DIY Mixed Media Pebbles (to make or download!)

DIY mixed media pebbles

I love beachcombing; scanning the high tideline for driftwood, shells and sea glass and miscellaneous ocean treasure.  Mostly though I love the pebbles that you only tend to find at the beach; textured and marbled and shot through with unexpected colour.  Sometimes charred and raku-like in appearance if they’ve encountered a summer night firepit.  This week I had a go at recreating pebbles using a variety of media and random household objects (and I mean really random…)

I cut squares from an old map and whitewashed them with acrylic paint.  I tore off scraps of basic kitchen roll and painted them into the mix, which created a lovely rough texture…


I then mixed in some cool earthy-toned colours; I stuck to Payne’s grey, black and white and let the layers dry before scraping them back to create the veining effect you see in pebbles.  Finally I rubbed tonal chalks over the surface to deepen the tone and pick out highlights, before cutting out freehand rock shapes to create my collection.


Mixed media pebbles in acrylic and chalk

It’s a very, very messy business… the art room looks a little like a crime scene after the fingerprint squad have dusted it down; every surface and light switch bears a light residue of chalk-dust, and for days people have been pointing out residual smuts and smudges of paint on my forehead, clothes and on the sandwiches I make for them.  But it’s magical and fun, and every pebble is different.  I now have a stash of about 30 to play with, some of which I’ve mounted onto paper ready to frame, and others of which I’m scanning to use in projects.  Do give it a whirl, but if you just like the pictures and don’t fancy the mess, you can download these for your own use; here are some ideas:

  • Print them onto envelopes and papers to make a lovely set of stationery
  • Print onto fabric transfer paper and add to an apron or tote bag
  • Print them on a larger scale (A3) to make unusual and striking paper place mats for a special dinner (you could add these too to complete the tablescape!)

p.s. two other seashore projects from the archives; driftwood boats and pebble noughts-and-crosses.

Have a wonderful week.

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Pebbles download

Painting with Scissors (after Matisse!)

Seagull collage

Lately, Harry and I have been learning to paint with scissors; practising our collaging skills inspired not only by historical greats like Matisse, but also contemporary artists like the amazing Clover Robin.  I’ve always loved collaging, but previously have stuck to snipping up magazines and printed papers.  This time, we decided to paint our own papers to use as materials, ready to take on a half-term break to the Cornish coast last week.  I had visions of us sitting on windswept beaches, staring at the ocean in inspired awe and busily glue-sticking some Magnificent Art.  The reality was a bit different but it was still ENORMOUS fun :-)

This is a collaborative collage entitled ‘Everything Harry Ate for Breakfast at the All-Inclusive Buffet’.  I say collaborative because Harry did all the eating and I did all the collaging.  Next time we are definitely swapping.

Everything we ate for Breakfast On Holiday collage

To make our papers we used acrylic paints and mixed them straight onto the paper, using any implement we could think of (paintbrushes, toothbrushes, forks, Brillo-pads…) to make textures and marks…

collaging with tissue collaging papers II Collaging papers IMG_5783We placed some of the sheets in a box and flicked them with diluted paint to create patterns and spatter and give interesting textures to sea, sky and sand;


And then once dried, I packed them into a simple plastic file binder so we could flip through and choose the colours we wanted once we had a collage idea in mind.


Once we got to Cornwall, my first inspiration came within minutes of us checking in (to the wonderful Hotel Tresanton); this bowl of pears on the windowsill became a 10 minute simple collage that gave them a rather Japanese, minimalist spin;

IMG_5889_2pears in a bowl

Harry produced a gorgeous seascape of the beach and harbour walls… IMG_6025_2


The next day we travelled to my spiritual home St Ives and spent a day ambling around galleries and basking in the early summer sun on the beach.  We watched numerous unwitting families being targeted by the enormous, canny seagulls that would swoop down out of nowhere and steal pasties and sandwiches, inspiring my next collage; a beast of a bird seen from below!


