Tuesday, January 16, 2018

My Favorite!

So, back in March, 2009, when this little blog began, I posted a card with my favorite layout ever. It still is, with twists that make it more interesting.




Here's where I'm at today with this design: additional layers of white-on-white and greater sense of movement. The matting brings the three images close together and unifies the design in a very clean way. I also chose a small sentiment and placed it off-center.

These tiny changes give the whole card much more energy, yet it also remains true to Leonardo's precept that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Does this mean I've learned a thing or two in the past nine years? I hope so. I sure didn't use Copics nine years ago, either, yet the images are colored with Copics. Not too bad for this old dog.




Speaking of dogs, I'll try to post new pictures of our BIG puppy. He's growing so fast (already over 50 pounds) and is as tall as Daisy. His head is much blockier than Daisy's, so he looks bigger than she is already, even though she's still got some pounds on him.

Finally, thanks to all of you who've weighed in on dies. I've got lots of ideas and some sense of direction now. Y'all are the best!

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,
Susan

Supplies
stamps: Hero Arts Summer Garden, Thank You Messages
ink: Memento black
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: 3/4" square punch, dimensionals, Copic markers

Monday, January 15, 2018

Grammatical Bling



For those who don't know, I have another blog called Questioning my Intelligence. Not much has been posted on it in the past few years, but our president's alleged comments over the weekend have made me realize how much the world needs good words preaching kindness and love and joy and gentleness. I'm writing again. If you're interested, please check it out.

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The new Hero Arts set Summer Garden is delightful. It's got a plethora of pretty sentiments and a garden's worth of little flowers and critters.

But it's missing a comma.

Why does this bother me?

Oh, right. I was an English teacher.




Whenever you directly address someone, the name needs to be separated from the greeting by a comma. Hi, Sally. Merry Christmas, Ruth. Hello there, beautiful.

There is no comma in the set, but clearly, we're supposed to put the hello there and beautiful, gorgeous, or darling together.  Now, you might notice there's an apostrophe in the largest sentiment, and apostrophes are, for artistic purposes, the same as commas. But the apostrophe is buried in the flashing and not easy to isolate. I could have done it, I suppose, with clever masking, but I think we've established that I'm lazy.

So I stuck a bling where the comma should be. Yes, it's more like a period than a comma. I actually tried putting a tiny bling under the medium bling to give the idea of a comma, but it looked weird and not at all comma-like. So I decided that the single bling would have to suffice. After all, this is art.

Whatever. Basically, I gave up. Some battles are simply not worth fighting, such as the battle to stop the president from tweeting, but next time, I'll probably use the apostrophe, no matter how complicated because grammar matters, people!




Also, there's a bling covering a mistake, but I shan't tell you which because there are no mistakes, only opportunities for embellishment.

The butterfly was colored with Copics and then painted with a clear Wink of Stella brush pen. For a final touch, I slightly rounded the corners of the stamped panel and its mat with old-school scallop scissors.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,
Susan

Supplies
stamps: Hero Arts Summer Garden
ink: Memento black
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: rhinestones, Copics (for coloring the butterfly and rhinestones), Wink of Stella brush pen, scallop scissors, a dash of OCD


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Little Florals and Some Chat about Dies

Yesterday's card featured what I think is the largest die that coordinates with the Hero Arts set Little Florals. I adore this set. Today's card uses three die-cut stems from the set to make a little bouquet.



The flowers were colored with Copics before being cut. Copic coloring for small images like these perfectly suits my lazy efficient style, and is well within the very modest limits of my Copic expertise. In a few days, I'll show you a card that took F-O-R-E-V-E-R to color and made me vow never to color the stamps from that set again.

But these bitty stamps can be colored quickly. So yay!





I wanted to use a soft yellow or pink ribbon for the bow, but it turns out I don't have either color. So white it is. That keeps the attention on the color of the flowers, though, and covers up the ugly overlap of the stems, so it's a win.

Now, this card could be made with stamping and masking. This would eliminate the slight border on the die cuts and would look more natural. But these petite images in their super-simple setting work for me as die cuts.

While my experience with dies is extremely limited, I've found that Hero Arts' dies are consistently easy to use, work well every time, and cut cleanly. They are open dies (just the outline, not a solid piece of metal) which allows you to stamp and color and THEN cut very easily. I use washi tape to hold them in place.

Finally! A use for the thousand or so rolls of washi I own!

I've bought some Papertrey dies and am less pleased with them. They often leave a slight residue around the edges of the die cuts, making them look dirty. I've washed the dies in Dawn and warm water, but they still leave that residue. Apparently, this is a common problem as I found many irate outbursts on threads and blog posts on the subject. Any suggestions?

