Tag Art Template (scroll up and alt-click to download or get PDF – PDF Tag Art Template) Ball point pen Medium weight black marker Black rubber stamping ink Rubber stamps with sentiments Light colored, light weight paper Assorted paper scraps in a selected color scheme – I used neutrals in this demo Clean scrap paper Ruler Bone folder or squeegee Scissors Glue sticks Hole punch String, twine, or embroidery floss
Download my .jpeg graphic Tag Art Template above. If you prefer a PDF file here is a link – PDF Tag Art Template. Print it out onto cardstock if you can, or print it on regular paper and glue it to cardstock for stiffness and durability. Cut around the tags and punch the holes. Now you have a set of tag templates ready to use.
2. Trace the tag shapes onto assorted cardstock pieces. If you have scraps this is a good way to use some up. Cut out the tags close to the lines you drew, but a little outside. That will help you cut a clean edge later.
3. Pick out some light-colored paper that complements your chosen color scheme. Use a ruler as a straight edge to tear the paper into strips. Stamp greetings and sentiments onto the paper pieces with black stamping ink.
4. Place the tags on your work surface with the outlined sides down on clean scrap paper. Glue a sentiment on the front of each tag. Fill in the rest of the tag with paper scraps. Tear them into narrow strips with the ruler if you need to.
5. Trim the tags following the pen line on the back and punch out the holes.
6. Outline the tags with a black sharpie marker
7. Select two or three strands of string, twine or embroidery floss and thread through the holes with a lark’s head knot.
Once you have made the tags, what can you do with them?
Put one on the front of a greeting card.
Decorate a gift package.
Use as a bookmark.
Make a tag book.
Enhance a shadow box.
Incorporate into scrapbook or journal pages.
Make a decorative seasonal garland.
Make motivational notes for yourself.
Create decorative door hangers.
Label bottles or jars.
What else can you think of? Have fun with your tag art!
The work on this page was inspired by the project “Collaborative scribble drawing” in the Expressive Arts Activity Book that I use a lot for study and inspiration (Darley and Heath 60).
Scribble art is a great icebreaker. No artistic talent or skill is needed so it’s easy to get started. If done as art therapy it can also create a rapport between the facilitator and the client by making it into a collaborative activity (Darley and Heath 60). For example, in a two person exercise each person can make a scribble on a blank piece of paper, then the participants trade papers and finish off each others drawings. The initial scribble can even be made with eyes closed to take all the pressure off of having to show artistic skill. Abstract results can also be a way to encourage conversation about something the scribble might remind the participants about (Darley and Heath 60). Following are several examples of scribble art that I made with my husband Tom and my Dad Don.
If you want to try something like these samples, here is a list for tools and materials.
Tools and Materials
Bristol board or drawing paper
Black markers in various widths
Found papers for collage – I used the insides of business envelopes
Tom and I each made a scribble with our eyes closed with black marker on Bristol board. Next we traded papers and used commercial stencils by The Crafter’s Workshop to further develop the designs. Then we finished off our designs by coloring in parts of the image with colored pencils and markers.
Tom’s scribble was a challenge to work with because it was very dense. It did remind me of something – I turned it into moths trapped and tangled to represent trying to overcome some kind of frustration or challenge. This kind of work is not only good for the brain but just from a visual point of view it’s a good way to discover effects you might want to use in other art later on.
These examples were made by my Dad. First I gave him an introduction to Zentangle and doodle art which I wrote about in a previous blog post. He practiced making some repeating textures. Then we each made scribbles on two sheets of drawing paper. We kept our favorite of the two sheets then traded the other. Then we filled the sheets in with textures from our samplers. For extra fun we glued cutouts from the insides of business envelopes into some of the areas in the scribbles. I thought they looked cool with the hand-drawn textures. The tape and tracing paper from the materials list were used along with the pencil to get my collaged paper pieces to fit in their spots on the scribble drawing.
I’m grateful to Dad and and Tom for doing art with me from time to time. I sure do feel a lot less lonely when I get to do a project with somebody. It helps us all with our general well-being and is also a great way to spend time together. When you’re working on art that is mostly mindless, once you get started, it’s easy to talk about various things. It’s also a good activity to do alone when you’re stressed and need to get in a better state of mind. The finished product really isn’t the point if you’re doing it for therapeutic reasons, but I also get skills and inspiration for future art work while I practice.
Works Cited andRecommended Reading
Darley, Suzanne and Wende Heath. “The Expressive Arts Activity Book: A Resource for Professionals”. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2008.
When I was in grade school in the 1970s, I developed an unquenchable doodling habit early on. I covered almost everything in sight with doodles, including my brown paper textbook covers, folders, notebooks and tops of desks – I used pencil on the Formica tops so it would wash off. I thought my habit was harmless and decidedly my own business because I only doodled on my own property or with media that was washable, and I refrained from doodling on homework. I remember that my third grade teacher didn’t agree with that point of view at first and would try to curb my habit by confiscating my implements whenever she saw me doodling away. I don’t think that lasted long. My Mom complained to her about it and gave me extra pens and pencils so I’d always have another one anyway. I was mostly an obedient child but this is one area where I flat out refused to conform. Before too long I was left alone as long as I washed my desk top periodically. That seemed fair to me and all was peaceful from then on.
