In the Art Studio: Mixed Media Art Inspired by The Purses Project

Detail of painted purse on Her Story Matters, mixed media painting by Jamie Howell

Detail of painted purse on Her Story Matters, mixed media painting by Jamie Howell

Over the weekend, I turned on some tunes with Spotify and painted my heart out! It was a fun combination of mixed media, Mumford & Sons blaring and paint splattering. I worked on several different canvases over the weekend, some are finished but many are still a work in progress. I did complete a set of whimsical painted birds (Sing & Soar) and a 12×12 mixed media painting of a purse inspired by (of course) The Purses Project. The painting, Her Story Matters, is a visual reminder of the true purpose of The Purses Project; to share her story (the life story of women lost to cancer) through the creative efforts of her loved ones. In sharing and creating, we can change the story of cancer and grief.
Here’s a few photos of my weekend in the art studio:
Her Story Matters, Mixed Media painting by Jamie Howell

Her Story Matters, Mixed Media painting by Jamie Howell

The purse painting combined acrylic paint, scrapbook papers, book pages and bits of my grandmother’s vintage lace slips
lace detail of Her Story Matters, mixed media painting by Jamie Howell

lace detail of Her Story Matters, mixed media painting by Jamie Howell

Sing & Soar, mixed media painting by Jamie Howell

Sing & Soar, mixed media painting by Jamie Howell

detail of Soar, mixed media on canvas by Jamie Howell

detail of Soar, mixed media on canvas by Jamie Howell

I’m also working on an altered book so while the purse painting was drying, I ran over and put gesso on the book pages.
Gesso prepares the altered book for painting

Gesso prepares the altered book for painting

My paint palette

My paint palette

I so love my little studio and the freedom it gives me to create. Most of all, being in my art studio makes me feel energized and alive. I hope today you have a place and a time when you create something that makes your heart full. Your studio could be in a kitchen, your backyard project, a classroom or the nursing home you visit. Your unique touch in even the simple things, can make all the difference.

Many thanks for your time with me today.

Live Creatively,


In the Studio: Mixed Media of Fearless Frida Kahlo

Today in the studio, I decided to do a little mixed media piece honoring my favorite female artist, FRIDA KAHLO. If you are a woman artist, Frida awakens something in you to be different and more daring. Frida’s life and artwork reminds us as women to BE FEARLESS. In photographs of her, she seems to exude confidence and defiance and all the while sporting her famous unibrow (I’ve added a few of those photos at the end of this post). But first, here’s the steps I took to create this mixed media canvas.
vogue cover of frida kahlo

I started with a 12×12 canvas and painted the background with Aqua Green and lots of white. Next, I added some stencilling with white spray paint and painted playful flowers like the ones Frida often wore in her hair. Gray and white drybrushing helped me to distress the background. I splashed on a watery mix of white satin paint and watched as it dripped down the canvas.
background for frida kahlo

I printed out an image of Frida Kahlo and hand colored her lips and flowers with yellow and red Prismacolor pencils. I used the Aqua Green and white mixture to dry brush around the image edges. A toothbrush helped me splatter small dots of white paint on the image and on the canvas.
hand colored copy of frida kahlo

I printed other images like quotes by Frida and Day of the Dead skulls to celebrate Frida’s Mexican culture. I painted the skulls with a watery mix of yellow, pink and purple and let dry. I also drybrushed around the edges of the quote and let dry. I cut all of the images out and moved them around on the canvas until I was satisfied with the layout.
painted skulls for frida kahlo mixed media

layout for frida kahlo mixed media

I attached the images to the canvas with Mod Podge and let dry.
detail of frida quote

I “inherited” these cool brass letter stencils from my mom after a cleanning frenzy. They are great because they connect together so the word is perfectly spaced and lined up. Love it! I used black acrylic paint and a stencil brush to add the words, BE FEARLESS
stencils for f. kahlo mixed media

I added more distressing by drybrushing with gray, then white and splattered small dots of white and yellow paint all around the canvas (via a toothrush transformed into cool aplattering tool).
detail of frida mixed media

The finished canvas was allowed to dry and then a layer of Mod Podge painted over the entire surface.

Fearless Frida, mixed media painting by Jamie Howell

Fearless Frida, mixed media painting by Jamie Howell

This canvas is being given as a birthday gift to an artist friend of mine but I want to make another for my studio as a constant reminder to BE FEARLESS in my creativity!
To finish this post, here’s some photos from Pinterest that show Frida at her confident best. Don’t you love the flowers and beautiful jewelry she adorned herself with?

