Why You Need to Go Off the Beaten Path for Best Photo References

Acrylic artist Bernie Hubert finds his creative edge traveling the open road. Historic highways lead to inspiration for the artist in the form of old motels, vintage signs and abandoned vehicles. From a lifetime on the road, here are Huberts tips for why you need to travel to get the best shots.

Rt 66 Lasso, Bernie Hubert. Acrylic Artist

Rt 66 Lasso, Bernie Hubert. Acrylic Artist

The Interview

Acrylic Artist: Can you recall how many times you’ve traveled cross-country for inspiration?
Bernie Hubert: I’ve traveled across the United States by car more than 20 times. At first, I just set out to get from here to there—New Jersey to California.

AA: What keeps drawing you back to the road?

BH: There are a lot of images out there just waiting to be painted. For me, it’s historic Route 66 motels and signage. Signs fascinate me—the nostalgia they evoke—even the pain, sorrow and hard winters that these tattered remnants reflect inspire me to capture their essence in my acrylic paintings.

AA: What are your rules of the road with regard to taking photo references for your acrylic art?

BH: Aside from the obvious, such as having a good digital camera and charged batteries, there’s just one primary rule—you must travel alone. It’s kind of like a guy tagging along when his wife is shopping for a purse. He adds no value, and will only annoy her and make her rush. The same goes for open-road photography. You can’t be on the clock because most of the off-ramps and back alleys are dry wells. It’s like panning for gold, you just keep at it and eventually you’ll come up with your reward. You need to be patient and observant and stick with the old adage: you’ll know it when you see it.

Unintended Adventures

AA: Snooping around abandoned places can raise suspicions. Have you ever caught the eye of someone who questioned your motives?

BH: Once, when I was passing through Tucumcari, New Mexico, a great stretch of road for Route 66 lovers, I was trolling slowly through town looking at all the old artifacts—motels and broken neon signs, when I was pulled over by a local police officer. He asked what I was doing, driving so aimlessly. When I told him that I was an artist looking for some imagery he only half believed me. This may have had to do with the fact that I was parked on a dirt lot whose only distinguishing feature was a dilapidated Lasso Motel sign. The motel that accompanied the sign had been scrapped years ago. It wasn’t until I showed the officer some of the images on my camera that he let me continue. The next time I returned to Tucumcari for more trolling the sign was gone, too.

AA: So, in a nutshell—go it alone and be patient and observant while keeping in mind that that you’ll know it when you see it. Anything else to add?

BH: One more thing, take your photos at either 10:00 in the morning or 2:00 in the afternoon for the best sun angle, which, in turn, will create beautiful accent shadows for your images.

Learn More!

Check out this video on painting tree edges and branches!

Get Hubert’s advice on creating successful commissions and a peek at a gallery of his Americana portraits. Bernie Hubert’s art is featured in the Winter 2015 issue of Acrylic Artist —order a copy here.

The post Why You Need to Go Off the Beaten Path for Best Photo References appeared first on Artist's Network.


Technique Tuesdays: Background Techniques

Facing the blank page—we’ve all done it, but we haven’t always enjoyed it. What helps artists break through all that white space is learning background techniques to spark ideas, develop a palette, and discover the beginnings of an image or two to build on.

These 10 easy mixed-media background techniques from top artists are designed to get your next project off to a swift and successful start, whether you’re experimenting in your art journal or collaging on a canvas. Who’s afraid of the blank page? Not you. Read on.

1. Marbled paper makes a dramatic background, and Jenny Cochran Lee has a technique to create a faux marbled look that you can use on a variety of papers. She showed how easy it is to get this look in Art Lesson Volume 8: Vintage Fade-Out. Crinkle a piece of paper (she used book pages) into a tight ball, making lots of wrinkles. Squeeze some raw umber acrylic paint onto your work surface, smoothing it into a thin layer. Then, roll the paper ball in the paint, coating as much of the surface as possible. Spread the paper flat and let dry. In a small bowl, mix a few drops of acrylic paint and a small amount of water. Using a paintbrush, add color randomly across the page in areas not covered with the raw umber. To blend different colors or lighten a color, spray the surface of the paper with water after painting it, and blot it with a tissue. Let the paper dry flat, and it’s ready to use.

