small gifts, great love

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you” (Luke 6:36-38).

Where else in the New Testament does Jesus speak so intimately to each of us? None of us has the same opportunities to be merciful, to love, to forgive. Jesus gives each of us different talents that match the role He assigns us. Talents come in as many varieties as there are people, and all are equally important to His perfect plan. But we must use our talents to do His will by giving away gifts we design from our own passions and from our own desire to give. 

A smile is a gift when it transforms a life. A prayer is a gift when it alters the direction of a soul. Wealth is a gift when it feeds a stranger. A word of encouragement is a gift when it lifts the spirit of someone we find hard to love. These gifts seem minor to us, but their weight is measured by Jesus alone. Our small gifts given with great love are just as precious to Him as a gift given by someone we hold high, like Mother Teresa, whose arms were a gift to countless children as she held them with their last breath.

Jesus places people of His choice, not ours, in our path for us to love. We must not waste the opportunity, but move forward according to this assumption, using our free will.

Our reward will be measured on its own and against no one else’s. We’ll recognize that our gift was considered great in Jesus’ eyes when the measure He returns to us fulfills the deepest desires of our hearts.

Once again, we learn that loving acts bring us the greatest joy! E.

from the heart

When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.”  (Matthew 6:6)

Ash Wednesday allows us to practice what Jesus taught as we observe this first day of Lent. We fast and receive God’s blessing with ashes on our foreheads to express our sorrow for offending Him. Jesus invites us to do this with sincerity, asking our Father for forgiveness openly and honestly, but from the inner rooms of our hearts. 

When He taught His disciples how to fast, pray and practice good deeds in a manner most pleasing to our Father, Jesus said they shouldn’t act like the hypocrites who made sure others saw them, so as to win their praise. The hypocrites received the praise they pined for, but that was it for them, Jesus warned, “They have received their reward.” 

When the praise of man is our only incentive to do good, then the praise of man is all we’ll get. On the other hand, if our acts are done from the heart with the intent that only our Father see them, a most excellent reward comes to us, “and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” What we receive from delighting our Father is lasting. Our recompense begins immediately with His grace and continues on for eternity—what could be better? 

Not everyone can distinguish sincerity, but our Heavenly Father sees everything. Let us humbly speak with faith to the One who knows of our hunger, hears our every prayer, sees our every deed, forgives us of everything and rewards us greatly. 


goldmine of possibilities

Mixed Media Art Journal, Handbound

I recently read a New York Times article about a hidden stash of valuable drawings found in the walls of Idahoan artist James Castle’s home. (James Charles Castle, 1899-1977).  The sketches were difficult to date because Castle would often hold onto his works for long periods of time, but they think they were created between 1930 and 1950.

It made me think of the dozens of papers, sketchbooks and journals I’ve filled and stockpiled away over the years. Not long ago, I unearthed a portfolio brimming with mixed media papers I’d created and was inspired to convert one of my found pieces of art into a journal. Once my first journal was completed, I envisioned all the possibilities for the remaining pieces in the stack – pieces waiting to emerge from their hiding place and be put into practicable use. 

I’m happy to report that many of my “reprocessed art” journals have been sold at local art shows, through my Etsy shop and by word of mouth.  While my works aren’t worth the thousands Castle’s is, the art I brought to light became a rich source of supply for me after returning to it years later.  Besides offering my journals for sale, I’ve come to love creating in them myself rather than in store-bought ones, because I love the look of the custom pages and can make them any size I want to take and create while traveling.

What treasure trove is hidden in your stash?  Now and again, return to your storehouse of color and texture to uncover your own goldmine of possibilities!


1.      From your stash, select the piece of art you want to use as the journal cover as well as the paper you’ll be using for the “signatures” (pages inside the journal).

2.      Decide on the size of your journal, and using a paper cutter, cut both the cover and signatures the same size. I suggest not using more than six pieces of paper (12 pages), as it will make it difficult to push your awl through.

3.      After combining and lining up the cover with the signatures, fold the assemblage in half and run the bone folder firmly over the fold.  With the book open, attach the binder clips to the top of each side of the stack to hold everything in place.

4.      With an awl, poke holes into the center of the assemblage; one approximately a half-inch from the top, another approximately a half-inch from the bottom and one in the center.  This allows the threaded needle to easily slide through.

