Artist Interview with Traci Bunkers

Posted On: 11/05/14

Traci BunkersTraci Bunkers, author of "The Art Journal Workshop" and "Print & Stamp Lab," is a passionate mixed-media & fiber artist who loves rusty things, glitter glue, old books to cut up and cheap cameras.


 Since making her own books and art journaling have been a long time passion of hers, she always feels better after getting her art on by slapping some paint down and working in her journal. Through her one-woman business Bonkers Handmade Originals, she sells her nifty creations such as hand-dyed spinning fibers and yarns, original rubber stamps, handmade books, kits and original artwork. She has been teaching workshops across the US since the early 90s and has branched out into online workshops.

Visit her website at for more information and to sign up for her mailing list.

Where are you from originally? I grew up in Roeland Park, Kansas, which is a little suburb of Kansas City. Then I moved to Lawrence, KS for college, which is about 45 minutes away. And I never left! (except when I went to school in France for a year.)

Tell us a bit about your life and growing up, and when art became an important part of it: I remember art always being in my life, and always making things as a kid. My Mom sewed all of our clothes, and my Dad was a stone mason. So doing things with my hands and being creative came naturally. I also had a great-uncle who was a printer, and gave me lots of pads of paper to draw on.Traci Bunkers - Mixed Media Artist Traci used the Copic Airbrush System to create these journal pages.

What is your earliest memory of drawing or creating art? I remember when I was in kindergarten, my teacher made comments on my drawings that I colored things the wrong colors and didn’t stay in the lines. I guess that hasn’t changed. I still have a little clay statue that I made as a kid of my dog (but it looks more like a cat).

What inspires you to create? I think for me, I just have this feeling inside that I have to do it. And I’m happier when I’mdoing something creative, whether it’s taking pictures, or slapping some paint into my journal. And the more creative things I do, the more I’m inspired to create.

In what kind of environments have you learned about or “trained” in art? I took all kinds of art classes in junior high and high school, including photography, printmaking, weaving and ceramics. Then in college I majored in graphic design. For my junior year of college, I went to la Villa Arson art school in Nice, France. But aside from that, I do a lot of experimenting on my own. Traci Bunkers - Mixed Media Artist You’ve said you like finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. What are a couple of your best extraordinary finds or creations from ordinary things? Some of my best “finds” I’ve used as printing or stamping tools. My first book, “Print & Stamp Lab” has a lot of these finds in them--such as using those oval and round corn cushions (for corns and bunions on your feet) to print with.

And my favorite is using flip flops as printing blocks. Not only can you stamp the textured sole, but they can also be used as moldable foam to make your own stamps.

If you were stranded on an island, and all your basic needs were being met.  What three additional items would want to have? Tell us why, or explain what you would do with them: Only three? My art journal, a Pentel Pocket Brush pen, and my bag of Copic sketch markers. (But I’d sneak in some glitter glue, too.) With the markers and brush pen, I could write and draw in my journal. Then I’d glitz it up with the glitter glue. I guess I’d have to apply it with my fingers, but I’m okay with that. I’d love to have a camera with me on that island, but then I’d either need some film and a photo lab, or my laptop & printer.

What’s your favorite part about being an artist? That I get to make stuff! I get to do what I love for a living. I’m also never bored because I have so many different creative things I like doing. I also love experimenting with new materials and seeing what I can do with them. Traci Bunkers - Mixed Media Artist What is the worst part about being an artist? The financial part of it. Making a living as an artist is not easy. But I can’t imagine doing anything else.

How did you develop your particular art style? Hmm, well that’s a tough one. I guess it evolved over time, and keeps evolving. I like to work intuitively, just doing what feels right, and working without laboring over decisions on what I’m doing.

Can you briefly describe your process? When it comes to working in my art journal, I usually first apply a thin layer of gesso. Then I start layering on collage and paint. While I’m doing that, I start adding some text, stamping or writing a headline of sorts of what I’m journaling about.

Then I get into more details with handwriting. I add photos, stamp with rubber stamps, and draw on the page with different coloring media. I basically work on the page until there’s no more room left to add anything. I don’t have a set way of working really. I do all of those things, but not in any certain order.

Do you wake up in the morning and know whether or not you’re going to have particularly creative or artistic day? What are the signs? Not really. But I pretty much work all the time. I do start almost every day off by walking my dog through the cemetery that’s across the street from my house.

