5 Ways To Beat “I Don’t Know What To Draw” Syndrome

1. Use your own photography as reference imagery.

What Is It? Most of us keep dozens—if not hundreds—of pictures stored away in our smart phones without ever doing much more with them besides flashing a few to a family member on holidays. Using your own photos for references are an amazing way to preserve your art as your own, and being able to continually enjoy the moments that may or may not end up stuffed away in a scrapbook. The greatest thing about this is that you can pull out the image anytime to start and stop drawing as you please. Plus: no copyright infringement!

How Will It Inspire Me? You usually only preserve images of the things that you love or find aesthetically pleasing, so picking even just one of your own pictures to draw should be especially easy. It’s also a great way to work on bettering your drawing of faces and the human form, as many of us photograph our loved ones on a regular basis.

What’s Next? 1) Choose another photo and draw some more! 2) Start taking more pictures with the intention of drawing the imagery. Who knows, you might even realize a love for photography!

Hint: Use the settings in your phone to disable automatic shut off so that you don’t have to keep taping the screen while you draw from your reference photo. Just make sure to re-enable it when you’re finished.

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2. Participate in #DrawThisInYourStyle.

What Is It? Draw this in your style is a trending online movement where artists post their own original content and characters, in hopes that other artists will love it so much that they too will want to recreate the content or character with their own twist. Currently, there are 200,000+ results on Instagram for #DrawThisInYourStyle, so there is plenty of content (and characters) to pick from! These artists are lending their creativity to you, so you’re free to do with it as you please

How Will It Inspire Me? This challenge lets you create without having to make hard decisions. Of course, the real fun is not in copying, but altering, which means that you can change poses or facial expressions, for example, without needing to have “big” ideas. Plus, it lets you connect with new artists, which is a pretty awesome bonus!

What’s Next? Why, create your own something for #DrawThisInYourStyle, of course!

3. Compose Your Own Still Life

What Is It? Still life consists of drawing or painting inanimate objects, most commonly associated with fruit or flowers. But it does not have to be fruit or flowers, of course, which means it could be literally anything laying around your house! Your favorite mug next to a knickknack next to a rock from your yard: draw it! A pillow under a novel under an ink pen: draw it! Still life drawings are more challenging than drawing your own photographed images because your perspective can change, the lighting can change, and you’ll never be able to assemble the objects in the exact same way, so choose this option carefully.

How Will It Inspire Me? Being able to choose the objects that you will find the easiest (or hardest) to draw means that you can make the experience as enjoyable as you please in a way that best fits you.

What’s Next? Change your perspective! Stand over the still life subject, go to the other side of it, or even just rearrange the objects. Fully understanding perspective is one of the hardest things about drawing, and you’re seriously improving your ability by drawing something from multiple angles.

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4. Re-Draw Your Own Art

What Is It? This idea is very similar to #DrawThisInYourStyle, but gives you a lot more control over the art that you’re creating. Because you are redrawing your own art, you may feel more comfortable with altering more of the content, as it is your original creation, after all. Not only that, but redrawing your own art makes the content more marketable, if you are in fact creating in order sell.

How Will It Inspire Me? Redrawing your own art tends to make an artist realize how much they’ve actually improved their artistic skills. You’ll not only be creating something, but also proving to yourself the time you’ve invested in your artistic ability hasn’t be for naught. You might also discover a new-found love for the original piece.

What’s Next? Once you’ve realized that your abilities have improved in some areas, you may find that some areas could still use a little work. Try focusing on these less improved areas, whether it be shading, individual facial features, or understanding of perspective. Dont be afraid to redraw something that you’ve already redrawn before!

5. Self Portrait

What Is It? A drawing of yourself! You are the perfect subject because you’ve been looking at the subject your entire life. You also have complete ability of posing your model and know just where to find them when the drawing mood strikes! Several artists are well known for self portraits, and all you require is a drawing utensil and a mirror.

