Altered Covers for Journals from the Dollar Bin

I was recently asked to serve with the Young Women in my church.  It’s a big job, but I’m so excited to see them progress in their testimonies!  It has become a tradition in our congregation for the leaders to bake a super awesome, individual sized cake for each of the young women on their birthdays.  This tradition has lasted for years, but as new leaders, we did not want to have to continue doing something that wasn’t really necessary.  And yet, we couldn’t not do anything, either.  So, what did I do?  I volunteered to do some altered covers on some dollar bin journals, so that each young woman can have an altered journal on her birthday.  I have to say, it’s a lot more fun for me than baking a cake, if still a bit time consuming…  🙂

altered covers with texture paste and embellishments

Since I’m going to be doing so many of these, I’ve come up with a quick step-by-step formula so that I can create unique, colorful, beautiful journals quickly and not spend hours on each one.  The part that takes the longest is the drying time for any texture paste or ink.

I created a free printable so you can quickly refer back to these steps if you want or need a blueprint for a quick project.  Click the button below to subscribe and download the sheet, then tack it up to your wall while you work.

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Essentially, you work from flat to raised elements to build up the surface bit by bit.

  • Sand and gesso the surface to prepare it for all the stuff you’ll be adding, and to help cover any crazy printing on the original surface.
  • The first elements to add would be patterned paper/tissue wrap.  Use gel medium to adhere it to the surface. (You can also use modge podge, but I don’t like modge podge.  It’s too sticky. Gel medium is waaaaay better, and worth the extra expense.)
  • Add some texture to the surface by taking some texture or modeling paste and applying it to the surface with a palette knife or through a stencil.  You can also adhere some fabric, cheesecloth, or even paper towels, napkins, or tulle to the surface for some fun texture.
  • This is where I usually add some stamped images, especially script stamps.  I stamp lightly in certain random areas so the stamped image doesn’t show up completely, but compliments the surrounding texture and elements.
  • Time for some color!!  I am such a fan of india ink splatters misted with water.  The ink spreads in such a fun, organic way, and the colors blend in variegated, awesome ways.  Of course, there are so many types of colors and ink out there- anything goes!!  The techniques are literally endless.
  • Time to embellish!  Metal pieces, chipboard, flowers, paper, etc.  Go crazy.  I use gel medium to adhere my pieces.  It’s firm, dries clear, and I don’t worry about anything falling off, even metal.  Be generous.
  • Finishing touches- go over your cover one more time and decide if it needs anything else- more color?  microbeads? a bit more stamping?

And that’s my process!  The longest part is waiting for things to dry, which is fine because I can start the same process on a few of the other journals while I’m waiting.

altered covers with flair altered covers- chipboard altered covers- paper flowers

I hope you’ve enjoyed this altered covers project and tutorial today!!  I’d love to know how you use the process to create some altered covers and if you alter the steps, what steps you add, etc.  Let’s keep inspiring each other!!

Don’t forget to subscribe so you can download the printable!

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altered covers- back cover

Christmas mixed media canvas

christmas mixed media paper art

It’s December!!  I’m so excited for Christmas, I’ve been decorating and diy-ing like crazy!  Not to mention, playing Christmas music 24-7.  🙂

Amidst all my decorating, I found this amazing set of tissue paper at Tuesday Morning- red and black and white with Christmas text.  It’s perfect for the decor that I have going in my basement, so I decided to create a christmas mixed media canvas as an artsy touch to match my theme.

I am in the midst of creating a video for this, but I’ve run into technical difficulties. Hopefully I’ll be able to restore some corrupted files.  But I wanted to share this with you anyway.  I was so worried in the early stages that it wasn’t going to turn out well, but it did and I’m so happy I have to share!

christmas mixed media artwork

  • I added several layers of tissue paper with gel medium
  • Tim Holtz has an amazing line of washi tape- using 3 0r 4 of his designs, I added them outward from the middle of the canvas.
  • Stencils and texture paste were next- adding some texture to the surface in the shape of clocks and calligraphy.
  • I added ink in several places- distress ink and india ink to dirty things up a bit and highlight some of the stenciled bits.
  • Several christmas papers, mixed with a bit more tissue paper, formed the layers of paper in the middle.  I used gel medium and foam tape to adhere them together.
  • Chipboard!!!  I painted the bigger pieces with white gesso and then highlighted them in red.  For the smaller stars, I adhered them to the canvas first and then painted them.
  • I used snow effects paste to add more texture the the chipboard and various places on the paper.
  • A few splatters of some fluid acrylic paint, and it’s finished!

christmas mixed media art

I have never done any christmas mixed media pieces, or any holiday themed art pieces for that matter, but I love it!  Have any of you created any pieces for Christmas?  I’d love to see them!

