Thursday, January 28, 2016

Fabric paper

Today I am sharing one of my textile techniques. It was invented (I think) by Beryl Taylor, an English textile artist. I have a couple of her books and magazine articles where she explains the technique so I wanted to give it a try.

I haven't followed her instructions exactly but it is basically the same. First you need to make your diluted glue mix.  I used 50% water and 50% white glue (pva) like Beryl's instructions stated. I have also tried Mod Podge with equal parts of water added and it worked the same way. I then experimented with textile paint diluted with 50% water too because I wanted to see if the finished paper would be softer to work with. I thought all the glues felt the same in the finished piece so just use what you have.

What I used: cream synthetic fabric, white tissue paper and wrapping paper.

 1. Starting with a piece of plain fabric I painted on the glue mix to saturate the fabric. You could use patterned fabric if you are trying to use up scraps because it will be covered by the paper layers anyway. Make sure you do this on plastic so that you can peel it off when the glue dries!

2. Then put on a layer of paper, pressing it into the glue and add more glue on top the saturate it. Beryl prefers to tear her papers into smaller pieces and lays them down without overlapping so it isn't too thick to stitch through. I wanted to see if you could use a whole piece of paper so I used some pretty wrapping paper.

3. The final layer is tissue paper. Simply press it onto the glued papers and if needed go over the top with another layer of glue. You need to be careful with this layer because once you wet the tissue it becomes fragile. You can scrunch the tissue first if you want more texture but for my piece I applied it flat. I found that some tissue paper was sturdier than others. Experiment with what you have first before doing a large piece. Leave it to dry for a while, I usually leave it overnight.

That is it. Now you have a piece of paper that can be stitched on either by hand or machine. It is very tough and yet still thin. You can see how the wrapping paper shows through the tissue, the colors are a lot softer than the original paper.

I used my experimental piece of paper to make this textile journal page. I machine stitched around the leaves and hand embroidered the rest of the paper. I mounted it onto a piece of textured Kunin felt that had been painted with metallic paint first. I think the fabric paper would also be good to use in collages in my art journal and want to experiment with that too. I will be able to stitch on it then glue it into a journal for added dimension. Stay tuned for those experiments...

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Art Journal Basics - Paint

What type of paint should you get and what brands?  That is a hard question to answer because it really depends on what you want to do in your journal. I will explain some of the differences here.


Acrylic paint is a good type of paint for journals because it is so versatile. It is the paint I use most often. Generally it is opaque so that means when you add layers it blocks out the color underneath, unless you paint it on thinly so it can be transparent. The look you get is decided by how you apply it. It doesn't take too long to dry but stays wet just long enough to be wiped away or distressed if you gesso first. You can draw on top of acrylics with pencils and markers.

 These are some of my favorite brands. I really like the Folk Art brand in journals because it dries completely matte. That means I can use colored pencils to draw on top of the acrylic painting like I did on this journal page to add fine details (click on the photo to see it larger).
 The other paints in the photo above are the same as the folk art paint. They are all considered craft paint and are not as color fast as artist acrylics would be but I don't worry about that in my journals. I also like craft paints because most of them are non-toxic. A lot of artist paint is toxic and the toxins can be absorbed by the skin. I think it is something to consider if you like to paint a lot. 
 I don't buy the dabbers anymore because the foam pad always becomes stiff and unusable after a bit of use even though I cap it straight away. You also get far less paint in those little bottles than the other brands. If you do not intend drawing on top of your paint then other brands will be okay. 

When I first started painting I was using these Jo Sonja's paints so I have a lot of them. They are an acrylic gouache so that means they have some chalk added to the paint. They dry super smooth but are a little more glossy than the Folk Art paint so I use them on pages where I don't want to draw. 

A lot of journalers recommend Golden fluid acrylics. They are not a favorite of mine but I do use them sometimes. They dry glossy so it is not possible to draw on them. Even some pens won't work on them. I do use them on pages where I am not drawing because they have wonderful color. Most of them are transparent. You can see how transparent they are by that strip of paint they apply to the label over the 3 stripes. In this photo the Alizarin is less see through than the other paints. Note- some of the Golden paints carry a toxin warning so read the labels carefully. 

These are the artist acrylics I use. They  are very similar and I most often use them for canvas paintings. I consider them a bit pricey to use in my journals. The interactive paints don't completely dry for a couple of days so you can spray them with water and they will reactivate. It is great for removing color like I did in this large painting (where the light areas are on the rock).

