Saturday, March 28, 2015

Tea Bag and Vintage Photo ATCs

For several years, I have been experimenting with using dried, empty tea bags in my art. I used to print on them using stamps and white printmaking paint, but decided to see how using stencils would work with the white paint and teabags. The short story—great!

atc tea1

I started with some ATC blanks—I like the Art Canvas ATCs from USArtquest, which are lightweight and strong. I coated each blank with matte medium and gently placed the teabag on top. I pulled the bags carefully around the edges of the card, folding the corners so there would be no lumps or puckers, and wrapping them around the back.

atc tea2

The color of the teabags varies according to brewing time and type of tea. Ordinary tea gives a nice warm brown, and I love the Yogi tea called Muscle Recovery, which gives a pretty yellowish color. There are often happy accidents with staining on the folds that gives interesting texture to the bags.

atc tea3

I added an extra layer of matte medium on top of the bags—I was afraid that the wet paint might cause the bags to “grow” while I was stenciling, but the top coat of matte medium prevented any puckering or growth.

atc tea4

I tested three stencils: Balzer Flower Piecing, Balzer Deco Doily and Crafters Workshop Mini Damask. Two of three worked well, but the mini damask was so delicate that the thick white paint smeared and blobbed—most likely the fault of the sloppy artist more than the stencil. I wiped off the excess paint off the card and moved ahead anyway.

atc tea6

On the flower piecing card, I added a small vintage photo of my mother that had been output on printable cotton, and surrounded it with lyrics from of John Lennon’s “Instant Karma.”

atc tea good Helen7
atc tea good helen 8

For the doily stenciled ATC, I used the same photo and more Instant Karma lyrics, but arranged differently. For the ATC with the smeared stencil, I adhered a small image of my parent’s wedding photo (December 1945) with matte medium. The photo had been output in sepia tones on Extravorganza printable silk and was very delicate and sheer. I added a piece of lace at the bottom, and with a silver mini brad, attached a cross and an appropriate quote on love from a Yogi Tea hangtag.

final 3 large size

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Explore Hidden Corners

Creating unplanned collages in a journal is a practice that is good for the soul, and something that I need to make time for daily. It is very freeing to just grab four or five unrelated papers and randomlyusing matte mediumglue them onto a blank page. You never know where it will lead, how it will turn out, and what thoughts and emotions it will evoke.


I rummaged through my scrap box and chose a few background papers, and selected a couple others for a possible central figure. Step one has a section of a magazine ad and some vintage paper that had accidentally been sprayed with lime and turquoise Dylusions ink while working on another project. At the top, I added a piece from a magazine story on decorating and fabrics.


I love butterflies, so the central figure is a royalty free butterfly from The Graphics Fairy. The page began to feel like I had opened an old trunk in the attic of grandma’s farmhouse, so I added a lacey Victorian effect with white printmaking paint through an old Crafters Workshop stencil. To add to the old attic feeling, I dabbed on antique linen Distress Stain, which enhanced the aged appearance of the newsprint.


Thinking of old houses and attics, the words “explore hidden corners” popped into my head, so I used tiny alphabet stamps with a black archival ink pad to write the phrase. Next, using a Pocket Stencil, I added the word SEEK in two places using a fine black pen, gray Tombow brush tip marker, pencil and white Signo pen. One of the SEEKs changed color from light to dark, and the other faded from dark at the top to light on the bottom.

The final touches were some white dots, some black and white random triangle created with the Harlequin stencil, and a strip of butterfly washi tape on the bottom.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

My Stuff Your Stuff ATCs for Paper Traders

The latest Paper Traders Yahoo group challenge was called My Stuff Your Stuff. We each stuffed a business sized white envelope with ephemera, mailed them to our partners, and made two atcs using their stuff, which we then mailed back to our partner.

My partner was Nancy, and she sent me some beautiful papers, vintage images, lace, old game parts and some circus themed items.

