Thursday, November 20, 2014

Visually Simplifying...

Last week, I shared with you how I have recently been working towards simplifying things. I was able to purge 60 bags full of stuff from our home and as part of that process, I also simplified things in my studio!

Now, I must preface this by saying that I have always been relatively minimal when it comes to my supplies (more on that in a moment), but what I really addressed in my studio this time was VISUAL simplicity.

Bright light

Soft colors
Less is more

So, grab a cup of coffee, I would love to take you on a tour of my studio and chat a bit about simplicity within our crafting spaces...

But, before we get into that, let's take a look at what my studio looked like the last time I shared it with you all:

That was a little over two years ago. You might notice lots of color, lots of chairs, and lots of stuff!

While the core layout of this space (garage turned interior room by previous homeowner) has stayed relatively the same, I have made quite a few cosmetic changes.

Here is what the studio looks like, as of several weeks ago:

 A major difference, I would say! 
What's the biggest change? Color. 

In the before picture, you can see that I had red and green accents behind the shelving. I painted that myself, many years ago, when I wanted to spruce up the space but had a budget that was practically in the negative. So... I used leftover paint. Hey, it worked and I felt good about the little face lift at the time.

But, fast forward to today and I am striving for simplicity in all things. And, in this case it is VISUAL simplicity.

I found that while the red provided a nice pop of color, it did nothing to aid in the visual calmness. And, when you consider the fact that I am the type of crafter that has to have everything sitting out in order to get it used, I certainly don't need to be unnecessarily adding to the visual clutter by something as simple as paint choice.

So, out went the red and green! I simply covered over it with a tinted primer we had laying around. Easy peasy.
What's the next thing I did? I went and got some pretty trash cans. Silly? Meh. Maybe. But, in my effort to love everything around me, I figured I should have some pretty trash cans that I love too! So, I grabbed some laundry style bins and just love the way they are working! 

See it there? Under my desk. Cute, isn't it? Am I concerned about mucking up the inside with paint and glue and such? Nope! It's a trash can. I have deemed it as such and it shall fulfill it's purpose in my life!

So much of the creative process really is about perspective. What do you see and what do you want to see? Bright or calm colors? Plastic utility bins or pretty fabric ones?

Speaking of perspective, I always find it so helpful to take a photo of a layout while I am working on it, to get a different perspective. Well, the same worked out here. Once I looked at the photo below of my view as I stand at my desk, I notice the visual atrocity that the ugly black chair was...

It's funny, somehow I didn't notice that until I had taken a picture of the space. Guess what? The chair is now gone. YAY! Much better, indeed.

Now, remember what I said about needing to see everything?

Case in point:

But, I must tell you that what you see here is pretty much it. All of my washi is there to the left. All of my paints are on the lazy susan, all of my embellies are in those little wood drawers, and all of my paper bits are to the right there.

Ahhh - but I do like a clean table and this one sits to my right. It doesn't stay this clean, but it provides a wonderful work surface, plus a bit of storage for glitter, embossing folders and chipboard pieces. 

That distressed wood piece to the left? It came home when the laundry bins turned trash cans did. The drawers pull out and the open spaces are the perfect size for embossing folders. I love it and love looking at it! Goal achieved.
My larger papers and working albums are right behind me there. I just love my new light paint and the backdrop it provides for finished cards and special photographs. 
The studio is much more visually simple now! I actually didn't throw anything away. Well, except for the old trashcans. I just lightened things up and added a couple of new and beautiful pieces. How much did this simplicity cost me? $50. That's $30 on the trash bins and $20 for the storage shelf. A small price to pay for simplicity. 

My style has evolved in terms of visual simplicity as well. I am finding great joy in a certain amount of white space. I am learning that less truly can be more. 

For example...

Take a look at these layouts below. The one on the left was done this time, two years ago. The one on the right is from just a couple of weeks ago:
While the differences are pretty obvious between these two pages, I find it interesting to note several similarities...

mist drops with doodled circles
horizontal elements
one photo
use of kraft

Much like in my studio space, there are things that have remained the same... things that are true to my process. But, what I have done is simplify in a way that improves my perspective...perspective on the story and on my process.

LOVE that!

I still limit what I buy. I try not to buy one of everything. If I am liking a trend, I try to only invest in one element and not go overboard. I don't keep too many stickers and embellishments on hand. Not only does this present a storage challenge, but I find it takes me longer to look through my choices and drags out the scrapping process.