Symbolic Mixed Media Collage- “Windows & Doors”

abstract mixed media collage

This mixed media collage is literally a huge mess.  🙂  I wasn’t sure what I was doing when I began, I just started working, hoping for it to take on a life of it’s own.

Do you ever finish a piece that you don’t really like, but you love all the individual elements and parts that make up the whole?  I don’t even know if that statement makes any sense, but that’s how I feel about this piece.  I confess- I am not in love with my finished work here.  And yet, I see so much symbolism shouting at me and there are things about it that I just love.

I love how every layer is peeking through.  I love how the chipboard and texture paste on top of the chipboard look like new layers added over layers of age and decay, as if they’re trying to make up for or cover what has happened in the past.  I love how the text is peeking through the gunky texture paste and colors, as if there are things written or done in the past that someone is trying to hide.

Of course, the chipboard is the namesake element- some are solid squares and some are open and filled with paste and ink while still allowing a bit of the background to show.  Those squares are like focal points, highlighting certain ideas and opinions while ignoring or blocking others.

mixed media collage with chipboard

I know it’s my personal beliefs coming through, but every collage I create represents universal truth.  All these elements- text, texture, chipboard squares, colors- they all represent what is true, what is not, and how human beings try to cover or reinterpret what is true for their own benefit.

mixed media collage with text

So it’s true… I struggle with this piece.  It is not beautiful or neat- in fact, it’s dark, dreary and, well… ugly.  But every time I look at it I see something new that reminds me that understanding what is true and what is not is a struggle.

Wow, what is it about collage that makes me try to be philosophical all the time? Even when I don’t know what form my mixed media collage will take, it always ends up being symbolic in nature.

mixed media collage with muslin

I’d love to know what each of you see when you look at this collage.  Do any of the elements have meaning for you?  Perhaps the way it’s assembled strikes you in a certain way?  I’m always so inspired by your answers, so I hope you’ll share them!

PearlEx Calligraphy Art- “Rivers of Truth”


PearlEx CalligraphyHi everyone!  I hope you all had an awesome Halloween.  🙂  I have a new video for you today showcasing a technique I experimented with this weekend.  I shared a little bit about it in my last post.  A calligrapher I know on instagram shared how she uses pearlex powders to create bright and colorful inks that work perfectly on black backgrounds.  I couldn’t wait to try it, and though I will confess that I made mistakes and need to practice this technique quite a bit more, I had so much fun and I hope it inspires you in the same way I was inspired by colorsofchrist.

I’ve had these black canvases for awhile, and I had actually started several paintings on this particular 6*6 canvas.  They all looked terrible- I just couldn’t make my vision a reality with the paint and the ink I was using.  So when I saw how well these inks stood out against black, I painted over what I had done before with black gesso, and started fresh.

  • I built the background by adding 3 torn pieces of Tim Holtz’ tissue wrap, using matte gel medium to adhere the pieces to the canvas.
  • I wanted to dirty them up a bit, so I splattered some black india ink, spritzed it with water, and let it dry.
  • Now with the text!  I concentrated my writing in the crevices between the paper pieces, varying the size of my writing and using three different colors.
  • I made quite a few mistakes-  there were several times my pen blotted a large amount of ink in places I didn’t want them, and trying to clean them up just made those spots worse.  I was able to clean them up a bit by painting over them with black paint.
  • When I do this again, I need to be careful of how much powder I add to the water.  I think when I had too much powder was what made it harder to manager.  Also, not overloading the pen nib would help, as well.
  • I added some modeling paste over the paper, in specific directions.  I let it dry overnight before I began to write on it.  Once it’s completely dry and set, it’s much easier to write on.
  • Since this ink is fairly easy to smear, especially if it gets wet or damp, I sealed it with a coat of Krylon crystal clear acrylic coating.  Now I can rest easy.



I’m looking forward to trying this pearlex calligraphy ink with lots of different color combinations, and hopefully improving my calligraphy skills a little bit, as well.  I definitely need to work on not overloading my pen nib, being more patient so I can achieve a better result and not splatter and leak all over the place.

pearlex calligraphy mixed media artpearlex calligraphy art


Thank you for reading!!  Do you like adding calligraphy or text to your art?  What do you think of this technique?  I’d love to see your projects!!  Leave your links in the comments!


