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The process of purging my art studio, getting rid of unused supplies, and finding a few messages along the way by Carolyn Dube

Ever spend an entire afternoon searching for that one thing you know you have but can’t seem to find?  After spending an embarrassingly long time looking I had to laugh at myself. This is why I prefer to use what is within arms reach, there is no search and rescue team needed for that!

It was time to purge the studio yet again, but this time, I went at it ruthlessly and with a sense of humor because some it was a bit ridiculous.  The goal was to to clear things out so that if I looked in a drawer or a cabinet, I could see exactly what was in there. Time has proven over and over that if I can’t see it, I won’t remember to use it.

You bet my inner art supply hoarder was in a panic!
The process of purging my art studio, getting rid of unused supplies, and finding a few messages along the way by Carolyn Dube

Even if I thought it was great, if I hadn’t started to use it after say 10 years, then I needed to let it go.  This flyer from an art exhibit in 2004 has such potential…but if I haven’t made the time to use it in 13 years then I need to face the reality, I probably won’t ever use it.

What about all the Ziploc bags of project remnants and paper scraps that I just had to save?  But wait…there’s more…

The process of purging my art studio, getting rid of unused supplies, and finding a few messages along the way by Carolyn Dube

10+ year old shampoo bottles from vacation because I liked their shape…the remnants of Stabilo pencils because they might come in handy… scraps of washi tape saved on freezer paper because who wants to waste that sacred washi tape…paint that had been forgotten and totally solidified in the bottle…did I really need to save all this for eons?

The process of purging my art studio, getting rid of unused supplies, and finding a few messages along the way by Carolyn Dube

Okay, even my inner hoarder admitted this was a bit ridiculous to be holding on to these types of things for decades.  How do I know decades?  Well, if I date the piles off my messes the way an archeologist does, I know that the hotel shampoo bottles are from a vacation taken in 2005.  So anything from that layer of the cabinet was potentially just as old.

Then there were the papers.  Oh, was there paper.  Stacks of colorful  papers stamped, stenciled, and of course gel printed.

The process of purging my art studio, getting rid of unused supplies, and finding a few messages along the way by Carolyn Dube

Then there were the papers from scrapbooking kit clubs, stacks of bargain paper that were just too good of a deal to pass up…when my now college age daughter was 5.  These were the papers I hadn’t touched in eons.  At least my inner hoarder was perfectly fine getting rid of the brown papers.

The process of purging my art studio, getting rid of unused supplies, and finding a few messages along the way by Carolyn Dube

As papers were sorted into stacks, occasionally I noticed words peeking out, like messages from the mess and the muse.  The dictionary paper had fall guy on it…then the first line of a gel print stood out to me…trying to please everyone.  Well, that isn’t subtle reminder of a lesson I need to relearn every now and then is it!

The process of purging my art studio, getting rid of unused supplies, and finding a few messages along the way by Carolyn Dube

A game card I found said, “Take your normal turn.”  If the muse wanted me to get anything other than a laugh out of it, she had best be less cryptic.

The process of purging my art studio, getting rid of unused supplies, and finding a few messages along the way by Carolyn Dube

The muse also kept encouraging me to continue sorting and purging…it was surprisingly emotional to purge this much stuff.

The process of purging my art studio, getting rid of unused supplies, and finding a few messages along the way by Carolyn Dube

There were also reminders that this was the right time to do the purge…at least that is my interpretation of the NOW.

The process of purging my art studio, getting rid of unused supplies, and finding a few messages along the way by Carolyn Dube

Then there were the gel prints that were all over the studio in different drawers.  This part of the purge brought me the most joy, just running my hands over them made me happy.  And I kept every one of these.  My inner hoarder won that battle!  They were sorted so I can now quickly find the ones I want when I want them.

The process of purging my art studio, getting rid of unused supplies, and finding a few messages along the way by Carolyn Dube

So what did I do with all the treasures I was purging?  I loaded up the van and donated them!

The process of purging my art studio, getting rid of unused supplies, and finding a few messages along the way by Carolyn Dube

You can image the panic my inner hoarder was going through having this all head out the door but knowing that they were going to support creativity in others soothed the stress exceptionally well.  The new home for all the treasures was a thrift store for art supplies in Cincinnati, Ohio called Indigo Hippo.

The process of purging my art studio, getting rid of unused supplies, and finding a few messages along the way by Carolyn Dube

They are a pay what you can store and also do community outreach with art events so art supplies are available for anyone who wants it.

