Another Kind of Art Journal

Dear Liza,

Ruthie Inman has done it again, showing me a new way to make an art journal.

This one starts with an old magazine. Since magazines have really thin, cheap paper, you spread glue (or Mod Podge) and fold each page over on itself to give you a thicker page to work on.


I started with the cover, using a Payne’s Grey craft paint and some silver sparkly paint. Then I slathered craft paint over the pages, making sure to let each one dry before pressing the whole thing flat under a pile of books. This step took a few days.


But what sort of art should be in this journal? At another suggestion from Ruthie, I started using the idea of “The Exquisite Corpse”, a drawing game Cousin Kestrel taught me, to play with a new kind of collage.

Cutting different people, animals and things from magazines, I join them together to make some pretty cool Exquisite Corpse style images.

Is there no end to the nonsense I can get into with art supplies? I sure hope not!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Garden Journals for Spring

Dear Liza,

We are coming up on spring, and I am making my garden journal for this year. At the end of this month I will be pulling the burlap off my garden plot in the Blair Community Garden, and I want to be ready to write it all down!

Besides the usual encouragement from Ruth Inman and Bridgett Spicer, I am using “Making Books by Hand” by Mary McCarthy and Philip Manna as a guide.

First, I used the heavy backing of sketch pads for my covers, and layered some thinner tagboard with Mod Podge to make the spine. I glued these down to a nice canvas fabric, put a pile of books on them, and went for a walk. The canvas allows the heavy covers to bend properly.


When the spine was dry I covered the cover with some pretty paper, mitering the corners and folding them inside.



While these dried, I cut the paper for the pages. Each signature, or group of pages, takes four sheets of paper, folded in half. I gave them a nice sharp crease with the edge of my metal ruler.

I used a trick from Ruthie to make my measuring device for where to put the stitches in the signatures. A strip of paper as long as my pages are high, folded in half, then each end folded to the center, makes a perfect guide for three holes without nit-picky measuring.

Poking the holes through all the pages with a steel artist’s tack before you sew makes everything easier. Sew the four sheets of each signature together with a strong thread.

I made five signatures because the spine of my book was wide enough to accommodate them. This will be my thickest book yet!

Again, use the steel tack to poke holes for each sewing point. Then sew each signature into the spine with a heavy thread. I used embroidery floss. This is a bit fiddly, but you will get better with practice.

The trickiest bit is making the knot tight. This is easier if you have a friend put their finger on the knot for you while you pull it tight. Trim the ends of the thread short.

Once the signatures are sewn in, apply glue thinly to each of the inside covers and lay the first and last pages against them, pressing the air bubbles out so they are smooth. This will stabilize the book and hold everything together. Put weights on these and wait a few hours.


The last step is to cover the inside covers with pretty paper. Press these flat and let everything dry overnight.

And there it is, my Garden Journal for this year! C’mon, Spring!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Making a New Kind of Book Part 2

Dear Liza,

We got to finish the Concertina books! Weeks ago, Ruth Inman’s Tuesday Thursday Art group started painting black and white pages in this weird, accordion shaped book.

Once we had the black and white backgrounds down, Ruthie let us in on the next step. We would be painting a tree on each two-page spread, and each tree would show a different season.

I started with Fall, and I wasn’t happy with it at first. The background I had laid down included some very bumpy cheesecloth, which didn’t allow the ink to go down smoothly. It was a real wrestling match, but I decided to let it ride for the moment.

We continued on into winter, which went much smoother because the page itself was smoother. The ink was able to run freely and make some nice bare branches.


While I was waiting for the paint to dry, I covered the covers with some of the nifty Paris map fabric I bought to make Auntie Bridgett’s Christmas present.

For the third page, I watered down some acrylic paint for the bare branches. Using a small brush and a straw and tipping the paper, I got it to move the way I wanted.

Then yellow, blue and some white got dabbed on to make the summer fullness of the tree.

When it was time for the class to all put our books together, my Spring page still wasn’t done, but that’s okay. I can paint it later. We all got the covers, glue media and scrapers, and went at it.

The fold-y bend-y parts kept folding and bending, but I managed to not make a mess of it. Now that it is all flat and dried, I feel pretty proud of it. My adventures in book making continue!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Making a New Kind of Book Part 1

Dear Liza,

This week in our Tuesday Thursday art group we are starting a new kind of book. It is called a Concertina book because it is folded like a Concertina, or accordion.

