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Monthly Archives: September 2016

New Year Resolution For Artist

This is a time when we all declare to make some changes with New Year’s Resolutions. The turning of the calendar page to whole new year signifies a beginning and a clean slate to play with. An artist, however, may have a different looking list of resolutions than the average individual. Usually, it contains goals for creating more art!

I’m a firm believer of resolutions and goals. There’s something very creative about them, with thepossibility of recreating yourself in the process. We all are works in progress after all, and life is about change. Even as artists, we grow and change, and our artwork reflects our journeys.
If you’re a creative individual, here are some artistic New Year’s resolutions that you can use to become a better artist. Even after a 40-year career, I still strive to be better! An artist never quits learning or growing as long as we are alive.

New Year’s Resolutions for Artists

1. Commit to learning a new medium. There are endless drawing and painting techniques and always new products to play with. Is there something you think is interesting, but have never tried? Now is the time. Dive in! I’m going to try modeling paste to add some 3-dimensional qualities to my paintings.

This is my grandmother’s old lap desk, on which I created a mosaic design with brown and white egg shells. One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to create more mosaic art.

2. Is there a medium you like, but never seem to do enough of it? We all have our favorite techniques that we seem to go to religiously.  What technique do you love, but never seem to find the time for? Revisit an old love. I enjoy using oils, but I never seem to make the time to work with them. This is the year I crack out my oil paints again for some serious work! I also love mosaics, and am determined to do more this year!

3. Is there a class you’ve always wanted to take, but never took the time? (For instance, taking a Lee Hammond art workshop? Hint, hint!) You can learn so much from someone who is already a pro! Make the decision to broaden your horizons and take an art class! I’ve signed up for some photoshop classes to make my photo references more interesting.

4. Are you using inadequate art supplies? Yes, we all have to start somewhere, and often that means the bargain brands. While they’re good to start with to get your artistic feet wet, you may not be seeing your full potential. Invest in yourself! (You can cut back on something else to free up some money for this, like the daily coffee splurge.) You’ll be amazed at how much better your work can look with the right products and tools. I was amazed when I tried high-grade paper products such as 500-series Bristol. Yes, it is expensive, but it makes my work much more professional and sellable.

5. Are you skimping on your art supplies by using up all of your old stuff before investing in new? I’m guilty of this, for art supplies aren’t cheap. However, running out of colors or using little ends of pencils or pastels, has a dramatic effect on your work. Working on creased or dirty paper cheapens your work as well. Make the decision to replace some things for a fresh start. I’ve decided to replace my pastels with fresh sticks. Yes, I’ll use up the old ones, but there’s something so inspiring about a fresh display of colors!

I resolve to do more oil painting this year!

6. Are you an artistic slob? Do you have clutter and mess in your art studio or work area? Make a resolution to clean up your act! Having your things organized and tidy can be very inspiring. A cluttered work area isn’t very conducive to creativity! Nothing feels better than putting things where they belong. I also like to divide my colored pencils into groups of colors, for easy access, and arrange my art supplies so they look nice. Also, this is a good time to keep the promise to clean up as you go!

7. Have you always wanted to be more professional and sell your work? This is the year to go for it! Make the decision to go pro. Create a good website (I recommend hiring a professional to help you) have some flyers and business cards made, and start to market yourself. Take a cue from others already in the business to see how it should be done, and what you want to charge according to the existing market. This is your year to elevate your art business! I’m starting to take commissions again this year. I haven’t done that for a while due to other commitments, but I’m changing that. I have a brand new website ( and will be selling many more commissions and prints.

8. Are you making the time to draw or paint? You can’t grow as an artist unless you’re doing the work! This is the year to create an “art schedule.” Plan out a two-hour window that’s all artistically yours. You can do it if you really want to! For me, that window of time was very early in the morning, before my kids woke up. I’m NOT a morning person, but realizing that morning was the only time I had for “me,” I made myself get up at 5 AM to do my art. I remember looking forward to waking up, so I could drink my coffee and paint in the quiet before the day even began.

9. Use your art to document your life and desires. Each week, create a simple drawing that represents the great things you experienced in the last seven days. Make it like a collage of “feel good” doodles, phrases and drawings of the things you’ve appreciated throughout the week. In a new book I’m writing titledREACH!, I recommend this type of art journaling as a way to keep your mood elevated, and your desires coming your way. You can literally “draw” what you want into your life.

