Acrylic Skins for Upcycling

First things first: Pia from ColourCottage won one of the new Inner Hero books! The other winner was Suzanne Ourths–congratulations to both winners! As soon as my shipment arrives, two books will be on the way to new owners!

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Show me a container and I’m in love–cardboard, plastic, wood–if it’s well designed, I will find a use for it. No clever container goes in the trash, it get upcycled.  In this case, I used a small drawer-shaped cardboard box, about 3 inches by 3 inches.

After painting it in cream and black, I decided to add an acrylic skin to dress up the box. It will hold small pieces of paper for journal or collage work. Some of the skins are made with Splash Inks and some with acrylic paint.

drip2Pour three or four puddles of tar gel directly onto a teflon craft sheet. About two tablespoons of tar gel makes a good size finished piece. I’ve tried glue and acrylic gloss medium for this project, but I find that clear-drying tar gel gives the best results.

drip3Using a plastic dropper, put three or four drops of different colors in each puddle of tar gel. Rinse the dropper well between each color to prevent further blending.

drip5Using the stirrer, blend the colors by dragging the stirrer through the tar medium and colors. I start at one edge and draw the stirrer through to the other side, then circle and cross through the colors like you would if you were incorporating beaten egg whites into a batter–always cutting through the middle.

The gold adds a dramatic effect, but add it last. Because it contains a lot of pigment, it likes to settle to the bottom. You can use the Niji gold sumi-e watercolor, or acrylic fine gold iridescent paint.

Now comes the hardest part of this project. You have to wait for the puddles to dry completely. It will take at least 24 hours. You can use a hair dryer, but be careful. You don’t want to push the shape around. Do not put this project in the stove or microwave to dry it. Patience produces the best results. If you live in a damp climate, it may take three days to dry.  Here in Phoenix, it takes 24 hours.

Find a piece that is attractive and matches what you plan to place into the box. paint the back with clear-drying glue. Do not use tar gel as glue.

box1It’s nice to have one edge wrap over the edge of the box. Place carefully. Don’t slide the gel skin because the glue will leave a mark on the box. Because the tar gel dries perfectly clear, the skin allows the color of the painted box to show through.

box2Here, I used a large one on the front of the box, and a smaller one on the back of the box. The upcycled box is now a handsome gift box, ready to hold the small journal sheets or other surprise!

Read the complete instructions (with more photos) on the Niji blog site.

–Quinn McDonald is a Niji Design Team member, a collage artist, blogger,and the author of Inner Hero Creative Art Journal, released this week from North Light books.

dtbutton1As a Niji Design Team member, I do not get paid to play with art materials. However, Niji sent me a box of materials to play with.

Using an Acrylic/Gel Skin

Yesterday, I made an acrylic gel skin with a palette knife and left it to dry. Early this  morning, I made another one, using my finger to mix the colors. I liked the circular effect on this one, and the darker blue/gray colors. Cutting shapes out of a paint skin can be a bit tricky. The scissors must be small and sharp if you are cutting small pieces, as I did. The metal sticks slightly to the plastic and it’s easy to get jagged edges or pulled pieces. Work slowly and steadily for the best results.

Tonight I had two skins to play with, the original red one made with a palette knife:


And the blue/gray/brown one, swirled with my finger:

When I saw the colors of the second one, I thought of the beautiful blue agave I recently lost to sun scorch. The neighbors cut down their 30-foot eucalyptus, and the agave, not accustomed to full sun for 12 hours, burned away.  I imagined that there was such a thing as a fire agave that burned on its own.

Cutting out spears from both pieces, I arranged them to create Fire Agave Burning Under the Full Moon.

–Quinn McDonald is an art journaler and the author of Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art, published by North Light books.