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ARTstarters: Creativity at pLaY!

Blogger:  Nicole Steiman, The Creativity Coach, Founder of The ARTbar Hands-on Studio

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  • 18 Nov 2021 12:57 PM | Nicole The Creativity Coach (Administrator)

    I’ve been doing so much wondering (and wandering) that it’s time to come back to doing something that I truly love and miss:  sharing some art inspiration with all of you!

    With all the changes that have been happening in my life, it’s been very meditative lately to create and color labyrinths.  I shared this awhile back, and I am just loving it all over again.  Every time I draw one, I discover a whole new metaphor for something going on in my life.

    This time, I re-created it on the ground with rocks, which was very peaceful to walk through.  It was also a great workout doing a million squats while I placed the rocks.  It seems quite amazing when it’s done!  But it really was very easy because I had a template to follow (and a husband who helped!)  I know, this is how labyrinths are USUALLY walked, on the ground.

    But in art . . . labyrinths can also be created on paper, using colored pencils, patterns, watercolors, words and more!  They can then be “walked” using your index finger as you slide around the drawn pathway.  I created some printable templates that you can download and color - great for all ages!  

    Creating a finger labyrinth is a great way to relax, focus on gratitude or even keep the kids busy over holiday break!

    It’s also a great way to pray when you feel lost, or don’t know which way to go.  The answer is: to the next step you feel God leading you.  It’s a meditative process that helps you slow down to listen.  Is your heart trying to tell you something?  Many times, the next step is clear, but we become frustrated because we can’t see the step AFTER THAT ONE.  The labyrinth is such a great metaphor for taking one step at a time!  What makes a labyrinth different than a maze is that there are no wrong steps.  As long as you just trust the process and keep walking forward, you will reach your destination.  

    Walking a labyrinth, with our feet or with our fingers, can be a wonderful exercise in trust, patience, breathing, and yes, thankfulness!

    So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, Advent and Gratitude!  And for any other prayers that are on your hearts this holiday season,  I invite you to draw and color your own Finger Labyrinth. 

    Register here for FREE to receive templates to color, as well as a video tutorial to learn how to draw a labyrinth using easy tips and tricks!

    Ideas for Using Your Labyrinth:

    1). Draw a repetitive pattern along the path.  And then add shading or coloring.  Add a little bit of pattern each day as you spend time giving thanks.

    2). Fill your labyrinth with words for all the things you are thankful for!  As you add color to the words, you can spend time reflecting on your gratitude for each item.

    3). Take relaxing, deep breaths as you trace your finger through the labyrinth.  You can focus on a phrase, verse or prayer of gratitude.  If you like, you can also write your prayer or verse inside the labyrinth or around.

    4). Add a little square of color each day along the labyrinth path to represent something you are grateful for.  On Thanksgiving, move your finger from color to color as you listen to a beautiful song!

    5).  Set some templates out at your next group event or family party, and share your designs with each other!

    There are so many ideas and ways to use finger labyrinths!  There is no wrong way!  You can use my templates, or even draw your own using my easy online tutorial. They look complicated but the step-by-step video makes it very easy to follow, and also includes a handout with more fun ideas.  Even in a large group, no two labyrinths turn out the same :)

    I hope you join us in drawing labyrinths and share your design.

    And to motivate you, I’m giving away a prize!  

    1). Join the Finger Labyrinth Online Challenge here

    It’s free (or you can make an optional $5 donation).

    2). Share a picture of a labyrinth you created and tell us a little about it.  You must share by midnight on 12/01/21 via Facebook here, or by email at:  nicole@ARTstarters.net

    You’ll receive one entry for sharing your labyrinth, and can also earn a bonus entry for each person you refer to the challenge (they’ll need to add your name when signing up).  Remember, it only takes 1 entry to win!   

    The winner will be drawn randomly and can choose one of these prizes:

    1). $20 Starbucks or Amazon e-gift card

    2)  A surprise art supply sent through Amazon ($25 value)

    Just a little something to make it all fun and suspenseful!

