Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Photoshop Elements Computer Program

A couple of people have asked me about Photoshop which I have said that I use. They have commented that Photoshop is expensive and that they can’t afford it.

The program I use is actually Adobe Photoshop Elements. I am told that regular Photoshop is much more expensive than Elements. Elements does what I need it to do.

I received my copy of Elements as a prize for having a photo published in a photography book. Therefore I don’t know what the two programs cost.

I do very little with my Elements program. I use it to take scanned images and to resize them and to trim the images of excess white space. I use the program to take a higher resolution scan and to resize it to a lower resolution so that it can be uploaded to Blogger.

I have done some digital image altering with the program. I have also turned some photographs into an image that looks like a rubber stamp then used that as the pattern for hand carved rubber stamps. Turning images into black and white then using them as transfers is something else I’ve done.

Technorati Tags: , .

Bird Mixed Media Collage

I wanted to make a 5x7 inch collage that I’d then cut into four artist trading cards. This is what I made last night. For some “me time” I declared the after dinner time as art making time. While this went on my husband ran an errand with my sons and then the children played a game with each other while I cleaned up. It was then bedtime and after a few minutes of reading aloud the kids went to bed. Normally we watch one TV show together as a family but the kids had a punishment yesterday of no television that day, so that actually gave me more time than I’d normally have, a little window of more time to make art.

I began with a recycled cereal box for a sturdy base.

I covered the brown cardboard side with a piece of white paper with a yellow floral pattern on it.

I then used a technique that someone shared on a chat list over a year ago. It started with first using waxed paper (the kind you wrap food in, or that people used to use to do so), as a surface covering while working on other art projects. In the past I had painted a bunch of backgrounds for ATCs with acrylic paints and with homemade acrylic glazes. I also had used some rubber stamps with acrylic paint and acrylic glazes and to clean them off I stamped them onto this waxed paper. One of these stamps says “believe”, you can see that clearly in the collage. When the project was done I then let the waxed paper dry and saved it for use in a later collage.

I took the waxed paper with random paint and glaze on them and tore them to shreds. Using Golden Acrylic Gel Medium Soft Gel Matte, I adhered them to the background. They looked translucent and interesting and covered up most of the floral paper in the background.

I adhered a piece of fiber that another mail artist sent me to the collage.

I added an image of a flower that someone sent me; it is a computer printout of a flower printed onto a transparent plastic sheet (why does the right name for that product escape me now?).

Using sequin waste again sent to me by a mail artist, I added blue and white chalk rubber stamp ink.

Before I set it with a heat gun I added a bird rubber stamp (stamp credit Martha Stewart crafts at Michael's Craft Shop) and used blue embossing powder for the bird. I accidentally let the powder go onto the not-yet set white chalk ink so that was a mistake. I then melted the embossing powder of the blue colored bird. I then added two more bird images using white embossing powder.

Lastly there was an empty area that needed something. Using a garden seed catalog image of purple flowers, I made a packing tape transfer and adhered it to the collage. I chose to do a packing tape transfer as the rest of the collage was absent of typical collage of the image on white or other colored paper. I felt the image was too detailed to cut it out around the edges of the flowers and leaves. I felt the colored background was so pretty that to have this be a packing tape transfer that would let the background show around the edges of the flowers would be perfect.

After scanning this collage I cut it into four ATCs.

I used these ATCs for an “Anything Goes” swap on Swap-bot.

I really loved the look of the collaged waxed paper with the paint and glaze on it. I should change from using old newspapers as my standard table surface protector to using the waxed paper as I would love to have more of it to use in future collages.

Since the collage used waxed paper, paper, fiber, images on plastic, paint, glaze and ink this is technically a mixed-media collage.

Technorati Tags: , , , .

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Currently Reading: Celebrate Your Creative Self by Mary Todd Beam

About four nights ago I wanted to read a book with art techniques before going to bed to unwind with. I selected from my bookshelf, a book I bought in August 2007 and one that I have not read in months, “Celebrate Your Creative Self” by Mary Todd Beam.

This book is about painting techniques and also mixed media. The art style is abstract.

Mary Todd Beam is an artist and a workshop teacher, who now shares some of her teachings in this book.

