Looking for a great new mixed-media challenge? Try sewing on paper for a stitched diary!

Studio Saturday Stitched Diary: Sewing on Paper and Fabric

One reason I love doing these Studio Saturday posts is that it gives me an incentive to try projects we feature in Cloth Paper Scissors. As we work with our artist contributors, I can’t wait to check out their techniques. The Jumpstart feature in the Fall 2018 issue, “The Hand-Stitched Diary” by Lynn Krawczyk, features sewing on paper and fabric. Her project doesn’t just live up to expectations, it exceeds them.

When I saw Lynn’s work, the very idea of a stitched diary stopped me in my tracks. The notion that you can express your emotions in embroidery and basic stitching was so intriguing. As Lynn writes, “As a lover of hand stitching, I find the connection between needle and thread and the way I am feeling to be strongly intertwined.”

Discover how you can document the facets of your life in stitch using amazing techniques for sewing on paper and fabric.
Discover how you can document the facets of your life in stitch using amazing techniques for sewing on paper and fabric.

Making a Stitched Diary

For my diary pages I used khadi paper, heavyweight handmade cotton rag paper with a natural deckle that’s a great substrate for sewing on paper. Lynn suggests ways to decorate the pages before stitching, so you’re not starting with a blank slate. The day I worked on one page, I felt like I had been running in circles, so that’s what I drew, using Ranger Distress Crayons. Adding a little water to the dots made the saturated colors really pop. When the crayon was dry, I emphasized some of the dots with a star stitch in black embroidery thread.

Start with a plain background, or use any mixed-media techniques you love to add color and pattern.
Start with a plain background, or use any mixed-media techniques you love to add color and pattern.

After that I chose a scrap of kantha cloth to work with. I liked its heft and the fact that it already had some stitching on it. More circles were sewn onto the kantha cloth using six-strand embroidery thread and a running stitch. I paid more attention to the cadence of my stitches than I did my technique—I didn’t care if my stitches were perfect. The kantha scrap was attached to the page on one edge with straight stitches in yellow.

I thought about my frustrations as I pushed the needle through the layers of fabric, and very quickly the process became therapeutic. I actually started to laugh, thinking of all the silly things that had happened during my day. That piece done, I looked for a textile that was somewhat transparent and immediately grabbed a piece of gauze. I stitched the gauze across the center fold with X stitches. I really liked Lynn’s idea of creating movable elements, that pieces don’t all have to be cemented in place. This gave me the flexibility of placing the gauze over or under the kantha piece.

Leaving some pieces semi-attached lends movement to the diary page.
Leaving some pieces semi-attached lends movement to the diary page.

Improve Your Mood: Sewing on Paper

The next day I felt more upbeat. In my lighter mood, I made rows of scrolls and loops on another page, using a dip pen and waterproof black ink. Some of the loops were enhanced with dots.

A dip pen and permanent ink are great for creating bold, graphic designs.
A dip pen and permanent ink are great for creating bold, graphic designs.

I found a piece of striped felted wool that looked equally as whimsical, and stitched it on with some Xs. A length of sari ribbon in teal was attached with a few French knots. I continued making the knots to attach the ribbon to the page, creating more loops. To add a bit more pop, I added watercolor around the edges. The whole thing made me happy just to look at it.

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On yet another day, feeling energetic and ambitious, I created a collaged background, using found and handmade papers. I was also eager to try different stitches to see how far I could take sewing on paper.

Choosing neutral tones for a collage background allows you to add whatever colors you like.
Choosing neutral tones for a collage background allows you to add whatever colors you like.

I tried a chain stitch in variegated embroidery thread on a scrap of the sari yarn left over from the other page, and it looked great. For more color, I diluted pink acrylic paint with water and brushed it on the page. The area where I had smeared some matte medium acted as a resist, and I loved the way it looked.

Collage elements offer lots of opportunity for sewing on paper.
Collage elements offer lots of opportunity for sewing on paper.

I then added a piece of a vintage quilt block, made more stitches, and did mark making with a dip pen and white ink. Those marks were enhanced with seed stitches done in white pearl embroidery thread to add some texture.

Working intuitively allows you to express your feelings in stitch.
Working intuitively allows you to express your feelings in stitch.

Making a Stitched Book

Lynn’s method for binding the pages is incredibly easy, and no book experience is necessary. When I look at these pages, I know immediately what they signify to me, and that deepens the entire experience. I purposely left some pages blank to continue to work on the diary; I look forward to it, knowing that the basic act of sewing on paper and fabric will benefit me in incredible ways.

Looking for a great new mixed-media challenge? Try a stitched diary!
Looking for a great new mixed-media challenge? Try a stitched diary!

Stitch is a great element to add to art journal pages; find out more about sewing on paper in this blog. I hope you try these techniques and discover the power of making a stitched diary.


Explore sewing on paper and making a stitched diary with these resources!

Creating “Pandemonium” and Growing as an Artist

Endless creative thoughts and new ideas for projects pop into my head at random moments—while out for a walk, sitting in traffic, sometimes in the middle of the night. Other times there’s some sort of sensory spark—something catches my eye, or I hear music. As a creative, I try to tune in to these thoughts and events, because they usually lead to amazing artwork.

Recently, these inspirational moments were eluding me. This happened slowly over time, as I was so focused on meeting deadlines, preparing new workshops, traveling to teach, and maintaining my blog and social media presence.

Photos and art by John Creighton Petersen

A few years ago, I left my day job to pursue being an artist and instructor full time. Although the experience has been liberating and transformative, it has also made me realize that it requires wearing multiple hats, resulting in less and less time for me to create, explore new ideas, and grow as an artist.

This past winter I traveled to the annual Association for Craft Industries show to teach classes and see the new products. After two days of teaching, for the first time in almost 20 years, I felt completely out of place on the show floor.

This feeling of being a stranger in a familiar land had been building for a while, and I couldn’t put my finger on it until I was at the show. Although I made some new connections and saw brilliant new products, I began to question if being a full-time instructor and artist was worth all the sacrifices. I’d bought into the notion that many of us believe: working (sometimes tirelessly) for companies or brands with the hope it would lead to something greater.

Instead of leaving the show energized and ready to get into my studio, during my flight home I found myself seriously questioning my role in the craft industry, teaching, and whether I should just give up and return to a normal day job. A couple of days after returning, I sat in my studio with absolutely no motivation to create. This had never happened before.

Since going out on my own, I was so focused on making artwork for manufacturers and design teams, or making samples for classes and workshops, that I’d forgotten to create what I wanted to make. I began to realize that this was the root of my funk. My creativity had been stifled by others dictating what, and to some degree, when I should create. I had fallen into this path of developing classes and workshops to fit a particular audience, being told that I could only use certain supplies for projects, and spending endless amounts of energy developing projects for a theme that I had no particular interest in. I realized that over the course of many months, my artistic voice and creative flame had slowly been extinguished.

