Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Collagraphs, carved printing plates and stamps for the gelli plate

Hi again everyone. I have made an exciting discovery (well to ME anyway!). I can make EASY engraved printing plates with my personal cutting machine. YES!!!! I personally have an older KNK Maxx machine, which has since been superseded by the Zing and another heavier cutter called the Force. Mine is kind of in the middle of these, cutting power wise.

When I first got the machine, I really wanted to cut mat board - you know the stuff you use to frame pictures, but found the machine wasn't really strong enough. Most aren't, although the new KNK Force can apparently do it. I could get close though, with it cutting through enough of the layers to give me clean lines which I could finish off with a craft knife. Haven't done it for ages, but recently while watching a video tute on gelli printing techniques, I saw an engraved mat being made by hand. A pretty time consuming process! She was carving out the image into mat board, rather similar to lino cutting. An age old technique and still a good one to get sharp complicated images printed and wonderful to use on the gelli plate. However, as I said.............time consuming!

Now most of you know, particularly if you have watched my Youtube channel that I am NOT the Princess of Patience and although I really wanted to use this technique, I did not want to spend an hour or two cutting out tiny little shapes and peeling them back. THEN I remembered my mat board cutting experiments and thought "I wonder if I used the cutting machine to incise into the board if it would make the process easier?" And guess what?


Proof !This is how it came out of the machine after 4 passes and, ordinarily I would not have been happy with all the little tags and lifting, but for this purpose.... Oh joy!! The lifted bits made it so easy to peel layers back and it was amazingly QUICK. I had the whole thing peeled back in a jiffy - less than 5 mins. WOW! So that taken care of and ready for experiment on my gelli plate, I again pondered......

I wonder if I could also use the machine to make a collagraph, which is basically the opposite of the above technique, as it has the image raised from the surface instead of carved into it. A stamp really! The first way I thought of was to simply repeat the process above, but rather than carve out the positive image (tree), I could remove the negative space (background). Absolutely would work, but I felt there was an even easier way. So I cut 2 of the same images of the tree from cereal box cardboard and glued them together as per pic at right. Done!! Both positive and negative images of the same tree and super easy and time effective!

The alternative would be cutting the image from craft foam or stamp material, but my cutter is a bit fussy about craft foam if the shape is complicated and I currently don't have any stamping material for the cutter (but I DO have an idea about that too. Stay tuned! LOLS).

Just a reminder to those who may not have seen my Youtube videos, that there are several on using craft or fun foam as stamps starting here

"Be a Tree" made with the collagraph plates

Thursday, August 3, 2017


Hello again, well you cannot say I am not making up for lost time - 3 posts in a couple of weeks! LOLS

So, as I am doing a far bit of gelli printing and furniture revamping lately, I have found that I am constantly leaving stuff all over my dining room table. Yuck!!

"You need a studio", I hear you say.....and yes you are right and I do have one of sorts. All my art stuff is dumped into my third bedroom which I constantly organise and reorganise to try and make it work. BUT the truth is that, no matter how organised it is, I acually prefer to work in my living area rather than being tucked away in a back bedroom. Silly really, but it is what it is.

So now I have admitted the reality to myself, it is a case of how to make THAT work without having my dining room table (which is in the middle of my space and clearly visible when one walks into the house) constantly look like a bomb has hit it.

I have contemplated many options and even put up a screen in a corner to hide bins of art stuff I am constantly using, but the problem of a large flat surface still remained. Yes, I thought of getting a trestle table, card table or such, but I know I would then just have another "semi" permanent very messy additional table in my living space. It's the cleaning up and putting away that I just never seem to do,  part laziness and part "I may get back to this later today" thinking. If I have to pick everything up, put it away, clean and fold a table every time I want to create, I know it won't happen.

So I started thinking along the lines of how might I make my dining table work. I thought of trays, which seemed could be a good solution, except that they wouldn't be large enough to actually work on. I would still spill over onto the table. So more rumination.

I really needed something I could spread out and gather up when finished and store easily. Mmmmmmm......Nana Jan (me) to the rescue. I thought of those handy dandy fabric "lego" mats that my grandchildren have. Would almost do the job, but not quite. I really wanted something more firm and solid like a box that would open out.......and so my idea for the "ART PLAY MAT was born!

A portable storage box that could open out into a flat mat and cover my table safely and then fold back up into a box when finished. Yahhhhh!!! Yep, great idea, but not quite as simple as I thought. LOLS However, after a bit of research and many dry runs and prototype experiments, I finally came up with a design that works.

