Tutorial: Fun Folded Books

Making books by hand is one of the most creatively satisfying things, and there are tons of fun books you can make without having to sew a stitch. Folded books are beautiful, functional, and can be made quickly, so you can move on to filling the pages with your unique artwork. I’d love to show you one I made recently, inspired by a project in the eBook Folded Books and Paper Art: 14 Projects to Create.

We put this eBook together with carefully selected articles from Cloth Paper Scissors, Pages, I {Heart} Paper, and Paper Art magazines because we know you love folded books and paper projects. Plus, these projects are perfect for incorporating your favorite mixed-media techniques. In this digital download you’ll learn how to make different types of accordion books, a stunning wreath made of book pages, a dimensional pop-up book, a folded ornament made from a repurposed book, a gardening journal, a tufted paper sculpture, and much more. There’s even a paper primer, which has great info on the properties of various kinds of papers, paper terms, and how to determine paper grain.

folded books
The Folded Books and Paper Art eBook features 14 fun no-sew projects that use simple materials.

I was dying to make Jill K. Berry’s Spontaneous Deconstructed Journal, which features an accordion spine and pages that begin with wax rubbings. If you’ve never done rubbings before, you are in for a treat. I hadn’t done them for a long time, and I had forgotten how much fun they were to do, and to build on.

folded books
This fun folded book has an accordion spine and pages that incorporate wax crayon rubbings.

Rubbings reveal the relief of an object on paper, using wax-based crayons or colored wax cakes made just for this purpose (Jill lists resources in the article). Many people enjoy doing gravestone rubbings, but there are lots of other textures out in the world that make great patterns, and that’s half the fun—seeing the world as one big texture. A search quickly becomes a treasure hunt!

I found great rubbings while out and about, such as this manhole cover:

Sometimes the most unlikely objects, like manhole covers, make for great rubbing patterns.

Just around my office I discovered lots of fun textures, such as a rustic wooden beam and plastic flooring. Not exciting in real life, but great for textures and patterns. In the two photos below, rubbing crayon over the wood beam (first photo) resulted in the reddish-orange criss-cross pattern in the middle, and the manhole pattern is right below it in blue (second photo). I used kids’ crayons to capture the designs on pre-cut and pre-folded mixed-media paper, and did test runs on the same paper to make sure the design worked.

Once back in my studio I colored the papers with watercolor, using bright shades that held their own with the crayons. The waxy crayons act as a resist, and I had forgotten how much fun this technique is.

Wax-based crayons make a great resist for watercolor.

I painted several of the pages, added paint splatters to some, and allowed them to dry.

These watercolor and crayon designs will eventually become the pages for folded books.

In the article, Jill shows you how to build on your original rubbing design, and her techniques are fantastic, incorporating Twinkling H2Os, pens, and markers. These folded books are perfect for anything, but are especially great for summer travels—imagine all the great textures you can capture, and how that will add to your memory of the trip.

I added drawings, doodles, and some writing to my pages with sumi ink and a dip pen.

With all that color, pen and ink seemed like a good way to add drawings, doodles, and words.

Binding the book could not be easier. Jill recommends using painted Tyvek, which is a fantastic material that makes for an incredibly strong binding. I used colored cardstock, cutting it to the height of my pages and scoring and folding it at ¾” intervals. The first and last folds will be valley folds.

I decided which folded page I wanted for my cover, then glued it to the first single flap.

folded books
Folded books like these can be bound quickly—even when you’re on the road! Pre-cut your papers bring a glue stick along.

The rest of the folded pages were glued to the mountain folds, one side of the page per fold. Jill provides all the instructions, and there’s a clear diagram, so you’ll have no problems putting the book together. When you start attaching the pages to the spine, you’ll realize how sturdy the finished book is. You’ll definitely want to make another one.

folded books
As the pages are glued to the mountain folds, the book becomes more solid and easier to handle.

This Folded Books and Paper Art eBook has so much to keep you intrigued, and it’s sure to ramp up your skills. With the holidays not that far off, keep in mind that many of the projects make great gifts, décor, and party favors.

Download the book today and get started! I’ve got my box of crayons and some paper, and I’m heading out for another adventure!

Get Creative with Double Tack Mounting Film

Looking for a unique way to add texture to your artwork? Try double-sided adhesive. In our “A Look At” column in our May/June 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, artist Darlene Olivia McElroy demonstrates the effects you can get using Grafix® Double Tack® Mounting Film with foiling, microbeads and more. Check out Darlene’s techniques below and get inspired.

A Look At. . . Grafix Double Tack Mounting Film

By Darlene Olivia McElroy

Whenever I play with a new product, I push it as far as I can. I decided to explore a variety of different techniques and looks using Grafix® Double Tack® Mounting Film. Double Tack is typically used to attach ephemera to collage art, but we’ll take it a step further.

NOTE: Double Tack Mounting Film has a paper backing on two sides, sandwiching a double-face adhesive.

