An UNCERTAIN Mixed Media Art Journal Tutorial Using Watercolor, Ink, and Gouache

During these uncertain times, post-apocalyptic-2016-election, I thought it would be a good idea to art journal a little bit about uncertainty.  Art journaling for me is generally an uncertain process anyway, but I thought I could delve a bit deeper into the idea.  Uncertainty definitely has a ring of fear to it.  I found this quote online somewhere; “Uncertainty: turning fear and doubt into fuel for brilliance.”

Now here’s a good example: recently I was uncertain about my cat’s overall health.  Basically I suspected that he had worms and that scared me.  I turned my fear of cat worms into fuel and quickly got his furry butt to the vet.  Ever give a cat a pill?  Now THAT is an uncertain process.




Anyway, to begin my uncertain art journaling, I started with a large grid-like rubber stamp smacked in the center of my page spread. I used a black  StazOn brand ink pad. I came up with my own quick quote (below) about the word uncertainty.  (Feel free to use it!)  I wrote my quote using a dark gray “Pentel Sign Pen,” a most fabulous waterproof marker-tipped pen. I also doodled with this pen around my stamped grid.  Very free doodles, spur-of-the-moment doodles, no-preconceived-notion doodles. Uncertain doodles.  I made sure my doodles had large enough white spaces that would be easily watercolor-able.  Spaces that a number 6 round brush could really get into.



I then jotted down several things that quickly came to my mind that I was uncertain about.  I used several different colored pencils and wrote inside the spaces left by the doodling.  I particularly like the following uncertainty:



Then came the fun part: water-media painting, or the coloring-in process.  I used gouache, watercolor, and acrylic inks to fill in the white spaces made by the doodles.  I left the center grid area alone.



I went from color to color and media to media intuitively and made these decisions completely in the moment.  I had no color scheme, no plan at all.  It was totally UNCERTAIN!  At some moment I decided I needed some dark contrast and so I colored in a few areas with black India ink.  Once my coloring job was dry, I doodled some more using a black roller ball pen and an extra fine white Sharpie Poster Paint marker (a most awesome acrylic paint marker).  I also shaded a few of the rounder shapes with some colored pencils.



Gouache is amazing stuff.  I’m loving it.  I was very uncertain about it at first, but now I find it really  quite wonderful.  It has a matte, almost chalky finish.  This is PERFECT for art journaling because it assures non-sticky pages.  It also has a more opaque quality than watercolor.

So I guess my overall message about uncertainty is as follows:  Life is uncertain.  It always has been.  Live in the moment.  Don’t worry about things beyond your control.  Be kind.  Have compassion. Remember that presidents come and go.  And always spay and neuter your pets.  Etc. etc. etc.



OH! And do lots of art journaling.  Lots and lots of art journaling. Not sure how?  Come to one of my workshops at The Painted Dog in downtown Brunswick, Maine.  Every other Friday, usually from 1-3pm.  Check out my classes page for more info!


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A Halloweeny Art Journal Transfer Tutorial: And How to Move Beyond Your Perceived Mistakes

I took half of my Girl Scout troop to Salem, Mass last weekend and now I am  inspired to do great Halloweenish things in my latest hand-stitched art journal.  I captured some wonderfully creepy pictures while there, with the idea of incorporating them on a page or two via an ink jet transparency transfer.  I had done several transfers before and they are quite fun.  Transparency transfers seem the easiest for art journals.  They are relatively painless, if you do them correctly… Below are my wonderfully creepy pics:





The next one is my fave.  A woman painted these cute baby dolls, sewed adorable clothing for them, and sold them in cute little boxes.  Oh how I do love this type of contradiction!



I began my page spread rather blindly, as I usually do, and covered most of it with torn paper bits from an old Thesaurus.  I used Matte Gel by Liquitex to adhere.  This is a common go-to way of establishing a first layer.  And I just love layers…  Just avoid covering the crease.



I then, for some reason, painted it a see-through peachy skin tone. (I was developing a plan but this would soon change).  I had no peachy skin tone paint so I mixed gesso and fluid matte medium together along with a drop of red acrylic ink and a drop of orange acrylic ink, all pictured below.  Voila, SEE-THROUGH PEACHY SKIN TONE!



