Tuesday 10 May 2022

2022 Topic 07: Specimen Jar {by Claudia Neubacher} with Scrapcosy stamps

Hi and servus everyone, it's Claudia Neubacher from VonPappe II with you today, and I'm happy to share with you my interpretation of the current "Specimen Jar" theme over here on the PaperArtsy Blog. Just in case you are wondering; I toned down the lights when taking pictures of the finished cabinet so you can see the effect of the luminescent specimen.

Today's project was inspired by the lovely old cabinets in Vienna's beautiful Natural History Museum and my goal was to create a precious looking vintage display cabinet in Victorian (or Steampunk) style with a glass pane (so no one can touch the rare specimen discovered on some brave adventurer's expedition). The cabinet's content of luminescent fish that can be switched on and off for demonstration was inspired by a showcase that can be found in Salzburg's "House of Nature" museum and displays some deep sea fish that make their own light in the darkness deep down - which is called bioluminescence (one of my son's favourite words to use when he was little). So this topic was also the perfect reason to use mini lights - which always adds that extra dose of wonder to shadowbox projects, doesn't it? Actually this was a lot easier and faster to do than I had feared (well, the back of my display cabinet definitely isn't one to display therefore - but everything is in place and works neatly). All it needed was a bit of stamping, painting, fussy cutting (very little of that - I promise!) and fixing the mini lights to their spots with some gaffer tape.

First I searched my shelves for the acetate package left overs from the Sizzix BigZ dies I buy at times. These make for perfect sturdy "glass" panes and if you know how, you can even do some kind of reverse glass painting on them! The opening of an old cigar box that I found, almost perfectly matched the size of the die packagings! Then I fetched a selection of PaperArtsy Fresco Finish Chalk Acrylic paints, PaperArtsy Infusions, my Paper Artsy Scrapcosy stamp sets, a sheet of sturdy white cardboard, my water spray bottle, a bottle of matte spray sealant, some foam board, matte DecoArt Americana Decou-Page, my well used large bottle of Titanium White acrylic paint, some detail brushes and stamping inks.

The three fish from the Scrapcosy stamp set 10 (ESC10) were perfect for becoming luminescent ones and the "History of the Sea" image together with two shells from the Scrapcosy stamp set 12 (ESC12) was a dream of a top piece for my cabinet! And when I saw the lovely sea grass image I knew I wanted to do this one on the back of the acetate sheet to create some additional depth for the showcase.

The Fresco Finish paints I picked were mostly greens and blues, but I also added Blood Orange (FF62) to the palette - a bit of contrast is always a good means to intensify the tones of the complementary colours and brings more life into paintings!

I was sure the texture and effect of PaperArtsy Infusions Sleight Blue (CS13) would make for some awesome ocean water background (and they did)! But first I needed to do some preparing: I cut the acetate off the package - leaving the flaps from the original shape on top and bottom for more sturdiness and also a little excess to both sides (so I could later mount the pane to the cigar box frame with some small nails). The only thing that needed exact measuring to fit inside the cigar box smoothly was the white cardboard sheet. The cigar box lid got cut off with a carpet knife.

The picture below shows the depth I had in mind for my display cabinet - the fish really looks as if it was swimming by behind the sea grass! You can also see the lit eye and lantern - the latter wasn't part of the stamp design - so I added it by hand using a black fine tip Faber Castell PITT Artist pen.


As it is the most fun, I started with the "reverse glass/acetate painting"! All I needed to do was stamp the image to the back of the acetate using Tsukineko-StazOn (Jet Black). I immediately afterwards cleaned the stamp with a wet baby wipe! The ink dries almost instantly - this reduces the risk of smudging the image during stamping. Good for a mediocre stamper like me!

The trick to get the acrylic paints to stick to the acetate is to provide a layer that dries transparent but offers some "tooth" - for this I used matte(!) DecoArt-Americana-Decou-Page and a detail brush and simply added a layer on top of the stamped sea grass (still working on the back of the acetate) as if I were painting it in with some colour.

Once the Decou-Page had dried (do not use a heat tool - this will warp the acetate!), I painted over it using the same detail brush and Fresco Finish Magic Moss (FF130).

As I was still working on the back of the acetate, the opaque paint only covered up the stamped lines on this side, but the image still showed in all detail seen from the front! I really love the awesome detail of this stamp design! Look at all that beautiful depth!

To create the ocean background for my luminescent fish I sprinkled PaperArtsy Infusions - Sleight Blue (CS13) onto my cut to size cardboard and misted it with water from the spray bottle. On top of that I also sprayed some Ranger - Distress Spray Stains broken china and salvaged patina. I heat dried the sheet and then sealed it with a sprayed on layer of DecoArt Americana Matte Sealer. This way I could paint on top of the Infusions without having the crystals react again and bleed through.