Also, Papertrey's are mostly closed dies, so it's easier to cut, then stamp and color, which can be awkward.

What is your experience with various manufacturers' dies? I'd love to hear your recommendations to buy and to avoid.

Thanks in advance for your input.

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,
Susan


Supplies
stamps: Hero Arts Little Florals, Summer Garden
ink: Memento black
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: coordinating dies, Copic markers, glue pen, ribbon

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Delusions of Grandeur


Have you ever watched a video by Jennifer McGuire and thought, "Hey! That doesn't look so hard! I could do that!"?

And then you can't.

Jennifer inspires delusions of grandeur in me, and today's card proves that even when you're not as grand as you think you might be, you can still be grand enough.




Okay, so this card is NOT like the ones in Jennifer's video here. In fact, it's not even a tiny bit close. But that's okay. Because my failed effort at being Jennifer led to a successful effort to be myself.

So yay!




This watercolor flower was made using Peerless watercolors with white embossing (another Jennifer video), and I thought I could make an in-and-out card using that but no, no, nopity, nope.

As I sat amidst the tattered remains of my delusions, I realized that this lovely little die cut would serve on a totally different card.

So here it is, redeemed by a different purpose.

There's a metaphor for life in this somewhere, but I'm too tired to figure it out.

Mercy, grace, peace, and love for all,
Susan

Supplies
stamps: Hero Arts Little Florals
ink: embossing ink, Archival monarch orange
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: rhinestones, Copic for coloring said rhinestones, Peerless Watercolors, brush, white embossing powder, heat gun, coordinating die, dimensionals


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Bright Birthday Greetings


Stamping Tip for the Day
Sue C. asked about how I handle photopolymer stamps that have lost their stick. This one is easy: Dawn dishwashing liquid. I put any stamps that have lost their stick in a mesh colander, drop the colander into a sink full of warm water and Dawn suds, rub each stamp to remove the dust and oils that are keeping it from sticking, rinse, and place the stamps on Bounty paper towels on my counter to dry naturally. 

Bounty paper towels don't leave lint, so they are the paper towel of choice for my house. 

Anyway, this technique works great for getting stamps to stick again. 


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Today's card offers up bright birthday greetings in blue and purple using one of my all-time favorite stamp sets: Turning a New Leaf by Papertrey Ink. The leaves and branches in this set are incredibly versatile and so pretty in a very clean-and-simple way. 



The berries come from another PTI set: A Wreath for All Seasons. The sentiment is from one of the Keep It Simple Birthday sets, also from PTI.

The great thing about this card is how versatile it is. You could use any color combination and any sentiment with it.



We are facing a winter weather advisory for tomorrow. Ice and up to four inches of snow are expected starting at 10:00 tomorrow morning. Snow, I can handle. Ice is a whole 'nuther critter, as my grandma used to say. Fortunately, I'll be home at 10:30 or so, and my husband is working from home tomorrow. We'll see what the schools decide to do.

Winter is a unpredictable time in much of the northern hemisphere, and I'm hearing about fires and mudslides in southern California. For all those impacted by weather--and the dire natural consequences of it--my prayers are with you...prayers for safety, for support, and for comfort.

Mercy, grace, peace, love, and safety,
Susan

Supplies
stamps: Papertrey Turning a New Leaf, A Wreath for All Seasons, Keep It Simple Birthday
paper: Papertrey white
ink: Archival
accessories: dimensionals

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Sucker!

Okay, so Valentine's Day isn't my favorite. It feels too artificial and forced, and too many people feel left out or forgotten. There's too much pressure!

But I always make valentines for my husband and my boys, and this year I had an inspirational brainstorm that took me to my favorite valentine I've ever made...because my husband will laugh and laugh and laugh!



Be still, my jovial heart! First, I love the Hero Arts color layering octopus because it's only two stamps and almost always is easy to line up. Second, when I got the idea to use the Hero Arts ombre pink to red inkpad, everything fell into place!


A few heart-shaped rhinestones, and we've got a funny--and dramatic--valentine! I stamped Happy Valentine's Day on the inside, too.

Do you enjoy Valentine's Day? How many valentines do you make? 

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,
Susan

Supplies
stamps: Hero Arts Color Layering Octopus
ink: Hero Arts ombre pink to red pad, Archival black
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: dimensionals, heart-shaped rhinestones


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Two Color Schemes, One Design

One of my go-to sets for birthday cards is Papertrey's Good Times, which has some basic images and some striking, large sentiments. The falling confetti border stamp in the set is HUGE, but you don't have to use it in its entirety. Just a portion can work beautifully for a CAS design.



