Hand Carving Rubber Stamps- A Super Easy Tutorial

I’m back on a hand-carving-rubber-stamps-kick lately, especially images of architectural elements like windows and doors.  I love how quickly you can create an printable image using Soft-Kut printing blocks and a nice, sharp Speeball lino cutter.  It feels like you’re  carving butter, refrigerated butter of course.  And then you have the stamp to use forever!  It’s like an investment in your art toolbox.  I mean, you gotta think of your future here.

I work on a self healing rubber mat and cut my block to the desired size using an Exacto knife.  I draw my image on graph paper using a 2B or 3B pencil.


I then flip my drawing over onto my rubber block.  I burnish it with the back of a spoon.  Keep the paper as still as you can and press hard with the back of the spoon. Rub the spoon all around on the back of your image.  Remove the paper and you will have a faint transfer of your image on the surface of your block.  Darken these lines with a Pitt or Micron pen.


Begin carving your block with your Speedball lino cutter.  I use a #3 blade to start and carve the outside perimeter of my stamp.  Go slowly and steady.  Better control will happen with practice and sharp blades always help.  In other words, if you suspect that your blade is dull, chuck it and get a new one!  It really makes a world of difference.


Now carve out the interior spaces.  Depending on your image this can take some forethought.   Really think about what you want to carve away- once it’s gone you can’t put it back!  When you think you’re finished, cut away the outside rubber with an Exacto knife, carefully staying in the outer “ditch” made by the carving tool.


Now comes the moment of truth; printing the stamp.  For an ink pad I like to use Archival Ink by Ranger.  It’s acid free, permanent, and waterproof, and much easier than rolling out ink with a brayer.  Ink your stamp well with the pad and carefully print it on a smooth-surfaced paper.  The Soft-Kut rubber is pretty floppy.  I have heard of artists using “cling mount” which when applied to the back of the stamp, allows it to cling to a clear acrylic block.  This is on my list of things to do in the near future (get a hold of some cling mount), it’s sounds quite lovely.


Voila!  I can edit my stamp using the printed image as a guide.  For instance, if there’s anything I don’t like that can be adjusted by removing more rubber, I can then go back into the stamp and shave off bits here and there.  I see a few little places I might like to tinker with but other than that, not too bad for 20 minutes of time.  And nothing beats a hand carved rubber stamp.  You can really feel the artist’s hand in carved stamps, unlike their perfect mass-factory-produced counter parts.




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Art Journaling: Creating 3D Space with Hand Carved Rubber Stamps

I’ve decided to take the bull by the horns and DIVE into the art journaling genre, no regrets, no looking back… I’ve combined my passion for rubber stamp carving with the journaled page and came up with a great way to create a scene.  I’ve realized that certain stamps create a sense of space all on their own-  just by being themselves.  These would be things like windows, open doorways, archways, columns, and other forms of architecture with openings.  A hand carved stamp of a window by itself is pretty cool and all but add some color, several design elements and something of interest INSIDE the window (like a cowboy) and you have a awesome pop art journal scene with a real sense of three dimensional space.


An artsy friend of mine and I have been sketching architecture in the field lately.  After looking through the pile of our sketches, we got a novel idea (a real “Eureka!” moment) to turn certain architectural elements of these sketches (mainly windows, doors, signs, and light posts) into rubber stamps.  I’m using my stamps to create weird and whimsical scenes on top of my journaled pages.  If you look closely, you may be able to read a swear word or two.



The door stamp in the page above was designed after a grand entrance to a huge old building on the Bowdoin College campus.  I think I like my building better!  The piece below was inspired by the feeling that sometimes our home feels like a pet-friendly hotel.  It seems we always have other peoples’ kids, dogs, and even parrots running (or flying) around.  Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have it any other way!  The chaos is energizing, to stay the least.



If you live local and you would like to find out how easy and fun it is to create your own stamps, I can show you how!  I’m teaching “Rubber Stamp Carving” at Merrymeeting Art House in Brunswick on Sunday Oct. 26 from 2-4pm.  The cost is $20 per student and includes all materials.  Make up to two decent sized stamps for use in paper crafting, card making, art journaling and much more.  Your imagination is the limit.  You can also practice printing your images using several different methods.   Reserve your spot by visiting Merrymeeting Art House today!

P.S.  Merrymeeting Art House is an adorable art making place, owned and operated by the lovely and very talented Catherine Scanlon.


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Art Journaling Fall 2014

I have a serious problem.  The busier I get at work, “work” meaning my paid job as opposed to my unpaid jobs (i.e. mother, housekeeper, cook, organizer, family event planner, dog poop scooper, chicken feeder, etc.), the more I want to stay home and have art making days.  This is my busy season at my place of employment and while I’m super fortunate to have a job that I love (MOST of the time…) I can’t help but daydream about all the art making I want desperately to do instead.  I recently wrote a small article for “Art Journaling,” a most glorious Stampington publication.  I’m absolutely drooling over this issue.  I want to stay home and be a full time art journaler.  Does this career even exist?  Probably. Somehow.  Somewhere.



Art journaling is anything and everything.  It’s messy and neat, textured and smooth, printed and in cursive, typed and scrawled, stitched and glued, vibrantly colored and black ‘n’ white; it’s all of this and so much more, all at the same time.  It’s ANYTHING you want it to be.  It’s about experimenting, making mistakes, transforming this into that.  It’s deliciously addicting.  Now, THIS is my drug!  How can I get through another day at work when I could be doing this sort of thing?  How is a girl to survive amid all this amazing-ness waiting to happen on the blank page in front of her when she has to go to work and earn money instead.  I’m serious.  I have a a problem.

