The Greatest Joy of All

Flying With Flowers by Peony and Parakeet, an art journal pageWhen I was a child my treasure was a chalkboard. I also had 7 little plastic dwarf figures which were my pupils. When I got home after a shcool day I began to teach my silent dwarfs. I loved school and wanted to become a teacher.

But then, some years later, I heard about computers and that was it. I fell in love. I went to study computer science and my career in IT began. I do have taught IT professionals but nothing beats what I have been able to do lately: teach art!

Teaching is giving and there’s nothing greater than that. I have experienced big moments of happiness when creating art and it is wonferful if I can give even a small amount of that for others.

I created these two flying birds when leading a workshop called “Birds of Happiness”. We created not only birds but also bird themed decorative papers, feathers and bird’s nests.

Birds of Happiness workshop by Peony and Parakeet. Teaching art journaling. Photo by Askartelu Amalia

(The photo by Askartelu Amalia)

All the elements were created by hand, using pens and colour pencils, watercolors and acrylic paints. I had made instructions for various elements but they were guidelines and everybody used their creativity for the end result.

We put the birds together in the end of the day and took pictures. I am so inspired by seeing how people have their own styles and how they express themselves while learning to let go and trust their inner voice. Plenty was done in only four hours.

I hope that in the future I could give you more with this blog, with my newsletter and with my services. The most importantly: bring you back in time when you were a child and wholeheartedly enjoyed creating. Giving that back to you would truly be the greatest joy of all.

From the students of Birds of Happiness workshop, led by Peony and Parakeet

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Things Learned From Quilting

Learned from Quilting, a collage by Peony and Parakeet

My latest collage here is influenced by fabrics and quilting. After being linked from Amy’s Free Motion Quilting Adventures blog I got the idea to blog about my roots in quilting. And even more: what I have learned from quilting.

I used to be a quilter you know. Within years my quilting became more and more complex. I fell in love with hand embroidery and it felt like the needle was my pen. Quite soon after I made this, “The Time of Miracles”, I knew I could not just go on. It took too much time to complete one, even small quilt.

The Time of Miracles, a quilt with hand embroidery by Peony and Parakeet

I discovered paper crafting hoping it would be faster. And it was! That time I also combined paper with fabric.

Paper and fabric by Peony and Parakeet

But after taking the first steps in paper crafts I realized that I had learned a lot from quilting.

1. Using ugly colors
Choosing only pretty colors makes them all ugly. Every quilter buys neutrals, blacks, whites, solids and other duller fabrics to make pretty even prettier.

2. Selecting colors that differ in intensity
Hues that have the same intensity look flat and unappealing together. Like in nature and in photos, the hues vary and I think it looks beautiful.

3. Mixing patterns
By bringing new and new fabrics to the quilt it gets more and more appealing once the colour choices work. I love mixing a variety of patterns together!

4. Layering 
Applique is the technique where the fabric motifs are sewn on the background. Layering creates depth and makes the end result interesting. I try to maintain clear color contrasts between layers.

5. Attachment
In quilting all the pieces are first attached by sewing. They form a connection within each other even before the final step: the actual quilting. In collages I always try to group elements and give them some kind of border. Pieces that float look like they do not belong anywhere.

Quilted Zip Pouch by Peony and Parakeet

I still make quilts now and then. I do not make traditional blocks or plan my quilts. I like sewing intuitively like I would be drawing something unexpected.

Skills can be mixed and styles can evolve from the experience of making a wide range of things. Whatever you create, hopefully this encourages you to combine your skills for the next project!

Quilted Heart by Peony and Parakeet

More design advice applied to crafting: Folk Bag Workbook

Decorated Business Cards

Handmade Business Cards, by Peony and Parakeet

I had run out of business cards, so I made some! I blogged about this idea a few years ago for the first time. This time I made it a bit simpler.

Handmade Business Cards, phase 1, by Peony and Parakeet

I took a business cards sheet and sketched circles here and there. Then I colored them with watercolors, leaving white background visible in some areas.

Handmade Business Cards, a sheet before cutting, by Peony and Parakeet

Then I used markers to add details. The white is from Copic White Pigment Jar, my newest purchase. If you have not found the perfect white pen yet (Uniball Signo Broad gel pen is my favorite so far), the Copic pigment is a great choice.

