Consistency and How to Get Inspired by It

Art created with Faber-Castell Gelatos. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

When artists say that they need to focus and find their style, a big part of the problem is the lack of consistency. To me, “consistent” used to be a negative word meaning “boring,” “predictable,” and even “unimaginative.” But during the recent years, I have realized that there can be a lot of freedom in the consistency.

Here’s an example. Last Sunday, I wanted to do some art journal pages inspired by my recent trip to Italy. I was already heading towards my paints and brushes when something else came to my mind. It hit me that I have art supplies I haven’t used for a long time. One of them was Faber-Castell Gelatos. They weren’t very cheap, but I had only used a little of them. They were too clumsy and creating with them felt like painting with lipsticks. These were definitely a wrong choice when thinking about old master paintings and the era of Renaissance.

But now the challenge of using Gelatos started to intrigue me. The idea of bringing those crafty sticks to the past felt like turning on a time machine. For some artists, it would be a sign of inconsistency not to stick with particular art supplies only. But when my goals are to bring people with different skill levels together, reveal the treasures of art history, and regularly offer new ideas for creating art, it’s very consistent. So I didn’t unnaturally have to limit myself but was able to enthusiastically create the art journal pages and write this blog post.

Inspiration: Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, Rome

Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, Rome, Italy

My favorite place in Rome was a private art museum Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. It was located in the busy center, but after entering there, I  was in a peaceful and beautiful world. There were a lot of inspiring paintings, but Jan Brueghel was a new artist to me, and his landscapes were unbelievably detailed. These paintings could have been huge, and they would still look detailed. But they weren’t very big; the length was under 1 meter in the painting below.

Jan Brueghel and Hendrick van Balen, Allegory of Water

Another interesting thing was that Jan Brueghel collaborated with another artist Hendrick van Balen, who was specialized in painting figures. No wonder, the quality of these paintings is amazing! The painting above belongs to the series of four allegorical paintings, expressing the elements of water, fire, earth, and air. What a great theme for today’s artists too! And speaking of consistency: painting a series can also enforce that.

Abstract Landscape with Faber-Castell-Gelatos

I usually create art journal pages when my ideas are not mature enough for bigger paintings. Documenting these ideas in an art journal keeps the creative process flowing and maintains one aspect of consistency: the regularity of creating.

Abstract Landscape created with Faber-Castell Gelato Sticks. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her 3 tips for using gelatos!

Experimenting with Gelatos was fun, and I especially enjoyed inventing ways to add details with those clumsy sticks. By building layers, I was also able to achieve a color scheme that brings old paintings in mind. The consistent inspiration from the many styles seen in the history of art sets me free. It goes so deep into what I ponder the most: how things change all the time and how timelessness can still be present.

3 Technique Tips for Art Journaling with Faber-Castell Gelatos

One way to be consistent is to develop techniques that are reusable. Often when I invent a technique for a specific media, it can also be applied to a variety of supplies. I will now show you some ideas for working with Faber-Castell Gelatos. You can adjust these for many other art supplies as well. I begin a second art journal page to demonstrate the techniques.

1) Blending and Softening

The more I have studied Renaissance art, the more I have been into creating soft color transitions and muted colors. When beginning a new painting, I like to blend and soften a lot. With Gelatos, the best way to mix the colors is to use a sponge. In the photo below, you see that I have mixed white and pale pink for the face but haven’t blended reds and oranges together yet.

Tips for using Faber-Castell gelatos by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

2) Adding Details

Thick sticks don’t work very well for details. You can use the edge of the stick and get fairly thin lines, but to me, they weren’t thin enough!

Tips for using Faber-Castell gelatos by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

However, I discovered that by using water, it’s possible to draw thinner lines with a brush. By adding water and rubbing gently, you can also remove some color and make tiny decorative spots that way.

Tips for using Faber-Castell gelatos by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

When painting with watercolors or acrylics, I like to work similarly: add a splotch of paint in one area and then quickly use it for details in other areas. It’s a fast and handy way to color details that need only a tiny portion of color each.

When finishing the face, I used colored pencils to draw the tiniest details. When keeping the Gelatos layers thin and smooth, it’s easy to add other media on the top.

Drawing with colored pencils on a surface covered with Faber-Castell Gelato sticks. Read more tips for working with Gelatos! By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

3) Keep on Adding Layers!

