Jan Walker’s Creative Inspiration Class

While this class is geared to digital scrappers, the issues it addresses apply also to artists.  And one excellent way to get inspired is to go outside your art area for inspiration.  Many digital scrappers are artists.  Even though most work with supplies created by others, the more artistic scrappers do their own creative designs.  Composition and subject selection is probably the most difficult and one of the most creative parts of producing a painting or collage.

As some of you may know, I do a lot of digital scrapbook (for the guys I’ll call it digital display) work, and I’ve taken most of the classes offered at Digital Scrapper.  This short, inexpensive, new class seems to be more of a ‘how to get inspired to produce something’ class than a photo or art techniques class.  Most of what is below I copied from information sent to me.

Jan Walker’s 7-day class, Creative Inspiration: Finding and Freeing the Artist in You, starts tomorrow, Friday May 18, 2012.

  • Receive inspiration and new ideas from Jan each day for an entire week

  • Face a blank page with confidence

  • Learn how to see differently

  • Overcome scrapper’s block

  • And much, much more!


Bonus: For This Introductory Class Only



Although this is a self-paced class (which usually has no Forum or Gallery interaction), Jan is planning to join you on this journey for just this introductory class.

  • Class starts tomorrow with a Forum and Gallery and daily encouragement and ideas from Jan.

  • Jan has a special report for members of this introductory class only: Creative Inspiration: 10 Questions to Get You Started.

For more information go to digitalscrapper.com/classes/creative-inspiration/

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Colored Pencil: Tonal Application

I haven’t posted to this blog in ages, partly because I’ve been spending most of my time sorting, editing, and digitally scrapbooking family photos, some dating back to the mid-1800s.  I recently started a blog related to these activities at photoselra.wordpress.com.

Getting back to art, I’ve been writing a short “Tips and Techniques” column for my local Colored Pencil Painters Guild newsletter for several months, and it occurred to me that I should post some of those articles here.  Below is the one I just wrote. 

Get out your art journal – you do have one, don’t you? If not, just use a sheet of your favorite white colored pencil paper. Choose a sharp colored pencil. I selected Prismacolor Premier PC902, Ultramarine. Have a pen handy, archival, of course, to write down exactly what you are doing next to your experiments.

Start with a small, circular stroke and light pressure. Hold your pencil in a normal writing position, fairly perpendicular to the paper surface. Make a circle one-half to one inch in diameter.


So you will have something resembling:


Prismacolor Premier PC 902 Ultramarine


[your colored circle] Circular stroke, light pressure, sharp point


Repeat using medium pressure, and then repeat using heavy pressure.

By this point, pun intended, your pencil should have a blunt point. Repeat the exercises above using your blunt point.

Depending on how sharp and how blunt your points are, and depending on what to you is light, medium, and heavy pressure, you should have the most color saturation with a sharp point and heavy pressure, and you should have the most white paper showing with a blunt point and light pressure. And all of the other circles should be gradations of these.

Repeat the above exercises using a linear stroke.  For the linear stroke exercises, you will probably want a rectangle instead of a circle.

Finally, repeat the exercises above on several different types of paper. You can paste these in your journal if you wish.

When you have completed these exercises, you will have a nice reference page or pages for future artwork.

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Creating Stencils Using Freezer Paper

Creating Stencils Using Freezer Paper

I know that I need to add some pictures to my posts, and I will.  I misplaced the battery charger for my camera – finally found it under a huge pile of photographs on my dining room table which is covered in many layers of photographs and memorabilia.  Eating is done in the breakfast room.  Meanwhile…

I have successfully used freezer paper stencils on fabric and on unpainted watercolor paper with less successful results on painted watercolor paper.

You will need:

freezer paper

iron and ironing board or towel to protect table surface

pen or pencil

sharp pointed scissors or craft knife and cardboard or self-healing cutting mat (craft knife is better)

paints (acrylic or oil for fabric) and brushes

fabric or paper that can be ironed with a hot iron

I will mention some optional items as I explain procedures below.

You can draw your design directly on the paper side of the freezer paper or draw it on a separate piece of paper and transfer to the freezer paper. Unless you are very adept with a craft knife, I recommend a simple design. Clip art images are widely available on the web; be sure to use designs that are in the public domain if you plan to sell or publicly display your creation that uses someone else’s design. To transfer your design, first outline it using a dark pen such as a black Sharpie. If you think the paper may move while you are tracing, tape your design to the slick side of the freezer paper, design up. If you can’t clearly see through the freezer paper, tape the freezer paper with the design taped on the slick side to a sunny window. Now trace your design onto the paper side of the freezer paper.

