Saturday, August 12, 2017

Making a New Accordion Journal

New handmade Accordion Journal, covered in fabric I designed and printed at Spoonflower
Finding just the right journal isn't easy, even with the multitude of styles available in art stores and business supply stores. For me, there are many factors: size, shape, weight and paper quality. For journals that I keep at home, weight doesn't really matter. But I have been looking for a little journal to tuck in my tote bag, one that I can use on my lunch hour or pull out when I have a chunk of unexpected free time.

Recently I found a journal making kit in an art supply store that looked just right. Small, lightweight, and since I enjoy the bookmaking process--fun to make. But when I opened the package, I was seriously disappointed. The paper was super flimsy, and no good at all for paint. The book spine was flimsy. There was no fabric or paper included to cover the book, and not much thread for binding. I debated about returning it, but didn't want to lose a couple hours going back to the store, waiting in line, and coming home.

So, I took the two heavy cardboard cover pieces and decided to make a new journal with them, using cardstock that I had on hand, and my own fabric as a cover. I cut a new spine from some heavy cardboard I had on hand, and cut a long, long rectangle to accordion fold and stitch my page signatures into. I used a method that I learned a few years ago in a class I took with Kelly Kilmer at Ink Pad NYC. Here's a link to another book I made with the method.

Step one was cutting the fabric and making sure I had enough to cover the edges and glue to the reverse side.

Next, I went to work on folding the long paper that would hold the signatures, I cut the paper to the size I wanted, put them together into signatures, and stitched them into the long folded paper.

The inside cover needed a book plate, so I chose some deli paper that I had painted and printed with one of Nat Kalbach's positive/negative art foamies. I also rifled through my scrap boxes and chose some paper and fabric scraps to cover the first page of the accordion.

Here's what the finished book looked like open and closed:

Now that I have made my new journal, I discovered what looks like the perfect little journal that I can use on my lunch hour. Artist Gwen Lafleur has a fabulous website with all kinds of unique trims, washi tape and embellishments. I have my eye on a little journal that is 8"x8" and has beautiful sheets of watercolor. Take a look at her website--the art eye-candy is plentiful and there are so many intriguing items it is had not to want it all!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Turning Over a New Leaf

Doodles, doodles, doodles. I am constantly doodling flowers, leaves, geometric shapes, alphabet letters, names, and faces. I often collect my doodles and turn them into a design, or just tape them on a journal page for later reference.

After I doodled a leaf on a little blue sticky note the other day I realized the symbolism--I am actually in the process of turning over a new leaf--a new job, new duties, with a new location, new co-workers, a new commute--so what could be more appropriate than a journal page about turning over a new leaf?

Then, yesterday morning, I got a package in the mail with some art trades in it, and the trade hostess had included some little cutout pieces of...guess what?...leaves of course. So, I painted them green, and also used them as a stencil while I was painting them.

I was in love with my old journal. It was square, which is perfect for Instagram. Perfect for a Virgo who likes everything neat and square and tidy. But the new journal is a horizontal rectangle, which has me less in love with it than my old journal. Previous to the square journal, I used, or made, journals that were rectangular, but vertical.

So, I decided to create a square space on each page of my new journal, and either leave the extra space blank, or do something unrelated in that space. Sometimes I incorporate it into my design, sometimes not. On the page below, I put the blue sticky-note on the top right, and underneath, some of the little stencils of the cutout leaf shapes I received in the mail. The main design is on the left. I started with a page painted in a bright yellow--one of my favorite colors.

"Turning Over a New Leaf" journal page
 I used acrylic paints, paint pens, and Jane Davenport paint-over pens. Once it was dry, I added white printmaking paint with a Nathalie Kalbach Versailles art-foamie stamp around the edges.

When I was done, I realized it was strikingly similar to a design I made several years ago and turned into fabric. Here is the link to the fabric I designed a couple of years ago, and the blogpost about it. Not only do I keep doodling the same thing, I also seem to choose the same color combinations. I guess they are my happy shapes and colors.

