Promoting your Art with Homemade Stickers

How one tight-wad artist learned to make their own custom designed stickers at home for very little expense.

Who doesn’t love stickers? I know I sure do. There’s lots of great print services that can make large batches of high quality stickers in a variety of formats, but for the starving artist, professionally made stickers can get expensive FAST!

Showing samples of your work on your every day carry items can be great conversation starters and help grow your audience, especially within your community!

At my first craft fair event, I ordered some professionally made stickers to sell along with my other wares. They sold well, but in order to recoup my production costs and make a profit I had to sell them for $2 a piece, kind of expensive even from the seller’s perspective. Was there any way I could do the labor myself and still make a sellable product?

I had used inkjet sticker paper in the past. It doesn’t have the smooth glossy sheen that store-bought stickers have. They’re fine stickers for personal use, but they aren’t waterproof and they do look like something that you ran off your home printer. A few applications of uv protective acrylic clear coat solve this, giving the stickers a nice sheen and improved durability. Especially from water!

Freshly printed Sticker sheets get taped onto a sacrificial piece of cardboard for spray coating.

Sticker making fits well into my day to day routine; wake up, make coffee, print off some of my designs on sticker paper and then seal them. It takes about 4 layers of clear acrylic to give them a nice gloss. The acrylic also adds some heft to the paper. Waiting for the layers to dry between applications is a good time to wash the dishes, walk the dog or whatever else needs doing. Ideally, give each batch 24 hours to cure before cutting.

Seasonal designs can be whipped up for any occasion. These spring-themed stickers were added to baskets for our Easter basket raffle at my day job.

I don’t yet have a die cutting machine, so all my stickers are still hand cut. This is time consuming! But a task that can be accomplished while relaxing. I’m pretty steady with a pair of scissors, so the edges don’t look too bad, but a die cutting machine would help automate the process while also producing more professional looking results. But I have to admit, I like the small batch ethos and the rough edges give these Stickers a homespun punk vibe.

I’m still experimenting with different sticker papers, different sealants to find the best results. One drawback of the inkjet papers I’ve been using is that the backing on it is fairly thin. The backing paper can be difficult to remove and also they have a tendency to roll up after cutting. Not ideal, but better than nothing. So far I prefer Rustoleum’s uv protective clear coat. It costs about $9 which makes it more expensive than Krylon’s equivalent product by about a buck fifty. The Krylon clear coat is very light, I had to apply more of it to get a sufficient seal, and it ended up making the sticker paper buckle. I have not yet had this problem with the Rustoleum.

Inkjet sticker paper is available from many manufacturers and retailers. It’s usually about $10 for a package. In my case, The nearest craft supply store sells 12 sheets for $9.99 or 83 cents per 8.5×11” sheet. Factoring the cost of ink and sealant per sheet is a little harder for my mathematically challenged brain to compute, but a lowball estimate would place it at about $1 to produce one batch.

My latest design, this chipmunk prepper is a little under 3” in its longest dimension. 12 of these designs can fit on one sheet so about 8 cents per sticker to produce? Pretty good imho.

By reducing my production cost, I can afford to give these away to friends and family and as little thank-yous to the kind people I meet. When I drop a tip into someone’s tip jar, I can also drop a sticker In which can brighten someone’s day makes my art more known to more people! Win/win!!

Almost everyone has at least one side hustle these days. Stickers are a fun and cheap way to advertise whatever you’re doing. You can use them in your custom packaging, sell them with your custom artwork, use them as free promos or as a little “thank-you” to your clients.

I’m covering all my “take-alongs” (thermos, water bottle, notebooks) with stickers to subliminally advertise my work when I’m out and about. My insulated water bottle has become my mobile billboard wherever I take it because if you have anything like, for example an online merch shop you gotta TELL people about it.

* cough cough* fresh and fizzy tee shirt designs for benevolent weirdos available at *cough*

Working Weeds Into Everyday Meals

Now that we’re into zone 6 spring I got my radish, spinach, kale and cabbage seeds started a few weeks ago, and even with protection from the elements, they’ve only just started germinating a few days ago. I’m not worried. They’ll catch up.

