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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July 9, 2010

Fascinated by Scrap Paper

Posted in Art for beginners, Beginner's art, Crafts, Papercrafts, Techniques (art) tagged at 9:41 pm by amateur-in-art

Oh yes, I know I know, it has been months and months since I posted.  I haven’t been idle – just no time to post.

But I caught myself staring once again at some scrap paper that I have made, and thought I would share it here, along with a couple of other items from my miscellaneous pile.

First, the scrap paper.  I had read somewhere, I think online (and my apologies for not keeping better track of where I get my suggestions from) to simply use a scrap of paper – preferably something fairly heavy duty like watercolor paper – and use it as a sort of canvas to be used when you end up with extra paint on your brush, or when you are watering down and cleaning up your brushes.  At first, I thought, oh, no biggie. But now that I have been using it for a few weeks or months, I’m starting to really like the way it looks. I believe the original source also suggested this method as an excellent way to create deeply textured, multi-layered backgrounds for projects. I’m not done with it yet, but I can see how it can be used that way.

It’s really not that visible here, but I have also used several different types of acrylic mediums on this – “Opaque White Flakes” (visible within the turquoise at left); “Lava Gel” (the stuff that looks like pepper on the lower right); and probably one or two others. Don’t think I’m a serious artiste, though, just because I can say “acrylic medium” – I’m the artistic equivalent of a child playing with flour in the kitchen. I may know what flour is, and may even know it goes in a cake, but what to do with it, or how to get it from “flour” to “cake” – I haven’t the foggiest.

That being said, I do like how this piece of scrap paper is shaping up. None of it has been deliberate or intentional – just totally random, most often, as I am cleaning up or changing colors.

Anyhow. I thought I’d also share a couple of scrap papery items that I, on a whim, stamped – and love the result! When saving these images on my computer for posting, I had to call them something, so I called them “Joy Blurts” – and I kind of like the ring of that. Here’s what they look like:

And here’s similar scraps, before stamping.

Wow – these look even cooler after scanning – better even than in real life!  These are super simple.  Just take 2 or 3 crayons, scribble on paper until paper is full of color – no white showing through.  Take watercolors of a similar or contrasting color and wash over the crayon scribbles (visible as specks on the yellow sections above). Voila! You are done!

To stamp, I used black pigment ink and heated with a heat gun to set.  That had an interesting effect as well, as it seemed to get rid of the waxiness from the crayons on the paper, but left colors and everything else unchanged.

The above scraps were originally scribbles on a much larger piece of paper – it was cut up into smaller squares as part of an exercise.

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© amateur-in-art, 2010

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

March 9, 2009

Inspiration from Inchies!

Posted in Art, Collage, Fun & frivolity, Learning art, Papercrafts, Techniques (art) tagged , , at 10:38 pm by amateur-in-art

A little while back, I came across the 1000 Squares site by ArtJunkGirl, and I perused the whole thing! It is absolutely fabulous! I started at the beginning of her site and followed her project forward in time until the end. Her goal: to create 1000 “inchies” over the course of a year. And she did it!

Besides just being interesting and inspiring artwork, in general, what was truly inspiring to me was to see her completed project. She created a mosaic using all 1000 inchies – and it is amazing to see exactly how large and how impressive that is. Each single inchie is its own work of art, created with care and attention to detail. It is stunning to see 1000 of these tiny works of art, all together in one unified work, and to think about all of the work and time and effort and dedication that went into the project.

The overall lesson I take from this: You can accomplish a HUGE project by taking small, simple steps on a diligent basis, everyday. Her project truly is inspiring, beyond “just the art” (pardon the expression). I’ve thought of this when I have to make my money stretch, work on large projects for work, or anytime I’m feeling overwhelmed (which has been a lot, lately). I think of those 1000 inchies – one inch at a time – and the impressive end result – and I gain inspiration.

Kudos to ArtJunk Girl for her project, and for sharing it on the web to inspire others! You can visit her 1000 Squares site or look at images on flickr, or visit her general blog to see what else she’s been up to.

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© 2009, amateur-in-art

January 23, 2009

Soul Journal – Day 18

Posted in Art, Art for beginners, Art journals, Art samples, Beginner's art, Collage, Soul Journal, Techniques (art) tagged at 10:16 pm by amateur-in-art

Yay! I finally have a page I like, out of this “collage potpourri.” And as I’ve said before, I’ve been liking the process on these prompts, just not my outcomes. Until now!

As before, Sarah gave us a list of things to do – we just had to mix up the list so we didn’t do them in the same order. (You can view the prep work for this page, here.)

Here’s what I did.

