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!!!

NeoColor Background Technique Video

Okay, so I know the two posts are a wee little bit separated, but here’s a video follow-up to my earlier post on using NeoColor Water Soluble Wax Pastels (I call them water crayons, lol).  This is a simple and quick way to put together a background in your art journal, and it helps you get past the whole fighting-the-white-page-in-front-of-me thing…

Enjoy, and please let me know what you think.  I’m hoping the videos get better and better as we plod along!


How-to Make a Faux Wood Grain, Our First Technique Video!

Drum roll, please…

Here it is…Our very first technique video (crowd goes wild)!!

I know, I know, took a long time in coming, and the video was way more intensive the technique itself, so no worries for you 🙂

Let me know what you think, we kept it simple this first time around, and as Christopher is the techie nerd in the house, he gets to hold the magic spot of the first one…so be sure to leave him some props here in the comments section, so that he’ll keep editing the videos for me!

Something Wicked This Way Comes, Movie Lines as Prompts?

Something Wicked This Way Comes…an old favorite.  I think of that whenever the winds of change seem to be a’ blowin’…

Do you have favorite little tidbits and quoties and movie lines and personal jokes?  Things that it seems you’re the only one to catch them and appreciate them??

I have a plethora of them…and yes, I do know what it is a plethora (again, an inside joke?  or a movie line that maybe not everyone knows??)…

el guapo

Sometimes it seems like my whole day is a long string of movies one-liners and funny little jokes, things that sometimes have me feeling like I walk to such a different beat, that I don’t really fit in to the rest of the world’s cadence.

But, shoot, I sure do have a good time, lol!!

As I mull these things around in my brain, they all become potential art prompts.  Prompts that spur my art journaling or paintings or mixed media works.  Prompts that lead to journaling and blog posts and funny little conversations with Christopher (thankfully, he totally is on the same wavelength, and very rarely does he not catch one of my funnies, or I his).  Prompts become Art Fodder™, and the fodder gets added to the running list of ideas, and that list grows and grows, awaiting some fantastic arty goodness.

How do you keep up with ideas?  Do you sketch them, jot them down, record them into your phone, stick posty notes everywhere with thoughts on them??

Here we’re fixin’ to start some new things on the blog (that’s Texican, by the way, for preparing).  I’ve been threatening videos for the last few months, which has actually been a bit more technical than I once thought.  I kinda thought you just hit record, do some art, and TA-DA!  A cool technique video!  Not so, it seems.  So…as we get the computer nerd part of editing the videos all figured out, the videos will be forthcoming.

But for now, a little art journal love and prompt to share with you!  As I’ve mentioned before, I HATE to waste bits of paint…so I tend to grab another journal or book pages or folders and slap the paint down and use those things later for arting.  This is one of those, little bit of paint left-over (from an earlier prompt), I did sort of the ink blot thing, and left it.  Came back later and had a cool background to doodle on my hands.  And I love having the picture of my hands in one of my sketching/idea journals.

Hand Prints 1

Prompt: Trace your hands and doodle the insides.  Fill them up with the kinds of doodles you use to doodle on your book covers.  Or fill them up with your handwriting, a love note to yourself, or your favorite Bible verse.  As artists, our hands are one of our most favorite body parts, right?  So memorialize them, draw them, show them the respect!!


Childlike Wonder, and Prompt for You

Think what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap.

~ Robert Fulghum

Coming down off of the holiday season is always a bit tough for me…I so enjoy all of the preparations and music and sparkly magic of everything.  And this year, in particular, was at moments, more chaotic than usual for us.  We had company for extended visits, which is unusual for our little family.

It all seemed a bit noisier than usual.  We were catching up on some school lessons, and I had a lot of business work to get done.  Suddenly, the holidays are over, and I have been mildly fighting that let down that happens after a huge amount of activity and focus.

Do you get the let down?

My kiddos, however, just don’t miss a beat.  They keep right on playing, imagining, creating.  They don’t lose any magic, doesn’t matter if it’s the holidays or the summer or right in the middle of a school week.