Faux marbling by Jenny Cochran Lee in Cloth Paper Scissors Art Lessons

The look of faux marbled paper can be achieved with just acrylic paint and water. (Art and photo by Jenny Cochran Lee)

2. Acrylic paint, paper, and an old gift card are all you need to create a stunning layered background that comes together quickly. In the article “Mixed-Media Lotus Mandala” in the Winter 2016 issue of Zen Doodle Workshop magazine, Kathryn Costa shows how to quickly develop a background that she uses for her mandalas, but the technique can be applied to almost anything. Start by putting a small amount of 3 paint colors on palette paper (she used analogous shades of turquoise and citrus green, plus white). Dip a gift card into the paint, and scrape it across the paper (she used Bristol board). Repeat, dipping the card into more paint and scraping it across the paper until it’s covered. Some of the paint may lift off the surface during the process, creating interesting textures. One fun variation is to mist the paper with water before adding paint.

Layered paint background technique from Zen Doodle Workshop magazine

Background techniques using acrylic paint and a gift card result in a stunning layered look. (Art by Kathryn Costa, photo by Sharon White Photography)

3. Stencils are great tools to use for background techniques, and Dina Wakley shares a fantastic idea in her book Art Journal Courage. To start, gesso a page in your art journal, and let it dry. Lay a stencil down on the page and cover it liberally with ink sprays (she used analogous shades of pink and orange). While keeping the stencil in place, spray water over the bottom of the stencil and allow the ink and water to run down the page. Remove the stencil and blot the page a bit with paper towels if necessary, but don’t remove too much of the ink. Lay the stencil down on another part of the page, and spray over it with white ink spray. Allow the background to dry, move the stencil to another part of the page, and repeat. Bonus tip: Remove the stencil again, but this time flip it over and use it like a stamp, pressing it to the page to transfer the ink still on the stencil.

Stencil and ink spray background techniques from Art Journal Courage

Background techniques incorporating stencils and ink sprays result in colorful, dramatic art journal pages. (Art by Dina Wakley, photo by Christine Polomsky)

4. Hate your handwriting? Don’t—use it to create dramatic backgrounds for collage and other pieces. Jennifer Coyne Qudeen explains her techniques in “Text in your Art With Handwriting” in the May/June 2015 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. “Handwritten words are a great way to begin the creation of a journal,” she says, “and they add visual texture when creating a background.” Jennifer is a fan of asemic writing, or the suggestion of words without content. To create asemic writing, she closes her eyes and imagines a story, and writes it with her non-dominant hand. This removes the temptation to throw in a real letter or word, she says, and creates the imperfections she loves. You can also try writing backward to create the look of text.

Background techniques using anemic writing from Cloth Paper Scissors magazine

Use asemic writing to create backgrounds; here it’s done on tea bags. (Art by Jennifer Coyne Qudeen, photo by Sharon White Photography)

5. Mixing paint with alcohol is a foolproof recipe for creating interesting background techniques. In her book Imaginary Characters, Karen O’Brien uses simple supplies to create a blooming effect on paper. Paint watercolor paper with white gesso, which allows the paint to float on the surface. Add acrylic paint to a palette (she used heavy-body paints) and mix in enough water to make the paint loose. Using a large mop-style brush, flick, drip, and dab the wet paint onto the paper. While the paint is wet, fill an eyedropper with isopropyl alcohol and drip it onto the surface. The paint will suddenly bloom, or separate into pools. If the effect doesn’t happen, let the piece dry, reapply paint in a contrasting color, and splash again with alcohol. Bonus tip: Let the piece air dry; don’t use a hair dryer to speed drying, as this will erase the bloom marks.

Alcohol blooming technique from Imaginary Characters

A little isopropyl alcohol is all it takes to create beautiful blooms of color. (Art by Karen O’Brien)

6. Printing over pre-printed papers results in gorgeous layered designs that can be used as is, in collage, or as backgrounds. The simple technique, shown in “Hand-Painted Papers” by Elizabeth St. Hilaire in the November/December 2016 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, starts with a folded map as a substrate. Brayer a gel monoprinting plate with a light shade of fluid acrylic paint, and press it to the paper. Repeat, adding more shades, until the paper is covered (it’s okay to overlap in spots). Add a darker color of paint and some masking tools to the plate, such as stencils and string. Press the paper firmly to the plate, making sure the paint is transferring. Repeat, creating a second layer of prints over the first. A large map can be cut up to create plenty of colorful backgrounds.

