Thursday 25 August 2022

2022 Topic 12 : Minimalism {by Riikka Kovasin} with France Papillon stamps


Hi everyone, it's Riikka Kovasin from Paperiliitin blog here with my take on the "Minimalism" topic. If you have followed my projects before, I think you'll agree that minimalism isn't my normal creative style. I'm more a "more is more" type of crafter than "less is more". But I loved this topic the moment I saw it and definitely wanted to take on this challenge!

When looking through the source material PaperArtsy provide as inspiration to us for this topic, Stephen Whatcott's pieces (link) hit me like a ton of bricks. The seemingly simple shapes in white and black, opposite ends of the contrast spectrum. What a striking look, what a flow, what an impact! Instead of the smoother looking geometrical shapes I was especially drawn to the works with a sketchy, textured look. So I decided to think what to use to achieve such an impact in my own work as well.

Probably it was the color combo of white and black which then turned my thoughts to sumi-e,  Japanese ink paintings. When I was in my teens, we had a visit from a Japanese artist in the art club I was in. She used just one jumbo brush with black ink and conjured koi fishes, cherry blossom branches and craw fishes to the paper. I admired her skill and control with that brush very much as she could paint the thinnest line with it as well as make these juicy blobs. Thus I decided to see, what I could come up with a brush, limited color palette and one stamp set.

The beauty of mixed media usually is that if something goes wrong, you just add a layer and fix it that way. But with these cards, that wasn’t an option! If something went wrong, it was back to the drawing board and try again. But I loved it! It’s so eye opening to go outside your comfort zone and try something new. 

What took me the longest in this project was to find the way to make the seemingly easy looking brush mark. I decided to call it “swoosh”. I started with two medium options and two brush options. I knew I wanted my “swoosh” to have visible bristle marks in the end, mimicking the roughness of the Stephen Whatcott's pieces, so I ruled out all palette knife styled approaches. I placed my bet on the cheap, sturdy bristle hog-hair brushes, but wanted to try the watercolor brushes, too.

When seeing the project in my mind's eye, I saw a stamped plant on top of the "swoosh". I chose the France Papillon stamp set (FP008) for the simple but striking look that was just the thing to top the brush stroke.

But before I could add the stamped details to anything, I had to figure out how to make the perfect "swoosh". 

I first tried Fresco Finish Little Black Dress (FF19) with the sturdy brushes. Funnily enough, the combination didn’t work at all the way I wanted. The paint was too thick and the bristles too sturdy to leave a good, juicy mark. I loved the delicate looking lines, but the mark needed more body. I then diluted the paint just a little with water and that looked already so much better! There still was the line work trailing the stroke but now there was a body, too!

Next I tested Infusions dye stain Black Knight (CS12). I watered the powder down and used the same sturdy brush in my first go. The results were quite the opposite of the acrylic – now there was a huge body without almost any trail, just a lovely, rugged ending to the line. While the marks looked lovely, it wasn’t what I had in my mind.

I also tested the watercolor brushes and they performed more or less as expected. The best marks to replicate what I had imagined were the ones at the bottom of the paper in the picture below, where I dragged the brush sideways across the paper. These markings had a lovely airiness to them with the gaps in the paint, but still not what I was looking for.

Over all, the rigid brushes were performing better than the soft bristles. I decided to wash off the watercolor brushes and concentrate my efforts to the sturdy hog-hair versions following my initial intuition. I liked the body of the Infusions marks but the ending of the Fresco Finish marks. 

As I usually work with layering, I thought to try to combine the two. I painted some Fresco Finish marks first and then some Infusion marks and added a layer of the other on top. Soon it became evident that I should make the final markings by first adding the sturdier Fresco Finish layer and then adding the smoother Infusions layer on top. This way I would be more in control how the mark starts. I could get the hair like markings to the end of the stroke, but could fill in the body with Infusions. Best of both worlds!

I also did a swatch by adding some splashes to the mix. Those little speckles finished the look! Now, that was the way I wanted my finished marks looking! Underneath is my try of that. The only difference between the actual marks on the cards and this is that in the sample the splashes are made on top of a “swoosh” that’s started with the Infusions and then the acrylic is added on top causing the mark to start with greyish tone, then go black and then fade into grey again. I wanted a more “from black to grey” - look to my markings thus starting with the Fresco Finish was the answer and then layering Infusions on top.


Now that I had found my method for the background pattern, it was just to replicate it to the card bases. I cut some A6 sized pieces out of white cardstock and then did the brush strokes to them, starting with the Fresco Finish Little Black Dress (FF19) marks and continuing with Infusions dye stain Black Knight (CS12) ones.

In this stage I believed quantity was the way as I then could use the "not so good" examples in some other project while the ones that worked out well could become the cards.

