Breaking the Counting Habit and a DIY Art Journal

I have had a certain habit quirk neurosis.  Okay maybe not my only one, but my most serious.  Counting.

I don’t mean like normal counting that might come up in your regular daily life.  I mean, like, I count.  A lot.

What do I count?  Oh, I count how many days till this or that, kind of normal.  I count stairs, going up or going down, no matter how many times I’ve counted them before.  I learned a while back that lots of people count stairs.

I count how many songs on my playlist, I count how many people have looked at a particular blog post or how many followers I have.  I count pages left in my sketchbooks and art journals.  I count my art journals.  I count weeks till Christmas, how many nights’ dinners worth of groceries I have in the kitchen, and how many dollars I still need to earn to pay the rent and the electricity.  The hubs can look over at me and know when I’m counting something.  In fact, I didn’t realize how often I was counting before I spent many years with him asking me from time to time what I’m counting…

It may all sound innocent enough.  But I learned something.  Stick with me here, I do have a point.

My counting can get in the way.  It’s an old pattern that keeps me from realizing certain goals and dreams.

Here’s how it goes…when I’m feeling a bit anxious or a bit doubtful, usually about finances, I start counting.  Usually I’m counting time or money.  It’s like biting your fingernails as an outlet for the stress (although I have conquered that monkey through art journaling, you can read about that here).  But instead of biting my fingernails, I count.  I even use my fingers to do the counting 🙂

The big mistake here is that when I’m so focused on the counting of the money or the time, I’m focusing on the need.  How many dollars I still need to get something done.  Or how few days I have to get it done.

Seriously??  I have been totally focused on the lack, not on my God-given blessings and abundance!!  I couldn’t even see it, I thought that I was so optimistic and so good at being grateful and faithful and so focused on creating a life of abundance.  I couldn’t see what I was doing to get in my own way.

Crikey!  I really hadn’t looked at it that way until very recently.  And you know what happened next?  I started counting, way less.  I almost don’t count at all.  And next?  Well, next we started getting more calls for cool painting projects.  I started getting through some artist tantrums that I was having.  I started sleeping better.  I even got more patient with the kidlets.

The point in this little story is this:

Are your little quirks helpful or do they stunt your growth?  Do you even know what your little quirks are?  And if they are not so helpful, can you find another to replace it, that might help you on your chosen paths?

As artists, we have so many options to help us release and express our emotions and work through junk.  We have the opportunity to continue learning and growing and building our brain and our soul.  Whatever medium we choose at any given moment, we can receive messages from our souls, from our Creator, from our subconscious.

Prompt:  What’s your go-to activity to relieve stress?? 

*I needed a routine to help during my regular counting hours.  I’m exploring some options, but one that I’m trying to help with a daily routine is ROOT, Lisa Sonora’s 30 Day Journal Project.  It’s actually only day 2, so you can still jump in on this free journaling challenge.  For me, this is a great motivator to get past some old baggage I’ve been carrying that kept me from journaling, for about the past 12 years.  30 days seems like a huge commitment to me, so I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂  I did make my own art journal for this journaling and for another journaling project that I’m practicing.  This book has me inspired and makes me feel good.

Cover made of cardboard, gesso, spray ink, paint, glue, ink, stamped letters

Cover made of cardboard, gesso, spray ink, paint, glue, ink, stamped letters

DIY Book Back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIY Book Pages 2

I used all kinds of papers, book pages, paper ream wrappers…

DIY Book Front Page

 

 

 

DIY Book patterned pages

Patterned papers…

DIY Book Pages 4

Old advertisements…

 

 

DIY Book Pages 3

Junk mail with gesso…

DIY Inside Cover

Music paper…

 

 

 

DIY Book Pages 1

Glossy picture book pages…

I think it has about 90 pages.

I think it has about 90 pages, including many blank pages of drawing paper. All cut to size and bound with the two rings…and I got to play with my crop-a-dile to punch all of the holes!

 

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!! 

 

 

Face Practice

GirlWow, so long since the last post.  Sometimes I wonder how I miss so much time??

Our painting business continues to grow.  We built a small website (take a look here).  I am amazed at how much better I feel getting out and painting and refinishing cabinets, and really physically working.  For so long I have used my brain and my conversation skills, selling and serving customers and, well, sitting.  Way too much sitting, talking on the phone, using the computer, and not getting up and moving around and doing more physical labor.