Yes, this can be YOUR YEAR for being a better artist, and a happier person! But, it takes determination and desire. Most resolutions are dropped before February even arrives. Don’t let that happen to you! Get busy! Get creative! Buy more art stuff! I will post my progress on my website and Facebook as inspiration to you. In turn, I want to hear from you, and see if any of this advice works for you!

Happy New Year my creative friends!!!!
Until next time,

Stamp Carving Art

If you’ve never carved stamps before, rest assured you don’t need any special skills—you don’t even have to know how to draw. The carving part takes a little practice, but a few helpful tips will shortcut your path to success.

The tools and supplies needed are minimal and fairly inexpensive: a carving block (I like the Speedball Speedy-Carve blocks), a linoleum cutter handle with a chuck, a set of linoleum cutter blades, a craft knife, cutting mat, scrap paper, ink pads or water-based markers, and some baby wipes. Having two cutter handles allows you to switch between different blades quickly, instead of having to switch out blades in one handle. Cutter handles with a simple chuck system are easy to use–simply insert a blade and tighten it down.

It doesn’t take much to get started with stamp carving; the basics include cutters, a stamp block, and ink pads or markers.

Any type of design will work for stamp carving, but if you’re just beginning, I recommend starting with a simple shape, like a solid heart, leaf, or flower. The three-layer technique I’ll show you isn’t difficult, but practice first with some basic designs to get the feel of the blade and the block. I drew my image (a flower) onto copy paper with a dark graphite pencil. You can also use copyright-free images, either tracing or re-drawing them.

A hand-drawn image for a hand-carved stamp

Here’s the best part—to transfer the image to the block, simply place the drawing, right-side down, onto the block, and rub until the image appears (I used the end of the pencil). Lift up the paper to make sure your image is transferring, trying not to move it—you may want to tape a corner down before rubbing. If you want the image more defined, trace over the lines on the block with permanent marker.

Rub the back of the pencil-drawn image, and the design will transfer to the block.

It’s as easy as that! Here’s my design on the block. After transferring the image I cut around it with a craft knife so I’d have a smaller piece to work with.

The image transferred perfectly!

When I carve, I almost always start with the small U-gouge, which creates a very thin line. I run it along the outside of my design first, creating an outline, then go around again, widening the line. You don’t have to dig deeply into the block—just put a little pressure on the blade to remove some of the rubber.

Start the carving by creating a thin outline around the image.

Remember, everything you carve away will not print, and everything left behind will print. Also, the transferred image will be backward on the block, but oriented correctly when you stamp the image.

For the flower, I wanted a fairly thick outline for each petal, and have some lines inside the petals. As you can see, I didn’t follow the outline exactly–you can try to match your image, or take a little artistic license.

After carving more around the outline, I created a border for the petals that was about 1/8″ wide. When you carve, go slowly. This isn’t a race, and you’ll be more pleased with the results if you don’t rush. Also, one of the most important things to remember is to always carve away from yourself. Never angle the blade toward your hand—it can easily slip or skip across the block and cut you—the blades are quite sharp. When making curved lines, keep the blade steady and turn the block, but—let’s say it together—always angle the blade away from you. Two more helpful tips: Have a good light source, and don’t carve when you’re hangry. Get that blood sugar nice and level.

After carving the border I carved the inside of the flower, leaving those lines in the petals. To carve away larger areas I switched to the bigger U-gouge, which removes more rubber. Then it was time for a test—this is an important step in stamp carving, allowing you to check your progress and see what still needs to be carved and cleaned up. Before inking the stamp, brush off any tiny pieces of rubber, or give it a cleaning with a baby wipe and dry it.

You can see here how I’ve got the basic shape, but a lot of carving lines still remain. I like to leave a few extra lines, and how many you leave is completely up to you; some people like to leave a lot to emphasize the hand-carved look.

The insides of the petals were carved away next, leaving a border.

Here’s the stamp and the stamped image after an initial cleanup:

The image is starting to look good, but more carving is needed.

A little more cleaning:

Looking better, but not quite there yet.

And here’s the final image. As you can see, it’s far from perfect, but I really like it. I also cut around the flower with a craft knife to make it easier to stamp. I could have stopped here and been as happy as a clam with a stamp. However, I’ve been seeing this trend in commercial stamps of layered stamping—stamping parts of an image in different colors to achieve a dimensional look—and I wanted to give it a try.

The final stamp. I left a few carving lines, which gives the image a hand-carved look.

I went back to my original drawing and drew around the inside of each petal, then carved just the petals.

I carved another stamp to fill in the petals.

For one last layer I drew a smaller portion of the petals, and carved that.

