Monday, December 29, 2014

The Whimsical World of Art

There is a word that I love (just one of many, if you know me at all).

That word is:


1. spontaneously fanciful or playful
2. given to whims; capricious
3. quaint, unusual, or fantastic

It's a word that doesn't get used nearly enough.

In the art world, in my humble opinion, it's a concept that doesn't get used nearly enough.

Don't get me wrong. I admire "serious" art, and especially the skill it takes to produce it. However, as someone who appreciates art, it's always the more whimsical stuff that draws my eye.

After all, where else in our lives can we completely give ourselves over to whimsy if not in art? In art, it's acceptable to have a chartreuse sky, swimming camels... anything that doesn't quite belong in all the most amusing ways.

Truly, art should be spontaneously fanciful and playful. Art should be capricious and given to whims. Art is at its best when it is quaint, unusual or fantastic. Art ought to be whimsical.

So it is there that my love of RubberMoon's stamps is based. They make it easy to wander the whimsical path.

The card above was made using RubberMoon's Squeak, "Oh, Rats!", and Black Cattitude stamps, along with Tim Holtz's clock stamp.

The concept behind this card perfectly, yet oh, so whimsically captures my behind-the-eight-ball frantic feeling with regard toward getting everything done between Halloween and Christmas.

Hey, what day is it? Wait. What time is it?! Oh, rats!!

The rats race around the clock (rat race... get it?) as if trying to keep up with time, capped off by the wry look on the cat's face as one of the rats gets away.

Here I am at my last post on this blog for 2014, with holiday presents made and gifted, cards made and sent, cookies made and eaten, well-wishes bestowed upon beloved family and friends...

...but for this final wish...

May you have a very 
Happily Whimsical New Year!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Holy Shrinkin' Snowmen, Santa!

Hi, I'm Barb, and I'm the most procrastinating elf Santa's ever known. If that's naughty, then so be it. Some things are never going to change. Of course, that makes life... challenging. Especially when you're Mrs. Black's daughter and the one rule that you manage to adhere to is, "Never show up empty-handed."

We had a dinner to go to, one I knew about for a while. One I pushed out of my mind with an, "I'll deal with that later..."

Suddenly, it was later. Suddenly, my mate was saying, "Don't forget we have that di..." "OH, Nooooo!!!" Panic mode set in. I had nothing ready to bring. I had about fifteen minutes to come up with something.

Bring on the polyshrink and Fitztown's Winter Collection No. 1!

I raced to my computer, stuffed a sheet of polyshrink in the printer, and printed out two adorable snowmen.

I quickly colored them in using Derwent Inktense pencils and Sharpies. Then I cut them out.

Now for some Honey-I-Shrunk-the-Ornaments magic. Polyshrink, when heated, reduces to about 40% of its original size. Heat can be applied by using an oven (and a very watchful eye!) or with a heat gun. I didn't have time to wait for my oven to heat up, so I blasted 'em with my heat gun.

Once they'd shrunk, I used my white Pico Embellisher from ImagineCrafts and some glitter. After all, what's an ornament without bling?!

All that was left to do was to attach some thin gold braid so they'd be all ready to dangle.

With that, I sprang to my sleigh; to my team gave a whistle. And away we all flew like the down of a thistle. You probably heard me exclaim e'er I drove out of sight...

Merry Christmas to All!
(And to all, Good Crafting!!!)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

This Is That Time of the Year!

Let's face it. The winter holiday season is the best time to be an arts n' crafts freak. 
Am I right, or am I right?
Of course, my winter holiday season starts in August - at which point I'm already about two months behind schedule! Alas, and thankfully, I work well (read: best) under pressure.

Anyway, now that the holidays are upon us, I can share some of my projects without fearing someone will throw a sweaty flip-flop at me!

I love the simplicity of this candle digistamp from Fitztown. I began this project by printing it out on ivory colored cardstock.

The first thing I did was to fill in the candle drips with IMAGINE Crafts irRESISTible Pico Embellisher in white. The ink from the Pico Embellisher stays raised and shiny, so it really does look like wax drips!

I let that dry - it only takes a couple of minutes - while I colored in the holly with a blender pen dipped in distress ink. I also colored the flame in yellow. 

To embellish both, I used a gold pen to do the inner markings and the outline of the candle.  I also added yellow Stickles to the candle for sparkle.

I colored the ornaments in blue, rose, and green and then added corresponding colors of Stickles or glitter.