When I started making the art journal page, I only had an idea of a lady or a Madonna because that would complement the landscape. I rarely use reference photos when creating art journal pages. To me, it’s more about getting in touch with vague ideas and then process them to express something that’s deeper and more defined. When I was in the middle of making the page, I was pretty clueless about what to express. But I kept on adding layers and slowly improving the image. One way to practice consistency is to keep on working with the same piece even if it looks like crap. See how much my page changed – examine the phase photos below!

Finishing an art journal page by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read more about her tips!

In phase two, I remembered the atmosphere and the candles of Santa Maria Novella, a huge church in Florence. After finishing the page, I went to my photo archive and found an image that looks very similar to my page. It’s so surprising how many of its elements exist on the page even if I didn’t look at the photo at all!

Santa Maria Novella, Florence, Italy

Regularly taking photos and browsing them is one way to add more consistency for the creative process.

Consistency is In the Way You Adjust the Nuances

After I had created the page, I felt that the opposite page should continue the same atmosphere. So I quickly made an abstract landscape there. Now when I open the spread of the journal, it feels more intense.

Art journal page spread made with Faber Castel Gelatos. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her tips on working with Gelato sticks!

However, there are many things in these two pages that I don’t like. First and foremost, I don’t like the color scheme. It has too many bright colors and too few muted colors, and thus, it looks more modern that I would like it to look. I would like a color scheme that would be more like this:

An art journal page by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. She digitally changed the color scheme to fit better with the idea she had in mind. See her tips for maintaining the consistency when creating art!

Also, if my art journal spread would be a big painting instead, I would make the face much more detailed. It’s simplicity, and the 2-dimensional look bothers me! By self-evaluating your work, you can also increase the awareness of the nuances you like. Adjusting the nuances, in turn, results in more consistency. Because many times consistency is more in the way you work with the nuances than how you select the themes and choose the supplies.

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Knitting and Painting – A Video Visit to My Studio!

"Channel into The World", an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Watch the video behind this painting and in the same time, see Paivi's studio!

This time I have something for you who likes to watch long videos. I love to knit (especially Leftie scarves) while watching video podcasts, so maybe you can pick up a project too and come to spend some time in my studio, talking about crafts, art inspiration, and painting supplies. I will create a craft-inspired art journal page and show many other pieces too.

A Day at the Studio – One Video in Two Parts

It is a really long video, so I have divided it into two parts. The first part is an introduction to a small project that I paint on the second part. The second part also shows some painting supplies. I hope you will enjoy both of them!

Here’s the first part:

And here’s the second part:

Planet Color begins at April 24: Reserve your spot now!

Year 2016 in Review – In Terms of Art Supplies

A handdrawn collage by Peony and Parakeet. Her course Inspirational Drawing 2.0 teaches how to create these + more!

I am not usually so keen on “year in reviews,” but I thought it would be interesting to look back regarding art supplies used in 2016. When people ask me what supplies do I use, my quick response is: “Acrylic paints, watercolors, and colored pencils.” If I get detailed questions, I often refer to these blog posts: What Art Supplies Do I need? and What Acrylic Colors to Buy?

But it hit me that I have used a more diverse selection of supplies in 2016. And then, there are all kinds of necessary stuff that we don’t often mention but still use all the time. So, I dedicate this blog post to supplies. It’s not so much about the single pieces created in 2016. If you want to have a look at those, go to 2016 Gallery!

Must-Haves for Collage Art

The image that is at the beginning of this post is a collage made for January’s lesson at Inspirational Drawing 2.0 while teaching how to create unique collage pieces and enjoy freehand drawing. I have been blown away by the beautiful art created by my students, and I am more certain than ever that introducing the ideas for drawing piece by piece makes freehand drawing and the use of imagination easier than trying to build a bigger illustration in one piece. (You can still sign up for the class and get the first lesson immediately after the purchase!)

I like to create collage art to my biggest art journals. I have two of large Dylusions Creative Journals. The first one is almost full, so I hope I can fill it in 2017 and make a flip-through video of it. I purchased the second one last year because I love the quality of the paper. It’s perfectly smooth for colored pencils and sturdy enough for collage art.

Making of a hand-drawn paper collage. By Peony and Parakeet. Her course Inspirational Drawing 2.0 teaches how to create these + enjoy hand drawing!

