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!

Illustrating Poems in Art Journaling

An art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read about illustrating poems in art journaling!

A lace doily waits to be picked up again.
A young girl’s fingers where an old woman used to fiddle.
How many beginnings can one hold?

Here’s an art journal page which illustrates a poem. In art journaling, I usually create the image first and then add the text. However, this time I wrote the poem first and then illustrated it. Namely, for a long time I have had a desire to include creative writing in my art journals. I have loved poems since a small child and I used to write them all the time. After I grew up and moved away from home, it gradually stopped. But now years later, poems seem a great addition to art journal pages. Especially because I usually start writing a poem with a visual image in mind. Wouldn’t it be suitable to document that image too?

Of course, you do not have to be a poet to get into illustrating poems. You can also illustrate the poems that other people have written. Poems are great tools to get connected with the visual images that represent feelings. I think poems make a perfect pair with visual self-expression!

Visualizing a Poem

1) Getting in touch with the feeling

Read the poem several times.
What kind of atmosphere does it create?  What metaphors does it use? Are there physical objects or people to include?

There’s a risk of getting too rational here. Try answering these too:
What kind of memories or thoughts does the poem raise in you? What kind of rhytm, music or dance does it resemble?

2) Sketching

Lightly sketch the elements you want to include to the page. Write the poem or at least reserve a place for it.

I used watercolors for sketching. Light painting can bring a more intuitive approach to your work than using a pencil for sketching. You do not need to exactly know your composition yet. Think this phase as the first steps in the dark! Do not take it too seriously (= too rationally)! Focus on the feeling you want to express!

An art journal page in development by Peony and Parakeet. Read about illustrating poems in art journaling!

3) Expressing with composition

After sketching, adjust the composition by adding more elements to the page! With poems I often feel that if the composition delivers the message, the rest is trivial or easy. There’s so much content in the words itself.

I wanted my page to lean to the right and then up. Right – because there’s a strong connection to the future in the text. Up – because the doily waits to be picked up in the story. I also chose the colors accordingly: blue representing the old and red representing the new.

An art journal page in development by Peony and Parakeet. Read about illustrating poems in art journaling!

4) Finishing

This phase is to fine-tune everything already created.

I wanted to add the feeling of fabric and emphasize the upward movement by adding thick lines with watercolors. I also made the lace look more detailed. Then I added some dark areas to make lighter areas pop. A thin black marker and colored pencils are great for the finishing touches when using watercolors on the page.

A detail of an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read about illustrating poems in art journaling!

The page was made on a separate watercolor paper and then attached to the journal. Watercolors work best on watercolor paper. Even if you use a thin watercolor paper it’s better than using a smoother surface.

An art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read about illustrating poems in art journaling!

Visualizing a Poem – A Minimalistic Approach

You know that I am not a particularly fond of minimalism in self-expression but with poems, I think it can be a very effective approach.

An art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read about illustrating poems in art journaling!

A yellow spot on a white painting.
A happy thought when leaving.
I saw the sun in a cloudy morning,
The one to brighten my being.

This poem of mine began with a visual image that called for simplicity. When aiming for lots of empty space, acrylic paints can be a better medium to use than watercolors. Acrylic paints have more substance themselves and it is really easy to add slight, yet powerful color changes with them.

In this page I divided the poem in three parts. The composition was built accordingly.

A detail of an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read about illustrating poems in art journaling!

The first part is focused on expressing the latter sentence: the leaving. It is bittersweet, light peachy orange.

A detail of an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read about illustrating poems in art journaling!

The second part visualizes the sun in a cloudy weather.

A detail of an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read about illustrating poems in art journaling!

The last part communicates the person, her being and her relation to the world that she is leaving behind.

An art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read about illustrating poems in art journaling!

With acrylics it is easy to work on any surface. I used white gesso instead of white paint but only to save some money.

Think about an art journal that has illustrated poems! What a treasure would it be! The best things in life are those we can create ourselves. Share your illustration of a poem by uploading it to Peony and Parakeet’s Flickr group!

How and Why to Create Art?

I was challenged by Anu-Riikka for the blogging challenge “A Blog hop with a difference”. There are six questions to be answered so let’s begin!

