How-to Make Your Own Stencil, the Easy Way

I have been making my own stamps for a while now.  I have made a few of my own masks as well.  And I have learned a lot from both, like which materials are easy to cut, which materials absorb too much product versus which ones don’t absorb enough, and so on.

What I haven’t done much is make my own stencils.  I’m not sure why, it seems like a natural next step, right?  I think that I had some crazy block, telling me that stencils are always made out of that plastic sheet stuff, and who can actually cut a neat, crisp stencil by hand out of that stuff??

Silly, I know.  That’s a look into my personal type of hangup.  I have a creative difficulty: I can’t always see the possibilities from my neatly-packaged black-and-white world.


How can I possibly be an artist, you ask.  How can a creative type be stuck inside the proverbial box?  I dunno, but sometimes I find myself sitting in the middle of a really tiny box, and I never know what’s going to burn it up around me, freeing me out in to the world of fearlessness and color.

This time, it was making my own stencil.

I can’t tell you how joyful and good I feel to finally have gotten out of that stupid box!  I love stencils, love them so much!!  I fondle stencils at the store, I pine for them, I ooh and ahh over stencils I see other artists playing with in youtube videos…and I ache that I can’t just run out and buy every single one of them (I use my art supply monies on color, everything else I improvise, I have to have colors)…

I was just sitting here, pondering my next journal page, and I started pawing through the ole art cabinet.  I was actually thinking of cutting more shapes out for another stamp.  And that light bulb up above my head started to flicker and turn on.  Duh.

The easiest stencil ever.  Craft foam, if you haven’t ever played with it, is the greatest thing since, well, since bubble wrap and punchinella.

Craft foam is really does cut like butter, it’s fairly forgiving, you can draw on it, you can layer it, you can use it to make stamps and masks, and as it turns out, it makes great stencils!  AND, it’s cheap and commonly available!!

Stencil 3

Here’s the how-to part of this ramble:

1. Draw some shapes on the foam.  Start with something simple.  I used circles the first time.

2. Cut out the center of the shapes, in my case, the center of the circles.  Leave the outer parts in tact.

3. I went back and trimmed some of the outer edges so that the corners of the foam sheet didn’t show up in the stenciled images afterward.

Stencil 2

Ta-da, a stencil!

The trick really is to play and practice a bit.  After the simple design, you kind of get the feel for seeing the design that you’re leaving after you cut out the centers.  It took me a couple of tries before I figured it out.



The foam is also not absorbent, which I like.  When I use the stencils with sprays, the spray that collects on the stencil just kind of sits there, which makes for an awesome flip-side ghost print.  Just flip the stencil over and press.  Usually I can get a couple of presses out of it, depending on which sprays I’m using.

Stencil 1


And they also work great as caulk stencils because they have thickness.  The design comes out nice and deep or tall.  Or whatever you call that 🙂

Your Prompt??  Grab some foam, draw some designs, and give some stencils a try, let me know what you come up with, and have FUN!! 



Ink Sprays, My New Obsession

I have a new love, a new obsession…Dylusions Ink Sprays.

They are so very vibrant, so yummy, so colorful!  They blend wonderfully, you can use water to thin them out or to mix them together, and you can spray them directly onto your project or into a little puddle to then use with a brush.  I love using them on watercolor paper, canvas, gesso’d papers, book pages, cardboard, and muslin.

I love them!  I wish I had all of the colors, but for now, six colors is what I’ve got 🙂

I have also been playing around with making stencils out of foam sheets…and the sprays work great with them.  After spraying through the stencil, the ink sits on the foam and makes for an awesome ghost print after that, since the color doesn’t absorb into the foam.


And I do use them along with my very favorite versatile medium, NeoColors.  The spray inks have not usurped water color crayons from their number 1 spot, at least not yet!!

And here for your enjoyment, an example of sprays and color and foam stencils and watercolor paper…and yet another mash note to my hubby 🙂

And I’ll work on bringing pics of some of my fun foam stencils, coming soon!!