For a few years now, I have had an idea for incorporating song lyrics into mixed-media works of art, and have been collecting found objects and ephemera that I’d like to include in these projects. This idea was always pushed aside to complete other projects. Although my calendar was filled with impending deadlines, I knew that I needed time to just create again, to relight that creative flame and give myself the confidence to move forward as an artist.

It started with the word pandemonium, inspired by the song “Pandemonium” by The Pet Shop Boys. I have a love affair with that word; I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I live my life this way in some regards, or perhaps it’s a battle cry that goes back to my rebellious youth. There’s a sense of liberation in creating a little chaos in your life, and I definitely felt as if I needed to shake things up.

I spent three days developing the foundation for this piece and liberating myself as an artist. I pulled out a 16″ x 20″ canvas and heavy white gesso, and began experimenting. Besides wanting to spell out the title and include the lyrics to the song “Pandemonium,” I had no real plan. It had been years since I had allowed myself to create with no restrictions, to experiment and play, and create a truly organic piece of artwork. I wanted to return to my college days of creating with freedom, permitting mistakes to happen to let the artwork speak, and to allow the piece to determine how things would evolve.

Working on this project and sharing my development and progress on social media, I discovered that I wasn’t alone. This journey has made me realize that we all need encouragement now and again to stay true to our passions.

Being an artist is sometimes a bumpy road. Part of that journey is going through self-doubt, questioning, and frustration. It amazes me how artists can create with passion and deep feelings, placing all of that emotion into a project, but we are sometimes afraid to vocalize that vulnerability.

It’s important to present yourself to the world with confidence. I realize that for me to continue to grow as an artist I need to go with my gut and make work that I am proud of, without worrying about how many likes I get on Facebook. I need to create, not replicate.

It was this need to create and ultimately evolve as an artist that was the catalyst behind “Pandemonium.” I’ve come to realize that questioning and doubting myself is simply part of the creative process and, most importantly, that I’m not alone in experiencing this. I’m taking this renewed energy and passion forward to my new artistic endeavors.


John Creighton Petersen is a lifelong resident of Seattle, Washington. Although his degree is in photography, his vast knowledge of a variety of art mediums has led him to become a mixed-media fusion artist. As a working artist and instructor, John’s on the road several months of the year sharing his knowledge and techniques with others. See more of his work on his website (artnewwave.com) and Instagram: @artnewwave.


This essay also appears in our Fall 2018 edition of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine.

Check out our lookbook preview to see more of the mixed-media art ideas inside this issue!

shattered glass polymer clay beads by Christi Friesen

Polymer Clay and the Art of Aging Gracefully with Christi Friesen

Gray hairs, laugh lines, and–possibly worst of all–ending a night out by 10:00 instead of just starting it then. Aging is no fun! But some types of aging can be lots of fun. Aging, adding patinas, and giving a worn, weathered look to polymer clay, metal, and other kinds of art is a good kind of aging.

Christi Friesen is an international polymer clay artist, author, and instructor. She’s always jet-setting around the world teaching poly clay techniques to lucky students in exotic places like Italy, France, and Ireland, among others. During that delicious traveling, Christi has surely seen some incredibly well-aged art, architecture, and other scenic sites. And it has all helped inspire and inform her work aging polymer clay.

polymer clay hearts with patina by Christi Friesen

“In my head I’m still in college, but that’s not what I see in the mirror. Sigh. Because of that I am thinking a lot more about ‘aging’ these days,” Christi writes. “But I figure if I’m aging, well then, so can my creativity! Which brings me to the subject of my newest online workshop, Polymer Clay Jewelry: The Art of Aging Gracefully.

“I actually have always loved the look of aging in artwork. I’m a bit of an antique/vintage/artifact junkie, so I suppose that’s where it comes from. In art, anything that has patina, wear, or the natural beauty that comes from being old really appeals to me,” Christi says. “You too?”

polymer clay octopus by Christi Friesen

About herself, Christi says, “I am a mixed-media artist and I work primarily in polymer clay, embellished with a variety of other materials.” It sounds simple, until you see the stunning polymer clay creations Christi makes. Her jewelry, creatures and figurines, art, and accessories show unlimited imagination.

polymer clay with patina, by Christi Friesen

What about aging gracefully?

“One way to add the visually enriching aspect of age to your creations is to use actual aged things, such as including an antique button, a found object, a piece of vintage lace, or old watch parts. Anything that aged naturally will obviously bring that sense of age to the piece you create,” Christi says. “In the online course, I show you how to create a pendant base that will complement the addition of aged pieces. And, of course, how to actually attach those pieces to your clay. This is pure wabi sabi—using authentic pieces with interestingly ‘used’ appearances.”

polymer clay creations with patina by Christi Friesen

In addition to wabi sabi, the Japanese idea of finding beauty in the natural cycle of life,Christi shares other inspiring and enlightened art practices in her course, Polymer Clay Jewelry: The Art of Aging Gracefully. “One of the things that happens with age is that items get broken. In the online workshop, we’ll explore two techniques that deal with broken: shattered glass impressions and kintsugi repair.”

polymer clay kintsugi earrings by Christi Friesen

Want to learn more about the shattered glass technique, kintsugi (above), and patina for polymer clay? Hint: They’re great stress relievers! Hop over to our sister site, Interweave Jewelry, to read the rest of Christi’s blog about addictive and fun aging techniques in her newest poly clay course. And grab her course now!

Have you heard about Christi’s other clay courses? Get started learning about polymer clay and then check out Mixed-Media Polymer Clay Jewelry.


Play with polymer clay! Learn clay techniques and how to make polymer clay art and jewelry with Christi Friesen!

Use Acrylic Paint Skins to Make Abstract Flowers

What do you do with leftover acrylic paint skins? If your answer is “toss them,” get ready, because this post is about to change that! In the September/October 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, artist Staci Swider shared a superb idea for transforming leftover dried acrylic paint skins into vibrant abstract flower collages. Follow Staci’s tutorial below to try out this technique.

Staci Swider turns leftover paint skins into abstract flowers (Photos by Sharon White Photography)
Staci Swider turns leftover paint skins into abstract flowers. (Photos by Sharon White Photography)

Skin Deep: Creating Abstract Paint-Skin Flowers, by Staci Swider

One of the highlights of my studio workday is when my son, Declan Konesky, also an artist, comes to visit, and we bounce ideas around. It was during one of these visits that these paint-skin flowers were born.

I had cleaned a palette of some dried acrylic paint, and the dried paint pieces were lying on a table. Declan decided they looked like flowers. After laying the irregular shapes onto another painting I had in process, it was clear that the flowers needed stems. But not just any stems; the stems needed to be as irregular and organic as the flowers. That’s when we tried painting with some pine needles (pine straw) from the garden. The pine needles created just the right line thickness and the perfect amount of quirkiness. I added a textile scrap to the painting for texture and to anchor the composition, and boom! I never tire of lifting dried paint from my palette and seeing the interesting color combinations that will become flowers.

