Daily Art Challenge: December 31

Our last daily challenge for the year 2018.

As I’ve mentioned, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.  I pick a subject I want to learn about.  I’ve studied historic royal jewels, puppetry, bible history and geography, and for the year 2018, hand lettering.  Our final challenge for 2018 is to pick any subject, art movement, material, or artist, and learn everything there is to know about it.

If you’re unfamiliar with acrylic paints, take this year to explore the medium in depth.  If you are interested in a particular art movement, study it, the prominent artists and their works, how the art is made and with what media, and make some of your own art in the method and style of that movement.  Perhaps you have always wanted to create with wood, but never had the chance to learn how.  Take some classes in woodworking and create some stuff.  If you’ve loved the idea of making jewelry but don’t know how-find some online tutorials and jump in.  If you’re fascinated with a particular time period, study it.  What was going on at the time politically, who were the major players in events at the time, what was life like then as compared to now.  What were the society norms and customs.  What did people do for a living, where did they live and in what type of shelter, what did they eat and how did they cook it?

There are so many topics, subjects, historic people and events that fascinate me.  There are artists who blow my mind by their creativity and amazing works.  There are techniques I would love to explore and master.  There are books I’d like to read and to write.  I’m sure there are things you’re interested in and would like to learn more about.

Choose something and dive in.  Explore the topic fully.  Do in depth research.  Take online classes.  Find a mentor to teach you new skills.  Become a better artist and person by growing in new ways this coming year.

And may you and yours be blessed in the upcoming year.


Daily Art Challenge: December 10

Today’s challenge is to use the “L” composition in our art.  This is laying out our design in the shape of an L.  You will have a tall object(s) at one side of your art piece, with the other objects in a line across the bottom of the piece.  While the objects can be clustered together in groups, they can also be in a fairly straight line.  Use your own judgement and experiment with different configurations.  The one important element is the significantly taller object(s) on either side of the piece.

This is a fairly common composition used by photographers.  I have been playing around with this a bit this week and have been pleasantly surprised by the results.  So give the “L” composition a try in your own work today.

Marathon, Cont’t. Watercolor Fun

Here are a couple quick and easy watercolor ideas you can use for holiday projects:

  1. Wet your watercolor paper in the shapes of holiday images.  Ornaments, trees, stars, gifts…wet one at a time.
  2. Drop watercolor into the wet image.  I normally start at the edges and let the color wick inward.
  3. Use colors that won’t make mud if they mix.
  4. Let dry.
  5. Doodle around the image. Add glitter, metallic paint for ornament hangers, or flat backed beads if desired.
  6. Cut out and add to cards or tags.  Glue to chipboard and cut out for dimensional elements on ornaments.
  7. If you want texture on your images, press tissue, paper towel, or sponge into wet paint.  You could also sprinkle salt onto the wet paint.  Let dry completely and brush off.
  8. Use a stencil, make up sponges and paint to create gorgeous backgrounds.  Daub sponge into wet paint.  Pounce most of it off on a scrap piece of paper.
  9. When it’s nearly dry, pounce over (or gently rub over) your stencil.  This makes a beautiful, soft look.  (You can use this for bible journaling too.)  Great technique for cards. Write or stamp sentiment over dried paint.
  10. Paint a scene background, like the night sky or a landscape.
  11. Cut out magazine images that go along with that background.
  12. Lay image flat and paint black.
  13. Once dry, add silhouette to the background.  Again, perfect for cards.
  14. Paint a colorful background.
  15. Cut out holiday images from scrap paper.
  16. Temporarily stick the images onto the paper.
  17. Cover with black paint.
  18. Remove masks.
  19. This is particularly stunning with a sentiment in a thick font.  I’m also going to try this with a deer image.
  20. Perfect for dramatic cards or framed as seasonal art.

Without question, there are thousands of possible projects when using up your stash.  These use my watercolors (remember, I have tons) and inexpensive, lightweight watercolor papers.  They are quick, easy techniques anyone can do

And the results are lovely.


Weeky Techniques Challenge: Week 44

Textures is the challenge for the week.  Here are some ideas for adding texture to your work.

