Materials Monday: UHU Stic Glue Stick


A good adhesive is essential for any mixed media endeavor like the visual journal, and there are a great number of glues and tapes on the market. If you’ve been following me or if you’ve seen some recent posts, you may already know that I definitely prefer UHU Stic, and it is my go to glue for my journal and much of my mixed media work. I’ve been using UHU exclusively since I started journalling nearly twenty years ago.

I know a lot of people really don’t like glue stick, and struggle with getting things to really stick to the page, but I like the convenience of a glue stick. When used effectively, it works well to adhere paper, photos, and more in the journal and in mixed media artwork. UHU is a high quality glue that is non toxic, acid free, and washable, and it comes in several sizes. I always get the jumbo size — the 1.41 oz size, and I like the blue colored glue stick. Though it’s a deep blue in the tube, it dries completely clear when applied. The blue color is great for ensuring the glue covers evenly. The have recently redesigned the label on the glue stick, but it’s the same old glue.


The UHU is perfect for gluing in maps and movie tickets, newspaper and tracing paper, photocopies and magazine images, and a lot more. However, thick, glossy materials like postcards can be a little tricky, and it can take a little extra time and pressure to make certain that they stick. But it can be done. Like any glue stick, the UHU can be rather messy, and I always make certain to work on top of a scrap of paper when I spread the glue so that I don’t get glue all over my work surface or all over my pages. I find that the UHU is perfect for building layers of transparent media like watercolor, watercolor pencil, and marker. The only draw back is the glued pieces can sometimes lift up when they get wet, but almost any glue stick will do that. Many people like to use acrylic gel medium as an adhesive, but that’s best for mixed media that involves acrylic paints. I don’t use much acrylic in my journals, and the dried acrylic medium id difficult to layer on top of with watercolor and water-soluble pencil.


Unfortunately, UHU Stic Glue Stick can be difficult to find in local shops, and many big arts and crafts retailers don’t carry UHU in their brick and mortar stores. It can even be hard to find in office supply sotore, so I buy mine online. I usually buy a half dozen or more, since I go through them pretty quickly.

If you’re looking for a good glue stick, I recommend UHU Stic. Just make certain to use it effectively!

Journal Friday #94: Prepping a New Journal!


My current journal is getting rather full, and I have something started on every page. It’ll probably take another month or more to wrap it up, but I wanted to prep a new journal because there’s always a transition time when I’m basically working in both the old and new journal. So, I took time today to begin prepping a new Strathmore Hardbound Sketch Journal. There are several rituals that I go through to get a new book ready.


I always have a stash of stickers, and they’re great for decorating the outside of my journal. I tend to collect them, especially when I travel, and the cover of my journal becomes a document of a specific period in my life with the diversity of stickers. Today, I dug through my stash and found a few stickers to start the cover. I left plenty of room so that I can add more stickers as I collect them.


Inside Cover

After adding a few stickers to the outside, I turned to the inside front cover of the book. I like to put my contact information just in case I ever get separated from the journal. I also added the words “Initiated” and “Retired” so that I can add the dates of when I actually start working in the journal and when I retire the journal and stop carrying it around. I don’t like the word “Completed” because a journal is never really finished, and there are often pages that are left unresolved.



It’s always good to have a way to hold all of the fodder that I accumulate, so a pocket is always part of my ritual. There are a number of ways to create a pocket, but I used a separate piece of paper and folded tabs on the sides and the bottom. I attached it with glue stick. I usually make the pocket so it’s about half the size of a page, and glue it to the final page in the book. A pocket like this can hold a lot.



The final thing that I did to wrap up preparing the journal was to create a calendar in the back. I started on the front of the page that has the pocket and work backwards. That way I can add additional months as needed. I like to use highlighters to color code events and appointments. Despite using the calendar app on my phone, the calendar in my journal is my definitive one.

Besides working to prep a new journal, I worked on my Creative Prayer Book adding to pages using watercolor pencil. I love building rich layers in my journals.