5.      Thread your needle with a sufficient amount of ribbon or string, but don’t tie a knot in the end of your thread.  Insert your threaded needle into the middle hole, going from the inside of the book to the outside, leaving enough of a tail to tie a knot at the end of the process. Then you’ll go into the top hole from the outside to the inside, the bottom hole from the inside to the outside, and back into the middle hole from the outside to the inside. Tie the two ends together into a knot and trim the ends.


A piece of your artwork you’d like to use as your journal cover.  Choose something sturdy with a lot of texture, but not so thick that you can’t get your needle through it and the signatures.

A collection of various papers and/or fabrics for the signatures.

Paper cutter

Bone folder


Binder clips

Wide-eyed tapestry or finishing needle

Waxed bookbinding or burlap thread, sari ribbon or any type of string that will fit through the eye of the needle

Paints, inks, pens, pencils and ephemera for additional embellishing on your journal cover


Before assembly and binding, embellish your journal cover further by adding machine or hand stitching.  Use paints, inks, pens and pencils to add color and create marks.

Get creative with your signatures!  Think of the variety of papers and fabrics you can find at tag sales.  Get your inspiration from vintage books, interesting magazines, envelopes, greeting cards, wrapping, and packaging.  Shop the book section of thrift stores to find unique items to spark your imagination!

If you don’t want the signatures to be visible outside of the cover, cut them slightly smaller. If you want a jam-packed look, overflowing with ephemera, tags and stitching that will be visible when the journal is closed, cut the signatures slightly bigger than the cover.


oh, gouache!

Gouache Over Black Gesso in a Dylusions Art Journal

Deep in the lonely bottom shelves of our cherished arts and crafts stores exists what I believe is a supply often forgotten by the mixed media community.  This past year, I discovered the remarkable qualities of this hidden gem, not by mistake but by purposely setting out to research and experiment with this mostly overlooked resource.

Gouache, I discovered, is made of all natural pigments and is comparable to watercolor, but has a chalk-like binding agent added, which makes it opaque.  It’s similar to watercolor in that, unlike acrylic paint, you can re-wet it after it dries and it will move again.  In addition to its opaqueness, its pigments are intense and are highly reflective, and verily, who doesn’t want intense pigment?

Over the years, I’ve seen a few mixed media artists use gouache in their work, but as I learned, it’s used mostly by commercial artists in design work such as illustrations and the like. Traditional gouache has been around for over a dozen centuries, but today artists are using a somewhat new variation called, “acrylic gouache.”  Its highly concentrated pigment is similar to historical gouache, but it’s mixed with an acrylic-based binder that makes it water-soluble when wet and dries to a matte, opaque and water-resistant surface. Acrylic gouache differs from pure acrylic in that it contains additives to secure a matte finish.

Now, we all know that one of the biggest marketing ploys today is pop-up advertising following our internet searches for specific products.  Consequently, my online research for gouache produced a barrage of ads by various manufacturers, including Arteza. I gave in and ordered their artist’s starter set of 24 small tubes of acrylic gouache in various colors to see if I would like it, and I did so love it for many reasons!  First, the colors truly are intense and highly pigmented; the deeper tones dry brighter and the brighter tones deeper.  The matte finish is perfect for book art in that dried pages don’t stick together the way acrylic-painted pages do.  And layering with these paints was a dream, as each color maintained its original brilliance.  What a revelation for art journalists!


The work you see in this Stampington’s “Art Journaling” article was done in a Dylusions Art Journal by Ranger, which contains card stock, and was a perfect pairing because the page strength held up to the wet texture of the acrylic gouache.  Since I had read that gouache holds onto its original pigment even over a dark surface, I used the Arteza “Noir” for my first background.  Truly, the layers of color I added remained vivid against the jet black.  If you’re familiar with my work you know I love a white gel pen against a darker tone, and the gouache made it even more distinct.

All in all, my experiment with this age-old invention was revealing, and I’m now using it regularly to add incredible color to my journals, paper and linen canvases.


As always, prepare your pages with gesso before adding mixed media of any kind.  Use black gesso instead of white under black acrylic gouache to achieve a super dark background.