Like in the previous years, I have used “Golden Soft Gel Gloss” gel medium for attaching the collage pieces and Tim Holtz’s non-stick scissors for cutting the pieces.

A new discovery is to use a piece of cotton cloth to remove excess gel medium. First, I started using old t-shirts for finger painting. But when learning old masters painting techniques at a class, we used old linens for cleaning the brushes and realized that they work well for wiping off too. Since then, I have been a collector of old cotton fabric pieces. A fellow artist told me that she has several plastic bags filled with waste cotton fabric for art making!

Cutting collage pieces. By Peony and Parakeet.

Speaking of collecting, I am still a collector of the best handmade supplies: hand drawn and hand painted paper pieces! If you have never tried creating collage pieces, see Step by Step page for basic instructions! I also have a mini-course called Doodled Luxury, that shows how to combine doodling with collage techniques.

Colored Pencils – Not for Art-Making Only!

Because I create a lot with colored pencils, I often get questions about which colored pencils to buy. Many contemplate between regular and water-soluble pencils. I love regular colored pencils because they are easy to carry and easy to use when you only have a minute or two. I use regular colored pencils also outside my art-making. I love to use them to make written notes more visual and add visual ideas to my notebooks and planners.

Work Planner Spread. By Peony and Parakeet. She uses Happy Planner for her art business.

It’s why I always have colored pencils in my reach, and I think it’s also why I find it so easy to create with them. If I have to create something quickly that isn’t very big in size, it feels natural to choose them. I use Prismacolor Soft Core pencils when I create art pieces and a selection of old pencils for more mundane purposes. My e-book Coloring Freely focuses on regular colored pencils and shows easy techniques for creative coloring.

Using watercolor pencils by Peony and Parakeet. See her class Inspirational Drawing 2.0.

I also have a mixed selection of watercolor pencils, and I enjoy using them too, especially in the beginning of coloring. Using water makes it quicker to fill a paper with a soft mix of colors. It is the technique I use a lot at Inspirational Drawing 2.0: starting the coloring with watercolor pencils, inks or watercolors and then moving on to dry supplies like colored pencils and felt-tipped pens.

Using Watercolor Paper – and Not!

This is a supply that makes my heart sing – I only have to touch it: a good quality watercolor paper! My absolute favorite: St Cuthberts Mill’s Saunders Waterford HP watercolor paper. It’s smooth and thick (300 gm2/140 lbs), and it’s perfect for both watercolors and colored pencils. I especially enjoy creating intuitive still lifes on the thick paper. I often cut the paper to a square to enable easy changes in orientation. See this blog post to watch me creating the intuitive mixed media painting below on a watercolor paper!

March Still Life, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet.

March Still Life, 2016

Even if I love smooth watercolor paper, I don’t want to limit the use of watercolors. I use watercolors constantly and often with paper that is not designed for it. I like to carelessly splash watercolors on any paper because there are a lot more opportunities to use watercolors than to use watercolor paper. For example, watercolor paper is not good for collage pieces because it’s too thick. I like to use sketching paper instead.

Watercolor painting in Hundertwasser's style. By Peony and Parakeet.

The best exploration with watercolors so far happened in 2016. I studied Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s way of using watercolors and created a mini-course about imaginative painting style. This painting style uses only a little water, and it’s easy to apply on almost any paper. See the mini-course Painter’s Ecstasy!

The Year of Canvas

If I had to name one supply that marks 2016, it would be canvas. I have created more canvas pieces than ever before. I have painted five small acrylic paintings and two medium-sized paintings. “Human Nature” was not a wall-sized, but so far the biggest that I have painted. See this blog post: 5 Lessons Learned When Painting on Big Canvas

"Human Nature" by Peony and Parakeet. This was her biggest painting in 2016.

I always take the canvas more seriously than if I create a painting on a watercolor paper or an art journal. A blank paper syndrome is nothing compared to a blank canvas syndrome! But I enjoy larger projects between smaller ones, and I have two blank canvases waiting for 2017 creations.

Experiments with New Supplies

Oil paints 
I would have never guessed that I would be 47 years old before trying out oil paints for the first time, but that was how it went. I started painting as a young teenager and my parents purchased acrylic paints to me. They explained that using oil paints would require all kinds of liquids that would not be safe and acrylic paints were better in that way. They were so right! Not to mention all the smells! I live in a house built in the 1960s, and the smell stays there for some time. It would be impossible to me to use oil paints daily just because of that.