You might have noticed I've been using the Kaleidacolor pads a lot lately. They really do add a fun element to simple cards...and I have so many of them that it seems a shame to let them sit unused in the new year!




Each card has Stickles accents because I also have a bunch of Stickles and love it!

What supplies do you have IN ABUNDANCE that you could challenge yourself to use more frequently in the new year? 

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,
Susan

Supplies
stamps: Papertrey Good Times
ink: Kaleidacolor Riviera and Spectrum, Archival black
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: Stickles, craft foam, glue

Monday, January 8, 2018

Beautiful Arteza Color and a Die

Last week, I posted this card, which shows what the Arteza real brush pens look like when used to color an image directly without addition of water. Today's card shows how these beautifully rich colors can be used to create a background that can be die cut for truly high-impact clean-and-simple designs.


To make this card, I colored a scrap of watercolor paper with the dark pink and purple Arteza pens, blending the two colors together. Then, I cut the sentiment using the Blessings die from Hero Arts. The rest of the card is self-explanatory.

What I love here is how those rich colors pop right off all that white cardstock. There's so much impact here! And the texture of the watercolor paper adds just a little something as well.

So don't think that backgrounds have to be used in big ways in designs. You can keep things simple by using only a small amount of colorful background...and plenty of white space!





Mercy, grace, peace, and love,
Susan

Supplies
stamps: Hero Arts Blessings
ink: Archival black
paper: watercolor paper, Papertrey white card stock
accessories: coordinating die, rhinestones, Copics to color the rhinestones


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Why We Need to Condition Some Photopolymer Stamps

So I'll show you the POST-conditioning card first, since many of you don't scroll down, and I don't want anyone to think I'd post the PRE-conditioning card as my card for the day...it's that bad. For directions on conditioning stamps, please scroll to the bottom.

So here's what conditioned stamps look like when stamped.



Aren't they pretty? Perfect images! Those inks are a combination of Hero Arts and Archival dye inks, and the colors look so pretty and autumnal.

BTW, this is a birthday card for a male relative with a fall birthday. I've actually finished all the birthday cards for my family for 2018. Yay, me!




So for those of you new to stamping or perhaps not familiar with photopolymer stamps, there's a highly annoying fact about them. The manufacturing process often leaves a residue on them that repels ink, causing it to bead up on the stamp and gives a very, very icky impression, especially on solid, block-style stamps like these leaves. In fact, the impressions will look like this:


At first, I thought, "Well, perhaps this card will just look distressed and perhaps more masculine."

But if you have to use "perhaps" twice in one sentence, the odds are against you. It just looks poorly stamped.

Other than the green leaf and the veins on the pumpkin pie leaf, I left all colors the same on my "good" version of the card. The green on the original was too dark, so I lightened it up for the final card. And the terra cotta veins didn't provide enough contrast with the pumpkin so I switched to coffee.

I'm making a substandard card worked to my advantage here because it allowed me to fix the colors. So yay, again!

Now, this set (Leave It Be) from Papertrey is lovely, with a coordinating die set. The dies aren't open dies, so I cut first, then stamped. I prefer open dies, which can be stamped first, then cut. But whatever. The final card made my CAS-lovin' heart go pitter patter. And I know I'll be making more cards for fall with this set.

How to Condition Photopolymer Stamps

To remove the residue from photopolymer stamps, follow these simple steps.

1. Take a white eraser and rub the stamps as hard as you can.



2. Wipe the stamps on a damp cloth to brush off as much of the eraser residue as you can.

3. Clean the stamps with a good stamp cleaner, like Hero Arts ultra clean. That will remove everything.

4. Ink and stamp happy!


Mercy, grace, peace, and love,
Susan

Supplies
stamps: Papertrey Leave It Be, Birthday Basics
ink: Hero Arts butter bar, soft apricot, just rust, forever green; Archival coffee, sienna, fern green; Papertrey terra cotta tile
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: coordinating dies, glue, dimensionals

Friday, January 5, 2018

Birthday with Materialized Color on the 49th Vibration

If you've never seen the movie A Mighty Wind, fix that ASAP. It's a hysterical mockumentary of folk musicians that has so many good quotations in it.

At one point, a character named Terry Bohner shares his understanding of his wacky religion:

This is not an occult science. This is not one of those crazy systems of divination and astrology. That stuff's hooey, and you've got to have a screw loose to go in for that sort of thing. Our beliefs are fairly commonplace and simple to understand. Humankind is simply materialized color operating on the 49th vibration. You would make that conclusion walking down the street or going to the store.

