Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Finished Art Journal Page and a bit about Casein paint

A couple of posts ago, I detailed my go-to art journal background technique.  Here, I wanted to show you the finished page:

Ok, so barring that her hair is totally, totally off, I really love how the whole page came out.  On the recommendation of a friend (Zura at, I decided to sketch her out on the right, and then paint over her with titanium white, to give me a blank white surface to work on.  But, I also happen to have a tube of Titanium White Casein paint by Shiva (recommended by Amy over at Flutterbye Art), so I thought I'd try that, and be able to test it out at the same time.

Casein (pronounced kay-Seen, as my art dealer told me - and by that, I mean my art addict dealer at H. R. Meininger's, the local art supply store) - is a milk-protein based paint.  We're talking old school here - ancient Egyptians used to use this kind of paint.  It dries to a wonderful matte finish.  From what I had read, over time, it will become permanent.

What I didn't realize is that "over time" means it takes a while to dry to the point that it's not rewettable.  Oh, don't get me wrong - it feels dry, it looks dry - but woo-hoo!  You can rewet it and move it around, even after it's dry.  It behaves a bit like acrylic paint, except it's matte.  It behaves a bit like watercolors and gouache, except it's really opaque.  It behaves a bit like oil paint, except it's not quite as "movable" as oil paint is.  It's just it's own medium.

So, I painted the underpainting white, redrew in my girl, and then went over her with the new watercolor crayons that I got from Dick Blick.  I attempted the watercolor crayons in layers, and that's when I discovered that the white Casein paint will re-wet and move around again when water is applied.  Which is actually really cool.  For my next portrait, I'm going to try the Casein white underpainting again, but do all the shading at once with my watercolor crayons, and then wet the whole thing with my waterbrush.  See if the shading is a bit more smooth.

Oh, and the Casein totally sucked up the water-soluable dye inks I'd sprayed underneath (the Dylusions in Bubblegum Pink).  Meaning, it pulled the ink right on up into the white, and where I re-wet it, actually brought pink into the portrait.  Not bad, but it did happen.  Just an FYI.

Also - the Casein paint from Shiva totally smells like Pine-sol.  I think it's an additive to prevent mold or something, because it is a milk-based paint.  But still really cool for playing around.

Also, also - if you order the color "Cocoa" from Dick Blick, in the Caran D'Ache Neocolor II watercolor crayons, you will get a color called "Dunkelbeige".  It's not a mistake - they're the same color number.  But, yeah, I'd call Dunkelbeige "Cocoa" any day of the week.  Just try saying it out loud and not giggling - I dare ya. :D

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fun with Dick Blick - Experiment Time!

Julie Prichard of The Land of Lost Luggage held a giveaway last month for her newsletter subscribers, and woo-hoo!  I won!  It was a gift certificate to Dick Blick, and I gleefully spent it last week.  If you aren't signed up for Julie's newsletter, get on over there.  She is an absolutely wonderful teacher of online mixed-media classes - I took her Art Journaling Super Nova class, Part 2, a couple of years ago, and was so impressed with how available she is to her students.  The content was fabulous and I learned so much.  You need to know what she's up to.

Anyways, here's what I got from Dick Blick (thank you Julie!!):
I'm linking to all this stuff at Dick Blick, because I know you can get it there.  I'm not an affiliate or anything - just want you to be able to see what I'm talking about.

First, holy cow, the Liquid Watercolor!  Forget Glimmer Mists, forget Perfect Pearls - I have found my gold spray ink!!  It is a true metallic gold, shimmery and bright.  It's relatively thick, and I found that I had to add equal parts water to watercolor in my spray bottle, to get it to spray as a mist - otherwise, it was coming out as a steady stream.  It is just lovely - of course, the shimmer won't show up on the scanner, but trust me, it's shiny.  Also, my theory is that because it's watercolor, it won't clog up the spray bottle like acrylics will.  I will let you know after it's been sitting for a bit.

Next, let's talk about the Strathmore Mixed-Media paper.  I've heard rave reviews of this paper from Samantha Kira - she shows in one of her videos how it remains flat, even with all of her paint layers (and that's just a miracle in my book - a paper that remains flat under mixed-media duress?  No way!).  I was excited to see how this paper held up.

It looks a little like cold-press watercolor paper - the surface is slightly textured, but not as textured as most watercolor papers.   I painted a section with Martha Stewart Gesso, another section with Golden Soft Matte Gel, and then left the last section plain.  I used some of my new toys over the top - the watercolor crayons, the Letraset Aquamarkers, and then the Fine Painting Pen.  I also used plenty of water as part of my tests.  Here's the results (click on image to enlarge):

The paper slightly curled at the corners where I laid down the gesso, but otherwise, it's flat as a pancake.  I couldn't believe it - even where I added water to the watercolor crayon and marker, it stayed flat!  