    So excited to see your designs!

    Happy Creating!!


  • 03 Feb 2021 2:07 PM | Nicole The Creativity Coach (Administrator)

    Can I share something personal?  During this pandemic, I am finding it extremely hard to focus.  I'm bombarded by change everywhere I turn, in my home life and in my personal life.   We recently moved our home, my work with the nonprofits is on hold, my studio is a huge mess while I am reorganizing, and my family life is in transition.  That's just a few of the things going on right now . . . 

    Nothing seems the same from a year ago, yet everything seems the same from week to week and month to month.  And it's all blurring together into one long "blursday."  Can you relate??

    And while my life is filled with change, I know that many others are filled with tragedy and anxiety.  I am constantly reminding myself to count my blessings and stay grateful for each breath of air.  At times I feel tiny bursts of joy, and then some moments out of nowhere I feel like crying.   So I take a deep breath and say a prayer and know that I just need to keep moving forward.


    Usually in January,  I cut snowflakes and use one to create a compass for the year. It's one of my favorite activities in my journal, as well as with my nonprofit art groups!  And it also makes a wonderful family project.  

    Cutting snowflakes makes me so happy because I never know what they will look like until I open them up.  They are beautiful surprises!  Yet in life, I don't always like surprises, even beautiful ones.  I want God to tell me exactly where I am headed so I can, you know, take it from there and carry on, thank you very much.   But I'm not always ready for the whole big picture.  And I am very much still learning how to trust God.

    Once I cut a bunch of snowflakes, I will pick one as my favorite and trace it to be my compass for the year.  I draw around it, color it, decorate it and add my goals around it.   Then I use it to stay focused throughout the year.   But so far this year, I am simply trying to stay balanced and happy.  There's just too much change in my life for specific goals (at least right now.). Sanity IS the goal at this point in time.

    So I thought I would share with you my simplified Compass.  I'm calling it my 12-Step Compass, because I use it to try to take 12 steps a day (3 in each quadrant).

    Instead of an 8-point snowflake (as pictured above), I simply cut a 4-point snowflake from a square folded into fourths.  

    Start with a square the size of the paper you want to trace it on.  Fold your square in half, and then in half again the other way (so when you open it, you will have 4 quadrants.) While it is folded, cut designs into the folded sides (which will be the arms.).   Keep it simple, because you can always add more designs to it on your paper when you trace and draw around it.

    I like to add a heart to the middle of my compass to represent my prayer to God for His guidance.  Here is an example of how to add lines and patterns to decorate around the snowflake:

    Each of the sections of my compass represent a different area of my life I am trying to balance:  

    NOWledge (N) - things I need to do or mental activities; problems to solve

    Social (S) - things I can do to  reach out to others and not feel alone

    Emotional (E) - things I can do that bring me happiness or make me feel beautiful

    Wellness (W) - things I can do to stay healthy and take care of myself

    I used my decorated compass to brainstorm a list of things in each of these areas.  I am sure your list would look different, and there is no wrong way to do it.   Your arms may even stand for different things, different areas of focus or roles you play in life, or even your goals.

    It's become a fun game for me each day to give myself a point when I do something in each area!  I track it in my planner by drawing a SIMPLIFIED compass, starting with a circle, and then a heart in the middle of it.  Then I draw a line from it to each side of the paper.  During the day I write down my points in each area.  This is how it helps me stay balanced and sane:  It's not just another day of laundry - it's a point for each load!   And when I don't have points in an area (such as social or emotional), it reminds me of why I am feeling off balance. Usually it's when I need to reach out to others or do something kind for myself, or something kind for them!  

    Drawing this simple compass takes only a few minutes, and gives me time to say a prayer at the beginning of the day.  In a way, it's like a tiny daily HEartPRAYER! (Click here if you would like to learn some other HEartPRAYERS.)