Below is an art journal page that I did a few days before the "turning over a new leaf" page. Again, I used the happy yellow acrylic in the background, then added whimsical vintage paper doll parts, a model's face from a fashion magazine, and some of my own fabric scraps. I finished it with some handwritten words, a Retro Cafe Art solar flare stencil and Artistcellar inspirational word stencils.

"Riding the Waves" journal page
I realized recently something I have always known, but had forgotten: that I love not only making art, paintings, and designing fabrics, but I love turning them in to a useful, beautiful end product. Below I took some paper I had designed in Photoshop and output with a color laser printer on 8.5" x 11" paper, and, using an old envelope as a template, cut, folded and glued my own envelope. I added paper scraps and assorted washi tape. I used the fancy envelope to send out my folding ATC doll to the winner of the Paper Traders June "winner take all" ATC lottery. Here's the link to last week's post in case you were wondering what is inside the envelope.

"Mail Art" handmade envelope

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Back to My Roots

When people don't know what to draw or paint, I usually ask, "What did you love when you were about 10 years old?" Then I tell them to start with that. Going back to what you loved as a child--be it coloring books, finger paint, Play-Doh, mud pies, dandelion bracelets or any other child-like artistic expression--is good for the soul.

Folding ATC doll for PaperTraders "Winner Take All" June 2017 art lottery
I have been through a difficult time in my business life lately, and it put a big strain on my emotional state. So, I took my own advice and backpedaled to my childhood for some art fun. My favorite childhood thing to play with? Paper dolls. For the folding ATC doll above, I used royalty-free reprints of vintage paper doll parts from The Graphics Fairy. The 2.5" x 3.5" base (ATC, or Artist Trading Card) is made of a piece of vintage magazine text that was painted and stamped. The limbs are put together with mini brads, which allows the pieces to be posed and even interchanged with other dolls.

The face is an original that I made using the method from Jane Davenport's Beautiful Faces DVD. I scanned it, reduced it, printed it on card stock, and cut it out. Here's my step-by-step blogpost on how I created the face.

For a folding ATC doll, the rule is that all the extra pieces must tuck behind the base card. Here's what the doll looks like folded up:

ATC doll folded up to 2.5" x 3.5"
Continuing my "back to my roots" art theme, I used an old McCalls pattern piece as a base for a journal collage. As a young girl, teen, and into my 30s, I made many of my own clothes. I still have my favorite patterns from the early 1970s!  After applying (with matte medium) an old pattern as a base on my journal pages, I added some pretty ribbon, printed teabags, a handmade soy batik fabric strip and a mini piece of fiber-art for this two page spread in my art journal.

Art journal left and right spread with old sewing pattern as a base.
The third part of my latest "back to my roots" artistic journey was rediscovering my inner textile designer. In my early 20s, I studied textile/surface design at FIT and worked as a print stylist in New York's Garment Center for nearly 10 years. I "retired" for motherhood, then went into graphic design and writing as a career.

About five or six years ago, I took part in a SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) project called "Visioning" and designed and printed my own line of fabric. Many of them are available on

While recently cleaning my bins and boxes of papers and art supplies, I stumbled on some prints of vintage French textiles that I had ripped from an interior design magazine. I was startled at how similar they were to some of the fabrics from my own line. It really had me wondering about reincarnation. The designs are dated 1941, and I wasn't born yet, so who knows?

I used the magazine print on the right side of my journal, and added strips of my fabrics as borders at the sides and top. On the left side, I created a fabric collage of scraps of my own fabrics that struck me as similar.
On my worktable: vintage textile designs on right, collage of my designs on the left.
Reproduction of textile designs dated 1941
My original fabrics, printed on cotton, bear a striking similarity to the vintage 1941 designs.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Finding My Inner Warrior

Inner Warrior Priestess
The last two weeks have been awful. No one died. I am healthy. And I have many blessings. I spent a lot of time counting those blessings while my heart broke and my eyes overflowed with tears, while I tossed and turned and my mind re-lived the trauma of the corporate axe. In the big scheme of things I was fortunate. Very fortunate and blessed. I used my art to work through my many emotions, my angry times, my sleepless nights.

