Are You an Inspiration Seeker, Imitator, Mess Maker or Minimalist?

During the past years I have had the priviledge to get to know many beginning and more seasoned artists. Every person is unique, but there are also common nominators. Based on my experience of teaching art and being artist myself,  I created this presentation about four common problems and four common profiles.

When watching the presentation, you might have noticed that I let my minimalist part create it!

>> Inspirational Drawing – Reserve your spot!

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet

My Journey as an Artist

This week I also have a longer video for you. Connie Solera from Dirty Footprints Studio interviewed me on live video! You will get to know few life changing events that gave direction to my art and hear a great discussion between Connie and me about the process of creating art. Watch the interview!

>> 21 Secrets Spring 2015 online workshop, my class included – Buy now! 

Intuitive Start for Art Journaling

I Love Art Museums, an art journal page with colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet.

My latest art journal page is about one of my favorite places: art museums. On the page, I have used both organic and graphic shapes to express the interaction between art and architecture. That interaction is something I enjoy examining when visiting an art musem.

Inspiration

Last week I went to Konsthalle Helsinki to see an exhibition of Erling Neby Collection. Erling Neby is a norwegian businessman who collects concrete and geometric art.

Arne Malmedal, Untitled at Kunsthalle Helsinki, Finland

Arne Malmedal, Untitled at Kunsthalle Helsinki

This kind of art makes me remember the time when I was in my 20s and very certain of what kind of art I like and what I don’t like. Simple-shaped abstract paintings were in my comfort zone back then – it was “good art” that I was excited to see and experience although I have never been able to strech my own style to that.

At the exhibiton, the reflection of the yellow painting was especially inspiring. It made me think how art is never disconnected from its surroundings, whether physical or mental. Thus, an illustration about art museum would not need to separate artworks from the architecture but express the holistic feeling of the experience.

Techniques

I used couple of black pens and colored pencils for creating the page.

1) Free doodling and coloring.
Making an art journal page with colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet.

2) Drawing sharp graphic shapes with the help of a ruler and a round object. Drawing graphic shapes with colored pencils, by Peony and Parakeet

Emotional Connection

When I draw, I always want to get an emotional connection with the subject. Without that I start to worry about the end result before the first stroke! When making this page, I did not think about art museums in general. Instead, I thought about tiny details that I saw and tiny moments that I remembered from my last visit in Kusthalle Helsinki. I focused on the feeling and let my imagination work with that.

A detail of an art journal page with colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet.

Inspirational Drawing

Working from tiny details towards the big picture is something that is not easy to explain in a single blog post. To explain it shortly, it is starting with an intuition and then slowly bringing the page towards the intention. This way of working is in the main role in my new online workshop Inspirational Drawing, which takes place in June!

I Love Art Museums, an art journal page with colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet.

Inspirational Drawing is built so that you can enjoy developing the three dimensions of drawing:
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! 

Video: Small Change, Big Results

Sometimes it seems that big life-changing thoughts do not happen. But when looking back, there can be little things that we have almost forgotten. That moment, when you did something differently, opened the door that you normally would not open – that can be the trigger for new kind of inspiration. Here’s my story about a small unselfish act that has given me a lot of artistic inspiration and an increase of my creativity:

Update in April 14th: You can read this story in a written form at Medium.com!

Coming up! “Inspirational Drawing”, an online workshop in June 2015, where I will teach you how to enjoy drawing and coloring art journal pages with colored pencils. This e-course will show you how to process your inspiration, grow your skills, and increase your imagination – all by drawing! Stay tuned!

Update in April 11th: Registration is for “Inspirational Drawing is now open!

Why History, Computers and Art Belong Together

Past, Present, Future - An art journaling page by Peony and Parakeet

This art journal page is about two things that are close to me: art nouveau and computer engineering. With my background in technology, many find it surprising that historical styles like Art Nouveau fascinate me so much. And vice versa: why someone so interested in history, has studied and worked with computers.