How Will It Inspire Me? Although not every artist wants to draw people, understanding human anatomy and facial structure will lend itself to understanding anatomy of animals as well. That being said, a lot of artists lean toward human beings as their main subject matter, and knowing the simplest form of your face will be useful when drawing any face in general. Not only that, but hey look: you’re a model now!

What’s Next? Your face can make some really great (and bizarre) expressions, so why not try out a few? You don’t have to draw the whole face to draw stretched lips around a smile or scrunched up nose. Focus on doing a few different expressions and you’ll soon have an entire page for future references.

Self Portrait as a Painter

Self Portrait of a Painter, oil on canvas, 65.1 cm x 50 cm
Credits (obliged to state): Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

Live Recap: Violet Desert

This week, my Instagram live stream session was number 5, and to be honest, I cannot believe that I have been live streaming once a week for over a month! Time flies when you’re making art! This hour-long stream consisted on working in my pocket sized Molskine, and was just as productive as last week’s session! I was able to start an art journal spread, add imagery to the pages, and get a pretty awesome dialogue going with this stream’s participants. I continued to work on the spread beyond Instagram’s limit of one hour, but the image below shows the progress from an uninteresting orange background to an art journal spread with some real personality! The image below is a picture of how my spread looked immediately after the live stream.

Violet Desert Art Journal Spread Copyright EmK Wright 2017 www.madebyemk (1).jpeg

“Violet Desert” Art Journal Spread, Work in Progress


As you can see, I was able to alter just some of my collage material during the stream. The cliff, seen on the right page, was slightly altered; however, the matte gel medium used to attach the tree on the left page was still in the process of drying by the time the live stream was over. I discussed my process of using this medium in the live stream, and wanted to share this helpful hint with you as well: if your collage material overlaps beyond the page, wait until the excess paper is completely dry before snipping it away. Giving your collage material extra time to dry is the best way to guarantee clean edges when cutting your paper. Gel medium drys quickly on the exterior but can cause paper to be moist beneath the surface even if it looks and feels dry! The sharpest of scissors will not be able to cleanly cut damp paper, so it’s best to wait until you can be sure the paper is dry all the way through.


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“Violet Desert” Art Journal Page, Completed

The creation of this spread was completely unplanned, but the color scheme that I chose for this spread ended up including violet—which was quite lucky for me due to the newest art supplies that I purchased earlier this week! One of my newest items is a Golden brand fluid acrylic paint, the color Interference Violet. The interference paints are not like any that I have ever used before! The paint is a very transparent white with incredibly fine speckles of colored metallic pigment. Depending on the light, the paint can appear as an opaque metallic or a gloss varnish filled with tiny pieces of colored shimmer. It’s a little flashy and adds a really unique effect to the page. Note: A little goes a long way!

Violet Desert Art Journal Spread Copyright EmK Wright 2017 www.madebyemk (1)

“Violet Desert” Completed, Closeup of Left

The collage material for this page was chosen during the live stream session, which came from the book Extreme Adventures (2014), a 240 page full color photography book that displays images of unique locations and exotic animals. I found my copy new for about $7 in a discount store, and purchased it specifically for the purpose of using the imagery as collage material. (At the time of writing this, I found it to be available on Amazon.com for about $6 used with free shipping.) I so recommend using inexpensive coffee table books for their imagery. The pages of these books are thick and the imagery is often perfect for collage!

Violet Desert Art Journal Spread Copyright EmK Wright 2017 www.madebyemk.jpeg

“Violet Desert” Completed, Closeup of Right

Hopefully, you were able to join me for this week’s live stream, but if you weren’t, fear not! I will be streaming every Sunday at 8 pm EST, working in my art journal for all to see! I hope that you can join me sometime, and I especially hope that you’ll be making art with me, chatting about how awesome art journaling is, and letting me know if you have any questions about the many art supplies that I seem to be hoarding. Also, feel free to drop me a line by commenting here on the blog with any questions—or just to say hi!



