Tag Archives: color

Marbling in Red and Orange for Spring?

I haven’t done any marbling in a long time, not since last October and I was getting the itch.  I’m teaching a workshop in marbling later this month (April 22nd) and thought I’d better do some to make sure everything is working. There has also been a history of lots of mess-ups after a dry spell.  Fortunately, that wasn’t the case this time.  In fact, I really got into the groove and pulled a lot of great pieces.

Before starting, I was thinking of spring, spring colors, soft pastels, greens, yellows and in general all those lovely Easter egg colors.  Didn’t work out that way.  In the morning as I started preparing the paint, I first pulled out some yellows, but then I grabbed a red. One of the few colors I’ve had success in mixing is orange, so I made a couple of oranges from the reds and yellows. I added the standards – black, white, brown, copper – to the array of paints and decided I had enough colors to start.  Maybe I’d add the makings of pastels later.  After seeing the first sheet of paper come alive with vibrant reds, yellows and oranges, I couldn’t stop.  I just kept throwing the same six or seven colors over and over again in a wide range of combinations and patterns.

On the second day, I added some greens to the paint choices but I still did a lot with the reds, oranges and yellows. I did one of my minimalist marblings with Nickel Azo Yellow, Zinc White and Van Dyke Brown. The white and brown were only dropped once, but the yellow was dropped numerous times.  That’s the second paper in the first photo.

And, of course, I had to play with a bunch of paper. First are some illustrations from a severely water-damaged book of Arthurian legends.

Then some illustrations from a fashion magazine from 1898.  I find the children’s clothing fascinating.  To imagine a six-year old wearing a dress with a train every day is really difficult for me as are the wasp waists on the adults!

Lastly, I found a pile of sketches my mother had done of tulips but had never really finished.  Had to marble them, of course and so ended up with some spring after all.  Think I’ll keep and frame the yellow one.

One the last three sets of photos, I dropped about half as much paint as usual, used a lot of white, added some clear and made a loose, lacy pattern.  I think that combination worked well.  What do you think?  I may try this technique when I start marbling maps again.

Don’t forget, marbling workshop coming up. You can register by calling the Arts Center of Yates County at 315-536-8226 or contact them through their website, http://artscenteryatescounty.org/


Happy Spring and Happy Marbling!

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Ten by Two: making a lot of gift notepads

Just before Thanksgiving I received a request to make some notepads for a customer to use as gifts.  She wanted ten sets of notepad covers containing a medium-size and small-size in coordinating colors. I have been making these notepads is four sizes from portfolio for an 8.5″ x 12″ pad to a mini, memo sized (1.5″ x 4″) pad. You can see all sizes here.  This request was challenging just because of the number of items, but the time frame made it even more complicated as I was planning a two-week trip to my son’s at Thanksgiving!

I rarely work on more than four or five pieces at a time just because parts tend to wander and get mixed up.  At least this time all the basic pieces would be the same size, but keeping tracking of forty different papers was a challenge!  Before leaving for vacation I was able to cut all the Davey board covers (outside) and mat board pieces (inside) and cover the inside panels.  This blog will go through many of the steps I took on this project with illustrations when I remembered the camera.

First step, and the most fun and frustrating, was choosing all the papers to be used.  The customer wanted each set to be coordinated and I didn’t want any to use the same papers.  Fortunately, the largest size I was making was for a 6″ x 9″ pad and that gave me more choices of paper.  When I make the portfolio size (8.5″x 12″) I’m very limited as the inside needs two pieces of paper that are roughly 8″ wide by 13″ tall. Since most of my hand-marbled paper is 14″x 17″, it’s tight and the sheet has to be perfect.  I don’t have any photos, but you can imagine me sorting through stacks of paper trying to find four that went together.  I was generally looking for two printed and two marbled.  To keep all my selection straight, I clipped all the matching sheets together with notes on the backs with a number 1 through 20, whether it was large or small and inside or outside.  This is much more organized than I usually am, but with 40 pieces of paper staring at me, I really needed it.  Cutting the boards took a whole day, but at least they were the same size, so didn’t have to be marked.

Stacks of cut Davey board for covers

Stacks of cut Davey board for covers

I decided to make the inside panels first so cut all that paper first before starting gluing out anything.  Once the papers were cut, I started the gluing out process using the mat board I’d already cut.

