Thursday, November 26, 2009

Getting It Just Right

(Click on an image to see a larger view.)

I've begun serious deliberation over what this year's holiday card should look like. I came up with a layout I like and began to create it in several different color schemes. Sometimes a card just comes out right the first time and I don't have to tweak it. Other times I need to go over it and over it, changing a little something each time until I achieve something I'm totally satisfied with. When I'm unsure and need a fresh perspective on my work, I call in the children. You might think that my kids are biased in favor of my work but that is not the case, and I have come to rely on their brutally honest insights. They don't try to water down their opinions in order to placate me. They tell me exactly what they think about anything I'm creating and many times I have used their constructive criticism to improve on my work. In addition, since this year's holiday card is something that will represent us all as a family, I thought it was appropriate to get them involved in the creative process.

Above you will see three variations of the card layout: green/red, lt. blue/dk. blue, and silver/gold. When I asked my kids for their opinions I deliberately asked them separately because I didn't want them influencing each other. Interestingly enough they both said exactly the same thing. They immediately set aside the traditional red/green and said they would prefer the blue trees on the white background. I took their suggestions to heart and came up with the card you see below. When I again asked for their opinion, they once again agreed: the new version got a thumbs-up from both of them.

So here's our family's card for the 2009 holiday season. Creating them won't be nearly as daunting as addressing and stamping all those envelopes.

Anybody know how to mail-merge?

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

It's Been an Exciting Month!

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This month has been an unexpected whirlwind for me. In September I wrote about a card I created for a challenge swap being voted first place by my peers in the Oriental Stamp Art Yahoo group I belong to. (You can read that post here for some background info.) Well, this month I had the unrivaled thrill of being notified by the editor of Vamp Stamp News ( that this card was also chosen for publication in their December 2009 issue! I was over the moon. First time one of my cards was submitted for publication, it was chosen. As if that wasn't unbelievable enough, it got even better. It wasn't just chosen for publication, it was chosen for the front cover! AMAZING! The owner/moderator of the OSA group who submitted the cards on behalf of the members told me that no one EVER gets published on their first time out, much less on the cover. What a rush!

But wait...there's more. Lightning struck twice. Within days of this news, another of my cards that was submitted for publication was chosen by yet another magazine, Rubber Stamp Madness (! That's two cards chosen for publication by two different magazines. I'm still reeling from all this.

I'm including images of the two cards chosen for publication. The Holiday Tri-Shutter card appears in the December 2009 issue of Vamp Stamp News. The other card, featuring two figures walking together, will appear in Rubber Stamp Madness' Spring issue scheduled for release in January.

Hmmm, I just noticed something. Both cards are green. I guess that must be my lucky color.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Friday, November 6, 2009

I have a question...

I have often considered giving a workshop or teaching a course on papercrafting and cardmaking. My question to you is this: if you wanted to take such a course, what things would you like to learn? Would you want to learn the techniques I use so you can use them to create your own cards? If so, what techniques would you like to learn? Would you prefer to create a card from a template? If so, do you have a preferred style of card? (You can choose from among my cards or send me a link to the kinds of cards you like.) I'm trying to get a seat of the pants feel for what people would like to learn in such a workshop or class before committing myself to such an endeavor.

I would really appreciate any and all feedback and comments you may have. If any of you have conducted workshops or taught classes of this type, I'd be interested to know what your experience was like. Please leave me your comments on the form at the bottom of this post. Thanks again.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Better Late than Never

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Last week my family and I sat down and actually spent some time doing something together...we painted pumpkins for Hallowe'en. Usually the only time we are together in one room is for the occasional family dinner (which is becoming rarer as the children get older) or the occasional family television program (which is extremely rare given our disparate tastes in entertainment). When the kids were younger we used to get pumpkins and carve them for the holiday and create a scarecrow out of their outgrown clothing, but we haven't done either of those activities in some years now. This year I decided to resurrect them, as much out of my personal affection for this holiday as for gleaning the last drop of childhood out of my young adults as I can. My husband brought home two large pumpkins for carving and I brought home four smaller ones for decorating. In these pictures you will see my husband and children busy working on their creations. My kids decided on creating video game motifs on their respective pumpkins while my husband, anxious to watch a baseball game, created a quick and dirty grimace on his pumpkin, complete with bloody scars and stitches. I, anal-retentive artist that I am, took my time painting an outdoor scene featuring a blue sky with clouds, trees, stalks of corn, a pumpkin patch (pumpkins on a pumpkin, how original) and some pretty hybrid sunflowers. My daughter calls me Bob Ross, a reference to the late iconic oil painter who brought art into America's living rooms through his long running television show. Well, Lord knows I'm no Bob Ross but I enjoy creating art. Two views of my pumpkin can also be seen; one showing the pumpkin and corn patches and a top view of the starry night sky.

Last night was Hallowe'en night and all of our pumpkins were on display on our front steps, greeting the little gremlins, goblins and princesses as they came to trick-or-treat. Our pumpkins were in their element and in their full glory. Today the moment has passed. The pumpkins no longer reign supreme. Yet here, in this blog, they are immmortalized. They and the loving hands that created them.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Friday, October 16, 2009

Update on the Passport Invitations...and a New Printer!!

The custom order I was working for 100 passport-styled invitations has been completed and delivered to the client today, five days ahead of schedule. I am relieved and very, very satisfied that the way this project turned out. (To read the background story, click here.)

