Saturday Creative Do It!

Every Saturday for a while, you’ve seen artists and their interesting work here. This week, it might be interesting if you wrapped yourself in some creative work yourself. Not sure of what you want to do? Here are some suggestions;

Lili's great paste paper design.

Lili’s great paste paper design.

1. Try paste paper. A lot of fun for very little money. Use your fingers, you don’t need to buy anything to have fun with making marks. Lili’s Bookbinding Blog has a great tutorial. Lili also marbles paper in the traditional way. Don’t miss the eye candy surface decoration.

2. Have fun with acetate. Mel shows you how to emboss inexpensive acetate and make a 3-D flower with only one layer of acetate.

3. DIY: pumpkin with book pages. Couldn’t be easier if you want to scare kids out of reading. No, no, just kidding. I’d love to see that pumpkin done in torn-up maps, too.

4. Make a book the old-fashioned, real-book-bookbinding way. Worth a look, but not a project you are going to whip out in a day or so.

Have a creative weekend!

–Quinn McDonald is having her own fun in the studio this weekend. It involves Quinacricone Azo Gold.


Tea-Dyed Projects (Loose-Leaf Journal Pages)

Tea-dying is ancient. And modern. And flexible and inventive. Here are three projects that you can do with four tea bags.

You’ll need:

  • 4 tea bags of any black or red tea
  • Filtered water, about 1/4 cup
  • Wide watercolor brush, about an inch wide
  • 3 Tablespoons rough Kosher salt
  • Pitt pen (optional)
  • Watercolor pencils

1.  Chose tea bags that you don’t want to make into a drink. If you experiment with tea flavors like I do, you will eventually wind up with a choice that took one step too far into the “experiment” stage, and you’ll wonder what to do with a box of coconut-lychee-pomegranate-chocolate or some other choice that seemed clever at the time.

2.  Remove the staple from the bag, if it has one. Leave on the string and tag.

3. Put four bags into a small bowl, add about two tablespoons water, and put in the microwave on high for 30 seconds.

4. Remove bowl from microwave with an oven mitt. Using a spoon, press the round back of the spoon against the tea bags to expel concentrated tea.

5. Remove tea bags from bowls and place on a piece of watercolor paper. Move the positions once. It’s fine if the tea runs onto the paper. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before moving bags. When the bags have been in two positions, remove them allow the paper to dry, then draw the outlines of the bags, strings and tags.

Project One:

Using a broad watercolor brush, dip it into the strong tea, and paint horizontal bands across the paper. After each stripe, re-dip brush and paint next stripe overlapping the first stripe, so you are painting a continuous tea coverage down the page. The page will curl a bit. This is fine. If you don’t want it to curl, spray back of watercolor paper with a mist of plain water.

Use a big pinch kosher salt and toss it on the page. On the pages, experiment with more and less salt. The salt will suck up the tea. If you have a puddle, use more salt for a darker effect.

Let the salt dry completely. All the way. Really dry. Don’t rush this step or the design will smear.

Brush off the salt. You may need help from a dry stiff sponge or a toothbrush.

Project Two:

Create a map by outlining the salt stains. You can add pieces of real map or a star chart. Label the land masses and seas according to your mood–Salt Flats, Horizon Line, Land Spill, Farther Than You Thought.

Project Three:
Using watercolor pencils, trace the edges of the salt marks and create fantasy patterns. For this one, I decided on flowers.

If you keep the flowers paler than I did here, you can use this as a background for a page. I’ll write on this, but I need to think of the words and how to make it look of a piece. Meanwhile, I like it the way it is.

—Quinn McDonald is working on her second book and playing with concepts.

Posts from the Studio

I don’t run new posts on Saturdays, but many people spend time in the studio on the weekends and I thought it might be helpful to post links to several older posts on this blog that might be helpful for a day in the studio.

How to make your own deckle-edge paper.

Review of Derwent Inktense watercolor pencils.

Marbling with Sumi ink.

10 Ideas for what to put on your journal’s first page

How to handle problem students (Part 1)  (Part 2)

Enjoy the day!

Quinn McDonald writes “The Business of Art” column for Somerset Studio.

Tutorial: Sumi Ink Marbling

Marbling paper is a complicated process. Marbling paper with sumi  inks and colored pencils is fun and unpredictable–you don’t know what you’ll get, but it’s always fun. Raw art is meaningful art you make with a minimum of equipment and without kits. It’s art that is uniquely yours and art that makes meaning for you. All the expensive equipment in the world won’t make you an artist. But making something meaningful does.

This simple, unpredictable technique  of marbling paper uses only a black ink. The project that allows for quiet meditation and a lot of fun with colored pencils, aquarelles, regular pencils, ink pens, or whatever else you have. You will need some equipment:

  • Toothpick
  • Soup plate or baking dish (8-inch square)
  • Paper towels
  • Paper to work on (I used 4 X 6 Arches Wove Text, but any  good paper will do.)
  • Sumi ink (available at most art supply houses. Walnut ink or regular fountain pen ink won’t work.)
  • Tap water (Don’t use distilled or treated. Regular tap water is perfect.)

sumigraphtintGather everything on a place you can clean up easily. Stack up two or three paper towels. Make sure the bowl you use will hold the entire sheet of paper. Fill the soup plate or baking dish with cool tap water.

Dip the toothpick in the sumi ink, so you get the toothpick wet. Touch the tip of the toothpick to the surface of the water. The ink should immediately flow onto the surface of the water. Use the tootpick to gently spread the ink on the water’s surface.

Pick up the paper by holding it at opposite corners–one on the bottom, one on top. Curve the paper slightly, so the bottom will touch the water first. Roll the paper smoothly over the surface of the water. If you want both sides of the paper inked, wait till the entire piece of paper is floating on the surface of the water, then gently push the piece under water, pull it out by one edge, so water and ink rolls down the length.

Hold the paper by one corner, allowing it to drip dry. When the paper is no longer dripping, put it on the paper towel to dry. You can use a hair dryer to finish the drying process.

When the paper is dry, use pencils, pens, or colored pencils to pick out and emphasize patterns that the sumi ink made. In the example I made, I use my favorite subtle-color pencils–watercolor graphite pencils, which can be used wet or dry. Derwent Graphtint are wonderful for subtle work, but you don’t need anything more than a regular pencil. OK, you can also use Derwent’s InkTense for their transparent color. Use a light touch, because gentle color works best with the mysterious swirls of sumi ink.

FTC Required Disclosure: I purchased all materials in this tutorial. No one paid me or donated the tools I mentioned by brand name. Links to products are not paid, simply practical ones I find useful.

—Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who believes that everyone can keep an art journal, even those who can’t draw. See her work at