I am a fan of making something out of nothing. Scraps can become so many things! Its a time saver, space saver, and money saver to make the most out of what you have purchased!

In fact, I chat about this quite a bit and make lots of things out of nothing in both the Supply Class and Holiday Crafting class with May Flaum. Both are available for purchase here

I also shared some of my thoughts on collecting mixed media supplies in this video here:

More often than not, it is not what we have, but it's our perspective on what we have. 

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE buying scrappy things. But, I also LOVE using them and I try to make sure these things are equally weighted. 

If my studio space is overrun with visual noise... I am less likely to make things. The visual clutter will preoccupy me to the point of paralysis. That is never good.

So, sometimes we don't need to simplify THINGS, but we need to simplify our VISUAL. What is your view today? How can you simplify it?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Painting, Planning, and Playing...

I have had a mental block with art journaling for some time. In college, I always kept a sketchbook, but mostly used it to jot notes in. While I intellectually understand the value of working out a creative idea before heading to the final piece, I have always had a hard time putting this into practice. 

Does it seem like a waste of time? This notion of spending time on a project, knowing that it will in fact not be a finished piece? If you had asked me those questions, I would have said, "Of course it's not a waste of time! It is very valuable to work through an idea and practice techniques before heading to the final piece."

But, you know what? I don't think I really believed that deep down. Or, if I believed it... I didn't want to take the time to actually do it. I have always worked out my ideas right there on what eventually became the finished product. Sure, I might cut it up and glue it back together multiple times. But, I have never really had a pile of "not done" sketches, doodles, layouts, or paintings.

I am a fan of seeing things through to completion and for some reason this has held me back from Art Journaling. Silliness, I know.

So... when I first saw the promo video for Paint. Plan. Play. over at Studio Calico, my interest was peaked. What Ashley shows in her video does not resemble what I think of as the typical art journal. Not only did it have pages that could be taken out and moved around, but many of the pages looked "unfinished" in a perfectly wonderful way. Ashley's book also displays a delighfully modern and "less is more" style that knocked what I tend to think of a typical art journaling spread right on it's inky, collaged, layered side.

I had no idea what to expect, really. 

Was this a planner class? It didn't look like it, but that was in the name... 
Was this an art journaling class? Not too sure. They described it as such, but her book didn't resemble my preconceived notion of an art journal...

Soooo.... the only way to find out for sure what this was all about was to enroll in class. And, the free stamp set that came with early registration was pretty much enough to seal the deal!

Class began the first of November with an introduction video from Ashley walking us through her art journal planner. I still wasn't sure what was in store for this class, but as I shared in a recent post, it sure got me thinking about lots of things!

A couple of days later, the first lesson went live and it was all about mark making. Having googled Ashley's work and becoming familiar with her style, I had learned that "mark making" is somewhat a signature of her's and I was excited to see exactly what this was all about.

Now, I have to admit when I started the video, I thought to myself "Really, we are going to learn how to make dots? And stripes?" I kinda already know how to do that...

OH, but NOOOO.... I did NOT know how to do it in the cool, artsy, pattern making, modern way that Ashely is so famous for. Let me tell you, it is not as easy as it looks!

But, it sure is fun! I mean, really fun. I couldn't stop playing with dots, brush strokes, and patterns. Some of my practices ended up getting cut into alphas...

And put on a page with lots of mark making in the background as well...
But, I was having so much fun playing that I ended up with lots of little "unfinished" pages of fun. What to do? 

Well, first I had an epiphany! THIS is art journaling. I CAN do this. And, even more importantly... I WANT to! 

I know, I know... most of you are way ahead of me on this one. I can be a little slow on the uptake and this is the perfect example. But, hey... at least I "get it" now, right?

Then, being the lover of the disc bound Arc system that I am, I quickly cut down lots of little papers and stuck them together with some spare discs. This way, I can take out pages and move them around whenever I so please.

And that gave me a place to put all of my little experiments in! Like these color blocking pages from our next lesson in class. I really never knew that some old house paint could look so cool all layered up when applied with a scrap piece of chipboard...
I stuck those in my new little book and doodled...
And pasted...
 And stamped...
 and watercolored...
And it's all tucked away in my little 4 and a quarter by 5 and a half inch journal!
And what is really cool is that I am finding the merits of what I really knew all along - It pays to practice and play before the finished piece. In fact, new ideas are found that way and it IS worth it!

Like this graphic stamping on the right. I love how this looked so much...

 ...that I had to try it on a layout...

 Likey so!

