Shine Your Light: Art Journal

As is the case with all my art journals, I started this spread with nary a plan. Using my distress crayons and Stabilo woody pencils, I just scribbled some colors to create an under-layer. I then grabbed some stencils and color shift acrylics. Usually I write some words in my art journal as my colors and patterns start coming together but for some reason, none came to mind.

There’s a lot of chaos around me right now with our impending move, school closing down for the holidays and us not having a “normal” Christmas. We are under orders to stay at home, the ever-growing numbers of deaths and shortage of hospital beds is alarming, and the stress of having a house remodeled under these circumstances has been getting to me. And what do I reach for when I am feeling like everything is falling apart? My art journal.

My art journal is much like a visit to the therapist. There’s a lot of inner conflict, drama, dialogue and angst that comes out initially — you will see the stress I’m feeling in the busy-ness of the spread — but there’s also always some amount of closure and definitely a whole lot of joy at the end of it. It’s a process. And it’s a journey one has to allow oneself to embark on.

When I started sketching out my signature tribe of women and blocking out the space around them, I felt a sense of calm descend over me. It started feeling almost soothing. And that is when the vision appeared and I changed course. I hadn’t considered anything but a white background until this point. You’ll even see me trying to emulate white on white snowflakes for a washed out winter scene (subconsciously prompted by the recent storms on the East Coast, I think). I knew I still wanted snow, but I also wanted these ladies to be the only focal point radiating light.

As this page started coming together with the background, I could focus on giving each of them a distinct personality with my knife. I love scraping the top layers to reveal the colors and patterns under. There is something so therapeutic about the act. Also, it makes them so “real” — like us, with many complex layers of experience thrown together to make us who we are today.

My creative philosophy

You all know that I say “create with your heart first and your hands will follow.” It couldn’t be more true on this page. When I reached for the color-shift paints to work with my stencils, little did I realize that it would end up signifying perspective in the final spread. Tilting the journal in light, you can see the color-shift paint change the look of the entire image. It can be purple with a shiny yellow and black-gold (in your face) look or it can be a beautifully vibrant, yet deep and dark, confident aura.

We always see things through our own lens, colored by our own experience, peppered by our own opinion. But sometimes, if we allow for some space, we may be able to see things differently. Or, at the very least, acknowledge that there could be more than one way of thinking about something. Sometimes instead of disagreeing vocally, we can simply listen quietly.

So, what is this page ultimately about?

For me, it’s about shining our light amidst the chaos around us, staying calm and open to different perspectives, and knowing that we can be true to ourselves while still holding space for others. With Covid-19, things haven’t gone the way they “should” have. We have been out of our home for more than the six months we were supposed to be. We have a string “Christmas Tree” taped to our wall in lieu of the real one we have every year. But we also have so much to be grateful for. A perspective shift is so helpful in a year where everything feels wrong and I feel cheated. We still have a roof over our heads. I still have my art to find solace in. We are all healthy.

So, keep your light shining bright. It may be dark around you, but you can always lean in and dig deep for that ray of optimism and positivity. It’s there. I promise you.

But I’m curious: what does this page say to you? What do you see in the imagery and the colors? Let me know in the comments.


Curious about the products I use? I have listed them below.

(These are compensated affiliate links at no cost to you. Thank you for your support! Affiliate and product disclosure can be found here. As always, I was not paid to do this post and I only use products from companies I love.)

Fluid Art Greeting Cards

Sure you’ve all seen amazing fluid acrylic paintings and functional items, but have you tried your hand at fluid acrylic greeting cards?

After I shared a couple of quick Tik Tok videos on this really easy and fun fluid-acrylic cardmaking technique, I was inundated by private messages asking for a more detailed video. So, for those of you patient ones who like more information than can be delivered in a quick 15-second crafty bite, here’s my process.

The fluid acrylic greeting cards are easy to make and don’t require any special paper: just your regular cardstock! You also won’t need a whole lot of paint and if you use a baking tray then all the spills stay contained. The results are gorgeous and can you imagine the delight of the recipients? Mini-unique paintings that they can frame! I think it’s gift-giving at its best.

