Studio Saturdays: Stamp Carving

I have so many rubber stamps that I could stack them together with mortar and build a good-size house. Way before I discovered mixed-media art I was stamping cards and envelopes, and using stamps to decorate paper for book covers, and add designs to fabric. But stamp carving booted me into a whole new realm of happiness.

Stamp carving has a very short learning curve, and is one of the most meditative creative pursuits. You can sit and carve stamps for hours, watching TV or listening to music or a podcast, be in the zone, and feel like you’ve accomplished something major—because you have. The stamps you create are not only unique, but the images and what you create with them truly represent your artistry. Hand-carved stamps will also last you a good, long, time, and you’ll always find new uses for them.

Hand carved stamps

If you’ve never carved stamps before, rest assured you don’t need any special skills—you don’t even have to know how to draw. The carving part takes a little practice, but a few helpful tips will shortcut your path to success.

The tools and supplies needed are minimal and fairly inexpensive: a carving block (I like the Speedball Speedy-Carve blocks), a linoleum cutter handle with a chuck, a set of linoleum cutter blades, a craft knife, cutting mat, scrap paper, ink pads or water-based markers, and some baby wipes. Having two cutter handles allows you to switch between different blades quickly, instead of having to switch out blades in one handle. Cutter handles with a simple chuck system are easy to use–simply insert a blade and tighten it down.

Stamp carving materials

It doesn’t take much to get started with stamp carving; the basics include cutters, a stamp block, and ink pads or markers.

Any type of design will work for stamp carving, but if you’re just beginning, I recommend starting with a simple shape, like a solid heart, leaf, or flower. The three-layer technique I’ll show you isn’t difficult, but practice first with some basic designs to get the feel of the blade and the block. I drew my image (a flower) onto copy paper with a dark graphite pencil. You can also use copyright-free images, either tracing or re-drawing them.

Drawing an image for a hand-carved stamp

A hand-drawn image for a hand-carved stamp

Here’s the best part—to transfer the image to the block, simply place the drawing, right-side down, onto the block, and rub until the image appears (I used the end of the pencil). Lift up the paper to make sure your image is transferring, trying not to move it—you may want to tape a corner down before rubbing. If you want the image more defined, trace over the lines on the block with permanent marker.

Transferring a design to a stamp block

Rub the back of the pencil-drawn image, and the design will transfer to the block.

It’s as easy as that! Here’s my design on the block. After transferring the image I cut around it with a craft knife so I’d have a smaller piece to work with.

Transferred image for stamp carving

The image transferred perfectly!

When I carve, I almost always start with the small U-gouge, which creates a very thin line. I run it along the outside of my design first, creating an outline, then go around again, widening the line. You don’t have to dig deeply into the block—just put a little pressure on the blade to remove some of the rubber.

Carving the outline

Start the carving by creating a thin outline around the image.

Remember, everything you carve away will not print, and everything left behind will print. Also, the transferred image will be backward on the block, but oriented correctly when you stamp the image.

For the flower, I wanted a fairly thick outline for each petal, and have some lines inside the petals. As you can see, I didn’t follow the outline exactly–you can try to match your image, or take a little artistic license.

After carving more around the outline, I created a border for the petals that was about 1/8″ wide. When you carve, go slowly. This isn’t a race, and you’ll be more pleased with the results if you don’t rush. Also, one of the most important things to remember is to always carve away from yourself. Never angle the blade toward your hand—it can easily slip or skip across the block and cut you—the blades are quite sharp. When making curved lines, keep the blade steady and turn the block, but—let’s say it together—always angle the blade away from you. Two more helpful tips: Have a good light source, and don’t carve when you’re hangry. Get that blood sugar nice and level.

After carving the border I carved the inside of the flower, leaving those lines in the petals. To carve away larger areas I switched to the bigger U-gouge, which removes more rubber. Then it was time for a test—this is an important step in stamp carving, allowing you to check your progress and see what still needs to be carved and cleaned up. Before inking the stamp, brush off any tiny pieces of rubber, or give it a cleaning with a baby wipe and dry it.

You can see here how I’ve got the basic shape, but a lot of carving lines still remain. I like to leave a few extra lines, and how many you leave is completely up to you; some people like to leave a lot to emphasize the hand-carved look.

Carving the stamp

The insides of the petals were carved away next, leaving a border.

Here’s the stamp and the stamped image after an initial cleanup:

Stamp carving

The image is starting to look good, but more carving is needed.

A little more cleaning:

Stamp carving

Looking better, but not quite there yet.