Disclaimer: I have recently become an Amazon and Get Messy affiliate. Amazon links and Get Messy links are affiliate links. I will receive a small portion of the sale if you use these links to purchase the art supplies or subscribe to the Get Messy community for an annual membership. You support this blog and my ability to continue making art through the use of these links! (And also gain my unending gratitude!!!) The Art Snacks website and all other links included in this post are not affiliate links; they are included for educational purposes and for your convenience.

“Ugly” Journal Pages & How To Deal With Them

I am struggling with an art journal spread right now. Unfortunately, it’s the first one in my newest journal, which is not the best way to start! I purchased the Dylusions brand Creative Journal a while ago from a craft store, and while it’s a well known art journal book now, I had never heard of the item upon purchase. When I saw the journal, I was in complete awe of it’s thick pages, hard cover, handy inner pouch, and it’s unique horizontal elastic closure band; I had to own it! Well…now we’re fighting, and I hate to abandon it. Because of this current situation, I wanted to discuss how I “fix” my “ugly” journal spreads, and what that even means to me.

In my opinion, an “ugly” art journal spread is not necessarily ugly to look at, but causes it’s creator to become stumped and ultimately abandon the journal spread. Do you find yourself thinking, “I don’t know what to do next!” because you don’t want to ruin what you’ve already created? The moment that happens, my page becomes an unfinished and lackluster piece. I sometimes believe that abandoning a piece that’s almost finished helps to tell my story, but other times, there’s not enough imagery to even call it “good enough.” When that happens, and I feel like I can go no further, I know it’s time to cover up and create something fresh. I’ve had to start telling myself, “If I don’t want to ruin my journal spread, then it’s time to ruin my journal spread.”

I would like to share with you some techniques that I use to purposefully alter a stumping  journal spread instead of abandoning it:
1. Take a XL paint brush, cover most of the spread in a dark colored (blue, purple, red, etc.) india ink, so that only hints of old shapes peak through.
2. Adhere collage material sporadically on the pages, covering the parts that originally controlled the spread.
3. Paint chunks of the page with a completely different color of opaque acrylic paint. (The change in color is always a huge inspiration!)
4. Drip inks and paints from the top of the page to the bottom, so as to hide some of the old imagery.
5. Use a large tipped marker (usually my black Big Brush Pitt Pen by Faber-Castell) and make huge doodles, creating new imagery or a new background to work on.
6. Find (or make) new imagery in a sketchbook that can be cut out and adhered to the spread as a new jumping off point.

I know that a lot of people will gesso an art journal page that they perceive as hopeless, but I don’t (always) mind if some of my original page peeks through; it makes for good background fodder. Also, unless you prefer to start with a stark white page, gessoing a page already thick with previous paint and collage material can be wasteful. If I plan to use acrylic paint or collage material in moving forward with a spread, then I know that the opacity of those items will be enough to hide my old pages, and there is no need to waste expensive thick gesso. If not using gesso to cover a spread, an artist does not need to step away for drying time, and the continuation of working on a piece will keep the artistic energy flowing. That being said, if you feel like you’re ready to just rip out your pages and throw them away, sometimes gessoing your piece and taking a breather is required!

5 Helpful Hints For Recording Art Videos

Because I know there are a few of you who prefer short & sweet, there is a concise list of need-to-know information regarding recording overhead videos located at the bottom of this post.

Starting the project of creating art videos was not easy for me! I understood it in theory (record, edit, post) but the actual how-to of filming threw me through a loop! Having seen multiple art videos (YouTube and classes, alike) I knew what I wanted to do, just not how to achieve the look. I tried to search the web to find out what my favorite artists online used to record their videos, but it was a fruitless quest. Not one result was available to me about which cameras worked best or where to position the recording device—and there were absolutely no tips or tricks on the process of achieving such a feat. So I now present you with the post I wish I could have found.

