5 Ways Music Can Improve Your Art

Opera, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how you can improve your art with the help of music!

This mixed media collage is called “Opera”. For me, visual images have always been more important than sounds, but I still think that there’s a lot in common and a lot to learn from music.

Tip 1: Let Music Challenge You!

How would jazz look like as a collage? Paint the voice of your favorite artist! Create a  rhythm to your artwork!

A week ago was my first time in opera. I had bought the tickets as a birthday present for my husband who is a very cultured person. I was a bit worried about how I would endure the experience as I had disliked opera for all my life. At least the play was one of the easiest pieces, The Marriage of Figaro. While listening to the beautiful sopranos, I saw strong colors and lines in my mind. I began to think how powerful and intellectual music can be. I felt I was challenged! Could I ever express visually what I was experiencing?

However, when I began to create the collage, I did not think of opera. I knew that it would come out someday or another. Like many times, I just had a compelling idea of the technique I was going to use. I was going to create strong shapes with a molding paste.

Making of Opera, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how you can improve your art with the help of music!

But before opening the paste jar, I grabbed a sheet of heavy-weight watercolor paper and the box of india inks. Painting the background was fast with a thick brush.

Tip 2: Think Your Artwork as a Space for Music!

I read an interesting interview from the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. They had interviewed a famous Finnish painter Marika Mäkelä. She quoted another Finnish artist, Leena Luostarinen. She had said that you should imagine a lighting inside the painting. Even the colors of the painting should be considered through the lighting. I think it is ingeniously said. It made me think about the space I would create inside my artwork and how the lights, shadows and color contrasts should flow there. My addition to this thinking is: if the music was played in that space, think about how it would sound. Pick the shapes and lines to express that!

With these deep thoughts, I cut both heavy and light cardboard into pieces. They were attached to the background with a masking tape.

Making of Opera, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how you can improve your art with the help of music!

See how irregular the handcut shapes are! I love the uniqueness that only handcuts can give! I can’t understand the popularity of machine-cut stencils.

Making of Opera, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how you can improve your art with the help of music!

After placing the masks on the background, I added the molding paste, a lot of it! Some swirls were doodled on the paste, so that the surface would look lively.

Making of Opera, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how you can improve your art with the help of music!

I removed the masks carefully before the paste was dry. Drying time was really long, almost a day, even if I used a heat gun to fasten the process.  I usually like to take breaks from creating, so this extra waiting time did not frustrate me at all. While I was waiting, I was thinking about how I was going to paint the artwork. How would the light flow around these dramatic shapes?

Tip 3: Pick the Colors from the Music

Making of Opera, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how you can improve your art with the help of music!

I like to think music as colors. The lower the notes, the darker the colors are. A melancholic song is also darker than the cheerful one. Red and orange are for deep, rich voices. You do not need to overanalyze it: just get into the feeling of the music and pick the colors that come to your mind! The Marriage of Figaro has both bright and dark sounds. I also wanted to express the dramatic nature of the music with colors.

Tip 4: Move to the Rhythm of the Music While Creating

Making of Opera, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how you can improve your art with the help of music!

When the painting gets near the end, I often stand up. I need to see my work properly to find the essence of it.  This is the stage where I usually put the music on if I have not done it before. I wave my hands and take steps to the rhytm of the music. I try to get as close as possible to the feeling that I want to express. I also try to be as focused as possible.

White gel pen and black markers were in use as I dived into the melodies of the opera.

Tip 5: Focus Your Energy with the Help of Music

It is important not to change the music too much when you want to focus. If you listen to the variety of songs just when you make the final touches, it might not do good for your work. I often play the same song repeatedly when I am finishing the work.

A detail of Opera, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how you can improve your art with the help of music!

On the other hand, when I am in the earlier stages of the work, I am not that careful. I listen to this and that as long as it gives me the energy to continue. I like to listen to the music that gives me confidence and which doesn’t feel too themed. Here are my recent favorites for boosting the creative process: A Sky Full of Stars (Coldplay), Viva La Vida (Coldplay), This Years Love (David Grey), Change (Tracy Chapman), September (Earth, Wind & Fire), Flower (Kylie Minogue), Thorn in My Side (Eurythmics), I Say a Little Prayer (Aretha Franklin).

Opera, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how you can improve your art with the help of music!

I love how dimensional my artwork became. I am also happy how finished it looks. Hand decorated papers were helpful while finishing the work. With them, it is easy to add details that are interesting and different. Just do not use the same paper too much!

Sometimes I aim for flying lines and relaxed touch, but this time – it was all about opera! My computer was playing The Marriage of Figaro in high volume and I was pushing my boundaries to express the quality of the music. Then finally, after placing the two red pieces, I felt that I have solved it, the riddle of opera music!

Opera, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how you can improve your art with the help of music!

