Recently I did a Happy Mail share with a new artist friend in New Zealand. Happy Mail is where you send something that's not a bill or business related. It's something that's fun and makes the user happy when they open it. This little ATC was a gift for her; she had sent something very creative that I really loved and I wanted to share back.
While I usually make journals I find that I also love to make ATCs. As a matter of fact I've even started making them in place of cards for birthdays or other occasions. It's a little piece of artwork and so much fun to make. It's also something different. I've mentioned this before, but I tend to use playing cards as the base for my ATCs. Mostly because at 2 decks for $1.00 at the Dollar Tree you can't beat it. It's also a whole lot easier to use a playing card rather than cutting out 104 cards that size. If I were more motivated and organized I might even keep track of which cards I send to people because some day someone might wind up with a complete deck of cards all done as ATCs (I've begun to decorate the backing side and leave the playing side available for viewing. But keeping track of that and having that many decks going seems like more work than it's worth.
Back to this little lovely...I had so much fun making it (of course I seem to have so much fun making all of my art projects, but isn't that the point?) Once again I had no idea what was going to happen when I began. I just throw elements together, even glueing them down right away which gets rather tricky when I realize I've changed my mind. But somehow it all seems to come together and at some point I wind up with a direction for the card. For this one all I knew was that it had to have some purple in it because that's her favorite color.
Starting with the base of the card I covered it with a book page. In this light it doesn't really show through, but it's there. Next I added napkin sprayed with homemade alcohol inks. I then ripped up some floral pages and make a garden of sorts. I had actually laid down something else and didn't like it, when I ripped it up and added a piece of the floral paper I realized what I wanted to do.
Next, having realized I was making a landscape, I went digging through my stamps box looking for something to serve as a sun. I think this one was perfect and used a yellow marker to shape and color the space. Have I mentioned that I LOVE stamps? They're so fabulous, you can use them because of color, object, country, currency amount, shape, they're really a fabulous art supply. The hard part is getting some from overseas.
I had thought of writing on the card but while I was going through some of the bits on my desk (it gets r-e-a-l-l-y messy when I'm creating) I found these words leftover from a previous project. It seemed like a really good fit and gave me the idea to make clouds out of white acrylic paint, just dabbing it on with my fingers (those also get really messy-- (I really should put moisturizer or liquid gloves to make cleaning up easier).
My next thought was that I needed some foreground so I added music paper with green spray ink and green pen. While I had the pens out I added extra color to the floral paper. Finished the whole thing of with an edge of gold-ish ink (the marker is wearing out and I really need to get a new one), dark brown marker on the very edge,
If anyone else is making ATCs I love to hear any of your favorite techniques or ideas.
One of my favorite things to do is to create journals. Putting together different papers and media to craft a special one-of-a-kind book that someone else can use and enjoy. Each one that I make is different due to the variety of papers and how I feel when I start adding paint, ink, marker, and pen to the page.
This particular journal is the biggest one I've ever made. It's a gift for a friend and I'm so excited to be able to deliver it in person (she lives in Australia, I'm in the US). As you can see from the cover below, I'm calling it the Blue Butterfly Journal. It started life as a composition book which I gutted, decorated the cover, and then added two signatures of a variety of papers. Some of the papers are the original composition book pages which I altered by using homemade alcohol inks to spray them. I also included map pages and a couple of pages from a travel book. I put the travel book pages upside down because I wanted her to use them as a glue spot or to journal over. In my experience if it's upside-down people will "deface" it because it becomes background material. If it's right side up they somehow feel they shouldn't use it. I think all of the pages are there to be used.
And, of course, I'm a fan of teabags and tags. There are just a couple of tea-bags in this one but there are LOTS of tags. I had so much fun using a number of different things for the tags and tucking them in everywhere. I also created some big tuck-in spots by folding pages over so that it would hold ephemera, postcards, tickets, etc.
It took a very long time to make this journal but I'm really thrilled with the way that it came out. It was so much fun to make something this size that I know I'm going to be doing it again. I've already gone to the store and bought a couple of composition books that are just waiting to be pulled apart and "arted" up.
