Making a Gratitude Journal

Dear Liza,

I have found another sort of Journal to make! It is a Gratitude Journal, creating pages of collage and other media of things, places and people that bring me joy.

For the base of the book, I used a board book, like children use when they are little. It gives a nice sturdy work surface for collage. This one had this nifty format of short pages that get longer towards the back of the book, which made it even more interesting.

I decided to create one page for each of the types of things I am grateful for. That way, I would be thinking grateful thoughts on all the stages…. finding the papers, composing the page, and later, when I look at it. I looked through my boxes of magazine clippings and ephemera and started pulling pieces out!

From previous books, I have figured out to lay a napkin layer down (other folks use gesso) with Mod Podge to give the papers some grip on the page. I also wrapped the edge of each page with strips to keep them from peeling.

As always, there was lots of placing, moving, trimming, and talking to the pieces to get each page just right. I started with my adopted city of Portland. All my favorite places are there!

The next page was all about art. The art I have learned from Ruthie Inman and Auntie Bridgett Spicer, as well as stuff I make up on my own… it all makes my life richer.

The next page is all about travel, with clippings from magazines, maps, and language calendars.

Gardens are next, with my own veggie plot as well as public gardens that I love to visit. Just walking through a garden makes my world better.

The last, and largest page, is for the people in my life (of course Mouse counts as people!) Most of them are represented by images… can you guess who is who? On this page are also things I love doing with my people… cooking, doing crossword puzzles on the couch, walking, biking, and learning.

I love that when the book is closed, I can see what each page is about… all that gratitude at a glance!

And no, I haven’t decorated the front or back covers yet. I wanted to get this blog written for Friday, but didn’t want to have to hurry the art. I will show it to you when I get it finished.

I enjoyed making this book so much, I have already picked up another second hand board book. What should THIS one be about?


Grandma Judy

May Flowers, Part 2

Dear Liza,

Once Ruthie Inman got us started on her May Flowers project, we had some more paper-collecting to do. White with black text, black with white text, and red with any color of text.

I started with the background, made of dozens of bits of white and off white with small black text.

I like the way the tiny lettering faded into the background.

Then the fiddly bits need to be dealt with. Cutting red, black and blue bits to fill in the bike, tire and some last minute orange for the basket tested my scissor skills. That done, it looked like a proper bicycle. Proper, but too plain.

I trimmed the flowers from weeks ago so they fit better, placed, placed, and re-placed them around the basket, and finally glued them down. I like the way they spill out! A few leaves cut from the same painted text topped it off.

I finished it by putting the spokes in the wheel, and was very happy with the results. Now, on to the next project!


Grandma Judy

May Flowers, Part 1

Dear Liza,

Ruthie Inman is at it again! She has our Zoom Art class making lovely things and having fun. Since we are all in different places (Metamora, Illinois, Portland, Oregon and Edinburgh, Scotland) we meet over Zoom. Since she likes an element of surprise, she usually gives us just enough directions to get part of the project done, without giving it all away at once.

Her first direction was “collect newspaper, black and white text only.” This took a while, but having an artist in the house helps.

While we were in the Zoom meeting, Ruthie had us paint our sheets of newspaper whatever colors we chose. I pulled hand-me-down acrylics out of my box and slathered them on while we all chatted. I laid them aside, making sure they were mostly dry before they got piled up.

Our papers had time to get completely dry by our next meeting, and the next direction was “cut the papers in irregular circles, to stack into five layers, largest on the bottom, smallest on the top.” This needed some thinking. How big? Which color on the top? Which on the bottom? My biggest layer ended up being about four inches across.

Flowers. We were definitely making flowers.

After some fiddling around, I made my choice and started snipping. I love things that don’t need to be measured!

Then came the tricky bit… putting all the layers together. Depending on what we had handy, we all used different techniques. I chose five shafted buttons and, at Ruthie’s suggestion, used small twist-ties to keep them in place. Here’s how they looked, front and back.

Ruthie sent us a guide for the next part of the project, a mosaic art piece of a bicycle and a basket, and I trimmed and traced it into a piece of heavy watercolor paper for the mosaic to come, editing it as I went.

The theory is that the bike’s basket will be overflowing with the flowers.
I’ll show you what comes next at the end of the month, when we get it done.


Grandma Judy

Zooming Again!

Dear Liza,

After what seems like a really long holiday break, Ruthie Inman’s Zoom Art group is back together. I have missed doing art with this bunch of friends!

This week, Ruthie asked us to assemble collage materials in very specific color groups: white with black, black with white (an important difference!), reds, and something neutral, like a light brown print. I was intrigued. I dug in my scrap box and found some bits.
Ruthie had found a wonderful art piece by Deborah Shapiro for us to use as reference. The red wine positively sparkled!

Art supplies are always a bit crowded on my desk, but I make it work!

As the meeting started, Ruthie, Shirley, Vimi and I chatted about everything under the sun and started sketching, sorting and snipping.

A quick hour and a half later, we were all surprised at how well our pieces were looking.

The next meeting, we made more progress.

But still not quite finished. But we will play along, and all will be well. Patience!


Grandma Judy

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!


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!


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!


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.


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 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!


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.


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


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!


Grandma Judy