I decided that foam core board would be the best choice for my project and as I have "cube storage" and wanted it to fit, I decided to go with 28cm squares, giving me a total working space of 84 cm x 84 cm when opened out which gives me an ideal working area (as displayed in picture below). However you can easily go smaller or larger.

It took a bit of working out to determine which way the pieces needed to fold to form the box, but once I had that done, the rest was just cutting and scoring and went pretty quickly. Now I have a FANTASTIC flat, even, portable workspace I can set on any horizontal surface! As a bonus, not only can I clean up and store away in a jiffy, it protects the surface underneath from damage too.

No more untidy dining table AND it looks good on my shelving.........PERFECT!

If you would like to save yourself time and the effort of the arithmetic and the tedium of working out backwards and forwards scores and folds, I am selling the instructions including diagrams in a handy PDF format for just Aus $2.00. Just click here

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Chalk Paint!

Wow, chalk paint! Where has this been all my life???? Last weekend I took a chalk painting workshop and OMG, this stuff is amazing. So what, I hear you asking, is so amazing about it? Well being a fairly spontaneous and "instant results" type of person, this stuff is just made for me. It requires little, if any, prep to provide the most fabulous opaque coverage in one or two coats.

I was able to repaint this rather aweful yellow/orange pine drawer cabinet in 2 coats WITHOUT ANY STRIPPING, SANDING OR OTHER PREP. Yahhh!!! I decided in the morning to revamp and 1 1/2 hours later I had a brand new piece of furniture, fresh and modern. WOW!

The drawers are decoupaged with hand printed gelli printed papers colour matched to the charcoal paint and with touches of turquoise. Much better in real life! I am THRILLED and plan to move onto revamping bedside tables to match my own bedroom now. 

I even MADE MY OWN CHALK PAINT as I didn't want to travel for hours to purchase and my local paint store had very limited colours. I purchased the white chalk paint ($42/750 ml) and decided to experiment by making the charcoal colour. Very easy - 1 part Plaster of Paris dissolved in equal part of hot water. Stir to dissolve and add to 3 parts desired colour of latex paint. I was lucky enough to pick up the charcoal paint in the "mismatch" bin at the hardware store for $10 too. I noticed NO difference between the commerical and homemade paint, so I think I will be making my own in any colour I need from now on. So much cheaper.

If you want more info on chalk paint, use Mr Google or Pinterest to learn more than you ever wanted to know. LOLS You do need to finish with either wax or varnish. I choose to finished the top of the cabinet with varnish for a tougher surface and the rest with wax.

I am now looking at ALL my furniture with new eyes. LOLS Look out!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Well it is SUCH a long time since I have posted here and it seems I have come full circle and back to......Gelli printing once again LOLS

I have been running a few local classes lately and wanted to share gelli printing with my students, but the cost of the plates (particularly in Australia) are a bit prohibitive, especially for those just starting out. So I was racking my brains for alternatives other than the homemade ones and as the cogs turned, it occurred to me that perhaps silicone mats would work. I first ordered a silicone cooking mat and it DID work, but was very thin and had no "bounce" like the gelli plates. Mmmmm....almost but not quite!

So I kept thinking and one day I was in a $2 shop and saw a silicone insole for shoes. Had an "ahaaaa!!" moment and took one home to try. It also works but is very small, although oval is handy! Then I started to research just about everything made of silicone and eventually arrived at {{{drum roll please}}}.......... the sticky, non slip dashboard mats made for phones as per pic below. OMG they work like a dream and at $2 I can give every student one to use! They are also approximately the same size at ATC's so are perfect for experimenting. You can buy them online at Ebay and Aliexpress for starters, but Mr Google will help you find them - Sticky Dashboard Phone Mats.

So here is the proof!

This pic shows a very basic 2 layer print of orange, overlaid with blue where I simply scratched a design into the blue layer before printing over the orange. The details is AMAZING!! And just with normal acrylic paint too - not open acrylics. There are a few things you need to know however. The mats are SUPER STICKY when you first get them so you need to mount them onto a piece of persplex or similar and then push the mat onto some lint free material to DESTICKY them. That's a word isn't it? Then spread the paint onto the mat with your finger, as your brayer is likely to stick to the plate at first. Do this a few times and it becomes much less sticky and behaves brilliantly!

