How Inktober Helped Me To Cure a Creative Block

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet and her ink drawing on a Nuuna sketchbook.

This month, I am participating in a daily drawing challenge called Inktober. My goal was to make 10 ink drawings based on the first ten official prompts. I have passed the goal, and now I am trying to make as many as I can. As an experience, this challenge has had a ground-breaking effect on me. With Inktober prompts, I have discovered a creative block and cured it!

Supplies

For the first five drawings, I used black pens and inks from the stash. My illustrations have been quite detailed, so they take a lot of ink. I have made some purchases and will need more pens if I keep going. Here’s what I have currently in use!

Nuuna Square Bang Sketchbook and drawing supplies

I make the drawings on Nuuna Square Bang Sketchbook. It is 9,5 x 9,5 inches, which is a good size for daily work. The basic pens are Copic Multiliners. The tip sizes that I now have are 0.1, 0.3, and 1.0. I am planning to purchase 0.05 too because I like to draw small elements! I also have a Pentel brush pen for larger areas. I love this pen. It is refillable and comes with extra ink tanks. The brush is wonderfully soft and precise and the ink flows effortlessly.

My Expectations – Stretching to a More Masculine Zone

I started the challenge with an open mind. Building Watercolor Journey was a huge workload. I wanted to make a comprehensive class, and it took a lot of my time during the summer. Now when I got the self-study version available, I wanted to reward myself by taking part in the challenge. My idea was to draw what I love, the only limitations being that I had to use black ink and follow the prompts.

Because Inktober is mostly for fantasy artists, the themes are very different than what I would choose. Many of the prompts are about the darker side of life, but I thought that little stretching would do me good. The biggest fear that I had was that the people who follow me on social media would totally ban me. I knew that because of the prompts and the black ink, my work would look more masculine than before. But I didn’t expect anything ground-breaking to happen regarding my style or visual voice. But something did happen, quite unexpectedly.

Discovering a Creative Block

When I picked a pen and started drawing the first image, I heard myself saying: “Paivi, be careful.” The tone was gentle but the voice was definitely of my inner critic. And as soon as I wondered what I should be careful about, an old drawing came to my mind. It was a black ink drawing as well, an exercise for the first class that I took in industrial design. We had to make a series of images showing the product, and mine was a hilarious collection of detailed drawings showing all the enthusiasm I had for industrial design back then. I don’t remember the exact words that my teacher used but I got the message that it was all wrong, a bit pathetic even. I should be more systematic and not so decorative.

It was a critique that was beneficial for an industrial designer but totally irrelevant and wrong for a person who is more of an artist and illustrator. But back then, I was not able to see that the direction that I was heading was different so I took it deep into my heart. I also remember some other situations during my studies when I was accused of being too decorative. That was good for me back then, opening my eyes for expressing the form instead of the surface only. But now when working in the field of art, the situation is different.

So when I heard the whisper to be careful, it meant that I should not be too decorative when drawing industrially manufactured items like syringes that I intended to include in the first drawing. Becoming aware of this block has turned a new page in my artistic path.

Inktober #1 – Poisonous

Maybe sometimes we think that something is poisonous when it’s not?

Poisonous - Illustration by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Entry for Inktober 2018.

While drawing the first entry for the challenge, I allowed myself to be as decorative and detailed as possible. I accepted the union of industrial objects and more abstract elements and went with the flow. Here’s to those past student years!

Inktober #2 – Tranquil

To me, tranquility and yarn go hand in hand. In the evenings I like to knit, cross-stitch, or quilt to calm myself down. So it’s like the threads and yarn tie little moments happened during the day together. The day that felt chaotic in the afternoon becomes tranquil and meaningful before I go to sleep.

Tranquil - Illustration by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Entry for Inktober 2018.

The second insight came with the second prompt. I haven’t even considered myself a surreal artist, but the drawing came out so naturally that it started to make sense.

Inktober #3 – Roasted

After starting to work from home, I have been forced to get deeper into the world of cooking. I have made some disastrous meals because I don’t like to follow recipes and don’t have much experience either. But now, after four years, I have found a way that works quite often. I buy good ingredients. I study several recipes and then figure out what my version could be. I use a timer a lot, just because I am often in my thoughts and don’t realize how minutes fly. I like roasted vegetables, especially roasted carrots, so this is for them!

Roasted - Illustration by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Entry for Inktober 2018.