And here’s the final image. As you can see, it’s far from perfect, but I really like it. I also cut around the flower with a craft knife to make it easier to stamp. I could have stopped here and been as happy as a clam with a stamp. However, I’ve been seeing this trend in commercial stamps of layered stamping—stamping parts of an image in different colors to achieve a dimensional look—and I wanted to give it a try.

Final version of the hand-carved stamp

The final stamp. I left a few carving lines, which gives the image a hand-carved look.

I went back to my original drawing and drew around the inside of each petal, then carved just the petals.

Stamp carving a layered stamp

I carved another stamp to fill in the petals.

For one last layer I drew a smaller portion of the petals, and carved that.

Layered hand-carved stamps

The third layer adds dimension to the petals.

I needed some leaves, and carved a base layer and an overlay. I also wanted a little detail stamp, so I carved some dots from a piece of rubber I had cut away.

Hand-carved layered flower stamp

I added two-layer leaves and a small motif stamp.

I like that the flower and leaves don’t exactly line up, so the images will always look slightly different. But to make sure I stamp all three layers as accurately as possible, I made a small dot at the top of each stamp as a reminder.

Marking hand-carved stamps

Marking the backs of the stamps with a small dot makes them easier to align.

Here’s how the stamp looks on a page in my art journal; I added a simple label that I also carved (the letters are purchased stamps):

Art journal page with hand-carved stamps

A page from my art journal, with the hand-carved stamps.

Like any stamp, this one’s quite versatile. Here’s the image stamped in navy blue permanent ink, and colored with watercolor:

Hand-carved stamp colored with watercolor

The stamp takes on a much different look when colored with watercolor.

I painted the stamp with watercolor, stamped it, then used a water brush to spread some of the color around:

Hand-carved stamp stamped with watercolor

Using watercolor directly on the stamp gives it a hand-painted look.

And here, I stamped the petals with pigment ink, then removed some of the ink with the dot stencil to get a polka dot pattern.

Removing ink with a rubber stamp

Removing some of the ink with the small dot stamp resulted in a polka dot design.

You’ll probably get on a roll when you start stamp carving, as I did. I decided to make a quarter repeat stamp, which is a quarter of an image that can be repeated to make various combinations of designs. I did this quickly, and frankly, I wasn’t super happy with the results and almost tossed it.

Quarter repeat hand-carved stamp for stamp carving

Wasn’t a big fan of this one at first.

But…when I repeated the image clockwise three more times and added some doodles with a black pen, I was suddenly head over heels.

Quarter repeat stamp

When repeated in a circle, this stamp quickly became a favorite.

Repeating the stamp in the same direction gave me this cool pattern, which I stamped in acrylic paint over a painted background in my art journal. Don’t get discouraged if every attempt doesn’t turn out exactly how you expect it to. Give your stamps a chance, and see how they work best in various patterns and with different mediums.

Quarter repeat stamp art journal page

Repeat stamping without turning the image resulted in this pattern.

By the way, you can care for your stamps the same way as you do commercial rubber stamps: Keep them away from heat and light, and clean them with stamp cleaner or alcohol-free baby wipes. If you stamp with acrylic paint, wash them immediately afterward so the paint doesn’t dry on the rubber. Hand-carved stamps can be mounted as cling stamps for acrylic blocks, or on wood blocks, if you prefer.

I imagine you wanting to get going on some carving, so here are a few more things to check out from the North Light Shop before you head out on your stamp carving adventures!

Carve, Stamp, Play by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer

Julie Fei-Fan Balzer’s book Carve, Stamp, Play is the perfect companion to stamp carving. Check Julie’s blog for her #CarveDecember tutorials and inspiration!

Art Stamping Innovations: Carving Workshop with Gloria Page

Learn stamp carving basics and more in the video Art Stamping Innovations: Carving Workshop with Gloria Page.

XXXXX issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine

Learn all about stamp carving in the May/June 2014 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine.

Art Journal Courage by Dina Wakley

Discover fun stamping techniques and more in the book Art Journal Courage by Dina Wakley.

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Stenciling and Stamping Techniques for Mixed Media Watercolor

If you’re a mixed-media artist, there may be time when you’ve chosen to stick with acrylic paint because it seems there are certain things you can’t do with watercolor– stenciling, stamping or monoprinting, for example. Surprise! You can do all those things with watercolor paint! As you can see in this stenciling and stamping techniques demonstration from Gina Lee Kim, tube watercolors are more versatile than you think.