The backstory is that the company I worked for terminated nearly 400 executives two weeks ago. Maybe I saw it coming...but I didn't want to see the handwriting on the wall. I felt like a woman whose boyfriend was cheating on her with a brainless floozie. My boss could barely make eye contact with me. Our meetings were rushed. He acted weird. I thought, naively, "Oh, it's the stress of the coming layoffs, it's not personal, it's what he has to do on Friday." But then the phone rang about noon. I nearly collapsed on the walk from my office to the other side of the hospital to the firing room. I did my breathing exercises, blowing out for more counts than I was breathing in so I didn't hyperventilate or have a panic attack. He talked, I breathed out like a woman in labor as the rhetoric swirled around. "It has nothing to do with your job performance...we are eliminating executive staff with no direct patient contact...yadda, yadda, yadda."

I went back to my office and packed up. My work friends gathered around for support. Gave me hugs. Helped me pack. I didn't cry. They did. I finally cried two days later. I got angry. I painted. I cried. I painted. I cried some more. I updated and honed my resume. I bumped up my LinkedIn profile. I applied for jobs. I went to post-employment seminars and a jobs fair. Thankfully I was offered a new position at another location, this time with direct patient contact. I took a big, big hit on the salary. I am reinventing myself in the business world, tightening up the family budget, and hanging on to my pension fund and healthcare. So I am blessed. I am looking ahead, not behind. I am trying to let go of anger and hurt and resentment. I am channeling my anger into emotional and spiritual power. And I am painting.

The Inner Warrior Priestess journal page started with a Jane Davenport face stencil. I outlined it lightly in pencil, then added my own lines for the body, hair and background. I used Portfolio water soluble oil pastels for the face and background colors, blended them with a wet paintbrush, then added watercolor pencils, TomBow brush tipped markers and other accents. When it was dry, I placed Artistcellar mini chakra pocket stencils on the appropriate place for the third eye, throat and heart chakras and used black Archival ink with a mini dabber to create the stenciled shape.

I revisited my Jane Davenport beautiful faces CD to get the eyes and cheek color the way I envisioned it in my mind. The words came to me at the very end, and I added them with a black sharpie marker.

Prior to creating the Warrior Priestess page, I worked through my various emotions with an assortment of techniques.

Page from my mini journal. Words were added while in the waiting area of Post Employment.
This is a mini journal page. The words and shapes were doodled while in the waiting room of the Post Employment office.
The words on this mini-journal page were added during a long, long wait in the Post Employment office.
The words "I am resilient, I am the phoenix" kept playing in my head to the tune of the Beatle's "I am The Walrus" so I painted it. The marker was not water-resistant so it ran, but the runny words echoed my teary eyes.
My friend (who was terminated in the first round of layoffs) was amazed at how resilient I was, so I painted the words "I am resilient" as a mantra. I didn't like the sloppy look when the markers ran and the words blurred, but it did echo my emotional state.
This scribbly floral journal page has many layers of paint, markers and gesso and was a way to channel my anger and emotions.
After I was offered a new job, I was so relieved and thankful, and I came home and painted the "Joy" journal page.
The day after I accepted my new job offer, I created a romantic, sepia-toned journal collage expressing my gratefulness for all that I DO have. The little angel photo was a gift from an artist friend, and seemed especially appropriate. I stamped the word "trust" with sepia ink and added "the universe" with a sepia pen.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

I Am the Phoenix

Life has thrown me a pretty big curve ball, but one result is that I am discovering how resilient I am. I am channeling my mixed emotions into my artwork, so my living room (aka art studio) has a lot of paint splatters, tools, brushes and paper scattered around.

