Finding Your Style

I’ve been making art my entire life and I have yet to find my individual style.  This week I’m going to celebrate- being optimistic here- my 58th birthday, and I’m still no more unique and identifiable than I was when I was 18.  In fact, I kinda think I was more unique and identifiable at 18, because I didn’t have to worry about my fashion choices making my butt look big.

Why didn't I remember to tint those white blocks?!
Why didn’t I remember to tint those white blocks?!

I’ve struggled for years with “mixed media”, I own way too much Tim Holtz and I own every single Dylusions paint available.  I have tried, honestly, I have tried, to get those layers correct, to be carefree when I slap down color and stencil, glue random bits and pieces.  But “random” does not come naturally to me.  I can’t understand the whole concept of putting paint on the paper and then covering it all up.  Working on an art journal every day is not part of my routine, and I would have to schedule in that whole “free” and “impulsive” thing.

Kendra made this for me at the convention. She used Ai WC Series 5 Set 2-4059
Kendra made this for me at the convention. She used Ai WC Series 5 Set 2-4059

Recently I attended a scrapbook convention and had the opportunity to see a water color demo by Kendra Krebs from Art Impressions Stamps. It was a lightbulb moment for me. Kendra took lovely rubber stamps, colored them with Marvy markers, and then used a regular paint brush to pull the color into the picture for a water color effect. Aha! I thought to myself.  HERE is a soul sister.

So, as I march forward into the end of my 50s, I’ve decided that it’s time to stop telling myself I do not have a style, time to stop following the current trend, and certainly time to stop buying supplies that I am never going to master.  If I’m honest with myself- and isn’t it about time- I would admit that the markers and the water colors, the pan pastels and the crayons are all I really need to be completely satisfied.  I adore coloring in my lovely stamps.  Actually, I adore collecting my lovely stamps and sometimes just standing there looking at them.  The point is, it’s time to accept who I am, trendy or not, and and put my emphasis on personal enjoyment.

Kendra has a You Tube channel you might enjoy, called Watercolor With Kendra.  If you’ve never used Ai Stamps, you really need to check them out.


When is it “done”?

Here’s a very nice journal page. I was playing with some Dylusions sprays, and then added some modeling paste, a couple FullSizeRenderstencils, a few bits of washi tape.  I had a bird I’d snipped from a magazine and there was the Tim Holtz birdcage already cut and hanging around the craft table… before I knew it, a page was done.

Or was it?  Because there were no miles of journaling, no drippy blobs of paint or deep, dark outlines and smudged edges. And yet, the page spoke to me pretty clearly when it said, Quit Here.  It’s a clean, fairly neat, art journal page, and no matter how many times I went back to it over the weekend, I was satisfied with it just the way it is.

IMG_2973Here’s a tag I was also working on this weekend.  It’s just a simple manila tag I cut from an old folder, a bit of Dylusions paints, and a stencil.  I wasn’t sure where to go with it, so I stuck on a ripped up bit of old book page, then some more stencil.  I love to color and I had these new stamps from
Simply Gorjuss, so it made sense to use the girl standing on the books with the bit of ripped book page.  But it wasn’t “done”.  I didn’t need to be told it wasn’t done,
I could feel it.  I pulled out half of my stash, looking for something I wasn’t sure of, until I found that bit of lace along the edge. And once I added the lace, I was where I wanted to be.

IMG_2976I think it’s really easy to get carried away, and wind up feeling anxious if you don’t add all the popular bells and blings to your projects.  It takes time to get to know yourself and understand what makes you feel comfortable with your art.  I am a flat crafter, I like to color, I like things to slip nicely into the envelope without a lot of extra postage, lol.  I have never understood the technique of building up so many layers of paint and paper that the ones on the bottom are completely hidden forever, along with all your first raw thoughts and ideas. It took me years to get over the grunge trend, and I still cringe whenever I see someone “stick a bird on it” as if for no other reason that bird or flower or crown or dunce cap will make perfect sense and “finish” the piece.  Just trying to fill up space on the page can cause a lot more anxiety than enjoyment.

IMG_2879If you find yourself working on a piece and you wind up with a big, empty space where you think to yourself, “Nothing goes there,” then maybe you might think, “Maybe nothing is supposed to go there.”  That’s your quiet space, your thinking space, the space where you stand and look around you at all the rest of the art on that page.  It’s okay not to fill every single bit of paper, not to journal all over the page, not to outline and drip paint and ink the edges, and then throw some glitter on it.  It’s okay to be “done” if you feel you’ve gone as far as you can go.  Each piece is telling a story, and sometimes the story is basically to take a deep breath and be still.


Easter Art Journal page

I find it very difficult to “art journal every day”. I get up super early with the best of intentions, and then one thing leads to another. When I do have the time, I find myself either having no clean place to spread out or frustrated that the page won’t behave itself and do what I want.
There is no right and wrong for art journaling. I’ve taken classes with people I really admire- not just their work, but the people themselves. And the best advice I always hear is to just let it happen.

