Life in an Art Journal – Dylusions Creative Journal Flip-Through

An art journal page spread from Peony and Parakeet. Dylusions Creative Journal. See the flip-through video!

Don’t miss a flip-through video in the end of this blog post!

Four years ago, I purchased a new art journal – a big one. It was Dylusions Creative Journal, the largest size. In the beginning, I wanted to do everything “right.” I wanted my journal to have pages that are well-thought and carefully executed. The first couple of spreads went ok, but then, ugly pages started to appear. They were pages that I had just started but got tired on the way. Or pages which began so ugly that I didn’t feel like finishing them. But the longer I used my journal, the more I realized that I could have fun with those ugly pages. I could add more simple motifs and then color them all. I could add black paint and leave only some of the background visible. I could add more ugliness, and once it hit the saturation point, it became – something else.

Self portrait by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Sign up for her class Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

I am interested in learning all kinds of visual styles. Art journaling has supported it. One day I played a fashion designer and made a quick line illustration with poodles and all. It didn’t look inspiring back then, but a long time later, I had a lot of fun coloring it.

An art journal page spread from Peony and Parakeet. Made in Dylusions Creative Journal. See the flip-through video!

That’s what I love with art journals. The pages don’t get lost, and the ideas don’t get forgotten. Sometimes the ideas are abstract and timeless …

An art journal page from Peony and Parakeet. Made in Dylusions Creative Journal. See the flip-through video!

… and sometimes they are illustrations about what’s happening around the world.

An art journal page from Peony and Parakeet. Made in Dylusions Creative Journal. See the flip-through video!

Filling the pages in a random order adds its flavor to the journal. A grid-like paper patchwork felt innovative once, but not anymore. It feels pretty stiff, especially when there are freely doodled elements on the opposite page.

An art journal page spread from Peony and Parakeet. Dylusions Creative Journal. See the flip-through video!

But I don’t want to rip off the pages that don’t seem to fit. I accept them all. They are all explorations on the land of Art and Imagination. Sometimes I didn’t get very far, but I believe that all the trips benefited each other. I also believe that when painting on canvases, I feel more confident because I have played freely in my art journals.

Dylusions Creative Journal – Watch the Flip-Through Video!

See all the pages of my large Dylusions Creative Journal!

Enjoy drawing without fear! – Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

Rebuilding Art – Using Reference Images for Self-Expression

Using a reference image as a model for the painting. By Peony and Parakeet.

This blog post is about composing new art by using reference images. At the moment, I have a couple of paintings in progress that are based on reference images, and I also show other examples as well.

Why Don’t Artists Always Tell About Using Reference Images?

While painting my first oil painting at The National Museum of Finland, the visitors of the museum were able to visit the studio and watch us paint. Many people asked why we paint copies of the old paintings. The teacher Emmi Mustonen replied that it’s a good way to learn the old painting techniques and develop the understanding of formal elements. But I got the feeling that some of the people didn’t get it. Their facial expressions were imprinted on my mind, and it made me ponder why using reference images raises conflicting feelings.

Even if most artists who create realistic art or include realistic elements in their art, use reference images, many are not very open about it. I think that one reason is that many artists believe that people know that already and another reason that the process is not interesting. My experience is that there are surprisingly many people who assume that artists don’t take photos or use other than live models. And to me, the process of composing a new image from old ones is fascinating. I always stop to see an article where an artist shows how the reference images were used. I am especially interested if it’s about choosing the photos and combining several reference images into one piece.

Strawberry Madonna – Combining Several Reference Images to Tell a Story

A reference image of Strawberry Madonna and painting in progress. By Peony and Parakeet.

I am currently painting an acrylic painting on canvas that I call “Strawberry Madonna.” It’s my first using old masters’ painting techniques with acrylics instead of oil paints. The idea for the painting started differently than usually. I invented the title first and then started to think how Strawberry Madonna would look. I wanted to find a young woman who would have lips like she had just eaten a strawberry. By googling Renaissance paintings, I found Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio‘s painting. After that, I moved to building a story around the original idea.

Strawberry Madonnas are young girls who enjoy life without worries, have long summer holidays, eat strawberries, learn to crochet and read books like Emily of the New Moon or Anne of Green Gables. I have been one of them, and I feel quite nostalgic about it. I wanted the painting to include surrealistic elements. It has a big strawberry that is placed so that it could be a sleeve of the madonna’s dress. I am also going to change the flowers in the hair wreath to strawberry flowers and play with green and red paint. It will happen when I move on from underpainting to adding colors. In the background, there’s a photo that I took last summer. I am going to make it a little less detailed.

I used Photoshop to compose the reference image and made the sketch on canvas with charcoal. I drew a grid to make the sketching quicker.

