Art Journaling with Jenny & Aaron class #10

We really can't say enough about the positive effects of Art Journaling. This page you see here was created under the grayest of clouds, the darkest of days...not mood-wise, just weather-wise...but who knows? maybe these festive cupcakes chased away the murky spirit. I bring up the dismal weather because I'm fresh off of editing these photos which were taken under those gray conditions...and let me tell you...the software worked miracles with my pics that looked like they were shot in a cave! But seriously, despite the depressing weather, me and Aaron had a great time making this little piece of easy art. And what enhanced our mood even more was knowing that we'd get to share our methods with all of you. We kept saying things like "I think people will really like 'frosting' these cupcakes!" (we say "frosting" and not "painting" because we mixed molding paste into our paint, thus making it into a dimensional frosting-like material.) And we were also excited to get you guys sketching and painting a bit more...utilizing more of your talents.

As with last week's class, we made a video slide show. Of course on it's own it only gives an idea of each step, so we included full detailed instructions for you to follow along. In the upper left corner of each photo in the slide show you'll see a title. In the instructions we've titled each step with those same titles so that you'll have an image to match each step. You can view the video once, or twice, or more...pause where you'd like, rewind, fast it here on the blog, full screen, or on youtube. 

Here we are at Week 10! We were getting a bit too comfortable with the methods we were showing you guys over the previous weeks and we figured that you were certainly primed enough by now to start expanding your tool box. So this week's page will have you drawing and painting. We've kept it simple, but even so, we think that with the exact skills and steps used in making this page you will also be able to create a piece of actual wall art. 
We chose cupcakes as our subject because they've been a muse of ours for about a dozen years...and for us they instantly evoke a festive spirit and elicit an easy smile. And, we think that they are the least intimidating thing to draw! We sketched out some very simple cupcakes for this page so that you guys could see how even the most basic drawing can still lend your page plenty of charm. But if you really don't feel comfortable drawing freehand you can maybe find some reference images online that you can print out and trace as a guide. 
And we even kept the hand painting as easy as possible. We used a one-color wash-style method for the cake part of the cupcakes and for the cupcake stand. There isn't any mixing of colors, just pulling from dark to light with a damp brush. This is a good place to start...a way of easing you into real deal painting...getting you comfortable wielding a brush and palette. 
We hope you have fun! 


arrange papers. We're going for a patchwork background effect. Just tear them in random shapes and sizes and arrange them, and rearrange them until you've got a collage that really works for you. Choose your fave patterned papers and try to select within a matching color palette. In our case we selected colors that would be repeated later in the painting of our little cupcake tower...tans for the cake colors, white and cream for the plates and frosting, aqua for the base of the cupcake stand, and pink to match the frosting tones. Everything just seems to slide into place nicely if you stick to a color theme.

adhere papers. Once you've got the layout that works for you then use your decoupage medium to adhere one piece of your patchwork at a time. Brush on medium, lay piece of paper on wet medium, press down firmly and smooth out wrinkles and bubbles, repeat and overlap papers until your page is fully covered.

let dry, seal. Once your collage is dry (it's dry when it is no longer cool to the touch.) then apply a fairly thick and even coat of matte gel medium over the entire page. You really want it to be fully sealed with this topcoat since you will be applying a wash over this collage in the next step.

gesso wash. After your topcoat is completely dry...With a 3/4 inch round brush apply the wash over your already sealed patterned papers. Apply to your desired opacity. Only do a small area at a time because you need the wash area to stay wet so that you can dab it with a paper towel. You'll have more control this way.

blot & dab. While the wash is still wet use a dry paper towel to dab it away to your desired effect. We're looking for a muted feel for the background, so that the painting of the cupcakes steals the show and stands out most.

speckle. To speckle, just water down a little paint, dip your brush in the wash and then hold your brush about six inches above your pages and tap the end of the brush right below the bristles, the metal part of the brush. There is no perfect way to speckle. It's haphazard and should be fun.

