Archive for the ‘Works In Progress’ Category

I’ve been dabbling in photography as an adjunct to art journals and sketching. I struggle with creating technically correct photographs, but a recent experiment yielded some interesting images that didn’t require me to be technically perfect. The subject was a dull, winter, Kentucky landscape, that would be boring, even if taken by a professional photographer. With a little help from Photoshop, I was able to transform these lifeless photos into something artistic.

These landscape blurs were created by moving my camera while exposing the shot. Using Adobe Photoshop to edit the images, I pumped up the color to enhance the otherwise dull images and the results are more art than photography. The real surprise was the rich textures and colors that appeared when I pushed the colors beyond safe levels.

I can see using this technique to create rich colorful backgrounds in future art journals or as a base for a collage or mixed-media art. If you have used this technique in one of your art journals or artwork, I’d love to know more about your project.

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Laser transfer in an Ecosystems Sketchbook

This final image was created using a combination laser transfer, acrylic paint and oil pastel.

I love combining digital art with traditional art and one easy way to combine the two is by using laser transfers from your laser printer in combination with paints on paper.

This image was created using a laser transfer as the base image in my Ecosystems Sketchbook with layers of acrylic and oil pastel on top. Laser transfers are not acid-free, but by covering the image with acrylics and a final coating at the end, you will be able to make it last long enough to enjoy it. Please note that this method uses chemicals that should only be used in a well-ventilated area and that you should take adequate precautions when using petroleum-based thinners. Please read the precaution on the can of the product you are using and follow the safety instructions.

A color laser print out of a medallion was used to make the base image. I did not create a mirror image because I didn't care if the image was reversed from the way it was originally created. If you are using type or another image that needs to be in a specific orientation, be sure to you your printer's settings to print an inverted or mirror image of your design or photo.

To start, I designed and printed out an image using my drawing program. I intentionally used bright, saturated colors because some of the intensity is lost during the transfer process and I wanted my base image to be visible below several layers of paint. If I would have used lighter colors, the image would have been much more subtle. I printed the image on a color laser, but you can also transfer black and white laser images using this method.

Next, I placed the image face down onto my journal. Once the image was positioned, I applied a rag saturated with lacquer thinner to the back of the laser print and rubbed it into the page until I could see the image through the back of the paper. Note: It will take some experimentation to learn how your thinner works with your laser print, so if you are unsure of what results you will get, try the transfer first on a scrap piece of paper until you are happy with the results.

I applied the thinner to the entire image and burnished it to press the color into the paper. More burnishing produces stronger images although the transfer will never be as clear and sharp as the original printout. If you require more perfect transfers, other techniques which add another layer of material will work better such as Lasertran and inkjet transfers or Water Slide Decals.

Laser transfer in an art journal.

Once the transfer was complete, I peeled away the color laser print out to reveal the image. Note the image is much softer than the original printout. This is quite normal and is to be expected using this technique. I can give your art an aged look that is difficult to achieve by hand.

The final image transfer. Note how it is much softer than the original print.

The image transfer. Note how it is much softer than the original print.

I added metallic gold, acrylic paint that had been thinned with water to create a shimmery, aged look. It took several layers of this to build up enough color to create the effect I was after.

I added metallic gold, acrylic paint that had been thinned with water to create a shimmery, aged look. It took several layers of this to build up enough color to create the effect I was after.

Art Journal

I used multiple layers of acrylic paints of different colors to add depth and intensity.

Adding text to an art journal.

Once I had the background color the way I liked it and the paint was dry, I added horizontal pencil lines so I would be able add aligned text on top of the image. The pencil lines were very light to not obstruct the image.

The final image including hand-written text.

I added hand-written text on top of the art using a white oil pastel. The oil pastel is dense and enabled me to create opaque, cursive text on top of the image. Once I was finished, I coated the entire piece with a clear acrylic spray to seal it and to prevent the oil pastel from transferring to paper or hands. The sealer also protect the artwork from dirt, grime and moisture.

this is filler

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I thought it would be appropriate to create a pencil sketch in Ecosystem’s Sketchbook since this is what it is designed for. According to the folks at Ecosystem, this journal is named the Artist and it shares the same great features as their planners and journals. It is made from 100% post consumer recycled paper and is entirely made in America.

Pencil sketching was predictable on the paper. I was able to create crisp lines and smooth shading.