1. Die cut a shape, or cut one by hand. I die cut several butterflies.

2. Remove the backing from one side of the shape and press the sticky side to the substrate. Burnish the mounting film with a bone folder or a spoon, so it is adhered well. Peel the release paper off to reveal the adhesive shape.

Here are some suggestions for adding media to the adhesive shapes:

Transfer foil comes in a large variety of colors; one of my favorites is variegated foil. Apply a foil sheet to the adhesive shape, shiny-side up, burnish as before, and remove the sheet. (FIGURE 1)


NOTE: Foil is actually attached to a very thin plastic sheet, so when the foil is removed from the adhesive sheet there will be a clear shaped area on the foil sheet, and that sheet can also be used in art making. (FIGURE 2)


My fondness for bling is definitely in my DNA. Sprinkle glitter and/or mica powder on an adhesive shape, and push it around with your finger so it covers the entire shape. (FIGURE 3) Remove the excess glitter/mica powder with a dry paintbrush.


I love the extra texture that micro beads give my art. In addition, the beads allow me to create gradients. I sprinkle the beads over the adhesive shape, pat them down, and then apply a coat of polymer gloss medium for extra hold and protection. (FIGURE 4)


To make image transfers, place a sheet of newspaper or a magazine page, image-side down, on the adhesive surface and burnish. Delicately remove the excess paper around the shape, wet your finger with water, and rub the rest of the paper off to reveal the image. Remember that the images will be reversed. (FIGURE 5)


If you clean your brushes, stencils, etc., on the plastic covering on your work surface like I do, you have a great color source. Remove the backing on the Double Tack shape, lay it sticky-side down on an area with acrylic paint, and burnish. The paint will stick to the shape. Remove the remaining backing paper, and apply the shape to your art. (FIGURE 6)


I can’t wait to play with this further. I hope you enjoyed these cool tricks as much as I have.

Check out a few more of Darlene’s ideas in this online extra.

Darlene Olivia McElroy is a narrative mixed-media artist, author, and educator. She loves new products and collecting dimensional objects and vintage ephemera for her art. Darlene is co-author of Mixed Media in Clay: Techniques for Paper Clay, Plaster, Resin and More (with Pat Chapman), and Image Transfer Workshop, Alternative Art Surfaces, Mixed Media Revolution, and Surface Treatment Workshop (with Sandra Duran Wilson), published by North Light Books.

Visit Darlene’s website at darleneoliviamcelroy.com.

Ready for more? Find this article and much more in the May/June 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors. Print and digital copies are available.

May/June 2017

Plus, check out Darlene’s books for more mixed-media techniques:

Mixed Media in Clay
Image Transfer Workshop
Alternative Art Surfaces
Mixed Media Revolution
Surface Treatment Workshop

Fun with Watercolor: Resist Effects

Watercolor has always intrigued me, and much more so since being introduced to Gina Lee Kim’s colorful work. Her artwork is approachable and the colors are always bright and inviting. Gina’s Fun with Watercolor series of videos has it all. I decided to check out Fun with Watercolor: Resist Effects, and I’m glad I did.

watercolor resist

Gina painted a beautiful snow scene, using a variety of resist techniques: glue, masking fluid, liquid wax, salt, gel pens, and more. I decided to play along, but opted for an evening beach-inspired scene. Surprise!

I applied some resist areas: a moon, using a white oil pastel, and dots in the sky and some “sea grass” using masking fluid. It was time to paint.

I allowed the masking fluid to dry (with the help of a heat gun), painted a wash of water, and then added several colors of watercolor. I used a few shades of blue and some purple, and then added a mix of complementary colors to the sky area. Brown, rust, and gold were added to the bottom of the scene. You can readily see where the resists were applied.

watercolor resist

While the paint was still damp, I sprinkled some salt over the paper in several areas, being careful not to apply too much.

Here’s a detail.

watercolor resist

Pine trees were added, using several shades of green and a little blue, something I would not have tried before watching this video. The blue really added to the look of the trees. Gina also suggested adding some of the sky paint colors over the moon to make it blend into the scene better. The paint made the white circle more subdued, and it now looked more like a moon.