"I Am the Phoenix"
 I Am the Phoenix is an art journal spread with collage, layers of gelli-plate printed deli paper, stencils, stamps, printed teabags and a Sharpie handwritten message. There is a lot of craziness in my life, but I used a Jane Davenport stencil--Tilted Up, from the series ArtistCellar used to carry--because I felt like I was a mermaid swimming up through the chaos to meet the surface. I used some of my favorite stencils for hair and the body and gave her wings to fly.

"Trust the Universe"
 Trust the Universe is another journal page. I used my favorite shade of turquoise (plus a spot of yellow and lime here and there) to cover the page, then sponged on black ink through some of my favorite stencils. The word Trust is an ArtistCellar pocket stencil, and I hand-wrote "the universe" with a sharpie.

"Frida" Journal Inside Cover
 When I saw the Crafters Workshop "Frida" stencil at the Ink Pad NYC during a class I took with the fabulous Nathalie Kalbach, I knew I had to snap it up before they sold out. (Frida and Georgia O'Keefe are my favorite painters.) I had a new journal that just seemed so big and new and empty, so what a better way to initiate the journal than with a Frida stencil? I used some Nat Kalbach art foamie stamps for Frida's body and also for the left edges. It was too neat and boring, so I added paint strokes and scribbles and words as well as some handwritten thoughts.

It was a thrill and honor this morning to see that the Crafters Workshop had reposted my Instagram from a couple days ago!
Crafters Workshop repost of Instagram post

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Altered 1969 Diary

Finished front of altered diary, covered with painted deli paper

Finished back of altered diary
A few weeks ago, I met up with some old friends in the Catskills. One of the women, who is dealing with an aging, ill mother, had been cleaning out the family home, and brought along some old diaries from her teenage years. She had a vision of burning them in the stone fireplace, but before destroying them, we took a look through. Surprisingly, there were very few written memories of wild was more about what she had for dinner and how hard the math test was and what she was going to wear to the school dance and what favorite 1960s song was playing on the pop AM radio station at that moment in time.

As she was about to toss them in the fire, the "art light bulb" went off in my head--they would make great little altered books! I had been meaning to try making one, and had read about the process, so I rescued them from a flaming end.

Diary with painted and handwritten deli paper covering front and back
Rather than starting with the pretty red one that most caught my eye, I decided to use the ugliest one since it would matter less if I made mistakes on the ugly one. I tore out every other page, plus a few more, then used matte medium, spread on with a credit card, to stick two pages together. The ink ran and smeared, which was a surprise since the ballpoint pen had been on the market quite a few years. I later discovered that she preferred an old-fashioned ink pen. The runny ink created quite a nice indigo mushy effect, so I embraced that happy accident.

I also decided to try covering the diary with painted deli paper. While in the Catskills, I did several paintings and journal pages, and had used up excess paint by randomly wiping it on deli paper that I also written on about our weekend adventures. I covered the brass locks with washi tape for protection from the paint, gesso and glue.

After the inner glued pages had dried, I painted some with gesso, and added leftover scraps of paper, printed teabags, plain teabags and a little washi tape here and there.

I had an old photo of the diary owner and another mutual friend that was taken in a Woolworth photo booth in the early '70s. It seemed appropriate to use that on the first page of the inside.

A whimsical photo of two silly teens, taken in a Woolworth photo booth series
is on the right page of the altered diary, after the inside front cover
The diary is still a work in progress, and it may take years to finish all four of them. I am looking forward to seeing how this ongoing project develops in the months to come.