I ran into several minor problems with this order, most of which were printer-related issues. First I ran out of ink. Then the replacement ink I ordered (remanufactured to cut costs) did a miserable job of printing. The print and the graphics were fuzzy and not at all sharp. (Never again!!) Had to return the ink and re-order manufacturers' original ink at double the price. Printing was better but still not great, not because of the ink but because the printer itself is not well suited to graphics printing. I had been see-sawing for years about buying a new printer, feeling guilty about buying a new printer when I had one that worked well but just didn't give crisp graphic images. This time I bit the bullet and ordered a new HP Photosmart Printer. With the exception of my current printer, I have always used HP printers both at home and at work. The print quality is excellent and the machines are workhorses. My current Dell (boo...hiss...) printer was given to me and a free printer trumped one I had to pay for (or so I thought). My experience has me running back to the hardware I have come to trust for crisp, sharp printing. It should arrive sometime next week and I can't wait to put it through its paces. Future client orders will look awesome. So bring 'em on. I'm ready!

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Monday, October 12, 2009

Little Angel

(Click on picture to view a larger image)

My daughter needed a card for a gift she was bringing to a baby shower. Naturally she casually mentions this on the evening before the event. Of course, I think to myself, I can whip up a quick little card. But as soon as I sat down to create I found myself taking out all manner of embellishments and brass stencils, cardstock and what have you. After fiddling for nearly an hour I realized I was overthinking the whole thing and decided to go for a very simple look. I used a stamp that I had never used before and, in fact, had been put in the pile of ophaned stamps I have in my workshop. It turned out to be the perfect choice for this quickie card.

The yellow base card was stamped all over with VersaMark watermark and Dazzle Inks (Frost and Champagne) then selectively dusted with green and gold PearlEx pigment powders. The image was stamped in black Stazon ink, colored with Prismacolor coloring pencils, matted on olive green cardstock. The stars and heart were gone over with a clear sparkly Gelly Roll pen for a bit of shimmer. It was attached to the base card with foam tape for a little dimension. Tiny green rhinestones were added to the corners of the image for a touch of glitz and a finishing touch. The inside of the card had a hand written greeting that said "Your Angel is on its Way".

Simple. Easy-peasy. Why didn't I think of that in the first place?

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Passport Invitation

(Note: Click on a photo to see a larger image.)

It seems as if my life is being carried in a small boat along a fast moving stream. So much has happened in the last month that I have not had time to post on my blogs or participate in any of the challenges hosted by the online groups to which I belong. Fortunately my little boat is not sailing without a rudder so I can keep myself from capsizing into the rapids.

One of the big events for me was being contracted by a returning client to produce invitations for her annual client event. Her invitations are always tied into the theme of the event and are intended to set the mood from its receipt. This year's theme is adventure so I came up with the concept of creating a passport document to act as the invitation. A specific color palette was requested and you can see two of those colors in the photo above. Although the concept was easy enough, designing it proved to be somewhat more challenging than I expected but after two weeks of brainstorming I prevailed.

When I presented the prototypes to my client and her assistant, they were completely bowled over. They particularly liked the small details I used to convey the idea of adventure and travel throughout the document. In years past the order was for 50 invites. This year's order was doubled! This presented a double challenge for me; 1) I now had to produce twice as many cards, a substantial task when you consider they are all made completely by hand and 2) I had to do it in less time than I had in the past because the process began later this year. Regardless, I am up to the challenge and am enjoying it immensely.

To see additional photos of this card, click here to go to my Photobucket album where you'll find photos of my other cards as well.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Sunday, September 13, 2009

First Prize winner!!

As you may already know I am a member of Oriental Stamp Art (OSA), a Yahoo stamping group that regularly holds card swaps. Some of the swaps are voted on by group members and prizes awarded to the winners. In a recent "Holiday Card" swap, my card was voted as the first prize winner. It's always a thrill to win a prize but even moreso when the recognition comes from your peers. Unfortunately I can't show you the winning entry at this time because it is being submitted to a magazine for possible publication. Until the decision to publish or not has been made, I can't show the card on this blog because that would constitute "publishing" on the web. Magazines won't use previously published works so until I have heard otherwise I can not show the card. At some point in the future I will make the card public, hopefully with the news that it is being published in print. Stay tuned for further developments. For right now, I'm just going to hold my breath, cross my fingers and wait for my OSA prize to arrive in the mail. Wheeee!

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Gettin' Buggy Wit' It

(Note: Click on a photo to see a larger image.)

My grandson is turning 11 years old this month. This handsome young man has a fascination with all things ladybug so of course his card had to sport his favorite insect.

This lucky ladybug sits upon the large leaf of a sunflower hand-drawn with Prismacolor Premier coloring pencils. The cloudy blue sky was achieved by chalking around the edges of a cloud-shaped paper template cut out with a scissors. The spots on the wings are created with silver mini brads. The body and wings are cut with a Nestabilities oval die. Two red ovalsare split down the middle lengthwise for the wings and trimmed slightly at the top to allow for the head and eyes. All brads with the exception of those closest to the head are inserted through the top wings only and the "legs" spread open. The bottom wings are glued beneath the top wings, covering these "legs" and preventing them from catching on the bug's body. The topmost set of brads are inserted through both layers of the wings as well as the body. These act as pivots allowing the wings to turn out. The legs come from a gift set of chocolates that were wrapped in foil to resemble LoveBugs and had the legs stuck to the bottom of the foil. I not only enjoyed the chocolate immensely, I immediately saw the crafting possibilities in those buggy legs. They were a perfect addition to my ladybug.

The wings swing out to reveal a golden Happy Birthday sticker inside. The inside of the card (not shown) has a trail of ladybugs all around the perimeter. It's just the right touch to frame the happy sentiments my family and I have written to him for his special day.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Monday, August 31, 2009

Less Is More

I'm not known for my simple designs. Seems I begin with all good intentions to keep things simple then I find myself going and going, not knowing when to stop and having a ball in the process. This time I think I may have accomplished that elusive task of creating something simple without it being boring.