Girl with a Ferret – Changing the Meaning with a Simple Trick

A reference image and a painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I have also started a new oil painting under the guidance of Emmi Mustonen. I got to pick the reference image freely. I wanted to pick an old Renessaince painting, but I couldn’t find any that would have a couple of my favorite features when painting with old masters’ techniques. I love to paint fur and fabric, and I wanted to find a face that would include openness. I fell in love with Boccaccio Boccaccino‘s portrait of a gypsy girl, but it didn’t have any fur. So I remembered Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine” and created a new image by combining the two in Photoshop. I have several stories about this one.

The first one is about today’s society and how the pets have become more human in our eyes. I want to show the similarities in the wild gypsy girl and the tame ferret. Another story is about young girls and their love for taking care of animals. They might not know the wildlife, but they help to rescue animals and are ready to work hard when taking care of them. They are against fur clothing and not afraid to show it. The third story goes back to the 16th century. I imagine that the gypsy girl was hired to dress up and hold the ermine because the lady didn’t have the patience to pose for the artist. In the end, she never showed. The artist became frustrated and painted the girl instead. I can imagine the magical moment when the girl realized that she would be in the final painting instead of a lady.

I would like to talk with Boccaccio Boccaccino about my version. I also wonder, how he was able to paint the portrait of the gypsy girl when the artists mostly painted for churches and aristocrats back then.

At Monet’s Garden – Including All the Good Stuff to the Same Image

Last spring, I published a mini-course called Strokes of Energy as a part of the Imagine Monthly Spring series. I asked my students to name their favorite artists, and Claude Monet was among most popular ones. But when I thought about Claude Monet, I didn’t want just to serve those who love the garden or those who adore his way to paint the sky, or those who want to express the windy scenes. I wanted to have all the good stuff in one image and then some more.

A digital collage combining 3 paintings from Claude Monet. By Peony and Parakeet.

So I created a reference image in Photoshop combining three of Claude Monet’s paintings: “Woman with a Parasol” and a couple of paintings from the water lily series. Then I invented a technique where you can paint some of the elements as collage pieces so that you can adjust the overall composition before making the final decisions. This way it is possible to add more details one by one and improve the image during the actual creative process.

A Monet-inspired art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. See her mini-course Strokes of Energy.

So this painting is about a woman who is experiencing strong wind. She doesn’t mind wind catching her parasol. She enjoys the fresh air and the beautiful scene around her.

Ulla’s Take

One of the students, Ulla M. Holm, made a Photoshop sketch from another set of Monet’s paintings and then painted the image with short impressionistic strokes. I love how the result also reminds me of her home country, Sweden!

A Monet-inspired art journal spread by Ulla M. Holm, a student of Peony and Parakeet.

Using Reference Images More Intuitively – From a Story to an Experience

I admit having mixed feelings about following the reference images carefully. With my art, I want to express freedom, and I don’t think that following reference images too closely helps with that. On the other hand, I don’t want to restrict myself doing abstracts only or creating similar paintings one after another. Many artists create the same again and again and become better and better with that. To me, art is about exploring and the hook there is to widen my perspective continuously.

So even if you would prefer abstract art, it doesn’t mean you can’t have reference images. Instead of connecting with the actual story, you can connect with an emotional experience.

Emile Vernon's painting and Paivi Eerola's abstract interpretation. By Peony and Parakeet.

I picked colors and ideas from Emile Vernon’s painting and imagined what it would be like wearing that soft dress. The dress felt like a dream, so I wrote: “Muisto unelmasta” –  “a memory of a dream” in the image.

Using reference images: a photo and an abstract interpretation. By Peony and Parakeet. To learn how to do this, sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

Here’s another example from my class Inspirational Drawing 2.0: a photo from The National Library of Finland and my interpretation, “The Power of Knowledge.”

Do yo want to experiment with this approach using your personal reference images? >> Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

For the Fans of Monet – Strokes of Energy

My Monet-inspired mini-course Strokes of Energy is now available as an individual self-study course. >> Buy Strokes of Energy!

Strokes of Energy, a Monet-inspred mini-course by Peony and Parakeet.

Geraldine’s Take

I want to end this blog post with a skilled artist Geraldine Norris from Australia who created her version of Monet in my class. She had just seen an art exhibition showing Monet’s work, and I think it shows how deeply she connected with the experience.

A Monet-inspired painting by Geraldine Norris, Australia, a student of Peony and Parakeet.

But wait, there is more beautiful Monet-inspired art from my students, see the presentation page of Strokes of Energy!

Until next time!