1. What I am working on right now?

Art journals

There’s nothing so wonderful to hold than an art journal with finished pages.

More than a single project I’d like to think about what’s new in my process. I always try to learn new things and expand my skills to keep creating interesting and exciting. At the moment I practice writing poems in English! I want to improve journaling in my art journal pages and use writing to enforce imagination. I used to write poems until young adulthood and have always loved literature. Writing in English provides extra challenge because my mother tongue is Finnish. The world is so much bigger and better if you are not limited with the language. I can also write in Swedish and I used to study German at school but Spanish or Portugal would be great to master too!

2. How long does it take to create a project?

Handmade paper pads by Peony and Parakeet

Handmade paper pads. I have used tape to pond the papers together.

A small art project for the blog takes usually at least 2 days to create. I do not like to finish anything at one go because the quality gets better if I have time to ponder. I often work with projects in phases so that decorated papers or sketches are created a long time before I actually execute the final project. I also use a lot of time to think about techniques and ideas before I start. Sometimes when I start creating I realize that my thoughts have gone wrong. Luckily it is easy to turn a new page from my art journal and start it over!

3. What are my fave things I love to create with at the moment?

Colored pencils

I store all the brands of colored pencils together.

I have tried a wide variety of art and craft supplies but enjoy basic supplies the most. You do not need much to start creating. My favorite supplies are colored pencils, markers, watercolors, acrylic paints, blank paper and scissors. It has become more and more difficult to enjoy creating projects that use ready-made products. I get a lot of satisfaction of not buying and creating things myself. Even if I enjoy seeing art in general, I do not get much out of following projects that use heavily ready-made products like paper flowers or stickers. I wish more and more people could give a chance for their own imagination and experience how satisfying it is to create something from start to finish.

4. How does my writing/creating process work?

Mark Rothko inspiration by Peony and Parakeet

Mark Rothko inspired postcards and me in front of Rothko’s work.

I believe that we should act creatively but ensure that it is made thoughtfully. That’s why it is good for anybody to clarify the reasons why they create.  I make art for two main reasons: 1) to be able to communicate with other people 2) to show my admiration for the great masters in art and design.

My creative process is very formal because I love organization and find it very effective. During my designer studies I learned the basics of design process. It includes background study, collecting, combining and testing ideas, executing in phases and getting feedback in appropriate stages.  Even if it sounds controlled and complicated I do not feel like so. Each phase is adjustable: it can last very short or long time and it can be repeated when needed. I feel that working systematically gives full power to my creativity. I also like to work towards a pre-planned schedule. When I have set the time for creating I feel more free than worrying about it all the time.

5. How do I become inspired and stay inspired?

State Heritage Museum at St. Petersburg, Russia

Me in State Heritage Museum at St. Petersburg, Russia. A beautiful place!

I love art, design and architecture. Show me any picture from the history of art and design, and I get inspired! I become very easily inspired and and that can be distracting sometimes. On the other hand I think that inspiration is overrated and regularity in creating underrated. I hope that I can help people create more regularly so that they get to know themselves and love their own work. I also hope that my own regular practice will improve my skills to communicate visually and verbally.

6. What is my signature style?

A detail of an folk art inspired art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

A detail of an folk art inspired art journal page.

My work has a lot to do with colors. I think that colors can communicate feelings most effectively. In composition I often aim for dynamicity. I also try to achieve the balance between relaxed and free-flowing line and accuracy, almost engineer-like look. My style is a some kind of mixture of folk style and art nouveau with a twist of 1970s. How ever I have begun to hope that I would have no signature style at all! The more I create the more I have become to value diversity. I want to learn to understand as many styles and artists as possible and help others find them too.

A detail of the painting Enigma by Peony and Parakeet

“Enigma”, a detail of a mixed media painting

How would you answer to these questions? Share it by commenting this post or if you have a blog, linking a post to the comment!

Imitate Ceramic Art!

An art journal page by Peony and Parakeet, see the instructions on how to imitate ceramic tiles with correction pen and watercolors

A strange cat in the shadows.
Too many apples for the tree to bear.
A blackbird complains: Dry mouth!
Still, it’s a paradise: my garden.

