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Cool, Colorful & Creative

Hi Everyone,

I love color! The brighter the color, the more it seems to make my soul smile. And I hope that you will be smiling when you see how fast and easy it is to create your own colorful background washes. You'll only need a few supplies: a clear plastic sleeve (I get mine from, watercolor paper (I use Canson's 90lb cold press), a mister, and a few of Sakura’s awesome Koi® Coloring Brushes. In the photo below there are three different groups of the Koi Coloring Brushes which I know blend well together… use any one of these groups, make up your own, or combine all three groups to create a rainbow effect. FYI, I put a white backing board inside the clear plastic sleeve so you could see it.

Once you have the supplies handy, I’d recommend using an extra piece of watercolor paper to protect your work table. (Sometimes I get paint on the ‘protector sheets’, and like the way it looks so much that I wind up using it in a design!). Here’s the step-by-step process to create these beautiful backgrounds:

STEP 1:  Prepare your design. Either draw it directly onto the watercolor paper with a waterproof tool (my favorite is the Pigma® Micron), or print it onto the watercolor paper using a LASER printer. DO NOT USE an inkjet printer, because the ink will run.

STEP 2: As you'll see in the photo below, Sam is using the Koi® Coloring Brushes to apply color to the sleeve.

STEP 3: Make sure the color covers the entire design.

STEP 4: Mist color with water. The more water you use, the paler the colors will be.

STEP 5: Turn plastic sleeve over quickly, and place on top of the design. 

STEP 6: Press the color onto the paper. If you have a dry spot you can always peel back that section of the plastic sleeve, apply water TO THE SLEEVE (not the paper), and press again.

STEP 7: Remove the plastic and let the wash dry. 

STEP 8: Color the design! In the photo below, Sam is using Sakura's Moonlight, Metallic and Stardust Gelly Roll pens. 

Below is a photo of the finished, trimmed card. I think she did a great job!

I am having such a good time making background washes with this technique, that I decided to share it in one of the videos I filmed for Sakura last week. Here is a photo that was taken on the set.

Below is a 'sneak peak' at a piece you'll see in the video. I used a Pigma Calligrapher pen to letter the quote, because the ink is waterproof, lightfast and archival-- and it dries quickly. The 'Believe' and 'Dreams' were lettered with the 3mm pen; 'in your' was lettered with a 2mm pen. The photo below shows the Koi color already applied to the sleeve and placed on top of the lettering to make sure it covers the entire design.

This is what the piece looked like after I misted the sleeve and applied the color to the paper. The ink didn't run at all, but the pink is now on the bottom because I flipped the sleeve vertically.

One of the things I like best about this technique is that although I can't really control it, almost every wash I've done has turned out beautifully! Also, it's fast and fun to do, and I can make 20 to 30 washes in less than an hour... which gives me lots of cool, colorful papers to use next time I'm feeling the urge to experiment.

Experimenting is something I often do at my monthly 'play day'... I often invite a couple of creative friends over, and we try new techniques and tools without any expectations of creating finished work. Art, by its very nature, is about expression rather than perfection. Part of growing-- both as artists and as human beings-- involves giving ourselves permission not only to play, but to fail. Often we learn more from our failures-- especially those which take us out of our comfort zones-- than we do from repeating our successes. 

So I'd like to invite you to join me in setting aside a few hours each month to experiment, to discover and to play. Please let me know if you'd like to participate in a monthly 'Zenspired play day'... and if you would like suggestions for things to do that day. And if you already know what you'd like to do, I hope you'll share your 'play day' ideas by leaving a comment. 

As always, I look forward to your thoughts. May your week be as beautiful as a rainbow.