Next came my big mistake.  I photocopied my 3 awesomely scary photos on the wrong type of plastic transparency (it was actually translucent plastic, I should have known). I cut out what I wanted and adhered them, ink side down, to my page with the wrong type of gel medium (It was a matte gel, I should have known).   Two strikes unbeknownst to me until I “removed” the plastic pieces.  The plastic was stuck to the page, firmly.  The page tore and only bits of the transfer remained.  I was bummed, I will not pretend otherwise. Not one to be easily defeated, I embraced the mistake and made it work.  I moved on, determined to fix the mess, and began “mending” the tears (and tears) with pink and yellow neon paint.



The picture below really shows the shoddy transfer.



Now for the much more correct transfer method… I photocopied my 3 photos using my ink jet printer onto a sheet of acetate transparency plastic.  You know, the kind for overhead projectors.  The ink takes a looooooooong time to dry on the plastic, so be patient.  And while it’s drying, resist the urge to touch and rub the upper left hand corner, Jason. (Sophie told me it was you after I blamed her).



Next, I cut out the pieces I wanted to transfer.  I laid down a nice bed of self-leveling clear gel (glossy finish) on the page where I planned on sticking my images.  Normally I would have used Gloss Gel Medium but I had lent it out last week.  (Avoid matte finish gels as I think they have the tendency to turn out a little less clear and/or not separate from the plastic as easily).



I carefully placed my first image, INK SIDE DOWN, onto the bed of just-applied gel.  I gently and quickly pushed from the center out to remove trapped air bubbles.  The printer ink very quickly turns back to a liquid, so be very gentle when pressing on your image.  I repeated this for the other images.



I also brushed away some of the inky gel that seeped out from under the edge of the devil baby picture.

Now comes the part I’m not very good at.  You really should let the whole thing dry over night.  Just leave it alone, go watch TV or read a book or something.  I simply couldn’t resist, and a few hours later I started peeling away the plastic pieces.  And of course, it wasn’t completely dry, and the image didn’t completely separate from the plastic sheet and I was left with holes here and there.  I really didn’t mind all that much though.  The holes lent themselves to the overall Halloween look.



I see air bubbles too, but I really do love my creepy devil vampire baby.  I then did my usual thing and sort of intuitively arted up my page spread.  I used black India ink, neon acrylic paint, paper from a funny Dick and Jane parody book, and a little bit of pen and colored pencil.



I like what I ended up with;  it’s playful, colorful, and oh-so Halloween!



The Fugit Hora line on the tombstone came out backwards.  Not a big deal.  I was informed that Fugit Hora means time flies.  And boy does it.  I have an eighth grader.  I’m almost 40.  The weeks zoom by.  The logical conclusion to this is that pretty soon, before we know it, we will all be dead.  Happy Halloween everyone!!!



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The Tipping Point: Upon the Cusp of Greatness (Art Journaling Greatness, That Is!)

Odin is pure happiness


Do you ever feel like you’re on the brink of something great?  Like you’re about to arrive at a destination that, in order to reach, has taken maybe years of hard work, perseverance, and dedication?  Sometimes on this journey, you didn’t even know you were heading in this direction, but now, upon the cusp of being there, you realize it was meant to be all along…  This is why you’re here.  This is your greatness.

You cant choose your inlaws


Sounds silly but I now know that I’m an art journaler.  It’s finally here.  I really think I’ve arrived.  And I love it.  I NOW KNOW HOW TO ART JOURNAL!!!



You see, I’ve been practicing this craft for a while; making grotesque mistakes, not giving up, finding my way…  I’ve been a victim of terribly sticky pages.  I’ve used far too much acrylic paint for any art journal to exist closed in a seasonally humid climate.  I’ve made stupid page layouts, combined awful colors, written dumb things…  It’s all a part of the journey, right?  It’s all a learning process, right?

