Category Archives: Inspiration

State of the Art: Open Minded Curiosity

It is important if you are an artist to have an open minded curiosity about the world, people, places, and especially your art. The minute you stop being curious is the moment you start to stagnate. My curiosity leads me down many paths. I like to learn about things unrelated to art and creativity but I also will do deep dives into specific artmaking activities.

Like gelli/gel/gelatin printing.

I’ve been watching every Yeates Makes video available. (And you should too!) Unlike many YouTubers he does everything DIY style- his own masks, stencils, and transfers. You won’t be surprised to find out that his DIY artsy aesthetic matches mine.

I’m a strong believer in the idea that commercial stencils and tid bits are there to jumpstart you. Sadly, I see a great deal of people getting locked into the use of commercial materials. I say sadly because the goal of every instructor should be to help the artists in their classes unlock and discover their creativity. * When an instructor gets bogged down and locked into the use of ONLY commercial materials through contracts and sales of said materials, well. I have some thoughts but this post isn’t about that.

It’s about the idea of systematically exploring a material.

One of the things I miss about my (some) old college classes was the idea that you should explore the materials completely.

This brings me back to gelli/gel/gelatin printing. I really want to know everything these plates will do when I use them, how far can I push them? And most importantly, what materials and tools will work with them to ensure my success when I do have an idea?

I picked up a 3×5 inch gel press awhile back, this creates a perfectly sized print on half a US letter sized sheet of paper. It’s also a perfect size for testing. It fits into my 6×9 sketchbook pretty well, and leaves room for notes. Perfect. I gave myself a few hours with the various materials and filled a few pages in my sketchbook. Below are a few pictures and my notes.


Let yourself play and explore all the materials you have around you, you never know what you’ll stumble onto that just WORKS for you and your style.

Some of these techniques were used in creating this art for my ko-fi supporter packs:

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State of the Art: Product Labels

I can’t believe I’ve never posted here about my various product labels that I create. I was pretty sure I had posted about them but not even the g00gles can find those posts. I have posted about them on insta, so maybe I’m just confused.

When I make or cook certain things I make goofy labels for them. The labels are crudely rendered in Microsoft Publisher with clip art, various fonts, and thick outlines. The expectation is that they are imperfect and short lived- the label would wash off and be composted. I printed them on plain paper and adorned them with watercolors for a splash of color. I also printed some for coffee on plain paper sticker paper. These labels were expected to be torn through and disposed of when the coffee was finished.

I utilize black and white clip art from this site and others. Please read their faq. I like to start with images that fit my aesthetic- brains, skulls, skeletons, etc… I like things that look like etchings. Sometimes I make my own drawing and scan it in.

I drop the image into Publisher, resize it to the correct size for the label, add in a border ingredients and a name. My blueberry scorpion hot sauce was called “Blue Scorpion.” It had an old fashioned etching of a scorpion and sky blue watercolor splashed on it. While my pumpkin spiced ghost pepper sauce was called… “Basic Bitch.*” This had an etching of a large pumpkin, with the word bitch in tiny font hidden in a gray area. It had a splash of gold and orange to color it.

The cold brew coffee labels I made were a departure on a number of levels- I printed them in full glorious color on vinyl! The choice was made because I refill my cold brew bottles over and over again. So the sticker needs to hold up for a few washings. I added color only because I was able to do so. Had I not had access to a color laser printer I would have added color with acrylic paint or paint markers.

Before anyone comments, yes there is a misspelling in the decaf label. We just won’t talk about it okay?

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Keeping a Notebook PERFECTLY

There is no way to keep a notebook that is perfect for every person. There is only the perfect way for each person. That is to say, keeping a notebook is highly personalized. My method of a pocket notebook and 3×5 cards alongside a sketchbook (currently also functioning as my ETEW Journal) and a separate work sketchbook would not work for most people. Hell most creative people merge home and work into one planner and notebook- especially if they freelance. That doesn’t work for me because I need to create a division between work and life- I need work- life balance.cover of a red talens sketchbook covered in stickers

What do these different notebooks look like? (I’ll be using notebook and sketchbook pretty interchangeably from here.) My work sketchbook is an A4 (8×10) red Talens sketchbook covered in stickers. Eventually it will have doodles too. I use a larger sketchbook at work because I use it in classes to teach kids about sketching. We also work larger than I do at home, so my sketches are correspondingly larger. I purchased this sketchbook because it was inexpensive and also the bright red cover could be easily found on any table in my studio.inner page from sketchbook filled with skull, pineapple and other doodles. Also meeting notes.

