What is Found Poetry?

Found poetry created by taking words and phrases from printed sources and arranging them into a poem. Although there are found poets that create this type of work as a literary exercise, most visual artists do it to create a work that is both meaningful and visually pleasing. Think of this type of found poetry as a sort of visual artwork, using words the creator has found.

There are different types of found poetry:

Blackout poetry is created when an artist takes a page from a book or magazine, and blacks out all but the words used in their poem. A variation of this idea is erasure poetry, where words are erased from the page, leaving only those in the poem behind.

Cut up or remixed poetry is created when an artist cuts out words and phrases, and arranges them on a page to create a poem.

I created a Pinterest board of found poetry examples, so you can see the many ways visual artists approach the idea.

I made the found poetry postcards on this page, for a swap here at Mixed Media Club. Here’s a quick video, showing some different ways to create you own:

How To Apply an Isolation Coat

What the Heck is an Isolation Coat?

An isolation coat is a clear, permanent coating that separates the surface of a piece from the work done over it.

Often, an isolation coat is applied when a piece is finished. It seals any absorbent areas of the piece, to create an even surface for the final sealer or varnish. It also protects the piece if/when the varnish or final sealer is removed in the future, by separating the surface from any solvents used in removal.

So, an isolation coat can be a protective coating, to keep your sealer from mucking up your finished piece, and also to keep it safe from whatever solvents are used to remove old, cracked varnish from it 100 years from now. In my case, it protects the surfaces of my finished pages and pieces from my solvent-based sealer, Dorland’s Wax Medium, which has an obnoxious habit of wiping pastels and pen work away if it’s applied to a piece that hasn’t received an isolation coat.

Isolation coats can also be used while you’re working on a piece, to protect the work you’ve done from the work applied over it. Here’s a quick video, showing two ways I use isolation coats when I work:

What is a Postcard?

postcardBecause there was some confusion in the first Mixed Media Club postcard swap, I’m writing this article, with all the specifications. That way, we can all be on the same page in the future!

What the Dictionary Says:

postcard (ˈpōs(t)kärd/) n.
A card for sending a message by mail without an envelope, typically having a photograph or other illustration on one side.

So, a postcard is something designed to mail WITHOUT an envelope. It has to be sturdy enough, and flat enough, to go through the postal machines, and through all the various hands it takes to get it from me to you, without any covering. If you send a postcard in a clear cello envelope, it’s no longer a postcard. It’s a card in an envelope, and the Post Office will call it a First Class letter.

What the Post Office Says:

According to the USPS, postcards must be:

  • Rectangular. Not square, and not any other shape, and no rounded corners.
  • At least 3.5″ tall, 5″ long, and .007 thick.
  • No more than 4.25″ tall, 6″ long, and .016 thick.

    In order to stay within these restrictions, there should be NO DIMENSIONAL EMBELLISHMENTS used in the creation of postcards.

In addition, there are rules about the back side:

  • Backs should be white, or light colored, so postal machines can read them.
  • The bottom .75″ must be left free of images or text.
  • A 1.18″ square in the upper right corner must be free of images, to hold a stamp.
  • The address of the recipient must be on the right side of the back, no more than 2.25″ from the right edge.


This is how the Post Office wants the backs of postcards to look.

Surfaces For Mixed Media

Mixed media artists have a variety of surfaces on which to do their work. Some of them require very little thought or prep before proceeding with your work, while others require a certain amount of priming, sealing, or cussing before they’re suitable.


Here are some of the surfaces I’ve used in my work, and what I’ve learned about them along the way:

Watercolor Paper

My favorite watercolor paper is Canson XL 140lb. It's .

My favorite watercolor paper is Canson XL 140lb. It’s available in a variety of sizes on Amazon.com.

Like many mixed media artists, I like to work on watercolor paper. For wet media, like watercolor and acrylics, I use Canson XL 140lb cold press.

What does that mean?

140lb is the weight of the paper. The higher the poundage, the thicker the paper, so 90lb watercolor paper is lighter weight than 140lb, and 300lb is heavier than both of them. Cold press is designed for wetter media, and has a rougher surface than hot press, which is designed for inks and markers.

I tend to buy paper in pads, already cut to size, rather in large sheets that would require me to cut it myself. Full sized sheets of watercolor paper are usually 22 x 30 or 24 x 36 inches.