  1. Texture paste through a stencil.  This is a quick and easy way to add that little something extra to your art.  Make sure you wash your stencils well because texture paste likes to dry in the little nooks and crannies.
  2. Texture paste applied with a palette knife.
  3. Sponges, toothbrushes, tires from a kids toy- pressed into texture paste.
  4. Embossing powder.  Over a stamped image or doodle with an embossing pen and add over that.
  5. Tissue paper and napkins.  They work over gel medium, wet acrylic paint, gloopy glue.  I like to have a lot of crinkles in mine, so I smush the paper around a bit while the gel medium is wet.
  6. Thread, twine, string.  Again, I normally add to the page with gel medium.
  7. Tape.  Drywall tape, masking tape, even washi tape will work.  I glue it down, then generally go over all of it with gesso.
  8. Lace.  Whether paper or fabric.
  9. Doilies, cloth or paper
  10. Cheesecloth.  I use this one a lot.  I really love the texture.
  11. Chipboard, fun foam and foam core
  12. Add sand, microbeads, coarse salt or glitter to gel medium.
  13. Torn paper.  Let the edges stick up from your substrate
  14. Gel medium mixed with paint-impasto
  15. Rolled paper
  16. Fabric, ribbons, buttons, snaps
  17. Melted wax candle or crayon
  18. Waxed, parchment or deli paper.  Plastic wrap, crumpled wrapping paper, tin foil, clothing tags, paper from a shredder, plastic bags
  19. Fake Flowers, leaves, moss and babysbreath-all can be added and covered with gesso or paint if you want to change the color.
  20. Gears, watch parts, game pieces
  21. Bubble wrap.  Use to add paint to your page or glue it to the page directly
  22. Die cuts
  23. Lines scratched into pages for grasses, hair, branches, etc.  Use a gift card scrapper to add.
  24. Fiber fill or cotton balls
  25. Confetti from a hole punch
  26. Plastic stir sticks or straws
  27. Mesh bag from oranges or produce.  These make great fishing nets and fences too.
  28. Thick gesso, whether through a stencil or added with a palette knife
  29. Twisted wire for branches and trees.
  30. Jewelry findings-these work well for stars in a night sky, as dangling trims from a tag or page, and as details on things like Christmas trees and as jewelry on a portraits ears, neck, or in hair
  31. Zippers sewn onto a page
  32. Hot glue as a design or doodle
  33. Cinnamon mixed into a paste with gloopy glue for rust
  34. Paint applied with a sponge
  35. Cardboard-remove the top layer of paper to reveal the wavy texture underneath

I’ve used every one of these at least once.  Some only a couple times, some to many to count.  Texture adds so much to mixed media art.  Use a couple of these ideas on your next art piece.

Weekly Techniques Challenge: Week 43

Paint pours.  I love ’em!  Here’s how I make mine.  You need:

  1.  Floetrol or pouring medium.
  2. Paints
  3. Distilled water
  4. Silicone
  5. Canvases
  6. Cardboard box lined with plastic
  7. Hand torch
  8. Plastic cups
  9. Gloves
  10. Popsicle stir sticks

I set up my pouring area first.  Mine is in the back storage room.  I lay painters plastic down on the floor and over my table.  I normally pour over a plastic lined cardboard box.  It’s large, but shallow.  I use plastic cups, turned upside down, to hold my canvases up, off the box.  You want the paint to flow off the edges and it needs someplace to drip from the canvas.  I put my gloves, popsicle stir sticks, and the hand torch there too.

When I’m pouring paint, I usually make several at a time.  It takes a bit of time to set everything up and mix the paints, so I make it count.  If you’re pouring several canvases at one time, make sure you have room to let them dry undisturbed.  Since I pour mine in the same pouring box, I have to lift the canvas out and put them on plastic cups to dry.  So I set up those areas too.  If you can keep pets and kids away from your work, lay plastic down on the floor and transfer your pours onto that.  I can’t do that, so I tuck my canvases into every nook and cranny available.

Here’s the recipe I use:  2 parts floetrol or pouring medium, 1 part paint, 1 part distilled water.  You can measure your amounts, but I just divide my cup into the amounts I’m adding.  I haven’t found exact measurements to be necessary.  Close is good enough for me.