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet exploring old master painting techniques with oil paints.

But I have signed up for an art class and will start my second oil painting next week using the old masters’ techniques. (See this blog post to read what any artist can learn from old masters!) I love the pigment and gloss of good quality oil paints. We are using Schminke’s Mussini oil paints, and they are the best quality paints that I have ever experimented with.

Soft Pastels
During 2016, I saw quite a lot of art that was created with soft pastels. I almost bought Unison soft pastels to treat myself but then realized that I already had a small set of Rembrandt soft pastels. I had purchased them many years ago for industrial design studies, but we had been using them very differently than how people use them usually. We scraped them to get powder and used the powder to create soft shadows.

A detail of an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Made using soft pastels.

I created an art journal page (see the full image in the middle of this blog post) to try them out. Now I just grabbed the sticks and drew with them, but it felt like there was powder everywhere. And then, in the end, I had to use fixative, of course. It felt tedious even if it was not. I had no desire for new pastels anymore, but afterward, I have wondered if I gave up too easily. Maybe I should try the soft pastels again sometimes in 2017.

Liquid Watercolors and Watercolor Markers
In the late fall, I got a couple of surprise packages from one of my students! I got to use liquid watercolors and watercolor markers for the first time, and I liked both of them.

Art supplies. Liquid watercolor bottles.

I like the intensity of color in liquid watercolors. Mine are Dr. Ph. Martins’s Hydrus watercolors.

A detail of a painting made with gouache, watercolor markers and liquid watercolors. By Peony and Parakeet.

Watercolor markers seem to be very versatile because you can use them with or without water. I also received a set of gouache paints, and they encouraged me to dig out my old gouache tubes as well. To see what I created with the new supplies, watch this video blog post!

Going Digital?

Based on 2016, my answer is both yes and no. Yes, I have created digital art, see this blog post especially! I have used Adobe Photoshop CS5 for so many years that it feels very intuitive and I don’t have to think about the commands and such, I can just focus on the fun stuff.

Digital art by Peony and Parakeet.

But when I create digital art, I like to use my hand-drawn and hand-painted pieces as building blocks. I know that many buy stock photos, but it feels much more exciting to me to use my art as a starting point. Sometimes when I don’t work I buy a digital kit and have fun with it, but that’s just playing in my spare time (Sometimes I do wonder, how much do I have to create, to stop creating …)

I have a student at Inspirational Drawing 2.0 who is adapting the exercises to work with her iPad mostly. I look forward to seeing more of this happening because I see a potential of more people going into creating art. However, I don’t want to spend all of my time with devices, so I enjoy creating pieces by hand and as long as I can do it, I think I will, also in 2017!

What about you? What supplies were new to you in 2016, and what supplies are you going to continue using in 2017?

5 Lessons Learned When Painting on a Big Canvas

Human Nature, by Peony and Parakeet. An acrylic painting on a big canvas.

I have now finished my first big canvas painting. It is called “Human Nature.”

1) Smaller Paintings Can Take As Much Time

About two years ago, when I left my day job, I had a dream about creating a big painting. But my job is to teach art, and I don’t have much spare time, so it felt impossible to fit in the schedule. Now when I think about that, I kind of feel that the lack of time was an excuse. I think I was intimidated even by the thought of painting on a big canvas. The usual question raised: “What should I paint?” And then: “How could I maintain my focus for such a long time?” I exaggerated the time that painting would take. I thought it would take months and months. But when I started painting, I realized that I could use broader brushes and be less detailed. If you have ever tried to make small paintings as finished and polished as possible, it takes a long time. Adjusting the details on a big canvas is much easier.

A detail of Human Nature, by Peony and Parakeet. An acrylic painting on a big canvas.

2) Use an Easel, at Least in the Beginning and Finishing Phases

My canvas was not huge. It’s 60 cm x 50 cm (appr. 23.5 x 19.5 inches) Still, it was hard to see the whole painting when it was laid down on the table. I painted parts of the canvas so that it was on the table but set the foundation and finished the final details with the help of the easel.

Creating a painting on a big canvas. Painting in progress. By Peony and Parakeet.

