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.)

Art Journaling with Colored Pencils

Being Alive, an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

My latest art journal page started with new colored pencils and rambling thoughts of the latest news from Helsinki: the architecture competition of Guggenheim museum has ended and now there’s a big debate whether the city of Helsinki should finance the museum or not. I did not mean to include the winner building on the page, but you know how it goes: once you think something, it will appear! See the black element in the right!

Cretacolor Aqua Monolith Watercolor Pencils

Last Monday I went to the biggest art supply store in Helsinki to buy some paper and see if they had any Cretacolor Aqua Monolith Watercolor Pencils. I had bought one pencil about a year ago just to see how it works. After many months, I noticed the growing use of that pencil. So now I was thinking to buy a couple more. It turned out that they did not sell the pencils individually anymore, so I bought the smallest set of 12.

Creatacolor Aqua Monolith Watercolor Pencils

As you can see from the picture, these pencils are nothing like ordinary colored pencils! They are not wooden at all, they only have a thin lacquer coating! For me it took some time to get used to how they feel when holding them. But once I got over it and started treating them as any pencil, (pressing lightly and creating multiple thin layers), I noticed that they work great. Thse pencils are soft enough to make the coloring pleasurable but not too soft for detailed work.

Creating an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

It is fascinating that you can also use shavings if you add a little bit water to them!

Creatacolor Aqua Monolith Watercolor Pencils

My art journal page was made without water – these watercolor pencils work really well that way too.

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

All of my colored pencils fit in two jars as I usually use them all at the same time, no matter what their brand or type is.

Adding Writing to the Page

I was drawn to green tones even if I was thinking of the city view. There’s something magical when the tourists arrive to Helsinki in the spring. They make shy and withdrawn Finnish people more friendly and helpful. When the hard winter is over, everybody is willing to make a fresh start.

While continuing the coloring of the page, I thought about cultural institutes and their events. Whether it is a city full of tourists or a concert hall full of audience, it feels alive and uplifting. It gives me energy and inspiration to create once I get back home. I felt really drawn to the word “alive” and decided to add some words to the page too. By erasing some areas after coloring, I created areas for writing.

Erasing places for writing when art journaling with colored pencils, by Peony and Parakeet

For me, being alive is a visual thing. When I am using my senses, I see images. When I draw the images, I feel alive.

Being Alive, an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

Create an art journal page with colored pencils and words by answering:
What does make you feel alive?

P.S. Do you want to learn more about free drawing with colored pencils: Inspirational Drawing will be coming up again in September 2015!

Inspirational Adjectives for Your Art

"Introvert", an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

This art journal page is called “Introvert”. I made it while thinking about how much I enjoy spending time alone. My love for sharing and interacting are not the only things that can be found from me, I am also an introvert who needs time to ponder and visualize what’s going on in my inner world. For me, it is often difficult to express myself fully in writing, so I like to create an image first and then write down the thoughts. Usually my thoughts have moved forward and come clearer after working with the image.

"Introvert", an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

My Inspirational Adjectives

When I begin creating and while I am creating, I often get inspired by single words. Many times the same adjectives fascinate me, at least for a while, before I have found new ones. These adjectives challenge me to both start and finish the artwork.

These are my current adjectives: “imaginative”, “forward-thinking”, “avant garde”, “visionary”, “historical”, “futuristic”. I am especially fascinated by adjectives that are somewhat opposites like “historical -futuristic” or which describe a new kind of idea like “forward-thinking – imaginative”. While creating the page I introduced the adjective “introvert” and got inspired by “visionary – introvert”. Brown watercolor seemed just the right choice for an introvert!

Creating of an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

I continued with the black pen, not worrying about what to draw. Namely, it is difficult to express “visionary” without actually having something to look at!

Free drawing on watercolor by Peony and Parakeet

It was a warm summer day so I took my colored pencils outside and started coloring carelessly.

Colored pencils and art journaling by Peony and Parakeet

I added some watercolors with a thinner brush after coloring a while.

Adding watercolor with colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet

How to Choose Your Adjectives?

Some people think that art is some kind of outside thing that is defined by various pre-named styles and standards. In general level that might be the case but when creating art, the focus should not be in those outside standards. Your uniqueness should be your standard and thus your adjectives should be set so that you respond to them strongly. They should make you feel not only excited, but a little bit scary. For example instead of “caring” you might choose “sensitive” or “connected”. Seek for detailed words that can be found behind the adjectives that first come to your mind when you are thinking about yourself and your values.

Express Your Adjectives!

Start seeing and enhancing your personality, your adjectives, your values in what you create. What ever you work looks like when you are in the middle of it, think about those adjectives and find ways to express them. “Introvert” instantly brought black color to my mind. “Visionary” made me look for circles like eyes. As there’s something mystique in the combination of those adjectives, I set a quite dark and little bit dramatic color scheme.

