This week is about creating beauty, and I have a beautiful blog post for you.
Violets on an Adventure
Ten years ago, an old yard tiling gave us a surprise. Renovating it had been on our to-do list, but there had been other things to do in the house. But we were lucky.
The violets planted in the pot had looked at the tiling and its gaps with completely different eyes. What an opportunity for seeds! So, the following year, we were able to enjoy the glory of flowers in the surprising place.
Creativity is a flower that wants to break free from its pot and get on an adventure. Abundance is allowed and ugliness can enable beauty.
A painting that starts with a few ugly brushstrokes can be decorated to rich and beautiful.
My online class Decodashery is about creating beauty that easily finds its purpose. This kind of art is not just fun to make but perfect for cards and gifts.
Decodashery is one of my personal favorites. The videos are inspiringly colorful and uplifting. You play with the tradition of decorative art and create beauty that people have always found attractive. >> Buy here!
This week, we create stylized beauty. You will see how I painted these beautiful decorative flowers.
Time for Some Happy Art!
At least here in Finland, May-June is a time for parties. There are school graduations and then Midsummer at the end of June, which is celebrated not only by people but by Finnish nature too. Days are long and the deep sleeps during the dark winter are now coming into use. If different art forms had seasons, this uplifting time would be dedicated to decorative painting. Beautiful decorative flowers and other curvy motifs go well with the celebrations.
Decorative art is happy art for most people. Its tradition extends all over the world and it only requires a little sensitivity to beauty from the viewer.
Three years ago, when the Corona lockdowns started, I buried myself in decorative painting. I made decorative collages from hand-painted papers and practiced decorative painting techniques.
These curvy forms and lines are still present in my paintings, where decorativeness is mixed with a more dynamic and abstract expression.
Painting in a decorative style is fun. A few thoughtful brushstrokes create beauty, and even a beginner’s work looks great when viewed from a far enough distance. Over time, the brush mark improves and has an effect on all drawing and painting, even handwriting. And it’s the perfect style for cards and gifts!
Starting a Decorative Painting
As I watched the blossoms in apple trees, I felt like painting something small and nice to celebrate the beginning of the blooming season.
I took out my black Dylusions Creative Journal and acrylic paints and painted the background very dark blue. Then I made leaves on top of each other, and so that they get lighter layer by layer.
At the same time, I watched the videos of my course Decodashery.
Decodashery – Painting Techniques for Vintage Flowers and More
I still like this course a lot. Decodashery is beautiful, inspiring, and detailed in its instructions. It is also full of ideas. When the Corona lockdown was on, I had plenty of time to experiment with decorative painting and make more examples than usual. This course is for watercolors, gouache, and acrylic paints. You can choose what you want – most of the decorative techniques suit all of them.
Beautiful Decorative Flowers in Two Parts
At first, I thought about making two separate paintings for this post but then decided to make one work in two parts. The first part is simple and stylized and the second part is more creative. In this first part, I used quite raw colors: mainly ultramarine blue and white. I also mixed some brown umber with them.
To highlight the decorative theme, I painted some parts with silver acrylic paint.
Finally, I added some Sienna brown and turquoise (manganese blue hue) to bring warmth to the details.
Now the first part is finished. The flowers that are only partly visible give the impression of continuous space.
Beautiful Decorative Flowers – The Second Part
In the second part, I wanted to bring more depth and warmth to the work. So I spread a thin layer of yellow-green color over the painting.
I used glazing gloss as a thinner here, but you can also try to thin the paint with water.
Immediately after application, I removed the excess paint by rubbing the surface with a cotton cloth. The thin color wash warms the tones of the whole painting.
After the color wash, the painting is a bit hazy. Next, I added more details and brought some of them back up from the lower layers. This sharpens the best parts.
I had lots of tubes on the table but only used a few. Decorative painting encourages making a variety of tones by adjusting the lightness and darkness of color instead of always changing the actual color.
Happy for the Artist, Happy for the Viewer
There were moments of joy that only decorative painting can give me while making the page. This style feeds gentleness and peace. And even if the pleasures of the decorative painting process are only experienced by the painter, the decorative painting leads to results that are extrovertedly joyous, ready to brighten up anyone’s day.
This week, I talk about the balance between following others and doing your own thing.
– Do what everyone else does.
That’s what my mother often told me when I was a child. Her point was to encourage me to learn and be part of a crowd – important skills, but I hated that phrase. As if you shouldn’t deviate from the path, stop, or run faster!
As an adult, I learned that life is not just about moving on your own. Everyone needs public transport.
Helsinki Bus Station Theory for Artists
Have you heard about Helsinki Bus Station Theory? It is particularly familiar to us southern Finns. Most of the buses in Helsinki go a long way on the same road until they take a different direction. “Stay on the bus, don’t hop off too soon,” we advise. This also applies to many things in life.
As artists, we don’t want to be like everyone else, but to hop off and find our own thing. And yet, to get to our own remote area with our treasures, we have to sit on the bus for quite a while. If we leave too early, we won’t find the caches, because they are much further away than we initially thought.
If we get off too early, our talents won’t emerge. Ingenuity turns into chaos in the eyes of the viewer. Intuitiveness makes us do ordinary things because we can’t express its nuances. Sensitivity appears as unnecessary cautiousness. Analyticity produces a rigid impression and our personality is covered in an internal struggle about what the image should look like.