Patience is everything when it comes to dry time.  A white Uniball Signo gel pen will glide over a completely dried surface no matter what medium was used, while a wet or even damp surface may ruin your pen entirely.

Happy arting!


Gouache over Black Gesso on Cardstock

complete joy

Art and article published in a recent Stampington’s Art Journal magazine

Complete joy sounds unattainable in today’s world; after all, who really has it?  People do.  I’ve learned that joy doesn’t simply happen to us, but that we have to choose it, and keep choosing it every day.  “You will show me the path of life.  In your presence is the fullness of joy.” – Psalm 16:11

When it comes to art I think, joy rises to the surface in the present moment, when we let go and paint intuitively.  Once we stop adding rules of composition and such, we destroy our preconceived notions and begin to create solely for self-expression.

Normally I will approach my studio with somewhat of a plan, pulling up to my table with a clean open journal, a palette choice, a few chosen supplies and somewhat of a purpose for a thought-out page.

But this time, I had no plan, not even an idea of what might transpire.  Realizing this, I decided to take a fun approach to my creative session.  I threw a plastic tablecloth onto my studio floor, grabbed my largest storage box of paints and inks, my envelope of stencils and a large stack of watercolor paper and went to work (play!).

My back and forth method was about the extent of my plan, since I didn’t want my beautiful colors to turn into mud.  I laid down as many papers as would fit in front of me within reach and I started adding colors with my traditional and foam brushes.  While yellows were drying on one page, reds would go down on the next; blues on the next and so on until the first layers were dry and I’d start over again.  Stencils became a part of the next layer process and I was thrilled that I was using many of the supplies we as artists tend to stock up on but seldom use.  I pulled out my mark making tools and used them all.  What transpired on my pages were beautiful splats, areas of color and abstract shapes that cheered me on to make more.  Layers and layers ensued and within a couple of hours I was filled with the joy such an intuitive process had claimed to bring.


The journal that’s the subject of this article is one that came about during that expressive art session; one that looked quite different than any I’d experienced in the past. By the time I’d finished with my newfound process, I’d collected a nice stack of vibrant papers.  Wanting to bring all of that color together, I gathered them into a book, matching up pages that mingled well, joined them with masking tape, retaining their large, 9” x 12” size. 

Keeping momentum, I took a handful of writing tools; pens and pencils that had been sitting unused in pretty coffee mugs and clay pots.  Page by page, I began writing erratically, journaling to my heart’s content, not knowing or caring what might appear on my impromptu painted pages.  Jet black and stark white scribbles against such lively colors made my heart sing, and I realized that joy is what happens to us when we stop looking back, but actually remain in our moments.

“In introspection we try to look “inside ourselves” and see what is going on.  But nearly everything that was going on a moment before is stopped by the very act of our turning to look at it.” – C. S. Lewis


Put on your favorite music while you create and discover the difference it makes in your art experience.

Embrace layers, letting each session fully dry before going on to the next to avoid making “mud.”

Dip a large foam brush into three or more colors of paint for a fun, multicolor effect.

As a final layer, make dramatic marks using household items such as toothbrushes or hairbrushes dipped in waterproof, black India ink.   Use the dropper to your ink bottle to write out words and phrases.  Use different sized jar lids dipped in paint to create colorful circles across a page.

Use a water soluble, black Stabilo All pencil to scrawl out several lines of journaling and then spritz down the center of it with a spray bottle filled with water.

Use the opposite end of your paint brush, or a skewer to scrape off wet mediums you’ve already laid down.

she loves her flowers, but not in vases

Acrylics and Inks on Stretched Canvas

There’s no doubt my love of flowers and of painting them were great gifts from my beautiful Mom.  In the Summer, you could look out any one of our Michigan farmhouse windows and see rows and mounds of color reaching up toward the sun.  If you were lucky enough to have chosen the right window, you might see her bent down amidst the glorious color, weeding or transplanting her precious gifts.  She couldn’t get enough of the miracle of their growth and would spend hours in the sunshine along with the butterflies, tending to each variety of daisy, cosmos, poppy and zinnia, not to mention her enormous sunflower and herb gardens.  Hummingbirds regarded her as one of the flowers and would often perch on her shoulder and rest awhile.  