With the third prompt, I wanted to try if I could make something out of less romantic subjects that I would normally choose. Here, I found drawing the oven most inspiring which was an interesting observation. Is the industrial designer raising her head?

Inktober #4 – Spell

I connect the spell with the atmosphere of the inner world. It could be like a cloud hanging over the scenery, sending sounds and lighting candles. I haven’t been a big fan of fantasy novels or such, but when I am creating, the fantasy can easily take over!

Spell - Illustration by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Entry for Inktober 2018.

The prompt was a weird one for me, but the result is the old average. It didn’t feel so comfortable anymore. Something was lacking there.

Inktober #5 – Chicken

Something big is happening and the change feels scary.
– “I can’t do it! I have to protect what I already have.”
And then the whole universe shouts “Chicken!”
You can’t stop the change. You need to follow the eggs.

Chicken - Illustration by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Entry for Inktober 2018.

The fifth drawing started as a funny one, but at the end, it felt like it was speaking about me. Consciously, I didn’t have any idea what had changed but it felt that I can’t keep on creating like before.

Inktober #6 – Drooling

When your mind is drooling for beauty so that you feel you are eating all the forbidden fruits.

Drooling - Illustration by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Entry for Inktober 2018.

In this drawing, it became visible and clear to me that my creative block had forbidden me to draw decorative items that I adore. I love high fashion, jewelry, elegant fabrics, tassels, pearls, fur, you name it. I don’t grave them so that I would like to wear or own them but my world of fantasy never has a lack of this luxury. I have always thought this is a superficial characteristic in me, but this attitude feels too restricting now when I am more conscious of it.

Inktober #7 – Exhausted

Here’s how I define the exhaustion of the 21st century: You have done too much, and it feels like you have done nothing yet. You have too much stuff to sort out, and it feels like you haven’t got all you need. You are at the bottom of the big pile, and the clock is ticking: “Don’t forget! You are late!”

Exhausted - Illustration by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Entry for Inktober 2018.

When drawing like this, I feel the satisfaction that I have never had before. It’s not that this way of expression would be technically more brilliant than my best work so far or superior to what everybody else does. It’s just that it’s like looking myself in the mirror, seeing all the goods and bads, and accepting what’s there. Isn’t it so that no matter how much you admire other artists if you imagine their work to be yours, it feels empty or defective in some ways? At least to me, there are hundreds of artists that I admire passionately and would happily hang their paintings on my walls, but if I were the one creating them, my fingers would itch to change something.

Inktober #8 – Star

Even if I work from home and live an extremely boring life (if you look at it from outside that is), I am a nomad, we all are. We get it when Harley-Davidson advertises motorcycles with the slogan: “Everything you need, nothing you don’t.” It’s about The Freedom – a full-designed package of service including a couple of woven carpets, one string of prayer flags, five long minutes of photographing bokeh and flares on the mountains, a ride downhill feeling a warm wind and hearing the sound of the beautifully polished engine. Some change the motorcycle to a horse or even to a Corvette, but it’s all the same, here’s to The Freedom!

Star - Illustration by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Entry for Inktober 2018.

During the challenge, I have not only found new ways to draw, but I have also discovered that I am bursting with stories! Most of the stories are connected with items that have a symbolic meaning to me.

Inktober #9 – Precious

We get excited about a new thing. The next thought is that we need the products. All the products. Happened to me so many times! But hey, let’s not get lost in the products. Discovering yourself is more precious than any product.

Precious - Illustration by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Entry for Inktober 2018.

What if the challenge wouldn’t have the restriction of supplies, and what if it wouldn’t be specifically for inks, related to my creative block? It’s possible that nothing would have changed. Seeing the stream of simple drawings and how they change one after another, has brought such clarity that I wonder how many times the creative blocks hide under products. When I have bought a new set of this or that, have I subconsciously avoided the block?

Inktober #10 – Flowing

In the Renaissance, the strong currency called Florin enabled the birth of financial professionals like bankers. Today, their working environment looks very different, and the change may feel vast, but that’s only if we keep our perspective narrow.
The facts:
Renaissance was about 500 years ago.
The age of the earth: 4,5 billion years.
The age of our universe: 13.8 billion years.
Here’s to honor all who work in finance but also to remind how money is just a tiny island in the flowing ocean of time.

Flowing - Illustration by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Entry for Inktober 2018.

As a former engineer, I believe in the power of knowledge. But it’s new that I want to express that in my art too!