For me, these things have a natural connection. Think about the era of Art Nouveau: the end of 19th century and the beginning of 20th century. It was the era of industrial revolution when many technical inventions were born. Also, at the same time, new kind of art was emerging. For example, Virginia Woolf wrote books using stream of consciousness, Vincent van Gogh painted Starry Night, and Charles Rennie Macintosh designed a grand building for Glasgow School of Art. After inventing computers, we are experiencing another great era with a lot of innovations, the internet and smartphones among others. I am certain that it will be seen as one of the most exciting time in the world history. We have new tools for art and design and we if any, can use art to look at what the future could hold.

Stream of Consciousness – Creating a Coloring Page

When I started to create the art journal page, I thought about the two eras and their similarities. With a black drawing pen, I began drawing art nouveu style shapes. It was exciting to think about modern things while drawing in the old style. It is very inspirational to stay focused on two things that have both similarities and differences.

Drawing in Art Nouveau style by Peony and Parakeet

It is relaxing to draw like imitating Virginia Woolf: using the stream of consciousness. Rotating the page makes it easier to keep the stream flowing.

Drawing from the stream of consciousness by Peony and Parakeet

Coloring books seem to be popular at the moment. We art journalers can make our own! Here’s my page before coloring.

Art Journal page ready for coloring by Peony and Parakeet

Past, Present, Future – Art Is an Equation

When I studied computer engineering, I had to understand a mathematical equation that was used widely to control technical systems. It was called Kalman filter and it was composed of three parts: past, present and future. I found the philosophy behind the equation most fascinating: to get better at what we do, we must understand the past, stay grounded to the present and be brave enough to predict the future.

Art can be our equation. We can use art to ponder on what has happened to us. We can use art to record the present. But most importantly: art can make us get off the ground. We can predict what the future will hold by taking old and current stuff and create new combinations. We can imagine what Virginia Woolf would do in the 22nd century and illustrate it. There are no limits and we already have most of the information.

That’s why I think that history, computers and art belong together. They are all parts of the same equation.

Adding New Dimensions by Coloring

To bring today’s graphic shapes to the work, I drew rectangular areas on the top of the drawing. Then I colored them with a different color scheme.

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

Finally, I expressed how past can bring us the future by erasing color with a light strokes. The light comes from the past. With the past, we can see the future.

Past, Present, Future - An art journaling page by Peony and Parakeet

Tell me, what have you picked (or would like to pick) from the past to your art?

P.S. 21 Secrets Art Journaling Workshop (my class included) has just been launched. You can still purchase it! See you there!

The Lucky Winners!

Embroidered fish blocks by Peony and Parakeet

Congratulations, Laura K and Beverly F! You two have won the free spots for 21 Secrets Spring 2015 Art Journaling Workshop! I have already sent you two an email, check your inbox!

Thank you all for the answers, it was so interesting to read about your favorite supplies! If the random number generator (which helped me choose the winners), did not favor you, purchase the workshop and meet me and 20 other teachers starting from April 1st!

Art Is Freedom

Free Spirit, a painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about freedom in art!

After working against deadlines and taking care of finishing touches in the recent projects, I got a strong urge to experience and express freedom. So I decided to stretch my style by painting something that would not be so detailed. No pens this time, just acrylic paints.

Freedom for the Left Brain

I always get clarity by organization. This time, I felt I needed to re-organize my working area. I removed storage boxes from the table and picked up only those supplies I was going to use.

Organized start for a painting, by Peony and Parakeet

Notice the grouping of paint tubes! I spent a lot of time putting each in their place.

Acrylic paint palette

I carefully squeezed each tube of paint to have all the colors ready to be mixed. While doing that, I thought: “THIS is freedom!” Taking time, working slowly, isn’t that the greatest luxury?

Freedom for the Right Brain

I turned the music on. The blank canvas paper was quickly filled with muddy colors. Then I took a sponge and made long strokes. Following the music is a quick way to get the creativity going.

Painting with intuition, by Peony and Parakeet

Next, painting with fingers! No boundaries, getting messy, what a great feeling! After a while, I was ready to continue with the brushes.

