Meditating on Love in my Altered Book

Be Love Altered Book pageI’ve been meditating a lot lately on self care/self love and love in general. I find that those who struggle with loving themselves have deep wounds that act like weeds chocking out our beautiful spirits.

These weeds obscure the sunlight of our authentic selves. We get scared to show who we really are because at some point we were told that wasn’t good.

We humans crave love – it’s our sunshine and nutrients for growing a healthy, confident, and joyful authentic self.

My new mantra is: Be Love – first to yourself & then to others

It’s necessary for us to practice loving ourselves so we are able to fully love others. We can’t honestly love someone else (without baggage) if we don’t first love ourselves. Sit with this thought for a while – what feelings creep or jump up?

Were you aware of just how important it is to love yourself?

Do you put yourself on the back-burner?

Do you have a habit of people pleasing? Do you get anxious if you think someone is unhappy because you haven’t sacrificed enough for them?

BeforeIt is only old programming and a habit to always put others first. That’s what is keeping you small.

You are important! You matter as much as anyone else! Your truth is perfect for you! You are beautiful!

Here’s something to practice with yourself first, then take it out to the world –

Joy is love exalted. Peace is love in response. Long suffering is love enduring. Gentleness is love in society. Goodness is love in action. Faith is love on the battlefield. Meekness is love in school and temperance is love in training.

How are you loving yourself today?

Adventures in Mask Making

imageThis is one of my favorite collages in my altered book because of the doll with the mask. She’s taken off her mask to reveal a luminescent face underneath. I haven’t written anything (yet) on this page but I know there is more to learn when I take off my mask.

I have been playing with masks for a very long time and I do consider it an adventure in mask making. Exploring the symbol of the mask and how we present ourselves to the world is truly a way to understand what our old programming is telling us.

Our outside face consists of the “good” person we were taught to be. Mine is made up of being the happy one that can mold herself into the best version to suit the situation. I always made sure that people around me are happy and to smooth over any conflict.

It was builtThis page I did several years ago as I explored the parts of my mask that felt as if they were riveted into my face. I’m sure that you can relate to some of the pieces that are a part of my mask.

Do you feel the “I should. . . “, “measure up”, and “you can’t do that”? Know that is just something that was programmed into you at an early age – it’s not the real you! This mask flows out of the judge part of ourselves that tells us we aren’t enough.

The judge/inner critic develops to protect us from being hurt. When we acted as our real selves growing up and were told that isn’t how we should behave it tore open our little inexperienced souls. To protect ourselves we instinctively grew a part of our mask to show our “good” selves.

It’s in the parts of us that we feel are ugly that we truly reside.  It’s the tender underneath parts we need to gently coax out again because that is where we shine! Here’s an example: I was always a talker in school which is due to the teacher side of me and that got me into trouble more times than I can count. Now I have a little voice that tells me that talking is bad and to be quiet. It’s a good thing my rebel side is stronger even though that is another “bad” part of me.

I wasn’t allowed to own any of my opinions growing up if it went against a certain authority figure. To this day I have trouble voicing my truth to men because that inner judge is still strong because I saw the wrath of trying to stand up for myself. This is one reason why I am very grateful for my boyfriend because I can test out my true voice with him and I am safe even if we disagree.

Self portrait - Cancer sucksThis is the self portrait that I did in my sculpture class that showed how cancer really feels. It was a deep contrast to my strong side. This time was really a wild contrast bumping into both sides.


There are many ways to explore your mask. I have used a plastic mask you can buy at a craft store many times as symbols in my art.

masks 001Here’s on I painted on using colors that felt right to me. On the underside I collaged power symbols that are within me.

You can draw a mask on an oval to represent your outward self (like the one I did above) and label the parts you have conformed to.


If you’d like your exploration to be less obvious or you don’t have a mask to use do a flap in your book.

MaskMask 1

Start with your background on a page. I used my bottles of distressed ink and then stamped all over with a rubber stamp in the same colors. You really can’t see that on the page anymore and that’s ok. When you start with the background it gives you time to get into your page like a meditation.

