Venturing Into Watercolour Art

For my birthday a few weeks ago my best friend bought me this lovely set of watercolour pencils…

…which was extremely exciting for me. As previously mentioned in my art journal blog, I’ve been getting more and more into 2D art. I’ve been doing lots of sketching and drawing and getting these pencils was the inspiration I needed to take the next step.

Pinterest, of course, was an invaluable source of ideas. One particular image had been lurking in my “make me!” folder for months.

So, after a quick trip into town to buy a pad of watercolour paper I had a go. I started by drawing the outline.

I was worried that it didn’t look like what it was supposed to be, but everyone I showed it to knew what it was.

Next step was to add some colour. I didn’t go with the blue from the Pinterest post but with one of my favourite colours.

I was really nervous for the next step. I didn’t want to mess it up. Adding too much water or not enough could ruin it – or so I assumed. I didn’t (and still don’t) have much knowledge of practice with watercolours, pencil or otherwise.

So I went slowly and gently, and I’m really happy with what came out.

That particular page went into my art journal, but I’m tempted to do another piece for my wall.

Iris Folding

The other day I wrote about being intrigued by two new crafts recently.  That post was about the first, and this post is about the second.  Iris Folding.

While searching Pinterest for ideas for my art journals I found this image:


That led me to this page, where the author introduced me to Iris Folding.  Which led me to several hours on YouTube and Pinterest and Google Image Search.

Iris Folding begins with a pattern, like this one:

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In the tutorial I originally found she made her piece right on the template (without sticking it to the template), and then created an aperture for it.  Most of the other tutorials online begin with cutting your aperture from card stock, then taping it (with temporary tape like washi tape or masking tape) down over the template.

Then you lay strips of paper over the piece in line with each of the numbers on the template, using little bits of tape to keep them in place.

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When you’re finished, peel up the masking tape and flip your piece over.

With the triangle piece there, I made a few errors.  I had the pencil marks on my black card facing out instead of in…

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… and there were lots of gaps where I’d been paying attention to the lines on the template and not on the width of my paper strips.  So I had another go…

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…in which the pattern itself looked great but my horrendously cut aperture ruined the effect.  So I went again.

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This one I’m really pleased with.  It isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty.

Those three pieces are made with strips of paper originally intended for making lucky stars, like this.


…so the edges are nice and neat.  Many tutorials say to use folded paper strips so that you have a nice edge.  And this does work well, but there’s an issue with it.

My first attempt at Iris Folding was actually the C at the top of this image…

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…(That’s a page from my art journal by the way) but for some reason I didn’t take photos of it.  So to demonstrate the issue with folded paper (and because I really enjoy the technique) I made another one.

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I’m really really happy with this one.  I took lots of photos doing the steps so I might post a tutorial some time soon.  But the problem with using folded paper is this..

It doubles the thickness of the piece.  It’s not so bad with large images like this.  In the original C I did it was quite small, so I was essentially layering each piece directly on top of another, meaning I ended up with almost a stack of paper.

I enjoy the process, and it makes such a pretty result.  I’m definitely going to be doing more, including experimenting with ribbon and washi tapes.

Stick Weaving

I do a lot of crafts.  A lot.  When people ask me what crafts I do I find it easier to say that if I don’t already do it, it’s probably on my list of crafts to try.  So when a craft crops up that I don’t know about I get very excited.  In the last few weeks there have been two!

The first is Stick Weaving.

My friend Cayden, who you may have seen me mention on here before, came to my house for a gaming session one weekend wielding something like this:

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(That’s not his work, it’s a picture from Pinterest).

It looked relatively simple, and as weaving in general was something I’d like to try one day I did a little bit of investigation.  Well, I tried.  There isn’t all that much information online to be honest, but I found a simple tutorial on YouTube….

And I found the same sticks set that Cayden has on Amazon.  I used a ball of leftover yarn so what I made isn’t very long, but it’s a very satisfying fabric.

As I said, there isn’t all that much info available online about stick weaving, but a Pinterest search brings up lots of pretty ideas.

And then there’s this image, also found on Pinterest.

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Just looking at that image makes my mind boggle.  I might have to make a few pretty scarves before I tackle something like that.

Art Journal

Over on Reddit there’s a group called The Monthly Notebook.  The point, as taken from the subreddit info…

Welcome to The Monthly Notebook! This is a subreddit about the monthly notebook challenge. The goal of the challenge is to fill up an entire notebook back to back in a month! This challenge renews every month and each month you can decide whether to participate.

The first month I saw this I knew just what I wanted to do.  I’d made this hardback book while expanding my bookbinding skills, and I wanted a good use for it.