Hanmade Business Cards, a close-up before cutting, by Peony and Parakeet

Here’s a close-up. Drawing these little doily type flowers with circles was so much fun!

Handmade business cards by Peony and Parakeet

Finally, I tore the business cards out from the sheet. Here’s a finished card.

Handmade business cards by Peony and Parakeet

I feel like I am repeating myself, but again: why buy when you can make it yourself?

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Collage Birds

Hope, collage bird, Birds of Happiness, by Peony and Parakeet

My new year’s resolution: in 2014 I am going to make an e-book showing my techniques and sources of inspiration. I have begun to create collage birds that I am going to include in the book.

Piece of My Heart, collage bird, Birds of Happiness, by Peony and Parakeet

I have always admired birds. I have four budgies as pets, and they have proved me that birds can be smart, skillful and full of compassion. I want to add positive feelings to my collage birds too.

Bird's nest, collage by Peony and Parakeet

Update in 2017

The e-book about collage birds never came true, but it was a seed for my most popular class Inspirational Drawing.
>> Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0 here!

Creative Friday!

Ready for creating, organised creative space with art supplies by Peony and Parakeet
Friday evenings are the best! I go to the library room of our house and start creating. And yes, it’s always this clean before I begin and also after I have finished. I love creating when everything is in order. I also like to see the art supplies I am using.

Electric pencil sharpenerAt the front of the big photo there’s the only electrical vanity item that I can’t give up: an electric pencil sharpener! After I bought it I have used my colored pencils more than ever. The pencils are always sharp as it’s so fun to sharpen them after using them. My model is Derwent universal sharpener that has 5 holes for various sized pencils.


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Happy New Year 2014

2014 by Peony and Parakeet + a doodling idea using a scanner and a printer
With this overly doodled number I wish you happy new year!

A detail of 2014 by Peony and Parakeet

Doodling Idea

I made this image by making a roughly doodled collage that I scanned to the computer. Then I adjusted the colors and printed the photo. I made the size bigger than in the original.

Then I began doodling again. After doodling I adjusted some areas by coloring them with color pencils. I also added some collage pieces.

Finally I scanned the collage again and adjusted colors in some areas.

This way I was able to add detail after another. I could have continued these steps over and over! Grazy – I know!

A detail of 2014 by Peony and Parakeet

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How To Love Your Art Journal

If you have not been art journaling for a long time, you probably have a journal or even many that you are not satisfied with. Maybe you have even ripped off few pages, just to keep the journal pretty. If you feel disconnected with your journaling, this post is for you.

Empty journal is a sad journal, by Peony and Parakeet
If your journal is empty, it’s like freezing. “Give me some colour, give me something warm to wear!”, it screams! You won’t get to know your journal, neither your inner world, if you search for the perfect moment to create the perfect page. The pages can be built gradually, layer by layer, and you have to start filling those empty pages.

Unfinished art journal page, by Peony and Parakeet
If you do not know where to begin, take a dry brush and some acrylic paint and paint a thin layer. You get visually better results if you do not repeat one color but make the page as asymmetrical as possible. That way colors get their own space and character from the beginning. You can paint many pages if you feel like to. If you are tired and lack inspiration, this is the thing to do!

Travel with your art yournal, by Peony and Parakeet
The next thing you need to do is to let your journal see the world. Take it with you when you go to library, travel, where ever you have little moments to spend quality time with it.

A couple of unfinished art journal pages with doodles, by Peony and Parakeet
While on the road, take a black pen with you and draw or write something, it does not have to be special. Remember, the pages can be built within time and even the smallest scribbles help to fill the page.

Unfinished art journal page, by Peony and Parakeet
When you feel more focused you can continue with the pages that have painted backgrounds. I used acrylic paints and thin brushes to draw some doodles and colour pencils to add dimension. If you have nothing else in mind, strengthen the colored areas that you painted. Add more similar hues to each area with color pencils and work with horizontal or vertical strokes. Always work fast as it makes you use more imagination and less rational thinking. The result at this point is like a photo without a focus.