Creative Prayer Book: More Layers

CPB WC Pencil 4.jpeg

Welcome to Lesson 3 of the Creative Prayer Book. So far, I’ve built a couple of initial layers using watercolor, pencil, and collage, and I’ve begun quite a number of pages in my small Stillman & Birn Alpha Series softcover journal.

Now I want to focus on creating some structure and texture using watercolor pencil, as a way to add more layers. I’m a big fan of using a variety of materials to create rich layered pages, and one of my favorite materials to use for this is watercolor pencil. The pencil gives me a lot of control, but with a little water, I get some nice painterly effects. Watercolor crayons can be used as well, and act in a similar manner.



I want to use the watercolor pencil in two main ways in my little book. The first is to create some structure using some simple geometric shapes — mostly squares and rectangles. Most people might think to color or shade in the shape, but I like to shade around the shape. This creates a “window” effect when I paint plain water over the pencil. I can use this technique on top of pages that already have something on them, but I could easily use the technique to start new pages. I could use watercolor paint or a water-based marker to activate the watercolor pencil, but I use them mostly use plain water. Feel free to experiment and explore the pencil.



The second way that I use the pencil is to create textures and patterns on top of my pages. I can trace stencils and items to create patterns, and I can use marks, dashes, dots, and more to create textures. Again I use water to activate the pencil, but I spread the water all over the marks to make them blend into the page.


As I work with the watercolor pencil, I also begin to think about the content that I want to include in my book. I’m envisioning my book as one of creative affirmations — words, phrases, and quotes that will be reminders and motivators for my creative journey.

I hope that you will experiment with watercolor pencils, and begin to think about the content, the prayers, the affirmations, the words that you want to include.

Happy creating!

Materials Monday: Metallic Sharpies


Metallic markers and pens are a wonderful addition to any mixed media tool bag, and I feel that they’re pretty essential to the visual journal. Who doesn’t love adding some sparkling flair to their work?

I’ve used metallic ink for a long time to bring emphasis and focus to my journal pages, and it’s ideal for highlighting words, lines, and shapes. Over the years, I’ve used a lot of different metallic markers and pens, and some I’ve loved and some I’ve loathed. Even the best, though, can have problems of drying out, clogging up, and blobbing ink.

Over the past few years I’ve turned Metallic Sharpies. They’re relatively inexpensive, easy to find, and pretty reliable. Sharpie also makes metallic paint pens, but I’m talking about their metallic permanent markers. The ink isn’t as opaque and shiny as some others out there, and the markers won’t draw and write on top of every material, but they work on top of most materials that I use in the journal. They’re great for adding embellishments and a little bit of extra pop to elements on a journal page, and I always have a few in the studio and few in my travel art kit. I do find that they stand out more, if you draw or write on a dark surface, or if you outline the marker with a black pen.

One really nice thing about the Metallic Sharpies is that they are less messy then many other metallic pens and markers, especially paint markers. There’s nothing like trying to get a paint marker’s paint to flow and ending up with a huge, unwanted blob of paint on your page. There’s no worry about that with the Sharpie since it’s a plain, permanent marker with metallic ink — no shaking, no pressing down the tip to get the ink to flow. Another plus is that the metallic Sharpies come in three distinct colors — gold, silver, and bronze, and you can often find them in a convenient 3-pack. I did notice that Sharpie has three new metallic colors, as well — sapphire, ruby, and emerald, but I haven’t tried them.

There is one major drawback with the Metallic Sharpies. They must be stored with the tip down, and I’m thinking that this has something to do with the metallic ink inside. I’ve had some metallic Sharpies that were just kicking around inside my bag all willy-nilly, and after a while, they just don’t write or draw well. They’re just not very metallic, and the ink appears clear. I think that this is an issue of the ink separating inside the marker, and storing them tip down, makes this less likely. Also, there is a little bit of bleed through with these markers, but not like with regular sharpies. Any bleed through is nominal, and it’s something that I can live with. I don’t know how well they would hold up on stand alone work, but overall, I like using these Sharpies in my journal.

