My current class in graduate school and other projects are pretty demanding right now, so I don’t have a lot of time to make new art. I do still enjoy looking at some of my old art from time to time. Here is a collage I made for my old ‘zine the Lime Green News #16, circa 1996-1997. It’s a tribute to the Beatles Anthology album covers, designed by Klaus Voorman. I was inspired by the use of torn images and how they can strategically reveal what’s underneath. On the Anthology 1 album cover, Voorman ripped out the head of Pete Best to reveal Ringo’s face underneath to “replace” him. This was a mean but clever technique so I did the same thing in my collage in approximately the same spot to enhance my “homage”, only I replaced John with John. If you want to see the Anthology 1 cover and the clever use of the torn out part on a Pete Best album cover, here is a link to an analysis – “The Beatles Anthology 1 Album Cover Cropped Out Original Drummer Pete Best”.
I made the above collage in the year between getting a computer with a black and white laser printer that would print up to 300 ppi, and taking my first class in Adobe Photoshop. At the time I was enjoying the novelty of being able to print out pictures to use in collages instead of just finding images. I printed out pictures of the Beatles that I found online, and printed out a bunch of clip art that I liked, and used those printouts to build the collage. A lot of the clip art came from my Corel Draw clip art library. How I used to love to pore over the printed book that came with it to get ideas!
The black and white laser printer was a major step forward in the production quality of my ‘zine, even though by today’s standards it was still very primitive. It wasn’t until much later than I learned software like Publisher and InDesign to help me produce professional quality booklets. At the time of this image I was still following my old practice of printing out text on a printer and cutting and pasting the text among collaged elements. With the text coming from a laser printer instead of a Commodore 64 with a dot-matrix printer, it looked better and was a lot easier to read.
With access to what seemed like unlimited clip art and display fonts, I had tons of fun transitioning from low to high tech. For my ‘zine and collages, I printed elements for headers and body text along with images. Then in 1997, I learned Photoshop and how to make web pages, and that changed everything! But I still enjoy the old methods too and I like to make collages out of whatever is there, whenever I get a chance.
2. With some light colored markers or colored pencils, color around the outside edge of the faux stamp sheet and inside some of the open areas inside the stamps.
3. If you own any rubber stamps with postal type words or sayings on them, get them out and stamp them on some white or light colored paper to make parts to collage onto your stamp designs.
4. Tear or cut the words out and glue one onto each rectangle.
5. Take some border stamps and stamp them in black ink around the composition to make a border. I used some fairly bold stamps because the black rectangles in the original printout are pretty bold and dark so a strong border will help balance the whole composition.
6. Add some color with other rubber stamps from your collection. I’m currently working on Christmas cards and party invitations so I used some rubber stamps that would fit into use on those kinds of items – either on the actual card or on the envelope.
7. When I make a stamp sheet like this that is designed to be viewed as a whole composition as well as single stamps, I take the original and get color copies made of it. Then I cut out individual stamps from the color copies to use on other projects and keep the original to display intact.
Faux postage is a really fun mixed media project to make because it’s relatively non-threatening to create tiny works of art in a format that everyone is familiar with. There are lots of craft products you can buy that make it easier to make artwork that looks like postage stamps. A long time ago I designed some rubber stamps for this purpose and some of them are currently for sale in my Etsy shop. You can make this project with any other small stamps that you own also and a selection of paper crafting supplies. Enjoy!
1. Download and print out the two-page PDF file Low Tech Faux Postage. You’ll use the first page for Part 1.
2. Cut out some paper rectangles that are 1 3/4 inches tall and 1 3/8 inches wide from dark paper. You will need at least 16 rectangles.
3. Trim the edges with a paper edging scissors and arrange on your Low Tech Faux Postage sheet Page 1. You can think of your sheet as one composition made up of 16 tiny compositions if that helps you to get ideas. Glue down your trimmed paper rectangles.
4. Use a 1″ square paper punch and start by punching out one square for each rectangle from a selection of random scrap papers. Arrange until you are satisfied. If you have similar sized paper punches in other shapes such as circles, feel free to try them out. As you look through your scrap papers, you might get inspired to cut out other shapes. If you are moved to do so, go ahead and cut out whatever you like and glue down on your sheet without worrying about whether or not you’re “inside the lines”.
