Art Journal Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect

Every time I buy a new blank sketchbook, I get the feeling that I should not make a mess on it. But then, my art journals are meant for maintaining artistic inspiration, and messy making is part of that too. I often create pages in many phases and my art journals are never perfect in a way that they would have high-quality art all over. But I think that the imperfections make the books more approachable and more inspiring.

On this video, I show pages of my two Moleskine sketchbooks. If you are new to art journaling or would like to introduce this wonderful hobby to your friend or relative, share the video!

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

Let Unconventional Inspire You

"Leftright Wrongright", a watercolor collage using rubber stamps by Peony and Parakeet

You know I love beautiful and decorative things. But the more I create, the more I feel that creating art should be expression first, aesthetics second. This watercolor collage is called “Leftright Wrongright” and it is about how sometimes the old wrong and unconventional can be the new right.

Rubber Stamp Art

If you think of experimental and avant-garde, would you ever consider using rubber stamps? In that context, they are the most boring thing. They are the absolutely wrong choice when you want to create unique and advanced art. But as my mission was to express how wrong can be right, I just could not resist taking the risk and using them! I painted the background with watercolors and then started stamping.

Rubber stamping over watercolored surface. Stamp art by Peony and Parakeet

I only stamped once with each of the stamps. That way they were seen as individuals, not as a bunch of clones. I have used this principal before too, see Can Rubber Stamping be Art and Make Samplers to Save Bits and Pieces.


Watercolors are my trusted friend. They make the best backgrounds but also, they make rubber stamps look much more interesting. After the whole background was covered with stamped images, all different from each other, I added water and brushed the water-based ink to blend with watercolors.

Diluting the color of rubber stamps by Peony and Parakeet

With the big brush, I doodled this and that thinking fierce fully about destruction and bravery.

Painting with Watercolors by Peony and Parakeet.

With a smaller brush, I added details and enhanced them with colored pencils.

Adding colored pencils over watercolours by Peony and Parakeet

Imitating Rubber Stamps

To make the stamped images even more individual, I added hand drawing to make few of them bigger and more handmade. Thin drawing pen is great for imitating rubber stamps that have delicate details.

Doodling around rubber stamps by Peony and Parakeet


When I worked with this artwork, it became clear to me that the final touches are crucial here. I should not only do what I usually do but add something that is against the rules, disrespectful even. First, I doodled with a white gel pen and let the doodling look a bit dreadful. Then, I grabbed a piece of paper, painted red and yellow with heavy acrylic paint. The unsophisticated color and the clumsiness of the shapes when I cut it made it look so wrong.

"Leftright Wrongright", creating a watercolor collage using rubber stamps by Peony and Parakeet

But I finished this artwork with a new attitude. As I wanted to express that sometimes we need to do things that make us feel uncomfortable, I needed to break my ordinary rules. I added few rough elements without over-decorating them. They are the wrong that make the right spin. They make me question: do right and wrong exist at all when creating art? If we think that unconventional is wrong, are we denying the true power of art and where it can take us?

"Leftright Wrongright", a watercolor collage using rubber stamps by Peony and Parakeet

Hopefully, this inspires you to add something wrong to your art, and make it right!

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

Art Journaling with Still Lives

Stay Still, the art journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet

For the last couple of years, I have feel drawn to still lives. I even have the Pinterest board of the ones that I especially like. I used to think that old still lives are very conventional but they really are not! There can be anything happening in the painting, like a squirrel running on the table, and there can be a wide variety of objects too. And even the flowers look magical! Art journaling has a lot to learn from the old masters.

So, I thought it could be a fun concept to create still lives by applying the tips from the previous blog post.  I could combine odd paper pieces and doodles with text and create surreal art journal pages.

A detail of an art journal page spread, by Peony and Parakeet

I kind of like how this first still life combines conventional elements like flowers with the more surreal ones, like the eye. The same contradiction is also seen in the colour scheme: bright purples look mystical when combined with olive greens and warm browns.

Group the elements!

The principal of composition in still lives is simple. Just group the elements closely together!

