Artistcellar Blog

Imagine. Create. Enjoy.

“Digging through my roots to understand the way my branches grew.”― Saleem Haddad

Are you like me…a collector of stories? Do tales of our immigrant past captivate you as they do me? Currently on my bookstand is “Three Minutes in Poland”. The author, Glenn Kurtz, discovered a family home movie filmed in 1938. This began a search to uncover the lost history of the town and people of Nasielsk. I can’t put the book down, and it certainly has influenced my muse for the next project.

I decided to once again create a design inspired by the fabric flags I purchased, this time using just two.  After attaching the flags to my poster board I lightly sanded them. The flags have a canvas texture and the sanding enhanced the weave. I sponged acrylics starting at the bottom and working to the top creating a tranquil evening sky.

The rubber stamp has been in my collection for quite a while. I inked it up with black acrylic paint and repeated the image several times across the flags. I liked the grainy finish which added texture to the composition.

Taking inspiration from the stamp design I added colour by stenciling Artistcellar’s Infra and Highlight Halftone Dots.

The bottoms of the flags are covered with wax infused tissue paper. Reminiscent of the stories told to me, the words create a cadence all their own. I intend to frame the flags and attach beads and charms to the cords…a few that were even passed on to me.

There is so much to learn from recollections shared by family members. Bittersweet memories passed on to me by my grandmother of her youth in Poland are an integral part of my “root system”. And this foundation allowed my branches to search for their perfect evening sky.


Hello friends! 

I've had this graph paper composition notebook laying around for a while. I use it for planning/drawing comics, making lists, and everything in between, I love sketching on graph paper! However, I never liked the weird, splotchy, black and white covers of composition notebooks. If you also want to add a personal touch to any boring sketchbooks of yours, here's how you can!

Supplies you’ll need:

I forgot to take pictures of the very beginning, but I started by sanding the cover of my book to make it easier for the paint to stick. I also wrapped the pages in paper towels so I wouldn’t get any paint on them. Then, I covered everything with a coat of white gesso.

I sanded this layer again with some really soft/fine sandpaper, then put on a second coat of gesso. After that was dry, I sanded it too.

I’m sanding between every layer to try to minimize brush strokes - while the heavy acrylics and gesso make it easy to cover up the dark pattern underneath in only a few coats, they also leave some pretty big brushstrokes and I want a smooth look. Make sure that your paint is dry all the way through before sanding or you might take little chunks off and make it even bumpier! It also helps to wipe off the dust after with a baby wipe or wet paper towel.

Now for the fun part- the color! I wanted a summery pink, so I mixed blushing, fuchsia, a bit of lemon, and white all right on the page and blended them together. Pretty! 

I wasn’t feeling it though, so I decided to mix them first and change it to a more even and lighter color. I also put a few layers of gold on the binding edge strip. Using tape to get a nice neat edge would have been a great idea (if only I had thought of it before tediously painting it by hand…)

Now for the stencils… I think I’m going to use my favorite quasi flowers (from the Quasicrystals series) with gold. I got some ideas for possible future covers while looking through stencils; I think that if I had a darker book, a silver base with celestial in dark blues and purples would look stunning, or turquoise greens with a coral stencil in a contrasting copper… 

Using a sponge and taping the edges down is the best way to get a neat edge! I dabbed on more magenta, white, yellow, and gold. The gold smells wonderfully pepperminty. The back, by the way, looks the same, but lighter and I used the infra dots instead.

And now we’re done! Almost. I put a coat of Decoart Media satin varnish over everything to seal it and keep my paint from scratching off or getting dust in it. I also gave it another quick and soft sand to make it a little matte-er after.

Nice. Spice up those journals!

I couldn't help it. I had to make another book! This time it is an accordion book with pockets. (Can you tell making books is one of my favorite things!)

Here are the supplies I used:

To start I folded the cardstock to create the structure of the book. First I folded one of the long sides up 3 inches to create the pocket. Then I accordion-folded it. This made each panel 5.5 inches tall and 2 inches wide. 

Next step is to decorate the cover! I unfolded the cardstock and used an old key card to scrape 4 different paint colors on the surface. After that was dry I refolded the accordion and used the stencils to create texture on the inside of the book. To keep the pocket in place I used washi tape on each end to hold the sides together.


To further embellish the outside of the accordion I used a black paint pen to write a favorite quote in a loopy cursive style.

Now it's time to gelli print some tags for the inside of the book! I made more than I needed (which is easy and fun to do when you are gelli printing!). I chose my favorites to trim down to 2 inches wide and loop ribbon in the hole at the top fastened with a tiny staple. 

The book is now ready to be further personalized by adding journaling, pictures, ephemera, etc.! 

I hope you take some time and make a book this week!

“Stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive.”- Hafiz of Shiraz

It’s been cold, snowy and in my humble opinion, a dreadfully extended winter. Now that March is here I am more than ready for longer and warmer days. And the first day of spring, for me, is forever linked with the Persian New Year festival of Nowruz. Starting on the day of the vernal equinox and literally meaning "new day", Nowruz celebrations continue for two weeks ending with an outdoor picnic. Inspired by the holiday, I couldn’t wait to start my next project.