The central motif was accomplished with a cut-and-fold template by POP-UPS by Plane Class ( and double-sided paper. In this example I used plain paper, red on one side, white on the other. There are double-sided papers made for this type of application. What is important is that the paper is text weight, NOT card weight, or else the folding won't be as crisp. This panel was adorned with stickers and adhered onto navy blue card stock. All gold stickers from StarForms, Netherlands.

There is no multiple matting, no stamping, no embossing, no distressing, no fancy or extraneous anything. Just three ingredients: paper, stickers, card stock. It doesn't come any simpler.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

On a Roll

(Note: Click on image for a larger view)

Okay, so perhaps I'm not being very imaginative but I've done it again. I used the format of another layout challenge to create a card that I need for the immediate future. This time the challenge in question is the weekly layout challenge run by the Oriental Stamp Art Yahoo group that I belong to. I found this layout quite a challenge and didn't know where to go with it, but once I started I couldn't stop. I used lots of gold outline stickers, something I still have to get accustomed to. These stickers are very delicate and I'm always afraid I'm going to break one. I managed not to break any stickers this time around. Let's hope I'm as lucky next time.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Birthday Swan

(Note: Click on image for a larger view)
I have a number of birthdays coming up in the next couple of months that I will be making cards for. One of those is that of my parents who happen to share the same birthday. I find it difficult to create a card that would be suitable for both of them since they have different preferences as to colors and motifs. What is suitable for one may not be to the others liking.

Paper Craft Planet, one of the papercrafting sites I belong to, offers a weekly sketch challenge for its members to participate in. Although I haven't taken part in one of PCP's challenges for a while, I decided to create a birthday card using the sketch that was featured. I chose bold colors, something that would appeal to my father, and a beautiful swan image that is sure to please my mother.

Although I'm not featuring this card in a tutorial, here are some of the details of its creation. The layout is simple enough to figure out on your own.

Material Details:
- Patterned cardstock: DCWV Taj Mahal Mat Stack
- Embossing pattern: Cuttlebug "Swiss Dots" embossing folder
- Swan image: Stamp Zia
- Gold corner and sentiment stickers: Jeje Produkts, Netherlands

Coloring Details:
- The shimmery swan was painted with US ArtQuest Stargazers Watercolor Palette in Nova White.
- The balance of the image was colored with Prismacolor Premier Coloring Pencils and blended with odorless mineral spirits (OMS) and a blending stump. Colors used were:
*Violet Blue (top peak and bottom wave)
*True Blue and Light Cerulean Blue (water)
*Orange (beak)
*Goldenrod and Canary Yellow (sky)

A few notes:
- The swan appears to be surrounded by a golden yellow mat. In fact the image was embossed with black embossing powder onto a golden mustard colored cardstock (CS) which was trimmed about 1/4" from the image, giving the appearance of a separate mat. The Prismacolor pencils were laid down and blended on this mustard paper. In spite of the colored background, the Prismacolors laid down true, even color (an advantage to using quality products).
- The mat layer behind the swan is navy blue CS oversprayed with Krylon Webbing Spray in Gold. The next mat layer is gold paper with a satin sheen.
- The blue panel with the raised embossed dots is edged with a gold paint marker.
- This was created as a card front that was subsequently adhered to a base card cut from Astrobrights Gold CS (not visible in photo).

If you have any questions about this card, feel free to contact me at I'd love to hear from you. I'd also be pleased if you would leave a comment below. Thanks for stopping by.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tips and Tricks

(Note: Click on image for a larger view)

In my Respect Mother Earth tutorial, I took you through the specific steps I used to create the card you see to the left, but as I mentioned there is no reason you can't change things up a little bit to suit your personal taste. Here are a few adaptations you can use in creating just about any card with this layout:

Change the focal panel:
- Instead of stamping the tree image repeatedly to create the panel across the center of the card, you can just as easily use a patterned paper or even a pretty wrapping paper. This can save you time.

- How about some texture? You can opt for running your center panel through an embossing folder instead of using an image. A pretty foil or shimmery paper would look wonderful with an embossed texture.

- Deckled edge? Any decorative edge could work just as well. Even an edge punch could be used to create some interest. Or you can choose to use no decorative edge and cut it straight.

- Substitute the center panel with a beautiful wide ribbon, maybe something velvety or glittered.

Change the orientation:
- Who says the layout has to be horizontal? Turn it on its side. Or try looking at the layout in a mirror. Sometimes just a shift in the way you look at things can open up a whole new creative insight.

Change the colors:
- With the exception of the base layer, my card was monochromatic in shades of green with gold as an accent. You can spice things up with more color. It doesn't have to be a lot to make a big difference. Just imagine my card with a yellow base layer and a red polka ribbon on it. That would have a totally different feel to it.

Making Multiples:
- Okay, I'll confess. I had been creating several cards that incorporated the same central tree panel. Of course I didn't cut and stamp each panel individually. I cut, stamped and gilded several lengths from 12 x 12 cardstock. I did the same for the dark green layer below it. I glued them together and cut them to fit my cards as I needed them. When creating more than one or two cards at a time, it's always faster to work in "batches". Stamp a batch of main images and sentiments, cut a batch of ribbons, etc. Often you will end up with leftover scraps large enough to use on another card.

These are just a few of the many, many options open to you when you're creating cards. Your art is a expression of yourself and you are like no one else. So don't confine yourself to "cookie cutter" cards. Add your personal touch to the layouts you like and make them your own.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Respect Mother Earth card tutorial

(Note: Click on an image for a larger view)

The layout used to create the Respect Mother Earth card featured in my last blog post is a simple and versatile one that can be adapted to a multitude of occasions. The instructions below will show you how to create the card I made. Keep in mind that EVERYTHING is negotiable and there's no reason why you can't change the color scheme, the image, the sentiment or anything else. The details are up to you. Use this as a jumping off point and make it your own.

