Artistcellar Blog

Imagine. Create. Enjoy.

“Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind” - Jim Seals & Dash Crofts



It was nice to hear “Summer Breeze” on the radio the other day. It certainly takes me back to a time and place…one that now seems exceedingly serene.

Not long ago I purchased a set of Heidi Swapp fabric flags at Michaels. The pack has twelve 4” x 5.5” natural cotton pennants held together with white cord. They are perfect for painting and stenciling. The flags easily slide across the cord which allows you to choose how many you wish to use. I decided to create a triptych. With the melody of “Summer Breeze” blowing through my mind, I knew my next project needed to caress the spirit of summer the song so effortlessly portrays.

After spraying my poster board with adhesive I lined up the flag so I could create a read-across of continuous images. I like using natural sponge with acrylics. The textures they leave behind can lend a lot of interest to a design. Using a rough sponge, I covered the flags with warm yellow acrylic adding lemon highlights. Once the flags dried I started the stenciling.



The Bodacious Pods from the Artistcellar Playful Pods series were perfect. I altered the stencil with painter’s tape and used the pods to fit the space. The languid movement across the flags was just what I wanted…like a summer breeze. The Traditional Japanese Dragonfly stencil finished my design with another image that speaks summer magic to me. Diamonds and dots completed the project.

I can’t wait to hang the summer flags next to my Prayer Flags. How do you embrace the essence of your favourite season in your work? I hope the tranquil spirit of summer envelopes you and lasts well into the seasons to come.

MATERIALS USED

“I’ve learned that home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling.” – Cecelia Ahern

Have you ever been driving down a street and wondered…Who lives in a house like this? It may not be the largest or the most attractive, but there is something about it that catches your eye. That’s how I feel about a local apartment house with the chic name Stonehurst Court. 

In my last post I mentioned recycling tissue paper to mop up paint from your stencils. Using the tissue I covered with acrylic, I created the mini canvas you see here.  I love the freedom of this technique. You never know how much of the paint will transfer. The results are unexpected and can be a great inspiration. I still have quite a lot of paper left. I will be using it for a community project in a few weeks.

One of my favourite Artistcellar stencils is the Halftone Dots Series. With just a bit of painter’s tape you can mask off just what you need to enhance your design. Inspired by the many steps leading to Stonehurst Court’s front door the largest dots, Shadow, take center stage on my canvas. As the building is surrounded by bushes and plants, I completed the design by tearing off organic sections of the tissue and layering with matte medium. The Playful Pods shimmering in gold added just the effect I was after.

Who lives in a house like this? I like to think people who are adventurous and like to create the feeling of home wherever the put down roots. Is there a certain place that inspires you? I hope you will try the tissue paper technique and have as much fun with it as I did.

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"Art is making something out of nothing and selling it." - Frank Zappa

I always smile when I read this Zappa quote. When I was in Art School, as much as our instructors encouraged following our creative voice, they equally stressed the importance of sales. After all, a starving artist in a garret sounds romantic, but creativity has a difficult time thriving when you’re faced with a lack of income.

I have been working on a series of Prayer Flags using the Artistcellar Tibet Series for inspiration. They will be on exhibit at WITF-TV, our local PBS channel in Harrisburg, PA. This is my second set. The first sold at an exhibition last year. Although the new set is in the spirit of the old, I found my colour choices and positions of the stencils were evolving. As you use your Artistcellar stencils you too will discover how they inspire your work. When masking a stencil here or there, you can change the feel of your design, always creating something fresh and new.

Recently a friend gifted me with a beautifully wrapped wind chime. The deep purple tissue paper she used has a wonderful sheen and light texture. I knew it would find its way into my art. While working on the flags, I found it hard to just wash all the luscious paint off my stencils. Instead, in celebration of Earth Day, I used my purple tissue as a blotter. What better way to “Reuse & Recycle”?

When I was finished stenciling my flag, I transferred the paint to the paper. The tissue took the acrylics well and soon I had two gorgeous paint covered sheets. But this is just the beginning. The paper will be a central part of a project I will write about in the coming weeks.

Have you ever tried using up your paint on paper this way? Not only “saving” your acrylic it’s a great way to extend the life of your stencil…to have positive and negative images at your fingertips.

I suppose Frank Zappa was right. As artists we can make something from nothing.  And here’s hoping you have future sales to boot!

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“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!

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Love is in the air, and I don’t mean only for those who are in a relationship, married, or partnered. There are all kinds of ways to love and be loved. In fact, self-love is huge in my book. It’s the foundation for which we make room (in our lives, in our hearts) to allow in love from other people.

I am one who believes in the power of love. I believe in the power of giving and receiving kindness. I most certainly believe in the healing power of art.

So, let’s make some hand-painted and stenciled paper to use as the foundation for handmade valentines. Create them for yourself, for your friends, your neighbors, your family, etc. The world can always use a little more vibrant color, light, and love from you. Let’s begin.

Step 1:

Dribble paints on your watercolor paper. (I used a variety of pinks, reds, and white).

Step 2:

Spread paint with a wide brush. (Enjoy the wonderful colors that appear before your eyes!)