The best part about this class is that it has allowed me to get beyond my own mental block and preconceived notion of what art journaling should be. 

I am so excited about my little "collage" journal, as I have decided to call it. It gets about 5 minutes of my attention most days, but is giving back to me ten-fold as I find loads of inspiration and ideas from within it's small pages.

I look forward to sharing more of my "collage journal" with you as it's pages fill up with unfinished goodness...

See you soon!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Seeing Stars...

Hello, hello! It's Monday and that means we have a new challenge waiting for you at the Simon Says Stamp Monday Challenge Blog. This week, we are going to the moon! Well... sort of...

If you’ve always wanted to go to the moon, love all celestial things, want to be a space explorer, or perhaps just like stars on your craft projects this week we want to see how you’re inspired by the universe, galaxy, or anything else out of this world.

I was inspired to include stars on my layout this week. A quick look through my pictures to see what photo might inspire and I came across this fun picture of my daughter helping me in the garden with rocks. I couldn't resist the pun... so... here we go!

I have my papers gathered and have punched a few stars:
I thought it might be fun to play with my leftover paper with the star cut outs, so here I am just lightly tracing where the shapes land on my background...
 Then, I simply applied some liquid glue and am adhering down my wood pieces...
 I love the way the wood helps reinforce the outdoorsy theme of this page...
 With that all in place, it's time to work on some layers of pattern!
 Coming along...
Almost there! I stitched my stars down and now I'm finding a home for this little fussy cut deer...
The usual finishing touches of wood veneers, splatters, watercolors, and sequins and... there we have it!
I love how my starting point inspiration of stars took me on this scrappy adventure...
And, I love how it came out!

So... what creative adventure will you go on? Go get crafty and don't forget to link-up with us! Every week a random winner is chosen to win a $50 spending spree from

Here is my supply list (affiliate links included):

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I've Been Simplifying...

Toward the end of summer I started feeling like all I did all day long was pick up little doo das and put them back in their rightful home. Granted, I have four children, one of which is a nursing baby, plus a husband (they do make their own kind of mess, don't they?). So, I should expect to have lots of doo das to continually pick up, right?


However, if I am spending all my time on this, then I am not left with time for the important things. The really important things... like...

Taking time to stare into my children's eyes and REALLY listen to them, not half listen while I am running around the house tidying things up.


To make art, with the kids and without. I mean really make art, without the mind chatter of "I need to pick up the mess in the playroom, I need to fold the clothes, etc..."


Now, I need to clarify that I have never been a keeper of things. I am not a collector and I do not like to shop. In fact, I get rid of things on a fairly regular basis. And, when I buy a consumable... I consume it, like pretty paper and such :)

So, when I say simplify... I am speaking very literally. I was ruthless, people! I went through every room and asked myself "Do I use it?" or "Do I love it?" 
If I couldn't answer yes to either of those questions... then I said, "LOSE it!"
Random vases
Decorative baskets
The extra four spatulas (really? I only use one!)
Tupperware. OH the tupperware
Extra tablecloths
Extra sheets

Once I had done that in each room, I repeated it... five times. That's right! I went through each room five times and purged multiple things each time, including the studio. (More on that later.)

The only thing that was safe were the books. One can never have too many books, in my opinion...
When all was said and done, we donated over 60 bags full of stuff to our local charity! YAY! And, that was coming from a house where it's chief domestic officer prides herself in not keeping, hoarding, and collecting.


I now have dressers with nothing on top, mantles without dusty decorative candles, and shelves with breathing room.... YES!

In retrospect, I had been on the road to this destination for quite some time. In fact, as I look back at my scrapbooking and how my style has evolved, I can see that I have been simplifying in my aesthetic. Over time, I have added more layers, yet less color; More white space and less visual clutter.

That is one reason that I decided to try the Paint Plan Play class at Studio Calico. I really couldn't tell what it was about from the promo video. But, I could tell that the instructor, Ashley, has a very graphic, modern style that is wonderfully simple yet perfectly balanced in composition and design. Simple is not always easy and I was excited to learn from her approach, especially through the lens of art journaling.

The class truly has given me a fresh perspective on what art journaling can be. I will share more with you regarding that soon.

So, once I had finished my ruthless purge around the house, something amazing happened.... TIME! I found time. I really did. Less visual clutter equals less mental clutter and less mental clutter equals more time to live in each and every moment. 

The kids are spending less time managing their stuff and I am spending less time managing their messes. This means we have way more time to just BE. 

Be together. 
Be artsy.
Be fun.