Stenciling and Stamping Techniques for Watercolor | Gina Lee Kim |


Creating Watercolor “Ink” for Stenciling and Stamping

Supplies Needed

  • Grafix Printing Plate
  • brayer
  • tube watercolors
  • Gum Arabic watercolor medium
  • dish soap in squeeze bottle
  • white gouache
  • foam stamps (Gina used Art Foamies)
  • stencils or masks
  • paintbrush
  • Ranger Ink Blending Tool
  • pipette or eye dropper
  • watercolor paper or art journal
  • water mister
  1. Use a brayer to combine a nickel size dollop of tube watercolor paints with a drop of gum arabic, liquid dish soap, and white gouache on the Grafix Printing Plate.
  2.  Press the stamp into the “ink” or brush it on with a paintbrush. If the “ink” is too dry, add a single spritz of water from the mister.
  3. Stamp your image on watercolor paper or your journal.
  4. OR place a stencil on your paper and pounce the “ink” through the stencil using the ink blending tool or a stencil brush.

Imagine the possibilities with this technique!

  • The “ink” is reactive with water so if you’re using a mask you can blend out the edges using a wet brush to integrate the image into the page you’re creating.
  • Manufactured ink pads are great but only come in selected colors. When you can make your own “ink,” you can select the exact color you need for your artwork!
  • If you get called away from your art as you’re working, you can reactive your “ink” with a spritz of water and begin stamping again immediately.
  • You can now add crisp stenciled and stamped images to your watercolor art journal pages without having to buy acrylic paints!

We’d love to hear how you use this technique in your mixed-media art. Share your tips and ideas in the comments below!

To learn more about Gina Lee Kim’s techniques for monoprinting, check out her new video: Fun with Watercolor: Printing Effects!

The post Stenciling and Stamping Techniques for Mixed Media Watercolor appeared first on Artist's Network.

Drawing Books: Watteau’s Soldiers

The following book review of “Watteau’s Soldiers: Scenes of Military Life in Eighteenth-Century France,” by Austin R. Williams, appears in the Fall 2016 issue of Drawing magazine. For more drawing instruction and additional reviews of drawing books, subscribe


drawing books

The name Jean-Antoine Watteau conjures up not so much a single image as a wider sense of place: romantic, pastoral gardens and estates where beside every copse aristocratic lovers flirt, dance and generally idle their days away. Watteau’s (1684–1721) bucolic compositions were so unusual in their time that they caused the French Academy to designate a new category of paintings—fêtes galantes—simply because the academy didn’t know where else to put them.

It’s a small revelation, then, to learn that several years of the artist’s short career (he died at 36 of tuberculosis) were given in large part to the depiction of soldiers. This branch of Watteau’s work is brought to our attention by Watteau’s Soldiers: Scenes of Military Life in Eighteenth-Century France, a new book published by D Giles Limited, in association with The Frick Collection, in New York City, which this summer hosted an exhibition of the same name. The book includes a long essay by Aaron Wile, the curator of the exhibition, as well as a complete catalogue of Watteau’s military works.

Military subjects were common among painters in Watteau’s time, but his were far from traditional battlefield scenes. “The panoply of martial glory on which most military painters of the time trained their gaze—the fearsome arms and snarling horses and splendid uniforms of generals glittering amid the smoke of cannon fire—held no interest for him,” writes Wile. “Instead, he focused on the prosaic aspects of war: the marches, halts, and encampments that defined the larger part of military life. Notable for their intimacy and deeply felt humanity, the resulting works show the quiet moments between the fighting.”

Drawing Books

Three Studies of a Soldier, One From Behind, ca. 1713–1715, red chalk, 6 x 7¾. Collection Fondation Custodia, Paris, France. All artwork this article courtesy The Frick Collection, New York, New York.

Watteau’s military paintings number about 12, some of which are lost and known only through reproductions. All were painted between 1709 and 1715, when Watteau was nearing his artistic maturity. These were the years of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714), a conflict that saw the forces of France battling a coalition of European powers. It was a disastrous endeavor; France achieved its major aims but at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives and massive debt. Watteau was in close proximity to the war—several of his friends were soldiers, and one of the conflict’s deadliest engagements, the Battle of Malplaquet, was fought near his home town of Valenciennes.

It is in his drawings that Watteau brings us into the most immediate contact with the soldiers who fought in these battles. He typically worked on a small scale in red chalk, occasionally augmented with ink. His celebrated trois crayons technique is in scant evidence in these works. A typical sheet includes vignettes of three or four figures. Often, we see the same figure from several angles, creating a highly animated effect as we sense the restless minutes passing between the drawing of one study and another.

Watteau drew primarily from live models, but his approach differed from those of his contemporaries. Rather than repeating the formal, classically influenced poses practiced in the academies, he drew his subjects as he found them. His drawings can mostly be grouped into two categories: soldiers resting and soldiers walking. We see these men as they slouch their shoulders, sit on rocks, schlep equipment and fidget on the ground as they try to find a comfortable position in which to sleep.

drawing books

Three Studies of a Soldier and a Kneeling Man, ca. 1710, red chalk within brown-ink framing, 4¾ x 75⁄8. Collection École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France.