We also worked with some white gouache, mixing it with a little water and then splattering it over the painting. A white paint pen added nice details to the sea grass and trees. In Gina’s painting the splatters were snow. I think of them as stars in mine.

watercolor resist

I removed the masking fluid from the sky (the larger “dots” are where the masking fluid was) and grass, brushed off the dry salt, and decided I didn’t like the white of the grass. It was way too stark.

watercolor resist

I added thin lines of paint to the grass, using three different shades of green, some brown, and a little yellow and white. That was just the right touch, and I decided to stop there. What fun.

watercolor resist

I truly enjoyed watching this video and playing along, and I learned some new tricks along the way. Here are a few of the great tips I picked up from Gina:

  • When painting with watercolor, always apply a wash of water to your paper before you add paint, so that you don’t end up with hard edges of color.
  • Think your background color is too heavy or dark? Wet a large brush and, using the belly of the brush, roll over the dark areas to remove some of the color. This is the perfect way to save a background from disaster!

watercolor resist

  • Want to get rid of some unwanted puddles? Gina suggests using a tissue instead of paper towels to avoid transferring the texture of the paper towel to your painting.
  • Gel pens are a quick way to add a resist. Draw swirls, lines, or whatever you like.

watercolor resist

I had a lot of fun working along with Gina, and I learned a lot, too. If you’ve never tried watercolor, you’re in for a treat. And if you have, Gina has more than a few tricks up her sleeve, so this video is definitely worth watching!

Time for a little more watercolor fun . . .


~ Barb


Studio Saturday: Nature Art

I’m hanging onto these last weeks of summer with every ounce of strength, as fall is almost here. Hikes, walks, beach trips—these are all fodder and inspiration for my artwork, so I’m making the most of every minute spent outside. Recently I decided to see how many ways I could incorporate nature art into one mixed-media project, and I’m pretty pleased with the outcome. Amazing how much you can do with a few leaves and twigs when you combine them with great techniques!

I thought a book would be a good vehicle for a bunch of different nature art mini-projects, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on the binding, so I went with an accordion. I made the covers out of polymer clay, which allowed me to embed some leaves—I love that fossilized look you can get with clay. For the interior, I created prints, a collage, and did some sketching for a 360-degree nature art view.

For the covers, I started with two 2-ounce blocks each of Tan and White Sculpey clay (two blocks were used for each cover). I combined the colors and conditioned the clay at the same time; you’ll see below that eventually the marbling gives way to a solid color as you continue to condition it by squishing it and squeezing it your hands (you can also use a clay rolling machine). The clay was rolled with an acrylic roller and cut to size, two pieces about 4 ¾” x 3 ½”, and about ¼” thick. I didn’t worry too much about trying to make it perfect, since I was going for a somewhat rustic look.

Conditioning polymer clay
Polymer clay needs to be conditioned before baking; here I created a custom color by combining two neutral shades.

A small leaf sprig was pushed into the clay—I simply positioned it and used the roller to make sure the leaves and stem made good contact. I used the back side of the leaf, since that has more relief than the front. A few marks were made with an awl to add a little more texture, and the clay was baked in a dedicated oven according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Embedded leaves into polymer clay for nature art
Leaves were embedded into the clay to add texture.

When the clay was cool I painted it with heavy-body acrylic paint, mixing burnt umber with a little bit of black. Make sure to use a stiff-bristled brush so you can get the paint into all the recesses.

Painting polymer clay
Painting the clay after baking makes it look like a fossil.

After the entire cover was painted I let it sit for a minute, then wiped off the excess paint with a paper towel. This is when all the great details in the leaves and the marks are revealed. If the result is too light, repeat the painting and wiping, and if it’s too dark, wipe off some of the paint with a damp paper towel or rag. Don’t forget to paint the sides and the edges of the inside cover, at least ½” in. Let the paint dry completely.

Wiping paint from textured polymer clay
The paint stays in the crevices, revealing the leaf patterns.

To add a little more visual texture I sanded the covers lightly with a sanding block, then added a few spots of green paint with my finger, rubbing them in so they’d look more cohesive and integrated.

Nature art polymer clay covers
Phase one of my nature art project is done–the final covers.

For the inside pages I cut 2 long pieces of heavyweight art paper 4 ½” high, then folded them at 3 ¼” intervals to create 5 panels. The two pieces were glued together to create a 10-panel accordion with valley folds for the first and last folds.

To attach the pages to the cover I slipped a piece of scrap paper between the first and second panels and brushed PVA glue on with a glue brush. After removing the scrap paper I pressed the panel to the inside front cover and smoothed it with a bone folder. The back panel was attached to the inside back cover the same way, with one addition: Before gluing the accordion, I adhered a scrap of linen fabric across the inside back cover for a closure, using PVA. I slipped scrap paper between the covers and first and last panels to absorb any moisture from the glue, and the book was put under a weight to dry.

Gluing accordion pages to polymer clay covers
The accordion pages were glued to the front and back inside covers.

Here’s the book all tied up and ready to use!

Polymer clay nature art accordion book
The book is ready to be filled with more nature art!

I’m a firm believer that a functional book should be filled and not just left on a shelf to look pretty. Since I dedicated this book to nature and summer, I used several techniques for small pieces of nature art on each page. I love printing with leaves and did a couple of techniques; here I brayered a thin layer of acrylic paint onto a small round Gelli Arts Printing Plate. I then pressed the back of a leaf onto the plate, removed it, and pressed the plate onto mixed-media paper. I love how so much of the leaf’s details are revealed.