Video Software

My Video Editing Software, Pinnacle Studio 18, In Use

I knew step one would be to purchase simple video editing software, and I found a cheap one in town. It’s not the best thing by any means, but it works…for now. As for everything else, I just used items on hand. I had a nice camera—not camcorder—and a huge tripod to start out with, which I was using beneath a pretty terrible overhead light. After blogging for about a month and a half now, I have realized that having a less than ideal camera has begun to deter my creative spirit. Every video I made required multiple cuts due to quickly dying camera batteries, and having to adjust zoom per each cut was awful! It was simply not giving me the clean results that my inner perfectionist desired. Fortunately, I had the means to fix all of this!


My Original Recording Device, Nikon Coolpix L820, And It Is NOT a Camcorder!

Yesterday, I ran about town to purchase a camcorder and tripod, which would not consume a third of my desk. I am also now the happy owner of a desk light with natural light light bulbs. (The natural light light bulbs are a must have!) The camcorder can be used while plugged in, meaning no constant battery switching; the tripod is small enough that I no longer have to worry about inconsistent zoom range per cut. I’m thrilled to have a setup that makes my videos the (semi-)professional creations I’ve been so desperately craving! I now have a compact tripod that was aprox. $15, and a Cannon camcorder that cost me $250.

Camera and Tripod

My New Recording Materials: Sunpak 42″ Tripod & Canon HFR700 Camcorder

If you are trying to record an overhead video, the Canon Vixia HF R700 camcorder is perfect. It can stay plugged in forever, records up to 12 hours without stopping, and has a screen that will turn to face you, which means you can see the image you’re recording. It also has a function which allows the user to make the image mirrored, which isn’t a necessity, but stops you from trying to adjust your camera in the wrong direction when you image is off centered. If that doesn’t make sense, I’m sorry, but please know it’s got a neat feature that does a convenient thing for this specific use. I 100% endorse this camera if you are tying to do much overhead desk recording!

So here is a concise list of what I wish I’d known prior to attempting this project…

5 Helpful Hints For Recording Art Videos:
1. A camera with a battery life of an hour or more is a must have; a camera that can stay plugged in forever is a life saver!
2. If the camera has a screen to face you, it’s worth an extra $50. If it’s anymore than that, use a mirror opposite the camera to check your camera screen frequently(Especially if the camera’s battery isn’t very good!)
3. You do not need a tripod that is taller than 40″. Ever.
4. Shadows will ruin all videos, and even the cheapest adjustable desk lamp is worth your money for this purpose.
5. Having natural light or white light light bulbs will make your videos 100x better looking.
6. The three most important features in a video editing software are 1) ability to adjust video speed, 2) ability to add and alter additional audio tracks, and 3) ability to rotate your video.

Now that I have a setup that I don’t hate, you’ll be seeing quite a bit more of me!! Until then, happy arting!

Choosing a Pre-Altered Book

The bottom of this post includes tips for choosing your own pre-altered book.

One of my journals began as a coffee-table book, something I decided to purchase with the specific intention of covering in paint. I knew that most pages would eventually include only my original content, but I liked the idea of being able to use photos already on the pages if any of them happened to strike me as particularly interesting. When I first went hunting for this book, I had only a few prerequisites: that it have a sewn binding, which would be sturdy; the book include only/mostly black and white photos so that I would not feel restricted to the color palate of the photography; and finally, that the book be large in size but not incredibly thick.

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My Altered-Book, Opened to an Unaltered Page

I went to what is known as a bargain store, but I did not strike out going to a secondhand store if that didn’t work out. As it happened, the first place I went to was perfect for what I needed. Without much searching, I purchased one of the first books that I found, which met all of my requirements. It cost me less that five dollars. Because I was not picky about the content of the book, I bought a book that I would never have purchased to read, featuring U.S. Marines in WWII. The photography in the book was in fact black and white, but working in it has made me realize that pictures of war stricken lands are not the most inspirational when trying to create my art.  Since this purchase, time has passed, pages have been covered, and I am finally reaching the point where my book is about to be (drum roll, please) completely full of art and finished.