Less truly is more. I am learning that concept more and more everyday, especially in my art. Remember how I mentioned my studio? Decluttering and simplifying my art space has given me a clarity in my creativity. 

I'll share more about that next week.

Have a great weekend! 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Shrinking the Brain...

I did it! I shrunk The Brain. 
Let me explain. 

I love planners. I have always used a paper planner. I had a FiloFax in middle school (that was a LONG time ago). Not only do I love the look and feel of a handheld calendar, I find them quite useful as well. In recent years, they have become even more useful to me as I use them to keep our homeschooling records.

What are my requirements for a planner?
 - It has to fold back on itself
 - I need to be able to add and take away pages without using a glue stick
 - The weeks have to start on Sunday
 - I need a month view to be present at all times

In addition to the above requirements, I have been an 8 1/2 x 11 sized planner kinda gal for most of my adult life. I want to be able to put a printout in my calendar without having to fold it and get it all crumply. 

Ahhh - but I found that my current set-up just wasn't working. How did I know it wasn't working? Well, I stopped using it. That's a good indicator. HA!

So, after some thought... it occurred to me that I wasn't using it because it was too big. Sure, I want to be able to put a print-out in there, but it's certainly not going to do me any good if I am not using the thing to begin with. 

I found that when the entire spread was open and not folded back on itself, the dimensions of 11 x 17 were just too overwhelming. That pretty much takes up the whole kitchen counter! Too much. So, I found that I constantly had it folded back on itself, which meant that I wasn't flipping pages and therefore wasn't utilizing my planner to it's fullest potential.

I began pondering. And pondering some more...

Then, Paint Plan Play over at Studio Calico started up. This is NOT a planner class. It has nothing to do with calendars. However, Ashley Goldberg showed us an introduction video of her "art planner." This is essentially an art journal that utilizes a three ring binder system so that she can move around her patterns and colors to allow for optimal inspiration. Very cool.

Well... about the same time that I was watching and pondering this video, I had my guest spot at Cocoa Daisy. I was getting a feel for their website and offerings and stumbled on thread upon thread of discussions regarding planners. They have a Daisy Day monthly planner subscription that is beyond adorable.

Oh... the wheels were a turnin'!

And then it hit me... I use the Arc System. I am sold on that and don't plan on changing. (You can read more about that in my last planner post) One of the many great things about the Arc System is that it is totally customizable and can be made any size. So, why not make my planner a hybrid "art planner" of sorts, but actually include the calendar part?

YES! I can do that!

So, then I did what most insane women do when they have no need for additional ideas... I went to Pinterest! Once there, I was quickly reminded of the awesomeness that is Amanda Hawkins. She is an amazingly talented artist and self-professed planner fiend who designs her own printables. You may remember that I utilized some of them in the previous version of The Brain.

Well... I began pouring over the gorgeous contents of her website. It seems what I was looking for specifically is about to be released. YAY! But, in the mean time, I wanted to get crackin' on this Brain shrinking project. 

So, I took pencil and ruler to paper and drew up my own planner perfection...

I NEED to see a month at a time. And, I have found in the past that a week by week calendar is overkill for me. Here, in this A5 sized book, I have a month view on the left and a note page on the right. I took complete inspiration from Amanda, using doodles, inks, and paints on my page...

You might be wondering how I manage to keep all of my notes from one month on this little page? Layers of post-its. You know I love my layers!
The bottom of the calendar page has a "typical" week... using washi. You see, we do much of the same thing day in and day out. I really don't want to write this over and over again on each day that it happens. Plus, it will clog up my monthly spread. So, I simply have it as a reminder at the bottom...
With my template all created, I simply scanned it in and printed off copies. Easy!

Now, in the mean time... I should confess that while searching Pinterest and admiring the work of Amanda Hawkins, I somehow ended up on YouTube. Oh, help me now. 

Have you ever seen the millions upon millions of planner videos out there? Oh my! The funny part is, many of them repeat the same types of things and ideas over and over again. But, I can't stop watching them! And, if you happen to know that the Hobonici Planner was invented by a Nintendo Video Game programer, then you might have fallen into the very same rabbit hole that I did! Just sayin'.

Ahhh - but there are good things that come from watching people talk about their calendars! I stumbled across a lady who had a delightful video where she discusses her planner "history" - basically, an overview of all the planners she has made and used since her college days and what she liked and disliked about each one. You can find that video here. Well, on one of the planners, she created a pocket out of the whole page. LOVE that!

