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?

Let Unconventional Inspire You

"Leftright Wrongright", a watercolor collage using rubber stamps by Peony and Parakeet

You know I love beautiful and decorative things. But the more I create, the more I feel that creating art should be expression first, aesthetics second. This watercolor collage is called “Leftright Wrongright” and it is about how sometimes the old wrong and unconventional can be the new right.

Rubber Stamps

If you think of experimental and avant garde, would you ever consider using rubber stamps? In that context, they are the most boring thing. They are the absolutely wrong choice when you want to create unique and advanced art. But as my mission was to express how wrong can be right, I just could not resist taking the risk and using them! I painted the background with watercolors and then started stamping.

Rubber stamping over watercolored surface by Peony and Parakeet

I only stamped once with each of the stamp. That way they were seen as individuals, not as a bunch of clones. I have used this principal before too, see Can Rubber Stamping be Art and Make Samplers to Save Bits and Pieces.

Watercolors

Watercolors are my trusted friend. They make the best backgrounds but also, they make rubber stamps look much more interesting. After the whole background was covered with stamped images, all different from each other, I added water and brushed the water-based ink to blend with watercolors.

Diluting the color of rubber stamps by Peony and Parakeet

With the big brush I doodled this and that thinking fiercefully about destruction and bravery.

Painting with Watercolors by Peony and Parakeet.

With a smaller brush I added details and enhanced them with colored pencils.

Adding colored pencils over watercolours by Peony and Parakeet

Imitating Rubber Stamps

To make the stamped images even more individual I added hand drawing to make few of them bigger and more handmade. Thin drawing pen is great for imitating rubber stamps that has delicate details.

Doodling around rubber stamps by Peony and Parakeet

Finishing

When I worked with this artwork, it became clear to me that the final touches are crucial here. I should not only do what I usually do but add something that is against the rules, disrespectful even. First, I doodled with a white gel pen and let the doodling look a bit dreadful. Then, I grabbed a piece of paper, painted red and yeallow with heavy acrylic paint. The unsophisticated color and the clumsiness of the shapes when I cut it made it look so wrong.

"Leftright Wrongright", creating a watercolor collage using rubber stamps by Peony and Parakeet

But I finished this artwork with the new attitude. As I wanted to express that sometimes we need to do things that makes us feel uncomfortable, I needed to break my ordinary rules. I added few rough elements without over-decorating them. They are the wrong that make the right spin. They represent the energy that makes me question: does right and wrong exist at all when creating art? If we think that unconventional is wrong, are we denying the true power of art and where it can take us?

"Leftright Wrongright", a watercolor collage using rubber stamps by Peony and Parakeet

Hopefully this inspires you to add something wrong to your art, and make it right!

Intarsia in Watercolor

Rolling Stones - Watercolor Intarsia Art by Peony and Parakeet

Last week I visited a fascinating exhibition. The gallery was filled with Yoshinobu Nakamura’s wood intarsia art. Yoshinobu Nakamura is a Japanese artist living in Finland. He creates masterpieces by combining tiny wooden pieces. I was deeply impressed how the characteristics of various tree species and specimens were shown in his work. I wanted to try the subtle color scheme and some kind of intarsia myself. And I did, only using watercolors and watercolor paper instead of natural wooden blocks!

Love for Tiny Pieces

Speaking of tiny pieces of paper, I have always loved them. When I was a teenager, I cut the pieces from magazines and made mosaic type of work. Some of them never got finished as they were painfully slow to create!

Paper Mosaics by Peony and Parakeet

Years later, I made a penholder for my husband using paper scraps cut from magazines. I carefully covered every surface that could be reached and finished the penholder with gel medium. It has survived at least 10 years!

Carboard Penholder Covered with Paper Pieces, by Peony and Parakeet

Watercolor Paper Intarsia

But this intarsia project was going to be different from mosaic work. I would not only cut the paper in small pieces, but adjust each piece in line with others! Before worrying too much over that, I started by painting the papers. For some of the painted areas, I also added lines resembling wood grains with a black drawing pen.

Watercolor papers by Peony and Parakeet

Next, I tried cutting the pieces. I discovered that the pieces has to be put on top of each other, right side up. The cut line will then fit perfectly.

Instructions for Paper Intarsia, by Peony and Parakeet

I used masking tape to attach the cut pieces together.

Instructions for Paper Intrasia, by Peony and Parakeet

The big piece that I made looked quite interesting. But it looked even better when the geometric shapes were cut out of it!

Instructions for Paper Intarsia, by Peony and Parakeet

I painted one watercolor paper to look like pine wood. The spotty paper was found from the stash. After hours of cutting and adjusting, the artwork was finally finished. See, all the papers are on the same level, not on top of each other! With intarsia technique, you can use thick papers for collage art!

Watercolor Paper Intarsia, imitating wood with watercolors by Peony and Parakeet

My belief in watercolors continues to stay strong. I love how easy it was to imitate wood with them!

Rolling Stones - Watercolor Intarsia Art by Peony and Parakeet

Once the artwork was put together, I attached the piece, with masking tape background and all, onto a white watercolor paper using gel medium. I think I call it “Rolling Stones”. Have fun with this technique!

Paint Your Mental Images!

Surrealistic stillife with watercolors and colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet.

This artwork is inspired by the subject that keeps on fascinating me: beautiful objects like russian handpainted plates! My admiration for them began many years ago, and only got stronger when I saw them in 2013 at St. Petersburg, Russia.

150210g

Here’s a scrapbook page which I made back then. My husband took the snapshot in The Russian Museum. Even if I look a bit worn out from the amount of walking we did during our travel, I love how my clothing and the plate match up!

