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Learning Through Inspiration with Joan Bardee

April 2, 2019

I’m super happy to be back sharing more of my Learning Through Inspiration series on the Penny Black blog. Thank you so much for your feedback! That series, which you can find on my blog Dear Paperlicious, is all about improving my cardmaking through studying other designers’ cards. Today I’m continuing my study of Jill Foster.



  • It’s gorgeous.
  • The masked border. Jill uses this technique quite a bit and it adds a wow factor to a one-layer card.
  • The watercoloring is just amazing. Look at the blue butterfly. I enlarged the photo 5 times (I feel like a scientist using a magnifying glass!) so that I could try and figure out why it looks so delicate.

  • Now that you can see it more closely, you’ll notice that the butterfly seems transparent – you can see through one wing onto another. How does Jill achieve this? Well, feel free to ask her in the comments because I have no idea how her hand and mind work! HA. The point is – by taking the time to see what she’s done here I can at least work towards achieving the same result.
  • You can also see the large range of color from very light to dark on the wings. The details of inside of the butterfly are barely there. However, the edges are much darker. This range is something Jill mentions in her videos. I’ll repeat one tip Jill shared recently in one of her fabulous videos – don’t get overwhelmed with the light source; rather, make sure that the image has a great deal of variation in tone. That brings depth and it’s that depth that makes an image come to life.
  • Love the dots in the background. They remind me of bubbles and help the butterflies look like they are floating.
  • Rather than 3 butterflies on one color and two of another, Jill colored one butterfly blue. She “broke” the rule of threes and in doing so, made the card special.
  • The background has different colors but is done so well that the entire card looks cohesive and beautiful.




  • You can see that my top card is an attempt to pretty much copy Jill’s card. I did that because I wanted to remove the element of design from my card – all I was left with was technique.
  • So, to the extent Jill’s butterflies look different than mine, it’s not because she chose different colors or a different butterfly set. The basic card is the same. Jill’s looks different because she can color her butterflies in a way that makes them seem alive, and her multi-color background, with lots of shading, creates more movement. I tried to color my background with different colors and my wastepaper basket is now quite colorful! (Let’s just say this was effort #3).
  • So, I confirmed what I already knew — achieving a transparent look with watercolors is quite difficult.
  • Normally, I would have stamped the butterflies in black, and colored in each section of the butterflies in different colors. It was a nice change to stamp in a light color and ignore the lines inside the butterflies.
  • Making a border by masking off with tape is a great idea. It adds depth and interest, but doesn’t add bulk. And, it’s an inexpensive way to add a faux layer. I already had blue painters tape in the house. Using inexpensive non-crafting items leaves me more $$ for stamps and dies!
  • After making the top card, I realized that my butterflies weren’t coming out as nice as I wanted. So, for my second card, I used what I call the “rainbow trick.” My theory is that you can try and hide less than perfect coloring by using a rainbow theme. The eye is drawn to the range of colors rather than each butterfly.
  • I created a mask, but only on part of the butterflies. Jill uses this technique on other cards and it’s a great one.
  • If I had to do the second card over, I’d make the blue layer in the middle of the card darker in parts. Sometimes we are afraid to add to much color, but being timid didn’t work out well this time.


MOOD WHEN DONE: Delighted. I like both my cards. They may not be perfect, but I never aim for perfect. I aim for “better than the last time,” and for something that I would actually pop in the mail to someone.

This is my last Learning Through Inspiration post for Penny Black. Thanks so much to Penny Black for their generous gift of stamps and dies and to Jill Foster for reaching out to me and for providing endless inspiration over the years. You are a treasure.

for the products featured on the cards above

30-558 Butterfly Garden
30-552 Sending Thanks
30-238 Footnotes
30-541 Good Wishes

Supplies: Top Card: Penny Black Butterfly Garden, 30-558; Penny Black Sending Thanks, 30-552; Penny Black Footnotes; Ranger Adirondack Bright Dye Reinkers (retired); Versafine Onyx ink; waterbrush; painter’s masking tape; Arches Hot Press Watercolor Paper; moxie for publicly trying to copy one of Jill’s cards.

Bottom Card: Penny Black Butterfly Garden, 30-558; Penny Black Good Wishes, 30-541; Ranger Adirondack Bright Dye Reinkers (retired); Versafine Onyx ink; Ranger Distress Ink Tumbled Glass; Ranger Mini Ink Blending Tool; waterbrush; Arches Hot Press Watercolor Paper; blue cardstock.