I stamped Noel in green, using a stamp that long ago forgot the name of its manufacturer.

Then, to finish the piece and give it a little extra somethin'-somethin', I made some snowflakes out of blue cardstock using an ancient Marvy Uchida punch that I have had for-just-about-ever.

I glued everything together and then added just a bit of Waterfall blue Stickles to the snowflakes, because snowflakes need a little pizzazz too.

That's it for now, folks. I'm off to make something else. 
What artsy craftsy things are you working on for the holidays?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Making It Snow

IMAGINE Crafts and RubberMoon Art Stamps are excited to share with you the amazing projects that our design teams have created to kick off the Holiday Season! Over the next few days, we'll be sharing with you inspiration and techniques using IMAGINE Crafts' line of ink products featuring rubber stamps from RubberMoon. Be sure to visit the IMAGINE Crafts and RubberMoon blogs daily for more projects and ideas!

Can I just say? I have been having sooooo much fun playing with my stuff from IMAGINE Crafts and Rubbermoon! I thought I'd share a fun card with you today. 

For this, I started with a half sheet of watercolor paper, which I sprayed with IMAGINE Crafts GooseBumps Shimmer Texture Spray. I love the slight shimmer and the texture adds some nice dimension to projects. In this case, I was going for snow, and it worked so well!

If you look closely, you can see the shimmer! It's really difficult to capture in a photo.

Once the GooseBumps spray was dry, I used a couple of different colors of blue, an IMAGINE Crafts Ink Blusher sponge, and some Ink Potion No. 9 to fill in the sky.

I sprayed the Ink Potion No. 9 directly onto the cardstock. It helps the inks blend and made the perfect cloudy sky for my falling snow. As you can see, the IMAGINE Crafts GooseBumps resists the ink, making it look like falling snow.

Time to start stamping! For the trees, I used RubberMoon's Skinny Trees background stamp

Again, the GooseBumps resists the ink, so it looks like the snow is falling on the trees and just beginning to give them their wintery coats. 

To add to that effect, I sprayed the trees with a bit of IMAGINE Crafts Sheer Shimmer Spritz in silver.

Then I cut the cardstock down to size. Of course I saved the rest of it for later!

I added a few more trees to fill it in. 

I topped just one of the trees with a single gold star using the star stamp from RubberMoon's Dust Collection. (It's not like I won't use the rest of that set, but I tell ya... that star stamp alone was worth buying the whole set!) I stamped it using IMAGINE Crafts Delicata Golden Glitz ink.

I felt like it needed just a little something more, so using IMAGINE Crafts Delicata Silvery Shimmer ink, I added the sweet RubberMoon New Moon face in the sky. She has that peaceful look that I feel when the snow starts falling.

One final word about Delicata Metallic inks. I wasn't convinced that I needed more metallic ink pads. But! I love, love, love these! The colors are so vibrant and lush. I may never use any other gold or silver pads again.

PS.  If any of you IMAGINE Crafts / Tsukineko gods are listening... I'd love to have one in a nice bright copper. Pretty please!

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Crafter's Tribute to Veteran's Day

Tuesday is Veteran's Day. It is a day that I always feel deeply in my heart. Several of my family members and friends have served to defend and protect the country in which I am privileged to live. It is a debt that I am humbled by and can never repay, so I try to honor it and pay tribute to those brave people whenever I can.

That's what was on my mind the other day as I sat on my back porch, sipping coffee and watching eagles soar over the valley. And that's what inspired me when I came across this fierce looking eagle at Fitztown.

And, hey... is there anything more American than a pair of faded blue jeans? My beloved learned early on in our relationship to never ever throw away an old pair of jeans. I mean, come on! Old jeans are a crafter's cheap, but perfect playground! Am I right, or am I right?!

Along with a piece of denim from a pair of old jeans, I used an inexpensive, unfinished frame, and printed the eagle image out on  heavy watercolor cardstock.

I traced a line around both the inside and outside of the frame on the "wrong" side of the piece of denim. I made sure to use a bright color that I could easily see when I cut the piece. Once it was cut, I glued it onto the frame.

I used a multiple star stamp from Inkadinkado and, with craft ink, stamped stars in red, white, and gold directly onto the fabric.

Then I used a star stamp from Stampin' Up! to make the star cut-outs with red, white, and blue cardstock.

I arranged the stars and glued them down. For a little extra pizzazz, I added some rhinestone stars.

Time to move on to the eagle.