5. Take some tiny rubber stamps with words, phrases, numbers or symbols that have to do with philatelic stuff like stamps or cancellations. Stamp them in permanent black ink on light colored pieces of scrap paper. When the ink is dry enough to handle, cut or tear out what you have stamped.
6. Glue the torn or cut pieces to the collage work you’ve already done to help make each rectangle suggest a postal stamp design.
7. Continue to add embellishments to your stamps until you think they look finished. Here are some suggestions for what you can add:
More cut collage papers, found or commercial
Drawing – paint and gel markers are interesting choices to experiment with because you can write with them on slick surfaces and sometimes dark backgrounds as well
Stenciling Image transfers
8. When your stamp sheet is done, you can frame the whole thing to display it, cut apart your stamps to make tiny artworks, make color copies then cut apart the color copies, or put the whole thing in an art journal. Your imagination is the only limit and the most important thing is to have fun!
Many years ago, as one of my Mail Art projects, I used to fold two-inch wide pieces of paper into little accordion books and decorate them with rubber stamps and pieces of paper that I cut out from incoming Mail Art and decorated envelopes. I carved a rubber stamp with a little graphic of a Mail Box and the words “Bits of Mail” to stamp on the little book covers. Before sending them out, I dated and numbered them on the back. I saved one example for my archives and made a few color copies to use later as collage inspirations. While I was getting the color copies made, it came up in conversation with the copy center worker that one of the black and white machines had red toner in it. I made a lot of copies with the red toner because I knew I’d find uses for the copies later!
Some of my old collage papers along with my Mail Archives had been in storage unseen for 20 years or more. I’ve been getting some of them out lately as I move stuff. With fresh eyes, I’m getting some new ideas and inspiration for improving old ideas. I decided to take these old copies and make new versions of the mini accordion books.
First I cut up the copies that weren’t already in strips into two inch wide pieces, the same size as the originals. Then I folded them and glued one red ink copy to one color copy back to back to make longer books.
I had a large paper crafting stash by 1998 already because I started making collages in 1985 in my first college design class and I’ve been collecting interesting papers for collages ever since. In the intervening years, there are a lot more paper crafting supplies available and some of them are a lot more to my taste than what was available in the late 1990s. Back in the day I would have said I was a “weird” stamper not a “cute” stamper. I also enjoy sophisticated antique imagery and have a lot of papers from two of my favorite brands, Tim Holtz and 7 Gypsies, in my stash. I decided that the Tim Holtz idea-ology Correspondence paper pad was a good fit for this project and I glued some of the postal themed textures onto a selection of the blank pages of my books. The dominant colors in this series are red white and blue which looks good with the red toner ink on some of my papers and the postal motifs fit the “Bits of Mail” theme.
Next I went through I box of paper scraps that I keep for teaching a card class that I run from time to time on how to make greeting cards from little scraps, rubber stamps and stencils. I took out a selection of papers that I thought would make good backgrounds and glued them in a random fashion to every other page, leaving some blank.
There is an old trick that I learned in drawing class long ago to help get unstuck if you are facing a blank piece of paper with no ideas – draw a quick frame around your drawing area before you start. This helps because it’s less daunting to start drawing on a paper that you’ve made some marks on than a blank surface. I get the same creative boost from using scrap papers for perhaps a similar reason – there is already some content there, however sparse and random, and that is often all I need to get me going in a creative direction.
The little accordion books I’ve made are pictured above ready to add content. What kind of content would that be? There are lots of things I could do with these little books. I could write, draw, stamp or paste in words and/or images to make a finished artistic statement. I could use them as a storage and display folio for tiny works of art such as postage stamps, faux postage stamps or tiny photos and images. I could send them off into the Mail Art network as an “add and pass on” project. What would you make?
For additional inspiration, here are some samples of tiny books made by other people that I’ve received through the mail over the years. People of any age and ability level can make tiny books. Why not try one?
I’ve been out of the Mail Art and ‘Zine scenes for over 20 years now, and to my surprise for some reason I’m getting nostalgic about it and thinking about getting back into it a little bit. I’ve never stopped making faux postage designs, rubber stamped art and Dada-influenced collages, but I stopped networking except through my web site because I got spooked by some of the extreme networkers I was occasionally in contact with. I figured I no longer had the stomach to participate in the “underground”. I mainly was networking for art and creativity and I’m still inspired creatively by what I did back then. I was not in it for anarchy, political change or social change except for some social commentary that I occasionally included.