We also bought one plate as a special souvenir. I placed it on the table near me while finishing the painting. Just to keep me inspired to fine-tune all the details. But let’s not go that far yet! Before that, a lot happened, in my mind at least!

Russian handpainted decorative plate, a souvenir from st. Petersburg, Russia

From Photos to Mental Images

Before starting the painting, I spent quite a lot of time thinking what to paint and how. I feel that it is easiest to think while walking, so I took the dogs out to the snowy nature. Then I took some photos, which is also a great way to observe and examine things.

Snapshots from Finland, snow, beagles, houseplants

After my beagles had fallen asleep, I browsed the photos. “There’s a difference of how I those subjects in my mind”, I thought. If I think of a russian plate, I might see one detail of it, then other images come to the mind, then the fraction of a russian plate again. The thoughts move so quickly that the images seem to get mixed up and change.

I could not help looking up what psychology says about it. Yes, there’s a concept called mental image and several theories about how mental images are formed in the mind.

What I find fascinating is, that when creating art, we tend to pick one photographic image instead of a mental image. Then we get disappointed when the artwork does not represent the realistic, photographic image. Replicating the photographic image to the mental image is extremely hard. Let’s try! Look at any of the photos above, then close your eyes and imagine every little detail of the image – impossible! Similarly, if you read a story for the first time, then try to repeat it exactly from word to word, you will certainly fail! But could we paint what we remember and see in our minds, like Edward Munch said: “I painted only memories, adding nothing, no details that I did not see.”

Using Mental Images in Art

I thought it would be both philosophically and practically interesting to use the mental image as a starting point for an artwork. So, I decided to paint my mental image of my souvenir, the decorated plate. I forcefully thought about the plate for few minutes. But at the same time (as focusing on a one thought is so dull), I was also cleaning. When I grabbed the morning newspaper to put it away, I saw an article of Paul Gaugain‘s artwork being sold in a high price. Just when I had gathered my thoughts around the russian plates, there it was, a picture of Gaugain’s art! Whoosh … my mental image changed to a mixture of a decorative plate and Gaugain’s art, not just that specific one but many others too that I have seen!

While walking towards the room where I create art,  I saw a banana on the kitchen counter, then thought about wine we are going to taste as a special treat to celebrate my coming birthday. My mind wondered towards glass objects – how I love them and how I should really paint only them … Before I began painting, my mental image had grown to a huge collage!

The complex thing in mental images is, that if you think very visually, holding the static view is difficult. Instead of trying to think of one thing only, let it go and replace it with a more general subject. I chose my love for decorative art, beautiful concrete things and how they are at their best when they represent the beautiful shapes and shades from the nature.

Instead of trying to build one controlled mental image first, accept the short-term, fractional nature of them. My artwork could be a collection of mental images appearing while I work. To emphasize that, I decided to start the painting with masking fluid. That way I could not even start building one complete image.

Starting the painting with masking fluid.

Masking fluid

… or liquid masking film as my bottle says, creates a rubber like surface which you can remove afterwards. You can add as many layers of paint as you like, then remove the masking fluid and you still have white areas to fill – or you can pick a colored area which you want to preserve and cover it with the fluid. It is a great way to obtain a layered look without too much thinking. Just remember to let the fluid dry properly before moving forward.

Using masking fluid for a watercolor painting, by Peony and Parakeet

You can remove the dried fluid easily just by pulling it off with your fingers. With the help of the fluid, I was able to create very detailed areas before focusing on bigger objects so that they still look very sharp.

Painting previously masked areas for a  watercolor painting, by Peony and Parakeet

The painting was finished with colored pencils. The process was very similar to the one I teach on the video “Watercolor 101 for Intuitive Painting“, I just added the masking fluid before starting to paint with watercolors.

Here are some details of the finished artwork:

Details of a watercolor painting by Peony and Parakeet

And here’s the painting again:

Surrealistic stillife by Peony and Parakeet

Before finishing, I realized that the banana from the kitchen counter had made it’s way to the painting. It seemed awkward at first but then, why not accept it to be the part of this surrealistic stillife, surprisingly exact copy of the collection of my mental images!

What do you think? Could increasing intuition and including mental images improve your art?

Drawing in Art Nouveau Style

Art Nouveau drawing by Peony and Parakeet, see the video with phase sketches!

If I had a time machine, I would have no doubt where to go first. I would press the buttons and whoosh … enter the beginning of 19th century. First I would want to meet one of my favorite authors, Virginia Woolf, then have an evening with Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife Margaret. Maybe another brilliant architect Frank Lloyd Wright could join us.  Then I would spend a whole day with Alphonse Mucha, another with William Morris … There are so many to talk to and so many places to go to. I would need weeks for my visit!

From Arts and Crafts movement to Art Nouveau and Art Deco – my love for art and design is mostly originated in those historical periods. I often try to hide it and be open to new ideas and various styles. But if I just need to draw something quickly or if I can choose freely, I am all for Art Nouveau.

I am passionate about drawing and styles. I believe that finding your own style, increases the joy of creating. Last week I wrote that down and then began to ponder: could I share more Art Nouveau in this blog? So, here you are, in the middle of Art Nouveau themed post and in the beginning of the video blog post where I will show you how I draw in Art Nouveau style. But more than about Art Nouveau, this video is about the importance of doodling and sketching. Promise me, never stop doodling!

Art Nouveau drawing by Peony and Parakeet, see the video showing how it is made!

 Did you notice my William Morris curtains in the beginning of the video? Tell me, what are the styles and artists from the past, that you admire?