For this, I began by doing a quick watercolor wash with red and blue distress inks. I didn't worry about being precise because I wanted it to have that washed look so that the starkness of the eagle would stand out that much more.

I waited a few minutes for that part of it to dry and used the Inkadinkado star stamp and gold ink to add stars to the "sky".

After that, it was a matter of coloring in the eagle, and what else would I use besides my beloved Derwent Inktense watercolor pencils?

It's funny. I poo-poohed the need for these amazing pencils for a long time. Now I can't imagine how I ever lived without them. And I want all 5 bajillion colors because... well... 24 just won't do, y'know?

Anyway, that's all there was to this project besides putting the eagle into the frame. Total cost (even if you take into account the purchase of the stamps and pencils and how many times I've used them) was under $5.00.

Just imagine the gifts you could make with a minimal investment, a little bit of thought, and a whole bunch of love. Stuff like this? This is why I love crafting.

This is where I'd normally tell you to go craft something, and you should. But first, go hug and thank someone you know who has served your country.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

You Art Too

Rubber stamp: RubberMoon's Tall Tree

Whenever I hear someone say, "Oh, I could never... I'm not an artist." It makes me want to scream. Mostly because I've been there, thought that, and wasted years that could have been a whole lot more fun had arts & crafts been part of the scene.

I used to try to sketch tree branches and end up with a wastebasket full of crumpled paper. The only reason for it? I forgot to take a good look at nature. Nature, while it has a certain order to it, loves some randomness. Branches aren't, as I kept trying to make them, straight lines. They're squiggly and bendy and broken in places.

Branches are meant to be doodled, not sketched.

When I first held my new Tall Tree stamp (original image pictured above) in my happy little hands, I knew I wanted to do a winter scene with it. So, I stamped it in white on blue cardstock.

And I wasn't happy with it. I mean, I was happy with the stamp - I just didn't achieve the look I was after. I wanted a cold, snowy afternoon. The kind that always makes me think there's magic afoot.

That barren, stubby tree just didn't say "magic". So, I picked up my white gel pen and began to doodle branches. And I didn't stop until my little tree whispered "magic" to me. It took me maybe 5 minutes. Yep. Five.

But, the key here is that it was just doodling. Anyone can do it. Anyone. Even you, over there shaking your head and rolling your eyes. Squiggly lines. You can do it. Yeah, so much for that old oh-but-I-can't-even-draw-a-straight-line excuse. Because, guess what? Neither can I!

Give it a try. I dare you. It's true, the Guggenheim Museum will probably not make an immediate bee-line for your door, but you'll have tons of fun. Plus, you'll flex creative muscles you didn't know you had, and trust me on this, it will take you to some amazing places.

To see what else I did with the Tall Tree stamp, check out my post this week over at Rubbermoon: One Stamp, Three Designs.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I Want My Mummy!

"I want my mummy!" was the first thought to cross my mind when I saw Fitztown's Halloween 3 digistamp. Not because I was frightened, but because I can't resist a horrible pun.

The other, maybe only slightly more artistic thing that crossed my mind was that the Dead Nurse Zombie Mummies made me think of the women in those old Robert Palmer videos (think Addicted to Love).

So, I knew I was going to glitz them up as much as I was going to gore them up. Seriously. What's a Dead Nurse Zombie Mummy with out a little glitter?

I began by coloring the images and cutting them out. I glitzed up their nurse caps and shoes using Stickles Star Dust. I chose gray cardstock for my background onto which I stamped a spider web (no idea who made that stamp, sorry!) using white craft ink.

As you can see in the first image at the top of the page, I also distressed the gray cardstock by flicking different colors of ink at it. How? Just dip a paintbrush in a dab of re-inker and flick your fingernail against the brush or tap the handle of the brush against your other hand. It's something you'll need to play with to get a feel for what kind of force creates the look you're going for. I also swiped around the cardstock with a sponge dipped in a couple of different colors of ink.

My Dead Nurse Zombie Mummies looked pretty good, but I felt like they were missing something. I couldn't decipher what. So, I took a break, wandered away, came back, squinted at them, and in my finest cheesy Dracula voice, yelled, "BLOOD!"

Duh. Every Dead Nurse Zombie Mummy needs blood!

I didn't want to use plain old ink and have it soak into the paper and end up looking like plain old ink. I decided to go the mad scientist route and experiment with some mediums. What I came up with was a very simple, very satisfying solution.

I mixed about a dime sized dollop of Judikins Diamond Glaze glue with a couple of drops of Fired Brick Distress Ink from my re-inker bottle. I mixed it together with a toothpick and, ta-da! Blood.