What music do you listen to while creating? Try changing the music if you want to fine-tune your art or expand to new areas!

Subscribe to my weekly emails – Get a free mini-course!

Gobelin Tapestry in Mixed Media

New Winds, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about using fiber paste and imitating gobelin tapestry.

I like the sources of inspiration be quite distant. They should not instantly make my mind figure out the result. While packing craft supplies to empty a sewing room for renovation, I found some pieces of woven upholstery fabric. Those reminded me of a Gobelin tapestry, the woven wall hangings.

Upholstery fabrics. Read more about imitating fabric with fiber paste and watercolors.

You could think there’s nothing more conservative and static than those, but I was immediately inspired by two things: 1) to show how beautiful muted colors can be 2) to create a dynamic composition that still reminded of textiles.

Fiber Paste in Mixed Media Art

To get into the spirit of heavy woven tapestry, I chose to use a lot of fiber paste to create a texture on a fairly smooth watercolor paper.Making of a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about using fiber paste and imitating gobelin tapestry.

Now, the rational thing would be to spread the paste evenly. Or to spread the splotches evenly. But as I wanted to create a dynamic composition, I chose to add fiber paste mostly to the left side of the work.

Making of a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about using fiber paste and imitating gobelin tapestry.

With fiber paste, you can create interesting, uneven surfaces by using tissue paper or various tools to spread the paste. You can also use fiber paste for creating layers and attaching collage pieces (more about those later in this post).

One more good thing in fiber paste is that once it’s dried, you can paint with watercolors over it. I find the change in the surface texture somehow good for my creativity. It is impossible to paint accurately when working on fiber pasted area. That makes me accept the imperfections right at the beginning. Too much self-control can be destructive to the creativity. So, fiber paste is one of my medicines to let go!

Making of a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about using fiber paste and imitating gobelin tapestry.

Watercolors

Here I chose to work with watercolors instead of acrylic paints because they are much faster when creating delicate color variations. I usually mix watercolors by dipping the brush to many color pans on the same go and letting them mix naturally on paper.

Making of a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about using fiber paste and imitating gobelin tapestry.

With watercolors, you can easily change the intensity of color. I often start with a fairly dry brush and intensive color. After a stroke or two, I then add plain water to dilute the color. This technique is shown well in the video where I paint watercolor postcards. On the fiber paste surface, you can use a lot of water for lighter shades.

Mixing Colors

I still remember my moment of mixing black with other colors. I was a teenager, and it was a warm summer day. Acrylic paints were quite new to me, and I wondered how they should be mixed to express the hot weather.

A Hot Day, a painting made by Paivi from Peony and Parakeet as teenager

The dark shadows made me think of black. I remember the surprise of getting beautiful purples and browns. That was a moment when I  realized that the power of colors is not just what I admire in other people’s work, I can learn it too. By mixing colors, I could express anything!

Just this year when I bought my newest watercolor set, I discovered browns. I wondered why there are so many brown shades in the set, but now I know: mixing colors with browns create beautiful hues! In this piece, I have mixed the colors from both browns and blacks.

Making of a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about using fiber paste and watercolors.

Collage

I was pretty happy with most of the painting – except the lower center area. The composition of the center elements did not work.  To create something totally new, I used my most common method: to make it ugly and then try to save it. I took the jar of fiber paste and began to cover the bad areas with the paste.

Making of a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about using fiber paste and imitating gobelin tapestry.

“You have ruined it now,” said a bitter voice in my head.

Have you ever experienced the same? It is the moment where you can truly stop pleasing others and begin creating art.

I took the pile of hand decorated papers and started cutting. Fast!

Making of a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about using fiber paste and imitating gobelin tapestry.

Some time ago, when I made those decorated papers, they were so ugly I almost threw them away. But now they looked like they were made for this muted color palette! And the fiber paste works as glue so it was easy to attach the pieces.

While cutting the pieces, I watched the fabric of the two chairs in the library room where most of the creating happen. I found the chairs at a recycling center a few years ago. I took them for renovation, so I was able to choose the fabric.

Floral upholstery fabric. Read more about creating a fabric inspired collage art.

I love the fabric’s silky texture, romantic pattern and how well it goes with the wallpaper and William Morris’s curtains! Looking at that chair made me realize what I needed to add the feel of fabric to the artwork. To cut several similar flowers to represent a repeating pattern!

Finishing

New Winds, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about using fiber paste and imitating gobelin tapestry.

After drawing some detailed lines with colored pencils and markers, the collage seemed to be finished. But then I remembered the original idea: Gobelin wallhangings. Don’t they often have deer in them? A small deer was added in the lower left corner to wonder about the blowing winds!

New Winds, a detail of a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about using fiber paste and imitating gobelin tapestry.

