Self-Expression with Gelli Plate

Humanity - a monoprint by Peony and Parakeet. See my tips for using Gelli plate as a tool for self-expression!

Printing with a Gelli plate was one of the things that popped up from the reader’s survey. As I happen to love monoprinting techniques, it was quickly selected for the theme of the week!

Almost 30 years ago, long before Gelli plates, I used glass plates for monoprinting. I usually made a sketch first and then added each color as a separate layer.

Sisters by Peony and Parakeet. Printed with a glass plate. See my tips for creating monoprints!

This monoprint was made in 1988 and it represents my sisters.

Plates

A gelli plate is a great invention and it’s available in various sizes and shapes. My plate is 8 x 10 inches in size. Acquiring one is no a necessity. Glass plates work fine even today. You can also use any plastic transparent like overhead projector transparencies. The advantage of Gelli plate is that it has a flexible and sticky surface. That makes the using of masks easier. So if you fall in love for monoprinting, I would recommend purchasing the Gelli plate.

See 6 tips for using Gelli plate as a tool for self-expression!

In addition to the plate I have Golden Open acrylic paints. These paints have extended drying time, so they are especially suitable for monoprinting. I only have six colors but by mixing them I can get a huge variety of colors.

To create monoprints that include self-expression, I have 6 tips for you.

Tip 1: Use brushes instead of a brayer

Most common tool with the gelli plate is a brayer. I have a Speedball brayer but I often use brushes instead. They make the prints much more artistic, unique and expressive. With brushes you can easily create non-repeating details and large color areas – the elements that contain more communication than monotone repeats.

Tip 2: Use a variety of tools

See 6 tips for using Gelli plate as a tool for self-expression!

Your artwork is much more interesting if you use a variety of tools. For this post I have used two different brushes, a double ended embossing needle for doodling and a long pallette knife for wider strokes. Your imagination is the only limitation when tools are considered. Just remember to avoid sharp objects!

Tip 3: Use hand-cut shapes for masks

When combining variation of colors and surface patterns with handcut shapes, the result is much more organic than using one color and cutter-cut shapes.

See 6 tips for using Gelli plate as a tool for self-expression!

Tip 4: Let each layer bring something new to the artwork

See 6 tips for using Gelli plate as a tool for self-expression!

When creating a new layer, I do not mix and match colors too much. Sometimes colors look even more amazing on a plate than on a print, so I had to take a close-up from the plate!

See 6 tips for using Gelli plate as a tool for self-expression!

I also think that cutting new shapes for each layer can really pay off. Add new and different with each layer, still letting the lower layers show too!

Tip 5: Create at least two monoprints at the same go

If you use slowly drying acrylics, you can get at least two monoprints from the same layer of paint. You can also experiment with that by creating two different artworks by changing the printing direction. I have turned the last layer upside down in the second monoprint, thus the two prints differ slightly.

Monoprints by Peony and Parakeet. See 6 tips for using Gelli plate as a tool for self-expression!

Tip 6: Doodle and color over

A monoprint before and after decoration by Peony and Parakeet. See 6 tips for using Gelli plate as a tool for self-expression!

I doodled over the other of the two monoprints created for this post. Besides a white gel pen and a black thin tip marker, I also used colored pencils to slightly fine-tune the colored areas.

Here’s the bigger picture of the decorated print:

Technology - a monoprint by Peony and Parakeet. See 6 tips for using Gelli plate as a tool for self-expression!

Finished Prints

Humanity and Technology - monoprints by Peony and Parakeet. See 6 tips for using Gelli plate as a tool for self-expression!

Here are the two finished pieces. Which one do you like more, the one that is not decorated or the one that is?

My husband asked after seeing these: What are you thinking while making these? – I try to think of nothing while creating, I said. Because I believe that you have to think before you create, not while you create. However, after a vivid discussion I named these: the one on the left is Humanity and the one on the right is Technology.

A bonus tip: Remember that you can also monoprint fabric! See how I used monoprinted fabric for the background of an embroidered piece!

