Saturday, February 20, 2016

Ballpoint Crosshatching Swap - due Feb 29th

Joanne is hosting a postcard swap which will feature art made exclusively with ball point pens.  The usual rules apply:
  • make as many as four cards
  • adhere proper postage to the card
  • include one mailing label per card in your envelope
  • mail your art no later than Feb 29th to: 

Now read on for the wonderfully helpful swap description that Joanne prepared!


A few weeks ago, during my volunteer shift at a local food shelf, I had about an hour to kill. All the required administrative work was done, and the foot traffic was light, so I decided to create some art. Problem was, I hadn’t brought my usual art stuff. However, I could open the drawer at my desk and use whatever was there. And that’s what I did. The result was “Mona Office Supplies,” which was what got me thinking about this swap.

Ballpoints are everywhere, and they are probably the only art supply in which expensive is not necessarily better than cheap. Some of my friendliest art ballpoints came from the dollar store, or were promotional ones that businesses gave out free. However, it’s nice to overlay different colors on top of each other (blue over red, for example, to appear purple), so unusual colors can expand your effects, also.

To your pens!


“One of my artist friends once said, ‘I think drawing may just be an excuse to do cross-hatching.’ He’s right -- there is something oddly soothing and meditative about drawing rows and rows of parallel lines and then layering on perpendicular lines, lines at an angle, and so on. It seems to use only a small part of your brain, less than Sudoku or across puzzle, more than thumb twiddling, so it’s a perfect doodly pastime while talking to friends, watching TV, or sitting on a commuter train.” 
  -- Danny Gregory, from his book Art Before Breakfast.

Crosshatching lines can be drawn close together, or far apart. They can be made slowly, with deliberate pressure, creating dark, thoughtful lines. Or feathery fast --  with a light, dusty hand, barely touching the pen tip to the paper. You can use a single layer for emphasis, or overlay multiple layers (one on top of another, on top of another, on top of another . . . ad infinitum) to build up rich layers of tone. In addition, you can use paper masks (such as sticky notes) to create straight lines, or specific shapes as you draw.

Here are some patches of hatches:


Get your ballpoints ready! (NO gel. NO felt or brush tip. Boring, ordinary ballpoints)
Do some practice crosshatches on a piece of scrap to determine which pens work best, from your collection of widths and colors. (Set aside those that skip or blop, unless you deliberately want an unpredictable effect.)
Select your substrate. Any color paper will work, although smooth-surfaced, medium-weight is best (smooth Bristol board, mixed media paper, illustration board, cardstock, etc. Anything made for pen and ink. Some papers such as watercolor and some index cards are too soft to withstand the rigors of crosshatching.)
Create your artwork, whether realistic, impressionist or abstract. Feel free to apply whatever mixed media techniques or minor embellishments that the piece absolutely can’t live without (here’s where you can add your gel pens), but keep the focus on the ballpoint work.


Here’s one possibility, but it’s not the only one. I started this modernistic “Pica-Matisse” mug (Picasso + Matisse) by making different toned blocks of hatching on a piece of cardstock. I added some double-sided adhesive film to the back of each piece, and then cut out (freehand) and affixed each mug shape, one at a time. It was a bit nerve-wracking, knowing that there would be some wonkiness in the final product, but it was freeing as well.


A. Why no gel or fiber tip pens? Ballpoints act much like a pencil, in that they can give a varying line, from very whisper light to dark, heavy, and indented. Gels and fiber tips, due to their ink flow, give one line, regardless: HEAVY. While they can work for art, of course, the focus here is on pens that can produce both light and dark shapes. That means your boring, ordinary ballpoints. You probably have dozens at home already. Go, get them out.

B. A ruler is optional to make your lines super straight, but don’t overlook the character inherent in freehand “straight” lines, too.

C. When hatching, you may want to use a tissue periodically to wipe off the end of your pen, especially if it “blops.”

D. Some ballpoint inks can bleed if water or other sealants are applied on top. Know how your ink behaves before applying.

Also, ballpoint inks may not be archival, and thus may separate, bleed or fade over time. It’s best to keep ballpoint cards out of direct sunlight.
For additional information, do an Internet search for “hatching,” “crosshatching” and “ballpoint pen art” (especially the British artist, Andrea Johnson). 