Materials
  • Freezer paper, or non-stick craft mat (I used Reynolds® Freezer Paper.)
  • Masking tape
  • Golden®Artist Colors Fluid Acrylic paint, assorted colors, including dark and light green
  • Palette knife or cardboard scrap
  • Flexible glue, such as Aleene’s® Tacky Glue®
  • Watercolor paper or other heavy paper with surface texture
  • Plastic or paper plate to use as a palette
  • Pine needles or a small twig approximately ¼” x 5″
  • Scraps of textured colored fabrics, such as jacquard, corduroy, tapestry, etc.
  • Paintbrushes
  • Plaster gauze, 1 roll 4″ wide (I used CraftWrap™.)
  • Scissors or craft knife
  • Empty cardboard box, sized to accommodate the artwork (I used a 4¾” x 6¾” macaroni box, but the top or bottom of a gift box would also work.)
  • Water
  • Foam core or corrugated cardboard scraps, slightly smaller than your artwork
  • Optional:
    • Heat gun
Make the flowers

Whenever possible, I like to use the paint that’s dried on my palette, but sometimes you just don’t have enough, or the colors aren’t quite right. Here’s how to make paint skins from scratch.

1. Place a piece of freezer paper, shiny-side up, on your work surface, and tape it in place.

2. Squeeze several colors of acrylic paint onto the freezer paper, and smear them around with a palette knife or cardboard scrap. Place the colors next to each other on the freezer paper, allowing the paints to mix and combine, and leaving some small areas without paint. Don’t be afraid to use unusual colors; the crazier the better. Let set for approximately 30 minutes.

3. After the paint has had a chance to dry a little (it doesn’t have to be completely dry), add another layer of paint over the top of the first layer, making sure to cover the entire surface—no un-painted areas this time. Allow to dry overnight.

TIP: If you’re in a hurry, use a heat gun to speed up the drying time. Just be careful using the heat gun near paper, as the paper can be scorched.

4. Carefully peel the paint off the freezer paper. Turn the paint chips over to reveal the shiny underside. This will become the blossom. Tear the peeled paint into shapes to form flower heads. (FIGURE 1) Experiment with layering the skins, one piece over another, to add further dimension and interest to the flowers. If layering, use glue to attach the layers. Set the flowers aside.

FIGURE 1 (Step-out photos by Jenn Guneratne)
FIGURE 1 (Step-out photos by Jenn Guneratne)
Create the painting

1. Tear a small piece of paper to size for the painting. Tearing creates a nice deckled edge. I used a 4″ x 6″ piece of watercolor paper.

TIP: If the paper you’ve chosen is lightweight, glue a couple of pieces together. You don’t want the paper to sag under its own weight.

2. Pour some dark green paint onto a plastic plate. Holding the pine needles at the joint where the needles come together, dip them into the paint, making sure to cover most of the length of the needles. Lay the needles onto the paper to create a few random stem lines. Repeat this process two or more times across the paper. Alternatively, dip the side of a small, thin twig into green paint, and use it as a stamp to create the lines.

3. Repeat step 2 with a lighter green paint, allowing the 2 shades of green to mix during the printing process. (FIGURE 2) Some of the lines will read as stems and some will read as leaves.

FIGURE 2
FIGURE 2

4. Attach the flower heads at the top of the green stems with glue. (FIGURE 3)

FIGURE 3
FIGURE 3

5. Glue a small strip, or layer several strips, of fabric at the bottom of the painting. (FIGURE 4) Alternatively, lay a few fabric pieces on a painted background, and then lay the flower painting on top. (FIGURE 5) Heavy tapestries in rich dark colors are great for this, as are tweeds and old suiting fabrics.

FIGURE 4
FIGURE 4
FIGURE 5
FIGURE 5

6. Optional: Paint a color between and around the flowers and stems to fill in the spaces. (FIGURES 4 AND 5) Adding paint after printing gives the painting depth and interest. Some of the background will peek out around the flowers and stems. If you wish to have a cleaner image, paint the background before printing the stems. For the paintings in figures 2 and 3, I painted the background a very light neutral color for maximum contrast to the stems and flowers.

Build the shadow box

1. Cut several pieces of plaster gauze into 6″ lengths (approximately) and set them aside. Make sure to keep the strips dry until you are ready to use them. Water activates the plaster in the gauze.

2. If necessary, remove one side of the cardboard box, using a craft knife or scissors. I removed the front of a macaroni-and-cheese box. Place the box bottom-side up on your work surface.

3. Dip a gauze strip into the water, and allow the excess water to drip off. Starting on the bottom of the box, carefully place a strip of wet gauze across the box and smooth it out with your fingers. The gauze is very limp when wet; keep it as flat as possible when handling it. Using your fingers, rub the plaster into the open areas of the gauze. This not only creates a smoother surface, it also makes the gauze stronger. Continue laying wet gauze onto the box (FIGURE 6) until the back and all of the sides are covered.

FIGURE 6
FIGURE 6

4. Turn the box over and add gauze strips to the inside, continuing until the entire box is covered. Smooth all of the lumps and bumps from the strips with your fingers. Allow the plaster to dry overnight.

5. Using colors that complement the flowers, paint the box, inside and out, with acrylic paint. Build up thin layers of color, creating beautiful depth and texture. Try using a darker shade on the outside of the box and a lighter color on the inside, or vice versa, for added interest. (SEE OPENING IMAGE.) Set the box aside to dry.

Finishing

1. Cut a piece of foam core or corrugated cardboard (or a few pieces if desired) slightly smaller than the painting.

2. Glue the foam core piece(s) to the center back of the painting, allowing the ragged edges of the painting to extend beyond the backing piece.

3. Add glue to the back of the backing piece, and glue the floral artwork centered on the back of the shadow box. (SEE OPENING IMAGE.)


Staci Swider’s work reinterprets the patterns and textures found in function-driven objects, such as quilts and baskets, as dreamscape imagery that straddles the line between figurative and abstract. Her work has been exhibited at the Morris Museum of Art as well as many galleries across the Southeast. Staci’s book, Acrylic Expressions, and her four instructional painting videos are available at interweave.com. Visit her online at staciswider.com.


Our editorial director Jeannine Stein tried out Staci’s tutorial in this Studio Saturday blog!

For more from Staci Swider, don’t miss her tips for escaping a creative rut or her great products featured below:

5 Astonishing Art Techniques from Rae Missigman

Rae Missigman is our Artist of the Month for September, and we’re so happy to spotlight this artist and her unique art techniques. Rae brings so much vibrancy and excitement to mixed-media art, and her work has inspired countless artists—and me!

As we celebrate Rae this month, we rounded up some of her most eye-opening techniques, ones that you can start incorporating in your own artwork today. You’ll find many of them, and more, in her new book, Paint, Play, Explore, which is a must-have for your creative library. Read on for great art tips from Rae!

