25 October 2010

Windy Snowmen

Although I am still fighting off a cold and don't sound too pretty, I have had a productive morning finishing up the set of five snowmen blowing in the wind. Hard to get into the mood when our high here is supposed to be in the low nineties today! But I have so many other things I want to do, and I can't allow myself to do them until I get the cards finished that I have started. (My problem is always finishing things--I like the fun part but then there's always the homework with the finishing touches--that's why I say this is good therapy for me.)

The tags are from projects on Tim Holtz's blog, but he leaves it up to you to decide what to do with the tag once you're finished. I finally came up with copying Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas is Coming" piano music (I play the piano so had it easily to hand) after reducing it to 80%, inking with Distress Inks, and then adhering the tag to that. The name of the music isn't on there anywhere, but I know what it is, and it makes me happy. I can even hear it playing in the background while the snowman does a happy dance!

21 October 2010

A birthday bookmark

Tonight I was so very bone-tired . . . and then I realized that tomorrow was my dear friend's birthday, and the whole week had gotten by me without an opportunity to make something for her. We haven't gotten to see each other lately even though we live less than five miles from each other and our sons go to the same school, but the affection remains, and I couldn't let the day go by without marking it.

So, when something is needed quickly, I often turn to fashioning a bookmark. (I think part of the reason I felt so deeply tired was this constant pushing I am doing at myself to break away from following other's designs and instructions and really start from scratch with what I do . . . more of this seeking my own style and being brave enough to allow myself to discover how I wish to do things, so very difficult.) Very proud of myself in the end!

So to begin, I looked around my workspace and saw a leftover strip of monoprinting that I'd done with alcohol inks on glossy paper for the holiday cards I am laboring over--thought great, that will do for a background. Then I looked at my stamp collection and found the Elegant Stems stamp from Stampington--perfect. I used Jet Black Archival Ink to stamp with and dried it with a heat gun, then I applied Weathered Wood Distress Stickles to the three flowers and dried those with a heat gun too. The new corner chomper I got the other day made great deco corners. Looking good so far, but then of course the back of the glossy paper was dirty, so I needed something to mount it on. Quickly I found a silvery paper I'd gotten in England, and I used slate and sail boat blue alcohol inks to tone down the brightness. I edged the monoprint with silver Krylon pen on the straight edges (not the deco corners), ran it through my Xyron, and mounted it. Then I used the other setting on the corner chomper to make stub corners on the backing piece.

One of the things I'm most pleased about is that I finally put to use the rudimentary jewelry techniques I learned last year (I had to put all my toys away when our house was on the market), and the attachment to the bookmark is exactly what I have wanted it to be. I used metallic embroidery thread (love that stuff!) for the cording, and on one end I attached a Tim Holtz "Muse" tag where I'd highlighted the debossed letters with Cloudy Blue Adirondack Paint Dabber. But I hate tying loops and having straggly bits of thread or cord left over, so I had a go at using crimp beads, and they worked! Woo hoo! I'm sure my technique could have been better, but I am not complaining. No messy ends--yay me.
Finally, for the presentation, I took a little blank white bag and inked it with three different shades of blue Distress Ink, then I stamped Tim's fabulous flourish (swiped it on the Jet Black inkpad rather than tapping it in hopes of a less vivid image) on both sides. Grabbed my fibers basket and found one that matched all the colors of my piece, wrapped it around, and voila! The thing is done, and I have something I will be pleased to give my friend tomorrow on her birthday.

16 October 2010

Faux Vintage Glass Shards

Been plugging away at those holiday cards, and look what I discovered the other day . . . the excess Rock Candy Distress Crackle Paint that I brushed off the edges of a tag looked like this.
They would be great in a mixed media project or in one of those cute little Ranger Memory Capsules. Everywhere you look, there's beauty if you're open to it.

06 October 2010

Visual Journaling--papers and media

I thought I'd share a little more of my personal "discoveries" (new to me, at least!) and what I synthesized out of all the investigation I did in preparation for my son's middle school visual journaling project.