I used a piece of card stock as my “mask” and collaged my outside self on it. I decided where I was going to tape it down and then collaged around it.

I taped the flap down and then collaged my inside self underneath the card. I wrote a note to myself on the backside of the card. I found that my outside and inside are looking more alike these days as I practice being true to who I really am.

It started a long time ago as I identified the differences between my outside mask and who I really am. After I really looked at the parts of my mask, I could start to practice being supportive to those “bad” parts of me. We tend to shove a lot down especially if we aren’t validated as little kids. Unpacking these tender parts is emotional because it can bring up painful memories. Once you bring them out, and be a witness to the scars, the pain can flow away.

This process is simple to write down but doing it is hard because there are a lot of emotions tied up with these parts. This takes practice to validate yourself and honor these “bad” parts. Always do self discovery in baby steps and only what you can. It does happen in layers so don’t be scared that all your crap comes rushing out in a flood. I have been practicing being kind to all my parts for years and it does happen organically in baby steps.

DSC_0359Start with looking at your best parts and be really honest with yourself. Sometimes honoring ourselves feels like we’re bragging but that isn’t the case. We honor the truth inside us and the truth is that we are wonderful pieces of a beautiful universe.







Anatomy of a Page – How I Decide What’s Next

angel page explAfter not having any creative flow due to the “crud” last week I was excited to get back to my altered book. Here’s how I decide what to do next on my page. There are parts I really like and some I don’t – that will happen on most of your pages. That’s just how it goes so practice looking at your favorite parts.

This is a great exercise in noticing where your focus it – does it go to the positive parts or does your inner judge come out? If you can start here to focus on your “good stuff” then it will be easier to calm that inner judge that seems to be lurking around. This is a type of mindfulness – practice bringing your attention back to the moment and not get sucked into your internal dialog with your judge & victim parts.

imageI got some small spray inks to try them for the background. I like them but they are really messy. Spray in a box, on newspaper, or outside.

I got some that shimmer and they are very silvery. It’s pretty but hard to see because of the reflection. Solid colors may be easier to work on top of.

I sprayed it all over for background color – easy & fast.

imageimageI’ve had issues with stencils that are very detailed so I got really small daubers! I don’t know why it took me so long to figure that out!

If you have a detailed stencil use a small dauber and just a little paint. You may have to go over it several times with layers of paint, but it won’t squish under your stencil because there’s too much paint.

imagePut your dauber in the paint and pounce it on your pallet to get the excess off before you go to your stencil. It worked really good.



imageHere’s the stencil on the outer side of the left page. When you start your page, think of where you want to start your focus.

You can create a border around both pages, one page, or have your design start in the middle of the page spread.

Here’s some ideas for layouts:

Lay out of focal designs of page spreadDownload Lay out of focal designs of page spread



imageHere’s another stencil I wanted to use as a border.

I used the same dauber and this time it was too big.


I saw that I had pounced off the edge – so I made it part of the design.


Incorporating your “mistakes” into your page can really look cool – just go with it.

imageTo help the design look like I did it on purpose, I made circles with the dauber at the top and bottom of the page. I used a white gel pen to draw in the triangles, dot the over flow areas, and make accents on the circles.

White gel pens on dark areas are awesome. The pens are finicky and they dry out quickly. Just be patient with them and buy them in pairs so you have a backup.

I also used a lime green gel pen to make swirls and outline the green stencil.







imageNow I have a border so I’ll pick out collage elements.

I didn’t have any theme in mind when I did this and I grabbed the first thing I picked up.




imageI’ve saved this magazine page for several years and this was the time to use it. The angel project is a group of artists that paint large cement angels and display them.

I found more angel collage pictures in my stash and added those.

imageI tried outlining the photos and doodling but the shimmery spray was just too much to see the black very good.





imageI really liked how the white gel pen looked on the dark purple paint so I painted some circles that I could write on.

I didn’t really feel like writing a lot on this page so the circles gave me just enough room to write a little.