This is an art journal page where I wanted to achieve two things:
1) imitate Scandinavian ceramic artists of 1940-1960s
2) write a poem and illustrate it

Annikki Hovisaari, a Finnish ceramic artistLet’s start with the artists: Annikki Hovisaari from Finland and Lisa Larson from Sweden. They are women who made beautiful ceramic art in 40s-60s. Annikki Hovisaari died in 2004 but Lisa Larson is still alive and she has a website too.

Me and my husband own a couple of Annikki Hovisaari’s work. We have bought those from antique fairs.

I found out about Lisa Larson in Scandinavian Retro magazine nr 1/2014. You can also see the best work of hers by searching from Google with the search term “Lisa Larson tile”

When I examined the work of these two artists, it was clear that a white correction pen would be perfect to imitate the lines. I made a couple of small pages by combining the correction pen with acrylic paints and PITT Artist Pens. However I was not fully satisfied with the outcome. These did not have the liveliness in color that I wanted to achieve.

An art journal spread by Peony and Parakeet

But after making these I realized how I would use the correction pen and what I would combine it with: watercolors! Here’s how you can create your own ceramic tile look!

1) Doodle with correction pen

Instructions on how to imitate the look of ceramic tiles, by Peony and Parakeet

2) Use watercolors for coloring

Instructions on how to imitate the look of ceramic tiles, by Peony and Parakeet

The correction pen works as a resist. You can watercolor over the white doodles. After painting add some water and wipe the paint off from the doodles.

3)  Finish by adding contrast and drawing thin black lines

Instructions on how to imitate the look of ceramic tiles, by Peony and Parakeet

When you are done with watercolors, don’t stop yet. Add color variation and contrasts to doodled shapes. You can also work with colored pencils when finishing if it feels easier. Finally take a thin black marker and add thin lines in the center of white doodles or both sides of the doodles. These lines will make your work look sharper and more dimensional.

Instructions on how to imitate the look of ceramic tiles, by Peony and Parakeet

Here you can see the difference that finishing makes. At this stage I have also added the poem. But actually my process began by writing the poem. I have discovered that if I want more depth in journaling, it’s better to write it first.

Have fun with this simple technique! Don’t forget to share your work at Peony and Parakeet’s Flickr group!

Instructions on how to imitate the look of ceramic tiles, by Peony and Parakeet

Express Yourself with Colored Pencils

An art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Four easy techniques to express yourself with colored pencils.

Simple art supplies fascinate me. Colored pencils have been my favorites recently. They are so easy: no worries about making the pages too thick even if there’s a lot of layers.

Colored pencils seem to be used for traditional artwork mostly. I think they are as suitable for improvising as any other media, like watercolors. In this post I will show you few easy techniques for expressing yourself with colored pencils.

1) Color by doodling

Four easy techniques to express yourself with colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet

Starting with a blank page or paper, draw circulating and continuous lines to color a small area. Then change the color and continue. Create layers and let the colors intersect. You can get a wide range of colors with layering. Think your pencils as doodling tools!

2) Rotate the page while working

Four easy techniques to express yourself with colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet : Rotating the page.

You will get more variety and interest to the page if you rotate it while working. Work one area at a time, rotate between areas. The areas can be fairly large as in my page, or smaller.

Four easy techniques to express yourself with colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet: work in progress

Here’s the page before I used the eraser …

3) Use eraser to create lighter areas

Four easy techniques to express yourself with colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet

Erased areas bring light to the work. In an art journal page, use eraser for the areas where you want to write the journaling.

4) Clarifying the message when finishing

Four easy techniques to express yourself with colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet : before and after final touches

I am a big believer of finishing. When you improvise, the result maybe self-explanatory for you without the finishing touches. But if you want to communicate with others too, then sharpening some areas and adding some layers here and there for more intensive color is a minimum. I realized that my page had some animals in it so I made them easier to see. Like the photos include sharp and unsharp areas, you do not need to work through the page. Picking the focal points and working with them is often enough.

By discovering these easy techniques I have learned to love colored pencils. It is like mixing painting with drawing. With colored pencils you can have a gorgeous art journal or a unique greeting card collection! Show your free expression with colored pencils by uploading your work to Peony and Parakeet’s Flickr group!