The Emerald Casket
Small Canvases: Dominoes are a Gateway Art

Some folks might think my love of domino pendants is kind of strange. They’re dominoes. Game pieces. But I like to think of them as very small canvases.

I began making decoupage pieces–before I gained confidence to work with ink and paint. My practice with dominoes led me to try painting on canvas and paper. Dominoes were my “gateway” art.

To prove my point, here are two recent examples of my tiny canvases.

“Autumn Dryad”


Tropical Girl


Both began as ordinary, cream-colored acrylic game pieces. I used alcohol ink, a stamp, and a dimensional glaze—and my developing “artist’s” eye for composition. I can say that proudly, because hey, they do look good! 🙂

More Art Journal Fun

I’ve been writing, writing, writing, without much time to do anything else creative, but yesterday, I had a great excuse. I babysat sick kids. So, I filled a bag with gelato sticks, microns, a few acrylic paint tubes, gesso, map pencils, printed tissue paper, stamps and pad, and my art journal, and I spent the day playing with color.

This was my first attempt, and I rather like it! Of course, my flowers look like lollipops, but I had fun!


This second one, I’m not as happy with. I tried to do something fun with the color, but I think the paints I used were too close in the color range, so I ended up blending it, then streaking it with fuchsia.  Then I didn’t know what to do with the center, so I gesso’d the shape of a bird. I did a hideous job filling it in with map pencils, so I decided to mask my horror with some doodling. Meh!

Strange bird

The point is I filled two more pages! Woot! I love this journaling thing, although there’s little actual journaling going on. It’s mostly my experiments while I learn to work with the different media. 🙂 What I wouldn’t give for some art classes…


New Journal Entries…

I’ve been lax about working in my art journal for the past few weeks. Real life intruded, and I had to hunker down and get the real work done—my writing, that is. I’m still buried, but today, I had to take a break to babysit, so I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone. So, I set the 2-year-old in her high chair with her own paints and a Frozen art sheet, and away we both went.

Here are the two watercolors I managed to produce. I’ve had one lesson, so please don’t judge. 🙂

Flowers 1

Flowers 2

After I finished and let them dry, I had a great deal of cleanup to do. The kidlet thinks all paint should be worn…

Lessons Learned in Texture

My daughter called me yesterday and said, “I wish you didn’t have to work. I feel like having an art day…” My daughter never feels like like devoting a day to art. Ever. So, you know what I had to do. I sped around my work room gathering supplies in a huge carryall and ran across the street to her place before she could change her mind.

And then, we both sat there for the longest, looking at our art journals (she’d only finished one page at that point), and wondered what to do. She’s a little intimidated with “starts”. I completely understand. That’s how I feel when I’m staring at a blank page at the beginning of new story. I’ll be sure to take pictures of what she worked on because her pages look wonderful! But here are the two I worked on.

This first one was mistake piled onto mistake that I covered as best I could with tons of paint! After I’d blotched up the page with color I couldn’t do anything with, I wiped off as much as I could and used a stencil to make the red pattern you see with acrylic paint. I love red. I love Indian jewel boxes, which all that crimson reminded me of, so I cut out flower petals from an old edition of Little Women whose pages are disintegrating, covered them in Mod Podge and washed them with purple acrylic. That wasn’t enough bling, so I got out the gold leaf paint and began “accessorizing.” Then it was still missing something, so when I got the book home last night, I glued on some cheap jeweled cabochons. Eh. It’s colorful, which I like. Has texture, which I also like. It’s just not very good. Texture can only hide so many flaws.


I went the exact opposite direction color-wise with the next one. I started with texture, using modeling paste pressed through the same stencil. Then I used watercolor to make a background and drip through the molding. I’m not very good at watercolor, but I found just the right brush to make flower petals and went to town making blossoms in the colors I dripped down the page. I finished using Micron pens to sketch the stems.


I like the flowers. But not the molding. The texture overwhelms the very simple painting. So next time I sit down to paint, I’m going to paint the flowers all by their lonesome. But that’s the purpose of the journal—figuring out how the paint works and practicing techniques. So I count yesterday as a successful day and had fun with my dd, too!

The Stubborn Heart

I have another art journal entry. And depending on your preferences, it’s either a mess or a messy piece of art. I love color—so for me, I love it. The 7-year-old couldn’t stop hovering over me while I…ahem…painted, and she said, “Nina, you’re an artist!” I laughed and said, “No hon, I’m an accidentalist.” To understand, let me tell you how I did this one.

