Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Musings on the Subject of Paint

For years I've painted with acrylics. Acrylics have been a good fit for me and I am very comfortable using them. I love them in the way you love your oldest, rattiest pair of shoes. I know the medium, what I can do with it, how the paint moves. When I am painting, it's as if they are are an extension of the paintbrush which is an extension of me. I like to blend and shade my colors as I work and I can do this better with acrylics than with any other medium.

I find that acrylics are forgiving in a way that watercolors are often not - if you make a mistake, just paint over it. And I do that a lot. I have multiple sclerosis and my hand shakes a lot, especially when I'm tired. I hold it as steady as I can with my other hand and I press it against the table as I work. If you've ever seen the cartoon of the writer with writer's block and trash cans overflowing with crumpled paper, well, you've seen my studio some days.

I've done some tole painting in the past, but I never really cared for the "folksy", country style that defines a lot of tole designs for myself. I prefer elegance to country, traditional to folksy, vintage to country bumpkin. So mostly I have simply painted.

One of my most favorite projects ever was our kitchen window (pictured on the right). We have a window over our kitchen sink that looks out into our entry hall. Before you point out that it's an odd place for a window, I should tell you that it originally looked out onto the driveway. We added onto our home several years ago and debated removing this window entirely but we were concerned that since we were going to be losing the exterior glass door as well, the kitchen might become very dark and claustrophobic.

I wanted to take advantage of a skylight in the entry way to bring light into the kitchen so we kept the window. For reasons I'm not entirely sure of anymore, I decided to paint something on it and ultimately, I painted a spray of pansies, wisteria, and forget-me-knots with acrylic paints. It was a challenge -- I should have used enamels, which are designed for painting on glass. Even adding a glass medium, I struggled. I had to layer the paint and it took... forever. Despite being directly over the sink in the heart of our kitchen, it has held up well, aside from a small chip needing repair. Six years later, it's still one heck of a conversation piece!

In case you haven't figured it out, I really like acrylics. Yet, I've gotten the impression, maybe mistaken, that most stampers don't. I thought there might be a reason for that, so I tried to follow the crowd. I tried painting with ink. Let's just say, I would probably have done better with crayons LOL. I tried colored pencils (two thumbs down for no elegance factor). I tried markers. I couldn't blend as much as I wanted to with them. I tried watercolor pencils. Better than the others, but not quite as good as acrylics. I tried colored pencils with mineral spirits. Watercolor pencils are easier and the end result is pretty much the same.

I have spent the last two weeks forcing myself to practice watercoloring and admittedly, I've gotten a little better at it. I've learned that "less" is "more". I've also learned that I'm not loving it more and would like to do it less. A search of the SCS forums showed only a few references to using acrylics to paint or stamp and most involved repurposing something, not card making. The vast majority of "painting" on cards, scrap book pages, and other paper crafts seems to be done with watercolor pencils or ink.

Today I was painting this gorgeous rose spray using watercolor pencils but the background and the frame had me stymied. I had ordered some LuminArte mica powder but didn't realize that you need a solution to mix it with, so my idea of a shimmery background with the pearl mica for this rose is still in the jar so to speak. Frustrated, I dug out my acrylics. Ten minutes later I had a luminous, shimmery background (Ceramcoat pearl finish). Ten minutes after that I had a shiny gold frame (FolkArt metallic gold).

Yes, the paper warped a tad, but it seemed to be more in the area of the rose, and it was certainly no more than what I find with watercolor pencils or even sometimes with just embossing. And I was doing this on plain old card stock since I am fresh out of watercolor paper. I simply ironed it and it was perfect once more. Any suggestion of warping in the photograph is the result of the paper sagging while I photo'd - I had to stand it up to get the angles correct to capture the shimmer.

Overall, I am pleased with the results and so that got me painting and thinking. Do "real" stampers only paint with ink or pencils? Am I breaking an unwritten rule by using acrylics to stamp and paint? Will I lose credibility as a stamp artist if I use acrylics? I don't know what the "rules" are about this but I'm glad to have "my" paints back. I love the luminous effect the water color pencils gave the petals of this rose. I also love the shimmery background and the lush gold frame supplied by the acrylics. What do you think?

Tutorial: Folded Thank You Card

I created this card for the Jacksonbelle challenge #JBE021. You can read about the challenge and see the sketch at

I incorporated their design sketch into a folded card. I had been experimenting with different folds and cuts, and this sketch was perfect for the folded card template that I had been working on today. When closed, the card looks exactly like the sketch. When it’s opened, the front greeting pops out from the card and the inside greeting is revealed.

I also used the colors from the color challenge at SplitCoast Stampers, CC185, for this card. I had made a card a few days ago with these very colors and the scraps were still on my work table, calling to me to be used again.

I used a bright blue textured card stock that was as close to the designated color as possible. I had scraps from two designer papers (Debbie Mumm) that coordinated well with it. I used the palest ivory card stock I had in place of “vanilla” to form the oval and the center medallion, which I made out of two separate pieces. The oval was matted onto designer paper and the same paper was used to line the central squares, which then became mats for the heart and greeting. I did the reverse with the inside greeting, which was generated from the computer.

I used the flower sprays, a floral heart, and greeting from Inkadinkadoo clear on clear stamps for this card. I used a designer punch for all of the corners, which gave it a more finished, tailored look. The border stamp from “Friendship” was used to embellish the background by stamping along the length of every other stripe of my second designer paper and then embossed to give a “vanilla” floral stripe.

In the oval, I stamped off the larger floral spray so that it would appear as a faint background image and then stamped the smaller floral spray over it. I masked off the stamp when I stamped these flowers so that I could stamp two separate colors. I stamped the image onto paper and cut out the two sections – blooms and leaves. I stamped the green first, using a piece of removable tape to mask off the blooms. (A post-it would have worked as well, but I find that the removable tape holds better on the stamp.) I repeated this for the blue blossoms. I quickly heat dried the leaves before I stamped the blooms because I wanted to emboss the flowers with clear embossing powder. Using the clear stamps made it easy to line up the blossoms and flowers.

I stamped the heart and greeting and embossed both with clear embossing powder.

Assembling the card: Unfolded and spread flat, the card measures 5 inches high and 9.5 inches wide. When folded, the card measures 5” by 7”. Here are some pictures of the template I made for this:

I mounted the stamped designer paper onto the card stock and then scored it at 4 ¾ and 6 inches. The front (left) folds toward the back. The right side folds over toward the top/front. The oval and inside greeting were attached and then the two front squares were positioned but not attached. I held them in place with removable tape so that I could mark my cuts.

With the card open and lying flat, I lightly traced around the right edge of the medallion, marking the edge that extended beyond the fold line. I cut just inside the line with an Exacto knife and with the card lying flat and open, I secured the medallion in place.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Introducing My New Blog

Well, this has certainly been an adventure.... my first day - and my first post - with my new blog. It has been challenging, trying to set up a blog and get everything set just the way I want it to be!

Over the next few days I'll be adding instructions and templates for some of my favorite cards and scrap book pages. You can see all of my creations in my gallery at SplitCoast Stampers. In the meantime, scroll down to the bottom of this page and enjoy a cup of tea in our garden, which has been breathtakingly beautiful all summer.