Gelli plate printing with leaves
Leaves are perfect for Gelli plate printing.

For this piece I created a rustic paintbrush by gathering some pine needles, gluing them to a twig, and wrapping them with twine to secure. Use the brush with acrylic paint and you get a fun sketchy background design. I printed a leaf directly on top by brushing the back with paint, then pressing it onto the paper.

Nature art made with a pine needle paintbrush
Create nature art with nature art by making a pine needle paintbrush.

Bonus tip: If you can’t use leaves the same day you pick them, place them between damp paper towel sheets and store them in a zipper-lock plastic bag in the refrigerator. The leaves should stay fresh for several days.

I included a watercolor sketch in the mix, too, using drawing and watercolor tips I picked up from Danielle Donaldson’s video, Creative Girl Workshop: Watercolor Illustrations. She has so many great techniques, don’t miss this one!

Watercolor leaf sketch for nature art book
Simple watercolor techniques can be used to capture leaves, flowers, and more.

A quick collage was made from a pressed leaf, some paper scraps, and part of a poem taken from a vintage book. A quick tip for preserving leaves that I learned from Roxanne Evans Stout, author of Storytelling with Collage: coating pressed leaves with gel medium helps protect them.

Nature art collage
Collage and nature art go hand-in-hand; items such as twigs, leaves, and feathers can be used.

I look forward to adding more to this book, and having it as a wonderful remembrance of the summer.

How do you create nature art? Leave a comment below, and be sure to check out more fantastic projects and techniques from our artists, who also use nature as their muse. Enjoy the rest of the summer!

Art Lesson Volume 6: Nature's Stamps by Rae Missigman
Learn how to incorporate items such as twigs and feather in your mixed-media art in Art Lesson Volume 6: Nature’s Stamps by Rae Missigman.
Acrylic Painting Studio: Natural Compositions with Staci Swider
Learn how to create nature-inspired paintings in the video Acrylic Painting Studio: Natural Compositions with Staci Swider.
Storytelling with Collage by Roxanne Evans Stout
See how Roxanne Evans Stout incorporates nature into her collages in Storytelling with Collage.
Artist's Sketchbook by Cathy Johnson
Create nature art on the spot using easy techniques from Artist’s Sketchbook by Cathy Johnson.

Mixed-Media Watercolor: Believe the Hype!

I’m not one for jumping on a trend just because it’s popular, but the mixed-media watercolor trend lives up to the hype. The effects are incredible. No matter where you are in your watercolor practice, from never-touched-it to do-it-every-day, there’s an artist I’d like you to meet: Danielle Donaldson. Let me tell you why you need her in your life.

When I first saw Danielle’s mixed-media watercolor art I could not stop looking at it. Every detail of her imaginative, whimsical work wowed me—it’s playful without being coy, romantic without being sappy, and has a unique style that instantly grabbed my attention. When I learned she had a book and videos coming out, I was thrilled that I could finally try her techniques. Her book CreativeGirl is packed with inventive techniques and fun projects, and each idea she offers will get your wheels spinning. The fantastic Creative Girl Workshop video series, which includes Watercolor Illustrations, Watercolor Story Blocks, and Watercolor Words, expand on the techniques in the book, and you get to see Danielle working in real time.

In CreativeGirl: Mixed Media Techniques for an Artful Life, discover standout mixed-media watercolor techniques that will enhance your artwork.

To be honest, I was just going to tell you about what’s featured in the book and videos, but I was so fired up after watching Watercolor Illustrations that I grabbed my supplies and got to work. This video shows you how to create an illustrated still life using pencil, watercolor, a paint pen, and ephemera. You don’t need any special drawing skills—you can work with basic shapes that are easy to render, like flowers, leaves, and pencils. I created a still life that featured some of my vintage art supplies.

Danielle suggests arranging them, taking a photo, and printing it, so you’ll have a ready reference. And don’t worry about rendering it perfectly—this is art, remember? Feel free to change colors and play with shapes. It took just a few tries to assemble an arrangement I liked for the photo. I purposely created some white spaces to fill in with ephemera later.

mixed-media watercolor
This still life photo of vintage art supplies served as the inspiration for my mixed-media watercolor piece.

The one thing you realize watching Danielle’s videos is that she has an incredible depth of knowledge, and she’s able to translate it so well, so the process isn’t overwhelming. Her techniques are doable, so your art practice is bound to improve. I created a sketch using her tips, one of which is to use a mechanical pencil to draw. The lead offers a consistent point, which makes for a neater sketch. That simple trick made such a difference.

When creating your sketch, feel free to change things around to suit your composition.

I put down the first layer of watercolor, incorporating Danielle’s techniques about how much water to use, how to hold the brush, and how to mix colors. Her advice clicked right away.

mixed-media watercolor
With the first layer of watercolor, I could see the elements of this mixed-media watercolor composition start to come to life.