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My Altered Book, Showering Unaltered Cover Page

I drug the husband to that same bargain store on Sunday, and decided to be a bit choosier this time in my hunt for a new book to alter. Along with the previous requirements for my book, I decide to tack “not about war” to the list. I thought that I might have an easy time finding a book with black and white photography that would feature classic musicians or architecture. What I did not expect, however, was to fall in love with a board book about black holes that had full page photography from telescope images…in vibrant colors!

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My New Board Book, Icarus at the Edge of Time, for Altering

I purchased not just one, but two, for $3 each. The book only has 16 spreads, not including the cover, so I’m not too invested if I decide I hate working with it. The pages have a slight sheen to them, which may make it difficult to keep paint on them; I plan to sand them down in a few places before I begin to work in it. I don’t want to sand away too much of the top layer though, as I find the photography on the pages to be beautiful and vague enough as to not (completely) influence my art.

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Spread Within Pre-Altered Icarus

What really drew me to this book was it’s incredibly thick pages. Because this is a board book, each page is about an 1/8th of an inch thick, so it should never buckle beneath all of paints and glues that I like to slather on my pages.  I usually remove a few pages from a book that I plan to fill with art, so that the thickness of my art doesn’t break the binding, but that won’t be possible to do with this one. Luckily, there are so few pages that I won’t be able to thicken the book to breaking point…or so I hope!

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Detail Photo of Pre-Altered Board Book Pages

So here are the lessons I’ve learned about picking out a new book for altering, which I’d like to share with you:
1. DON’T get something that clashes with your aesthetic! LOOK at the photography within a book before you buy it. LOOK at the text before you buy it.
2. DO make 100% sure the binding is sturdy. Cloth binding with multiple sewn signatures (where the pages are folded, sewn, and attached at the center) is my recommendation.
3. DO get a book that speaks to you. If you decide that you want specific this or that (such as black & white photography) it’s okay to change your mind if you see something else (such as full color pages) that grabs you. Art is not about confining yourself. If you’re okay working outside of a canvas or sketchbook, you shouldn’t be afraid to break barriers.
4. DON’T spend too much money on a book to alter! Go to yard sales, bargain stores, secondhand stores, and the like.
5. DON’T make decisions about pages before you’re working on them. If you decide you like a specific element already printed in your book, great, but deciding you won’t paint over it before you get to it may make that page feel intimidating later.
6. DO get a book that is about the same thickness, or less, as your usual art journal. A book that has a huge amount of pages can seem overwhelming. You want your book to feel comfortable, especially if it’s your first altered book.

I look forward to updating you on how my board book works out. Feel free to comment with questions and/or show off your own altered books; I’m always on the lookout for more inspiration.

Review: Posca Paint Pens

For about two months, Uni-Posca paint pens have been on my radar…and on my online wishlist for about just as long. Luckily for me, I have a sister that knows such a wishlist is not just for my own window shopping, but also an ideal way to find perfect birthday presents. So even though it may be two weeks past my birthday, I am happy to say that I am the new owner of those shiny new pens!

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Posca Paint Pens

I’m always on the hunt for markers, pens, and other writing utensils that will work on slightly textured surfaces, like gesso. Because of this, I’m a sucker for paint pens of any kind. I recently purchased some KRINK brand paint pens, which I had to order online. After using the one in my May Art Snacks box, I was pretty excited! Today, while shaking a KRINK paint pen (as directed to do) the bottom popped off, ruined my carpet, and filled my eye with some pretty harsh liquid! I really expected KRINK to finally be all the answers to my paint pen needs; needless to say: I’m less than impressed after ruining my clothes and experiencing momentary blindness. I’d like to mention this was only the second time using this pretty expensive item, and knowing how the paint tastes was never supposed to be part of the deal!

But anyway, back to these fancy new Posca pens! 