PROMPT: What’s your favorite new supply of the summer?  Have you tried the Dylusion Ink Sprays yet?? 

*On a side note, you can find them at JoAnn’s and usually you can find a 40-50% off single item coupon to go with your purchase 🙂 

Two HeartsTwo Hearts 1Two Hearts 2


Happy New Year, and St John Studios Anniversary!

Happy New Year!

It’s also St John Studios blog-iversary!  I can’t believe it’s been a year now, so much of this year has just flown by.

My goal at the beginning of the year was to post lots of art and work on connecting with others out in the cyber world, and after that to see what forms within the blog.

I’d have to say, it’s been a tremendous success!  I have posted lots of art and technique tips and we’ve made lots of artsy friends!  I’ve learned about what works and what doesn’t work so much on the blog.  I’ve learned how to use the blog interface and I’ve learned how high-maintenance it can be at times.  I’ve even had to learn to deal with occasional technical issues with my hardware and with the software!

What has been most amazing to me throughout this year is which posts and which art images get viewed repeatedly.  It never seems to be the posts that I think are awesome.  I’ll post something that I think is thought-provoking and inspiring and beautiful (for a great example see Why Do You Art), and then it’s the post that gets the least amount of traffic.

Then I’ll post something else that I think is not nearly as good, or that later I’m even a bit bashful that I even posted it.  That will be the one that ends up getting the most views over and over (my most viewed is What Are Your Love Words).  The picture of the journal page on that post is one of my most viewed images on the web, coming up on a google image search within the first several pages out of over a billion image results!  It’s funny, the whole page came out of playing with a new set of Faber-Castell art markers I had just gotten in the mail!!

So, as I look forward to a brilliant year in 2013, I look to where the blog might go.  I look toward where my arting and inspiration will take me.  I look toward taking some more inspirational art classes.  I look toward monetizing some of my artwork.  And I look toward making more connections and more art friends out there.

I hope y’all have as much joy and hope and love and blessings in the coming year as I’ve had in this past year…and as much as I intend to give and share this coming year.  I thank you for your support and encouragement this year, because without you, I would’ve stopped blogging long ago…and I look forward to continue sharing art with you and continuing to get to know you and your art as we all inspire each other and our art!


Snowman Christmas 2

How-to Texture Your Journal Page with Caulk

How to add visual interest through using texture is an ongoing study for me.  I do so love adding the look of texture, using layers of papers and paints and shapes…but all of that adds only the look of layers and texture, in a very 2-dimensional way.

Adding visual interest through more 3-dimensional layers is really way more fun.  I love the way it looks and the way it feels.  I like having art that I just want to run my hands over.

When I’m working in the ole art journal, of course, 3-D can be a bit trickier.  If I get it too dimensional, I won’t be able to close the book, lol.  So finding a balance while playing in one of my journals is an ongoing thing around here.

Caulk is one of my favorite mediums for adding texture to my canvases and art journal pages (you might have seen some of my earlier postings using caulk, in my art journal and on canvas).  Great things about caulk: it’s cheap, it’s readily available, it comes in different styles and materials.  It mixes with color, you can use it to make subtle texture or very stiff texture…the list goes on and on.  It’s great stuff.

I’ve had a lot of people looking at that colorful (are you ever surprised at which one of your blog postings are the ones that everyone seems to look at the most??) page using caulk and punchinella.  I did that whole bit just to show the result of the two together, but it didn’t really have much of an end purpose for it other than that.

So I’ll share with you here a more art-journally page (is that a word??) where I’ve used that very technique as part of a finished journal page.

I did put paint down on the gesso’d paper before I started adding the other layers.  I also added the stenciled flowers on the background before the caulk.

I cut the punchinella into a curvy shape before taping it down onto the paper.

Texture using caulk and punchinella

And I used clear silicone caulk, mixed with a bit of acrylic craft paint, so that the flowers underneath would show through (as compared to the very colorful page in the earlier post, where I put down white caulk, let it dry and cure, and then painted on top of that).

