Like A Kid Again: Finding Your Stomping Ground

*A Guest Post by Mandy Russell.

In the early years of development, children depict symbols that directly relate to something in their environment. One of my first memories of art class in elementary school was learning about the horizon line, which inevitably depicted the ground beneath my feet. As a child, the ground beneath my feet was the outdoors around my mid-coast Maine home; the woods, the ocean and the nearby fields. This was a magical land full of twisty paths, steep hills, gullies, streams, a rocky coastline, and even a rickety bridge. The land itself was comprised of a thick clay formation, deposited during the last ice age. I often ran around bare foot and could actually feel this dense clay under the thin soil. This was my stomping ground, a true paradise on Earth, where my imagination ran free.

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For this lesson, I’ve constructed an easy way to create a deliciously textural, stomping ground scene in your art journal or on a sheet of mixed media paper. This exercise allows ample freedom to behave like a child on the blank page in front of you. You can create your own imaginary land of make believe or draw on your childhood memories of the land under your feet; of earth, horizons, houses, and any symbolic doodle your heart desires.

Begin by priming a 2-page spread in your journal with black gesso. While this dries, compile a small collection of paper ephemera; anything from paper doilies, paper stencils, book pages, flash cards, or sewing pattern tissue. With a pencil, journal on several pieces of these scraps, to the following prompts: Describe your childhood stomping ground. Where did you play when you left your house? What did the ground feel like beneath your feet? Who did you play with in this place? What were the sights, sounds, and smells like?

Using Extra Heavy Gel Medium by Golden (or something similar), collage your paper pieces across your journal spread. Work in the bottom 2/3 of the space, keeping roughly the top third plain. The paper pieces will become your ground, the ground beneath your feet. Keep several pieces horizontal as I have done so that your doodled structures will have a solid, flat area to sit.

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Paint the top third where there are no collaged elements a nice dark color. This is the sky above your head, your make believe land’s atmosphere. I used Dioxazine Purple, a Golden acrylic. Now choose a light to medium value acrylic color for your land. I used Indian Yellow Hue, another Golden acrylic. To one part paint, mix two parts Golden Acrylic Glazing Liquid (Satin). This will make the paint more transparent, allowing the collaged elements to show through. Paint the entire land mass (the paper pieces) this color.

Now divide your land mass, according to your collaged paper pieces, into two or three distinct parts. The closest parts of land to you, the viewer, will be the pieces along the bottom of the page, whereas the furthest away land masses will be the paper pieces that make up the horizon line.

Add a small amount of a darker value of paint (I used a medium value pink of some sorts) to your land color. The idea is to make the closer land masses a bit darker than the rest. Mix in some glazing liquid to keep the paint transparent. Paint the paper elements that are closest to you, the viewer, using the slightly darker color. With a pencil, journal a bit into the wet paint. Also lighten up the furthest away land masses, the section making up the horizon line. Simply mix in a bit of white to your designated land color. Again add some glazing liquid and then paint the area.

While this is drying, squeeze out a small amount of a light blue acrylic paint onto a piece of palette or waxed paper. I mixed a bit of titanium white into a cerulean blue to achieve a light blue. Using a narrow brayer, roll into the paint, picking up a small amount at a time, and then roll it out onto your sky area. Roll up and down, vertically, and stop just before you reach your horizon line. Roll a bit more onto the upper part of the sky.

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Let this dry completely and then doodle your heart out! Use dimensional pens, like Souffle pens by Sakura, and draw your elements. Fine point acrylic markers also work well here. Houses, stairs, odd structures, swinging bridges, or whatever you want. I keep my symbolic elements (houses, camper, stairs, etc.) simple and 2-dimensional. Design your stomping ground from your memory or your imagination. The sky’s the limit, literally!

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Mandy Russell loves art, craft, dogs, and her occasionally obnoxious family. She likes cats too, most of the time. And birds, she really likes birds. She feels most present when she is creating with her hands, often at the dining room table. She can’t wait until spring when she can begin encaustic painting again in her 3-season sun room studio. She can almost smell the medium… Hot beeswax and damar resin…Yum…To read more about her very varied artistic endeavors, visit

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