Freedom and Fear of Drawing – with Students of Peony and Parakeet

Asian Bunny, an illustration by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I dedicate this blog post for drawing, but I want to talk about cross stitching first. It’s one of my long-time hobbies, and I find it relaxing. I don’t have to make any decisions, use any imagination, just follow the chart, and the result will be just like I wanted it to be. Cross stitching is like a simple house plant. If you give a little bit of time for it fairly regularly, it will grow even if it doesn’t feel like so at first.

Paivi likes cross stitching

I can choose complicated charts or simple ones, and easily adjust the attention required for stitching. But there’s one problem that always remains: pixelation. Each image is made from single square-shaped stitches. No matter how complicated the design is or thick the fabric is, the pixelation is there.

Christmas at Gingerbread Lane, a cross stitching project in progess

Working with single stitches is not only a visual problem. It’s also a problem if we want to create more freely. Then we need a medium that allows faster and more flexible thinking. Like drawing. There are many kinds of drawing styles. When I want to experience creative freedom, I don’t do sketching using a pre-made model. (The photo shows a recent Renaissance-style painting in progress. I have designed it first in Photoshop.)

A sketch for a Renessaince style painting, by Peony and Parakeet

A Fear for Freedom – A Fear of Drawing

When I want to feel free, I don’t want models. Then it’s just a blank paper and a pen and a wish for a glimpse of imagination.

But freedom and fear are strangely connected. About three years ago, when I planned to leave my day job and start an art business, I warned myself. I told how I would no longer be anyone noticeable. I would have no office, no place to go every day, no colleagues to discuss with, no job title, no respect from others, no self-esteem. I would live in the darkest edge of the society and completely against the way of life I was taught. With these stories, I tried to prevent myself making the life change, and at the same time, I knew I had to try it. I had to turn the page and start a completely blank one.

Drawing on a blank page, by Peony and Parakeet.

I often connect with the same fear when I start drawing. That I am no one, that I have no power, that it is overwhelming and I don’t know what to do. But then, it’s the same gate that leads to the most wonderful feeling: the feeling of freedom.

Before I left my day job, I started to follow other self-employed women online. I listened to podcasts where they told their stories, and they all had one thing in common. They had put what they already know into use and then learned more. It made me list all the skills that I had and be more content about the decision I had made.

Paivi just before her life change

Drawing Factory Teaches You to Draw from Stick Figures

Still, on this day, I find it both assuring and inspiring to acknowledge what is already there before starting something new. So last year, I wanted to create a mini-course about line drawing, using the same philosophy. That was how Drawing Factory was born. It teaches you to start from stick figures and then move on to flowing lines and more imaginative illustrations.

Drawing Factory, a line drawing mini-course that helps you to lose your fear of drawing. By Peony and Parakeet.

Student Artwork

I offered Drawing Factory as a part of Imagine Monthly Fall 2016, the series of monthly mini-courses. See some of the gorgeous pieces that my students have made from the course! Another central theme in the course is Japan, the land of pretty details and high productivity and that has inspired Denise Dineen, Linda Robson, Christie Juhasz, Stepanie Carney, Marie Jerred, and Kathy Gallant, too.

Denise Dineen, USA. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Linda Robson, Canada. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Christie Juhasz, USA. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Stephanie Carney, USA. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Marie Jerred, Canada. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Kathy Gallant, Canada. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Overcome Your Fears for Line Drawing – Buy Drawing Factory!

Drawing Factory is now available as a single self-study class. >> Click here to buy!
You can also buy the whole bundle of five art journaling classes, published last year as Imagine Monthly Fall 2016.

Thank you for supporting my journey now and during the last three years!

Mixed Media Seascapes – 5 Tips for Expressive Art

Notice the new, useful categories for the blog posts, see the sidebar “Posts by Theme” or if you are in mobile, see the end of the page!

Sometimes I regret creating my art on the journals. When I created these mixed media seascapes for the mini-course Stormy Scenery, I wanted to keep the journals open and visible for days just to get back with the process and look at all the colors. And when I saw what my students had created, I secretly wished the same – that not so many weren’t in journals but frames. I want to share some art made from the mini-course and share some tips for expressive seascapes.

1) Play with Colors!

When creating the waves, show how the water reflects the colors from its surroundings. When there’s a storm, there will be a lot that’s moving, and it will affect the colors too. You can show your current state of mind as the sea and bring out the variety of thoughts and feelings. See how Claudia Watkins has made a row of waves with various colors.

Claudia Watkins, UK. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Claudia Watkins, UK

2) Create a Connection Between The Sky and The Sea!

If the sea represents you and the sky represents the outside world, how do they interact? Susan Rajkumar has expressed the connection in a brilliant way. It looks like the sea is willing to hug the sun and the overall feeling in the piece is warm and happy.

