Here’s my latest watercolor painting “The Sense of Time”, made just a couple of days ago. I limited my creative time immensely when painting this. But this time I want to share the whole story, not just images of how I made the painting. At the same time, you will see some of my summer crafting projects and learn a couple of fun facts about Finnish summer.
Peonies Embrace the Midnight Sun
When people ask what would be the best time to come to Finland, I always suggest summer. Finnish summer begins in June and ends in August. In my opinion, the best month is July. Even in the south, where I live, you can experience the midnight sun, warmth and see the best in Finnish people. Like peonies, we are all introverts in the dark and cold winter, But when the sun comes up, it’s all smile.
Colors Compete with Shapes
My husband always has his summer vacation in July. As dog owners, our possibilites to travel are limited to day trips unless we take them to kennels or arrange somebody to look after them. As both of us love old art and antique, we always go to Billnäs and Fiskars for an antique fair. If you have watched a British television series Lovejoy, these are the places where you could see him and his assistants if they traveled to Finland. There are two antique fairs at the same time. They last 4 days and are packed with people selling and buying antique items in the middle of Finnish countryside. The fairs are partly indoors, partly outdoors and truly a collector’s heaven whether it rains or shines.
When looking at the sales tables, I always notice color first. My husband, a skillful woodworker, examines the shapes. Together we are unbeatable!
Art Rises from the Dollhouse
It was both unfortunate and fortunate that I found an old display cabinet from Billnäs. Fortunate, because it’s just what I had dreamed of for my doll collection. Unfortunate, because I didn’t have the space for the dollhouse anymore. I had to empty the tiny kitchen with miniature wine bottles and delicacies as well as all the other tiny rooms filled with similar items.
While taking the little paintings off from the walls, I realized that one of them wasn’t just printed image. It was a cross-stitch project that I had made years ago! I remembered not being very happy with it. When I started it, I thought that I could make more than one and then sell some. I didn’t have any pattern and the end result didn’t look as painterly as I would have wanted. So I gave up the idea of making more and placed the piece above the dining table, in the spot where it wasn’t as visible as other pictures. No wonder I had forgotten it!
But now, it looks just perfect to me. Now I see more than just clumsy stitches. I see how my love to combine arts, crafts and design came out even when I was decorating a doll house.
William Morris Visits Ikea
One of my creative routines is organizing things. Even at antique fairs, I sometimes get the urge to rearrange items and I have to restrain myself. This spring, I was organizing a storage space of our house and found an old Ikea Moppe mini chest of drawers. Putting old stuff into use is a creative challenge that I am often willing to take. I went to Pinterest, saw boards like this and was ready to get started.
The first challenge was that I also wanted to use up old paints. The only paint with the suitable quality was baby blue. I wanted to place the mini chest in the library room near my doll collection and store fashion doll clothes in it. I had hard time seeing baby blue suit to the style and color scheme of the library room. We have decorated the library room in the styles of 1890-1930s. The curtains have William Morris’s pattern. How could the Ikea mini chest ever with with the style? Trusting that I could figure it out, I refused to buy new paint as I had another purchase in mind. I wanted to buy ceramic knobs for it.
If I had to choose one material that I adore, it would be a difficult decision between ceramics and glass. But I think the winner would be ceramics. Even if I have never really dived deep into creating with clay, I love ceramic items. Especially if they are both decorative and expressive. I also like them to be a little rustic, have some handmade feel without being overly clumsy. The knobs I wanted to buy should also have some baby blue, some William Morris, look both old and modern and be traditional but somewhat innovative. Despite of the high expectations, I optimistically began to search handmade ceramic knobs. It took a couple of days but my optimism payed off and I found just the perfect ones! They are made by an english woman living in Israel. Her Etsy shop is called “Clay is My Art”, a heaven for anyone who loves rustic, but sophisticated ceramics.
As you can see in the photo, I was able to find decorative papers that not only matched the knobs, they fit perfectly to the style of the library room. The papers with palm plants are leftover wallpapers. The other two are from my scrapbooking paper stash.
But wait, this story continues …
Leftover Flosses Praise the Pattern
Have you ever had anything in your home that was ok before you changed everything in its surroundings? My number one thing was a small key storage cabinet, which was fine in our old home on a muted dark red wall. But when placed on a bright yellow wall of our current home, it really bothered me. With the experience in cross stitching for dollhouses, I got an idea of stitching a dollshouse carpet pattern from Janet Granger‘s book Miniature Dollshouse Carpets.
It took all spring when working slowly but in the beginning of summer I got it stitched. I also repainted the wooden parts. This time I did buy the dark green paint but this is still a project using leftovers. Namely, I didn’t just use the few colors set in the pattern. I used leftover skeins of embroidery floss creatively so that the carpet looks like an old antique one. I much prefer this look to using only few colors.
The cabinet looks great on the yellow wall. I temporarily took it down for photographing it in a better lighting. There was also another reason, connected to the watercolor painting …
Limited Creative Time – Craft Projects Inspire the Painting
This time I had limited creative time. Before I started painting, I placed the three handcrafted items on the table in front of me. The keycabinet, the mini chest and the miniature cross-stitch work were all there to inspire me. Then I glanced my watch and gave myself 15 minutes to paint the first layer. Namely, I had another project in progress too. I was editing one of the videos for Imagine Monthly Fall, the art journaling class that begins in August 1st. Editing videos requires a lot of concentration and I wanted to keep the quality good by taking small breaks. So after 45 minutes of editing, I had 15 minutes for my painting, all day.
If you work in short periods of time like this, inspiration items become essential. Seeing the same objects again and again, even if you are not actually recreating any of them, maintains the focus and direction.
After four 15 minute sessions I was at the point where I had painted this and that with five different brushes but had now clue of what I was trying to express. It was fun to paint like this but clearly I couldn’t finish the painting without setting up a longer session.
Finishing – Summing Up
I soon discovered that being so aware of the time had also affected the painting. I saw clocks and pointers which made me ponder about the concept of time. It flies so quickly in creative activities that it’s difficult to think about it as a simple measure. This in turn made me think about the antiques and how great designs last time. After me and my husband are gone, there will always be new enthusiastics who will drool over those Kaj Franck‘s bowls.
I often finish my watercolors with colored pencils to easily add new layers of details and decorative lines. But this time, I was reminded by my craft projects: “Make the most of what you currently have.” So I resisted the urge to go to another room and get the jars of colored pencils. It only took an hour to finish the painting.
Some midnight sun, some glassware, mini horizons, small amounts of leftover colors, block shapes and last but not least: the description of how my inner artist sees the sense of time.
The Way I Process Ideas and Produce Classes
This blog post demonstrates how I work with ideas. It’s not only one idea that goes into one piece of work, it’s a collection of ideas that have different levels. Some are more abstract, others are more concrete. I believe that every good art class is filled with multi-level ideas that in turn, embark your own ideas. That’s why I never underestimate the importance of the background study that I do for my classes. I listen to audiobooks. I go to libraries to browse books. I collect Pinterest boards and inspirational items. I make sketches and paintings that I call pre-class paintings (yes, the one above is one of these). They prepare me to bring my best to the classes that I produce. They ensure that the class is not only about one whimsical thing that I fell in love with but about a holistic, yet clear and inspiring view to the subject. All in all, we all have limited creative time.
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