Cool Resources, and Scrap Wood Art

With creative people, truly new horizons open up.

~ Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

I feel like my little universe has been expanding lately.

Artist’s dates at the Home Depot have been a regular occurrence for a really long time now.  Stretching my idea of where to find art supplies was a wonderful and exciting deal for me…

Since then, I’ve been reaching new heights in discovering alternative resources for all kinds of stuff.

Free at the Library

For instance, I can access digital downloads of ebooks through my library. I can check out a digital edition of a book, and it goes through my Amazon account and onto my device for two weeks. At the end of my loan time, I can renew the loan or let it end and leave my device.

We’ve been doing that for some time as well. But while I was perusing the library website the other day, I found that I can through my library membership, access Mango. Really??  Did you know that??

Learn a Foreign Language

I almost paid a fair amount of money to get a year’s subscription to Mango so that the hubs and I can learn Italian together. And the kids want to learn Spanish.

And through my library membership, I set up our profile and we can all learn any language we want and it keeps up with our progress and everything. Just like I bought our own program!!

Maybe I’m a bit late in this game, but I am truly filled with wonder and awe. I have been exploring the library website more now and have found several other very helpful resources for my kids’ schooling. For. Free.

Fun Live Shows

We’ve also been going to the library for super-fun and interesting live presentations.  We’ve seen live animals, including a giant tarantula and a kangaroo. We went and watched a live story teller. We just had a presentation all about local beekeeping.  Seriously. And all free.

Homeschool Co-Op, Not Just for Homeschoolers

The other amazing and free resource that we’ve been having tons of fun with is an ezine called Click Schooling, through Homeschool Buyers Co-Op. (Affiliate Link)

Some of you might not be homeschooling anyone. Maybe you know someone who is. Or maybe you have kids in brick-and-mortar school. Or you know other families with kids.

Let me tell you, it is really really cool. The Co-op is a great place to find information on educational material and curriculum. It’s a great place for people to connect and find fabulous pricing on all these materials, because the Co-op buys as a group, as a large body. Kind of like a school district. And with size comes better pricing. That better pricing is extended to all of its members. And joining is free. Following my link and joining for free does earn me smart points that my family can use towards educational materials.

But the part I seriously LOVE: the ClickSchooling e-zine. You can choose what subscriptions you want in your profile when you join.

A New Free Website Resource Every Day

ClickSchooling ezine comes out each day with whatever that day’s scheduled topic is.  Like Wednesday is language arts day.

And the email will have a link and some info to a free website to go and learn something. Free. Cool. Educational. Not just for the kids. I go to all of these sites and learn stuff. More than my kids.

I know, I know. I’m supposed to be schooling my kidlets. But I am having so much fun on these sites 🙂 I have visited the live shark reef exhibit at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, and I went back to watch the live demonstration at feeding time last week.

I’ve watched how airplanes are made. I learned all about Alaska. I played with some art lessons on some of my fave artist and made art in their style! And I brushed up on my grammar, which is helpful for my writing. Sort of, lol.

I’m telling you, this cool resource is worth its price of admission. Or lack of price, really.

And Now for Some Art

I have a few other tidbits I’ve been learning about finding cool stuff and I’ll keep ’em coming. But for now, I’ll leave you with this: a couple of pics of three little canvases I made on some of my hubs’ scrap wood I found in the garage 🙂

I LOVE LOVE LOVE having a hubby that leaves his scraps lying around!!

Prompt: Do you use “trash” to make art??

Inspire Wood CanvasHappy Together wood canvasBlue Wood Canvas

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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.

Seriously?!?!

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.

Joy.

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

 

Soundtrack of My Life

So, I have an ongoing interest thing obsession with paint chip cards.  You know, those sample cards that you can grab at any paint store.  I love all of the different colors, all of the different shapes of cards for different brands of paint, and the weight of the paper.  I love searching google looking for cool things people do with these little gems.

