Shhhhh! 21 Secrets.

Remember when I was a teacher in 21 Secrets? 

Myself and 20 sweet, beautiful souls share our art journaling methods with you. It’s truly fabulous.

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How to art journal

I know I’ve been on a rampage lately about art journals.

Thank you for your patience while I get it out of my system. For those who want to journal, but are intimidated by it or don’t know where to start, below is my get-started checklist.

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Supplies needed:

  • Journal, notebook, or paper (obviously).
  • Bricks or heavy object to flatten pages or entire books (only when they’re definitely dry). Sometimes I use a blow dryer on pages to make them dry faster.
  • Waxed paper. Keep a stack cut to your page size and layer them between. Even if the pages feel dry to the touch, they may stick when pressed together. Better safe than sorry, although this sticking and ripping process can also add interesting layers.
  • Art supplies, glue, papers, other collected junk.
  • Cheap paintbrushes and sponges. I use the least expensive ones I can find because I mistreat them, leave them soaking in water for days, and I use them in glue as well as paint.


I keep a very small notebook in my purse or pocket and write down phrases or a few words to remind me of things later. Use this when you journal to spark ideas or memories.


I am always on the look-out for paper objects or other flattish things throughout the day – plants & leaves, fortune cookie strips, found notes or lists. My pockets and purse are always littered with this junk.

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Start following other journalers on Pinterest, Tumblr, Flickr and Instagram. I mentioned a few in this blog post and if you have trouble finding them, look at who I’m following on my social media pages. They’re full of this kind of stuff.  Don’t be intimidated by them, but try to emulate their style to see what comes of it.


Don’t concern yourself with pretty, precious, or what others think. Journals are not created with the purpose of pleasing others or required to be beautiful. They are a means to tap into your creativity and authentic self.


Work in 2 (or more) books at a time so that one can dry while you’re working on the other one. Dedicate an area, no matter how small, to your journaling so that you can easily add something when the mood strikes. If you have to put everything away and get it back out again to work, you won’t do it very often.


LAYER. This is the key for me. Sometimes I start a page and it’s so ugly that I want to rip it out, but by the time it’s been layered with paint, tape, words, and magazine pictures, it’s one of my favorites. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened.


Recycle. I don’t throw away yogurt cups, styrofoam, odd plastic containers and lids, etc. Use them to hold paint or supplies, or to mark and stencil on journal pages.


Never waste paint or glue. If you have extra on your brush, wipe it on another page which is waiting off to the side for just this purpose. Keep adding to it in this way until you’re ready to bring it to center stage.I have quite a few stencils that I’ve collected over the past few years, but if you don’t want to invest in these, be creative and find other ways to stencil. Cut your own designs into styrofoam, or use something with holes in it. Popping paper is my favorite way to add patterned paint to a background.

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You don’t need to go in order. Flip through the pages until you find something you want to work on that day. Continue flipping back and forth and layering each day.


Add words:

  • Words from a song
  • Inspiring quote or Pinterest meme
  • Stream of consciousness
  •  It doesn’t need to be profound or important
  • Use alphabet stamps. I like the acrylic or clear ones you can get at Michael’s.
  • Use markers, crayons, gel pens, or sharpies.
  • Cut words or phrases from magazines, sale ads, etc.
  • Use a white pen or paint to place words on top of dark sections or colors.
  • When you’re stuck, write anything. Just get something on paper. You don’t even need to make it legible. Scribble or write nonsense.
  • You can write one way and then turn the page around in a different direction; this way you get to say what you want but no one can actually read it. Maybe write really big in one direction, then super small in the other.


Add shapes:

  • Close your eyes and paint or write with markers.
  • Paint abstract shapes.
  • Carve your own stamps and use them.
  • Glue images (like a face) and then use it as a template to paint over parts.
  • Use household objects as stamps:
  • Lids to a hairspray can, netting that fruit came in, paper doilies, etc. I have a whole drawer of weird things with different shapes.
  • Make your paint watery and let it drip.
  • This is my favorite right now (Thank you, Flora Bowley). Dip vegetables in paint and use to make shapes. Cut potatoes or parsnips into shapes and use to stamp. You can carve these with a knife or something sharp and make lines and interesting shapes.
  • Something that took me a while to learn: When wet, don’t mix warm colors (red, orange, yellow) with cool colors (blue, green) and don’t mix either of these things with the ugly colors like brown, gray, or black. You can use them all in the same page, but let them dry first, otherwise you will get really ugly mud. White goes with anything and the warms and cools can be used together and mixed when wet.


 Add paper:

  • Scraps of paper
  • Lists
  • Pictures or words from magazines
  • Torn book pages
  • Fortune cookie strips
  • Old tickets or programs from events


Don’t feel like the stuff already in the journal has to stay. If you’re no longer happy with a page, layer over it completely or partially until it feels right again.

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Save old credit cards or hotel room keys to use as scrapers or to apply and thin paint.

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Decorative tape (sometimes called Washi tape) doesn’t have a very strong adhesive on it so you probably want to apply a coat of glue over it when the page is done.