Second set of pages of the altered diary
Inside back cover (left) and last page of diary, with dried teabag over runny ink

Saturday, May 13, 2017

"Sew a Button On It" Self Portrait ATCs

When I saw the theme for a new Paper Traders ATC trade, I thought it was right up my alley. I love buttons, I love sewing, I love ATCs and I love painting. In addition to requiring a button on the atc, another requirement was to use a paper collage background. No problem...collage is my middle name. So, I got to work trying to make the vision in my mind translate into something real. I pictured something soft and romantic, like Sugar Lump Studios, with my favorite lace, maybe some tea bags and delicate stenciling. Something like I did on my blogpost about Faux Lace from Recycled Tea Bags.

First, I took some pretty paper, cut and ripped it into strips, and made a striped background. Next, I used my favorite new Nat Kalbach art foamie positive negative stamps over it with white printmaking paint. It was "meh." I tried lace. No good. Hideous in fact. I auditioned paper doll parts on top. No good.

The next day I was rifling through my paper scraps and found my old art business cards (as opposed to my 9-5-what I get paid to do business cards) with an old address that made them unusable. I have a little logo made of an altered self portrait with one of my fabric designs in the background. I decided to chop up the cards, and the small logo art looked just right on the striped and stamped background.

My worktable (also known as the living room table during the week) with the unfinished ATCs
I added some orange paper from an envelope someone had recently sent me, plopped on a few buttons, stitched them on with orange thread, and ran a brown chalk ink pad around the edges for a finished look. Done. Very far from the soft, romantic, lacy cards that I thought I was going to create, but still very "me"...literally, since the mini portrait IS me. Here is the link to my post called Fuscia Zetti Self Portrait, where you can see the oil painting that I used to make the design that ended up on my art business cards.

Three "sew a button on it" self portrait ATCs. I kept the middle one for myself.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Crazy Messy Faces with Jane Davenport Stencils

Jane Green, finished. mixed media journal page
Above is the finished journal page I named Jane Green. Jane, for the Jane Davenport stencil that I used as a guideline for the face, and Green because I got all sloppy and messy and the skintone accidentally turned greenish. 

Jane Green finished looks completely different than the unfinished, fairly neat drawing below, done the day before. 

I lightly sketched, with a pencil, the facial features, then hand-drew the lines for the hair, neck, swirls and checkerboard. The drawing was started one evening as I sat beside my husband and quietly drew while he was watching a TV show. I felt pretty calm and just wanted to relax with some art supplies and see what emerged.

Jane Green unfinished
The next day, I let loose with the wet paints and the design turned into something unexpected. I ended up painting over areas I didn't like with gesso, and smearing some of the colors together and getting muddy.

There is a big Jane Davenport fan base on Instagram and Facebook. I am a big fan too. But where I go with her products is pretty unlike what most fans do. I seldom have an adorable mermaid or a doe-eyed child. Mostly I end up with crazy looking females. Hmmm...what would Freud say?

Below is another journal page, using a different Jane Davenport stencil. Lots of scribbling, painting over, mixing of medias. I glued a strip of scrapbook paper over the forehead to break up the design, but wasn't sure if I liked it. It was sort of '80s Flashdance meets '60s hippie. I stepped back and decided it was too busy, and went to bed.

Jane Black, unfinished
The next day, I looked at the page and thought, "What was I thinking? This is busy, what a mess!" So, I grabbed black gesso and knocked back the purple in the background. I had to stop myself from painting over the whole page and covering the face. It's still kind of a mess, but it is done--at least for now. I named her Jane Black: Jane for the Jane Davenport stencil, and Black for the background gesso.
Jane Black, finished
When it comes to drawing, I can be pretty neat. Aided by a computer, I can be rather precise. Never reaching the perfection that my Virgo brain seeks, but lines are reasonably straight and if I am trying to do a repeating design, I can figure out the math and make it work.

Sometimes my brain needs to work on something orderly and neat to calm it down. But sometimes a design that starts out neatly drawn ends up a hot mess. And sometimes that hot mess is gorgeous. Mostly I end up gessoing over hot messes or cutting them up into ATCs.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Doodling and Corporate Layoffs

Sometimes I don't even know I'm doodling. I will be talking on the phone, or in a meeting, and when I look down at my desk, or at the pad in my lap, doodles are everywhere. They show up on the edges of meeting notes, on the backs of flyers, on the top of striped legal pads.