Materials list:
- One A2 size card or an 8-1/2" X 5-1/2" piece of cardstock folded in half (card base)
- 2" X 5-1/4" piece of white cardstock cut with deckled edge scissors or rotary cutter on the long edges
- 2-1/4" X 5-1/4" piece of dark green cardstock
- A small piece of dark green cardstock (approx. 3" X 3")
- A small piece of medium green cardstock (approx. 3" X 3")
- 12 inch length of 1/2" wide gold-edged green ribbon
- Nestabilities Oval and Scalloped Oval dies
- Gold paint marker
- Three shades of green dye ink (light, medium, and dark)
- Gold pigment ink
- Gold or clear embossing powder
- Craft heat tool
- Gold Dragonfly brad
- Acrylic stamps as follows:
Tree: Inkadinkado Holiday Silhouettes #97289;
Flourish: Inkadinkado Flourishes #97618;
Sentiment: Stampology clear stamps Who Cares? #AL3457

1. Randomly stamp the tree image across the white strip of cardstock, working first with the lightest shade of green before moving on to the next shade.

2. Run the gold marker across the long edges of the white and dark green cardstock.

3. Center the white CS onto the green CS and adhere, making sure the short edges are aligned.

4. From the length of ribbon, cut it in two with one piece measuring about 6-1/2" long. Wrap and knot the shorter piece of ribbon around the longer piece of ribbon. Arrange the tails in a pleasing manner and trim them at an angle, making sure the knot is about 1/3 of the way down from one end. Adhere this ribbon to the bottom of the tree strip, tucking the ends behind and making sure the knot is approximately in the middle between the center and left edge of the card.

5. With the Flourish stamp and the darkest shade of green ink, stamp the image twice on the left side of the card front, at the top edge and the bottom edge. Center and adhere the tree panel to the card front. This will cover any gaps or overlaps in the stamping and all you see are the swirls peeking out above and below.

6. Use your sentiment stamp to determine the proper size oval die to use and cut one oval from the medium green CS. Cut the corresponding scalloped oval from the dark green cardstock.

7. Carefully stamp and emboss the sentiment in the center of the oval with gold pigment ink and embossing powder. Run gold paint marker around the edge. Center and adhere oval to the scalloped oval.

8. Determine where on the oval you want to place the dragonfly brad and punch a hole in the appropriate place. After adding the brad and spreading the "legs" apart to hold it in place, push down on it against the tabletop with your finger to get it to lie as flat as possible.

9. Adhere the sentiment oval onto the card, centering it on the ribbon and placing it on the right hand side of the card.

Your card is done! Sign it, photograph it and send it to some lucky person.

Happy crafting!

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Angel's Inspiration

(Note: Click on an image for a larger view)
No, this isn't a post about divine inspiration nor is it about a card featuring angels. It concerns my daughter, Angel, who sometimes accompanies me on trips to my local crafts store and is many times the source of some of my creative "pearls". She attends a high school that emphasizes environmental careers and sustainable living and is very interested in all things "green". When I came across a set of Stampology clear stamps with eco-friendly messages she insisted that I purchase it straight away. Now you have to understand that her excitement over the stamps was not because she was looking forward to creating with them. She was excited to see what I would create with them. Well, it doesn't take much to get my creative juices flowing so I sat down with my new toys right away and came up with this simple card.

Stamp credits:
Tree: Inkadinkado Holiday Silhouettes #97289;
Flourish: Inkadinkado Flourishes #97618;
Sentiment: Stampology clear stamps Who Cares? #AL3457

Check out my next post for a tutorial on how to create this card.

Earlier in the summer, Angel had chosen another stamp set that reflected her passion for all things aquatic. When she went away to her first job working in a summer camp, I created a card and tucked it in her bag for her to find when she unpacked. I made it in such a rush I didn't realize that I had stamped the envelope upside down. No matter. Now it has "character" and provides a little color to the memory she has of finding the card.

Stamp Credits:
Jelly Fish, starfish, bubbles, school of small fish: Heidi Grace Designs Clear Stamps Beyond the Sea #28834_5
Slender Seaweed on card: Me and Carrie Lou, Lakeland, Florida
Large Seaweed on envelope: Magenta 14520-J
Mosaic tile stamp: Starving Artistamps

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Friday, August 7, 2009

A message of thanks to my comment posters...

Hi, everyone. Thank you for all the positive feedback and the wonderful comments you leave on my blog. I would love to respond to you but Blogspot doesn't appear to allow that option, or perhaps I just don't know how to do it. If ever you wish to contact me with questions concerning any of the projects I post, please feel free to send me an email to I'd love to hear from you. Thanks again.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tri-Shutter card - Take 2 with an Asian Flavor

(Note: Click on an image for a larger view)

As I mentioned in my last post, I was going to create a tri-shutter card with an Asian motif for a layout challenge promoted by Oriental Stamp Art, the stamp and swap group I belong to. Here is what I came up with. This is a full card front version, just slightly different from the card on the previous post which has a T-front.

As with my first tri-shutter card, I really had little problem creating the card base itself. It was the actual embellishing that brought me to a halt. After creating the card front, I just stared at the pretty red paper for the longest time wondering to myself, "Now what?". After a few false starts things began to come together. I particularly like the gold microbead "ribbon" behind the row of coins under the main image on the front of the card. Super sticky redline tape made this easy as pie to accomplish. The beads and the coins are all adhered to the tape and won't come off. It's great stuff.