Creativity Expressed: in Art Journaling

An art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read instructions to create this kind of page with only few basic supplies!With this post, I want to introduce more people to art journaling. I will create this art journal page step by step using a simple concept and few basic supplies. You only need watercolors, colored pencils and a thin black marker pen.

I have created this page on a Moleskine notebook (size: 5 x 8 1/4 inches, 13 x 21 cm). Your journal can be larger or smaller. This page is created on the actual page of a journal. But you can also use a separate paper and attach it later, so you do not even need a journal to get started!

Journals

You can make an art journal from almost any notebook or old book. You can also bind one yourself. If you will paint on the pages, thick pages are better than thin ones. For watercolors, absorbent paper is better than waxy one. But if you use water sparingly, even pages with a waxy surface can handle some watercolor.

Art journals by Peony and Parakeet. An art journal page by Poeny and Parakeet. Read instructions to create an art journal page with only few basic supplies!

I am currently working on three various sized journals. In addition to the Moleskine notebook, I have a black Smash book and a Dylusions journal. The paper in Moleskine notebooks is less absorbent than in the other two, but it still works with watercolors.

General Inspiration

An art journal can generally consist of any visual material. You can create a collage from cutted images or printed photos. Or you can paint or draw, or do it all! The pages often have some writing too. It can be cut from magazines, printed on computer or written by hand. As art journaling is a form of self-expression, I think that pages are at their best when you create everything by hand.

An art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

I do not believe in waiting for the inspiration. Once I have made the page, I usually realize what things have affected on it. Like when walking in the garden, I realized that my marigolds had had something to do with the page! So, do not wait until you have something to say or draw, just start creating! With these step by step instructions, you do not need a single idea before you begin!

Step by Step Tutorial

1) Choose the page and draw the first shape

Read instructions to create an art journal page with only few basic supplies!

When I begin an art journal page, I usually feel quite stiff. The routines of everyday life can really block our creativity. So it is no wonder that when you hold that brand new journal, you feel intimitated to start. Pick the page randomly as the first pages are the most usual causes for the blank page syndrome. Then take your thin marker and begin to draw. Slowly. Then a bit faster.

My imagination at this point was close to zero. I drew a rectangular and was able to mess it up so that I needed many lines to hide those clumsy strokes. Now I could have easily given up, no inspiration, nothing, just ruined one perfect blank page. But I knew better and went on.

2) Paint the shape with watercolors

Read instructions to create an art journal page with only few basic supplies!

To get my creativity flowing, change the marker to the watercolors. Constant interruptions are something that our rational side hates. That’s why it is important to be impatient, work quickly and continuously change the way of working. Paint the shape with watercolors and do not care how ugly it looks!

Painting the square did not make me feel especially creative. And with all the color choices I had, I chose a very conservative blue. Some would say that all the hope is lost, but I promised myself to continue to the next step.

3) Doodle around with colored pencils and finish with a large shape

Read instructions to create an art journal page with only few basic supplies!

Start doodling with colored pencils. Believe me, you want to stay focused and work around the shape. The rational thing to do would be doodling all over. Just stick to the area around the shape!

At this stage I began to feel a bit anxious. It would have been so much fun to fill the page. But I followed my rules and remembered to change the color so that the process of colouring got interrupted. You can see that I began very traditionally, just with strokes. Then I changed the color and moved to drawing circles. After that I changed the color again and colored the circles which I had already made with another color.

The whole process so far has been pretty dull: First a square, then strokes, then circles. I felt a bit sarcastic at the moment: “What next? Triangles?” You can choose your doodles freely but end this phase with a bold movement: draw a large shape. Then abandon the colored pencils for a while.

4) Paint the new large shape with watercolors

Creating an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read instructions to create an art journal page with only few basic supplies!

Watercolor the large shape drewn in the previous step. Then clean your brush by dragging it around the shape.

You can see that when choosing the colors, I did not repeatedly use the same colors so that they woud have spread evenly. Instead of that, I created two color areas: blue and orange. They both contain various hues of color. The blue area varies from grey blue to blue green and the orange area includes warm red. This way there are two elements on the page: blue rectangle and orange circle.

