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!
My latest painting called “Abracadabra” is a big one, 56 x 38 cm or 28 x 15 inches. It was a lot of fun to create so I want to dedicate this post to the magical effects that water creates when painting with watercolors.
Right from the beginning, this painting had a mind of its own. And as you can see from the photo, I also used a lot of water to make the process even more uncontrollable. The more I paint this way, the more boring all the other mediums feel. Watercolors are magical companions, introvert when in pans but extrovert on paper!
Tip: Start with a plenty of water!
In this project, I was testing Arches Cold Press watercolor paper, new to me. It has a weird smell when it’s wet but other than that I quite like it!
When I add some sharpness and control, I try to do that gently so that I don’t put too much burden on flowers that have born naturally. The idea is to bring out the best details.
Tip: Add dark shapes to bring out the magical watercolor effects!
When painting with a lot of water, watercolor becomes magically transparent. I love how the colors get mixed when they are layered.
Tip: Let each layer dry properly!
Watercolors Can Draw!
I also like to think that watercolors can draw. When applying water, watercolor blooms with sharp frilly edges. These lines can be more than just lovely outlines. In the detail below, I used one to make a stem!
Tip: Use your imagination to make the most of what you have on paper!
Flow and Melody in the Safe Haven
I have had mixed emotions this spring. I have lost some old birds and my oldest dog has been sick. It’s been something that I have found difficult to share, it’s still so recent. But in the middle of all the worries, my studio has become a safe haven where I have been painting in the late evenings. The colors of the 16th-18th centuries and the pop songs of the 1980s have inspired me. Do you still remember Abracadabra by Steve Miller Band? A very superficial hit song but it has such a flow in the melody that it goes well with magical watercolor!
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!
This fantasy art piece is a hand-made collage called “Zebra Madonna”. It’s made mostly with Copic markers, some elements have been colored with colored pencils. It’s hand-drawn from start to finish, mostly for my class Animal Inkdom where I show easy ways to draw and color wonderful wildlife animals like flying butterflies and running zebras.
Time Flies When You Are Having Fun
It often happens to me that I am going to draw just something small, but then end up making a bigger project. Jane Austen has a novel called “Sense and Sensibility”, but my inner conversation is not very romantic.
Sensibility says: “I have an idea.” Sense says: “Don’t!” Sensibility says: “I want to do it. Now.” Sense says: “It’s 2 AM, no way! Go to sleep and wait for tomorrow.”
What was I drawing in the middle of the night? A small drawing of a girl with a zebra. The girl is a bit like zebra herself, and the zebra looks almost like a unicorn without a horn.
I started with a black and white drawing, but because coloring is fun too, I couldn’t resist. Time flew, and I was having fun.
For Animal Inkdom, I drew a lot of collage pieces as samples, and then many in the videos. So I have two boxes, big and small, that have all kinds of fantasy creatures. It felt like the zebra of the small drawing started calling his fellows, and these three came out!
Even if my zebra madonna was framed and all, I wanted to make a new image where the other zebras could join her. I cut a big piece of Bristol paper, approximately 14 x 20 inches. This is when I went to sleep! It was apparent that I would need quite a lot of energy to fill it with markers and doodles.
Next morning, I woke up determined to continue the project. I wanted to “paint” with markers – use several layers so that they would blend. I also wanted to draw with a very thin pen, Copic multiliner 0.03, so that most of the background would have subtle patterns. At this point, I wasn’t so sure if these were good ideas. Drawing took a long time, and markers weren’t so quick either.
I was also hesitating to use the zebras. Of all the animals that I had drawn for Animal Inkdom, they were my favorites. I reminded myself that because I had developed an easy way to make them, I could draw more at any time!
Before starting to ill the background, I had marked the places for the elements with a dashed line. Still, there was quite a lot to color. Here you can see how uneven the coloring is when there’s just one thin layer. I needed more layers!
It’s typical that at some point my Sense is starting to say: “This wasn’t a very good idea.” I am at the rock bottom trying to figure out how the project could be finished quickly because it doesn’t seem so fun anymore.
New Inspiration for Fantasy Art
My way to cope with what I call “the ugly phase” is to focus on a small area and start listening to an audiobook or a podcast. I also get inspired by colors, mostly by … black! It makes other colors shine, and my collection of black pens is growing steadily. I find it difficult to express any fantasy without black!
Fantasy art can be just fantasy and play, but I usually have a deeper thought in my mind. Despite the happy colors and fantasy feel, the message that I have in mind often has dark tones. Here zebras symbolize things in our past that have been difficult first, but after accepting them, they have become our strength.
Fantasy Art – Zebra Madonna in Detail
Here’s the finished piece again.
And because it has a lot of details, here are some pictures of them.
The butterflies are also from my class Animal Inkdom. I think they fit perfectly to the color scheme. I also added the third butterfly on the background. It’s just a careless drawing but it adds depth because it looks to be further away than the two colorful collage elements.