Author Archive

Recycled Book Art: How to make volumes for free or cheap

This less than 2 minute video shows two ways that I used to make hand bound art books using recycled materials for free or cheap.

I made paper for the first art book by pulping the interior pages in a blender, adding some white PVA glue and blue acrylic paint with a dash of glitter. I did not have a proper paper mold screen and used the back of a silkscreen, which made very thick, lumpy paper that took a very long time to dry. If I make paper again, I am going to use a better paper mold that lets more water flow through the mesh.

I skipped making paper for the second book and used acrylics paints and ink with a brayer to change the existing pages. Rolling  colors and monoprinting using a glass plate, gelatin or Gelli plate method worked well. I got a nice, thin and fairly even coat of paint on the book pages.

The supplies to get started with book binding are very simple:

  • Heavy thread like carpet thread or button thread. Embroidery floss and thin ribbon are also fairly strong and come in many nice shades,
  • A large needle to make stitches. I like a heavy needle like a large embroidery type.
  • A basic paper awl. If your materials are thin enough, push pins or dressmaker t-pins work.
  • Having a bone folder helps to make nice folded edges.
  • A block of beeswax is nice; it coats the thread and makes it easier to pull, less likely to fray.
  • A jar of YES! Paste Stickflat Glue lasts a long time. It thins with water and works well for all sorts of paper crafting.
  • Two marble or granite floor tiles and waxed paper to press things to dry. I bought two 12 inch polished granite floor tiles from a home outlet store for $4 each. If you put some weight on top, it makes a cheap book press.

You could skip inks and acrylic paints and use materials as you find them to make totally recycled / zero cost books. If you are piercing slimmer materials, a cork board push pin works well to make holes. An awl or needle tool works better if you need to make holes in anything more than 1/8 inch thick. I had some wrinkled pages from the paints and adhesive I used, he nice thing about book binding is that you can get starting making things for under $ 10 – although under $20 gives you a better suite of tools.

Also, check out this great bookbinding channel: Sea Lemon. The tutorial videos are great and the creator has a pattern to make a book press using two wooden cutting boards. Jennifer at Sea Lemon has very clear instructions and the videos are great.




Mail Art: Works on Paper and Envelopes

I think my favorite part of mail art is being able to have pen pals across a language barrier. You are communicating with people, sending them greetings and content, in images. These are mail art exchanges I have sent out on envelopes. I like to put a matching artwork on paper inside when I have the time to make a set.


Mail Art Day Lillies 2014


Pointillism ala Crayola markers.

Mail Art Orange Day Lillies 2014


Pencil and coloured pencil on buff coloured paper.


Read more…

Mail Art: Street Painting

July 30, 2014 1 comment

I was able to make a quick sketch of some street musicians which I later painted. One woman had a very neutral coloured outfit, so I took the liberty of dressing her in purple. I can’t afford to throw $100 bill in her violin case, so that’s the best way I could give her a nice outfit. The artist who received this painting liked it a great deal.

Mail Art Street Musicians 2014 Shellie Lewis

Assorted Twinchie Art

July 29, 2014 2 comments

Twinchies are 2 x 2 inch square artworks. They are similar to inchies except double in size. Trades are usually in sets and some have a theme. These are all prior twinchies that I have mailed to people in mail art trades.

book page twinchies


Twinchies made with book pages.

Dragon Tea Twinchie

I made a mold of a piece of dragon jewelry I own and made a paper clay cast with the mold. I made it look antique with ink and matched a red crystal to the red text.

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Book Recommendation: Americus

Americus MK Reed


Americus is a graphic novel by M.K. Reed and Jonathan David Hill. The plot is analogous to the censorship debates surrounding the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling and book censorship in the U.S.A. in general, citing prior conflicts over Judy Blume and other authors whose works faced censorship. The authors devised an imaginary young adult high fantasy series that religious members of the local community take offense to and try to remove from circulation at the public library. The main character and supporters of the book find themselves in the minority in a heated ongoing conflict where the main character has the opportunity to defend the books he loves. The authors show many facets of the conflict and treat it with more complexity than just a clash of opinions. The characters in the community are given the depth to show their different viewpoints and why they have them. The art is consistently good throughout the book and the sympathies lie with the main character who is in the process of growing up.

Categories: Book Recommendations

Inchies: A dangerous addiction

If you want something fun and challenging and like to make miniatures, inchies are a dangerous addiction. The challenge is to make a one inch square artwork. I think they are a lot of fun. I like to do pen and ink with watercolour, but have done fully painted, colored pencil and mixed media inchies. Two sets were sold and the others were mail art inchie trades I did from 2013 to present.

