Hello, I’m Bren and I make paper.

Handmade paper,old-stylee

and 100% recycled.

I started making cards and other stuff out of it and quickly discovered that my cheap-ass printer is not greatly compatible with my

funky, textured paper! There started my quest for arty-fantastic ways to decorate my products,

and a crafty education for me along the way.




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Acrylic workbook, weekly review #4

Acrylic Workbook (complete course in 10 lessons) by Jenny Rodwell: a worked review by Bren

Hi again! Lesson 4 deals with using dilute acrylics, or washes. You can use the washes for a painting in its entirety – like watercolours – or within a painting to achieve different effects.


The first excercise was painting a simple tree scene in washes. I like to work from life (or photo!) rather than copying Jenny’s picture exactly, but the deciduous trees are still bare, so I tried some evergreens!

Next up, a more detailed scene, with a house and its reflection in a lake. In the book she paints a lovely old farmhouse, but there were none of those on my walk to the bus, so I have a more modern version! Here is my initial sketch and my fake-selfie because I was too embarrassed to point and shoot directly at my neighbour’s house, ha ha!


I really enjoyed this lesson. It was like two lessons because I learned about painting with washes and about painting reflections in water. Win win!


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Acrylic Workbook, weekly review # 3

Acrylic Workbook (complete course in 10 lessons) by Jenny Rodwell; a worked review by Bren

burren no. 1

Detail from “Burren Pier” by me

In lesson 3 she deals with creating texture in your painting.

The first approach is the addition of substances to the acrylic paint, such as specially-made mediums or things like sand and sawdust. I have already done a lot of adding texture with household stuff, like sand and textiles, it’s one of my favourite techniques, so I didn’t feel I needed to cover this bit. I don’t own any texture mediums, so I will revisit that part when I do!

The second approach is adding texture through your mark-making with brush, sponge, cloth, knife or other. I decided to work through her excercise that involved painting an entire landcape using only a palette knife.

[ In my haste, I started reading from “field of corn” rather than the double-page “knife marks”, which contained the sub-heading PRACTICE FIRST. I regret this. If you have a book-teacher, do what you’re told!] 

It’s flipping tricky using a palatte knife! It was like having new, wrongly-shaped fingers. Definitely worth practicing first.




I copied Jenny’s picture for this one, which I hadn’t intended doing while using this book (my theory being that I will learn more about painting landscapes from painting landscapes rather than copying paintings), but learning to use the palette knife was enough of a challenge this time 🙂


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Acrylic workbook, weekly #2

In “Lesson 2, Getting Started” Jenny Rodwell deals with selecting a subject; composition of that subject; initial sketching and excercises to loosen-up your technique.

I will show you my progress with the “composition” excercise! Taking a selection of objects for a still life; she suggests creating fast, loose mini-sketches to determine which arrangement you will use. There is no need for detail as it is about how the objects relate to one another. It can also help identify which angle you will paint them from and what shape to make your painting.

mini sketches

To be honest, none of these compositions stood out to me as being “the best” – but there is a striking improvement in my technique from the first to the last! They probably took me about 15 minutes each (yes, including the crappy first one!)


Here is my finished pieces, and the composition I decided to use. I think I will finish it a bit more though, because I quite like it and want to hang it in the kitchen, so it needs a bit more polish! Next “Lesson 3, Creating Textures”


Want more pictures, less chat?! Check out my other blog: https://brensmediastudies.wordpress.com/ a selection of sketches and paintings in a variety of media.


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Acrylic Workbook, weekly #1

Hi! I have recently purchased “Acrylic Workbook – A Complete Course in 10 Lessons” by Jenny Rodwell and I thought it would be interested to share my progress as I work through the lessons. I suppose it will be like an elaborate, dragged-out review!IMG_20180121_163556155.jpg

I won’t be including detailed instructions from the book, just an overview of the lessons and my own results. I am a fan of this book, so I certainly don’t intend to rip-off her hard work!

She starts with a chapter of advice on materials and equipment, followed by Lesson 1; Colour. The book is “assuming no knowledge of acrylics” so perfectly suitable for beginners. A basic palette of colours is recommended and there are charts detailing the results of mixing these colours together. I came up with this “colour-mixing wheel” with the primary colours that I use most often.


I Love it. I have used it about 700 times in the last few days. [NOTE: this wheel was my idea, inspired by what I read- it’s not in the book. Make your own, it’s very useful! eg. Cerulean blue in the bottom middle, mixed with 50% Cadmium yellow below it, mixed with 50% Lemon bellow that again. And so on around the wheel, anti-clockwise]

There are also some tips on how to use the paints on you palette which seem so obvious now, but hadn’t dawned on me during my many years of mucky, messy palettes. Most of the Lessons have more than one excercise, so you could find yourself painting 5 or 6 pieces per Lesson which is one of my favourite things about this book. Lots of painting, lots of direction = better at painting. That’s my hope anyway! Back soon with Lesson 2: Getting Started.