At this point I was off for Thanksgiving.  I tried to think how I could take some of the work with me, but it was just too complicated. When I came home, I had two weeks to finish everything.  I immediately started on the outside covers.  I had already cut the boards and chosen the paper, so first task was to pick the bookcloth.  This was when I realized that I’d found the element that would tie the sets together. Each set would have matching spines and I’d use each bookcloth on only one set. The bookcloth is next to all four papers, so the choice had to work with all.  By this time all four inside panels were in ten zipper bags and clipped to the larger outside papers. As I chose the bookcloth, a small piece was slipped into the bags.  Sounds easy, but I was swapping pieces in and out as I found better matches.  At times it seemed like total chaos.

All the spines were were attached to the boards a strip was glued into the center of the spine to stiffen it. Next step was to cut all the outside cover papers to size and glue them onto the covers. To finish the covers, I glued narrow strips of bookcloth to the outside edges of the boards.  This isn’t necessary, but I feel it makes a longer wearing edge than the paper alone and I want these notepads to be used and to last.

Next, adding the insides to the outsides, right? Not quite. The writing pad has to be held in place. I use a strap of heavy paper or cardstock to secure the pad and a foot pocket to keep it in place on the right side. On the left side, I make a pocket either on the side or bottom to hold a few extra sheets of paper. Placement of the pocket depends on the design of the paper, the size of the paper and my mood.  First step, as usual, is matching a heavy paper to the pieces already made. The paper is then cut and folded individually, matching the exact size and shape of its covers.

Completed notepads! All finished and delivered on time.

This entire project was really fun, although frustrating at times. It was a challenge to find just the right papers, but in the end I’m very pleased with the results.

I always have notebooks and portfolios for sale on Etsy. If you need different colors or amounts than are available, just send a message: 

or leave a comment here.

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Minimalist Marbling

When I marble I usually have a dozen or more colors going by the third day.  I love color and I just keep adding another shade of blue or an accent of yellow.  For my last marbling session, I decided to try something completely different.  I had done some monochrome marbling before, but I had used four or five different variations – cobalt blue, Prussian blue, cyan, ultramarine blue etc. This time I used just one color plus black and white, or in a few cases, brown and white. I cheated a bit with the blue and used Cerulean blue, deep and Cerulean blue, chrome, but otherwise there was just one color.

It’s easy to get lots of shades in marbling because the paint spreads across the surface of the carrageenan and the more it spreads, the lighter it is.  As more and more paint is dropped, it spreads less and less. The first paint dropped gets compressed and so gets darker.

Some pictures of my fun time:

Cleaning up is much easier when I only use three colors!

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Playing with Overmarbling

A few weeks ago, I had a marbling session that wasn’t going very well, not really badly, but I just wasn’t thrilled with anything. So, I decided just to have some fun by pulling out some old pieces and seeing if I could make anything out of them. Some were decent, but boring, others  had flaws and a few were disasters that I’m not sure why I even kept! One of my favorite things about marbling is that I never know exactly what a piece will look like when I lift it from the tray.  Will it have a bubble? Will it have a hesitation line? Will it be perfect? Will the colors match what I wanted?

When I overmarble, putting one layer of marbling on top of another, all bets are off.  I can never tell exactly how the two patterns or the two sets of colors will react with each other.  Rarely, I have something amazing, sometimes it’s dreadful, but it’s always interesting.

Here are some before and afters for some of the overmarbling I did.

I want to try this technique on a bunch of other pieces.  One technical note, I forgot that some of my early pieces had been done with watercolors rather than acrylics.  This means that some of the original paint  smudged or washed off when I tried to alum the piece.  I usually use a sponge to alum, but I might have been able to reduce the problem by using a spray bottle.  I now test a corner first to make sure the paint won’t bleed or smear.

In other news, I was finally able to start work on my garden.  I usually have it turned over by mid-April.  It’s May and I’m just starting.  It’s going to be small this year as I still have pickles from last year!  Lots of other outdoor work to be done and not much time.

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There Are Days Like This

Two weeks ago it warmed up enough for me to contemplate descending into my basement, standing on a cement floor and putting my hands into water.  In other words, to do some marbling. I made my carrageenan the night before, set up all the trays, paints and paraphernalia, alummed my paper and dove in. I was planning on doing some large monochromatic sheets, like I had done last year with smaller pieces. Yellow and red were the colors I chose and planned to mix orange. Orange is the only secondary color that I have had consistently good results mixing for marbling.  Those were the plans, anyway!

The first sheet I pulled had some line problems, the second caught a big air bubble, the third developed alum striping — and on and on it went.  I know it had been a long time since I had marbled, but this was ridiculous. Of the eight or ten sheets I pulled that first day, only one or two were good.  On top of that, I wasn’t really happy with the color combinations.  The second day was a bit better, but still way too many sheets that had major flaws so on the third day I threw in the towel on my plans, moved to a smaller tray with smaller paper and grabbed the metallic paints and colored paper.  A background color can disguise a lot of problems!  Things started going more smoothly and I began connecting to the marbling, but I was still frustrated.  What I need right now are large perfect sheets, not more small ones. At the end of the session, I started playing.  Maybe that’s where I should have started.  Here are some pictures of the good, the bad and the ugly!