So I took some lessons from them.  I’ve been dressing like my four-year-old baby girl: skirts and leggings and layers of shirts, all put together just because I like them.  Not because they necessarily go together, and not just because the patterns match.  She’ll wear eight different shades of pink, with flowers and stripes and stars.  Then she’ll top it off with a sparkly pink tutu, Happy New Year tiara, and costume jewelry.  Oh, and her pink snow boots.

Okay, so I don’t have a tutu, but I did wear clothes that felt pretty and colorful and comfortable (and warm!).

Then I spent time playing with them at the kitchen table, trying all of the new crayons and markers and glitter glue that Santa put in their stockings.  We made colorful drawings of giraffes and little kids and hearts and rainbows and trucks.  We glued together little bits of sparkly wrapping paper and coloring book pages.  And we hung them all over the fridge with magnets.

When’s the last time you made a colorful drawing to hang on the fridge gallery??

To play like a child, to keep a hold of the childlike wonder of a child’s eyes…that is the gift that my kidlets continually bring to me.  They think that I’m teaching them since I run our school day, they think that I’m supposed to be showing them how to be in life.

When in fact, they show me.  How to play, how to let go of my angst, how to remember what the best things in life are.

Art Papers 2Yesterday afternoon and evening I spent some arting time playing and making some artist papers (I have no idea “artist papers” has some other meaning usually, I just kind of categorize these beauties as my art paper).  I use them in all kinds of projects, collage and mixed media works and in my art journals.  I hadn’t sat down and made a batch in some time now, and whew, it was so satisfying!  It seems I’m always working on a planned project these days, I have so many in my head waiting to get out.  But last night, I just enjoyed playing with paint and stamps and making a mess (and it has been too long since I last really thought about Child’s Play)!

The details:

  • I used colorful or interesting magazine full-page ads, spread a very thin coat of acrylic craft paint around on the page, followed by stamping shapes and textures on top of that with other colors of acrylic craft paints.
  • I use my fingers to spread the layers of paint on, no brushes involved in this play!  Sometimes I let layers dry before applying more paint, sometimes I just start with the next layer, not worrying about whether or not the last layer is dry.  
  • Sometimes I spread the layer of paint on the page and then take another page and press it onto the first page and get paint on both pages that way.  Makes for some added neat-o texture.
  • Then I stamp.
  • I typically use stamps that I’ve cut out of craft foam, bubble wrap, rubber bands wrapped around kids’ blocks, that sort of thing.
  • Sometimes I stamp in a pattern, sometimes it’s totally random.
  • All kinds of stuff works as stamps…Broccoli stems, plastic wrap bunched up, fingers, bottle tops, burlap, bubble wrap, q-tips, shapes cut out of styro foam packaging…no limits here.  I love making my own stamps!
  • I will make a bunch of pages at one time, kind of assembly-line-style.  I’ll end up with a few pages in the same color schemes, then I’ll switch it up on other pages.  Drying space is the only limiting factor here 🙂
  • These pages make for awesome fodder for other projects later!  I’ve made art journals, collages, mixed media projects, all using these papers (I usually spend some time just looking at and pondering my favorite pages for a while before using them…I also get wonderful inspiration from them!).
  • This is also a great use for those old magazines you have no idea what to do with…recycle?  give away?  save for a rainy day?  I watch craigslist for those people trying to give away magazines, too.

Art Papers 1

Your Prompt:  Go. Play.  And make some artist papers.  Pull out an old magazine and throw some paint on it.  Use your fingers.  Don’t worry about the mess.  And see what you can find around your house or your studio to use as texture stamps.  It’s fun!!

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

Art Supply Sample Inspiration, and Playing with the Kidlets

The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

December is speeding by, way too fast for my liking.  I hold my breath, hoping to hold on to the moments and slow them waaaaaaayyyyy dddoooooowwwwwwnnnnn.

Know what I mean?

This past week and half, I ended up lying in bed, feeling sorry for myself, nursing a totally stuffed up head and horrible chest cold that kept me from breathing a full breath.  And I am not the most gracious sick gal.  I pout, I whine, I pine for getting up and getting back to my normally scheduled activities.