Many perennials are waking up now and some are already ready to eat. Garlic and dandelions are two such plants. They get right to work, pretty much as soon as the snow melts. Lately I’ve been working garlic tops and dandelion crowns into most of the meals I cook.

I am a fan of dandelions. Taraxacum officiale grows pretty much all over the world. As such, they are part of the traditional food ways of many cultures. They are especially enjoyed in springtime when they are in their prime both for flavor and nutritional content. Old traditions say that dandelion is a tonic for the liver and kidneys and are recommended as a “spring cleaning” for the body systems. Dandelions may also concentrate calcium in their leaves. At any rate, the diuretic properties of the dandelion can be experienced by anyone who eats to many as they may experience an increase in urination. Maybe don’t drink dandelion tea before bedtime?

Dandelion roots

Every part of the dandelion is edible. As I’m weeding the garden, any dandelions that have overstayed their welcome get dug out. Once washed, I save the roots and dry them for tea or steep them in cider vinegar. I keep a long-steeped burdock/dandelion root vinegar which I also work into most of the things I cook (deglaze the frying pan with this!!) Greens are eaten fresh. If I don’t get the whole root, I don’t mind. it will grow back and I will harvest again. No need to dig and wash dandelions every day! No one has time for that! If I have a lot of weeds to pull, I can harvest and wash a whole bunch at once and keep them in the fridge for easy access. Later in the season, dandelion stems and blossoms start turning up in my meals.

The bitter taste of dandelion greens may be too much for modern palates. Try adding just a little to your favorite leaves for a salad to build up your taste for this magnificent herb (HINT: salt and acid will help neutralize some of this strong flavor, especially good with fresh lemon if it’s available!)

If salad is not something you salivate over, chopped cooked dandelion greens can easily be worked into soups, lentils, tomato sauce, ramen, Mac and cheese, rice, almost anything! I think Dandelion can easily be substituted in Any recipe that calls for endive. I often use dandelion in place of lettuce when making sandwiches and wraps.

If you want to make a dandelion dish that will please almost anyone, try adding sautéed garlic (lots of garlic!) and dandelion to scrambled eggs! Add cheese and you’ll be in breakfast heaven.

The trick to working weeds and other wild foods into your diet isn’t about harvesting massive baskets of dandelion and eating them breakfast lunch and dinner. It’s about working them into the dishes you already know and recognizing that many of the plants people consider to be “nuisances” actually have long histories as food and medicine. It’s about doing “a little of this” and “a little of that”. By weeding my garden I am also sourcing a versatile nutritional ingredient. I try to plan my meals around whatever seasonal bounties are available. One function facilitates the next. if you practice small steps like this, you too can live in better harmony with your local biome.

Scavenger’s Helper

Note: the following post deals with the topic of roadkill recycling and contains images of a freshly skinned deer hide and deer meat

On February 9th I had my first Turkey vulture sighting of 2022 while driving down rt. 20 through Chautauqua county. I saw two more on March 1st while sloshing over soggy, half frozen ground of the power line right-of-way running parallel to I-90. We were both there on common purpose; scanning for carcasses.

I didn’t find anything on that particular outing, but the season is just starting. At home I had two other projects started.

The week prior, while out checking on the skeleton of a 5 point buck that got hit on one of my regular walking routes last December, I found the body of a young doe that had perished more recently.

Vehicles hit wildlife all the time. It’s a sad fact of life, but animals that meet this fate should be moved off to the side, preferably into the grass/woods where local wildlife can feed undisturbed and where uneaten remains can return back to the earth. A road killed deer is a bounty for the cleanup critters. Crows, vultures, raptors, coyotes, foxes, opossums, and more. But Unfortunately, many of these important species get struck themselves while attempting to feed. Moving the carcass away from the pavement can minimize this.

The decomposition process is integral to life on earth. Very living thing will eventually die, and nature is very good at breaking down the formerly living into their basic building blocks for repurposing.