The first thing I decided needed to be determined was what paper to recommend to the teacher to use. Very quickly I realized that was determined by what media were going to be both available and feasible for the kids to use in the time & space they had to do their pages in. So I quickly had a go at making pages using the following papers:
--Canson XL Series Mix Media notebook (7x10"), which is 98lb paper and recommends itself for acrylic, watercolor, and pen & pencil
--Strathmore 400 Series cold press watercolor paper (9x12")
--Strathmore Visual Journal (5.5x8"), 90lb paper, recommends itself as "great for wet and dry media including watercolor, acrylic, pen and ink, pencil, crayon, charcoal, marker and collage"

Frankly, all of these papers had the problem that they weren't going to fit well into the standard-size binder that the kids were using. I decided to put that issue to one side and just concentrate on the paper, since that could be addressed later.

The Canson Mix Media journal I did not like at all for watercolor, whether tube paints, pencils, or crayons (Neocolor II). Once it got wet, it started pilling, and that was not a desired effect! It wrinkled easily and didn't dry flat like the heavier Strathmore 400 Series paper did. It was fine as long as reasonably dry media was used (markers, pens, colored pencils). I don't even think it would do too well with glue.

I had a lot of fun doing pages on the watercolor paper. It took an UHU glue stick with no problem (carnaroli rice page), walnut ink & acrylic paint also no problem--paper stayed flat and sturdy. The problem, however, was that it is expensive (nearly $10 for a 12-page pad), and I thought the rough surface might put the kids off from a writing perspective. Here they are, not all what I would call "complete":

These are the only two pages I've done in the Strathmore Visual Journal:

Both are done with watercolor tube paints, and the paper holds up great. In the blue one the tissue paper was adhered with Mod Podge applied with a palette knife, and that also is fine. I like this pad much better than the Canson XL Mix Media.

However . . . for my son's class, as much as I was enthralled with either watercolor tube paints or acrylics, I didn't think that was a workable offering for them. Little pots of water to get knocked over, brushes that wouldn't get cleaned, papers that would need somewhere to dry, pricey papers that would need to be continually bought throughout the school year--nope. But I still felt they needed some way to apply color quickly to the entire page, and something with fuller & easier coverage than colored pencils or art stix. I also didn't want them to use anything that required use of a fixative (pastels) or protective sheet to prevent sticking (acrylic paint).

Luckily, I've been busy making lots of Tim Holtz-inspired holiday cards (this is the only occasion for which I make cards each year) and familarizing myself with his techniques for the amazing products he's got. I realized that the Distress Ink pads would satisfy all the requirements for this project. They can be used in the following ways:
--apply directly to paper with the foam pads & handle
--apply to nonstick craft sheet, spritz with water, and make a monoprint
--apply to nonstick craft sheet, spritz with water, and use a paintbrush to apply as paint
--use ink pad to ink up any mark-making object (end of a cork, corrugated cardboard, ruler) and then apply to paper
(I probably missed something, but these are the things I showed the class how to do.) Clean-up requires not much more than a paper towel.

And now that we weren't going to use really wet media for applying broad swathes of color, I could tell the teacher to get a package of heavy cardstock (110 lb) at our local grocery store for about $5 per 150 8.5x11" sheets. THAT is price-conscious!

Other media used in the journal pages shown in this post and the previous one include oil pastels, colored pencils, graphite sticks, Micron pens, china markers, watercolor pencils, watercolor crayons, multiple shades of walnut ink sprays, tissue paper, gel pens, . . . and probably a few other things that just don't spring to mind right now. I really went all out to make sure that whatever I recommended to the teacher to buy was good stuff!

Bottom line regarding paper: if I were going to use a store-bought journal, then I would get either one with at least 120 lb. watercolor paper or the Strathmore Visual Journal. (My moleskine also does pretty well, and it definitely doesn't pill like the Canson does.) If I were going to make one (which is my preference, since book-making is truly what gets me going), then I'd use a combination of hot and cold press watercolor paper plus some heavy cardstock.

Bottom line regarding media: that depends on how mobile one wishes to be. I think the watercolor tubes are huge fun, and I have no problem using them in the hallway of our community center while my son is in his taekwondo class. Seems to me the ink pads would be harder to carry around--they'd need to be in a box so they stay flat. Essentially I think one could use anything as long as you've got the right surface for it . . . just like the rest of the art we make!

I wrote this in response to an inquiry, but it's rather long-winded b/c I also wanted to share my thought process on helping a classroom be successful with this. Please ask if you seek any clarifications.