The book starts out with some basic art principles. The book is an interesting format, kind of a like an art course in a book format, you read the book and you learn what the teacher would be telling you. Then the book is like an art workshop in a book format. Different techniques are taught with well-written instructions that are easy for beginners to understand. Nice color photographs show each step in the process. For each technique there are several examples of finished artwork from different artists.

When I read this book I am left with encouragement to just go and play and make art for fun. We are encouraged to try different things and to really enjoy the process.

Lucky for me I already own so many of the art supplies that are used in this book so I can start right in with trying some of these techniques. Some of the frequently used materials are acrylic gel medium, gesso, acrylic paint (opaque), liquid acrylics (transparent) and some other things like aluminum foil (yes, the kitchen wrap variety).

Just looking at the finished artworks in this book was and is inspirational to me.

I jumped right in to try a technique using wax crayon resist which I hope to share with you soon.

I don’t mean to sound pessimistic but I doubt I’ll be creating works of art like Mary Todd Beam but I know I can use some of the principals and the techniques to make artist trading cards (ATCs) with and also to make backgrounds for collages and ATCs.

I am sure that amateur and professional artists who prefer making large paintings will also find this book very useful as well.

For an idea of what Mary Todd Beam’s artwork looks like you can check out her website.

Presently Amazon does not offer a “look inside this book” feature for the book but the author has some scans of some of the pages of this book on her site, here.

Technorati Tags: , , .

ATCs from Qatar!

What a surprise I received in the mail yesterday. I received some ATCs and extra suprise goodies including candy, from a mail art swapper who lives in Qatar!

Who knew that someone all the way from Qatar was a Swap-bot member and is swapping ATCs and mail art? I think it is fantastic.

Monday, May 21, 2007

New Scrapbooking Supplies at A.C. Moore (and Old Products on 50% off Sale)

I made a quick trip to A.C. Moore last week to buy a magazine with a 40% off coupon (Somerset Studios).

While there I noticed that an employee was stocking an empty aisle with scrapbooking supplies that were all marked 50% off. There were boxes on the floor of the old product, all marked at 50% off. I asked her what she was up to.

The employee explained that A.C. Moore is getting ready to change over a lot of their scrapbooking supplies and that all the old stuff was going to be sold for 50% off as a final clearance sale, to make room for the new supplies.

What I saw on sale were over a hundred scrapbooking papers, die cut punches, and various tools. I picked up a set of alphabet letters to emboss with for $5. So far I have used these on metal tape to make ATCs with. I have always wanted a set like this and I figured for $5 it was worth it to just buy it now.

Since the aisle was not yet set up and since I was worried of over-spending I picked up that one item from a box, and got the heck out of there.

But for anyone who does scrapbooking or other paper crafts that uses supplies like these in their artwork, head on over to your local A.C. Moore and see what they have on final clearance!

Technorati Tags: , , .

Martha Stewart Line at Michael’s Craft Shop

Last week I was in Michael’s Craft Store (chain of craft stores) and I saw that they have a new product line by Martha Stewart. I thought I’d describe some of it for you.

The line is geared toward parties and celebrations and home decoration. There are rubber stamps and clear acrylic stamps to use to make themed invitations, party decorations and thank you notes. For example you can buy a bird rubber stamp sized correctly for an invitation and a thank you note. There are directions for some crafts in full color that are given away free at the display. One shows how to use the bird stamp to make the invitations, place setting cards and thank you notes.

There are many different fonts of lettering available. Those are clear acrylic stamps and they are sorted by font. For example one is serif font and one is sans serif (there are others as well). Within the package there are three different sizes of letters and numbers in that font. I think those were priced at $12.99.

There was also a set of large numbers; I will guess they were three inches high. The package had two different styles of numbers in it and retailed for $14.99.

I bought one package of bird stamps. There are two sets of birds, set A and set B. The store was already sold out of one set so I have no clue what it looks like but my set B has an American Robin for one of the birds. Those are sized perfectly to use on an ATC to fill nearly the whole card. Those stamps are stated to be wood mounted and they are sold in plastic containers. When I got them home and opened the formerly sealed package, I realized they omitted a terrible odor. The wood is not maple as is typical with wood mounted stamps. The wood actually looks like particle board to me (manmade wood made from scraps). The rubber is also beige colored, it is not red rubber and it is not clear acrylic. Actually I don’t even know if it is rubber or if it is some plastic material. Anyway something about the stamps has a terrible smell.