Susan Rajkumar, India. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Susan Rajkumar, India

Sheila McGruer’s sun has left the sea, and it has caused an explosion of energy.

Sheila McGruer, Australia. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Sheila McGruer, Australia

Sheila’s piece also has the softness which takes us to the next tip …

3) Express the Softness of Water

Cheryl Rayner shows the softness with both long strokes and splashes of water. With softness, you can practice gentleness towards yourself and others.

Cheryl Rayner, USA. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Cheryl Rayner, USA

4) Show The Movement of The Waves

Enjoy the transformation that happens when you focus on creating art! Strokes and lines express the movement. Lorraine Cline’s green sea is captivating because it’s wonderfully dynamic!

Lorraine Cline, USA. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Lorraine Cline, USA

Terttu Laitinen has the great eye of the storm.

Terttu Laitinen, Finland. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Terttu Laitinen, Finland

5) Make The Scene Look 3-Dimensional!

In any scene and any mind, some things are closer, and some things are further away. Add more 3-dimensional look to make some elements more blurry and some sharper than others. Satu Kontuvuori has a striking focal point where sharp white waves are on the top of the blurry black eye of the storm.

Satu Kontuvuori, Finland. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Satu Kontuvuori, Finland

Mackie d’Arge also has a clear focal point and lots of less defined splashes around it.

Mackie d'Arge, USA. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Mackie d’Arge, USA

Internal Seascapes – Connect with Your Internal Energy!

The mixed media seascapes shown in this blog posts are made from the mini-course Stormy Scenery which was part of my Imagine Monthly Spring series last year. You can now purchase it individually too. When creating Stormy Scenery, I was inspired by the long chain of seascape painters, especially by J.M.W. Turner and Ivan Aivazovski. I also have a Pinterest board called Internal Seascapes where I have collected inspirational sea paintings.

But in Stormy Scenery, more than just to paint the sea, I coach you through the process of opening up and bringing out your expression. With the mini-course, you are not so much mimicking the sea outside but expressing the power inside. I believe that every artist has a unique power as well as every day has a unique energy.

Create Mixed Media Seascapes!

Use colored pencils, watercolors, and acrylic paints to create expressive mixed media art!
>> Click here to buy Stormy Scenery!

Stormy Scenery, an art journaling mini-course by Peony and Parakeet

P.S. If you want more personal guidance and community support to get deeper in self-expression, you can still sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

Traveler’s Notebook as Art Journal

Midori Traveler's Notebook spread by Peony and Parakeet. See her ideas in a video too!

I ordered a Midori Traveler’s Notebook last year, in August. I couldn’t help myself because based on Instagram, it seemed to me that everybody had one! I was curious to know what’s so special about it. Midori Traveler’s Notebook is practically a piece of leather with a binding system for small notebooks, often referred as “inserts.” I also ordered a few blank inserts. When I received the set at the beginning of September, I wasn’t so impressed. I didn’t like the smell of the leather, and the paper in the small notebooks was so thin that writing showed through. But I knew many of those who make planner pages had changed to a Traveller’s Notebook, so had many scrapbookers and art journalers. I had to try it!

Traveler’s Notebook as a Visual Diary

I decided to start a notebook where I combine journaling and drawing. It would be a kind of visual diary where I would add random thoughts and illustrate them. I began with daily events, but once I got the hang of it, I wrote more openly about anything that came to my mind. Like in the spread below, I write about how Finnish Post is in trouble when people don’t send letters anymore and when the postbox is on the phone rather than anywhere else. I also speculate what would happen if people suddenly started writing letters again.

Midori Traveler's Notebook spread by Peony and Parakeet. See her ideas in a video too!

In the next spread, I show the current year and the next year walking side by side on the left page. The right page is inspired by a Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and her inspiring exhibition in Helsinki Art Museum.

Midori Traveler's Notebook spread by Peony and Parakeet. See her ideas in a video too!

Supplies for Traveler’s Notebook

I mostly use a thin-tipped black drawing pen and colored pencils. I sometimes add a little bit watercolor or water with watercolor pencils. Random collage pieces are also used, but I mainly use thin paper so that the bulkiness doesn’t affect my drawing in the next pages.

Midori Traveler's Notebook spread by Peony and Parakeet. See her ideas in a video too!

Alternating between Words and Images – Watch the Video!

I don’t sketch but just start by drawing a small motif or writing a couple of words. While creating a page, I like to maintain a dialog between drawing and writing. A written thought leads to a visual element and vice versa. To show this technique I have created a short video where you can see me writing and drawing, and at the same time, I show some ideas about what you can put in your notebooks.

Because the video is quite small in size, here’s a close-up of the page that I am creating in the video.

