Happy mail envelopes

One of the things I love about all the mail art swaps I do is receiving the mail. Jon complained at the start about all the lovely envelopes that kept coming through the door!

My letter journal group are particularly inspiring

Here are a few of my recent sets

Mandalas and stencils …..

I decided that I needed some orange and pink this morning

And then my friend Jade posted some of hers on FB with women on and I was inspired to add some to mine

I tried biro, sharpie and uniball eye – they looked ok – but needed the messy indigo shading to stand out

I think Uniball Eye pens are my favourite – I just wish they would do a refillable one to cut down on the plastic …….. Pilot do one, but the ink is not quite the same. In the interests of the environment that is what I am swapping over to as my stash runs out.


Visiting emotional triggers

2 years ago my son was in a road accident in South Korea – this week my daughter was poorly with asthma and flu and had to go to hospital. I am doing an initial counselling course and found it very difficult to do an empathy exercise with another student.

My irritable bowel has also been playing up, so all my emotional stuff is roiling around my stomach. I wanted to see if I could work through all the rubbish visually to see if that helped

I started off having flash backs after Face book reminded me that I was in Korea 2 years ago. My son was not really in any critical danger but he did fracture his skull in 3 places. So I went to Korea. It was a difficult time as you can imagine.

I came up with this image as a starting point after searching for flash backs in google images


Thinking about PTSD – which I don’t have, but being a visual animal and sensitive to being over stimulated – I thought it would be interesting to have a look at what images came up for PTSD

I love this one but it didn’t resonate with me at the time.


Here are some more I found interesting



I decided to start messing about digitally with a couple of these to see what I came up with – this is how I usually work. I liked the scribble and the spiral

Unfortunately when I worked in my journal I didn’t do a step by step, but after a series of layers this is what I came up with.

You can’t really see the resemblance to the original images. I started off with a spiral clock doodle and then added layers of pattern, text , and a big loose scribble. I tried adding a lady in the middle but it didn’t seem to convey what I was feeling. however I liked the phrase ‘in the eye of a storm’ so an eye seemed more appropriate.

After lunch I doodled while waiting in a cafe, for a friend. Typically I forgot paper, but I had a pen. A few companies produce nice weight paper advertising leaflets which were on display at the cafe, so I decided to appropriate a diary to work on.

It helped to situate the doodle in a time frame of Feb/ March to anchor my thoughts. I like the look of asemic writing – what I use is technically not that – I write on top of my words a couple of times to hide the meaning from the reader – so I write out all my feelings but you can’t read it.

Asemic writing is a wordless open semantic form of writing. The word asemic means “having no specific semantic content,” or “without the smallest unit of meaning.” With the non-specificity of asemic writing there comes a vacuum of meaning, which is left for the reader to fill in and interpret’ (Wikipedia)

Making β€˜zine’ formats

I can’t remember if I have written about these before. I like working in a ‘zine’ format because of the 3d element. My friend @dar63 on Instagram started making some recently and I loved her lush layers and jewelled colours do I asked her if she fancied doing some collaborations. We have worked together in the past.

You can tell which pages are mine because of the black ink doodles πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

I have been experimenting with using water soluble pens and spraying my mandalas so I used some of these as a base layer.

I added designs to the front and the back and added gesso to surface to seal it and add texture

I added a variety of things to the surface

Strips of typed text, large text, more gesso, stitching, white pen , spray ink and magazine images.

I like drawing of the inside of the zine. So that when they are standing up you get an interesting juxtaposition of the two sides

The bottom design in the above pic includes a zine designed by a friend Fran that is based with me in Edinburgh.

I hand stitched the edges in this case

Preparing a found book for art journalling

I like to use second hand books for journalling. There is a comic book range in Scotland called ‘the Broon’s’. They produce cook books and gardening books( Waverley Books) that look like old journals and are a nice weight of paper and size for art journalling.

The paper is a bit smooth so I like to prepare a few pages before I start journalling

Today I added gesso to a page with a credit card and then dabbed acrylic paint through a commercial stencil. By adding the paint first it means that you can rub the paint off the page with a baby wipe or damp cloth to get a more interesting result

I like commercially produced stencils but they can look a bit samey when lots of people use them.

So I use doilies that I find in second hand shops. Lace or crochet work well. If you do use them – make sure you dry them well in-between use or they rot and smell bad .

I covered the print below with a layer of watered down paint.

I always use acrylic for mixed media journalling because I make lots of layers that I don’t want to run into each other. I am dyslexic and have trouble with upside down and the wrong way round – I added the cover design on the back of the book so all the pages are upside down …….

I always try and make paint go as far as possible so I spread what was left of the blue onto some pages with a credit card and through another stencil.

The pages of the book are such fun I don’t often add a lot more before journalling.

The cover of the book is quite shiny so I scored it with a scalpel blade before I decoupaged it.

I used a selection of different papers – the back is upside down tooo. And then added details, texture and random text from magazines

Reflecting on my Soul Restoration process

I have been working on the ‘SoulRestoration’ course by Melody Ross since the 12th of January. I am enjoying the process of art making regularly in my journal. The art seems to get looser and looser.

I have always been messy. It has been great using my stress protector mandalas as back grounds and finding a more natural ‘Tess’ process.

I am still drawn to blues and am working through the stack of gelatos that I acquired in Korea. I love them ,but won’t be replacing in-kind because of all the plastic.

Debbie Howard introduced me to them when I complained that I didn’t like working with oil pastels in my art journal. They are water soluble, highly pigmented and deliciously squidgy, the consistency’s almost like lipstick or face paint.

It’s been interesting progressing through the stages that Melody has designed . Debbie is a mentor and sounding board after training as a facilitator with The Brave Girl University last year. I think it is important to feel supported through this process. I feel held

There is a lot of industry – internal processing and sitting with how you feel. My stomach is tightening just at the thought of ‘it’.

I journal and write notes as I watch the videos, text Debbie and use Instagram and Face book to show and tell. I wanted to do this because of the regular journalling. There is less built in art journalling than I thought there would be. I need to process the ideas and feelings through art making.

My group of friends in Oxfordshire are meeting once a fortnight to do the course with Debbie whilst I am in Edinburgh.

There is an isolation from the group but I am enjoying the space to create my own ideas and images. I did go back to bed one day and hide because I didn’t want to work through some hard issues. I felt much better after I plucked up the courage to just get on with it

My pages over the last few weeks

I added a mandala sticker by Emily Lagore a long term friend on Instagram

Lace doilies as stencils

As you know if you have been following me for any length of time I am really into circles, drawing them, printing , stencils etc.

One of my favourite found items to use are crochet and lace doilies. I am fascinated by the intricacy and tiny stitches. Since arriving in Edinburgh I have been amazed at how cheap I can buy them in charity and thrift shops.

This week I found a bundle of lace ones in three different sizes

To use them as stencils with paint you need to cover them in a layer of acrylic and let them dry. Each time you use them they need to be allowed to dry thoroughly or they start to smell and rot.

Yesterday I was playing with a friend using Brusho powdered pigment ( https://theartshopskipton.co.uk/brusho-crystal-colour-assorted-packs-of-8-12-or-24) and gesso. I wondered how the dollies would respond.

I am not sure I like the weight of the gesso on paper like this – the doilie covered in blue paint responded very well.

I added the gesso over one of my pink ink mandalas

It was taking ages to dry so I put it in my oven at 100degrees C – which is probably not very healthy because the kitchen stank of cooking gesso very quickly.

I wet the page with a thin layer of very dilute blue acrylic paint and sprinkled the crystal inks on top

The inks are very concentrated so I took a print from the sheet using another page with a red mandala on it. The paper I am using is recycled old printed letters so it is very thin

I also pulled gesso through a couple of mandala stencils

These were quite successful too , but I think I like the doily better because it is less recognisable as the commercially produced stencils.

If I use these in mixed media work. They will need sealing because the crystal inks are water soluble. Clear Gesso or Mat medium will do the trick dragged over once with a credit card. I think you should probably coat both sides of the paper.

Another application of this I think could be to make a printing block. If you pulled gesso through a doily onto a wooden / acrylic block it would be fun to print with paint – I am not sure how a commercial ink pad would work with the gesso.

Progress on my Osteopathy commission

I started working on my commission ideas this morning. I had a go at the origami shapes. I was a bit disappointed with the origami idea because the yellow pages is too fine to hold the shape and to get a section of backbone just looked odd

I also freaked out at using the originals. I seemed to have lost my confidence this week. I made a load of photocopies and went for it

I sliced up the photocopies and started playing with the text on a tea dipped and stencilled background

I photocopies one of the experiments and stencilled and doodled on top of that. I realised one of the reasons I was struggling a bit was because the colour scheme is not as bright as I usually play with. It needed more tonal contrast.

So I added more text and dancing ladies to different copies – the mojo returned

A few more layers

I added some more of the ‘yell colour printing check rainbows’ (they appear at the top of the proof page that they send you before you agree to publish your advert ) and gelato pastels because I remembered Glynis and I saying that we liked them in a meeting.