When the weather warms, insects like flies and beetles will lay eggs and the resulting larvae clean the bones further. Insect biomass feeds many more species, especially birds! Even the old bones become a resource node for critters craving calcium. Squirrels, porcupines and other rodents love to gnaw on deer bones or antler to wear their ever-growing teeth down, but also as a source of nutrients. Snails, who require calcium to maintain their shells, can often be found rasping on old skeletons. I’ve even found wooly bear cocoons (Pyrrharctia Isabella) nestled inside an old deer skull to ride out the winter. Over many years, rainwater and acids in the soil will disintegrate the bones completely, returning minerals to the soil, feeding the plants and renewing the cycle of life.

Removing the hide helps accelerate the decomposition process and the local critters access the meat faster. This doe was still fresh enough for my standards, but with the tools I had, I wasn’t prepared to butcher the whole animal, so I left most of the carcass for the local fauna.

I did take the forelimbs though! Delicious Beer-braised venison shoulders and rich bone broth kept the house fed for a while! Over the course of about 4 days, enjoyed many meals of venison tacos and chili

…it’s the slow cooker for you two
After the meat is pulled from the bones, I boiled them a second time to make a rich broth. I also added some nutritious dried stinging nettles from my garden.

Deer hide is a valuable resource to humans, but the other animals don’t use it. Rather than allow the hide to rot, I take it home for processing.

I use preserved animal skins in my artwork. One of the things I like to experiment with is natural tanning. The actual tanning process is a topic for another entry. In the meantime, drying out the hide will help it stay preserved until I have time to finish it.

The hide is stretched across a pallet and any remaining meat, fat or membrane is peeled off. Stretching keeps the hide taut while working on it and also helps to break up tough skin fibers that would otherwise shrink up as the hide dries. Breaking up these fibers results in a softer finished leather.

Part way through the scraping process. Remaining flesh must be removed from the hide to facilitate better drying and to prevent rot.

When it’s all dry we have a rawhide! The rawhide will keep for a very long time, so long as it stays dry. Tanning is a whole ‘nother process. No time for it presently, but expect a post on it to follow. For those curious about how it’s done, I learned much about tanning from this site:

Drawing with a Grid

When I’m doing a commission, I like to do a grid drawing to ensure accuracy of the subject. Using a grid is not the most fun way to draw, but it does help make a higher quality finished product for the client. Grid drawing is a time honored technique, and it’s a good skill for any artist to cultivate.

My client was kind enough to send a PLETHORA of reference images of her horse. Showing me multiple angles, especially of his markings. I use these photos as a guide to help me draw the subject as accurately as I can.

Ballpoint pen is one of my favorite sketching tools, for loose warmup sketches. (Never mind the mules, they’re just being good an doing their jobs) It’s always a good idea to get a couple shaky doodles out first.

Testing color, seeing what works. I’ve got a few go-to markers for this sort of stuff, but it’s a good idea to test run anyway. Over the ballpoint pen I added layers of alcohol based markers and water based markers (including fluorescent hi-lighters!) A white acrylic pen is great for light areas and high points

There’s a lot of muscle memory involved in drawing. The sketching phase is important because Doing some rough drafts helps to “train” the arm and hand before diving into a complex subject.

To prepare for the final draft, Start by drawing a 1×1 grid over the provided reference photo and then making an equivalent grid on toned paper. The grid allows me to measure as I draw for more accurate proportions. More care goes into this step rather than in the loose sketches, but I still keep those handy while I work.

Why toned paper? Toned paper provides a mid-tone and helps to hide unsightly marker streaks. It also really pops the opaque ink layers later on.

Muscle groups are shaded with ballpoint pen. I chose to use blue pens here to create contrast with the chestnut-brown coat of the horse. These lines help suggest the volume of the forms and add weight. Shout out to the Atlas of Animal Anatomy for Artists for helping me stay honest.

Adding alcohol marker layers. The alcohol based ink partially dissolves the ballpoint ink and softens the lines.