Let Rae show you how to develop your individual style as a mixed-media artist. (Photos by Rae Missigman unless otherwise noted.)
Let Rae show you how to develop your individual style as a mixed-media artist. (Photos by Rae Missigman unless otherwise noted.)

1. Turn ordinary items into extraordinary art tools.

Rae has an uncanny ability to look at what most of us ignore and see its potential in art. Items we come into contact with in the course of a day—a twig, a drinking straw, a laundry sheet—are more than that to Rae. A twig becomes a stamp; a straw becomes a mark-making tool; and a laundry sheet becomes a colorful embellishment.

A random twig or branch turns into a one-of-a-kind stamp when it meets acrylic paint. This technique was featured in Art Lessons 2016, Volume 6: Nature's Stamp.
A random twig or branch turns into a one-of-a-kind stamp when it meets acrylic paint. This technique was featured in Art Lessons 2016, Volume 6: Nature’s Stamp.

In her book Paint, Play, Explore, Rae opens our eyes to what can be easily repurposed, giving us the gift of possibility. She uses a mascara brush to get rough marks with paint and the edge of a gift card dipped in acrylic paint to make bold lines.

Who knew a mascara wand could be a mixed-media artist’s best friend?
Who knew a mascara wand could be a mixed-media artist’s best friend?

The end of a wooden clothespin, when dipped into paint or ink, forms dual oblong marks that can be repeated for an attractive pattern.

Does your repertoire of art techniques include mark making with a clothespin? If not, it should.
Does your repertoire of art techniques include mark making with a clothespin? If not, it should.

Rae shows how to make a vibrant vision board in the January/February 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, again making use of a plastic gift card. But this time it’s repurposed as a mini loom to make a tiny weaving. Now that’s turning the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Rae turned a plastic gift card into a mini loom to make this tiny weaving that’s part of a vision board. (Photo by Sharon White Photography.)
Rae turned a plastic gift card into a mini loom to make this tiny weaving that’s part of a vision board. (Photo by Sharon White Photography.)

2. Let go and don’t overthink.

Being an artist means trusting your instincts, but so often we second guess ourselves. And that’s when we lose our footing. Rae has a remedy for this, which she details in Paint, Play, Explore. “The biggest hurdle for most mark makers,” she writes, “is learning not to overthink the process. Practice and experimentation are key to getting over this obstacle.”

She recommends experimenting with resists, since you can’t always see where your marks are: “Do some tests with different resist tools to get familiar with the concept of working blind. Make notes about which resist mediums are your favorites.” Try colorless wax crayons, masking fluids, and rubber cement, and see where they take your creativity.

Working with resists allows you to be open to experimentation and surprises.
Working with resists allows you to be open to experimentation and surprises.

3. Start with texture.

Fill a background with color and you no longer have a blank page. But fill it with texture and you have so much more to work with. In the video Art Journaling Exercises: 15 Creative Prompts, one of the techniques Rae showcases is creating a background with collage to set up a foundation of physical and visual texture. Starting with a pile of random papers, including patterned paper, book pages, and art practice sheets, she tears and glues them to Bristol paper using gel medium. So that she doesn’t overthink the process, she chooses papers randomly.

Collage doesn’t just add visual interest—it also provides texture, as this screen shot from the video Art Journaling Exercises shows.
Collage doesn’t just add visual interest—it also provides texture, as this screen shot from the video Art Journaling Exercises shows.

Rae also overlaps the papers, creating ridges and valleys, an interesting base to work on. When everything is dry, she covers the collage with gesso and glaze, setting up a working foundation for mark making. This is definitely one to add to your art techniques repertoire, whether creating in an art journal or on canvas or wood.

4. Don’t forget about the words.

Writing may not be everyone’s favorite activity, and there are certainly no rules about adding text to artwork. But Rae makes the case for adding words to art journal pages in the article “Art Journaling: The Wings to Get Started” in the May/June 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine.

A few words on an art journal page can add a powerful element to artwork. (Photo by Sharon White Photography.)
A few words on an art journal page can add a powerful element to artwork. (Photo by Sharon White Photography.)

“Words are the all-important strands that tie the page together,” she writes. “Type, stamp, or hand letter them; just get them on the page.” She makes a good point; even one word on a page can powerfully convey a mood, a thought, or an idea, even if it’s not the focus of the art. If you hate your handwriting or have no interest in lettering, then stamping, stenciling, printing, or cutting out words from a book or magazine are great options.

5. Learn to embrace color—lots of color.

One thing Rae is not known for is a neutral palette. Color explodes in her artwork in the most incredible ways, and she shares much of her methods for working with color in the video Building Beautiful Layers: 10 Abstract Painting Techniques.

One of her art techniques starts with dripping bright acrylic ink down a primed wood panel. She then adds a shade of complementary acrylic paint, mixed with white, blending it as she paints around the drips, allowing the strokes of an angled brush to create texture. This produces beautiful gradations of color, which become the base for adding collage, texture, and more color with another application of ink. Don’t miss Rae’s brilliant advice for controlling and enhancing drips, which are great mixed-media art techniques to add to your repertoire.

Working with color doesn’t have to be frustrating! With Rae’s tips and advice, blending vivid hues is easy.
Working with color doesn’t have to be frustrating! With Rae’s tips and advice, blending vivid hues is easy.

In this blog post, see how easy it is to create a beautiful art journal page using Rae’s techniques.


Master more art techniques with Rae!

Since I got two very different results from the same negative, I made notes on what I discovered.

Studio Saturday: Making Cyanotypes and Documenting the Creative Process

Whenever I get a chance to experiment with a new supply or technique, I consider myself the luckiest person on earth. But often I get so wrapped up in the endeavor that inevitably I forget to make notes so I can document the creative process, noting what worked and what didn’t. Thankfully I was able to do that when I recently explored cyanotypes, and I’d love to share the results with you.

By making your own book, you can customize the size, cover and pages to suit your needs.
By making your own book, you can customize the size, cover and pages to suit your needs.

A couple of weeks ago, I spent the better part of a day making cyanotypes and sun prints, determined to check it off my list before the summer was over (you can read more about my escapades here). Since making these stunning prints is part art and part science, I figured I’d take notes on my efforts so I could continue my progress the next time out.

While spending the better part of a day making cyanotypes, I took notes so I could document the creative process later.
While spending the better part of a day making cyanotypes, I took notes so I could document the creative process later.

I’m sure this happens to you—as soon as you start delving into a new area, your mind starts spinning with all kinds of ideas: What if I tried printing a hand-drawn design on acetate? What if I layered images? By making notes on your experiments, your next time around is bound to be even better.

At the end of my cyanotypepalooza, I had a pile of information, a bunch of cyanotypes, and several projects I made with them. I needed a home for everything, so I decided to make a book to house it all. I was inspired by artist Ailish Henderson, who wrote the article “Stitched Collage Portraits” in the January/February 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors. While developing her mixed-media abstract self-portraits, she kept an exhaustive journal documenting her creative process. The book is amazing, filled with notes, photos, sketches, and I was determined to one day do something similar. Having a book sure beats stuffing everything in a folder or envelope that I’ll likely forget about.