Not too long ago I was trying to explain to some what kind of art I do. I don't really know what to call it. It's sort of a collage-mixed-media-scrungy-scrappy-doodley-scruffy sort of art. I haven't yet figured out what to call it, but it's what I do and I love it.
Because I was having a hard time explaining it I decided to make them something so they could see it for themselves. Truthfully when I make something I don't usually set out to with the finished product in mind. In other words I don't know what it's going to look like, or what I want it to be, until it's done. I begin by deciding what sort of item I'm going to make (postcard, journal, ATC, or whatever) and then just begin to play. As I add elements and play, through the layers a theme often develops all on it's own. While I have created some items with a theme in mind (usually for a swap), that's not typical for me.
My favorite art supplies are almost-dead paint brush markers and bits of paper. Not any paper mind you, what I like the most are the bits that would otherwise go in the recycle bin. Parts of boxes, envelopes, magazines, food wrappers, newspaper, ads, that sort of thing. I've learned from my art teacher, Kate, how to be much more organized. It used to be an explosion of stuff in a box and not always easy to find. Now I have a shoebox filled with zip lock baggies, all organized by color. When I'm looking for a 'something-to-go-here' I can think about what color I want and go to the proper baggie and find it. Kate's also taught me to add dimension to my pieces by including 3D elements.
And then there's the signature part of my style. I try to always (except on ATCs because it would take up too much room) add teabags and tags to my pieces. And postage stamps. I love postage stamps. But I'm mostly known for teabags and tags. I don't know why but I adore that little surprise of pulling out a tag. It's a lagniappe, a something extra, that makes the piece as far as I'm concerned. And as you may have guessed, I have an envelope of teabag envelopes (and I'm always looking for more, especially unusual ones) and another envelope full of tags of all sorts.
I wanted to share my thoughts about crafting vs art. This came out of a discussion on a forum I follow. The discussion covered several topics. (1) Was there a difference between "just crafting" and "feeling like a 'real' artist" (2) how to handle lack of creative impulse or wanting to do art but not knowing what to do (3) when stuck for ideas having the temptation to go to the art supply store and buy stuff in the hopes that it would result in creative ideas springing forth
These are my thoughts about the matter.
I think just the act of creating makes you an artist. There no such thing as "just a crafter". Art is, after all, very subjective. I believe that all forms of creation are art. But if the voice in your head is getting in the way of your art have some mindless art tasks that you can do like doodling or creating background pages. Making supplies like your own alcohol inks, transfers, or prepping paper for later use. These are things that need to be done so you'll have supplies on hand but they don't require you to feel that creative, must do art, impulse. Just play.
To overcome the want/need/buy impulse (in the hopes that it will spark creativity) see what you can salvage or recycle from everyday objects. I recently went through my mail and salvaged the following to file away for art projects: 3 stamps, 2 envelopes, 2 images from a furnitures store sales piece, a few words from the grocery store flyer, and a picture from an advertising postcard. Seeing and filing these things sometimes gives me ideas and helps me realize I don't need to spend money to make art. I can be creative with what is already around me. Of course shredding magazines is another great way to get some ideas, there are so many pictures and words to be cut out and tucked away.
And to address the final point, I believe that process of trying something new/different is part of the process of art. This past summer I was fortunate enough to see a museum exhibit on Degas, one of my favorite artists. In the exhibit were a number of his "studies," attempts to do something over and over in different ways. Playing with line, light, color and shape. I've shred two images above. These studies were beautiful and inspiring, but they were not necessarily the finished product.
What we see in the art history books or the museums is often just the last in a series of works. It does not accurately represent the creative process that resulted in it. Yet in my humble opinion those "studies" are still very much considered to be art. So again, just play, create, and allow the artist within you to shine through.
I recently participated in an ATC swap with a Valentine's theme. I love making ATCs because it's a small piece of art (2.5" x 3.5") and yet in that small amount of space you can create some wonderful details.