I suppose it was because I mixed the cheap craft paint with the silicone, but it didn’t want to cure to a point where it wasn’t sticky.  I followed it a couple of days later with a light coating of Martha Stewart faux glaze (one of my free craigslist finds along the way), just on top of the caulk and not the whole page.  When that cured up, the tacky was all gone.

Then I just played on my art journal background like any other time.  I had a bear of a time keeping everyone’s grubby hands off while I was finishing this page, haha.  Since it took a bit longer than expected for the caulk to be touchable, I had this book open and out on my table for a few days…and anytime anyone walked by, they’d reach out a paw and touch to see if it was dry!

Prompt: I’d love to see if you try this technique out!  Drop me a comment with a post to your own blog posting and pics, or send me a pic, or leave a comment to tell us about how you use caulk to add texture.

How-to Prep a Children’s Board Book for an Art Journal, and My Little Board Book of Verses

I love using old children’s board books for projects…they’re easily available, usually cheap (if you pick them up at garage sales, thrift stores, or used book stores), and so many of them are great sizes for making into little stand-alone art journals or projects.

One of my faves in the past is My Manifesto board book (check that out here).  If you haven’t looked at it before, take a peek, it makes a great comparison with the one I’m playing with now…and I want to share with you what’s working so much better for me with this current little board book.

On my little book of manifestos, I prepped the board book by carefully peeling off the actual story part of the pages.  The book itself was pretty banged up before I got a hold of it.  So the slick, printed part of the pages was already peeling up a bit on most pages, and it didn’t seem to be that much of a chore to peel it all off.  Wrong.  It was quite the chore, I griped and fought with it and even had some pages that it didn’t all come off the pages.

I didn’t let any of that sweat me at the time, I just chalked it all up to adding lovely texture 🙂 With a bunch of gesso, the pages did come out to be a mostly even canvas to use for the book.  Some of the pages did keep the look of the fuzzies from where the paper had been peeled off, and some of the pages had some smooth parts and some fuzzy parts, lol.

This time around, I’ve gone a different route.

I didn’t try to peel anything up.  This time I used some very rough sand paper to sand all of the pages.


This works way better.  I thought before that sanding was going to be way more work, and I was so incredibly wrong!  The sanding is less troublesome.  Sanding the pages gave a smoother and more pleasing canvas to work with.

You do not have to over-sand.  While much of the artwork will sand off from the printing, what you’re really going for is getting the plastic coating and the shine off of the pages.  Just about everything else can be covered up with gesso and paint (or whatever medium you’re using).

I do use a lot of NeoColors in my pages, so I did work at getting a lot of the printing off…so that I don’t have to worry so much about coverage.  And, I do like the texture and depth that a bit of the printing shows through the backgrounds.

Here’s what a page from my prepped book looks like:

The pages are a dream to work on, the smooth is so pleasing, I actually sat and ran my hands over the pages for a while before I ever got to working in it!  This little book is the perfect shape, very square.  And it has the perfect number of pages (one page at a time, not two-page spreads) for this project.

My hubby and I are taking a discipleship class together at our church, called Experiencing God (put out by LifeWay).  One of our weekly activities is to memorize that week’s Bible verse.  The class has 13 weeks and 13 memorization verses.  This little book has 13 pages.  Serendipity.  And making a page in the little book for each verse each week gives me a lovely art project to do along with my class and actually helps me memorize the verses, cuz I’m thinking about how the look to me visually.

Here’s the first two pages:



“I am the vine, you are the branches; if you stay in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing.”  ~ John 15:5








“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”  ~ Psalm 20:7




Prompt:  Do you have a favorite Bible verse?  Use it in your art journal, build the page around how the page looks to you in your mind’s eye.  It’s incredibly satisfying.

Prompt 2:  Find a board book and re-purpose it.  They make for great gifts and great inspirational books to carry with you!!

Preparing Our Creative Self, or Gratitude as a Way of Life

As artists, we’re all on the lookout for inspiration.  We’re always on the lookout for amazing art fodder (something I’m tend to post about a lot as well).  We’re always reaching for the next a-ha moment, where we get smacked upside the head with our next creative idea.