distress edges with paint. Simply rub paint on the edges of your pages. We call it distressing because it's similar to distressed edges of painted furniture. Only on furniture, the paint is rubbed off...but here, we're rubbing paint on. Use a paint brush or even your finger.

sketch some cupcakes. With pencil we drew our little tower of cupcakes on watercolor paper. We used watercolor paper because we're going to be cutting out this drawing and adhering it over top of the collage. Watercolor paper is thick, so you won't have any texture coming through your drawing from underneath, nor will any of the patterns show through the watercolor paper. If you're not super confident in your drawing you should first practice on some cheaper white paper, like copy paper. And when you have your drawing all figured out then do your final rendering on watercolor paper. Also, as we said above, if you aren't comfortable drawing freehand you can find reference images, print them out and trace them with some tracing paper and then transfer your tracing onto the watercolor paper. TIP: Size is very important. You want to first figure out exactly how big you want your drawing to be. It seems like a no brainer...but it's easy to make a mistake. You might go and do your cupcake drawing on the piece of watercolor paper, and then you'll cut it out and lay it on your page, and "oh no!"...your drawing is this tiny image swimming in the middle of this giant page! So first measure out the area you'd like your cupcakes to occupy and then make little pencil dots on your watercolor paper that show the area that you want to fill with your drawing. Believe us, this is a helpful little tip.

cut them out. Now cut out your drawing and figure out exactly where you want it to be on your page.

adhere cupcakes. Brush a nice even coat of decoupage medium onto the page in the spot where your drawing will placed. Then lay down your drawing onto the wet medium.

press firmly. Watercolor paper isn't as simple to decoupage as thinner papers. It takes a little more effort, especially with larger pieces of watercolor paper such as this drawing. Once your watercolor paper is laid down, then press it down firmly. You might need to hold it down using both hands and all ten fingers, holding down each edge for at least a few seconds to get it to stick in place. And make sure it doesn't bubble in the center. And once it seems like it's gripped down pretty good we'll still continue to press down with a clean dry paper towel...the paper towel is there so that your damp and/or sweaty/ painty fingers do not smudge your pencil lines...this extra effort will just insure that you get good clean adhesion. 

mix some "cake colors". We did our cakes in simple yellow cake and chocolate cake...and just chose random as to which cupcake would be which color. The chocolate is can find a great chocolate color right out of the tube or bottle. As far as yellow cake goes, you can also find one straight out of the bottle. But if you don't have it you can mix it. We used very pale yellow with a touch of tan added to it.

begin to paint cakes. Here's the fun part! This is really simple and you end up with a great look. In this stage we're just painting the cake part of the cupcakes. Use a #6 round artist brush. Work from the right side of the cake to the left side. The same process goes for whatever color you're using. 

use a watercolor effect. Just paint in the right quarter of the cake using an up and down stroke. Then, while this quarter strip of paint is still wet, wipe the excess paint off of your brush with a paper towel, dip the brush in your water jar and continue using the up and down stroke on the cake, working from right to left,  you'll be spreading color gradually to the left, starting from the edge of the still-wet paint and blending into the unpainted remaining 3 quarters of the cake. So as you stroke up and down and work from right to left with the damp brush you'll be fading the color to the left until you reach the other end of the cake, where your brush should be almost free of paint, so that the left side is palest and the right side is darkest. You're going for a gradient effect. This will give easy shape, light, and shadow to your cupcakes. 

add shading. This step will give your cakes just a tiny bit more detail but it will make a big difference in the overall effect. You're essentially painting thin shadow lines. Just use a darker color to do this. In the case of yellow cake, just add a little bit of brown to your paint. And with the chocolate just use straight chocolate paint. With the same # 6 brush paint a thin line under the line that separates the frosting from the cake. Also paint a thin line along the bottom curved line where the cake hits the plate

start on the right. Since our background is mainly pink and we have little punches of aqua here and there, we decided to paint our cupcake stand aqua. We mixed a fairly bright aqua and we're using pretty much the same method of painting that we used on the cupcakes.