Since I don’t do much watercolor work, I prime my paper with acrylic gesso, to make it ready for acrylics or water soluble pastels. The gesso cuts down on the paper’s natural absorbancy, and provides enough grab for paints or pastels to be applied in light layers.

Mixed Media Paper

Strathmore's Visual Journals are popular with art journalists. They're available filled with watercolor paper or mixed media paper on Amazon.com.

Strathmore’s Visual Journals are popular with art journalists. They’re available filled with watercolor paper or mixed media paper on Amazon.com.

Mixed media paper is designed for some mixed media work, but not all. It’s good for light paint work, collage, and pastels, but maybe not the best choice for very heavy or very wet paint work. It’s also friendlier to pens and markers than watercolor paper.

Mixed media paper comes in weights, like watercolor paper, and the heavier the weight, the thicker the paper. I looked at Canson and Strathmore mixed media pads, and the weights varied from 98lb to 140lb. Some pads were marked vellum, which means they have some tooth or surface roughness, while others had no surface designations. (Don’t confuse vellum surfaces with the semi-transparent paper that was popular in scrapbooking and cardmaking a while back. Vellum surface generally means some roughness, for pastels and paints, while plate surface means smooth, for ink and markers.)

Unlike watercolor paper, mixed media paper really doesn’t need a primer coat before working with acrylics.


Strathmore has Bristol in both its 300 and 400 series pads, available on Amazon.com.

Strathmore has Bristol in both its 300 and 400 series pads, available on Amazon.com.

Before there was mixed media paper, there was Bristol board. Bristol is not actually a board, but a paper. For smooth surfaces, look for surface designations smooth, plate, or Bristol; for a rougher surface, look for vellum. It’s also sometimes offered as hot press (smooth) and cold press (rough). Confused yet?

Just to make things even more confusing, the paper weights come in either pounds or plies. 100lb Bristol is usually 2 ply, while 140lb is 3 ply. Just remember that the bigger the number, the heavier the paper.

Vellum Bristol is great for watercolor. In fact, it’s what I used for illustrations when I was a costume designer. It does tend to ripple a bit when hit with wet media, and I’m not sure it would ever be my first choice for painting with acrylics. It also makes a wonderful surface for collage.

Illustration Board

Illustration board is one-sided Bristol with a heavy backing. It comes in 2, 3, and 4 ply, with 4 ply being the thickest and sturdiest. One of the advantages of illustration board is that pieces hold their shape when propped up on an easel or leaned against a wall.

Like other papers, illustration board comes in vellum and plate surfaces, or cold and hot press. Wet media always requires cold press! Don’t buy hot press unless you’re doing pen and ink or markers, or you’ll end up with the top surface layer peeling off as you work.

I used illustration board for costume illustrations (go figure), but haven’t worked with it much since I stopped designing. It’s a little more expensive than most art papers, and you either have to cut it yourself, or have it cut in the framing department of your local craft store. If you have trouble with your mixed media work curling and rippling on watercolor paper or mixed media paper, you might want to give a piece of illustration board a try.


8.5 x 11 inch cardboard, in 100 packs, . Why I love cardboard: .20/sheet.

8.5 x 11 inch cardboard, in 100 packs, available at Amazon.com. Why I love cardboard: it’s 20¢/sheet.

Cardboard has been the surface of choice for student artists and those who are broke for as long as it has existed. It’s cheap, or even free, and accepts many media as if it’s art paper.

I prefer to work on corrugated cardboard, rather than chipboard, because it has the added feature of being built in layers, which can be peeled back to expose different textures.

Sadly, as many people have rudely pointed out every single time I’ve posted a piece worked on cardboard, it’s not archival. I DON’T CARE. If my work disintegrates 200 years from now, well, I’ll be happy it made it that long without getting tossed into someone’s trash.

I generally do a quick sealer coat of matte medium, or a primer coat of gesso, if I’m going to paint on cardboard. If you collage, then paint, cardboard is very accepting of all glues. Even cheap glue sticks stick like a dream.

It’s cheap. It’s plentiful. It’s accepting of most media. What’s not to love?

Canvas Board

Canvas boards, or canvas panels, are flat, rigid boards that have been covered with canvas, then primed. I prefer canvas panels over stretched canvas, because I do a lot of pressing and rubbing of the surface when I’m working. Canvas boards hold up to the beating.

