Easy Alcohol Ink Backgrounds

I got so much love for my alcohol ink hearts from you guys but I also heard from many of you about not wanting to use a heat gun when working indoors with ink fumes. Thank you for being safe! ⁠

⁠If you aren’t able to work in a well-ventilated space when using a heat gun with alcohol inks, I have another solution for you! ⁠

You can create beautiful backgrounds with just drops of alcohol inks…just choose a color palette and start dropping the inks. Add some drops of isopropyl alcohol and, soon, you’ll have a unique abstract background for cards, journal pages, bookmarks, gift tags, wrapping paper…the list is endless!⁠

I also made some more colorful variations of these abstract backgrounds using the same principle but changing the colors and varying the amount of isopropyl alcohol. It’s amazing how each background turns out different when when using the same color combinations. So much fun!

I created this background with Brea Reese and Ranger Ink/ Tim Holtz alcohol inks on Duralar paper. For a complete list of my favorite alcohol ink supplies, visit my Amazon Shop.

A Blue Rose

It’s 20 years today — two decades of being with the love of my life. We “met ” each other online when there were no dating websites or apps, when long-distance relationships weren’t a thing. The iPhone hadn’t been invented yet and there was no Gmail. It was also the day and age when we read each email that went into our Spam folders – because getting email was just that exciting!

An unexpected e-mail from halfway across the world had made its way into my inbox in the wee hours of a winter night. He had read my Unicef-award-winning poem on sexual exploitation of girls and wanted to know what kind of a nut-job I was. Why was I not writing about fashion accessories or reviewing Bollywood heartthrobs like a “typical” girl (presumptuous much?).

He was moved (and curious enough) to write me. I responded, only because I was bad-ass and he was being unbearably stereotypical. Within a week of exchanging 50-odd e-mails and long IM conversations in different time zones, we knew we were meant to be.

Our debates were intellectual, our conversations philosophical, our desire to change the world palpable. It was a meeting of the minds halfway across the globe. We hadn’t exchanged photos, but we knew it wouldn’t matter. I don’t know how we knew. But we just did.

He loved the way I wrote. Encouraged me to speak my heart. Inspired me. Challenged me. Supported me. Was my worst critic. My best friend.

Still is. 20 years later.

So, today I painted him a bouquet of flowers with a blue rose highlighting our special kind of love: one that was characterized by friends and family as impossible and unattainable.

I like to think of it as being extraordinarily resilient, wonderful and unique.

I know it is.

It’s Just Paper

Here is a flip through of some of my gel print journals and the transformation of one of the pages. Tania Ahmed inspired and guided me into making these disc-bound journals with my prints — which hold brayer sheets, discarded prints and experimental attempts.

Some also have blank pages which I can easily pull out to make more gel plate prints and re-attach into these disc-bound journals. ⁠

Whenever I feel like I don’t have enough time to start and finish a project (which is most days!), I can pull out any one of these journals and practice some art therapy. It’s a form of daily meditation — I encourage you to try it.

You don’t have to have a plan, or even know what you will do. Just grab whatever tool is closest to you — a colored pencil, a paintbrush, a pen, a marker … and go for it. Sometimes closing your eyes and drawing can serve as a starting point. Or try drawing with your non-dominant hand. ⁠

Remember, it’s just paper. And if you create with your heart, your hands will follow 🙂

And if you’re interested in learning more about making unique gel plate prints, have a look at my self-paced online classes.

Making candles with stamps

As I was creating cards with the new Catherine Pooler Date Night Collection my kiddo had the brilliant idea of trying them out for candle-making.

We had made candles as new year gifts back in 2018 and both of us had thoroughly enjoyed the process … sadly, she didn’t remember much of it BUT I am so grateful she wanted to re-create the experience.

This time, though, she decided to watch what I do and then put her own spin on it while working independently.

I used the luscious inks on my trusty Gelli Arts gel plate for some beautifully mellow shades. Something happens when you transfer inks from the gel plate onto tissue paper … it yields a much softer effect than when you stamp directly on paper. I used a mini plate so was able to incorporate the shape of the plate itself as a design element.

I had enough tissue paper to make two candles, so I chose to go plain with the first one and stamp some of the Hip Hearts on to the second one for a more fun look.