And this is what I did with the print. Masking off the shape of the goddess I then added painted and hand drawn elements with pens, paint and stencils. Stay tuned for future posts if you want to know more about how to do this!


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

GELLI printing - commercial and homemade plates

Hi everyone, such a looong time since you last saw me here. Yes? So sorry to have abandoned you and my only excuse is life! However I am back and plan to put a Playdate up every once in a while (and hopefully more often than that), so check back here or on the Facebook page for updates.

Today I am talking about Gelli plates. The latest craze that I am sure most of you have heard about. If not, go to Youtube to catch up on what the fuss is about. While I had been hankering for one for quite a while, they are a little on the pricey side, so I didn't jump right in. However I gave in a month or so ago and purchased a medium size 6” X 6” plate and I have to saw I am already HOOKED! Such fun and messy enough to keep me happy. LOLS Some examples of my playing below.

However then I REALLY started wanting a larger one (of course!), but really couldn't justify spending the bigger $ for another. SO I decided to give the homemade ones a spin. Gelatine printing has been around as long as most of us and probably longer, so lots of info on the net. The downside has always been that the homemade ones only last a couple of weeks and must be kept in the fridge. However there are now several recipes for “permanent” ones which don't require refrigeration around so I decided it was worth a play. The recipe for the one I settled on is here

In Australia it is pretty easy to get all of the ingredients although isopropyl alcohol and glycerin can both be a bit pricey. I decided to use a bottle of cheap vodka instead and got my glycerine from the medical isle in the supermarket. I learned from the comments on the page that you can get it in bulk from soap making supplies a LOT cheaper and can also use just 1½ cups of glycerin and eliminate the alcohol altogether. I think I will try that next time.

I poured it into a deepish plastic tray and it set up pretty quickly in the fridge. So I then unmolded and had a ton of fun printing for a couple of hours! I have to say that it performed pretty much the same as my commercial Gelli plate. Great!! However, the bad news was that it unfortunately cracked on a corner after this first use. I felt it was because it didn't have much in the way of support once unmolded. It is definitely NOT as firm as the commercial plates although it has a very similar feel.

However, no biggie if this does happen as you can simply throw in into the microwave, re-melt and remould! This time I thought about leaving it in the tray mould, but knew that would make it pretty hard to use unless I filled it up almost to the top which would require a whole lot more mixture than I had. I needed a quite shallow container that I could leave it in, was easy to store and would stand up to the use. Then I hit upon the answer. LIDS! I could fill the lid of a tupperware plastic type container and I would not have to unmould at all. So I ended up with two plates this time. The lid from a large container, (a little bigger than A4) and the lid from a round take out container which will allow me to make circular prints.

Happy, happy, happy! If these too break down, I will simply melt in the container and let set again. Easy peasy......

Have a wonderful Christmas Season everyone!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

52 PlayDATES blog

Hi everyone, due to the large number of people who have signed up, I have decided to open a 52 PlayDATE blog here Please run on over now to play!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Come play with me

Wanna come play with me in 2012?? I'm going to be doing a post every week of the year on art journaling with a new background, technique, idea or prompt. (Yeah I KNOW! LOLS, however for me, next year is all about committment). So it's going to be perhaps a step by step, maybe a video, maybe a link or two to something cool. A learning experience and adventure in mixed media. I have set up a separate blog for it here. Would be appreciated if you could spread the word. The more the merrier and the code for the 52 PlayDATES button is at right.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tropical dreams........

Another piece from a still life setup of orange lillies. I used a lot of artistic license here, as you can see, comparing it to the photo. It was fun to just use it as inspriation and I like the tropical feel of the finished painting.Getting to like this still life thing.....

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Still Life

I have never been very interested in painting still life. It is, after all ........STILL and  ummmmm.....boring?? LOL. However have recently been encouraged in a group I attend to expand my mind, drawing and painting skills by starting with a still life setup and working though the whole process to a finished painting. To my surprise I found it very satisfying and even fun! This is the result of my first ever effort at this exercise which I am actually pretty pleased with. Nice surprise and good reason to try something at least once! Now encouraged to do more......

How do you feel about still life? Have you ever worked from your own setup to a finished painting? Did you enjoy it or decided it wasn't for you?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Treasure Hunting..........