A popular item I remember from the 1970s was a DoodleArt kit. These were basically sophisticated coloring posters for older kids, teenagers, and adults. The black and white design was Doodled for you and the consumer was meant to color them in with colored markers. As I recall these were sought after items by myself and my peers in the 70s. While shopping at the toy store and the craft store I would drool over them. If I got one for Christmas or a birthday it was a thrill. Here is a link to a vintage DoodleArt kit for sale on Etsy, and I also found an apparently attempted DoodleArt revival on Facebook.
In the present day, many adults once more enjoy adult coloring, similar to actual DoodleArt. Many people like related activities such as art journaling and bullet journaling. Popular Zentangle is a form of meditative pen and ink art where the artist fills in sections of a design with repeating patterns, usually in black pen or marker. Some people add color to their Zentangle designs. Zentangle results do remind me of DoodleArt in a way, though Zentangle practitioners freehand draw their own designs instead of purchasing pre-made coloring pages.
A lot of my art journal pages are somewhat similar to Zentangle, in that I often like to fill in sections with repeating patterns, sometimes hand-drawn, sometimes traced from a stencil. Whenever I put some of my new art journal pages on Pinterest, in the area where you are shown similar pins to your own, a lot of Zentangle art comes up in my feed. I decided just for fun to try Zentangle for real just to learn a variation on what I already like to do. It really scratches that doodling itch that I still have!
There are lots of samples online of fill-in textures that you can draw in your Zentangle designs. I’ve linked to a few on a Pinterest board so you can see samples and get inspiration. After viewing some samples I decided to make a few of my own samplers featuring my own textures inspired by art journal pages I’ve already done. Here are some easy instructions for making your own sampler.
Tools and Materials Drawing paper Ruler Pencil Eraser Selection of fine tip black pens and markers of different diameters Optional – circle template
Some samplers I’ve seen online are works of art in their own right. The ones you see here are not that refined – they are more for practice and developing a vocabulary of textures that reflect my own taste in design. When I’m ready I’ll have lots of choices I can use to make my own version of Zentangle art.
Coloring Idea #2: Rainbow Effect With Gel Pens and Colored Pencils
Sometimes when I do “adult coloring” I have a specific idea that I am trying to explore. At other times, I just want to color without thinking too much – it’s so soothing. Rainbow color gradations are a sure fire way to lift my mood. Here is how to get a fun effect with stencils, gel pens, and colored pencils.
Step 1: Tape a stencil over the design area and outline with a thin, sharp pencil. For this kind of utilitarian marking I really like a mechanical pencil. It’s easy to erase and I don’t have to keep stopping to sharpen it.
Step 2: With the pencil and ruler, draw parallel lines at intervals across the page.
Step 3: Note how the pencil lines you drew divide the design into striped areas. Outline your pencil lines in one gel pen color per stripe in rainbow order. For example, I outlined the first in blue, then blue green, then green, then yellow, continuing through to pink.
Step 4: To make sure the gel pen is dry, lay a clean sheet of scrap paper over your design then burnish with a squeegee or bone folder. Lift the paper and check to see if any of the ink is coming off onto the scrap paper. Repeat if necessary until no ink is transferring.
Step 5: Erase your pencil lines. You probably won’t be able to get all the pencil lines out from under the gel pen ink lines, but the rainbow effect will still come through well enough. If the pencil lines bother you, you could go back in and touch up your work later with opaque gel pen colors, paint markers, permanent markers or the like.
Step 6: Color in gradations in pencil between and around your gel pen lines, maintaining the overall color progression in hues. There is a lot of room for creativity in how to color in this step. I choose to make the pencil colored in areas lighter tints of the hues in the gel pens and keep analagous colors roughly together. Keep experimenting and coloring until you are satisfied with the effect.
The example at the above right is not finished yet. Here are a couple more examples I’m working on of the same idea so you can see the work a little closer.
This is a time-consuming way to color, but sometimes that is just what I want. It requires just enough concentration to distract me from problems I want to forget for awhile, but it’s not so hard to do that I need a lot of energy. Sometimes when you’re in a crisis great ambition isn’t really there. I may or may not leave some of the background white. We’ll see!
Bringing the coloring to Dad in the hospital
I worked on the samples you see in this article and for PART 1 both on the go and at home in order to have samples to show to my Dad. Dad likes to do the #12daysoftomsbeard project and he requested that I bring him some shapes for it to color on at the hospital. I wanted to give him a choice of coloring techniques, so I had samples of each technique ready. I had supplies on hand to cover either choice, but to streamline my supplies I only brought colored pencils as both techniques can be done with colored pencils even though I used colored markers for the first one. Dad chose the stained glass effect from PART 1 – stenciling over patches of background color.