The paper is bright white, fairly smooth and has just a little bit of tooth. The slight texture is visible in areas where the shading was the darkest, but this is typical with most papers and it adds a bit of softness to the illustration. I was able to create crisp lines and smooth blends without any issues. Overall, it is quite nice to sketch on although it would be nicer if the paper were a little bit thicker.

This is another image from an Affirmation Journal I started to aid in creativity. More will follow soon.

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Affirmation Journal spread created with acrylic paint and pen and ink.

Affirmation Journal spread created with acrylic paint and pen and ink.

I have been using a variety of mediums in an affirmation journal I am in the process of creating. This spread was created using acrylic paint. The abstract design was inspired by the hand design on the cover that I previously blogged about. To get a better idea of the flow of this journal, please see my earlier reviews Illustrating the Cover of an Ecosystem Large Sketchbook and Color Laser Transfer in an Ecosystem Sketchbook.

The watercolor paint and parts of the laser transfer from the previous page had bled through the paper a bit leaving me with a hand shape and backwards letter on this two page spread. This inspired me to continue the theme and to create an abstract flower.

The laser transfer from the previous page bled through a bit, which inspired me to create an abstract hand image for this spread.

To start, I outlined the hand shape on the left page and applied paint within the pencil lines. The remaining color and design was added on top using a brush.

To start, I added paint on top of the had image that showed through the page.

Ecosystem Sketchbook

I painted only on the left page, so I could press the pages together and create a mirror image.

When I had finished painting the left page, I closed the journal and pressed the painting onto the right page, creating a mirror image.

I pressed the pages together by closing the journal. When I opened it again, I had a good background for my image.

The paper buckled quite a bit during the painting process, but flattened out somewhat when the paint dried. There was a little bit of show through on the backside, but nothing major. Overall, I wouldn’t recommend using acrylic paints with the Ecosystem Sketchbook. The paper ends up very wavy and the pages were weakened where it is perforated. Perhaps in the future I will try again using a primer of some sort.

Once the initial layer was dry, I repeated the process using additional pinks, golds and yellows.

I used pen and ink to create the text. The ink was very compatible with the paper in the Ecosystem Sketchbook. There was no feathering, show through or bleed through and the lines were crisp and black against the bright white paper.

The final illustration including text.

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Finshed page in my affirmation journal.

The first page in my affirmation journal created with a laser printer transfer, marker and watercolor.

I have been wanting to experiment with transferring a laser printer image into a journal using solvents for a while. Since the weather is warmer, and I am able to work outside, I decided to start my newest journal creation, an affirmation journal, using this technique. The Ecosystem sketchbook paper seemed appropriate for this method with its bright white paper. Even though it is not as thick as the paper in a Moleskine sketchbook, it has a more porous surface and I thought it might take a transfer well.

On the first page of this journal I wanted to include a message that would express the overall theme of the journal and I wanted to create it primarily with text. Since my handwriting is awful, I created an illustration in my drawing program that would fit the page. Once I had a design I was happy with, I printed it out backwards, as a mirror image, so the transfer would read correctly when complete. Once I had my laser print out, all I would need to do is place it face down on the journal page and apply a solvent to the back of the print out to dissolve the laser ink so it would print on the journal page.

Laser Printer Transfer in an Ecosystem Sketchbook

In order for the transfer to read properly on the page, I had to print my image out backwards on my laser printer. I placed this image face-down on the journal page to make the transfer.

I used  lacquer thinner to make the transfer. It is pretty nasty stuff and should only be used outdoors or in a well ventilated area. This substance is not for everyone and if you are chemically sensitive, I would recommend that you avoid this technique.

Laser printer transer

I blotted the solvent on the backside of the laser print until I could clearly see the image below. I used a fair amount of pressure to be sure I was making good contact with the journal page. In some areas, I burnished the image while the paper was still damp for a stronger transfer. Once the solvent dries, the wet areas disappear.

Laser printer transfer in a journal

To check my progress, I carefully lifted the paper to see how the transfer was being applied. I was careful to hold the paper in place to keep it lined up with the image.

When making the transfer, I applied the solvent using a paper towel and blotted the back of the paper until I could see the image clearly through the back. I found that burnishing the image while the solvent was still damp improved the depth of color. I did this slowly and checked my work frequently by lifting the laser print to see how well the transfer was being applied.

Laser printer transfer being embellished with marker and watercolor.

I added watercolor and marker to the transfer to complete the image.

