Art Workshop : Watercolor Gift Tags

 

For the Holiday Season, I wanted to give something fun and festive (and useful! ) to the community with a free demonstration on how to make watercolor gift tags.

Here was how I set up the space at University Bookstore:

 

 

As you can see, I also organized a Gift Wrapping class ( which someone else taught) that was held right after mine!

My class went really well and we had such a fun time make lots of tags to take home and use for all of our gift giving this season!

I taught them how to do three different styles of tags:

1. Messy Abstract

2. Repeating Pattern

3. Dip dye

 

TOOLS:

1. Watercolor paper. I used Fluid 140lb cotton cold press. It was the perfect weight to hold our wet techniques but not too thick that the tag press wouldn’t punch through.

2. An assortment of watercolors in whatever colors you want. I picked turquoise, mauve, sap green, vermillion, gold, and a palette of glittery kids paints.

3. Watercolor brushes. A good selection would include a large mop or sumi-e brush as well as a smaller round brush.

4. Lots of water and paper towels. Perhaps a sheet or kraft paper to work on top of.

5. Glitter. I used an ultra fine gold

6. Mod podge and small foam brush

7. Tag Punch

8. Twine

9. Scissors

10. water jars or cups

11. One hole punch that will allow the twine to pass through

 

TECHNIQUES:

1. Messy Abstract

This is kind of the anything goes (including the kitchen sink) technique! I told my students not to fear messing up, because you CAN’T mess up here! The beauty of punching out small swatches of paint and pattern here is that it’s very forgiving- as long as you don’t overdo it, you’ll end up with some lovely swirls of color!

We used several techniques to achieve our sheet of abstract paper: wet-in-wet, splatter, drip, and salting.

GRACE’S TIP #1 : tape your paper down!!! Or at least the corners – this gets wet really quickly and the page tends to buckle!

Instructions:

1. Wet the paper with clean water using the large brush. Make sure the paper is glistening but there are no huge puddles of water.

2. Load the same brush with pigment and lay down that color on the paper. Notice how the color swirls when it touches the wet page.

3. Wash out the brush with clean water in your jar and use it to pick up another color. Lay this color down on the paper as well. The two colors will mix in beautiful ways. Make sure to leave white space on the page as well for textural interest.

4. Splatter and/or drip paint onto the paper as well. Basically, get paint on paper however you feel inspired.

5. Finally, when you are satisfied with the color patterns, and while the paper is still moist, sprinkle some large-grained salt on the page and set the whole thing aside to dry.

 

2. REPEATING PATTERN

This is another simple and loose technique, where you make repeating motifs all over the page. I chose bright green leaves and stems with little red berry dots – in keeping with the Holiday theme.

Grace’s Tip #2 : To add brightness and overall visual interest in your final tags, make sure you leave a lot of white spaces in your pattern. 

Set aside to dry.

 

3. DIP DYE

For this technique, you need to punch out some tags first.

1 Fill a shallow bowl or cup with a thin paint mixture (pain diluted with water to a saturation that pleases you)

2. Dunk the tag into the paint to a height of about 1/2 to 3/4 way up. Do this quickly.

3. Set aside to dry

Grace’s Tip #3: If you can rig up a little “clothesline”, you can clip the tags onto the string to dry, since both sides have paint on them.

 

Punch out the pages you left to dry in techniques 1 and 2 and voila! Gift tags for all your presents this year!

 

Optional embellishments:

Glitter : Add a strip of Mod Podge to the bottom of the tags and sprinkle with glitter.

Paint Pens: use white gel or paint pens to put tiny dots on the tags to simulate snow

 

After the class, I sent home the students with little kraft sleeves full of their creations, along with some bakers twine:

Here are some of the beautiful tags that the workshop participants made. If you make some tags of your own, I’d love to see your work – share them on Instagram with the hashtag #gracerajendranworkshops :

 

 

Holiday Gift Guide: Self Improvement Books

I’m on a constant journey to improve myself so I can’t ever walk past the Self Help section without taking a peek at all of the latest books! Here are some that caught my eye this year

1. SIDE HUSTLE – Chris Guillebeau

We all dream of making a living while living our dream – whether that’s being a full time artist , opening up your own food truck, or spending more time at home with your family – but for most of us, the cold hard fact is that we just don’t make enough (or have enough saved) to be able to quit our jobs. Enter Chris Guillebeau with his wise and easy-to-follow guide to increasing your revenue stream : SIDE HUSTLE. While the added income is not bad at all, the most important things a Side Hustle can bring you are job security and improved options. I got to work a book event with Chris when he came to my store this year and it was packed – a good indication that he knows what he’s talking about!

What I loved a great deal about this book is the layout – when you’re busy with life, work, AND  side hustling, you really don’t have time to sift through large books of esoteric information. Chris writes in a very accessible, well-formatted way, offering step-by-step guidance on how to launch and make money from your side hustle in a month. A MONTH!! Now, I think, that if this is truly your dream, you can devote one little month to giving it a shot. A great book for just about anyone – we all have dreams AND need more money! – and a wonderful book for those starting to make their new year’s resolutions and plans.

2. IKIGAI – Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles

I love staying busy! On any given day, you’ll probably find me working on at least three different projects, and writing lists and plans for even more in the future. This intentional work and purpose brings me joy and feeds my mind and soul. So, imagine my thrill when I saw this exquisitely lovely little book tucked into the Self Help section at my book store!

The New York Post has said:
“If hygge is the art of doing nothing, ikigai is the art of doing something—and doing it with supreme focus and joy.”

This book is based on research on the residents of a Japanese village with the highest percentage of 100 year olds and how they found the ikigai – the place where passion, mission, vocation, and profession intersect-that brings joys to their lives. When you find what you love, you have a reason to get up every morning and you never want to retire from your job. Now, who wouldn’t want to live that way! Start off the new year by using this book to find your OWN ikigai – and make 2018 the year

3. WAYS OF SEEING by John Berger

This book is technically not coded for Self Help (it’s in Art Criticism) but I’ve included it in my list because it WILL change your perception of the world and hence, change your life. It’s not a really book either but we studied it in my book club a few months ago and I really got to know it well!

John Berger’s classic, based on a BBC series from the 70s, will open your eyes to the subtle nuances and inherent implications of art and other visual imagery, such as ads. Little things like how the figures are posed in the painting or photo to the environment they are placed in all come together to , excuse the pun, create a larger, deeper picture. This book makes you think and question things. And that is always a good thing.

4. A BOOK THAT TAKES ITS TIME from FLOW magazine

I adore Flow and it’s one of the few magazines that I get make sure to get every issue of. It’s beautiful to look at, inspiring, and full of great advice on living a more creative and mindful life. This book of theirs is no different! Full of activities, illustrations, and tips to help you slow down, reclaim your life, and focus on the simple joys. You can learn calligraphy, create a collage, even use the postcards they include to send snail mail. The perfect book for the artists and journal keepers in your life – and pretty much anyone who wants to start a creative habit and live intentionally in the new year.