When I brought this project to Dad, he was only a few days past some serious seizures that affected both halves of his body, but especially the left. Dad is left-handed and I was very worried because Dad’s left hand had been in a claw-like position for about a week or more. After the seizures his hand relaxed. I wasn’t sure how much function Dad would have in the hand yet, so I prepared a couple of sheets of shapes in advance for us to color, one for me to demonstrate on and one for him. I taped the shapes to scrap chipboard pieces so they wouldn’t slide around while being colored. I also brought some shapes that still needed to be cut out so that Dad could cut some if he was able.
I showed Dad an overview of what we were going to do, then I offered him a chance to try cutting some shapes. He did a great job on them – with a right-handed scissors no less! I was overjoyed and a bit teary-eyed to see him doing so well. I told him this is what I want for Christmas – to see you able to do this! It seemed like a miracle compared to how he was just a few days before. For awhile I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to ever talk with him again, much less do art together!
I suggested some color schemes for Dad – primary colors, secondary colors, and analagous colors. It wasn’t critical that the pieces be of any particular color scheme, but when I teach a project, if I can I like to include some useful art information. I’m not a trained art therapist but I am a trained artist so I can legitimately call these activities “educational” even if I can’t officially call them “art therapy” (Darley and Heath).
I got some colored pencils out for him to cover each scheme, and let him pick from among them. Instead of covering the whole background like I did on mine, he mostly drew small shapes all over the background without covering it all the way. And instead of coloring in the negative spaces between stencil markings, he put numbers on his tags, numbers 1-11 to go along with the #12daysoftomsbeard. He was short one tag, so I’ll make a #12 later when we get to that.
In this kind of project, expressive arts for therapeutic purposes, the process is far more important than the finished results (Darley and Heath). There is no reason to try to change what Dad wanted to do if it varied from my samples. Dad has always been creative – I was so glad to see that ability is still there!
Here I am drawing stencil lines over the colored in shapes before filling in the negative spaces with black permanent marker. The main difference between coloring over marker vs. colored pencil is that the colored pencil creates a slightly waxy surface which might resist the marker at first. To help with this, I outlined the black areas in gel pen before filling in with a black Sharpie marker. The gel pen sticks better to the colored pencil and once the outlining is done then it’s not hard to fill in with the Sharpie.
I have started embellishing some of the pieces that we colored with punched paper pieces, glued-on sequins and little dots of squeeze paint to go along with the stenciling.
When #12daysoftomsbeard starts on December 25, we’ll have a good selection of items to display on the beard. Hopefully people will send us more parts as a challenge to incorporate each day. The first year we did this activity, in 2019, I started out by clipping little pieces of paper to Tom’s beard with tiny clothespins. To keep things interesting, we’ve been gradually elaborating by making little garlands, involving Tom’s glasses, adding found objects and props, incorporating parts of the background, using far-out creative filters and more.
What will happen?
Above is a commemorative artistamp sheet I made to show off some of my favorite beard pictures from the first three years we did this project.
Works Cited andRecommended Reading
Darley, Suzanne and Wende Heath. “The Expressive Arts Activity Book: A Resource for Professionals”. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2008.
The 2022-23 Holiday season for many people is probably going to be the closest they’ve had for awhile to normal patterns of celebrating. My Dad and I have made some attempts to join in this year, but to be realistic most of our energy has been absorbed by the effort to get and stay healthy. My Dad has been having some medical issues since mid-October and I’ve been staying with him frequently at his house and visiting him him a lot in the hospital. Except for the past week – I just took a week off because I seem to have been hit by a flu-like illness (not COVID, I took the test!). I’m on the mend now. Dad has been taken care of during this time at a rehab hospital and will be coming home later this week if all goes as planned.
When he’s discharged, I’ll be providing some care he’ll need for about three weeks. I’m not sure how much either of us is going to be able to attend holiday activities in person. We will probably have to sit a lot of it out. But we will try to keep in touch online!
The annual project #12daysoftomsbeard is one that my husband Tom and I have been doing every year at Christmas time. It’s a way of combining crafts, installation art, photography, mail art, digital art and conceptual art into a holiday celebration for us and our friends and family and anyone else who wants to join in. From December 25 through January 6th he poses for me with different items in his beard and I apply wacky filter effects then upload the results to Instagram. We invite people to send in pieces to use in the beard. My Dad in particular really enjoys this activity and he wanted to work on some beard parts while he was in the hospital. I’ll show you how we combined stenciling and coloring to make a bunch of pieces to use in Tom’s beard during the 2022-23 Christmas season. I’m going to try to make an extra big deal out of it this year for my Dad and myself because we are going to miss out on most other holiday activities this year.
If you want more background information on #12daysoftomsbeard before reading on, here are a couple of my earlier blog articles about it.
