Liz’s List of Favorite Art Tricks (Part One)

Here, for your art-ing pleasure, is a list of some of my favorite techniques, tricks and tips that make my art life easier and/or more fun.

  • Use watercolor crayon/pencil and color heavily on the page. Then use white acrylic paint or gesso and a damp brush over top to get beautiful muted, stripey tones. Or do the reverse and use watercolor soluble media on top of a gessoed page.
  • Oil pastel on gesso-ed paper— the grittier and the more brush strokes, the better.
  • Carve your own stamps out of erasers using a craft knife (or fancy schmancy linoleum carving tools, if you have them). Use them with paint and ink on paper, with glaze/stain on bisqued ceramic (tricky!), or to make an impression in clay.
  • Add water with drops of colored acrylic ink into a little spray bottle. Adjust ratio for intensity of color. The more ink, the more spray-painty. You can also do this with fluid acrylics.
  • To sharpen really soft pencils, twist the sharpener, not the pencil. It reduces torque, which means fewer breaks! (I really wish I had learned this sooner!) And when in doubt, use a knife (but don’t cut your fingers off).
  • Blue and red-orange. Always.
  • When gluing collage elements to paper, use a credit card to smooth out air bubbles and lumps (unless you want them.
  • Those silly mesh bags that oranges come in make awesome stencils. So does the mesh on clementine crates.
  • Plastic binder tab dividers = stencils waiting to happen.
  • Cut long spaghetti boxes to size to hold colored pencils. You can change the size depending on the length of your pencils so you can see all of them.
  • Rip corrugated cardboard apart gently. The exposed ridges make awesome texture when dipped in paint or collaged on something.
  • Always tap your dip pen before going to the page so you don’t get a giant splotch of ink on your drawing and turn into a puddle of sad.
  • DIY Crackle Finish: Paint your surface. Then apply white glue (like Elmer’s) and let it get just a little tacky. Then cover the glue with acrylic paint and let it air dry (it’ll bubble if you use a heat gun). When it’s dry, you’ll have a wicked cool crackle effect! Thick paint = big cracks. Thin paint = smaller cracks.
  • Altoid tins make great little containers for collage bits. They’re surprisingly roomy! They can also be refurbished into travel watercolor kits by adding half-pan colors and a tiny brush (cut the handle of a regular one down to size.)
  • If you’re like me and keep your tiny colored pencils when you retire them, use them for a travel art kit! Using superglue, attach two ends of like colors (or unlike; I’m just neurotic) together. Now you have pencils that are easier to hold during use, a lot of different colors to bring with you, and in a smaller bundle. I have also made a pair of earrings out of two black Prismacolor nubs and they are SUPER cute.
  • A smidge of 3-in-1 oil keeps X-acto blades from rusting.
  • Sharpie markers bleed through gesso! Do with this what you will.
  • Seal paper with a glossy gel medium and you can use Ranger alcohol inks on it without the paper sucking up the color and making it dull.
  • When you make your own stencils, save the part you cut out (if you can). You never know when you might use it as a mask.
  • Wet paper thoroughly. Add cheesecloth. Scrunch it up in spots. Rip little holes in it. Wet cheesecloth. Add watercolor (the heavier and more saturated the color, the better). Let dry (heat gun! just don’t burn the cheesecloth…). Peel off the cheesecloth, and you’ll see all these neat little lines and patterns.
  • Wet paper thoroughly. Add watercolor. Place plastic wrap over the paint while it’s wet. Slide it around however you want. When it’s completely dry (heat gun will melt the plastic; be patient), peel off the plastic wrap and you’ll have all these cells and shapes where the paint moved. I like to color in the spaces in between with a marker.
  • Finally, you don’t need expensive supplies to make pretty things or to make yourself feel good while you’re creating. Work with what you have and consider everything a potential art material!
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One thought on “Liz’s List of Favorite Art Tricks (Part One)

  1. Impressive list of techniques Liz but you have left out the essentials: the sensual and open hearted approach to the act of art – the yearning to express and share ideas and the presence of the unimaginable – the surrender to the seduction of your muse and the acceptance of what occurs, be it how you wanted or otherwise – the happy accident – the relief of giving in to creative power…

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