Remove the original design and tape the freezer paper, design side up to your cardboard or cutting mat. Carefully cut out the design. If there are “islands” inside your design such as an eye, cut around them carefully. If you use scissors, you do not, of course, tape the freezer paper to anything! With scissors be very careful to keep the edges of your stencil design smooth; puncture the freezer paper to begin cutting in a place that will be part of your “hole.”

When you have finished cutting out your shape or shapes, remove the tape and the “innards” and place the stencil ,slick side down, on your ironed (i.e. smooth) fabric or paper where you want the design to be. Iron with a dry, hot (cotton setting) until the freezer paper adheres to the surface. Try to keep the stencil as flat as possible. It is best to move the iron very little, especially if your design is complex, but don’t keep it in one spot for more than a few seconds. Iron the smaller parts first. If you have “islands,” place them where you want them to be and iron to the fabric or paper.

Now you are ready to add the paint to your surface. If there are wrinkles in the stencil, paint may leak under the freezer paper. The drier the paint, the less leakage. Watercolor or liquid acrylics are especially likely to leak. I had the biggest problems with using stencils on painted watercolor paper. I haven’t yet tried, but think you may be able to control leakage better by dabbing with a sponge brush or paint brush instead of brushing. If you brush, try to paint from the stencil toward the inside and use as dry a brush as you can to get the results you want. It may help to experiment with the paint and surface you are going to use using a simple design to see how the paint is going to behave.

I will be demonstrating (did it last week in my collage and fiber arts club) a technique called color sanding on watercolor paper. For this you will need sandpaper or a sharp knife and watercolor pencils. Regular colored pencils will not work with water, but they should work if you first lightly cover the area with acrylic medium or an adhesive such as YES! paste. The design area on your paper needs to be moist but not wet. Use a fine mister or sponge or wet cloth or a paintbrush that is not too wet to dampen the paper. Hold the sharpened pencil over the damp paper and sand onto it. This is most effective if you use more than one color that match or complement the others in your art.

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Collage Beginnings

Though quite inexperienced as a collage artist, I’m starting a collage workshop next year in my community. Hey, it’s free, so the heck with credentials.

As I see it, good collage is mostly about the art of composition and design and less about the craft of painting. I see a lot of people copying from someone else’s painting or photo. I call this craft; that someone else did the composition and design and selected the color scheme. Good craft is admirable, but craft alone does not make art. Not that pasting magazine pictures to a piece of cardstock and attaching some ribbon and maybe a button is art – let’s say good collage can be art.

If you want to bring along a picture as a basis for your work, that is fine with me, but I think you will become a better and more creative artist if you work from your own inspiration or your own photo. Creating collage can be a very rewarding creative experience that can help you create more interesting and original traditional paintings.

So what materials do you need to begin?

I’m going to divide my list into two parts: one for fabric collage and one for non-fabric collage.


Fabric Collage


      1. plastic table cover
      2. at least 3 pieces of color coordinated fabric and a background piece in whatever size you want for your finished piece
      3. fusible web such as Wonder-Under
      4. scissors or rotary cutter
      5. thread and needles
      6. iron (I will bring an iron and a tabletop ironing board)
      7. towel to iron on
      8. assorted fibers, lace, buttons, beads, sequins, ribbons, etc. for embellishments (more on this in another blog)
      9. tissue paper or other lightweight paper for your patterns
      10. pencil and eraser


Optional: 1. sewing machine, extension cord

          1. fabric glue (as an alternative to sewing)
          2. fabric cutting board if you have one
          3. fabric paints, brushes, and other paint supplies (more on this in later blog too)