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Posca Paint Pens 0.7 on Black and White Paper

I’m immediately impressed by how vibrant the colors are, how opaque the paint is, and how thin of a line the Posca pens produce. These are all pros for me, especially because the pens are all highly pigmented. All colors appear just as vibrant on dark surfaces as they do on white bristol paper. The tips are also made of a flexible plastic (weird, but cool) instead of a hard fibrous tip, like one might find on a sharpie paint pen. However, while the tips are seemingly innovative, I have found that the plastic flicks little specks of paint as you write. You can see a good example of this around the white writing on the black paper in the photo above. The tip is not a solid plastic, but small pieces that come together to create a conical shape, which you can see in the photo below. I’m assuming that, with some practice, one may be able to prevent this slight splatter with a lighter hand and clean strokes, but I don’t find them to be ideal for small details that require clean curved lines.

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Posca Paint Pen Tips in Orange: Left, Pre-Inked; Right, After ONE Use

I’m excited to see how these work in my artwork, and will definitely be using them regardless of the slight splatter the tips produce. These pens are also completely closed receptacles, meaning no ends should be exploding into my face anytime soon! (Definitely a pro.)

Finger Painting for Adults*

The term adults implies persons over the age of 18, and is not indicative of a stage of maturation.

I’m never afraid to get my hands dirty…well, with paint anyway. I think of paintbrush strokes as being less than subtle, and an old card always ends up spreading paint over a huge amount of space. Diluting paint may make it less pronounced when pushing it around the page with one of these tools, but sometimes it still does not provide me with the look I’m going for. This is where my fearless fingers come into play, ready to smear, dollop, and spread!

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Finger Painting on an AJP

Dragging paint is something easy to do that creates a unique effect, and is something I do often with paint. However, there are so many different ways you can move paint around with your hands! Using my fingers provides me with control, allowing me to use as much pressure as I choose. I can leave thicker places in the paint, causing more opacity, or I can push and smear, making it thin enough to expose layers underneath. Covering my entire finger in paint allows me to create oval shapes on my page that slowly fade out, like using a stamp repeatedly; I also do this with just flecks of paint on my fingers, which create small, odd shapes. “Stamping” with your finger may sound primitive, but below is a landscape that I created by finger painting in this manner. No so primitive, is it?

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Finger Painted Landscape

Finger painting is something child like, and embracing it may help you reach back to the uninhibited creative roots of your youth. Those of us who make art are often worried that our creations are not pretty enough, but even a child can see beauty in a simple streak of color. Keeping an art journal isn’t like working on canvas: there are a hundred fresh starts just waiting for the turn of a page. It’s okay to make weird blobs and abstract shapes on a spread, even if you hate them, because you can always layer over it or continue further into your book.

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Finger Prints in My Art Journal

Smacking my fingers against a piece of paper can let out a little frustration for me, and making art in the process of relieving my anger or irritation just puts more meaning into my work. I feel more connected to pages with my finger painting, knowing that the individual curves of my finger prints are embedded in the paint, making the image something only my hands could create! It also creates unique shapes, unlike a stamp, which will make perfect O’s every time. That means it’s impossible to recreate, and is something special from a particular moment of my life.

I invite you to get your hands dirty too: don’t be afraid of your paint! Painting tools are wonderful, but sometimes its more about fun and less about pretty. Enjoy yourself while you’re creating, because beauty without soul is boring!

WIP: It’s No Mona Lisa.

Portraits! Oh my do I struggle with portraits. I can draw flora and fauna to my heart’s desire, but the second I want to create a face, my artistic abilities pack up and take a vaca. Being an avid acrylic user, I love mixing paints for light and darker hues, and find it so much easier than perfecting shades with graphic or water color, however shading is still far easier than line work! It’s still a work in progress, of course, but I’m at the point where things are starting to feel cohesive. I’ve always considered my style cartoony, as my drawings imply the proper shapes but never quite capture them. I chalk this up to my horrendous hand-eye coordination. My eyes can see the lines and shadows but my hands just won’t comply.