The work sketchbook is a place where I capture meeting and course notes.  I doodle and jot down notes and I try to keep each meeting to a single page, but sometimes I use 2 pages. Occasionally I work on a page shared with another meeting , especially if the previous meeting didn’t need a lot of notes.sketchbook page showing a watercolor demo and sketches of soda cans and pineapple on pizza

I’ll be the first person to say that my meeting and other types of notes won’t make sense to most folx. I tend to draw the speakers and doodle important words and points in funky lettering. I see the goal of taking notes as a way of jogging my memory. For work we have a notetaker for each meeting, a quick look at the notes will get me the info I need. For trainings I take notes that are a little more detailed but are mostly to jog my memory. I save a copy of any printables to the cloud or my computer and call it good. Generally I believe that info can be pretty easily looked up if I search, but I have to jog the memory of that instruction first.more sketches of pineapple on pizza

My home sketchbook is a B4 (6×9 ish) Hand Book sketchbook. They’ve changed the name of them several times over the years. Speedball seems to have either purchased or is handling distribution of them now. Which is a good thing, for me, they have been my go to commercially made sketchbook for a few years, and better distro is great. The paper is perfect for a wide range of materials.A planning page with lists of possible projects for my summer groups

The pocket notebook is where I gather on the go ideas- things I hear on podcasts, in conversations, phone numbers from students for their parents, notes from books I’m reading and so on. It’s a good capture system. Sometimes these ideas get pulled into my Every Thing Every Where journal or sketchbook, or here as a blog post.steps for carving lino, things to consider and a reworked statement for a group

The above is what works for me now. Over the years I’ve used different systems, most documented here and there in this blog. I still like to read about the systems of others. The Take Note Podcast Blog (that’s a mouth full) has had a number of great posts about keeping a notebook where they gather information about authors and creative folx who keep a notebook.

The Perfect…

I’ve spent much of my life looking for the perfect pen, pencil, brush, sketchbook, and journal. I read reviews of the items I’m seeking and things I’m not. If a new  article starts with “The Best…” I read it. Part of this is that I want all the information before I make a purchase, but also I want the information. *

If there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that the most perfect and best tool for any job is the one I have on hand and ready to go.

Case in point, when I sat down and started to doodle the fried chicken sticker (see this post) I used the pencil I had in my pocket (Blackwing 93) and the paper I had on hand (Staples recycled 20lb copy paper.) When I sketch out my Trans remembrance poster turned sticker, I used the same Blackwing 93 in my Talens sketchbook. When I wrote up ideas for a new group I used the Uniball Air I had in my pocket in my sketchbook. When I wrote down ideas for a series of found prints, I used my pocket notebook and Parker Jotter.

Much of these choices have to do with the fact that these were the tools that I have on hand, not because they were special or perfect. Though, one might suggest the Blackwing 93 (or other versions of the firm BW) is a near perfect pencil. I think that the Parker Jotter is a perfect pen for pocket carry. The all chrome and steel version makes for a good gift for a starting out pen collector.

I’ve been known to grab an AmazonBasics No.2 pencil and sketch with it. I have slowly started to switch out the pencils in my studio with Pen + Gear pencils.

If I wed myself to a particular pen or pencil or paper I’ll feel limited or unable to work. But if I use what is on hand, I’ll get something done, or started. I spend a lot of time seeking out the best, but I also let myself use what is around me. The ideas need to be collected and explored, I can do that with anything.

Yes, I make sure I have something decent on hand, but I’ll use anything if it’s there and perfect isn’t around.

* I recently read an article that said this is a trait of formerly gifted kids who strive for perfectionism. If I hadn’t rage quit the article I’d tell the author to go to hell. /sarcasm.

Published: The Pen Post No 2

Jonny has published issue number 2 of The Pen Post. I gushed about it over here.

It feels a little odd to gush about it again, especially since I wrote an article for this issue. I write about my love affair with cheap pens.

You can grab a copy for yourself over on etsy, here.

I am still in love with the form of this zine- the half fold like an old school newspaper makes me super happy.

State of the Art: Gelatin Printmaking, Gelli Prints

I’ve been planning on making more gelatin plates for, well, years. Gelli plates have always seemed very expensive, and they are, they always seemed slightly out of my range. Whereas making my own gelatin plates is cheaper, but fraught with mold issues. Given that my studio is in a basement, well, I worried about my infrequent use, and losing them when I really wanted to make some art.

I finally cashed in on a Michael’s coupon and bought myself an 8×10 Gelli plate. Plus some fresh paint and a new pen. I mean, I don’t think I can pass an open stock pen display and NOT buy a pen.2 color gelli print with distorted hex pattern

Anyway, I set up a folding table and got to printing. I used my old cardstock stencils and some new stencils I made out of hot glue. I’m not sure about the hot glue stencils yet, but I’ll say that they are very interesting. I’ll be playing around with them some more that’s for sure. Mostly I just wanted to get some color onto paper, and some layered texture onto the pages.many layered gelli print with squares and net pattern

Anyway, after a fun session of printing and playing with my plate I stacked up the prints. I decided to attempt a drum leaf binding. It’s not my favorite binding for gelatin prints, I prefer a concertina book- where the pages are glued to the accordion and the spine is thicker than the fore edge- this allows for more room for collage. The drum leaf is great for writing, and as such I’ll likely use the new journal for just that. many layered gelli print, numbers squares and other patternsdrum leaf spine damaged by impatience

Drum leaf isn’t my favorite because, well, I’m impatient. I rushed through this book  and the spine looks wonky. That will be covered by a piece of print used for the spine but it’s annoying to say the least. In the end the book is saved through my understanding and knowledge of book making. But I also need to remind myself to let glue dry, ala Laura Kampf.

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