X does not mark the spot

treasure map

Did you ever draw a pirate map when you were a kid?

I was transported back to childhood doing this project and thoroughly enjoyed it.  When I was a kid my favourite books were the ones with a map of a mythical world in the front of the book.  You knew it was going to be a good story if they started out with an unfamiliar map full of strange place names, hinting at adventures to come.

I started by stamping the quote on a mottled parchment paper and then masked off the edges of the paper and stamped various travel words from the Steampunk Travel and Steampunkery sets with Adirondack Pesto ink.  I took the mask off and drew a sketchy border around the masked area then carefully covered over the quote and splashed the stamped words with water.  Adirondack dye ink bleeds when wet, so the words became blurred and patchy.  It needed to look more worn so I decided to add some distress inks and set to with Bundled Sage, Old Paper and Antique Linen – all pretty subtle colours.  I may have added a hint of Brushed Corduroy as well.

I distressed the edges and crumpled the paper around the border before adding stronger colours and water.  While wet, I rubbed a Rusty Hinge distress pad over the creases and misted with more water then when that was dry, I flicked droplets of Distress Stain and water over it quite liberally.

This evolved over several evenings as I kept putting it aside to dry and coming back to it.  I began to pick out splodges and draw round them with a fine liner to create islands.  I used Copic markers to add a  blue line around the outside edge of each island and an ochre tone to the inside edge of each island.   I used Copics as a water based marker of any kind would have blended the Distress colours on the paper more, but Copics or Promarkers won’t move water soluble pigments around.  Some of the larger ones got some little mountains on them too, then I came up with the idea of a sea monster.

I dug out an old stamp set – Here be Dragons – and applied a little masking tape before stamping him (I practised on scrap paper first to get it right).  I then drew in little waves around the masked line and coloured him in lightly with pencils.  I think he makes quite a convincing sea monster.

This is a treasure map, but you won’t find an X on it anywhere.  The real treasure is in the words – a super quote from Steampunk Travel by Mark Twain (hence the American spelling).  It’s got me inspired to create another map with place names on it now – Embellishment Bay, Bling City, Distressville … hmmm, I can see lots of potential here…  So what would the treasure on your map be?

Tangled Heart

tangled heart

I’ve doodled for as long as I can remember, and it’s obviously a family trait – last weekend my Dad and I were comparing doodles!  His are more angular and mine tend to have more rounded shapes, maybe it’s a masculine/feminine tendency?  A few weeks ago, the subject of Zentangle came up on our weekly chat* and it intrigued people enough that I have started stocking Zentangle books and Pigma Micron drawing pens in the shop.

Zentangle is basically structured doodling.  It’s ideal for those who want to loosen up and don’t know how to doodle or where to start.  It’s also quite meditation-like once you get into it, so it can be a great counter to stress or take your mind off pain.  However, a word of caution – it can also lead to pain if you don’t make sure you are sitting comfortably and have good lighting (and the right glasses on).  Like colouring in, you need to be aware of what your shoulders are doing and if you find that you’re concentrating so hard that you’re hunched up and your shoulders are creeping up around your ears, then  you are setting yourself up for a nice little tension headache or a cricked neck.  I used to walk around my colouring workshops gently pressing down on my students shoulders to remind them to relax!

The Zentangle books are slim paperbacks with about 40 different ‘tangle’ patterns in each (there are 5 books on the site at the moment).  Some of the patterns that look complex are broken down into easy steps with very clear diagrams.  When I first got myself a Zentangle book (OK, I actually got the first three all together), I remember thinking the way the patterns were broken down was like learning how a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat – it’s so easy when you know how!

Cupcake stamp with Zentangle

Zentangle can be done beautifully in conjunction with stamping too.  Open line drawings can be filled in with tangles, or solid stamps can become part of a tangle.

And here’s one of my first attempts at Zentangle using a flower from a set that’s now been retired, but I’m sure you could so something similar with the new Sunny Sunflowers.

So I hope that’s de-mystified Zentangle for anyone who has been wondering what it was about and if you want to give it a go, I recommend starting with the Zentangle Basics book and a fine line waterproof pen.  And if you just like looking, you might also enjoy my Doodles board on Pinterest.


* We have a live chat at 8pm every Wednesday on the Chocolate Baroque Forum

For Dads and cyclists

dreaming of a faster bike

I had an idea for a crazy landscape featuring a number of the Steampunk stamps and while playing around with it, came up with this version for my Dad’s Father’s Day card.  He’s always been a keen cyclist and used to cycle competitively – even to the extent of shaving his legs I believe!  I used to cycle a lot myself when I was younger and can relate to the common desire to upgrade to the next model up.  For those who don’t know their bicycle history, the Victorian Gentleman featured here is riding a velocipede (the “boneshaker”) – an early model with the pedal attached to the front wheel.  It was mainly made of wood and was extremely uncomfortable, but when the Penny Farthing came out a few years later they were very expensive for the average man on the street.  Did you know the front wheel was custom made to suit the rider’s leg length?  No, I didn’t know that either – isn’t the Internet an amazing vat of trivia!?!

Anyway, Dad liked the card, but here is the original in full technicolour.  And I mean FULL on colour!

I originally intended folding it up and making it into a concertina book, but Adrian loves it so much, he’s asked me not to fold it, but just mount it up as it is.  If you click on it, you can see it at 1000 pixels wide if your screen goes that big.

The colouring is mainly Polychromos pencils, though the sky is PanPastels and the hills have some PanPastel on them too.  The sunburst is done with masking paper strips and pan pastels.  The paper is some thick watercolour paper that I’ve discovered is rubbish for actual watercolour, but it does take the PanPastels and pencils beautifully.  I learned one valuable lesson while colouring this – when colouring heavily with pencils, be careful if you rub over them.  While rubbing in the sky, some of the blue pencil from the balloon also got spread around.  Next time I will use my burnisher pencil over the top to ‘seal’ in the colour.

I know it’s a day late, but here’s to all the Dads – the loved ones and the missed ones.




Eastern Grasses meets RISSP

Eastern Grasses

I try to avoid acronyms on the blog, but it’s going to get very tedious to type out Ranger Inkssentials Speciality Stamping Paper all the time, so I shall refer to it as RISSP!

This is a small card (12.5cm square) from my play session using Adirondack Wild Plum and Pesto dye inkpads with stamps from Eastern Grasses.  I stamped with the two colours, then added some random sponging using the same colours and after trimming and rounding the corners, I edged it with the Pesto ink.

The backing paper is from the Meadow Lark Prima paper pad and I used a spellbinders fancy die to cut the mat from white pearlescent card.  I added tiny lilac pearls around the die cut and larger ones on the pink ribbon.  I’m not normally an obsessive type, but I am fussy about pearls and gems.  These are the type that come as strips, where the line of pearls is mounted onto a clear adhesive strip.  I always cut them up and snip any bits of the adhesive strip off that are showing as I really don’t like that showing on the card.

I can see the RISSP being useful for creating a quick stamped card when you’re in a hurry.  The sentiment has come out very clear, so I can see how it would be very useful just for that.  I have a box with stamped sentiments in, ready for die cutting or trimming.  In general they tend to be in neutral colours (Brilliance Lightning Black is one of my favourites for sentiments), but sometimes I like the sentiment to be a bolder colour.

The next experiment will be with Versamark to see if it gives a good resist.  Watch this space!