They say in poetry: two is a conversation. Even at this early point, the page can be seen as an image. It makes you think: who are they?

5) Doodle with the marker

Doodling by Peony and Parakeet. Read instructions to create an art journal page with only few basic supplies!

Fuzzy watercolors and soft color drawings look beautiful when they are partnered with a thin marker. Like in photos where something is blurry and something is sharp, your page will look more appealing when you create the same effects.

Doodle around and over the shapes that you created in the previous steps. Don’t be afraid of crossing the shapes. In art journaling, a lot of time and energy can be spent in layering but it actually requires nothing more than drawing over something beautiful to create even more beauty!

6), 7), 8) Colored pencils, watercolors, doodling

Creating an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read instructions to create an art journal page with only few basic supplies!

At this point of repetition I began to feel pretty inspired. After coloring some doodles with colored pencils and painting some blank areas with watercolors, I felt inspired enough to write something that I thought that I am experiencing. I wrote: “When I decide that I have to be under control, I will be out of control. Then I make an agreement with myself: let’s be both!” 

9), 10), 11) Watercolors, colored pencils, doodling

Creating an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read instructions to create an art journal page with only few basic supplies!

Now we are in the final round of making the page. Because these are the steps where you fine-tune your artwork, use a thin brush and very little water when watercoloring. When adding details with the marker, change the orientation of the work once in a while. Many times it is easier to focus on the details if you turn the page upside down.

In poetry they say that if two is a conversation then three is a dance. When watercoloring, I emphasized the upper left area to create a third element. It made the page more dynamic. Namely, at that point I was feeling super dynamic and inspired!

12) Finished?

Unfinished art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read instructions to create an art journal page with only few basic supplies!

When you assume that your page is finished, it is time to take a pause and examine the work.

When I examined mine, I saw that my rational side is there in the form of a computer screen and my creative side in the form of an orange flower. I decided to add a little hand decorated paper piece under the computer screen to make it look more like a computer. Then I added another tiny blue piece besides the orange flower to make the orange pop.

Cutting hand decorated papers. Read instructions to create an art journal page with only few basic supplies!

When you use your own hand drawn papers for collage, they will integrate beautifully. (New to handdecorated papers? See the basic instructions.)

An art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read instructions to create an art journal page with only few basic supplies!

The finished piece now expresses my love for the internet and computers. If that subject was given to me at the beginning, would you think that I could have created that image? Never! I would have stared the blank page and after a while, be as bored as my beagle is at the moment! Getting started even if you don’t feel like to and still finding the happiness of self-expression along the way – that is the magic of art journaling!

Share what you made by using the tutorial!
Upload your artwork at Peony and Parakeet’s Flickr group!

This post is a part of the Creativity Expressed Blog Series hosted by Jen at Lovely Messes. Nine creative women are sharing the secrets behind their creative process, don’t miss a single bit of inspiration!

Gobelin Tapestry in Mixed Media

New Winds, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about using fiber paste and imitating gobelin tapestry.

I like the sources of inspiration be quite distant. They should not instantly make my mind to figure out how the end result should be. While packing up craft supplies to empty a sewing room for renovation, I found some pieces of woven upholstery fabric. Those reminded me of a gobelin tapestry, the woven wall hangings.

Upholstery fabrics. Read more about imitating fabric with fiber paste and watercolors.

You could think there’s nothing more conservative and static than those, but I was immediately inspired by two things: 1) to show how beautiful muted colors can be 2) to create a dynamic composition that still reminded of textiles.

Fiber Paste

To get into the spirit of heavy woven tapestry, I chose to use a lot of fiber paste to create a texture on a fairly smooth watercolor paper.Making of a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about using fiber paste and imitating gobelin tapestry.

Now, the rational thing would be to spread the paste evenly. Or to spread the splotches evenly. But as I wanted to create a dynamic composition, I chose to add fiber paste mostly to the left side of the work.

Making of a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about using fiber paste and imitating gobelin tapestry.