The line of products also has a lot of glitters in many different colors. The glitter colors are so pretty that I was actually contemplating buying some. I am not a glitter person either! There are also glue bases sold so you can mix up your own homemade glitter glue. There is also a line of various Martha Steward adhesives and glues. The sample projects they show display some finished pieces with glitter and they are lovely (and not tacky).

There are themed things for holidays as well. For example there was a separate display of stamps and glitters geared toward Memorial Day and Independence Day with red, silver and blue as the color scheme.

Some of the things can be used to decorate for a party or to decorate the home. One example are sets of Chinese paper lanterns (some may use them for a party while others may keep them in their home as a decoration). There were other decorations and projects to wrap gifts in, to make fancy wrappings for gifts.

There was a large line of ribbon and a ribbon storage system.

There was also a set of die cutting punches in holiday or seasonal themes and in classic Martha type motifs (maple leaf, oak leaf, etc.).

There was stuff to scrapbook with. Some of the papers were in luscious colors typical of Martha Stewart but unlike the usual stuff available at Michael’s and other craft stores.

I felt the prices on the stamps and die cut punches were lower than the norm for other lines in the same craft store. However Michael’s does not discount this line with their coupon. The coupon for 40% off clearly stated that it was not applicable on the Martha Stewart line.

I was tempted by the low cost of the letter stamps and the number stamps. I may use some of my birthday money received as gifts to buy myself some of the Martha Stewart stamps, the alphabet letters, the numbers, and the other set of bird stamps.

Technorati Tags: , , .

Saturday, May 12, 2007

My Book Review: Artist Trading Card Workshop: Create, Collect, Swap

In December 2006, North Light Books has published a book authored by Bernie Berlin called “Artist Trading Card Workshop: Create, Collect, Swap”.

This book serves to teach techniques for making artist trading cards. Actually the techniques taught in this book can cross over to other mediums such as larger works of art such as larger collages, can be used in altered books, in “decos”, to make postcards to use in mail art and in many other applications.

I have a feeling that due to the legal issues with copyright violations, many techniques and materials currently used by many ATC swappers are NOT covered in this book. I’ve been swapping ATCs for nearly two years and so many of the ATCs I’ve seen do not use these great techniques. While thinking about the ATCs I have seen I realized that many would not be accepted for publication in a book due to copyright violations. Therefore what we have here in this book is largely based on either antique images (photographs) whose copyright has expired or whose source cannot be located to ask for reproduction permission OR the art is completely original to the artist’s hand. There is some rubber stamping in here as well.

Since entering the world of mail art and artist trading card swapping, and being a member of online discussion groups I’ve learned a lot of different techniques yet this book has taught me even more new things. It is not a re-hash of the common techniques that are already available on the Internet for free.

There are many examples of artist trading cards made by a lot of different artists which I really liked. The author does have some of her own wonderful ATCs in this book and the inclusion of so many other artists’ work in addition, is also appreciated and inspiring to me.

Each technique has many examples of the finished ATCs made by different artists. There are directions for each technique as well as photos of the steps in the process. My only complaint is that I was a little confused sometimes as the directions sometimes have two or three steps combined into one paragraph with one photo which shows only one of those steps. I would prefer that every step be separate and that a photo depicted each step. Also sometimes the final card is not shown, we have just that last step with it “in process” to use. It would have been nice to see that finished piece for every technique.

Overall the book has given me a lot of inspiration and ideas just by viewing the finished ATCs of all the contributing artists as well as teaching me so many new techniques. My couple of complaints are minor.

The book is laid out very well and the photography is stunning.

Regarding the style of the artists, it runs the gamut. This book is full of all different colors and many different techniques. It is not the same-old, same-old nor is it full of just the latest trends (thank goodness). At the back of the book is a listing of the contributing artists and their contact information and websites (if applicable). One could spend hours just viewing the websites of these artists and that provides yet more inspiration and eye candy.

The book also has a short history of ATCs and brief information on how to do mail swaps. There is a listing of Internet swapping sites as well. (I would add the new and growing site as my personal recommendation.) There is also a list of resources for supplies and tools for making ATCs.