Using the same toothpick, I added drips and smears of "blood" to my Dead Nurse Zombie Mummies. It did exactly what I'd hoped for and dried to a shiny finish that still looks like liquid-y fresh blood.

Wait... Stop! Don't throw away that remaining "blood"! Get a piece of cardstock and schmeer it around. Let it dry and you have a funky, fun background to use for some other project.

I love my new technique. I plan to play with a few different colors to see what else I can come up with... aqua for water, pale blue for ice... you'll excuse me if I wander off to play, won't you?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Coffee and Templates

(Fitztown digistamp used: Halloween 9)

It's no secret that I'm a freak for coffee. Not only is it not a secret, it's probably a fairly well-known fact. Rumor has it that I can be a little scary if I don't get my coffee.

And it has to be decent, deep brew for me to be really satisfied and happy. Weak coffee only serves to make me fractious. But decaf? Boy, howdy. Serve me that stuff and you'd better just run for your life!

But enough about my (completely reasonable) demands.

Somewhat lesser known is my love of stencils. They can be used in so many different ways and combinations and on any number of projects.

I have a dozen or so of them and it's not nearly enough. Which runs frighteningly close to being the same as not having enough coffee. Yeah. It's that bad.

Anyway, when I saw this Fitztown spectre, I knew that poor ol' ghoul wasn't so bad really. He just needed some decent coffee to bring him back to life. So, I poured myself some and went to work.

I colored him in using Derwent Inktense watercolor pencils and a small brush dipped in water to blend them. Then I cut him out.

I felt like he needed some ghostly looking flames and I had just the ticket - a template from The Crafter's Workshop.

Using a template is ridiculously easy. All I did was to lay the template on black cardstock and sponge over it with ink. I shifted it slightly to vary the placement of the flames, and using a different color, sponged over it again. I repeated this four times using Brilliance Pearlescent inks in: Lightning Black, Poppy, Olive, and Ice Blue.

Your templates can simply be wiped clean and put away for later use. If they get really messy, you can gently wash them in soapy (dish detergent) warm water.

Here are a few other examples of cards I've made where I  used templates.

Another Crafter's Workshop template, 
combined with a Tim Holtz stamp (sentiment). 
I don't know what company made the bird stamp.

Tim Holtz template over Stampin' Up's Harlequin background stamp. 
Floral stamp is by Penny Black. Sentiment is by Sweetgrass Stamps.

Tim Holtz template. 
Stamps by Blockheads, Eclectic Omnibus, 
Stampin' Up!, Scottish Borders and Rubbermoon.

Get some templates and start playing! You'll be amazed at the creativity they inspire.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

All That Glimmers

One of my mother's favorite idioms to throw at us was "All that glimmers is not gold."

(I'll show you how to do those leaves in just a minute.)

Mom was right. It's also aqua, rust, maroon, green, silver. Okay. Now I can feel her giving me The Look for being sarcastic. Amazing how she can do that from 2800 miles away.

So, let's just talk about Glimmer Spray, shall we? Or you can call it shimmer spray, or twinkle spray, or Extra Special Sparkly Magic Juice if you prefer. Yeah. Let's call it that! You probably know the stuff I'm talking about though. You spritz a little on your paper craft project and Shazam! Suddenly your project shimmers like it fell into a vat of fairy dust.

Companies like to sell their name brands of Extra Special Sparkly Magic Juice it for big dollars. The well-kept secret is that it's very inexpensive to make your own. Not only that, but by making your own, you can get exactly the color you want. You can even tailor it to match your ink pads (presuming you have bottles of re-inker to match them, and why wouldn't you?).

Here's what it takes to make your own Extra Special Sparkly Magic Juice:
  • Gum Arabic - available at any art supply store. I bought mine a couple of years ago for under $5 and I still have at least 2/3 of the little jar left.
  • Re-inker -  any brand will do. In fact, I bought out a re-inker supply from a company that was going out of business. I knew I was going to use the ink just to play with and not to re-ink pads that I have, so it was a worthwhile and relatively inexpensive investment. I use re-inkers in all kinds of ways for all kinds of projects.
  • Pigment Powder - I have several different kinds that I've had for several years. Pearl Ex, Perfect Pearls, etc. Go with whatever you've got. If you don't have any, for making Glimmer Spray, I recommend getting plain pearly white. It will blend fine with any color of ink and you don't necessarily have to match the powder color to the ink. 
  • Small empty spray bottles - again, go cheap. Sure, you can get them from art suppliers and big brand names, but scout out the dollar store or dollar bin at your local pharmacy first.
  • Water - straight from the tap will do.
The recipe is -