    If you're curious about my planner pictured above, it's called the Passion Planner.  I love it!!  My daughter Josie talked me into getting it last year.  She loves it so much that she became an Ambassador with them.  It has so much space for drawing (check out the dotted grid on the right side!), plus the paper is nice and thick for my art pens!  It's a great way to combine both my left and right brain :).  They daily sections are also great tools for mental wellness.   If you'd like to try it, click here and use her code at checkout for a 10% discount:  JOSIES10.   (She'll also earn a small commission to help support her college goals. So thank YOU.)

    This compass exercise has been a big reminder for me that the little things I do each day aren't meaningless, they really are filled with purpose.  (Even though they may feel mundane.) They help me be who I need to be in this world, especially in these crazy times, and for those around me.

    If you would like some help setting up your compass, just send me an email at Nicole@ARTstarters.net. I'm happy to spend a few moments with you by phone or by Zoom to get you started!

    More Resources on Creating Snowflake Compasses are on my YouTube Channel:

    Cutting 8-point Snowflakes: https://youtu.be/VDxXoPtC86M

    Adding Zentangle to Your Snowflake Compass:


    Using Colored Pencil with your Snowflake Compass: https://youtu.be/PrqlGOX7TIU

  • 10 Apr 2020 9:50 AM | Nicole The Creativity Coach (Administrator)

     Scavenger Hunts are fun for the whole family - especially when you create and color your own eggs with messages on the back.

    Use the link below as a starting point, and then hide them around the house. Turn it into a Treasure Hunt with clues if you're up for the challenge: write a clue on the back of the first one leading to the next egg location . . . And at the last location, end with a fun little prize!

    My Mom was the BEST at treasure hunts! Maybe she just wanted to keep me busy when I was younger, but I still remember how much creativity she used in her clues. I think she enjoyed it almost as much as me (her clues got harder and weirder each time)! When I got older, I had fun creating these hunts for my little Sis. And of course, I continued the tradition with my daughter . . . who now makes them for my son. I don’t know which is more fun - GOING on the hunt, or CREATING it!

    The clues don't need to rhyme, but it's a fun challenge for the hunt-maker. Here’s an example:

    "The most fulFILLING place in the house for young and old
    But if you keep the door open, you’ll start to feel COLD!”
    (And then hide the next clue in the refrigerator)

    This generous website has links to egg templates to color, and even blank ones to draw your own designs:

    Over the next few days I'll be sharing on our Facebook Page the ones I make with my family . . . and of course, some relaxing tangle patterns to draw inside them! So keep your eyes out over the next few days and see how many design ideas you can find, or register here to get the FULL DOZEN links all in one place (donation is optional).

  • 28 Oct 2019 5:45 PM | Nicole The Creativity Coach (Administrator)

    If you’re looking for a fun, yet artsy way, to celebrate Halloween or Fall, here’s a quick way!  Give your artists a list of 12 items and have them draw 9 of them on a tic-tac-toe grid.   You can also use rubber stamps (set out 12 designs and let them stamp just 9 of them and color them in). Just make sure they all don’t pick the same items and put them in the same exact squares!

    We added a fun twist by having them draw with the Sakura Moonlight Gel Pens on black paper!  We think they turned out pretty amazing!  

    And we all had a blast playing:

    Bingo (3 in a row, horizontal, vertical or diagonally)

    X (both diagonals)


    Plus Sign (not the corners)

    Postage stamp (4 together in any corner)

    and Cover All ( be prepared for multiple winners on this one!  But it’s fun for everyone to win in the end!!)

    Click here to download Fall Bingo List.pdf, my list of items to draw with instruction (prints 2 per page).  Just make sure to print an extra set to cut up for the bingo caller.  Oh - and definitely don’t forget to have prizes!!  Candy works great :) ( And it's also great to use as bingo markers.  Starbursts are actually perfect.  Give everyone nine pieces and they can eat them in the end whether they won or not!)

    This artsy homemade bingo game is also a great way to keep the kids busy! LOL!