I really like it.  My body is feeling strong, my back feels better, my soul feels better…this kind of work is so meditative!  And I get to spend my work time hanging out with my hubby, making things beautiful!!  It just really doesn’t get much better than this 🙂

And in my art time outside of that, I have been continuing to focus on drawing faces.  Maybe soon I will start practicing bodies to go with the floating heads, lol…

The biggest challenge for me with faces is the coloring…I thought I would battle more with the features, but nope, it’s the coloring.  I have really come up with some interesting color combinations, that’s for sure!  But I keep at it, I’m actually learning to not fight it, but to just keep going…like so much else in art.  That’s a common theme for me, it seems.  Trust the process (I wrote ages ago about that here).

What a feeling of accomplishment, though, to keep at it and begin to see the success!  And this particular girl has a special place in my art journal…she is on the last available page of my current large journal!

Finishing an art journal…that has a very solid feeling of accomplishment.

I have been working in that particular journal for two full years now.  It’s funny, when I first started journaling, I would work in one journal straight through, then moved to the next journal.  Along the way, I started working in a whole bunch of art journals at one time.

I have old books that I used as journals, I have kids’ board books as journals, I have loose pages that I journal together, I make mini-journals out of bags or cards or junk mail, I have composition books as journals…and I have my sketch books.  I have themed journals, I have chronological journals, and I have extra paint journals (you know, the ones where you slap extra paint or ink on pages that you use as backgrounds for stuff later).

And the journals are all over the house!  I was cleaning up some shelves, and I counted…seven journals going at the moment!!  My kids thumb through them, they show them to their friends, and my hubby looks through them all of the time.  My art has become such a way of life in our home, I never imagined how ingrained in our lives it would all be.

That has its own very satisfying and fulfilling level of accomplishment, too.

A Project Journal from an Old Book, and a Decorated Cover

You can’t think yourself out of a writing block, you have to write yourself out of a thinking block.

~John Rogers

Before the summer started, and before I got hung up working a “real” job…I started working on a journal for a class with Brave Girls Club (I posted about it way back when).

So, it was an awesome class!  I hope I can get it together and take another in the near future.  But for now, I’m still poking along with a few of the activities, enjoying the inspired soul-searching found making the journal.

I won’t bore you with the inner conversation parts, but I really do want to share a couple of things.

As I’ve told you before, I do love to use old books, especially free-to-me books, as art journals.  Each one offers its own set of challenges and surprises.  I love the smell of the pages in an older book.  I love the feel of different kinds of finishes from different books.  I love having a huge variety of sizes and shapes from using old books.  And I love that I can use what’s on the pages to add interest and layers and texture to what I’m doing on top of the pages…

For this project, I used a book about women in architecture.  In retrospect, it really didn’t have as much room in the book as I could’ve used…next time for a specific project I’ll have to give that some more thought.

But it has a great shape, a great linen-style cover, and lots of cool pictures on glossy paper inside the book.

I got better this round at prepping the book: I used a straight-edge to hold down on the inside of the pages as I ripped out every other page.  The pages themselves were pretty heavy and glossy, so I didn’t need to glue any of them together.

The other main thing I learned from this book prep:

Make sure you know that the book is not something you’ll later regret arting all over.  I only realized after I had really gotten going, it was an autographed copy of the book.  I might have looked to see if anyone would want that autographed copy.  Duh.

I did end up making sure to use the autograph by painting a frame around it.  It turned out pretty sweet, but I did feel kind of bad about not noticing it in the beginning.

And I really really really love the cover!  The inner stuff is personal and kind of boring for anyone other than me, the cover is so totally something to share 🙂

Red Book CoverBook Spine

How-to Make Your Own Book: Junk Journals, Smash Books, Mini Books, I Love Them All!

Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem.  We all have twenty-four hours a day.

~ Zig Ziglar*

Alright, so I’m admitting openly, I do love all of the little journals and books and albums…all of them!  I have coveted a Smash Book for some time now, but I just can’t bring myself to pay the asking price.  Not when I am in serious need of more paints and new paintbrushes and gels…

So I keep making my own little books out of the various stacks of papers and ephemera I have in my stacks.

The super-cool thing is that they are always at the ready, waiting next to whatever my current project is, waiting for left-over paint…mixed colors or blobs on palettes as I’m creating.  I use the overage on pages in my little junk journals to make backgrounds as I go.  Then I have awesome little journals in which to glue clippings and love notes and odds and ends the kids bring to me.  I have also used small Moleskines for the same purpose, using left-over paint for backgrounds in a Fave Quote Journal.

I have looked at lots of other little journal how-to’s around the interwebs, I have seen pics of other cute things and done my own versions of back-engineering.  I have stapled together pieces of paper!  I have all kinds of little books around, not sure what their end purpose is, but they have brought me much pleasure and joy as I slap paint and glue doo-dads and fondle their pages.