Midori Traveler's Notebook spread by Peony and Parakeet. See her ideas in a video too!

And here’s the video which shows a few more pages too.

Get more ideas and enjoyment by drawing!
>> Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0

Finding Balance through Journaling Practice

Romantic Geometry, an art journaling mini-course by Peony and Parakeet, teaching the basics of abstract art.

Here’s an art journaling spread that I created for December’s mini-course at Imagine Monthly Fall. The mini-course is called Romantic Geometry, and it’s about creating abstract art and traveling through the history of art and design. It’s a perfect example of what journaling has brought to my life: a sense of freedom and limitlessness. When you paint, draw or write, you are limited only by your imagination.

Everybody is an Introvert

I want to dedicate this blog post to introvert in us. They say that most people have some introvert characteristics in them. To me, very little needs to happen and I get a lot of ideas, associations, and thoughts to go through. It feels like a curse sometimes. If I don’t get enough time to be alone, I become unhappy and everything feels overwhelming. We in Finland, have the most forests in Europe. For many Finnish introverts, forests are the places to go to process the thoughts. I do like to spend time in nature with my dogs, but it’s not the same as spending time with my journals. I need to get out what’s inside me and even more: use my imagination to create something playful, no matter how childish or stupid that might feel first.

Abstract art journal spread by Peony and Parakeet.

My art journals contain a lot of painting and drawing, but I also like to write down my thoughts, especially after I have created the image. I also like the practice where I write a question, then answer it, and then find a new question related to my answer. These kinds of internal conversations fill me with positive energy. I also like to analyze what I did wrong but have found a positive way to do that. I look back, pick things where I succeeded and then make notes how I can still improve.

Everybody Needs “Me-Time”

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet browsing her art journal.

When I browse my journals, it’s easy to feel grateful and forgiving because the pages complement my life’s story. I fill them randomly, and in many sessions but try to do that as regularly as I can. When I start to journal, I often don’t feel particularly inspired, but after a while, I am fully enjoying the creative challenge. I have never been an introvert in the sense of being a quiet person. But when they say that introverts live in a world of their own, I recognize the habit through my journaling practices. My journals are like mini-worlds with limitless possibilities.

Paivi's art journals. She loves art journaling.

Everybody Needs a Place to Experiment

Behind every bigger art piece that I create, there are plenty of art journal pages where I have experimented with the ideas. This possibility of experimentation also happens with my writing. I don’t always write about myself but empathize with a fantasy character. This fall I wrote a haiku poem with the help of my husband, also an introvert.

I think that many who haven’t fell in love with their journal yet, forget to experiment. They drool over beautiful notebooks at bookshops or pin colorful art journal pages at Pinterest. But when they begin a journal, they feel they need to make decisions and stick with those. They pick the supplies they should use, or the style they should follow, and then get bored or disappointed with how the pages look. But you can change the direction as many times as you want, explore what excites you today, and cherish all that diversity. The more I have journaled, the more I feel the calling to show how paper books can balance your life. Life is less mess when you save some time for journaling.

Classes for Art Journaling

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet with an art journal and a canvas painting.

Romantic Geometry guides you to create dynamic abstract art from simple shapes. It’s the last mini-course of Imagine Monthly for now.

I will be running a new class “Inspirational Drawing 2.0” in spring 2017. Like Imagine Monthly, it will also have a monthly format. Inspirational Drawing 2.0 is about drawing from imagination and inspiration. It’s a skill-oriented, excellent class when you want to free up your expression and add more abstract ideas to your journal. This class will be all new content. If you have attended Inspirational Drawing previously, you will still want to sign up!

Moleskine Sketchbook – Another Full Art Journal!

Rococo inspired page on a Moleskine Sketchbook, by Peony and Parakeet.

I just finished my red Moleskine Sketchbook. It always feels like an accomplishment when an art journal gets full.  So I’m happy to show a couple of photos and a flip-through video of all the pages!

Moleskine Sketchbook as an Art Journal

Moleskine Sketchbooks are one of my favorite books for art journaling. The paper is sturdy, and it can be used with a variety of supplies. I use mostly watercolors, acrylic paints, colored pencils and PITT artist pens. But I also use inks, gel pens, hand-decorated papers for collages, etc. The small size is handy for quick pages and easy to put in a bag. However, sometimes the size is a little bit too small, especially for acrylic paintings. So I also use other journals, especially large Dylusions Creative Journals. The paper is very smooth, so it’s not ideal for watercolors. But I don’t mind that too much, I use a little less water to make watercolors work with the paper. Some prefer coarser paper for colored pencils but I love how effortless it is to color the pages in Moleskine Sketchbook.

1960s inspired page on a Moleskine Sketchbook, by Peony and Parakeet.

