Small Canvas Quote

This post was originally found on Artistcellar's blog. 
You can find the original post there.

Remember the delicious backgrounds I made when I was experimenting with Mineral paper? If not please check it out here.  These canvases have been waiting patiently for the next step in their journey and this week I grabbed one, painted the edges black and got started.

Using various colors of Dina Wakley's yummy paints and the Marked series of stencils I created layer after layer on top of my original background. Doesn't this look divine? The transparency of the paint really makes the layering process fun and surprising.

I decided that I wanted the focal point to be an inspirational quote so I picked on of my favorites and used Photoshop to type it out and reverse it before I printed it using my laser printer.

After tearing it out I placed on my nonstick craft sheet and brushed a layer of gel medium on top (like I was buttering toast) and let it dry. Yep, I am making an image transfer!

After the gel medium dried I peeled it off my craft sheet, soaked it in water and began to gently peel the white paper off. Gel medium image transfers are cooooool.

While I was waiting for the gel medium to dry I painted a swatch of white on the canvas where I wanted my quote to go. By the time my image transfer was ready so was my canvas. I gently tore the edges of the image transfer down so it would fit within the white swatch and then, using gel medium, I glued the quote onto the canvas.

As a final detail, I used the X stencil from the Marked series to paint the edges of the the canvas.

I really like the final product and I am picking out quotes for the other small canvases. I hope you all will try this quick and easy technique to add text or designs to your art. Many thanks to my oldest daughter for being my hand model!

Watercolor Affirmations

This post was originally posted on the Artistcellar blog. I hope you find inspiration from this quick technique. Make some cards and mail them to the people you love!

My family and I had a relaxing a fun Spring Break that was spent with extended family and included visits with friends. It was so nice that I had a verrrrry difficult time coming back to "real" life and the daily chores I wish I could avoid. With this laid back attitude I decided to create a few simple abstract compositions using the sacred geo 2 stencils. I didn't want to worry about a deeper meaning or what I wanted to communicate. I just wanted to make something cool and not have to give it a purpose. It was a perfect project to do relaxing on the couch with a favorite tv show on.

I scrounged up a few small sheets of mixed media paper that had random marks on them from when I was playing around with watercolor. It was the perfect first layer. For the second layer on a few of them I placed the stencil and lightly brushed water color paint on top of it. This ends up giving a imperfect, grungy look.

Grabbing a fine tip waterproof pigment ink pen (like a Faber Castell Pitt pen) I placed the stencil back into place and began to trace along the design. I paid attention to what sections I traced and purposely left out others so that it would not come across too obviously that I was tracing a stencil.
I was strictly looking at it as an abstract composition and making sure I had a good visual balance, some repetition, and interesting positive and negative space. (basically all the things I have been trying to teach my little K -2nd graders at school. Ha!)

Once the ink lines were dry (which isn't too long because it is a thin line) I went back into my watercolors to add another layer and started defining the space in my composition by adding complementary colors. The texture watercolors make is oh so dreamy. If you don't have watercolors then go ahead and use a nice acrylic paint you've thinned out with either a fluid medium or water.

Finally I grabbed my fine line pen again and added small decorative elements. Lines, dots, short phrases. Basically anything to give it some more interest. And after looking at them now I can see their purpose! They will become cards to send to a few dear friends. So interesting that even though I started off without a purpose I made art anyways and the art let me know what they needed to be.

Have a creative week!

Shrink Film and Stencils!

This is a guest post I did for the Artistcellar Blog at the end of June. It features another Shrink Film project. Enjoy!

Hello again!

How long has it been since you played with Shrink Film? I found a few packages in my stash and decided to play. I had never tried to shrink an entire sheet before so I decided to try that and see if the result could be used as book covers. I was not disappointed!

Here is my supply list for this project:
Shrink Film (regular ol' clear stuff)
Cheap-o craft paints (but any water-based acrylic will work)
Halftone Dots Stencils (I just used the two largest dot sizes)
Cosmetic sponge
Hole punch (3/16 size)
Basic Bookbinding supplies for the Coptic Binding Stitch

Cover one side of the shrink film with one color of dots. When that is dry cover the other side with dots in a complementary color. Repeat this on another sheet of Shrink Film. Using a hole punch punch the holes where your binding will be. Remember to punch the holes BEFORE you shrink!

