Hiding Secrets in Your Journal

For years, when I wrote morning pages, I sat, wrote, and shredded them. They were too dismal and painful for anything else. Then I began to keep them and read them every now and then. To my relief, I was getting less angry, bitter, disappointed. I was, in fact, showing gratitude. Amazing. And then again, my writing began to improve. Reason to keep writing.

Occasionally, I do morning pages in a journal. Sometimes it’s because I’m brave and think I want to remember that specific morning, at other times, I have an insight I want to keep for further development.

My goal is to keep my writing unedited, just as it comes out. After trying out some Sakura pens, I discovered the clear gel pen in the Gelly Roll Glaze series was perfect for writing morning pages with. You can’t see what you are writing. Not looking at my writing made me write more boldly, effortlessly, and soulfully.

When it was dry, I could see the writing if I tilted the page. To obliterate it, I painted gesso over it. Great texture, and the words were no longer visible.

Then I tried gel medium in semi-gloss. This is an experiment worth working on–I’m going to try tinting the gel medium, or letting it dry, then glazing it. Some of the words are semi-visible. (Sorry, the photos didn’t turn out. I need direct sunlight.)

Journal page, written on in clear pen, washed with watercolor.

Then I decided to cover the whole writing with a watercolor wash. Doing that, I discovered meaning in the word “resist.” The clear gel pen acted as a resist, drying up through the watercolor wash, allowing me to read what I had written. (The page is more clear than above, I deliberately made some of it unreadable–TMI.)

I resist what I need to know, resist claiming what I need to claim, even resist showing up in the world the way I want to. And the pen showed that. No matter what you wash over yourself, you always show up as yourself.

Dive into your own morning pages–clear pen or not. You will find ideas you resist and ideas that you can wash over.

Quinn McDonald is a raw-art journaler whose book, Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art contains a whole chapter on hiding your secrets.

Gel Transfers for Art Journaling

Note: Two exciting teaching days in California means I got home very late last night. Today’s post is a quick tutorial on gel transfers. Tomorrow, I’ll share some impressions of the classes.

Gel transfers are not only fun, they add a lot to the pages of your art (or raw-art) journal. Joyce Bank, president of the Calligraphic Society of Arizona,  sent out an interesting summary of YouTube tutorials in various gel medium transfer methods. In each section, the link is followed by a list of interesting points covered in the video.

Golden makes a huge variety of gels, glazes, and mediums

Instead of gel medium, this artist uses a sculptural gel to make transfers.

  • he uses a sculpture gel—a very thick acrylic medium instead of gel medium
  • replaces brush (which can leave marks) with a  plastic palette knife applicator to spread the gel
  • Instead of a laser-print image, he uses a National Geographic magazine image
  • He wets the image so that it will dry together with the acrylic medium
  • He burnishes the image when he applies it

This artist used a soft gel gloss medium

  • a brayer to burnish the image
  • a magazine image rather than a laser printer or photocopied image
  • emphasizes that the darker areas of the photo would show up better
  • lets the transfer dry thoroughly before applying it
  • uses a piece of sandpaper to get the rubbing process started
  • uses a spray water bottle to moisten the back of the paper while she’s rubbing it off

This artist transferred a laser photo image to a piece of tempered glass. Once dry, the image is lifted from the glass and stored on a piece of wax paper until it is used. The glass method allowed him to observe the drying process and yields a smooth surface image.

Quinn McDonald drove across the Sonoran Desert in the dark last night, and was amazed at the experience. She liked being amazed.

Making Acrylic/Gel Skins

Acrylic skins are made with acrylic paint and gel medium. Why not just mix the paint and gel medium on your journal page? Because creating a skin is more versatile. The skin can be cut, stamped, printed, or stenciled. It adds an interesting texture and color to your art journal pages.