Art journal speaks, by Peony and Parakeet
Then  decide where you would like the focus to be. Add some details there. I love to use my own hand decorated papers for details. Finally find or create a background for journaling. When I begin to make a page I do not usually know what to write but in the end I just write what I had been thinking while creating.

An art journal is the photo book of your inner world. Like with photos, the pages are not always perfect. But when you have a collection of them, they tell a story. And I guarantee – you will then love your art journal.

Expressing an Aha Moment through Art

Should Be Higher, a detail of a collage by Peony and Parakeet

Being a visual person I often have problems expressing my thoughts through words. Especially if I need to explain those aha moments when I suddenly understand something that used to be only complex and strange.

A snapshot from the concert of Depeche ModeThe story of today’s collage began a couple weeks ago when me and my husband went to the concert of Depeche Mode. I had bought the tickets as a birthday present for him. Depeche Mode is one of his favorite bands but I hated the music. It was too introvert, strange and edgy for me.

But after staring the band for song after song, I began to open myself up to the music. It sounded pretty all right after a while. Then great. I got it!

I tried to analyze what happened. Perhaps my brains had been expanded! I felt like I had understood the formula how the music was stuctured but could not put it into words.

I saw colors. A sunny day. The window.

Should Be Higher, a phase photo of a collage by Peony and Parakeet

Something began to happen at the window sill. I put some ceramic pots there, then a porcelain figure, a horse.

Should Be Higher, a phase photo of a collage by Peony and Parakeet

Then the music began to play in my head: “You should be higher …” The party at the window sill began. A surreal world of rigid objects and mechanical rhytms came to alive. The temperature rised and the colors deepened.

Should Be Higher, a collage by Peony and Parakeet

One of the best things in art is that it combines the intellectual to the intuitive. This collage is very meaningful for me. It is not only the memory of the concert but also a proof that the world is as full of inspiration as long as I am willing to watch and listen to it.

Should Be Higher, a detail of a collage by Peony and Parakeet

Should Be Higher, a detail of a collage by Peony and Parakeet

Inspired by William Morris

Inspired by William Morris, a collage by Peony and Parakeet

As a big fan of art nouveau and arts and crafts pediod, it may not be a surprise that I adore William Morris designs. Our home has William Morris curtains in two rooms. I love how detailed and decorative elements are combined to create repetative patterns in the two fabrics.

The little collage of this post was created after browsing some of the old William Morris designs from a book. I wanted to express the beauty of repetitions without creating absolute symmetry. The dark colors in the background change to shiny yellow to give the expression of hope and warmth. William would have used perfect symmetry and more muted colors. I tried to compensate my lack of technical skills by adding self expression.

Being too self-critical is not a good thing. It stops us doing what we really love. I know I cannot be the reborn William Morris. However, in my imagination I can go back in time and pretend to be his apprentice!

Wrapping Paper from Newspaper

Wrapping paper from newspapers, full sheet of handdecorated gift paper

Did you know that newspapers are treasures? Neither did I before I began to wrap Christmas presents and realised that I had ran out of wrapping paper. I solved the problem by creating decorated gift paper from newspaper sheets!

Here’s the sheet in the beginning of the process.Wrapping paper from newspapers, the beginning of the process

I had three various reds of india inks which I used to color the background. Any ink would be suitable. And if you do not have ink, paint a thin layer using acrylic paints.Wrapping paper from newspapers, process photo, adding background colours

Wrapping paper from newspapers, a process photo, adding gessoAfter the background paint was dry, I painted round shapes with gesso. If you do not have gesso, use white acrylic paint. Thin, even layers are better than thick and bumpy ones. Let dry.

Finally I took a correction pen, some markers and india ink to decorate the white areas.

Ironing makes the papers smooth and shiny.

Wrapping paper from newspapers, process photo, decorating white areas

I could not help making some more. I varied the shape of white areas to make different designs.
Wrapping paper from newspapers, process photo, adding gesso to create patterns

I was pretty pleased with all the three of them!Wrapping paper from newspapers, three sheets of homemade gift paper

Who would have guessed these were just newspaper sheets in their previous lives!
Wrapping paper from newspapers, three gifts wrapped in homemade gift paper