  • 25 Oct 2019 1:40 PM | Nicole The Creativity Coach (Administrator)

    AMAZING!  But TRUE!  These are real decoupaged pumpkins.  Decoupage is the art of decorating objects by gluing paper to them.  It's a favorite art. project at all the centers we teach at, because it's easy to do and can last all the way through to Thanksgiving!

    And here's a link to a fun video filmed at The ARTbar years ago:


    I know, I know, they sell fake pumpkins now.  And they last forever.  But using REAL pumpkins is so traditional, and it really can freak someone out!  "Wait - that's a REAL pumpkin???"

    We have also heard from people who pull their REAL, DECOUPAGED pumpkins out a year later and they look just fine.  (Although we are sure it's not looking so pretty on the inside, and we don't recommend saving it past the season.). However when sealed, it lasts far past Thanksgiving.  The key is to use pumpkins that don't have much pulp.  We love the tiny white ones and the small tiger striped ones.

    For papers, the thinner the better. We  recommend paper made specifically for decoupage because not only is it thin, but it has a coating on it that prevents tearing once it gets wet with all the glue.  They now make them in so many beautiful patterns!  You can also paint or draw on your own paper (use Sandwich Wrap from Smart 'N Final.). For glue, use any clear drying glue that you already have.  But if you are buying some, we love the glossy Decou-Page because it glues, seals and leaves a glossy finish (and its not smelly like Mod Podge, although that does work if you have it.).

    And of course, you can always combine paint, glitter (glass glitter too!) and metallics for amazing effects!  
    And for those who want to draw directly on the pumpkin using the Zentangle method, we recommend the black IdentiPen (by Sakura).  It's amazing!  And you can use it to draw on mugs, platters and other non-porous surfaces too.  (Just wipe off the pen tip on scratch paper every now and then if drawing on a waxy pumpkin.)


    Listed below you'll see our favorite pumpkin/decoupage products.  If you buy on Amazon using these links, you are also supporting our work with nonprofits, as we share therapeutic art with those in need.  We get a tiny percentage of your sales without anything being added to your fee.  Thank you so much for your support!



    Diamond Glaze Gloss Glue/Sealer:


    Decopatch Papers: hot pink/black/white collection:


    Decopatch Papers: blue/black/white collection:


    Tim Holtz Vintage Paper (3 rolls):


    Tim Holtz Vintage Travel Paper:


    Real German Glass Glitter (assorted colors):


  • 09 Apr 2019 1:53 PM | Nicole The Creativity Coach (Administrator)

    Do you have a funny April Fool’s Story?

    This was me last Monday!!

    Here’s how it happened . . .  One word:  ORIGAMI.

    I woke up on April 1st with a crazy idea!  I would teach Origami at all my art sessions!  The last time I tried that, I swore I would NEVER EVER EVER do that again.

    Why?  Well, origami is the exact OPPOSITE of the usual art that I teach!

    In origami (unlike expressive art):

    1. there IS a right and a WRONG way to fold the paper for each design
    2. there IS a specific OUTCOME  (it should look like the picture when finished)
    3. All steps need to be performed EXACTLY and PERFECTLY - all corners should line up, etc.
    4. All steps need to be performed IN ORDER  - you cannot move forward if the step before it is not done and not done PERFECTLY (see #3 again)

    And although origami masters can teach a room full of hundreds of apprentices.  Me, not so much.  I have to show my group of 8 students one fold, and then go around and check each one and make sure they all did it "right," and help those who “don’t get it.” Meanwhile others get bored waiting or start folding it the way they want (aka "wrong").   It is not my recommendation for a therapeutic art class of more than 3 people, especially if they are dealing with ADHD.

    The last time I taught origami, exactly one year ago, I had tried it a different way.  I did it as a team exercise.  I taught the person next to me one fold, then they taught the person next to them and so on.  While that teaching was spreading around the circle, I could then teach the next step to the person next to me and repeat the process  . . . in an attempt to keep the group from getting bored while waiting for the whole room to learn the fold.  It worked somewhat.  But with some of the groups i taught, it turned out to be a classic game of Telephone.  What came back around the circle looked nothing like what I started with.  Oh well.  Mental note to not do THAT again.

