Art Journal Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect

Everytime I buy a new blank sketchbook, I get the feeling that I should not make a mess on it. But then, my art journals are meant for maintaining artistic inspiration, and messy making is part of that too. I often create pages in many phases and my art journals are never perfect in a way that they would have high-quality art all over. But I think that the imperfections make the books more approachable and more inspiring.

On this video I show pages of my two Moleskine sketchbooks. If you are new to art journaling or would like to introduce this wonderful hobby to your friend or relative, share the video! If you need more support to begin art journaling, sign up for Inspirational Drawing!

Video: See What You Think

Are you searching for art inspiration? Are you wondering what to create to your art journal next? Let the pen move and see what you think!

Inspirational Drawing is built so that you can enjoy developing the three dimensions of creating:
1) increasing your imagination
2) improving your technical skills
3) using inspirational source material.

You will learn a creative process in detail through art journaling exercises. Course videos will not only show you how to do, I also talk about the emotions and the inspiration behind them. I will answer to your questions and help you adjust the process so that it will work for you. You can start enjoying free drawing without questioning what to draw or how, the process itself will take care of that!

>> Reserve your spot now!

Thank You for Being There!

Two things happened yesterday. First, I sent my 100th email newsletter! I know there are people who have subscribed to it from 2010 when I sent out the first one. (If you are not a subscriber yet, click here!) Thank you!

Second, I saw sunflowers in full bloom and thought how they are like art: bringing joy and relaxation! I was working in my recording studio today, remembered the flowers and made this video for you. Thank you for being there, remember to nurture your creativity!

Watch more of my videos!

Explore by Drawing!

This blog post is illustrated by students of the 4-week online workshop Inspirational Drawing. All the illustrations shown here are created at the class by these wonderful artists: Dianne Guerin, Ellen Schulz, Terri Elverum, Joan Gaetz, Alison Schockner, Cheryl Rayner, Carol Dickson, Debbie Kreischer, Virginia Clinton, Rosemary Bosse, Mary Joyce Weening, Donna Peake, Joyce Brown, Nancy Kvorka, Judy Shea and Janet Joehlin.

I have often thought about the contradiction between maintaining who I am and being open to what I can become. My friend said that when you know somebody for a long time, you can look through life circumstances and see the person that’s behind all those. And still, while situations change, we change too.

Dianne Guerin, Toronto, Canada, student artwork created at the class Inspirational Drawing

By drawing we can find out where we are swimming and how deep we can go.

Terri Elverum and Joan Gaetz, student artwork created at the class Inspirational Drawing

We can take personality tests but sometimes the best way to find out what kind of fish we are, is to take a pen and start drawing.

Ellen Schulz, student artwork created at the class Inspirational Drawing

By drawing, we can explore how we see ourselves in our surroundings.

Alison Schockner and Cheryl Rayner, student artwork created at the class Inspirational Drawing

We can pick ideas from new places and cultures.

Carol Dickson and Debbie Kreischer, student artwork created at the class Inspirational Drawing

And we can explore what’s going on inside our minds.

Virginia Clinton and Rosemary Bosse, student artwork created at the class Inspirational Drawing

When we illustrate what we seem to be and how we see the world, new combinations start to grow and inspire us.

Mary Joyce Weening, Donna Peake and Joyce Brown, student artwork created at the class Inspirational Drawing

Our art journals become our inspiration books.

Nancy Kvorka, student artwork created at the class Inspirational Drawing

If we just use thinking, we can endlessly question our creativity and ability to find new solutions. But when we get into the habit of drawing, it will be evident that we are creative people regardless of circumstances.

Judy Shea and Janet Joehlin, student artwork created at the class Inspirational Drawing

When we draw out our new thoughts and ideas, we become more aware of who we are and what our style is.

So, do you want to start exploring? Join me for Inspirational Drawing!

Do You Have a Talent for Creating Art?

This blog post is illustrated by students of the 4-week online workshop Inspirational Drawing. All the illustrations shown here are created at the class by these wonderful artists: Deb Weiers, Chrissie, CHB, Valerie Lima, Sandy Guderyon, Mary W, Gloria Schurman, Katia Maliantovich, Nea Wiseman, Gina Meadows, Joanne, Jacqueline Kriesels, Marie Jerred, Sue Rowlands and C in Ohio.

Let’s start the actual blog post with a personal question: Do you ever wonder whether you are talented enough?

I used to think that some day I will meet a person, both knowledgeable and prestigious, who would tell whether my art is good or bad.  That thought made me both excited and worried. I became excited when I thought that someone saw more in my art than I did myself. And I became worried when thinking about the opposite result: that my art, that beautiful tower I had built, would just collapse. I would collapse.