Non-Fabric Collage


      1. plastic table cloth
      2. illustration board or sanded masonite or cardboard precoated with gesso; gessoed, stretched canvas is trickier for beginners but also works as do many other surfaces; ideally, you want a working surface that is fairly rigid and where the surface has been prepared for painting
      3. acrylic matte medium will glue most stuff to your piece; for heavy papers, metal, etc., Yes! Paste or another substantive glue will be needed
      4. a cheap brush or brushes for the glue
      5. 2 water containers
      6. paper towels, rags, Kleenex, etc.
      7. soap
      8. your paints (many collage artists use acrylics, but any water-based paint will work, though watercolor does not work well on many surfaces.); I suppose you can use oils, but don’t bring smelly ones to the group.
      9. Brushes to go with your paints
      10. texturing items such as bubble wrap, corrugated cardboard, toothbrush, comb, rubber stamps – use your imagination)
      11. hair dryer if you have one to speed drying times
      12. scissors
      13. paper to draw on or to lay out your collage elements on
      14. collaging materials – the possibilites are numerous; some suggestions are old magazines with good pictures, photographs scanned and printed on non-photo paper or fabric, old handwritten letters or notes, assorted papers such as tissue or rice paper, textured paper, ribbons, string, buttons, fabric scraps, small hardware items such as watch gears, nails, washers
      15. squeegee or old rolling pin (a round plastic or, better, glass bottle filled with water and capped or a can of, say, chicken broth will serve as a makeshift squeegee)


This should be enough o get started.

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Batik Watercolor

Lemon Batik

Batik Watercolor

In addition to your regular watercolor supplies you will need:

  • paraffin wax
  • parchment paper or wax paper (parchment is available in your supermarket and works best)
  • newspapers
  • an expendable electric skillet (available at your local thrift shop)
  • a 1.5” or 2” and a smaller cheap brush dedicated to using with wax
  • rice paper or oriental paper (if you wish to do the final step)
  • an iron
  • a waterproof ink pen or marker

First draw your design on plain paper. If you are a beginner, a simple design will probably yield the most pleasing results.

Next, trace your design onto the rice paper with the ink pen. You don’t have to use a pen, but for a first attempt, you may want to. And, of course, you can draw directly on the rice paper. You may also use regular watercolor paper, but you can’t perform the next-to-last step (see below) with watercolor paper.

The paraffin should be heated to 210 degrees in the electric skillet. Protect all surfaces near the wax with table covers and old towels.

The wax acts as a resist, so any areas you cover with wax cannot be painted over. The wax is not removed until the end. So any wax applied before you begin painting will remain white.

Place parchment or wax paper under your rice paper and keep it there until the final step.

If you want to paint or sprinkle wax on your work initially, do so. It only takes a few minutes for the wax to dry. Next, paint your first layer of color. You will want to use a fairly dry brush on rice paper.

When this paint has dried (use a low setting if you use a hair dryer), you are ready to apply wax on areas where you don’t want the color to change and perhaps some random splattering.

Repeat the painting and waxing steps until you have finished your painting.

When the final application of paint is dry, use a large brush and cover the entire surface with wax. When the wax is dry, remove your painting from the parchment, take the painting outdoors or hold it over a large trash can, and crumple the painting (not the parchment). This will crack the wax. Next paint the entire surface with black or other dark paint. (This next-to-last step is optional.)

When the paint is bone dry, you are ready to remove the wax. Sandwich the painting between layers of newspaper and iron (set the iron on cotton, no steam). If you don’t want to get wax on your iron, place a clean sheet of parchment between the iron and the top layer of newspaper. When you can see the melted wax coming through the newspaper, carefully peel your painting away from the paper. Repeat the process until no more wax can be seen on the newspaper.

When everything completely dried, I used diluted Yes! paste to glue the picture to Arches 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper.

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Watercolor 101-1

My excuse for not posting in a month is that I’ve been out of town; the other excuse is that I’ve been lazy.

I have been doing some art though. I signed up for a beginner beginner watercolor class even though I’m a faux beginner. Still, I’ve never had a beginning course and am clearly missing some of the basics.

So today I’m going to write about some very fundamental stuff I just learned about. OK, I already knew that watercolor paper is often stretched to keep it from buckling. What I didn’t know is that this is not necessary for heavy weight paper such as 300 pound Arches. 90 pound should always be stretched if you think you might ever want to frame your painting, and it’s a good idea to play it safe and stretch 140 pound paper.

Your paper should be thoroughly soaked with a sponge or in a clean bathtub or pan large enough for the paper. Then let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes to swell, then pull the edges out gently (you don’t want to tear the paper). Smooth the paper from the center to the edges with the palms of your hands. Avoid touching areas of your paper that will be painted with your fingers as they have more oil than the rest of your hand, and oil can form a resist on the paper that your paint will not properly cover. If you must use your fingers, wash your hands first with soap to remove as much oil as possible.

When your paper is smooth and free of air bubbles, staple it to a foam board; place staples about 3 inches apart along each edge. When the paper is dry, you can paint on it as is on the foam backing or remove the staples and transfer the paper to another surface.