My easel also has sentimental value. My father who passed away a long time ago has made it. He was a skilled woodworker. We didn’t talk much, but I think that making the easel was his way to encourage me to paint.

3) Eat the Elephant One Bite at a Time

I got the courage to start the painting when I realized that I could combine painting with building an art class. My upcoming workshop Nature in Your Mind (do sign up!) has instructions for the techniques that I used. I treated the canvas as my sketching board for the class.

A detail of Human Nature, by Peony and Parakeet. An acrylic painting on a big canvas.

For example, the project for the first week of the class is “Rising Butterfly.” I practiced the techniques on a big canvas and then sought for the easiest and most enjoyable way to create a butterfly on a smaller canvas.

Rising Butterfly, a painting on canvas. By Peony and Parakeet. The project for week 1 of the workshop Nature in Your Mind.

This kind of experimenting transformed the big canvas to my playground. The size was no longer intimidating.

4) Big Brushes are Great for Details

Thin lines, little dots, all look so much better when working with a big brush! It has changed my attitude towards broader brushes. I have started to use them on smaller paintings too.

A detail of Human Nature, by Peony and Parakeet. An acrylic painting on a big canvas.

It was surprising that sharp lines can be so easy with a big brush!

A detail of Human Nature, by Peony and Parakeet. An acrylic painting on a big canvas.

5) Big Canvas, Big Story

If you have been following my blog for a while, you know that my style is detailed. I know now why I wanted so badly to create a big painting and why I was so intimidated by it. You can express a much greater story on a big canvas. It’s much easier to create images that are like events or scenes on a big canvas. When one detail connects with another, it’s like moving from one chapter of a book to the next one.

A detail of Human Nature, by Peony and Parakeet. An acrylic painting on a big canvas.

A detail of Human Nature, by Peony and Parakeet. An acrylic painting on a big canvas.

A detail of Human Nature, by Peony and Parakeet. An acrylic painting on a big canvas.

My story is about human nature: how we are spiritual beings, have imagination and ideas and are conscious about the circle of life. I doubt if I could have expressed all this on a smaller canvas.

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What Acrylic Colors to Buy?

Tosca, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

This is a very practical blog post but let’s start it with my recent artwork, called “Tosca.” It is inspired by Giacomo Puccini’s opera. I went to see the opera last week and it was an experience that I wanted to communicate visually. The drama has always appealed to me and the contrast between the most beautiful sounds and the big emotions, often agony, was unforgettable.

Before the evening at the opera, I had just realized that I need to buy some more acrylic paints. I had run out of almost all the basic colors. I love Golden Heady Body Artist Acrylics, so I went to a local art supply store to get some. I know there are lists of what colors you should buy when buying the basics, but as my selection is a bit different, I thought I might not only share it but also give some general guidelines of what acrylic colors to buy. These can be applied to colored pencils and watercolors as well.

Guidelines that I Follow when Choosing Acrylic Colors

1) Always buy basic white and black. They give contrasts and are great for color mixes.
2) Never underestimate the amount of yellows you need. I use yellows for everything. I love the color itself, and use it a lot for color mixes as well. I often make a mistake of adding too much another color with yellow and then I need to add some more yellow to get the right tone. So I need a lot of yellows!
3) Warm and cold tones of each primary color are usually enough. I don’t buy browns and greens unless I find a specific tone that I fall in love with.
4) Always include some personal favorites. When I open the box where I store the tubes, I want to become happy. Cerulean blue reminds me of the time when I painted icons. I think of the sky when I see it and it makes me feel creative and happy. Whatever the current color trends are, cerulean blue always feels great. When I buy colors, I think about creating as an experience and don’t just focus on what is generally recommended.

Cerulean Blue acrylic paint tube, read more about what acrylic colors to buy!