Deb Weiers, student artwork created at the class  Inspirational Drawing

Years went by and I got tired of waiting for a specialist’s opinion. Maybe I could be my own critic? I went to study industrial design to find out how the quality of art and design would be set. While studying I realized that there are no right or wrong. People are different. Some may like art that somebody else does not, even if they both are art critics.

Somehow that made me even more puzzled. I didn’t know what kind of people would be my people, who would enjoy my art. And furthermore, if my art was bad, there wouldn’t be many of them.

However, I became convinced that somewhere in the world, there must be people that want to use their imagination and design whatever they like. They want to build houses …

Chrissie's house, student artwork created at the class  Inspirational Drawing

… they want to travel …

CHB and Valerie Lima, student artwork created at the class Inspirational Drawing

… they feel drawn to beautiful patterns, and dream about enchanting gardens …

Sandy Guderyon and Mary W, student artwork created at the class Inspirational Drawing

They want to learn from the history and use it to move forward in their own direction.

Deb Weiers, student artwork created at the class  Inspirational Drawing

The more I examined whether I have the talent, I realized that art is not an absolute in any way. Art is a channel to express and communicate. If I look outside the window, and let my mind wonder on a path, the question is not how dimensional the window frames look like or how grey the stepping tones are. I find my people by sharing how uplifting the coolness feels like when walking barefoot on a hot summer day.

Gloria Schurman and Katia Maliantovich: student artwork created at the class Inspirational Drawing

Even if there are theories about aesthetics, originality, playfullness etc. which determine good art, it is the experience that matters the most. If we feel connected to our own art, there are much more chances that others will too.

Nea Wiseman, Gina Meadows and Joanne, student artwork created at the class Inspirational Drawing

By strengthening our connection we will become more talented. We start creating more  and seeing more. We will have more to express and more imagination to use. We can make people calm down in front of our art, or make them run and catch thoughts about their own possibilities.

Jacqueline Kriesels and Marie Jerred, student artwork created at the class Inspirational Drawing

Nowadays, many ask me whether they have the talent. Even before they actually start.

Here’s the answer: Your talent cannot be determined by the grades you got while you were at school. Your talent cannot be determined by an opinion of a knowledgeable and prestigious specialist. Art is not about talent. It is about having something to say and work for saying it. It is about asking “what if” and finding the answer by using both your life experience and imagination. It is about looking outside the window, seeing numerous possibilities for the perspective, and bravely picking your own point of view.

Sue Rowlands and C in Ohio, student artwork created at the class Inspirational Drawing

So, do you have a talent for creating art? Always.
Are you looking for ways to put it in use? Join me for Inspirational Drawing!

Transfer Your Expertise to Your Art

Introvert, an art journal page and a postcard, by Peony and Parakeet

If you want to grow as an artist, the best advice anyone can give you is this: Recognise your expertise and bring it to your art! If you breath art and only art, you will become shallow and miserable and it will also show in your art.

When I left my day job a year ago, I would have not said all this. I had my last days marked at the calendar (a special gift from a friend from UK!) and I could not wait to forget most of the things I had learned from developing IT systems.

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet

But the more I got distance from my past, the more I began to realize why I chose computers before art some 25 years ago. I realized that I also love to think, not only create. When I get a crazy idea, I try to put it into a logical form too. The architecture of computer systems still inspires me. Layering, hierarchy, interfaces … all those are concepts that I often apply to my art too. Being accurate and always questioning why – these basic nerd characteristics continue to describe me.

Pleasurable drawing with a thin drawing pen, by Peony and Parakeet

In the eyes of a systems developer, the world is full of details that have to be edited and classified.

Postcards by Peony and Parakeet

I have realized that the more I show my understanding in my art, the more it also relates to other people. They don’t have to be computer engineers to feel drawn to my art. Behind every expertise there are values that communicate much more widely.

Enjoying colored pencils, by Peony and Parakeet

In computer science, new innovations are made constantly. People working in the field have to always be ready to learn new things. And not only that, they also have to make existing systems work with the latest technology, so they are constantly adapting old with the new. For me, creating new from the history of art and design is one way to use that skill.

Postcards by Peony and Parakeet

I believe that when people say they don’t know what to create, they overlook their expertise. It is not very easy to notice all the things you already know and deeply comprehend. In information technology, it is a common knowledge that the projects where many systems are integrated together are the trickiest ones. I used to manage those kind of projects. I became interested in them after I realized:  if you really want to build something that will have a bigger impact, integration is the key.

Creating of an art journaling page, by Peony and Parakeet

When you begin to integrate your other expertise to your art, I am pretty sure that things get … just like in IT projects … a bit rough. Different values and opinions will fight and co-operation seems impossible at first. But after the merging process begins, you will be more creative and you will have much more to express than ever before.