If I was smart, I’d have washed in the background first, but I’m not, so I didn’t but nbd I can still work around it 😉 it can be kind of a headache doing it backasswards like this, and you run the risk of the sky bleeding into the subject. But I couldn’t help myself, I just wanted to jump right into the fun part. It’s easier to cover such mistakes when you can draw over them, but it’s a lot harder to remove ink when it covers up what you’ve already done. Steady hands prevail here!

Almost done! I mixed a solution of blue acrylic ink and 91% isopropyl in a water brush to wash in the sky. White acrylic marker and paint markers help deepen the sky especially near the “top” where the sky naturally appears deeper blue, But the clouds need to be cultivated more. I blended out the first layer of white acrylic with more of my blue Ink solution and then added more “fluff” with white acrylic and defined the shapes with more paint markers.

And done! More white acrylic to beef up the light areas, Finished the legs and foreground and added the final layer of colored pencil on top. Reflected Blue light on the shadow side, pale yellow on the sun side.

And here’s the final product, matted wrapped and ready for delivery. Thanks so much for sponsoring my creative endeavors! I had a lot of fun working on this. If you’d be interested In having a piece like this made for yourself, or as a gift for someone you know, check out my Contact Page for commission info !

Harvest’s End, More Fungi, and an Update

I even found a tiny overlooked melon hiding under the overgrowth!

(note: this entry was started on November 4th 2021, but was left unfinished for far too long!)

its now getting chilly here in zone 6a. they’ve already gotten some snow up in the hills. and the temps down here near the lake have been dancing close to freezing. but many flowers haven’t lost hope yet. One Datura inoxia is still blooming, and the morning glories are holding out for warm days still (not impossible in our climate!)

Datura is technically a tropical flower, but it does well here in zone 6a. if the seeds are well protected from frost, they will self-sow year after year.

the Nasturtiums are still going strong. the other day I pulled the last tomatoes, chiles, green beans and sour gherkins from the garden. But our hardy brassicas will continue to provide greens to us through the winter months.

a friend of mine recently purchased two AMAZING guides to fungi of the northeastern North America. One of which was a the Peterson Guide on the subject, which are always worth your time. George Barron’s Mushrooms of Northeaset North America was the other helpful volume. This tome specifically offers a photographic key of major clades of fungi in the beginning of the book. so if you have absolutely no idea where to start your search, this section will help speed things up.

After perusing which, I was able to come up with some better ID to the specimens shown in my last post. I will include some new photos of the subjects here:

ghostly spires of morning glory waiting for a little warmth. will their dreams come true?

White Cheese Polypore (Tyromyces chioneus)

those polypores I couldn’t identify in my last post appear to belong to this species. not all of the specimens I encountered were displaying guttation.

The Other Fall Color

we are enjoying a warm autumn so far here in zone 6a. following heavy rains, I got out to some of my county’s public land to scout for Fungi or whatever else I could find.

my primary motivations were to find some subject matter for my upcoming submission for the NSSWNY newsletter, build my photo reference library, find species I hadn’t encountered yet get some exercise and have a lot of fun. fortunately I managed to do all the above! Here are some highlights:

one of the first Fungi I encountered near the trail head. wild looking guttation seeping out of a waxy/gelatinous polypore. I have not found an ID for this species yet, although i did find another very similar photo on another blog. also unidentified!

very reminiscent of some Iscnoderma resinosum specimens i found last October at a different county park. you can see them on my old instagram account here and here

how about a closeup on those droplets!

Further In, I stumbled upon a fallen log with some impressive cascades of Lion’s Mane .

I encountered these pale violet mushrooms at several locations. they appear to be in the genus Cortinarius and are possibly a Gassy Webcap (Cortinarius traganus), but if anyone out there has a better idea please let me know.

bright orange Mycena leaiana

as far as projects in the works, I will be working on drawings of some of the botanical wonders of this season, wintergreen and spicebush to name some, but more on that later

Synapse and Saurops

this week, I’ve been trying to accomplish some worldbuilding and flesh out the characters for my ongoing ETHERNAUTS project. here are some sketches! Most of them are of Synapse, my 3-eyed Lemurian protagonist, but also his hapless hostage Saurops, the Omega Draconian research assistant.

