Category Archives: Techniques

Really Cheap Art Journals

A quick browse of Etsy for art journals will reveal a dizzying choice of journals that range in price from $15 to $150 plus. Some are so gorgeous that I would be afraid to even write my name in them for fear of sullying their loveliness.

For those of you who have yet to encounter the art journal, here’s a quick rundown. They are a way to express yourself visually in a blank book with no rules and no judgment. Some art journaling proponents claim that doing it will help you realize you’ve always been an artist. Whatever. Many descriptions of the process begin with the all important physical journal. It can be bought or hand made. There are many blogs and websites that will tell you how to make one and give you ideas for content.

Obviously the type of paper in one’s art journal depends on the medium you want to use. I decided to use collage simply because I have lots of papers thanks to all the less than stellar monoprints I’ve made and the papers I used to clean my brayer. My journal of choice? Used children’s board books.

I got the idea from Drew Steinbrecher who often features collaged board books on his Instagram feed.

One of Drew Steinbrecher’s Instagram pages.

I thought it was a great idea and scoured my local library’s book sale for such books. I bought six for a quarter each, and am now sorry I didn’t buy more. Some of my purchases looked brand new.

Yesterday my friend Penny and I began our collaged board books. Supplies were simple – board books, papers, matte medium, brushes, and some kind of nonstick paper to keep the finished pages apart. The process was simple, too. Design a layout and glue the pieces down. No prep needed. In an hour and a half I managed to create three full page spreads.

I’ll trim the edges once the book is full and everything is dry. That might take a while as the heavy board can absorb a lot of moisture.

Earlier in the week I dry collaged two more pieces made with papers coated with gloss gel medium. You can see the sheen from the medium in the first one.

I have no idea why the women are completely covered. It’s from a fashion magazine.
I even put a bit of text in this one.

I’ve have fun playing with glue and paper, but my excuse for not working on the quilt now on my design wall is gone. I just got the fabric I ordered for it. It even came early, drat it.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

8 Comments

Filed under collage, In Process, Techniques

A Different Way To Collage

Almost all paper collage techniques involve glue – gel medium, glue stick, Sobo, wheat paste, rice paste, etc. Because my fine motor skills are subpar I usually end up with glue, and sometimes bits of paper, all over my fingers. So I was intrigued to read about another way to collage, thanks to Julie Fei-Fan Balzer. She hosts an online monthly art book club, and one of her picks was Gerald Brommer’s “Collage Techniques.” Her review highlighted a different kind of adhering process Brommer describes.

The secret to the process is gloss acrylic medium. You coat both sides of your papers with the medium, allow them to dry, arrange them to your satisfaction, and then iron them down using release paper between the iron and paper. The iron melts the medium. The joy is once you’re happy with your composition you don’t have to take it apart to glue it down.

Yes, it has to be gloss medium because it gives paper a sticky surface, and you’d better use release paper if you value your iron.

I coated many magazine pages with medium (it dries fast) and made several compositions on watercolor paper and bristol board. The base also needs to have a gloss medium coat. The finished product has a glossy finish and is best stored covered with a nonstick sheet like wax paper.

I have several coated pages left for still more compositions. Goody, yet another form of scraps.

I can recommend Brommer’s book for serious explorations of collage. It is old, published in 1994, and the author is no longer with us; but it brims with wonderful examples of all kinds of art collages. It covers design, approaches, and specific techniques. I consider it well worth the $12 I spent for a used copy.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

12 Comments

Filed under Books, collage, Techniques

File, Act, Toss

One of the few staff development seminars I recall was F.A.T, or file, act, toss. The idea was to clear your overflowing desk by going through all the paperwork on it and decide whether to keep it (file,) respond to it (act,) or throw it out (toss.) I used the process with my pile of surface design experiments when said pile fell to the closet floor. The pile is now smaller and neater.

Once I threw out experiments that were beyond help – too overworked, just not appealing, etc. – I chose two to act on. The first is a painting experiment with an empty toilet paper roll cut to flare out. You dip the flared out end in paint and dab it onto fabric. I used it for free motion practice, and gingered up the color with oil pastels. It may become a pillow cover.

Next, I finished quilting an ancient sampler from about 2005. It was made from scraps left from an Amish type wall hanging, and I had hand quilted about half of it. Knowing I would never finish the hand quilting, I completed it with machine quilting and bound it.

With some actions under my belt, next I turned to the file pile. I tend to have groups of experiments in similar colors or themes as they were done in one session. Here are a few of those groups.

Finally, I decided to keep pieces of dropcloths that could make good backgrounds and a screened linen piece that I just don’t know what to do with.