“Whether recording the body as it moves through space and time or observing the minute variations of its resting states, Watteau aimed to depict the body as it appeared to him in the moment he observed it,” Wiles writes. “With the quickness and vitality of their line, [his drawings] exhibit an immediacy that preserves a sense of the moment, of the dynamic convergence between artist and model.” Wiles goes on to argue that by concentrating on soldiers in these stray moments, Watteau captures a sense of their inner lives, even as their thoughts remain opaque. In this respect Watteau’s drawings can be placed in a tradition of Enlightenment ideas propounded by men such as John Locke, which heralded the individuality and the rights of common men and women.

These drawings were critical to the creation of the artist’s paintings. Watteau kept his life studies in his studio in large bound volumes, and when he wished to paint a canvas he would flip through his studies, select a number of men he had drawn and construct the painting by arranging those individuals almost like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. In this respect he yet again diverged from his contemporaries, who typically began with an overall conception for an image and worked backward from there, drawing studies of individual elements.

The differences between Watteau’s images of soldiers and the fêtes galantes for which he is best known are obvious, but they share a certain sensibility. In Watteau’s world both lovers and soldiers are tinged with a degree of melancholy—knowledge that love and life are all too fleeting. Watteau also used both armies and garden parties as excuses for bringing together disparate individuals, often only to highlight the distance that still separates them. “War and love, then, are not so dissimilar in Watteau’s universe, for if love joins people together, so does war—not only for companionship but, more fundamentally, for survival,” Wile writes. “In this sense both the military works and the fêtes galantes offer a vision of coexistence within a community, but it is a fragile coexistence.” And it is a fragile beauty that Watteau creates—fragile and all the more powerful for it.

drawing books

The Portal of Valenciennes, ca. 1710–1711, oil, 12¾ x 16. The Frick Collection, New York, New York. Purchased with funds from the bequest , of Arthemise Redpath, 1991.

For more information about the book visit For more information about the exhibition visit

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Calculating Your Color Options | Chris Cozen Explains

With the year 2016 rounding the final corner, now is a good time to look back at the art you’ve created throughout the past 12 months or even beyond. For this exercise, focus on color. Note what, if any, particular hues have made a strong presence, and how you feel about them.

Chris Cozen is here to help you get there. In the following article that first appeared in Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, Chris explains how to experiment in a way that will get you powerful results. Watch Chris in action when you preview her ArtistsNetworkTV videos, which you can stream 24/7/365! ~Cherie

Color for artists | Chris Cozen,

Figure 1: Make a color wheel so you can easily see what you have to work with. First apply the paint straight from the container, then dip your brush in a bit of water and pull it through to see how the paint reacts. Pin this!

by Chris Cozen

Think of all the paint mistakes we have made over the years. Remember all the mud you made as you attempted to mix up the perfect shade of purple or orange? What if someone told you that you could buy only eight colors of paint that would magically transform themselves into more than 150 colors? Well, you can do just that. Making a few wise pigment choices can lead to an expansive collection in no time at all. Let me tell you how.

The key is to choose pigments that play well together and are clean mixers. For this we’ll use “modern” pigments, the pigments that come from chemistry labs. These pigments are known for their ability to allow light to pass through them, almost like colored glass.

Fluid acrylics (I use Golden Artist Colors®)
• Quinacridone red
• Anthraquinone blue
• Hansa yellow (medium)
• Interference violet
• Iridescent gold (deep)
• Micaceous iron oxide
• Titanium white
• Bone or carbon black
Paintbrush, synthetic

1. Start with a primary red, blue, and yellow triad: quinacridone red (a cool red); anthraquinone blue, and hansa yellow medium. All three are deeply saturated and intense pigments with strong tint strength (Tint is the color that results from adding white to the original color). This means that you can use very little paint to get great color. Combine the individual colors with each other to get crisp, clear, and clean secondary colors: orange, violet, green. (Figure 1)

Note: Tertiary colors can be created when the secondary colors are mixed with the colors adjacent to them. So far we can make at least 12 colors from just this one triad.

Color for artists | Chris Cozen,

Figure 2: Pure color (Anthraquinoe blue, Hansa yellow, or Quinacridone red), Micaceous iron oxide plus color, color plus interference violet, color plus gold, color plus interference violet and gold.

