Saturday, September 16, 2017

Stencils as Structure

Frida Kahlo journal page, made using a Crafters Workshop stencil.
When I first encountered the idea of using stencils in my mixed media work, my first thought was "eeew, no." I had the image of very stiff, uncreative, blocky, hard edged stencils, of penciling in lines and carefully filling the shapes with color, much like a coloring book.

But, as I explored the mixed media artwork people were creating that incorporated stencils, I began to get hooked. They layered them. They were sometimes sloppy (in an artful way, of course). They were shadowy. They were backgrounds, they were foregrounds. Some were detailed and tiny, some were bold and splashy.

My favorite stencils are faces. Why? Because faces are tricky. I have taken figure drawing and portrait drawing classes, and understand the anatomy and mathematics of the face and body. But for a quick midday art fix, I don't have time to waste, so using stencils to get the basic features penciled in correctly is really helpful. Getting the proportions right is important. Getting the eyes right, for placement and size, is especially important.

Lately I have been using face stencils on my lunch break, putting in the lines quickly, but going beyond the stenciled lines and giving them my own scribbly, loose-handed twist. The same stencil can look entirely different depending on the color choices, hair, media (watercolor, colored pencil, paint etc.) or background choice.

A Jane Davenport face stencil, with yellow lips and quirky eye makeup.
Jane Davenport's "Tilted Up" face stencil, with loose lines and wild hair.
Another Jane Davenport face stencil, with colors that reflect the medical greens and blues I see on a typical workday.
These faces were done on cardstock in my handmade journal. While cardstock isn't as great for watercolor as good watercolor paper, I like it in journals because it is strong, inexpensive, and works well for collage and also for stamping and stenciling.

Many of my Jane Davenport face stencils are from Artistcellar, and sadly, have been discontinued. However, Jane has her new line of stencil available at Michael's, and Artistcellar is about to debut a new line of Kylie Fowler face stencils, which I can't wait to try.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Tea Rose Khadi Journal

Shabby-chic faux-lace tea and roses Khadi journal cover
It's not easy to find the perfect art journal--you have to consider the size, shape, weight, and most important--the kind of paper. Lately I have been loving square journals. Maybe it's the influence of Instagram, with it's square format, or maybe it is just that I am a true Virgo and love all things neat and regular.

When I saw the Khadi art journal on Gwen Lafleur's website, it called my name. Not only is the shape, size and weight perfect, but the paper is high quality, handmade watercolor paper.

unadorned Khadi journal
The blank pages stared back at me. Putting the first mark on a new journal is a little scary--it makes a statement, sets your mood for future pages. I decided to go with one of my favorite techniques for the cover: printed teabags. I use teabags a lot in my art. They give plain white paper a quick and effective aged effect. When I use stamps on them (with white printmaking paint) the effect is of aged lace...I call it "faux lace."

Mini border wood blocks, teabags and printmaking paint
I gathered my supplies for the project: a collection of dried, empty, open teabags, my favorite white printmaking paint, and two of Gwen's woodblock mini border stamps. (Be sure that the teabags are brewed plain--add your sweetener, milk or lemon AFTER you have removed the teabags.) For this project, I used a combination of Earl Grey and plain Lipton tea. (Teas with rose hips gives the paper a nice pink color, and ones with turmeric are a beautiful yellow.)

Two mini border woodblock stamps, with white printmaking paint applied to one stamp.
First, I painted the stamp with white printmaking paint. Next, I draped the teabag over the stamp and gently pressed until the design showed through, then carefully peeled away the printed teabag. (For teabags, this method works better than flipping the block and stamping onto the paper.) Periodically I used a baby wipe to remove the paint from my fingers. Since the teabags are very thin, the paint seeps through a bit, so clean hands lessen the chance of smudges.

Above, the teabag has been gently pulled off the stamp, revealing the print on the right.
Below is the group of printed teabags that I used for this project. I tried my mini border stamps in all over patterns, stripes, alone, as a border around a teabag, in a fan shape, and in the center of some of the smaller teabags. (If you would like to read more about printing teabags to create "faux lace", there is a tutorial on my blog and the link is here.)

Once they dried, it was time to get started thinking about the arrangement. I fiddled with them until I found a design I liked, and took a quick photo with my iPhone. Next, I set about adhering the printed teabags to the Khadi journal cover.

First I spread a thin layer of Liquitex matte medium all over the cover with a credit card. (I keep a container or baby wipes handy to wipe the excess off my credit card as well as my fingers. I also like to use a non-stick surface under my project.)

I added each printed bag one at a time, smoothing it out with the credit card and occasionally with my fingers, and overlapping them a little, then adding some extra matte medium on top, which I smoothed out with a credit card. I used my heat gun to speed up the drying process.

The first teabag has been placed on the journal cover, with a dollop of matte medium waiting to be spread on top.
This is the journal cover about half way through the process of gluing on the teabags.
The last, and center, printed teabag has been placed, and a squirt of matte medium will be spread on top.
When the printed teabags were all in place, it was time to think about embellishment. I tried out a few ideas, and decided on using some roses from Gwen's downloadable pdf. I selected a few, and "auditioned" them for placement on the cover. The roses looked sweet and went well with the vintage effect.

I decided that the background was too stark white, and needed to be aged to go with the vintage look of the teabags. So, here's what I did: first, I gently tore the edges of the paper, because a torn edge is softer than a cut edge, and I was going for a soft, feminine, vintage look. Then I rubbed on some antique linen Distress Stain, intentionally making the white areas blotchy and uneven, and bringing the stain up into some of the flower petals. Last, I took a mini dabber and applied some sepia distress ink and archival ink to the edges and here and there on the white paper.

Then I decided where to arrange the flowers on the cover, and used a glue stick to adhere them. Since I had printed the roses with an ink jet printer, I was worried that the Liquitex matte medium would be too wet and the roses might run and bleed.

I was almost done, but I needed a closure of some kind. After some thought, I decided to use grommets and ribbon. With an awl, I poked a hole near the center right edge of the cover, then snipped it a little more to be just about the size of the grommet. I inserted the little pink grommet in the hole, pushed the smaller part onto the back, arranged my grommet tool over the pieces, and squeezed to secure it.

 For the back of the journal, I used plain teabags. I put a pink grommet midway down the left side of the back of the journal. After "auditioning" several kinds of ribbon and fiber, I settled on some pink and green dotted ribbon that had been in my "stash" for years. It was just the right shade of pink, and the green was a pretty good match with the rose leaves.

Here is the finished journal, open:

...and here is the finished journal closed and tied. When I look at the journal, it evokes a nostalgic feeling, and reminds me of my grandmother and the flowers growing around her old country farmhouse, and brings back happy childhood memories.