Ali Edwards Capture life. Create art.

January 7, 2008



One of the things you will find as you read through my new book is a collection of canvases that open each chapter. While I was working on them early last year I took some photos of the process so I could share how they all came together.


I started with blank 8×10 canvases that you can get at any craft store (your local scrapbook store may have some too) and a bunch of different colors of acrylic paint and some foam brushes.

There were a few things I knew from the beginning:

1. I wanted to work on them all at the same time – meaning I wanted to see them all as individuals and as a group. The dining room table turned out to be the spot I could spread out best.

2. I knew that each one would have a theme and that I wanted to have some consistency between them (ended up mainly being size and a bit of color). I also knew that I wanted the creation to match the theme at least a bit.

3. I knew that I was going to need to be flexible and open as I worked through the process – experimentation was the name of the game. That some of them I wouldn't like as I was working on them and I would need to be ready to change, adapt, or start over (on top of the same canvas).


I started off by painting each of them a base color – two coats. An easy first step. And as you can see above I like to just pour some right out onto the canvas.  


Next I started working on the individual canvases. Most of them came together in bits and pieces. I would work on one, adding this and that, and then switch to another one. I liked that movement.

For some of the canvases I used found (junk) pieces to create patterns. This is a left-over after a print job that I picked up at a store in Vancouver, Canada.


I also used scrapbook items such as a Heidi Swapp mask or circle punches with patterned paper.


For the patterned paper (and paper such as this below) I used gel medium to adhere it to the canvas. Here's some info about using gel medium. I first learned about it from Claudine Hellmuth's book Collage Discovery Workshop.


I liked having them all laid out together and working on them all at once. I think it is similar to why I like to stand-up to scrapbook – I like to look down on the work at hand and have a view of the whole from above.


In addition to paints and papers and templates and masks I added rub ons, letter stickers, acrylic accents, stamps, and handwriting with black and white pens. I kept things consistent from one to the next with bits of color added here and there. 

Lots of layers. Lots of moving from one to the next. Loved the process. Hope to do some more again sometime.

In the meantime I am super inspired by this guy: Rex Ray and this book: Artist to Artist that I found in the kids section at the bookstore. Some great words of wisdom in there. I loved Cathy's post about her 25 Most Played: my top song is Time After Time by Cindi Lauper + Sarah McLaughlin and my #13 is Jackson by Johnny Cash & June Carter. And you may already know I am a fan of Zen Habits, but I really loved his simple post yesterday: The Four Laws of Simplicity. So many of us seem to have simplicity on our minds (I definitely do after putting all the holiday stuff away today).

And finally, I loved one of the comments yesterday on the really long word post about taking all those words + using them as the basis of some sort of project. Maybe a journal, a word of the week, a prompt for something creative. Definitely something to consider.


  • 1.
    Janice said…

    WOW!! Thanks so much for sharing. I love the canvases and it is inspiring to see your process.

  • 2.
    Lisa Goodell said…

    I was so excited to see this post, I just bought your new book last week and have been enjoying those canvases you did! Plus, I am proud to say I finished a scrapbook page using your Christmas card idea on 64-65! It was helpful to remember “embrace inperfection” and “choose what’s essential.”

  • 3.
    Mary Rogers said…

    Thanks so much for sharing the process Ali! love the book – dh got it for me for Christmas.

    • ….
      Amazon said…

      Thanks so much Ali! The whole book is great but I especially enjoyed the canvases. Thanks so much for what you do.

  • 4.

    LOVE the fact that my word “simplify” was the opening picture of your post!! You never know where that positive reinforcement is going to come from. . .I’m seeing a vision of small (6×6??) canvases – one for the year’s word, next year’s etc. . .building a mosaic in my room. . .hmmmm
    Thanks for the inspiration -

  • 5.
    jmbmommy said…

    Like the canvas process…I find the big white kind of intimidating…I like that you did a bunch at a time. THanks!

  • 6.
    melissa w said…

    Thanks so much Ali! The whole book is great but I especially enjoyed the canvases. Thanks so much for what you do.

  • 7.
    Lisa said…

    Wow…so cool! Thanks for sharing your process with us. Sadly, I do not yet own your book, but I plan on getting it.

  • 8. said…

    Thank you for the Zenhabits site–i need to simplify and de-clutter my life. i am a caretaker for my 88-yr old Mom and my husband and i moved in with her–sooo two houses became one, and for the past 3 years those boxes and that “stuff” all over have been inhabiting the pit of my stomach, if you know what I mean… this is a great help and a feeling of serenity overcame me when i read this your linkspot–i really enjoy your daily blog, Ali-and own and love all your books…am trying to scrap our heritage and keep up with recent pix..Julierose

  • 9.
    Sandra said…

    I loved those canvas pieces in your book, and was hoping you were going to make prints off them and sell? With the instructions in today’s post, I guess we are supposed to make our own….oh well. :) Thank you!

