As much as I love art journaling, there are times I feel overwhelmed by the amount of techniques and styles out there that I want to try. A spin through Pinterest gets me inspired and dazed at the same time, which is counterproductive to getting anything done in my journal! I’ve found a great solution, though: Mixed Media Techniques for Art Journaling, a project-based book and a workbook in one that allows you to practice techniques right then and there on blank pages, so everything is in one place. Convenient, no?
No more starting seven journals, filling a few pages, then abandoning them. This is as simple as reading a section, trying a technique, and boom—you’re on your way to art journaling the way you’ve always wanted, and to have your pages look like you want them to look, especially those luscious, layered, artful pages that we all drool over. The techniques are not complicated, and this book will show you exactly how to achieve those styles. Incredible projects have been compiled from a variety of North Light books to create this one great resource that you really should have in your creative library.
Backgrounds are a big part of art journaling, and Vicki Boutin’s technique for creating visual texture is as cool as it is fun. She has a term for it: smooshing. Seriously, that’s what she calls it. All you have to do is brush diluted acrylic paint over heavyweight paper, and while the paint is still wet, cover it with plastic wrap, creating folds and creases. Allow the paint to dry, and remove the plastic wrap. You will be crazy about how this looks, amazed at how easy it is, and the effect will give your journal page a running start.
You get practically everything in this book: composition and color tips, ideas for creating pages and making handmade books, plus ways to take techniques off the journal page and onto canvases and other substrates.
Part of art journaling is celebrating the small things in life, such as taking a walk in the neighborhood, or going out to dinner. But how to render that in my journal sometimes eludes me. No more; the instructions for building a collage from artist Cathy Johnson begins with a drawing a sketch, then adding color, then adding ephemera; in this case, a business card, chopsticks wrapper, and fortune cookie fortune from a meal at a Chinese restaurant. When elements are broken down into doable steps, creating the page becomes achievable.
In the book, the prompt that follows this technique got my wheels turning even more: “A casual dinner out with a loved one is a great place to start—there should be all sorts of goodies available to use as collage elements. Other ideas for this exercise: a night at the movies or another cultural event, a shopping excursion or a day at the park.”
I’ve always admired Traci Bautista’s vibrant art journaling, and Mixed Media Techniques for Art Journaling features some of her fun methods for layering colors and patterns. One is through creating printing plates using stuff you probably have around the house. To create a textured printing plate, glue pieces of handmade and textured papers and fabrics to a piece of cardboard. Traci likes using lace paper, corrugated cardboard, cheesecloth, and textured wallpaper, but include what you have available. You can also create your own stencils by cutting shapes out of cardstock with a craft knife, and print with fun foam carved with your own designs. See what effects you can get by layering and repeating designs—you’ll never tire of this, I promise!
Making your own journals offers the opportunity to try new techniques for the covers and the binding, and Vicki Boutin has a clever idea for building a dimensional cover. Glue chipboard letters onto cardstock, brush with gel medium, cover with tin foil, rub the foil to make the letters emerge, and then paint the foil with different colors of acrylic paint. Can you even stand how awesome this cover is?
I’d like to tell you more, but you’ll have to check out the rest yourself—I’m dying to get back to my copy and try some of these techniques. Mixed Media Techniques for Art Journaling is the perfect summer project book, because you can take it with you on trips, work on your art journaling outside, and it will always inspire you. Have fun creating the most amazing art journals!
How do you challenge yourself to create more art and improve your craft? Having a consistent daily habit of creativity is certainly helpful, and a growing number of mixed-media artists are participating in daily art challenges to help inspire and grow their artistic skills. In this article from our November/December 2016 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, artist Robyn McClendon shares her 365-day project to create a collage a day. Plus, she shares one fun technique she used for creating a collage. Read her article below to get inspired, then have some fun developing your own daily art challenge techniques and ideas.
Collage a Day by Robyn McClendon
365 Days in the Life of a Journal is a project for which I created a collage a day for a year. It is an outgrowth of many years of bookbinding and using journals to capture ideas for various projects. Oftentimes I would fill these journals with ideas and then abandon them, only to start another one months later—all this in the hopes of challenging myself to higher levels of creativity and consistency in my art.
Artists frequently hear that we must work daily, challenging ourselves to push our craft. This is very true, and yet I discovered that not many artists, including working artists, have created a separate discipline that is designed solely to challenge their creative mind on a daily basis. This practice should not include current projects, deadlines, or upcoming projects. Rather, it should be an easy time for working ideas and techniques.