The process of purging my art studio, getting rid of unused supplies, and finding a few messages along the way by Carolyn Dube

The store is mixed media playground.  They have everything from dress patterns to fabric swatch books to papers to beads to paints (Golden included) to wood scraps to bits and baubles.

The process of purging my art studio, getting rid of unused supplies, and finding a few messages along the way by Carolyn Dube

I hope every city has a store like this because more creativity in the world can only make it better!

The process of purging my art studio, getting rid of unused supplies, and finding a few messages along the way by Carolyn Dube

Even the outside of the building shouted creativity!

The process of purging my art studio, getting rid of unused supplies, and finding a few messages along the way by Carolyn Dube

I would love to say that getting all these treasures on their way to a new home meant the studio looked empty.  It looks just like it did before except when I open a drawer or cabinet, I can see what is in there.  So now I can see what I have and spend more time playing and less time looking for hidden supplies!

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What are the dos and don’ts for gel printing?  The most important is Do have fun and Don’t worry about doing it the “right” way because there is no right way…just the way you enjoy!   Do use a gel plate with the squish factor, like the Gel Press plates.   Don’t use a hard plate, they don’t release the paint nearly as well.

Watch The Dos and Don’ts of Gel Printing on Youtube.

Do use any acrylic paint.  Don’t worry if the paint is the correct type for gel printing. All acrylic paints work on it!

Do get your favorite colors, even if they are different brands of paint.  Don’t worry, paint doesn’t have cooties and the different brands can all play nicely together.

The DOs and DON'Ts of Gel Printing video by Carolyn Dube

Do grab whatever papers you have around.  Junk mail, white paper, cardstock, geometry homework, old scrapbook paper, book pages, the phone book, whatever you have!

Don’t use heavily coated papers (like print at home glossy photo paper) since the coating might leave a residue on the plate and fragile extra vintage crumbling papers because well…they just crumble fall apart when you print with them.

The DOs and DON'Ts of Gel Printing video by Carolyn Dube

Do look through your house and your stash of supplies to find things to add texture and pattern. Shelf liner, caps, bottles, cardboard from a finished roll of masking tape, stencils, rubber stamps- anything can become texture or pattern!

Don’t overlook anything.  You might be surprised what fun textures you can create with everyday items…like pasta. Yes, I used dried pasta and of course, there’s a video of it.

The DOs and DON'Ts of Gel Printing video by Carolyn Dube

Do make some ghost prints.  Don’t be afraid, ghost prints are not the paranormal, they are they 2nd or so 3rd pulls that have less paint on them and a softer look (hence the ghost name) than the very first pull.

Do have fun and go a little wild and crazy with that paint! Don’t be afraid to take a risk…after all it’s just paint and paper.  It’s not like we are walking a tightrope 50 feet in the air without a net.

The DOs and DON'Ts of Gel Printing video by Carolyn Dube

Do put the amount of paint on the plate that you like.   Don’t worry if it is the right amount.  Let yourself experiment and find the amounts that feel best to you. Some people like thin precise layers of paint on the plate.  I prefer to put a river of color on the plate.  No wrong amount, it just gives you different looks.

Do make sure you have good contact between the paper and the paint when using a stencil especially if using cardstock.  The thicker the paper the more you need make sure you have that paper paint contact.   Don’t forget to take a pull of the paint from under the stencil. There is magic under there.

The DOs and DON'Ts of Gel Printing video by Carolyn Dube

Do let the layers build up.  Don’t worry if you don’t like one layer – just add another layer on top of it.

Do make lots of prints that way you will have lots of opportunities to create prints you love.  Don’t worry if every print isn’t magical on the first pull.  You can always print right on top of those prints.  So often the print I thought was yuck in the beginning becomes my favorite after a few more layers.

The DOs and DON'Ts of Gel Printing video by Carolyn Dube

Do clean it if it brings you joy to clean it.  My plates frequently have dried paint on them because cleaning does not bring me joy.

Don’t clean it if it does not bring you joy to clean it.  I rarely ever clean my plates.  They don’t look factory perfect, but they don’t have to look that way to make magical prints.

Gel Printing Resources

Gel printing videos on YouTube

Getting Started Gel Printing Guide (There’s a downloadable getting started guide available here)


Gel Printing Workshops I offer both in person and online workshops.  The most up to date list and workshops can be found here.