This realistic artwork (on pink cardstock) took about 45 minutes of gentle layer . . . layer . . . layer, with about 10 different color pens (including, at the end, a small amount of white and black gel pens for the highlights/darkest shadows). In this case, I rounded the hatches (instead of making them stick-straight) to more closely follow the marks on the apple.

Mail your cards, no later than February 29th, to:

Postcards using fabric - due March 7th

Cynthia Y has volunteered her hosting services for this swap.  (Thank you!  I'm always happy to recruit a new host!)

Create up to four postcards that incorporate some kind of fabric.
You can create an entire postcard from fabric if you want, or create a paper based card with a fabric accent.  Any style or technique is welcome!
Here's a fabric card Leslie made for a swap a few years ago.  The base is fabric and it has all kinds of cool stitching, trim and embellishments.

Remember that a fabric postcard might change your postage requirements, so I recommend checking with your post office before adhering your stamps.

As always, include return address labels in your envelope.
Get everything in the mail no later than March 7th:

Water color postcards - due March 14th

Christie is hosting a watercolor postcard swap.
Here's a card she created for the watercolor swap we did here in 2014:

(for more inspiration click here)

Swap Details:
  • create up to four postcards
  • You must use watercolors to create your art - be it liquid watercolors, pan watercolors, or water color pencils
  • The style and subject matter is up to you
  • View the new "helpful tips" page to review best swap practices 
  Mail them to Christie no later than March 14th:

Illustrated Letter swap - due March 21st

ILLUSTRATED LETTER SWAP - hosted by Joanne   

This swap plays with letters and typography

1. Pick a word to “illustrate.”
“Love,” “Hope” and “MMSA” are always nice, but you may have more fun with quirky things like “chef,” “sock,” “donut” or “Iowa.”

2. Decide how big each letter will be (somewhere between “playing card” size and “regular postcard” size).

3. Illustrate each letter however you choose.

4. Prepare a note and a suitable envelope for each swap partner. Note: Each “word” needs a separate mailing envelope (i.e., if you’re submitting three words, you need three envelopes, since they will go to three, different addresses.)

5. Affix the correct postage. Lumpy, large or very stiff letters may need a padded envelope, or extra postage. Check with your post office if you’re in doubt. Include your return address on EACH envelope.

6. Put everything in each envelope as you will want them mailed, but DO NOT SEAL. I will need to photograph each word when it arrives.

My demo (“PENS”) was done on cardstock (probably the “flimsiest” type of paper that one should use for this swap), and are 3” tall, since that corresponded to the stencil set that I had. However, stencils aren’t necessary for this swap. If you have a computer and printer, you can print out letter “patterns” at whatever size you need.

  • You may create as many as four words (just make sure each word has it's own envelope)
  • Pay extra attention to postage as it may cost a bit more than usual if your letters are heavy or lumpy
  •  Make sure to include one address label for each word/envelope to create.
  • Put your envelope(s) in a larger envelope and mail to Joanne no later than March 21st.

Joanne McCabe
9965 208th St W.
Lakeville, MN 55044-8815

Color Bar postcards - due March 28th

Have you ever noticed the strange little squares and circles of color on the edges of packages?

They are known as registration marks or color bars and are used by printers to check alignment and color density.  They are so ubiquitous I no longer even notice them, but once you start looking you'll find them everywhere.

Doris had a fabulous idea for a swap - turn these little bits of color into a work of art.  Here's an example she created to give you an idea of what she's talking about:

Start saving those blocks now - you've got until March 28th to turn them into a postcard!

  • Create up to four postcards
  • Your art must contain the actual color bars cut from packaging (no fair printing examples from the internet)
  • It's okay to incorporate other media or images
  • Your design can be figurative or abstract, it's up to you

Mail your cards by March 28th to:

 Doris Donnerstag
213 Oakland Ave
Egg Harbor Township, NJ 08234
Questions:  email

(Reminders about postage and swap protocol can be found here.)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Stenciled postcards part 3

Four from Mary C:

One from Mary G:

One from Michele Y:

Four from Nancy C:

Three from Nancy S:

Two from Patti:

Two from Peggy:

Four like this from Phillip:

Four from Robert:

Four from Rose:

Four from Susan:

Three from Veebee: