Choosing Personal Imagery & Different Ways to Get it onto Your Canvas

photo credit: Zipporah Lomax

photo credit: Zipporah Lomax

Welcome! As we dive deeper into the Trusting Your Voice part of the course, I want to talk about personal imagery and the different ways we can get it onto our paintings. Lynx and I both share what imagery we’re called to and I’ll invite you to consider what imagery you’re called to. Personal imagery is just that – deeply personal. While I may deeply connect to icons such at dragonflies or winged imagery, you may feel a deep connection with celestial imagery (suns, moons, stars) ,or a particular symbol, or something else entirely. Either way, adding imagery and other “signs of life” to our paintings is a great way to dive deeper into our own voices and give more depth and meaning to our canvases.

I like to think of the imagery as being the messengers of our mantras. They give life and connection to the words we’ve placed on our canvases.  Sometimes our mantras have obvious imagery, and sometimes they do not. Not every painting needs imagery that is literal, by the way. Adding imagery is simply another option that I want to walk you through should you feel called to sink deeper into considering what your own personal imagery may be.

Let’s dive in!

Watch the demo video:

What’s your personal imagery?

In the video, I review several different examples of personal imagery, but there’s literally a world of options. Not sure what you’re called to? Start looking for imagery and icons in your everyday life, stopping to notice them and whether or not you’re called to them. Once you start looking, you’ll see them everywhere – shapes, symbols, animals, nature icons.


Also think of your values and how you would translate them visually. For example, what does courage look like visually for you? Is it an animal? Is it a symbol or shape? What does trust look like? Love? To help get your ideas rolling, I’ve created a downloadable pdf full of imagery ideas for you. Print it out, and circle all the icons that speak to you and let it inspire you to keep considering what you’re personal imagery may be!

Consider your mantra when considering imagery

Perhaps your mantra has an obvious imagery. For example, if you’re mantra is “Shine Brightly”, then perhaps consider a sun, or rays, or a diamond as options. If your mantra is “Take Flight” then perhaps you’ll want to consider wings, a bird, or something  else with wings.” In the piece below, I used a boat to help deliver the sentiment of voyage. What imagery could you use to help deliver the message of your words?

photo credit: Zipporah Lomax

photo credit: Zipporah Lomax

Different ways to get your imagery onto your canvas

In the video, we explored several different ways (other than collage) to get your imagery onto your canvas, including drawing, tracing, or stenciling them. As mentioned in the demo, I’d encourage you to first coat your canvas with a layer of glossy gel medium. Once dry, try using either a Stabilo All pencil or a PITT pen when outlining your imagery so that you can easily wipe it off  if you don’t like it. Another option is to use stickers or stamps. Of course, you can collage your imagery onto your canvas – something I’ll demo in the next demo. What are some other ways you can get your personal imagery onto your canvas? Remember, think outside the box here and follow your creative urges (aka, your instincts).

Photographs, letters, + other mementos

Photographs are great way to add imagery to your work. For those of you who have read my book, Taking Flight, you may remember the chapter called Honoring Our Memories where I share different ways to add photographs to our mixed-media paintings. Although I don’t specifically use photographs in any of the demos in this e-course, it’s a great option to consider! Treat your photographs just as you would a piece of collage paper, using gel medium to adhere it to your canvas. In the bonus video, you’ll see Lynx collage a small drawing of hers onto her canvas. It’s not a photograph but it’s something that was deeply meaningful to her. Have photographs or other mementos (drawings from your kids, letters, and more?)? Consider using them as imagery in your paintings!

photo credit: Zipporah Lomax

photo credit: Zipporah Lomax

Q: How do you get the colorshine inks not to smear?
A: If you’re using colorshine spray over paper or paint that doesn’t have a layer of gel med over it, it will likely not smear as much. But because we are working so much with gel medium, and if you are really wanting to preserve your stenciled design, then I would spray a fixative over it, let that dry, and THEN put your gel medium over it. I hope that helps! You can buy spray fixative in craft/art stores!

Q: What do I need to know about copyright when it comes to using quotes, lyrics, and papers in my paintings?
A: I want to first say that I am not an expert in copyright law, nor is this e-course about the legalities of things you need to consider when you want to create a business from your paintings. If you are creating your paintings for yourself or to give away, then you have nothing to worry about when it comes to violating copyright law, though w hen it comes to quotes and lyrics, it’s always a good idea to attribute the author.