Watching your art come together as you build your piece in layers is so satisfying, since it improves with each phase. I added details with pencil, darkening some areas to create depth and interest. What a great effect. To finish the piece I layered more watercolor, created shadows, and added some ephemera and vintage embellishments. Danielle’s tip for creating shadows is so simple, yet so effective, and it’s now my go-to technique.

mixed-media watercolor
In her video, Danielle shows you step-by-step how to build layers and add details with elements as ephemera and a paint pen.

There’s one other thing she does that I really appreciate—she shows you how to fix something you don’t like. The inside lid of my paint palette was a hot mess, and I hated it. But after a quick fix of adding patterned paper, I loved it. There are tons more tips I won’t spill because you have to see them for yourself—how to add doodles, the importance of white space, how to layer and remove color—and you will not be disappointed.

mixed-media watercolor
After adding shadows, ephemera, and 3-D elements (a button and ribbon), I love how the piece turned out.

In the video Watercolor Story Blocks you’ll learn how to use ephemera and fabric scraps to build a story block to tell your unique narrative, plus discover fun watercolor techniques. In this video, the joy is in the details—these features are what make the piece stand out, and Danielle shares so many ideas for adding personality and individuality to your work (like stitching paper). Even if you use these techniques to create a series of story blocks, each piece will be distinct, as you work intuitively in choosing and layering your components.

mixed-media watercolor
Random scraps of paper become a cohesive piece of mixed-media watercolor art by following the techniques in the Watercolor Story Blocks video.

Lettering is such a huge part of mixed-media art, and in Watercolor Words Danielle shows you how your watercolor brushes and paints can work together to create beautiful, flowing lettering—with no complicated calligraphy! Learn a few easy techniques that utilize your own handwriting, and you’ll feel so confident adding lettering to your art journal pages, cards, collages, and more.

mixed-media watercolor
Use your own expressive handwriting to create flowing watercolor lettering.

I’m so happy with my finished piece, and I can’t wait to start another project. If you love watercolor or have been itching to try it, you’ll find so much here that will elevate your work. And, you’ll have a lot of fun doing it. One more thing: If you love Danielle’s work as much as I do, pick up a ready-to-frame signed print–the same gorgeous illustration that’s on the cover of her book!

Click on any of the photos or links below and find out more about these great resources!

Watercolor Illustrations
Watercolor Story Blocks
Watercolor Words

How to Create Printed Leaves with Wen Redmond

What do you get when you use basic skeleton leaves as the base for digital prints? As it turns out, some pretty cool printed leaves that you can use to create amazing mixed-media art! In this step-by-step technique tutorial from our May/June 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, artist Wen Redmond shows how to print an image on skeleton leaves, auditions some background ideas, and shares photos of her finished art pieces (including a mini-quilt and a digital collage). Enjoy!

printed leaves
Printed leaves (artwork by Wen Redmond; photography by Sharon White Photography)

Leaf it to Me! by Wen Redmond

One of the most exciting things about investigating alternative substrates is trying new surfaces to print on. You can use interesting papers, old linens, or even recycled book pages. I had a packet of plain beige skeleton leaves, and I thought, why not? Here is my process for creating printed leaves.


  • Photographs or images (These can be black and white or color.)
  • Computer
  • Printer, inkjet (I used an Epson. printer with UltraChrome or DURAbrite inks. This is not a suitable process for copiers or laser printers that use heat.)
  • Skeleton leaves
  • Freezer paper or palette paper
  • Ironing surface
  • Parchment paper
  • Iron
  • Palette knife
  • Chip brush(es)
  • Digital ground (I used inkAID™.)
  • Gel medium
  • Recycled key or gift card

1. Choose a simple image. (FIGURE 1) Image choice is important for this technique. For best results, choose an image with high contrast, or convert it to black and white. Small details may not be noticeable in the transfer. I used my own photographs.

printed leaves
FIGURE 1 (photos above by Wen Redmond)

2. Upload the image to your computer. The image should show well, so you may need to enhance it by increasing the contrast or hue with photoediting software.

3. Select the leaves for printing. Skeleton leaves are delicate, so they need a carrier sheet to take them though the printer.

4. Place a piece of 8 1/2″ x 11″ freezer paper on your ironing surface, shiny-side up. Place the leaf on top, cover it with parchment paper, and iron the leaf to the freezer paper. Allow to cool. See if the leaf can be removed easily before going any further. Some of the leaves I tried worked well this way; some didn’t. Another option is to use palette paper instead of freezer paper. It’s slightly less tacky and releases the leaf a little easier than freezer paper. Experimenting is key to discovery.

5. Load the carrier sheet into the printer and print the image. (FIGURE 2)

printed leaves
FIGURE 2 (step-out photos by Jenn Guneratne)

6. Allow the printed leaf to sit so the ink will settle and dry. Using a palette knife or your fingernail, carefully loosen the edges of the leaf, and gently remove it from the freezer paper. (FIGURE 3)

TIP: If the leaf starts to tear when lifting, heat the freezer paper slightly with the iron. This allows the leaf to peel off more easily.

printed leaves

NOTE: Here is another carrier sheet with the leaves removed. (FIGURE 4) These carrier sheets can be repurposed in your artwork.

