Friday, February 9, 2018

Love is in the Air

Valentine's Day brings out the little kid in me, with memories of small, inexpensive valentines exchanged between elementary classmates, eating teeny heart-shaped candy stamped with romantic words, and making elaborate heart shaped valentines trimmed with paper lace for my parents.

Seeing the new rag paper hearts on Gwen Lafluer's website brought out my inner artsy-crafty kid. They were in several shades of pink, and pretty all by themselves, but I knew I wanted to embellish them. After all, Valentines are meant to be over-the-top and schmaltzy, aren't they?

Lots of new supplies recently arrived. I used the new stencil, pink hearts and scrap cherubs
and flowers for this year's valentines.
I got to work mixing up shades of pink, and sponged various stencils onto the paper hearts. I found that some of the designs that I didn't expect to work, such as the deco series, looked wonderful on the paper hearts. I started out carefully, but as I got into the creative groove, I began mixing and matching stencils and colors and working on several hearts at the same time. And I got a little sloppy, but I covered any blobs and misprints with other stencils. I also knew that I would be adding cherubs, lace and words and some of the mistakes wouldn't show.
White acrylic was sponged through the Ornamental Petals Mask stencil onto a pink heart.
A Deco Border looked surprisingly good on the hearts, and covered up some blobs of paint that
leaked out when I printed the Ornamental Petals.

On a mauve heart, a pink Decorative Folk Flower looked just right.
The Ornamental Petals Screen looked good with shades of pink on a mauve heart.
The Ornamental Petals Screen was carefully lined up with the point of the heart before printing.
The Deco Border has a 1960s look when used with pink paint on a peach heart.
Here the Decorative Medallion stencil was applied in light pink on a mauve heart.
This valentine has a peach paper base, with the Deco Border and Decorative Medallion stencils. The white blobby misprint didn't matter once the center hearts and wings were added.
The stenciled paper hearts could have been left un-embellished, but what's a Valentine
without words, or cherubs or flowers or lace?
When I finished, they looked good. However, my inner child cried, "More, more, more!" So, the next step was adding some scrap cherubs and flowers. And some lace. And yarn. And decorative brads. And little hearts.

So I pulled out my boxes and bins and rifled through my stash of ribbon, trim, brads, buttons and lace looking for things that said "valentine." I "auditioned" different arrangements to find the right harmony of color and design.
My work table...creative chaos!
"Auditioning" various elements to see which to place where.
One thing I particularly wanted to use was some handspun yarn created by Artist Tribe member Lynda Shoup. I found a valentine in just the right shade of pink to harmonize with her yarn, and decided to stitch it along the edge.

The beautiful, hand-spun pink yarn matched the paint nicely.
An awl was used to punch holes, then the yarn was carefully threaded through.
After the yarn had been threaded through, I added white Nuvo Drops between each stitch.
I had carefully trimmed the excess paper away from my scrap cherub and floral bouquets. I also decided it was the perfect time to use some pink and white covered brads that I had been hoarding for about 10 years.
Fabric covered brads were placed along the edges of one valentine. The placement was planned on the back of the valentine, and an awl was used to poke the holes.
I had a rusted folk-art heart that went on one valentine, but I traced around it and cut several paper hearts from scraps of pink painted cardstock.
An elongated metal folk-art heart was the template for some pink paper hearts.
They still needed words, so I stamped "be mine" and "love" on some pink paper. I also used pink Nuvo Drops for dimensional interest and hand-wrote the word "love" on one piece with the pink Nuvo Drop dispenser tip. On another, I used a small floral punch to create peach daisies, and used pink mini brads as the center, then decorated the edges of a pinkish heart. They circled around the rusted heart, to which I added some whimsical mini wings.
This valentine had a border made of punched paper flowers with a mini brad center.
Here are the final I just need to decide who to send them to!

In February, many of the Gwen Lafluer Artist Tribe are showcasing creations that honor Chinese New Year. You can check out their work here, and also save 15% on any of the items in the Exotic Orient section of the website with the coupon below.

Friday, January 26, 2018

More is More

Weekend puttering seems to often result in art pieces that I like, often more so than projects that I plan in advance and carefully create. Maybe it is that when I don't plan, and just dive in, I am more relaxed and more in touch with my instincts than when I follow a careful plan. (Some carefully designed and planned posts were the Humong Star Medallion Choker and the Deco Dreams journal page.)