Since purchasing the book I’ve tried a bunch of these techniques and had a lot of fun trying them out. As with all new experiments, there is some trial and error, some mistakes are made and some lessons are learned, that is all part of the learning curve. I can’t wait to try even more of the techniques and I plan to host some ATC swaps based on the techniques taught in this book.

If you are already trading ATCs and want even more techniques to try or just want to own more eye candy inspiration, this book is a must-buy.

So go play, make some art and have fun! Then go do some mail art swapping and have more fun with that!

Technorati Tags: , , , , .

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Going To Try SoulCollage

Last May with birthday money I bought myself the book “SoulCollage” by Seena B. Frost. (Yes, SoulCollage is one word). I glanced through the book when it arrived but felt confused so shelved it.

About six months ago I read a bit more and still felt confused so shelved it.

Last month I pulled it out and started reading it again. There is something about this book and my brain that was not and is not clicking. I had trouble reading this from the beginning and going in a chronological order. What I then tried was to skip around the book reading a bit from here and a bit from there. I think I am “getting it” a bit more now.

One thing I was confused about is the question is a SoulCollage deck something like a Tarot Card deck for divination purposes? I thought maybe so. However upon reading the book I see the book is also used in Bible study groups and by Christians and therefore it is not some fortune telling or future divination tool. It is more like a way to make visual representations of things in our life or emotions or people who influence us. Then the cards are used in some way to provide opportunities for self-reflection.

The thing I am most confused about at this point is how do we know the cards to make up. For example is there is a list of cards that must be made in order for this to make sense? Should there be a certain number of cards? Are some of the subjects of the cards optional and to be defined by us? Those are the things I still don’t get.

I was thinking of making them more for the collage and to represent parts of myself then to use it for some kind of card game or card reading activity.

In order for the cards to be sturdy and to hold up over time I see that the author recommends we use matboard. They sell precut matboard on the SoulCollage website but at 12 cards for $10 plus shipping that is a bit too steep for me. I wonder if I can buy the matboard at a craft shop and cut it myself. I worry that my paper cutter is not adequate for cutting matboard. Perhaps Michael’s craft store would slice it for me? I need to look into this.

I have a lot of source material, magazines and images already in my home that I can cut up to make these collages with. I have the adhesive already on hand. All I need is the base matboard and I can jump in.

I wish there was a group around here that I could join to make these as a group. The idea of sitting around and chatting and having fun time with friends while doing this sounds great to me. I don’t feel that I understand enough about SoulCollage to start a local group.

I wonder if there is online chat for SoulCollage participants. I am going to check that out now. If there is perhaps they could answer some of my questions.

Technorati Tags: .

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Finished 21 ATCs Today and Did a Lot of Mail Art Swapping

My younger son woke me up this morning at 4:45, jolting me right out of a dream. I couldn't get back to sleep. Then the birds started chirping and the sun was rising, it was quite lovely. However I wanted to sleep but could not. So I got up and made art for a few hours all alone in the kitchen. It was nice to have that time and space to be left alone to just make art.

I finished up some ATCs which were partially done.

I used some pre-prepared backgrounds to make ATCs.

I also used some paper scraps from Swap-bot paper scrap swaps. It was fun working with some hand painted papers that some other members made.

By the time my children woke up I had 21 ATCs done. I then scanned them, made the labels for the backs, put the labels on the backs with acrylic gel medium and let them dry.

Then to the swapping. I logged on to Swap-bot and made print-out's for the swaps that are active. I marked some swaps as sent. I addressed the envelopes and wrote notes for the inside. Later I put the ATCs in the plastic sleeves and packed them into the envelopes, sealed them, used up the last of my 39 cent stamps on them.

I then trekked to the post office in order to mail out another package, too, and dropped all the envelopes into the mail! They are on their way!

As well with what I described above were ATCs and envelope prepping for four swaps that are closing soon. I have everything packed up and ready to go as soon as I know my swap partner's addresses, I can address the envelopes and mail those out.

I also sent off one ATC for a "winner takes all" for one ATC swapping Yahoo Group that I am on. As well I noted by email and in the online database that I did sent it out.

