Category Archives: Tips & Ideas

Watercolour Play

I sometimes think I spend more time playing and practicing with my paints than I do finishing pieces of art, but I do believe this is the best way to learn.

I have been spending a long time organising and playing with my watercolours recently.

Daniel Smith Watercolours

First of all I prepared my own little travel set. I purchased this tiny empty metal watercolour box which would hold 12 half pans.

Empty metal watercolour box

But I removed the metal insert trays inside which gave me so much more room. I then re configured the layout so that it would take 24 half pans. I glued in my own half pans and filled them with my preferred colours to create my unique palette. I finished off the paint palette by painting and inserting a reference chart of the colours and Voila!

Travel Watercolour Set

This is such a portable size 5″ x 3″ and perfect for travelling. Plus of course I now have a larger choice of colours for such a small tin.

Then I spent a great deal of time preparing and loading my paints into my large watercolour carousel which I keep in my art room.

Watercolour Carousel Palette

I purchased this carousel online from Robax. It spins around so it is easy to access all the colours. It is probably a little larger than I needed (15″ diameter) and maybe the next size down would have been more practical and taken up less room.

Now it was time to play.

I often spot colours that accidentally fall together on my art table and I suddenly notice what a great colour combination they are and they inspire me, so I decided that when I notice these I would paint the colours together on a piece of watercolour paper as a reminder reference. So I painted a few that I liked and then threaded them on a chain to hang up in my art room.

Watercolour combinations

I can look at these when I need inspiration. But of course this is just a beginning and I will add to the colour chain as I find more great colour combinations. I think I will also paint some three colour combinations too.

Finally, I decided to make myself a reference book of watercolour techniques that I have discovered. So I painted out the ideas and made notes with each technique.

Watercolour Techniques

I then got out my Cinch Binder for the first time.

Cinch Binder

It was incredibly fast and easy to use. I used it to put together this little book. I left some spare blank pages at the end for me to add techniques as I discover more.

Watercolour Techniques

Once again this makes a good reference for inspiration.

So all in all I thought my play days were an excellent way of learning more about watercolours.

I wonder if you have got any great watercolour techniques, video links or website pages with ideas for me to add to my techniques book? If so I would love it if you could share them in the comments.

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Face Portrait using Charcoal

I sketched this face portrait from June Biagioni’s ‘Drawing in the Soul’ online class using charcoal pencil and pastels. This is an exceptionally good class and I am enjoying every minute of it. If you would like to learn how to draw portraits then I really recommend this class.

Face portrait

This was my first attempt at using charcoal and I really enjoyed using it, much to my surprise. I find charcoal messy but I used this method of catching the charcoal crumbs that inevitably fall away as you are drawing.

Tape along bottom of easel

I used a table easel and I taped double sided tape on the lower edge which is slightly tilted up to create a channel. The tape attracted the falling crumbs and they stuck to the tape. This meant that there was no mess left on my worktop and no charcoal crumbs were inadvertently smudged on to my drawing whilst I was sketching. One of the reasons I have always avoided charcoal is that I don’t like the mess. But this solved the problem nicely.

I took some photos of the progression of this portrait from start to finish and then made it into a quick little video for you if you would like to see how it evolved.

 

I was really pleased with this sketch and felt I had made a huge stride forward with my portrait drawing. Now I just need time to practice more.

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Artwork using my fabric cords

Do you remember when I showed you how to make fabric cords to include in your art I showed you this photo at the end.Ideas for fabric strips

This is where I laid out a couple of my cords on paper together with some small samples of painted papers?

Well this little lay out sat on my work top in my art room and kept calling out to me to create something.

So finally I found the time and this was the outcome.

LovelyFlowers

Watercolours, collage, stitchery and some added word snippets on 8″ x 12″ watercolour paper.

I was very happy with this piece and all inspired from a little play with making fabric cords.

Gotta keep that brain inspired!

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How to Make Fabric Cords

I have been playing with surface design techniques again today working on making fabric cords.

Making Gabric Cords

I am so-o-o pleased with the results. They are even better than I had imagined.

This is how I made them ………

First of all I selected some fabrics from my batik fabric stash. My fabric stash is vast as I was a quilter long before I became an artist. All my fabrics are 100% cotton. The batik fabrics work well for the cords because the design is on both sides of the fabric.

Batik Fabric

You could of course experiment with other types of fabric, because this is how we discover new and inspiring ideas.

I then tore a strip from the fabric about ½” wide. To begin the tear I snip the end of the fabric first with scissors.

Batik fabric

Once I have torn my fabric strip I squeeze a line of glue down the middle of my strip.

Glued fabric strip

This is the glue I used and it works very well.

Clear glue

But you can use any water based glue that dries clear.