You can absolutely use a pre-made journal or sketchbook for this, but I wanted mine to have some custom features, so I started from scratch. I used one piece of 140-lb. watercolor paper for the cover, and determined the size based on my largest prints. The covers are 9″ wide by 12″ high, and I made the spine 1″ wide.

The cover is decorated with scraps from my cyanotype experiments, and I machine stitched them to the cover. I glued a scrap of printed fabric to the spine as a decorative element, but it also strengthens the area. To hide the stitches and shore up the covers, I glued and stitched watercolor paper to the insides of both covers and rounded the corners.

Scraps and prints from some of the cyanotypes I made were used to decorate the cover of my book.
Scraps and prints from some of the cyanotypes I made were used to decorate the cover of my book.

I used mixed-media paper for the pages, creating two signatures (folded pages nested together) of six folded pages each, for a total of 24 pages. Barbara Delaney, the Cloth Paper Scissors managing editor, suggested making pockets to hold scraps and things, and I thanked her for her brilliant idea. Here are two pocket pages made from decorative cardstock (left) and a vintage ledger page (right), also machine stitched to blank pages.

These pocket pages can hold projects, scraps, notes, and more.
These pocket pages can hold projects, scraps, notes, and more.

To bind the book I used an ‘X’ stitch (you can find directions here), with one modification: After reaching the bottom of the spine, I stitched back up the same way I came down, creating a solid row of Xs.

Bind the book any way you like; if you’re short on time, use an easy pamphlet stitch.
Bind the book any way you like; if you’re short on time, use an easy pamphlet stitch.

Onto documenting the creative process! I love that I can use the book for so much. Here, I compared glass negative prints on fabric and paper:

Since I got two very different results from the same negative, I made notes on what I discovered.
Since I got two very different results from the same negative, I made notes on what I discovered.

On this spread I used the pocket for scraps and did a page of color palettes that might look good with the distinctive cyan color of the prints. This will come in handy when I incorporate the prints in various projects.

Go beyond documenting the creative process and use your book to come up with ideas for future projects.
Go beyond documenting the creative process and use your book to come up with ideas for future projects.

And on this page, I wrote about my discoveries making a print with a stencil on a cloudy day:

Did something throw you a curveball? Write about it, so you can avoid those pitfalls next time.
Did something throw you a curveball? Write about it, so you can avoid those pitfalls next time.

I recently tried monoprinting with an aseptic container, following Rosane Viegas’ instructions in her article “Juice Box Printing” in the Fall 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors. I guess I need to get going and make another book for those experiments. . .


Learn more about making books with these resources!

Raid the Toy Box for this Recycled Jewelry Project

You’ll have to look closely to spot the upcycled components in this fun piece. I combined common jewelry components with a few non-traditional items, such as rubber washers, checkers, and nail polish for a clever spin on this recycled jewelry project.

Debbie Blair raided the toy box to bring you a bold necklace made with recycled checkers and other unexpected items. (Photo by Sharon White Photography)

Materials

  • Hole punch pliers, 2mm
  • Checkers game pieces, 2
  • Acrylic paint (I used DecoArt® Plaid®Americana® paint in Light Buttermilk and DecoArt Dazzling Metallics in Bronze.)
  • Paintbrush(es)
  • Cotton swab
  • Inkpad (I used Ranger Tim Holtz® Distress® Archival Ink pad in Vintage Photo.)
  • Wire cutters
  • Rope chain, 18″ of 20mm/25mm/30mm copper long-and-short rope chain
  • Jewelry adhesive (I used Beadalon® G-S Hypo Cement®.)
  • Nail polish (I used teal nail polish.)
  • Metal bead (I used a 15 x 9mm pewter bee bead.)
  • Steel wool, or Vintaj® Metal Reliefing Block
  • 24-gauge wire, 60″ (I used antique brass.)
  • Rubber washers, two 1″
  • Metal washer, one ¾″
  • Scissors
  • Ribbon, 21″ x ½″ (I used brown-and-white polkadot cotton ribbon.)
  • Metal blank, 25mm (I used a round copper blank from Beaducation.)
  • Masking tape
  • Bench block
  • Jewelry hammer
  • Metal stamps
    • Alphabet stamp set (I used a 3mm set.)
    • Decorative stamp (I used a flower stamp.)
  • Permanent marker, fine point (I used a fine-point Sharpie®.)
  • Pro-Polish pad
  • Dapping block with corresponding punch
  • Pliers
    • Chain- or flat-nose, 2 pair
    • Round-nose
  • Jump rings
    • 1 copper 5mm
    • 3 copper 9mm rope jump rings
  • Lobster clasp, 7 x 12mm (I used a copper clasp.)
  • Beads
    • 4 bronze size 8/0 seed beads
    • 11 assorted 8–17mm glass, resin, and wood beads (I used aqua and brown beads.)
  • Embroidery floss, 1 skein (I used teal floss.)

Prepare the components

1. Use the hole punch pliers to punch a hole at the top and bottom of each checker.

2. Paint all sides of the checkers with acrylic paint. Let dry. You will need 2–3 coats of paint for complete coverage. I used Light Buttermilk paint.

3. Using a cotton swab, apply ink from the inkpad to the raised design on the front of each checker. (FIGURE 1) Paint the ridged border of each checker. I used Bronze paint. Let dry.

FIGURE 1 (Step-out photos by Debbie Blair)

4. Using wire cutters, remove two 25mm links from the rope chain and attach 1 chain link to the face of each checker using jewelry adhesive. Position the link so it encircles the raised design.

5. Apply nail polish to the metal bead. Let dry, then buff the raised areas using steel wool or a reliefing block.

6. Slip a 3″ piece of 24-gauge wire through the opening in one of the rubber washers, leaving a ¾″ tail near the washer and the other end of the wire longer. Bend both ends of the wire straight up to the top of the washer. Create a small loop on the short end of the wire, close to the washer, and wrap the long wire around the base of the loop to create a wrapped-loop bail; trim if necessary. (FIGURE 2) Attach a second wrapped-loop bail on the same washer, positioning it opposite the first wrapped-loop bail. Repeat for the 2 remaining washers.

FIGURE 2

7. Cut a 7″ length of ribbon. Place a dab of jewelry adhesive on one end of the ribbon and affix the ribbon to the back side of one of the rubber washers. Wrap the ribbon tightly around the washer, making sure the ribbon lies flat on both sides. (FIGURE 3) Add a dab of adhesive to the end of the ribbon and affix the ribbon to the back side of the washer. Repeat for the 2 remaining washers.

FIGURE 3

NOTE: When wrapping the smallest washer, first cut the ribbon in half lengthwise and use only half, or use a narrower ribbon.

