April 18, 2011

First Digital Collage

Posted in Art, Beginner's art, Collage, Digital art, Digital collage, Learning art, Photoshop, Techniques (art) at 12:38 am by amateur-in-art

I recently attempted my first-ever digital collage, and considering it’s my first attempt, I’m pretty satisfied with how it turned out!

copyright 2011, amateur-in-art

I made this using Photoshop Elements 8. Here’s the rundown.

I used several large brushes to create the background, using several different layers, and modified their opacity.

I used a random number generator to get 6 different numbers. I used these numbers to randomly select artwork from 4 different Dover clip art books: Empire Designs; Greek and Roman Designs; Art Nouveau Designs and Motifs; and 1268 Old Time Cuts.

I created a different layer for each image. The first image I used was from the Art Nouveau book – and that image is actually not so obvious in the finished version. It is the large shroud-like area in the center background. I faded it way out so that there was just a hint of the image left.  After that, I added the other images. With the two women, I made a few minor adjustments, filled in their images using the paint bucket tool, and modified each layer’s opacity.

Finally, I added the text, using the Papyrus font.

I am very much a newbie with Photoshop, and just wanted to jump into something, so I’m pretty happy with the way this one turned out. I really liked using the random numbers to select the artwork, because it forced me to figure out ways to unify the work, even if the images were disparate.

It was a good way for me to play with layers and opacity. I really appreciated how changing opacity enabled me to add a lot of depth.  One part that I might change, if I had both more time and expertise, would be to erase the part of the tablecloth that shows through the head of the woman in the lower left. I’m not sure the best way to do something like that, at this point, but I’m sure I will learn. I may come back in the future and try to work on it some more, but for now, I’m leaving it and moving on.

I still have very little time for art making, but I do like doing this, digitally. It certainly keeps my kitchen table clearer, and my fingers cleaner, and is a great way for me to be able to come and go from a project with ease.

© 2011, amateur-in-art

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June 13, 2009

Create your own stamp from 3-D objects

Posted in Art, Art for beginners, Beginner's art, Crafts, Learning art, Rubber stamping, Techniques (art) tagged at 12:26 pm by amateur-in-art

I came across this technique in the book, Altered Book Collage by Barbara Matthiessen. She calls it “monoprint background” – which of course, it is – but I think of it more as a stamp. It is an easy and simple way to get some really cool looks. I think of it as sort of “negative stamping” – where the item or object is ‘blank” and the background has all the ink or color.

Get a block of fairly thick foam. I found a garden kneepad thingy at Target for $1 and it worked just fine!

Lay out the 3 dimensional objects you wish to use to create your stamp and put them on a sturdy surface.

Heat the foam using your heat gun.

**CAUTION: As always, use care and precautions when using the heat gun, do not get it too close to the foam, yourself, or flammable objects, and to be on the safe side (because I don’t know what kind of chemicals might be released when the foam is heated) – I would advise having good ventilation. Mathiessen also gives no caution about fumes, but foam is synthetic so who knows what kind of chemicals might be present. Always be safe, whatever you do! If you attempt this procedure, you do so at your own risk.

When the foam is hot, press it down on top of your objects. Remove. Let foam cool.

Voila! You now have a stamp that you can use with ink, paint, or what-have-you to make a really cool impression! Better still, when you are finished, you can heat the foam again to “erase” the initial impression and reuse the foam to create a different stamp using different objects.


The blue impression and the pink foam "stamp".

Lessons learned:

It is best to have all objects be the same approximate thickness.

Very thick objects may be difficult to remove from foam when you reheat to “erase” it. For instance, I was able to “erase” the keys in the foam – but after two tries, my locks still have not totally “disappeared.”

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© amateur-in-art, 2009

June 3, 2009

Guided Tour of Art Map

Posted in Art, Art for beginners, Collage, Learning art, Papercrafts, Soul Journal tagged , at 9:44 pm by amateur-in-art

I was in such a hurry to meet the True North Arts deadline for posting my Art Map that I rushed my previous post. I also hadn’t quite finished up my map. Here’s what it looks like now, pretty much done at this point.


I don’t think I’ll talk a lot about technique in this post (mostly because there is not that much to it) but I will say here that my base is a paper bag that I wadded up and smoothed out several times. My original idea was sort of to have it be a “treasure map” – with the heart (Art) at the top being the “treasure.” In the end it wasn’t really a treasure map, but it definitely is a map of my art journey through the past year. I’m thinking about pasting it down onto a canvas board, creating some sort of trim around the edges of the board, and putting a small placard on the top that announces the title of the piece: “A Year in Art”.

My art journey began almost exactly a year ago. On my map, it starts in the lower left corner.