Angel pageI drew the triangle design in the one purple shape and wrote in my thanks. Glued in a pic of my Mom & me, and then wrote in both my mom & her dad’s names because they are both my angels.

That’s how I do my pages 1)Background 2)Focal design 3)Doodles 4)other elements in layers 5)more doodles

You don’t have to finish a page all at once – go back to it as you come up with ideas for it.




Seeing the lessons you’ve learned

Lessons learnedPeriodically I get an urge to write down lessons I’ve learned. Yesterday I got to thinking about what I’ve learned from both my sons. I wanted to celebrate what they’ve taught me in a page.

We learn all sorts of lessons from those in our lives. I’ve had to overcome a lot of negativity with some people close to me. I needed to celebrate what I’ve learned growing through a very poor self image growing up.

My soul wanted to experience a lot of situations that tried to make me believe that I’m not worthy, my thoughts aren’t correct, I’m a sinner, and a failure. Coming out the other side, I’ve learned that none of that is true. I’m very smart, a warrior, conqueror, my power is far from sinful, and I can choose what I believe is true. I trust my gut because inside is the only place I need to look for answers. My truth is perfect for me.

I am still learning to speak my truth and have an anxious reaction to any man that gets mad at me, but so be it. I am who I am – period.

We are the most beautiful when we are our true selves not apologizing for our deep authenticity – faults and all.

Warrior's Spiritwhat I learned in collegeHere’s a couple other pages of things I’ve learned.




It’s a great affirmation to write down what you’ve learned from your path so far. You just might be surprised at just how much wisdom you have.

Sponging and stenciling in our altered books

Sponging & Stenciling Altered Book pageHow about a sponging and stenciling tutorial for our altered book? That’s what I thought this morning.

Sponging is really fun and messy. You can use this in your altered book, on your walls, or paint your furniture. The only real “rule” is to put on enough layers of sponging. If you aren’t “feeling” it, then put more layers on.

Use a medium tone color, one that’s darker, and one that is lighter. Any acrylic paint will do. I love the color selection of the craft paints in small bottles and the price is right at about $1.00/bottle.

sponges You can get a pack of sponges from the craft store or in the paint section of a big box store.

All sponges will have a different texture and look when you sponge.



sponging in altered bookI picked a page spread that I had already colored with Distressed Stain from Tim Holtz (Michael’s Craft store).

Tin foil makes a great pallet and you just toss it when you’re done.

Blot your sponge in paint and then blot on your pallet to get some off. It’s better to use less paint in each layer and then paint more layers instead of big gobs of paint.

The first few layers you do may not appeal to you – keep going!

su 3Here is a layer of metallic blue and then a layer of brown.

When I say layer I am referring to you pouncing your sponge in a random pattern until the paint is gone. Then you get another color to go on top and in different areas.

Do your medium color, then some dark, some medium, some light.


su 4The picture is a little reflective so it’s shiny but here is about the midway point on my page. I’ve got all the colors on and I’ll do more dabbing lightly with colors for accents.




page 9No that I’ve sponged enough, I’m going to stencils with gesso. Gesso is thicker than paint so the image will have some texture.

I’m using a pallet knife to scrap the gesso on. I like using a pallet knife to get enough gesso in the stencil.



page 8Here we go. . .page 7

Spread the gesso all over the stencil. Some got off but that will just add to the page.



page 6And here’s what it looks like.






page 5Now I’m going to use another stencil with paint and the pallet knife.

You can use your washi tape to hold your stencil in place. It’s good because you can pull it right up so nothing sticks on your page.



page 4My page was warped and bumpy so it was harder to scrape the paint on.

page 3It turned out messier than I wanted so I’ll let that dry and use the stencil again on top.




page 2I’m going to stencil with a sponge and a lighter color so the flowers are sharper. The darker color underneath will act as shadows because they bleed out behind.

Using a sponge and pouncing off some of the paint before using it will make sure the paint doesn’t squish under the stencil.



sponging pageI put a little blue on the edges of the light color I stenciled for detail.