The third layer adds dimension to the petals.

I needed some leaves, and carved a base layer and an overlay. I also wanted a little detail stamp, so I carved some dots from a piece of rubber I had cut away.

I added two-layer leaves and a small motif stamp.

I like that the flower and leaves don’t exactly line up, so the images will always look slightly different. But to make sure I stamp all three layers as accurately as possible, I made a small dot at the top of each stamp as a reminder.

Marking the backs of the stamps with a small dot makes them easier to align.

Here’s how the stamp looks on a page in my art journal; I added a simple label that I also carved (the letters are purchased stamps):

A page from my art journal, with the hand-carved stamps.

Like any stamp, this one’s quite versatile. Here’s the image stamped in navy blue permanent ink, and colored with watercolor:

The stamp takes on a much different look when colored with watercolor.

I painted the stamp with watercolor, stamped it, then used a water brush to spread some of the color around:

Using watercolor directly on the stamp gives it a hand-painted look.

And here, I stamped the petals with pigment ink, then removed some of the ink with the dot stencil to get a polka dot pattern.

Removing some of the ink with the small dot stamp resulted in a polka dot design.

You’ll probably get on a roll when you start stamp carving, as I did. I decided to make a quarter repeat stamp, which is a quarter of an image that can be repeated to make various combinations of designs. I did this quickly, and frankly, I wasn’t super happy with the results and almost tossed it.

Wasn’t a big fan of this one at first.

But…when I repeated the image clockwise three more times and added some doodles with a black pen, I was suddenly head over heels.

When repeated in a circle, this stamp quickly became a favorite.

Repeating the stamp in the same direction gave me this cool pattern, which I stamped in acrylic paint over a painted background in my art journal. Don’t get discouraged if every attempt doesn’t turn out exactly how you expect it to. Give your stamps a chance, and see how they work best in various patterns and with different mediums.

Repeat stamping without turning the image resulted in this pattern.

By the way, you can care for your stamps the same way as you do commercial rubber stamps: Keep them away from heat and light, and clean them with stamp cleaner or alcohol-free baby wipes. If you stamp with acrylic paint, wash them immediately afterward so the paint doesn’t dry on the rubber. Hand-carved stamps can be mounted as cling stamps for acrylic blocks, or on wood blocks, if you prefer.

I imagine you wanting to get going on some carving, so here are a few more things to check out from the North Light Shop before you head out on your stamp carving adventures!

Here Art Metal Embossing

Let’s start with the metal itself. I used a sheet of medium-weight copper metal from Amaco ArtEmboss, which has a thickness of 5 mil, about 10 times thicker than the tin foil you have in your kitchen. It’s sturdy stuff, but also nicely malleable. You can cut it with scissors, but I wouldn’t use good fabric scissors (the ones your mom always yelled at you for using); any decent pair of scissors will work. You’ll need a paper stump and a couple of styluses, with tips in different sizes. I used a set meant for shaping paper, but there are also specific metal embossing tools available. You should also have two surfaces to work on, one hard and one soft; I used a glass cutting mat, and also a piece of thin craft foam. And you’ll need a plastic stencil, (preferably one that’s not too detailed), and some low-tack tape (I used washi tape). Optional and not pictured here are modeling paste and a palette knife.

The tools for metal embossing include metal, styluses, and some craft foam.

Decide what size piece you want to make, and cut the metal about 1″ larger in height and width. Tape the edges if they’re sharp or jagged, and tape the stencil to the metal, making sure it’s firmly in place. By the way, isn’t this a great way to extend the use of your stencils? And please note that at Cloth Paper Scissors Central, we do not clean our stencils.

Tape the stencil to the metal so it doesn’t shift while you’re working.

Place the piece stencil-side down on your hard surface, and burnish the design with the paper stump. Make sure you can see the entire design; while working, I flip the piece over to make sure I’m getting everything.

Burnishing the metal with a paper stump reveals the design.

With the stencil still in place, go over the design from the back with a small-tipped stylus. Outline each piece of the design, pushing the stylus right up to the edge and really defining the shape. If the stylus slips outside the lines, don’t worry—we’ll fix that later.

Outline the design with the small-tipped stylus.

Flip the piece over and you’ll see that the design is starting to become dimensional. But since you’ve been working on a hard surface, it’s flat on top.

The design has dimension, but it’s still flat on top.

Place the foam sheet on top of your hard surface and the metal piece on top, stencil-side down. Using a stylus with a larger tip, go over the designs again, pressing fairly hard. This process stretches the metal and rounds it. You don’t want to stretch it so much that it tears, but this metal is fairly heavy, so you can get some pretty good height. Note the difference in the four petals that have been embossed on the hard surface, versus on the foam.