Stay Zenspired,




Color, Create, Pattern & Play 2

Hi Everyone,

Thank you to the 40+ coloring & patterning enthusiasts who signed up to help create the inspiration samples for my new Zenspirations® Color, Create, Pattern & Play books. I can't wait to see what you guys do! But remember-- I can't send you sample pages if I don't have your e-mail address—and there are several of you (Terri, Melinda, Susan, ANg, Janet & Linda) that I don’t know how to find. If you left a comment last week, please take a moment to make sure you included your first AND last name (which will allow me to find you if you are a blog subscriber) and/or your e-mail address if you don’t subscribe to the blog. I won't be sending pages out until the beginning of June, so if you can still sign up if you would like to participate.

I also want to thank everyone who posted their Zenspirations Mother's Day creations to Instagram and Facebook with the #Zenspirations. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that certain privacy settings would prevent me from seeing what you posted-- even if you added the hashtag-- so I could only find a few designs. I’m sorry if I missed yours—and would really like to see it. If you don’t see your creation below and would like to share it, please e-mail it to me:

My friend Tracey Lyon, CZT extraorinaire, created the saturated pastel background of the card below with Copic markers, and then drew on top of it with Sakura's white Gelly roll pen.

And then Tracey went the extra mile and created a design with an alternate effect. First she patterned it with Sakura's Pigma Micron 005 pen, and then 'popped' the color with Tombow markers. Tracey shared "I am thinking about adding family member names in the brown pebbly-looking pattern... Mom would love that!” I love all the patterns she added-- especially the pebbles, which remind me of my Written in Stone notecards. These are both great examples of how to 'color, create, pattern & play'.

Shearin Lee also did some awesome pattern enhancements, shown in her card below. I love the dramatic border; it really helps unify the design.

Yvonne Snyman Sandlin took patterning one step further, and did her pattern enhancements tone-on-tone!

Then there were a few people who created their own Zenspirations design rather than coloring the card I posted. Susan Stewart made the dangle card below for her daughter. I was touched by the words Susan used on the card: “To the Best Mom... My grandsons could ever have”. What a wonderful way to let your daughter know you think she's a great parent!


Susan shared a little about her card:  “Joanne, I was inspired by your YouTube video so here's my M-day card for my darling daughter (who really is the best mom to her two boys!!)”

My friend and fellow calligrapher, Alison Clement, created an absolutely beautiful Zenspirations card for her Zenspiring mom, Genna, who I had the privilege of meeting last year.

I love everything about this card, especially the uplifting text Alison used across the bottom.

The talented Jamie Torres, founder of Peace Hoops, created a wonderful Peace Dangle Design:

But my favorite card was the one my daughter made for me.

The background was created with Sakura's awesome Koi Coloring Brushes, and then Sam used Gelly Roll Moonlight, Metallic and Stardust pens to color the design. Here is a close up so you can see how the shimmery Metallic and glittery Stardust contrast with the flat, opaque Moonlight on the translucent background wash.

Sam had so much fun making the card that she made a bunch of backgrounds to use for future projects. Here's a photo of some of the colorful washes she made:

The technique she used to color the background involves applying the color to acetate rather than the paper. If you'd to see a step-out of how to do it, leave a comment. If enough people express interest, I'll explain the technique-- with step-by-step photos in next week's blog. It's fun, fast and easy-to-do, and I'd love to share it with you if you are interested.

This is going to be a very busy week for me-- Zenspirations is hitting the road! On Wednesday I’m going to Ohio to film a couple of episodes of the PBS television series Scrapbook Soup. While I’m at the television studio I’ll also be filming some new videos for Sakura, which I know a lot of you have been asking about. Yes, there will be some lettering ones! And one on flourishing, too. Please let me know what else you'd like learn in case there is time to film an extra video.

After the filming, I'm heading to NY for The National Stationery Show and SURTEX (the Surface/Textile design show). It's been a while since I've been to NY-- and the show-- and I'm really looking forward to reconnecting with all my Art Licensing and Greeting Card industry friends. Let me know if you'll be at the show-- maybe we can get together.

Stay Zenspired,



Color, Create, Pattern & Play!