Lastly I did all the prep work to send around a box of second generation and original ATCs for a Yahoo Group which I am on in which we trade our own ATCs with each other in a "box" method as well as trading ATCs that other people made but we want to swap with others. What we do is collect names of people interested in swapping. We then gather 90 ATCs, which is 10 trading card sleeves with 9 ATCs in each one. We then mail this box of 90 ATCs to the people on the list. We can take out what we want and put in either our own ATCs or other people's ATCs. We call these Art Boxes.

So anyhow I set up the list of swappers for that, on my computer. I then marked the online Yahoo Group with the information. Then I mailed that out. This group is for people in the USA only as we use Priority Mail flat rate envelopes with Delivery Confirmation and that is not transferrable to other countries.

Wow, today was a busy art making day and also mail art swapping day.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Tried Using Metal Tape

Here is what I was doing creatively two weeks ago...
Well after hearing about using metal tape for over a year I finally bought some and tried it.

I hate going to Home Depot, but one day two weeks ago I was alone in the town where a Home Depot is and it struck me to just go in and find the darned tape. In the past my husband had said he couldn't find it.

After much walking all around I finally found the plumbing department. This tape is used to seal the ductwork such as in aluminum heating ducts. I found several brands and lengths but they were thin and also not 2.5 inches wide. I wanted to use them to make ATCs with so I needed it to be over 2.5 inches wide. I finally found one brand whose product was just over 2.5 inches wide. It was heavy duty strength for outdoor use. So now I am not quite sure what real life application this is for but I don't care. In any event since it was the only one they had in stock, it happened to be thicker and stronger and also quite long. So this roll cost me about $18.75. (Other smaller rolls that were not wide enough were priced at about $8.50.)

I then went to A.C. Moore to buy an embossing tool. The product was marked on the shelf as being $4.99 but when it rang up it came to $2.99 (without a coupon).

When I got home I immediately tried it out.

I believe I first learned how to use this medium in the book "Metal Craft Workshop".

Basically I took a piece of cardboard sized to that of an ATC and I put the metal tape on it. The back of it has a layer of adhesive on it. I then folded the edges back over it, so the edges have a nice strong metal edge. I used the embossing tool to carve/draw a design into it. To finish it off I decided to use India Ink to darken and 'age' it. I put the India Ink on, let it dry for a minute then lightly buffed it off the top layer. This left the ink inside the embossed areas so the image or design was more visible to the eye.

When my kids saw that I was doing this they had to have at it as well so we all took turns making ATCs (since I only have one embossing tool).

I also tried to color the metal with alcohol ink but it did not work for me, the color was transparent and barely visible. I would like to know a way to color the designs with a color other than black India Ink.

So far I don't have any stellar designs but I had fun playing around with it, as did my children.

I would like to come up with some designs and sit down and make a whole bunch of ATCs to swap out with others.

Copper Tape
I have seen copper tape used to make ATCs and other artwork and jewelry with. On that same day, I went all over the place at Home Depot and could not find it. I also was unable to find anyone who works there to help me. I had also asked my husband to help me find it when he was there in the past, and he could not find it either. The copper tape is a thin width and is perfect, for example, to put as an edging on a domino that has been altered to create a piece of jewelry or a necklace "charm". It can be used in various applications or also to line the edges of an ATC with. I have no clue what it costs. My next plan will be to visit the tiny hardware store in a nearby town that has KNOWLEDABLE employees and see if they have it. I worry that the cost will be high as I think copper can be expensive, plus to buy from that little shop may cost more than what Home Depot would charge. We'll have to see how that pans out.

Technorati Tags: , , , .

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Hand Carved Art Stamps

I have been making more hand carved art stamps.

I had joined a Swap-bot swap for ATCs made with hand carved art stamps.

First I used some rubber blocks which I bought last year on discount but had not yet used.

Then since A.C. Moore and Michael's Craft stores suddenly are carrying lines of hand carved art stamp materials I bought a small block of pink Speedball rubber (about $2.50 after coupon).

I have been doodling my own designs then carving.

I squeeze in this time usually in the evening while watching the one TV show we watch as a family at night.

The other night I snagged 15 minutes right before we were going to do our nighttime routine to stamp out about ten ATCs onto backgrounds which I made long ago.

It feels good to be hand carving stamps again. I have one square left...