Journal Pages for Dummies

This article first appeared in, written by Vicki Ross

I have achieved some abilities in fine art. I know which end of a brush to use, the quality differences of pigments, softness of pastel brands, how to mix oils…and apply any medium with some success…most of the time. This is the original portrait of Natalie and Blake, more interested in their ice cream and new shoes than what I was doing. The Phoenix painting in the back was a family project that everyone worked on and signed. Their great-grandmother initiated it and supplied the ice cream. Pastel, © V.N.Ross

 "The Young Twins", 24" x 20", pastel on Pastelbord, © V.N.Ross. Collected!

"The Young Twins", 24" x 20", pastel on Pastelbord, © V.N.Ross. Collected!

Mixed Media and all the products available for the craft and scrapper market are somewhat familiar to me because I am a child of the 70’s. (ok, 60’s-ish.) I have officially crossed back over! Not regressing back to macaroni on cigar boxes, but I’m learning how to meld new products into my fine art, and having a bit of fun on the way. Didn’t expect the learning curve to be quite what it is, though. Never do.

The subject of this article is about how many ways you can screw up a project and still come out OK in the end. Key take-away is to not give up. Most of these things never turn out like you plan, especially when working with strange new products. Even old traditional media don’t behave exactly like you want and plan, that is why the Muse has to be involved for problem-solving. Same Muse, different project!


  • Journal
  • frame pattern
  • pictures
  • cardstock for frame
  • Golden Matte Medium
  • Foam Brush
  • Silver embossing powder
  • Silver Marker
  • White charcoal pencil
  • Workable Fixative (I used Winsor&Newton)
  • Heat Gun

The painting of Natalie and Blake started this project, and would make a neat personalization for a writing journal for their mom, Jennifer. This is how most of my little ideas turn into BIG ones. Just a tiny idea. The Journal I picked out of my stash had a great cover…too nice to cover up (I seem to collect these with the best intentions of using them, but am reluctant to “mess them up”). BUT, the inside cover and fly sheet would provide a nice canvas. I found a photo for the other side.

Made several attempts to cut the frames until I got them at just the right size for the book, and laser prints of the images. Must have cut, edited, re-cut, printed, trimmed 6 or 7 sets to finally figure out the Explore quirks and my lack of experience with it.

Found a wonderful piece of black cardstock from an advertising book. The Explore barely cut through it…must have had a plasticizer coating or something, and might have been better had I set it to cut several times or had a deep-cut housing. Oh well, an exacto knife is like an extra appendage for me…so I finished the cuts by hand.

Everything fit! Used a wee bit of scotch tape to hold in place, then put the project up a day to “percolate”.

Finishing time!Carefully removed the tape, and the paper stuck to it and left me with a few blemishes. No big deal, right? Marker to the rescue! Got out the Matte Medium and applied a thin coat to the back of the laser print. Of course, the paper curled. No biggie. Just apply it quickly and burnish it down. Ended up with a few minor wrinkles that added an aged crackle look where the color rubbed off. STILL OK.

Added the black frame with the Explore silver lettering at the top. Hmmm. Letter Outlines, but OK. I’ll do something with that. Forget being sparing with the Matte Medium (no point in being frugal). Darn! The silver Explore pen wasn’t permanent. Grab a can of fixative and spray the rest of it. Dry. Finish the coat of Matte Medium.

Of course, the pages buckled up nicely. Heat gun to the rescue, and they did begin to behave. Every place I touched to ensure adhesion left a bubble texture. New challenge. No problem, right? Just make more texture to make that blend in. Type still faded. Pick up a white charcoal pencil and re-outline. GREAT! Spray fixative. Charcoal disappears.

Move on to the texture issue. Sprays don’t show up on black paper. Neither did the stamp inks. Picked up some embossing powder, and the grey powder turned silver with heat! Perfect. Squiggles helped hide the texture bubbles. There is a reason video demonstrations show tapping off the excess embossing powder BEFORE you heat. Now we have lots of texture, silver this time!

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Another coat of Matte Medium.The heck with the brush. Pour a glob on and smear it with my fingers. My hands are now covered with drying matte medium and embossing powder. Manage to knock over the embossing powder container. Scrape most of it back into jar and CAP IT.

At this point, seriously thinking about starting over, but thinking about wasting 1/4 of a 16 oz bottle of Golden Matte Medium made me take a break, let everything dry, and come back to it. Remembered some silver markers that helped fill out the letters some.Used a black marker to cover some of the wayward silver embossing. Fixative again, another coat of Matte Medium, and Victory!

Lessons learned, as always! Video demonstrators have used the product several times before the camera starts rolling, trust me!

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Author bio:

Vicki Ross is focused on sharing her journey to art and how life events can shape us through creativity Vicki has always been involved deeply in the creative arts, from professional soft crafts publications (knitting/crochet/needlework) to French Hand-sewing, stenciling to macramé, oil painting to encaustics. Whatever your leaning, she believes in the healing power of creating.

You can see more of Vicki’s work at VickiRossArt or via blog posts at Axully – Solid. Useful. Beautiful