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Scribbling away

17 Jul 2006

Time and time again I hear stories from friends and readers about creating art as a way of restoring inner calm, and it certainly holds true for me. I came back from my Phoenix trip only to learn that there was a grave family emergency on my hands and I needed to immediately depart for Virginia.

When I returned to Boston and a voluminous amount of paperwork and emails that had accumulated while away, I yearned to simply hold a crayon and scribble like mad. When I’m stressed, upset, or trying to work through a difficult problem, I don’t usually run for the nearest box of chocolates, nor do something as cerebral as write my thoughts down in a journal. Rather, I color. I don’t usually sketch anything discernible; I love to take three to four crayons in analogous colors and use simple, broad, child-like strokes across the page, then move the colors around with a damp cosmetic wedge to watch them blend and brighten. Instant gratification!

My first night back from Virginia, I grabbed an old hardcopy of a book I use for altered book pages, and started gluing sets of pages together to make them strong enough for coloring. I took crayons in warm, vibrant hues––burnt sienna, sunset red, rust, and purple––and scribbled away. As I was smearing the colors with a wet cosmetic wedge, the resulting mixtures were too bright for my taste, so I took a damp paper towel and tried to blot some of the color. In doing so, I accidentally ripped the top page, revealing the glued page below. I then got the idea to color the bottom page before adhering it to the second (top) page so that I could purposely rip the top page to reveal the colored page underneath. The resulting backgrounds are complex, colorful, and the illegible text reminds me of ancient, cryptic scrolls that have been buried for centuries in the sand.


Pages from a hardcover book
Golden Gel Medium (regular matte)
Coloring agents of choice (I use Lyra Aquacolor crayons and Portfolio® watercolor soluble oil pastels.)
Cosmetic wedges

Clorox® Bleach Pen
Pearl-Ex Powders
Shiva Paintstiks
Adirondack Color Wash ® in Butterscotch from Ranger
Walnut Ink

1. Color the base page. (I suggest a fairly bright color such as butterscotch yellow.)
2. Take another page and glue on top of the base page using gel medium.
3. Scribble with crayons or oil pastels on the top page.
4. With a damp cosmetic wedge, smear and mix the colors together. Allow the page to dry.
5. Rub sandpaper in spots, pulling bits of the top page off. Take your fingers and gently rip the top page in parts, revealing the page below.

Further options:

•You can further blend the colors of the top pages and bottom pages together by spraying both with walnut ink or color washes such as Adirondacks by Ranger. (I particularly like Butterscotch.)
• Take a Clorox® bleach pen and create squiggles in areas. Allow to set for five minutes, then swipe these bleach spots with a paper towel.
• Take a damp paintbrush and dab some Pearl-Ex powders in metallic colors for a glittery effect.

Note: I have some alterations and expansions to this technique that I’ll be sharing at Make It University in Houston this fall. (More on M.I.U. later!)


So I ask you—what art activity do you do when you’re stressed? I invite you to respond to the blog, but if you’d also like your answer to be considered for print in Cloth Paper Scissors, feel free to fill out the questionnaire on this web page.

Happy coloring!

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Marilyn League wrote
on 17 Jul 2006 10:12 AM
The hum of my sewing machine has an instant calming effect on me when things are rough around the edges.
Sandy Jandik wrote
on 17 Jul 2006 10:42 AM
It looks like a good technique which I will try. I hope the emergency turned out OK. I did put in a comment on what I do when stressed-sew! Sandy in La Center
Isabel wrote
on 18 Jul 2006 10:28 AM
I garden, which is a very soothing art form.
Isabel wrote
on 18 Jul 2006 10:29 AM
I garden, which is a very sooting art activity
Chriss wrote
on 21 Jul 2006 2:01 AM
I love you stress technique! I think I'll have to try this in my art journal or next altered book page. Thank you for sharing! :) When I'm stressed I create. It doesn't matter what I do, I just lock myself in my studio and I always come out feeling much happier.
Zoe wrote
on 21 Jul 2006 6:59 AM
Hi... Just wanted to tell you that Beryl Taylor's Mix media book a just arrived. WOW ... Looking forward to a good read =)
Patty wrote
on 21 Jul 2006 10:08 PM
Wow that is really cool. I have not tried altered books but they look like fun. I will have to try. When I am stressed I love to load my long arm quilting machine with Dissolve 4x, spray it with 505 adhesive spray and load that area with left over threads and yarn. I can throw in a little tinsel or angelina fibers. I sew a grid top to bottom and left to right. I do some decrative stitches. Then I soak it in water. The finished product is a very cool piece of fabric to turn into a purse or vest etc. I can even ad hot fix angelina after to get more drama. Very fun and very cool. oool
Ina wrote
on 27 Jul 2006 3:17 PM
Again well done :) I just put you blog on our store feed, so all of us at keep on top what is going on at Quilting Arts LLC. The inspiration you have granted us over the years is overwhelming. Thank you so much!
Robbi Eklow wrote
on 4 Aug 2006 11:43 AM
So, did you read Time Traveler's Wife? I hope you liked it as much as I did. Audrey, the author, is also a very talented artist.
Random Quilter wrote
on 7 Aug 2006 10:31 AM
I create journal quilts to let the frustration out!
Lorri Chambers wrote
on 20 Sep 2006 9:25 PM
I love your de-stressing technique reminds me of the free scribbles my dad use to make me learn how to see things...because of this I am one of the best cloud spotters around I can always see cool things on big puffy cloud day...I love to sew to relax but but give me a puffy cloud day and I will watch them forever....
Jean Fengler wrote
on 14 May 2007 8:43 PM
I need to know how to dye or color white fabric. I have this lovely white fabric -- yards and yards of it. I was going to make sheets and pj's and things like that -- use it for lining things, but now I see that I can paint it and create some incredible pieces. My sewing machine is a singer from the 1970' -- sturdy,w with some different stitches -- but how do I possible progress to where all of you are? how do you start from ground zero? You are all so accomplished -- and then, where do you find places to sell your things? I need to know this too! Thank you all for your time and help. I think all of the things you do is amazing!
suellen wrote
on 4 Sep 2007 8:36 PM
I recently recieved some moonshadow mist frozen opals and metallic flakes could you suggest a project or technique for using these items thanks. Sue.