Monoprinted papers from Cloth Paper Scissors magazine

Create bold backgrounds by monoprinting over pre-printed paper, like maps. (Art by Elizabeth St. Hilaire, photo by Sharon White Photography)

7. Think you need tons of colors to produce artful background techniques? Not so—in her book Art Journal Your Archetypes, Gabrielle Javier-Cerulli shows that two shades of acrylic paint are all you need. Decide on a color scheme, using a color wheel if necessary to choose two complementary colors (opposite on the wheel) or two analogous tones (close on the wheel), and find paints that match. Use a flat brush to apply one color to the left side of a sheet of art paper, or an art journal spread. Use another flat brush to apply the second color to the other side. Blend the two colors in the middle with a sponge roller, and continue to build up layers of colors on both sides. Bonus tip: If you’re working with complementary colors, wait for each layer to dry so you don’t create mud. Mix acrylic paint with Clear Tar Gel or String Gel, dip a palette knife into the mixture, and drizzle it onto your paper. Allow it to dry and harden.

Background techniques using two colors from Art Journal Your Archetypes

Using just two colors, but blending them artfully, results in a stunning art journal spread. (Art by Gabrielle Javier-Cerulli, photo by Christine Polomsky)

8. Sometimes a single supply can take a plain white page from zero to 60 in just a few swipes of a brush. Jane Davenport discovered that Luminarte Twinkling H2Os, water-based pigments with mica, can be used to create vibrant backgrounds, and shared her background techniques in A Look At in the July/August 2016 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. The medium, which comes in small pots, is available in more than 200 colors, offering artists lots of opportunities for combining and blending colors. Working with H2Os is as easy as spritzing open jars with water, which Jane says softens the paint, making them ready to use in about 10 to 15 minutes. Just brush them on paper; Jane likes to mix colors on the page, layering them while wet to achieve soft blends. Or, let the layers dry in between applications for a chunkier, streakier look.

Twinkling H2Os background from Cloth Paper Scissors magazine

Sometimes a single medium, like Twinking H2Os, can create a vibrant background. (Art and photo by Jane Davenport)

9. Nathalie Kalbach combines stencils and stamps with paint, instead of ink, to create vivid dimensional backgrounds for an art journal spread. In “Dress It Up” in the January/February 2016 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, the technique starts by spreading acrylic paint onto an art journal spread. Use a color that goes with your mood or the theme of your spread (Nathalie used Deep Magenta). Add some white and black paint in areas to create depth. Using a cosmetic wedge and a lighter shade of paint (she used Unbleached Titanium), stencil a background design onto the page. Stencil another layer on top of that, using your original background color. Load a stamp with an analogous paint color, using a cosmetic wedge. Stamp the design on the pages, unifying some of the stenciled images with the background. Bonus tip: Wash stamps right away after using them with acrylic paint, or the paint will dry on the rubber.

Background techniques using stencils, stamps, and paint, from Cloth Paper Scissors magazine

Easy background techniques can be achieved by layering stencils, stamps, and paint. (Art and photo by Nathalie Kalbach)

10. Fiber paste is a polymer paste that dries with the look of handmade paper, and can be used to create textured backgrounds. Darlene Olivia McElroy revealed how to work with the medium in Art Lesson Volume 11: Adding Dimension with Fiber Paste and Paper Clay. Tape a plastic sheet to your work surface, taping 2 sides. Mix a small amount of acrylic paint into the fiber paste, and spread the paste onto the plastic with a palette knife, slightly covering the tape (the tape makes it easier to remove the paste later). Allow to dry overnight, remove the fiber paste skin from the plastic, and paint it as desired. You can also cut the skin into shapes and then paint the pieces.

Fiber paste background techniques from Cloth Paper Scissors Art Lessons

Create textured backgrounds with fiber paste, which can be painted and cut into shapes. (Art and photo by Darlene Olivia McElroy)

Beginning a new mixed-media project is as easy as creating a unique background. Let these resources from the North Light Shop get you started!

See color in a new way and learn background techniques in the video Acrylic Painting Workshop: Colorful Backgrounds.

Let Nathalie Kalbach help you see color in a new way to create stunning backgrounds in her video Acrylic Painting Workshop: Colorful Backgrounds.

Discover background techniques for plain and found papers in Art Lessons Volume 8: Vintage Fade-Out

Turn plain and found papers into stunning backgrounds with techniques in Art Lessons Volume 8: Vintage Fade-Out by Jenny Cochran Lee.

Learn background techniques in this Art Journals Stencils & Masks video with Dina Wakley

Learn how to use stencils and masks to add depth and dimension to backgrounds in the video Art Journal Stencils & Masks with Dina Wakley and Amy Jones.

Discover your artistic style and more in Art Journal Your Archetypes by Gabrielle Javier-Cerulli

Discover your artistic style and learn exciting mixed-media background techniques and more in Art Journal Your Archetypes by Gabrielle Javier-Cerulli.


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Get to Know Oil Painter Glenn Harren

Oil painter Glenn Harren shares with The Artist’s Magazine his process and inspiration.

oil painter

The Thompsons (oil on canvas, 60×50) by Glenn Harren

I started studying art in junior high, and when I was able to drive, I studied in private studios around Pennsylvania. I went to artist and teacher Nelson Shanks, who sent me to study under Henry Hensche in 1977. From there I took night classes at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts where I met Arthur DeCosta in 1978. He encouraged me to attend full time, and I’ve been covering my square miles of canvas ever since. The subjects in The Thompsons—Emily and George—host a weekly life drawing class that I attend. They’re icons in the art community of Bucks County.

I start all of my paintings as large sketches, blocking in shapes and colors as I go. Then I put one away and work on another that’s at a different stage of the process. When I bring out the sketches again, I sit back and consider what to do next. I always work on more than one piece at a time. Putting them away and bringing them out later allows me to see them as they are. Without that step, I’m too emotional and uncertain to continue the process. There’s nothing like facing five white canvases in a row to wear you out. Some days it feels like a full contact sport.

I use basic colors from Williamsburg, Winsor & Newton, Rembrandt and Old Holland. When I paint and mix on the canvas, I discover all these new colors. I am fond of filbert brushes: With a twist of the wrist, you go from a flat to a round brush.

I am a painter that responds in color and shapes to the world around me. I seek the extraordinary aspects of everyday life, whether in the color of a landscape or the simple dignity of the human form.

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Abstract Inspiration with Dean Nimmer

Do you ever sit down to make art and find yourself freezing up instead? Break the ice with acclaimed abstract artist Dean Nimmer! Dean’s new video on ArtistsNetwork.tv includes 9 fun and easy ideas for unlocking your spontaneity and creativity. Keep reading for two ways to find abstract inspiration with shadows!

Abstract Inspiration with Dean Nimmer | ArtistsNetwork.com

Abstract painting by Dean Nimmer

Dean says: “One of the problems that plagues all artists, no matter how much experience you have, is blocks. Is it going to be good? Is it art that I have the talent for? That I have the techniques for? A lot of that is just stuff that gets in the way. It’s not really important. The most important thing is to take the opportunity to create. I think that’s one of the most important things we can do on the planet, frankly. These exercises are designed to get you past blocks like that. Keep this in mind: the only thing you can do wrong in art is not make art.”

Blind Contour Drawing

Abstract Inspiration with Dean Nimmer | ArtistsNetwork.com

Shadow on wall with Dean’s art in the background

Dean says: “[This] exercise is a typical art school project that gets you to have better eye/hand coordination. It’s called blind contour drawing. It’s also an exercise that’s bound to drive you completely crazy, because…all sense of proportion and correctness go completely out the window. This is a perfect exercise where you’re not in control of the outcome. You have to keep in mind that that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”

Abstract Inspiration with Dean Nimmer | ArtistsNetwork.com

Drawing the shadow blind

Dean says: “I’m going to be looking at this shadow composition here, and I’m just going to pick a point to start…and I’m just going to follow the lines that I see. Another issue with this is that you can lose your place and be tempted to look back at the paper to see how it’s going. I don’t care about that, and I don’t want you to care about it either. We’re looking for opportunities and not for correctness. Isn’t it fun to be an abstract painter? You don’t have to be correct!”

Abstract Inspiration with Dean Nimmer | ArtistsNetwork.com

The final blind contour drawing

Dean says: “So what you get from doing this is a potential beginning to a composition. Any of the things you do can be a way of starting something. This is basically a starting place. It can be an idea [for] a more elaborate composition or something you wind up keeping. Don’t have in mind that art is about eventually putting something in a frame. What you’re doing is an experience of the process, enjoying the process. We don’t care about restrictions, limitations, or being blocked.”