  • 10.
    Debby said…

    This is great. Thanks for walking through the process and giving such helps. I just got through doing something that frustrated me because I made it hard. Simple is a great word!!!

  • 11.
    Erin said…

    Thanks for sharing your creative process in your book. I have loved your new book, and was wondering what/how you came up with the chapter pictures. I love the colors, and the common threads through all of them.

  • 12.
    heather prins said…

    Oh thanks for sharing that!! How wonderful to see it all!! Is the auction coming soon?

  • 13.

    these are beautiful!! always a good idea to work on a few at time that way if you get stuck just move to the next one! LOVE these!!

  • 14.
    dr berry said…

    Fantastic!! Love that you documented the whole process & love even more that you shared. I did one for the CK Contest & really had fun. I found a quote by John Lennon that seems to fit my Life well.
    Think I’ll try documenting the process of creation myself. True that a picture is worth a thousand words.
    Thanks for your inspiration!!!!

  • 15.
    Suzanne said…

    Thanks for this post Ali. Simplify is my word for 2008, so it’s very fitting. I ordered a pendant from Lisa and can’t wait for it to arrive. Thanks for your daily inspiration! I can’t wait to be able to find your new book here in Calgary.

  • 16.
    Michelle said…

    Thank you so much for posting this…I love your new book and love how you put these canvases together!

  • 17.
    Michelle said…

    Thank you so much for posting this…I love your new book and love how you put these canvases together!

  • 18.
    Shanie said…

    Ali…thanks for sharing your process; it is very inspiring. Also, I have seen that book too (Artist to Artist) and I love it! I wish I had it when I was little! ;)

  • 19.
    angie aubrey said…

    I’m another avid reader whose word for 2008 is “simplify” so I loved this entry.
    I’m also looking forward to reading your book.

  • 20.
    Susan Gilman said…

    OOHHH…thanks for sharing. LOVE these kinds of posts with the step by step process (and especially the editorials and tips)….one question…on the yellow one–did you set the text right onto the canvas, or was that done in the laying out/graphic designing of the book?

  • 21.
    evalyn said…

    Thanks for sharing this! I’m re-reading your book right now feeling totally inspired again!

  • 22.
    Jennifer said…

    Ali – if you like Time After Time…try the version by Eva Cassidy. You will NOT be disappointed! She had an amazing voice.

  • 23.
    Jennifer said…

    Two more things…just checked out the book link. The Eric Carle (love his books) Museum of Picture Book Art is in MA and each July he does a book signing event if you’re interested…google it and check out the site. Also, you have me thinking about doing something with some of the other words….interesting thought someone had.

  • 24.
    noell said…

    I’ve always wondered how you come up with the art for your chapters, in all three of your books. Do you already know the theme of the chapter and then base the art on that? I especially wondered this about your previous books, since they’re actual scrapbook pages.

  • 25.
    Amy said…

    Thank you for the link to the Zen Habits Four Laws of Simplicity. I’m printing it out and adding it to my journal/diary so I can remember it and reference it later.

  • 26.
    Tiffani said…

    I was excited to see you mention using gel medium. I just bought some earlier this week after reading about using it for photo transfer in another blog, and wondered what else to do with it! Do you ever use it on your scrapbook pages, and if so, how?

  • 27.
    Anilu Magloire said…

    This post just gave a creative boost. I will go and get some canvases :)

  • 28.
    Maggie said…

    This is what I get for reading in bloglines…by the time I see an update to your posts, there are 50 comments or so!
    I got a nice “scrapbook calendar” for Christmas, but I really hate the pre-formatted boxed look. And, they get to heavy to hang on a wall. I don’t really like my family members pictures on calendars anyway. I like something really inspirational…a picture or something of nature to wow me. Obviously not a grandparent yet.
    So, I decided to just doodle different thoughts and impressions about my word…definitions, etc. each month. It’s above my scrap desk right now, so it can be as scratched up as I feel like. Each month of the year, I hope to add different impressions as I learn more about my word.
    I’m excited about recycling/reinventing a product I don’t like, AND involving the creative process with my goal word.

  • 29.
    amy m said…

    I admired those canvas painting the first time I opened your book and knew I had to experiment with it. I actually did one very similar to the lg canvas (included in book as poster) you made because I loved the reminders it gave to me. I’m also in the middle of working on a circle shaped painting using the heidi swapp butterflies. Thank you ali for all your inspiration and for being willing to share it with all of us. You rock.

  • 30.
    Ronda P. said…

    I thought this one was one of the coolest thing included in your book. It made me want to grab a canvas and just start. Thanks for letting us peek into your uber artsy mind to see your process!
    Thank you again for supporting us at OLW…we couldn’t have done it without you!

  • 31.
    elise said…

    you impress.

  • 32.
    Christa said…

    So awesome that you shared this! I was totally wondering all the stuff when I look at those canvases. Now, the only other question is, where are they now????