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brenworks packaging policy

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Flower collage cards

I often use collage in my cards, using scraps of waste paper and fabric for the collage parts. This time, I wanted to make 3 cards that work as a set. I took inspiration from a few pics I saw on Pinterest, but I can’t figure out how to share them properly, d’oh! Anyway, here is a link to one lovely tutorial:


I liked how they used circles of bold colour as a starting point, working over it with pen to give the flowers definition. In the end though, I didn’t use this technique much.

Waste paper pile

Assorted circles

I gathered some waste paper and cut out lots of circles and flowery shapes, so that I had plenty to choose from. I put all my green scraps aside to use for stems and foliage. The muted pastels below came together quickly to become the first card design!

Ready to glue

I added a small bit of detail with some bright gel pens then glued everything in place with PVA glue, before pressing under heavy accountancy books! I believe other heavy books work almost as well- but accountancy bores the paper into submission. . .               also the gluey parts do not stick to the shiny cover of the books, so I can just trim the excess when the paper has dried.

Laid out for glueing

Two more designs in progress. I didn’t feel the need to add much extra detail with pen as there was so much texture in the scraps that I picked. Served up with complementary, recycled envelopes: Ta-done!

collage flowers 3 pack

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Wildflowers update!

Despite the poor weather and extra windiness- I have some wildflowers!

Poppies, cornflower, borage & crimson clover
wildflower box

. . .it looked like this in June. .

little sprouts

And in the big raised bed:

BorageBorage flower
PhaceliaPhacelia 1

Phacelia 2I can’t give you a wide shot until I do some weeding- it’s definitely more “wild” than “flower” at the moment!

How are yours getting on? There are a few varieties that haven’t come up for me- I wonder what effect different soil & climate would have on these seeds? Or later sowing. Please share your pictures! https://www.facebook.com/brenworks

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Wildflower seed paper

Instructions for planting: If you’ve received one of my seed cards here’s what to do! Remove the seedy shape and plant outdoors (once this pesky weather has passed!) .  In a pot is fine, and it may be easier to see them coming up. As the shapes are packed with seeds you may want to tear them up to give them space to grow. Read on for extra details and pictures of my flower pots.

It’s handmade paper which has been embedded with wild flower seeds. Customers have often asked me about it over the years, but I was a bit dismissive- if someone wants to plant flowers, they’ll go buy some seeds, right? Of course, I was missing the lovely sentimentality of growing something that you received in the post from a friend. 🙂

IMG_20150311_181845853And, as it turns out, it’s not that easy to find a nice selection of wildflower seeds! I was delighted with the selection available from The Organic Centre in Co. Leitrim. I combined their bee mix and their butterfly mix as these contain some of my favourite wildflowers. Calendula & cornflower are two of the best flowers for petal paper – doubley great for me! The full list of seeds included is at the bottom of the post but here’s a sselection:

Wildflower Seeds

Continue reading

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AFM #2 Learn how to use Oil pastels

Crayons are rubbish.The only thing theyPastels 5 have going for them, in my opinion,
(I miss”The Good Wife”- when is it back on??) is that they are easy to use.
Oil pastels are like hard-to-use crayons.

All the same, I’ll give it a go! I had to do a bit of research having no idea how to proceed and I thought this article gave a good overview http://www.oilpasteltechniques.com/oil-pastels-for-beginners however he is adamant that cheapo oil pastels are a bad way to go. Hmm, I get the sinking feeling that my cheapo children’s pastels, from my ACTUAL CHILDHOOD, are not going to work very well. . .So, I decided to do a quick piece to suss out the quality issue.

Pastels 1
Difficult to blend colours; messy; difficult to do fine detail with big clunky pastels- DO BIGGER PICTURES!
Pastels 2
Pastels definately weren’t blending as described in the article, flaking off paper- GET NEW PASTELS!

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AFM #1 Cave Art

Cave art 1

Large sheet of handmade paper & drawing materials; metallic pens & paints, chalks, charcoal, colouring pencils and ink blocks.

I have done some cave art cards in the past (as you can probably see in the gallery!) and I really liked them because, for once, I wasn’t struggling with the bumpy texture of the paper- It was helping with the rock-effect!

I had two ideas for the bigger piece- 1. A detailed drawing of one animal- partly using cave-art techniques and partly going for a more life-like 3D representation or, – 2. A collection of scenes from different cave works from different countries. I opted for the second one. I collected images from the internet and came up with an initial sketch.

2014-10-03 10.43.49 2014-10-02 18.15.22








I decided to split it into 3 “bands” of images; initially intending for each band to represent a type of stone and therefore a geographical area, but I didn’t really stick to this idea!

2014-10-03 09.51.57

sketched in pencil and chalk

2014-10-03 10.43.09

first “band” in acrylic paint & chalk


People were not represented often in cave art, but I included versions of the two most striking human images I found. I wanted it to have a sense of movement and landscape- almost like a map. Continue reading

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