With fiber paste, you can create interesting, uneven surfaces by using tissue paper or various tools to spread the paste. You can also use fiber paste for creating layers and attaching collage pieces (more about those later in this post).

One more good thing in fiber paste is that once it’s dried, you can watercolor over it. I find the change in the surface texture somehow good for my creativity. It is impossible to paint accurately when working on fiber pasted area. That makes me accept the imperfections right at the beginning. Too much self-control can be destructive to the creativity. So, fiber paste is one of my medicines to let go!

Making of a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about using fiber paste and imitating gobelin tapestry.

Watercolors

Here I chose to work with watercolors instead of acrylic paints, because they are much faster when creating delicate color variations. I usually mix watercolors by dipping the brush to many color pans on the same go and letting them mix naturally on paper.

Making of a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about using fiber paste and imitating gobelin tapestry.

With watercolors you can easily change the intensity of color. I often start with a fairly dry brush and intesive color. After a stroke or two I then add plain water to dilute the color. This technique is shown well in the video where I paint watercolor postcards. On the fiber paste surface you can use a lot of water for lighter shades.

Mixing Colors

I still remember my moment of mixing black to other colours. I was a teenager and it was a hot summer day. Acrylic paints were quite new to me and I wondered how they should be mixed to express the hot weather.

A Hot Day, a painting made by Paivi from Peony and Parakeet as teenager

The dark shadows made me think of black. I remember the surprise of getting beautiful purples and browns. That was a moment when I truly realized that the power of colors is not just seen in other people’s work, I can learn it too. By mixing colors I could express anything!

Just this year when I bought my newest watercolor set, I discovered the browns. I wondered why there are so many brown shades in the set, but now I know: mixing colors with browns create beautiful hues! In this artwork I have mixed the colors from both browns and blacks.

Making of a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about using fiber paste and watercolors.

Collage

After watercolors I was pretty happy with most of the painting – execpt the lower center area. The composition of the center elements did not work.  To create something totally new, I used my most common method: to make it ugly and then try to save it. I took the jar of fiber paste and began to cover the bad areas with the paste.

Making of a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about using fiber paste and imitating gobelin tapestry.

“You have ruined it now”, said a bitter voice in my head.

Have you ever experienced the same? It is the moment where you can truly stop pleasing others and begin creating art.

I took the pile of hand decorated papers and started cutting. Fast!

Making of a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about using fiber paste and imitating gobelin tapestry.

Some time ago, when I made those decorated papers, they were so ugly I almost threw them away. But now they looked like they were made for this muted color pallette! And the fiber paste works as a glue so it was easy to attach the pieces.

While cutting  the pieces I watched the fabric of the two chairs in the library room where most of the creating happens. I found the chairs from a recycling center few years ago. I took them for renovation so I was able to choose the fabric.

Floral upholstery fabric. Read more about creating a fabric inspired collage art.

I love the fabric’s silky texture, romantic pattern and how well it goes with the wallpaper and William Morris’s curtains! Looking at that chair made me realize what I needed to add the feel of a fabric to the artwork. To cut several similar flowers to represent a repeating pattern!

Finishing

New Winds, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about using fiber paste and imitating gobelin tapestry.

After drawing some detailed lines with colored pencils and markers, the collage seemed to be finished. But then I remembered the original idea: gobelin wallhangings. Don’t they often have deers in them? A small deer was added in the lower left corner to wonder about the blowing winds!

New Winds, a detail of a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about using fiber paste and imitating gobelin tapestry.

I have noticed that many mixed media pieces are made from commercial products. I want to encourage you to create your own elements and textures. Your art will be much more original and complete. No factory-made flower can express your emotions as accurately as the ones you make yourself!

Sunflowers – Tell Me How to Improve

Watercolor sunflowers by Peony and Parakeet

Sunflowers bring light to darkness and look very powerful. Perhaps that’s why they symbolize a life change for me. This fall they are more relevant than ever. I resigned from my day job just few days ago and started as a full-time creative entrepreneur!