Negative Space Shape Making

Abstract Inspiration with Dean Nimmer | ArtistsNetwork.com

Pointing out the negative spaces

Dean says: “I’m going to use the same shadow, because it has a good selection of negative spaces. When we were doing the blind contour, we were looking mostly at the outside edges of solid shapes. You can think about negative space as being the air in between. We’re going to take advantage of observing negative space mainly to get shapes that we can use in a very different way.”

Abstract Inspiration with Dean Nimmer | ArtistsNetwork.com

Negative space drawing

Dean says: “Getting exactly the correct shape…we don’t care about [that]. It’s seeing that form, and then you have potentially interesting shapes. In effect, you’re creating a solid from the negative area. Interesting that sometimes that takes on its own form. I’m not concerned with the positions of the negative space [on the wall]. I’m interested in collecting shapes. I can use different materials and different observations to create forms without being self-conscious.”

Abstract Inspiration with Dean Nimmer | ArtistsNetwork.com

Abstract painting by Dean Nimmer

Dean says: “One of the myths about abstract art is that there’s no subject there, or the artist was not looking at anything when they did that. I would say, basically, that’s ridiculous. Observation is a very important element, and it’s a way of collecting your visual thoughts.”

Preview Creating Abstract Art: 9 Unexpected Inspirations below, and find the entire demonstration on ArtistsNetwork.tv!

About the Artist

Dean Nimmer, professor emeritus at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, has exhibited his work in more than 200 solo and group exhibitions across the United States, Europe, China, Japan, and Australia; his art can also be found in several public and private collections. A regular workshop instructor, Dean’s goal in teaching is to inspire artists to find and access possibilities for creating original artworks with an enthusiasm for the process of making art. Get more abstract inspiration in his book, Creating Abstract Art (from North Light Books), or visit DeanNimmer.com for more information.

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Studio Saturdays: Mixed-Media Planner, Part 3

Welcome to the third and final installment of our Create Along series on making a unique mixed-media planner from scratch. You’ll love using this planner all year as a diary/datebook and an art journal. The idea was inspired by Dawn DeVries Sokol’s article “Creative Days Ahead” in the January/February 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, and this is her take on creating a one-of-a-kind planner that reflects your artistic style.

Today I’ll show you how to art up the inside pages, which is the most fun part of the project. If you missed the first two installments, you’ll learn how to make the covers in Part One, and how to bind the book in Part Two. If you’d like to work with an existing blank planner, journal, or sketchbook, feel free to jump in and start!

Mixed media planner

Below are the materials you’ll need. With the exception of a few basic supplies, feel free to use what you have on hand—this planner is all about playing and having fun, and the pages will ultimately reflect your style and artwork, so use what you love. You can also experiment with some new supplies if you like, or give that tube of paint that’s been sitting on your shelf a spin.

• Acrylic paint, a variety. I used tube and fluid acrylics in a range of colors, including fluorescents.

• Spray inks (optional)

• Collage materials, such as book text, maps, ledger pages, and magazine cut-outs

• Gel medium

• Gesso, white

• Expired gift, credit, or hotel card, or a Catalyst Wedge

• Paintbrushes, a variety

• Large binder clip (optional)

• Washi tape

• Stabilo Woody Crayons, or Stabilo All pencil, in black and other colors if desired

• Artist crayons (optional)

• Rubber stamps (optional)

• Stencils (optional)

• Inkpads (Use permanent ink if you want to color over the stamped images.)

• Stickers (optional)

• Permanent pens, a variety

Open your planner to the two-page spread you want to use, and spread some paint on in select areas. I worked on two spreads at a time using different colors and techniques, so I’ll show you the processes for both. You can spread the paint with an old gift card, your fingers, or a brush—the idea is to not overthink it. I had the most fun and got the best results by applying paint with my fingers.

I had specific color palettes in mind when I worked on both spreads, and used paints in those tones. But since the paint will be mostly covered by gesso in the next step, and we’ll be adding more color later, you can experiment and see the effects different colors offer.