Tree of life


Right!!!  I fell madly in love with this idea, this “art journaling” a while back, maybe even six or seven years ago.  I drooled over the books, the magazines, the blog posts on this new-age art subject… I had to try it.  I just had to. It became like my blessed virgin Mary, if you will.  Something always there, always powerful, always out of reach.  All knowing, all mighty, all perfect. Looking down upon me, maybe in pity, maybe in love.  Always trying to prove myself worthy in her perfect shadow…

Connies plight


Art journaling is really anything and everything.  It’s messy, it’s neat.  It’s beautiful, it’s ugly.  It’s dark, it’s light.  It’s planned and unplanned. On and on forever.  On my art journal journey, I’ve gained fantastic knowledge about what works and what doesn’t.  I’ve learned to really limit the acrylic paint, to embrace the humble black Gelato stick, and to really push the value difference on each and every page.  I love the imperfect, the messy, the illegible.  I love pink, and orange…

Buckle Up


Well, it’s finally here.  I’m worthy now.  I totally “get” it: I can do it… And I can only get better from here.  The heavens have parted, the light shines down on me.  I have arrived.

Jason and his telescope


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Watercolor Paint Nights in Downtown Brunswick, Maine

Join me once a month for a night of color, watercolor that is…  I’ve listed my first Watercolor Paint Night, happening on Thursday October 6th from 6-8pm.  I call this painting “Island Storm” and you can paint your very own version for only $25.00!  I will even supply the materials!  Of course, if you happen to have a set of watercolors or your favorite cold press watercolor paper, feel free to bring either (or both) along.



I’ll provide tea or coffee, but there’s no reason this can’t be a BYOB event!  Space is limited, so reserve a spot soon!!


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Rubber Stamp Carving Added, Water-Media Art Journaling Doesn’t Stick, and Kirby Aurora has a Candid Photoshoot!



I was recently asked to offer Rubber Stamp Carving, one of my all time favorite workshops!  Sooooo, here it is:  Monday August 15th from 1pm to 3pm.  Only $20 and you can carve as many stamps as time permits.  All materials are provided!  It’s super quick and easy.  My favorite rubber is Soft Kut brand; it carves like cold butter and stays flexible so that it doesn’t crack or chip apart.




I’ve also decided that starting in late September, I am going to offer a regular watercolor paint night at The Painted Dog, about every three weeks or so.  This will be a two hour event where everyone follows along and paints one scene start to finish.  It will be a simple composition, different each time, and maybe a bit more involved than the above painting.  Stay tuned for more info.

I’m also very determined to make great discoveries in water media art journaling.  By this I mean, using a majority of water-soluble media on my pages.  You see,  I’ve been known to art journal a bit here and there and have sadly realized that when using acrylic paint, even the extra matte finish stuff, my pages end up sticking together.  This unfortunate event is mostly noticeable around now (summer) when the humidity is HIGH.  I know there are methods to help ease this pain, but I’m shifting gears and moving towards a more sustainable art journaling future… Water soluble media doesn’t stick!

Here are a couple water-media based page-spreads that I’m quite fond of:







Thus being said, I’m offering an all day, glorious book-arts workshop on Sunday, September 18th, from 9am-3pm.  We will build a fantastic book and we will art journal inside this beauty, mixed water-media style.  The workshop is $75 and students must bring their own paper for the book.  I suggest a pad of 140lb. cold press water color paper.




We will use a record sleeve for the cover, denim for the spine, and we will complete a cross stitch binding.  I’ll bring a bunch of record sleeves from which students can choose a perfectly imperfect cover for their book…




Laslty, I’m enamored with the latest addition to our family.  This sweet little gal made her debut here about two weeks ago and has already doubled in size!  She’s quite gorgeous if you ask me, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to do a pet journal all about her… A small one…




I mean, just look at her scales.  She has scale eyelashes!  And look at that little nose hole.  Is that not the sweetest nose hole you’ve ever seen???




She has a really nice beard…




And then there are her adorable, melt-your-heart, peach-colored ear holes.  I wanted to name her Peaches.  But alas, she is my son’s pet, and he got to name her.  She is Kirby Aurora.  Which is beautiful and perfect.  (AND she sucks up crickets like a vacuum!)




Even her poops are cute, still…






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