In spite of becoming "brain-dead" at the point of decorating the card, I really like this pattern and will definitely make some more in the future. Now I'm interested in other cards with intricate and interesting cuts and folds. Hmmm, maybe this is another direction to explore. Yeah, right... as if I need something else to do.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tri-Shutter Card

(Note: Click on an image for a larger view)

One of the crafts groups I belong to offers a weekly layout challenge where its members are invited to create a card according to a featured layout. This week's challenge is called a tri-shutter card, an interesting bit of paper engineering that offers myriad possibilities for decorating. Splitcoast Stampers has a great tutorial for this card and you can see it here.

For my first attempt I created a card for my daughter's friend who has been like family to her during their first summer as camp counselors. I was told the young miss prefers "red and green, like Christmas" as her colors of choice so, armed with that information, I began to create. After staring blankly at the paper for an eternity this is what I came up. After all was said and done, I liked it.

The embossed textures and large flowers were done with Cuttlebug folders and dies. The ovals on the front were cut with Nestabilities dies. It is difficult to see from the photo but the red scalloped oval is flocked, giving it a velvety texture. That was achieved with Fun Flock. It is embellished with self-adhesive rhinestones that I picked up at a local 99 cent store. My thanks to Annette Warkentin at About Art Accents for the sentiment stamp which I received as a generous freebie from her. (She's got beautiful stamps and other goodies at her site. Definitely check it out.)

The smaller flowers and leaves were cut with the Empunchlar hand punch system (I don't recommend this particular punch as it has limited functionality). The swirls and flourishes were hand-drawn with gel pens.

Now that I have cut my teeth on this particular layout, I think I will create another one and submit it to the weekly challenge. That one has to have an Asian theme so this red/green card doesn't qualify. No matter, I'll just have to start crafting again. Yippee!

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Reaching Out

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There are few things that are as meaningful to a recipient as a beautifully handcrafted card that is totally unexpected. It tells them that they are special in the eyes of the crafter. This week I have reached out to several people who are special to me and who were not expecting cards. One was for a friend who will soon be leaving for China to teach for a year. Another was for a friend who helped me decorate for the farewell party for my soon-to-depart friend. A third card was for my teenage daughter who is away at her first job in a summer camp. I am particularly taken with a set of stamps by Inkadinkado called Asian Influence and used the same main image in all three cards.

I also took the opportunity to wish my brother in Seattle a happy birthday by making him a card, something I haven't done before. I find it difficult to make cards for men. You just can't use the same themes and colors as you would for women. In addition, I sent a special Thank You to my daughter and son-in-law in North Carolina who were kind enough to host my other two children and me on different dates, meaning that they had company in their home for about three weeks in a row but not all at the same time. I decided to use an image of a cat that I had never used before and color it black like their own cat. Their cat is a hunter who sometimes brings home dead birds, lizards, etc., so I added a little bird looking down upon the cat from the safety of a high branch.

I've been working like a possessed person deep cleaning my kitchen and bathroom. All told I have spent about a week scrubbing, scouring, bleaching and steaming grout, tiles and appliances. It's tedious, laborious and tiring as hell. Now that I think of it, how did I find the time to make all these cards?

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Friday, July 24, 2009

Running in Place

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Things have not slowed down for me since my last post nearly a month ago. In fact it feels as if some things have speeded up. One thing that has been affected by all my activity has been my crafting, or lack thereof as the case may be. I managed to squeeze in a couple of cards yesterday. One is for my daughter who is away for a month working as an assistant camp counselor in the summer camp she attended during her childhood. It's her first job and her first extended stay away from home where she isn't with family. The other is a thank you card for her friend, Clarissa, who was kind enough to let my daughter use her cell phone to send me text messages while my daughter's phone was out of commission.

Before this current flurry of activity began, I had created a couple of cards for Asian card swaps but could not post them until after the swap closing dates. Now that those dates have passed I have included them here.

Much of my time has been spent in the garden weeding, planting and photographing. It is hard, dirty work and I love it but it has a draining effect on me. The pro: I sleep like a rock. The con: I'm too tired to sit at my workshop table and create. It can't be helped. I must work the garden while the sun shines. When I can carve a little creative time for myself, I'll be sure to post it here. Until then, take a look at my garden blog to see what's been keeping me so busy.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Crazy Busy

(Note: Click on an image for a larger view)

I have been so busy that I haven't had time to post any of the things I've created recently. Two of the cards I've created are for swap contests so I can't post them until the voting has been completed.

I'm currently working on something I've never done before... a baby book/photo album. I'm not really into scrapbooking as I prefer cards but I wanted to make something special for the mother-to-be that she can hand down to her soon-to-be-born son so I decided to extend myself. It's more difficult than I would have thought but the more pages I do, the more I like it although I definitely prefer cards and ATC's. I'll post some of those pages in the future. In the meantime, here's a beautiful rainbow that I photographed from my front steps right after a sunshower.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Friday, June 5, 2009

Learning My ATC's

(Note: Click on an image for a larger view)

Sometimes it's the littlest things that make me happy. I recently purchased some watercolor sprays and some clear acrylic stamps with Asian motifs. With my new toys in hand I proceeded to play and decided to make a few ATC's. In case you're unfamiliar with the term, ATC means Artist Trading Card. They are miniature works of art measuring 3-1/2 inches by 2-1/2 inches, the same as baseball trading cards. As the name suggests, they are traded among artists and others as a quick way to disseminate a sample of their art and to network. I love them because they are small, requiring me to work simply and allowing me to work relatively quickly. They also allow me to experiment with new techniques without investing a lot of time and material. If my experiment works, then I have learned something new and have a little work of art in the bargain. If my experiment fails, I may not end up with art but I have nevertheless learned something in the process.