Through art history, I have understood that traveling with a companion can be enormously inspiring. As artists, we are always part of the past generations. When we look at old paintings, we can have a dialogue not only with ourselves and with our current teachers, but through our imagination, also with the masters themselves.
Before I started this painting, I was looking at a portrait of Louis Pasteur by Albert Edefelt. Did Edelfelt guess how important a person Pasteur would become? I told Albert that we still benefit from Louis’s inventions. So, his glass bottles and notebooks were like gold caches.
My gold caches are found in nature. When I walk on the wide path of a nearby park, I often turn my gaze to the shadows. When the sun hits there, a humble plant suddenly finds itself at the center of the scene.
When that happens, I don’t only stare at the star of the show, but look around and notice all kinds of other wonderful things.
As a child, I already knew that it is not always good to march on and act like everyone else. It just has taken all my life to express that by painting.
Did you know about Helsinki Bust Station Theory before? Where your gold caches could be? What do you think about all this?
There is a saying that if you don’t know what else to add “Put a bird on it!” But this week I want to talk about birds as the main object of the picture, not just as a decoration. This blog post is also about abstract birds and their connection with realistic bird art.
Here’s my new painting, also bird-themed!
The Love for Real Birds
As a child, I saw a lot of birds and at some point, I started to learn to identify them. Ornithologist sounded like a great word and I have always been fascinated by people who are extremely enthusiastic about something. I learned about birds from a bird book I got from my parents, which was illustrated with drawings. I also drew birds myself, and it’s quite easy to recognize them once you’ve once drawn every detail.
Since those times my knowledge has unfortunately deteriorated, and I never became an ornithologist! But even though I’m no longer good at identification, I know birds as animals well. After all, I have had pet birds for decades. At the moment I have two budgies, Leonardo and Primavera. Over time, my interest in wild birds has started to return and a dream has surfaced, which the newest painting “Kingfishers” also tells about.
Here’s how it started! Wild strokes here and there.
I think most of us have some relation to birds – what’s your story? Could you bring more of that to your art?
Dreaming of Birds
Ever since I was a child, I’ve wanted to see the kingfisher. In recent years, I’ve started imagining how one would sit on top of our mailbox on a summer’s day when I come down the hill towards home. And this spring I’ve started imagining kingfishers flying around the ditch along my walking path. I know that these are unlikely to come true, but they are still wonderful thoughts. Kingfishers are very rare here in Finland.
So when I started a painting inspired by the ditch, I wanted those kingfishers there. After all, I had already written “kingfisher” in my notebook earlier this year when I started planning the new series of paintings.
And when I researched the subject more, I found out that there are about 120 species of kingfishers. So I could paint many different ones in the same picture!
Birds by Von Wright Brothers
This month, I want to blog about art history too. And as a Finn, I have to introduce the brothers Magnus von Wright (1805–1868), Wilhelm von Wright (1810–1887), and Ferdinand von Wright (1822–1906). One of the most famous paintings here in Finland is “Taistelevat metsot”.
Von Wright brothers drew and painted huge numbers of birds and are remembered as bird artists. I saw this pigeon painting in the Ateneum Art Museum in 2018 when they had a big exhibition of von Wrights’s art.
For the Von Wrights, the recognisability of bird species was essential, and they also depicted birds from the perspective of their authentic living conditions and behavior.
The paintings were very stylish and very aesthetic, but because of their accurate details, they also worked as scientific illustrations.
Unlike the von Wrights, I am not interested in the exact description of bird species, but rather in describing the vitality of life through birds.
Flying Birds and Their Abstract Shapes
I am especially fascinated by the ability to fly and I always try to look as closely as possible when I see a bird flying in the sky. When the bird flies high, its image breaks up and becomes an abstract composition. The flying bird serves us modern art in the middle of the mundane reality. A museum experience without visiting one!
I often see finches and magpies here where I live. I think magpies are really beautiful birds and this painting of Ferdinand von Wright is fabulous even if its theme is a bit brutal.
Many blackbirds live in our garden and I have also painted them in 2021.
I find it fun to adjust abstract shapes so that they express the essence of the bird. Here’s the Kingfishers painting again, photographed by my husband in the front garden.
And here are some pictures of details so that you can examine brush strokes and abstract birds more closely.
If you think about kingfishers, painting them can’t be just about flying near a stream, it has to be about catching fish too. To bring that up, the bird on the left below looks a bit like a fish.
Not So Abstract Birds to Get to Know Them
Of course, a flying bird can also be created so that it’s not abstract but has many decorative details. This project is from the course Animal Inkdom and is drawn in several sessions piece by piece so that it’s more manageable and fun.
In the center is a bird that flies into the animal world. When re-examining this, I hope that over time I would paint all kinds of animals in my abstract style. It is often necessary to study the animal for a long time before an abstract can be derived from it.
The Connection Between Letting Go and Not Letting Go
So if you wish that your expression would be freer, one way is to go deep into the subject. Not just to look at what a kingfisher looks like, for example, but to live its life, experience a deep identification with it and look for forms that express that emotional connection.
Often both the forms and the connection are first found through creating art that is less abstract and more accurate. I think that it would have been quite easy for the Von Wright brothers to become abstract bird artists, but the time wasn’t right for them. They left a legacy though, and I am one of their followers.