Tools and Supplies Beard printouts – scroll to bottom of the page for links to 6 graphic files to download and print Cardstock and chipboard Pencil and eraser Ruler Black permanent markers Black gel pens Colored pencils Colored markers Painter’s tape Stencils and/or cookie cutters Scissors Hole punch Scrap paper for covering work surface Glue stick Squeegee tool or bone folder
Optional for Embellishments Sequins Glue Squeeze paint
Coloring Idea #1 – Stenciling Over Colored Markers
Scribbling some colored backgrounds is an easy way to make vibrant backgrounds for stencil art. By filling in the negative spaces with black marker, you can create an attractive faux stained glass effect.
Step 1 – Color in the background with markers in random patches to make something similar to camouflage patterns
Step 2 – Tape a stencil over part of the work area and outline in black gel pen, black fine tip marker or black fine tip pen.
Step 3 – Repeat with different stencils until the whole design area is filled with outlines.
Step 4 – Color the negative spaces in with black marker.
Step 5 – With a glue stick, paste paper pieces to chipboard or cardstock and cut out.
Step 6 – If needed, touch up the edges with black marker to make a neat edge.
Stay tuned for PART 2: Rainbow Effect With Gel Pens and Colored Pencils.
This is going to be another one of those blog posts of mine that will be updated periodically as I work on and document a project. I have to move and rehome some aquariums that I’ve had set up in my condo for many years. I am donating some of my aquariums to schools and/or nonprofit organizations to make room for me to rehab my condo because it has mold damage from the upstairs neighbor having a serious water leak this past August.
The main way I’ve been using my aquariums over the last few years is to over winter plants and animals from my pond and the small water garden I kept before I had a pond. I need a place for the animals and plants from my aquariums to stay while I’m working on moving them. I’m currently staying with my Dad at his house because last week he had surgery and he needs some extra help for awhile. While I’m here, I’m reviving the aquarium I set up many years ago for my late brother. It’s been empty and dry for awhile, but I’m going to bring it back to life to make space for the plants and animals while I do my moving and setup tasks.
It takes time to set up a new aquarium and make it safe and healthy for aquarium life. If this is something you want to try, follow me as I set up a new aquarium, or two, or three so you can see how it’s done. Allow yourself about 30 days from the time you fill up the tank with water to the day you add the fish. You are almost guaranteed success if you follow my steps – they are based on decades of experience.
While I’m working on documenting my process from beginning to end, you might also enjoy an older article I wrote that includes information that can be applied to all fresh water aquarium keeping. READ: Create an Indoor Water Garden
Also here is an article I wrote about water quality in ponds. Even though the scale is different, concepts about nutrients in the water and types of filtration are basically the same. Reading it should give you a good overview about the topic of water quality. READ: Help – My Pond is Full of Algae!
How to start up a freshwater aquarium
Tools and materials needed: Aquarium Aquarium stand Aquarium gravel Aquarium filter Aquarium lid Filter Filter medium 2 large aquarium safe buckets Thermometer Lava Rock
Options: Aquarium heater Aquarium safe silicone sealer Air pump Air tubing Bubble wall Activated charcoal Ammonia test kit PH test kit
1. Test the aquarium, used or new, for leaks. Place it outside or on a basement floor that can get wet near a drain. Make sure it’s on a hard, level surface. The water will be very heavy when the tank is full so the surface must be level in order not to damage the tank. You can temporarily place it on it’s stand if you’re using one.
Check the aquarium in a day or so to make sure all seams are dry. If it’s free of leaks, empty the water out and proceed to Step 2. DO NOT move the tank with any water in it. If there are leaks, get some aquarium safe silicone sealer to patch the leaks after thoroughly drying the area you are patching. Follow the directions on the silicone sealer packaging about curing times and such.
2. Place the aquarium on the stand in the spot you have chosen. If all goes well, this aquarium will sit in this spot for many months or years so take some care in where you place it. Near an electrical outlet is convenient for running your equipment such as lights and filters. Near a window is usually not recommended because the excess light might cause algae growth. However if you are growing plants with a high light requirement, you might prefer to put it by a window. If you do get algae, it’s annoying but not the end of the world, I’ll tell you how to fight it later.
It’s best to use a designated aquarium stand unless you are placing it on a sturdy piece of furniture that you are certain will hold the weight. In my example I’m using our old buffet which has held 30 gallon aquariums in the past for many years, so I know it will take the weight safely.
3. Add aquarium gravel. The safest gravel to use is pre-packaged and intended specifically for aquariums. Rinse the gravel before adding to get any dust particles out.
Add only enough gravel to barely cover the bottom – deeper gravel will be harder to keep clean.
4. Fill the aquarium with tap water.
Once the aquarium is filled with water, we have to take some steps to make it ready for aquatic life.
Remove Chlorine and Chloramines
It’s important for the water to be agitated a little bit so that gases can exchange at the surface, except for the few special cases where certain plants and animals prefer very still water. Oxygen needs to get into the water, and toxic gases need to get out. If your filter agitates the water enough, you don’t really need to add an additional device for making bubbles. On the other hand, I think bubbles are so beautiful that I’m happy to go through the extra trouble and expense to add them.