lighten as you go. Paint the right hand strip of the stand, and the right side of the rim. Then wipe the excess paint from the brush, dip it in water and then blend the paint from right to left. Pulling the color until it fades to nearly the raw white of the watercolor paper.

blend. It really is easy using this watercolor style method. Just continue brushing with your damp brush until the base is filled in with color. You will probably want to dip back into the aqua paint and add more color to the right end of the stand and also add a line of paint directly under the bottom plate of the stand, this will act as a drop shadow.

scoop some molding paste. Now it's time for the frosting. We love this product. Molding paste by Golden...and you can find it in other brands too...Liquitex is probably nearly as good as this one. Molding paste is thick and colorless and when it dries it will hold peaks and swirls and whatever brush strokes you make. When we discovered this product many years ago we just knew that it would be perfect for rendering frosting. We often bring it to teaching events so that our students can play with it and see the wonders it works with texture. It's awesome. So...scoop some of the molding paste onto your palette. Scoop separate blobs for each different color of frosting that you'll be using.

tint with paint. Since molding paste is colorless you'll have to add paint. We added about 50% paint to it. 

mix well. We always use the butt end of a small paint brush to stir colors on our palette. It mixes the paint well and by using the butt end as opposed to the bristle end you won't be losing a bunch of paint in the bristles. And you'll preserve your bristles better if you don't use them for stirring paint.

mix some more colors. You can go color crazy, but as I said above, we're going with a fairly tight color palette. Just chocolate, creamy white, a dark pink, and a light pink.

start "frosting". Of course you're actually just painting...but it will feel different because of how thick the paint is from the molding paste. Use your # 6 round brush to apply it. Work in a swirling motion, covering the entire frosting area...and make sure that you don't brush too much. The less you brush the'll get more peaks and heavy swirls if you don't over-render the paste.

"frost" all of your cupcakes. Again, do it slapdash and easy...just as if you are swirling some frosting onto the cakes. And it's so easy because we're not mixing any colors. The swirls will give you shadows...your lights and darks. Let dry...and yes, the molding paste will take while to dry...use a blow dryer if you're in a hurry to finish your page.

write some words. As usual we're writing them on watercolor paper and then we'll be cutting them out and adhering them to our page. A lot of times we write our words in a fairly haphazard manner, but for this page we were going for a less journally look...this is more of an art piece...a painting with a title. So we're making more of an effort when rendering the words. Therefore we wrote them in pencil first and had a definite idea of how they would appear on the page. We wrote Celebrate Everyday in an arched shape because we knew those words would be going across the top of the page.
fill in with Sharpie pen. Once we were happy with our pencil version we then filled them in with Sharpie pen. The black would be nice and bold and stand out against the collage background.

cut out and adhere words. Cut out each individual word. It always looks good when you leave a little bit of white surrounding the words...they stand out better against the background and have a scrapbooky feel. Then adhere them with decoupage medium, let dry, and then apply a topcoat to protect them because you might get wash on them later.

outline with your Sharpie pen. Hopefully your frosting is now dry. If not...well then be very very very careful not to smudge it. But we really recommend waiting until the frosting is dry. In retrospect...we wish we saved the frosting step until the very end. Ok, so now outline your cupcake painting with a Sharpie pen. This really gives it a great look. The simple shading of the watercolor effect totally works with the black outline.  

sketch & doodle. As you can see from ours...we were very doodly...meaning: not-too-neat. For shadow areas use little ticking lines or tiny dots. Use thinner lines when drawing the pleats of the cupcake wrapper, and draw skinny curvy lines as the drop shadows for the cupcakes. Again, there is no exact science as far as doodling goes. Do what feels right to you.