Like ATCs, you want inchies to be card thickness, 140# to 300# water color paper, illustration board, Bristol board or mounted on chipboard. I tend to use watercolour paper or paste thinner drawing paper onto cereal box board. I have my traded inchies from other artists in plastic pages in a binder. I have the pages made for collecting Pogs, but postal stamp album pages also work well. Some collectors glue them onto sheets to make “inchie quilts” by placing them together with the edges touching to create a larger artwork out of all the individual inchies.


Summer Inches 2014

I made this set this past week for a group trade.

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Owls are a hoot.

July 25, 2014 2 comments

Barn Owls 2014

A friend was getting married and I asked what he wanted for a gift. He and his fiancee had seen a pair of owls at local nature park so I set forth to put a bird some owls on it. I made the mistake of offering an oil painting, which given three months time from learning about the wedding to the date of the ceremony was not possible, since an oil painting takes 10 months to a year to dry enough to varnish. I opted for watercolours on an 12 x 16 sheet of Arches. He didn’t know what kind of owls they had seen and it turns out it could have been any of six species indigenous to Illinois. I swiped and modded an image of barn owls via Google image search and put ten hours into the painting. It looked very nice matted and framed. That’s just how it goes when you invite the starving artist to your wedding, you’re not getting fine china or crystal but it will be something unique.

Business Cards: Only order small amounts!

July 16, 2014 4 comments



Paying $80 for 2,000 full-color, 2-sided, extra heavy business cards seemed like the greatest deal ever, at least until I threw more than half of them in the trash. I saved a three inch stack and dumped one un-touched sleeve of a thousand and a little over a quarter of the other sleeve into a garbage bag. Where did I go wrong?

First, I over estimated how useful paper business cards are in the digital era. I gave many away but not as many as I had hoped I would disperse. People rarely take any business cards or fliers from art gallery shows and festivals. Leave all the stacks you want, maybe a few will be taken, a dozen at most. You can offer business cards to people but my person-to-person hand outs were a really low number. I’m not pushy about promoting myself. Foisting business cards off on lots of people in person seems tacky. People will accept the card to be polite but that does not mean they want it. I should have been more aggressive in stuffing business cards into any fish bowls on counter tops at local restaurants to win a free hot dog or sub sandwich. That could have been more useful, tackiness notwithstanding.

Designing for a small space to encapsulate yourself is challenging. I had gone with the Pop art series as my most formal but more interesting work. I like that I used visual cues to help people remember my work. My second mistake was in using them because the paintings I did later in the Pop series came out a lot better, were visually stronger and made the prior works on the business cards immediately dated. Being saddled with over 1,500 dated business cards was made worse when I ditched Tumblr for WordPress, making the blog URL incorrect. I still used the cards just to use them, but I was not happy about how fast they aged.

The larger quantity order reflected my ambitions for promotion: a low cost solution to advertising myself. Advertising is mysterious and expensive and business cards are easy to understand and affordable. Printers want to make money from larger orders and buying 2,000 business cards seemed cost effective –compared to a smaller print run– as the price per card dropped with a bigger quantity ordered.

I recommend to order a small quantity, maybe start with 200 to 500 and see how fast you really use your business cards. Write when they arrive on the box they come in and then note at what point they are out of date for you. How fast they seem dated will depend heavily on the design and where your art work goes over time. At least with a smaller number of business cards, you are not stuck with an outdated design or old information. If you like what you have, you can always order more.

Categories: Artist Tips

“Waiting” by Thadra Sheridan

June 23, 2014 1 comment put this video poem up which is done as a brilliant theater piece. It is wonderful and only four minutes. 

Not-so-fun fact: A waiter’s minimum wage in America is $2.13 per hour plus tips. Waiters are three times more likely to fall under the poverty line than average workers, and women are three times more likely to be a waiter. They average $18,590 annually in income. Which ain’t much to live on. Which is why this waitress has something blunt and kind of hilarious to say.


Categories: Rant, Video

Fun with the Intuitive Painting Technique

Intuitive Painting 2014 Shellie Lewis


The best description of “intuitive painting” as the phrase is in use today is working wet and loosely, letting the paint media have some random effects and working for enjoyment more than trying to model features. Doing faces is a popular subject and ArtTrader magazine has a nice article with many examples here. The technique works best if you work with a monochrome or very few closely related colours.

I tried to branch out and used some watered down CMY Process silkscreen inks. The art went into a round robin zine that had a group of artists contributing work. I think I framed this painting with too many ink lines and worked too tightly, so I will try this process again. It is an interesting exercise to do for working loosely and quickly.





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