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Crafts with Kids: How to Make a Talking Card

Did you know that February 21st is “Card Reading Day”? According to Checkiday.com this is a day for reading and enjoying cards that you’ve received over the years, that you’ve held on to for sentimental reasons. Here’s a quick and easy card project you can make with your kids to give others something they can hold on to and re-read on future Card Reading days.

To make a talking greeting card you will need:

  • paper or cardstock
  • scissors (plain or with a creative edge)
  • bone folder (optional)
  • pencil
  • supplies of choice for decorating (markers, colored pencil, construction paper, glue, etc)

STEP 1- with your paper placed vertically in front of you (taller than wider), fold the top edge down to meet the bottom edge, then press fold flat

My kids decided to try out this project, so I talked them through it while making my sample and let them have full creative control over their own.

STEP 2- unfold your paper and this time fold it vertically, so the left edge goes behind and under the right edge.

I’d first learned this card at an art class when I was a bit younger than my boys are now, so it was cool to be teaching it to them now, and passing it on.

STEP 3- orient the card so the fold is on the right. Figure out where you want the mouth to be and make a straight cut.

Your mouth can be as high or low on the card as you would like, but remember that you will be folding the edges on the diagonal, so if you want to place it closer to the upper or lower edges, you will need to make your cut shorter. (So you don’t surpass the upper or lower edge of the inner card face – this will become clearer after the next step).

Henri and I used regular scissors for a straight cut, and Jakob chose ones with a pinking blade to get a zigzag edge to his mouth.

STEP 4- fold either side of the cut edges up, and press firmly. Repeat the same folds to the other side. If you think of the mouth as a bird’s beak, you are folding at the beak’s outer edges.

Our examples are shown with the folds at roughly 45 degrees but you can get creative with this. With a shorter cut you can fold at 45 degrees for a smaller mouth or you can fold at a narrower angle for a bigger mouth (with a small opening).

STEP 5- once you have folded the cut edges to both sides of the card, smooth them flat then fold the top half of the card down to the back.

This puts the 2 solid faces on the outside for the front and back of the card and the mouth on the inside.

STEP 6- use your fingers to tuck the mouth/beak folds outwards while keeping the card folding inwards. Then press the card flat and smooth over it a few times, to “set” that fold.

This is the mouth that will open and close as you open and close the card, making it look like your card is “talking”!

STEP 7- the final step is to use a pencil to lightly trace the inside mouth corners to mark off the boundaries of where you can put your “spoken” message.

You want to use a pencil for two reasons: 1) a pen or marker might bleed through your paper to the outside faces of the card, and 2) you can erase the border after creating your message, for a cleaner look.

From this point on you can decorate the card however you like!

We all ended up taking inspiration from the mouth looking like a beak, and created bird-themed cards.

Jakob and I went for sweet birthday messages…

…while Henri went a bit rogue!

Reinforcing how well he takes after his punny mom, Jakob made a cute BIRD-day card.

I think it’s really TWEET!

He was so proud he just had to CROW about it. (Ok I’ll stop)

I went for a similar theme with mine.

Because the inside of the card isn’t visible (except for where the message is) you can use alcohol markers or other media that might bleed through your paper. You can avoid the message area or glue in a clean bit of white paper after decorating the rest of the card, enabling you to get as creative as you’d like and not be limited to dry media.

I’m so glad I got to pass on this easy card-making method. I hope you (or your kids) make some cute, creative cards that can be someone’s sentimental memory to look at fondly in the future. ❤


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Following Sarah Renae Clark’s “5 Easy Tips to Improve Your Coloring (Instantly!)” Video

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I personally don’t believe in waiting for a special day to start the changes we want to make, and numerous times I’ve made a public declaration of “this year I’ll ____” only to have my interest, enthusiasm or time dwindle until said thing is forgotten completely. My track record the last few years is spotty…I’ve completed a full year of the Create This Book challenge with Henri in 2020, but failed miserably at both my “19 for 19 WIP-to-FO” challenge in 2019 and my daily doodle self-promise in 2021.