And here is what my kiddo did!

I am so proud of this video for one reason: my six-year-old initiated the idea and saw it through completion.

She set up the camera, checked that she was inside the frame throughout the shoot, assisted with post-processing (learning how to hyperlapse a video and which parts to edit out and stitch together), did a voice over — and as a cherry on top designed her own logo on my iPad using Canva. There is no way I was this creative or this driven when I was six! Truly, I’m in awe of her.

She plans to launch her own YouTube channel this summer. I hope you’ll encourage and support this young creative! For her candle, she used Catherine Pooler’s Hip Hearts stamps and Memento Inks.

Have you ever tried making candles with stamps? Or with your help plate prints? Let me know in the comments.

Layered Flowers

I have recently been spending a lot of time on Instagram, given that I don’t have access to my craft room quite yet, and drawing inspiration. On days, that I get desperate, I unpack some supplies and steal 30 minutes to just paint something quick. Art is like therapy for me and I can’t stay away from it for too long. The good news is that our home is almost ready for us to move back in, so I’ll be back to my daily practice soon enough.

Today, I’m sharing this mixed media multi-layered journal page with influence from the works of Andrea Garvey, a local artist whom I’ve had the pleasure to meet. Andrea’s work is always so colorful and vibrant with such positive vibes. I bought a mermaid painting from her for my daughter’s room and recently also purchased a set of her gorgeous floral tea towels as a housewarming gift for myself. Her art truly does fill my heart with joy and I hope you can see some of that joy carrying into this painting.

Click Image to shop products used

As you’ll see in this video, I started out with very loose flowers filling up the entire page with three colors and then incorporated acrylic inks and color-shift paints. Whenever I paint over my base images, my daughter lets out a little gasp and cries, “Why did you just ruin the painting? That was so pretty!” I always smile and tell her that it’s fine…they will still show when someone looks at the painting carefully.

This mixed-media multi-layered page makes me think of our individual journeys…influenced by everything around us.

We become who we are, not in a silo, but by being part of a community, a family, a network of friends and acquaintances.

A tapestry of varied experiences lead us to find our voice, our identity, and makes us uniquely who we are. Just like this flower, emerging from the background.

Like I always say: “create with your heart and your hands will follow” — this journal page is no different.

Uniquely You

Sometimes you can draw inspiration from another artist but what you paint on your paper will reflect your style in big or small ways.

And you may not even know what your style is…but the more you practice, the more you’ll discover elements that repeatedly show up on your pages. Those elements may be specific shapes or marks you lean on, certain colors you always incorporate, or words you always incorporate.

You just have to give yourself the permission to play. What you create will be uniquely yours, no matter the inspiration.

If you’d like to shop for supplies used in this project, please follow this link. For specific dye ink colors I used, please refer to the table below. These are affiliate links that may generate a small amount of money for me at no cost to you.

Colorful Hip Hearts

I was so excited to receive Catherine Pooler Designs’ new Date Nights ink collection and Hip Hearts stamp-die set! The inks are absolutely luscious and juicy, making them perfect for so many different kinds of applications.

I love that you can stamp with them and use them for embossing, but they also make for a wonderful watercoloring medium. And, they are superb for gel plate printing! They provide the vibrancy of acrylics without the mess.

So, I decided to use this new collection of inks in all these various ways to make a wonky, fun, “hip” card and I recorded a process video.

This video will always remain special to me because I not only used my new Arkon Mount but also my new Blue Yeti microphone to record the voiceover. Please let me know what you think the production quality of this video — I intend to produce a lot more free videos this year, so your feedback is critical!

Here are some stills as well that I shot on my new Ink and Elm Grunge Storm backdrop. I like the neutral gray against my riot of colors. This card is available for purchase as part of my Paying it Forward initiative for 2021…pay what you can and I’ll donate the funds to Friends of Animals.

I made another quick card with the hearts I die cut from this panel. They were so vibrant, full of energy and movement, and just so fun that I decided to adhere them on to a plain black background. I propped the middle heart up with multiple paper strips (instead of foam tape) and them added dots on the black background with a black glaze pen. This card is also available for purchase as part of the same “paying it forward” initiative.

This was such a fun project for me and I love that these hearts can be used for just about any occasion, or even a “just because” card. And why limit it to cards?

