Monthly Archives: April 2016

A Place to Play


Creating things can be messy. Sometimes I just need a space to putter and play, a space that no one else sees (usually), a space where I can cut and paste and doodle and color and comment and just be me. Over the years I have had notebooks that I intended to be just such a place, but often I find that the pristine pages are daunting. I feel I have to create something that is worthy of filling those spotless slices of snowy paper. It’s almost as if the blankness of the page makes me feel that I’m obligated to create “art” instead of just trying out some new markers. So a few years ago I started using funny old books for my artistic play space. I am particularly fond of weathered books related to childhood. They seem to give me permission to use, draw, or write anything I like. So, I am pleased to introduce you to The Everything Book by Eleanor Graham Vance (Golden Press, 1974). (A fitting title, don’t you think?) While this book is now considered vintage and sells for $15-$20 on various websites, I found it hiding in the children’s corner of a thrift shop and took it home for less than a dollar. It reminds me of my childhood when I traced and colored paper doll clothes and doodled in the margins of all my school notebooks (much to the dismay of my teachers who would have preferred to read papers without borders filled with scribbled swirls, strange creatures, and alien flowers).

One of the first things I do to a doodle book (as I like to call it) is personalize it. Here, I used a razor blade knife and cut out part of the cover art to create a frame for a photo and quote. The edges were a little rough, so I covered them with ribbon and decorated the corners with butterfly stickers. This photo seemed fitting since it was taken on my birthday just a few days before I started this book.The back cover is decorated with a piece of clip art I colored and some flower/butterfly stickers that seem to blend into the printed floral border.

The first couple of pages of my books almost always include poems or quotes that inspire me. For example, on the left is the text of “Curiosity” by Alastair Reid which reminds me to take a chance in life and art. On the right is the text to “Pied Beauty” by Gerard Manly Hopkins which reminds me that imperfection is beautiful. Of course, I have some whimsical touches like the Chinese take-out page with fortune cookie messages that I always manage to save. (Yes, I gather them during meals with family and friends and then carry them around in my purse for awhile before they eventually make their way into my stash of found objects.)

The next page (left photo) has the text of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29 (“When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes”) which reminds me that no matter what I do or don’t create, no matter how my job, my business, or my artwork is going, I always have Lochinvar.

After adding a few favorites, I venture into my own creations (right photo). Here I have a poem written on a napkin during a lunch meeting along with some cutouts and a picture of Emily Dickinson (who only had two of her poems published during her lifetime).

The book then becomes a mishmosh of doodles, pictures from magazines, quotes, snippets of writings, or anything I can pull out of my stash that inspires me. These pages are meant to just let me play with ideas which I might later turn into something more serious (or not). At the end of a particularly stressful day of work, I find that an hour of cutting, pasting, and contemplating can really change my outlook on life.

Some pages become a repository for drawing practices because I just can’t bear to toss them out when I’m done.


Other pages become all about the color and the words. Here I have used pieces of the pictures in the book along with highlighting key words about art and creativity and freedom of expression.

These are future doodle pages in this book. It takes quite awhile for me to fill up a book of this size because I save it for days when inspiration is running dry. Usually, after a play with a couple of layouts, I realize an idea for a drawing or crafty creation has crept into my head.

If you find your creativity needs a pick-me-up, try picking up an old book and just decorating it in some way. Maybe the pages will give you inspiration. At the very least, they will give you permission to play in a judgment-free zone.

Happy coloring!



Easy Desk Accessories

Easy Desk Accessories

I really love the idea of upcycling because I enjoy turning trash into treasure (to be trite) and making something useful for little or no money. Tonight’s project fits the bill on all accounts. I’m always looking for a way to store pencils, markers, scissors, erasers, and all sorts of other little doodads. I like having them easily accessible, but out of the way. So,  pretty cup-style holders make sense to organize my creative space.

I started with a couple of empty cans. One is a larger vegetable can, and the other is a cat food can. The bigger one is perfect for an assortment of markers, while the smaller is just the right size for paper clips, erasers, or pencil grips. I simply washed them out and removed the labels, which usually come off easily and provide a template for the decorations.


Next, I grabbed a completed coloring page. (This one is from Creative Cats by Marjorie Sarnat.) I chose it because I think the cat surrounded by paint tubes and brushes is a good decorative touch for my drawing table. Since I wanted the cat’s face to be a focal point, I cut across the picture and pieced the strips together to make a new “label” for the larger can. I left my strip a little longer than the original to make sure I had plenty of overlap. (You can always cut some off, but it’s difficult to add it back on!)

Next, I repeated the process with another coloring page since there wasn’t enough left of the first one to cover the small can, too. (This page is from Flower Art and was drawn by Susan Bloomenstein.) I wanted the flowers to be right side up, so I (again) cut across the sheet and glued the two pieces together.


The final step is to simply wrap the new labels around the can and glue them in place. I put some glue on the back of the paper in several places to help secure it, and then just glued down the overlapping edges. Voila! The cans are ready to serve as colorful organizers for my desk.

You could construct a whole set from coordinating coloring pages. Choose a theme that fits your style. A group of these along with some colored pens, etc. to fill the cans would make a nice teacher gift, too. (Trust me, teachers can never have too many containers!)

Remember, use what you have to make the world a little brighter! Happy coloring!


Summertime, and the Book Marks are Easy


With summer reading just around the corner, tonight I’m sharing one of my favorite quick and easy uses for coloring pages. Book marks make great gifts for teachers and librarians as well as nice add-ons to  gift cards from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. Summer trips to the library bring back fond memories from my childhood. There’s something comforting about the amiable silence, the smell of the paper, and the feel of a good book in my hands. (Ok … maybe it’s an English teacher thing, but what can I say?) In this age of digital reading, my family still sojourns to the used book store and sorts though other people’s left overs at the local thrift shops, so we necessarily have a supply of book marks on hand, and coloring pages or small pieces of artwork are the perfect way to personalize these items. Here’s a photo of my current assortment made from purchased coloring books and my own drawings. (I usually have a large stash because I give them away as freebies at craft shows.) DSCN2327[1]

These are super simple to make! Just choose a page or a piece of artwork that you’ve completed and cut it into strips. I like 1.5 to 2 inches, but any size is fine. Once the pages are cut apart, I use a broad-tip black Sharpie to add a little frame. This sets off the artwork and makes the book mark look more finished. (You might also add a person’s name on the back to make sure each family member has his or her own.) The final step is to laminate them. Of course you can use laminating sheets, but I usually use book tape because it is heavy duty and wide enough to cover the whole book mark in one piece (and I always have some in my stash). Once this is done, you could punch a hole in the top center and add a piece of ribbon, if you like.

Generally I don’t do this because the addition of free floating ribbon just means an item will become a cat toy at my house. As a matter of fact, here’s a snapshot of my almost constant companion, Wulfgar, who was named after a character in a book! He loves to play with dangling pieces of ribbon!


To help you get started with this project, I doctored last weeks free download a little, adding lines every 1.5 inches to make it extra easy to turn the page into some bright floral book marks. Happy coloring (and reading, too)!

spring flowers book marks