Gel Printing Supplies 

Some of my favorite gel printing play

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Getting the creative mojo back -Jack Canfield quote "Don't worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don't even try.

My inner critic was relentlessly running roughshod over my mojo.  My broken ankle was healing just fine but my creative bones seemed unable to go back to the way they were.  Turns out just as the ankle needed rehab, so did my mojo.

It was like there was big cloud following me around blocking out the sunshine. Nothing felt like play when I first got back into the studio after the surgery.  Here’s how I got my mojo back several months ago using a color I never expected to embrace.

I wanted to play so badly but couldn’t feel it.  This had been going on for days as I tried to get back to my old self in the studio.  Like a spoiled child having a temper tantrum in a toy store, I was about to stomp my foot that I wanted my mojo back.  Thankfully, I remembered the healing ankle and didn’t stomp.

I wish I could tell you that calm descended upon me and with a gentle hug my muse returned bringing me my mojo just because I wished for it. I don’t have that kind of muse.  When my inner critic is in full swing, she stays away.

So if I wanted to get back to my creative self, then I was going to have to get that inner critic under control.  When I get this backed into a corner creatively, my inner teenager comes out swinging.  She did not disappoint me. She said use brown.

How I got my creative mojo back using my least favorite color

My inner critic was going nuclear so my inner teenager decided, “I’ll give you something to complain about.”  Oh how I could hear my mother’s voice in those words.

On top of using the color that repels me, brown, I was going to use a bunch of other colors that don’t excited me, at all.  Basically, a recipe to make it ugly to me no matter what.

How I got my creative mojo back using my least favorite color

Then it was time to randomly grab a bunch of stencils and get pattern on an old ignored canvas.  Since I was using colors I didn’t like much it was utterly impossible for me to like much of anything happening.  My inner critic was having a nuclear meltdown trying to criticize me.

The colors did not disappoint me…they were as yucky as I expected.

How I got my creative mojo back using my least favorite color

Just imagine that inner critic rocking under the table, mumbling to herself because she snapped with all those colors.  She went hoarse screaming at me about what a horrifying mess this was.   Finally, she was quiet.

The muse began to come back. I grabbed more of “my” colors.  It was becoming a hot mess (a definite improvement from blindingly ugly) but the most important part was I was starting to have fun.

How I got my creative mojo back using my least favorite color

Then the silliness began. Using a fineliner filled with white ink, I began drawing on the hot mess.

A post shared by Carolyn Dube (@carolyn_dube) on

More silly feelings as I went graffiti style with the Krink paint marker.   I felt like a rebel, purposely misspelling words I was writing.  Now, this is absolutely ridiculous because I was scribble writing so it wasn’t like anyone, even me, could read what I had written.  But it felt good. It felt playful.

How I got my creative mojo back using my least favorite color

Now that I was feeling playful, making decisions was easier.  The pressure was off to make it good enough.  I was just having fun.

How I got my creative mojo back using my least favorite color

While journaling with a fountain pen, I realized this was the eye of the storm.  There had been turmoil getting the inner critic to quiet down and now it was the sweet spot of play.  But there was  turmoil still to come.

How I got my creative mojo back using my least favorite color

The inner critic was getting judgmental and loud again.  I could feel the playfulness slipping away.  I decided to find the shapes in the layers, just like I often do in my newsletter’s free Sparks of Art-spiration and cover up the rest with lots of white paint.

Now this is where it became utterly ridiculous.  The inner critic was getting louder and having a bit of panic attack that so much of this was about to covered up with white paint.  Really?  A split second ago, it was worthless, a hot mess, and no good.  Now it is treasure that you don’t want covered up?  It was really hard to take this voice seriously.

How I got my creative mojo back using my least favorite color

My inner critic was freaking out so I reminded her of the Jack Canfield quote, “Don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.”

She wasn’t rational, so she did not embrace the spirit of it…in fact it seemed to make her even madder which brought my inner teenager immense joy.   I took the risk of outlining a few crazy characters on the canvas and slathering white paint everywhere else.

How I got my creative mojo back using my least favorite color

These 3 silly armless characters emerged, perhaps a reminder to not take the critical and crazy thoughts in my head too seriously.

This canvas had been a roller coaster ride starting with brown paint, but it was just what my mojo needed.  I had begun to feel like my old self and since then have been back in the studio playing.  The broken ankle is totally healed now, and so are my creative bones thanks to the play.

How I got my creative mojo back using my least favorite color

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