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this was my first ever drawing of Synapse from around February 2020. There was no greater intent behind this drawing other than to draw a vaguely primate-like creature with a third eye and long pointy ears, but it all grew from here. I scanned, and printed out several inkjet prints so i could experiment with color. I also did a digital version of this which is up on my instagram the geometric designs behind his head are based on the platform and reflector suspended over Arecibo Telescope (RIP).
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Trying to develop Synapse’s backstory and a little bit about Lemurian biology in no order whatsoever. Synapse of course is an Ethernaut, which means he can travel across time and between dimensions. still experimenting with different looks for this character, and here I tried a rounder face and shorter muzzle. Thick fluffy hair seems to be a necessity, especially if they use static to move through the multiverse.
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Synapse is a mischeif maker, he can be crass at times, but ultimately he is empathetic and wants to help.
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experimenting with expressions and facial proportions more. trying to narrow down what lemur species i want to use as a main reference for Synapse. Genus Eulemur seems to have the look i’m going for.
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Lastly Saurops! the Draconian characters have a complex body plan that will inevitably prove challenging, but I’m determined to get them out of my head. The Draconians have 3 castes, Alpha, Beta and Omega. their society is somewhat like a eusocial insect hive, and each caste has a slightly different phenotype and preforms different jobs. The Omegas are nonbreeding and function as workers in Draconian society.

Late Summer at the YARDLAB

The beds exceeded expectations this summer, but I wasn’t expecting much anyway. Last summer I made four new beds from some stump grindings that my neighbor was actually going to pay someone to haul away. Graciously, he allowed me to take as much as I wanted before that happened. From that windfall, I was able to make 4 new beds on the front lawn, edged with more scavenged tree limbs and mulched heavily with grass clippings, leaf litter, straw, pine needles and whatever other organic matter I was able to haul home. the grand total expense, a whopping $0.

this was my best year yet growing scarlet runner beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) ornamental and edible, the blossoms attract bees and hummingbirds. mature pods are tough and hairy, so pick em young for best eating.

I later learned that garden beds made mostly of wood chips may take a full year to be productive, meaning that at the start of Spring 2020, my new beds were still half-baked, but I proceeded with planting anyway. The corn and sunflowers never got very tall (my guess is nitrogen deficiency) but they all managed to produce, which pleases The Possum. Squash did wonderfully until the powdery mildew attacked, but I managed to get a successful harvest off three varieties: Acorn, Spaghetti and Butternut. Powdery mildew also attacked my cucumbers and cut their season short, but the watermelon was unaffected. I harvested 4 smallish, but very sweet melons off my two vines; not bad for my first attempt at growing it. The Beans and Nightshades continue to thrive, and my attentions are turned to propagating more flowers for my pollinator friends next year.

I added spiderwort and more coneflowers from the nursery, while also dividing and transplanting yuccas, blazing stars, black-eyed susans, sedums, and of course Milkweeds.

This year in experimental crops, I was FINALLY able to get a ginger and turmeric rhizomes to sprout. Buying organic rhizomes seemed to help, but I also buried them in a dish with coffee grounds and damp paper towels until new growth appeared, then stuck them in pots of dirt outside. Both were slow to start, but once the ginger got its legs under it it took off! Turmeric remains a slowpoke. Being tropical plants, they are only hardy to about zone 9 or so, which means I will need to make alternate living arrangements for these plants come winter.

ginger, like potatoes are usually treated with sprout inhibitors that prevent unwanted growth in transit or on store shelves. it appears organic rhizomes are not treated in this way and you may get better results should you try it.

coffee grounds seem to make a good medium for starting plants. I noticed this after finding chili pepper germinating in a lump of spent coffee out in the compost bin. later I discovered an avocado pit doing the same yesterday.

another thing I learned this year is that even if the packet says you can plant your beans in April, very few of them will successfully germinate. beans sprout fast when the soil is warm, but a slowly germinating bean is like candy for soil critters; even beans with long maturity periods like Scarlet Runner will catch up (70-100 days according to packet) but I planted some in July which managed to bloom and set pods by late august and are still producing now.