In another watercolor workshop I attended for the first time (we have lots of these to choose from in my community), we textured our paper by gluing small pieces of torn tissue paper and torn unryu paper ( also called mulberry paper – a tissue embedded with fiber) all over our 140 lb. stretched Arches. We used Yes paste diluted with water to about the consistency of milk, “painted” the paste on our paper with a large cheap paintbrush and flattened the pieces of tissue over the paste layer. We applied several layers of Yes and tissue with the ragged edges overlapping, creating rough “edges” where the edges of our butterflies would be painted.

When this dried (we hastened the drying process with hairdryers ), we each chose a color scheme and covered our papers with color using a composition form such as a roughly painted cross. I chose permanent rose and cerulean blue (Da Vinci watercolors) and mixed them to also obtain a nice violet.

After this dried, we used graphite paper to trace the dark parts of a butterfly (a B&W enlargement of a color photo) onto our painted paper.

Let me pause here to mention that, if you plan to sell your painting, you should never copy someone else’s painting or use someone else’s photo unless you know the photo is in the public domain. If you enter your painting in a show, you are probably restricted to using only your own photos – or altering photos so much that no one would ever recognize the original (after all, most of us don’t have our own photos of polar bears in the wild).

We then used black Sharpie pens of various sizes to “color” in the parts of our butterfly that we wanted black. At this point we ran out of time, so I need to finish my painting on my own. Here’s what it looks like up to this point.

butterfly on textured paper (incomplete)

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Pastel Portraits

My first pastel portrait attempt: February, 2010

I signed up for a short class in pastel portraiture at the local Lifelong Learning College last winter.  Before the class began, I thought it would be wise to practice drawing from a real life model.  One of the art groups in my community meets weekly and offers the opportunity to draw or paint a clothed model.

The model sits for four 15 minute sessions with 5 to 10 minute breaks between sessions.  Artists are asked for $2 donations to pay the model and cover other expenses such as special lighting and seating for the model.  Our community fees cover use of the room.

The first time I went I did a charcoal sketch of the entire figure, and it wasn’t too bad.  Since many of the artists were doing pastel portraits, I decided to try that the second week.  I don’t remember exactly which pastels I used, but my kids gave me a large set of Prismacolor Nu-Pastels for the holidays, so I’m sure most of the painting was done with those.  I used Canson Mi-Teintes paper.  You don’t have to tell me how bad it is; I already know.

Pastel portrait: June, 2010

My class ran for 8 weeks and we did portraits from photos.  The last session did have a model, but I missed that session.  We used the Nu-Pastels and the Mi-Teintes paper.

I continued going to the weekly portrait sessions, and over time my portraits have improved considerably.  Bear in mind that each of the ones depicted in this post was completed in the four 15 minute sessions.  I feel that this club has been extremely worthwhile.  I have learned much from watching the other artists, sometimes as many as 25 or 30, and from all the practice.

A couple of pieces of advice :

  • Protect your hands.  Some pigments are toxic, e.g. anything containing cadmium.  I tried gloves and hate them – will only wear them if I have an open wound.  I use ArtGuard barrier cream.
  • There is a tendency, when drawing faces, to place the eyes too high up and to place the eyes too closely together.  If you are having trouble getting your faces to look right, try moving the eyes closer to the middle of the head and the eyes about one eye-width apart.
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Mixed Media Fabric Art

I created Swimming Upstream in Uncharted Waters in 2009.  It is the only piece I have displayed publicly for sale.

The background fabric is a computer copy of a portion of a fabric piece created in a fabric marbling workshop I attended.  I chose the colors I wanted, squirted them into the dye trough, and worked with available tools (e.g. special long-tine forks) to create the effects I wanted. Then I laid a piece of treated white fabric on the design and let the fabric soak up the colors.

Later, long after my fabric had dried, I selected the portion I wanted for my background, scanned it into my computer and printed it on fabric treated for an inkjet printer.

I used commercial fabric for the fish but drew in scales with a micron pen, painted fins with fabric paint and sewed lines with gold metallic thread.  The eyes are white beads with embroidered black French knots for eyeballs.  The seaweed consists of fibers acquired in a fabric workshop, glued with archival fabric glue.  I suspect the printer ink is the least archival material used in this piece of art.

The white spot near the center is not part of the art.  It is due to my inept photography – caused by the flash.

I have moved since creating this piece and do not have the brand names of the materials used available a this time.

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