It’s turned really cold (0* to 10* above) again, so I’ll have to wait for another attempt.  Here’s hoping I’ll be right in the grove and pulling perfect sheets every time!

In the meantime, I’ve been playing with some boxes.  They are based on the clamshell box used for rare books and for archival storage. This is the first one I’ve finished.  I’ve inlaid one of the pieces I enameled last year on the cover. The inside is a four-sided box (book boxes only have three sides) lined with black velvet.

I’m planning a lot more of these as I have quite a few enameled pieces and other treasures for the covers.  I just hope people like them!

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Tigers by Design

Last blog I mentioned wanting to do a book cover from some tiger patterned paper that I had.  Here’s the paper:DSCN5377It’s a long, narrow piece and I was thinking about making a very small book with just one or two tigers on the cover. As soon as I started to think about size, I realized it would never work.  Even a small book needs at least 1/2 inch turn-in on both top and bottom.  This is what the cover would look like after a normal 3/4 inch turn-in. DSCN5378 Not really what I wanted.  I can use it for endpapers, so I revamped my thinking and started looking for paper to use as covers. I found a piece of my marbled paper that goes quite well with the purple, so even though it’s not at all what I’d planned, I’m happy with the combination.

Since it’s easier to do several books at a time, I had to go on a hunt for more papers that I could become excited about.  As I sifted through stacks of paper, I came up with the following pairings.  For a change, I found good matches quite quickly.  Only the airplanes gave me a hard time, but I like the final choice.

It feels a bit strange to reverse the normal place of cover papers and marbled paper.  I like to emphasize my marbling and give it pride of place and covers use less paper than the endpapers, so I can use pieces that are too small to be inside.

I don’t know what size these books will be.  I’m thinking of trying some larger sizes for the gray-toned papers.  The largest size I make on a regular basis are 7 1/2″ x 5″, so maybe I’ll try 8″ or 8 1/2″.  I can’t do anything taller than that because of the size of my printer.  It depends also on the size of the text paper.  The sheets I start with are roughly 18″x 24″, direction short, making great 6″x 6″ pages.  I’m tired of square books though.  I frequently change my mind once faced with the text paper and having to study the cover paper to see exactly which pattern would fall on the front center.  All over patterns are so much easier than larger, poster type papers.

I may even start cutting tomorrow, I may not though!  I’m sitting watching the snow fall – very gently, but it is getting deeper.  I’m glad I don’t have to go anywhere farther than my studio!

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Metallics Revisited

Last February I blogged about using metallic paints. Since then I’ve played with them a bit, but a few weeks ago I decided to do some more playing and experimenting. I’m finally getting around to writing my promised blog. This time I didn’t waste any effort on white paper and only used dark colored backgrounds.  Most of the paper had deep rich tones to set off the metallic. The only metallics I used this time were gold, copper and pearl.

Here are some of the results:

Here’s what I’ve learned.  The metallics need to be dropped near the end of the sequence to have the biggest impact. The more they are manipulated, the more they tend to fall apart, but dropping them last can lead to globs that are too large. Next-to-last seems to be a good place for them.  Some, like pearl, can be dropped earlier as it “stretches” without granulating.  Metallics show up more if dropped with colors that have a high contrast, for example dropping gold with purple, rather than yellow.

I love making marbling patterns that are very intricate and fine-lined.  This doesn’t work as well with metallics. They seem to need larger areas to turn from orange to copper or grey to silver.  I don’t particularly like a lot of shininess in my work, but I do like just a hint of something, like the hidden sparkle of a bit of mica hidden in a dull stone rather than the brilliance of a cut diamond. In the past I used Golden color called “Micaeous Iron Oxide” which does just that.

Here’s an example

Large Black

Large Black

All of the paints I’ve been using recently are Golden fluid acrylics.  I really like the intensity of color they provide.  Just this past week I visited the Golden factory which is located in a very rural part of upstate New York. The trip was organized by the Penn Yan Art Guild and there were six artists who participated.  The history of Golden is very interesting, having been a family company and is now owned by its employees.  We were given a tour by Emma Golden, granddaughter of the company’s founder.

Emma Golden

This is the area where all of Golden’s color cards are hand painted. Employees walk up and down the black easels painting one color on dozens of cards at a time.

Golden barn

This is an old barn that has been remodeled into housing and studio space for the Golden Foundation‘s Artist program. It’s a beautiful location.

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