8. Place the copper blank on the bench block and place a strip of tape along the top to hold it in place. Use the metal alphabet stamps to stamp the desired words on the top half of the blank (I chose the words “Be happy”). Hold the stamp perpendicular to the blank, and strike the blank once with the hammer for each letter. (FIGURE 4) Stamp a design below the words (I chose a flower). Use a permanent marker to color in the stamped words and design, then buff the surface of the blank with the Pro-Polish pad to reveal the stamped impressions.

FIGURE 4

9. Place the stamped blank into the dapping block, stamped side down. Set the corresponding punch on top of the blank, and use the hammer to dome the blank. (FIGURE 5)

FIGURE 5

10. Using 2 pairs of pliers, remove one 30mm link from the chain by grasping each side of the link at the opening with a pair of pliers and twisting them in opposite directions. Open the 5mm jump ring in the same manner, and fasten the stamped blank to the 30mm link, attaching it so that the blank sits inside the link. (SEE OPENING IMAGE.)

Assembly

The components will be strung together using wrapped loops, one after another.

1. Cut the remaining chain into 2 sections: One section should be approximately 5″ long, with a 30mm link on one end and a 20mm link on the other end for hooking the clasp. The other section should be approximately 5¾″ long, with a 30mm link on one end and a 25mm link on the opposite end.

2. Use a 9mm rope jump ring to attach the clasp to the 25mm link on the 5¾″ section of chain, using the technique in step 10. Attach another 9mm rope jump ring to the 30mm link at the opposite end of the chain.

3. Form a wrapped loop on one end of a 2½″ piece of wire: Form a 90° bend about ¾″ from the end of the wire. Use round-nose pliers to form a simple loop with a tail overlapping the bend, (FIGURE 6) and place the loop onto the jump ring on the 30mm link. Wrap the tail tightly down the neck of the wire 2–3 times. (FIGURE 6) Trim the excess wire. Slide 1 seed bead, 1 wood round bead, and another seed bead onto the wire, and form another wrapped loop.

FIGURE 6 (Photo courtesy of Beadwork magazine)

NOTE: The seed beads prevent the wood bead from sliding down onto the wrapped loop.

4. Cut 2″ of wire and form a simple loop as before, sliding the loop into the wrapped loop from step 3, then wrap the tail tightly down the neck of the wire to form a wrapped loop. (FIGURE 6) Slide 1 small round bead onto the wire and form another wrapped loop that attaches to one washer.

5. Cut 3″ of wire, slip it through the top hole in one checker, and form a wrapped loop bail like you did on the washers. String 1 medium round bead onto the long portion of the wire and form a simple loop, sliding it onto the loop on the bottom of the previous washer, then wrap the tail to form a wrapped loop.

6. Cut 3″ of wire to form a wrapped loop bail at the bottom of the same checker. String 1 small round bead onto the wire and form a wrapped loop. Cut 2½″ of wire and form a simple loop, sliding the loop into the previous wrapped loop, then wrap the tail tightly to form a wrapped loop. String 1 large round bead onto the wire and form another wrapped loop. (FIGURE 7)

FIGURE 7

7. Cut 2″ of wire and form a simple loop, sliding the loop into the previous wrapped loop, then wrap the tail tightly to form a wrapped loop. String 1 small round bead onto the wire, form a simple loop, slip the loop through the chain link surrounding the pendant so it sits to the right side of the pendant, and wrap the tail to form a wrapped loop. Make this loop large enough to slide freely on the chain link surrounding the pendant. (FIGURE 7)

8. Attach one 9mm rope jump ring to the 30mm link on the remaining section of chain. Repeat steps 3–7 to form the other half of the necklace, attaching the components in the following order: 1 small washer, 1 medium round bead, 1 checker, 1 small round bead, 1 large washer, 1 medium round bead, 1 wood round bead, and 1 small round bead.

Create the tassel

1. Wrap approximately 7′ of embroidery floss around your fingers. The more times you wrap the floss, the thicker the tassel will be. (FIGURE 8) Slide a 3″ piece of wire through the center of the floss loops, bend one end of the wire straight up, and wrap the other end tightly around the straight wire 2–3 times, trimming the excess as needed.

FIGURE 8

2. String the metal bead onto the straight wire so that it touches the tassel. (FIGURE 9) Use the wire above the bead to form a simple loop. Slip the loop through the bottom of the chain link surrounding the stamped pendant and wrap the wire tail to form a wrapped loop. (FIGURE 10)

FIGURE 9
FIGURE 10

3. Holding the top of the tassel, tightly wrap 5″ of wire around the floss, just below the metal bead. Use scissors to cut the other end of the tassel, trimming the ends as desired. (SEE OPENING IMAGE.)

Think outside the box when searching for components to use in your next jewelry project, and have fun!


Debbie Blair is the former editor of Jewelry, Stringing, and Beadwork magazines. With a degree in fine art and a background in graphic design, she currently enjoys the challenge of teaching art and jewelry classes in her local community. Visit her online at pinkdahliacreative.com.


This Jewelry Box article also appears in our Fall 2018 edition of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine.

Check out our lookbook preview to see more of the exciting recycled art ideas inside this issue!

Art Lessons 2018: Story Scrolls with Libby Williamson

Art Lessons 2018: Story Scrolls with Libby Williamson

Using a variety of materials and techniques in a project can be a challenge, but when they meld together beautifully, you can’t help but be on top of the world. In the August Art Lesson from Cloth Paper Scissors, Libby Williamson brings together several techniques that work so well, you’ll come back to them again and again.

Libby made an amazing Story Scroll, wrapped on a vintage wooden spool. I chose to make one panel, using just a few of Libby’s techniques . . . Just enough to whet your appetite!

One of Libby’s techniques involves using alcohol-based markers and alcohol to create colorful flowers and leaves on muslin. After cutting several pieces of white muslin, I drew lines and swirls with Prismacolor® Premier markers, and dripped alcohol onto the marks per Libby’s instructions.

I have to admit, I was a bit tentative with my mark marking to start, which meant the results were not what I expected. But after another try, I got the hang of it, and I love the way the colors spread while still remaining bright. Actually they continued to spread until the muslin was dry!

Lesson learned: Make the marks bolder for vibrant results.
Lesson learned: Make the marks bolder for vibrant results.

After letting the muslin dry, I pinned the squares to felt, and got ready to do some free-motion stitching. As you can see from this sample, I need more practice.

Art Lessons 2018: Story Scrolls with Libby Williamson
Free-motion stitching is very forgiving. The first pass may not be just right, but after some additional passes, it looks great. (See below.)

But how cool do they look, especially once they’re trimmed! Free-motion stitching really brought dimension and life to these flowers and leaves.

Mixing art techniques is a great way to add texture and interest to any project.
Mixing art techniques is a great way to add texture and interest to any project.

Libby also used paint chips and seed packets on her scroll. I decided to try stitching on paint chips, and it was easier than I thought it would be. After backing the cards with felt (I didn’t have any luck without it), I was off and running. And the results are pretty impressive.