Disclaimer: From time-to-time we have guest bloggers post on our site. The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Penny Black Inc. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.
18 Comments leave one →
  1. Andrea Hastilow permalink
    April 2, 2019 12:17 am

    Super article, thank you. It took me right back to being at art college, sit & study what makes a piece of art you admire appealing to you. I do like your versions of her card, in one post you’ve reminded me of so much I forgot all those years ago, thank you x

  2. Carol permalink
    April 2, 2019 3:36 am

    I feel like I have been taught how to learn when I read your posts. It’s been a marvelous rendition in how to CASE but make it look like your own. Thanks for all the good tips Joan.

  3. jillianfoster82 permalink*
    April 2, 2019 5:27 am

    Both of your cards have me fluttering with delight! I love the bold rich colors on the first and the second one has such a stunning, balanced layout. YOU are so talented, Joan, thanks for inspiring us!!! HUGS!!

  4. Diana K permalink
    April 2, 2019 7:27 am

    Both of these cards are super pretty, Joan. You learned some incredible lessons in this series. I am almost embarrassed to admit that I did not know of Jill Foster, but I do now. ☺️

  5. catcraig permalink
    April 2, 2019 10:14 am

    Wonderful post, both cards are gorgeous.

  6. Vikki H permalink
    April 2, 2019 1:43 pm

    Another home run (it’s the opening of MLB, right?) and what a nice assortment of tips you’ve shared. I’m going to put PB in my order list now due to your guest posts.

  7. Judy permalink
    April 2, 2019 3:16 pm

    Thank you to Joan and Jill for the wonderful inspiration! I have really enjoyed all of Joan’s posts in this series and learned a lot through her process of breaking down the elements that go into artful card design.

  8. Jan Castle permalink
    April 2, 2019 5:00 pm

    So sorry this is your last article ‘Learning Through Inspiration’ – I really enjoyed this take on inspiration and it was oh so helpful to learn your thoughts along the way! Thanks so much for sharing!!!! I especially like your red/orange butterfly card!
    Paper Hugs,

  9. April 2, 2019 8:16 pm

    I am so sorry to read this is your last ‘Learning Through Inspiration’ posting! Detail analysis comes pretty natural to me (alittle OCD??? :D) and even so, I ALWAYS took away details I had MISSED before reading your work! This ‘industry’ has exploded in Artistic Expression and Ability bringing the stamping ‘Hobby’ into a realm of Art Form that boggles my mind! THANK YOU for helping ME be ‘a little better than I was before’!

  10. Pat permalink
    April 2, 2019 9:23 pm

    Both cards are lovely. On the second card, I especially like the mix of colors and the placement of the butterflies.

  11. Marianne permalink
    April 3, 2019 5:50 am

    Thanks for the inspiration and your insights. I guess we could all benefit from studying the cards from other card makers, especially the ones we admire.

  12. sbrussell permalink
    April 3, 2019 6:29 am

    I’m learning so much from your observations, Joan. As i have been more intentional about observing what i like about other card makers, my card making is dramatically improving and the creative juices are flowing. Thank you SO MUCH for this series. And thank you JILL for always inspiring with your beautiful artwork. I love Penny Black products.

  13. merry permalink
    April 3, 2019 7:38 am

    oh Joan, these are both so very stunning! I learn all the time from you! What a great idea to mask off a smaller portion and then put the butterflies flying right over it from edge to edge — that is really spectacular!

  14. Lisa Rutherford permalink
    April 3, 2019 4:35 pm

    I have been a HUGE Penny Black fan for years and years, and absolutely adore Jill’s work specifically. I loved your entire post – your bullet points, your explanations/thought process… alllll of it. And, I think both of your cards are gorgeous. Well done!!! I’m a fan!

  15. Samantha O permalink
    April 4, 2019 6:11 pm

    Love your first card. It feels like warm sunlight filtering thru a kaleidoscope of butterflies. Just gorgeous.

  16. April 6, 2019 12:34 pm

    The simplicity is elegant and gorgeous

  17. Daria permalink
    April 10, 2019 11:23 am

    I think you got close to a transparent look on the first card with the yellowish edges of the butterflies. Your second card is lots of fun with all the colors. Both are terrific cards. Thank you for sharing your insights and your cards.

  18. April 11, 2019 2:30 pm

    Where can I buy moxie? I need some too 😉 Great job on these!!! Love the series!

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