As an adjunct professor at the Corcoran School of the Arts & Design in Washington, D.C., and a resident associate in the Smithsonian Institute museum system, I was always searching for ways to encourage more innovative work ideas and techniques from my students. I would use many of the ideas that I found personally demanding, and that seemed to help me be more consistent as an artist. One of my biggest challenges was innovation. I have learned that consistency is the Achilles heel of most creatives. Many of the daily techniques I use now come from these early days of personal challenge.
When some of the most famous and accomplished artists of our time are interviewed, they all point to a common routine of starting their studio time with a redundant activity. It may be painting the same image over and over again, or sketching in a small format, or working in a journal, but they do this every day without fail.
This 365-day project has made me more prolific, and I am never at a loss for ideas. Every day, every page, I have new creative inspiration, and by the end of the year I end up with 365 new ideas that generate more ideas. Ideas seem to flow naturally from this process. In addition, the practice encourages the desire to try new techniques. Because it wasn’t at all intimidating, I felt like I was playing, and just enjoyed the process. The idea of making mistakes didn’t exist.
Similarly, this project has played the same role in my life. Keeping a daily journal has added to my confidence as an artist, and I express my ideas more clearly. Using a journal is very easy to do. A journal can accommodate a multitude of disciplines, is small and portable, and can be taken anywhere. You’re never without the opportunity to inspire yourself, capture ideas, and work on techniques to feed your passion.
Because I still work in my journals daily, every aspect of my day becomes inspiration. It can be the weather, the color of flowers growing outside my studio window, a news report; just about anything can be documented in my journal. Generally, I work on different techniques in my studio, and the ideas I place in my journal form a starting point for the larger artwork that I create. My art journaling not only generates ideas that inform my artwork, it is also an opportunity to document my life.
Like anything, committing to this exercise took concentrated daily effort and motivation until it became a habit. Having received the benefits of daily journaling, it’s now difficult to go without it. If you need accountability, join an artist group or online community to help keep you on track. Also, I suggest doing what you enjoy. It doesn’t matter what kind of art you make, just so long as you do something every day.
NOTE: One of my earliest journals was 30 days of creating hearts: red hearts, purple hearts, cutout hearts, collaged and painted hearts, etc. . . . nothing but hearts. I didn’t know what else to do, so I just kept creating hearts. At the time I thought I didn’t have any ideas, and that my work was unimportant, but now I realize my creative self was loving me during a difficult period in my life. It’s now one of my favorite journals. This is when journaling really became a habit.
Studio Tip: I have two studios, one in my house that is rather large, and a smaller one outside my home. I have found that because I work on many projects at the same time, having the work going on in separate spaces helps me to keep a fresh, creative flow. I also find that different environments really stimulate my creative ideas. I love to travel for this very reason. Carrying my art journals with me is a perfect outlet for my creative process. I don’t have a dedicated time to work in my studio, but I do work daily. The portability of my 365-day journaling process has helped me stay in the creative process, and I have found that my students find this very helpful as well, so that there is as little separation between art and life as possible.
Blank journal (I love making my own. Experiment with the size, paper weight, and style of journal, and in time you’ll discover what works best for you.)
Gelli Arts® Gel Printing Plate
Acrylic paints, 3–5 colors that work together (l love Golden® Artist Colors and Blick Matte Acrylics.)
Scrap paper for waste sheets
Paper to print on (Use anything from drawing paper to old book pages. Experiment.)
Stains (I used Ranger Tim Holtz® Distress Stain in Pumice Stone.)
Collage items: scrap papers, thread, fabrics, yarns, feathers, photos, etc.
Glue (I used a UHU® glue stick. It’s very sticky, yet when dry it doesn’t become brittle and cause the work to lift up over time.)
Here is one technique I use for creating a collage. Have fun developing your own techniques and ideas.
1. Roll out a smooth layer of paint on the Gelli plate, starting with a light color. If the plate is clean, put 2–3 colors on at the same time and mix them slightly with the brayer. (FIGURE 1)
2. While the paint is still wet, create patterns in it with various stencils: Lay a stencil on top of the paint, brayer over it, and remove the stencil to reveal the negative image. (FIGURE 2) Alternatively, leave the stencil in place and move on to step 3.