If your looking for an inexpensive, yet effective metallic marker to add to your stash, I recommend the Metallic Sharpies — just make certain to store them with the tip down!

Journal Friday #93


I sat down this week, and took a look at a bunch of posts on Instagram with the hashtags #visualjournal and #visualjournaling. At first, I was struck by the sheer number of posts and the diversity, but then I was struck by how different my journaling approach is. That’s definitely not a bad thing, but unlike many people who use observational drawing or acrylic paint, I tend to use a lot of geometric shapes and transparent materials. Also, I tend to use mundane, personal fodder instead of magazine images or vintage ephemera. In the spread that I made today for the video, I used Derwent Inktense to build up layers of shapes and color, and I used lots personal fodder. I also used POSCA markers, which is a new material for me, and I’ve only been using them for a few weeks.

One interesting thing with the video, is that for some reason, the color was very off, and the purple Inktense pencils I used, look very blue. Oh well!

It’s always fun to make these videos.

Creative Prayer Book: Initial Layers


Last week I eased into my Creative Prayer Book with a variety of techniques using watercolor paint, so this week in Lesson 2, I want to build some initial layers on top of the watercolor. I’m not too focused on the content of the pages yet, so I’m only using materials and techniques that will add some structure, color, pattern, or texture to the pages. I’m avoiding anything with a strong image or content, and this will allow me to build up the background before delving into the meaning making. I want to add some drawing with pencil and some simple collage as a way to begin building layers..

Just like with the watercolor paint, I’m focusing on allowing the pages to flow from one to another, so I want to use lines and shapes to transition from page to page, so I wrap some of the collage around the edges of pages and repeat some of the same shapes from page to page. This helps connect the pages together, and helps tie the pages into a cohesive whole.


Pencil Drawing
Adding simple lines and shapes with pencil is an easy way to add more to the background. The value of the pencil is subtle and doesn’t stand out too much, allowing my marks to fade into the page. I like to use geometric shapes and lines, and rectangles, and straight lines add a lot of structure and help divide up the space of the pages. Circles and curved lines, on the other hand, help to add some variety and visual interest to pages. Feel free to use any types of lines, shapes, or marks that you want. Perhaps avoid drawing representational images, and keep your mars on the decorative side.


Collage is a big part of my journal practice, and I always have a pretty big stash of ephemera to use. Just like the pencil drawing, I want the collage to be somewhat subtle, so I don’t have anything with imagery. Newspaper, book pages, raffle tickets, maps, and colored paper all add some color, pattern, or texture to the pages without hinting at content or meaning. UHU glue stick is my go-to adhesive. I know some people have issues with glue stick, but when used effectively it works great. Besides, glue stick is the most appropriate for the materials that I use. A lot of people use an acrylic medium as a glue, but watercolor and watercolor pencil just won’t stick to the acrylic. Dig through your stash of papers and materials and find things that you want to glue in.


Try experimenting with some drawing and collage to build some layers on your pages, and don’t worry yet about what the content will be. We’ll get to that in future lessons, so have some fun building some initial layers and using up some of your fodder stash. Just like with the watercolor, work on as many pages as you wish, and remember that you don’t have to include the drawing and collage on every page.

Happy creating!

Materials Monday: Faber-Castell Graphite Aquarelle Pencils


I must say that I am a big fan of water-soluble pencils, and I’ve already confessed my love of watercolor pencil here on the blog. So, it’s no wonder that I include water-soluble graphite as part of my artist’s tool bag. These pencils work very much like watercolor pencil, but the just do it with graphite instead of colored pigment. You can use them in a number of ways like watercolor pencils, but I mostly draw and shade with them first, and then brush water over the marks. The pencils give me a lot of control, but with a little water, I get a nice painterly effect.