Painting on its way, by Peony and Parakeet

Freedom can be experienced in many ways. This is what I often follow: Setting up the rules, then breaking them, then acceptance. In the last phase, whatever comes on canvas is okey.

A detail of an unfinished painting, by Peony and Parakeet

If I listen to music, the painting will often change as the song changes. As a teenager, I used to play the same song all over again to maintain the style of the painting (must have been an agony for the rest of the family to listen that same song for hours!) Nowadays, it is only exciting to see what will follow when the rhytm changes.

Tips for Freedom

My tips for experiencing freedom:
1) Once you start to paint, instead of gathering all the art supplies, limit what you will use. Think: “These are the only supplies that I have.” Even if it is not true, it will make the commitment stronger.
2) Listen to the music you have not heard before. It takes you off from routines. You can also play a mixture of songs that are all different and new.
3) Observe your thoughts while painting. Those crazy ideas that you normally kill – let them live this time! Be aware of that your most intuitive thoughts come up and disappear quickly. Practice self-acceptance so that you will notice them!

Free Spirit, a painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about freedom in art!

When you create art, is freedom important to you? Leave a comment!

P.S. Check out another post from this week, a giveaway!

21 Secrets Giveaway!

As many of you know, my class “Artistic Embroidery with Pens and Paper” is included at 21 Secrets Art Journaling Workshop. The workshop opens on 1st of April.

Each of the 21 teachers has created a class with videos. My class is focused on collage art with handmade papers and is inspired by hand embroidery and quilting. I will also show some textiles on the video to make you really inspired. The class has about 25 minutes of videos total and an extra bonus video of 5 minutes where I use one of my favorite art supplies: colored pencils!

Colored pencils

I have 2 spots for 21 Secrets Art Journaling Workshop, value of 98 USD. If you have already purchased the workshop (thank you!) and win an extra spot, you can gift it to a person of your choice.

So, leave a comment for this post
with an email address and tell us:
What are your favorite art supplies at the moment and why?

I will randomly pick the winners from those who have answered the questions
before 8 PM GMT (1 PM PST, 22:00 in Finland) on Thursday 26th March 2015!

The winners are: Laura K and Beverly F, congratulations! Thank you all for participating! This is a great discussion chain, so interesting to know what supplies everybody is using at the moment!

Why Paint Intuitively?

Returning to the Inner World, a watercolor painting with colored pencils, by Peony and Parakeet
I have created this artwork using my intuitive painting methods. I had a busy week with many deadlines. Now, on Friday, when I stared at the blank watercolor paper, I felt that working in fast pace had disconnected me from my feelings. But then, this has happened many times before, so I just followed my tricks to get the painting on its way.

In most cases and especially when life gets busy, I choose to work intuitively, meaning that I do not plan the end result. My idea of fully experiencing art is to plan the process, but not sketch or otherwise pre-imagine the end result. I recommend this approach to everyone – at least once in a while. Why?

1) For once, you will let your creativity decide.

For many, this is rare: setting rationality aside. While living a busy life and organizing everyday chores, it is not so easy to suddenly start performing creatively. If your creativity never gets to decide, it might not have anything to say anymore.

Playing intuitively with watercolors by Peony and Parakeet

When you paint intuitively, you can do against all those dont’s and won’ts that you keep hearing when your rationality is speaking. I find this kind of unobedience and freedom refreshing. It also brings balance to life.

2) You will use colors more creatively.

I often hear people saying that they need to learn more about colors. I used to wonder what would it be – color theories? In the end, there’s not so much to learn to get some results, even if you studied the master of colors Josef Albers and his color theory. But after working with colors and teaching the use colors, I get it: many people use too little variation in color. Color areas look more alive when they are not even. They can also contain controversal and muddy tones, it just makes the bright tones pop.