If you have chosen a type of filter that uses an air pump, if the pump is strong enough you might be able to add a valve and bleed off some of the air to divert to a bubbler device. You can also just get another small air pump to run the bubbler.
What are some examples of a bubbler, also called an aerator or airstone? There are wands, molded stones, and porous tubing in various sizes and shapes you can choose from. This picture shows a couple of different kinds that I’m using right now. To prevent crumbling, soak air stones in water for 24 hours before running air through them.
Do you need to worry about PH?
It’s far easier to just choose plants and animals that like your water conditions than to try to use chemicals to manipulate the PH. If you get plants and animals from clubs or other hobbyists in the area using the same tap water and they don’t manipulate their PH, then you don’t have to worry about it. I haven’t tested my water for years – because I keep just a few species that I know can live in our water, it isn’t necessary.
Whatever plants and animals you end up adding to your aquarium, find out if they have any special temperature or PH needs before you get them. Then you can be sure to group plants and animals together that like the same conditions. Then if there is a need to alter your PH you’ll be prepared. There are test kits and chemicals available at pet supply stores to help you monitor and change the PH if necessary.
TO BE CONTINUED…
AquariumPlant Species Profiles
Anubias – Araceae I have a few of these that I got from an aquarium store in the 2010s. They have very low light requirements and grow slowly.
Coontail – Ceratophyllum demersum This grows well for me in both my pond and in aquariums with good lighting. I left some in my pond over last winter and it survived with a small heater keeping a hole in the ice and keeping the water from freezing over completely.
Egeria, Elodea and Hydrilla look very similar. They live mostly submerged but flower just above the water surface.
Brazilian Waterweed – Egeria densa This grows well for me in both my pond and in aquariums with good lighting. I left some in my pond over last winter and it survived with a small heater keeping a hole in the ice and keeping the water from freezing over completely. I found my original specimens in Missouri in the Current River.
Canadian Pondweed – Elodea canadensis Native to North America but has been introduced to other continents (Perry 85). A perennial commonly sold in pet stores for aquariums, also known as Anachris. Needs a lot of sun. (Atkinson and Mathison 53).
Hydrilla verticillata – looks very similar to and is related to Elodea (Perry 88). I don’t think it’s as pretty as Elodea and Egeria, because the leaves are more sparse making it look more leggy.
Duckweed – Lemna I grow two sizes in my ponds and aquariums, Lemna minor and Lemna major. They are very beautiful grown separately, together, or with other floating water plants such as Azolla. The different sizes, colors and textures can be stunning when allowed to grow naturally in a patchwork fashion. If grown you must take care not to let it blanket the water surface completely or it might interfere with the gas exchange at the surface and cause a damaging lack of oxygen in the water. If you need to remove excess duckweed, that is a bit of extra maintenance you have to do, but there is a bonus – the tiny plants make excellent feed for vegetable-eating animals, or it could be a very nutritious addition to your compost or worm bin.
Water Fern – Azolla
Water Hyacinth – Eichhornia crassipes
Arrowhead – Sagittaria
Creeping Jenny – Lysimachia nummularia I have the gold leaved variety ‘Aurea’ which is a gorgeous lime green color. This is a truly amazing plant. It will grow in regular garden soil as long as it gets enough moisture. I first bought it because I saw it being used a lot as ground cover when I went on a house tour. I fell in love and got some. It makes an excellent aquarium plant too if you can give it enough light and grow it in an emerging situation such as on a waterfall or in a refugium or bog setup. It does fabulously well in the shallow, rocky, “stream” portion of my outdoor water garden too. It looks beautiful trailing out of containers.
Papyrus – Cyperus papyrus I bought two Papyrus plants at the beginning of this past summer to put in the “river” portion of my pond. The grower calls one “Prince Tut” and the larger one “King Tut”.
Parrot Feather – Myriophyllum
Pondweed – Potamogeton
Works Cited and Further Reading on Indoor Freshwater Aquariumsand Other Indoor Growing Situations
Bailey, Tom and Nevin. “Pet Fish Talk.” Pet Fish Talk, 2002-2022, web.archive.org/web/20220522003017/https://petfishtalk.com/. Accessed 28 October 2022.
Boruchowitz, David E. The Simple Guide to Freshwater Aquariums. T.F.H. Publications, Inc., 2001.
Brackney, Susan M. The Insatiable Gardener’s Guide: How to Grow Anything & Everything Indoors, Year ‘Round. Five Hearts Press. 2003.
“Field Guide.” Missouri Department of Conservation, 2022, mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide. Accessed 27 October 2022.
Julian, T.W. The Dell Encyclopedia of Tropical Fish. Dell Publishing Co., Inc. 1974.