Ruth Inman, as usual, is our teacher. The supply list for this project was long because it is a multimedia project that includes an old book, fabric, and an endless list of possible collage materials.

First, we separated the hardcover book from its covers with a sharp X-acto blade.

Then, after some careful measuring, we made the Concertina part by gluing pages together and giving them a sharp crease in exactly the right place.

Since this book is going be all black and white, Ruthie showed us ideas for making interesting patterns…

And we let them dry while we chatted about other things to use for patterns.

I used black acrylic paint and the spongy wrappers from our Christmas fruit, cut up meat trays, a carved wine cork, and an old kitchen sponge.


We needed to let the first two-page spread dry before adding any more. I was mostly happy with it, but when it was time for the second two-page spread, I decided to use more black and white, with less grey. You can see how many different ways a black and white page can look!

Spread number 1
Spread number 2 (for now)

I like it, but there will be lots more added before it is all done. I will show you the finished product…um…. when it is finished! So there.

Love,

Grandma Judy

… More Art with Ruthie!

Dear Liza,

It feels like forever since I have gotten to get online with my friend Ruth Inman and my fellow artsy students. I have really missed it!

And Thursday, we made some adorable snowmen. Ruth found the original at the blog Adventures in Fiber, by artist Paulette Insall, at carpaulette.blogspot.nl. I decided to photograph the process in case I wanted to do it again. I’m glad I did, because I would never remember all the bits.

First, we laid down letters. I used different sized stencils and waterproof Sharpie and Micron Pens. I wanted to play with pinks and blues in the snow, so I collaged some printed paper. Some text torn from a Mad Libs tablet gave it a nice full bottom layer.

The next step was to add some color. I added just a few watercolor brush strokes of pink and blue.

Of course, in collage, things change once you lay them down. Since part of the charm of this piece is seeing through the layers, I put some some white acrylic on with crumpled saran wrap, to soften the colors and create a nice blizzard effect. It took several layers before I liked the way it looked.

Then it was time for a tree. A nice, curvy tree… Ruth recommended finding a suitable curve in a magazine, and I did! It was a bit too light, but that’s what Sharpies are for. A little trimming and gluing and I had my tree. I sponged a bit more white on, to keep it in the blizzard.

I used watercolors for the decorations for the tree, though Ruth had a lot of fun hunting up the right colors in a magazine. The snowman was next, drawn with a Micron, with text in his tummy and a collaged magazine paper hat. I added some black Micron dots and white Posca dots for the edge of the hat.

I used a thin Micron for his face, and orange watercolor pencil for his nose. A little heart from the same paper as his hat put on the final touch!

As I have said before, collage is very freeing. You glue and sponge and add until it looks like you want. You can’t really mess it up…. if you don’t like it, you’re just not done yet. Add more, paint over bits you don’t like, let it dry and start again.

And above all, have fun!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Arty Leaves, Leafy Art

Dear Liza,

I love learning new things! Last week, my friend and art teacher Ruth Inman showed me a way to put the beauty of Fall leaves on paper so I can keep them, send them to friends, or even scan them into my computer to use later.

First, of course, you have to collect the leaves. This gets you out of the house and noticing things, which is always good. If the leaves are wet, lay them between paper towels with something heavy on top for an hour or so.

Place dry leaves between the pages of a heavy book for a few days.

Once your leaves are flat and dry, they are ready. You will need acrylic paints, a brush, watercolor paper, and extra paper to paint and press on.


Paint your choice of colors on the back of the leaf, then carefully lay it, wet side UP, on a clean sheet of newspaper. Lay a piece of watercolor paper over it and rub to get lots of paint from the leaf to the paper. Then carefully peel the leaf off and set the paper aside to dry.

You will learn as you go how much is too little or too much. Be prepared to make a few that you don’t like until you get the hang of it.

TOO MUCH, DARLING…
NOT ENOUGH!

Putting Fall colors on randomly, you can get good effects. Sometimes, a single dot of pure yellow or blue makes the whole thing pop.

JUST RIGHT

Once your prints are dry, you can trim them and glue them onto cards. If you have a scanner, you can scan the prints into your computer and make dozens more.

I enjoyed leaf printing so much, I did a bunch more this morning!

Thanks, Ruthie!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Garden Journal Update

Dear Liza,

Last year, my friend Ruth Inman taught me how to make art journals from scratch, out of boxes and glue and scraps. She was so enthusiastic and clear in her directions, and the the supplies so cheap, I couldn’t NOT do it.