I've discovered that rather than paying a lot of money for blank ATC's (they sell them at the art supply store near the art paper and canvases) playing cards are exactly the right size. Buying decks of playing cards at the dollar store for two packs for a dollar gives you a LOT of ATCs to play with. In the past I would painstakingly sand them down to give some "tooth" to my art. It was a pain in the tush and I didn't really like doing it (plus it created a lot of dust that got everywhere). I discovered from my art teacher that if I just used a better quality glue I didn't have to do the sandpaper thing, so no more of that.
I forgot to take pictures before I sent these off to my swap partner. Luckily she took a picture and share it with me (thanks Cat!).
When working with the small space of an ATC it's really wonderful to see how many layers and how much detail you can get. I love watching the richness of detail develop as I'm working on the page. And with these, because I needed to make three for the swap, I wanted them to coordinate but each be different.
Here's how I made the layers:
I'm really happy with how these ATCs came out; I'm having a hard time deciding which one I like the best. But I love this as a Valentine and will probably make some for loved ones.
I've been participating in a postcard swap. No theme really, just about free expression and random acts of kindness. Pick a name and address off the list and send them some happy mail.
Funny enough all three of these postcards started off the same way but then as I began to work with each one they changed dramatically. I've been incorporating more acrylic paint into my mixed media collage work. It's very fluid and has a very different effect than my still-absolutely-favorite almost-dead paint markers*. I resisted using paint for the longest time because I didn't want to start accumulating a ton of supplies, I'm trying to use what I have and what I find. But for color if I want to do more I think I need to allow for some purchasing of supplies.
I began by dripping 2-3 different colors of acrylic paint onto paper and then using a plastic card (a hotel key I forgot to return, man those things are really useful) to scrape across the page and spread it around. I used it straight up this time. I may decide to get some squeeze bottles and thin down some acrylic to try squirting it rather than blopping it on the page -- yes, blop IS a technical term :-)
I then just began to play with adding color, tissue paper, paper, marker, etc one at a time to build each one into the different postcards you see down below. I think if I had worked on all three at the time time they probably would have come out more similar rather than the vastly different looks that I got. I like this a lot and I enjoy the process of focusing on just one at a time. I may, however, try to do a series at some point just to see what happens.
The last one with the quote on it is my favorite. I just took random bits of paper out of my itty-bitty scrap box that sits on my desk. It's for all the little fiddly bits of paper that I really don't want to file but which might be usable. I simply laid the first piece down and then started building, roughly aligning edges, until the card was full. I then went over it with an almost-dead paint marker to even out the color, then wrote the quote on top. I like how this came out so much I'm going to try it again on a larger scale and see what happens.
The best part is that I had a lot of fun creating the postcards and then I get to mail them out and share some real mail happiness with someone else.
* These are my favorite kind of markers (although, of course, I prefer them when they're heavily used and not fresh)
This was for a swap project where we were supposed to use recycled items. It was a lot of fun to have to look at things differently and put them together to make this heart.
It was fun to experiment with this napkin. I took a regular two ply napkin apart, crumpled it up and then glued it down. Painted over that, markered the edge with my favorite art supply, almost dead paint marker, and then added a little sharpie detail. On the inside are lots of yummy recycled pieces. I especially liked using the roses which are a packing tape transfer that I made from a magazine,
I really love using tea bag envelopes and tags in my art. I don't know why but having those extra little pockets to tuck things into is very fun and appealing to me. It's especially wonderful when I find a tea bag that goes so perfectly with the topic.
I thought this quote was wonderful and really like the way the words came out on this scrappy paper that I made by accident. The paper was simply underneath what I was working on for different projects. Over time it got more and more detailed until it became an art supply in and of itself. The original purpose was simply so that the markers and colors wouldn't bleed through onto my table but now I've learned to do this all the time and just trust that eventually I'm going to have another piece of fabulous paper that I can use for creating art.
I also liked having some writing space and made it so that flipping open the inside card gives some blank space. I further extended it by using washi tape. It's really wonderful how easy washi tape is to use and it makes great hinges for things like this.