Similar to the process used when I created the Vintage Circus Journal Page, this page started with a "mop-up page" where I simply cleaned my paintbrush on a blank white page.

A journal page background was created by using leftover black paint,
and cleaning my paintbrush on top of the painted black pages.
I selected a few background papers to go behind a copy of a vintage photo.
I kind of liked the colors, and thought I'd use it as a base for a collage page. I rifled through my boxes of paper scraps, photos and ephemera and pulled out a few things I liked. Next, I "auditioned" them on the page to see what colors and shapes and images worked together.

A leftover scrap of an original flora and fauna
Photoshop collage was placed on the page first.
 The background paper was something I created in Photoshop with many, many layers, using royalty-free flora and fauna images from The Graphics Fairy. The page had both a dog and part of a kitten. The dog ended up being covered, but I did take care to keep the kitten unobscured. The copy of a vintage photo of children was gifted to me in an art exchange, and had been sitting around in my art box for a while. The whitish paper (with a touch of blue) is painted deli paper. I intentionally tore the edges rather than cutting, and did not make perfect corner angles so that it would go with the roughly painted background.

Painted deli paper was added to the page, with the vintage photo on top.
It was intentionally not centered.
After I had decided on a few papers and adhered them to the page, it said "scrapbook" to me. Not that scrapbooking is a bad thing, but it wasn't what I was in the mood for creating. If the children in the photo were actual relatives and I were making a family scrapbook, I might have stopped here and called the page done. Since I wasn't honoring some of my own relatives, and was using the photo as a design element, I wanted to kick it up a notch. I decided to add some stencils. I started with the Ornamental Petals mask.

I selected a stencil/mask combo and decided where it would be placed on the page.
The mask was used with white acrylic paint.

After the white paint dried a bit, I lined up the stencil to fit in the masked area.
With a dabber tool, I carefully applied brown ink through the stencil.
The first stencil/mask test (center left) was successful, so I repeated it on the right page.

One stencil was not enough, so I added it in a few more places. The words of a favorite college art teacher rang in my head. In a world where the sophisticated fashion people were saying "less is more," my textile design teacher shouted repeatedly, "More is more!" and "Schmaltz it up!" I decided to add white Nuvo Drops to tie the elements together.

I glanced at the page late in the evening as I was walking by my art table, and decided it needed some washi tape. I knew that the beauty of washi tape is that if you change your mind, you can easily peel it off without damaging the layers underneath. I stuck on some beautiful yellow floral washi tape and went to bed. In the morning, I still liked the washi tape, so it stayed on the page.

The yellow washi tape added a nice burst of color and
enhanced the vintage look.
 But still, the voice in my head said "more more more." Inspired by a bloghop celebrating Emerald Creek's embossing powders, I decided to give the page some bling. The left side of my journal became the test area, and the right side the finished area. Using the art deco corner medallion stencil, I tried an olive green embossing powder that I had in my stash. No good. It blended into the page too much and seemed wimpy. Next, I tried the same stencil with a gold embossing powder over white acrylic paint through a stencil. Not bad, but the details got lost. Then I went back to the old standard: a dabber tool with ink. Bingo! That worked beautifully.

Step one: testing the stencil with embossing powder over a base of white paint.
Step two: sprinkling gold embossing powder over the wet paint.
Step three: the embossing powder adhered to the wet stenciled image.
Step four: the heated embossing powder beginning to melt and shine.
I added gold embossing powder here and there on the right side of the journal until I was happy. I used ink and a dabber tool, then quickly sprinkled on the embossing powder, tapped off the excess, and heated it until it the magic happened.

Sections of a corner stencil were masked off, leaving a petal shape.
I decided it needed a touch more gold here and there, but only in small doses. So, I masked off most of the corner stencil until I had just one petal shaped area, and used that in strategic areas with gold embossing powder.

The final pages. On the left, the test area, and on the right, the finished journal page.
On the final journal spread, you can see the test areas on the left, and the finished page on the right. Note the difference in appearance between the gold shape on the top right and the one on the top left. The gold stencil on the left had a base of acrylic paint, and the details are not as distinct as the one on the top of the right hand page.