Paint chips and free-motion stitching—a match made in heaven.
Paint chips and free-motion stitching—a match made in heaven.

Libby also included lettering in her Story Scroll, both printed on inkjet sheets and free-motion stitched, so I decided to give it a try. (You know how I love lettering.) Once again, I backed some fabric with felt, pinned it in place, and just started sewing. I thought about writing the words on the fabric first, using a water-soluble marker, but I decided it might be easier without having to follow a line. It was. I just pretended I was writing . . .

Mixing art techniques results in a rich, interesting piece. There is so much to look at!
Mixing art techniques results in a rich, interesting piece. There is so much to look at!

To finish, I frayed the edges of another piece of muslin and did more free-motion stitching to attach the mixed-media components, adding veins in the leaves, more lines and swirls in the flowers, and outlining the piece with the text.

Art Lessons 2018: Story Scrolls with Libby Williamson

 

Story Scrolls are a great way to tell a story. Whether it’s a fairy tale, like Libby’s in August’s Art Lesson, or something dear to your heart, such as a special trip, mixing art techniques makes for an elaborately textured work that you’ll cherish. Don’t miss this Art Lesson.

Mixing art techniques is not only fun, it adds so much to the stories you want to tell.

Art Lessons 2018: Story Scrolls with Libby Williamson
Art Lessons 2018: Story Scrolls with Libby Williamson

Create more mixed-media art with Art Lessons!

Printmaking in 3-D: Make Mini Mixed-Media Houses

Artist Lisa Kessler was experiencing a bout of creative block when a friend offered her some scrap lumber. She immediately envisioned the scraps as little house shapes and imagined using carving block sketches to decorate the surface of the wood! Follow Lisa’s tutorial from the May/June 2010 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors to try out this creative 3-D printmaking project.

There’s so much to love about Lisa Kessler’s 3-D houses! (Photography by Larry Stein)

Printmaking in 3-D: Creative Blocks of Wood, by Lisa Kesler

I have worked as both a professional painter and printmaker for more than 20 years. I’ve always loved the process of carving linoleum and artist‘s carving blocks to pull handmade prints, but, because I had run out of ideas for imagery, I hadn’t done any carving for quite a while. Recently, I decided I wanted to start printing again, and, because I was still experiencing a creative block, I decided to quit worrying about making elaborate, complicated designs and focus on small, singular objects. I had no trouble coming up with all sorts of sketches of simple things.

At about the same time, a friend offered me some scrap lumber from a project he’d just completed, and I immediately envisioned these as simple house shapes. I then imagined printing my carving block sketches onto the surface of the wooden house shapes. Printing in 3-D—I fell in love with the idea.

Materials

  • Scrap lumber (I use 2″ × 4″ lumber.)
  • Handsaw
  • Tracing paper or vellum
  • Pencils (thick, soft graphite and regular #2)
  • Sharpie® marker
  • Artist’s carving block, such as EZ-Cut, Safety-Kut™, or Speedy Carve™)
  • X-Acto® or utility knife
  • Ballpoint pen
  • Set of linoleum/artist carving block tools (I used V-gouge and U-gouge blades.)
  • Oil-based block printing ink (I used Speedball® printing ink.)
  • Glass palette or old cookie sheet
  • Brayer
  • Lightweight printmaking paper (Japanese rice paper and tissue paper work well.)
  • Spoon
  • Vegetable oil and paper towels/rags for cleanup
  • Sandpaper
  • Scissors
  • Acrylic matte medium
  • Paintbrush
  • Acrylic varnish
  • Optional:
    • Miter box
    • Watercolors
    • Acrylic paint
    • Colored pencils

Directions

Cut and carve

1. Cut a piece of lumber into a simple house shape. I used a miter box to accomplish the angle cuts, but this can easily be accomplished without one.

2. Trace each side of the house onto a piece of vellum or tracing paper with a pencil, and draw a design within each traced shape. I drew a simple everyday image or scene for 2–3 sides of the house, sometimes extending the image up onto the roof section. I decided to cover the other surfaces with different allover patterns, like dots and stripes.

TIP: Make sheets of hand-printed collage papers by carving dots, stripes, and other allover patterns on scrap pieces of the carving blocks and then printing them on lightweight papers.

3. Trace over the lines of the sketches with a black Sharpie marker so they are easier to see. Turn the vellum over and, using a thick, soft graphite pencil, trace over the lines again on the back side.

4. Trace the outline of each house side onto a piece of artist’s carving block and, using the X-Acto or utility knife, cut a carving block to match the shape of each house side.

5. With the graphite markings face down, lay each vellum drawing over the corresponding carving block house shape, and carefully trace over the Sharpie lines with a ballpoint pen. Apply pressure while tracing to transfer the soft graphite from the back of the drawing onto the surface of the carving block.

6. Using the black Sharpie marker, draw over the transferred graphite lines on the carving block.

NOTE: This step is very important. It makes the lines show up more clearly, and it also blackens the areas of the drawing that are to be left un-carved. The black areas will be preserved (left uncut), and will be the raised surface that accepts the ink.

7. Cut around the edges of the image with the V-gouge blade to get the most precise outline. When the entire shape is outlined, use the U-gouge tool to cut away the surrounding area that you don’t want to print.

a. V-gouge carving tool used for precise cutting. b. and c. U-gouge carving tools used for removing larger areas.

NOTE: Keep in mind that some of the carving marks may show up in the final print. This is one of the unique characteristics of block prints, so it’s important to think about the direction of the marks you are cutting. It’s usually more appealing to vary the direction of the marks, but you can carve them following the shape of the image, or carve an interesting pattern of marks to create subtle interest in the background areas.

CAUTION: When carving the artist‘s carving block, it’s important to hold the block near the side or bottom, not at the top edge. If you place your hand near the top, you will risk cutting yourself if the carving tool accidentally slips while you’re carving.

Print

1. Squeeze a small amount of ink (a dollop about the size of a nickel) from the tube onto your palette. Roll over the ink with the brayer, back and forth several times, until you have a smooth, even film of ink on the surface of the palette.

Roll a brayer over the ink on the palette, creating a smooth, even film of ink.

NOTE: I used oil-based block printing ink for this project. When it dries, it won’t dissolve or bleed, even if it gets wet.

2. Roll the ink-covered brayer over the surface of the carved block until the entire carved surface is evenly coated with ink.

Roll the inked brayer over the printing block.

3. Carefully lay a piece of paper over the block and lightly press it into place with the palm of your hand. Using the back of a spoon, gently but firmly rub over the surface of the paper to transfer the inked image onto the paper.

Place paper face down on the inked printing block and burnish with a spoon.

NOTE: Printing on lightweight papers using oil-based inks gives you the flexibility to use your prints in a variety of ways. you can mount them, collage them, and paint or draw on them. They can be a final work of art on their own or become part of a unique mixed-media project.