Today's card reminded me of that scene. This card is materialized color operating on the 49th vibration. 



These colors come from a Kaleidacolor pad called Spectrum. The purple didn't photograph well, although it looks great in real life. That green, however, is my favorite color...so bright and happy and alive! It contrasts perfectly with the dark purple and blue for an awesome feel of energy and good wishes!


This card is perfectly flat...no bling or dimensional elements at all. But it has fabulous color, clean design, and lots of movement and energy. If you can get those elements right, dimension becomes unnecessary. 

And I leave you with this almost poetic quote from folk hero (and heavily medicated) Mitch Cohen in A Mighty Wind:

I feel ready for whatever the experience is that we will... take with us after the show. I'm sure it will be... an adventure... a voyage on this... magnificent vessel... into unchartered waters! What if we see sailfish... jumping... and flying across the magnificent orb of a setting sun?

Watch the movie. Mitch is hysterical. 

Mercy, grace, peace, love, and much-needed comedy,
Susan

Supplies
stamps: Papertrey Good Times
ink: Kaleidacolor spectrum
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: none

Thursday, January 4, 2018

An Appropriately Cold Card

Y'all, this southern belle living in Ohio is freezing her tee-hiney off. School is cancelled in our area for tomorrow because the wind chills will be below -20F.

And of course, we're training Cooper to the invisible fence right now, with arctic temperatures and four inches of snow on the ground.

Figures.

Being back in the South wouldn't do me any good now, though. Snow and frigid temps all up and down the East Coast. Southerns are not equipped to handle snow or frigidity. 

Funny true story. When I was a teenager living in Charlotte, NC, we had next-door-neighbors who moved down from Boston. We got a few inches of snow and were out playing because school was cancelled and mom didn't have to go to work. We noticed the neighbors shoveling their driveway. My mom wandered over and asked what they were doing. "We have to shovel the snow," the man said. Mom replied, "You do realize it will all be gone by this afternoon, right?"

They kept shoveling. The snow was gone by 4:00 pm. Those crazy Yankees.

Now, I am one of them. The white stuff doesn't disappear so quickly in Ohio, so we have to shovel or use the snowblower. (Yes, we have a snowblower because our driveway is very, very long.) But the roads are cleared ever so much quicker, and there's no need to stock up on necessities because you can get to the store within a day.

Stay safe out there, everyone.

Any-who. Today's birthday card will go to my elder son late this year. He LOVES winter and says he wants to move to Alaska. So I made his birthday card with appropriate imagery and colors (or non-colors, as it were).


At first, I just had the sentiment and buck on the card, with the silver swooshy snowbank. But it looked too plain, so I pulled out a little snow stamp from PTI's In the Meadow set and created a swoosh of snow, too, using Mama Elephant moonlight pigment ink, which is very, very light.

I love the movement the snow adds to the card, especially with the bling for sparkle!



To make the snowbank, I cut a scrap of cardstock with a craft knife and then edged it with a PrismaColor silver metallic marker. The marker tip is really fat and holds to the edge of the paper well. The whole snow bank is popped up with craft foam for a bit of dimension that doesn't really show in the photos.

Before assembling the card, I noticed the proportions were a bit off, with too much white space at the bottom. Trimming the bottom of the card and snowbank about half an inch fixed it perfectly.

Mercy, grace, peace, love, and central heat,
Susan

Supplies
stamps: Papertrey In the Meadow (snow), Masculine Motifs (buck), Out on a Limb (sentiment)
ink: Hero Arts soft granite, Mama Elephant moonlight
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: rhinestones, craft foam, craft knife, PrismaColor metallic marker


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Bright Summer Flowers on a Cold Winter Day



Note: I've got some tips on making "paint splat" cards below, so scroll down if you're interested.


I hope all my U.S. readers are staying warm. Yesterday, every state in the CONUS recorded temperatures below freezing, so even our southern states are shivering. We in southwest Ohio might have a school delay for wind chill tomorrow and Friday mornings. Brrrr.

So here's a happy, colorful, summer-y card to cheer us all up!


These cute flowers (Hero Arts by Lia) are colored with Arteza real brush pens directly from the brush, with no water added. These colors are so vivid and happy!

The real brush pens have real brush tips on them...with a very fine point for getting into tight places. 





I just love this little flower set, called Just for You (Hero Arts by Lia Griffith). It's fun and easy to use and cheerful.