By using a larger-tipped stylus on a foam surface, the details become more dimensional.

Work the entire design, then remove the stencil. The metal embossing should be pretty prominent at this stage, but the edges won’t be that sharp. To make them more defined, place the metal right-side up on the hard surface, and run the small-tipped stylus around the outline of each design element. This will create edges and also flatten the piece, which has probably become a little domed due to the embossing. To flatten the piece more, use the paper stump to gently push the metal down.

Working the design from the front helps create defined edges.

Note the difference below between the design on the left, which has defined edges, and the one on the right, which still looks a little blobby.

The motif on the left has been detailed; the one on the right has not, and is less defined.

As you continue work on the piece you’ll flip it from the right to the wrong side, and from the hard to the soft surface. When flattening and defining the piece, work on the hard surface. When embossing, use the foam. Take your time and refine the design, emphasizing the shapes, flattening, and edging. Use the paper stump to gently flatten any stray lines or marks. If your hand gets tired, take a break. The nice thing about metal embossing is that you don’t have to worry about anything drying out or not being workable after a certain point. You can leave it and go back to it anytime.

At this point you can add some details to the piece. I pressed the small-tipped stylus into the motifs, creating little dots. You can also create free-form swirls, lines, or add other designs. Keep in mind that since metal is shiny, sometimes it’s difficult to see details. Move the piece around to make sure you’re seeing all the hills and valleys accurately. Also, I usually cut a small piece of metal to practice on or try out designs.

Add your own design details to metal embossing.

Metal embossing is all about creating interest through texture, dimension, and color or patina. I didn’t want the entire piece to be smooth and shiny, so I marked off a border around the piece and between the motifs. Then I sanded that area, using 220-grit sandpaper, and wiped off the metal dust with a baby wipe. In addition to adding texture, sanding also helps camouflage any errant lines or mistakes. I used a permanent pen to mark the borders, and that can be removed with alcohol.

Sanding metal is one way to create texture.

Use Water Brush Lettering Learn 3 Techniques Using Markers

 Lettering with a brush is very forgiving. I’m currently editing a book by Jen Wagner titled Happy Hand Lettering (due out this summer). I love her use of watercolor for lettering and I felt inspired to give it a try—albeit with a twist—using a water brush. Water-based markers such as Tombow dual tip brush pens are a perfect and playful companion to water brushes.

Technique 1: Loopy Lettering

This first technique simply requires writing in cursive with large loops to make widening lines easier. Going back over the marker with a small amount of water from a water brush gives the lettering a lovely painterly look.

Using the fine-tip end of a Tombow dual tip pen (or a similar water-based pen), letter a word, keeping things “loopy” when you can.

A water brush with a fine point is best for adding a small amount of water to the marker lines. You just want to activate the color, not have it bleed too far out.

This is cool. See where the upstroke of my Ls crosses over the downstroke? When you activate the color with a water brush, the line disappears nearly completely.Admire your finished word and set it aside to dry completely.

Adding Color

You may like your word as is, but if you would like to add some color, here’s an easy method.

Using either end of your chosen color marker (I used the fine tip end), closely outline your word. Go over the color with a fine- or medium-point water brush.

Technique 2: Brush Pen Script Lettering

For this second technique, try lettering with the brush tip end, then adding water.

Take advantage of the broad surface of the brush pen and exaggerate your fine and wide strokes. A small flat water brush creates even painterly strokes over the marker and as the color is activated, you can smooth out any areas as needed.

Adding Color

Applying color over black yields a subtle result.

Simply repeat the previous process: Use your color of choice and the brush end to go over the lettering. Then use the flat water brush to activate the color. Subtle, but still a nice painterly effect.

Technique 3: Hand-Drawn Letterforms

I’ve recently been inspired by the work of Joanne Sharpe, whose hand-dra
wn letters I love. You can have a lot of fun by drawing whimsical (or less whimsical) letters from your imagination. And each letter can be different!Keep it simple or go a little wild. Using the fine point end of your marker, draw letters that have space to be colored in.

Just as you did for the first technique, use a fine point water brush to activate the lines and give the interior of your letters some shading.

Adding Color to Letterforms

Use the fine tip end of your favorite color and make dots in limited areas of your letterforms. Activate the color with a water brush and blend the concentration of color as you desire. You could have fun with more than one color, too.

Adding Color Outside of Letterforms