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.
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.
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 …
… and sometimes they are illustrations about what’s happening around the world.
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.
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!
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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 of 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.
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 of the piece is warm and happy.
Sheila McGruer’s sun has left the sea, and it has caused an explosion of energy.
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.
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!
Terttu Laitinen has the great eye of the storm.
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.
Mackie d’Arge also has a clear focal point and lots of less defined splashes around it.
Internal Seascapes – Connect with Your Internal Energy!
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.
As children, we know what we love. I wanted to be an artist and a teacher. I wanted to write and publish books. I wanted to live with pets. When we grow up, there seem to be more possibilities, and still, they feel less. It’s not much to be a manager when you have dreamed to be an artist. This is how I have felt personally and this is why I think we should do what we have always loved. Because it feels more fulfilling than anything else.
Just recently, art has begun to feel more fulfilling and exciting than ever before. I feel I have new skills, even if I can’t fully point out what they are. I feel I have new thoughts but when I try to grab them, they seem to disappear. My mind is filled with new kind of artistic focus, and still, it’s like it has always been there, now I am just more connected to it. This makes me think that I am experiencing some kind of artistic change, moving from one phase to another.
The changing process is like a rain that starts with small drops. You can then decide whether you go back inside or get out and see what happens!
Learning from Practicing
Teaching classes have been small drops to me. As an art teacher, I see all kind of styles and seek solutions to many kinds of creative problems. I am often so excited about my students and their creations that my own art feels like a secondary thing. But while I have helped people to bring out the best of their skills and get more clarity for their creative direction, it has been a school for me too. It’s like I have got a gift from my students, being able to build my own focus in a new way. So while you have practiced, I have practiced too!
What’s Your Ambition in Art?
I have never understood the controversy between commercial approach and artistic freedom. I think we should search for the best audience to our art and find ourselves through the process. I know most of the people disagree with this. I do understand that many great art pieces wouldn’t have been born with this mindset. But my own ambition of being an artist doesn’t mean creating world-class art and being the greatest of all. I think art as a service instead of end result only. I want to understand how people experience art and develop ways to make creating as fulfilling as possible. – What’s your ambition in art?
Triptych Approach – Create with Me!
Instead of focusing on single artworks, I look for creative concepts and processes. Just recently I got an idea of a triptych. The piece would be created with three different mediums, each taking one-third of the final piece. But this triptych would have soft edges so that it would look like a one piece despite the three distinct elements. Create this triptych with me and while creating, ponder about your artistic direction!
1) Start with Colored Pencils
Color freely with colored pencils so that you fill approximately one-third of the page.
Add few small separate colored areas too.
Using Old Pencils
I use Prismacolor and Garan d’Ache Luminance pencils “officially”. For example, all the images of the e-book Coloring Freely have been colored with them. But when I am making a quick spread like this one, I often grab some odd short pencils and use them instead of the fancier ones.
2) Continue with Watercolors
Change to watercolors and paint the second third of the spread.
Try to make the transition from colored to painted areas as soft as possible.
In the end, paint an area that is separate from the main area.
3) Fill the Rest with Acrylic Paints
Paint most of the remaining blank area with acrylic paint.
Add a small painted area on the right where you have colored with pencils. Acrylic paints can be used easily over colored pencils. Don’t cover too much, let every medium show!
Go through the whole page and fine-tune the spread with colored pencils and acrylic paints.
Add little details and nuances, don’t repaint the whole page.
Here’s is my finished spread again.
5) Use Leftover Paint
If you still have some leftover paint on a palette, grab a new page and create a quick abstract!
Here’s mine, called “House with a View”.
Analysing Artistic Direction
When thinking about artistic direction, it’s natural to analyze what’s good at the end result – what do you want to take from that to move forward. But it’s as important to think about the creative process and analyze that what felt good there.
After analyzing both ways, I think that my direction is this. I have always loved art history. I want it to show in my art but in a fresh way. I want to build bridges between old art created hundreds of years ago and today’s contemporary art. My latest art class Imagine Monthly already does a lot of that. But I also want to grow as an artist so that my personal expression grows stronger and so that I can reach more like-minded people with both my art and my classes.
This is a recent art journal page made with colored pencils. I call this “Spring Bee.” It’s all about sunny spring arriving in Finland. The page is also inspired by the techniques that I discovered while writing my latest e-book Coloring Freely.
Every spring, when the first flowers pop up, I can’t resist taking photos of them. We in Finland have a long and cold winter. It’s such a joy to see colors, even subtle, again. This spring, I’ve been thinking a lot about softness and blurriness. The more I see it, a more magical the whole world looks. When taking photos, I aim for sharp details, but in the end, it’s the blurriness in the background that makes the image.
These pictures are from past springs, but they show well how distance, light, and rain cause blurriness. To my eye, blurry elements look soft, magical. It’s like they could be anything my imagination can reach! I believe that this is the way we should look at the world now and then, to see its natural beauty.
Less Stiffness – More Blurriness
When your art is less stiff, it allows the imagination to step in. It’s amazing what can appear from those blurry background layers.
I had no idea what the page would represent before the bee showed up! By freely coloring with odd, short colored pencils found from my growing collection, I continued filling the page. Like in photos, everything doesn’t have to be sharp and understandable in your art. You can let the viewer make their assumptions too.
In the end, I drew some sharp lines and colored additional dark areas on the front. These welcome the eye to explore the rest of the page.
This page has been created with colored pencils only. It has no sketching. It has been created just by coloring freely.
When the page was finished, I wrote my thoughts about the magic of blurriness on the opposite page. When I open this spread after few months, I will be happily surprised by the spring feelings.
From Observations to Coloring Techniques
When I wrote Coloring Freely, I didn’t want just to explain how to use the techniques. I wanted to guide you to observe your surroundings. With the guided observation prompts, you will realize why the techniques work and what kind of insights they are based on. That way you don’t just color rationally, but also connect emotionally.
If your images are full of stiff outlines, it’s time to explore the world with different glasses and
start coloring freely!