Step 3:

Place a stencil or two on the wet paint. Use a baby wipe or damp paper towel to remove the paint through the stencil.

Step 4:

Continue using a variety of stencils, removing paint through the stencil.

TIP: If the paint is getting too dry, you can spritz plain water through the stencil, and then wipe away the paint.

Step 5:

Get out those spray inks and stencils!

TIP: For a crisper image, hold the spray ink further away from your paper.

(The closer you are, the wetter and more blurred the end result appears.

The image below shows too much spray ink, sprayed too close to the paper. It’s a learning process, and I am still learning. It’s okay if you are, too.)

TIP: After you’ve sprayed the ink over the stencil, use a paper towel roll to soak up the extra ink. (I learned this from Dina Wakley or Julie Fei-Fan Balzer.)

I had an absolute love affair with this Dylusions “Cherry Pie” Ink Spray. The color is just sooooooooooo delicious.

Step 6:

Add the Heart Chakra stencil in bright green.

Step 7:

Once your background paper has dried, use a heart template or paper punch to cut out your valentines.

Hand them out, mail them as a surprise, put them in your art journal, etc., etc. The possibilities go on and on! Be sure to save at least one for yourself.

I had a blast making this background paper. I am so grateful for artistcellar and other makers of quality art supplies. We need to play, enjoy color, and express ourselves. We need to give and receive love. If Valentine’s Day is hard for you, please be kind to yourself.

You are worthy. You are loveable, and you are loved.

May it be so.

Blessings to you,

Briana of OrangeSpiralArts.com

“There is a distinct kind of Magic in the iridescence of a Dragonfly’s wing.”

The Dog Days of Summer are already here. I can’t help but feel as the mercurial sizzling days slip through our fingers it is a gentle reminder to be mindful and savor every moment.

A few months ago I created a prayer flag inspired by the new Artistcellar Tibet Series Stencils. As luck would have it I purchased enough chiffon to make four flags. This is the second in my series and I decided to feature the Lotus.

Once again I began by spraying a light coat of repositionable adhesive to a large piece of cardboard. I rested the chiffon with as few wrinkles as I could manage to the sticky surface. I was then ready to start stenciling. Keeping the colours to shades of pink and cream I wanted my lotus to embody the qualities of devotion and purity.

To me the Dragonfly is not only a perfect match for the Lotus, but symbolizes the exquisiteness of the season. I have loved Dragonflies endlessly. Not only are they a wonder to witness in the air, but my thoughts drift back to peaceful childhood summer mornings spent at a local creek with a friend. Dragonflies represent transformation. They guide our spiritual and emotional quest of self-realization. To see a dragonfly in flight is to grasp the magical possibilities of freedom. But to be truly free, we need to accept our unique selves. And I suppose that makes us all works in progress.

The Artistcellar stencils provide a great array of options. I selected the Petite Pods from the Playful Pods series to add to the flag. The image was perfect and continued the theme. I have long been fascinated by the iridescent colour released from dragonfly wings. So inspired I completed the design with dots of glimmering acrylics. It now flies next to the Buddha Eyes flag on the pergola.

Artistcellar stencils are inspirational. I am always discovering something new when I begin to work. The images allow me to explore and express my creativity. They encourage me to design with the same freedom we feel when seeing the shimmering flight of a dragonfly. By permitting my creativity to unfold my desire is to delve deeper, discover my unique self, always knowing I will forever be a work in progress.

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"This is a wonderful day. I've never seen this one before."— Maya Angelou

A purple finch is eating at the feeder near my studio window. He doesn’t seem to mind the melody of the wind chimes as the soothing breeze plays their song. The afternoon is unusually quiet. The day is perfect for celebrating the Summer Solstice.

Slowing down allows me the opportunity to be fully in the moment. Even if we have the best of intentions, so often we are distracted by the commotion of daily life. But it is when coming back to center that I experience what truly makes me grateful. And this is when creativity envelopes me like the soothing sounds of the wind chimes and lets my heart sing.

A few months ago I facilitated a journaling workshop at my local library. We each altered a 3.5” x 5.5” notebook. Our objective was to create a Gratitude Journal…a special book to keep with us throughout the year. The art produced was delightfully unique. The evening filled with laughter. The more we spoke to each other the more we realized how often we each experience fleeting moments of bliss. Now we had somewhere to keep them safe.

Here is my journal. I lightly sanded the cover and applied a quick coat of gesso. I began stenciling with Artistcellar’s Ocean Waves from the Traditional Japanese Series. Once it was dried I covered the back and spine with an assortment of acrylic paint colors. I then added bits of ephemera: a page from an old dictionary, postage stamps, trading stamps, a leaf from a poinsettia and images I found pleasing. Keeping watch at the back of the book, I stenciled the word I am most grateful for: Create. The Artistcellar Creative Words Pocket Stencil was perfect. I wanted the journal to feel “special”. I added a paper flower, altered tags, and keys to unlock my spirit of gratitude.

My Journal is filling up with all sorts of bits and pieces captured from my day…from simple observations to newspaper (yes, I still read them) clippings and ideas for new work. But all in all, I can’t help feeling a sense of wonder in the fact that joy is the essence of gratitude. And reveling in each new day is an adventure in itself.