Free Spirit, a painting and a postcard by Peony and Parakeet

When I create art, I try to always arrange time for the little nerd inside me. I know that if I just let my creativity decide, there’s a nagging voice inside my head saying: “You could do this better, why did you do that …” By taking breaks and thinking before creating, I accept my past and the part of my personality that is more logical than creative.

Postcards by Peony and Parakeet

When you hear your inner critic speaking, maybe it is the voice of your expertise! Maybe part of you is disappointed not to get fully involved. Make your inner critic work with you, not against you! Join me at Inspirational Drawing, a 4-week online workshop, starting September 14th. Reserve your spot now!

P.S. The postcards shown in this post are now for sale at my Etsy shop!

Put Thoughts and Feelings into Your Art

A Dream, a watercolor painting with colored pencils and white gesso by Peony and Parakeet.

I am excited to start the fall season with a video blog post! I will create the artwork above from start to finish and show the athmosphere of my creative space as authentically as I can. I will also talk about Inspirational Drawing, my online drawing workshop that will begin in September!

Creating art can be inspirational. Reserve your spot!

Inspirational Drawing, an online workshop, a drawing class by Peony and Parakeet

Force Yourself to Experiment!

Discus Fish, an art journal page with colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet

One day at the local library, I browsed the latest issue of International Artist magazine. I must confess that I had to force myself to do that as the magazine showcases a lot of traditional and realistic art, landscapes and portraits. Especially in the recent 10 years, I have been more interested in examining what is seen inside my head, reflected from outside world, than to illustrate the exact images of the outside world. But now and then I like to force myself to examine things that I don’t feel drawn to. It makes me more open and allows me to pick ideas that are hidden behind processes that I am unlikely to obey.

So I gave myself a task: pick any photo and draw one element from it! After drawing and coloring the element I was allowed to fill the rest of the art journal page freely. So if I followed the boring routine, I was able to treat myself in the end.

Choosing the Photo

My husband has an aquarium and I love it. Just recently he bought 5 new discus fish. I happened to take a photo once they were released to the tank. I thought that this photo would be just perfect for the purpose. The more I art journal, the more I think of it as a diary, mainly a diary of my inner world, but this fish is so beautiful that I could happily let it swim to my imaginary world as well.

Blue Diamond discus fish

Sketching

I don’t usually use a pencil as I like every stroke to be visible. However, this time I followed the artists from International Artist magazine: they all seem to use pencil or charcoal for sketching. I drew a simple sketch of the fish taking care of proportions more than the details.

Sketching a discus fish by using a photo as a guideline, by Peony and Parakeet

Coloring the Fish

I followed the photo in color choices as well. I just made each of the color more vibrant. While coloring, I also added more details to the fish.

Discus Fish with colored pencils, by Peony and Parakeet

After the fish was finished, I gave myself the freedom to doodle my heart out.

Finishing

Coloring the fish with colored pencils did not feel particularly inspirational. But when I began coloring the mess I had made around the fish, all the fun began! I was able to do anything – yes anything! I thought about water flowing and bubbling freely and everything started to look more loose and alive, even the fish.

Coloring of an art journal page with colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet

Lessons Learned

After finishing the page, I asked myself, could I create more pages this way: combining realistic elements with free drawing. Yes I could. But I think that it would be more fun to create it all freely: drawing the central element first with extra care and then adding surrounding elements. Or pick elements from various photos and construct a scene that way or … All in all, got few new ideas and this was a good experiment!

However, I know now why I love drawing that is liberated from all the expectations. It is much more fun and exciting! I also believe that it is good for us to both see and process what we think and feel. It is so liberating to let it all come out on the paper.

Discus Fish, an art journal page with colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet

Want to learn more about creating art as a liberated and free-flowing process? A 4-week workshop Inspirational Drawing will start at 14th September, and the registration will open soon. Subscribe to my newsletter to get notified! (An additional benefit: each newsletter introduces a weekly blog post in an educational and interesting way.)

A Natural Approach to Creating Art

Withering Peonies, an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

My latest art journal page is called “Withering Peonies”. What I love most in peonies that they are always graceful and brave, whether they get ready for blooming or withering, whether it is late autumn, or early spring. Their lives are filled with transformation and I always enjoy watching them. They seem very individual, even every flower looks different from each other.

Yellow peony from the garden of Peony and Parakeet

When watching peonies I think about the word “natural”. I believe that to grow as artists we need to learn to express ourselves naturally. Like peonies bend towards the light, we should bend towards our inner thoughts and feelings. So when I began to create the artwork, I did not think about anything particular, not even about peonies.

Adding acrylic paint with a pallette knife

I started with acrylic paints and a palette knife creating thin spots of color using a restricted color palette. Then I changed to a drawing pen and let it move freely, without any fixated thought.