I think, since it curled slightly with the gesso (and I do mean slightly), it might curl up some with acrylic paints.  But I'll have to test that out when I make an art journal out of the pad.  I would have gotten the actual spiral pad of Strathmore Mixed-Media paper, but they perforated the pages in those, and I know I'd have pages falling out all over the place.

As for my new Neocolor II watercolor crayon, it behaved as I expected it to.  It's more "slidey" over gesso and gel medium (it moves easier with water) than on plain paper.  What I was really interested in was the color.  It's called Beige, but the crayon looks pretty gray to me.  The color turns out to be a grayish brown when water is added.  Sigh.  I was looking for a Titan Buff kind of color, and this is not it.  Oh well, it will be great for shading faces.

Next - squeee!  The Letraset Aquamarkers!  Rhomany of Rhomany's Realm recommends these markers (and she's not a brands kind of person, so if she recommends a product, she's got good reasons).  I was so excited to try these out.  They're watercolor-esque markers, meaning, water will move the pigment.  Rhomany had said they behave in an interesting way over gesso, and she's right.  The pigment moves some over gesso, while still maintaining the original marks.  In my test, you can see where I colored with the fine tip, the broad tip and then the broad tip again, but with water brushed over it.   Over gel medium, they behave more like a true watercolor than over the gesso (which makes sense, gel medium being more plastic than gesso).  On the plain paper, the pigment absorbs more into the paper, but is still slightly activated by the water.

I can easily see these markers going into my portrait arsenal, for easy shading and blending.  They also work over acrylics and gesso, so I can use them for writing and doodling over backgrounds.  

By the way, these are not brush-tip markers - they have a firm, felt-tip point to them.  And, considering that these are water-based, I doubt they're permanent when dry (just something to consider for those that like to layer).  Also, for some reason, the fine tip seems to lay down a brighter blue than the broad tip.  Can you see it in the photograph above?  I can't for the life of me figure out why that would be.  Any ideas?

Now, for the piece de resistance!  The Loew-Cornell Fine Painting Pen - I am in love.  It's a metal contraption (for lack of a better word), where you can add inks or paints to the well, and the ink/paint comes out of a fine point on the end.  No more messing around with a fine brush for details or writing.  I can just add some fluid acrylics into the well of this pen, and voila!  Details!  In any color I want!  

I found that with fluid acrylics, it's best to add just a touch of water before adding it into the well of this pen - otherwise, there's a lot of tapping involved, to get the paint to come out.  Clean-up is a cinch (just rinse it out with water), and it even comes with a fine-needle cleaning tool.

Thank you again, Julie, for my fun time at Dick Blick!  I love being able to test out new toys!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Art Geeks - My Favorite Background Technique

This last week, Gulfsprite (aka, Christy Sobolewski) posted a video on YouTube for the Art Geeks, detailing her go-to background technique.  It's a question that's come up in the Art Geeks Facebook Group - what are your favorite background techniques?  What technique do tend to do the most?  And would you share your technique, for those that are new to art journaling?

I answer a resounding "Yes" to that last question!  What I do is not super-original, but it's what I tend to do the most.  It's actually very easy, and incorporates my favorite play items - namely, paint, spray inks and collage.  It gives a very layered look, without spending hours on it.  This type of background gives me plenty of room to either work on a portrait, or do a lot of writing.

So, here's where we start - my blank page:

I put masking tape down the center, to help protect the spine and give it some strength.  As this is an altered book art journal, I tore out every other page, to give the book some room for my layered pages.  I taped where a page had been torn out.

Next, I picked three colors of craft paint, and just painted swatches of color.  I scrub the colors in with my brush, so that it feathers out at the edges.  I use cheap craft paints, Martha Stewart paints, Golden paints - for me, it's not about the brand, it's about the color.  I will say that I love how craft paints give a matte, chalky finish, and prefer them for my art journal (they're easier to write over, too - glossy paints are pen killers).

Now it's time for the spray inks.  I have a variety of stencils, and am always looking at anything with holes in it as a possibility for spraying.  This stencil is a piece of die-cut scrapbook paper (found in the specialty scrapbook paper section of Hobby Lobby).  With paper stencils, it's important to lift them up right away after spraying - otherwise, they will become a part of your background, stuck forever.  