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Anything goes. Today I added stitching to this page.

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When you’re finally done with a page or a whole book, you might want to go back and coat  a final time to keep everything intact. I have used Mod-Podge, or various coating sprays available in art supply stores.

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There are two new ways you can participate at Ink & Alchemy – one on FB and the other on G+. I love curating the daily features, but I have been looking for a way to allow more interaction between everyone and let people post images and bits of writing that are in process. Please join us and share your latest creative masterpiece!

Ink & Alchemy FB Group

Ink & Alchemy G+ Community


Some links to inspire your art journaling

As promised, here are some links to inspire you to journaling greatness. I hope they make you want to turn up the music, get out the paints or pencils, and put something lovely on paper!

Library of Lost Books

Roben-Marie Smith

Traci Bautista

If you are inspired to put something on paper, I would love to see it! Drop me a line. This is a standing invitation, by the way. There is no time limit on creativity!

As always, you are invited to join me at Ink & Alchemy, a daily celebration of visual art.

Muah. xoxo


I recently made someone I love a journal; I want to inspire her to journaling because it’s been so powerful in my life. I want to give her a book that isn’t full of pristine white pages (so intimidating and laden with high expectations), but something that feels warm and inviting. If the journal were a person it would be wearing a favorite pair of faded jeans and offering a cup of hot tea in a farmhouse kitchen. I want her to feel immediately at ease but challenged to something transformative and exciting. I want her to know that we’re all struggling to figure it out  and that she’s not alone.

Punchkiss – the period before a miracle, a lesson almost learned, the interface at the edge of an explosion.

That is what I want for all of us – her, you, me. I wish to be poised on the cusp of the next step in my growth. To exist in that sweet spot which acknowledges that I’m good enough, fabulous even, but that I could be better, kinder, more self-aware.

This is the journal.

It ain’t pretty, but that’s okay. It’s the kind of book that says…

I like myself just the way I am.

I’m working on growing and transforming.

I’m finding out who I am day by day.

Old keys can unlock things more important than doors.

I will weather challenge and change.

I will take good care of myself.

My thoughts are important.

It’s okay to change my mind.

Being creative is healing.

I am more than what you see on the outside.

That’s a lot to expect of a book made from old sketches and bad abstract paintings, housed by a battered & beaten book cover, I know that. But the secret is this – it’s not about the book at all. It’s the person who must catalyze the transformation, who must dig deep for courage and clarity to find out what’s really going on inside. Then comes the scary part because once you have access to this important information, you have to decide what to do with it, a freaking terrifying situation which deserves its very own blog post.

But let’s back up and take it one step at a time. 

I began by using purchased notebooks and journals and have recently been smitten with making journals from old books, found materials, and artwork that didn’t quite cut it. 

The idea behind these is that for those who don’t have experience being creative or putting themselves out there on a page for all to see, working in journals can be almost impossible.  I’ve had several people tell me this in just the past week. The pages of this journal are already a hot mess, so it can’t get any worse. 🙂 Also, it shows that one needn’t labor over the images or words. I find that layering until it feels right is the best way. Write something and then paint over it. Anything goes.

There is nothing precious in this kind of journal except honesty and self-awareness. In fact, I hope that if I ever see this journal filled up and complete, it’s not even recognizable because it’s been written, stamped, painted, and penned over into a beautiful collection of hopes and dreams. 

I have been using a coptic binding for my books and this is the most useful video (from Sea Lemon) that I found to learn that stitch. It’s simple, clear, and easy to follow.

In a separate post, I’ll talk more about my process for layering and filling up my journals, but for now, I would encourage you to just start. Start somewhere, anywhere, and see where it takes you. 

There are people out there doing scrapbooking and journaling with perfectly coordinated papers and expensive tools or organizers. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that is definitely NOT what I’m aiming for. The messier the better. I would rather use an old list found abandoned in my grocery cart than any purchased paper, no matter how harmonious the colors. Why? Because those found papers have an energy and life of their own. They represent someone’s foray out into the world and I love to bring that into my work. 

I look for papers, tags, and stickers everywhere I go. Anything sort of flat, really. My husband is used to it and sometimes comes to me with odd bits of string or paper to see if I’m interested. I always am.

I’m also on the lookout for interestingly shaped objects and containers to use in my journals. I dip them in paint and use them as stamps or to apply paint. 

If you start doing this, every day will feel a  little like a treasure hunt, but I guarantee that the real treasure will come later – when you find yourself discovering new things about yourself. Trust me on this.

For next time, I’ll put together some sites to inspire you on your journey. Have a great week and creative wonderful things!

What do I want?