“Plant Directory.” University of Florida / IFAS / Center for Aquatic & Invasive Plants, 2022, plants.ifas.ufl.edu/plant-directory/. Accessed 27 October 2022.
Sakurai, Atsushi, Yohei Sakamoto and Fumitoshi Mori. Aquarium Fish Of The World: The Comprehensive Guide to 650 Species. Chronicle Books. 1993.
Van Patten, George. Gardening Indoors: the Indoor Gardener’s Bible. Van Patten Publishing. 2002.
Windelov, Holder and Jiri Stodola. Aquarium Plants: A Complete Introduction. T.F.H. Publications, Inc. 1987.
Works Cited and Further Reading on Outdoor Water Features and Water Gardening
“Aquatic Plants.” Chalily, 2022, www.chalily.com/product-category/aquatic-plants/. Accessed 28 October 2022.
Art, Henry W. A Garden of Wildflowers: 10 Native Species and How to Grow Them. Storey Communications, Inc., 1986.
Atkinson, Susan and Suzanne Normand Mathison, Editors. Garden Pools Fountains & Waterfalls. Sunset Publishing Corp. 1989, 1974, 1965.
I fell down the stairs and bent my foot the wrong way. I might have two broken toes, I realize it could have been a lot worse. The pain is way down today so my head is more clear and I can actually write something! I don’t have to spend 100% of my time off of my foot until I have a follow up appointment with an orthopedic doctor, but I will have to spend the majority of my time with it elevated, at least for awhile. Not sure for how long, but in the meantime I’m taking the opportunity to study my art therapy book and my horticultural therapy books to see if there is anything I can do to cope better with the fear and frustration of being temporarily unable to move around much. I’d also like to help my stressed out family cope with helping me with my injury while dealing with other severe recent losses. What can I learn while I study and try things out?
Having Some Fun With Negative Space
I started out by working on some collages I began during #virtualartparty number 4, an online session my husband and I hosted to help our friends and family do a little art and hopefully feel less lonely during the pandemic. I’ll write more about the collages later, but for now I want to write about the leftover cut away paper pieces I was dropping in the waste basket to be composted. The shapes were interesting, and reminded me of something. What was it? Why were these scraps interesting? Then I remembered this really cool architecture photo I had put on an Architecture Pinterest board. And some sketches I’d done for a ceramics class in the spring of 1990. Good memories of one of those times when I couldn’t stop the ideas from coming, and a pretty good percentage of them still seem exciting to me.
What I was noticing was the shapes made by the negative space – the parts I cut away – and how they reminded me of positive and negative shapes that I responded strongly to. I took the most interesting white paper scraps back out of the waste basket and glued them down on black paper. I scanned them into the computer to make these positive and negative images to see if they inspired me to make something with them.
Using Photoshop, I made selection outlines out of the white shapes, stroked them in black, and printed out the results as coloring pages so I can try to encourage myself and other people to enjoy the benefits of coloring and art making. There is enough going on to get people started – sometimes a blank page is intimidating if people don’t know what to draw or color – that’s a tip I learned long ago in Drawing 1. There is still room for individual creativity in these and other coloring pages I’ve made available for free download.
The shapes that resulted from the paper cutting do somewhat resemble natural forms, but the overall design so far is abstract. Is abstract art good for therapeutic purposes?
I often encourage people to try making some abstract art in a project that is relatively low stakes such as an art journal page, because my reasoning has been that many untrained artists are afraid that they can’t draw and therefore are discouraged from making art that attempts to be representational. If I can show them how to make art from found papers and found objects, maybe that will help them become less inhibited and just have fun.
My favorite kind of art is abstract and if need be I can keep myself entertained with shapes, colors, textures and lines for hours if not days on end. Even if I think it’s fascinating and fun, abstract art is likely going to be a hard sell for most people. Those who appreciate abstract art the most are often art and design professionals or people very knowledgeable about art, such as patrons or collectors. The general population is mostly not that big of a fan and prefers recognizable nature-based images (Marcus and Sachs 15). We know from reactions to modern art and modern public sculpture how wide the gulf can be between the tastes of art and design professionals and the general public. If this sounds elitist, it’s not meant to be, it’s just a fact pointed out in a therapy book to help practitioners offer projects that are most helpful to the patient (Marcus and Sachs 15).
Abstract art isn’t necessarily therapeutic to people with certain conditions or states of mind. Experiments on physically or emotionally stressed patients revealed not only an affinity toward nature imagery but hostility to abstract art – even to the point of attacking the abstract pieces in some cases. The same artwork often prompted positive reactions from the staff, showing how the varying states of mind of individuals influenced how the artwork was perceived (Marcus and Sachs 30-31).
Practitioners intending to use art to facilitate health should keep the client’s needs in mind above their own personal tastes (Marcus and Sachs 15). Stress is detrimental to healing, both mentally and physically (Marcus and Sachs 25), so the last thing I would want to do is add to someone’s stress if I was trying to help them.