I would like to suggest that one of the best ways to keep the ideas and inspirations coming is to train.  You know, train like an athlete, who not only has to practice the actual physical activity he’s pursuing, but train like an athlete that is working to keep his mind and his spirit in harmony with his body.


It takes discipline to master anything.  It takes focus.  And it takes a positive mental attitude.

I realize that not everyone is looking to become the next Picasso, but even anyone who is looking to create for personal joy can benefit from finding that place of positive mental attitude.  Keeping our hearts and spirits and minds in the right place can keep the inspirations flowing.

Reflections on Gratitude

Gratitude for all of the blessing in our lives is likely one of the most important pieces of maintaining the right mental attitude for our creative selves.  And gratitude for what we have already in our lives is a great start to bringing in more.  I personally have way more fun when I give to someone who appreciates it, as opposed to someone who doesn’t.  It’s not that the giving is about receiving gratitude.  It’s that if I can choose where to offer my help or my time or my resources, why wouldn’t I choose someone that feels gratitude rather than someone who doesn’t??

I’m certain the same force works when we’re talking about God and the Universe.  If we’re ungrateful, or even if just not actively grateful, why wouldn’t the blessings go to someone else, who IS actively grateful?

Even with a plea for inspiration, the same energy holds true.  And so to keep ourselves in top form, to make sure that we’re living the life we imagine, and to really prepare ourselves for the creativity, we should start with being in a place of active gratitude.

Casa de St John

In our little family, we have cultivated a habit of gratitude.

It started years ago when our eldest kiddo was a little bitty guy.  He liked to do bedtime prayers, the traditional kind where he would bow his little tow head and ask God to bless his mom and his dad and his grandma and his grandpa.  It got to the point where he would rush through it (like many super young kiddos will be prone to do), and it definitely got way less sincere over time.  Not that he wasn’t sincere in wanting God to look out for all of his family members, but insincere in the way that he was going through the motions without any thought or feeling.

We decided to shake it up a bit.  We started gathering together on our big bed and take turns saying something to God each night.  At that point we had kid number 2 with us.  And it did help for a while, but eventually, it got to where they were arguing over not wanting to go first, and the prayers were the same old thing every night, without thought.


That’s when we came up with Thank-You-For’s.  This is a routine that has hung on for years, and through the addition of 2 more kids, numbers 3 and 4 (I do sometimes call the kids by their numbers, especially when they’re all being super loud).

Here’s how it goes: Each night, we gather ’round the beds in the little kids’ room (it’s a part of the tuck-in routine, and the little ones are first).  Someone different starts each night.  We go around to each of us, and when it’s your turn, you get to say something that you are thankful for that day.  It can be anything.  What it cannot be, though, is some gripe, or some wish that something had gone differently.  It can’t have some kind of modifier on it, like “Thank you for the sunshine today, even if it was a bit hot” (don’t laugh, I heard that one at the beginning).  It’s got to be something clean, something you’re actually thankful for.

The thank-you-for’s range from cartoons to one of the pets to friends to family members to toys.  We’ve been thankful for clouds and rainbows and worms and rocks.  We’ve been thankful for monster trucks and motorcycles and air soft guns and care bears.  My favorites from the kids are when one of them is thankful for another one of the kids.

Just When I Need It

This has helped through so many rough days, those days when I just can’t wait to drop into bed, thinking that maybe I should have stayed in bed all day long.  It has helped with those days when I’ve been stressed about finances or kids griping all day long or when I have had a client in my business give me a really hard time.  It all seems to melt away when we sit down and focus on that for which we are truly thankful.

It sends us all of into dreamland with thoughts of joy and gratitude.  And it sends us all there together, as we’ve shared in the gratitude, and the whole energy of the household is positive and warm and happy.