Both are old cotton sheets that have a lovely hand.
This suffers from fold lines that took the spray paint differently.

I didn’t photograph my discards, though some of you may think I still have plenty to toss. I have lots more in my pile, but those bits are cut into squares in anticipation of a future project.

Are you a hoarder of such experiments or are you more ruthless than I am?

I am linking to Off The Wall Friday.

6 Comments

Filed under Fabric Printing, In Process, Techniques

Blue Plate Special

Do you have old pressed glass pieces hanging around your abode? I inherited plates, bowls, small pitchers, and cups done up in pressed glass that were meant to pass for crystal or cut glass. Because it was machine molded it was much more affordable than crystal, which explains why my family, with modest means but a desire to emulate the more well to do, owned pressed glass. I use my inherited pieces on occasion, but didn’t think much about them until I discovered margarts.com.

Actually, I discovered her videos on Instagram which show her printing a wide variety of fruits, veggies, scissors, and pressed glass onto fabric with printing ink. The technique is like the old potato printing you may have done in school, but done more imaginatively. I was eager to try artichoke printing, but I had pressed glass, printing ink, and fabric on hand, so off I went.

First, here are a few of Margaret’s efforts with pressed glass. She makes up her prints into pouches and needle cases.

Then, here are my initial efforts. You can see I’m still working on the correct amount of ink.

It turns out I used that pressed glass pattern some years ago.

The center of “All Decked Out” is a bowl rubbing with a blue (do you see a theme?) paintstik

Since I had my table set up for printing I dusted off my Gelli plate and printed weed leaves and stencils on old napkins used as mop cloths and silk scraps. For these I used Jacquard textile paints.

My final experiments were on crinoline that I had stitched pleats into and painted. For some reason my textile paint was quite watery and so it didn’t stick evenly to the plate when I rolled it out.

I like the watery effect. I’m sure someone sells a stencil just like this.

Maybe I’ll cut up the plate prints into quarters and do a drunkards path type pattern. For now they sit on the top of my pile of experiments.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

9 Comments

Filed under Fabric Printing, Techniques

Sticky Fingers

I’ve been paper collaging like mad the past week or so to give my brain time to develop quilting plans for a few pieces. Ignoring something is often a surefire way to have solutions find me. And I wanted to work more with paper anyway.

Thanks to collage classes that have you create papers to use, I have a healthy supply of solid and patterned papers. In addition, I have a backlog of magazine pages from the Sunday NY Times, plus lots of monoprint rejects from my friend Penny. Then there are the wallpaper samples she gave me, and my rejects from monoprinting and painting classes.

So now I have a paper scrap glut in addition to a fabric one, but I’ve been organizing my papers while I work on collages.

I set out to assemble collage parts that could be used to quickly make a larger composition. I got the idea from Mary Beth Shaw of Stencil Girl, but many others have a similar approach. That went well with organizing my papers as I combined color families and similar styles and cut out images.

It’s a good thing I bought new sharp paper scissors.

Then gradually the parts became whole compositions.

Birds was made almost totally from bits Penny gave me. The background is a magazine page she used to clean her brayer. The gold half moon is a rejected monoprint, as is the patterned piece on the upper left. The small birds are from a napkin she gave me. I stitched together the big pieces, and used markers to emphasize some of the birds’ features.
Squiggles began as a sheet of mark making, with curved lines painted in acrylic. I used a white gel pen to add more marks, and the odd one out was actually a collage part I made. The pieces are sewn to a vinyl wallpaper sample.
Orange Caterpillar combines acrylic paint experiments with markers, monoprint rejects, and part of an ad for a purse.
Lemons uses Penny’s monoprints and images cut from magazines. Again, it’s sewn to a vinyl wallpaper sample. Thanks to a class by the Jealous Curator I learned how to fussy cut such images.
Boats began as an art part, but grew with bits of monoprints, markers and oil pastels. I keep revising it, but I think it’s now jumped the shark.
These two are more what I had in mind for parts. I glued (glue stick) lots of torn scraps over a watercolor experiment cut in half. Maybe paint will be the next step.

As per usual I crammed too much into each piece. However, I am learning to use realistic images and rely more on a glue stick rather than matte medium. (I also learned that not all glue sticks are created equal. I was satisfied with the Leeho brand I had on hand, but not with the Scotch brand.) It was making me crazy to find that each collage class I took (I relied mostly on free Creativebug classes available through my library) called for a different way to adhere paper. I found that medium is too heavy for thin magazine papers and can cause the ink to smear, especially if you use medium below and over the image. However, if you use a heavy paper like bristol or watercolor you need the medium for staying power.