    Yet, on April Fool’s Day,  I decided that I would be the FOOL and teach origami one more time  (because many people love it and beg me to do it.  Why do I listen??). Yet this time I decided to be more CLEVER about it and play an April Fool’s Joke on my classes.  I told them that instead of me teaching that day — that they would be the teachers!  I imagined me relaxing on my chair and watching them all come to life as confident art teachers.

    I handed out origami books to each set of partners and told them to interpret the directions, fold the item, and then, if they like, to teach it to us during the last half of the class.

    Well, it sort of worked.  And yes, it was frustrating for some of them.  And most of them did not work well in partners.  And who can interpret those origami books anyway??  But we ended up doing a fabulous job on the 1st project in the book:  a paper airplane.  And they had a blast seeing whose plane flew the furthest.  I gave prizes to everyone and hopefully they forgave me for any frustration they experienced. (Yeah, the penguin wasn’t an easy project, with 26 folds, and kudos to the pair that tried to teach us THAT.)

    So at the end of this April Fool’s Day, I promised myself AGAIN, that was the last time I EVER EVER teach origami - lol!  But already the next day, I broke that promise again:

    The very next day in another art group,  everyone was still finishing up a project except one artist who finished early.  I asked her if she would like to make an origami crane - after all, I still had the remains in my art bag from yesterday’s horror.  She lit up with excitement!  

    Guess what?? Teaching origami ONE-ON-ONE actually was FUN!  I made a fold while she watched, and then helped her make the same fold.  We did this for the 1st few cranes until she felt confident to try on her own (with me there to help if she skipped a step or got stuck). Once the rhythm of the folds is learned, origami can actually be meditative.  And the process can be quite healing when you repeat the process over and over again.  It becomes routine.  And the success in the end gives a HUGE feeling of accomplishment to the artist!  Her smile was beautiful (and her cranes too!) And boy did I need that success after the day before (even more than my client, no doubt!)

    So . . . A HUGE THANK YOU to my solitary artist for bringing healing to me on the day AFTER April Fool’s Day.  And thank you mostly to all the artists that SUFFERED through the origami  APRIL FOOL‘s DAY this year.!

    Art, like life, is full of so many life lessons.  And what is hard for us in art, is usually hard for us in life.  Step-by-step following directions is not what comes naturally to stubborn people like me - LOL!  And that is my wisdom from my FOOLISH Day!

    Most likely, next April Fool’s Day I will try it again.  I am not THAT wise after all, and I actually am stubborn like that.  And still searching for a miracle way to share origami.  Perhaps I’ll just bring 7 more assistants with me next year so we can all teach it one-on-one.  :)

    Any volunteers???

    Please tell me your origami or April Fool’s stories!


    Amazon link to an all inclusive kit that's great for classes (small classes, that is):


  • 01 Mar 2019 6:03 PM | Nicole The Creativity Coach (Administrator)

    I confess, I was doing it all wrong when I first started making art. 

    I was creating simply to make a particular outcome.  I was comparing my art against others’, and feeling like what I made didn’t measure up.  Or I would follow step-by-step results in order to make it look like the sample.  And of course, if it didn’t, I would again feel like it wasn’t enough.  And on a deeper level, like I wasn’t enough.

    I hadn’t yet realized that being an artist is also: 

    1. creating something that may be unknown to you in the beginning 
    2. trying things in new ways and new combinations  
    3. making “mistakes” and then because of them, discovering new ideas.
    4. allowing your art to look “bad,” imperfect or unfinished, simply because it is still in the process of becoming. AND BEING OKAY WITH THAT.  (And with ourselves too.)

    I was also forgetting that art is a PROCESS, not just an OUTCOME.  It is meant to be journeyed through, not just obtained.  It is meant to be an adventure.  Like life.