My paint recipe
  • 1 part high flow fluid acrylics (I’m partial to Golden Paints)
  • 2 parts PVS glue or glossy ModPodge (you can also use Liquitex pouring medium)
  • Distilled or cold water as needed to achieve melted ice cream consistency
  • 1-2 drops per color of treadmill lubricant, silicone oil, coconut oil or isopropyl alcohol to create cells (don’t overdo this)

I hope you have fun watching and trying out this technique. I’ve taken a hiatus from fluid acrylic pours (I used to make large triptychs and canvases that hang at local restaurants) but this is a more contained version and a refreshing new way of making really unique greeting cards.

Let me know if you try it. I’d love to know how it went.

Bonus tip

I seal the paint with polyurethane spray, but you can also mix just a bit of liquid varnish into the paint to avoid that last step. Just make sure you let the cards dry flat for at least 12 hours.


Curious about the products I use? I have listed them below.

(These are compensated affiliate links at no cost to you. Thank you for your support! Affiliate and product disclosure can be found here. As always, I was not paid to do this post and I only use products from companies I love.)

Creating with a Prompt: Art Journal

When my six-year-old asked if we could journal together, I wasn’t surprised. But when she said “I have a prompt for you!” I did a double take. She had a paper doll that she had already colored and wanted me to incorporate it in my journal. She had another one for her own journal.

We worked side by side for an hour in almost complete silence…she at her workstation and I at mine. She would intermittently come and take a colored pencil or pick up a stencil but for the most part we stayed in our own zones.

My only instruction to her always is: follow your heart…choose colors and words that speak to you in the moment. When she showed me her journal spread, she said, “this girl is letting go of everything everyone tells her to be…she is choosing to believe in herself!”

As a mother, I can’t tell you what I experienced in that moment. For her to create something so powerful at this young age … I’m honestly gobsmacked.

My journal page pales in comparison…but the message is one of living your life with love and hope. I incorporated parts of a magazine and used a selection of stencils along with color shift acrylics, fluid acrylics, acrylic inks and white gesso.

If you have little ones…invite them to play with colors and imagery…encourage them to incorporate words and textures…try not to give them any directions and see where their journey leads them. You’ll be amazed at the beauty they create.

My Process and Advice

Since it was an impromptu session and because I rarely plan what my end goal will be with journal pages, you’ll see me make decisions and change them…I’m not afraid of covering any layers…and that is the biggest piece of advice I can give those that are starting out: Go with the flow.

Follow your heart and try not to have an agenda…try immersing yourself in the process and enjoy the journey. You will subconsciously express what you’re feeling — good or bad — as you explore. Reach for a bright burst of color or an odd shape if that’s what speaks to you in the moment.

Write whatever comes to mind…don’t overthink it…don’t pause…stop when you feel you can add no more…let the process be your guide 🙂

Trusting your gut is an important exercise to discovering yourself as an artist. I don’t have formal training so I speck from experience. When I try to emulate someone else’s style I feel constrained … I’m trying to follow a color palette too closely or make marks that are supposed to look random but feel precisely placed … it feels pretentious almost.

When I am being humbly myself, not caring about the destination or the rules, I feel at peace. This may not be my best work but it was one I enjoyed making…and that’s my takeaway for you. Not everyone makes everything amazing all the time. It’s all part of an odyssey of exploration — cherish it, enjoy it.


Curious about the products I use? I have listed them below.

(These are compensated affiliate links at no cost to you. Thank you for your support! Affiliate and product disclosure can be found here. As always, I was not paid to do this post and I only use products from companies I love.)

Letting Go of Fear: Creative Art Journaling

Alcohol ink paintings have always held a charm for me: simple drops of inks over non porous surface that blend, move, dance and present hues of themselves you didn’t expect. I love the pink undertones in the purple and the variations of blue-grey.

As the inks get diluted by the alcohol, it’s mesmerizing to just slow down and watch the colors. They get pushed out, they merge, they coalesce and form new shapes. It’s mesmerizing.

I got pretty philosophical just watching the inks do their thing: shifting boundaries, adapting, being malleable. As they discover new paths, some areas holding tight and remaining impervious to dilution, it made me think of the crazy year this has been. Does the process of creating art sometimes speak to you in this way? 