The Purpose of an Art Journal

For me, art journals are little more than just sketchbooks. I like to call them “idea books” as I often process my ideas further when I am working on the page. I don’t always make one page on the same go, but work with it several times, adding more ideas as the page progresses. However, I have quite low expectations on how my pages will look. They are not pieces of art but more like collections of ideas to me.

As you can see from the flip-through video, my ideas are often connected to art history and different styles. The first photo of this blog post shows a spread inspired by Rococo. The second photo shows a spread that I made after browsing designs from the 1960s. Even if I sometimes write short stories or make notes about my current thoughts, I mostly write about beautiful things that I have seen and visualize the ideas I have gotten from it.

My art journals are not chronological diaries but random visual notes that I process to full images. I can make a quick sketch of a rose one day and then continue the page with painting on the other day. When I am working with a new art class, I use art journals to record my visual ideas and practice the techniques. I also see creating art journal pages a route to bigger paintings. When I paint on canvas, I use the ideas that I have come up with when making the pages. Every artist should also be an art journaler!

Flip-Through Video

Create Step by Step!

I have gathered all the most popular free step-by-step instructions and all my flip-through videos on a separate page. Go to Create Step by Step!

What to Create from Simple Shapes? 6 ideas

When I catch myself building a visual image in my mind, I say to myself that my hands have to process the idea first. The idea can be a decorative design or a new painting or anything visual. When my mind is vigorously trying to create images that I would be happy with, my hands don’t understand my mind at all. My mind is a fool and my hands are ruthless.

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In my mind, I can easily miss the elements that are needed for building the beautiful image. If I imagine a scene, the details that make the scene look so wonderful, are not all there. My mind only has a glimpse. The connection from the mind to the hands feels easier if it’s the other way around. The hand draws a couple of circles and the mind gets creative with them. This way building the bridge from my mind to my hands seems to work much better. Big pictures, personal stories, attractive designs are not born in my mind first. They are born in a conversation that is led by my hand drawing with pen on paper.

But hands don’t decide when to get started, the mind does. This is why I will give you few ideas to start the conversation between your hands and your mind. Like this, this and this post, this blog post is illustrated by my students. The art journal pages that you see here have been made at Modern Mid-Century art journaling class.

1) Build ornaments by grouping simple shapes.

6 ideas to play with simple shapes. By Peony and Parakeet

Nel Wisse has created colorul clusters and then grouped them to bigger ornaments.

Nel Wisse, Netherlands. A student artwork for the art journaling class Modern Mid-Century.

2) Create a surface pattern and cut a shape from it.

6 ideas to play with simple shapes. By Peony and Parakeet

For example, see Darci Hayden’s cat and the stairs! Shapes that include patterns look always fascinating. (More patterned paper ideas)

Darci Hayden, USA. A student artwork for the art journaling class Modern Mid-Century.

3) Play with Sizes and Layers

6 ideas to play with simple shapes. By Peony and Parakeet

Cut some elements smaller and add dimension to your page by playing with layers.
Sue Jorgensen has a good variety of both large and small elements.

Sue Jorgensen, Australia. A student artwork for the art journaling class Modern Mid-Century.

4) Build a map, a house or a room plan

6 ideas to play with simple shapes. By Peony and Parakeet

A clear hierarchy between the elements pleases also your left brain.
Marie Jerred’s fox is in the middle of an adventure!

Marie Jerred, Canada. A student artwork for the art journaling class Modern Mid-Century.

Stephanie Carney’s Flamingo is just entering a house of dreams.

Stephanie Carney, USA. A student artwork for the art journaling class Modern Mid-Century.

5) Express Micro or Macro World

Both micro and macro biology deal with basic shapes. Explore either molecules or satellites!
Susan Prothero’s micro world is captivating.

Susan Prothero, UK. A student artwork for the art journaling class Modern Mid-Century.

Elise Tobler‘s space is full of life!

Elise Tobler, USA. A student artwork for the art journaling class Modern Mid-Century.

6) Find a connection to a story

Explain what you associate with the shapes and then move on to a more illustrational approach. Elaine Wirthlin’s spread is an awesome example!

Elaine Wirthlin, USA. A student artwork for the art journaling class Modern Mid-Century.

Buy the class: Modern Mid-Century!

Modern Mid-Century, an art journaling class that teaches drawing and collage art based on simple shapes. By Peony and Parakeet.

Designers in 1950s and 1960s (like Annikki Hovisaari from Finland and Lisa Larsson from Sweden) truly knew how to play with simple shapes. Modern Mid-Century is a self-study art journaling class where I am inviting you to my living room and showing inspiring examples from the middle of the 20th century. Then I will help you to design your own unique motifs and build a collage that is both decorative and expressive.