I think part of the reason I feel like possibly participating again is that when I got spooked, I was in the middle of a couple of Mail Art group projects that I didn’t finish and I never sent out the documentation. I’ve felt guilty about this for a long time. One was called the “Turn Off Your Television Project” and another was called the “Fish Tapestry Project”. After writing the research paper I just published yesterday, I think I might want to finish that documentation and fulfill the obligation I took on myself 20 years ago. I probably won’t be able to get in touch with all the people who participated but I can try.
My friend Mark Reed who co-hosted the fish tapestry project with me passed away late last October and it would be a great tribute to him if I could finish that one too someday. I have only this week been able to bring myself to look again at some of his artwork that his family gave to me. I always thought he threw away too much of his old work and I’m glad that I have some of it. I may even finish some of the stuff that is unfinished. We collaborated and shared ideas a lot back in the day. I think he would like that.
I would be pleased if someone finished my old work after I’m gone. I’d rather have that happen than it be thrown away. I always have a lot of unfinished projects that I take up and put down at various times. I’m sure I’ll be leaving some unfinished ones behind someday. Actually it’s been painful for me to look at a lot of my old work and archives for a long time because so many of the people that I lived that time of my life with are dead. Maybe now I’m finally able to start dealing with the memories. Also I felt like much of my old work was an embarrassing failure. Looking at it now, some of is indeed embarrassing but some of it is not so bad! A former abusive relationship made me feel like I should not do any art because I was no good and didn’t deserve to do it just because it was good for me and made me feel alive. There was a time when I wasn’t sure I was ever going to take it up again.
My Mail Art name was Carolyn Substitute, my ‘zine was called the Lime Green News, and my faux postage was produced under the name “Lime Green Post”. I decided today to do an online search and see if I could find any references to my old Mail Art activities.
If you would like to explore this world I found the following:
stardust Memories Mail-aRt-Links and projects – bless this person for putting a link to my old web site on archive.org! I haven’t seen it in so long. I redesigned it in 1999 and I don’t think I looked at the old one since then because it made me so embarrassed!
Lime Green Evolution World of Art – 1997-1999 – My first web site, how I transitioned from analog networking to digital networking. Thinking back on it, printmaking class in 1987 led to rubber stamping, rubber stamping led to Mail Art, Mail Art led to ‘zines, ‘zines led to taking a class to get better at desktop publishing, which led to published a web site, that led to being a web designer, which led to doing marketing which led to me working on a marketing degree. No wonder I called my first web site Lime Green Evolution. And I didn’t even put in all the other tangents I followed along the way! I used to stay late a lot after my web design job ended at 5 pm to work on my personal web site and wait for the traffic to die down.
One of the things we are studying in my Mass Communications class is how people make media meaningful for themselves. Back in the ‘zine / grunge / Mail Art era we used to do a lot of collages, small press publications and mixed media projects. I’m sure there are still people out there doing these things and with technology we have a lot more options available. Most likely I’ll be exploring this in a future research project.
Edit: here is my new page on the International Union of Mail-Artists web site. I’ll be putting some old and new work there.
I made this collage right at the time I stopped publishing the Lime Green News in paper form. I’m pretty sure I have a draft written on some floppy disc somewhere about how I made this collage and some others using outlines of black paper that I cut out with paper edging scissors to make compositions that look like postage stamps. I was going to publish the tutorial and a copy of the background for people to make their own stamps. I made several stamp sheets using this background as I recall. Such stamps are also known in the art and stamp collecting world as “Cinderella Stamps”, “Postoids” and “Artistamps”.
I never went back to the idea with this pseudo-postal background because I assumed that with computers and desktop publishing becoming more prominent people would not be interested in making faux postage stamps the “analog” way any more. But looking at this collage now that more than 20 years have passed since I made it I actually like it a lot. After going to that Gauguin show that I wrote about in my last blog post I’m reminded of how much I loved studying other cultures and abstracting some elements from them into and combining them with Mid-Century Modern type of abstraction. A lot of the black line work was made by rubber stamps. The Egyptian hieroglyphics stamp is a commercial rubber art stamp, but I carved all the others.
For some reason if I scan a collage and invert the colors in Photoshop, the results are often better than the original. I needed a new Facebook header so I rearranged the above collage and did a quick inversion. Fun!
Do you like adult coloring but don’t feel completely satisfied coloring someone else’s designs? Here is how you can use scrap papers and cardstock along with stencils to make custom homemade coloring books that reflect your own creative point of view.