Once the transfer was complete, I added a watercolor silhouette of my hand to relate to the hand on the cover and provide a subtle transition to the interior pages. This caused the paper to buckle a bit, but I did expect this since the paper is sketch paper and not watercolor paper. You can see the cover image I created in an earlier post here. To complete the illustration, I darkened the color of the large letters to add color and contrast to the image.

Final touches on the laser printer transfer.

I added marker to the large letters for additonal color and contrast.

Final transfers using this method will be somewhat fuzzy and will never look as clear as the original. But this can be used to create images that look stamped or aged and adds an interesting effect to your art. It can be combined with other elements to give your designs a unique and professional look, and is worth experimenting with if you are looking for new ways to create art.

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Ecosystem's Sketchbook

Ecosystem's Artist Sketchbook was illustrated using permanent markers and pens.

The first assignment of a journaling class I have been attending was to find a journal to decorate and claim. Since I knew I would be creating an art journal, it was time to break out a bright orange Ecosystem Sketchbook that I received as a review copy from the folks at Ecosystem. I struggled with committing to a topic for this journal, but ultimately decided to create an affirmation journal, which supported my desire for more creativity in my life. Since most of the artwork I do is created by hand, I decided to use the image of a hand on the cover to be the central theme.

I chose this sketchbook for a couple of different reasons. I was enamored with the unusual texture and bright color of the cover and I have been wanting try some different mediums on the bright white sketch paper.

For this review, I am focused on using different pens and markers on the sketchbook’s cover, which has a matte finish that feels similar to the texture of an eggshell. By touch, I suspected it would be a good receptor for permanent markers.

Hand illustration

I did the original illustration on translucent paper and then transferred it to the sketchbook's cover using charcoal on the backside of the image.

I drew the illustration on translucent layout paper so I could transfer the image to the cover rather than drawing directly on the cover. This gave me more freedom to create and enabled me to throw the paper away if I didn’t like it. It also gave  me a chance to experiment with the design. Once I had an illustration I was happy with, I turned it over and rubbed charcoal on the back of the image where I could see the lines. The charcoal became the transfer medium I used to get the illustration to the cover. By placing the illustration on the cover and drawing over the lines of the original drawing, the charcoal was pressed into the cover and the image was transferred.

Ecosystem sketchbook illustration

The finished hand illustration after it was transferred to the cover.

I started by inking in the black lines over the charcoal lines. I did this to preserve the image because I was concerned that I might smear the lines as I added color. I experimented with different markers, but ultimately ended up using the Tombow Ultra Rollerball Pen because of the rich, black lines. I used a piece of paper between my hand and the cover to minimize any smearing.

Inking the lines on the hand illustration.

I used a Tombow Ultra Rollerball Pen to ink the lines because of the rich, black color. By using a slip-sheet between my hand and the cover, I was able to minimize smearing and keep my hand clean.

Next, came the fun part, adding color with pens and markers. I used several different markers and pens on the cover and had different results with each. All of the pens had permanent ink and longer drying times than you would experience when using a porous paper. Using  water-based markers on the cover resulted in beading ink, poor coverage and smearing, so I did not include these in the test results.

Prismacolor markers on the cover of an Ecosystem Artist Sketchbook

The Prismacolor markers were my favorites because of the crisp, clean lines and smooth color in large areas.

Sharpie Fine Point Markers – The lines laid down nicely, but as they dried, the lines looked thinner and less saturated than when wet. I found as I added more color with the Sharpies, the wet line would remove any color below. This made it difficult to get a smooth area of color, but this may be due to the tiny size of the nib rather than a problem with the ink.

Berol Prismacolor Permanent Markers – These were my favorite markers on the Ecosystem cover. The color went down saturated and stayed saturated once the ink dried, even when using the fine nib. The lines created by the fine nib were crisp and clean . The larger nib laid down saturated color and I was able to create smooth areas of color. I used this marker for the colored areas on the illustration.

Pilot Precise Grip – This pen created lines that were crisp and clean and I used it to go over the black lines I originally drew with the Sharpie. They still weren’t as black as I would have preferred, so I decided to go over them with my Tombow Ultra pen.

Tombow Ultra Rollerball Pen – Once the illustration had been outlined and the color filled in, I went over all f the black lines again with the Tombow Ultra Rollerball Pen to clean things up. The ink is permanent, although it is not a marker like the others. The Tombow produced very saturated lines that were a bit thicker than the fine point markers, and I loved how black the ink was. The ink did take longer to dry than the markers, so if you use this pen, you will need to give it lots of time to dry or you will end up with smears.