 When I want to add shiny paint these are my preferences. I like the Lumiere paints a lot because a little goes a long way. They are slightly transparent and glossy. If you do two coats they become opaque. The Stewart Gill paint is very similar but is a bit more runny. The Pearlescent liquid acrylic is usually thought of as an ink but it is a very fluid acrylic. It is fun to use for drips on a page. I consider metallic paints a finishing touch because it is too hard to work on top of them.
The Silks acrylic glazes are an interesting product to use. They dry glossy and transparent. Glazes can make your papers stick together if you put them on opposite pages so I would only use it on one side of a journal. If you want to use them a lot you can use wax paper to stop pages sticking or wax rubbed onto your page.

 These distress paints are the only ones I won't recommend. They have a very bad chemical smell to them so I don't like using them. They are a bit glossy too so that means I can't draw on them later.



Watercolor paint is also a good choice for journals. If you want to use them in a traditional way with blending and shading then they need to go onto watercolor paper. They are not meant to work on gesso but in a journal it is a fun technique. They won't blend on gesso like they do on paper but are great for coloring in. I have used watercolor on top of acrylics too. They don't soak in like on paper so they are a bit harder to work with this way and very unpredictable but that can be fun too.
Quality matters with watercolors. The student grade paints don't have very much pigment in them so your work is a lot paler.

  Watercolor travel sets are great if you don't want to take a lot of supplies with you. This one comes with a water filled brush so you don't even need a bucket of water but you do need a towel to wipe the brush on. The foam they have in the kit for wiping doesn't work as well as paper towel. It is a good quality paint with a lot of pigment and it is my most used set.
 This is my collection of artist watercolor paints. I do use them in journals sometimes, if I am looking for a particular color. I mostly use Art Spectrum (an australian brand) and some Winsor and Newton paints. Sometimes the lids get stuck on with the tubes and they must be soaked in water for a few days to loosen the lids.

This is a different set of watercolors that I picked up from Dick Blicks art store (they don't have the brand name on them). I have used them a bit and they are very bright. They are a little more opaque than the artist paints but that is okay for journaling. I love the colors in this set and they will probably become a favorite for me. There is even a gold and silver paint here.
I got the Peerless paint after doing Jane Davenport's classes. You get a booklet with pages of each color. To use them you just pick up the color off the card with a wet brush. I cut a strip off each card and glued it to a piece of paper to fit into the back of my journal. It is handy for travel but as the colors are limited and you don't actually get much paint I wouldn't recommend these paints for journalers. They are magnificent for adding colour to black and white photos which was there intended purpose. 


Brushes are an important part of painting. For journaling I like to use synthetic brushes because they are a bit tougher than real hair brushes and a lot cheaper. I use both white and orange synthetic brushes. I have never found any difference between them. In this photo I have a selection of synthetics on the right. I mostly use the flat brushes for covering big areas fast and the round brushes for doing details like faces etc. Get a few big ones and a few small brushes. The two brushes on the left are hogs hair brushes (super cheap) that I use when I want to make brush marks. The synthetic brushes make a smooth line compared to the rough line left by a hogs hair brush. 
It is important not to leave your brushes in water overnight. The wooden handle will get ruined and the brush will come apart. At the end of every painting day take the time to wash your brushes out thoroughly with soap (I use dish soap) and let them dry flat overnight. Pay particular attention to where the hair of the brush meets the metal. This is where paint collects. If you leave it there it will make your brush hair splay out and become too hard to paint with.  Your brushes should last for years if you take the time to care for them

If you are not sure what paints you want to get I would suggest buying one color in each brand. You can compare them yourself and find the ones that you like to use. Pick a few colors that are favorites so if you don't get any more of that brand you will only have one tube to use up but it will be a color you really like

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Art Journal Basics - What is Gesso?

Today in my basics series I am talking about gesso and other mediums.  

Gesso: As a painter my first encounters with gesso were in preparing canvas to paint on. It is the white base that has already been applied when you buy a ready to paint canvas. Usually it is an acrylic binder with chalk added but it can be made of other similar things. It is used to seal and prime the page or canvas. Gesso stops the colors from one page in a journal going through to the next one if you apply it evenly over the page before you begin. It can also be used to cover something that you don't want seen, like when you use an old book as a base and need to cover the writing.

