Old Site Pages – Removed

Preparing for a late-2018 overhaul of this website, I’ve deleted the old Aisling.net pages… the ones from 1999 – 2006 (or so).

There were hundreds of them, and many were duplicates of articles at this (far newer) version of the site.

Google wasn’t happy with the duplicates, as well as the many broken links on those old pages. Google planned to de-list this site altogether.

My reaction: No. No-no-no! I’ve put too much time into this site to let that happen.

I started to fix all the links. Then I realized: I’m going to change everything later in 2018, anyway. (Well, not everything. I’m just replacing all the old HTML pages with newer versions, here.)

So, yes, the old pages are now gone. Until the 2018 updates, you may run into some broken links and missing graphics. I apologize.

Fore-Edge Book Art – Historical Examples

When I first saw this concept in the movie, Crimson Peak, I didn’t think fore-edge book art was anything mainstream… ever.

Now, I’ve learned that it’s a legitimate book art. (How did I never hear of this, before?)

It’s something I’m considering including in my altered books art, and perhaps other projects.

Another example, from 1801:

Here’s a 1947 video showing one way fore-edge art was added to books:

And here’s a modern artist working with this concept:

For more historical insights, this 28-minute discussion explains the fore-edge tradition and practice in more detail:

Zine Publishers… Permission?

Right now, I’m going through a 10′ x 10′ storage unit. It’s everything we put in storage when we moved here in 2008, and — finally! — we had it all shipped from TX to NH.

colorfulart-vidordesignI’ve found most of my art zine collection. They’re art zines from the late 1990s and early 2000s.  Titles include:

  • The Garage.
  • Tublegs (Traci Bunkers).
  • IN(ner) Question (Elizabeth Metz).
  • Ink & Ruminations (Jane Dickinson).
  • Through the  Door (Michelle Lawhorn).
  • The Gleaner Zine (Sherylynne Carriveau).
  • Memory & Dream (LK Ludwig).

In some cases, I have just a few issues. Others… I have lots.

What I’d like to do — with the respective owner’s permissions — is scan some (not all) of them and make them available for free download.

I repeat: With permission!  (In other words, if you published an art zine and you don’t want it scanned & made available, don’t hit the ceiling.  You don’t have to contact me. If I don’t have your specific, written permission to copy your art zine and share it… nobody will see it.)

A few zines aren’t on that list, including The Studio and Dog-Eared Zine. That’s because I either didn’t keep copies, or I’m about 99% sure the owners are still using copies of those zines for income, or both.  (I still treasure Dog-Eared Zine and actually hand-carried several issues with me when we moved in 2008.)


If you published an art zine that I might have, and it’s okay for me to scan & share it (free), contact me at zines (at) aisling.net.

If you publish (or published) an art zine and you’d like people to know they can download free copies, contact me at that same email address. Tell me the URL where they can find it.  If you have a small graphic (250 x 250 pixels, or smaller) that you’d like me to use to link to your free zines, send it via email and I’ll use it.


Stage Fright, Perfection, Flow, Teaching, and Art

Chairs for audience or students.Stage fright has been part of my life for as long as I can remember.  It’s very selective.  I’m fine in front of a crowd of thousands, especially in halls where the lights are on me and I can’t see the faces of anyone past the first row or two… and even they are too dark to see clearly.

Put me in front of an audience of 20 or 30 people, where I can see every face and every micro-reaction to what I’m saying…?  Panic. Total panic.  I have to steel myself to even think about that kind of public speaking.

That’s why, when I teach, I have a firm rule:  I need access to the classroom, in solitude, for at least 30 minutes before the students arrive.  (Otherwise, I’m likely to blurt all kinds of things… usually extreme and unexpected, if you’re not ready for the panalopy of creative ideas that rush through my mind like high schoolers rushing to class before the “late” bell rings.)

During my personal pre-class time, I give myself a “pep talk,” and use breathing techniques that would make Dr. Lamaze proud, to relax myself enough to teach.  With the right mindset — or at least mental distance from “not good enough” self-talk — I can teach a great class with lots of student involvement.

(Without exception, every class I’ve taught that fell flat… it’s because I wasn’t given that 30 minutes to prepare.)

Creating art can be a similar issue for me and many other people.  We may not have that visible audience, but when the initial spark of inspiration fades, the voice of the inner critic can be worse than any heckler in the classroom.