Hi Everyone,

I have exciting news to share—two of my new Zenspirations® Color, Create, Pattern & Play books –Birds & Butterflies and Expressions of Faith— will be included on an end-cap at Michaels later this year! I’m looking for a few people who really enjoy coloring and patterning to help create the inspiration pieces for the new books—and was hoping that some of you would be interested. When I did the first three books in the series, I was able to include small color examples inside the back cover. I’m delighted that there will be full-color pages at the beginning of the new books, where I’ll be able to share different ways to pattern and color some of the designs. Some of the pages will feature one large image, but I’d like the first few pages to have four of the same image, each patterned and colored by a different artist. That's where you come in!

I know many of you are expert colorers, but I’m not sure how many of you actually pattern your designs before applying color. I’m looking for people who can do both, so I thought I’d share a bit about patterning this week. Since last week’s blog post included a free downloadable Zenspirations Mother’s Day card, I thought I’d use that as an example in hopes that you’ll try some of these techniques, and then post a photo of your finished creation (with your name on it!) BEFORE Mother's Day, to either Instagram or Facebook (don't forget #zenspirations). I’ll pick one or more projects to feature in next week’s blog, and I'm eager to see what everyone creates.

Here's a picture of the card:

To make it easy for you to see where I added patterns, I've color coded them in the order in which I did them. I want to encourage you to add your own personal touches to make the design unique. Some of my touches were adding the dangle heart at the top and the designs inside the flowers, which are shown below in red.


Next I added detail which you can see in the blue patterns below: 


Then I went back and added weight to some of the patterning I'd already done, and then added some additional enhancements. These are shown in gold below:

Below is what the design looks like with all the patterns I added shown in black so you can see how much interest and texture they add to the design: 


In addition to adding patterns, there are lots of other ways to enhance a design. Let's look at a page from my Zenspirations: Inspirations-- Designs to Feed Your Spirit book as an example.

In the examples below, I embellished the design on the left by personalizing it (notice the name above the top branch), as well as by adding patterns in the hills, leaves and beads. I enhanced the design in the center by slimming the tree so I could add patterns on the left of the tree trunk, and by adding a lot of patterning to the bird house. I also added additional leaves with dots inside and heavy borders, and then double stroked some of the letters so I'd have room to add color. The design on the right is closest to the original image-- but it looks quite different thanks to the arch pattern I drew inside the border. If I wanted to add texture and interest to this design, I could keep adding patterns the way I did in the Mother's Day card above.

I hope this gives you some ideas on how to embellish the designs and really make them your own. If this appeals to you, and you are interested in submitting your work for one of the new Color, Create, Pattern & Play books, I’ll send you a couple of the designs, and ask you to add patterns, color it in your favorite dry media— (i.e. colored pencils, markers, gel pens, crayons) and send me a photograph of your finished piece and the tools you used to create it. I will select some of my favorite styles, and those artists will each be asked to create one or more inspiration pieces for the books. If you know someone who might be interested, please share this information with them-- especially if you know an art student who hasn't had the chance to have their work published before. I love opening doors for people, and it would be meaningful to me to be able to include new talent in one of my books.

The aritsts whose work is selected will recieve a credit line and a sample copy of the book. And, of course they'll have a sneak peak at some of the illustrations! FYI, while I get a vote, my publisher will be making the final decision as to who's work to include, so know that this is an invitation, not a guarantee of acceptance

If you are interested in participating, I'd like to know what medium you plan to work in, and I’ll need your e-mail address so I can send you the sample designs. Please do NOT e-mail me or FB message me about this!!! It might be a few weeks before I'm ready to send the designs out, so I'd like to make sure that I have all the e-dresses in one place-- which means here, in the comment section of this blog post.  If YOU ARE A BLOG SUBSCRIBER (which means I have your e-mail address), you can leave your FULL NAME (otherwise I won’t be able to look up your e-dress) in your comment-- or just leave me your e-mail address, which is even easier. (You can tell that you are a subscriber if you get an e-mail with a link to the latest blog post every Tuesday morning at 10:00 am Eastern time.) If you aren’t a subscriber, you can either sign up for the blog or leave me your name and e-dress and I’ll add you to the list. 