The one minus with canvas boards: the surface texture can vary by brand. Cheap canvas boards tend to have larger fibers, which create ridges that may remain visible through several layers of paint and paper. Better brands use a finer canvas, which leaves less texture.

Stretched Canvas

I really don’t use stretched canvas much. I don’t love it as much as I love other surfaces, and it’s generally more expensive and requires more space to store. However, I have worked on it in the past, in both acrylics and oils, and the advice I have is this: don’t choose canvases by price, but by surface finish. One company’s primed canvas will have a fine, chalky surface, while another’s will be smooth and look like it’s plastic-coated. If you want to order a stretched canvas online, go to an art store, and find a brand whose surface you love, and write down all the information on its label (or, take a photo of it, like I do). Don’t order canvases blind, because you may end up with a surface you don’t love.


Hardboard panels are pressed fiber boards. If you’ve ever played with pegboard, that’s the same stuff, only without the holes. In the past, it was possible to go to hardware stores, and buy sheets of masonite, which is the pegboard without the holes, but the sheets are getting harder to find. Instead, hardboard is sold online as an art surface.

In a pinch, I’ve used the cheap, picture of wood paneling you usually see in 1970’s dens. I have some of this hanging on the walls of my garage, and as the humidity causes the panels to peel off, I flip them over, cut them up, and use them for art.

I mostly use hardboard for beeswax collage and encaustic work. It sort of sucks paint into it, so it needs some heavy priming to be used as a surface for acrylics.


While we’re at the hardware store, looking for hardboard, we may as well talk about wood. Most big box hardware stores have a section of nicer woods for furniture building. I like birch plywood, which has a nice, fine surface texture, and not a lot of knots. Other options are usually furniture grade pine, and oak.

Wood sucks paint like there’s no tomorrow, so before working on it, it either has to be primed or sealed with a clear, workable sealer.

What is a Gluebook?

2004_0911This is going to be short and sweet, because I’ve already written two long articles about gluebooks for Go Make Something.

A gluebook is a glued collage journal. The basic steps for gluebooking are:

  • Find a book. Any book that works for you. Any size that works for you. Any paper weight that works for you. Some gluebookers like composition books, because they’re cheap and easy to get. Some use old printed books. Some make their own journals from folded paper or magazine pages. Whatever book you choose to use is fine, because it’s your gluebook.
  • Find some glue. Any glue that works for you, and doesn’t make your paper ripple, or make you cuss while you’re working. I use a glue stick when I gluebook. Some people like matte medium, or Elmer’s glue, or rubber cement. Don’t use Mod Podge, because your finished pages will stick together, no matter how long you let it dry. Beyond that, any glue is fine.
  • Find some stuff to glue. Most glue monkeys use magazines, junk mail, and whatever paper fallout they collect during the day. The object here is not to go out and buy stuff like stickers or papers, but to use whatever is headed to the recycle bin. Receipts. Envelopes from bills. Flyers stuck on your front door. Paper food packaging.
  • Glue like there’s no tomorrow. Arrange your paper bits on the pages of your book, and glue. Make pretty pictures, or funny ones, or creepy ones. Add words, or make a whole page of words. Use images and no words. Whatever. Glue stuff down so that it says something to you.

Bam. You’re a glue monkey. That’s really all there is to gluebooking. There are no techniques, or products, or rules. Just glue stuff.


To learn more about gluebooks, try these two articles I’ve posted at Go Make Something:

Discovering Gluebooks, written in 2004, was the first English-language article ever written about them.

How Discovering Gluebooks Changed My Life, written ten years later, in 2014, about how a decade of gluing had influenced my art, and my career.

A Crash Course On Altered Books

What Is An Altered Book?

Simply put, an altered book is an art object that has been created from an existing, printed book. The book is altered through whatever means and media the artist chooses. This generally means using the book’s pages as a canvas on which to apply paint, collage or rubber stamping. It could also mean cutting into the book to create a more sculptural piece.

Approaches to book altering are as varied as the artists who undertake them. A textile artist or quilter might choose to use fabric to alter their books. A rubber stamper might opt to stamp and use inks and sprays. A painter could use a book as a canvas for several works in acrylic, watercolor, or oils. Each artist brings their own skills acquired in other creative pursuits, and applies them to the same general surface: a printed book.