Add some collage materials, adhering them with gel medium. I used torn and cut book and map pages and sheet music. Here’s the first planner spread, where I incorporated fluorescent orange and magenta paint:

First layer of the mixed-media planner page

For the first layer of the two-page spread, paint was spread on the page, and ephemera was adhered.

Here’s the first layer of the second spread, which incorporates blue and green tones and paper cut into circles. I also used spray inks in addition to acrylic paint:

Acrylics and spray inks on a mixed-media planner spread

For this planner spread, I used a combination of acrylic paint and spray inks.

Quick tip: Place a sheet of scrap paper underneath both sides of the spread you’re working on to protect the pages and covers underneath. Dawn also has a great tip: Laying a large binder clip on a page allows you to work on the next pages while the previous ones dry.

When the paints and inks dried, I spread a layer of white gesso over the pages, again using the gift card.

Gesso layer over paint on a mixed-media planner spread

The first layer of gesso covered the paint and collage, but I wanted to mute the colors even more.

The colors were still vibrant, so I spread on a second coat of gesso, letting the first dry before applying it:

Second coat of gesso over painted planner spread

A second coat of gesso gave this planner spread perfect coverage.

On the second spread, I used only one coat of gesso because I loved the look of the dot pattern from the spray.

Gesso coat over paint and collage on a mixed-media planner spread

One coat of gesso was perfect for this spread, which still reveals much of the color underneath.

Quick tip: Gesso comes in a variety of thicknesses; try a variety to see what works best. You can also try using watercolor ground in white or clear, if that’s your preferred medium.

When the gesso was dry I drew light pencil lines to mark off the days of the week. In her article, Dawn said that she needs less room for weekends, so she makes those days smaller. Think about how you’d like your week to be laid out. I like a Monday-through-Sunday view, but you may prefer a Sunday-through-Saturday grid.

Dividing up planner pages for days of the week

You can divide the week up any way you like in your planner, and change it for each week.

Creating weekday divisions on a planner spread

I created another configuration for the second spread.

Next, divide the areas using a variety of materials: washi tape, rubber stamps, hand-drawn doodles, postage stamps, stickers, and strips of paper. Decorating planner pages is a great way for me to justify my washi tape addiction, so I love using it. I also split up the spaces with rubber stamps and collage papers, which I adhered with gel medium. By the way, if you’ve never used washi tape before, be warned that it’s a slippery slope.

Add the month at the top of each spread, and add the dates and days to the boxes. Get creative with the numbers—cut some from magazines, stamp them, hand write them, cut up an old tape measure—when you start looking, you’ll see that numbers are everywhere.

Washi tape used to divide the week into days in a planner spread

Washi tape is a great way to divide the planner pages into days; create numbers in a variety of ways.

A variety of materials used to divide up a weekly planner spread

Here, washi tape was used along with stamps and a strip of book text to create the grid.

Quick tip: Writing the months and days on your planner pages is a great way to practice your hand lettering.

Now it’s time to start building layers of color and depth. I love how Dawn often highlights images with shadows, adding deep color values. She recommends using Stabilo Woody crayons or a Stabilo All pencil; those are excellent, as are water-soluble artist crayons. I used a combination of all three, lightly drawing black lines around images and along the edges of the washi tape, then going over the lines with a wet paintbrush or water brush. I snuck a little extra color in as well with stencils, water-soluble crayons, and watered-down acrylic paint. If you compare the pages with and without the shadows, you’ll see what a dramatic look they provide.

Adding depth and shadow to mixed-media planner pages

What a difference a little depth and shadow make!

Planner pages with depth and shadows

More shadows add deeper color values on the pages.

After that, I continued to add more color with the crayons, paint, stencils, and ink pads, plus extra collage, a few sketches, and some writing, rub-ons, and photos. The pages feel very organic to me. While each spread has its own look, the book as a whole feels cohesive.

Here is one finished spread:

Finished mixed-media planner spread

This planner spread incorporates a huge variety of mediums and techniques.

And here’s the other:

Mixed-media planner spread

The collage I added on the first layer became jumping-off points for doodles and sketches.

I decided to dedicate the first page of each signature to a list of my goals for the coming weeks. This goals page started with paint and Gelatos spread and scribbled across the page:

Planner page with paint and Gelatos

Paint and Gelatos were spread across the page to add color.

I covered the page with gesso, and lightly stenciled a pattern on top:

Stenciled planner page

A layer of gesso muted the paint, then a stencil pattern was added.