In a small spray bottle add:
  • 1 part Gum Arabic
  • 4 parts Pigment Powder
  • Fill bottle about 2/3 of the way with water
  • Add ink drops until you achieve the color you want.
  • Shake well.
  • Find all kinds of funtastic uses for it.
Note: Your homemade Extra Special Sparkly Magic Juice will keep forever, but you will need to shake it well before each use. Occasionally, the pigment powder can clog the nozzle. Simply run it under hot water to unclog it.

Really, that's all there is to it and the possibilities are endless. Oh, I should warn you that mixing up those Extra Special Sparkly Magic Juice potions can be a little addictive, not to mention using them. But look all the different things you can do with it!

You can simply spritz it on paper for a unique background. You can dip paintbrushes into it and use it like a watercolor. You can spritz it on your non-stick work surface or on a piece of plastic wrap, dip your stamps in it and then stamp on watercolor paper for a beautiful, shimmering image. Here's how I did the leaves pictured above...

Stamps used are from RubberMoon Art Stamps, from left to right: Carved Leaf, Oak Leaf, and Elm Leaf.

Oh, and once you're done dipping those stamps in and you have tiny blobs/smears of it left on your work surface? Don't just wipe it up - use it! I get some of the coolest backgrounds by dropping a piece of cardstock onto my "leftovers" and smooshing it around.

I told you, there's just no end to what kind of creativity you'll spark when you start playing. So, now that you know how to make your own Extra Special Sparkly Magic Juice, what will you do with it?

To see another example (pictured below) of how I used it in a project, please check out my post over on the RubberMoon Arts blog. It's scheduled to go "live" tomorrow, Friday, September 26th.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Paper Tiger

 I'm posting again for the Fitztown Design Team. What inspired me this week? A pile of crumpled napkins. *shrug* It's how I roll.

I submit for your review, the basic brown paper napkin. Dining and coffee establishments love to give everyone copious quantities of them. In my life, there is always a bunch of these things hanging around - jammed into my purse, stuck between pages of books as a marker, tossed aside on an end table - until I finally get tired of seeing them or digging around them and toss them.

Toss them? Not this time and probably never again! I went with, "Hmmm... crafting possibilities...?" So I taped one to a piece of printer paper to give it stability and printed out Fitztown's tiger (available here) on it.

So far, so good. Now what...? I decided to see if I could color on it without ripping it and see if I could then maybe decoupage it onto a blank coaster. I experimented with different mediums on a spare napkin. With dozens of them in residence, it wasn't too painful to sacrifice one. Some of the mediums I tried were too wet and tore the napkin or bled too much. So, I went (very gently) with crayons, a blender pen with distress ink for the leaves, and a white ballpoint pen to give ol' Tony some contrast.

Next up, I got out a blank coaster (this one is a 3.5" square) and my Liquitex gloss gel (I use the medium thickness). I also ripped the napkin down to an easier to manage size at this point.

I turned the napkin over and applied a coat of the Liquitex gel to the back of the image, coating only the image and not outside of it. I flipped it over again and adhered it to the coaster. I applied more Liquitex gel to the top of the image going slightly outside of the image, since my intention was to be able to rip away excess napkin.

As you can see, I used my finger to apply the Liquitex gel both to the back and the front of the image. I like getting messy. Plus, I find that I can control what I'm doing better by being completely "hands-on". But, for those of you who don't like to get messy, you could easily use a sponge or a brush - just be really careful not to tear the napkin.

Once the piece was mostly dry, I carefully tore away excess napkin. Then I swiped some of Ranger's Tarnished Brass Distress Stain around the edges and sponged over that in a scrubbing motion using Ranger's Crushed Olive Distress Ink. Finally, I went over the entire piece again with the Liquitex gel.

The piece seemed too dark to me and I wanted to lighten it up and give it a little extra interest. So, I used StazOn Opaque White and an old background stamp that I got from who-knows-where and stamped around the tiger.

And that, as they say, is that. I know it seems like a long, complicated process, but it really wasn't. Waiting for it to dry in between gel applications got a little tiresome, but that's what goofing around on Facebook is for... isn't it?

Look around you. Look at the stuff you normally toss out and try to come up with something creative to do with it instead. Let me know what you come up with.