Thursday, June 5, 2014

Art Journal Thursdays: Something Simple

I know that my work of late has been a little on the dark side. I am okay with that. I love cemetery art, Andrew Wyeth and cloudy, rainy days. Maybe it was watching Dark Shadows after school each day that gave me a taste for stark, Gothic and generally creepy stuff.

But it is June and maybe it’s time for something sunny and simple.

Not a very good photo by itself, but it served as great inspiration. 

Digging through my stash I found a photo of a field of lovely Lazy-Susans. I know that others might think of them as weeds, but I think they're lovely. I first thought I’d try to a more literal recreation of the photo on my page, but I can’t draw. I also wanted to do something fast and simple. So I decided to create a loose representation of the photo, letting the colors and shapes to inspire the page.

If you use a light touch, the alcohol will take off the paint from the ridges and leave the color in the valleys.

I first glued down some brown paper sack scraps and then applied some gesso. I let it dry and then grabbed the three most prominent colors in the photo. I applied paint in three large chunks with my fingers. Once dry, I removed the colored paint with rubbing alcohol and a paper towel. If I took off too much, I applied the paint again and then removed it. I kept doing that until I was happy with the result. The brown flower centers were made by taking a little raw umber and brushing it on to a small piece of bubble wrap. 

There were too many dots so I used rubbing alcohol and paper towels to remove and lighten others. 

Flowers turn their faces toward the sun so when I found this Maori proverb, I thought it was perfect for the piece. So freehand, I wrote it on the page. The whole page took about an hour (with the help of a hair dryer).

It may not be my best work or even my favorite page, but I wanted to explore a simple, sunny and flower-filled day. Don't worry, it's only a momentary, small detour from my natural, dark-side bent.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Art Journal Thursday: Textured Background Tutorial

I've been playing with texture. There are lots of ways to do this (gluing tissue paper to the page, modeling past with stencils, etc.) but I found this method accidentally a month ago. I was wiping off my gesso-laden palette knife on to a page and then used the same page to soak up some excess thinned acrylic paint (Art Journal Thursday: Unknown) and Eureka! Color variation that creates visual texture!

Sound simple? It is. Here’s the process.

Gather gesso, a palette knife, acrylic paint, baby wipes, paint brushes, jars and water.

Pour a little gesso directly onto the page. Now grab your palette knife and start swiping. Use broad strokes and move the gesso around. Cover as much or as little of the page as you like. Or your can pour just a bit of gesso onto the palette knife and drag it across the page.

You can create little beads of gesso by applying it with a very light touch.

Let it dry.

Now thin some acrylic paint with water. I make my really thin because I want to build the color over several applications. Brush the color wherever you want it. It will look darker where there’s no gesso and much lighter on the gesso.

My favorite brush for this is a large filbert but a flat brush works too.

Using a baby wipe, remove excess paint in places that you want only a hint of color. You can let it dry a little for a different effect. If you do let it dry, you will have a clear brush line so you may have to scrub a little harder to remove it. Be careful not to rub too hard or you could start removing paper not just paint. Let the page dry. If you want a more intense color, reapply.

Baby wipes are a great tool to move paint around or just plain remove it.

You can also add more gesso with a palette knife. Then reapply paint.

This would also be a great way just to add clouds.

Here’s the finished page!

Let me know how this technique works for you. I’d love to see what you do with this technique. You can send me your photos at

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Exploring My Creepy Side

Don't judge me but I have a creepy side. When traveling, I visit cemeteries and marvel at how people commemorate those they've lost. Sometimes the markers are very simple as if there is no way to express the enormity of the loss; sometimes there are elaborate sculptures that depict a grief that will last as long as the statues stand. This love of the quiet and expression of graveyards inspired a new art series.

The sentences were pulled directly from a book.

But I wanted to try a different direction with my cemetery photography so it was time for art journal experimentation. I found this woman’s face on her gravestone. It has survived there for more than 120 years. There she was looking out from eternity.

One of the things that makes this a little more creepy is that the woman looks like she could have been related to my grandmother.

But instead of keeping with the monochromatic of the gravestone, I decided to place her in a field of stylized realism such as green grass and blue sky.

The black lines were from a charcoal pencil, smudged. When the lines got too thick, I used a little rubbing alcohol, which also took a little extra paint.

Again, using my own photography, I made a black and white laser copy of the graveyard scene. I transferred the image onto the page using matte medium; I could have just pasted the copy directly onto the page, but I wanted to avoid the obvious edge the paper would have left. I then painted around gravestones using a dark green acrylic paint. Once dry I added a layer of very light green paint, applied haphazardly.

The image transfer had lots of grass and barns in the background. The layers of paint kept the feeling of grass without the noise of the original image.

When I showed the page to my husband, the only thing he said was, “Creepy.” That reaction made me very happy. While the colors I used are usually associated with a light or happy feeling, they did not overwhelm the seriousness or other world quality that I wanted.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Art Journal Thursday: Oceanside

Art journals are about experimentation. As I look over the last few months of sharing my journal with you, I realize that artistically I am all over the place. Sometimes I think this is a bad thing, a little bit of artistic psychosis. I worry that I am still trying to find my voice. But with each page, I reveal something about myself, something that I didn't know or remember or intend.