2. Add a magical interference color to the red-blue-yellow triad and create another set of 12 colors. The addition of the interference paint will create an opalescent quality that refracts light and alters the original to which it was added. Now we have 25 colors; the interference alone as well as the mixtures. My favorites are interference violet and interference green. (Figure 2)

3. Create a third set of 12 colors by adding a single iridescent paint color. The metallic reflective qualities of iridescent paints result in colors with high sheen that allow the light to dance on the surface. Because we can use the single iridescent as a stand-alone color, that brings us to 38 colors. I most often reach for gold (deep) or silver for this. (Figure 2)

4. Add a fourth set of 12 colors to the tally by introducing micaceous iron oxide (MIO). This dark paint is actually gritty particles suspended in a clear binder that takes on the color of the pigment with which it is mixed. These grayed-out toothy mixtures are awesome additions to your color library. This will pop our list up to 50 colors because MIO is also a stand-alone color. (Figure 2)

5. Introduce titanium white. This highly opaque white paint will allow you to create a minimum range of at least six tints from each of the original 12 colors created from the red-blue-yellow triad. These 48 tints are a range of lightened colors that fade to the lightest pastels by increasing the amount of white added. They will also be more dense and give you heightened coverage. This brings our count to 99, since white can also stand alone. For those of you who are true color seekers, this minimum range is only the beginning. (Figure 2)

Every artist needs this guide–download the free eBook here
when you sign up for the ArtistsNetwork newsletter!

6. Bring carbon black into the equation. By mixing varying amounts of black with each of the original 12 colors you can create 48 additional shades of color. Adding either black or white to your colors will change the value. This brings us to 148 colors.

Color for artists | Chris Cozen,

Figure 3

7. Lastly, create a range of neutral gray tones by starting with black on one end of your palette and gradually introducing white until you have created six or more tones of gray before ending with white. This is a neutral gray scale and will help you determine values. These final 6 colors bring our tally to 154. (Figure 3)

You can stop with this amazing number of colors or continue to tweak and experiment to push your color mixtures well beyond these combinations. There is always another mixture that can be created when you combine both interference and iridescent colors together and mix them with the original 12 colors.

Bonus: Try this exercise with two other triads: quinacridone magenta (R), turquoise phthalo (B), and nickel azo yellow (Y) or napthol red (light), hansa yellow light, and phthalo blue (GS). Pick another interference and iridescent as well just for fun.

Color for artists | Chris Cozen,

Make reference strips so you know how each color responds when mixed with different amounts of the specialty paints.

A Little Bit About Paint

Pigments are responsible for the color part of paint. The remainder of the bottle is made of a binder and some “fluff,” for lack of a better word. The fluff simply makes everything work together to keep the paint flowing, the pigments evenly distributed, and it allows the paint to stick to a surface. For acrylic paints, the binder is a polymer. If you’ve ever used polymer medium or gel medium you are essentially using “naked” paint or paint without pigment added to it.

Learning to maximize your options saves you money and gives you a greater understanding of the color-mixing possibilities that exist.

A Colorful Vocabulary

Color is what we see as we look at objects, people, and landscapes and includes the full spectrum of the rainbow.

Color temperature refers to the warmness or coolness of a color. We think of red, yellow, and orange as warm colors and blue, green, and violet as cool colors. But an individual color can also be either warm or cool as in a cool red such as a quinacridone, or a warm red such as cadmium. Warm colors tend to advance or appear to come forward; cool colors tend to recede.

Grayscale is the range of tones from dark to light that is created when black is mixed with white. The tones created are referred to as neutral grays.

Hue is the name of an individual color (i.e. yellow, lemon yellow, hansa yellow medium, cadmium yellow, etc.).

Saturation refers to color in its natural form or full strength, the brightness or intensity.

Shade is the color that results when black is added to the original.

Tint is the color that results from adding white to the original.

Tint strength refers to the ability to maintain its strength when another color, such as white, is added to it.

Tone is a color that has been softened by the addition of neutral gray.

Value is the lightness or darkness of a color, or a color to which either black or white has been added. The values found in a grayscale are what you perceive when you look at a black-and-white photograph.

Subscribe to ArtistsNetworkTV for more than 600 art video workshops on color mixing and more!

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Watercolor Challenge: Bluebonnets

Love Jean Haines’ loose, lovely painting style? Try it yourself with this simple watercolor challenge!

Follow along with Jean as she demonstrates painting bluebonnets in just a few minutes. It’s a great way to practice, warm up, and put spare scraps of watercolor paper to good use.