So... I did that here...
I simply sewed the note page onto the back of the calendar page, punched a half circle, and there we have a pocket!
In between the spread, I cut down an old Cropper Hopper divider. It functions not only as my monthly tab, but also as a dry erase surface...
Now, what about the art part of this? Well, Ashley has us playing around with lots of fun marks and pattern making in the Paint Plan Play class. When I have something I like and think I might want to look at it a bit longer, I simply use my Arc punch and pop it in the middle of the spread...
 And, the beauty of the Arc means that it can pull back out in a snap as well!
It really is fun to take 5 seconds and work up a little collage to pop in my planner! 

Speaking of collage, YouTube led me to Roben Marie Smith. I have long admired her work, but had never watched one of her videos before. Well, I am sure you all know this already... but, she uses a UHU glue stick in her art journal. Hello? AWESOME! 

Why is that so amazing, you ask? Well, for me... a mental block that I have found with art journaling in the past, is the "wetness" of it. You see, I have always used Matte Medium for collage. Matte Medium takes a long time to dry and can lead to a "gooky" look when there are layers upon layers upon layers. The UHU glue stick thing truly was a lightbulb moment for me!

It's the little things. 

So, that means I can take a little leftover pattern scrap, glue-stick it to a piece of glitter paper, swipe a piece of washi over it, and call it a collage! Punch it, stick it in the planner, and ta da! - on the go inspiration!
Speaking of patterns... Amanda had a really cool template for a year at a glance. I work in a July - July format for my calendars, so her template wouldn't work for me. I decided to make my own. I really am not sure how practical this will be for me, or how much I will use it. But, I LOVE the look of it and how the numbers create a pattern all their own...
So, what happens if I have a super crazy week and really do need more space to write things out? Ahhh - another idea from Amanda...

Weekly inserts! 

Once again, she had some templates for this, but her's started with the week on Monday. My brain doesn't function that way, so I just drew some out and scanned them in. These live in the back of my planner and I can grab one whenever needed! Oh, and that adorable doggie stamp doesn't hurt either. He is from the stamp set that came with my registration of the Paint Plan Play class at Studio Calico. Fun stuff!
Speaking of which... another great idea from class...

Ashley showed us how she has a sort of "tangible" Pinterest in her Art Planner. Basically, this is a page with some of your favorite inspirational images on it and it lives in your planner. Her idea behind this is that it is nice to have a place to go for inspiration without staring at a glowing screen. I love that idea! So, I simply grabbed some of my favorite pins and printed them out. It's super fun to flip to this page in my planner!
Now, what about that whole "I want a full sized page to fit in my planner and not be folded" conundrum? Well, turns out it's not that bad. The great thing is that with the discs from the Arc system, I don't have to cut my page. It will still open just fine folded and punched. YAY!
Initially, I simply cut down my old cover from my previous Brain. But, I just wasn't happy with it in this smaller size...
 So, I took some more inspiration from Amanda, this time in the form of her collage work....
And made myself a cover out of file folders...

Her work has this lovely messy and sketchy feel to it with lots of cream and white, so I was playing with that here...

On the inside, I used more file folders to sew on pockets. I also printed out a gorgeous floral from a Cocoa Daisy freebie. Put behind a sheet of acetate, that acts as another dry erase surface...
Then, as I was going through our stack of printer paper to cut up some sheets for note taking, I came across some of the many children's drawings that we have lying around. Well, I think we can all agree that we can only keep so many of these. But, instead of heading straight to the trash with the surplus, I decided they would make great scratch paper...
Ahhh - but I couldn't stop there! I decided to turn this into my wallet too! With the addition of some plastic card sleeves and envelopes, I felt like I needed more of a wrap around cover...

...likey so!
 A simple rubber band....
Here it is with the flap opened. You might notice that I also changed out the decorative clip from the floral to a yellow...
And of course, I couldn't leave the inside of this blank... a cute little girl with her dog fits the bill!
 I love how the stamp from the file folder peeks through the drawing...
 And here it is with the flap folded in!
I should mention that the rubber band held up for about as long as it took me to take those pictures. HA! Live and learn. So, I added velcro instead and that works much better!

So, let's review...

From realizing I was having planner fail, to the class at SC, to the forums at CD, to Pinterest, to Amanda Hawkins, to YouTube, to Roben Marie Smith, and so on...

I now have a planner that I am really, really HAPPY with! As in, it completely shocks me when the cashier at Target does not fall over with amazement when I pull out this thing of beauty to pay for diapers...

Like I said... it's the little things :)
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