This week’s page is really more personal that exploratory. I recently moved back to Kansas City. And while it is grand to be back among familiar streets and people that I know and love, I miss the beach. I miss the sound, the wind, and the incredible peace. I miss the lovely little town of Oceanside, Oregon. So this week, I wanted to memorialize it in my art journal. Besides, there is no voice more personal or real than expressing the things that vibrate in your soul.

This heart is a shape that I drew and I have used it over and over. It has now become a part of my personal iconography.

The background was created using the top and bottom margins of vintage book pages. I glued them to the page, end to end. It gave me nice lines.

I gave the background an acrylic wash in one of my favorite colors. The imperfections of the page allowed the thinned acrylic to pool.

This is a color laser copy of my beautiful beach that I transferred onto the page using matte medium.

Thanks for stopping by. I’d love to hear what you’re working on in your journals. Are you experiencing artistic psychosis or just happy to explore the landscape of you?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Art Journal Thursdays: Unknown

Under the heading of trying new things, this page started as a cast-off. I used this page as a place to wipe off excess gesso or paint. Then I found this photo of an unknown child. The idea that there’s no way of ever finding out what happened to this child, if she lived a happy life or if she ever grew older was captivating. Since the photo was similar to the cast-off page, I wanted to make it the focus of the composition. The rest of the page just came together. 

A little diluted gesso around the photo to make it a focal point.

I also used the diluted gesso to write the words.

A wash of raw umber acrylic paint was applied to a coffee sleeve. When it dried, I sprayed it with rubbing alcohol and wiped the paint off to add depth.

A black Faber Castell Gelato was used to frame the page and remove the white edges that were left after my haphazard paint application. I smudged the black with a baby wipe.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Art Journal Thursday: Perseverance

Most people don’t look for struggle; it’s unpleasant, messy and requires a lot of energy. It is hard work to look at our problems and work to resolve them or learn to live with them. But there is a promise of reward. Perseverance, character and hope are the rewards from what sometimes seems like senseless pain and effort. (Romans 5:3-5). I wanted to explore perseverance from a more hopeful perspective.

I printed the word using a computer font and then traced it onto the page with carbon paper. I then painted over it.

I first added layers of torn ephemera to the journal page. Then gesso. Hope is a shiny thing so I decided to add a pearlescent, metallic feeling to the page. I applied that paint using some random strokes. Using Tim Holtz’s Bubble stencil, I added some texture. I also had a left over plastic piece from a sticker that I applied brown paint to and used it as a “printing plate” to add a little more interest. In another place, I used the sticker leftover as a mask.

I wanted the broken heart to stand out so I painted it red using red and black Gelattos. I used a baby wipe to lightly blend.

Perseverance and hope are not just pretty things. They are the result of heartache so I placed the jagged, broken heart (my design) over a Tim Holtz Ornate Frame Sizzix die. It is cut out of card stock and painted with a silver metallic acrylic paint.

I used Martha Stewart’s pearl acrylic paints to add shine to the page.

If the colors got too intense, I would mute them by adding a little ivory/gray pearlescent paint and quickly wiping the majority off with a baby wipe.

I painted a scrap of muslin with acrylic paint and then added various stitches with embroidery thread.

To add a little more depth and because my attention gets drawn back to needlework (one of my other true loves), I added some stitching. A little cross stitch, a running stitch and some French knots and I had a rustic, embroidered side bar to my work.

Perseverance and hope are the rewards for struggling through all that life has to throw at us. I wanted to share a page that I worked on with these themes in mind. I’d love to hear what you’re working through with your art.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Art Journal Thursday: Page Tutorial

Art journaling is about trying techniques and expressing yourself. This tutorial will explain how I created this page. These are simple techniques that you can use in your own way to create pages that are distinctly you.


Randomly glue old book pages on to your journal page using matte medium. Let dry.

Add a thin layer of gesso with a foam brush and let dry for a few minutes. Take off the gesso with a baby wipe. Let dry.

Apply a layer of matte medium to the page and lay your laser photo copy face down on the medium.  Use a credit card or brayer to smooth out any air bubbles. Let fully dry (it should not be cool to the touch). Using a baby wipe wet the back of the paper and rub the paper away with your finger. Be careful to over wet the image. Repeat until all the paper has been removed.

Thin yellow ocher acrylic paint with water and using a round brush paint the page. Let dry so that you don’t make a muddy mix with your next color. Thin midnight blue acrylic paint and brush it onto your image. Let dry.

Take a charcoal pencil and highlight areas and lines of your image. Lightly smudge the lines.

Journaling can be anything you like; the more intimate the journaling the more honest the work will be. Remember no one but you has to see it.