Here are the two atcs I made with her goodies.

I used her papers for the background on "imagine" but aged it with a distress stain. Next, I stamped sepia distress ink on with a favorite swirly stamp, and a little fleur de lis stamp. After it dried, I added gold paint through a harlequin stencil, and gold dimensional paint dots. The edges were aged slightly with a brown chalk ink stamp pad rubbed gently along the edge.

The baseball themed card started with some fancy paper that came in my surprise package. I added strips horizontally and vertically of two other papers. The central figure was cut carefully from a postage stamp. Again I used the harlequin stencil, but just a few to suggest a baseball diamond. They were done with a pencil outline and filled in with a gray TomBow marker. The words were cut from some play money, just added for visual interest.

Faux Raku Recycled Jar

Recycled Body Butter skin cream containers make great homes for little art supplies. The large size from the Body Shop made a great home for my teeny alphabet stamps—I had about four sets in various fonts that fit nicely into the beige plastic jar.


At first I just taped the stamp label to the top of the jar…but it looked sooo ugly on my art shelf. I recently decided the time had come to kick it up a notch. Using a generous amount of matte medium as an adhesive, I started by gluing a pretty beige and white  vintage papercompliments of my friend Susan Morgan Hothonto the jar’s lid, side and bottom. Pretty, but once it dried—lumpy. Maybe I hurried, maybe I used too much matte medium, or maybe the paper was too thick and stiff.

Instead of ripping it off, I decided to try and camouflage it with Dina Wakely Crackle Paste. I selected the Garden Gate stencil, applied the paste, and waited a couple hours. It was worth the wait. When the paste dried on the jar, the effect reminded me of raku pottery. I rubbed on some antique linen Distress Stain and brown chalk ink to enhance the crackle.


 I wasn’t sure about the treatment of the side of the lid. It would have been awkward to stencil it with the crackle paste, and might have worn off over time from twisting and handling.


A light bulb went off in my head—washi tape would do the trick—and what could be more perfect than alphabet washi tape? I wouldn’t need a label because the alphabet tape would remind me of the alphabet blocks inside the jar. The tape was just the right width to fit on the lid's side, and should also be durable.

faux raku final low rz

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Retro Modern Woman carries a wonderful selection of Jane Davenport face stencils. A lot of people—artists and non-artists alike—are uncomfortable drawing faces, and using one of Jane’s stencils is a good way to get over the “fear of faces.”
face 1 stencil plain

This journal page began with the Jane stencil called “side.” I used a fine black pen to trace it onto my light blue cardstock journal page. The stencil allows the hat/hair and clothing choices up to the artist.

I decided to start the design by stenciling a soft collar on the woman, and used the Balzer Deco Doily stencil and a white paint marker for a soft, turn-of-the-20th century lace collar effect.


The next issue was the top of the head—hair or hat? I was thinking about the contrast between what is on the outside of a person and what is on the inside, and tried a steampunk lace stencil to imply a brain churning with ideas.

She began to look like a weird retro sci-fi woman. I added color to the face and head with the white paint pen and brush tipped markers. To further illustrate the sci-fi idea, I added gears from the steampunk pocket stencils, and a few shapes from the Garden Gate stencil.


The last addition was words—small words, printed on Avery clear mailing labels were added, along with the inspirational pocket stencil word BELIEVE. Last, I hand-wrote the word “dream” on the right side of the page. My aim was to illustrate the many women—past and present—who are stronger and smarter on the inside than the soft, feminine fa├žade the world sees at a quick glance.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Splatter-Technique House-Shaped ATCs

The PaperTraders Yahoo trade group never seems to run out of good ideas and new ideas. One of their newest challenges was to make house-shaped ATCs using the splatter technique. For a sloppy artist like me who is often making splattery messes, it seemed a natural fit.