The list of recycled supplies in this project:
tea bag envelope
scrungie paper (not sure what to call it but that will do)
a postage stamp
markers (the almost dead ones, I figure that's a form of recycling)
an assortment of papers
and I suppose I should include the glue :-)
This summer I had the opportunity to visit my Aunt Susan. While we were hanging out together she showed me this beautiful journal that she had. Leather bound, with fabulous quality paper and rough edges it was a thing of beauty. We both sat there admiring it.
At this point I should back up and share that Susan lives in a very small apartment. She's been there for decades and it's just perfect for her. However she, like me, loves paper and things of that sort. She's not a hoarder. She's actually amazingly organized and neat. She has a really smart rule when it comes to clothing and other items. One in, one out. Works great for socks, etc. Paper? That's another story.
Despite the one in/one out rule, Susan, like me, has a difficult time with paper. Once she gets her hands on it, it doesn't ever seem to want to leave (must be where I inherited that from). She has also somehow tapped into the alternate dimension in her closet because it's a-maz-ing what she's managed to accumulate in there.
Part of my self-imposed responsibility every time I visit her is to help her declutter. It's funny how much easier it is to declutter someone else's stuff. Usually when I visit Susan the decluttering involves things like going through large boxes of old photographs and helping her winnow them down. Or shredding magazines to only keep the good bits. But I digress...
Susan told me that she'd had the book for a long time but somehow couldn't bring herself to actually use it. As I sat there petting the cover and caressing the pages she asked me if I would like it. Ummmm, let me thing about that for .02 nanoseconds. Why of course, I would be happy to help you declutter this little puppy outta your apartment. Sadly I had no room in my luggage. Fortunately Susan lives around the corner from a post office. About a week later it arrived.
And then it sat. I pulled it out several times but it just kept sitting there. I texted Susan and told her I was having a hard time getting started. She suggested that I skip the first page. So I folded the first page over and stared at the second page for a few days. Then inspiration struck. The results are the image below. I'm really happy with it and grateful to have gotten started. Because once you start it seems easier to continue.
The words are from a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote I really like that seems to be a theme for me lately:
Live in the sunshine
Swim in the sea
Drink the wild air
I love when I find great base materials to work with for collaging. In this case these are cards that I found at Michael's. 80 cards, in a variety of colors and patterns, they were on sale for $5. Practically screaming to jump into my cart. I confess I had to restrain myself from buying two sets. I told myself that one set was enough. Of course when it's gone I'm probably going to regret that decision, but for now I'm using the cards for art and enjoying the process.
For these two I simply took a bunch of leftover bits of paper and began glueing them down at random. Adding in pain, markers, and a little bit of doodling.
With the first one I tried stamping with bubblewrap and paint. I then added dots to some of the paint spots. I really liked the effect and wanted to try it again so I did it on the second card. However I used a different piece of bubblewrap because I was using yellow paint and didn't want to wash the darker paint off the first piece of bubblewrap. I don't want to call it a mistake because I like the way the card turned out in the end. However it didn't work out. The bubblewrap that I tried to use for the second card wouldn't leave nice round impressions. It just splopped onto the card. After trying and wiping it off several times I realized that perhaps the bubblewrap wasn't as firm as the first one. Lesson learned. Identify which ones work well before trying this again.
Having said that I do like the way the second card came out and I think the little splops of yellow work out just fine.
This sweet little journal came out of a page that was a free giveaway. I started with the base of the page and then began adding color, dimension, and doodles to it.
On one page I wanted to add words. What came to mind were the beginning lines from The Jabberwocky -- 'Twas brillig and the slithy toves, did gyre and gimble in the wabe. I liked the way that it came out so much I continued adding more words from the poem. But I decided that I wanted to make it semi-illegible. Not sure why, but I think it's much more fun that way.
And I had a great time adding colors, bits and pieces of paper, and in general turning this into a super cute mini album. I love having all the tags in it and that extra space to journal or add bits of ephemera and memory things.