Here’s how to make your own acrylic/gel skin:

Cut a piece of plastic wrap about 12 inches x 12 inches. Smooth it out on your work space. Put the plastic wrap on a light piece of paper so you can see and control the color mix. Drip several colors of acrylic paint on the plastic wrap. Don’t use tube watercolors, as they aren’t plastic, and right now, you want plastic.

Once you have all the acrylic down the way you want it, pour about the same amount of gel medium over the paints, spreading it around as you pour. This is semi-gloss, so it will be clear, but not have a high shine. If you want a high shine, use gloss. You can also use matte medium, but it has a tendency to be a bit translucent rather than transparent. Don’t dismiss it, it’s quite an interesting effect, particularly when mixed with gloss gels.

Using a palette knife, blend the paint and the gel until you get an interesting mix. Do not over-stir, otherwise you’ll get a muddy color instead of different color blends.

Once you are finished blending, the hard part starts–patience. Before you peel the skin off it has to have cured overnight. Peel it off to early, and you won’t get a single piece, but rather rubbery bits. It does need time, so I like doing skins before I go to bed at night. That way, they are ready the next day. I deliberately made this uneven–thinner and thicker places. I think it’s more interesting to play with.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, training and certified creativity coach. Her book, Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art is for art journalers who aren’t illustrators, but want to have a colorful journal. Her book is available on Quinn’s website, and for a limited time, shipping is free.

Gel Medium Transfers–Easier with Videos

Gel transfers are not only fun, they add a lot to the pages of your art (or raw-art) journal. Joyce Bank, president of the Calligraphic Society of Arizona,  sent out an interesting summary of YouTube tutorials in various gel medium transfer methods. In each section, the link is followed by a list of interesting points covered in the video.

Golden makes a zillion varieties of gel mediums.

Instead of gel medium, this artist uses a sculptural gel to make transfers.

  • he uses a sculpture gel—a very thick acrylic medium instead of gel medium
  • replaces brush (which can leave marks) with a  plastic palette knife applicator to spread the gel
  • Instead of a laser-print image, he uses a National Geographic magazine image
  • He wets the image so that it will dry together with the acrylic medium
  • He burnishes the image when he applies it
  • This artist used a soft gel gloss medium

  • a brayer to burnish the image
  • a magazine image rather than a laser printer or photocopied image
  • emphasizes that the darker areas of the photo would show up better
  • lets the transfer dry thoroughly before applying it
  • uses a piece of sandpaper to get the rubbing process started
  • uses a spray water bottle to moisten the back of the paper while she’s rubbing it off
  • This artist transferred a laser photo image to a piece of tempered glass. Once dry, the image is lifted from the glass and stored on a piece of wax paper until it is used. The glass method allowed him to observe the drying process and yields a smooth surface image.

    Collage Background 2 (Tutorial)

    Not all collage backgrounds have to be smooth, even, or one color. Here are some techniques to try to get a variety of backgrounds.

    (No pictures because my paints are packed.)

    Common sense warning: wear an apron, cover the floor and work surface with newspapers before you start. This can get messy. Don’t let children try this unsupervised. This tutorial is not meant to be used as instructions for children.

    1. Cover your collage base (canvas, watercolor paper), with gesso. Then use a glaze on it. A glaze is a transparent color rather than an opaque one. You can get a glaze by mixing Golden Glazing Liquid with your acrylic paint. You want a thin consistency. Go light on covering areas. It’s a glaze, after all. Don’t paint the whole background one color. Layer glazes on and get amazing color combinations and luminous results.

    2. Layer glazes carefully. The only rule that you need to remember is to let each layer of glaze dry before applying the next. Experiment with different colors in different areas to create waves of shades across your background.
    3. Some of your acrylics may be more opaque than others. You can see just how opaque by making your own test grid. Once you know more about your colors, try using lights at the top and darks at the bottom of the background. Or move from right to left.

    4. Once the glaze is down, but before it dries, you can texture the wet glaze in any layer using cheesecloth, paper towels, old pantyhose, or any other cloth with a distinct texture.