I made this alcohol ink painting after almost a year long hiatus, and then I did what most people would call “unthinkable.” I cut it up! 

Yes, an hour and a half of art therapy cut into circles, separated from the ethos of the whole to create something new. Why did I do that? Because I’ve never attempted it before. I wanted to experience the emotions that came with “destroying” something I created and give it a new life…a new avatar. 

Destroying the existing to create something new

I didn’t know if I would feel grief or confusion or despair or regret or joy or excitement or a rush of adrenaline from doing something so “wrong” that felt so right…or if I would feel ALL of those emotions or just be numb!

Well, I’m here to report that the fear of destroying something beautiful lasted a whole five seconds. After that first snip, it was a beautiful journey into the unknown.

There is something to be said about being unafraid and letting go when working in your art journal. You won’t find specific techniques in this video…instead you’ll get encouragement and freedom to tune in to your intuition and play with wild abandon. What could go wrong? It’s just paint and paper!

There are so many inks and stamps and stencils and colors to explore…so much to have fun with! Looking forward to hearing what you think and I hope this encourages you to just let go and do what brings you joy.

Have you ever cut up a painting you love without scanning it first? Have you made something different with it? How did it make you feel? 


Curious about the products I use? I have listed them below.

(These are compensated affiliate links at no cost to you. Thank you for your support! Affiliate and product disclosure can be found here. As always, I was not paid to do this post and I only use products from companies I love.)

Freehand Watercoloring Snow People with Distress Ink Reinkers

I have never had the courage to just start creating freehand with a brush…the fear to fail was so strong. But I think I am at the part in my art journey where curiosity trumps fear and I may have also internalized the “just one life” truism. Inspired by @sandyallnock, I started playing with my distress ink reinkers this morning in my watercolor journal. These freehand watercolor snow people are what resulted.

Family of Snowpeople created with Distress Ink Reinkers

“I wonder what it would look like if I could make snow people in spring or summer…” said my six-year-old while drinking her hot cocoa. “Let’s make a painting and find out,” I replied.  So what you see next is what ensued.

@sandyallnock’s snowman video may have just been the creative jumpstart I needed to indulge in this kind of free play! These snow people are so easy to create that I thought I’d share my quick watercoloring process with you. Trust me — it’s easy! I had never painted anything freehand, without it sketching it before, prior to this exercise. If I can do it, surely you can, too!

These freehand watercolor snow people are far from “perfect” but they bring me joy. I hope you like this whimsical style of watercoloring just as much as I do and will give it a try.


Curious about the products I use? I have listed them below.

(These are compensated affiliate links at no cost to you. Thank you for your support! Affiliate and product disclosure can be found here. As always, I was not paid to do this post and I only use products from companies I love.)

Creative Art Journaling: Sisterhood

This final image is not something I set out to make when I first drew some lines and circles in my Dyan Reavely art journal with Stabilo pencils.

I leaned into my curiosity and let courage drive my hands. I have not made faces or people before and I have also not switched course so many times. Nor have I ever created an art journal page that was spread out over five days of intermittent tinkering. But then, as they say, there’s a first time for everything.

What you see here are a lot of different layers that have coalesced into these beings. Much like each one of us, complex, unique and with personal histories that are shaped by circumstance and choice.

These layers were also a result of my external influences (going through my kiddo’s books and seeing a lot of flowers) and my choices (letting go of the fear of “ruining” something in the process of creating something new).

I have great admiration and respect for the women in the world of arts and crafts. Your inspirational shares, your creative wisdom, your encouraging support … and most of all your desire to create a welcoming, nurturing community where EVERYONE is welcome is to be applauded and celebrated.

May we continue to be guided by our passion and our kindness. May our hearts lead the way and our hands not be afraid to follow. Happy to answer any questions you may have about the process, the challenges, the tools or supplies used.


Curious about the products I use? I have listed them below.

(These are compensated affiliate links at no cost to you. Thank you for your support! Affiliate and product disclosure can be found here. As always, I was not paid to do this post and I only use products from companies I love.)

