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!

Making the Most of Visual Nuances

"Summer is Coming", a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet
This is my latest mixed media painting “Summer is Coming”. It has been exceptionally warm weather in Finland and all that sunshine has brought summer not only to my mind but to my painting too. I tell you now how I created the painting!

First Layers: Having Fun with Watercolors

The painting began with watercolors. I made a mess that didn’t look so good when looking at it from a distance. But it looked wonderful when taking close-up photos!

Starting a mixed media painting with watercolors, by Peony and Parakeet

After splashing the first couple of layers with a big brush, I changed to a smaller one. I painted simple shapes with soft edges and thought that maybe this will be an abstract piece.

Is This a Still life – Again?

Mixed media painting in progress, by Peony and Parakeet

But after a while, it looked like a still life! I must admit that I have developed some kind of obsession for still lives. I have loved them for a long time already. But recently it has begun to feel that anything could be expressed with them. Well, a Finnish artist Miina Äkkijyrkkä has painted and sculpted cows for all her life, so still lives might not be so bad …

More Details with Colored Pencils

With colored pencils, I made the flowers more distinct. I wanted to work as softly as I could so that the delicate look of watercolor paint would still be dominating.

Almost There – Visual Nuances

Then I entered the actual finishing phase. This is what I call “Almost There” phase. It is the point where many just call the painting finished, and they try not to think about it too much. But if I am teaching a class, I encourage people to continue. One way is to show them what they can do next. So I open the photo of the painting in Photoshop and make little adjustments. With these suggestions, I try to add more visual communication and interest to the painting. Sometimes a little spot of color can make a big difference! See what kind of suggestions I made for my painting!

Adding visual nuances - suggestions for finishing a mixed media painting, by Peony and Parakeet

What’s the Magic of Using Photoshop for Suggestions?

One thing is that I can zoom as far as I can. Another thing is that I can try out different kind of adjustments without making a mess. I don’t do this often for my paintings, but I wanted to show you how little guidance can take the image to the next level. This is one thing that an art teacher can do: show you how you can fine-tune your work so that it has those visual nuances that make the painting more dynamic and alive.

Finished Painting

Here’s the painting after finishing it according to the suggestions. I used colored pencils and white gesso for the final details.

"Summer is Coming", a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

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Less Sketching, More Creativity!

Fairytale, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

Did you see my latest video: “Art is a Conversation”? I have made this piece by applying the principle presented in the video: letting one detail lead to another. No sketching involved!

The Creative Process with No Sketching Involved

I picked a random background made with watercolors and started adding collage pieces. They, in turn, inspired me to paint some elements with watercolors.

Starting point for a mixed media painting, by Peony and Parakeet

Here are the first steps:

Creating a mixed media painting without sketching by Peony and Parakeet

Why Sketch? Why Not?

You might feel the need for sketching because filling the blank page feels too scary. Some people want to sketch because they find it difficult to bring ideas that lead to something. If they create a collage, the result is just an evenly spread pattern and then what?

Dogs have taught me many things. One thing is to focus on the present. I try to teach them new things by dividing them into small steps. When I focus on explaining the next step only, they will listen and respond. They will do their best to understand and make most of my advice.

Paivi's beagles Cosmo and Stella from Peony and Parakeet

My beagles say: Stay close, focus and stop controlling what we can’t comprehend yet.

Those principals can be applied to art making too. Add new element close and partly on top of another. Enjoy each stroke, each color, and shape at a time. Stop worrying about the areas where you have not reached yet. Let creating grow your thoughts instead of being fixed to one idea.

Creating a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

When I reached the upper right corner, I saw a watercolor splotch that looked a little bit like a fairytale princess, so I quickly emphasized those shapes!

Creating a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

I believe that too much sketching brings too much stiffness: the stiffness of ideas, the stiffness of lines, the stiffness of composition.

Paivi and her beagle Stella from Peony and Parakeet

When we try to create with control, it is like trying to trace better than dogs do. We can guide them to sniff, but we also have to let them do the job.

Fairytale, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

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Put Thoughts and Feelings into Your Art

A Dream, intuitive art, a watercolor painting with colored pencils and white gesso by Peony and Parakeet.

I am excited to start the fall season with a video blog post! I will create the mixed media painting above from start to finish and show the atmosphere of my creative space as authentically as I can. I will also talk about Inspirational Drawing, my online drawing workshop that will begin in September!

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