(You know that student.  She’s the one who sighs loudly and repeatedly. And, at the end of the class — when it’s too late to do anything about it — she tells you how deeply you’ve disappointed her, and how you really shouldn’t be teaching.  Or making art.  Or both.)

Regardless of where the message comes from, we’re often striving for impossible perfection… as artists and as teachers.  The slightest shortfall or flaw seems magnified on a big screen and in HD, and every metaphorical pore and blemish is the size of the Grand Canyon.

In fact, we’re often our very worst critics.  We hold ourselves up to impossible standards, and we’re usually using the wrong measuring stick.

Last night, I was disgruntled.  I’ve been working on a series of small (5″ x 7″) oil paintings, based on memory and photos I’ve taken.

Unfortunately, the results are — so far — uninspired. (I’ll get back to that in a minute.)

Pandorica-inspired ink drawing
Click to download the ATC file. (Original is 5″ x 8″.)

So, I took out my pen and paper, and started doodling one of my Pandorica-inspired pieces. (The Pandorica is a Dr. Who story element.)

I was so caught up in it, I let it run to the edge of the page.  And then, I felt so disappointed, because that meant the piece would require an additional, larger support, just to be matted.

This morning, my husband pointed out that it’s a perfectly good work of art, as it is, and there are worse things than needing something in back of the work so it mats well.

He also reminded me that art is about the inspiration.

That gets me back to my paintings… the ones that aren’t turning out.  I said that they aren’t inspired, and I mean exactly that: I’m working on them, production-style.  By definition, that’s an industrial approach. (Yes, I am reading Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception.  It’s brilliant, inspiring, and terrifying, all at the same time.)

So, I went back to my Pandorica doodles.  I’m waiting for this evening’s sunset, hoping the colors will be inspiring enough to spark (and complete) some or all of the six little paintings currently on my easel.

I want to take them with me to M.I.T. next week, when we’re hearing Seth Godin speak and participating in whatever’s going on at that event.  I’d like to hand out art, at random, in kind of a random acts of kindness gesture.  In other words, just for fun.

But… I feel a little stuck.  And, I’ve been trying to work with a deadline more than inspiration.  Bad idea.

It’s compounded by my fear of disapproval, or — worse — no reaction at all.  Boredom.  Kind of a “What, you think you’re an artist…?” reaction, as they drop the art in the trash.  (Have I mentioned how well I can awfulize when I’m in this mode…? *chuckle and sigh*)

Okay. I’m not sure if this is more stage fright or the visual equivalent of writer’s block.

Either way, it’s putting the emphasis on the finished work and others’ opinions — even their potential opinions, if it’s work I haven’t shown anyone — instead of where it belongs, on the inspiration, and the creative expression that results.

But, what I’m describing in angst-laden terms is how we, as artists, make ourselves tiny and insignificant.  And, it’s why we often stall and lose precious time in which we might be making art.

It’s a toxic, all-or-nothing approach.  It’s so far from being in flow — in the creative process where we’re in touch with the sublime — we couldn’t find it with a road map, a compass, and a laser-tuned GPS.

The teaching…?  I quit, years ago. Yes, that’s letting small-minded people win, but that’s okay with me.  It’s a battle I never wanted to fight.  I’m happy to leave those political games to others who savor them.

The art…? That’s another matter.  Recovering my willingness to be creative, out loud… thats why I changed this website back into the blog it was in the first place, back in 1995 or 1996, when I began it.

And, it’s why I’m staring down virtual stage fright, posting last night’s Pandorica piece here, as a graphic and as an ATC you can download (and print at 300 dpi). Click on the illustration, above and on the left, to print your own copy.

Saving Images for Your Collage Art

Saving collage photos, papers and ephemera… it’s always a challenge. But, I’ve found a system that works well for me. It might help you, too.

Step One: Sort collage elements by themes

I save my collage elements — especially magazine photos — by color, in manila folders. I start with the major color groups (red, blue, green, etc.) and then expand (lime green, turquoise, etc.) as my collection of saved images becomes too large for anything simpler.

I include all kinds of papers in my folders. So, when I want something blue, I open my “blue” folder and I’ll see my primarily blue magazine images, but also blue tissue paper, maybe some bits of blue ribbons or fabrics that I intend to use in collage, and so on.

Of course, my collages are usually more color-driven than image-driven, per se. So, organizing by color makes sense to me. (If you’re not familiar with my torn-paper collages, you’ll see many of them online at Aisling.net.)

For someone else, it might make more sense to organize by other themes, instead of (or in addition to) by colors.