My Basic Collection of Acrylic Paint Colors

A basic collection of acrylic paints, by Peony and Parakeet

Basic Colors:
1) Titanium White – because it’s basic white
2) Mars Black – because it’s basic black
3) Quinacridone Red – because it is great for mixing pinks and purples
4) Pyrrole Red– because it’s fiery and pure warm red
5) C.P. Cadmium Yellow Primrose – because it’s ideal to get beautiful greens but it is still a strong pigment, not a mix
6) C.P. Cadmium Yellow Medium – because it’s the most beautiful warm yellow I know
7) Primary Cyan – because it’s basic and more affordable than many other blues
8) Ultramarine Blue – because I have used to using it for decades

Extra Colors:
1) Medium Magenta – because I like pinks
2) Hansa Yellow Light – because it is an affordable extra yellow
3) Cerulean Blue Chromium – because it makes me happy
4) Manganese Blue Hue – because I like turquoises

I also have some special effect tubes, for example, gold and silver and some odds and ends. The more I paint, the more I rely on basic pigments and don’t like to spend money buying color mixes in tubes or jars.

A Red Day

Sometimes one color seems to be more appealing than the others. This happened to me last week; it was “red red red” that I thought all morning.

Three red acrylic pigments: magenta, pyrrole and quinacridone

Even if I had the new tubes and all, I started with watercolors and 12-by-12 inch watercolor paper. Playing with water is so liberating!

Painting a background with watercolors

Then I changed watercolors to acrylic paints and turned the music on.

Adding acrylic paint over watercolors

Puccini’s Tosca was playing in the background but as I had not visited the real performance yet. So I put this away to wait for the more detailed insight.

Colored Pencils Make the Details

A couple of days after seeing the opera, I was ready. I continued with colored pencils. They are wonderful art supplies. They are brilliant with watercolors, but they are ok with acrylics too of you create thin and even layers.

Tosca, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

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Organizing Art Supplies with Konmari Method

Flying with Balloons, an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

This art journal page is about how less stuff can uplift us. I feel like a bird with balloons after I sorted out my art and papercrafting supplies.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

It all started from a book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It is written by Japanese professional organizer Marie Kondo and she calls her method “Konmari”, which is an abbreviation of her name.

Marie Kondo, Konmari, decluttering book, sweaters on a shelf

The Konmari method is fairly simple. First you get rid of all the stuff you don’t use or enjoy, and then you store them by type. The process is explained more in detail in the book. The book recommends starting with clothes so I organized my sweaters first. Most of them are my own handknits. Marie Kondo explains how to fold each type of clothing and recommends storing things so that you can see them in a row. I have always believed in little joys in life. However I had never thought of how much joy seeing those sweaters can bring.  Each time I open the closet, it joyfully reminds me how much I enjoy both knitting and colors!

Art Supplies that Spark Joy

Marie Kondo believes in handling each object separately and considering if it sparks joy. These spark most joy to me: colored pencils and watercolors! These most simple art supplies delight me more than any new product on the market.

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet with an art journal spread colored with colored pencils

If you have followed this blog for a longer time, you might have noticed that the variety of mediums that I use in my art has been reduced gradually, especially during the last year. I noticed that I had bought many of the products believing they would solve my creative problems. I thought they would make me create better art faster and make creating more fun. But when experimenting with new products I forgot how little ingredients are actually needed for creating meaningful art. Nowadays I feel sad when I see beginners reading instructions that involve huge variety of art supplies. The long lists of supplies are overwhelming and prevent many from start creating.

I believe we should focus less on things and more in our inner world. And Marie Kondo thinks exactly the same! She believes that when we are surrounded by less things, we can treat them better and start thinking what we really want to do in life. I believe that when you use less supplies, a lot of energy is saved from picking and choosing for the actual creating. You will also grow attached to the supplies and start displaying them and taking care of them more often.

Working Area Before and After

Even if I organize my creative space regularly, I felt it was the time for a bigger change. I had already started re-organizing my creative space before reading Marie Kondo’s book, so it felt natural to continue that process.

Creative Space before and after, Konmari method, Marie Kondo

The photo on the left has been taken some time ago. After that I had already cleared the view to the window. But I had not actually got rid of anything, I had just removed some of the stuff to the nearest shelf unit. This time I picked out every single object and decided to give away or throw away those that I had not used for a long time. The photo on the right shows how the table looks like now!

Konmari Method Applied to Art Supplies

Marie Kondo suggests not to put items on the top of each other. That is quite difficult to achieve with art supplies. I managed pretty well though. Jars and boxes help with that.

Art supplies organized with Konmari method

My creative space also includes shelves. Here organising was a bit more challenging and the end result might not be how Marie Kondo had done it. She would probably grouped all the paper booklets, albums and magazines together. However I quite like it as there’s enough logic in how everything is located. As one of my hobbies is scrapbooking I have a large collection of stamps. I was able to put them all to one place on the upmost shelf.