Awkward segue.

Now for some tips on making paint splat cards like this one here. Sometimes, such cards end up looking like a messy mess rather than an artful mess. Here are some ideas for skewing the odds toward artful mess.

1. Use a MISTI. It's often hard to get a clean image when stamping such large, solid stamps, and the MISTI allows for multiple inkings-and-stampings of an image until the color is even. The MISTI is brilliant and absolutely worth every penny.

2. You'll get a more harmonious mess if you choose analogous colors--colors next to each other on the color wheel. I chose shades of green and aqua for my recent splat card, and have also used yellow, orange, and pink with happy results.

3. Avoid red paint splats...they look too much like blood splatters from a murder scene. Ewww.

4. Use dye inks. Pigment inks are thick and don't layer attractively.

5. Decide on an area to splat. It's a good idea to stick with splats on about one-third or less of your available space, especially if you're aiming for clean-and-simple cards. This card takes a third out of the middle, with the sentiment centered on the panel as a kind of anchor for all the crazy splats, and this card leaves even more white space to balance a much larger sentiment.

6. As you stamp using the MISTI, fill in almost all the white in the area splatted. You can leave small bits, but larger holes in the splats make it look messier. Designers call those holes "trapped white space," and they muck things up. Just keep stamping until the space is largely filled in while the edges are ragged looking.

7. Try to balance the colors as you go. I sort of use the Force for this...and mostly it works out for good, especially with analogous color schemes.

8. Remember the key rule of stamping: IT'S ONLY PAPER. You can always recycle your pretty trash if you make a mess and try again. So Yoda's advice to "do, or do not" doesn't apply. It's not life or death!

I hope this helps. Happy splatting!

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,
Susan

Supplies
stamps: Hero Arts
ink: Archival black
paper: watercolor paper
accessories: Arteza real brush pens, rhinestones

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Bad Influences and Light Touches

Following Jennifer McGuire on Facebook is a bad idea. First, she posts all the crafty sales going on, and second, she posts about new products, often with videos that make those new products look amazing and easy and gotta-have-it.

She's a bad influence. And when she posted that Amazon was having a flash sale on the 24-pack of Arteza real brush markers for under $16, of course I bit.

Because Jennifer is a really bad influence, and I'm weak. So weak.

Anyway, here are the markers I got.



And here's one of the first cards I made with them.



Here's proof I'm not the best watercolorist out there, but I love how this turned out anyway. I've always wanted to shade a daisy with gray, and here it is.

I used three different coloring techniques which I'm pretty sure are covered on Jennifer's video. First, I put a touch of color down and tried to "watercolor" the center of the flower, but daisies have bright centers, and the results were just too light. So I laid down quite a bit of color and barely used the aqua brush to spread it around to blend. I love how it pops!

To add the gray shading to the flower, I went back to using a dab of ink from the marker followed immediately by the aqua brush to spread it out. It's very light on purpose (daisies are white!), but the gray marker is darker.

To get the soft blue background, I painted the bright blue marker on an acrylic block and lifted color off it with the aqua brush to apply to the paper. That seriously softens the blue and adds a dreamy effect to the card.

In days to come, I'll show you some more cards with direct coloring that will give you an idea of how intensely colored these markers are. Wow! Great color! And well worth the $16 for the set. 



But for today, we're mostly using a light touch to color my favorite flower, and oh, it makes me happy!

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,
Susan

Supplies
stamps: Hero Arts Bugs and Daisy
ink: Archival black
paper: watercolor paper
accessories: Arteza watercolor brush markers, aqua painter


Monday, January 1, 2018

Teen Boy Birthday...Always a Challenge

What do you make for a teenage boy?

No flowers.

Nothing cute.

How about an artsy mess?




I love these lime green and aqua colors together. The combination's harmonious (or hormonious, considering), and the deep black sentiment pops right off of them dramatically (oh, the drama!).




The MISTI made this card possible. Getting all those blotches to stamp evenly is a real challenge, and I was able to restamp each time the results were less than agreeable with the MISTI. What a great invention!

Inside the card is stamped a birthday sentiment. I suspect that, really, what this teen boy will care about is the gift card in the card, not the card itself. But you never know. sometimes, the boys are the ones who care the most about the time you take to show them you love them!

As the mom of two teenage boys, I'm feeling the hormones and drama. Oh, my. Am I feeling it.

*sigh*

What do you do for teenage boys' birthday cards?

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,
Susan

Supplies
stamps: Altenew A Splash of Color
ink: various die inks from Hero Arts, Archival black
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: craft foam, glue, MISTI