Splattering on purpose instead of accidentally had me going back to my early FIT days when I was studying Textile Design, and I took a class called "Painted Wovens." We had to paint very precise stripes, then, at a perfect 90 degree angle, splatter areas carefully to create the same visual effect as a woven plaid would.

I rummaged around in my bin of brushes, and found that--luckily--I still had my Lactona brand toothbrush, which creates a very delicate splatter.

I splattered a variety of papers, including vintage magazine print, glossy fashion magazines, and painted watercolor paper.

I went online and found some cute houses, shrunk them to 2.5" x 3.5", and cut them to use the parts as templates. Next, I cut pieces of the splattered paper and fiddled with them until I got an arrangement I liked. the details were added with white and colored pens, cherry Ricola wrappers were cut to give the little red flowers, and on some I used a mini-brad as a doorknob. I also added, for visual interest, some inspirational words that had been printed on Avery clear mailing labels and some dots, made by punching out little circles of splattered paper.

I made five, kept two (usually I make extra, then keep my very favorite and the one that I think is the worst), and have three ready to trade once the partners are announced.

"The Bridge" ATC Dolls

This summer, there was a new TV series called “The Bridge” that premiered on FX in July. Somehow my local deli ended up—in August—having coffee sleeves advertising the show. I loved the graphics, and the faces reminded me of Starsky & Hutch, from the 1970s TV show. I collected a few of the sleeves and tucked them in my art bin.

This fall, we had an Artistcellar ATC trade through Facebook. I was a little ATC stenciling maniac one Saturday, and made about 40 different ATCs. I traded five and tucked the rest into my art bin for future use. I used many stencils, including the Harlequin, Sunny Compass Rose, Mini Chakras, and pocket stencil words.

 On a recent day off, I pulled out my art bin and rediscovered the unfinished Artistcellar ATCs, a bunch of other unfinished work, and the coffee sleeves, so I decided to combine them.

First, I carefully cut the coffee sleeve so each face was separate. I used pieces from the backside of the coffee sleeve to create necks, and glued them to the faces with matte medium. I added a little packing tape on the back for extra strength. Next, I trimmed the faces down, but left the orange road to suggest a beret. That looked a little strange, so I decided to go really strange, and added crazy hats.

I called the face with the moustache “Starsky,” and gave him a body from one of the extra Artistcellar ATCs that I didn't trade in the facebook exchange. The ATC was created with a Photoshop collage of Graphics Fairy butterflies, which was printed on cardstock. I overprinted it with pocket stencil inspirational words, and flipped the stencils over to create a word shadow in a different color. The head was out of proportion to the body, so I went with the weirdness and gave him tiny child-sized vintage arms and legs from Graphics Fairy royalty free images, printed on cardstock and attached with mini brads.


Doll number two was, naturally, christened “Hutch.” He was awarded a crown, Graphics Fairy vintage child paper doll legs, and arms from a Disney prince. The body was a leftover ATC from a 1960s themed trade—it has a graphic image from a concert poster and a few of the lyrics from the folk/rock anthem “Woodstock” that were combined in Photoshop. Both ATC bodies were edged with brown chalk ink to give a vintage effect.

starsky and hutch final tweaked

Friday, February 20, 2015

Journal Collage with Thermofax

Unplanned collaging in your journal is a great way to keep your creative juices flowing. By letting yourself be totally instinctive, you lubricate your brain and “prime the well” of creativity.

Many writers follow the steps in Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way, and write morning pages to prime their creative well. Artists often follow her process, but do artwork in a journal daily, sometimes in combination with writing. Although I must confess I don’t work in my journal every day because of time constraints, I DO do something artistic or creative daily, even if it is just a doodle while I am on the phone or in a meeting.

One of my journals is just stuffed with little doodled sketches I have done over the years. I often flip through the doodle journal when I am looking for inspiration, and I have translated a lot of my doodles into bigger projects.