Now it is time to shrink the film in your oven per the instructions on the package. It will take less than 5 minutes and it is so cool to watch!!

Cool under a heavy, flat weight for a few minute to make sure it ends up flat.

The results will not be consistent from one sheet to another and the edges most likely will not be square but that was okay with me.

Time to assemble the book!

I will not include a full tutorial on preparing a book block or the coptic stitch because there are a multitude of them all over the internet that explain things much better than I could. So I encourage you to search it out and watch a few videos.

Ta Da! The final book is fun and whimsical. I like the dimension that results from having the dots on both sides of the film. It makes a cool layering effect. The color of the paint became rich and dark after shrinking and has a cool texture to it. There is a little flaking as it is just cheap craft paint so I think a light layer of a spray sealer would help. I want to try this with more quality acrylics (like Dina Wakley's paints) to see if they end up having a different texture after shrinking.

Shrink film and stencils are a match made in heaven!

Shrink Film Charms!

I know you've got some Shrink Film somewhere in that crafty stash of yours so dig it out and get ready for a fun and easy project that can be done by adults and children alike.

Adult coloring books are everywhere and the designs are endless and inspiring. Wanting to do something different than just coloring them in I decided to use them to TRACE the designs. 

Using regular, clear Shrink Film and Sharpie permanent markers I traced the designs from Modern Elegance Coloring Book illustrated by Amanda Murphy. It is published by C&T Publications.

After you have finished tracing and coloring your designs cut them out, hole punch if needed and shrink in your oven according to the package directions.

Your imagination is the only limit to what these charms can be used for! Happy creating!

Quick Texture with Stencils

The following is a guest post I did over on the Artistcellar blog a few months ago.

My brain is rapidly slowing down as SPRING BREAK approaches and I fear I will fall over as I teach Kinders the wonders of Still Lifes in the few days left before sweet freedom(!) and road trips(!!) arrives. Is that how you are feeling too, my fellow creatives? It is during these times where I need a simple project to rock my world and give my creativity a boost towards ACTUALLY MAKING THINGS. I explain all this to you to set the scene for a recent discovery of mine.

In my quest to use stencils in ways different from my usual I stumbled upon an awesome texture technique that I am convinced someone has already discovered. Since I don't see it taking the crafty blogiverse by storm I must deduce that that someone lacked the proper publicity skillz to get this out into the world where it can grow and marry and make beautiful texture babies.


So I will step forth and do what needs to be done. Listen carefully....

Grab your art journal, a brayer, some Dina Wakley acrylics, a paint palette, Golden Acrylic glazing liquid and some rad stencils. The ones I used here are Artistcellar's Sacred Geometry 2 and the map ones.

Squeeze a little bit of paint and glazing liquid onto the palette and use your brayer to mix it up and smooth it out. When your brayer is evenly inked grab a stencil and carefully roll the brayer over it once or twice. Now, lay aside your stencil and roll your brayer onto a blank page in your art journal.


With some of the ink transferring onto the stencil and off of the brayer it is like monoprinting where the brayer is your plate. HAVE I BLOWN YOUR MIND YET?

And using a dark color onto a pre-painted surface is just divine. Check out this teal background with texture applied with Dina's Night acrylic paint rolled on with a brayer. YUM!

The results are random and depends on how many times you roll your brayer onto the stencil. Want a clear pattern? Only roll your brayer one revolution over your stencil. Want more "layers"? Roll a few times onto your stencil in two different places.

I am not sure if my excitement over this little texture tidbit is a result of my tired educator mind or the thrill of Spring in the air but I can assure you that it is fun and gives mad texture with very little effort.

So, go ahead and try it out and let me know what you think.

Go forth and create, my friends!

Clay and Stencils and Glitter, Oh My!

This tutorial was originally found over on Artistcellar's blog. Just in case you missed it I wanted to post it here again because I am pressuring myself to finish this project in order to do a follow up post!

I have been in a bookmaking mood lately so when I saw the Sacred Geometry 2 Stencils I knew I must use them in some way. To add a bit of a challenge I told myself I could not use them with paper. Like most people, I think, I tend to use my stencils mostly with paper and ink so I wanted to shake things up a bit. I decided to use polymer clay as my cover material for my book.