Your categories might be “faces” or even more specifically, “women’s smiling faces,” etc. Or, “dark-looking castles,” “cute cottages,” “kissing,” “fast cars,” “vintage images,” or whatever.

Step Two: Store the folders in a big portfolio

All of my manila folders are stored in one large, flat old-fashioned artist’s portfolio thingie. You know, those huge black folders made from heavy cardboard, covered with a black, textured surface, and they tie at the top and sides with cotton tabs.

(Collaging the outside of that big portfolio is optional.)

You may prefer a portfolio that’s easier to carry and comes in a color. But, any good, big portfolio will work fine.

In my studio, my portfolio fits nicely on top of my chest of drawers that holds my fabric art and mixed media supplies, like my iron, fusible webbing, frequently-used fabrics like muslin, etc. (It’s a small chest of drawers that fits underneath my sewing table. So, the big collage bits folder is pretty much hidden unless I’m looking for it.)

You can also hide the folder under a bed, behind a door, between or in back of bookcases, and so on.

I’ve tried many organizing systems for my stacks of wonderful papers and collage images. This has worked the best for me.

ACEOs – Production-line shortcuts

ACEO - in progressI’m trying some oil paintings as ACEOs.  (That stands for Art Card limited Editions and Originals, a kind of artists’ trading cards.)

Because traditional art cards (including ACEOs) are the same size as other trading cards (like baseball cards, etc.), the 2.5″ x 3.5″ ACEOs can be tricky to work with if you’re painting with oils or acrylics.

My first attempt revealed a few flaws that I’ll fix with the next batch.  However, here’s what I did:

First, I covered a masonite sketch board (shown below, at right) with newspaper, held in place by a Very Big Elastic. (The elastic comes with the sketch board when you buy it at any arts or crafts store, or you can simply use one from other packaging… but you may not need it at all.)

Then, I positioned a series of blank ATCs (artist trading cards) approximately where I figured they should be, to mask them. (Michael’s and other stores sell these canvas-textured blanks in the same aisle as their fine art drawing & painting supplies.)

Next, I used blue (easy to peel off) painter’s masking tape to tack blank ACEOs in place.

After that, I laid down strips of that same tape, masking the edges of the cards, usually about 1/4 inch.  (That’s not shown in the photo.)

And then, of course, I painted them… at least with an underpainting (my signature cadmium red) and then the first layer of oil paint.

Impatient to see how they’ll look, I peeled off the long strips of masking tape.  The result is in the photo on the right.

One card tore slightly as I was peeling off the tape.  (The tear was a small surface tear and it can be repaired with glue.) I’m not sure if that issue can be wholly avoided with this process, but I’ll keep experimenting.

I tweaked some of the cards while this first layer of paint is wet.  I wanted to cover the cadmium red that had seeped under the tape more than the oil paint did.  Alas, some of the tweaking ventured into the ACEOs’ white margins.

While these cards dry, I’m starting a new batch of ACEOs.  This time, I used a ruler to position the cards and the tape, so it’s more regular.  So far, so good.

The oil paint will take at least a week or two to dry enough for the next layer of paint, so these cards won’t be completed very quickly.   I’m aiming to have the first batch of ACEOs ready to ship in about a month.

However, I see several merits to using ACEOs for oil paint (or acrylics):

1. These allow me to experiment with designs on a small scale, to evaluate them for larger paintings.  These cards are sort of like thumbnail sketches, but more finished.

2. I can sell these ACEOs for far less than my paintings, making them easy for new art collectors to purchase.  (I’m very enthusiastic about the Cheap Art Manifesto as much as it’s practical… while still being a professional artist.)

3. Shipping the ACEOs will involve wax paper (to protect the surface of the card) and some cardboard rectangles as support in the mail.  Then, each card can go in an envelope… cheap and easy!

As soon as I’ve worked out more of the bugs, I’ll create a sheet that you can easily use to layout the blank cards yourself, if you’d like to try a painterly approach to ACEOs.

Drawing or Painting?

crayonsIs it better to start with drawing or painting? Here are my current thoughts:

If you’re new to art, you might think that drawing is most basic. And, in a way, it is. However, it’s not always the best first choice for a new artist.

There are many similarities between drawing and painting. The basics of drawing can be learned in hours, but so can the basics of painting. No matter what subject you’d like to represent — from quick journal sketching, to comics and manga, to realistic representations of your world — you can work with drawing or painting.

However, there are separate advantages to drawing and painting, as well.