I have a pretty cool background page now.









Steps toward learning from bat-shit crazy life lessons

doodle“I believe we have two lives,. . . The life we learn with and the life we live after that.” I doodled over who said this but it’s from the book, Something More by Sarah Ban Breathnach. This is the current book I’m altering.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about learning from my life experiences and I have done many art journal pages cataloging those lessons. Today I started thinking about the saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and other things that are said to help someone in a difficult situation.  I realized that it’s true but it doesn’t help anyone actually get through the difficulty. We’re kind of stuck with knowing this end result but have to reference how to get there and what “stronger” even looks like.

Self portrait - Cancer sucksThis is what my cancer journey looked like to me and it shows the two juxtaposed lives I was living. Brave on the outside and fucking scorched mentally, physically, and emotionally. My spirit helped me to keep the brave face on because I knew I would be stronger on the other side – but what does the other side look like? What do you do when you’re in that dark tunnel (of any really hard situation)?

in the room (1 of 1)

I didn’t know just how meaningful it would be for me to be in college (when I signed up) as I went through treatment. The physiology/counseling classes and art classes really helped me adjust to this new experience. My art therapy classes were worth all the college debt I have now. I learned to express myself through symbols and creative experiments. My art got deep and brought out “stuff” I was trying to push down. I was able to purge my fear and anger so I could get to that stronger place.

I want to offer what I learned about going through those stop you in your tracks, bat shit crazy, WTF situations you will encounter in this life.

The first thing I had to do was shift my mindset from “why is this happening?” to “what am I suppose to learn about myself as I go through this?” We all fear the unknown and losing control of our lives and if we shift from a why mindset to a I’ll learn something mindset it gives you back some kind of control. Ok, it will give you the only control you have – your reaction to a situation.

StressSymptoms-2We can go back to the stress diagram and how we process life & stress. If we just let stress & our situation rule over us we will go down a rabbit hole of unhealthy ways to cope.

Question 1: How do you cope with stress & the WTF times in your life?

Journaling or collage your answers. What you should be looking for are triggers that give you that bad whirling in your gut and how you have learned to react to those triggers.

Question 2: Have these situations come in my life before?

Instead of asking a blank “why”, get specific and ask yourself about your reactions. This helps you to take back your power. You can control your reactions with practice when you focus on learning about yourself. We tend to repeat the situations we need to learn from over again until we understand the lesson.

inks 6Along with your triggers and reactions, start checking your expectations. Our society has an unhealthy obsession with a comfortable life filled with stuff. We’ve lost the meaning of why our souls came into a human body – to learn.

Think about school – there was some fun in between the learning. You need focus and practice – baby steps year after year. There is good times mixed with sometimes boring & sometimes icky learning. Just like life.

If we expect life to go a certain way and hold on tightly to those expectations, it’s going to be much harder for us to shift our mental focus to learning.

Question #3: Are my expectations of what I can/should do realistic? Are my expectations of what your life “should” be realistic? Are you too stuck in this way of thinking to move through this lesson? Are you too hard headed?

While you are digging deep please please remember to be compassionate with yourself! Talk to yourself like you would your best friend. There is no real reason to be hard on yourself.

The more I learn about myself, the more I like what I discover. I know you will find that too.



Mosaics in your altered book

pintrest inspriationHere’s a great page from Pintrest that I really liked. Mosaics with a black background. Randomly cut up scrap paper and glue it down on black scrapbook paper.



mosaicHere’s mine. I couldn’t find any black paper so I used gray. It’s not the same but it worked for this page. I’m going to paint a page black so I can do another mosaic.

I went with rectangles & squares. I cut up a bunch from 2 magazine pages with interesting color/texture. You can use the pages as “paint” for their color and design.

I was going to use all the magazine pieces but I found the little woman image so I used that in there. I saw that the key sticker fit perfectly and then I found the “believe” image.

Here’s a design tip I learned in my painting class – make “lines” on your piece so the eye has a path to follow. I put a diagonal line of the silver balls and there’s a “line” created by the images and the bottom of the pot in the silver balls on the left hand side.