Overall I was quite happy with how the permanent markers performed on the cover of the Ecosystem sketchbook. I would imagine that most permanent markers will work well and would be interested in trying Copic markers in the future.

Ecosystem Artsit Sketchbook Cover art

The final illustration. I left room for a title once the journal is complete.

I will be doing more reviews of the paper in this journal with different mediums in the future, so stay tuned. For more detailed information on Ecosystems sketchbooks and their complete line of environmentally friendly journals, please visit their site at: ecosystemlife.com.

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I have heard from many of you who are uncomfortable starting an art journal who are worried that your ideas and first sketches are ugly or unattractive. If you experience this, don’t worry! They all start out that way. An art journal is all about the process and not every page in your journal is destined to be a work of fine art. If you focus on the process and forget about the final result, you will enjoy art journaling more and your journals will be filled with unique and interesting art that is meaningful and thought-provoking.

I thought it would be interesting to show the steps I take when illustrating a page in my art journal so you could see the process. This 2-page spread is from a journal on abundance I am in the process of working on. If you compare it to the final illustration at the end of the post, you will find it is only a rough representation of the final image.

Art Journaling Abundance in Moleskine Watercolor Journal

This is the rough, pencil sketch for the abundance concept. Notice the images and text is loose and incomplete, only there to indicate position. This sketch will be painted over or erased during the process of journaling. It is only a guide that can be changed as the illustration progresses.

Many beautiful journal pages start as dirty-looking, gray scratchings on the page. In my journal, I started with rough pencil sketches. Notice that these are not perfect little drawings, just basic images and indications of what I see in my head.

Art Journaling Abundance

I used more precise pencil lines as a guide to cut the shape of the reflections from the tape. The lines were dark enough to be visible through the tape.

Once the rough sketch was in place, I started to make the pencil lines more detailed. Since I wanted to create glare on the water that would be white in the final piece, I had to find a way to make these areas white. Since I didn’t want to add white paint, I decided to use masking tape to mask the areas I wanted to be white. This protected the paper from paint, creating white areas wherever tape was used. Using the pencil lines as a guide, I cut the tape and removed the tape on areas that were to be painted. Once these areas were taped, I could paint background colors that had a continuous flow, giving a more uniform appearance.

Art Journaling Abundance

You need to exercise care when cutting masking tape that has been place on your paper. If you cut too deep, you could go through the paper or paint might collect in the small cut you made. If you are new to this, you might want to practice on a scrap piece of paper to see how much pressure you will need to cut to the correct depth.

Removing the tape requires some patience and care. If you are hasty, the surface of the paper will be removed. If this happens, don’t worry, it can be concealed if it causes a problem. In many cases, it is simply not visible in the final product.

Art Journaling Abundance masking

Use care when removing the tape. If you pull too hard or too fast, you may remove the surface of the paper. The pencil marks can be erased once the tape is removed so they don't show through the paint washes.

Once the reflections had been masked, I filled in the background with a blue wash with varied tones. To make it more interesting, I made the lower left corner much darker. This would draw the eye from the lower left into the center of the image where is was much brighter.

After the background was dry, I carefully removed the masking tape to reveal the white reflections.

Art Journalng Abundance watercolor

I painted the background while the masking tape was in place for a smooth, consistent look. Once the tape was removed, the background and fishes contrast with the white reflections. Although I tried to be careful removing the tape, I did manage to pull some of the paper up, but the watercolor paint covered my mistake without a problem, so you really don't notice it. If you right-click the image and choose View Image, you can see a larger version of the image.

I used a metallic pen to write the text I had roughed out on the original pencil sketch. I chose metallic pen to simulate the reflections on the water and to give the piece a little bit of flash. I used a cursive text to mimic the shape of the reflections. By doing this, your eye is tricked and it is not obvious at first glance that this is writing.

Art Journaling Metallic Pen

I used metallic pen to simulate the reflections in the water. I didn't want the words to be obvious at first. The cursive style was used to mimic the shape of the reflections.

The final art, while far from detailed or visually accurate, communicates the graphic, figurative image I wanted.

Art Journaling "Reflections of Abundance" in a Moleskine Watercolor Journal.

The final illustration is titled Reflections of Abundance and is just another set of pages in my abundance journal. I like the upward movement and the flow of golden fishes and it encourages me to continue the journey on the next page.

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