So this year I’m not setting a resolution, but rather I’m choosing to make time for the things I want to achieve. In particular this year I want to focus on improving my drawing & coloring skills, so instead of forcing myself to do a set routine daily (which can become a chore) I’m going to simply allow myself to enjoy the process by doing what excites me.

Just before the holidays I’d discovered the YouTuber Sarah Renae Clark, thanks to a collab she did on Jazza’s art channel. I enjoyed their joint challenge so popped over to her channel to take a look and wound up binging a ton of tutorials, one of which prompted today’s post.

For those who don’t know, I do have a background and education/experience in drawing, painting, sculpture and the like as one of my degrees is in Creative Arts. Because I have a “professional” education I often get stuck in practice… feeling like I can’t just color something (for example) without “doing it right” and making sure it’s an accurate representation of my skill. It can be rewarding when the result matches my intent, but it sure puts a lot of pressure on when all I really want to do is chill on the couch with a cup of coffee and an adult coloring book! I’ve shown some pages I’ve colored here on the blog before but even those often feel inadequate for what I know I’m capable of, so improving my techniques in a way that makes them feel more natural has been a long-time desire.

And then I watched Sarah’s “5 Easy Tips to Instantly Improve Your Coloring Pages” video and an idea quickly formulated.

I decided to follow the 5 steps myself, not as an abstract concept but in actual practice. I would select 5 coloring pages, designating one for each of the tips, and hopefully come out of the process feeling like I’d levelled up… even if only a little bit.

I rewatched the video and took notes on each step, and reviewed the extra info in her related blog post, then set about choosing pages that would be ideal for this purpose.

I went with 5 pages in my Daler*Rowney Art Therapy: Utopia book. I have 4 of these little books and they’re quite cute. I’ve worked in this book quite a bit already and while the subject is a bit quirky, I like that the book is small enough to not make each page take forever. (It’s only 5.75″ wide by 8.25″ high). Also, the pages are 1-sided, so I could use media that might bleed through. Bonus- this book series has a built-in page protector (the back cover folds out to go under the page you’re working on) which came in incredibly handy during this process.

The first of the 5 steps Sarah lists is to incorporate shading and blending. I focused in particular on using shading to create depth, and so chose this “slide” page as I thought it would be easy to darken the lower layers and give a sense of perspective.

My plan was to give each page an underpainting with Spectrum Noir alcohol markers and then go back over it with Prismacolor Premiers for the shading and details.

With that in mind I colored the page. I started with bright colors for the slides to help bring them forwards visually and tried to pick darker ones so the background would recede. I also tend to default to using the same colors so I tried to pick ones I rarely reached for (which is why it’s so chaotic!).

In my head the lower levels would be full of shadows from the upper tubes and I was hoping it would get super dark, to where it almost looked like a really long drop. Unfortunately this was a case where I was unable to execute my vision.

This was after my first pass with the colored pencils. I quite like the shadows I added under each figure…but that’s about it. I don’t feel that any of the other shadows really work. I was able to make the teal tubes look round but I don’t get a sense of depth with any of the others, and I don’t find that the slides look concave at all.

Rather than continue to fuss with it in frustration, I took a break and moved on to coloring the under layer of the next image – the orange scene below. I was still intending on finishing all of the pages in pencil, but by the time I’d started coloring what was meant to be an underpaint on the 3rd image I realized the paper was handling the alcohol markers REALLY well, and that I was enjoying using them. I don’t reach for the Spectrum Noir’s too often because they bleed through most books (and most aren’t one-sided) so having an opportunity to put them to work was really enjoyable. There’s also a really big instant gratification difference in seeing large areas of color completed in minutes vs hours.

At this point I decided to come back and give the page one more go with my markers. This is the final result. Am I happy with it? No. Am I happier with it? Yes.