So I promised you a little about Public Domain, didn't I? As an artist, this is something you really NEED to know about - trust me! If you need to, Google the subject to find out all the finer details, however basically, Public Domain is material where the copyright has expired and is now the domain of guessed it! - the PUBLIC. So how does that help us artists? Well, if you do altered art of any kind and use ephemera, it's a virtual goldmine. Images and interesting text abound in the form of old paintings, old books, postcards, photographs, etc, etc. Just check out Etsy to see how popular these types of images are. There are even some instances where modern media can be Public Domain (NASA photos for example).

So, if you are into Vintage or Retro, all you need do is find, copy and use (like I did here). That simple! If your taste is more contemporary, there is still a wonderland of information and reference material, out there for free, which can be adapted to modern day tastes. If you didn't catch it, take a look at my previous post to see what I mean.

So here is a list of some places I have found to get you started. Some of these use Creative Commons license which is a variation of PD, where you need to credit the source. Please check these details for yourself before using. Also, please be a Share Bear and leave any links YOU find in the comments section.

So much to talk about on this subject, so more coming. Be sure to follow me here, on Facebook, Twitter (#jan_fox) or mailing list so you don't miss out!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Artist down......

I have been sick all week with the flu. Yuck! It's ages since I have had such a bad dose of the flu and I'm guessing I got it from the grandkids, as they have had it off and on all winter (remember I'm an Aussie!). So day 6 and I'm feeling a bit better and wanting to create. Don't want to get into the studio. Don't want to clean up paint, paper or glue. Don't feel like sketching...............ummmmmm, what's left? Aha - play with digital! Yes, I can stay all warm and cosied up with my laptop and do some creating - perfect!

I decided to use some copyright free public domain images I downloaded to play around with. The public domain is an awesome FREE resource if you are willing to spend some time looking (another subject and one I just might share soon, so keep tuned!). I had even managed to find some images of my favourite subject - dancers. Add some Photoshop and voila, I'm Dancing in Paris.......

I also managed to get an unexpected but (to me) very interesting silhouette image while playing with some of the settings. I really liked this one which did require a bit of cleanup along with some freehand additions but I think has a more contemporary feel. Trouble is I don't really know exactly how I did it! LOL One of those "press buttons until something happens" magical incidents that I would LIKE to repeat, but so far no joy.....

So do you have a favourite?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Lastest portrait. My little grandson Oliver............

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Grandma LOVE

Did I tell you that I'm a grandma again? Yes, my beautful daughter has presented me with another TWO grandbabies, making three gorgeous boys under 18 months! Ashton Mathew 7lb 6oz (right) and Jasper Christian 5lb 13oz arrived just over 6 weeks ago, so what else to do but paint their portraits? I decided my newest love - pastels would be just the thing to use for them and I'm pleased to say, it worked out well. I was happy and daughter loved it! I guess I may have to do another to ensure they both have one....LOL and also one for big brother Oliver.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Some of my recent artwork in the gallery at a newly opened local healing center.

The Journey

Another large 30 X 30 inch intuitive painting. This one had a very large heart which I tried and tried to hold on to but the composition just wasn't working. So, it had to go and VOILA, the whole painting came together then. Ha! Will I ever not be surprised by that? To me the heart energy is still there anyway, just not visible.  Unfortunately there is a bit of flare from the varnish as I forget to photograph before finishing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Purrrrfect FUN

Been wanting to take pastel classes for a while now and finally managed to get to my first class this morning. Have played around with soft pastels a bit myself, but wanted to learn how to use them properly. Just finished my first piece - cat study in values. First time I have ever used pastel paper too. Really liking how forgiving this medium is!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Art LESSONS (or rather life lessons thru ART)

Still very inspired by my workshop with Flora Bowley. Apart from the many cool techniques I learned (such as using FINGERS - LOL. My new favourite tool, who knew??) the weekend expanded my confidence in tapping into the intuitive part of my myself that knows exactly what needs to go on that blank canvas. Her method involves much *letting go* of preconceived ideas of what things should look like and what I (or rather my EGO) thinks I want or *should* paint. I have the most difficulty with this as I don't like to let go! It feels scary and I start to worry, like most of us that I will just end up with a mess rather than something *worthwhile*.

However, although that is always going to be a possibility, it hasn't (in my opinion anyway - LOL) happened yet. Thus I am slowly learning to trust the process of letting the painting emerge without judgement and allowing the possibility that the outcome will be better than what I could have achieved through conscious planning and effort.