3. Lay a clean sheet of paper on top of the plate, and place a waste sheet on top. Smooth the sheets well with your hands for 10–15 seconds, remove the waste sheet, and then pull the paper off to reveal the print. Repeat as many times as you like, working from lighter to darker colors until you like the results. Let dry.
NOTE: I use this type of print primarily as a background for collage, so I am going for interesting colors and textures with this process.
4. Lightly cover the entire print with Distress Stain to tone down the color a bit. (FIGURE 3)
1. Gather your collage elements. Play around with their placement on the journal page until you come up with something that speaks to you. Use papers, string, washi tape, etc.
NOTE: Often times these collage papers are the waste prints or paintings from the previous day. They allow me to explore colors and textures, which may not have worked the day before, in a new way.
2. Secure the elements to the page with glue stick or washi tape.
3. Date your work and write a few words about your inspiration for the day, personalizing it any way you like. Write about what inspired the piece, a quote you like, or about the creative process itself.
1. Starting with a Gelli plate that has leftover paint on it helps to quickly build up color and texture in your work.
2. Distress Stains are an easy way to create overall harmony when you want to work quickly and not build up a lot of color.
3. Keep a box full of small scrap papers, thread, fabrics, yarns, feathers, photos—anything you find interesting and fun to use. That way they are at the ready for your daily journaling.
Robyn McClendon is a nationally and internationally exhibiting artist. She teaches workshops and helps creatives through innovative creativity coaching.
Inspired by the lights and sights in New York City at night, mixed-media artist Katie Blaine decided to work on a black textured background to capture that exciting look in her paintings.
Most artists have their go-to methods and materials for creating texture, involving everything from layering to applying mediums to carving into the surface, and more.
In this Cloth Paper Scissors Art Lesson, Katie uses duct tape to create texture on the base. I was amazed at the results, and decided to give it a try.
I placed duct tape along the edges of the panel, using 3″–4″ pieces and ripping some of the strips in half, so the pieces weren’t all the same width. As Katie suggested, I let some of the pieces pleat and overlap to create more texture.
I applied light molding paste over the entire surface of the panel with a palette knife, being careful to get it in and around the texture areas, and then let it dry. I set up a fan to lessen the drying time, and it worked out very well. I had used a light to medium application of paste, so that helped, too. If you use a thick application, it could take up to 24 hours to dry.
Black gesso was applied with a 1″ brush, making sure all of the texture areas were covered well. Once it dried, I had to touch up a few spots I’d missed.
Layering colors from dark to light, I added oil pastels to the bumpy areas and smudged the colors with my finger. Having chosen one of my photos of a beach sunset for my focal image, I used blues and grey pastels at the top of the black panel, orange and yellow mid-way, and black and gray at the bottom, highlighting several areas with a little white. I then added some dots and swirls with white glue, which would show up as shiny, clear areas once dry.
I decided to glue my photo image to the panel instead of doing a transfer as Katie had done. I printed the photo on copy paper and tore the edges, so they’d blend into the background more easily. Using gel medium, I glued the image to the panel and allowed the gel medium to dry.
I added more oil pastels to highlight some of the raised areas and to blend the colors in the photo into the background.
Metallic blue acrylic paint was applied along the edges of the panel with a dry brush, and here and there throughout the panel.
Blue, yellow, orange, black, and gray PanPastels® were added in the appropriate areas on the photo and on the background (sky, sun set, and the dark area at the bottom) to tie the photo into the background even more. To finish, I sprayed the panel with matte fixative.
The black background created a whole new effect, and the texture from the tape added interesting dimension and depth. What a great way to capture night scenes. I’ve always loved this photo, and I like it even more now.
Studio Saturdays is on a short break. Please enjoy this previously published blog post from our sister site, Artist’s Network! ~ Jeannine
I have so many rubber stamps that I could stack them together with mortar and build a good-size house. Way before I discovered mixed-media art I was stamping cards and envelopes, using stamps to decorate paper for book covers, and adding designs to fabric. But stamp carving booted me into a whole new realm of happiness.
Stamp carving has a very short learning curve, and is one of the most meditative creative pursuits. You can sit and carve stamps for hours, watching TV or listening to music or a podcast, be in the zone, and feel like you’ve accomplished something major—because you have. The stamps you create are not only unique, but the images and what you create with them truly represent your artistry. Hand-carved stamps will also last you a good, long, time, and you’ll always find new uses for them.
If you’ve never carved stamps before, rest assured you don’t need any special skills—you don’t even have to know how to draw. The carving part takes a little practice, but a few helpful tips will shortcut your path to success.
