Life Book 2014 Wrap Up

Ok, ok, ok. I know that I said I would write a blog post about my Life Book lessons every week. But life got in the way and I only made it about half way through with the blog posts. My husband and I run a vinyl decal/banner business called Stephen Edward Graphics.
Our business really took off and we’ve been scrambling to just keep up with all the orders. So I didn’t have time to write the blog posts, but I did continue to do the lessons. At the very end of the course we are supposed to take all the pages we made during the year and bind them into a book. A Life Book. And that’s exactly what I did. We were given several ways to do it, but ultimately I decided to go with a binding method I saw on YouTube by Sea Lemon.


I bought some book board at an art store, I cut it to size with a razor blade and decorated the covers. My color for the year was pink so I decided that would be a good color to use. I also added some chipboard letters for a dimensional look. To make my pages sturdier I glued them to scrapbook paper. Actually, I began gluing them with gel medium, but that made my pages wrinkle a bit. Tamara said something about using a double sided tape if that happened, but my double sided craft tape doesn’t hold very well. ***Lightbulb*** I run a sign business! I have super strong double sided tape we use for finishing banners! I grabbed some and began taping. What a difference! The pages looked great with no wrinkles. The only issue is that you better place your pages right the first time because they are not coming back off again! Any wonkiness I had I just used my trimmer to square up.





Now on to the stitching… I picked up the binding stuff I needed from the same art store I purchased the book board. Needles, waxed thread and an awl. I followed the video and used three holes at the bottom and three at the top. I made the holes using the awl. That took quite awhile. In the YouTube video she said something about estimating the thread by pulling it out the width for as many pages as you have. I wasn’t sure if she was talking about for each hole or what?!?? I took my tiny little spool of waxed thread and proceeded to pull out the width of about 40 pages. But after I got to 20 it seemed excessive. So I stopped there and counted to 20 again for each hole. But I ran out of thread when I finished counting for the third hole. Now what? Well, I really wanted to get started and I needed thread and needles for 6 holes. So I cut the 3 lengths of thread in half. Now I have enough! I thought, if I run out I can always tie more on once my order from Etsy gets here. And I was ready to go. I immediately realized that I needed 6 curved needles to do this process. The straight ones did not work well. It was hard to get the thread back out and around. So I messaged my sister and asked her to pick up some curved needles for me and bring them to the house since she was working with me the next day. Luckily, Joann’s had some packs of just curved needles (found the the upholstery section). Yay!

Once, I had the curved needles I was finally ready to go! I followed the instructions from the video. At first it was a bit awkward, but I eventually got into a rhythm. I do recommend using the waxed thread. I would have had such a knotted mess if not for the waxed thread. It took hours, but I finally completed my Life Book! And I had a bunch of thread left over for each hole. So maybe next time I will string out as many pages as I have and then cut the thread into equal sections depending on how many holes I have. Not sure if that will be right, but it’s all a learning experience so I guess I’ll just have to try it to see.


Here is my first Life Book! I made a flip through video of my 2014 Life Book, my very first movie with the help of iMovie and my iPad Mini. The very first face (well… it’s actually a faceless face) is not a Life Book lesson. Just something I did when I first started painting. I was too scared to actually paint the face back then. What a difference one lesson can make. I hope you enjoy the video!


I can’t believe I did all those pages! I had just started painting in October 2013 and Life Book started in January of 2014. But from the very first lesson I was making things that just blew me away. I’m not trying to toot my own horn. It’s just that I never thought I could paint. I thought it was a talent you were born with and I knew I didn’t have it. So when I was able to paint a face for the first lesson, I just couldn’t believe it. I spent a long time just admiring her. I felt such JOY (My word for the year. Very fitting, don’t you think?) with the realization that I really could paint. I wish I had known this sooner, I would have started painting a long time ago. But I’m here now and having so much fun.

I just started my lessons for Life Book 2015 and I can already see an improvement in my skills. I can’t wait to share my journey with you. I’m so excited to see what this year brings!

Til next time…



Life Book 2014 – Week 15

This week was another lesson with the totally cool Tamara Laporte! Quirky Animals!

We started with taping 2 pieces of paper together. The largest paper I had was “Mixed Media” paper, which I sliced in half and then taped back together to make a fold out page. I wish I would have taken 2 sheets of watercolor paper and used them instead because the mixed media stuff started to ball up on me with all the painting. The background is made with a mix of watercolor crayons and spray inks.

This little lion is the beginning of the animal totem pole.

I’m in LOVE with this little guy! I love elephants and have collected them since I was little. So this was a lot of fun to paint.