  1. After masking out a square in the center of the page, I painted the page a salmon pink-orange with acrylic paint.
  2. Then I pasted a raised green paper over the upper-right corner and a piece of tissue paper with a musical score printed on it in the lower-left–because don’t all mixed media artists glue something on the page?
  3. Next, I got out a small square Gelli plate and painted it with crimson and cerulean. I then “stamped” around the center, reapplying the colors as needed. When I was done, the piece was way too dark.
  4. So, I used the sharp edge of the card I used as a mask to scrape off the paint, which made those interesting scrape marks in the blue, but overall the border was still too dark.
  5. I got out a baby wipe and began to buff off the color all around the page, taking off layer after layer to expose bits of the salmon, but leaving enough of the streaks and interesting bits I uncovered.
  6. I was still bored and irritated with my messy mess, so I got out the blue, mixed it with a little Gesso and made squiggle marks around the white space. At this point, I was sure I was going to have to Gesso the entire page because it looked like hell. So, I did squiggles in red.
  7. I took a deep breath, decided I wasn’t going to brayer the page with glue to stick it the back of the one in front of it, and instead, decided what I needed was more paint. So, I blopped a bright green, the blue, and the red onto the mat beside me, put a clean baby wipe around my fingers and blotted up the color to begin splotching it all over the border.
  8. Surprise. I liked it then. I used the baby wipe to clean off a couple more areas, and scraped the paint off the raised texture of the paper in the right corner.
  9. I had a piece of deli paper I’d used to clean off my brush, and I thought the paint on it was pretty, so I cut out part of a heart. Couldn’t do a whole heart because the paper wasn’t wide enough. I glued it to the center.
  10. Then I put a glop of blue water color on the white space, wet the area and moved it around the space.
  11. Last step was using my Micron pen to outline and write the quote on the page. I really must practice my calligraphy.


I like it. Everything happened by accident and stubbornness. So, that’s what I’ll call it—The Stubborn Heart.

Bubbles, bubbles, everywhere…

They say practice makes perfect. So I’m obviously a slow learner…

Here’s another journal entry. Too many bubbles, a muddy background. Every time I sit down to play, I learn what not to do. 🙂


Create with abandon…


I had this new stencil I love that I think is from Dina Wakely. The quote is nearly illegible, so I’ll translate. “Create with abandon. Just put the brush to the paper and see what happens. Enjoy Every second. ”

How true that was for this little doodle. I stamped a butterfly and filled it in with watercolor pencil, then made it messy with water. Then I thought it needed flowers, so I added those. They’re outlined in watercolor pencil, and then again, I messed it up with a wet brush. Nothing fancy. Nothing terribly challenging, but I did want to get at least one page finished this week. All the colors make me smile. 🙂

Kelly’s First Art Journal Entry

I promised to share pics of my daughter’s entries as well. And she agreed, even though she’s a bit more shy than I am about doing so! I don’t know what she was worried about. She blew me out of the water with this Zentangle! Nice job, Kelly! I especially love all the different kinds of chains…kelly

It’s not as easy as it looks…

I guess I love the idea of mixed media—mixing paint, decoupage, stamping, etc.—to come up with a piece of art. It looks easy. You slap on some paint. If you don’t like what you have, you slap something else on. Huh.

Yesterday, my dd and I worked on the first pages of our art journals together. She hasn’t finished her first one, but she’s actually taking her time and doing an intricate Zentangle. She’s probably going to kick my ass.

This was my first attempt. I started with blotches of blue and green acrylic paint. Painted a swirl with acrylic paint over a stencil. Cut the outline of the woman from a Gelli’d piece of deli paper using a stamp I wanted to be the focal point of the piece, glued it to the center, and stamped over it. Then I added touches of gelato to outline and try to add some dimension. It looked pretty good—until I added a spritz of green Dylusional spray (making the overall picture too dark), which I tried to remedy by adding Gesso’d circles. Now my composition looks like it has a skin disease.


I’m not good with failure. Even when I’m playing, so I ended up staying up late working on another page.  I am determined to learn what works! This time, I began with some texture in the bottom right quadrant, then Gesso’d the whole page to smooth the paper for gelatoes. I rubbed on some colors and didn’t like them, so I misted the page and let the color drip down. I liked that better.

Next, I cut out a heart and glued it to the page and rubbed more gelatoes over the entire surface, using my fingers to move the color. I still have color under my nails! I stamped, dotted with my Copic markers, then decided I’d better quit before I screwed it up. Yeah, I know, it’s strange. What does it mean? 🙂

I think it just means I’m experimenting and having a lot of fun.


And there you have it—my first two attempts at mixed media.

2016 — A Journaling Year

If you know me as a writer through my other website,, then you also know that one of my newly found passions is art. I began fashioning jewelry from game pieces, like dominoes and scrabble tiles, mostly decoupaging, because I didn’t believe I really had an artistic bone in my body.

Along the way, I gained confidence. So much so, that I’ve added new skills—watercolor painting, mixed media art, etc. I’m learning, but also producing some things that frankly surprise me. However, art has always taken a backseat to my writing, after all, that’s what pays the bills. But while I scramble to produce new words and find new venues to sell my writings, I’ve used art as an escape hatch—a place I can still play and find real joy in creating.

Lately, I’ve become enamored with the new craze of art journaling. I’ve pinterested like crazy, collecting ideas and examples (see my Art Journals/Smashbooks board!). This year, I set a goal to explore new techniques and capture what I learn in my own journal. And I’m dragging my daughter along with me. I bought us both Strathmore Visual Journals. She’s planning to mostly practice Zentangle throughout the year. Maybe she’ll let me share what she creates here. I’ll share my efforts, whether they are successful or not. I’m learning. Maybe some of you will be inspired to give this journaling thing a go, too!

So, here goes. A fresh notebook with lovely, thick white pages. All blank. All waiting for me to fill them up! Gah! The pressure!journalCapture

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