They are subconscious marks and designs that, for reasons unknown to me, pop out of my brain, travel down my arm to my hand, and end up on the paper.

I have begun saving and scanning some of the doodles and using them in my artwork.

This journal page started as a doodle--I spent a lot of time on the phone recently because the company I work for suddenly laid off 70 people--and a very dear friend was one of them. Notice the dollar sign that is coming out of the right eye.

I scanned the design and glued it into the journal that I keep on my desk. I also keep some simple art supplies in my office, which I use on my lunch hour to help decompress.

Over the course of a couple of days, I added color, then stencils and stamps.

After I glued a printout of the design into my journal, I used water-soluble oil pastels to add color. My lunch hour was over, so I put it away until the next day.

The next day I pulled out my art supply bin and played with some favorite items: a new stencil by Seth Apter, which I found at a great little store called The Ink Pad, went on the neck to simulate a tattoo. I had a lot of bubble wrap hanging around my office, so I filled in big blank spaces with bubble wrap dots. I pressed a black stamp pad on the bubble wrap, then flipped the inky wrap over and gently pressed it to the paper.

I also added more of the flourish stencil around the page, and used black markers--both thick and thin--to add some extra doodles and detail.

This may not be the best artwork I have ever made. However, it was extremely therapeutic. I was able to let out my frustration with "big brother" and the corporate axe that fell all around me in a safe, creative way.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Courage and Memories

 Life got in the way of blogging. Holidays got in the way of blogging. Work got in the way of blogging. Art and journaling got me through the holidays and life's curve balls. In August, our beloved fur baby Coco, aka Coconut Jenkins Wyatt, got sick. Had to be rushed to the Animal Medical Center hospital. He was treated (fluid drawn off sac around his heart) and they said to bring him back in three months for a checkup. In about a month we were back. More treatment, seemed okay. Then he had a seizure. Again rushed to AMC. Then he got sick again, this time the fluid was around his lungs. We couldn't touch his tummy, couldn't put a coat on him. Couldn't bathe him. Then he wasn't the same, got sicker every day. Wouldn't eat his favorite foods. The day after Christmas, we took him to AMC. He crossed the rainbow bridge. Somehow that week I managed to get to work and push my way through the loss. Concentrating on work was better than walking around the apartment crying. Every little thing was a trigger for crying and feeling the loss.

Journal memory written on December 30 after meeting a little girl on the 6 train
It was the Friday before New Year's Eve, a little after five, Coco had died just after midnight three days before. I was riding the 6 train home from work. A mother with a baby boy in a carriage (not a folding stroller, so they must have been from out of town) and a little girl about four got on the train and sat next to me. The girl was wiggly and jiggly and even with my headset on and iPhone music cranked up I could hear the mother asking her repeatedly (and patiently) to sit down, to turn around. After a few stops she was still wiggly, so instead of playing a new game of FreeCell, and grooving to my oldies, I went to my photo album and clicked on pictures a four-year old might like: paper dolls with wings, handmade sock monkeys, some of my more whimsical art and craft creations, and the occasional silly Barkpost dog doing silly human things. We didn't say anything to each other, just looked at photos together.

After a while the little girl--who interestingly looked a lot like me at four--pointed to a picture of Coco, so I made it larger for her to see. She bent over and kissed the screen and smiled at me. My heart melted. I felt like she was a little messenger from Heaven telling Coco that he was loved and remembered.

With all that happened in 2016--the changes at work, family health issues, the loss of Coco, the social and political climate in the country--I chose the word "courage" for my 2017 word of the year. I know I will need it and I hope I will find it when needed.

Courage journal page, with Dina Wakley face stamp and Artistcellar Om stencil.