DIY Gift Boxes with Alcohol Inks

This may seem like a factory shot. It isn’t. I painted each of these gift boxes from Michaels Stores with Tim Holtz / Ranger Ink (and some with Jacquard Products) alcohol inks as part of a gifting organization’s entrepreneurial venture. And this isn’t all of it either.

Hand painted unique custom gift boxes being varnished in my garage

I got so burned out creating and executing designs, ensuring each box had its own unique personality that I took a break from alcohol inks for a whole year! Once the paintings were done, each box underwent three rounds of varnishing so no accidental chipping would happen. And then there were gift tags and customized thank you notes to make…

Of course the recipients were tickled pink but I don’t think anyone realized just how much work is involved in “mass producing” handcrafted items like these.

The rainbow striped boxes, though, were so fun and easy to make and each one turned out completely different because of the technique I used.

Colors used:
Purple twilight
Sunshine Yellow
Sunset Orange
Red Pepper

I used scratch cards to create the rainbow-themed gratitude tag to top off the boxes 😍

Final gift box complete with ribbon and tag

I have seen up, close and personal the amount of care, effort and time crafters put into each of their creations … and especially the quantities of exquisite items that are produced during the holiday season. It’s a LOT of work! And I applaud your talent, your patience and your drive!

I think 2021 will see the return of alcohol inks in my life 🙂 But this time it will be solely for the joy of creating.

I hope you try this out! It’s a really fun technique and you can customize your color combinations to suit the occasion ❤️ Happy Holidays!

Accordion Gratitude Journal

Hello everyone,

First off let me thank you for the love you showered on my previous blog post detailing a complex botanical print technique inside your journal. Since you loved it so much, I thought I’d share another journal technique I use often to get more detailed, albeit single-layer, prints. 

Gelli Arts® has partnered with Hahnemühle and I think it’s a match made in heaven. I used their ZigZag book with18 pages of the finest watercolour paper folded in accordion style. We are all used to working with acrylics on the gel plate but I am a watercolor artist, so I wanted to make this accordion-fold book really shine as a watercolor journal.

By using water-reactive inks in my journal, I was able to carry it with me on the road and use a water brush to “paint” them in later. You’ll see in the side-by-side comparisons, how I was able to retain a lot of the original print while still giving it a painterly effect. I did forget to photograph the “before” photos for a couple of the journal pages but if you watch the video you’ll see all the “untouched” pages right after I was done with the gel plate printing. 

It was a blessing to have this journal with me while traveling…it gave me the opportunity to slow down and just enjoy the process.

This was a multi-week project and one that I really, truly enjoyed. Journaling is such a therapeutic creative outlet and as I enter a change of seasons, both metaphorically and figuratively, this journal with its Nature images led me down a path of grateful murmurings.

I used some color pencils and a travel watercolor paint set to turn this into a gratitude journal, with positive affirmations and quotes from some of my favorite poets, authors and philosophers. There’s an entire spread dedicated to Rumi, a Persian poet whose words are inspirational and so very meaningful to me. 

I also cut three circles from the copy paper I had used to wipe off the excess inks and used two of those to adorn my journal cover and one inside where I accidentally messed up the painting. 

This accordion journal will always be special to me as it holds memories from the backyard of our rental house, the place we’ve called home most of this Covid-19 year. It’s such a simple way of preserving memories, be it from a trip or a special time in your life. I hope you enjoyed watching the process and the final journal. 

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season!

Creating Complex Botanical Monoprints

I’m excited to share with you techniques of creating layered botanical prints in your journals using a variety of different inks and gesso.

As you watch the detailed instructions in the video, please note that you can create different kinds of layers depending on whether you use darker colors before lighter ones and vice versa.

If your botanical prints feel like they’re not very high-contrast, you can always apply a coat of gesso or white acrylic paint on the gel plate, place a leaf on and pull a print — this will tone down or “mute” everything in the backdrop except for the part you masked off with the leaf.

It’s a great trick to have a very complex image as the central focal point of your journal page without any “busy-ness” surround it.

While the original botanical prints were nice enough, because I printed them in my journal, I wanted to do something more with them. I’m sharing some before and after photos here so you can see the original layered botanical print and the final images after I had worked on them with my colored pencils and markers. 