The making of "Returning to the Inner World", a watercolor painting with colored pencils, by Peony and Parakeet

When you start painting intuitively and do not aim for a certain end result, you will more likely get colors mixed together. At the certain point, like me when making this artwork, you might want to decide what your painting represents of. But then your grass will not be green and your sky will not be blue. (Actually, here it’s vice versa!) Furthermore, there will be much more to look at than big even color areas or evenly spread, individual, same-sized elements that our rational side is so fond of.

3) You will find a fast route to your own style.

After you have practiced working intuitively, you will begin to see similarities in your work. You will get to know the little things your creative side loves. From those, you can start building your own style! Many people think that if they gather images that they are especially fond of, that will make them find their style. But 100 Pinterest boards is nothing compared to practicing intuitive painting. Why?

Returning to the Inner World, a watercolor painting with colored pencils, by Peony and Parakeet

Because your style is not defined by the things that you love at the moment. First, our desires are often affected by trends and general aesthetics, among other things. Second, we easily admire things that might have some resemblance of our style but tend to take it too literally. For example, I admire very simple graphic patterns. Still, my style is far from that. Some day, it might develop to that. But at the moment, the essence of my art is somewhere else. It might be my love for textiles that trigger the appeal for those graphic shapes.

In the perspective of intuitive (meaning natural), it would be totally wrong to rationally copy the images and then be disappointed not being that good. When you paint starting from your inner world, you will find your own unique ways to self-expression. You will also be able to develop your style in line with the continuous changes that happens in your life.

Intuitive approach also makes painting fun and exciting. In the end, that’s what using creativity is essentially about!

In the Spirit of Cassandra Tondro

The Rooster, mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet.

This painting is  a monotype print where I have added only few collage pieces and a couple of little details with pens. In this artwork, the rooster is waking us up to notice that in art, whether we are makers or viewers, we are always in the middle of an experience. Thus, if you want to become better artist, you should not focus on the final results only, but also on the experience.

Cassandra Tondro

There’s a particular artist that I want to introduce with this subject. She is someone that I greatly admire, Cassandra Tondro. I am most honored to have Cassandra Tondro herself answering to my questions! I also got her permission to publish her photo and my favorite artwork of hers called “Illusion” in this post.

Artist Cassandra Tondro

The Supplies

Cassandra Tondro has not only thought through about what kind of paintings she wants to create. She has digged deep into the whole creative process. The development of her current way of working has started steps back from what most of us would think. She wanted to find an environment-friendly solution and discovered a way to work with leftover house paint.

I did not have extra house paint but some odd jars of similar kind of fluid paint like Tim Holtz’s Distress Paint. I also diluted few old acrylic paints with water to get more fluid paint colors.

Fluid acrylic paints

Working with Colors

Cassandra Tondro has made videos of how she works with the paint. Instead of plastic sheet and canas, I decided to use a glass plate with blank watercolor paper. My plate is about 12 by 12 inches.

Monotype pront with acrylics on a glass plate

While I poured colors on the plate, I thought about how suitable this process is when you want to forget the rest of the world and have a quality time with your favorite colors. Cassandra Tondro embraces quietness while working:

I like quiet when I work.  My experience is that we are surrounded with so much noise all the time — traffic, cell phones, airplanes overhead, radio, videos, Musak in stores.  My studio is my refuge from all of that.  I like to be alone in the studio — no phone, no computer, no Internet connection — and I like it quiet.

I agree. This is a process where colors are the music players and the painter is the maestro, fully focusing on how to make everything work together.

Unpredictability

One general charasteristic of art is an unpredictable creating process. While you have to accept more unpredictability than usually, there’s a lot what you can control. Choosing the colors and creating color mixtures is one thing. Composing of color areas is another. But as Cassandra says, this is an experimental process. Experimenting is also very freeing. As I was unable repeat the strokes that I usually do, this process tweaked my style to an unpredictable direction.

Movement

When I pressed the watercolor paper against the glass plate, feeling colors crushing between the plate and paper, I felt like running. This process involves physical movement, even if you are working on the table, instead of laying the paint on the floor like Cassandra does. The movement, combined with colors, lifts your spirit, forces you to concentrate and makes you curiously excited.