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet with the art journal spread playing with simple shapes.

Modern Mid-Century
Start playing with simple shapes!
 >> Buy Now!

Build Imagination with the Students of Peony and Parakeet

During the last spring, I have seen gorgeous pieces of art made from the mini-course Painter’s Ecstasy. Like in the previous blog posts (this one and this), I want to share some of them with you.

Build Imagination with Watercolors!

The pieces of this post are made with watercolors mostly. To my experience, watercolors are the supplies to go if you just stare at the blank paper and have no ideas in mind. They are soft and not so exact than pens or acrylics. It’s also easy to see something interesting appearing and start building new details from that. Maintain an open mind and not try to figure the end result beforehand. Instead, start with a general idea in mind.

1) Start with Mixed Emotions

Because creating art should be enjoyable, we often want to express positive feelings. But to get more connected to your piece, analyze your emotion more in detail. It’s often mixed: joy can hold tears of affection, happiness can contain worry, love can include dependency of some kind. This doesn’t mean you have to dwell in negative emotions but pondering about the more complicated nature of emotions can also free up your imagination. When controversial issues are allowed, it’s a sign to your mind that anything is allowed. This, in turn, will build imagination!

Sheila McGruer, Australia - a piece created at the art journaling class Painter's Ecstasy

Sheila McGruer’s art journal spread tells a visual story about a woman who has an origin. This would not be so expressive without the tear drops!

2) Get Surreal

People say: “I do only abstracts”, “I focus drawing faces”, “I like landscapes”. Break the rules and combine various approaches. Could abstract contain faces? Could faces include landscapes? Could geometry meet human parts? Could 3-dimensional meet 2-dimensional?

Terry Whyte, Canada - a piece created at the art journaling class Painter's Ecstasy

Terry Whyte‘s piece is fascinating. It’s simple if you count the elements but mind-blowing if you examine their relations. A wonderful example of how the surreal can look like!

3) Play with Proportions, Colors and Abilities

Can houses be smaller than faces? Can trees be red and purple, then change their color and leave off the ground? Anything can be possible in your art journal!

Annemarie de Brujin, The Netherlands - a piece created at the art journaling class Painter's Ecstasy

Annemarie de Brujin plays brilliantly with proportions, colors and dynamics. The painting feels like an experience, more than just an ordinary scene.

4) Envision Your Location

Mind-travel to a place where you would like to go! It can be a real location, an imaginary one or the mix of many! Nothing has to be exact. Get inspiration from the colors and the atmosphere. Make your art journal a mind-traveller’s notebook!

Gal Brule, USA - a piece created at the art journaling class Painter's Ecstasy

Gail Brule‘s art journal spread is a wonderful interpretation of the city Barcelona. Mountains, the beach, Gaudi, the colorful street life … it’s all there!

5) Treat Inanimate Object as Humans

One of the easiest way to get imagination going, is to treat anything inanimate as a living object. Can a house have an identity of its own? Can group of items look like a choir of brilliant singers? How do the trees look like when they are smiling?

Claudia Kern, USA - a piece created at the art journaling class Painter's Ecstasy

Claudia Kern has created more than a landscape. The painting is like a big and inviting party!

6) Merge Everything into One Flow

Instead of adding single elements, build connections and flow to your piece. Connecting lines also connect the viewer to the painting and it all seems to make sense. This way, small elements can be used to build big pictures.

Debbie Kreischer, USA - a piece created at the art journaling class Painter's Ecstasy

Debbie Kreischer shows it so well: we are all part of the same flow!

7) Express a Conversation

If you always do faces, why not creating more than one and express a connection between them. Then take it even further: what are they talking about, where are they walking, why are they together? Show it all visually!

Patty Furey, USA - a piece created at the art journaling class Painter's Ecstasy

Patty Furey’s dreamy woman and dynamic man are the perfect couple to dive deeper into the story. They seem to live in a city. Maybe the man has brought the flowers for her. She seems to be the country girl in her heart, though! These kind of pages that evoke stories are the best ones. If you like creative writing as well, use your image as an starting point for a poem or for a short story!

8) Get Ideas from Treasured Items

Open your treasure box or shopping wish list and analyze how the single items are constructed. Does your favorite blouse have ruffles? Do you grave for jewelry that holds the beads elegantly? How are the details of your dream hand bag? Thinking like a designer can give ideas to an amazing art!

Vikki Hoppes, USA - a piece created at the art journaling class Painter's Ecstasy

Vikki Hoppes’ painting is a great example of how to build imagination by constructing elements creatively.