If, however, you are planning to reproduce your work in any manner, and if you are using someone else’s words (quote or lyrics), or are using gift wrap, scrapbook papers, or anything else with someone else’s designs in your collage work, then you will need to consult an intellectual property attorney to be sure you are within copyright law. It can get tricky to navigate, and there are MANY misconceptions and myths about copyright law (it’s likely an e-course all on its own), but any IP attorney should be able to walk you through it should you want to reproduce your work in any way.

Q: If I don’t use fluid acrylics will it be difficult to achieve the same affect with the spray bottle?
A: Yes, the spray bottle won’t really work with heavy paints. You water down your paints by mixing in some water, and then try smooshing it around on your canvas, and then spray it.

Q: If you have a dark canvas and are using white lettering, would you darken light areas so it would show better the same way you lighten dark areas for black lettering?
A: Yes, exactly.

Below are the specific supplies that we used in this lesson, but be sure to head on over to the big ol’ supply page for a lot more details and more information!

We want to see what you’re up to!

Share your journey with us! Here are some fun ways you can join in the fun that is our lovely and amazing community:

1. Share photos of your canvases, your post-it note or on-your-body intentions, selfies of you, your painted up hands, your work table (let’s see those joyful messes!), and more on Instagram or Twitter using hashtag #hellosoulhellomantras. Search that same hashtag to find your fellow classmates.

2. Share your progress and photos to our private Facebook group.

3. Leave a comment here in this lesson, sharing what you’re learning, links back to your social networks so that classmates can find you!

4. Need help on how to do any of the above? Head on over to our Community Page where all is explained in further detail!

photo credit: Zipporah Lomax

photo credit: Zipporah Lomax

Thanks, friends!

Up next, Lynx and I are going to add our imagery to our canvases using collage and doodling! The next lesson will also cover other considerations as well. Things like placement, composition, scale, and more.

As always, if you have any questions about the demo that haven’t been answered, leave them in the comments and I’ll be sure to address them.


  1. Jodi H

    Hi! I am loving this class and growing so much. The imagery pdf is not available for downloading. Could you help me with that? I’d love to add it to my other ones I have printed off. Thank you!

    • Kelly Rae Roberts

      Hi Jodi,
      Happy to send it to you via email. Some folks can download it from this lesson while others cannot. SO strange! Shoot me an email at and I’ll be happy to email this and all the other pdfs to you. Sorry it’s not working for you!

  2. Michelle C

    Hi Kelly,
    I am noticing as I go throughout the course that your Share-A-Sale links are not working. Just a quick FYI! Thank you– I am loving this experience.

    • Kelly Rae Roberts

      Thanks Michelle! My team and I are on it, I super appreciate it!

  3. Julia L

    Are you covering your canvas in Gel Medium after each “layer” of work? I noticed that you made an example of this in one of your videos in part 2, but I haven’t specifically noticed you stating this in other videos. For example, after you set your horizon and/or your “mantra” – do you put a layer of gel over your canvas prior to continuing with the imagery? Thanks!

    • Kelly Rae Roberts

      Hi Julia,
      Once I have my papers on, I don’t generally us the gel medium TOO much with each new layer. Generally i just keep painting and adding texture and if I DO add more papers, I will gel medium over those during the building up of layer process. Does that make sense? I hope this helps!

  4. Kathy E

    Can’t wait, thanks!

  5. sharon s

    great lesson…as they all are! my question pertains to your FAQ about copyright mention the need to contact an attorney if you plan to license or reproduce your work, but suppose you plan to, say, use a stamp you purchased in michaels, or some sticker letters or scrapbook paper you have one hand, then sell your original creation at an art faire…do you have the same advice as reproducing it (making prints from it) or is this generally considered ok to do? thanks!

    • Kelly Rae Roberts

      Hi Sharon,
      I wouldn’t plan to mass produce anything that has someone else’s design it (stamps, papers, etc) until you consult with either a licensing consultant or intellectual property attorney – just to be safe!

      • Kim

        Does that also apply to using paint in artwork you would like to sell?

        Great course, thank you 😁

    • Dori S

      Hi Sharon S … a lot of creative companies (or the artists who create for them) have something called an Angel Policy, which is generally for one-of’s or very limited production, and also can be regional.. You can usually email to ask if they do, and the company will send it to you.


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