Today I join countless others who have come before me when I ask, “How the #$*& did I get to be this old?” I know this is not a novel question and because I try to live in the present I don’t ask it too often, but there’s no way to dispute the fact that I’m middle-aged. I think it’s about time I figure out what I’m doing.
What do I want? 
I want to age gracefully. I want to grab life by the dangly bits. I want my life to count for something. I want to be happy. I want to be challenged. I want to read thousands and thousands of books. I want to create art and inspire others to do the same. I want to learn to tango. I want to watch sunsets and moonshines. I want to write a memoir that makes people feel good and strong and powerful while tears run down their cheeks. I want to swim in creeks and hike on the tippy tops of mountains. I want waves to take my breath away for just a moment. I want to squint in the sun. I want to feel calm and fulfilled. I want to feel enraged and passionate. I want to sit for hours with a notebook and a pen. I want to breath fresh air as deeply as I can. I want to be healthy. I want to meet new people and do interesting things. I want to live this life to the mother-fucking hilt.
But mostly, I’m just winging it over here. I’m going about my business, head down, ducks in a row while the clock ticks off the seconds. That annoying alarm continues to ring in the morning. I drink too much coffee every. single. day. of. my. life. There are emails to which I must tend. For some reason, the cats want to eat TWICE a day. Cats are needy like that.
But sometimes things happen to shake me up a little. Recently I found out that someone I love is very sick. It goes without saying that his illness will affect him far more than it will affect me. But still.
I went to see him. I hugged him and talked with him and then way too soon it was time to go home. And now I can’t stop thinking about it. About him.
Crying in the car with the radio up really, really loud doesn’t help. I know – I’ve tried.
I can’t help but marvel at how I continue to get caught up in the everyday hum drum details of life and fail to live that third paragraph up there. Why? Why is it so hard to live our dreams? Why do we fail to see the precious nature of every moment until after its over?
I’ll be pondering this question in the coming weeks because time is short and I’m getting older by the day. But while I’m pondering, I’m going to do my best to live in a way that fills my journals with poetry and art. I will dance. I will be reckless just often enough to feel alive. I will strive to understand that every day is a gift and treat it as such.
I hope you take some time this week to remember what it is that you want and then start making those things happen.
I’ve been traveling quite a bit over the past couple of weeks, but today I ran my first 5K complete with obstacles and mud and I’ve gotten around to a small bit of studio work.  I’ve sprinkled images from those things throughout this post.
I’m wishing you a week filled with love & sunshine! 

Spring Forward

I hate feeling like I’ve lost an hour during the spring time adjustment, but I love the energy and growth that spring brings with it. I wish I could say I look forward to spring because I want to go outside and pursue things like hiking or rock climbing but alas, it is not to be.

I like the idea of being an outdoorsy kind of person.

I can envision myself standing victorious at the top of a mountain, my toned muscles slightly golden (but nowhere near that orange pre-melanoma tan) from my time outdoors.

I’m breathing deeply and I feel at one with all the creatures of the universe.

It sounds terrific but the evidence continues to stack up; I hate exercising, as was made clear this morning during a healthy one hour jaunt which was my idea. I have no idea what I was thinking.

This is pathetic but true – the only thing that kept me going was the fact that a cup of coffee and and a bagel awaited me at the bottom of the hill.

The cold and the wind whipping down the arroyo didn’t make the walk more pleasant. End of whine.

As usual, the studio of Ink & Alchemy is a hub of activity. As you can see from the first 5 photos in this post, I’ve recently become smitten with visual journals.  The countertops in my studio are littered with scraps of paper, glue, old books, etc. Sometimes I think making art is really just an excuse to fill one room of the house with as much junk as possible. Old yogurt containers, magazines, a collection of hotel swipe cards, broken computer parts. All very important parts of my creative space.

This is the spinal tape that The Don gave to me as a surprise.

 Unfortunately, I’m just enough of a left-brainer to be driven batshit crazy by too much disorganization and mess so I’ve been tidying the studio.

As part of this annoying spring cleaning effort, I’ve decided to discount all items in my Etsy shop. Enter the code “SPRINGFORWARD” at checkout to receive a 30% discount on any item.

The Don has been hard at work making a few improvements to the studio. I have a new storage area for paper/wood/canvas near the ceiling and brand-new shelves which are already full of delicious art supplies. My artistic support team is pretty incredible. He even did the taxes for Ink & Alchemy today.

I’m still diligently working on my Lifebook 2014 project and enjoying every second of it. I showed a few of the finished projects here and here. You can see everything at a glance in my Flickr portfolio. Here’s what I’ve finished since we last got together:

Setting up a small recording studio has been on my to-do list for quite some time. I’ve been accumulating equipment and I think I’m almost ready to put it all together and move forward, but to do so required a studio rearrangement that has made an already chaotic space even crazier. I’m still working on this one and will be for some time, I suspect.

In between these various projects, I’ve always got an art piece or two simmering on the back burner. For me it’s nice to move from project to project instead of focusing wholly on one piece from start to finish. For one thing, this is exactly how my mind works – in tiny fragmented bits. Also, moving around give the pieces time to dry (although I’ve been so impatient lately that I now have a blow dryer permanently installed in the studio) and in many cases, I need some time away from a work to let it percolate before I know what the next step will be.

I’m still writing and I have several drafts that I’d like to bring to fruition in the coming months. I ‘m also in the process of hatching a brilliant idea to combine both writing and art. I’m excited!

Peace, paint, & publishing to you!