Altered BookYou can see the path on the right side page that goes from the top of the page down the middle with all white images.


You DO NOT need to stress about your pages having direction – It actually starts to happen subconsciously after you practice making pages. You can look at what you’ve already done and there will probably be a path you made without thinking about it.

I’ll pop in some techniques I’ve learned in college here and there, just for fun. You are not getting graded and you don’t have to follow any techniques.


How you can get the most out of Pintrest inspiration.

Altered Book Spread When I finally jumped on the Pintrest bandwagon, I fell in love. I now have a wealth of inspiration at my finger tips. On the other hand, some of the projects are way beyond my experience with the media and I become intimidated. How can you get the most out of Pintrest and make projects your own? Here’s how I do it. . . .

Inspiration is a key word, not copy. This altered book is all about your inner art and your creative style at this exact point in your life. At this point in my life (because I’ve been practicing & playing with my style),  I’m more confident translating inspiration into my style. Here’s my process:

Balzer DesignsDonna Downey page(These beautiful pages are saved under the artist’s that did them)


Full Tilt Boogie journal pageThese are the pages that I have pinned on my altered book board on Pintrest. What I really liked about them was the vertical stripes and using Washi tape. I really like the magazine page that’s ripped and glued down with spaces.

When you look at a piece that someone else did and you really like it, take some time and identify what specifically you like about it. Is it color, texture, the media that was used, the pattern, etc. . . Look deeper into yourself so you understand what makes your creative part sing.

I just love the page above done by B-Kay (Full Tilt Boogie journal page) because of the music page, red & black, and the tickets. I started my page by getting out my Washi tape and collage stuff with the scrapbook paper printed in stripes.

imageI start out with everything that I think is interesting or that “may” work.

When I do a collage, I spend a lot of time just playing with the placement of the pieces. This takes time and this is exactly where your style comes in – how do you want your stuff on the page? Which things make it onto the page and what goes back in your stash.

The more you practice the more confident you become in picking what works.

imageAfter playing around I wanted the tickets to overlap the paper & tape so I put those down first. The tickets went on next and I worked from left to right.

The playing process doesn’t stop until everything gets glued down. You may change your mind about different pieces until you finish the page.

Your process is part of your style. Do your creating however and wherever you want. How you do what you do is an important part of your authentic style. As you become comfortable creating your authentic style, you’ll find that you become more comfortable being more authentic away from your altered book.

Your art comes from a deep down place that needs encouragement to come out because it’s probably been hurt at some point. If your old programming comes from a need to please other people (and put them first), then this authentic part of you was told to be seen & not heard at some point. My old programming is deep when it comes to not voicing my opinion and it’s only been in the last few years that I’m really beginning to trust my wisdom. Just know that it takes practice and baby steps to take back your truth and stand firm in it.

Altered Book SpreadHere’s my finished page and I love it. I do have a large paper cutter that really helps with my art. I don’t think they’re too expensive.


When do you know it’s time to alter your collage?

Altered Book spread 2 miracles in 1I’ve been passing this page spread since I made it and it still didn’t seem “right” to me. There was something that I just didn’t like so after a month of not liking it, I knew it was time to alter my collage.

In a previous blog I wrote about the creative process-how your project starts out great in your head and there’s a lot of excitement. As you start your project it might take a different path than you expected so you start to not like it. . .

the track of a projectAs I create my art (bead embroidery pieces, paintings, and collage projects) there is always a time that I really don’t like what I’m doing. I finally realized that is part of the process and your creation is still developing.

Think of fetuses – they’re pretty ugly until they’re fully formed. What you are creating isn’t fully formed until it’s done. If you don’t like what you’re making just remember that it’s part of the creative process – DON’T STOP. Your creation just needs more time.

That being said, if you sit with a piece and it just doesn’t feel right after you have done all you want to, it may need more or different stuff. If you aren’t satisfied with your page (and it’s not just your perfectionism/inner critic buzzing in your ear), then changing/adding/subtracting is needed.

imageThis is the page that really bugged me. I didn’t like the dress form and the red & green tag. I liked the post card, vintage picture from my hometown Baraboo, WI, and the home letters. I was so so about the clock.