The cards featured here are good examples of this. The background for each was created by spraying various blue and green shades of liquid watercolors onto watercolor paper. I should mention here that watercolor paper is specifically designed for liquid applications. Other types of paper can ripple and curl when wet. I spritzed with a little water then oversprayed with Tulip Sparkle Spray fabric glitter. The glitter is ultra-fine and very subtle. I learned a few things in this process: 1) if you don't dry out the paper between the various liquid sprays you run the risk of having the colors run together and get muddled. (If this is the effect you want, it's not a problem); 2) What appears to be a splotchy mess when wet can turn out to be a beautifully interesting background when dry; 3) I should have sprayed a large sheet of watercolor paper and then cut it down into ATC's. It would have saved time and materials.

In the first card I experimented with two techniques: bleaching and color lifting. After the background dried (with a little help from my heat tool) I stamped the lovely geisha in black pigment ink and embossed with black EP. The leaves and the kanji symbol were stamped in dark green dye ink. I used an Aqua-Flo waterbrush filled with bleach and painted inside the geisha image. All the color disappeared, leaving a nice clean canvas for my coloring which I accomplished with Prismacolor watercolor pencils. I laid down the colors, lightest color first, then blended them together with another Aqua-Flo brush filled with water to create the ombre effect of the kimono. After she was completely colored and dry, I went over the image with a Versamark pen and embossed with clear EP. For the kanji symbol, I lifted the color out by brushing within the image with water then immediately blotting the color while still wet. Each time you do this the color becomes a little lighter, allowing you to control the amount of color you wish to lift out. After I lightened it to my satisfaction I added some green and yellow shading with watercolor pencils. I also added dark blue shading to the diagonal corners of the ATC. I slowly dragged a dark blue Prismacolor marker around the edges, allowing the nib to contact the paper long enough for the color to bleed slightly creating a subtle border.

The second ATC was a learning experience of another kind. After stamping the bamboo stalks in dark blue dye ink, I stamped the fan in gold pigment ink and embossed with gold EP. I intended to bleach out the color from the bird cutouts in the body of the fan. Turns out the ink I used to stamp the bamboo would not bleach out. Of course it wouldn' was dye, not watercolor. I didn't think about that. Now I had to find some way to cover up the distracting bamboo stalks that were peeking through the fan. I used gel pens in various shades of blues, greens and aquas and colored in the cutouts, not really expecting a satisfactory result and resigned to chalking this up as a failed experiment. I was happily surprised to find the next day that the gel ink dried opaque so the bamboo no longer showed through the fan. This is one of the those pieces that had to grow on me before I took a shine to it. What I learned from this exercise was patience and faith: the patience to allow the art to mature in its own good time, and faith in my own abilities as an artist to work through an apparent obstacle.

Art offers more than just beauty. It offers life lessons too.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Friday, May 29, 2009

Full Circle: Lovely as a Tree

(Note: Click on an image for a larger view)
The card featured here was the prototype for a birthday card for my daughter's friend, someone whom she describes as a "tree lover" so she wanted the focal image of the card to be that of a tree. She had seen and liked several tree sketches I had done with oil pastels on the paper I use to protect my worktable. I had been testing several different packs of pastels to determine their viability so I just used the paper that was in front of me. They were only "throw-away" sketches to me (see below) but she liked them enough to "commission" me to draw a tree for her friend's card.

I created the tree on white vellum using Prismacolor fine line markers for the trunk and branches and Sakura Cray-Pas for the leaves, blending the leaf colors with a small wad of paper toweling barely dampened with mineral spirits. I was going to leave it at that but the tree seemed to beg for more surroundings. I started by simply filling in the foreground with regular Prismacolor markers to create the grass, adding details with the fine point markers. Before I knew it, I had created this entire country scene complete with barbed wire fencing and tiny little wildflowers. I added background details with colored pencils and used oil pastels on the back side of the vellum to create a soft sky and clouds. Drawing on the back side softens the effect of the color and also prevents smearing of or blending with the leaves of the tree. (Click on the pictures to see a larger image.)

When I was done I realized that I had combined many of the traditional materials and techniques I had been taught as an art student years ago with the materials and techniques I have recently learned as a papercrafter. It was a very gratifying experience and I was quite pleased with the outcome. Not so, apparently, for my daughter. She loved the scene but said it was not what she wanted for her friend. She wanted the rough draft tree she had seen on my workshop table. So be it. I recreated the rough tree on another card. She put the finishing touches on it and gave it to her friend at school. She reported that he loved his tree card. Although I was initially disappointed that my scene was not to my daughter's liking, it actually turned out to be to my advantage. Now I get to keep the card that was so gratifying to make and draw further inspiration from it.

My present avocation is bringing me right back around to my past training. This grounds me, makes me feel more secure. Life, when it works, truly is a circle.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Shimmering Dragonflies Tutorial

(Note: Click on an image for a larger view)

This card began as simply playing around with some new stamps and liquid watercolors and ended up as a deliberate attempt to reach out to a daughter struggling with the rigors of raising a rambunctious and challenging boy. You can read the background story here.


- Dragonfly stamp: Stamp Zia,
- Stamp Zia Color Wash Jewels liquid watercolor sprays (assorted colors)
- Black Staz-On ink,
- Watercolor paper
- AquaFlo pen filled with bleach (or a small paintbrush and a small dish of bleach)
- Dark green cardstock (for mat)
- Watercolor pencils and gel pens
- Versamark embossing pen and clear embossing powder
- Base cardstock: Astrobrights Glisten pearlescent cardstock in Re-entry Red.
- Peel and stick flowers: Petaloo Fun Flowers collection
- Copper dragonfly brads
- Epoxy sentiment: Sticko Bookworks by EK Success
- Narrow sheer white ribbon layered onto slightly wider gold ribbon,
- White vellum
- Rotary cutter or fancy edge scissors
- Tape runner and/or spray adhesive
- Gold paint pen

The background was created by randomly spraying Color Wash Jewels over a large sheet of watercolor paper. Colors used were Blue Topaz (blue), Ruby (red), Emerald (Green), Citron (yellow), and Tanzanite (purple). The background was then cut down into smaller pieces suitable for background use, in this case 5" by 3.75". The edge was gilded and the background was randomly dotted with the gold paint pen.