I usually take my iPod Touch with me to take pictures. It’s a good way to start the day. I often get great ideas or problem-solve while I’m walking my dog.

Tell us more about working with layers (you mention them in your artist statement): I find I like to use layering in all of the different media that I work in. In photography, I like to take pictures that use reflections or double-exposures, layering different images, color and textures on top of each other to create a new image.

When I dye spinning fiber and yarn, I layer colors in the dye pot to get a rich, multi-colored effect. And when working in my journal, I apply thin layers of paint and collage, adding and subtracting as I work, revealing what’s underneath a layer while creating another one. Traci Bunkers - Mixed Media Artist When and how did you start using Copic markers? Some years ago I was teaching at an art event in a hotel that had a “store” set up near the classrooms. I think that was the first time I saw a Copic Sketch marker. I liked the size of it and bought one to try it out. I was hooked! In my journals, I often draw outlined letters for my “headlines.” I like to use the Copic Markers to color in the letters.

What motivated you to use them? Since I work in layers, I like to use permanent pens, markers & stamp pads. That way if I’ve done some work and decide to apply another layer of paint or a wash of color on top of it, I can do it without things running or bleeding.

Since Copic markers are permanent, they work great for my style of working. I also love using the Copic Airbrush System with stencils to create backgrounds or borders in my artwork. I probably mainly use the brush side of the sketch markers. I like to color things in with them. The size makes it go fast!

Who are some of your favorite artists? The main one who comes to mind is Hundertwasser. I love his sense of color and organic shapes in his drawings. As far as journals go, Dan Eldon and Peter Beard. I love that they use their photographs in their journals and also rework them to create a new piece of artwork, which is something I like to do too. I’m also drawn to outsider artists.

You’ve published two books and have numerous online tutorials. Tell us a bit about them: My first book is “Print & Stamp Lab.” It’s a DIY book that shows you how to make 52 different stamps and printing tools from things around the house, or from things that are normally used for other purposes (like flip flops and corn cushions that I mentioned earlier.)

My second book is “The Art Journal Workshop.” It gives basic information on different mixed-media materials that can be used in art journaling, then has 20 different journaling exercises. I’m known for my “raw journaling,” so the exercises in this book go beyond the surface and into deeper self-exploration through journaling. It also comes with a DVD that has 6 videos of me creating some of the journal pages in time-lapse photography.

Right now, I’m working on a kid’s book called “Print It!” It’s a short book for a British publisher that has 12 projects for kids to make. They learn how to make the stamping or printing tool, and make a project that uses it at the same time. That book will be out in 2012.

Aside from those books, I’ve got online videos such as me creating a journal page, how to mount rubber stamps, how to use henna stencils in an art journal using both paint and the Copic Airbrush System, and how to make moldable foam stamps, and some others.

They are all on my blog at Traci Bunkers - Mixed Media Artist Tell us about your 30 Days of Journaling project: Last winter I needed something to get me going. I felt like I wasn’t doing anything creative just for me and wanted to change that. So I decided to do 30 days of carving, where I carved a stamp and blogged about it everyday for 30 days.

I also did a sketch or drawing and posted it too. I got such a great response and enjoyed doing something creative everyday, that I wanted to do 30 days of something else. Bianca Mandity, inspired by my 30 days of carving, told me she was going to do 30 days of journaling. I decided to do it too. So everyday for 30 days, we both worked in our journals and blogged about it.

Normally I do a journal page from start to finish in one sitting, but didn’t have time to do that everyday for this. So I set a time limit of a half hour, and whatever I got done in that time was what I did for the day. Then the next day, I’d finish what I had worked on the day before, or start a new journal page.

Before this experience, there were times I just didn’t work in my journal because I felt I didn’t have enough time for a whole journal page. This showed me a new way of working and that I could work in my journal in small amounts of time. It also showed me that I could follow through with a commitment like that!

Since then, I’ve done two rounds of “30 Days of Get Your Art On” where I just did some sort of art every day and posted it on my blog. And in December I did “30 Days of Drawing.” Check out my blog to see all of those.

Watch Traci use Copic Sketch markers and the Copic Airbrush System in an art journal:

Find Traci on the web:

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