Archive for the ‘Artist Tips’ Category

How to Use Landscape Composition Formulas

July 30, 2015 1 comment

The Artist’s Magazine January/February issue 2015 had an article on landscape composition, but it was these thumbnail sketches that illustrate the concepts which I found to be the most helpful. Reading through a lot of descriptive language is a lot slower for me to do than just seeing an illustration of the concepts. Landscape painting is not really my thing but I have attempted a few canvases. I learned from the article that landscapes can be composites made of elements pulled together rather than a recording of what one may see if they were standing at a particular place in person.

The 14th sketch is really just a viewfinder made of four strings attached to the opening of a mat. It is more of a composition tool than than a composition formula. Maybe there was an editorial push by the magazine for the author of the article to come up with an even number of formulas.

Landscape comps 01

Landscape comps 02

Categories: Artist Tips, Painting

Colored pencils with baby oil, a new example

ATC Letter Carrier by Shellie Lewis

ATC Letter Carrier by Shellie Lewis

Today, I went to the Art Institute museum and did some caffeinated café sketching. (MMM hazelnut coffee. I rarely drink coffee and it seems really strong!) I decided the revisit the baby oil blending technique for colored pencils with a less cartoony piece of art. The blending works really nice with skin tones. I learned if only a spare amount of baby oil (mineral oil) is used, added colored pencil layers or lines laid over the blended layer do not blur or bleed. I used the same cold press type 130# heavy weight paper and this is an artist trading card size artwork (2.5 x 3.5 inches) the same as the prior blog post with the Manga girl cartoons.

Overall, I am still tremendously enjoying the new technique. I have had little to no problem with the baby oil bleeding through the paper since I used a heavy paper and a very tiny amount of the baby oil. Using cotton swabs and a small, round paintbrush to blend the colors is continuing to work well. I added a new step for control and blot the cotton swab on a paper towel to lower the amount of baby oil on the tip if I feel it may be too wet. Now I’m wondering what other art mediums there are where baby oil works as a solvent…

How to blend colored pencils with baby oil

February 10, 2015 Leave a comment

I have heard about blending colored pencils with baby oil and was skeptical to try it. I have used my share of colorless blending pencils and blending markers in the past. The markers cost a lot and get stained pretty quickly. You always have to wipe the nib on scrap paper to remove colors to go on to blend different areas of color and this burns through your marker quickly. The fabulous surprise was how much better baby oil performs for blending! It is dirt cheap and smells pleasant. I tested the process of many brands of pencils below.

I made sure to buy baby oil that was 100% mineral oil. I got a brand that had the perfume scent since the drug store near me did not have any unscented kinds for sale. Avoid other additives like aloe vera; it is the mineral oil melting the wax content in the colored pencils that makes the process work. Mineral oil is a petrochemical, so I am thinking an organic component like aloe vera would lend itself to mold or decay.


Manga drawing 2 not blended


I did some Manga style cartoon portrait drawings with colored pencils. I will crop these drawings to artist trading card size later. The one above used waterproof inks for the outline: Sakura Pigma Micron pens and a Pentel Manga brush pen. This artwork has Berol Prismacolor, Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth Magic, Koh-I-Noor Dry Marker Flourescent, and Rose Art Metallic brands of colored pencils. The Rose Art Metallic set is very bright; the silver looks very good. The paper I used was pretty rough, 130# Nature Sketch; it has a definite tooth similar to a cold pressed variety of watercolor paper or maybe a pastel paper.

Manga 2 blended

BOOM! Here is the blended version. I think it “pops”, the colors look bolder and the art has a nice painterly effect. I used a fine synthetic paint brush and Q-tips dipped in tiny amounts of baby oil. The Q-tip cotton swabs were very nice to rub on the paper and smoothed the color out well. Interestingly, the baby oil makes the color melt down into the paper nicely. All of the blending I had done with the dry pencils was prone to stay in place. The baby oil process felt similar to using very thinned oil paints but not wildly wet like fluid inks or watercolor. The smallest amount of baby oil melts and blends the colored pencil on contact. The control was very nice. I also used a white Sakura Gellyroll pen for the reflections in the eyes, which is a nice trick.

Manga drawing 1


This was my first try with the baby oil process. Most of the above art was Crayola colored pencils, a little Berol Prismacolor was used on the skin tones and the ink was Pentel Manga brush pen. I wish I had learned about this process before now; it was an interesting way to compensate for the white showing through on a toothy paper. Definitely try it out, blending colored pencils with baby oil was fun and really easy.


Manga 3 blended

Adding another drawing 2/13/2015!





Important Tips on Using Gelli Arts Gelli Monoprinting Plate

August 30, 2014 Leave a comment

gelli plateI have been playing around with a rubbery gel monoprinting plate by Gelli Arts. I learned you cannot use inks with the plate. It is a fun tool for monoprinting by hand, especially for making your own decorative papers. These are the details I have learned so far:


  • Stay with acrylic media! The fine particles of watercolour paints and inks are absorbed by the Gelli plate. I used Speedball water-based block printing ink, and it stained the plate very deeply. Using dish liquid detergent and alcohol hand sanitizer gel did not lift the stains. The instructions say to avoid dyes and fabric dyes but do not mention inks specifically. Many inks are acrylic based; it seems natural media that has gum Arabic or fine colorants work their way into the plate. The pigment or colorant in watercolours, inks and dyes seem fine enough to be absorbed by the Gelli plate. I thought the plate was non-porous sheet of silicone rubber. This is not the case. Some of the inks that caused the staining also came out when I was using it later and blended in with the acrylic paints I was printing. 
  • A drying rack is a huge help. Use a line to hang prints if you have to. I have enjoyed working where there is a drying rack so I can print, let the paper dry and go back to print further layers or color.
  • The surface of the Gelli plate is very sensitive. Use a very soft sponge or a piece of t-shirt fabric if you need to rub off dry paint. Even standard paper towels seem to be really rough and leave marks on the surface. Keep the packaging material so you can store your Gelli plate without it getting dented or scratched. 

I am having a lot of fun with this tool. I just ran into a learning curve on what I can do and cannot do with it, and some concerns on how to properly maintain my new toy. If you have learned anything interesting, please respond in the comments area. 


Categories: Artist Tips, Printmaking

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

DIY Network Art Table Project

February 27, 2014 Leave a comment

DIY Network art table pattern


DIY Network online has a video and instructions to build the art table above. The estimated cost of $100 – $250 for this project is not going to include the large gray paper flat file, which is expensive. I have seen someone armed with a group of long drawer pulls build one out of plywood. This would definitely be great for a studio. If I had any place to put something this big, I would be headed to the home improvement store right now!

Categories: Artist Tips, Video

How To Paint Transfer Toner Images

November 26, 2013 Leave a comment


Collage Friends by Shellie Lewis, 5″ x 7″. Paint transfer toner image, paper collage, acrylic paint, iridescent blue paint, gel medium and gel medium skin toner transfer, gloss acrylic sealer on recycled chipboard packaging.

I have been noodling with mixed media and learned of a technique of using acrylic paint to transfer images. This is working better for me than gel medium transfer. Light colors of acrylic paint will transfer toner images onto a surface. You need a toner based image [magazine page, catalog page, photocopy or toner print] to transfer. Photocopy or scan your own drawings or photographs and use those to make mixed media art. Read more…

Categories: Artist Tips, Mail Art

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