Art supplies organized with Konmari method

Marie Kondo believes that we should take time to consider which is the best way for storing each item. I found that odd bottles of ink are much happier in spray bottles with other liquid inks. Paints are now in boxes on the right side of the middle shelf. I love how easily accessible all the supplies are and how my art journals and inspiring magazines fitted there too.

How to Prevent Decluttering?

According to Konmari method the secret of staying organized is this: once you have dramatically reduced the amount of stuff  and organized by type, you will consider buying new things much more carefully. When you group items by type, you will remember what you already have. When I saw what I had bought during the years, I thought that many times I could have just left the store early and put the time in creating. Focusing on fewer art supplies has reduced my yearn for shopping, so I do believe what Marie writes about.

Make your colored pencils spark joy!
Buy my e-book Coloring Freely

Tribute to the Old Watercolor Set

Tribute to the old watercolor set, conceptual art by Peony and Parakeet

I loved my old watercolor set. I bought it at the time I thought I should learn how to use watercolors. I also bought a book about watercolor painting. It would explain to me how to do it in correct way. That meant: merrily paint those landscapes and still lives in a row like all watercolor artists seemed to do. Soon I realized that even if I admire all those great artists I got nothing out of painting like that myself. Partly blaming my watercolors for it I put them away.

They must have been sad. All those beautiful things that they held inside was in the dark for years. How happy and thirsty they must have been when they were finally able to see the light again. They persuaded me to give them another try. They promised to be ready what ever I would assign them to. “Come on, stroke us with those soft brushes you have”, they pleaded.

Tribute to the old watercolor set by Peony and Parakeet

I gave them a stroke, and another… After many long and hard discussions I realized that all I had to do is to let go. Not only put away my assumptions about their purpose but also their nature. These were social guys. Ready to talk not only with me but also with my color pencils, acrylics, inks, markers, you name it.

Tribute to the old watercolor set by Peony and Parakeet

Now the pads are all gone. But even if the tray is empty, the beloved colors can be found in my art journals and display books. I kind of think that I have set them free. To celebrate their freedom and the happy moments spent with them I made a tribute for them. I even dressed their favorite brush and their water cup.

Tribute to the old watercolor set by Peony and Parakeet

With this tribute I let my watercolors speak to you: use your art supplies and let them show you where art can take you. Art is not a competition, neither any other predefined experience. Art is not too noble or too serious. You have the privilege to fly to the world of imagination and your art supplies crave to help you with that!

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What Art Supplies Do I Need?

Some basic art supplies, by Peony and Parakeet

One of the most popular questions that I get is: What art supplies do I need? What brands to buy? Here are my favourite principals in purchasing art supplies and the products that I most often buy.

Use What You have

Use what you have, watercolours, Peony and Parakeet

My first advice would be: before investing a lot of money use the stuff that you already have as long as you can. Creating art should not create more chaos and clutter. It should make you feel more content with your life. If you need to buy something, buy quality. That sends you the message that you value what you do. And you get better intensity of colors and most out of the various techniques.

Background Papers

Fabriano watercolor paper and Canson drawing paper, Peony and Parakeet

If you make collages like I mostly do, most of your papers should be fairly thin. It is easier to cut and paste thin pieces of paper. The background that you are using can be canvas, watercolor paper, cardboard or any thicker surface. I often use acid-free Canson Drawing paper (thickness 120 g/m2, 80 lbs). And my favourite background paper is Fabriano cold pressed fine grain watercolour paper (thickness 200 g/m2, 90 lbs).

Journals

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I also recommend that you buy a sketch book and make it your art journal. You can use a journal page as a background or glue or tape the background paper to the page. With the journal your creativity and self-acceptance grows page by page. Constantly getting back into what you have created enforces your style and makes you love what you do. I like the size of the bigger Dylusions Creative Journal. I also love Moleskine books and Smash books.

Colors – You Can Mix Them!

Three primary colors, Golden paints, Peony and Parakeet

I want to give general advice on colors first before digging deeper into various qualities and brands. If you have a fixed budget, use your money on quality instead of quantity. With three primary colors, yellow, red and blue, you create a pretty wide range of other colors and hues. If you only afford one, buy yellow. If you only afford two, buy yellow and red or blue considering which one you like more.