Some altered book artists choose to work within a certain theme throughout the pages of a book, while others see each page as a work that stands on its own. Some artists choose to work collaboratively, in exchanges or round robins, where books are passed around a group of artists, each adding her own work to whichever book she has at the moment.


But I Would Never Deface a Book!

Many altered book artists have experienced the hand-wringing and wailing that comes from people who believe that books are sacred objects, and should never be defaced. If you’re one of those people, let me put your mind at ease:

  • Most altered book artists work in old books. Not museum-quality old. Back of the used book store, marked down to nothing, nobody has any use for them any more old. We work in books that, if not purchased for art, will be shredded for pulp.
  • Many artists check the books they buy against vintage book listings, to ensure they are not about to cut into a book that still has value. In general, if you bought a book for a dollar, Googled it when you got home, and discovered a copy of it was causing a bidding war on eBay, you probably wouldn’t cut into it. Neither would I, nor would any other reasonable person.
  • Some artists have a personal list of books they absolutely would not use for altering, no matter how old or inexpensive it might be. Some (but not all) would pass on working in a Bible, Quran, or other holy books. Some might prefer not to work in a book of another artist’s images, as in a tabletop art book.

Altered book artists respect books in a way that is second only to librarians. Never fear: we are not defacing books that anyone wants or needs. We are resurrecting old, unloved books, and turning them into art!


How To Choose a Book For Altering

If you’re looking for a book to alter page by page, you’ll want to consider a few things. You should probably choose a book that’s constructed with a sewn spine, filled with soft paper, in a size you can live with.

This video will show you how to choose a book for altering:

Things to look for:

  • Size. I like to work big, so I hunt for large books. You might like to work smaller. This is a personal preference, and one that you will develop as you work. If you’re choosing your first book, don’t feel you have to know what the perfect size for you might be. you’ll learn that as you go.
  • Paper quality. I like pages that feel like they have a lot of cotton in them: soft to the touche, and sturdy. That usually means choosing an older book. Avoid books with glossy pages.
  • A sewn spine. Check the headband to be sure it’s soft and loose, with scalloped ridges where groups of pages (signatures) are attached. Look for the beginning of a signature, and check it at the spine for stitching.

Books to avoid:

  • Paperbacks. In general, paperback books aren’t sturdy enough to withstand altering.
  • Glued bindings. Pages that are glued into the spine rather than stitched will pull out easily.

Preparing Books To Alter

If you’re going to alter a book in a way that adds even a little bulk, you may want to prepare it first, by removing some pages.

This video will show you how to prepare a book for altering, without compromising the structure or the spine:

Now What?

Once you have your book prepared for altering, use whatever creative skills you have to fill it! The one and only rule about altering a book is that their are no rules. Whatever you feel like doing to your book is fine. Draw in it. Doodle in it. Paint in it. Light it on fire and throw it in the bath tub. (I really did this. Twice. Both times, for books concerning fire.)

A Year of Altered Books


I teach a year-long class called A Year of Altered Books. Many of the pages shown in this article , including those in the gallery above, are samples from the class.

All You Need is Love


Many altered book artists keep practice books, where they work on their techniques, try new materials, and just generally play, without worrying about the outcome. I did the All You Need is Love pages, above, in my practice book, and shot the fast-motion video of how they were created, below, as I worked.

Find Some Like-Minded Book Lovers

A great way to learn about altered books is to find a big bunch of people who are also making them. Here are two groups in which I’ve been active for many years:

Altered Books on Yahoo! Groups, started in 1999, contains the Internet’s largest repository of altered book information. You’ll find endless tutorials in the Files section.

Altered Books on Facebook was started by members of the Yahoo! altered books group, so we could have a presence on Facebook. It’s a great place to see photos of finished altered books, and to ask a quick question.

What is an Art Journal?

A set of pages from my 15 x 20 inch art journal.

A set of pages from my 15 x 20 inch art journal.

Art Journal: A Definition

An art journal, or artist’s journal, is a book kept by an artist as a visual, and sometimes verbal, record of her thoughts and ideas.