Immediately after adding the glue I twist the strip in opposite directions from both ends.

Twisting a cord

Then give the strip a small pull and run my finger and thumb along the strip to make sure glue is distributed throughout.

And voilà, I have made a fabric cord.

Completed Fabric Cord

I just leave it flat on the table to dry.

I then experimented a little more.

Here you will see four different strips. From the left the first one is ½” wide. The second one is wider. The third one has one edge pinked with pinking shears instead of torn and the fourth one is pinked on both sides.

Different Fabric strips

And this is how they finished up.

Different fabric cords

If you look closely you will see that they are all slightly different.

Different hand made cords

So it depends what type of finish you would like.

My final experiment was to cut a strip with a varied width. Here you will see that I added two lines of glue and a thicker amount of it on the wider end.

Varied width fabric strip

This worked out very well too. It gave me a fabric cord that was less uniform in width. This could add more interest to any artwork.

Varied width fabric strip

So all in all I was very pleased with the results.

Fabric cords

I can see a lot of possibilities with these fabric cords for use in my artwork. My imagination has been fired up and I can’t wait to work on a piece of art with the ideas that are racing around in my head. It feeds my soul to be able to incorporate fabric and stitchery into my art.

Ideas for fabric strips

It’s amazing how playing with materials can inspire you. Why not give it a go!

More Mixed Surface ideas coming up over the coming days. Remember to subscribe to posts (top right) to receive email updates. 

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How to Make Textured Papers

Today I decided to have a play …….. painting textured papers to incorporate into my artwork.

Textured Paper
Textured Paper
Textured Paper
Textured Paper

What fun! and some great results.

This is how I painted them………

I used acrylic paints and photocopy paper. I mostly used old photocopy paper that I always save in order to try and re-use (to save those poor old trees). Here is a sample of some of the papers I used.

Printed photocopy paper
Printed photocopy paper
Printed photocopy paper
Printed photocopy paper

As you can see they have bits of printing on but I like that. I think that it adds to the final surface design. You will see a selection of book pages, old invoices and even the printer test page.

I chose a colour scheme and randomly painted designs on these with my acrylic paints. I used stencils, stamps and some of my mark making tools. (you can see my home made mark making ideas here). I used my acrylic paints fairly watered down.

Textured Paper

Once I finished painting each sheet I screwed it up whilst still wet.

Scrunched painted paper

Then opened it out and left it lying flat to dry.

When mostly dry but still just a little damp I ironed each sheet between a layer of kitchen roll (top and bottom). This was just to ensure that I didn’t get any paint residue on either the iron or ironing board.

Here is my first stack of completed textured papers.

textured Papers

You will notice that within each painted sheet there are some great areas of texture and colour. I have isolated some for you to see.

Textured paper

Textured Paper

Textured Paper

A camera is a great way of viewing isolated areas that you may want to incorporate into your artwork.

I then changed my colour scheme and worked with some different colours. Here are some of the papers that I produced.

Textured Papers
And here are some of the exciting areas of texture and colour that I found.

Textured Paper

Textured Paper

This one I loved. It was the one that I painted on the used paper invoice with the italic writing on it. Can’t wait to find a use for that piece!

Textured Paper

It was a messy day. Next time I will wear rubber gloves.

Messy Hand

But very enjoyable and I am very happy with my new textured papers. Maybe I will have another play day soon and try some different colour schemes.

If you have enjoyed this photo tutorial then please do subscribe to my blog posts (top right) as I am planning to do a series of posts on textured papers over the coming days and weeks. I have lots more ideas that I want to try out.

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Happy Accidents

I have just completed two more little story books of imaginary creatures, which means I now have three. I really love these and can’t wait to give them to my two adorable little grandkids. And maybe keep one as a spare, ready for when grandchild number three arrives. Ha ha!

A set of Imaginary Creature Books

But in the meantime I wanted to tell you about my happy little accidents.

Firstly, I had written the words “let’s go walkies” on the wrong book. Oh no!!!

Walkies

I was so cross with myself. It was written with a permanent black pigma pen and there was no way I could cover it with my watercolours. But, quick as a flash I came up with an idea. I grabbed my watercolour sample pieces and cut out some flower shapes big enough to cover the words.

Watercolour samples

These sample pieces are in fact little squares that I have from where I practice my watercolour techniques. And they always come in very useful. I stuck the flowers over the top of the wrong words so that I could write the correct words elsewhere on the page.

Corrected

You can see the new correct words back on the first photo in this post of the three books.

I was really pleased with myself and in fact I really liked the idea. It gave the book a 3D effect and the page more interest.

With this in mind I decided to use the same technique to alter a colour that I was not happy with in my other book. I had changed my mind so many times on the colour of this little fellow’s ear that the watercolour had become dull, dense and uninteresting.