Mostly I’m happy that I tried. None of the 5 tips are particularly hard – in fact they’re called “easy” right in the title. And for the most part none were ones that I didn’t already know. The point of this exercise, to me, was to actually put them into practice. I did many art theory classes, I know light theory and shadow values and the difference between form shadows and cast shadows etc. But since I rarely apply those principles I don’t have the muscle memory to use them in the way I’d like (unlike something like knitting where my hands just know how to do things without much thought). Tip #1 showed me that this is something I need to work on, which is great because it gives me somewhere to focus and one day see improvement. 🙂

Tip #2 (actually tip 3 in the video & post but I worked out of order) is about incorporating black into your coloring pages. This can be large areas like backgrounds or by using a fineliner and adding details or extras to the page that weren’t there to begin with, like dots or designs in the background.

I admit I cheated a bit with this one! I forgot to take a pic before I started coloring, but except for the oranges, this is what the image looked like before I started coloring. The Matrix-esque dots in the sky were already there, and the city silhouette was just asking to be a solid black, so it didn’t take much work or thought on how to incorporate black into this image. Still, I liked it, and chose it for this particular challenge.

The circles felt like oranges to me so that’s what I went with for coloring. I used the same gray on the robots (androids?) as for the previous pic, and a Sharpie for the city. My markers are old so there was a bit of dry-down causing patches of lighter areas (especially visible in the green and blue areas) but it didn’t bother me enough to do a second layer.

Finally, I added a bit of shading (pulling in Tip #1) in the areas the oranges and branches overlapped, as well as some (failed) shading on the robots. I’m not happy with some of the placement nor how blocky it looks. I added a neon glow off the tablet and around the radioactive oranges, and boosted the black background with some colored pencil. The final touch to include a bit more black was to add fine Micron dots to represent the pitting in orange peels, and some faux screw-heads in the tree’s bumpers.

Overall I’m happier with this one than the previous, though I don’t think it has anything to do with the tip or my follow-through. I really do love the idea of not being afraid to make changes to your books, though, and hope to get comfortable enough to add characters and designs of my own to some of the pages with lesser detail.

Tip #3 (really tip 2 in the video/post) is to add white for highlights. I’ve used this technique a bit but always been afraid to push it too far. So I chose this fish page deliberately so the bubbles in the water would give me plenty of reflective services to which I could add a shine.

Once again I forgot to take a pic before starting to color, oops. The jellyfish were quickly colored in shades of pink and for the fish I copied a color scheme I’d used on another occurrence of the same fish in the book. Trying to keep working the shading tip, I did add a slightly darker green on any of the intersections between layers of seaweed, but I’m not sure it’s visible in the finished image.

I wanted to give the background a gradient from lighter, closer-to-the-surface water up top down to murkier depths below. To achieve this I colored the background with 2 shades of gray; the first, darker one was applied to about 1/2 the page, and the second, lighter one filled in about 2/3 of what remained. I left the top 1/3 of the water area uncolored. I then went over the entire background with blue, coloring in small overlapping circles.

I outlined each bubble with a colorless blender. It didn’t remove the color completely but just enough to give each bubble a slight halo.

Finally I added highlights to the bubbles, jellyfish and fish with a Sigma Uniball UM-153 white gel pen. I don’t think the fish normally would have highlights but in my head they’re robotic just like all the people in the book. I also added some extra little white dots for oxygen bubbles coming up from each fish’s mouth as well as in the tangle of jellyfish legs.

Am I happy with it? Yes. I could have done better on blending the background and I wish my markers weren’t so old that the alcohol evaporated in patches causing the streaky look, but overall I’m quite happy with it, especially the shine on the fish. I could still use some practice though, and I think getting better at where to put the highlights will come hand-in-hand with getting better at where/how to place shadows.

Tip #4 (but actually #5 in the video/post) is to use a color palette when deciding what colors to pick. This is actually something I’ve struggled with sometimes, as I gravitate to the same colors that I like, and when I stray I can land in some weird territory (see: the slide pic above). You can find basic versions of color palettes available but Sarah offers her own and on a whim I decided to spring for it. I do so many different types of crafts, cakes, coloring, etc that having help for what colors look good together will only be an asset.