What could I add to my abstract background to make a project that is more soothing to the general public? My project is aimed at people who want to color but don’t necessarily want to draw. I have several stencils in my collection with botanical imagery that will appeal to the universal human need for nature-based imagery. I can use colors that are soothing and also found in nature. I chose blues and greens for this demo because hot colors might aggravate certain conditions and interfere with wellness (Winterbottom and Wagenfeld 182).
Art Journal Page
Here is an art journal page I made with one of my abstract printouts and a botanical themed stencil.
Marcus, Clare Cooper and Naomi A. Sachs. Therapeutic Landscapes: An Evidence-Based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces. Wiley, 2014.
Winterbottom, Daniel and Amy Wagenfeld. Therapeutic Gardens: Design for Healing Spaces. Timber Press, 2015.
I made this mask pattern about a year and a half ago so that I could make my own masks with fabrics that I liked. I meant to publish it eventually, but so many people had put mask patterns out there online I figured there was no need for another one. But now the pandemic has gone on long enough that I’m getting tired of the fabrics on my original batch of masks so I decided to make some new ones. I figured if I was sick of my masks, others might be tired of theirs too and might want to try out a new pattern. So here it is!
2. Trim around the outside edge of the template so that the paper edge ends at the 9 x 8 inch border. 3. Use an awl or large needle to poke holes through the four x’s that indicate where to attach the elastic, and where the two vertical lines intersect the border toward the bottom of the template. The two bottom holes indicate where to leave an opening for turning the mask inside out. 4.Out of scrap chipboard, cut out a 9 x 8 inch piece and an 8 x 7 inch piece. The larger piece is an aid for drawing a line to cut out your fabric, and the smaller piece is for drawing the seam.
Cut out and mark the fabric: 1. Place the 9×8 inch piece of cardstock on the reverse side of the piece of fabric you want for the front of your mask. Draw around with washable fabric marker and cut out a 9 x 8 piece of fabric. Repeat for the piece of fabric you want for the back of your mask. This pattern makes a reversible mask, so you can choose two interesting pieces of fabric, or a plainer fabric for the back if you choose. 2. On the back side of either your front or back fabric, whichever would show the marker better, lay the 7 x 8 inch piece of chipboard in the middle of the cutout fabric and trace around it with your washable fabric marker to indicate the seam line to follow.
3. Center the printed template over the fabric and make dots with the marker where you previously poked the holes. Lift the template and draw on the x’s and two vertical lines with marker.
Assemble the mask: 1.Cut out two pieces of elastic long enough to fit around your ears and hold the mask on your head. The length of elastic needed will vary by the size of your head. You can pin elastic in place to test what length you will need.
2. Lay one of the fabric pieces good side up on your work surface and place the elastic pieces so that they overlap the fabric and the ends line up with the x’s you drew on your fabric.
3. Lay the other piece of fabric good side down over the first piece and pin together.
4. Start at one of the vertical lines at the bottom indicating the opening, and start sewing along the seam line away from the opening, leaving that section open for the time being. Trim extra fabric away from the corners as shown.
5. Turn the mask inside out and pin the opening closed. Whip stitch it shut from the outside.
6. Fold the mask to make pleats as shown, pin, then sew the ends of the pleats in place. You’re done!
My Dad and I are making Thank You cards following the funerals of my uncle Dave and brother Larry. Tom helped a lot too with the gluing. I’m feeling the effects that a lot of people feel after serious grief and trauma: disrupted sleep, fatigue, brain fog, joint pain, muscle pain, etc. These symptoms are normal for some people after trauma and severe stress, apparently, but of course make everyday functioning relatively difficult for a time. A bike ride on Sunday with friends helped a lot. I asked Tom to be my coach and help encourage me to do the ride. He pumped up the bike tires and pumped me up emotionally and took a hot epsom salt bath with me before we got dressed for the ride to help loosen up my stiff and sore body. With that I didn’t need any pain meds like ibuprofen which I had taken from time to time the previous week. He helped me break through a big barrier and function better. I was really discouraged and scared by how sore I was and how bad I felt. I’m very grateful to have a loving husband to help me get over some rough spots and build on little victories to gradually improve over time. This is extremely hard even with help. I hope and pray that people out there who need support can get it from somewhere. As I find grieving and mental health resources online I’ll keep adding them to my self care Pinterest board.
In the meantime, Dad and I are extending the effort to make cards because we have abundant supplies on hand we enjoy using and we find the activity healing and therapeutic. But with not feeling terribly well I had to come up with a card design that was relatively simple so that we would not tax ourselves beyond our current abilities to make them. They are just challenging enough to force us to concentrate a bit but not so hard we want to give up in frustration. I have to take a lot of breaks, but I’m not giving up! Of course if you want to make your own similar cards you could use any suitable sentiment in place of “Thank You” to fit any message you want to send.
Supplies You’ll Need
Blank cards with envelopes – Dad had a whole bunch of envelopes in different sizes already on hand, so we cut plain white paper to the envelope width and folded the pieces in half to fit. If you prefer, you can buy blank cards with matching envelopes at craft stores.