Dragonflies were stamped onto the background with black Staz-On ink. The inside of the stamped area was then brushed with bleach to remove the color. Watercolor pencils were used to color the image as desired.

After coloring, entire image was gone over with a Versamark embossing pen and embossed with clear EP. This really makes the colors pop. When EP cooled, this process was repeated to produce a smooth, satiny finish over the image.

Cut a piece of vellum slightly longer than the width of the background and approximately three times the width of the ribbons using a rotary cutter with a fancy edge blade (I used Fiskars Victorian blade) or a scissor with a decorative edge. I did not use any specific measurements here--just judged by eye. Gild the edges with the gold paint pen.

Cut the layered ribbons to the same length as the vellum and adhere them across the center. Adhere the vellum/ribbon layer close to the bottom edge of the card as in the photo. I used spray adhesive because it is invisible under the vellum and will hold well on the watercolor paper. I have noticed that sometimes it is more difficult to get things to stick on a watercolored background.

Trim the ends of the vellum/ribbon layer flush with the edge of the background layer and mount it in the center of a piece of dark green cardstock that was cut 1/4 inch larger all around than the background layer.

Arrange the flowers as desired, choosing colors that accent those used in the dragonfly stamp. Add an epoxy greeting and a couple of dragonfly brads and your cardfront is complete.

Cut pearlescent red cardstock to 8.5" by 5.5" and fold in half to create a 5.5" by 4.25" (A2 size)card base. Center the cardfront onto the card base and you're done.

**Dragonfly Symbology
The dragonfly lets us see past the illusion, letting light in so that we can see what we need to see to make our lives better. When we've tricked ourselves into believing that the limitations of physical existence prevent us from changing and growing, dragonfly medicine teaches us to pierce our self-created illusions. The dragonfly reminds us to let our colors shine by using the light within.
** taken from The Earth Angel Connection

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mother's Day

(Note: Click on an image for a larger view)

No matter how much in advance I attempt to make my cards, I always seem to find myself rushing at the last minute. Lack of time management skills, I'd like to say, but the truth is that I get carried away doing things for fun and not paying attention to that which needs attending. Such was the case with my Mother's Day cards. I found myself in a mad rush to complete my cards and get them into the mail before the post office closed so that they would be delivered the day before Mother's Day and not the day after. When I work in that manner, I really don't have too much time to think about clever compositions or unique layouts. I tend to concentrate on the person for whom the card is intended and attempt to create something that is meaningful for them. Sometimes I have something to work with, such as a favorite color, favorite flower or motif. Sometimes, however, I either have no information to work with or I have too much which, although it may seem like a good problem to have, sometimes is worse than having nothing. The three cards featured here are each an example of these various scenarios.

For my mother-in-law, I asked my husband to tell me what his mother's favorite color(s) and/or flower was. He gave me that blank stare that men produce when they haven't got a clue but don't want to admit it. After browbeating him into extracting said information from his sister I was told that his mother liked white roses and the color burgundy. With these parameters I went to work and the first card above is the finished product. Because my mother-in-law is Spanish-speaking I made the greeting on the face of the card in her native language.

For my sister in-law's card I had no information whatsoever but I knew better than to call and ask my brother for any. No doubt I would have gotten the telephonic version of the blank stare followed by an eloquent line of BS. I decided to forego that route and create a card featuring an intricate butterfly painted in interference watercolors that glimmer and change colors as you tilt it to the light.

The last of these cards was the most difficult for me to create. It was for my daughter. One would think that I would know enough about my daughter to make this an easy task but the opposite was true. Of course I know my daughter but I wanted to say something special and personal to her for Mother's Day, something that was just between us. This dilemma bedeviled me for days until it came to me in the wee hours of the morning when I was bleary-eyed and drained from creating my sister-in-law's card. My daughter's name, Ava, means bird-like , something that is not common knowledge even among my family members, so I resolved to create a card with a variety of bird and bird-related images. You can see the results above. Although the layout is what I would consider a bit on the blah side given some of my other work, I was more concerned with the message I wished to convey.

It wasn't until I had completed these cards (as well as cards for my mother and sister) that I realized there was a common thread running through most of them...the aspect of flight. My daughter's card features birds while the cards for my mother, mother-in-law and sister-in-law all feature butterflies (also known as a symbol of transformation). I suppose this similarity of motifs is indicative of my inner desire to transform and take flight. Whatever the reason, my Mother's Day card madness is over for this year. Now to survive the Mother's Day weekend.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A New Look

I've decided to freshen up my blog's look with a new template so if things look different to you, you're not mistaken. Let me know if you like (or don't like) the change. Stay tuned for more creativity in the future. Thanks.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bold Contrast, Geometric Lines and a Dash of Asian Flavor

(Note: Click on an image for a larger view)

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been making Asian-influenced cards for Mother's Day and I promised to give the details on how I created the card on this page. Here's the scoop:

1. White A2 sized card (4.25" by 5.5" folded);
2. 1 sheet glossy black cardstock;
3. 1 pc Asian motif patterned paper measuring 4.25" x 5.5";
4. 1 pc gold paper measuring 3.5" x 4.75";
5. 1 pc Asian motif patterned paper measuring at least 4" x 5" (for one oval);
6. 1 pc white cardstock measuring at least 4" x 5" (for one oval);
7. 1 set EvoTemplates Ovals;
8. Stamp images of your choice. I used an iris stamp and a butterfly stamp;
9. VersaMark embossing pen;
10. Clear embossing powder;
11. Heat gun;
12. Pale dye ink to coordinate with your paper (I used Whisper Designer Ink in Tulip Yellow);
13. Ruler and a sharp craft knife;
14. Markers or your choice of coloring medium;
15. Clear spray sealer (I used Krylon Clear Finish);
16. Adhesive of your choice (I use 3M 77 spray adhesive but a strong double stick tape or quality glue stick should do the trick.)