Imaginary Creature Book

Sample pieces to the rescue again! I traced the shape of the ear onto another of my watercolour samples, glued it on the top and outlined it. And voila!

Watercolour Book Mistake

I am much happier with it now.

So you see, a horrible error turned out into a new technique, which I will definitely use again.

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Mark Making Ideas 5

Today I have a great tutorial for you on how to make your own rubber stamps for mark making. These are so quick and easy to make and VERY inexpensive. I love carving my own stamps and I think you are gonna love these ideas.

I carved this stamp a while back and you can see it is well used. I find it very useful for adding marks and it appears in lots of my work.

Mark Making Stamp

Round stamp

But since deciding to share these mark making tips with you I have carved myself some more and I can’t wait to use them.

You can buy this Stamp Carving Kit very easily on Amazon.

Stamp Carving Kit

And this is what you will get.

Speedball Stamp Carving

It is very inexpensive and I would definitely recommend you buy the stamp carving tool, which you can also buy separately I believe (with different shaped blades too).

But as you can see I haven’t even opened the Speedy Carve Rubber yet. And that is because I use these.

Erasers

Yes that’s right. Just everyday erasers. These were all very cheap erasers. Just pennies really. And they are perfect!

Eraser

You will also find a craft knife very useful. Indeed you could do the entire carving with a craft knife but the Speedball Cutting Tool does make the job easier I find.

Craft Knife

So, let’s carve our first rubber stamp then, eh!

First of all I draw my design directly on to the eraser. I use a very fine marker pen for this. I don’t choose elaborate designs, just simple shapes. They are purely to add interest to my work.

Erasers

Then I use my Speedball carving tool to begin the carving. Here is my first cut.

First cut

I continue in this manner just cutting the outline of the shapes.

Outlined

Then I continue to carve with the tool, making sure that the background to the shapes is well carved away. It needs to be a significant depth so as not to attract paint or ink when applying to finished stamp.

Chiselled

If the design is more intricate then I use the Craft Knife for the tricky bits as I can get into the nooks and crannies more easily with this. Make sure to carve a little at a time in order not to make any heavy handed mistakes in the cutting. !!! Do remember you are working with very sharp tools, so be careful not to slip and cut yourself !!!

When I am happy with the cut aways I then use an emery board (nail file) to sharpen up all my edges to complete. When you are happy with the shape and cut aways make sure to brush away all the loose crumbs of rubber. I do this with a small dry paint brush.

Next, ink up your completed eraser to make sure you are happy with all of the carving. Make sure that no parts of the eraser are picking up the ink that you don’t want to. I just press mine on an ink stamp pad.

Inked

And then test it out on a piece of paper.

Stamped

If you are happy with the stamped design your eraser is ready to use. If you are not happy with the stamped image go back and re-carve until you are satisfied.

Here are the other stamps that I carved.

Flowerinked
Flowerstamped
Oblongscarved
Oblongs
Circles
Dots stamped

Can you believe how easy it is? I have stamped these carved rubber stamps here and there on to this painted background purely so that you can see the effect.

Stamped

They are cool, aren’t they?

You can use them with ink pads or any of your paints. I use mine a lot with acrylic paint. I do give them a bit of a scrub with water and a small scrubbing brush after use. You will never get all of the paint off but you don’t want to get the grooves clogged up with too much paint.

I do hope you have a go at carving some of these yourself. They are so easy to do (each one took me about 15 minutes to make) and there are infinite possibilities for designs.

I will save my Speedy Carve rubber mat for a more intimate design I think. But for the moment I can’t wait to go and try out these new rubber stamps that I have carved for you today.

Happy Carving!

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Mark Making Ideas 4

Today I am going to hopefully inspire you to look for implements around the house that you can use for mark making. My eyes are now finely tuned to look for shapes in everyday items and I come across new mark making implements all the time.

Utensils

The kitchen is a good source of supplies for me. How about a spatula?

Spatula

Who would have thought!

Spatula

Or a plastic pizza slicer…….. not sure how good it is for slicing pizza.

Pizza

But it glides across my artwork beautifully to create erratic lines.

Pizza Slicer

And a basting brush, which I actually use a lot in the kitchen, (not the same one I use for painting I hasten to add)

Basting Brush

Makes some good random marks.

Basting Brush

Then we have paint scrapers.

Paint Scrapers

I use these a lot to add painted lines.

ScrapersNow let’s go to the hairdressers. These combs were cheap and cheerful

Hair combsI drag them a little across the page

Combs

And …… not sure what you call this but it is the plastic brush that you use to pull hair conditioner through your hair.

Hair brush

I like this one because I can creat circular dots like this.