Color combinations are up to you.  Using metallic paint is a fun addition.  A little goes a long way, so I recommend only one metallic per pour. The inexpensive craft paints from the dollar store or Walmart work too.  Because I mix a lot at one time, I prefer the larger tubes of student grade paints.  I can get a lot from one tube.  You can also get larger jugs of fluid paints from big box stores and on line.  If your going to be making a lot of pours, this will be your most cost effective paint option.

Let’s get messy:

  1. I begin by adding my acrylic pouring medium or floetrol to my cup.
  2. Next comes my color.  I like student grade acrylic tube paints for this, as they are already pretty thin.
  3. Mix well with with a popsicle stick.
  4. Add distilled water and stir well.  You want the consistency of fluid acrylic paints.
  5. Leave stick in the cup and set aside.
  6. Repeat the above steps for each color you want to use.
  7. Now I add 3 to five drops of silicone to the paint, except the white and black.  (These are the heaviest weight paints, so they will flow through the other colors in the pour cup, grabbing silicone from each.)
  8. Use you stir stick to give one or two stirs.  Sometimes I skip this step and just leave the silicone floating on top.
  9. Now we fill our pour cups.  I use the large, red beverage cups for this.
  10. Begin with the heaviest weight paint first-either your white or black.
  11. Add your color to the cup, one layer at a time.  Just dump it right in there.  No need to worry about this.
  12. The higher you hold the paint cups to pour the color in, the deeper the color will go in the layers.
  13. Lay your canvas over top of the filled pour cup, hold firmly and flip.  Your cup is now upside down on your canvas, holding the paint.
  14. Make sure the canvas is sitting securely in the box, elevated on something stable.
  15. Lift cup straight up, letting the paint out.  Scrape out excess with your stick and add to the far corners of the canvas.
  16. I always make an abundance of paint so it will cover my entire canvas with minimal tilting.  While this might seem like a waste of paint, you can use the excess to dip paper, to add to the edges of the canvas where the paint didn’t cover, to press smaller canvases into, you can let the excess dry and use as paint skins, to make jewelry, etc.  There really is no waste when I pour.  I use every bit of the paint.
  17. Use your torch and quickly go over the poured paint to bring out more cells and to pop air bubbles. (If you’re using floetrol, wear a filtering mask.  I am not overly concerned about using floetrol, but use your own judgement.  If you have health concerns about the floetrol, purchase pouring medium made for this purpose.) Move quickly so you don’t burn the paint.  Until you’re used to this, you’ll probably scorch some of the paint.  That’s okay, as that can look cool too.  It’s not a mistake, it’s a design element!
  18. Tip and carefully move the paint where you need it to go.  I’ve never had a pour cover the sides completely, so I use a popsicle stick to scoop up the excess that dripped off, and fill in where needed.
  19. Go over a second time with your torch.  Pop air bubbles this way, and bring out more cells.  As the paint dries, more bubbles may work their way up.  I like to pop these with a pin.  Some artists leave them alone.

If your pouring a large canvas you’ll need several filled pour cups.  Simple flip them upside down quickly onto your canvas.  Place as many as necessary on the canvas, then pull the cups after they are all in place.  Don’t flip and lift one at a time.

Once dry, some artist pour resin over the canvas.  This is a really interesting option and one I like for small canvases or wood pieces.  You can make coasters which are really delightful.

You can also use a solid surface and make table tops.  This is my next major project.  You can place your substrate on a lazy susan.  This spins, so after you lift your pour cup you spin the substrate and the paint flows that way.  Really cool look!

While this sounds complicated, it really isn’t.  It’s a very forgiving project.  The end results are alway exciting to see.  Each pour is unique and spectacular.  There are several how-to videos on you tube which I recommend you check out before you purchase your materials.  I’ve made several beautiful pours, and I hope you’ll give it a try.  This has become one of my favorite art techniques and I think you’ll fall in love with it too.

Daily Art Challenge: November 11

Our challenge today is to use the written word as our background for our project.  Here’s what I mean.

We’re going to use our canvas or art journal page as a written journal.  We write out everything that’s bothering us, making us struggle in life, pouring out our anger over a situation or injustice, grief, pain, frustrations.  Get the poison out and onto your page or canvas.  This can be done in any medium you choose.

Fill the page with anything and everything. If you fill the page, go to the top and continue.  Write over top of what you’ve already put down.  This is more like an emotional and mental “dump”.  Get it out-no matter what “it” is.

