Tag Archives: altered books

Personal Handwriting

People have told me they like my handwriting when they see my art journals. I did get A’s in handwriting while I got C’s in art! Now it is all well and good if you have good handwriting, but to add your personal script in your art is less about it being good than it is being yours.


Have you ever found a handwritten note, card or recipe from a relative who is no longer here? Isn’t it thrilling to see something that you know they held in their hands and wrote themselves. Even our children’s handwriting tentative and inexperienced as it is brings a special joy. These things have meaning not because they are “pretty” but because they are evidence from a precious hand. Your hand, your writing is just as precious and should be added to your art.


I love my friend Gerry’s handwriting. I used it as a background paper on one of my journal page spreads.


I had a letter from a German relative. Carl Heinz had organized a family reunion in Germany that we attended a few years before he died. So his last hand-written letter to us was precious to me and I photocopied it and used several bits of it in an altered book about family stories.

So, be brave, leave your mark. It is nice to have fancy stamped words and interesting cut out words, but nothing can compare to your own handwriting. Leave behind your art, but also your own special handprint..your written words for future generations to touch.


Looking at the negative space

I recently took a class that reminded me of a watercolor painting that I did years ago. I was working on Arches 100% rag paper and learned if I had a really awful painting, I could scrub most of the paint off with a toothbrush under running water. So I did that, and ended up with a muted background. I learned to paint around shapes with a dark color and pull out stems and leaves by leaving them the muted underpainting. classes006

Fast forward many years and Elaine Pierce presented a class she said was inspired by me. I didn’t see how, until I took the class and she gave me credit for teaching her how to use napkins in collage. As often happens with my teaching, I present a little technique and my students come up with amazing art. This is why I often brag that although I’m not that great an artist, I must be a great teacher as my students often surpass me with inspired, beautiful art.

In the class, we did a light brush-blend background using colors suited to our chosen napkin color palette. Mine was yellow, gold and white. Then we penciled in our tablecloth, vase and where our leaves would mostly be. We covered these places with bits of our separated napkins. (When using napkins in collage, you separate the white background layer(s) from the colorful top). We used mod podge. We then mixed our background color and painted around our tablecloth, vase and leaves. I had trouble seeing where to put my leaves and covering some up, so I resorted to outlining them with a black sharpie. I added some shadows and white ferns. I finished with 3 coats of varnish.Class pictures008

For the book page spread, I simplified the process. I skipped the underpainting and started with drawing the 3 trees with a black pen. Then I took a variety of napkins and tissue papers to make the trees distinctly different colors in the foliage. I tore the papers into tiny pieces and adhered them with mod podge. You don’t have to be careful to stay within the lines you’ve drawn as you will be redrawing them later. The tree trunks were covered with bits of the inside of a business envelope and a little napkin. We then adhered some dark green tissue at the roots of the trees to pull out some grasses. We took our black pens and redrew the trees taking advantage of the out-of-the-line bits to add a little more interesting shapes to them. We also drew in simple grass shapes. Then we poured out some acrylic paint using a big puddle of turquoise and a little dark blue to make it darker than some tissue we used. We loaded a brush with mostly turquoise and a swish of the dark to create a little variation in the painted surface (though I’m not sure it shows!). We painted around all our drawn shapes. I used the dark blue paint and an angle shader brush to float in some shadows along one side of the trunks, the bottom of the foliage and some in the middle of the leaves.

It is a fun process and you could do this with any kind of background. So go and play!

Playing with Japanese brush painting and Chinese calligraphy

Recently I was introduced to a new discount store called Daiso.  In addition to other things, they had Japanese brushes and calligraphy paper for only $1.50 each.  As it happened, I just came across an old Chinese Calligraphy book and decided to combine the two cultures in today’s playtime.  I did five sheets of the calligraphy paper with the symbol for eternal.  It combines several strokes and  I found that a nice challenge. The only calligraphy of this kind I had practiced was my Japanese signature for my name, so it doesn’t come easily to me.


With each combination, I found I did some things right and others not so right, or at least not like the sample.  What was interesting was that I kept changing what was better or missed the mark on each one. In paying attention to getting the first stroke straight, I forgot to make the next one the right proportion…sigh. On the first sheets I had also forgotten to take the extra water out of the brush near the ferrule with a paper towel.    But it was all play and my plan for these sheets is to use them as collage elements in my altered books. The thin paper will be wonderful as we should be able to see the elements underneath.


I finished up my play session with bamboo. This is a subject I have practiced a lot and wanted to end with a positive feeling. I messed up on some parts, but it is still fun for me to paint, and again it will be torn up and glued into my altered books.


So the next time you come up with art supplies or inspiration, combine a couple and see what you can come up with. I’d love to see what happens in your art space. Now go play!

Artsy figures to use in your Altered Books

class project016 Here are some fun figures to use in your altered books, art journals or collaged canvas’. First you take some colored 8 1/2″ x 11″ cardstock. I used colors from a Sugar Candy 50 sheet pack from Michaels. Next you loosely brush on some paint using a 3/4″ flat brush. I used Americana craft acrylic paints in Saffron Yellow, Irish Moss and Royal Fuchsia. The colors of paper and paint aren’t important…just use whatever you have on hand. Brush on one color at a time leaving your strokes showing and some paper underneath. I’ve done this with 2 colors on some sheets and 3 on others.class project013class project014class project015

After the paint dries, which is pretty quickly, you begin stamping. I use a variety of random stamps with one face stamp placed near the top of the page. The stamp pad used is Versafine in Onyx Black. After placing the face, randomly stamp 2-5 of the same image around the sheet, then change stamps and do the next in the same manner until the page is filled. It may be easier to start with the larger stamps after the face.class project019class project020

For your body shape, you may trace around a figure from a book, magazine, photo or use a template from a doll set or draw your own. I have some made of mylar or thin plastic and some from cardstock or manila folders. Trace around your templates and cut out the figures. The rest of the painted and stamped sheet can be used for other cut outs and collage pieces like flowers, stars, hearts and leaves. Often I will get out my box of stencils and keep cutting shapes until there is nothing left to work with.class project017

This is a fun and easy activity for any level of artist. Now go play! Artful hugs to you, linda

Making Faces

It is always fun to add faces and figures to my art and altered books. I have been playing with this idea lately in my altered books and I’d like to share a couple of them here. If I was gifted with a natural drawing ability for people, I might just draw them. But just like many others, I need some tricks to accomplish the task! In these two examples, I first chose a nice magazine photo of a face. Now, as copyright dictates, if I want to publish the photo, I need to get permission. So, by the time I’m done, you don’t recognize the photo at all.

I mod podge the photo onto a book page. With my fingers(I’ve been doing this a lot lately…no brushes to clean)I smear on some white gesso over the whole face. I’m careful with the eyes, nostrils and mouth and make sure, sometimes with extra water, to make this layer of gesso see-through. I apply a good white coat down the middle of the nose. Then again with my fingers start to apply paint, this time turquoise, to the shadows…around the hairline, along the nose, under the chin. I alter the nose line and other places so the new face is my own creation. I did a fingertip of blue on the eyes. Then I used an orange pearl on the rest of the face. I used a little red on the cheeks and forehead and perhaps other places. Keep it loose and fun. The more interesting the colors, the more interesting the outcome.  We aren’t going for reality here.  One painting I used a pen to outline the features and add hair. The other I just used it on the jawline and for the lashes. Sometimes I’ll use my Sakura gelly roll pen for the whites of the eyes, and the highlight marks on eyes, nose and lips.  

I hope this inspires you to play in a new way with your art today. See you again soon. Please let me know if you find this helpful, okay?ImageImage