Watercolor Challenge: Bluebonnets with Jean Haines |

Spring Medley by Jean Haines

For this watercolor challenge, you will need:

  • Your favorite watercolor brush
  • A small brush, like a liner or rigger
  • Watercolor paints in the following or similar colors:
  • French Ultramarine
  • Cascade Green
  • Cobalt Turquoise
  • Yellow
  • Scraps of watercolor paper
  • Reference photo

In this quick study, you’ll practice observing your subject, making petal shapes, and varying color. Try setting a timer for five or ten minutes to keep yourself from working each shape too seriously. You might find yourself creating more interesting shapes when you’re a little rushed! Jean also demonstrates how to create the impression of more bluebonnets in the distance with just a few touches of the brush. Finally, you’ll see how to use brush techniques for lifting and adding color to add light, interest, and excitement to your flowers.

“These little studies are invaluable for progressing as an artist,” Jean says. “Painting one or two things quickly each day is a good way to improve your skill for observation and speeding up on technique.”//


Want more from Jean? Find her full-length videos at!

Watercolor Workout
Watercolor Flowers
Watercolor Animals
Watercolor Mindfulness – Coming Soon!

About the Artist

An accomplished author and painter well known for her passion for art, Jean Haines teaches hundreds of students via hosting international watercolor workshops all over the world. With awards
and exhibitions across the United Kingdom, United States, and internationally, Haines is a member of the SWA, Society of Women Artists, and was a recipient of the Anthony J. Lester Award. Visit for more information on her upcoming workshops.

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Art or Vandalism: It’s a Fine Line

In the winter 2016 issue of Acrylic Artist I interviewed graffiti writer Jamie O’Neill, who without apology started his art career on the streets, painting his letters on walls and railway cars. Today his art, which he is painting on canvas in a more traditional format, hangs in galleries and on family room walls although it still depicts graffiti lettering on railcars. Working on that story forced me to reconsider my views on graffiti—is graffiti vandalism of public/private property or is it art? After I finished the feature I became more aware of the graffiti in my southern Ohio neighborhood. As an avid photographer I went off in search of this street art as subject matter for my own photo series.

Sacred by Jamie O'Neill, Acrylic on canvas

Sacred by Jamie O’Neill, Acrylic on canvas

It’s almost a cliché to say that art should make us think, but if we stop to consider graffiti as an art form, there’s plenty to think about. Maybe there’s a required shift in our thinking in order to call graffiti art? This street art, made by artists who may not be known to us, is often in fact well known in the artist’s inner circles on the streets. Can we say that we don’t see it as art when it’s on a train or the side of a building, but if that same design is put it canvas it then becomes art? Can we say the murals adorning city walls across the city are art because they were commissioned or sponsored, critiqued and vetted by a committee, but the designs that have been thrown up on a wall at night are not?

Scouting Art

Recently I headed out with my camera along a nearby trail, the Valley View, and I passed a handful of runners, some kids and people out walking their dogs. I continued on, heading to a spot known as a teenagers’ hangout and a popular destination for photographers looking for that model-on-the-railroad-tracks picture. I’m here to photograph the graffiti though.

Is it art?

Is it art?

The tags (graffiti) at the tracks were not inspiring. They were more a mash-up of initials, off-color words and scribbles. I thought Jamie would shake his head and tell me to move on, so I did. I headed to a water culvert to find the better graffiti writing.

Later that day I saw this on the Cincinnati Art Museum’s website:

Graffiti Palace, New York by David Hockney (British, b.1937), photographer

Graffiti Palace, New York by David Hockney (British, b.1937), photographer

So is it art now—now that a famous, well-respected and studied photographer has photographed the graffiti?

Do you see where I’m going with this? When is it art? Who says it’s art?

One thing I do know about the work of graffiti writers—it makes me think.

FOOTNOTE: Think graffiti is just for young artists? Check out how graffiti is helping those with dementia- yes, even grannies do graffiti!



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Technique Tuesdays: 10 Mixed-Media Metal Techniques

Adding metal to a mixed-media project can instantly elevate it. There’s something about the weight, the color, and the patina of metal that invites a second look. While learning metal techniques may seem a bit intimidating, the opposite is true: Metal is extremely easy to manipulate, color, and texture, and doesn’t require an arsenal of tools.

Artists have also discovered unique ways to add faux metal and metallic effects to artwork. Read on for 10 tips for metal techniques that will inspire your next project.

1. Attachment issues: Roxanne Evans Stout often uses found metal in her collages; vintage tins, silverware, and watch parts frequently play starring roles in her compelling artwork, as she shows in her book, Storytelling With Collage: Techniques for Layering Color & Texture. Her metal techniques for working with vintage tins is worth noting, since these pieces are easily found at flea markets and thrift stores, and their graphics and beautiful patina make them stand out. To flatten a tin box, cut a slit at each corner and pound the box flat with a hammer. To attach it to a substrate, such as a wood panel, mark where you want the holes, create holes with a drill or a hammer and nail, and attach the tin with small nails or tacks. Roxanne has one more great tip: If the nails you’re using look too shiny and modern, give them some age by dabbing some heavy-body brown acrylic paint on the nail heads.