Now that you’ve purged emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, cover over all of it with gesso.  There may be small areas which show through.  Make sure nothing is legible, as this isn’t about sharing our deepest stuff with anybody.  Its about release from those things that are holding us hostage in life.

Once you have your gesso covered background base, continue to build over it.  Add color, texture, collage, anything you want to create a beautiful background.  Now create an art piece that expresses the good stuff.  Your hopes, dreams, goals.  Things that bring you joy, love, peace and fulfillment.

Think about it this way:  The most beautiful gardens are growing from a base of manure and compost.  The ugly, smelly stuff isn’t seen, but it’s vital to transform the plants from ordinary to extraordinary.  The same can be said for the bad stuff in our lives.  We can allow it to transform us into people with great compassion and love for our fellow man or we can let the crap fester, mold and stink up our lives.

This is the time of year when we focus on peace on earth and goodwill toward men.  Let’s use this challenge as a chance to deal with the manure in our lives and let it transform us from ordinary to extraordinary.


A mural is an art piece created directly on a permanent surface like a wall, ceiling or  building exterior.  Whatever architectural elements found on the permanent surface are harmoniously incorporated into the work.  Which could be a door or window, pillars or stone work, for example.

In my paint contractor days, I painted many murals for clients.  I’ve painted several in my own home as well.  I currently have our family tree painted in our entrance hall, as well as the large sunflower in our open stairwell.  I painted Noah’s ark and animals all over our barn when the kids were little, with an elephant on the front over the doors.  That barn currently has a huge American flag on it, which I painted in the days following 9-11.

Murals are fun and easy ways to add uniqueness and character to a wall or building.  Our home is a simple, vintage farmhouse inspired structure.  The woodwork is plain, there is little in the way of architectural interest.  The circus themed nursery, the pastel floral garden, the Greek inspired images, and the race car little boys bedroom have all been found on the walls of our home at one time or another.

The reason I’m mentioning this is because I’m about to prime over our family tree.  But the mural made our home unique and personal.  You can do the same thing for yours.  If you’re feeling your home or work space could use a little personality, a mural may be just the thing.  So how do you paint a mural on a wall?  Let’s see:

  1.  Choose your image.  This can be as simple or complex as you wish.  I my case, most of the murals I painted in our home were one image paintings, throughout the rooms.  Only the Greek inspired stuff was a scene.  Oh, and the garden.  That was a cottage garden around the lower third of the bedroom.
  2. Next, prime and paint the base color for your mural.  In the garden, the base 1/3 was pale green and the upper 2/3rds a pale blue.
  3. Sketch out your image onto your surface.  You can use an overhead projector and a transparency with your image printed on it or sketch your own.
  4. Block in your colors.  This means fill in your images with their base color first.
  5. My next step is to add the shadows where needed.  I determine where my light source is coming from and add shadows where they would naturally be found.
  6. I add the lighter areas where the light would hit next.  By adding highlights and shadows it makes the mural more realistic.
  7. Last, I add the details.

As I’ve mentioned, I sketch my images in with my paint brush.  While I have used a transparency for very large set pieces, I haven’t for any home murals.  Nevertheless, it’s a practical option.  I use acrylic paints for all my murals.  They are easy to use, dry quickly and require only soap and water for cleanup.  My paint brushes are an inexpensive set by Royal Langnickel.  They are a synthetic bristle and I found them on sale for less than 8 bucks.  I also use regular latex paint brushes normally used for house painting.

An entire room mural may take me two days, depending on the details.  But individual images go quickly and I’ve finished most rooms in less than 5 hours.  So this is a quick, and cost effective, way to add uniqueness to your home.

Daily Art Challenge: November 7

Masking.  To cover an area on an art piece to protect it from other media you’re using.  This is a great technique for blocking out areas on a watercolor painting, a gelli print, an art journal page…You can make beautiful textural backgrounds, while covering the area for your focal image.  You can cover watercolor paper to prevent losing the white of the paper.  You can build up layers around your mask to create dimension around a doorway or window. You can mask everything to build a dimensional object like a tree or a bridge in a landscape.  There are so many uses for masks in art.

Create an art piece using a mask.  Use one of the above ideas, or come up with one of your own.  Have fun and experiment with this technique.