TIP: The ink left on the slick freezer paper’s surface will not be absorbed, but you can brayer it off onto an absorbent surface, such as interfacing. Try spraying the paper lightly with aerosol hairspray to encourage the ink to transfer or lift.

printed leaves

The first printing went well, but the image on the leaf wasn’t as strong as I wanted. I thought an application of digital ground would help. Remember, experimentation is key.

NOTE: Digital grounds are mediums designed to help inkjet ink adhere to a surface. They have greatly increased the creative opportunities for printing.

1. Place a skeleton leaf on a plastic work surface. Hold the stem and gently stroke the leaf with a chip brush loaded with digital ground. (FIGURE 5) There are several grounds to choose from, including metallic.

printed leaves

2. Lift the leaf and place it face up on a clean area of the plastic to dry. This step is necessary because the medium will sheet around the leaf, leaving residue. When you lift and move the leaf while it’s still wet, you are leaving the medium that was around the leaf behind.

3. Apply another layer of ground in the same manner, brushing it on in the opposite direction. The leaf will be a little stronger this time, as the medium makes it more durable. Move it again, and let dry.

4. Remove the leaf from the plastic, and place it on the shiny side of a piece of freezer or palette paper on your ironing surface. Cover the leaf with parchment paper, and iron it, ground-side up.

TIP: Be sure the edges of the leaf are firmly flat before printing. If not, dab a little glue stick under the loose edges. This will hold the edges long enough to print.

5. Print as before. I just loved how these printed. (FIGURE 6) They make a terrific addition for a fabric or paper collage.

printed leaves

6. Carefully clean up the edges of the leaf as needed, and use the leaf in a mixed-media project.

TIP: If the leaf doesn’t print as expected, apply white digital ground over it, and print again.

Auditioning backgrounds

The backgrounds for the printed leaves can make a difference in the finished piece. If you choose a busy background, the leaf won’t stand out as much as on a simple or plain background. Audition several backgrounds to see what works best.

1. Paint gel medium on the area the leaf will be adhered to, or gently paint it on the leaf itself (note that you may risk tearing it). Position the leaf, and gently press it in place.

NOTE: Gel medium is the best choice for adhering the leaves; liquid medium is too runny.

2. Flatten the leaf completely, using a recycled gift card and a gentle squeegee motion. Allow to dry.

printed leaves
“Wind Whistling” Segmented mini-quilt with undercollage and an overlay of printed Lutrador®. Divided segments are edge painted and fastened to the backing with mini brads. The leaf focal point was printed using gold and white digital grounds.
printed leaves
Digital collage on printed canvas; organza overlay on fabric collage layers. The leaf was printed using gold digital ground.

Wen Redmond explores her medium, fiber, focusing on experimentation and expanding its presentation. Her unique artistic work merges digital processes, photography, collage, mixed media, and surface design. Wen has been published in several magazines, featured on Quilting Arts TV, and has video workshops with Interweave. Don’t miss her book Wen Redmond’s Digital Fiber Art (C&T Publishing). Visit Wen’s website at wenredmond.com.

Ready for more? Find this article and much more in the May/June 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors. Print and digital copies are available.

Art Journaling Exercises with Rae Missigman

Have you ever looked at a finished piece of art or a colorful background in your journal and wished you could remember how you mixed that shade of blue, or made that great mark? You’d know if you had kept notes, or, even better, had a reference book.

In her new video, Art Journaling Exercises: 15 Creative Prompts, Rae Missigman encourages you to make your own reference book with the papers you create as you learn more about your tools and materials.

art journaling exercises

We’re not talking about a formal reference book, like the ones you have on your studio bookshelf. The images and words in this book will be all yours. Brilliant!

Where to begin? How many times have you bought an art tool or supply only to have it languish on a shelf forever, because you weren’t sure what to do with it? Guilty. Art Journaling Exercises: 15 Creative Prompts will solve that dilemma, and you’ll have fun along the way.

art journaling
Grab a bunch of tools and materials and just play.

Rae concentrates on getting you to play with the tools you already have on hand, and really get to know them. She wants you to understand what you like about them, and discover what they can do for you in your art making. No worrying about a final product, just play and learn.

art journaling
Use a stencil with texture paste for added dimension.

Rae guides viewers through a variety of exercises aimed at getting them to test their tools and do some experimenting. She encourages viewers to step outside their comfort zones, stop over thinking, and always look for creative inspiration.

art journaling
Experiment with color.