So for my first Monobo in August I did an art journal.  I’ve always been crafty with 3D things, like crochet and hama beads, but I wanted to work on my 2D art.  This seemed like a great excuse.

And I had a fantastic time.  I came up with some really good pieces.

I did a few pages I wasn’t so proud of, like this one…

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…and I ruined a couple of pages while adding new ones, like this one…

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…but I really enjoyed myself and I finished all 40 pages within the month.  Because I used card stock, it didn’t have a lot of pages.

With September looming I decided I’d finally get around to making a swatch book, so I’d have samples of all my pens and paints and inks.  I even made the notebook:

But then I found this book and decided that I’d be doing another art journal.


That book is not only twice the size of my first art journal but it also has four times as many pages.  I didn’t complete it in September, so I carried on in October.  By the end of October I had completed exactly half the pages, so I’m still working on it and my current goal is to finish it by the end of the year.

Here are some highlights from the 90 (out of 166) I have finished so far.



Guest Post: Miniature Painting

I am extremely excited to introduce my first guest blogger.  This post was written by my good friend Sam, who is also my Dungeon Master (that’s the roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons for those who don’t know).  Sam paints all our little miniatures and he’s incredibly good at it.  Painting is not something I’m good at, especially in such minute scale, so I asked him to write a tutorial for you all.

Hi there!

I’m Sam, a miniature painter of some one and a half years so far and although I only consider myself only an intermediate painter at the moment, I’ve learned a lot along the way that might be helpful to someone who’s just starting out.

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My process largely breaks down into 5 overall steps:

  1. Surface Prep
  2. Basecoat
  3. Shade/Wash
  4. Highlighting
  5. Cleanup/Detailing

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Step 1: Surface Prep

This step is the most straightforward.  Imperfections in any surface will always show through and can spoil a finish you’ve worked hard to achieve, so you need to make sure it’s as clean as possible. Models are sometimes covered in a thin layer of releasing compound used to make sure the sprue (the plastic frame the model pieces come in) comes free of the mould it was cast in.  This can prevent layers of paint from adhering to the surface so it needs to be cleaned off.  Start by lightly brushing each sprue sheet all over with warm soapy water and scrubbing gently with a soft bristled toothbrush. Don’t try and clean it using solvents as some plastics will melt when exposed to certain solvents.

Make sure you let it dry completely before you start painting but don’t be tempted to rush-dry it with a hair dryer. Some types of plastic melt and deform under surprisingly little heat. Just towel it off gently and leave it in the open air to allow any remaining water to evaporate.

Next you need to cut the elements of the model from the sprue. This can be done with a hobby knife or a pair of sprue cutters. You want to cut it as close to the model part as possible, but be VERY CAREFUL that you’re not cutting into the part itself. If it means leaving some sprue material on the part then that’s fine, you can clean that up when you’re removing mould lines.

After you’ve cut the part out of the sprue you need to remove the mould lines that will have been left on the areas where the two halves of the mould met. Just run a hobby knife blade at a 90 degree angle to the part along the length of the mould line. It might take several runs but you should be able to get it flush with the rest of the part around it.

Now you need to plan how to assemble your model. Bear in mind that it can be very hard to reach certain areas once it’s assembled. Underneath capes and the inside of dresses are particularly bad for this, so remember you can always paint parts separately and put them together later.

Lastly you need to prime your model. Primer is a special type of paint that will stick to almost any surface, and provides a good surface for additional layers of paint to adhere to. Since this is going to be your bottom most layer it’s essential that it be as smooth as possible, so I recommend using a spray can primer. Other methods include brush-on primer and airbrush primer however I find these have no real advantage and a lot of disadvantages. There’s a lot of disagreement over whether it’s better to prime in a light or a dark colour. Personally I prefer to prime in white as it’s easier to cover and won’t show through as easily, but others prefer to use black as they find it can help with shading later on. it’s just a matter of personal preference really.

General tips for spraying anything, be it with a can or an airbrush. Don’t hold it too close, your average rattle-can works best when held about 10-20 cm from the object. Also keep the can moving while you spray. You should start spraying while pointing away from the object, then sweep the spray over and past it, and then stop spraying while still pointing away. The can should always be in motion. This means that you’ll get a nice even build-up of paint on the object, one sweep at a time. Remember, the paint should look instantly dry on the surface (it isn’t though, so don’t touch it). If it looks wet, stop immediately and let it dry before continuing.