It just so happens, Christopher is always taking me to Home Depot and Lowe’s 🙂 I am a lucky gal ~ I love the hardware store, it’s brillo for Art Fodder™!!!  Poor hubby, he has to deal with me smuggling out paint chips.  I feel a need to be super-nonchalant since I’m always there.

Maybe the paint section workers don’t think anything of it as we’re always actually buying paint…at least that’s what I hope…

Sometimes I just sit and flip through my collection of cards.  It is extensive and worthy of pondering.  Other times, I use the cards for making teaching aids for the kidlets.  We’ve made sight word flash cards, multiplication fact cards, vocabulary cards, Bingo cards (I’ll have to come back with some pics later, those turned out way cool!).  And I’ve made party invitations, Valentine cards, RAAK cards for art mail, Mother’s Day cards, and mini-books.  And I have a whole computer file of great ideas for the little boogers!

As I was reminiscing just now, I kind of forgot my whole point.  Those little cards do that to me, lol.

This particular journal page is not terribly ornate or anything, but I was experimenting with using the paint chips and silhouettes.  I think they’re pretty neat, and I thought you might like the idea:

Dancers

Clearly I was also pondering some of my favorite Pandora lists at the same time 🙂

PROMPT:  How do you use paint chips or paint sample cards?

*On a side note, if you’d like to check out what we’re listening to on a regular basis (cuz wordpress doesn’t have a super-duper Pandora widget), you can check out our Pandora station: http://www.pandora.com/profile/stations/motherdana.  I’m not completely convinced that leaving this link here for you will work, but let me know.  My profile is Dana Saint John.  The harder rock stations belong to my teenager, so don’t think that’s my music, lol.  But DO check out the others, lots of good art music contained therein!!  Some of the stations I have actively spent tons of time cultivating, others are still needing my input…

I am currently, right at this very moment of typing these very words, listening to my Greenskeepers Radio station.  Enjoy 🙂

 

 

Ephemera Give-Away, And Getting Back to It

This past week was full of playing with Brave Girls’ Club and managing that excitement…so we sort of dropped off working on the Activity Blitz and awesome ephemera give-away.

Crazy to get started and then change momentum, huh.  But here we are, back to it.  Seems like so many people ran over to the Facebook page and found us there, but no one remembered to come back and leave a comment here about it.

Maybe the whole thing was too complicated?  I don’t know as I’ve never run a give-away like this before…so I’ll give everyone a BRAND NEW OPPORTUNITY!!

We’ll keep it simple.  And we’ll spice up the enticement a bit and share a sneak peek picture here with you 🙂

Ephemera Collection Give-Away

Buried in this pile: sheet music, French book pages, an Alka-Seltzer ad book, old letters, old snapshots, poems, dictionary pages, and more!

Leave a comment here.  Tell me what you like to make with ephemera, bits of stuff, saved little doo-dads that you keep or find.  Collage?  Canvases?  Cards?  Art journal spreads? ATC’s?  All of the above???

And if you run over to the Facebook page (you can find a link at the right now), leave a comment there too.  Just say Hi, and give us some love.

I’ll make sure that you’re entered for going there and leaving some love here on the blog.

Is that simple enough? 

I know that I’m not the most social of creatures, so I understand if you are not typically all about leaving comments and participating in small talk…but you’ll have to leave a comment somewhere to enter the drawing 🙂

This will not knock out anyone who has already entered or who stops by the first post and gives us love there.  I know how the whole random number generator thing works now, so I’ll get you all entered.

All of this is towards a great end.  With the official launch of SWAAK Paks™ just around the corner, the more activity we have here and on Facebook, the more our RocketHub page will get seen.  You can be a part of something greater by just helping our activity and interaction levels grow.

We are asking for your help to share the activity and buzz by participating a bit, and we’re willing to bribe you to do it!!

And to those of you who joined in the give-away for the new Brave Girls’ Class…this is pile of awesome Art Fodder™ to use in your projects!!