    And when I started to enjoy the process itself, I started making my best art.  I began to let the mess of art guide me. The better I got at experimenting, the more I started to find my own style.  Things that felt like “me” and things that didn’t.

    Here are the questions I ask myself, that I still use to this day with my clients:

    1) what do you like about it.

    2) What do you not like about it.

    3) If you were to do one more thing to it, what would it be?

    4) How are you FEELING about it?

    But here’s the question I learned that changed me for the rest of my life:

    5) Listen to what your art has been telling you:  What do you HEAR?

    If I ask, “what do you think it means,” it seems way too logical and analytical to answer.  But if I ask “what do you HEAR,” it becomes about what you are hearing your heart tell you.  It bypasses the logical mind.  There’s no right or wrong about it.

    Your art might be telling you:

    • “I’m a mess!”
    • “My colors are so dark, and it makes me feel angry.”
    • “I’m not sure what I’m doing or where I’m going.”
    • “I am willing to change, to start over.”
    • “Don’t give up on me!”

    I learned to use the process of art to LISTEN because it has so much more to say to me than whether it looks good or not.   Art is not meant to be judged, it’s meant to SPEAK!

    And it speaks things we often cannot often express with our logical mind.

    That’s what allows us to use it to connect to our heart. And to connect to our Creator.

    And that’s the gift of creativity we all have inside us.  If we stop to listen to it.

  • 12 Nov 2018 10:19 PM | Nicole The Creativity Coach (Administrator)

    November is a great month to create art with your family and friends!  And why not involve a little nature walk too?

    Whether it's collecting rocks and painting them, or finding twigs and wrapping them in yarn, nature provides many free art supplies all around us.

    Although my family lives in California, it's still possible to find some fallen twigs and leaves -- sometimes on the ground, and always at Michaels.  LOL!  Tracing silk leaves on watercolor paper and painting them is always one of my favorite ways to welcome in Fall!  You can read more about it from our blog post a few years ago.

    When I first start sharing this art exercise at nonprofit organizations, I wanted to make the project more meaningful by having them choose colors to reflect changes in their lives -- both the good and challenging. The contrast of the colors is what made the leaves so beautiful!  We started to see the dark veins of black and purple (hard changes from our past) as necessary components to the art of our lives.  Surprisingly, we LOVED the black color the most.  And after painting our first leaf, we found ourselves all wanting to add a little bit of black to other leaves we painted!
    You'll see examples of this in the video here:
    Here's a video that shows my family painting Leaves of Change.

    I hope you take the time to walk a little in nature, count some blessings, create some art -- and have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with your loved ones.
  • 09 Nov 2018 12:53 PM | Nicole The Creativity Coach (Administrator)

    I have always loved creativity and the joy it brings to life!  I've often felt it was my mission to convince people that they are creative, whether they think they are or not, (or even want to be or not, LOL!)

    That's why I opened The ARTbar over 15 years ago.  To help EVERYONE feel like an artist and find their inner creativity.  It's also one of the reasons why I fell in LOVE with the Zentangle process.  It can be done by any age, any artistic level -- and it's relaxing and fulfilling!

    But on a personal level, although making art made me FEEL better, it didn’t truly fill the hole in my heart.  It was a hole that kept getting bigger the more I wandered away from God.  Yet because of my love for creativity, the process of art helped me to slow down and open my heart to Him in ways that the busy-ness of life wouldn’t allow. 

    Lately, I've been wondering how to best share with you some of the creative exercises that I use in my personal life.  Most of the in-person classes I do are for teams and nonprofits.  It's not possible with my schedule to offer classes for individuals on a regular basis, which is why The ARTbar is only open to the public during our monthly ARTwalk (1st Saturday night).

    So I made this video of one of my favorite spiritual practices, using ART to draw my PRAYER.  It helps me to take a deep breath and calm the chatter in my mind.

    And that’s how HEartPRAYERS were created. If you are on my newsletter list, you already received the very 1st video.  If not, I hope you enjoy this preview of the 1st HEartPRAYER video from October, titled Holy & Whole: (2 minute overview version).