"PROUD" is my latest painting and my biggest lesson in trust yet. As I started to cover the canvas with color in a random way, I started to *see* peacock feathers. I LOVE peacock feathers - the colors, the fragility, the beauty.......{{{sigh}}}. I started to feel excited about painting these and was already anticipating a finished beautiful painting and deciding to paint in the image of the bird, as well as the feathers.

I painted a peacock. I knew it sucked! LOL I researched peacock pictures and tried again. It was WRONG. I changed the position, the stance and the angle. It still sucked! I felt frustrated and was fast losing interest in my painting. THEN I realized how I was trying to force it to happen instead of just trying to let go and allow the painting to emerge. I knew I needed to let go of my preconceived idea of painting a peacock, but I didn't want to! I had gotten really, really attached to the idea of a peacock painting. LOL

However, ultimately (and if I am honest, in frustrated surrender), I took a breath and my largest paintbrush and slapped random colors and strokes over the images I had just spent the last hours making. It actually felt better than I thought. It was kind of satisfying to obliterate the images and not keep trying to literally *bash my head against a brick wall* to make something work, when clearly it wasn't. However there was a part of me that also felt defeated. What now?

So I stepped back from the work and while looking at the mess in front of me, finally started to listen to my intuition. It was telling me to turn the canvas. It was on the second turn that I *saw* it. MY PEACOCK! The whole shape of his head and beak was just there, like magic! It felt as if he was laughing at me as he manifested in front of my eyes, and could almost hear him saying "of course, I'm here and I'm BIG and PROUD"!! And indeed he *was* so much larger than I had been trying to paint and in a totally different position on the canvas. The *perfect* position, in fact, to allow me to be guided to paint in the riot of feathers that have become his plumage. Once again I needed to let go my idea of what was a feather or not. None of the areas I had first seen as feathers ended up staying.

So I ended up with a peacock painting after all. Nothing like what I imagined when I first started, but so, so much better. I really love it and I love this process!!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Flora's magic continues

At left is an *in progress* shot of my second canvas from the Bloom True workshop with Flora. Still tweaking, but amazed at how it has transformed from how it started last weekend (pic at right). I just wasn't feeling the flower at all.

Now "Cosmic Path" is feeling like an evolving, living, breathing prayer............

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Attended a most AWESOME workshop on the weekend (called Bloom True) with the wonderfully talented Ms Flora Bowley! Flora, who hails from Oregon USA is currently in Australia holding workshops to teach her uniquely *Flora* intuitive art technique. I can't believe this lady has only been teaching since September last year. She is just a totally natural and wonderful teacher, as well as an amazing artist. An incredible and rare combination which left me feeling amazing gratitude for the experience and TOTALLY INSPIRED. I want to paint like Flora! LOL I laugh because I have so heard that statement over the years from my own students and know it's IMPOSSIBLE and not even desirable to be a Flora (or anyone's) clone.... {{{Giggle}}}

So,  did I come close on the weekend? Well......NO...... . I did not capture her colorful abstract, simplified shapes and graphic style nor her windows of yumminess that so enchant me, but I certainly did tap into my own intuitive style of painting.  I WAS able to learn and use a whole toolbox full of new techniques and am very happy with what I produced. However I am still going to try and absorb a little more of Flora and continue to practice her technique of simplifying chaos (as she describes it). I am NOT all that good at simple, nor at letting go - which is another of her key elements. She is incredibly good at letting go of any or all elements of her paintings at any stage by simply painting over them. Non attachment to what is, in order to gain something even better than what was. A great philosophy on life too, don't you think?

This is the piece I finished (we worked on two). It's LARGE - 30" X 30" and was a challenge for me after not painting at an easel for 6 months since that shoulder thing. I will share the next one when it's finished - NOT looking good at the moment but promise I will take progressive pics anyway!

Flora's piece in the painting stage (above) and finished at right.

Thanks Flora! Thanks girls! It was an amazing and enjoyable weekend that I would repeat in a heartbeat. Stay posted for more of my Bloom True adventures, but in the interim, hope you enjoy some of my pics from the weekend

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Water Soul

The Strathmore workshop I mentioned in the last post has really helped kick me out of the artist's block I have experienced since breaking my shoulder 4 months ago. Now I can handle small pieces again, I am loving creating A4 size pieces, although I am not really following the workshop instructions. LOL I do love Pam's work, but my own style just gets in the way. First pic is how I started the piece with some collage pieces, mainly my own work recycled, but some eyes and mouth cut from a magazine. Second pic shows the finished piece.