A monkey with a heart of his shirt… Yes! I think so!

The bunny was fun to make. I love her ears! The last animal was supposed to be a cat, but I’m a dog person. So the cat was out and the bird was in. He looks very regal with his crown.

The entire piece took me several hours to complete, but was totally worth it! I really pushed myself to make all these guys. And adding the little embellishments to each one was so much fun!


Can’t wait for Tamara’s next lesson!

Til next time…


Life Book 2014 – Week 14

This weeks lesson was a bonus one with Dyan Reaveley! This lady is quirky, over the top and AMAZING! I love her! And her Dylusions Ink Sprays!


First, we started with writing. Writing whatever we wanted just as long as it filled the whole page. Then we had to just roughly sketch an apple tree and some flowers. Very simple shapes. It was fun! It reminded me of drawing when I was a little girl.

Now comes the color… I sprayed the ink on my palette and used a paintbrush to paint the shapes. If you move quickly you can blend the colors together.


Then cut out the shapes and leave a bit of the white space around them.


The background was made by spraying inks and sandwiching 2 pieces of paper together. The colors really blended nicely with that technique. Then you can add design to the background with stencils!


Now it’s time to put it all together!


She had us add some text with a stamp to the edge of the background, but if I was going to do it again I would probably leave that part off. I also hand cut some grass for the bottom of the tree. This is also where I realized that my flowers were too big. So I made some more, just smaller.

I added some finishing touches, like buttons on the trees and stems, leaves and gems for the flowers. Oh! And some clouds in the sky with gesso. I like how the gesso is a little see through which is perfect for a cloud.


I’ll definitely be using some of these techniques in the future. I can’t wait for the full lesson with Dyan coming up later this year!

Til next time…


Life Book 2014 – Week 13

This week our lesson used TAP (Transfer Artist Paper). Our teacher was Leslie Riley and she is also the one who makes TAP. This was a simple lesson that had us ironing on an image using the TAP and then creating a background around it.

Leslie used a picture of her daughter holding a bowl. I actually have a picture of my daughter doing the same thing. The picture was taken right after we moved out to a new house in the country. My “city girls” were out exploring the yard and picked a bunch of raspberries to make jam. So I had to take a picture of this momentous event. City girls becoming country girls!

This is the second printout I did. The first one came out so dark that the raspberries were black. If you’re going to use TAP make sure you lighten the photos because it makes them dark. Oh! And be sure to print it in reverse so it’s the same as the original when you iron it on.

Here it is after I ironed it on. I was able to get most of the picture to transfer, but I’m still missing some bits. It’s still pretty dark, which I’m not thrilled about, but I can live with it. What really bothers me about TAP is the texture. The photo transfer is really gritty (rough to the touch). So much so that I think it makes the picture appear to be low res when it’s not.


I really didn’t think this piece was going to turn out so I didn’t take any other progress photos. So here is the finished piece. I absolutely LOVE the background and the technique used to create it. I applied gesso through a stencil and once that was dry spritzed on some spray inks. I used a bit of water to blend them and a baby wipe to reveal the gesso’d parts. I love this technique and I’ll definitely be using it again. Not so sure about the TAP, but I love that background!

Til next time…


Life Book 2014 – Week 12

This post is coming a little late. Okay… a lot late. It was a bit more challenging than I anticipated and I had to gather up more supplies than normal to complete this piece.

This lesson was taught by the very talented Anna Dabrowska – aka Finnabair. I came across her work several months ago and I immediately connected with it. So I was thrilled to learn that she was one of the Life Book teachers. Her work has such an amazing texture! And to be able to transform every day objects into something so beautiful is truly a gift!

Here is Finnabair’s example for her class.


I was going to use the same layout, but opted instead for an off center one. I didn’t really have a picture of my face straight on like hers. Oh! And I decided to do the lesson on a canvas. That much texture can’t be contained in a book!



As I was going through my photo album this picture just jumped out at me. It’s me at age 5 holding my “baby ellie” and feeding it a bottle. I loved that elephant! I drug it everywhere. In fact, I had a whole collection of stuffed animal elephants. But “baby ellie” was my favorite.

One year for Christmas I asked my Annie Ann (my aunt) to buy me a “papa ellie”. I needed a dad elephant for my collection. I already had a baby and mama. So my aunt went to the store and asked the clerk for a “papa ellie”, the guy had no idea what she was talking about of course. LOL! I’m not exactly sure how she figured it out, but eventually she realized that all I wanted was an elephant stuffed animal. Oops! Sorry about that Annie Ann!