 

Upcycling Cardboard for Canvases

Working out of my home is way overrated.  Finding time to art has become its own creative endeavor all it own…I keep several projects going at all times.  Then when I find a spare minute or two, I add a bit of paint or doodle here and a bit of glued paper there, and eventually I get a whole piece finished.

But here’s the super-duper awesome thing about the job: all of the trainers are now saving me the cardboard that comes out of the training materials they use in their classes!  I have a gigantic pile of these babies, they come out of the packets of training materials before they get put inside 3-ring binders.  All of them are the same size, they’re in pristine shape, and they gesso up and make the perfect canvas for collages and other art works!  And the kids love them as well!!

Who knew?  I get paid to work, and I get more Art Fodder™!!

They will make great book covers for art journals.  They are the perfect size for making lovies to frame and put on the wall.  And they are a nice, consistent size for another project I’m creating that will have pages and pages of illustrations.

I’m posting a few here for you to see how well the card boards are working out.

TreeButterflyBirdie

Prompt: What do you like to use as alternatives to traditional canvas?  Cereal boxes, old book covers, cardboard? 

New Page on the Blog for Downloads, and a Sheet of Text Snippets for You

I’ve been blogging long enough now that you’d think I’d know how to use all of the features on this thing.

Nope, not so.

But here’s what I’m trying: I have added a new page for sharing downloads for your use.  What I haven’t figured out, is if I will be able to add new posts to that page, or is it just one, long-running post that I will add to occasionally.

So for now, I’ll drop in a post here on the front page to let you know when I add something new to the download page 🙂

I use a lot of snippets of text all over my art.  I use it in my art journals, on mixed media canvases, on little wood blocks as gifts, on home-made wrapping paper.  I used to fight with searching for the perfect text stamps, and then with rub-ons, and still later with individually stamping with alphabet stamps.  All of that left me frustrated when what I wanted was a handful of meaningful and inspirational sayings to use.  When I want to grab a little snippet, I don’t want to have to spend tons of time figuring it out.  So I worked up some pages of text snippets in all different fonts to use.  I print them out onto different colored papers, some with prints (they look great on polka dots!), some on heavier cardstock, some on vellum.  I keep them at the ready for when I need something to glue onto whatever I’m arting.  I just cut out the applicable snippets, and Voila!  Instant lovies!

This page is set up as a .pdf with a landscape page orientation.  As it is set up, it will fit on the whole of an 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheet (if I want to use a 12″ x 12″ sheet, I simply cut it down to fit through my printer).

Tip: If you use a laser printer and like to print on vellum, choose the high quality print option as it will heat the toner up to a higher degree and will keep the words from rubbing off of the vellum quite so much.

Feel free to download, my art journal love gift for you!!

Text Sheet

Prompt: Make a journal page using some snippets of text in the background or for decorating something in the foreground.  It’s fun!  Or make up your own text snippet sheet with all of those little sayings you love to use in your art 🙂

Works of Inspiration, or Really, It Didn’t Seem Like Work

Why do we always call our new stuff “Works”?

When I’m arting, when I’m really enjoying it, I don’t feel like I’m working.  I feel like I’m playing.  I feel like I’m the luckiest gal in the world, that I have some way to get the stuff in my head out and onto something in front of me.  That I’m lucky because I gave up the fear, and instead, I just get brave and get the stuff out…however it turns out.  It just happens, that with practice, I’ve gotten better at getting the image in front of me to at least somewhat represent the image I was holding in my mind’s eye.

So why “Work”?  Why don’t we call it “Play”.  These are all my original created pieces of Play.  Heehee.  How well will that go over??

I’ve got a couple of new things I’ve been wanting to share.  And I tried something a bit new for me.