4. Once the transfer is complete, lift the paper and allow it to dry overnight, ink-side up. Depending on the humidity where you live, you will need to allow 24–72 hours for the print to thoroughly dry.

NOTE: You can usually see through the lightweight papers well enough to know whether or not your image has successfully transferred without having to move the paper.

5. When you finish printing the images, clean the ink off the blocks, the brayer, and the palette using vegetable oil and a heavy paper towel or rag.

Assemble

1. Lightly sand the wood house shape to get rid of any splinters or large imperfections. However, be careful not to sand away the natural texture of the wood because it adds character to the final piece of art.

2. Once the prints are dry, color them if you wish (see “Adding Color,” below), allow to dry, and then cut them out with scissors. Spread matte medium on the house surface with a brush, and lay the print in place.

3. Flatten the print, removing air bubbles as needed, and apply more matte medium over the top of the print. Allow to dry. Repeat on all sides.

4. Apply 2 coats of acrylic varnish to all of the sides and the bottom of the house to seal and protect the surface.

Although they combine some of my favorite techniques, these little 3-D mixed-media structures are quite a departure from the kind of art I’ve created in the past. I really love their look and their unique character. And to think, they’re all thanks to a little creative block.

Adding Color

Experiment with one or more of the following ideas for adding color. Color can be added to the block or the paper.

The matte medium that is used to attach the paper dries completely clear. Its non-glossy surface allows you to add more detail and color to your art.

• Paint the block prior to adding your printed paper.

• Add a subtle wash over the paper using watercolor paints.

• Try an acrylic glaze to add a transparent color.

• Use water-soluble crayons or pencils to add dimensional color variations.

• Color the surface with standard colored pencils.

A house project in process with color added.

Lisa Kesler is a professional painter and printmaker whose work is known for its rich colors and repeated patterns. Her art can be found in corporate and private collections throughout the U.S. When she isn’t busy in her Illinois studio, Lisa enjoys gardening, cooking, knitting, running, and spending time with her two sons. Visit her online at lisakesler.com.


Want more creative printmaking projects? Here’s another out-of-the-box idea for you: kitchen table printing using juice boxes!

mixed media art prompts by Rae Missigman

5 Art Prompts for Staying Inspired from Rae Missigman

As artists, we tend to stick to what we know. We gravitate to what feels natural, and we take comfort in the familiar. But what about the practice of trying new things? What about the exploration and the experimentation? What about the growing and stretching that gets us thinking creatively?

It’s easy to become stagnant in our art explorations, but attempting something new is often difficult. We tend to push it aside to work on things that come easy, things that we have mastered, things that make more sense to us. To help me overcome the fear of the hard stuff, I have learned to dedicate time to the straightforward tasks of both practicing what I enjoy and digging in and doing more difficult work.

mixed media art prompts by Rae Missigman: mixed media art supplies
Don’t get stuck in a creative rut! These art prompts from Rae Missigman will help you feel energized and inspired. (All art and photos by Rae Missigman.)

I am committed to growing and stretching as an artist, and sometimes that means taking my craft and turning it inside out. It means examining it under a microscope. It means breaking it down and building it back up again to be different and better and unique. This can be a fun and easy exercise in keeping your artwork fresh and unique—if you know how to begin. I like to use a simple series of prompts to keep me motivated when it comes to getting out my creative comfort zone.

5 Art Prompts for Staying Inspired

1. Create With Your Eyes Closed

This can mean drawing, sketching or doodling, making marks, or filling in areas with color. The sole purpose of this exercise is to just put marks to paper and let go. By challenging myself to work with my eyes closed, I am able to get creative without fear of following set rules. This practice usually yields results that are interesting, if not childlike, but I am always surprised at how much I am able to see without really seeing.

mixed media art prompts by Rae Missigman: create with eyes closed
Allow yourself to create without rules or restraints.
2. Let Color Be Your Guide

The stress of always having a plan before I sit down to create can be paralyzing. To help loosen up, I like to let color be my creative guide. Surrounding myself with paints, inks, and mark-making tools in all of my favorite hues is sometimes the only inspiration I need to get started. My favorite way to get going is to add big, loose washes of color to sheet after sheet of paper. Not only do I relax my creative muscles this way, but I also build up my collage paper stash in the process.

mixed media art prompts by Rae Missigman: create with color
Sometimes painting vast swaths of color can be among the art prompts you need to start to feel creative again.
3. Revisit Your Own Art

We tend to look outside of ourselves when it comes to searching for inspiration, but to create pieces we love, we should be taking another look at our own work. As a rule, I am my own worst critic. Maybe we all are, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I might be tough on myself in the creative moment, but when I revisit my art, I realize that my own work has the power to inspire me over and over again. Instead of scrolling through digital art boards or watching countless hours of videos, I have trained myself to flip through my own art journals, to study my own paintings, and to explore new ideas through simple art exercises. Getting to know your own art better can be a huge catalyst for inspiration.

mixed media art prompts by Rae Missigman: revisit your art
Reflecting on your own work is a great way to get re-inspired to make more art.
4. Consider a Change of Scenery

My art studio is the best place for me to create, but that doesn’t mean I always feel inspired when I sit down to work. When I feel unproductive, my first instinct is to blame the art or the tools. But the truth is that our surroundings can play a big part in our creative mood. And while I love my studio, getting out of it sometimes is the best recipe for renewed energy. Even a simple change, like stepping outdoors or moving to a favorite chair near a window, can elevate my thoughts and help new ideas swim to the surface of that ever-elusive inspiration pool.

mixed media art prompts by Rae Missigman: create outdoors
To jump start your creative mojo, change your surroundings. Try creating outside or choose a different spot to work.
5. Repetition Is Your Best Friend

If you love something you’ve done, do it again. I tell myself this at least a dozen times a day. I think we all question our creative efforts when we see the wide world of art around us. We seem to think that we need to be constantly shifting and changing our work to stay present in the art world, but I have learned that the more I try to change my work, the less it reflects who I am as an artist. When I repeat what I love, I am happy. That doesn’t mean I can’t learn new things, it just means I need to repeat the parts of my art that complete me as an artist, no matter what medium I explore.

mixed media art prompts by Rae Missigman: repeat your art
Revisit and recreate aspects of your art you love while trying new techniques.

Download some of Rae’s colorful original artwork that you can use in your own art!

Rae Missigman, mixed-media artist, author, and instructor, is known for her vivid colors, intricate layering, and signature repetitive art marks. She believes that creativity can be accomplished in bite-size pieces during even the busiest of days, and she strongly encourages all artists to fearlessly do what they love. Rae lives in central Florida, sharing her love of all things handmade. See more of Rae’s work at RaeMissigman.com.

Paint, Play, Explore by Rae Missigman
Rae’s new book is here! Paint, Play, Explore is packed with incredible art prompts, techniques, and ideas for innovative mixed-media artwork.

Need more art prompts? Get creative with Rae’s books and videos in our shop!