Another Reader's Digest Condensed Book Project

Hi everyone... hope you have an arty weekend planned!  If you happen to have some old Reader's Digest Condensed Books (RDCB's) around and have been wondering what "arty" project you could use them for, you might find some inspiration in this week's blog post.  Now before I tell you what it is, let me give you some background.

If you have been following my blog for some time now,  you may remember when I "inherited" about 120 RDCB's and wondered what to do with them.  You can see the post I wrote at the time, with a little brainstorming help from my art friends,  "37+ Things to Do with Reader's Digest Condensed Books" (which, by the way, is one of the more popular past posts searched for on my blog) to refresh your memory or discover all the ways in which you can "re-cycle" these books.

One thing I do before I "donate" the book to an art project is to read the stories that interest me in the book. It's amazing how just reading the stories gives me ideas for projects I can actually do with the book itself. For me, in a sense, it is a way of honouring the book before it is transformed into something else to treasure.

I've found that the RDCB's are great to haul along on a trip to the beach. This past summer, I ploughed through about fifteen books (picking the stories that "called" to me in each one of them) on my daily beach excursions.  Once read, they are placed in the "ready to use" section of my art area bookcase.

This summer, I read a story about a young girl who lived on a farm during the early 1900's.  The story stuck with me and reminded me of my fascination with houses, cottages and villages. 

Ever since I was a child, I have truly enjoyed roaming through old houses.  Places like Pioneer Village in southern Ontario, Williamsburg in Virginia, Craigdarroch Castle and Pointe Ellice House in Victoria or the Duke Homstead in Durham, North Carolina can make my heart flutter just at the thought of an "excursion" into the past.  I can roam all day through the grounds of these historic buildings and places and still not get enough!!

When I was young, I loved to explore the "old" farmhouse on my grandparents farm.  It had the typical "football field" sized kitchen so popular in old farmhouses of the day.  Built in the early 1900's, the tiny parlour in their farmhouse, just off the kitchen was filled with all of gramma's "special" things.  Her china tea cups. The old, wind up grammaphone with a huge horn.  The "davenport" and side chairs with Gramma's hand crocheted doilies on the arms.  The tea table in the corner, shone to perfection with beeswax smelled absolutely delicious each time I passed it for a quick sniff.  Her silver tea service sparkled in the sunlight streaming through the small, lace curtained window at the front of the house.  Oh and I should not forget,  the invisible sign on the closed, locked door that said:  "Kinder Verboten"! (Children absolutely not allowed).  To be invited into the parlour was very special.  Look but don't touch was the rule of the day!
When I was about seven, Grampa built a "new" farmhouse for gramma just down the road from the old one.  It was a lovely little house with all the "mod cons" of the day.  Gramma loved that house with its modern kitchen and little "tearoom" porch.  But for me, it just wasn't the same. 

I missed the old big kitchen with the smell of burning wood in the cast iron kitchen range.  I missed not being able to curl up on my auntie's lap after a hearty supper at the long farmhouse table.  There was something very delicious and soothing about listening to the chatter of voices round the fire, the smell of a hearty meal still lingering in the air, the "creak creak:" sound of the rockers on the rocking chair, going back and forth and the muffled sound of my auntie's voice as I cuddled up, my head against her chest, listening to the beating of her heart.  To this day, I can still vividly recall the peacefulness of those moments.  In my mind's eye, I can see  the layout of the kitchen and where everything was placed.  The back stairs up to the second floor bedrooms and the attic beyond.  I can close my eyes and go from room to room on a "tour" of the farmhouse.

Once my grandparents moved to the new farmhouse, they used the old one for community canning and baking in the fall and as extra storage for discarded furniture, musical instruments, trunks filled with clothes, trinkets and memorabilia.  I swear my love of antiques, old paper and Victorian type dresses began in the attic of that old farmhouse.

This week I was drawn to a project that I have had on my "art list" for awhile now.  I just felt the urge to do something different.  "How about creating a little village of old cottages?" I said to my SELF.   Yep, that felt right.  I could play around with the book covers from RDCB's to create some prototypes for another project I have in mind... some larger houses to go across the wall above the double door closet in my art space.

Past "experiments" with the bookboard in the covers immediately came back to me as I began slicing the covers off the books.  It's much thicker than the heavy bookboard you can purchase at your local art store.  It's even much thicker, depending on the age of the book cover, than the chipboard elements you can purchase today.  I wondered if I would be able to use it for this project. 

But first I needed to create a pattern.  The house patterns I had found on the Internet  weren't quite what I wanted.  After much fiddling around sizing the different elements (there are three different sized cottages) I finally had a pattern I was satisfied with.

The pattern drawn on the chipboard, I picked up my small steel edged ruler and my exacto knife to do the first cut.  And I cut, and cut, and cut!  This stuff was stronger than I thought and very tough to get through.  I finally decided to split the thickness of the bookboard in two to get down to a thickness that wasn't going to keep me cutting until Christmas had come and gone.  I was going to cover the outside with paper anyway so it didn't really matter what it looked like. 

Other than that first glitch, the project went together relatively quickly and before I knew it I had five little cottages.  Just to finish them off, I painted some white bookboard I had made black and cut out some doors and little windows to paste on the outside of the houses (that took longer than putting the cottages together LOL) and inked the edges to give them an old look.  Here are some photos I took this morning, in the rain no less (chuckle) of my little village...

Interested in making some of these little cottages?  Click here to find out how to get the mini house/cottage tutorial and patterns for all three sizes.  I haven't quite finished putting it all together but should have it done by the end of this weekend.  However, strike while the iron is hot...  I'll send it out to you as soon as I have everything packaged up.

BTW, I 'll also include instructions for making your own bookboard from RDCB pages.  Always good to have around,  it's easy to make, recycles paper "material", and you can use it for many types of  arty projects.  The price is definitely right!  How's free?

Till next time, have a fun-filled weekend creating from your heART,

Tips & Tricks for Using Digital Images in Your Art

This week, I'd like to share with you some notes from a digital  ATC (Artist Trading Card) tutorial workshop I did with some art friends. My hope is that you will find some ideas you can use not only for Artist Trading Cards but in your other art creations as well.

Tips and "Tricks for Using Digital Images in Your Art

My personal preference for printing digital images is a colour laser printer.  However, I have found that images turn out quite nicely on my inkjet.. you just have to make sure the image is dry before you use it.

I rarely buy scrapbooking paper these days. I prefer to make my own on the computer and print it off on good quality paper. There are a couple of advantages to doing this.

  • I can colour coordinate the backing sheet with a colour from the front image of the ATC
  • It's convenient... I don't have to run to the craft store to find a piece of scrapbooking paper that matches. I either don't like the patterns available (because they are all too big for an ATC) or I can't find a colour that I like that matches. It's not worth the time nor gas spent driving to the store.
  •  At 99 cents a sheet (more or less, depending) for scrapbooking paper, it's usually cheaper to do it myself on my ink jet or laser. I haven't had to refill either printer for the past year... and I do a lot of printing. I could be kidding myself, but I think in the long run, it is cheaper to print it myself.
  • I don't know about you but I can be an impulse buyer in a craft store. Limiting my trips, $aves me some crafting dollar$. 
Creating ATC's
One thing I really like about making ATC's is that they are small (2.5 inches by 3.5 inches) and can be made relatively quickly with just a few images plus some bits and pieces to "jazz" them up.  Over the past couple of months, I have put together an image/'tutorial package that I call an "Instant 3D ATC'.  Well it's not quite instant LOL but pretty darn close!  The secret to the Instant 3D ATC's©?  Part of the ATC has already been designed and is waiting for you to put your special touch on it to complete it.  Great for beginners.  Fun for those who want to create an ATC series.  Quick for those who need a small gift or tag for a friend or relative.  More about this later on in this post.

Using Transparencies
Use images printed on a transparency using an inkjet printer to make "instant" rub ons for cards, pages, books and more.

Like most artists, I have a ton of "stuff" I can use for embellishments tucked away in tins, clear shoe boxes and storage drawers. Bits and bobs, old rusty stuff, beads, fibres, bobbypins, tickets, stamps, old metal perm rollers and on and on it goes. It's been fun lately seeing what I can salvage (borrow? pinch? steal? LOL) from my hubby's generously stocked "garage" supplies to use in some of my steampunk ATC's. He hasn't noticed yet that nuts, bolts, nails, screws, washers, etc. are disappearing from his work table and finding their way into my art.

Purchasing ready made embellishments can get expensive so keep your eyes open for *stuff* you can use in your art.  Keep clear plastic packaging... it comes in handy when you least expect it.  Puzzle pieces, scrabble tiles and bamboo tiles make great embellishments.  Collect leftover fabric, wool and fibres from your knitting and sewing friends.  The list of what you can use is endless.  Just keep your eyes open and your mind wondering whenever you are out.  You just never know when you'll spot something really cool!

Decals - Waterslide for paper, canvas and polymer clay
Use images to make waterslide decals for clay creations, necklaces, books, boxes... the list is long once you start thinking about it.  The paper to create decals is rather expensive but if you can fit a lot of images onto one sheet, it will be worth it.  Polymer Clay Express stocks the Lazertran decal paper for silk as well as Lisa Pavelka brands.  Check them all out to find the best price and the product you think will work best for you and your art.

Image Transfers
Use clear packing tape to lift images from magazines.  Press the clear tape over the image you have cut out.  Burnish it well.  Now soak it in hot water for about 10 minutes.  Voila, your image has been transferred to the tape.  You'll have to glue your image down on your "substrate" using a clear drying glue like Alenes.

Another way to make image transfers is to spread a couple of light coats of Golden Soft Gel evenly with a brush or your finger (my preferred method) on a digitally printed image, let it dry between coats (I often leave mine overnight) then soak it in warm water for about five minutes.  This will wet the paper on the back and make it easier to remove.  Begin by gently rolling the layers of paper off the back of the image.  Soak the paper if it is too dry for a few minutes more. This takes some practice to learn how to do well, so be patient, go slowly.  Once most of the paper has been removed, you can get rid of any of the remaining "white fuzzies" with a light application of Dorland Wax medium.

Hunting down embellishments (on the cheap)
One of those interesting, "cool (read cheap, cheap) find" moments came on my trip to the flea market a few weeks ago.  I bought a bag of old watches for practically next to nothing.  Hubby and I took them apart. I have more cogs, wheels and tiny watch parts than I know what to do with now LOL. 

On the same trip, I also purchased a whole shoebox of used vintage shotgun cases for $1.00.  I couldn't resist them!  When I got them home and shone up the brass cap that is on one end of them, I was glad I snapped them up. Now I haven't quite decided exactly what I am going to do with them but I certainly have some ideas floating around in my head.

Earlier this year, I strolled into a thrift store in Port Townsend and there, right in front of me, was the kind of big old dictionary I had been wanting to find for at least five years!  Most I had seen in the past were  expensive  ($50. and up).  You have never seen someone get to the cashier faster than I did that day when I discovered they only wanted $3.00 for it!

What are some *great* finds you have made lately at garage sales, thrift stores or flea markets?

Make Your Own Embellishments
You can make a realistic embellishment such as a button by cutting out and gluing a digital image to matboard, a pre-baked clay button (made from scrap clay), metal or even wood.  You can use these buttons on just about everything from altered books to boxes to shrines.  I once made a faux typewriter ribbon tin for a mixed media art piece by gluing a digital image of a typewriter ribbon tin to a piece of round wood, distressing it on the edges with sandpaper, brushing some distressing ink on it and then sealing it with a glossy decoupage glaze.  It looked so real that it fooled a lot of people who saw it.

Scour the Internet for "Brushes"
Often I will use the brushes in my graphics program to add something here or there that I may not have in "real life". There are lots of brush images that you can get all over the 'net. Photoshop users can start by trying deviantart for starters. If you are a Paint Shop Pro user, you can use the Photoshop brushes you find on deviantart. Just download an abr.viewer, turn the photoshop brushes into png's and then into brushes in Paint Shop Pro.


One tried and true tip I can give you about brushes...don't load all of your newfound brushes into your graphics program.   Keep them in a separate file on your computer and when you want a particular one for a piece you are working on, you can load it temporarily into your program.  Too many permanently loaded brushes will slow your graphics program down to a snail's pace!

PSP Tubes
Sometimes, because I use Corel Paint Shop Pro X3, I will add something from my "tube" files... a button, a jewel, a flower, etc. that I have either made from a photograph or found on the web. If you are a Paint Shop user, just do a search for "paint shop pro tubes" on the web to discover hundreds of them that you can download and use in your digital creations.  Here are a couple of links to get you started:

Victorian type tubes - Annies Tubes
Brushes, Tubes, Masks for Photoshop and PSP - The Original Free Tubes Site 
This site should keep you busy for hours

Let it flow, let it flow, let it flow
Most of the time my ATC's are designed from scratch and ready to print in less than 30 minutes if I just let things fall into place where they may. Don't overthink your designs. Choose a background. Choose a focal point image. Decide the colours your want to use. Get them into place and let serendipity take over. It's a fun way to create and you will learn a lot about how to quickly design layouts that work.

Remember, "less is more"... save those "extra" images you are tempted to add for another day or start another creation like this one in the Instant 3D ATC © "Hilda" series

Wanna trade?   Find out how to get this Instant 3D ATC© image and tutorial package FREE for your ATC collection.  Click on the "Current Free Downloads" just below the blog header at the top of this page for more information.

Have a great week ahead with your art. Hope you have found these tips and tricks for using digital images useful.  I have a *ton* more tips for your art that I'll be posting in the future so be sure to check back often.