First, I sprayed Tulip Fabric Paint Spray in White (it's wonderful!  It's an opaque white and is a dream to work with), then immediately layered that with Dylusions Spray in Bubblegum Pink.  I sprayed randomly, but focused the color in the blue and green areas (as the pink wouldn't show as well over the baby pink paint).  Then I grabbed my Tulip Glitter Paint spray in Red and sprayed over the whole stencil.  

I love how this came out!  You can't see it in the picture, but it's very glittery.  Now, it would be easy and quick to just stop right here.  And sometimes, I will stop here, because I love the background as is.  But I also love collage, so I decided to add some into the lower left-hand corner.

There's usually no rhyme or reason to what images I choose to use in my collages.  I have several Zip-Loc Freezer bags, filled with scraps of papers, separated into categories that makes sense to me (neutrals, colors, images, etc.).  I just grab my bags and start picking out papers.  I also tend to collage in a square format.  Squares and rectangles really appeal to me, and so that's how my collages are shaped.

I used Matte Gel Medium to glue down this collage, but I've also used Matte Medium, Collage Pauge, Decopauge, and Mod Podge (in Matte - the Glossy version will make your pages stick horribly).  Basically, whatever's on sale (or whenever I have a coupon).  There are blank areas on the collage that I'll probably use later as a journaling spot, and I can doodle and color around the images of the flower and the camera.  The area on the right is ready for journaling or a portrait, which is what I've been practicing lately.

Sometimes, I will add paint over the collage - usually I will brayer over the whole page in a new color, or in white.  The result is a cohesive page, with lots of layers peeking through.  Other times, I'll get my stamps out, and stamp over a very neutral collage, as a focal image.  It all depends on my mood.

Lastly, I've added a simple border on the bottom.  I just like how a border contains a page.  It's that square/rectangle thing again.

And that's it!  This is my go-to way of doing backgrounds for my art journal.  If you're new to art journaling, I hope this gives you some ideas for ways to use your fun art supplies.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Book House - Altering Books for Art Journals

I was at the library last night, turning in my overdue books and paying off my fines.  My library has a "Friends of the Library" area, where people donate books, and then the Friends sell them, to help support the library.  And lookie what I found!

They're called "My Book House", and from my Google learnings, I have found that this is 11 volumes of a 12 volume set.  I didn't see Volume 12 at the library, but I'm going to go back and look, in case it's been misplaced.  They were edited by Olive Beaupre Miller, and each book contains children's stories, poems and illustrations.  As you go through each book, the stories become progressively more challenging, to track a child's reading development.  They are gorgeously illustrated.

The first thing I saw, when I saw this set, was the beautiful pastel colors of the covers, and my first thought was to have them sitting on my shelf, each one altered into an art journal.  An 11 volume art journal, if you will.

However, then I went and looked them up on Google.  I always do this with old books, just to make sure I'm not altering some rare, one-of-a-kind book that people want for ridiculous sums of money.  

Sigh - and what did I find?  That these books are worth something.  Not a lot - these are reprints of the first "My Book House" 6-Volume set that was originally published in 1920.  But a 12-volume set of this 1971 reprint, in good condition, goes for about $75 on

This put me in a quandary.  Usually, I pick up old books because I like the cover, or the title is clever, or the paper inside is thick and a little bit toothy.  But they never turn out to be rare, or worth anything, other than maybe $2 at Alibris.  So, I alter them with zero guilt - no one else wants the book, so what's wrong with me altering it?

And this is the argument I use with people that freak out over people altering books - what's wrong with re-purposing a book that no one else wants, into something the artist will enjoy and use?  I don't think books are sacred, unless again, we're talking about rare first editions and such.  They are meant to be enjoyed, in whatever format that happens to be, reading and/or altering.

But in this case, these books turn out to be beloved by many, and are worth something to other people, as they are.

So, I've had to make a choice here.  They are worth something to me, as alterable books, and I want to use them as art journals.  I want to see them on my shelf, and know they contain my journey as a person and artist.  But, they are also worth something to others, as nostalgic reminders of childhood stories, or as something to be given to their children and grandchildren to enjoy.  And I've decided that what they are worth to me, as an artist, is more important than what they are worth to a stranger who may pay that $75 for what I've got.   I've decided that being worried about their monetary value to someone else is pretty materialistic, and I'm choosing the aesthetic route.

As an art journaler, what would you do?  Would you sell the books to someone else, just because someone might be willing to pay something for them?  Or would you do as I'm going to do, and alter them to your heart's content, because you want to?