05 October 2010

Sticking my Toe into the Waters of Visual Journaling

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that over the summer one of my son's teachers asked for my input on a project, and it was definitely a situation where one thing led to another. In the space of about six weeks I did an immersion course on journaling (never something that appealed to me before)--techniques, materials, approaches, etc.

The original mandate was simply to guide them in creating a cover for their notebook . . . but the "notebook" was a 3-ring binder, and I didn't like the chances of plain old Elmer's sticking things onto it that would last the entire school year. After a couple of weeks of stewing and experimentation, I decided to recommend that the kids lay down a base of paper (and then on top of that they could do anything that moved them) and that we use a Xyron to adhere the paper to the plastic cover. That led into all the theory about how to select items that produced a pleasing result, and research about how other people decorated their covers, and of course in those books are all sorts of chapters about the journaling process itself . . . and you can see how one thing led to another. I checked out one book from the library on journaling for children, but it was aimed at younger kids (my son is in middle school), and I bought the rest. I liked all the books I got and don't regret any of them. (We are cutting back on spending now!)

Much of the time at the end of August and first half of September were spent distilling what was contained in about 8 different books into a presentation for the kids so that they would be happy both with their cover and with their pages they do throughout the year. Part of what took me so long is that I had to work through the talk I wanted to give myself at that age so that I could just give them the info they needed and not assume they had my own hang-ups. I think I did a good job--they are all excited about doing pages (this is 10 boys and 1 girl), and they are learning to experiment and express emotions through use of more than words. It's been really exciting to be part of this, and immensely rewarding.

In order to figure out what materials to recommend for purchase to the teacher, I had to do a lot of sample pages myself, since I was not previously a journaler. Words are inadequate to express how much fun I have found it to be! There was a quote in the issue of Art Journaling that I read over the summer that tilted my view of it so that all of a sudden everything came into focus and I understood it--I think it may have been by Pam Carriker, although I am not sure about that & can't double-check at the moment--but it was someone who said that journaling for her was a way of keeping in the creative habit. Wow, I thought, that I can wrap my head around. Before it really just seemed like a waste of time to me; why mess around in a journal when I could actually make something? (Remember I have a 6-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son; my life is not my own much of the time.)

But after doing these pages that you see throughout this blog entry (some finished, some not) and gaining a more full understanding of the activity, I am completely on board. It is fascinating to see how I do all sorts of things that would never have occurred to me to do on "a piece", and it's just so much fun to play!

02 October 2010

Stalled and Figuring Out How to Escape

I am stalled on my holiday cards, which is a real shame because I have bits & pieces of works-in-progress scattered all over my desk and the dining table. It's driving me nuts! So tonight I realized what I need to do is blog about it to help figure out WHY exactly I am stalled and HOW in the heck I'm going to get out of this. I want to do some other things, but I am disciplined enough to not start any other projects while these are unfinished (also, I would have nowhere to put new materials!), but I find myself avoiding the situation instead of buckling down and getting them done.

Why is that, I finally asked myself this afternoon? I was hoping that this year I'd be more efficient with my holiday card-making (the only time of the year I ever make cards), but it is turning into a slog. Part of the problem is having to create materials from scratch. Some of the cards use die-cuts (store-bought) of Tim Holtz' grungeboard, but often only one of an item comes in the package, so if I want, say, three of something, I either have to buy another whole package to get one element (NOT an option), or I have to use the punched-out piece as a stencil, trace the shape on a new piece of grungeboard, and then cut it out. That's not fun, I don't like doing it, and that's a large part of what I'm avoiding.

So, in the future, what I need to understand is that I am simply not going to make multiples of something if I have to do that. I thought making just a couple extra wouldn't be a big deal, but it turns out it is. At least now I recognize that and can apply to future holiday seasons.

I also need to have giant inking sessions. It's a pain in the neck to get everything out & put it back all the time, plus it takes forever to scrub the ink off my fingers. I'd rather do it all at once, because I do like doing it, just not the cleaning up so many times.

Good, that's two big things dealt with. Now I need a plan to prod myself back into action and wrap this stuff up by next weekend. I think it's doable, but it will take some work on my part. Maybe an incentive as to what I can do when I'm finished would be a good idea? Not a bad thought, I believe. Will have to ponder what it could be. . . .