Although the left side is somewhat imperfect and I didn't spend much time worrying about the design and placement of elements, both pages look good side by side. One of the quirky aspects of the page that I really like is that down at the bottom right corner, the little kitty face is still visible. How sweet is that?
A little kitty peeks out from underneath the gold stencil.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Vintage Circus Journal Page

Sometimes I have a concept, sketch it in my idea journal, then work to create a piece of artwork based on the idea in my mind and sketches in my journal. Sometimes I just start painting and--without a plan--go down the path that unfolds.
The Vintage Circus Journal page emerged without a vision or plan--I just took out my journal, paints, stencils and craft bits and pieces and let my imagination wander. I also was working in two or three journals and a few sheets of watercolor paper at the same time...while one section dried I started another page because I am really impatient. When I get in the "zone" my studio space (aka my living room!) looks like an assembly line with papers and journals all over, in various stages of development.

About a year ago, I took a class at the Westbeth Community Room, sponsored by Ink Pad NYC, with the fabulous Dina Wakley. Among the many tips she kept repeating was to never, ever, waste paint. She recommended cleaning your brushes on blank journal page or painting a page with the leftover puddles of paint. (Dina even cleans her brushes on her apron!)

On the page below, I had cleaned up leftover ochre and green paint on a page in my khadi journal. Since it was just a cleanup page, I decided to test Gwen's Decorative Medallion stencil to see how it worked with molding paste for texture. I loved it. So, on the other paintings and journal scattered around my table, I added the same stencil/paste combination.
The Decorative Medallion stencil, with molding paste, on a "clean up" journal page
I loooooved the stencil so much that I started testing it in turquoise and white acrylic paint around the page. I especially wanted to tone down the bright lime green corner and unite the page. In my mind, it was still a test page, so I decided to play with my stencil/mask duo, Gwen's Ornamental Compass Mask. I am new to using a mask with a stencil, so it took some practice to get the effect I wanted. I used an ochre shade for the mask, then, using a wedge cosmetic sponge and tiny dabber tool, stenciled over it with a brown chalk ink. It was looking like more than just a test page, but I didn't know what to add as a focal point or quite where to go next.
The brownish-ochre compass blobs seemed too dark and overshadowed the central textured stencil shape, so I softened the whole page by adding another stencil here and there. I used portions of the Decorative Medallion stencil with white acrylic over the compass to soften and unite the page. I loved it--I was finally getting the "Lafluerish" effect I admire in Gwen's work. But the question remained: what should I DO with the page?
The finished background was beautiful, but needed a central focus
I rummaged through my boxes of ephemera and tried out a couple items to place on the page. I considered a sepia-toned vintage family photo and some inspirational words written on a see-through paper. Nothing was quite right. Then I found a quirky reproduction of a vintage French Circus poster which was kind of odd, but kind of worked. It had been gifted to me in a trade of small artwork, and had been hiding in one of my paper scrap boxes.

Quite a few images were auditioned for use as the central focus on the journal page
After much deliberation, I decided on a strip of green paper and a
small reproduction of a vintage circus poster
A strip of greenish India-inspired commercial scrapbook paper, placed behind the circus poster, seemed to work. I trimmed the mini poster and used my brown chalk ink pad to darken the edges of it as well as the edges of the green paper strip. I still wanted to add something special, something three dimensional--however, I didn't want something lumpy that would prevent the journal from closing.

 It occurred to me that if I had a dangly piece at the bottom, instead of directly on the page, the journal would still close. I set to work auditioning my collection of jewelry parts from Gwen's website and my own boxes of jewelry components.

I chose some Turkmen Jewelry parts, and used some lime-green grommets to strengthen the hole where the dangly pieces would be attached. I used a decorative headpin that had a turn-of-the-20th century feeling, put it through the grommet, then created a loop with my jewelry pliers, and attached the Turkmen pieces. Next, I attached the circus image to the page (with dangly pieces attached) by using mini brads on each corner.

The dangly pieces can swing and pivot, which echos the trapeze artists movements in the mini poster focal point. Best of all, the journal closes flat, yet the little dangly silver Turkmen jewels invite you to open the journal and see what else is inside.

In case you were wondering what else was created while the circus page was drying, here's some of the other unfinished journal pages that I puttered with that day.