Whether or not you want to submit designs for the new books, I do hope you'll download the Mother's Day card, add patterns & color, and give it to someone special. In the spirit of making a difference in the world, I'd like to ask you to join me in reaching out someone whose mother died since last Mother's Day. Holidays are REALLY hard when you lose someone you love, especially the first year. So if you know someone who can't be with their mom... please take a moment this week to let them know that you are thinking about them. A phone call, text, e-mail or card can make a big difference. 

Stay Zenspired,



The Happy Dance!

Hi Everyone,

I'm doing 'the happy dance' tonight, because at long last I have finished all the revisions that I wanted to make to my Kickstarter book, When You Lose Someone You Love. What an incredible journey this has been! I'm really pleased with how the book has turned out, and hope it will be a gift of comfort for those who have lost a loved one. Tomorrow I will send a pdf to a few people whose opinion I value and ask them to proofread it for me. Once I get their comments I'll make final edits, send the book off to press, and do another happy dance! YEAH!!!                                                                                                                                                     
While the books are being printed, I'm going to try to finish the new Zenspirations® Color, Create, Pattern & Play Birds & Butterflies, and Expressions of Faith books I've been working on, so when I get When You Lose Someone You Love back from the printer I'll be able to focus on sending copies out to the 449 people who backed my Kickstarter. If you are a backer, THANK YOU again for all your support-- and especially for you patience while I made all of the revisions (yes, I did wind up revising almost every page!). And THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to share their thoughts on which cover design I should go with… the colored version was the clear winner.                                                                                                                    
While I definitely appreciated all of the 162 comments shared this week, I was VERY happy not to have to create a spreadsheet and put everyone's name into a box! Rafflecopter worked well, and picked the winners of the Zenspirations® Anniversary Give Away for me. Congratulations to Cheryl Zacher, who won the Calligraphy Prize; Carolyn Bendsynski, who won the Drawing Prize; and Susie F, who won the Coloring Prize! Ladies please e-mail me at and let me know where you would like your prize shipped.                                                                                       
This week I wanted to invite you to participate in a different kind of contest-- one that will let your creativity shine. Since Mother's Day is right around the corner (at least for those of us who live in America), I wanted to invite you to create your own Zenspirations Mother's Day Card, and then share it by posting a photo to Facebook and/or Instagram. Be sure to include #Zenspirations. I will choose one or more projects and feature them on the blog. I'd love to see-- and showcase-- your work!                                                                          
To inspire you I thought I'd share some of the Mother's Day cards I've licensed to Design Design:                       
I know a lot of you really like to Dangle, so I've taken close up photos of two of the Dangle designs cards: The one below was created using the Foilux process, where the image is printed on foil, and then embossed. I love the way it catches the light...                                                                                                                             
This design below was printed on pearlescent paper, embossed, and then embellished with glitter and gems.       
Your Mother's Day card doesn't have to incorporate Dangles, but I hope you'll try one or more of the core Zenspirations techniques-- patterning, lettering, coloring-- and, of course, pairing your design with words from your heart. When I'm creating a new design, I always try to remember the tag line for Zenspirations: Live by Inspiring Others to Fly... which helps me focus on writing encouraging, uplifting words.                                                                                                                                                                                                           For those of you who would rather color than draw, I made a Mother's Day card that you can download, print out and color.                                                                                                                                                                      
For those of you who would rather create your own unique design, check out the video I filmed for Sakura of America last year showing you step-by-step how to create your own Zenspirations Dangle Design card.               
Below is a picture of the birthday card I created for my Mom in the video; but it would be really easy to write Happy Mother's Day instead of Happy Birthday.                                                                                                     
Click here to watch the video:                                                                                                                          

Please post your design(s) BEFORE Mother's Day, so I'll have time to review everything and select which designs to share on the blog on May 11th. Your card can be any size, and you can use any materials you like to create it. It doesn't have to be for your mom-- it could be for a friend, relative or neighbor who you think is a good mother, and who would appreciate a handmade card created especially for them. If you have any questions, you can message me on Facebook (Zenspirations by Joanne Fink), or you can leave a comment on the blog (leave your email address so I canwrite back!).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         I can't wait to see what you create!                                                                                                                                   
Stay Zenspired,