How to Get Started

You might not need a huge routine for gratitude.  That’s not what’s important…what’s important is that you find that place of gratitude.  Everything else can built from there.  I have a gratitude journal app on my iPhone, where I record the top 3-5 things that I’m grateful for every day.  I create in my art journals quite often about my gratitude.  I make lists in my sketchbooks, I find posty-notes with gratitude lists stuck in the bottom of my purse.

So find yourself a way to focus your gratitude.  Make lists.  Use one of those extra little spirals or Moleskine notebooks or hand-made journals.  Grab a little book at the Dollar Store.  Start a list on your computer, or get an app for your iPhone.  But get to it.  And save those lists.  They are a terrific reminder on those days that feels a bit ungrateful that you do have something to be grateful for.  They can remind you of how wonderful your life is, right now.  They help you keep your heart and mind open and connected to the Creative Source and all of the inspiration out there for you.

Prompt: What are you thankful for RIGHT NOW?  Make a list, on a card, on a tag, on a piece of patterned paper.  Use that in an art journal page.  Do it again tomorrow 🙂

Art Journal Prompt, Feeling the Calm

Be like a duck.  Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath.

~ Michael Caine

I have lots of words that I use as mantras.  I’m a bit high-strung, with lots of energy, even a bit of hyper energy.  That high-strung energy sometimes means that I occasionally slip and find myself looking for something over which to be distressed.  Even if everything is going super well!

So I have these mantra words that I use to remind myself that I don’t really need to be distressed, that I really just need to remember that everything is OK.

“Calm” is one of those words.  When I feel myself getting all worked up, I breathe and tell myself to calm.  Calm.  Breathe in, breathe out.  Calm.

I made myself a journal page as I was reciting that to myself over and over.  I really only got about halfway through working the page in my journal and it had already worked.  I did finish up, though, so I can go back to it when I need the visual reminder as well.

Neocolors, foam mask, walnut ink, bits of vellum, ink, Faber-Castell sepia brush pen

Here’s a closeup of the Calm text tiles.  I used vellum that my hubby had previously

Close up of title page

creased and tinted with walnut ink for me (I use those on all kinds of stuff).  I doodled on them and used them as the tiles for the title.

Tip: I did seal the walnut ink layer with Mod Podge before I started the doodling and hand writing.

Prompt: Use a word as a mantra to build a visual page for the mantra.

Is Motivational Art a Style?

In art the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can inspire.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I take pictures of my art journaling, and other artworks, I really see how much of my art is aimed at motivational and positive messages.  Up till now, I haven’t really thought I had much of a style.  I seem to try anything.  I’ll just use what I have handy, or I’ll try anything new just cuz I saw it on the interwebs or got some new medium on sale somewhere.

But as a body of work, it doesn’t all seem to go together in some kind of cohesive style.  I wouldn’t think you’d look at a wall of my art and say “Oh, that all must be done by MotherDana”.  Nope, it doesn’t seem that way.

Maybe it’s beginning to seem that way.  Although it all looks different, it has different sizes, materials, color schemes, and so forth, it all seems to have similar themes.  While I do sometimes art something that is a bit darker, or from a more negative-seeming place, most of my art, even my art journal, is all about positively motivational and inspirational messages.  Messages to myself, but messages that we can all benefit from having around us.

Is that an artistic style in itself, do you think?

Today I am sharing with you another of my motivational art journal pages.

Neocolors, acrylic paints, Faber-Castell sepia pens

Closeup of texture

I took a closeup for you, the texture came out way better than I was originally expecting.  After using neocolors for the first layer of the background, I used some metallic craft acrylic paint and stamp marketed for soap making.  The texture it made is not only in look but also in feel.  You can feel the texture.  I also didn’t lose the texture underneath the butterfly wings, which turned out really cool.

Prompt: Do you make motivational art for yourself?  You can start with something that you say to yourself, or think that you need to be saying to yourself.  It can be a quote, or something short and sweet, like in the page above.  Choose something, though, that will do you some good to see it and say it and hear it over and over.  Then choose colors that you like, so that you want to look at it again and again.  Add in something of visual interest, you can draw or paint or glue on an image.  Again, choose something that compels you to look at the finished page.  Share with me what you come up with, I would really love to see.  You can comment with your positive message, or you can post pics of what you create.