If you can afford five, buy white, black, red, blue and yellow. With that amount, you’ll survive a long time. When you mix black with the primary colors, you get beautiful melancholic muted shades. And with white, more cheerful pastels. If you can buy some more, buy another set of primary colors just different hues. If you have warm and cold yellows, reds and blues plus black and white, you can create a huge colour palette.

Watercolors

Watercolours, White Nights and Derwent, Peony and Parakeet

I love using watercolours and combining them with other materials like colour pencils. My watercolor set is an old Windsor & Newton set (pretty similar to this one). I have complemented that with some new White Nights pans. I love the quality of White Nights watercolors and recommend it for those who hate watercolor painting just because they use pans that do give the intensity needed. I also have gouache tubes but no not use them often. I love my little pans! For those who really want great pigments and less opacity, I would highly recommend Schminke gouache paints or watercolors in tubes.

Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints vs watercolours, Peony and Parakeet

I know many people that hate acrylic paints. The reason is usually that they have poor quality paints that they try to use like watercolors. Low-quality acrylic paints have poor intensity and gloss and coarse structure instead of smooth. While watercolors represent everything light weighted, acrylic paints are heavy and strong. Better than mixing them with plenty of water is to use little water or gel mediums (introduced later in this post).

Acrylic Paints in a box, Peony and Parakeet

My favorite brand in acrylics is Golden. They have affordable introductory sets that I highly recommend. Use very small amounts of color at a time. The color pigments are great, and the set will last for a long time. If you find it hard to squeeze small amounts and tend to use a lot of acrylic paints, Amsterdam has big economic tubes of acrylics in their standard series.

Gel Medium

Gel Medium and attaching collage pieces, Peony and Parakeet

I use gel medium to glue the pieces of my paper collages. I also use it with acrylic paints to give them more elasticity. For me, gel medium is a must have. I have tried several brands and spent plenty of time to find what I like most. My favourite is Golden Soft Gel Gloss. I also like the matte version of it.

Brushes

Peony and Parakeet's collection of brushes

After preaching about quality over quantity I must admit that I do prefer to have a lot of brushes. And many of them are low-quality cheap brushes. I have come to this situation for two reasons. First, in the heat of creating I often forget to put the brush into the water and it gets ruined. Second, the more you vary the size and quality of the brush the more interesting your artwork will look like. So when buying your first brushes, buy a set that has both flat and round brushes in various sizes.

Colored Pencils

Colour pencils, the collection of Peony and Parakeet

Colored pencils have come a long way since I was a child.  They used to be hard and many times they tore the paper when trying to get something out of them. Nowadays there are wonderful colour pencils that everybody should use, including children! Caran d’Ache Pablo pencils have wax-like finish; I adore them! I also love Derwent Colorsoft and Derwent Inktense pencils. Inktense pencils are water soluble, and you can use them instead of watercolors in small areas.

Markers

Markers, from the collection of Peony and Parakeet

Some people prefer markers over colour pencils because markers are easier to use. I use both. I often combine them so that some layers or areas are colored with markers, some with color pencils. My ultimate favorite is Faber-Castell PITT Artist Brush Pen. They can be used on almost any surface. They can be bought in small sets or separately so you can acquire only a few ones first. I also have a collection of Copic markers. They are high quality and serve me well as they can be filled again and again. But if you start small, get few PITT pens, and you will be happy.

Bright White

Using white pens, by Peony and Parakeet

If you have followed me, you know that I do not make white art. I do not create white areas or spend a great deal of time creating romantic scenes like putting off-white tulips on a white background. But having something bright white is essential for me. I love to put some white spots and then color them with markers or paints. That makes colors shine! I take my bright whites very seriously and have spent too much money to find the ones that work for me.

Butterfly, a collage by Peony and Parakeet

In gel pens, Uniball Signo is my favorite. I also use correction pens and Copic’s Opaque White that comes in small jars. You can replace these with white acrylic paint using a thin brush, so nothing to worry if you do not purchase any of these.

So – What Art Supplies Do I Really Need?

If you have read this far, it might feel like you need plenty. But really, you only need some pens and paper to get started.

Few pans of watercolors, maybe a couple of color pencils or PITT markers and you are good to go. Supplies do not make you an artist. The constant practice does.

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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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