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Step 2: Basecoat

Now you’ve got your beautifully clean, immaculately primed parts it’s time to start actually adding some colour to them. First you need to decide what your colour palette should be. You want to choose a small number of complimentary colours remembering that for each colour you choose you’ll actually end up needing at least 3 shades of it: a mid shade, a dark shade, and a highlight shade.  So choose sparingly. Pick about 3 main colours (and possibly a trim colour too) that contrast well together, but also don’t clash, you don’t want your mini looking like an explosion at the clown factory. Remember that colours that go well together don’t necessarily have to be similar.  In fact there’s no faster route to a boring looking mini than to paint everything in varying shades of the same colour.

Before you put on any pigment, make sure your paints are properly thinned or you’ll just end up with a thick, uneven coat with visible brush-strokes in the surface. Thinning your paint down to the right consistency is an art that has many, MANY differing schools of thought. The general rule of thumb is that it should be thin enough that the liquid is pretty much self levelling, if you’re unsure then err on the side of over-thinning as opposed to under-thinning. The only real way to get the hang of whether your paint is the right consistency or not is just practice honestly. Just remember that it doesn’t matter if you can see the colour beneath showing through, you can always add more coats later to improve coverage. It’s always better to have more thin coats than it is to have a few thick ones.

To help, below is an image of the same mini. The left has only a single coat of appropriately thinned paint, the right has 3 coats. You should aim for your minis to have about the same level of coverage after the same number of coats.

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Carefully block in the general colours of the mini, try to keep the edges where two colours meet as neat as you can, but don’t worry too much if they’re a little shaky, the next step can help to hide a multitude of such sins. It can help if you make a habit of slightly twisting your brush on your palette each time you load it up with paint. Doing so helps to keep all the bristles pointing in the same direction and gives you a nice pointy tip, which is essential for neat painting.

Sometimes you might decide to do your base coat as a spray coat rather than a hand brushed coat (in fact when I’m painting anything at a larger than a mini I’d say this is essential) and that’s perfectly fine. In fact if you find yourself struggling to get flat, even hand-brushed coats then this may be the better approach for you. Just remember to properly mask off everything you don’t want coated first. Proper model maker’s masking tape, or brush-on liquid masking tape can help greatly.

Step 3: Shade/Wash

This is my favourite step: it’s easy and it’s where things suddenly start to look good. Washes are special types of paint that have 2 main features. One, they’re extremely thin, almost water-like in their consistency so they naturally run into all the small crevices and wrinkles in the details of your model. Two, they’re transparent, so whatever colour you put them on top of they’ll act more like a colour filter than a solid coat. Thanks to these two special properties we can use them to quickly add depth and definition to a surface.

Wash each area of the model with a wash that is a dark shade of your base colour, focusing on any area that would naturally be in shadow. Armpits, underneath capes, the inside of people legs etc. The wash should naturally find its way into all the small areas and settle there. A dark red wash tends to work well on flesh coloured areas. Because they’re so thin washes can take longer than normal to dry, so make sure not to rush it. That’s it for this step, told you it was easy.

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Step 4: Highlighting

Feeling good about yourself after that last step? Now comes the most difficult one. Highlighting is pretty much the exact opposite of what you just did. Where washes settle in the darker areas of the model and add shadow, with highlighting you add a lighter shade of your base colour to any area that would naturally catch the light, like the tips of peoples’ noses, the toes of their boots, the tips of their swords or the wrinkles in their clothing. Working out precisely where to place each highlight and how bright to make it is an art that can take a lot of practice to get right.

When highlighting bear in mind the idea of blending – the process of creating a gradual gradient as the colour changes from your mid shade into your highlight shade. The transparent nature of the wash took care of this for us last time, but no such luck here. There are many different techniques you can use to achieve a nice blending effect: two-brush blending, wet-blending, some people even try to use dry-brushing to achieve this effect. At this point I’d like to say that all that matters is the end result you get.  It doesn’t matter if you consider any of these techniques to be “improper” or “bad practice”, just stick with whatever gets you the end result you want.

The technique I’ve settled on after much experimenting is known as layering. Basically it involves using multiple shades of the highlight colour, thinned down to a very thin consistency and applied in very fine layers to gradually build up to your highlight colour. The best way to think of it is like a pyramid. Your bottom layer is your largest and is almost imperceptibly lighter than your mid-shade. The next layer is slightly smaller, so you can still see the previous layer around the edges, but it’s ever so slightly lighter. So on and so forth until you reach your top layer which is only very small, but is very bright compared to the base colour. If you’ve layered it gradually enough the colour changes should look perfectly natural and even.