I’ve used many different brands of water-soluble pencils throughout the years, but I am currently using Faber-Castell’s Graphite Aquarelle Pencils. Faber-Castell is a maker of high quality pencils, colored pencils, pens, and markers, and the Graphite Aquarelles are no exception to this quality. They are a chunky pencil with a barrel that’s slightly larger than your average pencil allowing for a thicker graphite core. They blend beautifully with water, and come in five hardness grades — HB, 2B, 4B, 6B and 8B, allowing for a full range of value. Conveniently, you can get all five in a set, but if you were to get just one pencil, I’d recommend one of the darker pencils, either the 6B or 8B, since you can control the value by how hard you press.

Over the years, I’ve used water-soluble graphite in my journal and in stand alone mixed media work and  graphite drawings, and I’ve loved the effect in all instances. It’s easy to build up layers of graphite using all of the hardness grades, and this is one of my favorite ways to use them. I start with the lightest pencil — the HB, and establish a composition on mixed media paper painting over it with clean water. After it dries, I build up another layer with a darker pencil, and I continue with all the pencils to achieve dark, rich values. But the effect can be a little bit messy since painting over the graphite is never extremely precise, so I like to use regular graphite on top to make edges crisp and to even out values. The combination of water-soluble and regular graphite results in a rich piece. Of course, the Graphite Aquarelles work excellently in mixed media pieces as layers in with materials like pen, marker, and collage, and having the ability to spread and blend the graphite can lead to interesting effects. You can also combine the pencils with other materials, and the darker pencils are great to use with acrylic paint or medium as they will mix and blend with the wet acrylic.

Students experimenting with water-soluble graphite and white acrylic paint.

Overall, the Faber-Castell Aquarelle pencils are a versatile medium to use on it’s own or with other materials, and the selection of five hardness grades gives an advantage to Faber-Castell over some other brands that offer just one grade. The only downside that I can see is that by themselves, the pencils can be rather messy when brushing over them with water, but using them with regular graphite or other materials easily makes up for it. I never go anywhere without at least one tucked in my bag.

Please remember that I do not receive payment or any other benefits from the makers and manufactures of the materials that I share on Materials Mondays. These are materials that I personally use and enjoy!

Journal Friday #92


As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, my normal mode of working in the journal is one of small artistic acts, and for the first part of today that’s exactly what I did. I worked on one simple act — collage, and I spent some time gluing in a bit of fodder. I accumulate a lot of random things in my day-to-day life, and I sat down today and glued some of it into my book. Collage is great way to document life by including bits and pieces of everyday life, and it’s a perfect way to start new pages or to add to other pages.

I also spent part of the day making another time-lapse video. These videos are a lot of fun to do, and I’m looking forward to making more!

Thinking Thursday: Diminishing Ourselves


For years and years, I have taught a variety of hands-on workshops at a wide range of venues, and during that time, I’ve heard iterations of the same type of comment over and over. Now I belong to a few mixed media and journal groups on social media, and I’m consistently seeing variations of this same kind of comment. I feel like I want to take a little bit of time to ponder it and address it.

Over and over again, I’ve heard one person or another or I’ve read one comment or another that all start out in a similar vein. “Well, I’m not really in artist.” “I’m just a beginner.” “I don’t really know what I’m doing.” “I’m not talented like others.” These statements and others are usually said right before sharing their work or introducing themselves or offering a comment, and I just can’t help wondering why we feel the need to qualify our art, our words, and ourselves with these statements. What has made us so ready to diminish ourselves and the things that we do? We seem so willing to disqualify ourselves as if we don’t really belong in the conversation. Is it simply fear and doubt? Are we just conditioned to dim our own light? Why are we afraid to shine?

This isn’t something new, and I’ve pondered these ideas in the past in my journal and on the blog, but it’s something that is consistent — something that so many people struggle with and seem to utter at one point or another. Even folks that you think really wouldn’t feel that way, can feel exactly that way, and I just can’t help wondering why we make ourselves small — why we dim our own light. And I wonder what if we turned the narrative around, and spoke our truth with light and confidence. What if we stood tall, and allowed our personal truth to shine out of every inch of our bodies?