As I was looking at these funky hearts, I decided to try making a candle with them! “Wait, what?” you say? That’s going to be a whole other post in and of itself and featuring a process video from my almost-seven-year old with her own new branding!

If you’d like to add these gorgeous inks, stamps and dies to your stash, scroll down and shop. These are affiliate links that may generate a small amount of money for me at no cost to you.

Alcohol Ink Hearts

Last week, I shared some quick ways of using your gel plate and existing stamps/dies to create some quick love notes. Today, I show you how you can use alcohol inks to make some beautifully interlaced hearts without much effort. Also, without any “extra” stuff.

If you want to turn these into cards, just trim and mount your substrate on cardstock. Or you can even have these framed in different colors and hang in your craft room! Wouldn’t a rainbow of hearts look really pretty?

Masking Fluid + Alcohol Inks

This first video involves painting a heart shape with masking fluid and applying alcohol inks after it is completely dry. I didn’t like the white lines it left as I peeled it off, so I went overboard in decorating it. Also, I think I could have used blending solution to make the area around the heart a bit more muted. This feels very busy to me.

All products used in this painting can be found here.

Cookie Cutter + Alcohol Inks

For my second heart, I decided to use a more “rigid” boundary. Say hello to my cookie cutter! I found this to be a better way to “contain” the inks and really liked the “halo” effect I was able to create by dipping a paper napkin in alcohol and smearing it around. I will warn you, though: this cookie cutter approach is addictive! There’s no way you’ll do just one and stop!

All products used in this painting can be found here.

Cookie Cutter + Alcohol Inks (sans background)

For this last heart, I used the same cookie cutter technique but this time I was quick in picking up my heat gun and stop the flow of ink under the plastic. I will remind you to please be careful when using a heat gun. It’s important to keep moving back and forth and not burn the paper or yourself! I really like this effect without the background … it has a level of “purity” to it, I think.

All products used in this painting can be found here.

Do you have a favorite from these? Have you tried making alcohol ink paintings with masking fluid and cookie cutters before? I’d love to hear from you!

Love Notes Three Ways with a Gel Plate

It’s almost a month out to Valentine’s Day — also celebrated as Galentine’s Day by many — and my Instagram feed is flooded with all things hearts.

I’m seeing some amazing new releases by many brands but if you’ve exhausted all your cash on winter releases, worry not! I am here to encourage you to play with whatever you already own. As long as you have a gel plate, we’re good to go!

Have a look at the three videos and let me know if you have a personal favorite.

Part 1: Get Your Fingers Messy

Spread paint around with your fingers. Don’t worry about a specific way of doing it. Just enjoy the sensory experience. Imagine yourself as a 3-year-old. Overthinking is not allowed! Add some textural elements and stencils. Use deli paper to keep the backside of the note card clean. Pull a print. Or two. Or three!

Part 2: Use Your Brayer

Spread out the paint in a thin layer with your brayer and pull a base print. Add another layer of paint and add some stencils to create layers of designs. Pull prints.

Repeat the process until you’re happy with the layers and colors. I used my homemade wooden stamps in this one to include some XOXO and heart symbols.

Part 3: Use Distress Inks

Apply distress inks with a blending brush directly on to the gel plate. It will look like there isn’t much, but wait ’till you pull a print. Less is more in this case. The prints you pull will be soft and delicate unlike what you achieve if you were to use distress inks directly on paper.

Use stencils and stamps as you would with acrylic paints. Applying distress inks on a gel plate is the fastest way of making creative, one-of-a-kind, blended backgrounds.

I embellished the note cards with pencil colors, die cuts of previous monoprints that I had lying around, stickers and paint pens. I also made matching envelopes. You can get really creative and go to town with embellishments or keep it simple if you’re in a time crunch.

The backs of my notecards did become a bit messy, despite my attempts to keep my fingers clean, so I used double-sided tape and adhered a clean notecard on the back. It also made my notecards sturdier.

Hope you enjoyed this project and I look forward to hearing if these gave you new ideas for using your gel plate.

P.S. These videos are from last year but I know the ideas are still fresh and applicable. You can also adapt these to make greeting cards, but sometimes sending little “Love Notes” to friends and family makes it less daunting.