Twirly Heart 3x3lowrz

One of the doodle shapes that keeps coming up is a swirly twirly heart. A few years ago I sent some of my designs to fiber artist Lynn Krawczyk (yes, the very same person who has a collection of four Artistcellar stencils!), who turned them into thermofax screens. It is very cool to be able to print your own designs on paper and fabric. The screens print very evenly, and even a sloppy artist who is always hurrying (who me?!) can successfully use them. You can read more about thermofax in Lynn’s Esty shop or on her website.

If you want to see some of my other thermofax experiments, check my blog--there are several posts with thermofax work, or click here for a direct link about my thermofax fun.


On this page, using matte medium, I collaged a bunch of unrelated paper pieces—a food receipt, magazine pages, and leftover design scraps.  The word BOOK was from a magazine advertisement; I liked it because it reminded me how much I love to read.


As a central focus, I added an imperfect thermofax print. I printed it with turquoise screen printing ink, and while it was wet, sprinkled embossing powder on top of the paint, then heated it. The heart shape looked okay, but there were some accidental sprinkles on the bottom of the heart that looked smeary. Still, I liked the heart’s color and shape and decided to use it in the collage anyway.


I decided to add some subtle stencils to the page. I used sections of the Flower Piecing stencil here and there with a fine black pen and white signo pen. Next, to camouflage the smeared thermofax heart, I added black dots with a fat sharpie marker around the edge, then added some gradations of white over the smears with my Faber-Castell: Stampers Big White Brush Pen. Last, I took some black and white washi tape, cut it into thin strips, and added them around the word book and above the heart.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Love According to Rumi

The minute I opened my jar of Dina Wakely Crackle Paste, I knew wanted to use it for a Valentine’s Day project. Somehow I felt that it would work well in a heart shape with pink shades, and represent how the human heart stays whole and strong even though it may have cracks and scars from a lifetime of emotion.

orange 1

I tested the paste on several kinds of paper—it worked great on cardboard, cardstock and heavy colored paper, especially black. On shiny surfaces, it cracked and peeled off. When I tried it on red tissue paper, it shriveled the paper too much. For this piece, I selected a small piece of heavy orange paper, and, after taping the corners down, pulled the crackle paste through a harlequin stencil using a big plastic flat-edged spatula.


Some of the paste leaked under the stencil…mostly due to the fact that I was hurrying. It wasn’t that I didn’t have enough time—I hurry because I am excited and impatient when I am in the “art zone.” Once the paste dried, it didn’t matter—the smears added to the textured effect. I decided to cut it into a heart shape.



For the background, I used Derwent blocks in shades of pink, red and orange on a white journal page. After smearing the color with a very wet paintbrush and mushing it around, I added some white Crayola slick stix to soften it in the center.


The paper I used was a little too thin—next time I would use a true watercolor paper so it didn’t buckle. I considered ironing the page, but was afraid that the I would lose the design and it would bleed off like when you iron the wax out of batik. I did hurry the drying along with a blowdryer, which helped flatten it a bit.


Once the background was dry, I added a variety of stenciled images with a Faber-Castell white PITT pen. The effect was soft and watery, which was just what I wanted. I used the chakra pocket stencils, mini damask, the edge of the Balzer deco doily stencil and sections of the garden gate.

orange on pink

Next, I “auditioned” the orange crackle heart on the page to see if I liked it, and to see where I wanted to glue it. After deciding on placement, I added some brown chalk ink to the heart edges to age it, and smeared a bit lightly over the stencil to add to the aging and enhance the crackle. I also tore the background page out of the spiral journal, trimmed the torn edge away and added a strip of solid orange paper on the side.

A favorite Rumi quote seemed to be just the right words for the page.  After I selected the types sizes and fonts I wanted, I printed the Rumi quote out on Avery clear mailing labels and applied them to my page.

My thought for Valentine’s Day is that everyone should celebrate self-love, and not be afraid to chase their dream, go after what they love, and follow the little voice in their head that is whispering the way.