You cannot read it here, it is too pale, but the small purple square at the lower left is a tiny “book” and the cover reads: “Altered Book Workshop.” That’s where my art journey began. I had not seen or heard of anything like this before, but being both a reader and a writer, it sounded like it would be very interesting and creative. Wow! Did that start me off on a journey! I think I went out and spent $100 (that I did not have) on various art supplies right away. I started searching out different places on the Internet, checked out books from my library about altered art and college, and literally, for a while, I think, went nearly insane in my enthusiasm. In fact, I started this blog not too long after that, too, and my original intent was to call it “Artistic Enthusiasm” because that was what I felt, and if I gave it that kind of a name, at least I didn’t have to worry if I was long on enthusiasm and short on talent. (The name was already taken, even though it appeared to be an abandoned blog, but so here I am as “Amateur in Art’.)

Back to the map. I’ve already commented upon Collage Diva and 1000 Squares in my previous post, so won’t reiterate here. Let’s move on to the “southeast,” which covers the next major portion of my art journey.


Caspiana (Sarah Whitmire) has been a mainstay in my art journey, and I started her Soul Journal project in the fall of 2008. She posted her Soul Journal prompts in July and August, but I couldn’t do them then. I have taken my time and am almost all the way through them all at this point, but it often takes me several weeks to do a single prompt due to my schedule and other (off-line) creative commitments. In any case, Caspiana is a big country on my map. I made it from a photocopy of one of my Soul Journal pages, and I added my little sketch of one of her little white dogs – sort of my own logo that I have made to represent her and her work at Caspiana. I also decided to add (you only see the top part of it in this image, but you can see it better in the full map image at the beginning of this post) a booklet attached with a brad that says “Caspiana Soul Journal” on the front of it. On both this and the Altered Books booklet, I thought about decorating the interior of the books, but I have not done so yet. I may come back to it – but then again, I kind of like the idea of leaving them blank – a “blank canvas” as it were.

I talked about the Watercolor River and the Village of Kindred Spirits on my previous post. One of my favorite parts on my map is the Ocean of Possibilities. I like the color of it and the way it turned out. The wrinkles on the paper bag also give it a very nice “wavy” effect. The large stamp in the middle is from Tim Holtz and reads “Live the Life You’ve Imagined.” Oh – and I just put on the finishing touch of the sailing ship earlier tonight, and realized I forgot to write “Set Sail for Adventure”. There is also a small “safe harbour” (I’m not British but I decided to spell it that way) in Caspiana, as well.

Onward! Let’s begin to head north, now.


Now it is less about specific places (like Diva and Caspiana) but more about what art gives me and how it helps me. There is a brick wall that is being burst through (a.k.a. “Creative Breakthrough”) and then up to the left we have “Inspiration Point” (a promontory and an old fashioned pointing finger) along with a “Leap of Faith” occuring at the same place. A few weeks ago, I had read something about creativity being an “act of faith” – because we simply have to trust that something will come from our first brush stroke, written word, note, or what ever action you take in your chosen field of creativity. Then, after these things, you at last get to the Land of Big Ideas – where the light(bulb) is always on, and it is a land of many mountains – big, strong, and with incredible vistas that give you great vision. You literally can “see forever.” Then finally a few tidbits – the quote “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” and the centerpiece and the real focus for the entire map: “Follow Your Art” (in the shape of a heart).

Now, let’s continue our journey to the northeast.


Starting at the bottom, after the journey across the Watercolor River and through Caspiana, and the Village of Kindred Spirits, we get to the Ink Well (literally) which is overflowing with ideas. Then we get a Flight of Fancy (love that flying flock of birds stamp – I’m using it again. It’s from Tim Holtz, too). And a journey to or through Creative Freedom. The first thing I think of when I hear the word “freedom” is an American flag so often it pops up in otherwise unexpected places for that reason. I had to stick “Wisconsin” in there – because after all, True North was leading this exercise – but also I consider Wisconsin to be my “heart’s home” – I love that state and its beauty. It makes me happy just thinking about it. And then of course we get to the compass and True North. I really like the look I got on the square that the compass is on. It is just a square of pastel-patterned paper, but I took some liquid alcohol ink and daubed it on a cotton swab and dabbled it around to give the paper more color. I like the way it turned out. Oh! And I have to comment on the tag at the top – the “Don’t Stop Now” came from a bookmark I picked up on a recent trip – I found that and immediately knew I was going to have to use it in my art somewhere, and when I started work on my map, I knew it would be the perfect place! Right at the “end” of the map, where normally you would “stop.” It also works well, I think, because at the beginning of my map I have a “Start” tag. Off to the far right side, I have written “Off the Map”, “To Unknown Lands” and “Unexplored Territory.”