One of the main advantages of drawing is that you can begin immediately with no special art supplies. If you have any paper surface and any writing implement, you can start drawing right this moment.

One of the main advantages of painting is that it requires little eye-hand coordination. If you can smear some color onto a surface, you’re painting! In fact, if you “can’t draw a straight line,” you can still paint well.

Let’s compare drawing and painting in several areas.


Drawing requires something to draw with. That can be any writing implement from a pencil to a pen to a crayon. An eraser can be useful. Some artists use aids such as rulers or compasses, or other drafting tools.

You’ll also need a surface to draw on, such as paper.

watercolor - still life paintingTo paint, you’ll need some kind of painting medium such as watercolors, acrylic paints or oil paints. Though some companies try to make the decisions easy by assembling basic student kits, the quality of those paints can sabotage your work from the beginning. The difference between “student grade” acrylic or oil paints and “professional quality” is night and day.

With some paints, you’ll also need painting media such as gel medium (for acrylic paints) or linseed oil (for traditional oil paints).

You’ll also need brushes. Like paints, the selection can be confusing without guidance from a pro. Cheap brushes can produce disappointing results, but so can the wrong kind of expensive brushes.

Finally, you’ll need a surface to paint on. Prestretched canvas boards are convenient if you’re using acrylic or oil paints. Watercolor artists can use everyday artists’ papers, but if they’re not designed for use with water media, the paper can buckle or absorb the pigment in blotches.

In other words, getting started with drawing is simple and it can be very affordable. Choosing supplies for painting can be overwhelming and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. You’ll find additional guidance at this website.


student drawingTo draw well, you’ll need eye-hand coordination. In other words, your hand — and the pencil or pen in it — should do approximately what you want it to. The more precisely your pencil (or pen) achieves the effect you have in mind, the better.

Dyslexia is not usually an issue. If you can use a pencil to write or print, you can use a pencil to draw.

However, the learning curve can be steep when you’re learning to draw. It’s normal for an experienced artist to feel frustrated when he or she can’t get the line “just so” in a drawing.

(As David Bayles and Ted Orland say in their book, Art & Fear, “The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars.”)

Some simple approaches reduce frustration and help new artists develop their drawing skills. Those include quick sketches, contour drawing, and the willingness to erase often or even throw out a sketch that’s not working at all.

Painting can require less eye-hand coordination. When you’re painting something representational, you’ll start with big, bold areas of color and work down gradually to the finer details. (If you’re more interested in paintingArt & Fear - book cover non-representational works and abstracts, your skills with a brush are far less important.)

The key to a successful painting is knowing when to stop. For most artists, that’s somewhere between, “What were you trying to paint?” and “Wow, that looks just like a photograph.”

At the beginning, simple subjects are easier to capture in a painting. If you’d like something that looks like it came out of a camera… use a camera. You’ll be less disappointed.


If you’re creating art to please yourself, start with whatever makes you happiest. (If you’re creating art to please someone else, perhaps you should re-evaluate that decision. The other person may be happier if you purchase art for them, rather than struggle to make it yourself.)

If you like the appearance of drawing better, learn to draw. If you prefer painting, don’t fall for the idea that artists have to draw before they paint. They don’t.

However, before you leap to the conclusion that you prefer either drawing or painting, go to some galleries or museums. Study both drawings and paintings. Analyze which you prefer (if either of them appeal to you more) and exactly why you like them.

For example, if you fall in love with Picasso’s paintings from his blue period, remember that the same tone (light and shade) qualities can be captured in drawings. You don’t need to invest in paints for something monochromatic (all one color, with just light & shade differences).

If it’s a sense of color that appeals to you, you may achieve that in drawings, too. Colored pencils, pastels, and other dry media can convey a similar joyous sense of color.

However, if you like bold splashes of color or subtle nuances in color variations, painting may be the shortest route to those effects.


If you’d like to create art by drawing or painting, there are good reasons to begin with either one.

Drawing requires less investment to start, but greater eye-hand coordination. If your aim is realistic representations (things that look like photographs), that can take years to achieve.

Painting involves more supplies and expense, but — with realistic expectations — you can create delightful works right away.

The key is to know what appeals to you and why, and choose the medium that will help you create the kind of work that delights you.

Sewing Onto Your Journal Pages

You can sew embellishments onto your paper journal pages.

You can use any page in a book like fabric (to sew on, for example) by using iron-on interfacing on the back side of the page.

