Monday, August 15, 2022

Life-Changing Tips, Techniques, and Advice

Hello StencilGirl Friends! I am Kristin Williams, the owner of Ephemera Paducah, an Art Workshop Space and Retail Store in western Kentucky. At the end of July, we hosted our annual Art Journaling Weekend — a fun event designed for art journalers to convene and share tips, techniques, and basically have no responsibilities other than to work on their journals over the course of three days. 

I love Art Journaling Weekend as it allows me to journal over the course of three days and learn new tips & techniques from really cool, talented, and kind people. 

I queried some of my art teacher friends for “Life Changing Tips, Techniques or Tools” to share with the attendees. Also, as a group, we compiled we shared during the course of the weekend learning from each other. 

In no particular order, here are the teacher and group Life-Changing tips: 

  • Have an ugly page? Stencil over it. Just cover that sucker with paint and start over. 
  • Love black or gold gesso through a stencil on Tissue Paper? It's delicious, right? Try Modeling or some kind of Texture Paste through a stencil on Tissue Paper. Life changing. Catherine Rains was posting about this a few months ago on Instagram. 

  • Mary Beth has recently been using Tempera Paint Sticks in journaling and shared that tip. They are a cheap, fun, fast-drying, and robust way to start a page. My favorite way to use them, aside from fun starting dots, (the hot pink and green "grass") was to choose a stencil with tiny holes and mush the gel through them. So satisfying and it achieved a great texture and look. 

  • Both Carolyn Dube and I like to use silicon scrapers rather than paintbrushes for mediums. She likes the Catalyst Blades, and I love the yellow Bondo Scrapers from Harbor Freight. It cuts down on wasting mediums and cleaning. Win-Win.

  • Dina Wakley suggested these Life-Changing Tips and I agree whole-heartedly:
    • Leave white space. One of the participants had lovely pages that had organic borders of about 2 inches of white space and it made for beautiful work. I strive to leave white space and love it when I do. However, often I fail…
    • OVERLAP elements to create cohesion.
    • Have a value change in your color scheme (lights and darks). One way to see if you have this is to take a photo of your work and then edit it to Monochrome. You will immediately see if you have value changes on your page.

  • Rae Missigman will scrape through any paint — watercolor included — with a skewer, chopstick, a stick from the yard, etc. while it is wet. Lovely marks occur!  
  • Did you know you can use a Gel Plate with Fabric? Yup. And then you can glue that fabric in your journals? Yup. No rules. Life-Changing. 
  • If you haven’t tried a dip pen since the Calligraphy portion of your High School Art Class (that was me) try them with some India ink or Acrylic Ink for mark-making. 
  • Show off your art! Buy a clear phone case and change it out with YOUR ART. Brilliant. 
  • I shared one of the absolute very best pieces of advice I picked up from an early workshop at Ephemera Paducah when Mary Beth and Pam Carriker taught. I asked, “when do you know you are done?” (With a page, painting, etc.) They answered, “as soon as you think you are done, stop. Walk away. Come back the next day and see if you still agree.” That advice has saved me from ruining some pieces I really like. 
  • Want to stitch through some painty pages in your journal? Take a thumbtack and a little piece of cardboard on the back of your page to pre-punch holes. This will save you from tearing up your pages. 
  • Need a quick focal point for a beautiful background? Fussy cut a photo of a model from a fashion magazine and then cover it with black gesso. Voila! 
  • Struggle with composition? Sit with a sketchpad and a favorite magazine. Rough sketch ads that appeal to you as those graphic designers know what they are doing. You will gain some muscle memory and begin to recognize why designs you like work. 
And, want to know the most impactful, best, most Life-Changing Tip? 

It's the most important one....

Cultivate an Art Tribe.

There is nothing like making art with friends in person, on Zoom, in a round-robin, in a Facebook Group — there are so many ways. 

At our Art Journaling weekend there was a table of Art Friends at the start of the weekend who meet up as often as they can — sometimes waiting years to see each other — and another table that became art friends over the course of the weekend who before leaving were creating Facebook Groups and sharing social media handles so they could stay in touch. 

It was beautiful. 

And that leads me to Life-Changing Events. 

I turned 60 in late June. I had a number of friends who made it a pretty big deal, let me tell ya. 

I knew friends were coming in from out-of-town and an intimate dinner was being planned for me (which included my favorites like a fancy cocktail called a Dirty Shirley, roast Turkey, dressing, fresh tomatoes, and Valerie Pollard’s Coconut Cake). 

What I didn’t know was that these busy bees conspired to make me a quilt. 

Isn’t it gorgeous??

They each received a Quilt Square (some did two) created by Rose Hughes from fabrics in Valerie Pollard's stash. They then spent weeks stenciling, stitching, embellishing, and making works of art to combine at a later time. 

I opened each Quilt Square at my dinner party in front of everyone and the Art Tribe got to see each others' work for the first time. The next morning I laid out the nine (9) Blocks and Lisa Visel stitched them together while we all had a morning art date. Rene Dees added the binding and Lisa finished it up with the quilting. 

Look at these. 

Mary Beth Shaw, Lisa Visel, and Valerie Pollard's beautiful work. 

Dianne Adams, Valerie Pollard, and Rene Dees blew me away. 

Rose Hughes, Allison Revetta, and Rene Dees' stitched masterpieces. 

Aren’t they gorgeous??????????? The thoughtfulness is overwhelming. The craftsmanship is superb. And the details like using my stencils, images of the shop, the 333 is the shop address, incorporating stitches I had taught them, and of course, commemorating the big 6-0 made for the most memorable birthday. 

Develop an Art Tribe. It’s the most important and impactful Life-Changing Tip I can give you. 




  1. You always have great tips to share! But, you are right—developing an art tribe is THE best! And you have helped cultivate that over the years with ephemera Paducah. Thank you so much for that! And happy 60th!!

  2. Great column, Kristin - thank you! And your quilt - what a special, beautiful gift showing how inspiring and loved you are - lucky woman!

  3. I completely agree about the importance of an art tribe. Life changing, learning and laughing!
    And, I second you and Carolyn regarding using silicon scrapers with mediums. They are so much easier to use, clean and not waste than brushes. Thanks for sharing all these great tips!

  4. The previous comment is from me. 🙄

  5. Such amazing tips, thanks for sharing☺️. Happy Birthday to you. The love in the details of your beautiful quilt brought a tear or two😢 - such treasured friendships touch the heart. Wishing you well where your future takes you ...Ephemerah Paducah was on my list of art destinations, but just a year or 2 too late🌞


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