I absolutely loved this Art Map adventure, and thanks go to Collage Diva at True North Arts for providing us this prompt and her guidance!

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© All images and words copyright 2009 by amateur-in-art. All rights reserved.

April 19, 2009

Soul Journal – Day 20 – Bookmark

Posted in Art, Art for beginners, Art journals, Art samples, Beginner's art, Collage, Learning art, Rubber stamping, Soul Journal tagged at 9:37 pm by amateur-in-art

Also as part of Day 20, we are to make a bookmark. In the original Soul Journal, the bookmark was part of a swap, but that was many months ago, and I’m not sure I’d want to give away mine anyway (it has its flaws, but it’s mine).

Actually, I ended up with two bookmarks. The first one I started by doing a photocopy transfer using acetone (fingernail polish remover). I had already torn up my photocopies of Day 6 and so I did the photocopy transfer using strips from that page.


It is a really simple technique. Just lay the photocopy face-down on the page, dab the back of it with acetone, burnish – and there’s your transfer! You can see the area where I transferred the orange/yellow panel with a pattern just above it in this picture. Here’s a picture of the final version, below.


I didn’t like the “stripe” that showed up in the middle of my tag. It is some sort of aberration in the paper or something, I think. Maybe it has to do with how they were manufactured. Overall I like this tag, but clearly it needs more work and is just a beginning. I wasn’t sure what to do or where to go to next with it, so I just tossed it aside and started afresh.

This time, I took torn bits from Day 18 and covered a tag. I used the stamp that is my avatar (the half-face of a woman) but because the surface was uneven, it did not stamp well.


Undaunted, I pressed on. I had just seen some fabulous new stamps from Tim Holtz at the store, and knew I wanted to use the flying bird image and the “Soul/Journey” phrase on my new bookmark!


I decided to give embossing a shot. I had gotten a heat tool and some embossing powder a little while back and had not tried it yet. This was all new to me, but since I had already made one mistake I wasn’t happy with, I figured I had nothing left to lose. So I did that, and although the image turned out much stronger with the embossing (an important lesson) – it still did not stamp correctly, due to the uneven surface of the different bits and pieces of paper glued down together. I was really disappointed that the “The Journey Awakens the Soul” phrase did not come out well.

But onward I must go. I wasn’t sure what to do about the really messed-up stamp in the lower right, but decided to use a piece from a collage sheet, add some ink to distress it, and use it to cover up the bad spot.

Distressed next to original

Distressed next to original

Positioned and outlined with dyed string from tag

Positioned and outlined with dyed string from tag

Now, to work on the back. I still used torn up bits of paper from Day 18. Then some letter-stickers spelling out “Soul Journal” and a tag-type sticker, cut in half then reattached so it would not be so big, where I wrote in the years. Then I outlined them both with a thin-line marker.


Then I added a pink ribbon at the top, with two jewelry charms from (love the name) Heart & Soul. One is a key and the other says “Trust in Your Dreams”.


Here you can see the details on the charms and you can see the other side of one of them says, “Be Free.” A few other things to point out in this detailed view. Before adding the ribbon, I also dabbed on some pigment ink around the reinforcement around the hole, on both sides of the bookmark. I took my heat tool to dry it – but I think the heat may have made the color shift just below the hole in this picture – where the two red lines are, see how it goes to black in the middle of the green, just underneath the hole? Finally, one other detail. As a finishing touch to the whole piece, I used some yellow watercolor and edged the whole bookmark, on both sides. It really gave it a nice look, overall. (You can compare the difference by looking at the back of the bookmark, and the picture preceding it which is the front, without the yellow trim.)

I definitely like this bookmark much better than my first attempt, and although I wish the “Journey Awakens the Soul” part would have turned out better, I still really like it, overall.

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© amateur-in-art, 2009

April 7, 2009

Creativity as an act of faith

Posted in Art, Art for beginners, Learning art tagged , , , at 10:17 pm by amateur-in-art

I’m reading Letters to a Young Artist by Julia Cameron, and the part I read just recently I found very inspiring. In it, she says, “creativity is an act of faith.” Creativity requires courage, the courage to take that first step forward, write that first line, paint that first stroke, and proclaim to the world “I am.” The rest of the world may say what we do is foolish. That perhaps we shouldn’t even try. But we do it anyway.

She also writes about our “inner critic” who declares our work boring or irrelevant. Our analytical side wants our creativity to go in a straight line – but creativity seldom flows that way. It is a meanderer, wandering from here to there like a dog leisurely sniffing out the neighborhood. Sometimes, creativity wanders so far away, it strays into a dead end. But what Cameron says is – that “creative cul-de-sac” may be leading you somewhere. Follow it, and see what happens. And if you do so, it can never be boring.

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© amateur-in-art, 2009

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