Despite my Mom’s love for flowers, we never had them in the house.  She kept them intact in the garden to breathe the heavenly air in their dwelling as long as God deemed fit.  Conversely, I’ve always loved a cutting garden and adore having fresh flowers in my home regularly.

I remember one of my last visits to the farm in late Autumn when my Mom still had her sight and could enjoy the late blooming orange marigolds that had persisted through Fall to keep her garden looking bright.  It was my birthday and as always when I pulled up into the yard, she was in the house at the kitchen table painting flowers.  She came out to greet me with open arms.  As I followed her through the back door and up the two steps to the kitchen, I spied a flower arrangement on the kitchen table amongst her paints and brushes.  She had picked them early and put them in a simple jar with curled ribbon.

“These miracles are for you,” she said.  I thought she had said “Miracles.”  “Marigolds, she smiled.”  She handed me the jar and I was overjoyed by the thought of her cutting her garden flowers especially for me.

She loves her flowers, but not in vases; trusts they’ll thrive from our Lord’s gazes.

I love my flowers in simple vases, with curled ribbon for special places.

She knows I do.

* * *

Mother’s Day love to you in Heaven, Mom. I miss you more with each new day. Thank you for your love and the gift of my life. Thank you for friendship, eternal and true.

Acrylic and Ink on Wood Block Canvas – 8″ x 8″ x 1 3/4″

unframed, a vintage art journaling course

UNFRAMED Introduction

In my first art journaling course Unframed, I disassemble and transform an old, broken, framed print into a hand-bound art journal, using as many of its beautifully aged components as I can creatively bring forth.

While dismantling the frame, I found it was stuffed with newspaper and some interesting looking cardboard as padding to hold the piece in place.  As I uncovered each layer, I considered how I could use the intensely aged elements in an art journal and I wanted to share the process with you.  

I created Unframed mainly to encourage you to be on the lookout for unconventional materials at antique and thrift shops that you might use to build and adorn your art journals.

In this course, I disassemble the frame, construct an art journal from its parts, prepare the pages and embellish a few of those pages with vintage elements and mediums such as acrylic paints, inks and pastels. 

I’m so grateful you’re here to share my first Teachable art course with me and I look forward to creating many more!



Register here!

painting al fresco

As I write this in late March, I ‘m savoring the early signs of Spring, taking in the abundance of visual material for my current project.  Trees are in full bloom, flowers are breaking through their buds, butterflies are soaring and fiddlehead ferns are unfurling en masse in our Florida backyard.  The anticipated season of warmth is delivering a flourishing scene of palpable shapes and colors to inspire me to get out of the house and create something as unprocessed and fresh as the Spring air.

There’s much more inspiration in nature than within the walls of a studio.  Uplifting images are everywhere you look and you can paint what you see instead of relying on your imagination or a concept in a book.  At our disposal are hues of quinacrodone red, pyrrole orange and chromium oxide green just the way God made them.  Authentic patterns and contours of plants and flowers become our models, their postures so genuine and true.

My intention was to paint a background of botanicals over a collage I’d created, incorporating the stark, cool tones of the Ixoras that had been flowering in our yard.  But what I ended up with was a girl donned with a crown of pink roses, inspired by the Madonna statue that kept diverting me, posing among the tall blooms.  The morning ultimately became sort of an unofficial, early May crowning; the only guests in attendance were the procession of insects, twittering birds and me with my easel near.

I pledged that day that notwithstanding Spring showers, I would leave conventional indoor painting for the cool season and continue to take advantage of our extravagant natural resources, where studio light runs solely on sunshine. E.

from my heart to yours

Love and hearts…I’m all about them!  When I create with my heart in prayer, love always follows, presenting a beautiful way of recording forever my conversations with God.  Leaving my heart on canvas allows me to return to my work years later and recall exactly how I felt.

Developing our creative talents challenge us to be who God intended us to be, but at times can be difficult, especially when our vision is unclear because our graces have run short.  But God is always near.  We’re the ones who turn away from His favors and inspiration.  By deepening our relationship with Him through the creative process, we receive the blessings of His gifts in the finished product of our work, every single time.

Marc Chagall thrived in nearly every artistic style and medium, yet he played against the same obstacles we do.  He said it neatly when faced with a blank easel, “If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.”

From my heart to yours…

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