    My goal is to share a new FREE video prayer with you monthly, so if this resonates with you, please subscribe here, and choose HeartStarters/HEartPRAYERS as an option on the mailing list.  We'll send you the complete step-by-step of the video above, as well as an additional video on our coloring/shading tips.   Plus we'll let you know when the next one is available for viewing.  

    Don't forget to join us on Facebook and enter the Challenge!  I'm offering a surprise gift for one lucky winner, just as a way to encourage you all to try it!

    This gift will include a CD from Salt of the Sound, who graciously provide the lovely background music on the video.  I love creating art to their music!  I call it the soundtrack to the movements of my soul.

    Happy creating and creative praying. 

    - Nicole

    Nicole Steiman, Creativity Coach

  • 11 Oct 2017 1:46 PM | Nicole The Creativity Coach (Administrator)

    Paint by pouring is one of my favorite ABSTRACT ART PROJECTS!  We've been sharing this project for over 10 years at The ARTbar and at various centers around the community.  It’s intuitive, it’s fast, and it always turns out amazing! 

    It’s no surprise that it is ALWAYS a highly requested project from all the centers I visit so we end up doing it several times a year!

    The process itself is very easy.  You simply mix a colored pigment into a liquid gel. And then you pour it on!  Anyway that you like!  

    Keep in mind that canvases should stay in place for at least 24 hours to dry before they are moved.  So although the process itself is fast, the total drying time is not.  However, most of the paint will set (not DRY) after a few hours so you can carefully move your canvas to another location to dry at that point.


    1.  Start with a Deep Breath and a Connection to Your Heart:

    I encourage people to choose colors that represent something to them (whether they are painting their feelings or an abstract of a special memory).   Their abstract painting will then be more meaningful to them, like a secret representation of something important to them.

    2.  Pour the Gel into Mixing Cups

    The gel is what creates a pouring consistency to your paint.  If you pour paint directly on a canvas, it may drop in globs and just stay there, like a splatter effect.  Using gels allows you to try different effects and consistencies.

    Liquitex Pouring Medium is one of my favorite gels for pouring abstract paintings  (see link below).  Pouring Medium is designed to have a fluid movement and to self-level over the canvas, creating a smooth, glossy sheen that almost looks like resin.  (However it is not as hard as resin, so you could leave marks if you pressed something sharp into the dried surface, like your fingernail.). Dried paintings with Pouring Medium will still look wet because they are so shiny!

    To create colors to pour, I like to use small plastic condiment cups and thin red sip straws (coffee stirrer straws).  When teaching this project, I will give each person 3 cups (each with about 1 oz of Pouring Medium) and a small pile of stir sticks for them to create 3 colors (step 3). 

    You can use as many colors as you want with this technique!  But starting with only 3 is a good way to control the use of paint and the cost of the project.  They could then share leftover paint from each other if they want to add more colors.  

    3.  Add the Color:

    Choosing colors is the fun part!

    You could choose any type of pigment that is water-based or acrylic so use the best acrylic paint that you already have on hand.  Inexpensive acrylic craft paint is usually easily available and will still work fine.  Depending on how thick or thin your paint is, it may change the consistency of your Pouring Medium, so ONLY ADD A FEW DROPS (no more than 20% paint, that's a 1:5 ratio of paint to gel.)

    Pouring medium looks like a cloudy white when it is wet, but it dries SUPER CLEAR and GLOSSY.  So keep in mind that your colors will dry darker than they look when you are mixing them. So don’t be alarmed if you mix in a few drops of red and it looks more like a cloudy rose color.  Don’t keep adding more red to get the color you like!  You will just end up with globs of paint that won’t pour smoothly.  Remember that the cloudy white of the gel will dry clear and you will get your original paint color back. I promise!

    It’s also fun to play with mixing colors at this step and make custom blends— it feels like a super fun chemistry session!  Add a small drop of a few different colors to create a new color.  It’s also a fun way to experience the color wheel.