I’m especially enthralled with Robyn P. Thayer’s work (found on facebook).  Her lettering in this issue is pure magic.  The story conveyed through her words is poetic.  I also love the stuff of Jenny and Aaron of Everyday is a Holiday.  Soraya Nulliah has some amazing work in this issue as well, see examples of it on her website.

I also really love how some artists are incorporating photographs in their art journaling.  Such amazing work, so much inspiration, so little time…  I better stop blabbing and start creating.  So, if you are the least bit curious about art journaling, this magazine is an awesome place to start!  AND- thanks for stopping by!!!

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A Drawing In Honor of the Late Joan Rivers And Some Other Things

Joan Rivers was one of those figures of pop culture past that was seen and heard often in America’s living rooms.  She was loud, happy, always smiling or laughing, and not afraid to voice her opinion.  She was certainly a woman who made it to the tippy top in a male-dominated niche.  A writer, actress, comedienne, producer, and talk show host, she was a jack of all trades.  She was a role model by default, because there were almost no others like her around at the time.   (Betty White was right there too, I know).  Joan Rivers didn’t seem to feel embarrassed about herself.  She was who she was, spoke her mind clearly, often offended others, and went about her life.  I liked that about her.  I’m always wanting to be able to speak more of what’s on my mind and then simply go about my daily life.   For instance, the next time I pass that snooty mom in the hall at my kids’ school, I’d like to be able to simply say, “Look, you know me and I know you.  I mean heck, we’ve known each other for almost seven friggin’ years.  When I say hi to you, you really don’t have to act so surprised.”  I probably wont say that.  In fact I KNOW I wont say that.  But I can write it and post it!  I still have time to practice my forward attitude I suppose.

Sadly, time runs out for us all as it has for Joan Rivers.  Here’s a comic-style drawing, which I think resembles Rivers, post plastic surgery of course:



Speaking of America’s living rooms, I’ve been practicing my sketching ability.  You see, I got this AWESOME book (surprise surprise) called “Urban Sketching: the complete guide to techniques” by Thomas Thorspecken who has an equally awesome blog about sketching in the field called Analog Artist Digital World. Below are two attempts at sketching my everyday surroundings using a curved perspective, which Thorspecken does soooo well!


These two views of my American living room have wintery thoughts written on them.  I tend to psych myself up, somehow through my art making, for the impending cold (frozen) Maine winters.



I used a micron pen, watercolor, workable fixative, then colored pencil. Thorspecken does an amazing job with a micron pen. His lines are wibbly wobbly and his watercoloring is quick and almost gestural.  He doesn’t fuss.  The work that results from his technique is perfectly imperfect.  I’m in awe of it.

So, here’s to speaking your mind!

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Tutorial in Ignoring Jerks

Okay, so my title is almost vulgar.  But my message will clarify below.  My son starts middle school in a week and I think I’m reacting quite emotionally to that fact.  Adulthood is far from the social politics of middle school right?  Or is it?  I remember being horribly embarrassed 85% of the time in middle school.  I don’t remember why, but I remember that god awful feeling.  I no longer experience that saturated level of embarrassment.  In fact, I’d say little embarrasses me now.  I’ve learned (through the passing of time and a few yucky lessons) to not give a whole lot of weight to other’s opinions about me, most of the time.  Some opinions mean more than others of course.  In retrospect, along with some help from a critical thinking course in college, I see my own middle school experience in a different light.  It only took 10 or so years to get there.  The overall underlying job of my middle school was to



My son will ride the bus with high schoolers.  He will be absorbing subtle and blatant messages faster than Bounty soaks up grape juice on counters.  Who he should be, what he should do, how he should act; they are going to SHOULD all over him.  I am feeling defensive already.  But some of those messages are good right?  Some will be positive messages. Right?  I just remember feeling so damn bad about myself then.  Is that all part of growing up?  Feeling like a piece of crap for a couple of years?  I’m pretty sure the jerks felt like crap too.


Part of my issue now is I feel like I have little control over the situation.  I’m okay with my son learning about camel toes, hearing dirty jokes, and learning how to use the F word properly in a sentence.  What I’m worried about are self-esteem issues.  I see him as a quiet guy who may not readily stand up for himself.  One who will take what nasty things people have to say to heart.  Internalizing it.  Blech!!!!

As a teenager things started turning around for me.  I began to embrace the idea that in order to be happy I had to be me.  So here is my tutorial on ignoring jerks:



Easier said than done for a middle schooler, but it makes perfect sense to me, twenty five years later!

I’m drawing lately.  I’ve begun an awesome course on comic book art.  I am so humbled.  Depicting the human figure in it’s natural super hero state is HARD.  But I’m loving the challenge.  It’s super technical.



Drawing is such a great way to create the life you love.  Literally, on the page in front of you.  It’s kind of like playing god, as the very talented comic book art instructor said.  He is right.  And it only takes a piece of paper and a pencil.  How easy is that?  You can take it anywhere too.


Inside joke.  I’m terrified of port-a-potties.  They invoke a carnal fear in me.  A claustrophobic, sweaty, awful fear.  Blech!!!



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