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