    Make sure to mix a contrast color, such as white, yellow or black, depending on the colors you pick.  I also recommend choosing a metallic color for special effects, such as bright gold or silver.  

    2). USE DRY PIGMENTS vs Paints: 

    My favorite way to add color to Pouring Medium is to work with a dry ground pigment of color (see my recommendations below).  This way ALL the liquid is pure POURING MEDIUM, keeping the perfect consistency.  

    Dry pigments sometimes look a little different when mixed with liquid, depending on the mineral.  They are darker and more concentrated in their dry mineral form.  

    It may be helpful (and fun!) to create a color chart first by dipping your clean brush in the pigment and then mixing it into a drop of gel on a scratch paper.  Make sure to label the color so you can find it later if you want to use it.  Dry pigments are especially  fun for creating custom colors  -- even if they turn out as a surprise sometimes! :).  

    My favorite dry pigments are Polished Pigments (see link below) since they come in so many intense, beautiful colors and contain a little mica for a subtle shimmer/metallic effect.

    4.  Pour It On!

    This is my favorite part of the class!   There really isn’t much instruction to give for this step.  You can pour it on, drip little drops, drop color on top of another color, drag the red straws or toothpicks through it for marbling, and even blow through the tiny straws to move your color around the canvas.  Another fun effect is to pour some clear gel and watch how it moves the colors you already poured. 

    I was just going to make some videos to share with you, and then Michaels happened to share the same project on their blog.  Click here to watch their videos of different pour techniques.  But make sure to come back here for my special tips & product recommendations (and better pricing).

    IMPORTANT:  My only caution is not to STIR the colors on your canvas too much or you will get one muddy color, instead of the beautiful dance of colors that you started out with.  

    When the painting is done, let it dry for at least 24 hours.  You can then easily use scissors to trim off any excess paint that may be hanging off the canvas.  When it dries it will still look wet!

    5.  Reflect on Your Finished Painting

    So many times we are tempted to judge the finished outcome of our art.  Did it turn out how I wanted it to?  Did it turn out as beautiful as someone else’s?  Paint by pouring, like most abstract techniques, is about letting the painting become what it is supposed to become in that moment.  It requires you to let go of some of your control.

    After creating your painting, this is a good time to reflect in your journal:

    • How did the process of pouring feel?  
    • What does your painting represent to you?  
    • How is abstract painting like life?


    Well, that’s basically all you need to know to create a beautiful canvas with Pouring Medium!   Go ahead and try it — I know you’ll have a lot of fun!!

    Here are some more pictures from a recent class:


    Checklist of Supplies Needed (note: NO paintbrushes for this technique!):

    • Canvas (for this project I prefer the thicker canvases, called “gallery wrapped” in a small size such as a 4" or 5" square)
    • Liquitex Pouring Medium (see link below;  thank you for purchasing through us!A
    • Any paint or pigment  (any will work but the Primary Elements pigments are the BEST!)
    • Coffee stirrers, toothpicks or skewers (to move paint around)
    • Disposable mixing cups (I like the little sauce cups from Smart ’N’ Final)
    • Magazines or wax paper

    Optional Supplies:

    • A level - to make sure the surface of the table and canvas is level (add toothpicks under one side of painting if needed)
    • Masking Tape - to tape off bottom of canvas to keep it neat in case of dripping underneath
    • Thumbtacks - to insert into the 4-corners on the bottom of the canvas to raise it off the surface (then your canvas won’t get stuck in dried paint)
    • Styrofoam meat trays (Smart 'N' Final) - they have a nice flat surface along with a lipped edge to capture running paint


    Shop on Amazon for cheaper prices (and support this blog too! We get a tiny bonus on your purchases with no extra cost to you!). Thanks SO much for reading and for your support.

    These are my favorite supplies for this project.  Purchase all of them together and you'll be all set for a paint party or to make a 9-piece gallery display for under $75 (and all in a day's pour!):

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