Collage from Storytelling with Collage by Roxanne Evans Stout

Vintage metal tins take on a whole new life in this collage. (Art and photo by Roxanne Evans Stout)

2. Rust never sleeps: We spend most of our lives avoiding rusty things, until we realize how cool they really are. In addition to adding texture and style to assemblage, rusty bits can also be used to print on fabric and paper. Jennifer Coyne Qudeen showed some of the wonders of mark making with rust in “Make Your Mark: Rust Marks” in the November/December 2015 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. Overlook the fact that rust is corrosive and destructive, she says; “It’s also beautiful, mysterious, and capricious.” To create rust prints on paper, place some rusty metal in your art journal (flat items like washers and hinges work well). Pour a little vinegar over the metal, or lay a wet tea bag on top—the acidity in both help activate the rust. You can let the rust spread to other pages of your journal, or block it by slipping some freezer paper next to the pages being rusted (shiny side toward the wet page). Close the book, place a weight on top, and wait 24 hours before you open the book and see what surprises lie inside.

Rust prints by Jennifer Coyne Qudeen from Cloth Paper Scissors magazine

Did you know you can use rust to print with? These designs on fabric were made with rusty bits. (Art by Jennifer Coyne Qudeen, photo by Sharon White Photography)

3. Toggle back and forth: Metal techniques such as cutting, shaping, and texturing aren’t as complicated as they sound, and the processes don’t require that many specialty tools. Jen Cushman explains how to make a simple jewelry toggle component in “Mixed Media Metalsmith: The Toggle Component” in the January/February 2015 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. Start by placing a piece of 24-gauge sheet metal into a disc cutter, a tool that neatly punches circle shapes out of metal (you can also cut metal with a jeweler’s saw). Then, use tin snips to cut an organic circle around the negative space you just punched, creating a toggle. File the rough edges, place the piece on a bench block, and strike the metal several times with a ball peen hammer to create dimples. All you need to create a closure is a toggle bar, which you can make from wire. Jen shows other ways to use the component, such as adding it to a collage or making it into a closure for a handmade book.

Toggle component using easy metal techniques by Jen Cushman

Simple metal techniques were used to create this textured toggle component. (Art and photo by Jen Cushman)

4. Make it pop: Instead of tossing that soda can into the recycling bin, consider using it for your next mixed-media art project. In Alternative Art Surfaces: Mixed Media Techniques for Painting on More Than 35 Different Surfaces, Darlene Olivia McElroy and Sandra Duran Wilson show a great technique for printing on soda cans. Cut the top and bottom off the can, cut down the length, and trim the edges. On the unprinted side, brush on Golden Artist Colors Digital Ground, and let it dry. Tape the can to a carrier sheet and run it through a printer, then remove the tape and spray the can with a workable fixative.

Printing on soda cans from Alternative Art Surfaces

Printing on a soda can produces incredible results. (Art by Darlene Olivia McElroy and Sandra Duran Wilson, photo by Christine Polomsky and Kris Kandler)

5. Dress it up: Create clothing out of wire, and you’re suddenly in the ranks of esteemed haute couture fashion designers. The process is easy, following Annie Waldrop’s techniques in “Nature Gives Release: Wire Doll Dresses” in the November/December 2013 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. Using a doll dress or dress template, cut pieces of 19-gauge wire for each section or line of the dress. Form the wire into the lines of the dress shape using pliers; create ovals for the sleeve openings and for the bottom of the dress. Use the dress shape to cut out corresponding pieces from ephemera or fabric, and fit the cut pieces onto the wire structure. Then, sew the pieces onto the wires with needle and thread. Annie’s stunning dimensional artwork incorporates vintage papers, wooden buttons, photographs, wire mesh, twigs, and more.

Art dress by Annie Waldrop featured in Cloth Paper Scissors magazine

Wire and metal mesh were used to create this dimensional art dress. (Art by Annie Waldrop, photo by Hornick/Rivlin Studio)

6. Got an etch: Metal etching produces fantastic textured designs, but the process requires chemicals, patience, and time. Jen Cushman discovered a way to achieve similar results, and shared her technique in the “Mixed-Media Metalsmith: Faux Etching on Copper” column in the May/June 2014 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. Starting with a 26-gauge sheet of copper, a little texture is added with a ball peen hammer, focusing on the edges. The metal is cleaned to remove any surface dirt or oils, and stamped with a rubber stamp and clear embossing ink. Then the metal is placed on a heat-safe surface, like a fire brick or annealing pan with pumice stone, and gently heated with a butane torch. When heated, the metal begins to color, and the stamped area darkens slightly. Remove the flame as soon as the image appears.