The tools and supplies needed are minimal and fairly inexpensive: a carving block (I like the Speedball Speedy-Carve blocks), a linoleum cutter handle with a chuck, a set of linoleum cutter blades, a craft knife, cutting mat, scrap paper, ink pads or water-based markers, and some baby wipes. Having two cutter handles allows you to switch between different blades quickly, instead of having to switch out blades in one handle. Cutter handles with a simple chuck system are easy to use–simply insert a blade and tighten it down.
Any type of design will work for stamp carving, but if you’re just beginning, I recommend starting with a simple shape, like a solid heart, leaf, or flower. The three-layer technique I’ll show you isn’t difficult, but practice first with some basic designs to get the feel of the blade and the block. I drew my image (a flower) onto copy paper with a dark graphite pencil. You can also use copyright-free images, either tracing or re-drawing them.
Here’s the best part—to transfer the image to the block, simply place the drawing, right-side down, onto the block, and rub until the image appears (I used the end of the pencil). Lift up the paper to make sure your image is transferring, trying not to move it—you may want to tape a corner down before rubbing. If you want the image more defined, trace over the lines on the block after transferring the image with permanent marker.
It’s as easy as that! Here’s my design on the block. After transferring the image I cut around it with a craft knife so I’d have a smaller piece to work with.
When I carve, I almost always start with the small U-gouge, which creates a very thin line. I run it along the outside of my design first, creating an outline, then go around again, widening the line. You don’t have to dig deeply into the block—just put a little pressure on the blade to remove some of the rubber.
Remember, everything you carve away will not print, and everything left behind will print. Also, the transferred image will be backward on the block, but oriented correctly when you stamp the image.
For the flower, I wanted a fairly thick outline for each petal, and have some lines inside the petals. As you can see, I didn’t follow the outline exactly–you can try to match your image, or take a little artistic license.
After carving more around the outline, I created a border for the petals that was about 1/8″ wide. When you carve, go slowly. This isn’t a race, and you’ll be more pleased with the results if you don’t rush. Also, one of the most important things to remember is to always carve away from yourself. Never angle the blade toward your hand—it can easily slip or skip across the block and cut you—the blades are quite sharp. When making curved lines, keep the blade steady and turn the block, but—let’s say it together—always angle the blade away from you. Two more helpful tips: Have a good light source, and don’t carve when you’re hangry. Get that blood sugar nice and level.
After carving the border I carved the inside of the flower, leaving those lines in the petals. To carve away larger areas I switched to the bigger U-gouge, which removes more rubber. Then it was time for a test—this is an important step in stamp carving, allowing you to check your progress and see what still needs to be carved and cleaned up. Before inking the stamp, brush off any tiny pieces of rubber, or give it a cleaning with a baby wipe and dry it.
You can see here how I’ve got the basic shape, but a lot of carving lines still remain. I like to leave a few extra lines, and how many you leave is completely up to you; some people like to leave a lot to emphasize the hand-carved look.
Here’s the stamp and the stamped image after an initial cleanup:
A little more cleaning:
And here’s the final image. As you can see, it’s far from perfect, but I really like it. I also cut around the flower with a craft knife to make it easier to stamp. I could have stopped here and been as happy as a clam with a stamp. However, I’ve been seeing this trend in commercial stamps of layered stamping—stamping parts of an image in different colors to achieve a dimensional look—and I wanted to give it a try.
I went back to my original drawing and drew around the inside of each petal, then carved just the petals.
For one last layer I drew a smaller portion of the petals, and carved that.
I needed some leaves, and carved a base layer and an overlay. I also wanted a little detail stamp, so I carved some dots from a piece of rubber I had cut away.
I like that the flower and leaves don’t exactly line up, so the images will always look slightly different. But to make sure I stamp all three layers as accurately as possible, I made a small dot at the top of each stamp as a reminder.
Here’s how the stamp looks on a page in my art journal; I added a simple label that I also carved (the letters are purchased stamps):
Like any stamp, this one’s quite versatile. Here’s the image stamped in navy blue permanent ink, and colored with watercolor:
I painted the stamp with watercolor, stamped it, then used a water brush to spread some of the color around:
And here, I stamped the petals with pigment ink, then removed some of the ink with the dot stencil to get a polka dot pattern.