Inktober #11 – Cruel

Life can be cruel. It throws more and more for those who already have plenty while those who have nothing can’t get anything.

Cruel - Illustration by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Entry for Inktober 2018.

This prompt was not an easy one. I felt sadness and shame. But once I got the idea,  I had to draw it out.

Inktober #12 – Whale

Love makes us brave. No matter how timid we are, we can do anything for those who we love.

Whale - Illustration by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Entry for Inktober 2018.

During Inktober, I have found a way to connect the things that I love from storytelling to decorative designs and illustrational art. So far, it has brought a new sense of happiness in my artistic path. It’s also a scary feeling – what will happen next, what will I do with all these? Time will tell!

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Finding Your Purpose in Art – Remember that You Never Create Just for Yourself!

A Day in The Garden, a watercolor and ink painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read her thoughts about finding the purpose for your art making!

Here’s my latest small mixed media painting called “A Day in The Garden.” I used Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus Fine Art Watercolors and Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Inks for making it. Like the title says, the inspiration for the painting came from the time spent in the garden.

Garden Inspiration – For the Beauty of Tulips

Tulips from Paivi's garden, see her garden inspired art at www.peonyandparakeet.com

Even if the spring is about two weeks behind this year in Finland, we had a lovely weather last Sunday. The tulips were blooming, and I decided to go out and do some weeding to make them stand out.

As I was working in the sun, I soon warmed up. When putting away my cotton cardigan, I noticed a little red robin watching me. He sat in the bushes but had a curious look on his face. As I often talk to my budgies, I couldn’t help myself telling him how fine looking little bird he was. He clearly enjoyed my voice because he flew closer. He must have been a young bird as it didn’t take long before he was so close that I could almost touch him!

Garden Inspiration – For the Nourishment of A Red Robin

Dr. Ph. Marten's Hydrus Watercolors and Bombay India Inks. A photo by Paivi Eerola, a visual artist from Finland.

As the little bird grabbed an insect in his beak, I realized why he was so interested in me. Working the soil made it easier for him to find food. In the first place, I had thought about having some me-time in the garden and making room for beauty, but then unexpectedly I had got an audience, a client even! It caused me to think how similar it is with art. In the beginning, the practice can be very self-serving, but art never lives in a vacuum. Even if we would hide our pieces, art always has an impact on its surroundings. If not directly, then through our actions.

Making of a mixed media painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Purpose Needs People

Our soul-searching through art making can start similarly as the day in the garden, with an intention to spend some time with beauty. But as we progress, we begin to yearn for a deeper meaning. I believe that this purpose is related to people. Even just thinking about sharing art with other people brings in a wider perspective, a bigger vision, and more ways to use the imagination. No matter whether you ever share, sell, blog or show your pieces to anyone, you can still work with the themes like opening up, finding words that boost your art-making process, and imagining the people you want to connect with through your art.

Mixed media painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

If we focus on style issues only, we will never see the whole ecosystem. We are like gardeners who sweat for their tulips but miss the impact on their environment.

Ideas Change but the Passion Stays the Same

A detail of a mixed media painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read her thoughts about finding the purpose for your art making!

In a coaching program The Exploring Artist, I talk about finding “Your People.”  There may be only one red robin in the beginning, but recognizing that they do exist is inspiring. Imagining what you can be for them is a big thing when you want to find a passion and a direction for your art making.

A detail of a mixed media painting. Dr. Ph. Marten's Hydrus Watercolors and Bombay India Inks. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read her thoughts about finding the purpose for your art making!

Namely, your targets of interest can and should change all the time. But your passion stays the same for a much longer period. You don’t have to create similar pieces again and again. You can freely explore the world of art and imagination. Your red robins will follow you because they know that you’ll always find something that benefits them too.

An American singer-songwriter Conor Oberst has said:
“Art is essentially communication. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum. That’s why people make art, so other people can relate to it.”

Sign up for The Exploring Artist to discover the passion behind your art
and to become more confident with the big word “artist”!

Begin Like a Crafter, Finish Like an Artist

Waiting for Snow, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

Here’s what I made today: a mixed media painting with a Christmas theme. When I began creating, I had no idea that this will express the season. I didn’t even start with a blank paper but cut a piece of a big pre-painted watercolor paper. It had just careless splotches of color, and I had painted it months before to wait for the right moment. I had just enjoyed knitting some old sock yarn into socks, so I thought to use up that paper with the same mindset: using what I already have and making that more inspirational.