Orange & Black WIP Spread

For my current spread, I’ve decided to paint a portrait, though it may not be my forte. I was over eager in creating my background, and while I made some amazing texture, it became far too messy to use small imagery  as the foreground—it simply would be lost in the chaos. Choosing something large and mostly opaque seemed to be the best option. I’m still in love with my background, and am leaving the most interesting elements alone. These elements include: paint that has dried raised, multicolored paint drips, stamped lettering, and circles created with my (new from the clearance) Tim Holtz paint dabbler.


Orange & Black WIP Spread

The imagery that I’m most excited about came by accident, and not by the purposeful application of tools. The left page, which is currently dominated by a long paint drip that runs horizontally as well as vertically, was created with supplies I had not previously mixed. I used watered-down tan acrylic paint to make a very fluid mixture, which dripped down the page with ease. The amount I used was in excess, and when I turned the page sideways, it poured to the left from the original drip. I had done this before, but next I did something different: I used white India ink to add to the tan paint’s original drip. I then turned the journal on its right side, mirroring the tan lines with white ones. The India ink and paint mixed independently, making an unexpected marbled effect. It’s beautiful! I will definitely be trying to recreate that effect in later spreads.


Orange & Black WIP Spread

The portrait needs line work to create facial features, but I’m 99% sure that the left page will stay just as it is. The only way I can think it may be necessary to alter the left page is if I find myself using other colors on my portrait. If other colors come into play, I may choose to incorporate them on the opposite page in order to keep my color scheme cohesive.

I’ll keep you updated on this portrait…as long as it doesn’t turn out too terribly. That being said, I’ve already accepted that it’s no Mona Lisa. (It is orange, after all.)

How To: From “Doodles” to “Drawings”

For doodlers, asking the question “what do I draw?” is quite a bit easier when intuition is in control. It can seem effortless to scribble on a post-it note while on the phone, but then difficult to draw in a sketchbook at your desk. Of course, intimidation may play a role in this, but sometimes it’s because we’re just thinking  too hard. Once we identify what it is we like to draw, it’s much easier to choose what to draw. If you like to doodle circles, translate them into bubbles, wheels, cookies, or records. You can turn swirls into ribbons, tentacles, or roses. Maybe you’re prone to making zig-zags, which could be altered into monster teeth, lightning bolts, stitching, or heart monitor lines! Most of us can freely create shapes without much detail, but by just adding dots, lines, and shadows, doodles will transform into drawings!

Once you understand what it is that you like to draw, you just have to decide what designs speak to you. If you prefer the feminine things in life, roses might be the way to go; if weird is more your style, then you may want to draw tentacles instead! Don’t try to create that which you don’t find to be within your aesthetic. You shouldn’t draw it just because it should be there: art isn’t about should be, it’s about can be.You can do whatever you want to, because it is your art! If you don’t like the look of a smeared, dark sky, it is totally okay to make lighting strike the ground on a clear day; if you feel confident drawing wheels but are baffled by the anatomy of a car, let it roll alone down an empty road.

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Antler’d Octopus AJP

The photo above is one of my art journal pages. It incorporates all of my favorite doodle shapes: the circle, the swirl, and the zig-zag. I started with a large circle and then added swirls protruding from the shape. Next, I doodled hard zig-zags entering from the top of the page and less angular zig-zags entering from the bottom of the page. My shapes began to inspire me; with some acrylic paint and a little quirky thinking, I created an octopus resting in the seaweed beneath a cluster of anchors. I know that oceans are often depicted as blue—and that octopi don’t have antlers—but it’s my art and I am making creative decisions!

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Examples of Circles, Swirls, and Zig-Zags on Art Journal Pages

The next time you’re listening to music, reading the news, or chatting with a friend, try to have some paper and a pen within reach. You could keep post-it notes in your purse, or get fancy and buy the small Moleskine sketchbook that will fit in a shirt pocket (I’ve seen it done) for an artist-esque approach. A short golf pencil is a perfect sketching tool and it takes up almost no space!  If you keep things small, it’s much easier to doodle on the go! You’ll discover what shapes come easily for you when you have the freedom to doodle, but you need to have the equipment to do it!