From intuitive to more intentional way of creating art, by Peony and Parakeet

When you focus on things that excite and scare you, your art becomes more meaningful. It can bring new kinds of thoughts and ideas not only for you, but also for others. Everybody doesn’t need to know your adjectives. Art can be often interpreted in many ways. But your creativity is most powerful when it’s focused and few inspirational adjectives can bring that focus!

"Introvert", an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

I have got many requests for a rerun of my course “Inspirational Drawing”. And yes, I will teach it again in the fall. Subscribe to my weekly email newsletter to get notified when you can sign up!

Art Journal about Love for Home!

Home sofa, an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

I am honored to be the featured artist in Documented Life Project this week! The theme is Hometown inspiration: “There is no place like home”. This, if any, is suitable for me and for my art journal! I had a stay-at-home mother and we did not travel much as a family. Probably because of that, I have always loved being at home. When I worked away from home, I missed it all the time. Nowadays, especially every morning when I wake up, I am extremely grateful to be able to work from home!

Let’s create an art journal page to celebrate home!

1) Background – Outside from Home

How do your surroundings look like when you are not at home?
Bring those things to the background of your page!

I thought about the situations when arriving home is most appealing. The house, and the living room couch, looks the most welcoming after walking the dogs on a bad weather.

Snow storm in Finland

Being a dog owner and living in Finland, I have been in the middle of snow storms, pouring rain and everything between.

Pouring rain in Finland

2) Focal Point – Inside Your Home

Pick some of the items from your home which represent your love for home!

I wanted to express the experience of staying inside, feeling happy, warm and safe from the blowing winds. A couch and house plants are good symbols for that.

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

3) Location, Location!

Create the page where you feel most at home!

We visual people are often very easily affected by the environment were we create. To make sure that the page would express of a warm and comfortable place, I created the page by sitting on the living room couch.

4) Start by Drawing Freely

Draw and doodle on the page. Don’t worry too much about the end result!

The beginning of an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

5) Add Color (+ 3 new ideas)

To make sure that your page expresses an experience and is not only a static illustration, add few new thoughts and ideas when coloring the page.

1st: For me, the first idea was the green color. Namely, living in Finland is not only enduring snow and rain. Now in summer we have daylight almost through the night. Actually, if you read this on 20th June, we Finnish will be celebrating Midsummer, one our biggest holidays.

Coloring an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

This photo was taken just a week ago when walking the dogs 11 pm in the evening.

Light summers in Finland

2nd: My second new idea was that home is not only a house or a apartment. It is a mental state. When I feel at home, my cup gets filled, I become peaceful and energetic at the same time.

The cup is full!

The combination of peace and energy looks yellow to me. So I made sure that the focal point has a lot of yellow. I also cut a yellow heart and glued it on the page with a gel medium.

Love for art journaling, by Peony and Parakeet

3rd: Where ever we go, we always carry a piece of home with us. My third idea was to add some red spots to the background to express that.

A detail of an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

Boosted Expression

When you bring new ideas and thoughts around the theme while you are creating, you are not only making the page look more alive and expressive. You are also allowing your thoughts to move forward with creating.

Making of an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

Supplies Used

A black drawing pen (Micron 0.8 mm), colored pencils, a piece of scrap paper and some gel medium were the only supplies used on this page.

Home sofa, an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

Learn new ideas
… about expressing your thoughts through art:
Subscribe to my weekly newsletter!

Art Quilts in a Modern Way

Folk Music, digital art from handmade elements, by Peony and Parakeet

Here’s something that I have wanted to show you for a long time! I have been working with a custom order which made me think of a new idea: to create fabric prints and make quilted wallhangings from them. This idea is very versatile as you don’t have to be a quilter, you can print your art on fabric and use it for bags, purses, clothes – anything!

The artwork above has been composed digitally from various art that I have made. The person who ordered this, is a fan of modern folk music and the color red. (If you have not listened to modern folk songs, try Hanneke Cassel for example!)

A leaf motif by Peony and Parakeet

I created one new piece for the artwork. All the other details are picked from my archives.

It was pretty exciting to send the artwork to Spoonflower. When I received the fabric, the print quality was really sharp and detailed! I already knew from the previous experiences that big areas of black don’t print well, so I avoided those.

A digital fabric print designed by Peony and Parakeet

If you are a quilter, you know that the fabric will look so much better when quilted! I sandwiched cotton wadding, two layers of fusible interfacing and backing fabric and took out my sewing machine.

Quilting an art print by Peony and parakeet

I am not very experienced with free-motion quilting using the free-motion foot so I used even-feed foot instead. But with patience I was able to create quilting that enhanced my brush strokes.

Making art quilt by Peony and Parakeet

The finished quilt is about 45 x 39 inches.