(Now, I am not a clay expert. I took a little class a few years ago and have read alot of websites on the subject just to get a general idea for my simple structure. It was enough to get me started.)

After conditioning the clay in my pasta roller on thickness 7 I used a template made from a cereal box to cut out four rectangles from the clay. I sandwiched a piece of hardware mesh in between two pieces of clay to help reinforce the covers. To add the first layer of texture I grabbed an old bumpy piece of concrete rock and pressed onto the clay all over the surface, front, back and edges. It created a lovely organic, weathered texture. Yay! Now I am left with two covers ready for for stencil action!

I placed the stencil gently on the clay where I wanted it and using my trusty ol' awl I started tracing the stencil, etching into the clay. Ooooo, fun! When finished I removed the stencil and with the awl I added dots to all the corners. Oooo, more texture! Now it is time to bake!

After being baked and cooled I gave the edges a light sanding and started thinking about paint color.

Wanting to add more depth I started with a raw umber acrylic paint and rubbed it into all the lines, nooks and crannies. I wiped the surface with a baby wipe leaving the dark color in all the lines. Yep! Just the direction I was envisioning!

I gathered acrylic paints in green gold, Indian yellow hue and Pthalo turquiose and using a combination of washes and dry brushing I started building layers of color. The trick to layering color is making sure you let a layer dry before you add another one. 

When I had the layers just right I wanted one more element of surprise. I needed something to make the front cover different from the back. I looked on my art table and there the answer sparkled at me. A small bottle of magic, silver Stickles. Yesssssss. I went all crazy, ignored that precision tip and just applied those magic sparkles with my finger. Whoa! I just applied them on the part of the cover with the stencil. Weeeeee! Unexpected and awesome.

Ta-da! I have a beautiful cover ready to become a beautiful book. 

I hope to finish this in between teaching elementary students the wonders of Kandinsky and wrangling my own crazy daughters. The finished book will be found on my blog in the near future. Have a creative day!

An Introduction

It's been quiet on this here blog because of my job teaching art to eager elementary students and my new gig as one of Artistcellar's design team members! I have posts over on their blog every couple weeks and it is so fun and rewarding to use fantastic products and make art for me. Here is my introduction that was posted when the team was announced. To find my other posts and to see the work of the other amazing artists on the team head on over to their blog.

My name is Kirsten (pronounce it "Curse 10") Varga and I am doing a happy dance over here about being part of Artistcellar's Design Team. I have been creating for as long as I can remember. I earned a Bachelors in Fine Art from the University of Arizona many moons ago and I worked as a graphic designer after graduation. I also worked for a local scrapbook store (LSS, if you will) and I enjoyed smelling all the gorgeous papers and teaching design classes to lovely ladies. It was one of the best jobs.  I have also worked in custom invitations and that was super fun and challenging too. When my sweet children started appearing I stayed home with them and tried to keep the creativity alive by puttering around in my creative cave (as my husband calls it).

Now that my daughters are 10, 8, 6 and 4 I am dipping my toe back into the workforce. Currently I am working part-time as the art teacher at an elementary charter school and I am enjoying it so so much. Just the other day I blew some Kindergarteners minds by mixing yellow and blue together. Pure magic people. If I was paid by hugs from my students I would be a millionaire.

Messing around with art supplies is super fun and I look forward to sharing my shenanigans with you. Paper is my very favorite medium followed by acrylics and pen & ink. I like making books and working on canvas or wood panels. Mixing mediums is my jam and texture makes my heart sing.

I made some notebooks awhile back for a different project and had some leftovers from when I trimmed them down. The scraps were the perfect size for pocket size jotter type notebook. Despite knowing what I wanted them to become they sat on my desk waiting to inspiration to strike. How would I decorate them? When I saw Artistcellar's pocket stencils I knew I had to use them on my mini jotters! The inspirational words are the best size for little masterpieces.

I started by adding Dina Wakley's acrylic paint with a brayer onto the cover. After that dried I used white paint for the word stencil and applied it with my finger. Weeeee! After that dried I grabbed the Sacred Heart series and used them to add "sunshine" type lines radiating from the words. I needed to reapply the white paint onto the words so it would pop more. Finally I grabbed some colorful embroidery floss and did a simple three hole pamphlet stitch to keep the book together.