Yes, just iron it on, the same as you would iron interfacing onto fabric. It won’t always stick 100%, but it will work well enough that you can sew through it.

(If you try to embroider or sew beads onto regular pages in a book, the thread tends to pull right through the paper, if the thread is tugged.)

You can do the same thing with your journal cover. A strong crewel embroidery needle will usually sew through cardboard… but you’ll probably need a thimble to push the needle through.

artists journals cover - treated as fabricYou can then embroider with embroidery floss, yarn, thin ribbon, etc. You can add buttons, beads, and so on, too.

At left, you can see one of my journal covers that I’ve embellished with sewn-on buttons. (Click on the image to see it larger.) The biggest button is part of the journal closure. When it’s not in use, a string of hemp (secured to the back cover) is wrapped around the button on the front cover to hold the journal closed.

After you’ve finished your sewing (or other embellishment), you can glue a page or fabric over the ironed-on interfacing, so your stitches are concealed. If I’m doing a lot of this in a book, I’ll buy a second copy of the same book, so the “backing” page is what it would have been, if I hadn’t covered the original with interfacing.

You’ll find iron-on interfacing at any fabric shop. It’s usually kept in a bin or on shelving next to where they cut fabric yardage for you.

You can also iron on Stitch Witchery or another fusible adhesive, and that gives you the option of sticking something wonderful on the other side… interfacing isn’t all that interesting.

For example, you could fuse an actual piece of fabric to the paper page.

Then again, after I sew beads onto the page, I like to cover the interfacing side with more paper… maybe a collage.

You can sew onto your journal pages, or turn them into fabric. It’s easy!

Foam Brush Notes

PaintbrushesPaintbrushes are important for many artists.  I have jars & jars of them for all purposes.

Foam brushes are useful in almost every kind of art I create.

When I’m creating collages, especially torn-paper collages in my artist’s journals, I apply the gel medium — as an adhesive as well as a sealer — with a foam brush.  (That same gel + foam brush works fine for applying glitter or metallic leafing to my art, too.)

I also use foam brushes to apply cheap, vivid, cadmium red paint (acrylic) as an underpainting when I’m working on an art shrine (that I’ll also paint) or a fine art painting.

Stores such as Michaels, A. C. Moore, and Hobby Lobby often feature foam brushes on sale.  For example, from 16 – 22 January 2011, Michaels were selling 14 foam brushes for $1.

Check your local Michaels’ weekly ad to see if the same sale is at your store.  (I don’t know if this link will work for you, but I view their weekly ads at http://michaels.shoplocal.com/michaels/default.aspx?action=entryflash )

Two more notes: I generally get at least three to five uses from each foam brush.  I wash them thoroughly and promptly after using them.

And, if you use the kind with wooden handles, the wood can be recycled in a variety of projects.  (For some of my cloth dolls, that handle is the perfect size to reinforce the doll’s neck, as the wooden dowel will extend from the head through the neck and then into the torso.)

ATC – Spalding Inn, NH

Spalding Inn, Whitefield, NH - ATC by Aisling D'ArtThe subject of this pen & ink ATC is the Spalding Inn. I’m not entirely sure why that hotel fascinates me, but it does.

Oh, it helps that the hotel is currently owned by a couple of friends and their families.  In addition, my uncle and his wife used to vacation there.

But… I don’t know.  It’s more than that.

The Spalding seemed a logical subject for an ATC.  It’s the final ATC in this series of six, and obviously the most detailed.  (The previous ATC, displaying a rose, led up to it.)

Though this country hotel has a few great ghost stories, it’s not actually associated with UFOs.

The reason I put a flying saucer in this ATC is because the Spalding Inn is along the flight path described by America’s first known alien abductees, Betty & Barney Hill… and I wanted something interesting in the sky.  (The design of the card is based on my fine art painting of the Spalding Inn, in progress.)

The Spalding Inn is located in Whitefield, New Hampshire.  It’s near Mount Washington, and it’s generally in a perfect location for exploring the White Mountains.

That also makes it a great location for any artist to set up an easel and paint from; from any spot on the hotel’s property, there are amazing views in any direction… all year ’round.

(And yes, I’d say that even if I didn’t know the owners.  You’ll find me there — on sunny days and snowy days — whenever I need a break from everyday busyness, and want to clear my mind with clean air, natural beauty, and art.)

You can download a free, printable copy (at 150 dpi) of this Spalding Inn ATC by clicking on the image above, or by clicking here.