I have noticed that many mixed media pieces are made from commercial products. I want to encourage you to create your own elements and textures. Your art will be much more original and complete. No factory-made flower can express your emotions as accurately as the ones you make yourself!

Let me be your art teacher: Subscribe to my weekly emails!

How to Trust Yourself when Creating Art

I Feel the Power, a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about making this and how to get rid of self-doubt when creating art
When I begin creating art, I often have petty thoughts like: “I want to draw a flower” or “I want to create something pink.” Even if I create regularly many times a week, I am still bothered by the fear of failure. I know I have to handle that at as soon as it comes, preferably before the first brush stroke. Why? Wouldn’t it be fun sometimes to draw that single flower or create that pink square? I believe that if we give ourselves that kind of clear commands and simple tasks, we don’t really trust our creativity. The big question is always: do you trust yourself when creating art?

The Unpredictable Nature of Art

If you trust yourself, you can step into the world of unpredictability. Not knowing exactly what to aim for is a major factor when creating art. We can set restrictions and principles, but we have to leave space for unpredictability. It means that we are more creative if we do not have the clear picture of the result.

Setting Restrictions on Supplies

Art supplies. Read about using fiber paste and how to trust yourself when creating art.
These are the art supplies that I gathered when I began making the collage of this post. Watercolors, acrylic paints, and fiber paste. I also picked a thick watercolor paper and cut it to a square. I chose the supplies but left behind the thoughts about what I was going to make.

Find what You Want to Express

My method is to browse art books just before creating art. I do it only for few minutes, and I try to pick art that really lifts my spirit, raises the bar, sparks my imagination. Usually, it is something from the history of world art. This time I browsed a picture book from impressionism.
Read about how to use art books to trust yourself when creating art.
So, do I advise you to get a book of impressionism? No. I advise you to name what spheres you want to reach when making art and pick images which resonate with that. They do not have to be the same style than what you want to accomplish. The more important is the feeling that they evoke in you. When I browsed the book of impressionism, I thought how art is above all the mundane things. How those artists who lived at the end of the 19th century have managed to describe the beauty in the way that is still understood. How the brush strokes, full of paint, were successfully set to represent weightless light. All that would be exciting to see in my piece too.

Watercolor strokes. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.
When the first watercolors hit the paper, I still had some self-doubt: I could not ever do anything like the great impressionists. I heard the sarcastic voice in my head: “Reborn Monet, yeah right!” But that sarcasm is the moment when I know I am almost there: I am almost leaving the rational side of me behind. Then I just need to wow to trust myself, stop seeing any desired images in my mind and start working fiercely.

Layering (With Some Moments of Self-Doubt)

Watercolor background by Peony and Parakeet. Read about making this and how to trust yourself when creating art.

I often start with watercolors because they cover the paper quickly. Even if I have the idea of creating some surface structure, I wanted to use watercolors first to get into the mood of uncontrolled splashes.

Acrylic paints. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.
While waiting for the watercolors dry, I mixed some acrylic paint. Pastel shades like many impressionists used to choose. Using pallette knife. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.
To get some interesting texture with the paint, I used a palette knife instead of a brush.
Making of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.
After playing a little with the palette knife and thick paint, I became clueless of how to continue. It’s important to recognize these moments. If you are not aware of these, your rational side takes the control and decides to do things you really cannot justify. Like: “Let’s use the rest of the paint to cover the surface evenly.” Or: “Let’s get some other colors and splash the paint here and there.” When you feel that you do not know what to do, don’t do the obvious. I might browse some pages of the book again to get back into the mood. Or change the media, the solution that I made this time. I doodled something not so important with the colored pencils just to realize I wanted to continue with watercolors and a thin brush.

Making of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

When I got bored with colored pencils and watercolors, I opened the jar of fiber paste. Even if I often prefer to stay with the basic art supplies, fiber paste is something I like. It not only creates an interesting texture like watercolor paper, but it also works like a watercolor paper. You can paint over it with watercolors and create beautiful details to your work! Making of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Adding fiber paste. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

Trying to achieve distinct variation in the surface texture, I used the palette knife again.

Making of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

Then my mind was empty again, so I browsed few pages from the book again and then continued with colored pencils.

Making of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

When I reached the next point of frustration, I decided to change to the watercolors and work with high speed. Working fast helps to get creativity flow.

Making of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

Once the paper was covered all over, I started adding details. A white correction pen is great as it usually works on any surface.

Making of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

Hand decorated papers are great for details. I picked some of my prettiest papers and began to cut them. The paper shown in the picture isn’t that great as an artwork, but it’s versatile for collages as it has a lot of variation.