Art journals generally combine visual journaling and writing, to create finished pages. Every imaginable style, media and technique is used by art journalists. When it comes to the types of work represented in artist journals, there really aren’t any rules, and each book is as unique as the artist who created it.

The smallest art journal I've worked in was barely 3 inches tall.

The smallest art journal I’ve worked in was barely 3 inches tall.

Why Do Artists Journal?

Each artist has her own reason for keeping an art journal. Some, like me, have two or three journals going at any given time, each with its own use. Some examples:

  • An art journal might be used to try new techniques, or new materials. The book might contain written descriptions on each page of what was used to create them, and any thoughts that might help recreate or improve on what was done.
  • A book might be used to practice working larger, or smaller, in preparation for a new series of works outside the journal. If an artist is used to working very large, and is asked to do pieces that are small, it’s often easier to make the transition by practicing in an art journal, rather than diving in to more expensive surfaces.
  • Some artists use their art journals as diaries, to record what happened to them that day, week, or month. They also might use a journal to work through any emotional, medical, or family issues they’re having.

Your reasons for keeping an art journal may cover some, all, or none of these examples. Some people art journal simply because they enjoy the process, and want a place to create.

A set of pages from the first journal in the Just 10 Pages project.

A set of pages from the first journal in the Just 10 Pages project.

What Materials Are Required to Start an Art Journal?

Like the reasons for keeping one, the materials required to start an art journal are unique to each artist. There are two basic items that you might find are useful, no matter how you might approach your journal:

  • A book. There are many types of books that are popular with art journalists. People who draw with pencil or ink, or work in watercolor often gravitate towards journals made by Moleskine, which makes a variety of styles of books filled with paper suitable for these media. Mixed-media artists might choose larger books filled with heavier papers, like those put out by Strathmore or Canson. These books might be hardcover, or spiral bound, or the artist might even choose to work on loose papers, which are bound together after they’re finished. I bind my own books, using Canson 140 lb. XL watercolor papers.
  • Permanent pens. Almost every artist has their own favorite permanent pens. Regardless of which media you’re using, a black pen that can be used over and under your work comes in handy. Some people like Sharpies, while others choose fine art pens by Pitt or Sakura. My current favorites are large black chisel tip markers from Sharpie, and Copic Multiliner pens with .05, .07, and brush tips.
    Beyond these two items, you should start with the supplies you already have, or already feel comfortable with. If you work in watercolors, try painting in your art journal. If you like to draw, pencils or pens might be your choice.

I work in mixed media, and many of my own pages shown in this article are worked with gesso, acrylic paints, magazine pages, and water soluble pastels.

This video shows how I created the first set of pages in my Just 10 Pages journal. Just 10 Pages is a collaborative journal project, which asks artists to fill handmade books made of ten pages of art paper with their original work, and then return them, to be loaned out to other artists.

Other Collaborative Art Journal Projects

There have been many collaborative art journal projects organized online. Some are ongoing, while others have ended. Here’s where to find some of my favorites:

1000 Journals was a project that released 1000 art journals into the wild, to be filled and returned to the project’s founder. The project has spawned a book, and a documentary. Examples of the books that returned home are posted on the site.

The Sketchbook Project is an annual event that asks artist to fill a small Moleskine book with their work, and then return it to the project’s library. Each year, the finished books from that year go out on tour around the United States.

Pages from my journal for the 2011 Sketchbook Project.

Pages from my journal for the 2011 Sketchbook Project.

Artist Journal Galleries

Many artists post some or all of their art journal pages online. These are a few of my favorites:

Book is a collaborative journal exhibition by four artists from both sides of the Atlantic.

Teesha Moore’s web site is the Nirvana of art journal galleries. Teesha has been journaling and teaching for many years, and has a wealth of information posted on her site about the materials she uses, and how she creates.

Tracy Moore is Teesha’s husband, and an artist in his own right. He creates wonderfully offbeat and unusual journal pages.

Karen Michel has examples of her artist journals, created using all sorts of mixed-media techniques, including altered photos, posted on her site. Karen also teaches and writes books about art journaling.

Tracy Bunkers has a large number of photos of her mixed-media journal pages worked over the existing pages in printed books posted on Flickr.

Glenn Moust has a large number of his collage books, which are a cross between gluebooks and art journals, archived on his site.

I also have a growing collection of my own art journal work posted on my web site.