How, you ask? Rae will have you playing with a gel plate, making your own stencils, and using brayers, combs, the tip of a paintbrush, and plenty more to make unique marks. She’ll also show you how to use some familiar tools in different ways. Pounce paint on with your paintbrush. Print your art on sticker paper to create fun collage papers, create a resist, use deli paper for a quick background, and more.

art journaling
Print your art on sticker paper to create unique collage papers.

After you add notes to the backs of the papers, noting tips, paint combinations, special tools, and such, the paintings, prints, and markings you created as you got to know your tools will fill the pages of your book and become the resource you have been missing.

art journaling
Tie all of your pages together with a ribbon or cord, so you can add more pages as you continue to experiment and learn.

Some of the papers (or maybe all) will be so great; you’ll want to use them as a background right away. Just make sure you make notes, so you can recreate the effect you loved so much.

Time to get started!


Studio Saturday: Succeed with Art Warm-Ups

Thank you for joining me for another weekend in the studio! I have to admit—this week I’ve been feeling a little short on energy, and in need of a creative boost. When that happens, I have a tried-and-true series of art warm-ups that are easy, enjoyable, and they don’t even have to be done in your studio. These techniques have never failed me, and I can’t wait to share them with you.

The idea behind these art warm-ups is to not only flex your artistic muscles and get your head in the game, but also to give you a feeling of success and confidence. Absolutely nothing shuts my creativity down more than working on a project that’s going south. I realize that every day in the studio isn’t going to be the Best Day Ever, and I’m not going to love everything I make. However, when I make something I do like, the clouds part, the heavens sing, and forest creatures rejoice. That feeling sets me on a good cycle, and if I do stumble or face a roadblock, I’m able to push forward. I’m also more confident about trying new and more challenging techniques and testing new materials.

The key is doing something I’m 99.9% sure will look good, make me happy, and boost my self-assurance. Some of my ideas may seem too basic, but I don’t worry about that for a few reasons: This isn’t a competition, I’m only creating for myself, and I’m not trying to challenge or push myself at this stage. Think about it: For an exercise warm-up you wouldn’t start with high-intensity interval training or box jumps, you’d do a little mild cardio to get your heart going and warm up your body. Now, a few general guidelines to start: Keep it short (no more than 30 minutes), keep it small (work on a contained project) and keep it simple (the fewer supplies, the better).

The Palette Cleanser

One of my favorite art warm-ups is creating basic patterns with watercolor. I like using watercolor because it’s extremely forgiving, and I absolutely love the way it looks. The simple act of taking my brush, mixing up some gorgeous colors, and meditatively creating brushstrokes on a page makes me happy, and often that’s enough to get me going.

Creating watercolor patterns as art warm-ups
Need to clean your watercolor palette? This exercise is perfect!

I call this the Palette Cleanser because I often use the paint leftover on my palette, just going with the flow.

Making patterns with watercolor as an art warm-up
A great art warm-up is making patterns in a sketchbook or art journal with watercolor.

Bonus tip: Draw a daily design that inspires you. In her book No Excuses Art Journaling, Gina Rossi Armfield writes, “Look at your surroundings until your eyes rest on a design that intrigues you. This could be the print on a box, a piece of pottery, a label or the inside of a flower. After you train your eye to start noticing these designs, they will become part of your awareness.” Draw a rectangle, and draw a portion of the design using a waterproof pen. Color in the design with watercolor, markers, or other color media.

Do Something Silly

Not all art has to be deadly serious. For example, I enjoy painting sticks. Yes, sticks. I try to find ones that are smooth, give them a little sanding, then paint them with acrylics. It’s a quick project that is pure fun. The sticks look great as a group sitting in a jar, or you can incorporate them in your other (and more serious) artwork. See “Be a Copycat.”

Art warm-up technique: painting sticks
Paintings sticks as an art warm-up? Why not? Use acrylic paint and make some cool designs.

Be a Copycat

There’s nothing wrong with riffing on someone else’s idea. Artists do it all the time. As long as you don’t appropriate someone else’s artwork and call it your own, or copy it and profit from it, you’re okay. If you’re using other work as inspiration, it will ultimately look like yours, and not theirs. I saw some lovely painted tags on a website and wanted to incorporate the look for a small series of watercolors. Working on my lap outside, I painted a few stripes of watercolor and gouache on torn pieces of watercolor paper, let them dry, then added some small flowers with a fine detail brush. I can use these as tags, add them to art journal pages, or feature them on a card.

Creating a watercolor series as an art warm-up
Working outside, I created a series of small watercolors.

Or…hang them from a painted stick.

Watercolor series
A painted stick was the perfect way to display this series of small watercolors.

Practice Lettering

As I’ve mentioned in previous Studio Saturday posts, I like incorporating lettering in my art journal pages, etc., but I’m usually in desperate need of practice. Using lettering practice as art warm-ups is a great exercise. Use any of our Lettering Lessons as a guide, or create an alphabet, or just play around with letterforms. Creating letters is so soothing and satisfying, and in the space of 15 minutes you can accomplish quite a bit. I created an alphabet while on a date night with my husband at a café. I even carried on a conversation while doing it. Yay for me.