I went to my stash of magazine cut outs to find something that would cover the upper 1/2 of the page. I also took off the red & green label which pulled off some paint & the page.


page redoI found an image from a Sommerset Studio magazine, some transparent stickers of vintagy butterflies, and a transparent sticker of script. I also used key stickers for hands on the clock. I also changed the words on the other page and added a butterfly sticker next to the bear that matched the other stickers.


another page redoimageimageHere’s another page where my experiment of smearing some of the ink on my doodles went too far. I didn’t get upset, I just collaged over it, outlined the flower heart in black, and put “The Glee of getting Mad” on.

The moral of the story is: 1) Sit with your pages to make sure they are fully formed or need more attention from you. 2) You will like parts of your pages more than other parts and that’s ok! 3) This book is to make you happy so look at your pages as if they were done by your friend and not with an overly critical eye. 4) Trust your gut!

Vaseline in Your Altered Book!

Background page with VaselineI use Vaseline as a resist on my canvases and it works for your altered book pages too!! A resist is something that prevents your paint from sticking to the surface you’re using.

Start by collaging some magazine photos on your page. I used the slick pages so the Vaseline will wipe off easily.

Use images that have a good overall design instead of detail because most of it will be covered up. I was drawn to the colors of the pinks with the oranges of the lighting.

Altered Book background pageI put Washi tape around the edges of the lightening image and then put the strip of the pink glass on top.

Now get a small amount of Vaseline on your finger and wipe it from top to bottom in stripes. They don’t have to be perfect at all – make them uneven.

You don’t need much Vaseline – just a thin layer so it won’t be hard to wipe off later.

Altered book page

You can see the shiny area where I have the Vaseline. After you paint on top, the paint will stick to the area without the resist (Vaseline) and it will wipe off where you have the resist.



Altered Book page


Now brush on some paint. Top to bottom in a thin layer (so it covers your image). I used a large flat square brush to paint the page. The flat square brushes are good for painting large areas.



Altered Book Page

As it drys you’ll see the paint start to crack & pull away where the resist is. I used a hair dryer to speed up the process. Note: the Vaseline won’t dry.

After it’s dry, use a kleenex or toilet paper to wipe off the Vaseline. Go from top to bottom in “strips”. Do this gently and not with paper towel (too rough). You do need to get as much of the grease off as possible. Just go slowly and don’t scrub.

Altered Book Page

This is what you will end up with. After I wiped all the greasy off, I painted on a coat of acrylic matt medium (Golden brand that you can get at a craft store) so it will be easier to work on. I thought it might be still a little slippery to glue & write on.

Don’t worry if you don’t have matt medium – just make sure it’s not slippery.

vasaline pagevasaline page 1So here’s how my spread turned out. I used Washi tape on all the outside edges for continuity between the pages. I also used the same paint colors on the left side so they coordinate but not match.

If you doodle on your paint – use a thin tip Sharpie so it sticks. You may ruin the marker because it is hard to write on slippery surfaces. I keep a piece of paper next to me to scribble on when the marker dries out. I find a light pressure when writing on slick paint works good with the marker also write on different parts of the point.

Always keep in your mind that these pages don’t have to be done quickly or perfectly. You can do one page per week (or longer) if you want. One good thing about writing on slick paint, you can wipe it off if you don’t let your design set up. I wiped off two different areas on this page before I doodled what was comfortable for me (circles).

Have fun and work at your own pace. Don’t compare your work with anyone elses’ because you have done something wrong if it looks just like another page you see (it’s not your authentic self shinning through). You also don’t have to work outside your comfort zone either. Doing this book is outside what you’d normally do so keep it comfortable by using colors you “always” use or find the colors you want to always use. I use the same colors & doodles over and over again. This book is for discovery but also comfort. Be comfortable when you can. Be safe and be loving toward what you do.