  • 33.
    Robin said…

    Ali–Thank you!!!!!!

  • 34.

    Love your book. Love the canvases. Quick question. Did you put anything behind/underneath the canvases while you worked on them to stabalize the middle, which is hollowed out? I was working on a canvas last weekend and when I went to add a stamp, the canvas gave and the stamp image didn’t come out clearly. Any suggestions?

  • 35.
    Jill said…

    Cool process! I am planning to do canvas with my 6 years old brother and 3 years old sister. It’d be fun for them to paint so I’d put it on my wall. I love your new book. Thanks for sharing.

  • 36.
    Tracy Anderson said…

    Hi Ali! Just wanted to say thanks for inspiring me to choose a word for this year… My word is FAITH and I wrote about why I chose this word on my blog here:
    Looking forward to reading about how your word affects you this year :) Tracy

  • 37.
    Stephanie said…

    Thanks for posting this. The canvases were one of my favorite parts of your book. As a gift for my girlfriend for Christmas, I attempted to duplicate a few of my favs. I had a hard time figuring out how you were able to get some of the desired effects and I ended up using 5×7 instead of 8×10 and some of the proportions were off a bit. I still think they turned out nice. Several of our croppin friend threatened to steal them. Thanks again for your inspiration.

  • 38.
    margie said…

    great stuff…nice paints…
    man i could have used this post like a week ago! did my first canvas…had fun! LOVE reading and seeing your process…
    love you girl!
    kiss kiss

  • 39.
    jamie said…

    i am always a day behind these days (like letting the dec kotm sell out before i got a chance to order…). i meant to jot down the quote you had about a new day. you have changed it already. any chance you could direct a person to where to find that again?
    love the canvases. thanks for the insight.

  • 40.
    Amy Tangerine said…

    very cool. thanks for the great share.

  • 41.
    O said…

    Hi Ali- Your entry today was such a coincidence for me, especially the photo you took of you holding your book open. Yesterday I was taking a few pictures of different pages of your book to scrapbook with. And, all the while I was so admiring the canvases. Thanks for sharing your process. Yes, enjoy the process. You’re such an inspiration. BTW…my word for the ‘one word’ is ‘possibilities’. I want & need this year to be full of possibilities. I want my eyes to be opened to new possibilities where it once looked like a dead-end. I need more. I need change. I need happiness. OK…this was too long. :D sorry :)

  • 42.
    revlie said…

    i totally LOVE your book and all your wise words. LOVE it. keeps everything in perspective! And thank you so much for showing me your process. i just finished a canvas (with pics) and totally love it. it’s not perfect, but it’s the way i am. thank you for reminding that constantly!
    have a great day!

  • 43.
    Zarah said…

    Not only are those adorable – and the one in the book my fave – but you’re also so spot on (no pun intended…) with that message. Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be! I like it a LOT! :D

  • 44.
    hedwig said…

    Hi Ali
    ThnX again for sharing. Those canvasses rock! And the article on the four laws of simplicity: WOW. I started the new year with reorganizing my stuf. As most of us I have to much and get out of touch with what I really like. So now: choosing & elimanating… Not easy, but very rewarding. Also thanks for your effort on the one word list. Mine is connect: I want to connect to what is most important to me and also connect to my own style and make life art about that.

  • 45.
    paolo said…

    dude, reminds me of our name tag project last year. I’m so ready for another PandA project….
    oh and BTW I finally settled on a word- (uncover) I’ve got a layout in my head and will get to it sometime soon… :)

  • 46.
    Angela said…

    Ali , I am so glad to hear that you scrap standing up. So do I, but in my group of scrap friends I am the only one. In fact at a scrap weekend for 70 scrappers, I was the only one standing. Initially it was weird, but everyone got used to me dancing around. At the moment I am looking around for a mobile kitchen bench to scrap on as I am hoping it will be the right height.
    I ordered two of your books yesterday and am hoping they get here beofre my uni readings do, so that I can have guilt free time to absorb them.

  • 47.
    Katy said…

    What a great insight Ali … thanks for sharing. :)
    I love that idea of combining the long list of everyone’s words in to a project of some sort … think I’ll give that some more thought.

  • 48.
    Inge said…

    Hello Ali,
    Thank you so much for sharing. I have your book and liked it so much from the beginning! It is not just a scrapbook but so much more. I am really happy with this book and read it over and over again!
    Also like the canvases and will absolutely make some of my own.
    Thanks alot!

  • 49.
    Inge said…

    Hello Ali,
    Thank you so much for sharing how you made the canvases. I have your book and loved it from the beginning. It is so much more than just a ‘scrapbook’. I read it over and over again.
    Will absolutely make some canvases of my own this year.
    Thanks for inspiring me!

  • 50.
    Inge said…

    PS: Sorry I posted twice, but my computer gave an error the first time so I tought it wasnot posted.

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