You’ll probably get on a roll when you start stamp carving, as I did. I decided to make a quarter repeat stamp, which is a quarter of an image that can be repeated to make various combinations of designs. I did this quickly, and frankly, I wasn’t super happy with the results and almost tossed it.
But…when I repeated the image clockwise three more times and added some doodles with a black pen, I was suddenly head over heels.
Repeating the stamp in the same direction gave me this cool pattern, which I stamped in acrylic paint over a painted background in my art journal. Don’t get discouraged if every attempt doesn’t turn out exactly how you expect it to. Give your stamps a chance, and see how they work best in various patterns and with different mediums.
By the way, you can care for your stamps the same way as you do commercial rubber stamps: Keep them away from heat and light, and clean them with stamp cleaner or alcohol-free baby wipes. If you stamp with acrylic paint, wash them immediately afterward so the paint doesn’t dry on the rubber. Hand-carved stamps can be mounted as cling stamps for acrylic blocks, or on wood blocks, if you prefer.
I imagine you want to get going on some carving, so here are a few more things to check out from the North Light Shop before you head out on your stamp carving adventures!
Artists love to express their interests and experiences in their artwork. Vacation photos, textures from nature, even a walk around the block in your neighborhood can inspire an artful adventure. Given the right tools, just about any experience can translate into art. Nathalie Kalbach’s Artful Adventures Collection has everything you need to start the fun: Nathalie’s book: Artful Adventures in Mixed Media: Art Techniques Inspired by Observation and Experience, StencilGirl Products Mesa Verde Stencil, designed by Nathalie, and RubberMoon Art Stamps Stroll Through the Hood Stamps, Set 1, also designed by Nathalie. When Jeannine and I saw this collection, we decided we had to check it out further.
Inspired by Nathalie’s Blotted Line Drawing demo, I chose two ink colors, and got to work. Nathalie used an image transfer for her demo, but I decided I just had to use her cool Stroll Through the Hood stamps.
I opened a sketchbook to a clean spread, and added small puddles of acrylic ink, adding them only to the left page. I tipped the page a bit so some of the ink spread a little further onto the page, and then closed the book, which allowed the inks to spread even more and also print to the second page. The ink print reminded me of the sky.
Using a black permanent ink pad, I stamped 2 buildings, which fit nicely tucked within the color. I love the detail! Then I added some graffiti, using the graffiti stamps included in the set. I couldn’t resist adding the Statue of Liberty, also part of this set, and that inspired the words I added next.
I wrote “Make your Mark” with a bit of a graffiti vibe in mind, using a black brush pen. I think this phrase fits with the idea of graffiti, but also with the idea and values of the Statue of Liberty.
Last, I added ink spatters, dipping a paintbrush in the ink and tapping the brush over the pages to tie everything together.
Nathalie’s book will help you see how simple experiences can truly inspire all kinds of art. And, with her cool stamps and stencil, you can look forward to plenty of fun adventures this summer.
Jeannine decided to take Nathalie’s stencil for a spin . . .
When I saw Natalie’s Mesa Verde stencil, the motif immediately reminded me of spending time with my mother in Arizona. I loved seeing the huge saguaro cactus, and the sheer expanse of desert and mountains was a sight to behold.
For this tag, I started with a vintage cactus image from The Graphics Fairy. I transferred it to the tag using a Chartpak AD Marker colorless blender.
Because I knew I was going to stencil over the image, I created a mask by cutting a second image out and placing it on top, securing it with a little low-tack tape.
Natalie’s book is filled with so many great techniques, including a section called Monoprinting Basics. I borrowed a couple of the ideas for this tag, starting with rolling out some coral acrylic paint onto a Gelli Arts Gel Printing Plate with a brayer. I then blotted most of the paint off with a baby wipe, which left a great texture.
I pressed the tag onto the plate, pulled it off, and removed the mask. Here’s the very cool image I got:
The mask was placed back on the tag for the second layer of printing. This time I brayered Payne’s gray paint, then placed the Mesa Verde stencil on top. Using a baby wipe again, I removed all the paint not being covered by the stencil.
After removing the stencil, I pressed the tag onto the gel plate again, and removed it. To finish the piece, I added a label and a small fabric ribbon at the top. I am mad about this tag and can’t wait to include it in my art journal.
What you’ll find about this fantastic kit is that it’s incredibly versatile—with ideas from Natalie’s book, you’ll never run out of ways to use the stamps and stencil. I hope you have as much fun as I did! ~ Jeannine