In the past, I have always admired the people who make changes in their lives. But I never thought I could do that myself. It seemed to require exceptional courage and ability to take risks. Seven years ago I experienced a small change when I decided to change my professional identity from computer engineer to designer. I went to study industrial design.

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet

Little did I know back then that it was the seed for the big change that I am experiencing now. I thought I would be perfectly happy developing new products focusing on user experience more than their technical qualities. But with designer studies something reappeared to my controlled life that had been hiding for a long time: the compelling need to create art.

Watercolor sunflowers in various color schemes. By Peony and Parakeet.

The assignments connected to my studies gave some basic skills but I missed more – self expression! That goal in mind I spent years practicing most of the evenings, analyzing what went wrong and where to improve. At some point I realized that I do not want to be the greatest artist on earth. I do not want my blog to be the showcase of my artwork only. I want to share what I have learned and also what I am currently learning while struggling. I want to teach art.

Sunflower ornament by Peony and Parakeet

It took years to dream and nine months to plan the big leap. I have gone through the fears of being lonely, poor, inadequate and uninteresting.

Now, in this special phase of my life, I ask you: help me improve and develop new products and services!

Answer the reader survey of this blog!

While answering, think where you want art to take you!

Start Blog Reader Survey by Peony and Parakeet

Art Journal Inspiration from Children’s Books

An art journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about finding inspiration from children's books.

The art journal spread shown above is created from hand decorated papers, colored pencils and markers. The main message here is “You can ride with your imagination in any way you want“. Like it implies, I like my art journaling to capture dreams and fairy tales, not so much everyday life.

I think that an art journal can be childish and playful. The way I see it, children’s books are the predecessors of art journals. They combine illustrations and text to create their own mini worlds and stories. I love to add both decorative and naiive elements in the same page and children’s books are great inspiration for that!

Read more about finding inspiration for art journaling from children's books.

I buy used children’s books from recycling centers. They cost only few euros (few dollars) which is amazing value considering all the inspiration they can give.

I pick the books that have a lot of  good quality illustrations. As I love detailed drawings, I try to find books with sharp lines and many details. Browsing children’s books can be a good practice for finding your own style. Pick the books that you feel most drawn to and then list all the things they have in common.

I prefer books that have fairly matte pages because I sometimes create collages from them. Then it is good if I can draw or paint on them.

Illustrations from children's book and a collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about finding inspiration from children's books.

The collage on the right was made while I was teaching at a workshop last fall. It is one of the pages where I have used the papers from childrens books. I often give few pages from various children’s books for the each participant of the workshop. It is much easier to start creating when you do not need to stare a blank paper.

That little explorer is like anyone who is entering the world of children’s books!

This might also interest you: Would you try that?

How to Trust Yourself when Creating Art

I Feel the Power, a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about making this and how to trust yourself when creating art. When I begin creating art I often have petty thoughts like: “I want to draw a flower” or “I want to create something pink”. Even if I create regularly many times a week, I am still bothered by the fear of failure. I know I have to handle that at as soon as it comes, preferrably before the first brush stroke. Why? Wouldn’t it be fun to sometimes draw that single flower or create that pink square? I believe that if we give ourselves that kind of clear commands and simple tasks, we do not really trust our creativity. The big question is always: do you trust yourself when creating art?

The Unpredictable Nature of Art

If you trust yourself, you can step into the world of unpredictability. Not knowing exactly what to aim for is a major factor when creating art. We can set restrictions and principles but we have to leave space for unpredictability. It means that we are more creative if we do not have the clear picture of the end result.

Setting Restrictions with Supplies

Art supplies. Read about using fiber paste and how to trust yourself when creating art. These are the art supplies that I gathered when I began making the collage of this post. Watercolors, acrylic paints and fiber paste. I also picked a thick watercolor paper and cut it to square. I decided on the supplies, but left behind the thoughts about what I was going to make.