Assorted papers in light, neutral colors for the two largest areas on the card, with subtle patterns on them. The design on the paper should be light enough to stamp on in medium to dark colors.
Assorted papers in more contrasting neutral colors and patterns for the narrow stripe on the front of each card.
Rubber stamping ink in a “harvest gold” color, a taupe color, and black.
Clean scrap paper to help with gluing
Optional – interesting die cuts, design tape (also known a paper tape or washi tape) and stickers for extra interest
Tools You’ll Need
Metal ruler for tearing paper
Squeegee, bone folder or burnishing tool
Rubber stamps. My friend Kate recently gave me a large collection of pre-owned stamps. I will gradually be offering some for sale in my online shop as I have time to get them listed. I did set aside some of my favorites to keep for my own collection (of course). To start out my Dad and I selected for these cards two Thank You stamps, two postage related designs, and three wildflower silhouette stamps. Unfortunately I’m not selling the exact stamps I used in this card because I really love them and there were no duplicates in the pre-owned collection Kate gave me, but you can use similar stamps in their place.
Glue a narrow strip of paper that is from the higher-contrast selections about 1/3 from either the left or right from the side of the card.
2. Cut and tear out pieces of paper in light neutral colors with subtle background patterns and glue them to the fronts of the cards on either side of the strip you glued down previously. I tore the edges that overlap the central stripes for visual interest. On some of the cards I added some stickers and design tape for a little extra interest if I thought it was needed. As you’ll see in the final graphic featuring variations on the original design, I added some hexagon die cuts I had made some time ago. When I was designing the prototype card, I asked Dad to pick out stamps he liked from my collection, and he also took out these hexagons, so I looked for ways to use a few and I liked them on some of the cards. Trim the paper to the edges of the card front when done gluing.
3. Stamp three flower stamps on the wider background side of the card in harvest gold or similar ink color. My Dad switched to a red-brown ink later in the process which also looked very good.
4. Stamp a Thank You stamp in black, and if you think the card needs a little more interest, stamp postage related designs or some other accent stamps of your choice in a taupe ink color as in my example at the top of this article. You might decide your card needs more or less done to it depending on what background papers you choose. See the graphic below for a bunch of variations that we made.
With more time and energy, I probably would have created a card that uses stamps that I actually sell, some of which I designed. For now the important thing was to make something nice that is also fast and easy. But if you want to browse my collection of stamps in my Etsy shop here it is: Stamping
Sometimes I find and save advertising materials printed on nice paper. I might like part of the imagery, or be attracted to the weight and feel of the paper, or both. It’s sometimes less intimidating to start an art journal page on paper that already has something on it than a blank piece of paper. In this article I’ll show you two ways to creatively alter found papers with text on them.
Tools and Materials Assorted found papers and scrap papers Clean scrap paper Stencils Markers and other drawing and coloring implements of choice Painter’s tape or masking tape Scissors Glue stick Burnishing tool
First, select a piece of paper with text on it, and a stencil. Tape the stencil in place over the text. Using the marking implement of your choice, outline the openings in the stencil only in the spots where there is text to cover.
This results in an interesting effect. The text turns into a texture rather than something you read, and the resulting graphic effect might suggest what to do next to finish the composition. You might decide to color in some or all of the outlines you just traced over the text.
In the example above, since I’ve used permanent black Sharpie markers, I can use almost any medium I want to add color if I want to.
There is no need to restrict yourself to using a black marker. My brother got off to a very good start on this page. He took advantage of the pale text to use colored Sharpie markers. If he wants to work on this page more it has a lot of potential. Note: my brother died about three weeks after making this page. I don’t know if I’m going to add to it or keep it as is, but it’s in my art journal.
I have a real weakness for amoeba shapes and any graphics that suggest mid-century modern imagery. I cut these blocks of text from a magazine because of the pretty shapes and colors backing some of the text.
The article I took these cutouts from was about work-life balance. There are some words in these paragraphs that would be good to have in my art journal, which I use as a self-care tool as well as for creative expression. I covered up the words I didn’t want to see with strips of scrap paper and left exposed the words I did want to see. When the glue was dry enough to handle, I trimmed the shapes. Toward the end, I got tired of gluing paper strips and for the last few lines I wanted to cover, I used a yellow opaque paint marker to finish off these pieces.
Some people compose prose or poetry this way, by removing words instead of writing them to make new compositions. In this sample I was mainly interested in making a visual statement, and I treated the words as random elements. But if you wanted to, you could make a carefully considered visual AND literary statement by selectively covering words.
Here is a two-page spread using both techniques from this article together. I think these two pages are almost complete. I’ll think about them for awhile before doing anything else to them, if I decide they need more.
It helps that these two found pages here were already strong graphically, which was part of the reason why I was attracted to them in the first place.
Following are more art journal pages that I started by selectively covering text. Enjoy!