Once again I forgot to take a “before” pic until after I’d already started.

What a fantastic resource!

Her palettes are really well organized into clickable PDFs that you can search by keywords, themes or specific colors you want to use. I’d chosen this beach-looking scene as a test page, so I searched by “beach” keyword and decided to use palette #9 since it gave me options for the sand and water along with pops of color I could use for the umbrella and beach chair.

Something really fantastic about the Color Catalog is that she not only gives you the hex, RGB and CMYK color codes for each color in the palette, but there are also companion charts available that will tell you exactly which color she’s mapped to each from many of the most popular brands of pencils and markers. I was able to use the Spectrum Noir companion chart to find the exact SN color numbers and pull my markers without having to manually compare swatches to the samples. It’s really great!

This page probably took me the least amount of time to work on, but felt like the longest when coloring in each individual cell in the umbrella. Overall I’m pretty happy with this page. I didn’t add any white highlights and I’m not sure my laptop glow is in the right shape, but I am happy with the umbrella’s shadow on the ground and cutting across the stand (though looking back now I probably should have had the circle continue on the other side of the chair as well). Still further proof that my shading needs work. This seems to be a running theme!

Finally, step 5 (the 4th step in the video/post) is to add textures to your page. I chose to use this telescope page for a very specific reason: it would give me a chance to practice with this texture book I bought SPECIFICALLY to help me color more realistically.

The book is fantastic, showing you how to replicate each texture in short, step-by-step blocks. The only problem was it didn’t include brass, which is the look I’d wanted for my telescope. D’oh! (It has hammered brass, but that’s not quite the same thing). I could have used the references for silver or pewter and simply changed the colors, but instead I decided to find a reference image.

I could not find any telescope images in an upwards angle like the coloring page so I made one myself! I found a sample image of the exact antique brass look I wanted to go for, and saved it to my phone.

I then used my phone’s built-in photo editing tools to flip it and skew the angle until it was as close as possible to what I needed. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely close and was a really big help as a reference.

I was really nervous about this one because I had such a specific idea in mind and I’ll admit I was worried I wouldn’t be able to execute it. I almost gave up and was going to pick a page to try out one of the other texture ideas (eye shadow) instead but I’m really, REALLY glad I didn’t. I LOVE how it turned out!

In fact, I was so happy with it that I decided to pull all 5 tips together into this one final image.

I went back to the Color Catalog to find a color palette that would work with the copper/bronze/brass colors I already had, and this one with the bright pop of pink really charmed me.

I really tried to make sure I used all 5 tips in this one. Texture? Check. Adding white? Yup- I added highlights throughout including some shine in the brightest areas of the telescope. Adding black? Oh yes – I added extra lines in diminishing circles in the planet to try and give it a sense of depth, with the lines being more concentrated closer to the viewer and moving further apart the further away they got. Color palette? Sure thing – I used only the colors listed. And finally for shadows I got creative and added the shadow from the telescope, although I wasn’t paying proper attention to the actual shape of the telescope and didn’t do the best job.

This was the finished result…and I just did not like it. I actually put it aside for a few days to think, because I was so happy with some parts but couldn’t help thinking it looked so incomplete. I debated adding some darker grays to the sky so they’d still be in the same family as the palette, but wasn’t sure I wanted that look. I was stumped. I’d followed the rules, and yet I wasn’t happy with the result. So what did that mean?

It meant that sometimes, it’s ok to break the rules. There are no coloring police! Plus Sarah’s tips are just that – tips and suggestions on how to improve your coloring results, that you are free to incorporate (or not) but they’re not hard and fast rules. She’s not saying “this is the ONLY way”, she’s saying “if you’re stuck, why not try this? It couldn’t hurt, and it might help!” And they did.

And not being limited meant I could come back to it later and add completely new colors into the background, to give it a sort of galaxy look that I didn’t even know I wanted until I’d achieved it and it was just perfect.

I went over the original gray with two shades of purple, blending them together where (I imagined) the planet’s light met the night sky. I also blended the main purple into the pink halo off the edge of the planet. I then traced over every start and (bubble? pearl?) with the white gel pen to remove their black outlines, and deepened the telescope’s shadow and refined it as best I could.

I am SO happy with the finished result! I’m really proud of this one, and really, really glad I embarked on this challenge.

I’m really glad I took the time to go back and rework something I wasn’t happy with. This makes me feel excited and hopeful about doing more coloring and testing and learning. And having gone through this exercise I can now pinpoint which areas need more refinement, and seek help for those things specifically (like improving my shading!!).

I think this was a great project to start off my year. If it’s something you might like to try for yourself, here are the links again to Sarah’s video and blog post. She’s got a TON of other videos and posts, and whether you’re a beginner, average or expert colorist, if you’re interested in adult coloring I definitely recommend checking her out.

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Create This Book May Challenge

There’s been a lot going on behind the scenes, but all I have to currently show for it is this month’s Create This Book Challenge, yet again coming in just under the wire.

Every month in 2020 my 11-year-old son Henri and I will be completing a challenge from Moriah Elizabeth‘s Create This Book (vol 1). For January he choose the “create an empty setting” on page 163, for February it was the “food” page on page 208, March was the “something different” challenge on page 207, April was the “folds” page on page 23, (links to all previous posts in this series below), and for May he picked the “bumpy” page on page 47 (of which I completely forgot to take a “before” blank picture).

We both wound up completing the page with similar themes of fun and playfulness. In Henri’s case it meant mixing his two current obsessions – LEGO and Minecraft. He used a LEGO plate for the texture and then drew two LEGO minifigs, one regular and one in a Minecraft-style.

This close-up really shows the texture in the page. I thought using a LEGO plate was a great idea!

I’ve been planning a bunch of plastic canvas projects and decided to use some scrap strips as my texture base. While the page does say to “try to write or draw something” I’ve been working on detailed items lately and was really craving the opportunity to color and not really think. I decided to relax and have fun with this page and simply rub the texture of my own current obsession.

Once that idea took hold, there was no alternative but to grab some crayons and really let my inner kid come out to scribble-scrabble. I dove into the crayon bag and came out with these Crayola Fun Effects Mini Twistables – multicolor twist-up no-sharpen crayons .

This wasn’t a page that took long, nor does it look like anything special beyond a riot of irregular color… but it was FUN. For the first time in a few months I didn’t have to think about what I was doing or plan the next few steps. I just sat and scribbled and watched the bright colors mix and blend and honestly? It felt really good.

A few days later I watching one of Moriah’s current videos within which she responds to a question about saving art supplies to combat the feeling of wasting them by using them up, and was reminded of these glitter pens I own. The white one is gold glitter in a clear base by Wink of Stella, and the black one is silver glitter in a clear base by Spectrum Noir, and while I love them (and ADORE glitter) I just… never use them. I never consider a project “worthy” or “appropriate”.

So I glitter-bombed my bumpy page.

I always forget how pressure-sensitive these glitter brushes can be, so accidentally saturated that middle block with the silver. That whole square was covered with silver glitter, the one to its lower right was covered with gold, and then I randomly did a few stripes and individual squares of each color around the page.

I was trying to limit how moisture-warped the page got so rather than let it dry naturally I broke out my heat tool and quickly dried the page. (Amazon seems out of the identical model but this one looks the same and is inexpensive).

Unfortunately because this is regular paper it did stay warped even once tried, but it didn’t tear through so I’m not mad about it. (Possibly the wax from the crayons protected the paper from actually ripping, though, so be cautious using very watery media in this book.)

Here’s the final page. Nothing polished, nothing professional or fancy. I didn’t even follow the instructions.

It’s chaotic and crazy and loud and sparkly, but it makes me smile. 🙂

It’s a sparkly rainbow, how could it not? 😀

Complete list of 2020 Create This Book Challenge pages:

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