Although too cold in many parts of the country for a picnic, I wanted to send some warmth through the mail. Junk mail is a plethora of inspiration for mixed media artists. Digging through my collection of envelopes, I decided to recycle one with a window. I masked out the cellophane opening with surgical tape and started my background with a textured natural sponge and Dylusion Paints. Once the background was dry, I started stenciling.

The Artistcellar stencil range is known for its diversity.  You will always find just the right stencil to create inspired work. This time I wanted to feature the flying dragonflies and cherry blossoms of the Traditional Japanese series. I used the Playful Pods as a hint of what the envelope would hold. The stencils effortlessly conveyed the spirit of all things fresh and new.

Recently I have been experimenting with used tea bags. I have been exploring different techniques…trying to get a feel of what works and what doesn’t. I chose two of my bags to use as seed packets. Keeping with tradition, I filled one with wheatgrass. I packed the other with forget-me-not seeds. They will show through the window when I get them ready to mail. An added bonus…my surgical tape mask is now washi tape for use with another project.

It’s been difficult getting through the dark days of winter. But with the approaching first day of spring and the celebration of Nowruz I now have a good excuse to fill the house with hyacinths and tulips. And here is my wish for you: I hope you surround yourself with all that makes you glad to be creative and alive. Happy Spring!


“My soul is fed with a needle and thread.”

Are you creatively drawn to the textile arts? Are you inspired by paper patterns and the hum of a sewing machine? Although my sewing skills are those of an enthusiastic amateur, I am fascinated by factory production, present and past.

A local public library and art center are partners in a bimonthly open exhibit. The next theme is “Machines”. I have been sorting through my ephemera as well as trying new techniques with images transfers. Everything I needed for my next Artistcellar project just seemed to fall into place…the perfect stencils, a vintage image of women in a factory, all the colours of the rainbow. I was set to begin.

I covered my illustration board with a light coat of gesso giving it a quick sanding when dry. I built up the warm background colour with both a textured natural sponge and brush using Lemon, Sunny Day and Sunflower acrylics.

My image transfer experimentation has included a variety of papers for the base. Some results have been more successful than others. The Dover image I chose for this project worked better than I could have imagined.  It held up to burnishing and repeated applications of water and sponging. The fine lines of the ladies dresses remained as did details on the machines. I attached the transfer to the board with matte medium surrounding the factory workers with bits of the pattern paper.

Using the Artistcellar Steampunk Apparatus stencil was a perfect fit. Just as the gears in a machine are the framework that makes all parts move in unison, so too is this stencil. The Blocks, Halftone Dots, and Quasicrystals stencils added just the pop of colour I wanted, visually depicting the cacophony that factory work can be.

As in the illustration, the ladies all in a row are the genesis of the creative process. Their dedicated and in the past very dangerous work make available the very supplies we need to allow our creativity to fly. And fly it will…if not on fabric then on paper.


Hello everyone!

Today I'm making handpainted patches! The supply list is simple, but it's a lot of fun. I hope you enjoy the little video I have made to show you what to do. From there, just sew the patch on clothing, bags, - whatever you wish.

Supplies used:

This week's project is inspired by a mantra that I have been saying to my elementary students more and more in art class. 

Progress, not Perfection

The younger students are still filled with the wonders of being creative and don't get hung up on perfection. They are excited to try new things and love their results no matter what. I have noticed that starting in 3rd and 4th grade the doubts start creeping in and they are more and more unwilling to take risks and do something they don't already know how to do. There is much discussion on having a mindset that allows them to grow and that making mistakes is part of that growth. I try to make my classroom a space where they don't feel like I am constantly judging or comparing them to their classmates. I found myself repeating "Progress, not Perfection" over and over throughout the day and found most students began to relax and feel proud of the work they are doing right now. 

How true this is for all of us. The act of creation does come with feelings of vulnerability and when we start to compare our NOW with others' NOW it can be daunting. When my students see my project examples they proclaim that they want their art to have that same quality. I remind them that I have been creating for over 30 years and if they put the time in to work on their craft they will improve but they do not need to be perfect now. I want them to try their best and make it their goal to have each project improve in some way from the previous one. 

I wanted to make this mantra into a permanent art piece to hang in my classroom so my students (and myself!) can be reminded that progress is the goal right now, not perfection. 

I found a canvas in my studio that had a start of a background made from various printed papers. I don't care too much for the prints now but the subtle texture from the papers will be a nice foundation. 

Using light molding paste, a palette knife, the Shadow halftone dots stencil and the X's from the Marked series I created a raised pattern around the outside perimeter of the canvas. 

While that dried I pulled out my collection of chipboard letters (from my scrapbookin' days!) and spelled out my mantra. When the molding paste was dry I used regular gel matte medium to glue the letters in place in the center-ish of my canvas.  I carefully flipped my canvas face down on my non-stick craft mat and placed heavy beanbags in the center and edges of the canvas to make sure the surface was flat to the table to as the gel medium dries everything stays flat.