When I then had a bunch of the bases done, it still seemed something was missing. While I loved the "swoosh", some of the cards looked especially bare. As I had plenty of them, I experimented a little. I took a look at the stamp set (FP008) and it had this lovely coffee cup ring styled stamp that might be the answer. I dipped the stamp to the Infusions dye stain Black Knight (CS12) and used that to stamp the image on top of a couple of the "swoosh".

As I didn't add a new medium in the mix, the ring blended nicely to the stroke and the shape repeated that of the splashes. It looked so good that I decided to stamp the ring to all of the card bases. I think partly the reason was the fluid medium as the rings all looked a bit different. Like they actually were coffee cup stains!

Now that I had the bases sorted, I turned my attention to the plants. As I was working with the very limited color palette, I had two options: white plants or black plants. I feared that the black plants would have gotten lost on the black background, even with the white outline so I opted for the white ones, stamping with black. The stamp set I was using was by France Papillon (FP008).

I used the same white cardstock I had in my card bases and stamped a bunch of the plants onto them. On one occasion I happened to drop the stamp while stamping and it caused this ghost image styled thing. Even if it was a mistake, I ended up using that in my card set as it brought a little character to the embellishment. I used the same trick also in a variation I made while recording a little process video for the cards. You can see that further down the post.  

I think the reason why I was drawn to the ghost image lies with the stamp design. If the image had been a more detailed version of a plant, the double line would probably look just silly. But as the design is sketchy and flowing in its own right, the ghost image just adds to the sketchy line work rather than ruin it.

If you've followed my projects, you've seen that I love to use a stapler to adhere layers. A staple binds the elements together, but as they are not completely glued from side to side, they still retain some airiness. So, it isn't any wonder that the first idea of a style of adhering the layers together was a stapler. I liked the look of the metal staples with the dark contrast and also contrasting with the delicate plant. 

I also wanted to try something else. Tapes and glues were not an option in my mind, but instead I took to my sewing machine. I wanted a way to adhere the layers together that would add a small detail to the over all look as well. Adding some random stitches on top resulted just this! To keep the limited color scheme going, I used black and white thread. 

In some cases I kept the stitches to the minimum, just adding the plant in place, but in others I used them as a design element. While the bigger plants filled the "swoosh" well, the smaller ones seemed to be overpowered by the brush stroke. With the stitching I was able to balance that out by adding something to the plant. 

To turn the center pieces into cards, I wanted to mount them on top of folded card bases. As I had used A6 sized pieces thus far, I needed to trim them a little when mounting them to the bases.

I chose to make card bases with the fold on the shorter side for these, so the recipient could then easily leave the card visible on the table. The other reason was personal taste - I somehow prefer those easel styled cards over the regular, book styled versions. 

When I then had the center pieces a tad smaller than the A6 card bases, I used foam tape to adhere the layers. This way the cards got a little detail, while the overall look stayed minimal.

The finishing touches came apparent when I was filming a Reel at the same time. While in the beginning I thought that no sentiment would be needed, just the plant on top of the brush stroke seemed a bit bare. Like something was missing. As the stamp set I was using (FP008) had words, I thought to use those to add the finishing little detail to the cards.

While I had turned down the idea of a black plant on top of the black "swoosh", now the black started to intrigue me. This way the little detail would also make a balancing element for the brush stroke. 

I inked the stamp using a watermark ink, stamped the sayings to black cardstock and embossed them using white embossing powder. I then cut the sayings loose in thin strips with the paper cutter.

The last thing for these cards was to add the sentiments in place. I used double sided tape to add them to the cards and tried to find the best placement for each strip and each card. Some of the strips I added on the top right corner to balance the bottom left "swoosh" placement, but some needed to be closer to the plant.

While I did use all of the words and sayings there was in the stamp set (FP008), I preferred some over the others as they suited cards better. 

What do you think, did I manage to make a minimalist card? It was so fun to challenge myself with a totally different design style than I normally use!

If you want to see the process in video form, please see the short video I made underneath! In it I make a card using the same steps, but add a hint of color into the mix. This is to show another option, if you are thinking that pure black and white isn't for you. 

Like I said earlier in the post, I used the ghost image styled stamping in this card but this time using two colors - a teal and a black. I also added some teal splashes to the card using a Fresco Finish Captain Peacock (FF110).

So, while there's more color to this card, I think the overall look is still quite minimalist. What about you, is this card still meeting minimalism in your opinion? 

I highly encourage you to have a go with the mark making with a sturdy brush and trying a new style. If you are already a minimalist crafter, maybe you could try a color you often don't use or add more layers than usual. 

Also, if you are not a fan of black and white combo of these cards, try something else. The same techniques work whether you use black, red, blue or green! Just try to match the Infusions to the Fresco Finish paint or then use just Fresco Finish less and more diluted in your crafting. 

Thank you for stopping by today! Have a go with minimalism yourself - it's fun, I promise! 

xoxo Riikka

1 comment:

Helen said...

I love these! I think the black and white combi is just great!