Hair brush

Or if I twist it as I print it makes this nice twisted dots design.

Hair brush twist

Then finally…… and I use these a lot!

Doggie poo bags!

Dog bags

But not the bags but the inner roll that the bags are rolled on to. (already used, hence the paint)

Plastic tube

I always save these because they are useful for printing circles.

Tube close up

Tube dots

I should point out that for all my mark making I first spread my paint with a brayer on to a piece of heavy duty glass that I keep on my art worktop. (the glass was an idea that I got from Flora Bowley). Then I press my mark making tools into the paint spread to gather up paint.

Well that is al for today. Although I suspect I could come up with endless more ideas if I started rummaging in my drawers. What Ideas can you come up with for implements that will make interesting marks? Go and have a search around the house and see what you can find.

I will be blogging again next week with some more mark making ideas and I think you are gonna love them. So do remember to stop by again next week or in case you forget you might like to subscribe to my blog posts on the top right of the Home page.

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Mark Making Ideas 3

Today we will be using fun foam again to make more mark making tools. We are going to make a stamping tool.

First of all you will need your fun foam.

Fun Foam

And an old credit card or Hotel room key. Often these types of card are used as advertising gimmicks too. Never EVER throw these away. They are so useful for many things in art. I will give you more ideas for these another time.

Credit cards

Cut yourself three small oblongs about 4″ x 3″. Layer and stick these together with quick drying craft glue.

Fun Foam thickness

Cut out some small shapes of your choice from the craft foam. I have cut out triangular shapes for my stamping tool. I have purposely cut these to odd shaped sizes for the usual randomness that I enjoy. (You can see they are not perfect and that works well for me). Then I have stuck them to one side of my old credit card.

Credit card stamper 2

Next you will need some old wine (or champagne) corks. Once again, always save yourself a little stock of corks. They are so useful.

Mark Making Corks

I have cut down a wine bottle cork to make myself a small handle for my credit card. You can use a craft knife or scissors. This handle is not essential but makes the credit card stamp easier to use.

Credit card stamper 3

Now add paint and begin stamping.

Credit card stamper 4

It does add some more interesting marks to your artwork.

Foam Stamp design

If you don’t have a credit card you can use the same technique to add foam shapes to strips of cardboard. Here are two of mine that I have stuck to an ordinary piece of thick card and a corrugated piece.

Stamps

You will probably notice that for these cardboard stamps I only used one layer of foam. And I also carved some lines into them for more texture. They also do not have cork handles. These two stamps I use a lot. I find these marks very useful in my work.

I also use the edge of my corrugated card stamp to make marks too.

Edge

You see I am always thinking of ways of making marks. Just add paint and stamp.

Card edge stamped

These cardboard foam stamps were the original way that I made my foam stamps. Since then I have progressed to the credit card type. Why?

  1. Because they are easier to wash off the paint (being plastic).
  2. Because the cork handles make them easier to place and lift off my work
  3. Because the three layers of foam add height and prevent the edges of the plastic from gathering paint and adding hard edges to my design.

But both methods work so just make use of what materials you have.

Here you will see glimpses of the stamps being used in my work.

Foam stamp idea

Foam stamp idea 2

Foam stamp image

Now it’s time for you to make some foam stamps. Let’s see what you come up with. Please leave me a comment below to let me know how you get on.

There will be another mark making post here tomorrow. I hope you are enjoying my ‘Mark Making’ series. Remember if you would like to follow this series it may be a good idea to ‘Subscribe to Posts’ in the top right hand side of the Home page or follow me through your RSS feed.

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Mark Making Ideas 2

After showing you the Mark Making Roller yesterday I thought I would continue on the rolling theme today. So, here is another simple rolling tool that you can make.

Rolling Pin
Fun Foam

As you can see I have cut some small random oblong shapes from the craft foam. I have purposely made these odd sizes as I do not want this tool to print a pattern that is too uniform.

Then I have stuck them all around the rolling pin with tacky glue in sort of continuous lines going around the rolling pin.

Rolling Pin Tool

When rolled onto my artwork they do make an interesting design.

MM1

You can choose to only add paint to portions of the roller if you do not want your pattern to be too uniform.

Mark Making

If you decide to make a ‘rolling pin mark making tool’ think of the endless possibilities of designs you could come up with. Just cut some different shapes from the foam and make more rollers. The rolling pins should be pretty cheap (mine only cost pennies). I think circle shapes in various sizes would work well. That’s what I am going to try with the next one I make.

What shape ideas could you come up with?

Look out for my next mark making post tomorrow. I will be moving away from rolling tools but have some more ideas for fun foam. And after that even more ideas in the days to come. I hope I am inspiring you to create. Please do leave me a comment below to let me know if you are enjoying this ‘mark making’ series.

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