What To Do When You Have Artist’s Block

Two Crows In Tree original watercolor painting by Laurel Anne Equine Art

Once again, I’ve let a long period of time elapse since the last time I updated this blog. I could make a lot of excuses about how I was busy with work, or being down because of winter weather, but the truth is I’ve had artist’s block. Artist’s Block is the sneaky little cousin of writer’s block that you don’t hear about as often because artists don’t write things down as much as writers do. Just like writer’s block, artist’s block leads to a lack of productivity as you sit in your studio looking around saying; “I should make something,” but you don’t, and slowly, time passes by and you haven’t created anything.

I wish I had a simple answer about what to do when you have artist’s block. I’m sure you can find tons of lists out there that tell you to do things like change up your routine, try a new medium, or do some freestyle sketching or doodling. I don’t have any advice like that. The advice I have for you is the advice I have been giving myself: it’s okay. It’s okay to go through a creative drought. It’s okay to go weeks or months without making anything. You are not lazy or wasting your talent. All artists go through periods where we’re not creatively motivated, it’s normal. Above all, we are artists because we love making things, and we should make things because we love it, not because we think we should. So don’t feel bad if you’re in a rut right now. Your creativity will return. In the mean time, enjoy those other things you didn’t have time for when you were making art!

Two Crows In Tree original watercolor painting by Laurel Anne Equine Art
Two Crows In Tree original watercolor painting by Laurel Anne Equine Art

How To Paint Chiffon Fabric Like A Pro: Another Craft Tutorial

Hi everybody! I’ve taken a few weeks off from posting because I’ve been on vacation. Being away was a fun and exciting change, but one of the first things I had to do upon coming home was to stencil the scarves for an order that was placed right before I left.  I’ve described in detail how I make the stencils for my scarves in an earlier post, but I’ve never gotten around to explaining how I use the stencils on the fabric itself, so that will be the topic of today’s post.

Stenciling fabric is very similar to stenciling on wood or other surfaces. The biggest difference between stenciling a soft surface like fabric and a hard surface like wood is the stability of the object. Stencilers working on a piece of wood or applying a stencil to, say, a wall usually use tape to secure the stencil to the surface. This is not practical for stenciling fabric for a couple of reasons. First, tape doesn’t really like to stick to fabric all that much. Once you get to applying the paint, the stencil will be moving around on the fabric causing your image to distort. Second, unless the fabric you are working with is stretched canvas, even if the taped stencil does adhere, the fabric itself is fluid enough to be moving around from the pressure of the brushes as you paint. The more light weight and sheer the fabric is, like my scarves, the more it tries to move around.

So we can’t use tape. what can we use instead? Weights! Usually, when I paint scarves I use a combination of pressure from my left hand and tile coasters (left over from that project I mentioned in “Three Musketeers!“) as weights on both the stencil itself and the fabric to keep everything from shifting around. With that, it’s usually safe to use the stencil brush on the fabric. However, my skills with this method were tested to the max this week when I tried my technique on chiffon scarves.

Chiffon is a particular weave of fabric with very thin fibers creating a kind of sheer veil that drapes well. Chiffon can be made of many different fabric types besides the traditional silk, such as polyester, and even cotton. I’m using polyester chiffon. Cotton chiffon is very difficult to find, and silk chiffon is best painted with fabric dye; the acrylic paint I use in my projects would wreck the smooth quality of silk, however, the techniques I am going to describe will work just as well with fabric dye on silk fabric

The chiffon I used was much lighter weight than the fabric I usually use with has a a larger polyester thread. As such, even weighted down, the fabric moved too much to be used with a regular stencil brush, and I substituted a regular paintbrush instead.

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Stencil brushes (left) versus regular paint brushes (right) The heavy technique used with the stencil brushes was too much for the fine fabric!

Using gently strokes with the regular paint brushes worked much better than the heavy scumbling of the stencil brushes.

The fibers of the chiffon fabric tend to channel paint along themselves. This creates a splotchy, watercolor effect. This can be very beautiful, but it isn’t what I had in mind for this project, so I used my paint sparingly and stopped short of the edges of the stencil.

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Painting the chiffon. Notice the up-down stroke I am using, this is working with the weave to reduce bare spots.

Working with this material was a great opportunity to practice new skills. To close, I have a short list of steps to help anyone paint chiffon like a pro!

  1. Make sure you are using the right brushes. Soft paintbrushes like you would use for art painting work better than stiff craft brushes.
  2. Use the right paint. Fabric dyes work well on silks but won’t penetrate polyester fibers. Conversely, acrylic paint works great with polyester, but will ruin silk’s softness.
  3. Weights are great to keep the fabric surface steady as you work. You can get creative with what you use for weights!
  4. Use a good work space. Make sure the fabric is spread all the way out, so that there are no creases or overlaps. If you can, the best way to do this is to set up a kind of screen so that the painting surface has nothing but air beneath. This lets you picture the final effect much better as you work. If this isn’t possible (it wasn’t for me) at least make sure that the surface you place the fabric on is wide enough to stretch all the way out.
  5. Paint with the weave of the fabric. This helps you get full coverage and avoid bare spots for a more even look. For a rectangle scarf you will probably be working long-wise, for other cuts, test a small area to which way goes easiest.

There you have it! Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or advice regarding fabric painting. Have a great day!

How To Design And Make Your Own Stencils: A Craft Tutorial

Stencils are an indispensable component in every crafter’s arsenal. They allow us to produce crisp and consistent patters again and again over a variety of surfaces. However, sometimes even amongst the vast array of commercial stencils, we can’t seem to find a design that meets our needs. The obvious solution is to design and cut our own, but how? I have been designing and making stencils for my work for the past 2 years now, and today I’m going to share all the tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way. Continue reading