Celebrating Milestones

Hi Everyone,

Sometimes you start something on faith, not having any idea where it will take you. When I embarked on writing a weekly blog one year ago, I had no idea what an important part of my life it would become. I never dreamed that I would discover heartfelt connections to a community of compassionate, creative people who share my passion for making a difference in the world. Although I haven’t actually met most of you (yet!), I feel I know you through the comments you are kind enough to leave about what I post, as well as the artwork and insights you share. Making the commitment to spend every Monday night working on the blog has helped me find my ‘voice’… certainly my posts have gotten longer! Most of you haven't seen the image I created for my first weekly post, so I thought I'd share it tonight.


The image was accompanied by these words: "I believe that each of us is on this earth for a reason... and that we each have the power to help make the world a better place. We can each exercise the power of kindness; the power of compassion; the power of reverence and, most importantly, the power of love. Remember, a single loving act can transform the world!"

Transformation is a concept that really resonates with me. As those of you who are regular readers know, the tag line for Zenspirations is “Live by Inspiring Others to Fly”, and one of the ways I try to do this is by sharing suggestions of small things we can all do to make a difference, and encouraging those I share with to then share with others. I'd love to know how you try to inspire others; and I hope you'll join me in trying-- and sharing-- an idea I have about Celebrating Earth Day 2015.  

To commemorate Earth Day 2015, I thought I'd plant some roses this week. One bush will be planted in honor of my friends’ twin babies, who were born this afternoon; one will be in celebration of a special anniversary, and I’m going to plant a third in memory of my friend Leigh Edwards who died unexpectedly earlier this month. What I plant will not only beautify my little piece of the world, but I hope the flowers will always remind me of the special people in my life. I got this idea from my friend Ketra, who planted Lady Banks roses in memory of my husband, and sent me this beautiful photo of them last month.

SoSomeday, when the roses I plant in Leigh’s memory are in bloom, I plan to take a photo and send it to her husband and children to let them know that she is being remembered with love.   

As this is the 1st Anniversary of the weekly Zenspirations blog, I want to THANK YOU for being part of the Zenspirations community, and for sharing your thoughts and ideas. I read everything that you write, and greatly value your opinions. It means a lot to me that you not only respond to what I’ve posted, but read what others have written… I was especially touched by the comment that Kate Adderly left for Jill Therriault this past week… so Kate, this is for you… please let me know where to ship it. :-)


To THANK everyone who reads the Zenspirations blog, especially those of you who comment regularly, I wanted to do a 1st Anniversary ‘Give Away’. I asked Sakura and Strathmore, manufacturers of the pens and paper I use to create most of my art, if they would supply prizes for this special celebration—and both companies generously said yes!

But before we talk about a new give away, I’d like to give you a recap on the Cover Conundrum blog from two weeks ago. There were 123 comments—more than I’ve ever gotten before! Overwhelmingly, most people would prefer to see the dove on the cover of the Expressions of Faith book. There were 91 votes for the dove versus 24 votes for the angel. Although the dove was the clear winner, it was practically a tie between the 49 people who voted for the left dove and the 47 people who voted for the center dove. Only 12 people voted for the right dove, so I’m taking that one off the list. Assuming my publisher agrees, there will be text on the cover: 59 people would like to see text on the cover versus 39 who voted for no text. And lastly, what I should work on when I finish the Birds & Butterflies and Expressions of Faith books is unclear—50 votes for Trees and Leaves and 54 votes for Heartfelt Expressions. I guess I can't go wrong either way! 

And now for the winners: Terra Bos was the first name I drew, and Jen was the second name I drew. Congratulations to you both! Terra, I have your e-mail address since you subscribe to my blog; Jen I’m not sure how to find you! Even if you subscribe to the blog, I don’t know which of the 2 Jens, 2 Jenns, 14 Jennifers, 4 Jennys and 1 Jeni you are! Please e-mail me at, or leave a comment letting me know how to find you. 

Not knowing how to reach Jen has led me to make a change in how to manage the give away. Rather than my putting all the names in a box and drawing one at random, I decided to try Rafflecopter as a way to pick the winners. At the very bottom of this blogpost you’ll find a Rafflecopter icon; if you click it you’ll be guided through the process. I tried it on ‘preview’ and it was pretty easy to do, but I’d really appreciate knowing how you liked using Rafflecopter, and whether you think we should keep using it.

So now, on to the Give Away! I’m delighted to be able celebrate this milestone by giving away three different things: a Calligraphy Prize, a Drawing Prize and a Coloring Prize. There are, however, some eligibility requirements that I need to let you know about. First, I regret that we are not able to do any international shipping. Second, in order to be eligible to win one of the prizes you must be a blog subscriber. If you don’t already subscribe, you’ll be able to subscribe through Rafflecopter. One of the things I like about Rafflecopter is that you can ‘earn’ additional chances to win one of the prizes by doing additional tasks, such as liking my Zenspirations by Joanne Fink Facebook page, following me on Pinterest, following me on Instagram, or leaving a comment letting me know which cover design you’d prefer to see on my Kickstarter book. (More about this below).

If you do all of those things you’ll have five chances to win one of these three wonderful prizes:

CALLIGRAPHY PRIZE (valued at $75.00):

This prize includes what is shown in the photo above.

Sakura of America provided:

set of 6 Pigma® Calligrapher 1mm                           

 set of 6 Pigma® Calligrapher 2mm                             

set of 6 Pigma® Calligrapher 3mm                            

Pentouch Gold                                                                  

Pentouch Copper                                                                   

Pentouch Silver                                                                     

Pen pouch

Strathmore provided:

A 9 x 12 pad of 400 Series Drawing paper                              

A package of 10 Parchment Cards and Envelopes             


COLORING PRIZE (valued at $50):            

This prize includes what is shown in the photo above.

Sakura of America provided:

A 10 piece set of Gelly Roll® Moonlights®                                              

A 10 piece set of Gelly Roll® Metallic                                                     

2 Black Glaze pens                                                                                       

Pen pouch

Strathmore provided:

A 9 x 12 pad of black ArtAgain®paper, 24 sheets                                              

A 9 x 12 pad of Smooth Bright Construction paper (includes 6 colors), 30 sheets                                  


DRAWING PRIZE (valued at $60.00):

 This prize includes what is shown in the photo above.

Sakura of America provided:

A six piece color set of 05 Pigma Micron pens, which includes black, blue, green, red, purple and brown

An eight piece set of black Pigma pens which includes 6 Microns (005, 01, 02, 03, 05, 08), a Pigma Brush and a Pigma Graphic

A three piece set of black Pigma Professional Brushes in black (small, medium and large)

Pen pouch         

Strathmore provided:

Two 9 x 12 pads of 400 Series Drawing Paper 

Whether or not you want to enter the give away, I'd be grateful if you would share your thoughts about the cover of the book I'm about to self-publish (another milestone to celebrate!). It’s taken me MUCH longer than I had originally anticipated, but I’m almost done with the revisions, and will be able to send it off to the printer very soon. The last big decision I have to make is whether to stick with the original cover design (gold foil on black), or to go with a softer, full-color cover design. Here are the two options:

Please let me know which you prefer and WHY you prefer it. 

Here is what the back of each version will look like:

I’d welcome any other comments about the covers (or anything else that is on your mind). As a reminder, unless you have a truly unusual name, please sign your comment with your first and last name, or your first name and your e-mail address. That way I'll be able to find you!

And now, here is the Rafflecopter icon you can click in to enter the Zenspirations 1st Anniversary Give Away: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Good luck, Happy Anniversary, and thank you for celebrating this milestone with me. 

Stay Zenspired,