When it comes to applying the highlight itself, take advantage of the fact that you’ll almost exclusively be placing these on raised areas and corners of things. Paint it with the edge of your brush, not the tip and let the natural intersect point where the two meet create nice straight lines for you, rather than trying to do it yourself.

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Step 5: Cleanup/Detailing

We’re almost done, all that’s left now is to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. Clean up any mistakes that you will have made during the previous steps, re-wash and re-highlight areas as appropriate until you’re happy. Then go over all the small details and make them stand out. Belt buckles, pouches, buttons, uniform insignia, etc. Just paint each of them with a small dab of something bright so they stand out against the colour scheme of your model. It’s those tiny details that make something look interesting to the eye and invite people to pick it up and take a closer look, to see what other tiny details they can discover.

Once that’s done you may want to consider giving it a clear coat. This is entirely optional but if your mini is going to be picked up, handled, and moved around a lot then it can be a good idea as it adds a protective layer of highly-durable clear paint over everything. Just give it a light misting of a matt-finish clear sealant from a rattle-can, taking care to remember the general tips for spraying that I mentioned above.

Well that’s everything (actually that’s FAR from everything but I’m sure you only have so much time to spend reading blog posts, so it’s enough for now).

Hopefully someone somewhere found that helpful, please let me know if you did. You can find more of me and my works at or follow me on twitter at @SamsSkunkworks.

Make It 2017

Last year I did a post showing you all the goodies I bought at the Make It craft show.  I went to the show this year but I never got around to posting about it.  A good time was had, and workshops were undertaken, and goodies were purchased.

The workshops included learning about a fantastic thing called a Coiling Gizmo – a blog about that is coming up in the next day or two, and a quick one learning how to decoupage.  Paper-mache egg, scraps of pretty paper, and lots of glue.  Sticky fingers, but a very enjoyable process.

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I already had a thing for collecting wooden shapes, for possible future projects.  For painting, for pyrography (which I started, but haven’t done much with yet), for doodling.  Learning decoupage just added another good reason to have lots of wooden shapes.  And luckily there are a couple of different stalls at Make It that sell lots of pretty wooden pieces.

There was also a stall doing workshops for wood block fabric printing, but we somehow missed that one.  I did buy myself a starter kit, which I might even get around to using some time soon.

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I picked up the usual silly amounts of pretty paper…

…some general beading supplies…

…some stamping supplies & gifts…

…and some general crafting bits and pieces.

I also picked up a few extra bits, but they’re part of the whole Coiling Gizmo blog post that’s coming up.

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Random Craft Quiz – Part 3

Here it is!  Only a year after the last part, here is Part 3 of that Random Craft Quiz that I started.

21) How often do you knit or crochet?

Several days a week.  I do a lot of hobbies, but knitting and crochet (mostly crochet) are ones that pop up frequently.

22) Do you always have a project in mind when you buy yarn?

Nope.  I’m a sucker for pretty yarn.

23) Do you find any crafting tools to be overrated?

I don’t know really.  I’m not so fond of circular needles, but that’s just me not getting them.

24) When you want to learn a new stitch, how do you go about it?

YouTube.  Always YouTube.  YouTube taught me to crochet.  I had a good friend who taught me to knit and another good friend who tried to teach me to crochet.  He tried and tried, but I kept getting in knots.  In the end I found YouTube videos and managed from there.

25) Do you have a devoted yarn bag?

Not really.  It tends to be whatever bag is handy.

26) Does anyone else in your family crochet/knit?

I’m gonna change this question to “craft”.  My sister does beading and has dabbled in cross stitch I believe, and now that she has a toddler she’s doing lots of kiddy crafts.  My other sister has knit in the past but has a small attention span.  She knit one of the patches in my very first blanket – it’s right in the centre, with her initial stitched on.

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My mum used to knit and do cross stitch, but her hands don’t let her anymore.

27) How do you store your yarn stash?

In boxes.  Many boxes.  Lots of boxes.  Did I mention all the boxes?

28) What are your current WIPs?

I have quite a few… dozen.  I suffer from Startitis.

29) Do you have any projects currently in time out?

Nothing is in time out I don’t think.  I just have a LOT of WIPs and some I haven’t touched in years.

30) Which WIP have you been working on the longest?

According to my Ravelry projects (I’m Switchcleo on there if you want to get in touch), it’s a cross stitch kit I started way back in June 2011.  Jeez, that’s a really long time.  I should dig that out.

It’s the A Year of Events kit by Dimensions and here’s how far I’ve gotten so far.

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(I can’t find a link for the kit, it must be an old one.  But it’s number 35235)

That’s it for Part 2.  I’ll try not to leave it a year before I post Part 3.