Source: via Gabriella on Pinterest

Source: via Barb on Pinterest

Source: via Nuria on Pinterest

Inspiring Lettering: Adding Her Name to the Purse

As I mentioned in my earlier post, Adding Her Name, The Purses Project is a memorial project so the name is an important part of each purse. There are no limits for “how” to do the name on your purse–you can paint it, draw it, stamp it, stencil it, glue it, sew it–you get the idea. The internet is a creative source, download free fonts from sources like the graphics fairy ( or spell her name in cool vintage scrabble tiles or typewriter keys from Etsy or Ebay. Your local Michael’s, Hobby Lobby or JoAnn’s is stocked full of lettering in the scrapbooking section. Some of the examples below are not purses, but super easy to apply the general idea to your purse. For now, be inspired by the creative lettering done by amazing artists found on Pinterest:

Source: via Jamie on Pinterest

Source: via Jamie on Pinterest

Source: via Jamie on Pinterest

Source: via Jamie on Pinterest

Altered Purse Artists: Inspiration for The Purses Project

Isn’t the web such a great place to find inspiration? Pinterest made it so easy for me to put together a board devoted to The Purses Project ( with altered purses, art techniques, videos and alternative purses such as book purses! You can see my completed altered purse at the “Getting Started on a Purse” (link to the right). I’ve also found two fantastic blogs with great altered purses and clear how to’s. Follow the links under their photos to see how they created their masterpieces and get your own creative juices flowing for your purse. REMEMBER, don’t forget to add the full name of the woman you are honoring as well as your own name as the purse maker. (see details on category: Getting started on a Purse)

Altered purse by Penny Richards pennyrichardsca

Altered purse by Penny Richards pennyrichardsca Altered purse by Sara Batkin's Legacy of Love
Altered purse by Sara Batkin’s Legacy of Love

An Artistic Break with Encaustics

blog version of encaustic
Today I took a little break and spent the day playing in hot wax! I have been fascinated with encaustics (an art form using hot wax and pigment) for a while and finally took a workshop from the Atlanta encaustic artist, Penny Treese ( I made the picture for my studio to remind me to play when painting and see mistakes as opportunities. The photo is me and my cousin and captures the childhood ability to just love life at the moment and even act a little goofy. Penny was an excellent teacher (as well as Kim, her assistant) and I can’t wait to do more experiments with hot wax!
(I asked her about using this technique on a purse but it seemed a little too complicated for our purposes).

Where do I find a purse?

A woman’s purse is a personal statement and a functional feminine tool. Since my grandmother died over 20 years ago, I did not have her purse to use for this project and I’m sure others of you are in the same situation. It may take a little searching, but it is easy to find a purse that will suit your needs for this project. Ideally, a purse that belonged to the significant female would be best but if a purse is not available, consider these options:

Goodwill purse

Goodwill purse

• Thrift stores such as Goodwill. Remember, you will be changing the surface of the purse with photos, paint, etc. so a few scratches or fade spots won’t matter once the purse is finished.
• Online sources such as EBay
• Clearance sales at stores such as Ross, Target or Marshalls.
• Michael’s Arts & Crafts had great unfinished wooden cigar boxes that I easily transformed into a purse. Check with your local cigar shop or cigar enthusiast for these boxes.
• Yard sales or raid your family/friends closets for unwanted purses
• Be creative, there are lots of internet sources for DIY purses that you can sew or make from common or recycled materials.

How do I begin a purse for the project?

The Purses Project is only in the beginning stages and needs your unique story to grow and become a powerful message concerning significant women lost to cancer and the grief we share. If it’s time to tell your story of the remarkable woman you’ve lost to cancer, here’s how you can begin.
• Gather photos, personal items, letters or mementos that belonged to or represent the significant female (photo/color copy the originals). Find a purse that belonged to your significant female or buy a purse that would match her style or taste.

• Clean the purse with alcohol and a cotton ball and then prime the purse with gesso (found at Michael’s Arts&Crafts). You can skip the priming step if you want to keep the original purse color.



• Now, let your creativity rule—Paint the background if you wish, and decoupage photos and personal items to the purse surface. Paper items can be easily attached with Mod Podge and heavier items with adhesive such as E6000 (available at Michael’s Arts & Crafts or Home Depot). The purse can be altered or embellished with paint, stamps, stencils, mixed media objects, collage, drawing, sewing and many other art tools and techniques.
blog version blog pic  may 16 IMG_20130427_121452

• Names are important in this project, so the full name of the significant female should be in a prominent position on the purse, creatively displayed and easy to read from a viewing distance. Also, the full name of the purse maker should be included on the back of the purse.
blog version completed purse
blog version of name on back
• The purse is open to personal interpretation and should be a visual celebration of the life of the significant woman. Consider not only her family roles but her significance in her culture, community and world.
• When you have finished your purse, please consider submitting the purse for future exhibit purposes or simply upload a picture to the online gallery (under construction). Our goal is to obtain 50 completed purses and seek a gallery for an exhibit.
purse complete for blog
Thank you for embarking on this journey. Please contact me if you need support, advice, tips or tricks for completing your purse.
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NEXT BLOG POST: Options for finding a purse