Woohoo! Beautiful notebooks I would be proud to give as gifts (or keep for myself, hee hee!).

I look forward to sharing more of my artsy adventures with Artistcellar stencils with you.

If you are interested you can find me here:



Yay for SCHOOL!

Things have been slower here at the ol' bloggy blog because I re-entered the workforce back in October. I am the art teacher at a local charter school! It is challenging and exciting. I have been neck deep in lesson plans and art standards and supply orders. The students are awesome and who knew that being the art teacher automatically gives you cool points?!?

So as I navigate the word of elementary art education I look forward to sharing a bit about that and continuing my own art practice. I am curious to see how the creativity of my students will influence me.

Plus, I am brainstorming how I can make my little art room a colorful and inspiring place to be!!

Artist Appreciation

I was recently asked what artists have inspired me. That is such a big question for me. I am a bit of a collector and I take inspiration from many different time periods and genres. During my college art history classes I found inspiration in ancient Egyptian art, in Greek and Roman sculpture, in Medieval Art and Cathedrals, the Renaissance, in Dutch Golden Age paintings, Impressionism, Art Nouveau. My mind was a sponge for the history behind the artists contained within these movements as well as their creations.

This is not to say there is not art I do not enjoy. Surrealism. Surrealism is one that does not inspire me. Sorry Salvador Dali but I just don't get it. ;)

With all that said...

If I have to name just one then it is Vincent Van Gogh. Hands down. Yes, yes it may seem like a boring and typical answer but at the heart of my style is an appreciation for texture. When I look at Van Gogh's paintings I can live and breathe in that texture. His texture tells a story, it is verbal and moving whether it is a portrait, landscape or still life.

I know that one day I will see a Van Gogh in real life and I pity the people next to me for the tears, they will be aflowin'. 

Another artist that has inspired me recently is Patience Brewster. Her illustrations are whimsical and delightful. They inspire me to find and create my own whimsy. Just check out how her drawings are translated to Christmas Ornaments! These contemporary artists show me just how versatile and accessible art can be and forms it can take to bring joy to people's homes.

So, in honor of the start of a new school year, what artists inspire you?

Handmade Art Journal

I started making handmade books in collage many moons ago. I bought books by Shereen LaPlantz, Alisa Golden and Keith Smith. After college I joined a local paper arts group and happily created more books with other like minded individuals. It was heaven. A few times over the years I have taught simple bookmaking classes and it was so fulfilling to watch my students create something that brought them so much joy and satisfaction. A book has endless possibilities and so does its creator.

I followed a tutorial from Pam Carriker's book, Creating Art at the Speed of Light, to made a book block from a few sheets of 22x30 140 lb. watercolor paper. I used Strathmore brand paper I found in the depths of my paper stash.  If I had my druthers I would have used Fabriano Artistico paper but, whatevs, I need to use up my hoard of beautiful papers (sniff, sniff). I tore the pages so all the edges are deckled. Love me some deckled edges!

Next, making the cover. For this book structure this is where things get fun. The cover is the first thing you encounter when you pick up a book so let's make it interesting to see and to feel. Oh yeah, texture baby.

Have you tried out Kraft-tex? It's made of paper but is washable and can be treated like fabric. In a word - FABULOUS. If you wash it in the washing machine it gets a lovely texture on it like leather. I took a piece of washed kraft-tex from my stash, ironed it to help flatten it a bit and then dry brushed a few layers of acrylic paint. Next I used a stamp I made from fun foam and made a pattern with white paint. A final layer of matte medium mixed with a smidge of raw umber brings out the texture and gives it an antique patina.

To add even more texture I grabbed some embroidery floss and made some random stitches all over the area that will cover the spine of my book block. I gently brushed matte medium over the stitches to protect from wear and tear.

To attach the cover to the book I used gel medium to glue the front and back pages of the book block to the cover. As an extra detail I made the cover a bit longer in width so I could wrap the cover around the edge of first and last pages of the book block and glue them down. That 1.5 inches of overlap makes the cover even more interesting and durable. Little details like that make me happy. 

I think there is really only one more thing to do before I start using it...

I need to decide which side is the front of the book!

I hope this inspires you to delve into bookmaking. The possibilities are endless!