I hope to continue the use of photographic images in my collages and allow for more white space. My quilting background makes me think every space has to contain some material. At some point I’ll learn that paper doesn’t fall apart if you leave part of it empty. Maybe by then I’ll have learned to keep the glue on the paper and off my fingers.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

7 Comments

Filed under collage, Techniques

When More Is Too Much

“Less is more” and “More is more” are common design mantras. Each has its adherents. A recent design experience took me way beyond “more is more” to deep in the weeds. I’m writing about my recent failure as a lesson that sometimes going for broke can break the piece.

After my Tansy Hargan From Sketchbook to Wall class I was eager to use the techniques taught, so I prepared a smallish (roughly 20 inches square) fused piece which I planned to gussy up with reverse applique, hand stitching, and pen and paint. It started out okay, if a bit pink.

Original

Then I added hand and machine applique, and a bit of embroidery.

Reverse applique and Xes

I thought more stuff would improve the piece, and utterly overshot the mark.

No, no, no

Finally, I cut off some of the hand work and lightened some of the applique with a white marker. The machine stitched bits are impossible to remove as there is a backing fused on.

Where it stands now. I can still remove a few more Xes.

My intention was to evoke the playing pieces used in children’s board games. I wish I hadn’t gone down the embellishment road as the original piece was much more pleasing than the monster I created. I could always cut it up….

14 Comments

Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects, Techniques

More Painted Textile Pieces

Since last week I’ve continued to work on my small (about 10 inch square) pieces for my From Sketchbook to Wall class, and have five done (mostly.) I’ve learned that it’s hard to hand sew through fabric covered with acrylic paint, and that I want to hold onto some resemblance to my inspiration landscape. That surprised me as I think I’ve reached a fairly high comfort level with abstraction.

Original photo of riprap along towpath with the Cuyahoga River at the top
My interpretation of photo. I used offcuts from a photo I had printed on fabric for the tree groups.
A fading bouquet left on a bench by the scenic railroad stop. I’ve seen flowers left on the bench several times, so I think it must be a memorial tribute to someone.
Hmm, I think it looks like there’s a hint of the railroad tracks in it as well as the bench slats.
Fuzzy photo of first new growth
I decided to hurry along the greening up, and also added needle felted leaves. I don’t like my stitching on them as it’s too folk arty.
I did like that riprap.
I may still go over the white lines with stitching.
I loved the textures and acid yellow green stuff.
I kept the yellow green but decided to think pink. The base is a mended patch from an old tablecloth.

While I love the texture hand stitching gives, in the future I think I’ll use paint and its cousins more to transform the base fabrics. I have lots of painted fabric left for more such textile works, though I think I want to try to create fantasy landscapes next time.

Leftover fabrics fused to base

I have lots of photos for inspiration, but I want to use them mostly as inspiration for textures. I like the rough arrangements I did of my painted fabrics better than my deliberately composed ones.

If you’re on Instagram and want to see other people’s work from this class, search #tansyhargantextilecourse.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

9 Comments

Filed under Project Ideas, Techniques

A Different Kind of Textile Class

I’m in the middle of a two week online class on textile creation given by Tansy Hargan, a British landscape architect and textile artist. It’s called From Sketchbook to Wall, which is an accurate description. We began with en plein air sketches of nature or built environments, moved on to thumbnail collages of the sketches, and then to transformation of clothing to fabrics for our final pieces.

Collaged thumbnails. All but one image based on outdoor sketches.

I signed up for the course to get a different approach to textile art, and I’m getting different with a vengeance. We were to unpick old clothes with a seam ripper, paint them with acrylic until stiff, and add marks to our fabrics in a variety of ways.

Unpicking old clothes palled quickly, and I used men’s shirts I had already cut up plus remnants from my hoard. I combined textile and acrylic paints to use what was on hand, and I had a hard time wrapping my head around deliberately making my fabric stiff. All my past effort to preserve a soft hand in painted fabric made me cringe at the paper like results, but the advantage of that stiffness became apparent later during mark making. Some of the techniques were new to me and possible only because the fabric was stiff. Tansy demoed a variety of ways to mark fabric, including photocopying (stiffness is essential) and carbon paper. I wasn’t brave enough to run sheets of fabric through my brand new printer, but other students did that successfully.

I used dressmaker tracing paper that’s at least 60 years old.

Then it was on to reverse applique, hand stitching, and free motion stitching. Again, this is roughly done and fraying is encouraged.