Finishing

Finishing a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

I felt that it was time to begin finishing the work. It is always useful to stop and think. I often put the artwork somewhere where I can look at it, like on the nearest bookshelf. Then I step away and try to figure it out where to lead the viewer’s eye. Here’s another step where you should not question your trust: It will be great! You just need to connect some dots and find the lost pieces of the puzzle. Like I did when I realized that there is someone in the picture. I added the faces and made the rest of the character more visible. Then some tiny adjustments to the composition and after that, the work was finished.

A detail of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

I think that this piece is aesthetically very much my style, but the impressionistic approach to the surface structure makes the work interesting.

A detail of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

Never underestimate the power of layering: this is my favorite detail, the white area showing the blank watercolor paper. It was created in the first phase, and it still exists in the end. If I had done the obvious and filled the paper with each media layer by layer, this little detail would not exist. So, cherish each stroke and trust your creativity! Focus on the feeling, not to the result! You are allowed to feel like a world-class artist even if you know you are not. Fly to the world of imagination!

This might also interest you: – Stretch Your Artistic Style

Let me be your mentor in art: Subscribe to my weekly emails!

Bad Art – How to Fix Mistakes?

Still Life, a collage and a greeting card for my sister, by Peony and Parakeet

Have you ever created something you absolutely hate? Did you make a page in your art journal that makes you want to tear off the page? Did you create a card that you don’t want to keep neither give? I do that almost daily, with the exception that I don’t call that artwork finished. Making mistakes is the essential part of the creative process. Without destruction there won’t be creation!

I will show the process of the collage card that I made for my sister. You will see how I almost destroyed it with very bad decisions. You will also see that without those stupid mistakes the card would not look detailed enough in the end.

Yes, speaking of finishing, every art teacher that I have met always say the same thing: “Your art is finished when you feel so. If you can’t think of anything more to add, it’s finished.” I don’t think so. If you want to develop in making art, you will not stop when your brain says so. It is your rational side that is speaking and you need to get in touch with your creativity.

Let’s see how I began creating the collage and dive deeper in the process of making mistakes and letting creativity take over.

Sketching a collage, by Peony and Parakeet

Here’s the fist step. I just grabbed a paper and had some fun doodling. I felt pretty light and cheerful at this stage.

Creating a collage, a phase photo, by Peony and Parakeet

Then I took out the watercolors and realized that the paper that I had picked is perfect for them. It was handmade recycled paper that I had bought from a handcrafter a year or two ago. The paper is made from old linen sheets and I love the way it absorbs water.

Creating a collage, adding mica flakes, a phase photo, by Peony and Parakeet

To create something a bit luxorious I opened a jar of Golden Mica Flakes. It is actually grey paste which looks stunning gold after drying.

Creating a collage, a phase photo, by Peony and Parakeet

After adding some details with watercolors and extra doodling, you could be fooled  to think I was finished. But knowing better, I moved forward and got a crazy idea to cut the piece.

Creating a collage, a phase photo, by Peony and Parakeet

Oh my. At this point I knew I had made the first move towards distroying my pretty little ornament. Next move to the same direction: sewing machine!

Creating a collage, adding machine sewing, a phase photo, by Peony and Parakeet

I got an obcessive idea to use machine sewing for the details. And after trying to fix everything with some more watercolors, I knew I had done it: it was ruined!

Creating a collage, a phase photo, by Peony and Parakeet

I could have stopped here and call it bad art. But while making a lot of bad decisions and messing up the good start, I had found the speed and the mindset of creative thinking. This is why you should never stop after making mistakes: you have then just opened the door to your imagination! And if you made no mistakes, you did not even enter the front yard!

Now, at this point of the process, you should not quit neither continue with the rational mind. Do not take any black or white paint and paint it all over! That is conscious destruction and far from what your creativity can accomplish.

You should just keep on working with high speed and continue adding new details. Even if it feels stupid, even if your mind is blank, just keep on adding. If you feel like you need any direction, then turn on some music or take a picture or a photo that you like and put it near to your work area. But do not look the picture intentionally. Just trust on your wild side!

Having someting inspiring near the workspace, a russian greeting card

To save my ruined piece, I used this lovely card that I had bought a year ago while visiting St Petersburg, Russia. I set it so that it was a bit higher than the table top. That way it did not catch too much attention while I was working.

Still Life, a detail of a collage by Peony and Parakeet

See how the russian roses began to appear to my work! I did not think of the roses or the rest of the russian card while I was trying to save the collage. I worked fast and intuitively  without questioning anything.

How did I knew when it was finished? When the things I kept on adding became smaller and smaller, finally so small they were almost invisible.

Still Life, a collage by Peony and Parakeet

So, my advice is that if you made something pretty, destroy it with your mistakes! And when you made a punch of them, begin enjoying your creativity and finish your work!

I try to be prepared for the “bad art” part so that I begin lightly. Starting with skecthing and watercolors makes it possible to add plenty of layers afterwards.

I would love to hear what your thoughts and experiences are on this method. Leave a comment!