Painter’s Ecstasy

When planning Painter’s Ecstasy, I spent weeks examining the paintings of Friedensreich Hundertwasser. He had students but to my knowledge they didn’t get much guidance, only a green classroom:
– “I tell them nothing. I just put the plants there and leave them alone together.”

My first sketches were made with few bold strokes but they didn’t catch the essence. Sketch by sketch, I slowed down and toned down. Hunderwasser called his way of working “vegetative painting” as it develops slowly. It doesn’t start with drum rolls but with little bell sounds. The techniques that I discovered with trial and error
make starting easy but stopping almost impossible when you reach the spheres of painter’s ecstasy!

This mini-course, Painter’s Ecstasy, was published at “Imagine Monthly Spring 2016” art journaling class. It’s now available individually as a self-study class – Buy here!

You can also buy all the 6 monthly classes as a bundle. I will also release the  classes individually one by one later this summer, and show more ideas on how to apply them.

Build Imagination with watercolors - Art journaling class Painter's Ecstasy by Peony and Parakeet

Build imagination, right now!

8 Style Tips from the Students of Peony and Parakeet

This spring, I have seen gorgeous pieces of art made from the mini-course Flowing Greenery. Like in the previous blog post, I want to share some of them with you.

Various Styles with Style Tips

This time I show pieces that are very different in style. I also include style tips and analysis. This kind of comparison can be positive and beneficial. By creating similar work and then comparing it with other artists’ pieces can make you understand more about your own signature style.

1) Warm and Dominant

The first piece is by Terttu Laitinen. Her way to use visually heavy elements feels like a weighted, warm blanket that you want to snuggle into! This piece makes you stop and calm down and still feel inspired! It’s so loaded with energy that the fruits could drop down at any moment.

Terttu Laitinen, Finland, mixed media art created at the art journaling class Flowing Greenery

2) Detailed and Holistic

Gina Meadows takes a step away and makes you think about your life as a whole. It feels like every element in her work has a designated mission, connected to the cycle of living. Her strokes are clearly defined, but living and expanding as she uses very few straight lines.

Gina Meadows, USA, mixed media art created at the art journaling class Flowing Greenery

3) Playful and Social

Michelle Rydell combines round with angular strokes very playfully. It looks like every little leaf and cloud has a personality of its’ own. She is also a master of combining imagination with visual clarity. A clear focus looks always appealing.

Michelle Rydell, USA, Terttu Laitinen, Finland, mixed media art created at the art journaling class Flowing Greenery

4) Intimate and Symbolic

Terry Whyte‘s work is more intimate. It’s like the tree protects the like-minded couple. A lot of care and thought has been put into shapes of each element to make them look both aesthetic and meaningful.

Terry Whyte, Canada, Terttu Laitinen, Finland, mixed media art created at the art journaling class Flowing Greenery

5) Primitive and Mysterious

Ulla M. Holm combined William Morris with Henri Rousseau. Her own unique style goes perfectly with Henri Rousseau’s naive masterpieces. This is an insight that’s worth pondering: how could you combine your favorite artists so that they enrich your own unique style?

Ulla M. Holm, mixed media art created at the art journaling class Flowing Greenery

6) Decorative and Sophisticated

Patricia Bush has an eye for details. But she also knows how to make them differ in size and color so that the result doesn’t overwhelm you. You might stare the gorgeous pegasus first, but take a look at the trunk of the tree too. It’s wonderfully ornamental and has a very wooden feel. Sophistication in every detail, including the castle and the moon is her magic!

Patricia Bush, Canada, mixed media art created at the art journaling class Flowing Greenery

7) Relaxed and Emotional

Meri Andriesse’s style goes to other direction. Her relaxed piece is more than all the careless elements together. Her strength is to create an atmosphere that any creative aspires to have. It’s loose and sunny, just perfect to get inspired and go creating!

Meri Andriesse, USA, mixed media art created at the art journaling class Flowing Greenery

8) Connecting and Thoughtful

Sherry Pollack has whimsical style with lively lines but it’s also extremely thoughtful. It’s like every little creature has its’ own thoughts even if the creatures share the same experience. This makes it so easy to imagine being among them. It feels like I could listen to the same sounds, observe the same things and join the conversation that is more spiritual than outspoken.

Sherry Pollack, USA, mixed media art created at the art journaling class Flowing Greenery

Flowing Greenery

When using the same mixed media techniques, how would your scene look like? This mini-course, Flowing Greenery, was published at “Imagine Monthly Spring 2016” art journaling class. It’s now available individually as a self-study class – Buy here!

You can also buy all the 6 monthly classes as a bundle. I will also release the  classes individually one by one later this summer, and show more ideas on how to apply them.

Art journaling class Flowing Greenery by Peony and Parakeet

Create your own fruit trees and whimsical animals, right now!