Thin black paint and use a lettering brush to journal. This paint should be only slightly thinned to maintain the color but make it fluid enough to write. I start off with 1 part paint to a half part water. I also lightly drew pencil lines to make my journaling a little more uniform but this is not necessary. Make sure that you let the journaling completely dry before you erase the lines.

Old books are a great source of inspiration, from ephemera and great journal prompts.

Glue down ephemera using matte medium.

To add another layer of color, I swiped a Ranger Distressed Ink pad over the edges of the page. While the ink was still wet, I smudged the color with a paper towel. I repeated the process until I got the depth of color I was looking for.

I’d love to hear how you use these techniques to create your own pages so drop me a line or send your pics!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Art Journal Thursday: Unfinished

The wonderful thing about art journaling is that pages don’t have to be finished in one sitting. There are times that you are inspired to work on something, to realize a certain vision but as you work you find that you have taken it as far as you can at that moment. This page was one of those times.

This image transfer is an image transfer of a photo of an angel statue that from my living room. 

I have been in the process of moving again which is why I have been silent for the last few weeks. I had started this page and took it as far as I could. I was sure that I could move it further, but I simply ran out of steam. There were boxes to pack and while I had left my art supplies out as long as possible, eventually they had to be packed away too.

I cut this out of a larger glittered pattern paper.

Now that I have landed and unpacked, I re-examined this page and decided that while it is unfinished I just couldn't move it forward right now. While there is a little part of me that thinks that I should be able to overcome a block, it’s just not so. Sometimes the artistic process works in its own way. Someday I will finish this page or maybe I won’t. Like life, we may have plans but we have to wait and see if they will come to fruition.

The root and small tree were from an old book.

My beloved Starbucks coffee sleeves with part of the paper torn off and gessoed.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Art Journal Thursdays: The Tension of Spring

I am in the minority; I really like winter. It is quiet and peaceful. The trees are bare and the winter sun’s light is diffused (see my earlier "winter art" post here). Winter is books and coffee by the fire, long Sunday afternoons with football games and stew and seeing your breath as you walk through the snow. But this particular winter has seemed long.

So, I am starting to be anxious for spring. I can glimpse that the season of renewal is coming. There is a smattering of days where the fireplace is empty, the sky is blue and the bulbs are pushing through the ground. The transition between the quiet, bleak beauty of winter and the emergence of color is the inspiration for this week’s art journal page.

The ephemera in the background is a torn piece of scrapbooking paper with gesso and think acrylic paint over it.

You can see the words of the ephemera through the image transfer.

For me texture is critical to any piece of art. So I laid down a layer of ephemera in varying shades of off-white. To unify the background I applied a generous layer of gesso. I didn’t want to cover up the ephemera so I took a great deal of it off with a baby wipe. I found the landscape and flower images in my stack of laser copies and glued the landscape to the page while I transferred the flower image onto the page.

I added a wash of ivory to this laser copy to cut down the black and white contrast.

I randomly applied a wash of a grayish-buff color to the page. Then, using a thin wash of a spruce color, I panted the hills in the window image and extended that onto the page to really incorporate it into the overall piece. Green was then applied around the flower to encourage the eye to move down.

I created the lettering using a set of script stickers as a guide.

I used a thinned dark teal paint to write the quote. Thinning the teal a little more, I added it around the page in order to create a balance of color.

This is the time of the year is when the stark, monochromatic nature of winter begins to give way to the lush colors of renewed nature. I hope that this page captured that tension of the season and the tension of anticipation in my heart.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Art Journal Thursday: Uncertainty

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I made the decision to move back home. It was a difficult decision because there are so many unanswered questions.

So there has been a lot of stuff swirling around my head. Is this the right thing to do? Should we stay here and stick it out? Is this the path that God wants us to take? There aren't any quick or bright, shining answers. There is just hope, faith, and inspiration for this week’s journal page.

I found this number and decided to use it since it was my age. I had other numbers in the collage, but they didn't make the cut.

I gessoed the underlying page and then added some dress pattern tissue to add texture. I started an image transfer but too much of the toner came off, so I added a thin layer of gesso. I decided to keep it because it felt like the hidden piece of me that is actively living with the uncertainty. I added another, smaller version of the transfer in the lower corner. This is the “me” that is on the outside.

Using my own portrait feels like a big risk, but makes the page so much more personal. 

I thinned midnight blue and black acrylic paint and applied them around the page randomly. When I took a step back, I realized that there were compartments. (Maybe this is the state of my thoughts…Am I compartmentalizing?)

The tissue paper create crooks and crannies for the thinned paint to pool in.

I layered the thin paint over and over; sometimes on top of the same color, sometimes overlapping. I then applied a thin layer of gesso to incorporate the layers. I created writing space by applying full strength gesso on the page.

I used a Pitt brush pen to write; if you make a mistake, just take a little rubbing alcohol to remove it and let it dry.

The writing forced me to stop the swirling and really focus on the questions and fears I have. It yielded no answers, but the swirling has slowed down from gale force to a gentle breeze.

How has art journaling helped you articulate your thoughts and fears?