Rough reverse applique

I’m now at the point of actually composing and fusing the base layer of my 9 inch squares on top of old cotton sheeting covered with WonderUnder. We are to rip/cut our fabrics and arrange them on the fusible surface, inspired by our thumbnail collages.

I learned that the olive strips are polyester after they stuck to my iron.
I think sewing through that denim will be a challenge.

I am saving the last two videos about stitching and further layering until I make more base layers. I suspect I’m overthinking the fabric arrangements, but it’s quite fiddly to get the little bits to stay put as you fuse them. After my ironing disaster I’ve made sure to use a silicone mat.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

6 Comments

Filed under Techniques

Trying Out 3D

For many years I have planned to make a 3D quilted object. I have sketchbook drawings to back up that claim. My scheme was to create multiple small connected units with see through spaces between them. The piece could cast shadows on a wall or floor, or give a screen-like view through to other items in a room.

Fast forward to 2020, when I got serious about this idea. Using many silk fabrics I had amassed, I created circles and ovals. After trying to create one big piece out of all the shapes I decided to group them by warm and cool shades. The warm shades were first up because I had fewer of them.

As I wrote earlier, I treated each shape as a mini quilt, sewing together front, back, and batting. Then I hand sewed the shapes together, and machine quilted them as a single unit. I thought that would be the end, but the results didn’t look finished. I had the idea to add metal rings, which I made from jewelry wire. Once those were sewn on I threaded satin cord between the wire circles.

In a change of plans I thought I would mount the construction to an ice dyed backing. To help the shapes stand out against the backing I edged each shape with silver glitter. After I carefully sewed black wool felt spacers behind each shape to help them stand away from the backing, the construction just didn’t look right. There was still not enough contrast.

At this point I made an executive decision to declare “Roundabout” done. Some finishing details are rough and I really can’t ship it anywhere easily with the wire, so I am chalking it up to process rather than product.

Roundabout, the first pink piece I’ve made
Roundabout detail

Because I was determined to use the backing I worked so hard to make, I resurrected an old resist piece, quilted it, and attached it to that backing. It’s called “Raspberry Lime Swirl.”

Raspberry Lime Swirl

Now all I have to do is figure out how to finish all the cool tone shapes. They are sewn together, but languish on top of my old trunk awaiting inspiration.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

10 Comments

Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects, Techniques

The End of the Line, Part 2

My January line a day challenge did go for all 31 days, though I stretched some work out over a few days. While the original intent was to keep the time spent on each response short, sometimes that didn’t happen. I am sure Penny, my friend who did this challenge with me, spent way longer than 15 to 45 minutes on many of her pieces. In our defense, if you’re in the zone you want to finish your vision.

One of my prompts was to create collages from magazine images with linear elements. In some cases I didn’t glue down the pieces, but tried several arrangements.

Landscape collage
Stitched paper collage with added lines that are way too much.

Blue and orange collage, version 1
Blue and orange collage, version 2
Black and white collage, version 1
Black and white collage, version 2

Then, I returned to fabric to use bias tape and free motion stitching for lines. I tried a sepia edges effect with Inktense pencils.

Bias tape and free motion quilting lines, many in a zigzag stitch

Next, I decided to make hard line acrylic paintings on vinyl wallpaper samples to test how well acrylic paint would stick to that surface. First, I covered the wallpaper with an ombre effect wash. Then I put down masking tape and painted tones of blue, red, and yellow. I can see I need to work on getting the tape to stick down better. However, the paint does stay on.

Vinyl wallpaper overpainted with acrylic paint, then blocked with tape and painted.
More overpainted wallpaper

Since January obliged me with snow I took photos of lines from my window and used Photoshop filters to add textures to them. You can see how often the deer tromp through my yard.

Tracks with palette knife filter
Graphic pen filter

In the last few days of the month I combined the fabrics I had printed with other linear fabrics to make a small quilt.

Yes, I was born on the 4th of July

My notes indicate I made something linear every day in January, but I’ve shown only some of my output.. Not all the results are worth showing, though they were worth doing. I learned that a set daily theme made it easy to get right to work. I tried to use different media to expand my artistic toolbox, though I can see how that could lead to a “master of none” situation.

As you can see, I often responded to different prompts than Penny, and produced different work. Aside from cheesecloth, she didn’t use fabric. My work is more hard edged and boldly colored than hers, in part due to the different media we used. However, Penny’s palette is softer than mine and she likes to create layers. But, the challenge wouldn’t have been fun if we had the same responses, so vive la difference.

2 Comments

Filed under Commentary, Techniques