Like A Kid Again: Art Play With Words

*A guest post by Mandy Russell.

Word-based communication is quite an amazing feat of the human race. As children in school we are taught how to define and spell words correctly. This certainly counts in life; we have to be able to communicate effectively. Lately I’ve become very interested in how people react to different words, myself included. There are so many words that can stand alone and evoke different emotions for different folks. One word can make someone happy, elated, worried, regretful, angry or disgusted. The same word can make another person remember something in their past, laugh out loud or cringe in horror. It’s fascinating how only one word can do this and how reactions differ widely. I am forever in search of these emotion-triggering words, the perfect words, the funny words and the boundary-pushing words. I love words with a story. I am a word nerd.

art play

For this fun art journaling exercise, get ready to communicate artfully using whatever words that you desire. First, on a piece of scrap paper, make a list of 12 or more words including nouns, verbs and adjectives. I encourage you to have a vintage dictionary on hand. (Alright, it doesn’t have to be a vintage one, I just love old dictionaries!) Your list of words can include your favorites or just words that have a fun sound. I love words that are fun to say and hear; lilliputian, squelch, chartreuse and conundrum are a few. Some words have profound meaning and embody strength all on their own; transcend, zenith, cathartic and pinnacle are examples of powerful words. There are funny words, silly words and gross words.

The English language has virtually an unending supply of words so the sky’s your limit! Play like a kid again and find goofy words. Not sure where to begin with your word hunt? Check out my collection on Instagram and search #mandyswordoftheday where I post a new word and its’ definition each and every day! Did I mention I am a word nerd?

Work in a journal or on a piece of hot-press watercolor paper. Coat your journal page or sheet of paper with a layer of gesso and let dry. Go out and find some gloriously cracked pavement or concrete. This shouldn’t be too hard, it’s everywhere! Driveways, parking lots and roads are usually abundant with cracking. Take a picture for later reference. Can’t get to any cracked pavement? Use my picture here:

art play

Using a 2B pencil, draw a crooked border about a half inch in from the edges of the page. Roughly draw the cracks you see in your photo onto your page. They don’t have to be exactly like the photo, just make sure they stop at the border.

art play

Choose two sections apart from each other and fill them with dictionary text. Rip the paper to fit loosely into the space. Adhere using heavy gel medium and let dry. Now fill in the rest of your cracked sections with 2 or 3 different acrylic paint colors of your choosing. Make sure the majority of your sections are painted with a light-value color. Paint over the dictionary paper with a light wash of the light-value color. Let dry completely.

Now, in order for the marker and pencil to have a toothy ground on which to stick, you must to add a gesso wash to your entire page. Simply mix up 1 part gesso to 2 or 3 parts water and paint your page. With a wet sponge wipe a lot of the gesso wash off. The idea is to leave a thin white film all over your journal page. Let dry completely.

Choose one or two of the light-value areas and using a Pitt pen or Micron pen, complete a different doodle in each. Rounded pebbles are an easy doodle. Section-off one or more other light-valued areas using painters tape as shown below. I prefer to use Delicate Surface Frog Tape. Using a black Memento Luxe ink pad by Tsukineko, stamp words and other texty stuff inside the masked area. I have several of those rolling “librarian” style stampers for this process. Let the ink dry. I love this ink but it takes time to dry so be careful not to smudge it. Use a heat gun if desired.

art play

Remove the painters tape. Choose 3 or 4 other areas into which you will hand write your chosen words. You can turn your words into words into a poem, a sentence, or just separate them with commas. The words don’t have to make sense or they can. They are artful just the way they are because you chose them. With a pencil, draw faint, slightly crooked lines across each section that your words will rest upon. Using a micron pen, write your words across, making sure they sit firmly on your lines. I like to draw tall letters that fill the entire space as shown. Not sure about your hand-lettering? I have an easy lettering tutorial on my website HERE to ease your discomfort!

Using the Micron or Pitt pen, follow the lines of cracking, outlining each area. Next comes the shading part which I absolutely love! Using a 2B pencil, begin shading around entire areas, like where you stamped words, and just inside your larger pebbles. Burnish the pencil shading with a blending stump, “feathering” it out a bit towards the center of the shape. Do the same for the closed shapes on your hand-written letters. Not sure how to shade and burnish? Check out the easiest tutorial ever on my website HERE.

Sign and date your work in one of the smallest cracked sections.

art play

Mandy Russell grew up on the rural coast of Maine as an only child where she quickly became her own best friend. A few of her biggest loves are art making, watching funny television, and gardening. She is also the regretful owner of a naughty black cat who thinks the world owes him everything. You can read more about her adventures in art-making at

art play

For more great art journaling ideas, check out some of these Create Mixed Media Books:
Click to Purchase Art Journal Kickstarter! Click to Purchase Incite! Click to Purchase Incite 2!

You may also like these articles:

This entry was posted in Guest Posts and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.