Lettering practice as an art warm-up
Practicing lettering is a great art warm-up that can be done anywhere.

Bonus tip: Use word associations for your next art warm-ups. In her book Creative Strength Training, author Jane Dunnewold uses a free association technique when starting a new series of work. To do this, write a word at the top of a piece of paper. Set a timer for two minutes, and write down whatever words come to mind during that time. Don’t edit, just write. “The list making produces a wealth of raw material,” Jane says, “words that are already visual images and words with potential to take content deeper.” Use the words to inform what you choose for your images.

Print Something

Printing is one of the easiest and most basic forms of art because you only need three things: something to print with + ink or paint + a substrate. You can grab almost anything within reach and print with it. Pencil eraser + paint = polka dots. Corrugated cardboard + ink pad = linear art journal page background. Coffee cup + coffee = circle patterns. You get the idea. Here’s a great art warm-up tip from Crystal Neubauer from her video Expressive Collage Workshop: Creative Warm-Ups & Techniques: Use India ink for printing or mark-making on a collage or art journal page; it’s waterproof and dries quickly and adds great depth to a piece.

Make a Quick Collage

This art warm-up is truly meant to be quick, as in 15 minutes. I tend to overthink my collages, which causes me to spend an inordinate amount of time looking for components, auditioning them, finding more components, auditioning again, lather, rinse, repeat. With this exercise I set rules for myself: Grab a few pieces of ephemera without thinking too much about them, quickly choose a stencil or stamp, and work on a small substrate. Here, I started with a 4″ x 6″ 300-lb. watercolor postcard, then went into my paper stash and chose a few different types of paper, and grabbed a stamp and some ink. Oh, one more thing—I often set aside tiny interesting scraps to use in collage, and I used part of a broken book spine for this project. To begin, I stamped the paper, spritzed it with water, and did a quick materials audition.

Quick collage art warm-up
Limiting my supplies to a few pieces made it easy to create this quick collage.

Everything was then glued down, and to finish it I made some marks with a black Stabilo All pencil around the edges and the book spine and went over them with a wet paintbrush, adding a little shadow and depth. Done!

Collage made for art warm-ups
This may have been just an art warm-up, but I really like the end result.

Bonus tip: In the November/December 2016 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, artist Robyn McClendon writes about her 365 Days in the Life of a Journal project, in which she created a collage a day for a year. In the article, Collage a Day, Robyn says that the project made her more prolific, and because of it she’s never at a loss for ideas. Consider this type of challenge as a daily art warm-up.

Do That Thing You Keep Putting Off

Every time I pick up my Ranger Dina Wakley Media Journal I say to myself, “Self? You really should do something with those plain black covers.” Now’s the time. Choose simple projects you’ve been putting off for art warm-ups, and just get it done. For example, plain journal covers can be transformed in very little time using paint and stamps or stencils. Or, use paint and markers or pens and freehand a design. Since these journal covers were solid black, I covered them with two coats of titanium white acrylic paint, then painted stripes in turquoise and coral (I was definitely feeling a summer vibe).

Painting the cover of an art journal
This art warm-up started by painting stripes on a ready-made art journal.

For the cover I used a StencilGirl Products stencil to create a pattern in white, adding paint with a cosmetic wedge.

Stenciling designs on an art journal cover as art warm-ups
Stenciling this design in white allows it to stand out.

I made polka dots on the spine with a round sponge brush, and I stenciled the back (StencilGirl again), creating wider stripes in the same colors. When everything was dry I faux aged it by sanding the covers a bit, then dry brushing a little burnt umber paint over everything. Now? Love it to death. And it’s done. Here’s the finished cover:

Painting a journal cover as an art warm-up
Using my art warm-up time to finally paint this journal cover was the perfect exercise.

And the spine and back cover:

Stenciled art journal cover
Save art warm-up time to tackle simple projects you’ve been putting off.

What are your favorite art warm-ups? Leave your favorite tips in the comments—we would love to hear what works for you!

I invite you to check out the resources I mentioned above—I’m sure you’ll find great ideas and inspiration!

Collage Workshop: Creative Warm-Ups and Techniques video with Crystal Neubauer
Get the best tips for starting collages in the video Expressive Collage Workshop: Creative Warm-Ups and Techniques with Crystal Neubauer.
Creative Strength Training by Jane Dunnewold
Build your creative stamina with the fantastic advice, prompts, and exercises in the book Creative Strength Training by Jane Dunnewold.
No Excuses Art Journaling by Gina Rossi Armfield
No Excuses Art Journaling by Gina Rossi Armfield removes all the obstacles to let your mixed-media art practice flourish.
November/December 2016 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine
Can doing a collage a day significantly change your art for the better? Read all about it in the November/December 2016 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine.