Learning, Creating, Living

There are countless articles on the importance of continuing to learn new things as we age. They say it helps ward off declining brain function, memory loss and boosts low spirits, and eases depression.

This year I’ve immersed myself in more small art projects than ever. To be honest, I haven’t had the energy or focus to work on big projects the way I have in the past. I think it’s most likely due to feeling overwhelmed and worried about our future, and something going on health-wise that’s causing fatigue (yet to be determined). So my studio has become a refuge of sorts, an escape from the news cycle that so many of us have become addicted to. It’s place where I can lose myself for hours at a time, feel at peace, and continue to learn how to paint.

I bought a few bulk packs of  8 inch and 12 inch square canvases from Dick Blick last year and they have been really great for learning more about painting.

Working directly on fabric limits experimental painting to a certain extent since you can’t rework areas and paint over things as easily, because once the paint hits the fabric those colors lock into the fibers and will come through other paint layers worked on top and the more layers of pigment built up on the surface of the fabric the stiffer it becomes.

With canvas on the other hand, it’s easy to paint over images, and no matter how many layers of paint, you don’t have have to worry about the hand or stitch-ability. Therefore, you can work out ideas, and repeatedly alter colors without the negative consequences you might encounter working on fabric.

I’m amazed by how little paint I go through working on canvas too, I probably use a fourth of the paint I would use on fabric, and I can cover areas with color more quickly than working on fabric, so it has been a great way to create more images in a shorter period of time and decide which images may be worth working out at a larger scale on fabric, having worked out the design, style and color.

The two paintings I’m going to show below were made on 12″ canvases using acrylic ink and white textile paint. I usually use white textile paint instead of acrylic ink when I paint because white ink has a lot of translucency and I often want more opacity. Of course, I could use white acrylic paint, but I have lots of textile paint on hand so that’s what I use.

After sketching my image on the canvas with pencil, I collaged some copyright-free butterfly images printed on sheer, tissue-weight, abaca paper, and some text torn from an old book, using matte acrylic gel medium as my glue.

The next thing I do, is block out color in different areas. Things don’t necessarily have to remain those first colors, but it’s much easier to start working up light and dark values when there’s a base of color everywhere.
A bit of white paint can help cover unnecessary areas of imagery.
Strong contrast between light and dark values can really make an image pop.
When I started painting the butterflies, I felt like they were getting lost in the colorful background, 

so I painted white over the background, but left some blue and green showing around all the objects.

The white alone was too stark for a background, so I painted a floral wallpaper-like pattern over it, which softened the whole thing.


I began painting the woman very much the same way.

Another reason I like to cover the canvas with color by using thinned washes of ink is because a blank canvas can be so intimidating!

My thought process for color here, was to put the opposite color of what I planned to paint as the under-painting.

For example, skin is made up of warm colors, so I used cool colors underneath, which can also help create shadow.

My usual process is to work around various parts of the canvas bringing up the lights and darks to make objects come forward or recede from the area next to it and then work in the details.


I have several more paintings that I took stepped process photos of, and will share them in the next blog post. In the mean time, I am leaving for Germany on Saturday, it will be my first time over the Atlantic! I’m going to teach, and have a full exhibit of my art-quilts at the Nadelweldt show in Karlsruhe. I’m really looking forward to seeing a European Quilt show in person because the aesthetic of European Quilts can be so different from what we see at shows in the US.

Thanks to all of you who bought my new little stamping book Make an Impression!

Keep creating,


I’d love to spark your creativity at one of these upcoming events:

June 1-2 Meissners, Sacramento, Blooming Inspiration

July 27-28 Meissners, Santa Rosa, Blessings in the wind; mixed-media prayer flags

August 14-18, 2018 Woodland Ridge Retreat, WI
5 – day Paint and Print-a-palooza retreat

October 19-21 Ephemera Paducah, Paducah, KY
Tea and Ephemera and Blessings in the wind: mixed-media prayer flags

October 27 Meissners, Sacramento, Fiesta Ornaments


IMG_5538Judy is an artist, explorer, image wrangler, knowledge seeker, instructor, speaker, creative alchemist, and purveyor of inspiration, helping others channel creativity on a daily basis.


8 Responses to “Learning, Creating, Living”

  1. Barbara Fox says:

    What is your source for sheer, tissue-weight, abaca paper? I’m enjoying your process description. So informative and generous.

    • Hi Barbara,

      I order it in bulk from England, and sell it when I teach. If you want some, drop me an email, but it would have to be tomorrrow (friday) or you’ll need to wait til after I come back in a couple weeks.

  2. jeannievh says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your process. I find it fascinating how you can transform a pencil drawing into a thing of beauty. I have promised myself that this is my year. No quilts for family and friends, no committing to things I really don’t want to do. It is hard, but so far I’m happier. First up on the list is to play with paints, so this post really sucked me in. Sorry to hear you’ve been feeling poorly. That sucks! Wishing you sunny, joy filled days, and safe travels. I am now going to get a cup of coffee and read your book that just arrived. xoxo

    • Hi Jeannie,

      So glad that this got you inspired to set aside time for yourself to create. I completely understand your guilty feelings about making your creative time a priority. I think life has become so stressful these days that stepping back from obligations (that we often put on ourselves in an effort to help our loved ones feel good), zaps our energy and is not the best way to care for you. So I commend your efforts to focus on *making* for yourself! and thanks for getting my book!

  3. Rebecca in SoCal says:

    I just received my copy of “Make an Impression” and am very happy that you are sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm! Thank you for this lovely little book.

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