As we change Seasons I ask you…what unlocks the joy in your life for which you are truly grateful?

MATERIALS USED

WHAT'S YOUR BAG?

"Hey man, what’s your bag?" Couldn’t help but think of this relic of the Sixties when I discovered the theme of a French Mail Art Call was to recycle paper bags. As it happened, I was on my way home from one of my favourite restaurants, Neato Burrito, with my mission style burrito safely tucked away in a brown paper bag.

As you can gather by the name, Neato Burrito has a definite retro vibe. Now with several locations...and I’ve visited them all...you create your burrito by choosing from a delicious assortment of tortillas, rice, beans, meats, salsas and vegetables.  Their jalapeno feta salsa is to die for and was just the inspiration I needed! I also wanted to have fun and there’s no better way for me than to dive into conventional collage work. I love being a recycler of images from a past age. Guess that’s my bag.

I started the project by deconstructing the paper bag at the seams. I liked the printed messages and did my best to keep them as part of my finished envelope. The brown paper was the perfect background for Artistcellar Halftone Dots Series. Stenciling with the largest dots first I changed colours as I progressed through the series. The Artistcellar Traditional Japanese Series is wonderful when you are looking for a pop of colour to accent your work. I picked the Cherry Blossom stencil to do just that.

As many collage artists know, the most wonderful ephemera are gifted to us through the US Postal Service. A gem recently dropped in my mailbox courtesy of a local gas station chain. The image of the woman on the front of the brochure was crying out for a new home...and I had just the place for her! The pinup style illustration fit perfectly with the layout I had in mind. And I liked the feeling of continuity...mail that came to me is now part of a recycled piece to be sent abroad.

When you visit the restaurant it’s great to see the selected vintage advertising that deftly crosses several decades. Motivated by the Neato Burrito experience I rummaged through the classified sections of magazines of the era. Happy with what I found, I surrounded the woman with a plethora of choices. Isn’t that what advertising is all about?

And here you have the final product, just waiting to be addressed, stamped and sent off to France. As they say, everything old is new again...so, I put the question to you: What’s your bag?

MATERIALS USED

  • ARTISTCELLAR Halftone Dots Series, Traditional Japanese Series
  • DECOART Sea Glass, Dazzling Champagne Gold
  • CRAFTSMART Sea Mist Pearl
  • PLAID Sunflower, Pure Orange, Metallic Bright Red, Rose, & Amethyst
  • NATURAL SPONGE
  • VINTAGE & CONTEMPORARY EPHEMERA, STANDARD MAIL, PAPER BAG, VINTAGE MAGAZINES

“Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.” – Mohsin Hamid

An artist whose work I respect, Seth Apter, recently shared a heartfelt post on his Blog. Seth described a project initiated by several artists, all using the same motto, with the objective of bringing a sense of peace and unity to what has been an extremely chaotic time. By celebrating our diversity through creative endeavors, the #artistforlove movement called for the creation of art as a way to start a conversation and begin collectively healing. Through his work Seth is participating in the process for the restoration of support, acceptance, respect, and love by creating and sharing a lovely poster.

Inspired by the movement and the contributing artists, I decided to take part. As much as I find #artistsforlove an honorable undertaking, I’d like to go one step further. For me, finding a path back to acceptance, respect and a sense of normality begins with a single word: Empathy.

We are different, our outlook molded by our unique life experiences. But rather than the celebration of our unique gifts, our diversity has been manipulated to divide us. This is something I will not tolerate.

It is true that our reaction to what has played out before us has often become heated. But then again, isn’t this to be expected when discussing something about which we are passionate? Empathy encourages us to step back, calm down, and see the other point of view…to find another echoed within ourselves.

One thing I do know for sure, through travel and living in a variety of cities in the US and abroad, one thing is constant. We all want the same thing. We all want meaningful work that provides a good life for ourselves and our families. We all want a peaceful environment in which to thrive.  And together we can work towards making this a reality. Working at odds in counterproductive and will not benefit anyone.  I stand by our Nation’s motto E Pluribus Unum - "out of many, one". I am proud of the rich tapestry of traditions that make us who we are as Americans.

I began the collage with calligraphy enhanced with Twinkling H20s from the Summer Fun collection. The colours are luminous and rich. They went on smoothly using my Koi Water Brush – another of my now “go to” supplies.

The stencils used are the Artistcellar Traditional Japanese Series. I layered Dina Wakley Media Heavy Body Acrylic paint in Lapis, Ocean, Sky, and Elephant. I wondered how the stencil would perform during clean-up since each layer of acrylic was completely dry between applications. Of course, they worked perfectly…clean and back to pristine condition in a matter of minutes! As the work is my invitation to others to participate I pulled all my elements together and built the final art using a postcard as substrate.

Our world is changing. There is no doubt about it. Will you reach out through your work with the #artistsforlove and #artistsforempathy movements?  We all need to take that first step… to begin the conversation, to throw open the door to Empathy… to search for, and find the echo of another person within ourselves. It is only then that we can rediscover our common ground.

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