Find what You Want to Express

My method is to browse art books just before creating art. I do it only for few minutes and I try to pick art that really lifts my spirit, raises the bar, sparks my imagination. Usually it is something from the history of world art. This time I browsed a picture book from impressionism. Read about how to use art books to trust yourself when creating art. So, do I advice you to get a book of impressionism? No. I advice you to name what spheres you want to reach when making art and pick images which resonate with that. They do not have to be the same style than what you want to accomplish. The more important is the feeling that they evoke in you. When I browsed the book of impressionism, I thought how art is above all the mundane things. How those artists who lived in the end of 19th century have managed to describe the beauty in the way that is still understood. How heavy brush strokes, full of paint, were successfully set to represent weightless light. All that would be exciting to see in the end result of my process. Watercolor strokes. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art. When the first watercolors hit the paper, I still had some self-doubt: I could not ever do anything like the great impressionists. I heard the sarcastic voice in my head: “Reborn Monet, yeah right!” But that sarcasm is the moment when I know I am almost there: I am almost leaving the rational side of me behind. Then I just need to wow to trust myself, stop seeing any desired images in my mind and start working fiercely.

Layering (With Some Moments of Doubt)

Watercolor background by Peony and Parakeet. Read about making this and how to trust yourself when creating art. I often start with watercolors because they cover the paper quickly. Even if I have the idea of creating some kind of surface structure, I wanted to use watercolors first to get into the mood uncontrolled splashes. Acrylic paints. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art. While waiting the watercolors dry, I mixed some acrylic paint. Pastel shades like many impressionists used to choose. Using pallette knife. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art. To get some interesting texture with the paint, I used a palette knife instead of a brush. Making of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art. After playing a little with the pallette knife and thick paint, I became clueless of how to continue. I think it is very important to recognize these moments. If you are not aware of these, your rational size takes the control and decides to do things you really cannot justify. Like: “Let’s use the rest of the paint to cover the surface evenly”. Or: “Lets get some other colors and spalsh the paint here and there”. When you feel that you do not know what to do, don’t do the obvious. I might browse some pages of the book again to get back into the mood. Or change the media, the solution that I made this time. I doodled something not so important with the colored pencils just to realize I wanted to continue with watercolors and thin brush. Making of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art. When I got bored with colored pencils and watercolors, I opened the jar of fiber paste. Even if I often prefer to stay with the basic art supplies, fiber paste is something I really like. It not only creates an interesting texture like watercolor paper, it also works like a watercolor paper. You can paint over it with watercolors and create beautiful details to your work! Making of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Adding fiber paste. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art. Trying to achieve heavy differences in the surface texture, I used the palette knife again. Making of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

Then my mind was empty again, so I browsed few pages from the book again and then continued with colored pencils.

Making of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

When I reached the next point of frustration, I decided to change to the watercolors and work with high speed. Working fast helps to get creativity flow.

Making of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

Once the paper was covered all over, I started adding details. A white correction pen is great as it usually works on any surface.

Making of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art. Hand decorated papers are great for details. I picked some of my prettiest papers and began to cut them. The paper shown in the picture isn’t that great as an artwork but it’s really versatile for collages as it has a lot of variation.

Finishing

Finishing a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

I felt that it was time to begin finishing the work. The it is always useful to stop and think. I often put the artwork somewhere where I can look at it, like on the nearest book shelf. Then I step many steps away and try to figure it out where to lead the viewer’s eye. This is another step where you should not question your trust. It will be great! You just need to connect some dots and find the lost pieces in the puzzle. Like I did when I realized that there is someone in the picture. I added the faces and made the rest of the character more visible. Then some tiny adjustments to the composition and the work was finished.

A detail of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

I think that this work is aesthetically very much my style but the impressionistic approach to the surface structure makes the work interesting.

A detail of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art. Never underestimate the power of layering: this is my favorite detail, the white area showing the blank watercolor paper. It was created in the first phase and it still exists in the end. If I had done the obvious and filled the paper with each media layer by layer, this little detail would not exist. So, cherish each stroke and trust your creativity! Focus on the feeling, not to the end result! You are allowed to feel like a world class artist even if you know you are not. Fly to the world of imagination!

These might also interest you: Stretch Your Style Increase Your Creativity

Arboretum Patterned Paper

Arboretum Patterned Paper, see the instructions on how to create the design.