Art Quilt using digitally printed design, by Peony and Parakeet

I used various colors of shiny embroidery threads for quilting. Using black thread brings the real black that was not produced by digital printing.

A detail of an art quilt using digitally printed design, by Peony and Parakeet

Quilting on watercolor!

A detail of an art quilt using digitally printed design, by Peony and Parakeet

Entering the flow state when playing modern folk was in the center of my inspiration.

A detail of an art quilt using digitally printed design, by Peony and Parakeet

I added the label to the printing file too.

A detail of an art quilt using digitally printed design, by Peony and Parakeet

Here’s another project that I actually made earlier to test the idea. This one does not contain much digital processing, I only took a good photo of the original art and enchanced it a little bit.

Original paper artwork and a fabric quilt made from it, by Peony and Parakeet

I think this artwork looks really good on fabric! The actual idea when creating the original was to mimick hand embroidery! Read about creating the original artwork: When Pens Replace Needles

Folk Leaves, digitally printed fabric quilt by Peony and Parakeet

I added some embroidery before quilting, but found out that quilting works well as decoration.

A detail of a digitally printed art quilt, by Peony and Parakeet

A printed fabric label can be found from here too.

A detail of a digitally printed art quilt, by Peony and Parakeet

I also have more fabric prints waiting to be transferred into art quilts!

Fabric prints from paper artworks, by Peony and Parakeet

Paper prints news: New card sets have arrived to my Etsy shop.

Art Postcards by Peony and Parakeet

Life can never be too colorful!

Art Postcards by Peony and Parakeet

Stella and Cosmo send their greetings to all artists and quilters: Have a relaxing weekend!

Beagles with quilts by Peony and Parakeet

Using Fabric on Art Journal Pages

So Much Gardening to Do, an art journal page that uses fabric pieces, by Peony and Parakeet
At this time of the year, in the beginning of summer, there’s a lot to do in the garden. I started early this year but recently there has been so much activities that I feel I have neglected the garden. This guilty feeling also showed up on my latest art journal page!

This page is made on a spread of Moleskine Sketchbook, so the image is fairly small, about 10 inches in width. A special feature here is that I have added two small cotton fabric pieces to boost my imagination. This was just a sudden idea but I actually love how the page feels when touched!

Using Fabric Pieces on Art Journal Pages, by Peony and Parakeet

I attached the first fabric piece at the early stage. Golden Soft Gel Gloss medium was used for attaching the fabric.

Using Fabric Pieces on Art Journal Pages, by Peony and Parakeet

After attaching the fabric, I doodled with a black drawing pen to get creativity going.

Using Fabric Pieces on Art Journal Pages, by Peony and Parakeet

When I began coloring, I realized that I want to create a spread instead of a page. So I attached another fabric, purposefully a bit different from the first.

Using Fabric Pieces on Art Journal Pages, by Peony and Parakeet

While coloring the page I added more details. As my garden looks wild at the moment, I wanted to show the growth on the page too.

Tulips in the garden

Here’s one corner from our front garden. Tulips bloom beautifully and peonies (my favorites, of course!) grow fast.  Lots of weeding to be done!

Using Fabric Pieces on Art Journal Pages, by Peony and Parakeet

Why not try some fabric collage in your journal?

More Inspiration!

If you are interested in collage art and want to have more inspiration from textiles, purchase 21 Secrets Spring 2015 art journaling workshop! It includes my class “Artistic Embroidery with Pens and Paper” + 20 great classes from other artists. Click here!

Also good to know: There’s a Flashback Sale for older, 2014 workshops for the weekend.

Simple Shape, Plenty of Expression

Circle #1, by Peony and Parakeet

I began to create these circles a while ago. They have been created in Photoshop but they use scanned elements of my hand drawn art. The message here is: don’t wait for a major inspiration or grand idea! Your starting point can be one simple shape. Self-expression does not require complex sketching.

Simple Exercise

Creating an art journal page is easy:
1) Draw a circle.
2) Doodle inside it.
3) Color the page. You can add more details while coloring.

Simple instructions for an art journal page, by Peony and Parakeet

When creating this page, I was thinking about spring. It is amazing how the sun and rain take turns and make everything flourish.

Sun and Rain, an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

More Inspiration

Circle #2, by Peony and Parakeet

Circle #3, by Peony and Parakeet

Circle #4, by Peony and Parakeet

Inspirational Drawing

Do you want to learn free expression more in detail?
Join me on Inspirational Drawing, an online workshop that starts on 1st June!

Inspirational Drawing contains:
– in-depth exercises that can be repeated numerous times with different end-results
– guidance of how your inner critic starts to work with you, not against you
– a little bit of drama and fun that tickles your imagination!

Registration ends on Friday May 29th (at midnight PST)!
>> Read more and register now!