The following items are optional:
- Two dragonfly brads or embellishments of your choice;
- Versamark ink pad
- Aztec Gold PearlEx pigment powder
- Repositionable tape

1. Place the 4.25" x 5.5" of patterned paper on the face of the white card. Glue in place, trim if necessary and set aside for now.

2. Cut a 3.75" x 5" piece of glossy black cardstock. Set aside.

3. Cut a 3.5" x 4.75" piece of gold paper. Set aside.

4. Using the fifth largest oval (from smallest to largest) in the EvoTemplates set, cut out two from black glossy CS, one from white CS and one from the patterned paper. (FYI - this oval measures 3.5" x 4.5").

5. Measure and cut three inches from the end of the two black ovals and the one patterned oval. Remove and discard the smaller ends.

6. Measure and cut 2.5 inches from the end of the white CS oval. Remove and discard the smaller ends.

7. Stamp your images on the cut white oval and color in your choice of medium. (I used Prismacolor permanent markers because they will not bleed in the next step.)

8. Go over your stamped image with a Versamark embossing pen. (If you used a coloring medium that is not permanent and colorfast, spray first with clear sealer and allow to dry before using the Versamark pen.) Emboss using clear embossing powder and the heat gun. I find this really makes the colors pop.

9. Lightly sponge over the exposed white cardstock with the pale dye ink, being careful not to cover the white completely. You just want a hint of color.

10. Optional Step: Lightly sponge on Versamark ink over the yellow ink then very lightly dust with gold PearlEx powder to give it a faint shimmer.

11. Using a clean paper towel or rag, carefully wipe off the embossed areas to remove any excess ink and/or PearlEx. Spray with clear sealer.

12. Now to assemble the concentric oval sandwich. Things can get a little tricky here. First align the flat edges of the stamped white cardstock and one of the black ovals. The black should extend about a half inch beyond the white. Glue them together.

13. Align these two pieces with the edge of the cut piece of gold paper but do not glue down. (Optional Step: Use a small piece of repositionable tape at the flat edge to hold them in place while you arrange the other two pieces.)

14. Slide the other two pieces underneath the first two and arrange as in the photo being sure to alternate the papers to create the contrasting effect. They should all extend out from each other approximately a half inch. You can fiddle with this a bit if you prefer.

15. When you've got these last pieces placed where you want them, hold them in place and remove the black and white layer. Make a pencil mark along the flat edge of the patterned layer. Remove it and do the same with the last black layer. Now that you have marked their positions, you can adhere them into place in the proper order, starting with the black oval on the right and working your way back to the left. Turn it over and check to see that the ovals lie within the edges of the gold paper. If not, carefully trim the edges.

16. Center this "sandwich" on top of the previously cut 3.75" x 5" piece of glossy black cardstock and glue.

17. Optional Step: If you want to add embellishments, this is the time. I added two copper dragonfly brads, angling them for visual interest. By adding them at this point, the prongs do not show in the finished piece.

18. Center and glue the assembled pieces on the card with the patterned front that you set aside at the very beginning.

That's it. You're done. Step back and admire your creation.

Some ideas:
- Although I prefer the bold contrast that black offers, this design would work well with a coordinated palette of colors for a subtler contrast.

- If you substitute glossy white cardstock for matte cardstock, after you have completed embossing your image you can ink or brayer the background in the style of Michelle Zindorf. Check out her blog if you're not familiar with the work of this fabulous artist.

- I don't use Nestabilities dies so I'm unfamiliar with the sizes available but I imagine that those could be used to cut the ovals (either simple edge or scalloped). The size of the base rectangles may have to be adjusted to fit those ovals.

- With some further adjustments, this design could be used to create a "booklet" type card with each oval opening as an individual page. Just imagine flipping each oval and revealing a line of Haiku on each page

Did you like this project? Then show me what you've got. Email me at with your creation and your work could be featured on my blog.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you again soon.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Asian Influence

(Note: Click on an image for a larger view)
I have always had an affinity for Asian cultures, especially Asian decorative motifs. I recently joined the Oriental Stamp Arts Yahoo group (OSA) and have been inspired by the beautiful artwork created by its members. This week I have begun working on Mother's Day cards with a decidedly Asian flavor.

The first card began with a self-imposed challenge to use a Cuttlebug® die to create something other than for what it was intended . Using the 4-pointed blossom from Cuttlebug's 2x6 Flower die #37-1508 (indicated with a red arrow in the illustration at left), I cut several flowers from a green-gold iridescent vellum, then used the inner cut-outs as leaves for the stylized tree. (I'll save the flower petals for another project.) I also punched small blossoms from the CB 2-step Paisley die in gold foil, then drew in a slender trunk and branches for the tree. An elegant Asian woman was stamped under the tree and colored with water color pencils. The card appeared to lack something so I began to draw in some details by hand and didn't stop until I had created an entire background scene. Two hand fans were stamped on the inside front of the card, also colored with water color pencils. The edge was colored with a marker, deliberately dragging it to give a ragged appearance. This card is a departure from my usual style in that it has very few layers (only two -- leaves and blossoms) and is predominantly hand drawn.

The second card is a variation of a prize winning ATC design I created for a vendor challenge some time ago. I'll give the details of its construction in the next posting.

Thanks for stopping by. I'd love to hear what you think of this post. Please feel free to leave a comment. Thanks.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

(Cuttlebug is a registered trademark of Provo Craft and Novelty, Inc. All rights reserved.)