Okay… back to the lesson.
I started with background texture. Texture that was flat in nature that could be built upon. Then I went crazy adding everything short of the kitchen sink. I hope my husband won’t be too mad that I raided his toolbox. Shhh… don’t tell him.




It was a little crazy looking at this point. I’ll admit I was a bit worried. But the next step was to gesso everything. Wow! What a difference that makes.


I truly just wanted to stop at this point. I didn’t want to screw it up with the sprays, but I went ahead with the lesson anyway. I have to at least try. Do something new. If I don’t… then why did I pay to take the course? What am I learning?

YIKES! That is awful! I immediately regretted my decision. I had limited colors of the sprays the teacher recommended. Hobby Lobby just had a few and I bought them all. But it just wasn’t the color combination I liked. So I gesso’d over the black and tried again with the gold and green sprays I bought and then I added some blue dylusions ink spray around the outside. A much better look. I used a bit of gesso on the top to highlight the high points and give it more dimension.




It’s not exactly what I had envisioned, but I think it’s pretty good for my first try. I have to remind myself that my first try at something doesn’t need to be as good as someone who has been doing it for years. I remember Tamara saying (she might have been quoting someone) that we shouldn’t compare our beginning to someone else’s middle. That is so true!

Til next time…


Life Book 2014 – Week 11

This week was a bonus lesson week. The original teacher couldn’t do it so thankfully Tamara stepped in and offered a lesson of her own and even a second one by Gracie. These were just fast forwarded video lessons, but they still had a great deal of info. Tamara never disappoints. Her lessons are always fun for me.

The theme was The Tree of Life. I created very closely to what the example was. I really responded to the piece she created and I wanted to push myself with drawing legs and hands. The cartoon style of the girl made it easier to try them out for the first time.


I never realized that you should sketch your subject first. I always thought that real artists just painted off the cuff. Like Bob Ross. I remember watching him paint as a girl. He would just slap paint down on the canvas and I would think, “What are you doing? That doesn’t look like a tree.” And then somehow as he kept layering this gorgeous scene would emerge. I am still in awe of his work even to this day. Watching him on tv are some of my fondest memories as a child.


The collage in this piece is from a hymnal that I picked up at our local goodwill type store, called Bargains Galore in Waupun, WI. I love using music sheets in my pieces.


I love my big headed girl! She was so fun the create. Her dress is made with washi tape, her shoes have little swirls on ends and her hair is blowing in the wind. I would like to improve on how to draw hair. Make it look a bit more free, but this was a good start for me.

When I started stamping on the tree I thought I had ruined it, but then I started adding the white dots. The white dots gave it more of a magical look which I absolutely love! I definitely would like to try this look again.

Here is the bonus lesson by Gracie.


This piece has a lot of different layers for the background. But everything was brought together by adding gesso with a brayer on top. I love swirls! They were my signature when I was working with stained glass. So creating the tree was a lot of fun for me.

Til next time…


Life Book 2014 – Week 9

This week we don’t have a lesson. It’s more of a breather week so people can get caught up if they fell behind. I was determined before I even started Life Book to make sure I was keeping up with the classes. To make time for them no matter what else was going on. I have a tendency to let my business (Stephen Edward Graphics) to take over my life. When a message (or convo) comes in, I am determined to answer it right away or at the very most within 24 hours. I take customer service and making the orders very seriously and maybe that’s why our business has thrived. I really do care about my customers. But it can make personal time nonexistent. So when I signed up for this (actually is was a Birthday present from my sweet husband) I decided that I would stay on track, keep up with the classes and write a blog post every week. The blog post thing was kind of a public way of holding myself accountable, giving myself a deadline that I couldn’t push off.

So here I am completely up-to-date, with nothing to catch up on. Tamara still gives us something to inspire us on these weeks with no lesson. This week is an artist interview with Claudine Hellmuth. It was interesting to learn about her background, process and licensing. I enjoyed the interview and what she said about keeping one thing for yourself. That even when you get into a licensing arrangement with a company and they are telling you what changes to make that you can lose yourself a bit. So it’s important to keep something for yourself, like an Etsy shop. So you have at least total control of one thing artistically. I think that is a very important idea!

I don’t foresee myself ever getting into a licensing agreement. That’s the stuff for real artists. But it is nice to hear an inside perspective on the whole thing. You never know what can happen in the future.

Tamara did also post a video from Youtube about the Creative Process. I think it’s something that every artist should hear.

And lastly, we were given a prompt. Just in case some of us would like to create something. It is 50’s or Retro. I have an idea already involving one of my new stamps. So I’ll be working on that later this week. So stay tuned for another blog post about it.

Til next time…