Weekly Techniques Challenge: Week 43

This weeks technique is Quilling.  This is the rolling of thin strips of paper to create shapes.  The shapes are glued to your substrate or added to each other to create a 3-D sculpture.

Quilling has been around for hundreds of years.  During the Renaissance, monks and nuns used gold trimmed paper scraps left over from book making to add to artifacts and objects.  This took the place of costly filigree.  Later, ladies in the 19th century used quilling as an art form for decorating objects and furniture.  Immigrants to this country took this art form along with them.  They used quilling to decorate their home items like candle holders, serving trays, shelves and furniture.

If you don’t have thin strips of paper use your paper trimmer, and any paper you want, to cut the strips.  I like to use patterned paper or scrapbook paper for this.  Thinner papers work best for this technique.

Make your quilling tool by taking a wood kitchen skewer, cutting off the pointed end for safety, and splitting the end lengthwise about 1/4 to 1/2 inch down the skewer.  I use this type of tool to make all my paper beads.  Since my skewers are long, I cut them in half to make two tools from one skewer.  I use an emery board or sand paper and sand the ends of the skewer and the split.  This makes them smooth for comfort while holding and for easy rolled paper removal.

Now that you’ve got the thin paper strips-I make mine about 1/4” inch width-roll them.  You can let go of the rolled paper, once it’s all twisted around the skewer to loosen it.  Shape your paper into the shape or twist you want.  When you’re happy with it, add a daub of glue to the end to attach the loose end to the body of the shape.  You can glue your roll as tight or as loose as you want.  Each type makes a different quilled look.

Once you have your rolled paper, you can pinch the end to make a petal shape.  Shape your paper into swirls, geometric shapes and outlines.  Fill in the outline with smaller rolled strips.  This could be for a butterfly, flowers, for hair on a portrait, fur on a critter, designs in a piece of clothing like a hat or boots, there are countless options.

There are some breathtaking examples of quilling.  Beautiful cards are made with this technique.  I’ve seen stunning outdoor scenes, holiday images like sleighs and trees, ornaments and gifts all made on cards with rolled paper.   Jewelry is another quilling project you might consider.  I’ve seen gigantic examples of quilling.  Huge murals made from rolled paper.

This is a fun technique with lots of practical applications.  The projects are nearly endless.  And the cost of the supplies is next to nothing if you’re using up unloved papers you already have.

Pop around the internet to see some stunning examples of this very old, but beloved, art form.

Daily Art Challenge: November 4

Our challenge today is blind contour drawing.  This is a drawing exercise.  You draw the contour of the subject without looking at the paper.  Here’s how:

Fix your eyes on the outline of your subject/image.  Now follow the outline of your subject slowly with your eyes while drawing the contour on your paper.  You make a continuous line without lifting the pencil or looking at the paper.  Think of your pencil point as actually touching the contour of the image you’re looking at.

The reason for this exercise is to help your brain shift from left brain thinking to right brain thinking.  This may not produce a good drawing, but it teaches you to draw more realistically.  It trains the hand and eye to work together as a team, while rejecting memorized drawing symbols.  You will see all of the details of your object, which is a very important skill.  Many artists use this technique as a warm up before beginning a drawing session.

I’m working through the book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards.  This is a terrific book.  I’m interested in developing my drawing skills, so I’m also taking on line classes.

I have never felt confident in my drawing skills.  My drawings are usually just a roughed in outline of my subject, if I make them at all.  Normally I don’t draw anything on my canvas, I sketch it in with my paint brush.  This is also what I did for all my set painting.  So my sketching/drawing hasn’t ever been with pencil.

And remember, while drawing is a desirable skill for artists, it’s not the only skill.  There are other ways to draw.  Using measurements, rulers, projected images, printed and transferred images, and traced images.  It is not “cheating” to use any of these options.  (Just remember to use copyright free images.)

Back in the day, women were expected to be “accomplished”.  Part of that was drawing and painting.  There was never any mention of natural talent, every woman was expected to know these skills.  They did this by using math to create their art.  They used formulas for everything.  Perspective was just a math problem.  This is just another way to accomplish your goals for yourself and your art.

So let’s give blind contour drawing a try.  It’s fun and relaxing, which is always a good thing in art creation.