What you will need:
White or off-white card stock
Black ball-point pen
Black Twin Tip Sharpie Permanent Marker – Fine/Ultra Fine
Bone folder or burnishing tool
Clean scrap paper
Metal binding rings
Assorted found papers that relate to coloring (pictures from magazines, old books, catalogs, etc.)
Assorted black and white images on paper (scrapbooking papers, found images) Assorted stencils (hand-cut from your own designs, commercial crafting stencils, or a combination)
1. Cut out two pieces of cardstock 8 1/2 x 6 inches for covers. Select some found images that have to do with coloring and make collages on the front and back covers by gluing these images down with a glue stick. Put a clean piece of scrap paper over your collage and rub well with a bone folder or burnisher to make sure the papers are glued down flat.
2. Cut a bunch of 8 x 5 1/2 inch pieces out of white or off-white card stock or paper. I’ll walk you through using a combination of found papers and stencils to create black and white designs to color in later on these pages. It’s intimidating to have a bunch of blank pieces of paper staring you in the face, so to begin tear some papers with black and white designs or printing on them into strips using a metal ruler a guide. Glue some of these pieces on several of your blank pages in random places and directions.
3. Further build up your designs by using a variety of stencils to draw shapes randomly on your pages. Add black and white collaged images or textures to further enhance the pages.
Coloring pages are very appealing when you use different line weights to outline areas to color. I suggest you proceed by marking some areas with a heavier line first then progressively moving down in line weight as you add more detail.
A. Outline some areas from bold stencil designs using the “Fine” tip on the Sharpie marker.
B. Go back through your pages again and add more stencil designs outlined with the “Ultra Fine” tip on the Sharpie marker.
C. Go through the pages a third time and use yet more detailed stencils to draw on the pages with the black ball-point pen.
As you build your compositions, I suggest laying pairs of pages down on your work surface that will be opposite each other in your finished book. See if you get any ideas from how they look together. Here are some examples of pairs I made to complement each other.
4. If any of your pages are made of thin enough paper to let some of the marker lines bleed through, don’t get discouraged. Redraw the design in reverse on the other side of the paper to disguise the bleed-through and create some accidental compositions that could be very appealing and lots of fun to color.
5. Punch a top and bottom hole in the cover pieces and each page and connect with binding rings to make into a book. In order to get the holes to line up correctly, you can trace the holes in the first page you punch onto subsequent pages, or make yourself a template out of scrap chipboard.
6. Have fun coloring your pages. I like to use a combination of colored ball point pens, gel pens, markers and colored pencils. If you experiment with a lot of different media and practice you will develop your own style of mark making. If you would like some inspiration for coloring styles and techniques, I have examples on an Art Journaling Pinterest board that should help you out. The most important things to remember while coloring are to have fun and don’t let expectations of how your work is supposed to look be a damper on your creativity and expression.
Last fall during the Old Webster Fall Art Walk, I demonstrated making pages for an art journal with paper collage work and stencils at Schnarr’s Hardware. I added in some paint samples to pay tribute to the hardware store atmosphere and remind me to have fun with colors. Later on I added some image transfers I made with clear packing tape. Learn how to make image transfers and add them to your art journal pages on the Schnarr’s blog:
I love to make mixed media charms and beads to use in jewelry making. Recently I participated in a charm swap and made some initial necklaces for friends at JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts where I am a teacher. Learn how to make these charms by reading my tutorial on the Canvas Corp Products blog!
My paper crafting and mixed media supply stash is substantial. Recently when I wanted to make some vintage inspired handmade journals as gifts I was faced with a pretty overwhelming number of options. Sometimes if you have too many supplies you can feel overwhelmed and a little inhibited. To get my creativity revved up I decided to see what I could come up with if I limited myself to three brands only – Canvas Corp Brands, Tim Holtz and DCWV. Those three brands still give you a huge number of options don’t they – not much of a limitation! I narrowed the possibilities a little further by setting out items from this list in my studio:
Ok I cheated a little bit – in the second journal I needed some patterned translucent paper so I slipped in some Vellum Swirls paper by Paper Pizazz.
Yes, that is still a lot of product to choose from, but it’s at least a somewhat more manageable subset of my stash! These slide shows feature 8.5 x 5.5 inch pages in pairs, starting with the front and back covers.