When I was sure everything was dry it was time to give the entire surface a coat of paint and I chose Night from Dina Wakley Media. Again, wait for paint to dry. I then used a piece of sandpaper (a fine-ish grit) to sand off the paint from the surface of the letters and some from the perimeter of the canvas where I put the modeling paste with the stencils. This step really helps the raised surfaces stand out from the background. 

After brushing off the dust from the sanding I used Ocean and Evergreen paints to give some color to the canvas but not the lettering. As a finishing touch I painted the outside edges of the canvas red. 

Ta-Da! I love the way it turned out and look forward to displaying it in my classroom.

Have a creative week!


“Hold the Vision. Trust the Process.”

The final days of preparation for gift giving are upon us! Is there a person in your life that needs a little boost to their creativity? I love to purchase blank Journals. I have faith they will find a home at just the right time, for the just right person. And in my collection was a little dusky blue book. This could be that special place for a friend to keep her hopes, visions…and gardening notes.

After giving the journal a light sanding, I brushed on several layers of gesso. I wanted a base of white with a bit of the dusky blue cover showing through. My next step when dry was to squeeze Rubber Cement through the “Create” Creative Words Pocket Stencil. I have found that using a scrap of illustration board gives the best coverage…smooth, few bubbles, and little bleeding under the stencil.

Building up the layers of acrylic paint was fun. I usually use a Natural Sponge when I work. I have several in different sizes and textures. I love the ease of application they provide. It’s always great to see how various acrylics react when encountering the roughness of the sponge.

I started by removing the “Create” stencil and lightly applying a coat of Dylusion Vibrant Turquoise over the rubber cement. Giving the paint time to dry, I looked through my stencils and chose the Playful Pods Series. The book will serve as a gardening creative journal, so the pods rolling across the cover was perfect.

I am in love with the Dylusion Spray Ink. Bubble Gum shade is the best around…vibrant and rich. I sprayed the front and back covers with the ink and continued building layers with complimentary acrylic colours. The next addition to the design was the Playful Pods stencils and another Creative Word: “Trust”. There are many reasons to love Artistcellar stencils, but for me it’s the flexibility. With so many sizes to choose from, you will always find the perfect stencil to allow your creativity to soar.

Because the journal will be thrown into a handbag or the back pocket of a pair of jeans, I wanted to keep the surface as flat as possible. The final addition was an image of the Mona Lisa. I covered it in matte medium and dropped in slivers of copper threads while it was still wet. The edges are concealed with Artistcellar-inspired handmade Washi Tape. The result was just as I had hope…a bit of texture, but not the bulk.

And finally, my moment of truth…the removal of the rubber cement. Although the waiting tests my patience, I am happy to say it was worth it…”Create” looks every bit as inspiring as the peaceful smile of Mona Lisa.

Be it with stencils and paint or the cultivation of blooming plants, trusting and enjoying the process is the first step in holding on to our artistic vision and creating the world we imagine.

All the best to you and yours for the Holidays and the New Year!


Hello my lovely lovelies!

Today I am sharing a small project I completed today, it is a gift for a friend for the holidays.

I started by grabbing my 12"x12" OM stencil, as plain canvas bag, my Inktense blocks or pencils and Dye-Na-Flow inks.

I start by placing my stencil on my bag and tracing it using an Inktense pencil.

I then used a brush to paint the stenciled with Dye-na-Flow in Sun yellow and Magenta. I then sprayed the canvas with water so the Dye-na-Flow and the Inktense bled together creating a wash of color.

With the canvas bag still wet I grabbed a few Dina Wakley paints in Lemon, Magenta and Ocean to add some dimension.

I decided to add more pop to it by using the paints and Dye-Na-Flows until I was happy with how the bag the looked!

I really hope my friends likes her present!

Big hugs and mushies!

Shana Banana

Hello and may this post find you well!

Today, I’d like to perhaps take you back to your childhood days of folding paper notes and making paper toys. This could be a fun gift for someone this holiday season, or it could be something you use, just for the joy it brings!

Supplies Used:

Step 1:
Scrape paint over a piece of ledger paper or another sturdy copy paper, while having a 12x12 stencil underneath. I used the Sea Foam stencil. See the fun texture?

Step 2:
Measure the square size you’d like to work with. I measured out an 8x8 inch square on the painted ledger paper.

Step 3:
Follow the directions for making a “Cootie Catcher” paper toy in the book mentioned above.

Note: I am NOT a perfect measurer or cutter or paper folder. So, I want to assure you that this will still work with some inaccuracies.

Step 4:
Now it’s time to add some Artistcellar magic, using the Chakras Series Pocket Stencils! Apply paint through the chakra stencils, using a cosmetic wedge, to the inside flaps of your soon to be “Chakras Catcher” paper toy!

Step 5:
Then apply paint through more of the Chakras Series pocket stencils to the outside squares of your paper toy.

Step 6:
Add the final or sixth chakra stencil to the middle of the paper toy.

Here’s another look at the outside stencils.

Here’s the paper toy, “Chakra Catcher,” in action:

May you find much joy in making and giving your paper toy!

Blessings to you,

Briana of

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