Begin Like a Crafter

I picked a black Zig drawing pen and started doodling without any idea in my mind. I often think about knitting or crocheting when I doodle. I feel more like a crafter than an artist at the beginning of the process. Exploring the paper with a pen is like crocheting with a hook and yarn. It’s much more relaxing than trying to find a grand idea first. When you start as a crafter, you are ready to do the work. You don’t expect miracles to happen, you know you just have to keep on going, and it will get easier after a while.

Begin like a crafter, learn to start creating intuitively, by Peony and Parakeet

After filling most of the paper with crossing lines, I felt that there was a lack of connection between the drawing and the background painting. They looked like they were two separate layers, each made by a different person. But because I had used a good quality watercolor paper, I was able to add water and wipe off color here and there so that the layers began to interact.

Removing watercolor paint to make the painting more vivid. By Peony and Parakeet.

Again, I felt like a crafter adding stitches that would tie the two layers together. I also used white and black colored pencils to enhance the effect.

Begin like a crafter, learn to start creating intuitively, by Peony and Parakeet

Find Routines that Start the Change

Working with black is my thing. It always brings in more excitement, more drama, and my identity begins to change from a crafter to an artist. This time, just holding a black pencil, made me want to start painting. I picked few bottles of India ink first.

Using India inks in mixed media painting. By Peony and Parakeet.

My brush felt stiff, and the shapes that I painted were controlled and modest. But I knew I just had to keep going. There were times when I stopped too soon, and I have seen that happening to many people too. When you stop too soon, you are still too much of a crafter. You try to focus, and you don’t feel like doing anything risky.

Begin like a crafter, learn to start creating intuitively, by Peony and Parakeet

I changed to white acrylic paint to get more ideas and contrasts. There were some round shapes on the paper, but I had no idea what they could be.

Begin like a crafter, learn to start creating intuitively, by Peony and Parakeet

Finish Like an Artist – a) Do Something Risky

After spending some time painting, I was ready to take risks. All I needed was to choose a little black ink bottle and turn on Jean-Michel Jarre’s Stardust, a song that always gets me into the flow. Uncontrollable black brush strokes felt scary, and of course, there’s a risk of “ruining everything”. I often set an area, where I don’t go. This time I decided to be as wild as I want but leave the center of the biggest bubble alone.

Black ink for a mixed media painting.

Before doing this phase, I convince myself that my subconscious knows what I could bring up from the mess because I have been staring that for a while already. I often repeat the words “trust” and “knowledge” before I turn to the music. I try to be as quick as I can and focus on adding more speed to my brush. This short phase where I leave the crafter behind is the most enjoyable thing in creating. I feel free while pushing the limits of my creativity.

Finish like an artist, learn to let go when painting, by Peony and Parakeet

Finish Like an Artist – b) Bring in the Intention

After adding those black strokes and splotches, I knew what I was expressing: holiday decorations on this black Christmas. In the southern Finland where I live, all the snow melt away just before Christmas Eve. I had taken photos just a couple of days ago that connect well with the painting. In this last phase, I try to find the fastest and most natural route to finishing the painting and focus more on composition and clarity than trying to make the image other than what it seems to be already. Accepting that my image can go to the area that is unknown to me at the beginning of the process, allows me to be less stiff.

Waiting for Snow, a mixed media painting with Christmas photos that complete the imagenery. By Peony and Parakeet.

I find it so fascinating that art is a combination of knowledge and letting go. There are clear guidelines for communicating visually such as how to set your composition. And still, it’s also about taking all that knowledge and jumping into the unknown. Every day, I want to know more and then, relax more!

Beagles at Christmas. By Peony and Parakeet.

First Lesson of Inspirational Drawing 2.0 – Start with a Mood, Finish with an Image!

Like knitting starts from the first stitch, drawing starts from the first line. Somewhere between the lines the transformation happens and the crafter changes to an artist. The ideas grow with the imagination. Moods turn to motifs, motifs to modules, modules to streams, streams to images.

Learn to enjoy drawing! Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0! An art class by Peony and Parakeet.

The first lesson of Inspirational Drawing 2.0 will be published on January 1st. This is the class you don’t want to miss! Every lesson takes you further in enjoying drawing from inspiration and imagination! I will help you create unique art in unique ways that will make you absorb the knowledge and then let your ideas grow.

Learn to enjoy drawing! Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0! An art class by Peony and Parakeet.

Enjoy drawing from inspiration and imagination!
>> Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0

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!

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