My newest design for hand decorated papers is called Arboretum. Arboretum as a word means a collection of trees. It is often used for the gardens where various kinds of trees form the collection. As you can see below, this design is very versatile: you can create any kind of trees and play with the colors and pattern repeats.

Arboretum Patterned Paper, see the instructions on how to create the design.

I have used mainly watercolors here but you can create this pattern with almost any supplies. When I designed this I was inspired by two things: 1960s retro style and modern quilting.

Living in a house built in the 60s, we have brown, sturdy floor tiles and pine trees in the garden. The whole era celebrated the simple shapes forming simple patterns. In modern quilting solid fabrics are combined with modern patterns. Modern style quilts also often use asymmetrical and improvisational piecing.

I wanted to create a design that would be improvisational as well. The design that leaves space for variations and self-expression. The simplified black and white pattern picture shows the structure more clearly.

Arboretum Patterned Paper, see the instructions on how to create the design with watercolors.

Each of the tree has rectangular shapes in the middle. They represent the trunk of the tree. The rectangles are surrounded by round shapes, which represent leaves. Each row is separated by the row of rectangles, representing the fence or earth. A single tree can also be used alone, as an element in an illustration or as the only image illustrating a text.

Step by Step Instructions


1) Create the background

Painting the background of Arboretum Patterned Paper. See the instructions on how to create the design.

Use several colors to create the background. The colors can be intensive but not very dark as this is only the bottom layer that shows behind the trees.

I used thin watercolor paper, watercolors, broad brush and plenty of water.  I worked with long strokes from top to bottom and vice versa. The paper was dry but the brush was very wet. In the end I added splashes of water to create even more variation.

The background of Arboretum Patterned Paper. See the instructions on how to create the design.

Let the background dry well. If you like the result and you have a scanner, scan it so that you can use it multiple times by printing it!

2)  Add the fences.

Arboretum Patterned Paper in progress. See the instructions on how to create the design.

The fences can be straight or curvy. They can break or continue from edge to edge. The distance of these rows determine the size of your trees.

3) Add the trees.

Arboretum Patterned Paper in progress. See the instructions on how to create the design.

Start with the rectangles of the trunk. Continue by adding the circles around them. Create the rectangles and circles in different sizes and different colors. Color variation looks great especially if you maintain the intensity of the color fairly even between the shapes.

Arboretum Patterned Paper in progress. See the instructions on how to create the design.

Leave some space between the trees.

3) Darken the background around the trees.

Arboretum Patterned Paper in progress. See the instructions on how to create the design.

Add darker color to the space between the trees. You can use various colors here too. This represents the sky.

4) Finish with doodles.

Arboretum Patterned Paper in progress. See the instructions on how to create the design.

Create details to the rectangles and circles. I like to use white gel pen here. You can make each tree look different if you like.

My finished piece is inspired by fall. Thus some trees only had few leaves. On the top row, there ‘s also a tree that has rectangles set like branches. The darkest tree in the left upper corner reminds me of a cone. I could have made an art journal page too by replacing the fence with the journaling. There’s so much little tweaks you can make to this pattern to tell your own story!

Arboretum Patterned Paper. See the instructions on how to create the design.

Now after creating these, I have begun to wonder: what if I cut some of the trees out and created a collage from them!

Arboretum patterned papers. See the instructions on how to create the design.

Share your version of Arboretum! Upload it to Peony and Parakeet’s Flickr group!

How to Mix Colors?

On Sundays - An art journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet. Advice on mixing colors.

Here’s an art journaling page that I made to show you the gentleness of pastels and the strength of muted, darker shades. I often see art journaling pages that have a great potential to be really awesome, only if the color palette would be more unified! Meaning: only if the artist would have mixed the colors instead of using them straight from the tubes.

Here’s the problem: we are pampered with many great colors by the art supply manufacturers. Like the colors of my Faber & Castell Gelatos, they look so pretty!

Faber & Castell Gelatos. Advice on mixing colors.

