Getting Inspired: Art Journaling Workshop with Liz Kettle

As a writer, I suppose it’s natural that I love paper and pens and am drawn to art forms that wind up looking like books. I’ve been fascinated by artist journals for years now and back in October, I was fortunate enough to take an art journaling workshop with Liz Kettle. I’m still feeling lost on the creative front, and this class proved to be a perfect way to shake things up.

Liz’s workshop was a wonderful opportunity to play and experiment. She generously provided us access to her huge collection of paints, inks, pencils, stamps, and stencils so that we could take them for a test drive without having to buy them ourselves. She also shared her vast experience, teaching us neat tricks, as well as unorthodox uses for very basic materials. For example, I never would have thought of rubbing water-soluble pastels directly onto a stamp. It doesn’t work for all brands, and you need to spray them with water to get a really nice transfer, but it can work. Now I’m planning on testing all the art supplies I own, to see which of them will work as “stamp pads”.

Because we were experimenting so much, most of the pages in my journals are just backgrounds. Techniques I tried included spraying the page with ink and letting it drip, scraping acrylic paint off the page with an old credit card, and writing over my own writing to make a pattern.

Ink, sprayed and dripped.
Ink, sprayed and dripped.
Acrylic paint scraped onto paper with a used credit card
Acrylic paint scraped onto paper with a used credit card
Using my handwriting to make a pattern
Using my handwriting to make a pattern

On the second day, we did some exercises to help us move beyond backgrounds. Liz had us rip imagines from magazines and then choose one to put on one of our existing backgrounds. Then we were to add more elements until we felt our collage was done.

I felt stymied. I had found an image of a white carriage horse that I liked, and I had an icy background for it, but I couldn’t seem to come up with anything else. Liz came over and asked how it was going, and I admitted I was struggling. I told her I was feeling a little sad, which just shows how comfortable I felt with her, because I wouldn’t have said that to just anyone.

Her response proved she deserved my trust. “That can happen.” She went on to point out that I was probably tired, and that my push to get ready for the workshop and the vacation I was leaving on the very next day had taken a toll. I was astonished by her understanding. Here was a true teacher. She didn’t plaster a smile on or try to make me pretend everything was OK. She validated my emotions in the moment, and could even help me see the why of my situation because she had been listening to me. I was amazed, and grateful.

Because of her insight, I put the word “Journey” on my collage. I was thinking about the coming vacation, but also about my creative journey and even the journey of life. She helped me to realize what my collage was trying express.

Journey by Kit Dunsmore
Journey by Kit Dunsmore

I came home feeling excited and inspired to work in my art journals more. I was so inspired, I packed a little kit to take with me to the mountains, and I did play in my journal while we were there. I’m grateful for what I learned, for the people I got to spend time with, and for the inspiration I came home with. For me, Liz Kettle’s workshop was an undeniable success. (You can see pictures on Liz’s blog of the class I was in here.)

Do you take workshops or classes to help you get inspired? Have you been fortunate enough to have a really good class with a great teacher?

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Kit Dunsmore

Kit Dunsmore has believed in the magic underlying the muggle world since she was a child searching for the Shetland pony pooka she was sure was hiding in her back yard. She learned early on that books were magic doors into other worlds, and that she could revisit a beloved character or place by opening the right book. As she grew, she decided she wanted to make magic with words, too. Today Kit writes about things she loves: poodles and dragons, witches and artists, quirky underdogs and loyal friends. Whether her setting is 6th-century England, the imaginary Twelve Kingdoms, or an art-obsessed version of modern America, magic always finds its way into her story. She enjoys turning fairy tales inside out and watching characters sacrifice everything to reach their goal, but she also believes in happy endings. When she isn't writing, Kit experiences magic by making things with her hands. Over the years, she's made quilts, fabric sculptures, collages, sweaters, and blank books. Her newest interest is learning how to spin her own yarn, a skill guaranteed to strengthen one of her many delusions: that she is a self-sufficient pioneer woman. She also thinks she is a hobbit, a witch, an artist, and a good cook. Living in the foothills of Colorado, Kit enjoys the giant skies and prairie landscapes which suit her need for wide open spaces. In addition to hiking through glorious scenery with her husband or imagining herself living in the Middle Ages, Kit works as a pillow for her miniature poodle and polishes the next small piece of her handmade life.

2 thoughts on “Getting Inspired: Art Journaling Workshop with Liz Kettle”

  1. So wonderful to know you are human, Kit! I loved your collage, and thought it was well thought out. Liz has so many supplies, so much info, I felt a little overwhelmed trying to learn everything quickly. Your work was great and your writing brings back the workshop, thank you.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback, Holly. It was a lot to take in and since I’ve been sick I haven’t been able to follow through as much as I would like, but that sort of input overload is good for the creative juices. I’m sure new ideas will come to me because of it.

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