I added sketches and lettering, plus collage and washi tape, to finish it:

Mixed-media planner goals page

The finished goals page includes washi tape, sketches, and collage.

Try raiding your art journals, sketchbooks, and scraps for odd pieces to use in your planner; sometimes I’ll like one element of a page and hate the rest, so I’ll cut out the part I like and add it to something else. This planner spread was the perfect place for a hand-carved flower stamp:

Hand-carved stamp image on a planner page

A hand-carved stamp image was cut from another project and added to a planner page.

In Part 2 of this Create Along series I explained that the binding for the planner left room to fill it with lots of stuff. I’ve started down that road already—on the goals page I created a small envelope for receipts, business cards, etc.:

Custom envelope on a planner page

A scrap of hand-printed map paper was used to create a custom envelope.

And here I created a tiny sewn book that I adhered to the page. The cover is a subway ticket:

Miniature book added to a planner page

I added a mini sewn journal to the page, using a subway ticket for a cover.

While working in the planner, I realized that if I didn’t have a super exciting week, I could still use the spaces to add sketches, doodles, journaling, and collage. I think what I love most about the way Dawn builds the spreads is the element of surprise. Those collage bits that you added in the first layer become great jumping-off points for drawings and doodles.

I’m having so much fun working in my planner that I can’t wait to get to it, even I only have a quick 15 minutes. I hope you love this project as much as I do, and make sure to post your handmade mixed-media planners in our member gallery! If you have any questions about the materials or techniques, please leave them in the comments section.

If you’re looking for even more ways to fill your new planner, check out these books, videos, and magazines from North Light Books—there are tons of ideas that you can use on your pages!

How to make a mixed-media planner in Cloth Paper Scissors magazine

Don’t miss Dawn DeVries Sokol’s article on making mixed-media planners in the January/February issue of Cloth Paper Scissors!

Amplified Art by Kass Hall

Let Kass Hall show you how to make your art journaling pages come alive in her book Amplified Art.

Inspirational Art Journals video with Joanne Sharpe

Learn how to create whimsical hand lettering and make colorful journals in this Inspirational Art Journals video with Joanne Sharpe.

Mixed Media Techniques for Art Journaling

In Mixed Media Techniques in Art Journaling, you’ll discover how to incorporate easy and eye-catching techniques in your planner.

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Liquid Pencil and Graphite in Your Mixed Media Art

I have always been fascinated with writing tools– pens of all types, markers, and crayons– but pencils were never that exciting. Always the same shade of gray. Going to the office supply store for new writing implements was always my favorite part of back to school shopping because I could pick out new pens in exciting colors for note-taking. As an adult, my love for colorful writing tools hasn’t gone away and I think it’s one of the things that draws me to mixed-media art. There is a writing tool (or two, or three) for anything you want to do. So you can imagine my excitement when Crystal Neubauer introduced me to Liquid Pencil and I discovered it comes in many colors!

Liquid Pencil 1

It wasn’t at all what I expected. I was expecting a pen-like object with graphite colored ink flowing through it (similar to the Sharpie Liquid Pencils from several years ago). But instead, Crystal presented what looked to be tube watercolors of a creamy graphite in a variety of shades of gray. Some were tinted slightly with colors like green, red and blue.

Liquid Pencil 2

In her quick introductory demonstration, Crystal focuses on the very basics of liquid pencil as it applies to her style of collage work. It can easily be spread with a palette knife. You can leave it thick in some places for a bit of dimensional texture, or you can spread it thin to add a hint of shading.

Liquid Pencil 3

Or you can create a subtle pattern in the graphite with your palette knife.

Liquid Pencil 4

Liquid Pencil (by Derivan) comes in two forms: “rewettable,” as they call it, and permanent. While we didn’t try adding water to our Liquid Pencil, I can imagine the possibilities this creates! I really want to grab a damp brush and pull it along the lines of graphite above, just like I would with tube watercolors. I’ve been doing a lot of mark making lately (thanks, Rae Missigman, for your #artmarks30daychallenge!) and I am itching to add marks with Liquid Pencil.

Below is a short video demo of Crystal Neubauer using the Liquid Pencil. Check it out and leave your comments. Have you used it before? If so, how? I love mixing and matching things I’ve learned from one artist with things I’ve learned from other artists!

