Here’s my latest art project, “The Secret Life of Pet Plants” – an illustration that I have composed of hand-drawn collage pieces. It’s about the love for house plants – the topic that’s close to my heart but that I haven’t touched much lately. I also wanted to include little secrets that I haven’t revealed in my art.
These little secrets are often pretty innocent stuff that we have labeled with words “too childish” or “too weird.” They can become creative blocks and drain our energy if we try to avoid them. Really, life is too short not to get them on paper! We can get more serious after they are out – if we ever want to get back, that is! I think I stay on this track for a while – making art that I have always secretly wanted to see. It feels good to be close to this kind of true artistic expression.
A Couple of My Innocent Little Secrets
One of mine is my secret admiration for traditional (and often a little bit tacky) cross-stitch designs. They often have decorative borders and look more like a collection of motifs than a real scene.
Another one is that, to me, plants are like pets with personalities. We have a lot of plants, both outdoors and indoors, and I feel a deep connection to many.
Here are the steps for an illustration made from hand-drawn collage pieces.
1) Make Small Drawings
I started the process by drawing and coloring the main elements separately.
I love using watercolors with smooth Bristol paper. The color is easy to layer and also to wipe off if needed.
2) Draw the Background
I placed the colored collage pieces on a background that I had made for the class Magical Inkdom and tried how they would work as a composition. I also drew a water drop just in case I needed a small element for balance.
Then I drew a new background and marked the areas where the elements would go.
3) Attach the Collage Pieces to the Background
I usually attach collage pieces with gel medium, but this time, I used double-sided tape. It is easier to control, so I didn’t have to worry about having the medium in the areas where I wanted to add more watercolors.
4) Display the Little Secrets!
One wall of my studio is white so that I can photograph my work easily. But when I want to display the recent pieces, I don’t leave them on the wall but place them on the side table under a clear plastic plate. I love how this piece fits with the ones I have made for Magical Inkdom. It truly feels my true artistic expression at the moment.
With the African violet that looks like a cuddly guinea pig to me, I want to wish you a happy and creative weekend!
This week’s blog post is for all who love fabric! I have started building a new class, a magical sequel to Animal Inkdom! I want these “Inkdom classes” to be as versatile as possible so that you can use your illustrations in gifts, everyday items, and whatever you like to create. This goal perhaps brings out the designer from me – always seeking for ways to get the most of the beautiful pictures.
Brainstorming when Making a Quilt
My best ideas come, when I am taking a break. Last week, I had to stop the class development for a few days, because my beagle Stella had been waiting for her quilt far too long. The old ones were so worn out that she could barely carry and wrap herself in them. I had almost finished the top of the new quilt but there was still quite a lot of work in quilting and binding it.
So I put the art supplies away, bought pink fabric for the back, and started stitching. The blocks had printed photos, crocheted doilies, ugly leftover prints, experiments that had piled up … I had just sewn them all together! But the more I worked on it, the more unique the blanket felt, and the improvisational way of working kept me energized. Just like when drawing!
So it hit me, that it would be wonderful to build bridges with this kind of fabric play and drawing.
See how full of “doodles”, improvised quilt patterns, the top has!
I doodled a bit with the embroidery floss too. But that’s a lot of work, and it doesn’t feel the same as holding a pen in hand. I missed my markers!
Drawing on Fabric with Copic Markers
Once Stella’s quilt was finished, I went to my Copic markers. I ironed a piece of natural white cotton fabric that had some print patterns. To make the patterns even more subtle, I drew on the wrong side of the fabric. So I had a lively background that wasn’t too busy. First, I made a line drawing with thin-tipped black pens. They were Copic brand too.
Then I started coloring and making the drawing more detailed.
Here’s the finished piece. I loved the easiness, the softness of the lines, and that I now have a unique quilt block. I will certainly draw some more!
Here you can see how the lines, fabric and color blending go well together.
When I look at my fabric stash, this hand-made piece is definitely what I love the most.
My art studio looks so happy now! The best thing is when many things that I love to create come together.
While I am preparing the new class, tell me, what kind of ideas and instructions have you been waiting for building bridges between your arts and crafts!
We artists talk a lot about finding our visual style. But while working on with this watercolor painting, I started to wonder if we try to force it too much through big declarations like:
– “I am going to paint portraits only.” – “I am a fantasy artist.” – “I only do abstracts.”
Isn’t style more in small and practical decisions that take place when we are creating. The problems arise so quickly and accidentally that we routinely respond to them. We often follow the easiest or the most ordinary path which usually leads to art that doesn’t reflect our true selves.
Child Doesn’t Think about Visual Style
When I was a small child, every day was filled with wonders of life. When I didn’t think too much of what would be appreciated in the world of adults, I led myself to enjoy things fully. I didn’t question if my hair was ok when my mother asked me to get in front of the camera. I loved the sunny day, the attention, and was proud of that big carrot, a miracle grown in our own garden.
So, when starting a painting, more than trying to see the whole garden at once, I try to dig out a carrot – a small detail that I choose to embrace. It can look ugly and insignificant to others, but to me, it feels lovely.
If I start questioning if this is my style, it’s like saying “If you want to become an artist, you should hold a brush instead of a carrot” to the child. In the class Floral Fantasies, I have an exercise where we grow a painting from a baby to an adult. The painting that’s just a small child can’t look like a grown-up. At best, you move towards your true self layer by layer.
Overcoming the Seek of Acceptance
Expression-wise, the most important decisions are made when you have been painting for a while. Then you are dealing with a teenager. In general and also in paintings, it’s the age when you follow what others do and seek acceptance.