Next I stamped the three fish to their final spots using Ranger-Archival Ink (Jet Black) - only to cover them up right afterwards with some Titanium White acrylic paint! As you can see the Infusions have still bled through a little here and there - but that didn't matter.

I added the layer of white paint to get the paints I was going to use to shine - but first I needed my fish to get stamped back into place - on top of the white layer. I could have tried to mask the white cardboard sheet before adding the Infusions but I knew I was going to add loads of water and the Spray Stains and that would surely have seeped under the masks. I also didn't want to do a lot of fussy cutting to be honest - so this way of stamping-covering-re-stamping seems a lot safer and easier to me.

No need to worry about not stamping exactly back in the white spots - shading around the stamped images with a mix of Fresco Finish paints Mud Splat (FF61) and South Pacific (FF45) was going to cover any white edges AND add some cool shading around the outlines (which also creates a lot of depth).

Time to paint the fish! I used Fresco Finish paints I already had on my palette and added Guacamole (FF05)Hyde Park (FF50)Beach Hut (FF43) and Niagara Falls (FF205) to the mix.

Finally, I fetched my cutting mat and a precision knife and cut out the eye and the lantern of my angler fish and some scales and spots from the other two fish. Behind these openings I glued some slightly tinted red, blue and yellow-greenish tissue paper scraps.

This is how my first test - by holding the sheet in front of my desk lamp - looked.

Time to add the lights and prepare everything for assembly! I still needed my top piece for the cabinet - so some more stamping, painting and a bit of fussy cutting was needed. I simply used up what I already had on my palette.

The cigar box got covered with adhesive Craft Sensations-Woodlook Sheets.

Next I drilled a hole (by hand) through the back of the cigar box and threaded the mini lights chain through to the inside. Only the switch and battery compartment stayed at the outer backside of the box. Then I eyeballed the positions for the lights to go to and fixed these to the inside of the box with some gaffer tape. I also inserted a frame of roughly cut to size foam board panels, so the picture with the painted fish would sit on it and keep its distance from the lights and the back of the box. 

As you can see I didn't invest a lot of time or labour with the back of the cigar box. The gaffer tape holds the lights switch and wire in place. The top piece image got glued to another piece of cut to size and shape foam board that I had covered with some more Woodlook sheets before I glued it to the top of the cabinet.

To finish up my cabinet I added some Dresden trim for a bit of bling. Then I toned that down with some smudged on DecoArt Metallic Lustre (Black Shimmer) for a worn and aged look. 

To fix the finished acetate pane to the cigar box I used small upholsterer's nails. This way the acetate and cardboard sheets can be removed if the lights need some repairing on the inside.

I am really happy that I managed to create a kind of Victorian era look with my little cabinet (I wasn't too sure if I would succeed at that to be honest - sometimes my projects just take their own lead and that changes the style I originally had in mind). In the end the acetate pane didn't fit too smoothly with the bottom as I moved it too much towards the top when nailing it down, but I covered that up with a glued on strip of a vintage designer paper scrap. Now we also know who donated this cabinet - "The R.P. Elmore Company" (I love it when things like that add some story telling to a make). The reverse acetate painting effect also looks cool on other projects like ATCs, tags or wherever you want to add that transparency effect with your mixed media projects! Just remember to reverse the order in which you paint - first the details layer, then work your way towards the middle and background layers (so for example add the red for the cheeks and lips on a stamped face before you paint the flesh tone and only then add the background with clouds and afterwards the blue sky). 

I haven't come up with any scientific names for my new luminescent fish species - but maybe I will add a little sign with these later at the side of the box - to have my cabinet look even more as if it was standing in a museum! For now I have added the French definition for luminescent, taken from an old dictionary, which also adds to the vintage feel of the make. This project was such great fun to create and the beautiful stamp designs really made it so easy and rewarding to do! I hope some of that joy shines through. 

Claudia xxx


Words and Pictures said...

Brilliantly otherworldly - capturing that undersea mysteriousness, especially with the glow of the lights... well worth the extra effort.
Alison x

Lucy Edmondson said...

This is very clever and beautiful. Love hearing about your process!


Ann barnes said...

I love the idea of reverse painting and allowing the stamped images to show in all their glory! Always love seeing Claudia’s creations. This would be an awesome display throughout the summer!

Claudia N. said...

:))) Thank you so much, Alison, Lucy and Ann, for your kind words!
Claudia x

Kathi said...

This is an absolutely fantastic project and everything that I thought I'd see when Claudia joined the team.

Claudia, thank you for your concise instructions, great tips, and step-out photos.

I had an idea that I couldn't figure out how to execute and now I think that I might be able to do so using my saved acetate from packaging and your fabulous instructions! If it works, I'll be sure to credit you! :D