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, stiffness of lines, 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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Get the Most Out of Art Critique

Accept Your Passion - an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet, read more about how to deal with art critique

My latest art journal page is inspired by a discussion in an art journal group. It was about how to deal with the criticism towards your art. One woman told a story which touched me deeply. Someone had accidentally seen photos of her art and asked if they were made by her little grandchildren. After that she did not feel comfortable making art again. The story made me think about how important other people’s reactions to our arts and crafts is. How much we yearn for comments and how the critique can scare us. I also share those feelings. These are my conclusions of the subject. (And yes, I have new pencils!)

1) Pick Your Specialists

Prismacolor Pencils

“Can you simplify, Paivi?”, said my teachers in so many words while I was studying industrial design. Because, in design, it all starts from the basic concepts, basic shapes and little alterations to them. I have always loved decorating. So I rushed through the first design decisions to get into adding swirls and tiny dots to the each of the designs. When I completed a sketch for a bar code reader, a teacher said: “What can I say, it is like a Russian icon painting with a flair of folk”. And he did not even know I had painted icons as a child!

“Your sketches all look the same”, he continued.
I did not get it. For me they were all so different.
– “The same shape is repeated all over again.”

When I went back home, I thought that studying industrial design was going to change me to the direction I did not like. Within a year I would be living on a white box with no carpets on the floor and wearing black glasses. But the end result was nothing like. My interest in art history and decorative art only increased within the time as practicing different styles helped me realize there’s no need to create too narrow image of my own art.

In the end of the studies, one of the teachers said to me, carelessly: We just got an application from a person who reminded you: so many details, so little simplifying! We can’t accept him in. To design is to simplify. Despite of your beginning, you do have learned that.” It meant a world to me – according to her, I was a simplifier, a designer.

In today’s world there’s a specialist for everything. I yearned for the specialist to testify, objectively. And once she did, I was happy. But later I have began to think that actually, in art, everyone has to define their own specialists. The range of art and design is huge and surely, everybody doesn’t like every piece of art.

So, don’t even expect that everybody likes your art – is a specialist of your style. Pick those that you want to please and forget the rest!

2) Improve Your Communication

Making of an art journal page, by Peony and Parakeet

An artist Ann Rea has said:  “Art is communication”. I think that focusing on what we want to say with our art is often more beneficial than focusing on the techniques. When someone comments our art, whether the feedback is positive or negative, we can always ask: “What do you see here? How does it make you feel? What do you like the most?” (Or “like the least”, if you are brave enough, and if you have chosen the person to be your specialist.)

Sometimes it is not so much about delivering a certain message, but touching people. When we are touched by our own art, it may seem suprising that others do not get touched by it. Then we need to improve our visual communication, or fill in the story verbally. (The power of art journaling!)

Instead of thinking “I want to become a better artist” you may want to think “I want to become a better visual communicator.” After that, you will often find art critique easier to swallow!

3) Set the Risk Level

Making of an art journal page, by Peony and Parakeet

If you only want to hear positive comments, set the risk level low. One way to do that is to stick with the realistic art and copy those who have a lot of general acceptance.

But if you want to find your own style and in the end, truly touch people, take more risks! Experiment, observe, let go of the definitions you use for yourself, think about before you start to create and while creating, stop thinking! You can set the risk level for each individual piece, and go higher from one artwork after another.

Once in a while, give yourself a permission to make high-risk art! Sometimes it may also be good to take high risks when asking for comments! But never let anyone to keep you away from creating when you are on the way of unique self-expression.

In need of experimenting? – Join me to an art journaling workshop!

Pre-order 21 Secrets Spring where Paivi from Peony and Parakeet will teach Artistic Embridery with Pens and Paper!

This is one of the many art journal pages inspired by embroidery techniques. Meet me at 21 Secrets Art Journaling Workshop where I will show you my favorite embroidered textiles and teach you how to imitate the embroideries with pens and paper! The perfect project if you want to stretch your style on a safe environment! The workshop begins in April, but you can preorder now!

Wrapping Paper from Newspaper

Wrapping paper from newspapers, full sheet of handdecorated gift paper

Did you know that newspapers are treasures? Neither did I before I began to wrap Christmas presents and realised that I had ran out of wrapping paper. I solved the problem by creating decorated gift paper from newspaper sheets!

Here’s the sheet in the beginning of the process.Wrapping paper from newspapers, the beginning of the process

I had three various reds of india inks which I used to color the background. Any ink would be suitable. And if you do not have ink, paint a thin layer using acrylic paints.Wrapping paper from newspapers, process photo, adding background colours

Wrapping paper from newspapers, a process photo, adding gessoAfter the background paint was dry, I painted round shapes with gesso. If you do not have gesso, use white acrylic paint. Thin, even layers are better than thick and bumpy ones. Let dry.

Finally I took a correction pen, some markers and india ink to decorate the white areas.

Ironing makes the papers smooth and shiny.

Wrapping paper from newspapers, process photo, decorating white areas

I could not help making some more. I varied the shape of white areas to make different designs.
Wrapping paper from newspapers, process photo, adding gesso to create patterns

I was pretty pleased with all the three of them!Wrapping paper from newspapers, three sheets of homemade gift paper

Who would have guessed these were just newspaper sheets in their previous lives!
Wrapping paper from newspapers, three gifts wrapped in homemade gift paper

Subconscious Art

Easter Flowers, a collage

I made this handdrawn collage yesterday when making background papers with my crafting friends. I started with black paper and added some gesso in the background for lighter areas.

I call it subconscious art when I sit with pens and paper and do not think too much of what I am doing. This time it was spring flowers, coming easter and celebrating the spring that has finally entered Finland.

TulipsI think I was already seeing these tulip sprouts blooming. We planted about 80 tulips in the autumn and I am so looking forward seeing them all in bloom!