Expressive Collage Workshop: Abstract Mark MakingIf you want to see Crystal work with additional forms of graphite include blocks and powder, check out her new video, Expressive Collage Workshop: Abstract Mark Making.

DVD | Download | Stream

You can see more of Crystal’s work at her website, CrystalNeubauer.com or at her blog, OtherPeoplesFlowers.Blogspot.com.

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Taking Measurements, Drawing Torsos and More: Five Figure Drawing Tips

“The Figure: The Best of Drawing” is a special issue of Drawing magazine devoted entirely to figure drawing, and here we’re happy to present five pieces of advice from its pages. To learn much more from the artists and instructors quoted here, you can order “The Figure: The Best of Drawing” or download a digital copy.


1. In the beginning, there was a rectangle.

“Start by drawing a proportional rectangle into which your subject exactly fits. You want to ensure the correct proportion of height to width, based on your point of view. This enables the subject to be scaled and placed onto the paper exactly where you wish. (A rectangle is easier to move, resize and revise than an entire human figure.) The rectangle also supplies a valuable framework for the drawing. Reference points can be created and located relative to the rectangle to confirm the figure’s proportions. The first reference point is called the anchor, and all other reference points are made relative to it.” [–Jason Franz, “The Three-Layer Figure”]

Jason Franz | Figure Drawing | Artist's Network

2012_1_24, by Jason Franz, 2012, colored pencil, 14 x 11.

2. Draw first, measure second.

“There is a belief among some artists that measurements are to be placed before the marks representing the body are made. I’ve always felt that this is problematic, it makes one inhibited in his or her approach. It means an artist is being driven not by natural means but by adherence to a gird. I think a measuring mark is meant to be in support of a drawing mark. If you draw first, then measure, you eventually may not have to measure as much. If you draw without measurement, you’ll draw naturally, and that natural way of drawing will get more refined as you grow to appreciate that the eye is the final judge.” [–Dan Thompson, “A Many-Sided Approach to the Figure”]

Dan Thompson | Figure Drawing | Artist's Network

Dan Thompson conducting a figure drawing demonstration at the Art Students League of New York.

3. Draw with the entire arm.

“I sharpen pencils to needle-sharp points, then I hold them with thumb and forefinger and draw with my entire arm, not just with my fingers and wrists. You need to sit well back. All your measurements should be made with arm’s-length extension so that every time you make a sight measurement, the pencil is the same distance from your eye.” [–Mark Tennant, “Beauty, Balance and Accuracy”]

4. Avoid “balloon torsos.”

“Try not to automatically make one side of the torso equal to the other, like a balloon. There is nothing worse than drawing a balloon torso—unless, of course, that is your goal. It’s a common problem for beginning artists who fall into the trap of thinking the figure is symmetrical on all sides, something that even many advanced artists are ensnared by when drawing heavy or muscular models. To help free yourself of this mindset, try to draw the model from the skeleton outward.” [–Dan Gheno, “The Core Figure: A Source of Power and Accuracy”]

Bernini | Figure Drawing | Artist's Network

Daniel, by Gianlorenzo Bernini, 1655, red chalk on paper, 14 3/4 x 9 1/4. Collection Museum der Bildenden Kunste, Leipzig, Germany.

5. Consider the clavicle.

“The clavicle is a great landmark for artists because it can be seen just under the skin for its entire length. There are distinct variations in the clavicles of men and women—so much so that forensic experts use it to determine gender when examining skeletal remains. In men, the clavicles are thick, rough and stout, with pronounced curves. From a frontal view, the bones appear relatively level or even angle up as they move out to where they articulate with the shoulder blade. In women, the clavicles are slenderer, smoother and have shallower curves. In a frontal view, the female clavicles are either level or angled slightly downward.” [–Larry Withers, “12 Anatomical Differences Between Men and Women”]

Larry Withers | Figure Drawing | Artist's Network

Distinct variations are often visible in the clavicles of men and women. Illustration by Larry Withers.


Interested in more figure drawing techniques? Below, instructor Maureen Killaby shares her advice for creating skin textures in portrait and figure drawing. More video instruction from this artist–and many others–can be found at ArtistsNetwork.tv.

The post Taking Measurements, Drawing Torsos and More: Five Figure Drawing Tips appeared first on Artist's Network.