Monotype printing

When the paper is turned over and the artwork is revealed, there’s no quietness anymore! The colors have found their home. They have abandoned the hard glass, and now lie rearranged on the soft paper. A good 24 hours of dry air, and they are there to stay!

Fresh acrylic paint

A warning: Once you have made one, you won’t be able to stop!

Monotype printing with acrylic paints

I got fascinated by everything, including the cleaning of the glass plate!

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet

Inspiration

I asked Cassandra where she gets her inspiration for painting:

My inspiration often comes from dreams or during meditation.  I like to meditate before I start to paint.  It sets the mood for creativity, and ideas often occur to me during meditation.  Another good source of inspiration for me is taking a walk.  Getting outside and walking frees up my mind, and I sometimes get ideas that way.

This kind of art definitely thrives on the freedom. When I look at my pieces, I hear the colors thanking me: “You released us!” And as colors are so close to emotions, it feels like they have been released too.

Monotype printing with acrylic paints, by Peony and Parakeet

This is the next print after The Rooster.

Monotype printing with acrylic paints, by Peony and Parakeet

This piece was made on canvas textured paper instead of watercolor paper. It is not quite as sharp as those made on watercolor paper. If you create small pieces, like I did, I recommend using thick watercolor paper.

Peony and Parakeet experimenting with Cassandra Tondro's technique.

I composed the gallery-style image on a black background but I think that Cassandra’s work would look beautiful on a brick wall. I like to imagine how the colors would have flown on the air and crashed against the hard bricks.

The more you experiment with this technique, the more you begin to appreciate Cassandra’s paintings. I see her art very powerful. Maybe because it is something totally different from my own, which often includes too much expression, too much explaining. Cassandra’s art is the art of listening. Watching her paintings makes me think: I am free to live, I am accepted, there’s no need for talking.

More Time, Better Art?

Rococo, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

This artwork was inspired by rococo, 18th-century period style with curves, asymmetry, gold and ornaments. When I think of rococo, I think of time. Those elaborate women’s dresses: how long did it take to sew them? Or the porcelain table clocks, how many people, how many months did it took to get one finished and working?

The time we are living at the moment, is totally different. Not that I want to spend half of my life to embroider one chair. But I cannot help thinking: sometimes we create quantity but not quality. We get frustrated of our lacking skills, lacking vision, but often, there’s a simple solution: time. Instead of creating three pages in a week to your art journal, make one.

Creativity needs time. The first thoughts are often the least innovative. When we take time to dig deeper, we reach frustrations, but also new solutions.

Working in short periods of time

Creating of a mixed media painting by Peony and parakeet

I used to have difficult time working in phases. I wanted my work to be finished at one go. Leonardo da Vinci certainly did not have problems with that. He spent over ten years painting Mona Lisa. He did not dedicate all of that time to one painting, he did other things too. But he let his subconscious work during the breaks.  So, while waiting the watercolor to dry, I engaged myself with other activities.

Creating a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

I built the foundation for this work with several thin layers of watercolors. Then I worked with colored pencils and watercolors to add details. Thin, flat brush is my favorite when adding details with paint.

Creating a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

Some might call it finished but I wanted to add tension and interest. As this was about rococo, some shimmer seemed appropriate!

Rococo glitter!

Creating a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet. Using Inka Gold.

I have few colors of Inka Gold, beeswax based metal paint. They seemed just right for this artwork. And speaking of rococo, some gold would be appropriate too. I love Golden brand’s gold acrylic paint.

Golden acrylics gold paint. A photo by Peony and Parakeet.

Finishing

I added some hand decorated papers to add variation and continued completing the tiny details.

Rococo, a detail of a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

The size of the artwork is 12 inches by 12 inches. It took about three days from start to finish.

Rococo, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

The quality of one artwork cannot be measured with the time spent by the artist. Sometimes great art is born quickly when the skills and the creativity meet. But on the other hand, if you want to improve your art and increase your creativity, why not focus on one artwork for a bit longer time.

What do you think? Can you make time work for you?