make a wash. This is a wash that you'll be using for a couple of make a drop shadow for your painting...also to outline the image...and as an antique wash for the corners of the overall page. So make it dark but not too dark. Ours is brown and tan paint with water added to it.

add a drop shadow. With your # 6 round brush and the wash that you just made, paint a drop shadow under the bottom rim of the cupcake stand.

outline the image. Now, using the same wash and brush, apply a thin line of wash around the image...dampen your brush and brush the outer edges of the thin line to fade it into the background so that it has a softer appearance and looks more like a shadow.

add wash to corners. Brush some of the wash in each corner, one at a time and blot and dab the wash for an antiqued feel.

blot & dab. As said want to do one corner at a time so that the wash doesn't dry up on you. Just brush on the desired amount and blot away until you have the desired aged glow.

time to glitter. Do one cupcake at a time so that your medium doesn't dry up on you before you get a chance to sprinkle. We only wanted to glitter the lighter tinted frosting because sometimes the glitter will appear too stark against the dark chocolate. We recommend that you also don't glitter your chocolate frosting for this same reason. So, to glitter, brush on some medium...gel medium, or mod podge is fine...and then you'll be adding the glitter to that.

sprinkle. After you've brushed on your medium then sprinkle your fine clear glitter onto the wet medium. Then shake off excess glitter.

Hooray! Yes...week 10! You've expanded your talent did an actual painting this week! We hope you had as much fun as we had!

Supplies used on these pages:

Papers used:

  aqua damask - Hambly "mini brocade"
Lullaby Small Flowers - Moda for Daisy D's
pink with rose floral - Anna Griffin Inc.
Aqua Tiny Dots - Echo Park Paper
Lullaby Check - Nursery - Taylor for Daisy D's
Peony Tiny Dots - Echo Park Paper
vintage ledger paper
vintage recipe book clippings
watercolor paper

Assorted mediums and tools: 

Sharpie pen
 assorted acrylic paints by Blick and Golden
 matte gel medium by Golden 
Blick gesso
assorted paint brushes, mainly # 6 round detail brush
molding paste by Golden
ultra fine clear glitter


We are so so thrilled to have you with us! Anyone who has been here since day one...and anyone who just started journaling with us today. We absolutely love Art Journaling and we find that it's a gift from the universe that we actually get to share our methods with all of you. We'd love for you to grab our button above and add it to your blog or facebook. And also please leave us a comment and share a link to your Art Journaling so that everyone can follow along with your creative process. Our favorite thing to do all week is to catch up with all of your please keep all of the artful goodness flowing. And please feel free to ask us any questions...we love to help when we can. We hope that we were able to clearly explain these simple painting tips. And we hope that we can chase away as many paint phobias as possible. The biggest obstacle when it comes to painting is fear. So please, drop the fear, pick up a brush, and free yourself to paint. It is so much fun! Ok, thanks so so much again for joining us!
xo, Jenny & Aaron


  1. Absolutely gorgeous!!! I loveeeeeeee what you did with those cupcakes!!!!

  2. These came out soooooo beautiful! I have to bookmark this so I can comeback and make this awesome piece of art. Wasn't the weather so much better today?! It had me in such a good mood that I made "real" cupcakes. My kids loved me extra for that! You have so much talent, I'm so happy that you share it with all of us....Xo,Eeka

  3. @Julie Thanks so much! We've been using molding paste for "frosting" for years..and it is just so much fun! :) Give it a try! xo

  4. @Live.Love.Random. Thanks bunches!! :) Glad you liked it! Happy to share! It would be great as a canvas as well! If you do give it a go..we'd love to see it! :)

    Hooray for cupcakes! :)


  5. frosting the cupcakes with modeling paste & glitter sprinkles! :) you guys rock. o have modeling paste, but i never thought to use it like this. when i give it a go, i will definitely send you a link.

  6. Those cupcakes are great! I tried do it and this is what I made, be welcome


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xo Jenny & Aaron

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