Shellac Burn Encaustic Paintings with India Ink and Calligraphy

encaustic mixed media calligraphy painting

mixed media calligraphy encaustic painting

Good day!  It’s been awhile since I’ve shared anything with you- sickness has been visiting my home and sapping all my energy.  But I’m so excited to share these new encaustic paintings, especially since I’m using a technique I’ve never used before, but been dying to try- Shellac Burn.

  • I began with two pieces of craft plywood, both 6*6.
  • I start with white encaustic medium and then began layering clear wax on top- white, clear, white, clear.
  • After each layer of wax, it’s essential to fuse the piece with a heat tool.  It doesn’t take much to fuse each layer- you need to at least make sure a wet sheen begins to appear- this will let you know the heat has done it’s work.  I usually go a lot farther than that.
  • After several initial layers, I added some purple india ink to the cooled surface of the wax.
  • Shellac Burn!  I took everything outside to the cement slab on my back porch, sprayed the pieces with a generous amount of shellac, and lit them on fire.
  • The Shellac on the surface was very sticky after the burn, and to make sure the colors of the ink wouldn’t run or stick to my brush, I dabbed the surface with a paper towel.
  • Then, it was repeat mode.  I added another layer of clear wax, some more india ink in a different color, and did another shellac burn.
  • One more layer of wax, one more color of ink, and one more shellac burn.
  • Once I had all the colors I wanted, I added some trails of white ink, and fused them heavily into the existing layers of wax.
  • After everything cooled, I used my calligraphy pen to add text in different sizes and colors.
  • I’m using PH Martin’s Bombay India Inks here- there are two full sets and I have both for a big range of colors.

Shellac Burn encaustic painting
For my next step, I need to do some more experimenting.  I want to see if I can achieve a floating effect by adding more layers of wax between the colors.  Also, I’d like to use the fluid shellac instead of the spray, and let it dry as well before I light it on fire.  Maybe I’ll use some oil sticks or pastels instead of ink to add some color. We’ll see!!

shellac burn encaustic painting encaustic shellac burn technique

Have any of you done this technique?  I’d love to hear your process!  And if you have any questions, just shoot me a comment.  Thanks so much!!

“Shrouded Trials”- abstract calligraphy art

Shrouded Trials, abstract calligraphy art This new series of abstract calligraphy art that I’ve been working on has been so fun.  I love the focus and the inspiration it’s brought so far, and I’m excited to see where else it goes…

This piece I based on the idea of a mountain.  Since I knew I would be using purple as my highlight color, I felt using a mountain as my symbol was appropriate.abstract calligraphy art close up, using quilling stripsabstract calligraphy art text close upabstract calligraphy art, symbolizing a mountain

The whole idea behind the Recorded Histories series was to use text to symbolize ways we understand truth.  The mountain in this piece represents, as the title suggests, trials and suffering.  We all experience trials- they are an inevitable part of the human condition, to one extent or another.  What we learn from them, however, depends on how we react.  This is what the text represents- the things we learn and the understanding that comes when we pass through adversity.  Through the things that I have gone through (and I will freely confess, I have been very lucky compared to many people, even most people) I have learned that sometimes the most good can come from the most trying of circumstances.

The mountain of trial in this piece is jagged, and looks impossible to overcome. Feathered india ink has added shrouds of mist all through the crags, making their passage even more treacherous.  Yet, the view from the top is spectacular and peaceful, and the strength acquired after the struggle to the summit cannot be acquired in any other way.

These are some of the thoughts I had as I created this piece.  I have been tackling some heavier themes as I’ve been working on this series.  When I use my art to explore themes like this, I find that my own understanding deepens.  It’s my hope that the same will happen to those who view this series.

Please check out my process video, and subscribe to my youtube channel.  I’ll be uploading videos of the rest of the series as I complete them.  And don’t forget to add your comments!  I’d love to hear what you think of this piece and it’s symbolism.Shrouded Trials, close up on quilling pieces: abstract calligraphy art

Supply list-  This list contains affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through these links I will receive a commission.  I put them here mostly to give you an idea of the supplies I’ve used.

Tim Holtz tissue wrap (the exact kind I used has been discontinued, unfortunately.  I need to be really careful so I don’t run out too fast!)

Liquitex gel medium (my adhesive)

DecoArt black modeling paste

black and purple India Ink

various quilling strips and slotted tool for rolling