-load excess paint. It became one of my favorites of the week.


I think that in my own way, I am succeeding in imposing a small measure of subtlety onto my color palette. Yes, the colors are still bold and graphic, but I think perhaps they're also developing some mystery and depth. Or maybe that's just wishful thinking! Either way, I'm satisfied.

Happy creating!