I hope you enjoy this video and the photos showcasing the complex layers one can achieve with inks and leaves from one’s backyard. Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments!


One flower three ways

Hello everyone,

When Yana Smakula emailed me two weeks ago telling me she loved my work, I was floored! Her work is so inspiring, creative, detail-oriented and so innovative…for her to say that she loved what I do has definitely been the highlight of this month for me!

Taking cue from her creative ideas, I worked with this FSJ Buzzworthy Collection from Spellbinders, creating three very-different-looking cards using the same central flower image. I wanted to push myself creatively, so decided to use alcohol inks to color the first flower. I used Yupo paper, Brea Reese red and purple alcohol inks, 91% isopropyl alcohol and rich gold from Jacquard products. It was more challenging than I thought. The inks have a mind of their own…and I am comfortable using this medium for abstracts, but this was the first time I tried containing the inks within the confines of a stamped image.

Work in progress

You can see in this photo, how the inks didn’t quite blend as much or as easily as I wanted them to (or as watercolors typically do). I kept diluting the inks with more and more alcohol, hence the various tints in my palette. I lifted off quite a lot of the ink from the petal edges so I could still have some highlights and that helped push the colors more toward the center, making the outlines between the petals a bit more defined.  But by itself the flower wasn’t doing anything for me. It needed something to help elevate it! I looked at all the other 18 designs that are part of this stamp set and felt inspired by the honeycomb. So, using distress inks in a combination of stamping and blending techniques, I created a subtle background.

Closeups of the relief paint

The flower still didn’t seem to pop…so I resorted to using my Pebeo Vitrail Cerne Relief royal gold paint to give it really thick outlines. It felt so rich and wonderful…and that extra dimension from the paint was just what this flower needed. I finished off this card with a simple metallic gold strip and a freehand scripted sentiment. 

With this card complete, I decided to try my hand at photo paper working with the same alcohol inks. I’ve had tons of experience creating abstract paintings on Kirkland photo paper from Costco (because the pack of 500 is very affordable and also because I had to justify buying so much of it!). But since I’d never tried to control the inks a particular way inside a stamped image on the slick surface of photo paper, I thought I’d experiment and see if they’d look different from Yupo paper. And, wow, was I surprised!

The colors looked just so much more intense and shiny! I could not get any definition on the petals, though because of freely the inks moved and how quickly the alcohol evaporated making it very difficult to blend and lift the pigment. So, I resorted to using a black glaze pen and outline the petals wherever I saw variations in ink color. So, this final flower image isn’t a true reflection of the stamped image, but my interpretation of it. 

Because the flower was so vivid, I decided to give it an equally happy background color, using the same stamp as for the first image but with the addition of some honey bees. I added glitter to their bodies and glaze to their wings. Small details that I think really make this card and all of its different stamped images pop. I also added a triangular piece of Duralar to mimic the wax in the honeycomb…and finished it off with the simple “Bee Happy” sentiment also part of the stamp set. This card has such a different vibe than the first one, using the same tools, don’t you think?

Given how I wasn’t able to blend with alcohol inks the way I’d wanted and that this flower is so gorgeous, I couldn’t not paint it with my favorite coloring medium: distress ink reinkers! 

So, I set forth on a third variation of this flower and enjoyed every moment of painting it. I even made a process video, so you can enjoy it as well!

Once the flower painting was done, I assembled this card by using the Spellbinders rectangle frame die set and adhering the cut-outs over the card base. I then splattered some of the inks on to the cuts. Stamped some other images that are part of this Fun Stampers Journey with fine detail black ink from Pinkfresh Studio and colored them in quickly with Faber-Castell polychromos pencils. I thought it added some cool dimensional elements to the card…what do you think?

I had such fun playing with this image and I still have so many ideas on how this flower can look so different when used with embossing powders, color pencils, water-soluble pencils, printed with a gel plate…oh the possibilities are endless!

 Here is a look at all three cards, together. Which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

And if you’re curious about the supplies I used for making these cards, they’re all listed below. (These are compensated affiliate links at no cost to you. Thank you for your support! Affiliate and product disclosure can be found here. As always, I was not paid to do this post and I only use products from companies I love.)

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season!