That’s my adult-artsy version of scrapbooks and journals, I guess.  Maybe someday my kidlets will look at them lovingly and remember fondly their youth?  All I know, it sure is fun, and it sure brings a total satisfaction in my artsy play.

Here’s a couple of my latest faves, one is a book out of mostly envelopes, and I think a couple of marketing junk mail pieces.  The pockets in the center are toilet tubes.  The other is made out of file folders.

That’s been a lot of my projecting this summer.  I have worked on a number of larger art works, I will be working on taking photos at some point to put up and on the Etsy site.  We’ve also been working on a Facebook page for our arty bunch so that we can roll out a project in the works.  More on that to come.

Thanks for sticking around.  I so miss being able to art all day long, my heart aches, my artist soul is petulant…but the sales gal in me is having a great time at the job, and that has its own brand of creative satisfaction.

 

File Book 3 File Book 2 File Book 1 Envelope Book Cover Envelope Book 13 Envelope Book 10 Envelope Book 9 Envelope Book 8 Envelope Book 7 Envelope Book 6 Envelope Book 5 Envelope Book 4 Envelope Book 3 Envelope Book 2

*Zig Ziglar has always been one of my favorite motivation speakers and authors.  This quote is so fitting as I fight for time to work, time to art, time to blog, time to minister, and time to play with the kidlets and the hubby. 

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 🙂

Princess Bella’s Birthday Soiree, with a Polka Dot Cake and More!

Crown

I can’t believe that Princess Bella’s Birthday Soiree was already two days ago!  I have been fixin’ to get ready to post some pics since then, but so many other happenings kept happening!

So let’s get straight down to it.

The cake.  Oh, wow, what can I say.  The hubby is the most brilliant, wonderfully creative, enabling kind of guy.  I know this is all about Bella’s birthday and the cake and stuff, but I just have to say super quickly, my hubby rocks!  He doesn’t ever try to damper my whacky party ideas, he doesn’t try to bring me down to Earth and tell me I can’t do anything.  He actually jumps right in and has a blast with me, and even goes so far as to make it even more awesome than I had imagined!!!

Okay, so back to the cake.  I wanted some kind of cake befitting the Royal Princess (ya know, I hope that doesn’t start sounding like we do nothing but spoil our children, although we might, Bella just really was born in to this world to command it, her personality!)…and it needed to be a total girl cake.

And here’s how it finished up:

Cake

And here’s what was in the middle:

Cake Balls Baked

I know, polka dots!  That is all Christopher’s doing.  I’ll include here a couple of pics of how to polka dots were put together, I might come back later and do a super-quick how-to on that whole thing 🙂

Cake Balls Cake Balls 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But on to the Birthday Banner.  That has become some kind of tradition in our home, at least the kids think that they are supposed to have a banner now for every birthday and holiday event.  My fault…so this time around I just started grabbing stuff out of my fabric stash and throwing it into the sewing machine.  And the kids colored the crown cut-outs to add as decorations.

Swag

Swag 2

Swag 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

And yes, that’s some of my paintings on the wall, Bella wouldn’t let me move them for the party!

Now, the party favors.  We don’t do huge parties with all kinds of kids and people over.  Remembering our kidlets are home-schooled, so we don’t have to outdo all of the birthday parties of the whole kindergarten.  We do have a couple of buddies that play with ours just about every day, so we have them over with a couple of close friends.  So I don’t have to put together an enormous pile of party favor loot.  I got to really go for it 🙂

Party Favors

I made the treat bags out of pieces of denim from my stash, all from old pairs of blue jeans.  Jeans that have been outgrown, jeans that have gotten holes in the knees, jeans that finally have too much paint to wear in the light of day.  And I used boys’ jeans and girls’ jeans.  Some had sections that I could use as a whole piece, and some I had to piece together with patches from other pieces.  I also frayed the edges of everything a bit and left the seams on the outside.  For handles, I used lace and ribbons from the stash box.

Party Favors 3I worried throughout the week as I made the little bags, by the way.  I kept thinking they were looking dumb, or that they were a bad idea, just like going through hating some other piece of art I’m creating.  Not sure why I’d get away with it on party favors…

But I just kept sewing, and as the kids were in and out all week, they’d see the little bags coming together.  They were so excited when they finally got to have their little homemade artsy bag creation!  And they’ve been carrying them around with them since, including the neighbor kids!  They’ve all got the little journals I made them stuffed in the bags, along with video games and plastic jewelry and doodads and candy…they just carry their little things in them, even the boys!  It also helped that the bags had lollipops and ring pops and tootsie rolls and starbursts and plastic gemstone rings, too.