I tend to lock too easily what comes up in the middle of the painting process. In this watercolor painting, I saw a duck coming up. It would have been so easy to make the duck the centerpiece of the painting. I like animals, and I know many of my customers like them too. But I wanted the image to be more mysterious and express growth. So I left the egg instead and changed the duck to a pot. It required a lot more work, but I am very happy with the decision!
Preserving Some, Letting Some Go
I have had the privilege to follow my dog Cosmo getting old. In the age of 14, has let go of many things, but he fights to keep the things he has always enjoyed. He wants to go for a walk in the woods, steal my socks, and roll over to get a pig’s ear.
With Cosmo, I have been thinking about how difficult it is to me to let go of the things that I don’t even want.
Here’s what we artists say to ourselves when we refuse to remove the duck, the obvious or the accidental elements: – “Maybe somebody else will enjoy this painting.” – “It was just an experiment.” – “My next painting will be better.” – “I don’t know if this is good or bad.” – “I feel unfocused.”
If we try to preserve everything, we are left with nothing. Like Cosmo, we need to choose what makes life and our images rich and what reflects our true selves. Not forgetting “stealing socks” – embracing humor, small vices, often little embarrassing characteristics that make us who we are.
To me, putting more value on these small decisions in the middle of creating has helped to make art that, more often than before, reflects my true self and is a clear presentation of my visual style.
Here’s a watercolor painting that I made while being a student of Finnish watercolor artist Mika Törönen. I took the class to understand more about watercolors. Watercolor is a weird medium, and its weirdness fascinates me! Watercolors seem simple and easy at first. But the more you paint, and the more atmospheric you want your paintings, especially watercolor interiors, to be, the more challenging they become.
I have recently realized that more than outdoor sceneries, I love painting interiors. Here are some of my tips for painting watercolor interiors!
1) Start with Geometry and Positive Attitude
Last spring, I committed to learning more watercolor techniques. I built a class called Watercolor Journey.
In the past, when I was teaching IT professionals my colleagues often said: “You learn best when you are teaching.” First, it felt like cheating because I thought that teachers have to know everything already before starting a class. But when you have to break things into small manageable and teachable parts, deeper insights come up. This way I have found simple methods and easy guidelines for making rich and creative paintings.
This painting is made for the exercise of Watercolor Journey. It’s about painting geometric shapes and thus simplifying the interior. You can make the photo more blurry by squeezing your eyes, and focus on the flat shapes that you see from it, for example.
But methods, tips, and guidelines are not the only useful things that I have learned by building classes. By making sure that I teach with a smiling voice and appearance, I have learned to think positively about what I do and how to encourage myself. One of the most depressing things in classes is to hear negative self-talk, whether it comes from the teacher or the student. That’s why I think it’s important always to express positive emotions, the love for art, and all the enthusiasm that can be found from creating.
2) Choose a Reference You Love
Mika Törönen creates his beautiful paintings from the references. We also had to pick some for the class. I wanted to continue the inspiration that I got by visiting Italy a couple of years ago. I chose a snapshot taken from one of my favorite places – Palazzo Pitti, Florence. Many students used the same photos as references as the teacher did, but to me, it’s difficult to use references that I don’t have any connection.
I didn’t aim for an exact copy but still, the photo was quite complicated and it took all the three sessions to complete to painting. I learned some tricks from Mika Törönen, like how to prevent the paper from curling while working (watch the video where I use the method for painting a watercolor bookmark), and the courage to use small shapes and lines of very thick paint when finishing.
The class was based on us students watching him paint. He wasn’t very good at translating his methods to words but as far as I saw it, a lot was to do with finding abstract elements from the photos and building a composition from that. He didn’t guide much, and the painting time was quite limited. The benefit for me was that I got new energy for working with watercolors. I painted a lot between the three weekly sessions.
3) Embrace Surreal to Express Emotions
One of the paintings that I have made recently, is this surreal interior. I used several references for this one and also worked quite loosely from them. Choosing one reference is not always the best starting point because it can control the work too much.
Here, my most important influencer was the feeling that I got after the first class session. The session was very quiet, and I felt the loneliness that felt both good and bad. Loneliness gives the chance to spend quality time with imagination. But of course, it is also a sad feeling.
When I have clarity about a specific emotion, I have both the positive and the negative aspect in mind. That tension inspires me to express it. In this painting, I used a fish to symbolize creativity that I connect with the time spent alone.
Often, the loneliness is in your head. You can feel alone even if you are surrounded by people. So I left a blank triangular ray of light that hits her head.
Working with creativity and without other people’s perspectives, can make things turn upside down. I used my photo of Palazzo Vecchio’s Hall of Five Hundred as a loose reference. If I turn the piece, you might recognize some of it.
4) Design the Lighting and Focus on the Light
Here’s my latest watercolor painting called “Eternity”. I think that it’s most loose of all the paintings of this blog post because here, I focused on the light.
My reference photo was taken in an old church Chiesa del Gesu in Rome. It was only a starting point. After the first pale compositional layers, I abandoned it.
The elements and the lighting didn’t quite match my vision of eternity, so I made a lot of changes. I also wanted to break the symmetry that is in the reference photo. I imagined setting a scene for a movie and let the water express the light more than what it would reveal. There are only a few sharp lines and clearly defined shapes. This way the result is a loose painting and looks less like a detailed drawing.
I used a lot of water when making this one! Sprayed, too!
Watercolor Interiors – and Flowers!
I used Arches Rough 300 gsm watercolor paper for these three watercolor interiors. I hope that this blog post inspired you to pick your watercolor set and paint some watercolor interiors!
This spring I will rerun my class Floral Fantasies in Three Styles, where we paint watercolor florals, a very suitable theme to go with the interiors! There will also be an extra watercolor exercise, which will be available separately if you already have the class. Stay tuned!