I created these on canvases of wood.  Ooh, fun!  I spend a lot of time pondering supplies in the hardware store, and I’d been thinking about getting a sheet of wood cut up into different size canvases.  I finally had my hubby help me pick out the wood and sizes and so forth.  We ended up with a sheet of 1/4″ wood, it’s really pretty, although I can’t tell you what kind of wood.  Not that I wouldn’t tell you, but the sign just said “wood panel sheet” or some such thing.

But it’s pretty wood, the grain is nice, it wasn’t full of splits and that sort of thing.  The guys at the store ripped the sheet into the main big pieces that I wanted for no extra charge, and then we do some additional cutting at home as I decide on the sizes.

I do (or I do have Christopher) spray the wood with clear polyurethane before I do anything else.  That keeps the wood from soaking up too much of whatever else comes next, usually gesso.  And he lightly sands it after the spray.  Ahhhh, what a lovely surface to paint!  The only caveat I have here for you, I tend to do a lot of my backgrounds using my fingers…and by the time I was done with a series of pieces on the wood canvases, my fingers were getting a bit sore!

I tell you all of this to tell you this: the finished product looks awesome, not just the same ole canvas, and it’s waaaaay cheaper than purchasing a clay wood canvas for working, I mean playing, mixed media.

My inspiration for both of these lovelies comes from the Book of Psalm, these are from the NIV.

You can also see these babies over on the etsy shop (more closeups of the tree canvas over there)…Someday I will work on prints, but for now, the originals are what’s available.

Sunshine

 

For the sunshine on this canvas, I also got to play with something new: an awesome vintage lace stencil from Christy Tomlinson.  I looooooove my new stencil!!  I made the happy little sunshine with caulk on a book page from an inspirational book on love.  I think it turned out beautifully!!

Sunshine closeup

 

Sunshine verse

 

Tree 1a

 

Tree verse

 

YOUR PROMPT:  I’ve said this before, now I’ll say it again.  Go browse the hardware store.  It’s amazing how many things are so well suited for arting.  Find something you haven’t thought about using in your artwork before, and put it to good use.  You’ll find some great prices on really cool stuff there!!

Artful Play, or Jump Out of Your Comfort Zone

How often do you get outside of your comfort zone, playing with artsy materials that are not in your lineup of faves?  How often do you grab something that you haven’t played with before or in a really long time?  Or that you haven’t exploited fully?

This may seem a bit bizarre, but it’s true.  I have never really played with chalk pastels.  I know, I know, they are plentiful and cost-friendly, and it seems like everyone who has ever arted at all has some lying around somewhere.  And how could I have made it all the way through grade-school without ever really playing with them??

The few times I have tried to use pastels, I’ve ended up frustrated and unhappy.  I don’t like the mess, I seem to get chalk all over the place, and hardly where I actually want it.  I don’t like the scratchy noise and feeling from scribbling with them.  I don’t like that I have to stop along the way and spray some kind of something on them to keep them where I put them.

I had a bunch of ideas about how chalk pastels are just not for me.

I also have a list of self-motivational prompts to get my creative juices flowing when I’m looking for new inspirations.  I have a note to myself on that list to try new things, new mediums, new techniques.

I’ve been pondering the chalks for a little while, mostly because I have several different sets of them, all kinds of colors, and even different brands and qualities.  Seemed kind of silly to let all of that color go to waste.

I also attend YouTube University, always hunting down a video when I want to try something totally new.  I like to just “download” the information, and turning around and saying, “I know Kung Fu”…

And I tend to be braver if I’ve seen somewhere how it’s done.

Not so with this little bit of fun!  I just pondered the whole thing for a week or so.  Then I had a bit of an a-ha! moment…and grabbed the boxes of colors and got down to it.

I can safely say that I really like my pastels now!  Ha, imagine that, I managed to get past my silly ole brain and inner critic and just made some color love!

I realize that looking at the pics of this art journal madness, that you might not see right away where I managed to get some of the chalks involved, lol.  Believe it or not, I used the chalks for the flowers.