I used an old map I’ve whitewashed for the base, and then cut up that day’s newspaper and daubed some white paint in rough strokes to make up the wingspan.  Later, I overlaid the completed gull onto another background I’d painted to backlight him against the sky..

gullySeagull collage

We love our new hobby, and it’s very addictive.  Do give it a whirl (brilliant fun with small people, and also without!).  A few extra hints and tips..

  • If you’re painting sheets of paper to use, tape them down with masking tape first and they’ll dry flat even if they pucker up when wet
  • Posca pens are great for marking features (like the hems on my napkin in the pear picture, and yellow speckles on the pears)
  • Gluesticks are great for kids; I also used gel medium on the gull picture which is great for heavier/thicker papers and very forgiving to use
  • I bought us each one of these ‘sketchbooks‘ for our holiday; the sheets are board-thickness and designed for oil paints so are immune to curling, and also have a lovely linen-like weave to them
  • Be prepared for a sea of snippings and some mess in the process!  And don’t collage in bed.  Take it from me; those tiny snippets of paper are extremely sharp.


p.s.  Collaging from the archives here and here

p.p.s.  thank you for the wonderful comments on the last post of our Harry Potter buildings; we positively glowed with pride for weeks :-)

p.p.s. normal blogging services now resumed after our break..

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The simplest DIY dog collages!


Dogs, dogs, dogs!

Once in a while, the internet throws up something magical.  I was browsing Pinterest recently and came across a set of fabulous stencils designed for pumpkin carving by BHG.  Follow this link and it will show you magical pumpkins, alight with characterful faces of every dog breed imaginable, and free to download.  nb If you have any trouble accessing the original link (some geographies may), try this one instead).

The idea of carving them was a bit beyond my skills, but Harry and I cut up the stencils and then drew around all the individual shapes onto scraps of paper instead, to build a fun set of doggy collages..

Screen Shot 2018-08-24 at 13.37.33DIY dog collages   We started by printing of sheets of the dogs we liked the most, and then cut out the various features (eyebrows, shaggy hair, button noses..), before tracing round each one onto a piece of scrap paper.  I keep a drawerful of interesting leftover paper for projects like this; we used newspaper, old cookbook pages, giftwrap scraps and so on. For the tiny eye pupils, we used a hole-puncher after discovering that neither of us could cut teeny-tiny circles freehand :-) Collaged beagle Collaged hound

Once we had all of the doggy features cut out, we played around laying them in different shapes to create different expressions, before finally glueing them into a permanent arrangement.  Harry used a stick glue; I used a runnier paper glue – either works very well.DIY dog collage project

We were so pleased with the end result that I scanned a couple of the best collages and then printed them onto cardstock to make cards we can use to send to friends and family.  The envelopes are basic white envelopes that I lined with giftwrap (I have one of these sets of envelope liner templates which I use all the time for things like this…one of my better investments!).  Dog card portraits DIY dog collage cardmaking

This is a lovely weekend afternoon activity, and one with endless potential for creating something unique.  Once you’ve mastered these, have a look at the extraordinary dog collages created by artist Peter Clark, who takes things to another level entirely..

Have a wonderful week; good luck to all of those braced for the start of a new school year (take a deep breath).

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Homemade Family Tree

Your toddler years are probably the only time in your life where you are allowed – nay encouraged – to believe that you are the Centre of the Universe, around whom everyone else revolves.  Why not celebrate that with a scrapbook-style family tree? Harry is by now pretty clear on who his relatives are, but sometimes needs reminding.  He’s also fascinated by the connections between them and to him – particularly given that we’re a modern, blended family with all sorts of interconnectivities and the kind of complex histories that only a venn diagram could truly give order to.

We’re making this together (or rather, I make it with Harry issuing commands about who is placed where, wielding the glue stick and frequently peeling people off for a closer look, or to attempting to insert their photos into Postman Pat’s van, or attaching them to the it’s hardly a zen, bonding crafting experience, it has to be said). We’ve taken a pretty liberal view of family, including favourite toys and friends as well as those from who Harry is genetically inseparable. It’s a work in progress as we collect photos to add in.  Be warned if you try this at home; EVERY single person who sees it will claim that you have used a terrible picture of them…