Art Journal Writing Exercise: Poetic Trumpets

*Guest post by Mandy Russell.

I’m in love with words; weird words, long words, hard-to-pronounce words, and words with profound and/or ridiculous meanings. I love finding out about an interesting words’ origin or weird definition-related facts. For instance, did you know that the term “tragedy” originated in ancient Greece and translates to “goat song”? Goats have such a tragic sounding song too, it’s perfect! The word “jumbo” most likely came from an African word meaning elephant. The word was incorporated into the English language over a hundred years ago, after an elephant in a London zoo was likely named Jumbo. I’m loving words so much these days that I’ve begun collecting them on Instagram. I’ve realized something about myself through doing this. My favorite words end in “-le.” Words like kerfuffle, bumfuzzle, boondoggle and canoodle. These words tend to be goofy words which I truly adore. The goofier, the better!

For this art journal exercise, I’ve chosen a couple of my current favorite words and incorporated them into a quirky poem. I was inspired to convey in my poem how my gardens really explode with color around the start of the summer. I love bright colors and am especially and fond of my hybrid daylilies which have always reminded me of trumpets. I decided to announce my poem to the world (or the reader audience) about the detonation of color when spring makes its’ exit and summer takes hold. I call it “Daylily Deluge:”

There was a great big kerfuffle!!!
As loud as loud can be…
When spring gives way to summer,
With a colorful cacophony.

Start by writing your poem. I think quirky, somewhat ridiculous poems are usually easier to compose than deeper, more profound poetry. But if that’s what floats your boat, go for it! Scribble down a few words you’d like to put in your poem and the general idea you’d like to write about. Search #mandyswordoftheday on Instagram to jumpstart your word addiction, or simply to have a word list at hand when building your poem. I have a fondness of funny, odd, Dr. Suess-sounding poetry. I especially like four line poetry forms, and find ones that follow the ABCB rhyme scheme the easiest to compose. For the ABCB poem, the last syllable of the second and fourth line must rhyme. Also, without going into discussion on poetry meter, this four line poem tends to sound best to the ear if each line contains a similar amount of syllables. In other words, if your poem doesn’t sound right, try playing around with the number of syllables. Another fantastic rhyming tip to remember is this: the easiest sound to rhyme with in the English language is the “eee” sound. Thus, if your two “B” lines end with the “eee” sound, you may have an easier job rhyming.

When you’re happy with your poem for your art journal page, apply a thin layer of gesso to hot press watercolor paper and let dry. Choose an acrylic background color. I like a light tone so that my darker stamped words will stand out later. Paint your page the background color and let dry. Next, sketch a wonky trumpet on your page as I have done, or make up your own. Make sure you have enough room for your poem to be stamped as if it’s coming out of the trumpet.
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Now paint your trumpet a color that contrasts with the background. Something complimentary works quite well. Mix a bit of white into the trumpet paint color to lighten it. With this new mixed color, add some highlights. Lighten the areas on the trumpet directly facing an arbitrary light source. I usually choose the upper left of my page for the light source. Mix a bit more white into the highlight color and add this lighter paint somewhere in the middle of the previously painted highlights.

Using a black Stabilo Marks All pencil, outline the trumpet shape and its’ buttons. This pencil marks very easily on dry paint but is extremely quick to reconstitute with water. In fact, I often like to go over these marks with a water brush and then wipe away all the black that I can. I’m left with a black stain which I really like.
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Paint a cloud emanating from the trumpet, slightly darker that your background. I chose orange here. I also added a bit of dark orange paint splatter using watered down acrylic paint and a toothbrush. Let dry.
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Break out your alphabet rubber stamp collection. For stamping my poem, I’ve used loose letter stamps as well as the “librarian style” alphabet stampers. If you wrote a four line poem, roughly divide the trumpet’s cloud into four sections. Plan out where your words will go. I love using MementoLuxe stamp pads. The pigment ink is thick and opaque. It takes a while to dry which can lead to smudging, so be careful! Stamp your words and let dry. You may want to stamp some of your words on a separate piece of paper, snip them out and glue them into place with Yes paste or gel medium.
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Lastly, I like to outline my trumpet and its’ buttons again with the black Stabilo pencil. Seal with workable fixative or clear matte spray and let dry. Admire your trumpeting poetry.
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Mandy Russell lives in a quiet Maine town with a couple of loud goofball kids and a demanding black cat named Spooky. Spooky thinks that he runs the roost! (Little does he know just how insignificant he really is). She also has a German shepherd named Odin Daniel who can do no wrong. Ever. Mandy cannot help being creative and when she isn’t making something, she is thinking about making something. Read more about her very varied artistic endeavors at

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