Curious about supplies I used? Here is a link to my Amazon Store Front.

Change Begins with One

I have been journaling and reflecting a lot the last couple of days about the state of affairs in this country. No doubt as we get closer to January 20, we are all anticipating change.

Change won’t happen magically, though. We are all part of it — within us are the tools we need to reshape what our future looks like. And before we can move forward, we need to address our past and our present. Acknowledgment is important.

With decades — centuries, truly — of prevalent, but hidden, racism and suppression shaping our present, it’s important to take in this moment. Breathe. Cry. Grieve. Accept that there is work to be done and we have a role to play. Take responsibility for not doing more.

My heritage and my skin color have nothing to do with my values and morality — neither should yours. We owe it to our fellow human beings, no matter their ethnic background or racial identification, the same liberties we demand for ourselves.

Questioning deeply-held beliefs and inherent biases is important. Having open conversations about what we feel and why we feel the way we do is imperative. Seeking help, looking up reliable sources of information, fact-checking — all go a long way in helping create space for acknowledgment, acceptance and, ultimately, action.

I hope that we are all able to introspect, press pause before lashing out, and truly focus on what’s important. When we give a damn for someone else’s pain even though it doesn’t affect us — that’s compassion! When we care enough to speak up for those who are being mistreated — that’s courage!

Our children are listening, watching and soaking in.

Change begins at home. Change begins with one.

I am the change. You are the change. We are the change we want to see.

A Time For Action

Please note: This is not a political commentary. This is personal. It IS about taking sides: it IS about fighting for a country where equality isn’t blinded by color, justice is truly served to all, and our morals aren’t corrupted by our political loyalties. If, after reading this, you feel you’d rather unfollow me, please do.

Like many of you, I had a visceral reaction to the images of the Capitol Attack on January 6.

I didn’t expect fear alongside anger. I couldn’t stop the tears from streaming down my cheeks. I didn’t anticipate the extent of helplessness and disappointment at witnessing a collapse of our democracy.

It might be a bit much to compare those feelings to what I had experienced on September 11, 2001, but the words I found myself whispering over and over were the same: “This can’t be happening in America. This can’t be happening to America.”

As I do when I feel helpless, at a loss of words, and completely inconsolable — I painted. With no paper or paint or pens handy, I picked up my iPad and did what I would in my journal.

I cried through it, too. And then some more. I avoided reading a rehash of the day’s events on news outlets online. I turned the TV off. There were some hard conversations that evening with my six-year-old about why “Daddy and I looked like someone had died.”

I shared why I was feeling heartbroken. Why it’s important to respect the institution of democracy…why grownups sometimes fail to take responsibility for their actions. We talked about the freedom of the press, the role we play as consumers of (mis)information, why it’s important to be aware of inherent biases. I emphasized the importance of being kind and humble, but also speaking up in the face of moral corruption. And I listened.

It was fascinating, heartwarming and encouraging to see her immediately translate a lot of what we discussed into the six character pillars they constantly talk about, emulate and practice at school.

I went to bed in tears but comforted by hope — hope in our future, in our children, in this country.

And then I read this post by Morgan Harper Nichols, it made all the sense in the world.

There are no
“two sides of the aisle”
in the kitchen.
There is a table.
There are chairs.
There are human beings bound together
by a need for nourishment,
and in order for that to happen,
we have to bring our ingredients together
and work to create a feast
so that everyone
can be fed.

For unity to happen,
we have to acknowledge the ingredients
that have worked
and the ones that have been missing.
In the kitchen,
there are no “two sides of the aisle”
There is a pot in front of us.
And it’s time to cook.
Some of what we will try will work.
Some of what we will try will not.
But the water is already boiling on the stove,
and we need to eat
Let’s get to work.

It’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be pretty, either. But with real work, grit, active community participation and introspection, we can bring about change. We can build a future that is inclusive and fair.

I’m (re)learning from my six-year old that we can make our world a simpler, safer, and better place when guided by our moral compass. It’s really not that complicated. I am not saying there’s a magic recovery to “all things normal.” Our normal is screwed up. This is a time to introspect, to unite, and to act with intention.

I will leave you with this powerful image from Danielle Coke.

P.S. If you have kids and are looking to have conversations with them about the recent attack on the US Capitol, this is a helpful resource.