There is a wide range of difference in qualities between manufacturers of gesso. Some gessos are very fine and others very chalky. The gloss levels can be different too and this affects how they work on the page.  A chalky gesso will mean you can generally use any medium on top but glossy ones are harder to work on with waxy mediums like pencil. You need to experiment with gesso to find the one that you like best.

Liquitex gesso is very fine and fluid so it spreads easily with a paint brush or makes a very thin layer when spread with a credit card. It dries to a nice matte finish so is great as a base for colored pencils or any type of paint. It is the one I use the most.
The Derivan (an aussie company) is a thick gesso that has similar properties to the Liquitex but won't spread as easily with a brush.
The Mont Marte (another aussie brand) gesso I have here is almost empty. It is the cheapest gesso I have bought and also thick like the Derivan. It works just as well as the more expensive brands except that it dries with a slightly glossy finish. It doesn't like pencils on top but if I do a background of matte acrylic paint then I can use pencils on top of that.

Some of the other ways I have used gesso on a page are:
(you can click on the photos to go to the blog post about the technique)
1. Preparing paper that is not art paper.
2. Heating it to make a bubbled texture
3. Using it as a resist. Glossy gessos are best for this technique
4. Creating texture on a page
more texture
Clear gesso is a transparent binder with a more gritty substance added. When it dries the surface feels like fine sandpaper. It is great to use over a surface that other mediums won't stick too. If you have used glossy paints then a coat of clear gesso will allow pencils to work on them or soft pastels and chalk. I don't use it often.

Gel Mediums are another great product. They can be used as glue, for adding texture or changing the surface texture to either matte or glossy. It usually tells you on the bottle if it is matte or glossy. Some gel mediums have different additives like fiber, pumice, grit to create textured backgrounds. My favorite medium is the Liquitex matte medium because it goes on with a paint brush very smoothly and when it dries I can use anything on top like pencils or paint. I use it to glue papers to my page and if any leaks out the side or gets on top of the paper it doesn't matter because it won't show.

Thicker mediums can be used like the thicker gesso to add texture through a stencil or with a palette knife. Glossy gel medium doesn't color as easily as matte and can be used as a resist in areas that you don't want colored. Glossy medium also gives you a little time to wipe paint away if you want to create a distressed look because the paints take longer to dry over them. The main disadvantage of glossy mediums is that they can be easily seen on a page if you use them as glue. For a beginner journaler I would recommend getting a matte medium to start with.
A page that has gel medium on top

Modeling paste or texture paste/gel are another interesting product to experiment with. They stay in the shape you apply them as they dry, so if you push it through a stencil it will create a raised surface. Applying it with a palette knife looks a bit like a rough plaster. The Liquitex brand modeling paste I pictured here is extremely light on the page and doesn't add weight. It is great for journals. Different brands dry with a different finish, some can be quite glossy. Golden modeling paste is smoother than the Liquitex but a little heavier so I use it more on canvases. I used texture paste in the previous post.

Glues I like to use are varied. I used to use mod podge a lot but not so much these days. It tends to stick to itself if you use it on opposite pages. Sometimes I go over a page with wax if that happens but I try only to use it as a base layer these days. That is why I now use the matte medium as a glue because it doesn't make pages stick together. Another glue I like is UHU stick glue. It doesn't make the paper buckle. Yes paste is the same as the stick glue but in a tub so you can apply it with a credit card. I recently found it online and am impressed so far. A little really does go a long way and it covers so quickly.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Colour me Positive challenge - week 1

I have joined a new challenge this year because Documented Life Project have gone back to planners which is not my thing.

The new challenge is hosted by Lulu Art and is called Colour Me Positive. It will be an inspiring experience and they use quotes for prompts so that is exactly the sort of thing I respond to. The link is
The prompts are published or emailed weekly on Fridays (Australia time) and it is free to join.

My art goal this year is to finish off a few journals I have started previously so for this first challenge I got out a journal I started during the mermaid circus online class. I didn't like the pages I did with Teesha Moore so I wanted to redo them because the heavy watercolor paper was too good to just throw away.

I removed all of the collaged images from magazines. Some of them came off easily but others ripped the page when removed. I didn't mind because it would give me a textured background to work on. I roughly applied gesso over the top of everything with a credit card. Some of the writing bled through the gesso.