Life isn’t a competition, and art isn’t a race. It isn’t about who has more or who is better or worse, but we make it that way. We want to compare ourselves with others, and we seem to want to bury our faces and hide. What if we simply shared ourselves openly without qualifiers — without tearing ourselves down — without dimming our truth? In a way we set ourselves up for failure from the start. By qualifying the work that we do or the comments that we make with these statements, we set the bar low and brace ourselves against what is to come. Are we afraid that people will confront us? Are we afraid to be called out and ridiculed? Or is it just a matter of the Imposter Syndrome where we simply feel that we’re playing at making art and not really creating?

I know a lot of it has to do with confidence and self perception, and it might be boiled down to how we were raised and how we were praised. But why do we beat ourselves up over our creative endeavors? Why do we not claim this part of ourselves wholeheartedly and stand proud? Why does it seem shameful to share such an important part of ourselves?

So, I’d love to see more people claim their truth and question these ideas and beliefs. If you say that you’re not an artists, then what is an artist? If you’re a beginner, why do you feel like you need to qualify yourself with that. Why does making you a beginner make what you have to share, say, or ask any less valid than others? If you feel like you have no talent, do you really believe that talent has anything to do with speaking your truth? If you feel like someone else is better, how does that diminish what you have to say

It’s a lot of questions, because I don’t have an answer, I’m just asking folks to stop diminishing themselves and making themselves small.

Stand tall, and let your personal truth shine!

Creative Prayer Book: Getting Started with Watercolor


Welcome to the first lesson in the Creative Prayer Book. In this lesson, I’m using watercolor paint, but feel free to use whatever material you wish. My main objective is to simply engage the blank pages of my book and get backgrounds started on some of my pages using the watercolor paint. I want to get a good number of pages started, so I’m jumping around in my book and not worrying about trying to make finished or completed pages yet. I’m not even worrying about the prayers or quotes that I will eventually use. I just want to get started working in the book.

Depending on the number of pages your book has, you might engage all of your pages or you might focus on a certain number of pages. It also depends on how much time you have, but even if you only have 15 or 20 minutes you can get started on quite a few pages.


In the video, I only show a few techniques, but I am concentrating on trying to allow colors and techniques to flow from one page to another so that one page ties into the next. I can do this by using similar colors, lines, and shapes or by simply continuing what I did on one page onto the next. Use any techniques that you like, but below are a few to try that I show in the video.

Wash - A wash of watercolor paint is a light thin layer of paint. By keeping the color light at this point, it makes it easier to build layers later. It might be difficult to deal with dark colors later on as I draw, paint, and write to develop the pages further.

Blends and Bleeds - Two wet colors of watercolor will bleed together when they touch, allowing you to blend colors together to create gradients. This allows you to add some variety of color to your pages.

Splattering - By flicking the bristles with your finger, you can create tiny splatters of paint. This is perfect for adding a bit of texture to blank pages or to pages you’ve already started.

Found Stencils - Items like plastic mesh make great stencils for adding textures and shapes to your pages. By painting through the openings you can add subtle patterns, but with thicker items, you might have to use a stiff brush and tap the paint through the openings.

Layering - Don’t be afraid to go back and add color, brush marks, lines, and textures on top of pages that are already dry. You can create visually interesting backgrounds that way.

If you you’re interested in other techniques, try using plastic wrap, salt, rubbing alcohol, sponges, or string with the paint. Just experiment and have some fun with the paint as you create backgrounds, and don’t worry about being neat or tidy. Don’t worry about filling the page completely, and work on as many or as few pages as you wish. Just keep the colors on the light side so that you can layer and add in future lessons.

Next week, I’ll focus on adding collage and a little drawing to these pages and to blank pages as well.

Happy creating!