So I made one. A saltine cracker box, some art papers from Auntie Bridgett, and voila, a journal. I decided to use it to write (and maybe even paint) about our new garden plot.


And I have been working in it ever since. Some days I just write what’s happening, but I usually will go back and add some water color, to make it prettier. It also lets me show the weather and plants better.

And I have really enjoyed it. Since the Journal is not for anyone but me, I am not intimidated about not being perfect. I work in pencil from my photos of the things in the garden, Watercolor, then ink with a waterproof Micron pen.

As it turns out, this is going to be an accurate record of my garden! It will be useful next year, when I am deciding what to plant and where to put it. It will remind me of the little details that are easily forgotten. And I will get to enjoy my pictures, as well!

I am happy to be Art-ing, gardening, and eating.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Prezzies from Ruthie!

Dear Liza,

I have told you about my old friend Ruth Inman. She is an artist in Illinois and we went to high school together. The art and friendship I re-discovered with her during the Covid lockdown really made my life better.

I have shown you these pieces as I have made them; simple watercolor flowers, silly candy wrapper collages, and layered mixed media pieces. They have all been part of my journey from “I can’t draw” to “Sure, I’ll give that a go!”

Artists’s Bounty!!

And now, Ruthie has sent me another gift! It is a big fat envelope of artsy goodies! There are pure Ruthie artist cards…

Isn’t that pink one amazing?

A delightful postcard of tiny houses…

I could live there!

Some cut outs of cool old photos…

Such characters!

And even a Ruthie Original, this tiny handmade, colorful wallet thingee. Ruthie showed us how to make these last week, and now I am inspired even more!

Of course, I want to use these delightful bits. But I want to use them in a way that does them justice. I will be monkeying around with them for a while, and let you know what comes up.

So I say for the zillionth time, Thanks, Ruthie! Thanks, Art!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Another Art Challenge

Dear Liza,

My friend Ruth Inman gave us another challenge this week. It was to use text as a background for a piece of art. She offered some pieces of text to use, but I wanted to do my own. I used some stencils that I just got last week and went over the letters in waterproof ink.

I got my acrylic paints and an old credit card and scraped some color over the words.


The greens and yellows are a good start….


One thing I really like about art, and the artistic process, is that you learn as you go along. If something isn’t right, you work on it until it is. In this case, the pink made it even more Spring-y, but was way too intense. The letters were fighting with the colors! Help!

Auntie Bridgett suggested I put some white outlines around the letters, which helped a bit, but not enough. So I darkened the letters with some watercolor pencil and lightened the red bits up with tiny dots of Posca marker. It was better!

I still need to work on getting my stencils letters straight, but that will come with practice.

Have fun with your art!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Trying Something New with Something Old

Dear Liza,

I always like trying something new.


I have been making Art Journals with Ruth Inman for a while, using cracker boxes and other leftovers for covers. But the other day when I found this really old, falling-apart literature book, I thought …. Why not use ITS cover as a cover?


First, I helped the book finish falling apart, trimming the cover and selected pages with an Exacto knife. I saved the very old 2nd place ribbon I found inside. The handwritten inventory numbers and check-out pocket touched my librarian’s heart, so I made sure they were safe. I found one of my favorite poems, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “The Rhodora”, among the anthologized works, and saved it, as well as old illustrations.


Lovely, historic insides

I grabbed a yellow printed fabric from my box, thinking the texture looked like old alligator skin. Once I had it glued onto the cover, however, it became clear that I had mis-judged. It was too light. I resisted the urge to tear it off and decided to highlight the texture and darken the effect with some acrylic paint. It was better.

Improving the spine fabric

Sewing the signatures in

I stiffened the spine with some card stock, then laid in the inside fabric. I made four ‘signatures’ (sets of pages) and pierced the spine carefully to sew the signatures in.

A new book from an old book!

Since the book was printed in 1932, I plan to use it as a journal for my research and ponderings on history. I have been researching English and French history, and am now looking into the many places where they intersect. I am also curious about how they interacted with the Holy Roman Empire and, further away, the many dynasties of the Chinese Empire.

This historic, hand-made journal will give me a place, and an inspiration, to collect these thoughts, as well and other brain bits that pop up.

The Inspiration….

“Tell them dear, that if eyes were made for seeing,

Then beauty is its own excuse for being.”

Love,

Grandma Judy