Next I used a stencil and palette knife to spread Molding paste across the page. I tried to go over the areas where the writing was bleeding through so they would not be readable later on.

I used these acrylic paints to cover the gesso when it was dry. It was not an even coat because it would be covered with the sprays I was going to use. I used Lindystampgang Moon Shadow mists in brown and green to spray the page. I like using the sprays to highlight texture because they settle around the raised areas.

I used a few flower stamps along the bottom and some dragonflies. I stamped with StazOn permanent ink in a stone grey color so it wouldn't stand out as much as black would. This was a mistake as it blended into the background too much.

I drew the lady and used acrylic paints to color her in roughly. I added details and shading with colored pencils after the paint had dried for a couple of hours. 

To finish the page I went over the flower stamps with pencils, markers and paint pens. I put tracing paper on top of the page on the right and wrote out my quote. I wanted to make sure it would fit before I wrote onto the page. I used a gel pen for the quote after I worked out where it would fit. The first challenge is now complete and it feels good to do a journal page after not doing any for a couple of months. I am looking forward to the next prompt.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Art Journal Basics - What is art journaling?

Happy New Year readers. I am starting the new year by sharing what I have learned about about journals and mediums. I know I have covered some of this before but I thought beginners may find some of these tips helpful if they are all together.

What is art journaling? Anything you want it to be. I think of it as Art in a Journal. Some people will say you must include writing in your journal but that is not so. Others will say you need to draw or paint. Again that is not so. I started by using stamps for my images and sometimes still do. It is your book so add whatever you want. Glue in things if you like. Add typed lists if you don't want to handwrite. It is okay to change things you don't like. Add emotions or things important to you or just make pretty pictures. It doesn't matter to anybody else what you choose to do with your journal.


Just be happy with your own creation and share or not (I don't share all that I do). It is not an art form to compare with others because we are all starting this journey at different times in our lives with different skill levels and interests. Think of it as a journey of discovery and have fun.

What type of journal should I use? I have used many different types of books over the years. When I first started I used thick (300 gsm or higher) watercolor paper stitched together to make a small journal.

This is still one of my favorite types of paper to use. It holds up well to mixed media and usually dries flat. This is a picture of my first journal. The pages were worked on separately then put into a book later.

If you are unsure about stitching a book with loose pages then use these rings from stationery stores to hold your completed pages together. When you use loose pages there is no fear of your paints and dyes ruining a whole book of work like there is with a bound book. Punch your holes in the paper before you paint them so you don't end up putting a hole in the middle of a beloved image or sentence.

 This journal is watercolor paper held together with a string in the middle that is tied into a simple bow on the outside. It is a simple 8 page book but still a journal. It has a plastic cover that is edged with fabric that protects the paper. You can find cheap plastic school book covers at the stationers (or newsagents in Australia).

Altered books are used by some people for journals. I have found the best sort of book to use are the older ones (from the 50s or earlier) and they are stitched together. They seem to have thicker paper that stands up to mixed media better than newer books. You will need to remove some of the pages for this type of journal because each layer of paint or paper you add later makes the book too thick for the tight binding that most novels have. I usually remove at least one third of the pages. The pages are coated with gesso to help hide the writing.

I used some scrapbook papers glued in with matte medium to add strength to the pages of this journal. I also put tape down the center to stop the paints bleeding through but I don't do that any more. It makes the book too thick in the middle and is sometimes very hard to cover with paint. I prefer now to work on one side of the page at a time and only do a few double page spreads so there is less chance the paints will spread through the center of the book.

The Strathmore spiral bound mixed media books are my favorite store bought journal these days. The paper is quite thick and stands up to a lot of techniques. That cover begs to be decorated as well. 

You can see how thick these textures have been applied and the pages are still flat.

When you are just starting I would choose a book that doesn't have too many pages. That is why I like to make my own with watercolor paper. It is great to be able to hold a filled journal of 8 pages and start something new. A book with 50 pages takes a long time to fill!

The size you choose to work in will probably change too as you go along. I started with small books but now find it easier to draw big so I like A4 or letter size pages.

I have previously listed a bunch of supplies that I consider to be basic for my journaling. It can be found here:

The next basics lesson on Tuesday will cover gesso and other mediums. In the meantime I will share more of my completed pages.