I just couldn’t seem to kick this horrible cold, really, it kicked me.  Hard.  The only bright side was I got to nap a lot, which I don’t usually do (is that really a bright side?).

So I am behind, way behind, on everything.  And I feel a little bit like I lost some of my Christmas-song-listening-time.

Ah, but now I’m sort of back to it.  And the kiddos and I got to play yesterday after schooling was all done.  I have managed to get myself on a couple of art supply sample mailing lists, and so lately I’ve received several AWESOME packages in the mail with samples!!  Yee-haw!

It’s funny, while I was really just excited about getting some new artsy stuffs to play with, I hadn’t expected the joyful inspiration that would come out of it.  And not just my inspiration.  The kidlets were so excited to dig in and play, too!

They really are growing up, they’re no longer just mixing all of the colors on the paper and turning everything muddy grey-brown.  Now, they’re more purposefully putting color in places, thinking before they just smear stuff around.  I get the explanations of what they’re doing, they have stories and images and thoughts behind what’s going on to the paper or canvas or whatever.

And they’re digging in and trying new things, using gesso and collage and glue and found objects.  And they don’t get caught up (much) in what they’re supposed to be doing…they just play and create what feels good.

I love my little people.  They remind me what it’s all really about, that having a cold isn’t the end of the world, that not getting all of the official traditional stuff done is okay, that just hanging out and napping and playing is a great way to do it.

Ryland's World 3

Gifts from God, a Journal Page

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

~ Romans 12:12

I played a bit further with the ideas from the “Sketching my Breakfast” art journal pages, and Ithen I moved along to the next video in my class…which took all the sketching to a new journal page.

Although I had sketched coffee cups and muffins, my next project turned into cuppie cakes.

The kiddos one-by-one came along and asked me to make cuppie cakes just like the ones in my page, they looked so yummy!  I guess you know you’re successful when…right??

One of the most fun parts of this fun, luscious little project is the “canvas” part of the page.  In our class, Miss Junelle told us that she likes to gesso together book pages before she uses them as a place to sketch and watercolor…

Now, I use lots of old book pages for lots of things, but I simply couldn’t wrap my head around the way she kept saying that she gesso’d three book pages together.  I listened to her on the video like 5 times, trying to see if that’s what she really meant.

Well, let me tell you, that’s what it was all about!  I pulled out some of my extra book pages and gesso’d them together (I would normally Mod Podge them).  And to my delight, not only did it work, but it gave the paper canvas this wonderful feel, and crunch, and texture.  Nothing like the stiffness and bendy that comes from Mod Podging the whole thing together!

What a dream!  And not only is the texture awesome, but the edges are really easy to fray up a bit, adding to the look and feel of tattered pages.

I love it!!










Prompt: Try using old book pages as a canvas…you can gesso the pages together to make a thicker batch to work on.  NeoColors work wonderfully on the gesso’d pages!  And if you haven’t read my Ode to NeoColors, check it out for some fun ways to use water-soluble wax crayons!

Handmade Denim Purses, How-to Wing It

My sewing machine and a huge pile of scrap fabrics have both been sitting at the side of my room, taunting me.  I’m pretty sure I’ve been hearing such things as, “When are you gonna stop being a scaredy-cat and sew something?”…and clucking noises, as if I’m a chicken…Seriously?  My piles of art fodder are taunting me now??

Really, though, it was a bit of fear holding me back.  I kept thinking that I couldn’t do it, that I didn’t really know how to sew or how to just make something out of an image in my head.  I learned the basics of sewing many many years ago, but I’ve never really sewn anything without a pattern or some kind of instructions to follow.  I’ve never just made up my own pattern to follow.

Finally, I just decided to jump in, and I’m quite thrilled with what I learned:

  1. I can figure out how to do new things on the sewing machine.
  2. I can create my own pattern.
  3. I can use old blue jeans to make cute purses!
  4. The straps needed to be quite a bit longer than just measuring where they’re going to fall on the actual human form.
  5. Sew the embellishments onto the pieces of denim before sewing the pieces together.  It’s much more difficult after the fact.
  6. And lastly, little purses take a really long time to make (at least, when you don’t know what you’re doing yet, lol).