Tulips plain

And I did the playing with the chalks and the flowers first.  The “background” came after that!  So I am including pics here for you of the flowers, before I started mucking it all up with my usual mess.

The whole thing was a total blast.  I enjoyed it, I felt like I was playing, I never did hate it during the process (which is a step in my usual process), I just really loved this whole thing.  Will definitely be playing in the pastels again.

 

Tulips Right Side 1

Tulips Left Side 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tip: After scribbling with the pastels on the sketch, I used a paintbrush and water to smear and blend the color.  After letting it mostly dry, I hit it with some gel medium, I used matte cuz that’s what I had within reach.  I’ll be trying gloss next time…After all that was nice and dry, I painted the blue background and got to adding all of the other stuff.  Fun, fun!!

Prompt: Now go and grab something you haven’t played with ever, or in a long time, and make something!!!

A Little Bit of Pen Love

After the whirlwind of Valentine posts, I got a little blog shy…or maybe just a bit blog tired…

And after my totally planned set of posts and projects for the holiday, I found myself playing with several projects, not really getting any one thing completed.  I just went kind of scatter-brained!

I do have some upcoming fun stuff to share, I’m almost finished with a gratitude journal made out of paint chips, a couple of junk journals, and some fun doodle-paintings on music paper.

I also spent the last couple of evenings with my now 8-year old girlie, making foam stamps and practicing origami.  I must say, I really suck at the whole origami thing, though.  She’s way better than I, and she thinks she needs to look at me to direct her, poor baby.

Home is Where My Heart Is 2

 

So, today’s bit of goodness, a bit of advisement for those of you that like to use pens on top of other layers.  I’ve had a running conversation with some good folks on fb, on Art of Wild Abandonment 2 (class via Christy Tomlinson and Junelle Halstrom Jacobsen), and it always seems to come back to the question of what kind of pen do I use to draw on NeoColors II (you can check out some my other ramblings on these little sweeties here):

My fave fave fave pen is the Pilot Uni-ball Vision.  It’s waterproof once it sets, it comes in different colors (although I mostly use black), it’s fine point, and it’s readily available at most office supply stores.  And maybe Wal Mart.

The waterproof thing is super important for me, cuz along with always remembering something else I wanted to add to my project after doodling, I am left-handed, and I drag my own hand through whatever I write…thereby smearing my own handwriting.  Constantly.

Now, no matter how awesome the pen, you still have to keep a couple of things in mind when you’re doodling all over your other stuff.  Gel pens and liquid roller ball pens work, but they can get all gunked up with the wax-y color from the wax crayons.

So, first, if you really wait long enough to let your colors dry all the way and set a bit, it will be easier.  I know that’s easier said than done, I’m totally impatient and mess with stuff way before it’s totally dry.  Try not to go too fast with the pen (tough for me when I’m doodling!).  Keep a scratch pad nearby, and you can scribble on it to get the wax or gunk or paint or whatever off of the tip and start doodling again.  And keep a light hand, if you press too hard, it’s way easier to get the ball or the tip all blocked with gunk.

When I am not feeling way too impatient to get to the doodling, I actually will stop and spray the project with clear, matte polyurethane.  It dries fast, and then you can do more work right on top of that.  It keeps a bit of a tooth.  You can doodle, use more paint, more NeoColors, do shading, glue more stuff on, and you don’t mess up what’s underneath.  And you can wipe a mark off if you’re quick, if you decide you don’t like the mark you just made.

Again, I’m not often patient enough to stop and do the step of spraying.  On my larger projects, like canvases, I do this step.

Now I’m off to a Friday night date with the hubby and kidlets…we’re going to JoAnn’s, I have a coupon!!!  I get to walk around one of my fave stores, holding hands with the hubs, looking at art supplies.  Doesn’t get much better than that 🙂

Have a great weekend, and let us know in the comments section if you have good tips on pens, what you like to use, how you cope with goo getting in the way!

Home is Where My Heart Is