Searching for Inspiration and an Art Journal Prompt

Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do.  Where there’s love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.

~ Ella Fitzgerald

Finding inspiration.  Whew, that’s sometimes way tougher than just writing some words and posting it on a blog.  In fact, sometimes it’s the blog itself that tries to block the ole inspiration machine…my inner critic gets in the way in my business life, in my art life, in my blog life.  It’s as if the story-board writers of my life like to mess with me.  They seem to have a sense of humor about things, laughing when I run around in circles chasing my tail.

Although my business life can be a bit on the technical side, I still have to be use my creative brain to write articles and teach business owners and create solutions.  So even there I have to find ways to otherwise entertain the inner critic so that I can get a head start.

The art blog seems to help me with keeping on track, on staying focused, on being a bit disciplined and consistent with my focus on creative self.  If I feel accountable to those of you that I am trying to connect with, even on days when I don’t feel like writing or creating, I will sit down and get focused.  Accountability, quite the motivator.

Do you ever fight with your blog that way?

I think that over time, as my little corner of the world here has more meat to it, and more content to it, that it will show me some organization and categories to work with.  Is that how you work with your blog?  Or is it just a space for you to put down your thoughts, with no focus on what people on the reading end are wanting?

My hope is that over time, this is a chronology of my art journey, that it becomes a place where other people and artists visit to talk about technique and art and inspiration and thoughts and ideas.  A bit idealogical?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  We’ll see.

Last night, I was having exactly that kind of evening.  I was wanting to put pen to paper, so to speak.  I was wanting, no needing, to create something.  Anything.  Many of my current projects are at stopping points, either finished up or waiting for some crucial piece to be finished up.  I didn’t have any ideas rattling around my head.  Or the ideas that are rattling around are too big to get started on when I just need a quick fix…and I knew that today I needed to be focused on a number of money-making activities and wouldn’t be able to take the time to stop and play for most of the day.  So I really really needed to get some of that time last night.

So I just grabbed a couple of magazines and started thumbing through them.  I cut out little snippets, words and pics of any ole thing.  I just started playing.  Eventually I found this pic of the girl and the umbrella in a full page advertisement.  That led to the whole page you see here, and because the whole time I was pondering where to find some inspiration, that became the theme for the page.

It definitely helped last night.  I’m not so sure how much it helped me with staying focused today on business, but at least it was fun!

Prompt: Find a picture out of a magazine, it can be anything that catches your eye. Use the colors in the pic to smear paint onto a background.  Use credit card scraping or your fingers or smush it like an ink blot.  Just get the colors onto the page.  Let go of the inner critic by working faster than he or she can talk to you.  Forget for a time that you’re trying to make some art.  Just play with the colors and glue on the picture from the magazine.  Let it free you of the critical voice that likes to fight with you.

The Path with Heart Art Journal Prompt

Look at every path closely and deliberately, then ask ourselves this critical question: Does this path have a heart? If it does, then the path is good.  If it doesn’t, it is of no use.

~ Carlos Castaneda

Choose the path with heart.  I have been learning to measure my activities and choices by that.  If the activity in question doesn’t follow along the path with heart, then it is not where I want to be heading.  It doesn’t mean that I never have to do anything I don’t wanna do.  It just means that I am working towards a goal, towards a way of life that has meaning and passion and heart.

Consider this: How do you measure your daily, weekly, yearly activities?  How do you know when you’re doing the right thing?  How do you know when you’re following a path with heart?  Is that even a focus in your life?

Prompt: Try your hand at an art journal page that visualizes what following a path with heart means for you.  Maybe it’s a literal path, maybe it’s a collection of street signs, maybe it’s a picture of what your perfect life looks like.  Allow the page to be a reminder of what path you want to be following.

For my page, I used strips of art papers I’ve made along the way, shiny gel medium, acrylic paint, gel pens, and paint pens.  Oh, and buttons.  I love buttons.