Easter art journal page

Here is an example of me ignoring the “rules” of current art journaling trends, and just doing what I wanted to do quickly and neatly. You won’t find many layers of paper and die cuts, luscious drippy paint splatters or illegible words from the heart. It’s just a small illustration of what I have been thinking about this week, in the colors that felt good to me today.
I started off with some gelattos that did not work at all on my heavy duty journal page. I found some brand new Hero ink daubers in the same drawer and that was exactly what I wanted, bold liquid spring color. I was using my “nature” journal so I wanted to stick closely to birds, bugs and flowers. And I wanted the colors to be soft on the bottom and become more vivid as I rose to the top layer. A little bit of Dylusions paint, a lot of white ink, a bit of tissue paper with the prerequisite flowers, some butterfly stamps, several Adirondack inks, and just a little Signo pen and Shimmer Spritz.
While I was working on this page my house was a revolving door of adult children all looking for something. I stepped away from my work several times, which I guess gave each bit of paint and ink a chance to dry, right? Either way, this was still barely an hour from idea to happy ending.
I think you can art journal with nothing but a pen and 5 minutes to think. It’s the 5 minutes to think that is really the hard part.

Quick and Easy Cards

DSCN1512This card is adorable, don’t you think?  I saw the little Bookish Owl (#6560) in a newsletter from 100 Proof Press and made an impulse purchase, which I rarely do.  I copied their card design because I was in a hurry for Valentines Day.  My version used a blend of Cornflower Blue and Fern Green Archival Inks from Ranger.  Instead of making a collage background, I just grabbed a background stamp with a text pattern and stamped it lightly with Colorbox Frost White ink.  I printed the little tag on my computer because I didn’t have a Happy Valentines Day stamp in the right font, hit it quickly with the heat tool to set the ink then rubbed it over the top of an Angel Pink Memento ink pad.  I used Copics to color in mister Bookish Owl, and I’d suggest you choose your own colors to match whatever look you are going for.  The original design had a 100 Proof Press stamp border along the top, but I quickly made my own using the same background text stamp, sepia ink, more Angel Pink and a black marker.  IMG_2781

You don’t always have to buy every stamp you see.  Sometimes it’s better to stop and consider if you can actually draw the design for yourself.  I listened to Julie Fei-Fan Balzer on her podcast the other day, and she was discussing how sometimes you’ll buy a stamp just so you know you’ll get a perfect design when you can’t afford a mistake.  But other times you can draw the design yourself if you have margin for error.  That’s what I did with this card- instead of buying the border stamp I drew the design myself, then I used the money “saved” to buy five other 100 Proof Press stamps I wanted.  Okay, okay, not exactly an even trade, but I was happy.

Creating Your Own Stencils

positive space stencil
positive space stencil

I’ve been thinking about what you can do with stencils, and how you can use found materials to create your own unique stencils for your art journal and projects. These positive space stencils were made from photos in old magazines. I selected the photo, covered it front and back in clear packing tape, then I cut it out. I made a few in negative space using the packing tape across the whole page, then cutting out the inside of the photo with a craft knife till I had a space large enough to use my scissor.

Die Cutting 101

I don’t do a lot of individual die cutting.  I’ve got the dies, mostly Tim Holtz, right?  But I just don’t use them that often, since I really do prefer using found materials with different paints and icemarkers.  I’m typically a “flat” designer.  But I bought this set of Die-namics to go with the Cool Day polar bear and I was pretty excited so I got started right away.  And I right away forgot Basic Rule #1 for die cutting.  Cut the die FIRST, then go back and use your Stamp•a•ma•jig or your Misti to stamp on the cut paper!  You can see the ice floe on the top was cut after I stamped and colored the design.  Big difference, and particularly annoying since I had actually cut three pieces of ice, three cute little signs and three adorable polar bears, and had already inked them all.  Had to go back and cut the rest out with scissors, argh.  I got a Brother Scan ‘n Cut 2 for Christmas, so you’ll be hearing a lot about how that works out in upcoming posts.

A Scribbly Start to Art Journaling

I am a big fan of Carolyn Dube and her creative exercises.  I really like bright and bold colors….over there!  Personally I am more of a black and khaki and white person.  Carolyn Dube’s exercises give me a chance to play with colors I don’t ordinarily use, and I don’t have to worry about making a “mistake” and winding up with mud.  Carolyn Dube doesn’t make mistakes, she makes new artistic opportunities.


A Mindful New Year

This year’s Word Of the Year will be MINDFUL. I love that word, love the way it’s being used. I want to include that word in my every-day thoughts from now on.
Here is my 2016 New Year “resolution” #3:
Be mindful of the entertainment value of different activities. Spend more time outdoors, judiciously select tv and podcasts, limit time wasted on reading news and use that time to read more art blogs and how-to videos. Play more board games. Stay home more.
All summer I thought about ways to improve my quality of life, and I realized that organizing my free time is a huge problem for me. I get right down to work, but play, that’s a tricky one. I’ll fall onto the couch with the iPad, or I’ll watch a movie I’ve already seen a dozen times (or more…).
So this year I hope to be MINDFUL of my free time, of what I am doing to feed my soul.
Here’s a card I made that represents my thoughts this cold January afternoon. Everything in it’s place, a little time for everything, love your life and try to laugh about it.Design Grid 1