Here’s a quick peek at the journals I made them, a la clear packing tape and rubber bands (like the duct tape journals you see all over the place) and patterned papers and cardboard-painted covers.  And just like with the bags, the kids all watched me making the little books and squawked with delight when they finally got their hands on them and could start drawing in them!

Journal cover Journal cover 2 Journal inside

We cooked out burgers, and ate yummies and cake and ice cream, and Princess Bella delighted in all of the rightful attention she was getting.  And everyone showered her with gifts of love and sparkles, a whole pile of dress-up fodder…which she has been donning and trying on and admiring and wearing for the paparazzi.

It’s funny.  I didn’t have to run out and buy anything to do all of this preparation.  I just dug around in my boxes and bins of stashed fodder…so much of it was recycled material, or free craigslist stuff, or thrift store finds saved for a rainy day.  I spent a lot of time, and put a ton of love into it all, but not so much in monies.  But this will be one of those birthdays she’s gonna remember as one of the most magical and love-filled parties ever!

 

Planning the Princess Birthday, the Perfect Project for a Glitter Mama

A dream is a wish your heart makes.

~ Cinderella

My baby girl is turning 5!!!

She’s telling me that I don’t get to call her the “baby” anymore…yea, right…she’s still my baby 🙂

And because she is a Princess, you know, I get to have the most fun prepping for her birthday gathering on Monday.

I used to be one of those gals that would run up (or send Christopher up to) the party store, gather all of the trappings of a boxed birthday party, blow up balloons, and call it done.  Well, we also usually make some kind of crazy cake.  But the rest has been more of a boxed sort of birthday plan.

The more I art, and the more I collect stuff, the more I get away from the boxed approach and go more towards a do-it-yourself approach.

This birthday, Bella’s 5th, is coming together really really super-sweet!!  And cuz she’s all girl, a true Princess, I get to decorate in pink and shiny and flowers and glitter and all of the trappings of girlie stuff, perfect for a glitter gal like myself.  It’s better than Happy I Love You Day!  Along with the lovelies for the cake and the decorations, Bella’s getting some new tutus and dress-up pretties, and I’ve made some cute little packing tape artsy journals and favor bags for the kidlets, that will be tucked in with candy.

I’ll have pics of the interesting swags that I’m making, once I get it hung up and installed.  I put up some kind of Birthday Banner for each of their birthdays, they range from paper flags, to butterflies with words on them, to paper chains.  This one is a yellow and pink and fringe and lace thing.  And they all seem to think that I’ve upped the bar, since I had the sewing machine out for this one.  They’ve all started putting in their orders for their next birthday soirees!

And when I’m back, I’ll show you what we come up with for the custom birthday cake.  We have made quite the assortment of cakes over the years, some of them are total masterpieces, while others are, uhm, well, embarassing, heehee.

Here’s a fun look at some of our past cakes to tide you over till then.  These are quite the memories in our little fam, the kids remember the cakes that we make with joy and laughter and sometimes even a bit of anxiety (see the Elmo cake)!  The beautiful white and raspberry cake is Bella’s birthday yummy from last year, you can see it in more detail, along with the recipe links and so forth here.

Al's Cake

Pokeball ice cream cake\

Ry's Cake

350Bell's Cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ally 4 cake 2Sunshine cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have a wonderful weekend, I’ll be here playing Birthday Prep.  Be sure to check back for pics of all the festivities!

xoxo

Valentine Card with Caulk and Paint Chips, a Technique Video

Prompt: Have you tried using caulk for texture?  Try caulk in your art journal…These techniques work well on paper, as well as canvas.  And anything can be used as stencils and texturing tools in the caulk.  Try something new!

Valentine Party Favors, Perfect for Little Valentines

Here in the St John household, we love to party, er, celebrate.  We have themed dinner parties (which are a total blast), we have Saturday night cookouts (no matter the actual day of the week), and we totally we make our own cakes for all of the birthdays.

Valentine’s Day is no different.  We decorate and make cookies or cuppie cakes or some such thing.  Sometimes I even make them from scratch…and we have some kind of wonderful dinner together, with red and white tablecloths and the works.

Valentine treats 3This year I made some cute treat holders for yummy little chocolates for the kidlets (I am one of those mommies that saves everything) using toilet paper tubes and paper towel tubes.

You just decorate ’em up, use tissue paper to wrap the goodies and pull through the tubes, and tie off the paper, just like a candy.  Voila!

Valentine treats 2

On a side note, I did make a bunch of these for the elder daughter’s birthday in the fall…they were a HUGE success!  I filled them with candies, little plastic Pokemon figurines (the theme of the party), and plastic rings and bracelets.  For those I used paper towel tubes…the kids loved them, and they were not just plain ole plastic bags from the party store.