Faux etching metal technique by Jen Cushman featured in Cloth Paper Scissors magazine

A rubber stamp and embossing ink can produce the look of etched metal. (Art and photo by Jen Cushman)

7. Not so heavy metal: Want the look of metal without the bulk? Try transfer metallic foils, which are shinier than metal leaf and ridiculously easy to use. In her book Shimmer & Shine Workshop: Create Art That Sparkles, Christine Adolph shares tons of techniques for foiling and metallic effects; one starts with double-sided adhesive sheets (she uses iCraft Easy-Cut Adhesive Sheets by Therm O Web). Cut shapes by hand or with a die cutter, peel off the backing, and adhere them to a piece of paper. Peel the top layer off (the image will be clear), and apply the transfer foil on top, making sure the color side is up. Burnish the foil with your fingers, and peel the foil off to reveal the very lovely, shiny, foiled images.

Transfer foil techniques from Shimmer & Shine Workshop

Transfer foils are an easy way to add a shiny metallic element to artwork. (Art by Christine Adolph)

8. Make it faux: Another cool faux metal technique replicates the look of rust on non-metal elements. In “Jumpstart: Altered Sketchbook” in the July/August 2016 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, Tracy Weinzapfel outlines a technique developed by fellow artist Andy Skinner; this easy method starts by blending DecoArt Media Tinting Base in white with DecoArt Media Paynes Grey fluid acrylic paint and applying the mixture to a shaped chipboard embellishment. Distress the edges of the piece with Carbon Black fluid acrylic, and add a thin wash of Paynes Grey over the whole piece. Complete the rust look by brushing on a coat of Quinacridone Gold fluid acrylic.

Faux rusty technique from Cloth Paper Scissors magazine

Get the look of faux rust on chipboard with acrylic paint and mediums. (Art and photo by Tracy Weinzapfel)

9. Make an impression: Thinner sheets of metal can be embossed by hand, creating interesting dimensional patterns. Deedee Hampton shows how in “An Easier Way to Make a Nicho” in the September/October 2014 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. Draw designs onto copy paper, and lightly glue them onto the metal. Place the metal on top of a foam pad, and with a metal embossing tool, trace along the lines of the pattern, pressing fairly hard. Peel the paper off the pad, and go over the lines again; the deeper the embossing, the more visible your design. To color the metal, brush or rub on some acrylic paint over the surface. Let the paint sit for a minute, then gently rub the metal with a paper towel, leaving paint in the recessed areas.

Embossing metal techniques by DeeDee Hampton in Cloth Paper Scissors magazine

Thinner sheets of metal can be embossed and painted for extra dimension and color. (Art by Deedee Hampton, photo by Sharon White Photography)

10. Curves ahead: A dapping block is an inexpensive tool that easily domes and curves flat metal pieces, and can be used for a number of metal techniques. In Making Etched Metal Jewelry: Techniques and Projects, Step by Step, Kristen Robinson and Ruth Rae explain the basics of how to use the block, which has various sizes of depressions, or curved holes. Place a metal disc into a hole that measures about twice its size. Hammer the disc, using a dapper and hammer, until the disc forms a cup. Make sure to move the dapper in a circular motion as you work. Once the dome shape emerges, switch to a smaller dapper, keeping the disc in the same hole. When the sides of the disc begin to cup upward, toward the top of the block, move the disc to a smaller hole and repeat the process, until the disc has the shape you want.

Doming metal with a dapping block from Making Etched Metal Jewelry

Using a dapping block is an easy way to create domed metal discs. (Photo by Christine Polomsky and Corrie Schaffeld)

See how easy it is to get great metal effects? The resources below from the North Light Shop will give you even more ideas for your mixed-media artwork!

Making Etched Metal Jewelry

In Making Etched Metal Jewelry by Kristen Robinson and Ruth Rae, learn methods for etching, along with other metal techniques.

September/October 2014 Cloth Paper Scissors magazine

Discover fun mixed-media metal techniques in the September/October 2014 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine.

Storytelling With Collage

See how Roxanne Evans Stout incorporates metal techniques into her artwork in Storytelling With Collage.

Shimmer & Shine Workshop

The title says it all–Shimmer & Shine Workshop by Christine Adolph is packed with ways to add metallic shine to your projects.

Making Metal Jewelry

Metal techniques for stamping, forging, folding metal and more are featured in Making Metal Jewelry by Jen Cushman.

The post Technique Tuesdays: 10 Mixed-Media Metal Techniques appeared first on Artist's Network.