Drawing freely

I believe that we suffocate our creativity when we have fixed images in our minds. We get disappointed if we cannot copy the images exactly on a paper. But then, the fixed image is often imperfect, impossible to copy. It is more like a collection of images, a movie or an emotion that is not very detailed. If we fixate with that, we turn away from what is natural.

It is natural to move forward. It is natural to let thoughts flow freely and add more colors and layers.

Finnish sky

I used watercolors for some areas.

Painting with watercolors near acrylic paint spots

After watercolors, I worked with colored pencils.

Colored pencils with watercolors and acrylic paints

While coloring, I saw peonies emerging on the page and I remembered the peonies that were put in a vase to save them from the rain.

Peonies in a vase

When peony flowers mature, they loose their color. That gave me the idea to take some gesso and began rubbing it on the surface of the artwork. First with a pallette knife but then with fingers, to soften parts of the edges.

Gesso over a mixed media painting

Finally I sharpened some details with a drawing pen and made some color areas clearer with colored pencils.

Withering Peonies, an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

Writing thoughts after creating an artwork feels natural too. Drawing and painting is not only a technical process, it is also a way to process thoughts.

Withering Peonies, an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

Withering peonies can be a symbol of letting go. When you open yourself to art, something beautiful might disappear. But it is so exciting to see what else will appear – naturally!

Withering Peonies, an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

Want to learn more about creating art as a continously improving, inspirational process? A 4-week workshop Inspirational Drawing will start at 14th September, and the registration will open soon. Subscribe to my newsletter to get notified! (An additional benefit: each newsletter introduces a weekly blog post in an educational and interesting way.)

Why Keep a Sketchbook?

Sketchbook pages by Peony and Parakeet

This is a photo collage of the art journal pages that I have made recently. My art journals are also my sketchbooks: some of their pages document new ideas instead of expressing my current thoughts and feelings. When I work with sketches, I often pick a subject that I want to explore more closely. This time I wanted to examine landscape paintings and mid century modern ceramics.

A sketchbook page spread by Peony and Parakeet

My sketchbook pages also contain text. If I find an inspiring article or book, I write down the most useful quotes. This time I found an interesting article about landscape paintings in the latest Taide magazine. It is a Finnish art magazine that I read regularly when visiting a local library. I always take my art journal with me, when going to the library. usually I pick a Moleskine Sketchbook, black thin-tipped drawing pens and some colored pencils. Cretacolor Aqua Monolith pencils are wonderful for traveling (my recent post about them).

Cretacolor Aqua Monolith colored pencils

I also found a book about a swedish painter Peter Frie who specializes in simplified landscape paintings. Some of his paintings are constructed so that the landscape only fills a part of the canvas. I found this concept really interesting and applicable for art journal pages too.

A sketchbook page spread by Peony and Parakeet

When I draw sketches, I don’t copy the paintings exactly, I focus on the construction and the details that I find especially interesting. I also add notes to explain them so that I can remember later why I included those bright spots or other details to the sketch.

A sketchbook page spread by Peony and Parakeet

Now you may ask: why wouldn’t I just take a photo or be even more practical, browse Pinterest and pin images? This is what many do and it is much quicker than create hand-drawn and hand-colored sketches. I believe that when you draw, you will get deeper in the subject. You have to:
… decide what’s most important, and what can be left out
… find out the main structural elements and their relations
… recreate the image in your own drawing style
And while doing all that you will learn new shapes, ways and structures so that you can later use them more freely in your artwork.

A sketchbook page spread by Peony and Parakeet

I create pages in random order to my art journals and I just love how new pages go with the old ones. The drawing on the left is a new one and an older page on the right looks like another version of the same location!

An art journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet

It is also interesting to create spreads that deal with two very different subjects: the page on the right is about landscapes and the page on the left shows sketches about motifs from mid-century modern ceramics.

A sketchbook page spread by Peony and Parakeet

I found the idea of dividing the page really interesting, so I created a new page with watercolors, adding ideas from the ceramics in their own sections.

An art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

Then I created a couple of pages that combine the ideas from landcapes and ceramics.

A sketchbook page spread by Peony and Parakeet

If you have the problem that you see inspiring stuff but find it easy to include all that inspiration to your creative work, it will certainly be helpful to keep a sketchbook! I believe that to fully express ourselves visually we need not only use our head but also use our hands!

Want to learn more about creating art as a continously improving, inspirational process? A 4-week workshop Inspirational Drawing will start at 14th September, and the registration will open after a couple of weeks. Subscribe to my newsletter to get notified! (Additional benefit: each newsletter introduces a weekly blog post in an educational and interesting way.)