I drew out the pattern pieces on paper, measuring the pieces to the size that I wanted the little purses to be in the end, and then added a quarter inch all around for seams.  I measured the straps to the length that would fit around the girls’ necks so that the purse would hang like a satchel.  That was the one biggie I learned after the first purse…add several inches to what I think should be the length, as much of the length was taken up when I sewed the strap around the actual purse front and back.  By the time I put the second purse together, I was way faster and it all went much better.  You live and learn, right??

And the girls totally freaking love the little purses that I made for them!




























Prompt: What can you make with denim cut from old jeans??

Textured Caulk Hearts for the Art Journal

Whew!  This has been a crazy couple of weeks…I sort of fell off the regular posting bandwagon…again.

I know, I know, I didn’t think it would happen again.  I keep thinking life will settle into a routine, but I guess the routine has become what it now is.  Busy.  I always heard that as the kids get bigger and all hit school age that life will speed up.  I didn’t really understand that.  It actually has gotten busier.  I think that I thought it wouldn’t happen to us, not our family.

Ha.  It did happen to us, to our family.  The kids always have something going on, and it seems now that something is always getting thrown at us, someone needs a ride somewhere, or a buddy is having a birthday party, or the like.  Add to that mix all of the things that were already going on around here, and we have a busy little lifestyle brewing.

Not that I’m complaining, I just don’t always seem to sneak in the blog time.  I DO still find the arting time though 🙂  So I do have a backlog of planned posts to share fun things with you.

In the theme of using caulk for texture, I’m going to share with you a fun journal page…using tinted caulk.

I actually was working on a canvas and had made up a tinted batch of caulk and ended up with way too much.  And I hate to wasted paint or medium.  Often with leftover paint, I smear it around on pages in my little book of quotes, later to be used as the beginnings of backgrounds.

With caulk, you don’t have much time to figure out what to do with it, or it’ll dry out too fast to get it onto anything.  So get smarter than me, have something handy and ready to use the leftover caulk…

I did have handy my larger art journal.  I tend to gesso 5 or 10 pages ahead of time (when I’m not particularly inspired, I spend my art time gesso-ing books and junk mail to be ready for when I am inspired).

I’ll show you what came out of it here and then give you a few tips:

I used heart-shaped doilies (on sale for $0.30 at the grocery store after Valentine’s Day).  The tip here: I used an old credit card to smear the caulk over the doily.  Go for as few strokes as possible to smear the caulk over the doily, cuz the doily will not take much abuse before tearing.  Also, with too much working, the caulk will seep through and around the mask of the doily.  And lastly, with too much working, the doily will not peel up very easily once you have the caulk down.

I did go back after the fact and add the background color and other details.  The first step simply was the tinted caulk onto the blank-but-gessoed-page (again a symptom of not being prepared with anything for the leftover gesso).

I did the right page first, then went back and tried unsuccessfully to do a negative image of the caulk heart.  Still turned out pretty cool, just not exactly what I had in mind (triumphant blunders, huh?)…

I also spent a lot of time the past couple of weeks making decorations and odd little party favors for one of the kidlets’ birthday parties, making little recycled denim purses for the girls, and working on a special journal that will ultimately be a Christmas gift.  I’ll share more of those projects later.

I’m also hoping to get some time for the Art of Wild Abandonment 2, over at Christy Tomlinson’s.  I have been just itching to get in there and play, and it started a week ago!!  I keep walking past my computer, where I’ve got the page open to my login, and just haven’t had time to sit down and watch a video.  Pitiful, huh.

I hope your week or two has been fantastic, I hope you’re arting and loving and living.  And I’d love to see what you’re all up to, drop me a comment or a note anytime.  I’d love to hear from you 🙂

Prompt:  If you haven’t tried using caulk for anything yet, NOW is the time!  It’s cheap, it’s easy to play with, it’s tint-able, it’s readily available, and it is textural yumminess!