    5. Twist a T-Shirt or pantyhose into a long rope. Drip paint onto the coiled fabric. Roll the fabric over the surface of the paper to create a background.

    6. Use a sea sponge or kitchen sponge that you have cut into to create craters. Dip it in warm water and wring out as hard as you can. Create a pool of glazed acrylic, dip the sponge in and dot it over your paper. Use light colors first, then darker colors. Top with another color glaze.

    7. Use a 1-inch brush (bristle) from the hardware store. Dip it in paint, tap it on the edge of the paint so that it isn’t dripping wet. Hold the brush in your dominant hand and flick your wrist downward so a spray of paint splashes on your collage.

    8. Cut out a paper shape (oval, triangle, square, circle, tree, wings) and put it on your collage, then repeat Step 7. Pick up the paper; the space beneath will be free of the color you just used. If you leave the paper on during the entire paint application step, you’ll have a focal point.

    9. Use a 1″ foam brush, dip just the leading edge in paint and touch it carefully to the paper to create a vertical line. Repeat right next to it, almost touching. Then turn the brush, and using the same color paint, make a horizontal line on the same level as the top of the two vertical lines, but next to them on the right. Put another line underneath it. Keep making horizontal lines until you have a rectangle of lines–two vertical and enough horizontal to fill the same space. Repeat two vertical lines on the right of the horizontal ones. You are creating a basket-weave pattern. It’s busy, but when done in a glaze, it can add interesting visual texture.

    10. Mix some Gel Medium (Golden makes matte, gloss and semi-gloss) with a little acrylic paint. Medium is acrylic paint without color in it. Put it on your collage background rather thickly. Press a piece of toweling (terry-cloth), burlap, or other rough-textured cloth into it. You’ll pick up a lot of the Medium on the cloth, leaving a texture imprint on the collage background. You can use texture plates as well, but in this case, allow the Medium to dry enough to take the imprint without smearing.

    –Quinn McDonald is a writing and communication instructor and a mixed media artist. See her work at QuinnCreative.com (c) 2007 All rights reserved.

    Glue Tips

    Whether you use PVA glue, acrylic medium, or methyl cellulose, wet glues have their own problems and their own great uses.

    I always wanted to use glue sticks, but I just don’t have luck with them. They aren’t precise enough, and for some reason, they don’t hold well over time. If they work for you, great.

    So, here’s what I’ve found out about using wet glues.
    Buy them in big bottles and transfer them to smaller squeeze bottles. Label them by writing on a piece of tape and putting the tape on the bottle. Wipe the rim of the big bottle carefully with a wet cloth so you can open it again.methyl cellulose

    Invest in parchment paper. The kind cooks use in the kitchen. Not waxed paper, not plastic wrap, or freezer paper. Not parchment from an art store. Kitchen parchment paper. I bought a giant stack and use it in pieces about 5 inches x 8 inches, or, if I am working on larger pieces, enough to leave a one-inch margin around the piece I’m working on. I tear up an entire stack, and work on top of the stack. More on that in a minute.

    The trouble with glue is. . .well, it’s wet and sticks to everything. Including your clothes and skin. Wear an apron, and have a wet cloth handy. Once most glue gets on your clothing, you’ve got a piece of work clothing. If you jump up and wet down the clothing right away, you might save it, but it’s a hell of a way to spend an afternoon. Wipe your hands on the wet cloth frequently. Pulling glue off your skin is painful, wrecks a manicure, and may not come off in one piece. Walking around looking like a leprosy victim is not priceless, it’s creepy.

    acrylic mediumPVA, acrylic mediums, and methyl cellulose can be thinned with water. I use distilled water in a spray bottle. Rather than thinning the whole bottle, I thin small amounts–about as much as I’ll use in 10 minutes.