1) Write the alphabet quick and angry. I had trouble with this, because the rough texture of my page made it hard to write quickly. If I couldn’t write quickly, I found my letters didn’t have as much “anger” to them. Of course, I had to use red for the anger part.

2) Add something metal. I had some jewelry embellishments that were silver diamonds, relatively small, so I put a few of those on the page. I used a big blob of jewelry glue, which seeped out around the edges (and I left it there) because only a tiny part of the embellishment actually made contact with the paper, so I figured I needed to go heavy on the glue to make it stick. I thought this would be interesting, adding the metal this early in the process.


3) Add a wash of color. I chose a “sunny disposition” yellow. I thought it would make a nice contrast to my “angry” letters. I’m running out of colors that I haven’t used before. And those that I haven’t used, are generally going to be colors I don’t like. Which, I guess, is just another way to “stretch my boundaries.” Yellow, in this case, is fine. It is still within my “comfort palette.” I tend to avoid purple and orange, more than any others. I think that might also be part of why sometimes in the end I don’t like some of my pages. I used a color I normally wouldn’t use, because part of the instructions say “use a color you haven’t used yet” – and so that’s what I get. I’m not complaining, mind you. It is “good for me” the same way eating my broccoli is good for me. It’s just that sometimes I would choose different colors if I could.

When I did this wash of paint, it was weird how my stamped-on page number on the left page stayed fairly intact, while the one on my right page ran into obscurity. I used the same stamp pad on them both. Guess I still haven’t found that “permanent” ink, yet. This time it didn’t bother me too much that it ran, though. It just gave it another small punch of color.

4) Next was another magazine stencil.


original image

I used green calligraphy ink on this one. I think it is absolutely hilarious how they both ended up with such wavy, curly hair!! Obviously, I have not yet mastered the art of impeccable stenciling, with crisp lines. I’m not sure where I went wrong, because I thought I was being very careful, and the original image is on slick paper, so it wasn’t like it bled through or anything. I still like the way it turned out, but it was kind of funny when I peeled it up and saw the result!


Then, I just couldn’t resist using the back side of the stencil, too – I love that there is a “chain” running down the back of the man. (Wonder if that’s how he feels?) I pasted my stencil down on the opposite page, face down. It sort of matches the outline on the right page, in terms of positioning.

5) Next, dry brush. I did this technique better, this time, probably because I changed brushes from what I have used before, and made sure my brush really was pretty dry, even with paint on it. Again, difficulty using a color I haven’t used, but I ended up with a kind of watermelon-pink color. It was interesting to see how this worked out with the metal embellishments. It actually had the effect of making them look almost clear, as if you were looking through them to see the paint strokes below them – even though they were actually on top. This aspect doesn’t translate well to pictures.

6) Use something unusual as a stamp. My fascination with coasters from the dollar bins at Michael’s continues! This time it was a felt coaster, with a great cut-out design!


Instead of using ink, I used paint and spread it on the coaster, then stamped it and rolled over it with a round-handled paintbrush to get an even impression on the page. I still had some paint left on it, so I made another impression on the left page without “re-inking”, but it turned out more spotty. (I was going to wash off the coaster to re-use, but I set it aside and let it dry. It still looks great – so maybe I will use the painted coaster itself in some future project!)


7) Write a list of things you did today. I used a magenta watercolor pencil. The color goes nicely with the other colors I have going on here, and it also provides just a hint of text. It’s easy to not-notice that it is there (below).

8 ) Gesso out a part of your page. Add more things on top of it.

I decided to use some of my gray gesso here. And I just randomly put some on the lower left corner. After it dried, I used some Pastelo chalk to make scribbles. Sprayed with fixitive. (It’s still smeary. Need some fixitive lessons, too, I guess.)

Then glued on some foam hearts. I figured as long as it was a couple, I’d go with the romance theme. After they dried, I grabbed a hold of the corner of one of the hearts and tore it up from the page – and hoped it would either not tear straight or easy, or maybe pull up a part of the page with it – but as it was, it just tore as a regular “broken heart” image – which was fine, but a little too cliche for my taste at this time – and so I glued it back down next to where it came from.

I found a “Lover” tag in a box of clearance-priced tags I picked up at Michael’s and made that the finishing touch on the right page.

(sorry for the wonky angle)

I really like this one – not just visually, but also because once I had the image of the couple on both the left and right pages, with the underlying “angry” alphabet and everything that came since then – I kept thinking the page was a story about a couple in trouble. Was he feeling “chained” to her? They loved each other, once. But he broke her heart, and found another lover. Or something like that. I liked that the page turned into a story, instead of “just” “random” art.

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© amateur-in-art, 2009

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