Still, you can pick colors there that won’t look so great together. Those colors have no common base color. Like the bright red, blue purple and mint green shown below. They have nothing in common. The bright red is a primary red, blue purple is muted with black and mint green is muted with white. If you take out the mint green and mix the red and blue purple, you can get better combination. The brown, which is the mix of purple and red, ties the two colors together.

Advice on mixing colors.

Similarly, if you use only red, orange and pink straight from the box, they look more separate than if you also use the colors that are mixes of them. Like parents and children, they form a unified color family.

Another example: the colors that have a common base color, like the pastels below, suit well together. You can also mix them without fear: they produce lovely combinations. If you don’t want greys or muddy browns, avoid mixing contrast colors together. The contrast color pairs are: red and green, blue and orange, yellow and blue purple.

Advice on mixing colors.

Sometimes people are afraid of getting greys and browns and so they avoid mixing any colors. But those muddy colors make the brighter colors pop. See how muddy colors support the other colors in the art journal page that I made.

A detail of an art journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet. Advice on mixing colors.

Advice on mixing colors.One reason to mix colors is to get more natural, lively look. If you look at any photo, you can see a lot of colors there. The variation of light causes the huge amount of colors.

In the late 19th century, there was a genre of artists called impressionists. They were inspired by the daylight. They wanted to focus on the light, not on the objects themselves. If you are afraid of mixing the colors, look closely at Claude Monet’s Cliffs at Etretat and count the various tones there!

Instead of using primary colors like basic bright reds, blues and yellows and mixes of them, I encourage you to play with tints and shades: mix white or black to the primaries and get softer colors!

When I began creating the art journal page, I chose to use gelato sticks with acrylics and hand decorated papers. I decided to use the background that I had made weeks ago, as its pastel colors reflected the cheerful mood I was having.

An art journaling page in progress. Acrylic paint background. Advice on mixing colors.

I like to create backgrounds when I am tired or uninspired. Then, when I start creating, I feel that I am already half done. When using various supplies in each layer of a page, I will get more variation in color without extra effort.

Faber & Castell Gelatos. Advice on mixing colors.

Faber & Castell Gelatos look like lipsticks and they have similar kind of waxy feel. You can dilute them with water but I think the greatest way is to mix them with a paper towel or soft sponge.

Softening Faber & Castell Gelatos. Advice on mixing colors.

Gelatos work great on a painted surface. Notice that I created color mixes with slight variation in darkness. I used both tinted colors (mixed with white) and shaded tones (mixed with black).

An art journaling page in progress. Faber & Castell Gelatos. Advice on mixing colors.

One more thing to consider: color repeats. I am very careful of not repeating the same color too much. In general, when the colour is used only once, it represents an individual. If it is used twice or three times and the areas are closely located, they represent a group. But if the same color is here and there or evenly spread, it is often just a mess. The rational side in us wants to create colour repeats. But once the work is finished it does not look rational at all! One more reason to mix those readymade tones!

An art journaling page in progress. Faber & Castell Gelatos and handdecorated papers. Advice on mixing colors.

When I began to add handdecorated papers, I followed the same rule of controlling the number of repeats: not too much of the same paper.

Using handdecorated papers is a great way to add thin lines to a page. The gelatos have a waxy surface that can be difficult to handle with thin markers. For the journaling I used Faber & Castell PITT brush pens.

A detail of an art journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet. Advice on mixing colors.

To make the collage look more integrated to the page I added color with gelatos on the papers.

An art journaling page spread by Peony and Parakeet. Advice on mixing colors.

If I had to define art simply, the definition would be: creating great color mixes and communicating with them. At least that is the step to take when you feel that the page you made does not represent what you wanted to create!

Read more about colors: Yellow, 5 Tips to Choosing Colors

How to Paint Watercolor Postcards in Vintage Style

I have beautiful, old floral postcards which inspired me to create some of my own. When making the cards I realized that it would be almost impossible to show the techniques with static images and text only. So I made a short video about how I improvised the cards. Only watercolors, two brushes and a watercolor paper needed!

Have fun with watercolors!