    Use the parchment paper as a glue palette. I squeeze a puddle of glue about the size of a quarter on a small piece of parchment. To thin it, I spray distilled water on it. I quit using tap water when I sprayed the water into the glue and a week later, there was mold on the glue. I quit using boiled water when I lived in hard water areas and the minerals in the water streaked the medium and showed when it dried. Distilled water avoids all sorts of problems.

    images6.jpegDon’t scrimp on parchment. I use a 1-inch brush to cover a large area, and run the brush over the edges to get a good seal or to serve as a base coat on paper. I do one side, and pick up the parchment and move it aside. Most paper won’t stick to parchment and you can let it dry. Do NOT try to pick up the paper and use the parchment again. Wait till both are dry. You can re-use the parchment then. But while it’s wet, you will just transfer glue to the wrong wide, smear your work or mess up your surface. I’ve read the tip about using a phone book, but phone book ink smears and transfers, and it’s not what I want.

    Most lighter papers will curl if you apply glue to one side. Particularly if the grain is running long. Use acrylic medium on one side, let it dry, then flatten it with your hands and coat the other side. After that, you can use watercolors, acrylics, and more glue and the paper won’t curl and ruin your project.

    Acrylic mediums can be used as a base coat, a top coat, an isolator (coat the piece to be glued down on both sides, let it dry, then glue down), and a glue. You can coat isolated areas in matte and others in gloss for wonderful effects. If you want a gloss finish, don’t apply gloss over matte. You can apply matte over gloss to take the shine down.

    If you are a collage artist, and have windows in the image, coat the glass part of the window image with gloss medium, then use matte or satin on the back for glue. The glass in the windows will shine, giving it a real effect.

    –Quinn McDonald is an artist and writer. See her work at QuinnCreative.com (c) 2007. All rights reserved. Images: parchment paper, http://www.baar.com. Glues, http://www.dickblick.com.

    Gel Medium:Coating the World

    [Note: You may also enjoy reading More on using glues.]
    Gel medium is the magic potion of the art world–it’s a glue or a sealer; it creates a matte or shiny surface, it thins acrylic paints and makes them more transparent, it slows drying.

    And the vary characteristics that make it wonderful cause confusion. Let’s keep it simple: Gel medium is acrylic paint without pigment color.

    Gel medium is a description, there are several brand names, including Liquitex, Golden and Dick Blick‘s house brand.

    00628-1295-0ww-xs.jpgThere are three textures: thick, thin and medium. That’s where the first problem starts.
    Thick is also called “heavy,” and “gel,”
    medium is often called “fluid,” or “soft fluid, or “medium gel,”
    liquid is also called “most fluid,” “self-leveling,” or, “liquid”

    Confused yet? I use Golden, which is a brand name, not a color, and their viscosities are divided into Gel and Medium, which is fluid. Golden makes at least 20 variations, including gels packed with glass beads for shine and texture, and those you can shape into peaks for impasto.00618-1026-0ww-xs.jpg

    I use heavy gel when I need a paste, a medium when a lighter glue is needed, and a thin for coating collage work, isolating elements that might bleed or deteriorate or have a high-acid content which interferes with the archival qualities.

    In addition to their consistency, gels also have transparency. Matte is great for creating a see-through surface without a shine. But if you are going to build it up, it will reduce clarity. Satin has a soft luster, and gloss is perfectly clear. It is shiny, but you can also build up layers and get that trapped-in-lucite look that reminds me of decoupage gone wrong, but certainly has its place.

    Almost all mediums extend drying time of paint, and your best bet is to use the thinnest consistency and apply several coats. Let dry thoroughly between coats. If you use a heat gun, be careful not to hold the nozzle too close to the piece while the medium hasn’t set. Your collage will absorb the liquid, form steam, then develop blisters that can pop, spraying hot medium.

    If you press your pieces, make sure they are dry. Even then, I use parchment to separate pages when they go into the book press.

    –Quinn McDonald. QuinnCreative offers journal-writing, training, seminars and life- and creativity coaching. (c) 2007. All rights reserved. Images: courtesy Liquitex and Golden.