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Doodle Kit Made From DVD Case

A simple way to keep your doodle supplies on hand is to throw a writing utensil and some paper in an old DVD box. The slim, flat profile of this case will easily fit in laptop bags and purses, as well as stack with bedside books. For my Doodle Kit, I made my own sketchbook by stapling several pieces of Bristol paper together, and gluing the first page to the inside of a blank greeting card. I made sure to let the back of the staples face me so that I can fix them if bending occurs during the process of ripping the paper away.

Let me know what you’re doodling, and where. I’d love to hear what shapes inspire you!

5 Tips for Getting Creative

A lot of people have ways to prepare themselves for stressful situations: breathing techniques, counting to ten,  the usual. But what about preparing yourself for the things you actually enjoy? Do you pop a bag of popcorn before turning on a movie, or light a candle before slipping into a bath? I prepare myself for creating art, and I’d like to share some tips that work for me when I want to get into the creative spirit….

1. Keeping inspiring items nearby.

There are photos and prints of art that I love stuck to the wall behind my desk; they are out of my way, but within sight. When asking myself, “What do I do next?” it is easy to look up and say, “I love that! What does it make me think of? Why do I like it? How can I mimic that emotional response with my own current piece?” My items aren’t there to copy, just to inspire. Try printing out photos of your favorite art, architecture, and imagery to keep close by for the moments of feeling stuck.


2. Indulging (just a little bit).

I don’t drink pop regularly, nor tea, but I still get my good caffeine fix everyday with a cup of hot brew! I don’t just use coffee as a pick-me-up for those early mornings. For me, coffee is more of a want than a need; it’s a small indulgence that I can enjoy throughout the day. Being creative is supposed to be an enjoyable experience, not a chore. I suggest you indulge, just a little, while trying to find your muse. A small piece of chocolate or you favorite beverage is a good way to start.


3. Create an atmosphere.

As a music lover, my desk is occupied with speakers, CDs, and has an easy access to my record player. I also have the ability to turn on a television show or a movie if I so choose. However, I make sure to pick noises that are conducive to a creative atmosphere rather than a distraction. The idea here is to create a white noise machine that muffles the busy world around you; my creative space should be a haven. I don’t suggest watching the new season of a favorite show or playing work out music. Try to find some calming music or a show you’ve seen a million times to make a space that feels, and sounds, comfortable.

4. Preparing the work station and pulling out supplies.

Before I had a desk to keep all of my supplies in, I had an enormous bag with which I could keep 90% of my paints, markers, pens, etc. easily together. I’m lucky enough to have a a new dedicated art space, but this means I’m not exactly sure just yet where to find everything. Laying out the supplies I might want to use is helpful for when I’m working. Just like having the bag close to hand, having my art supplies in front of me makes it so that I’m not pausing to find the right color of paint or the perfect pen size. If I don’t have to stop working, the creative juice flows far more freely! Try keeping your favorite supplies close at hand during your creative moments.


5. Create just to create.


Easy Come Easy Go AJP

I strongly recommend making time for your creative endeavors everyday, even if it’s just for a few minutes. If this means investing in a small sketchbook that fits in your pocket, so be it! Just because you “don’t know what to make,” or, “don’t feel inspired,” it doesn’t mean you should stop creating! I reason that if creating becomes a habit, then the days that I am truly inspired, art will be a priority instead of an after thought! You can always sketch the world around you, even if it’s just the paint brush on your desk or the shoes on your feet. If you’re more of a crafty person, use your creative time to crochet granny squares, fold paper cranes, sew a simple pillow case, or play with clay.

I hope this helps you design the perfect atmosphere for creating. If you have an tips that work for you, feel free to leave me a comment and let me know what they are! I’d love to hear them. Who knows, you might inspire me!