Unfinished art journal pageMy art journals often have unfinished pages with elements here and there. This page had some doodles and a small illustration that I had drewn for a surface pattern. I often glue odd pieces to my art journals to save them. A page like this can be a great starting point for a still life!

I started working this page by adding the text so that it creates the vase for the flowers. I emphasized that with colored pencils. Then I colored the soft background with colored pencils. The softness is a great contrast to the graphic element on the bottom.

2 art journal pages by Peony and Parakeet

The third still life is formed around a doodle found on another page. It included just the bird and the flowers. I added the pot, stamped the text, colored the doodles with colored pencils and finally created the background with markers.

Why are these pages so fast and simple?
1) The starting point does not have to be grand, just some doodles, or paint, or odd pieces of paper.
2) Stamping few words tie the oddly placed elements easily together.
3) Coloring does not have to take a lot of time when it adds something new to the page.

More still lives
Watercolor 101 for Intuitive Painting – my video introduces an easy method which is especially suitable for surreal still lives and landscapes
A Formula for Composition – another way for creating a still life
Stretch Your Style – instructions to step out of the comfort zone, showcasing one of my favorite still lives

Visual Chronicles and Fast Art Journaling

In the newsletter sent 5th November, I mistakenly sent a wrong link, here’s the link to the latest video

An art Journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet

In Finland, the weather got colder last week and I got a terrible flu. It is so frustrating to be able to do nothing but sleep. Being healthy feels so important then!

If there’s anything positive in lying down and doing nothing, it’s the creative break. It is weird how much processing time some things require. In 2006, I saw a new book in It was called Visual Chronicles. It was nothing like I had seen before and I felt strangely drawn to it. I was mesmerized by the concept of creating relaxed pages combining text, paint, simple illustrations and photos. Art journaling was a new word in my vocabulary.

Visual Chronicles, an art journaling book by Linda Woods and Karen Dining

I took the book everywhere. While reading it, I tried to understand what it is actually about. I picked a blank book and tried to fill its pages. It was so disappointing to see how horrible my pages looked and furthermore, I did not have good time when I created them. I browsed the book over and over again. I could not get it!

But I did not give up. During the time I bought more books and made more experiments. I also noticed that there seemed to be other people doing the same thing. I took some online courses and finally… My first art journal was finished in 2010! (See the journal and my first blog post about art journaling)

Four years of agony! And now when I read Visual Chronicles, everything that I had learned stands there so clearly! However, there was still one thing that had been bothering me from 2006. The pages in the book are very simple and still I find most of them visually appealing. But if I tried to do the same, the end result was nothing alike.

After sleeping two full nights and the day between, I finally figured it out! It is the stamped journaling that makes the pages stand out in the book! I had never tried to stamp the words as I have always hated handling the alphabet stamps. But I do own two sets and had many pages waiting for journaling!

Using alphabet stamps in art journaling

Now I am hooked!

My mind is like a paradise, an art Journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet

“Sometimes my mind is like a paradise”

My life, an art Journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet

“My life, my problems”

Small changes, an art Journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet

“Small changes, big impact”

Swim like a bird, an art Journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet

“Swim like a bird”

Visual Chronicles by Linda Woods and Karen Dinino is still one of my favorite art journaling books. It does not take art journaling too seriously. Linda and Karen also have a blog which is written with the same humorous attitude. “If you are alive you have succeeded” is one of their recent advices. While still recovering, it feels very relevant at the moment!

Tips for fast art journal pages:
1) Divide the making of the page into three phases: a) doodling with a black pen b) coloring the doodles c) adding the text
2) Use colored pencils for easy coloring. A Moleskine Notebook and the colored pencils work really well together.
3) Add the text by grouping stamped words with the doodles. Use big and small stamps to create contrasts.
4) Let your personal history of art journaling get recorded into your journals! If I could turn back time, I would not toss those first pages.
5) Buy the book: Visual Chronicles

Surface Patterns for Hot Summer Days

Summer spread in a Smash Book, by Peony and Parakeet

This July has been wonderful in Finland. I have enjoyed gardening and photographing and it shows in my art journal too.

Summer flowers by Peony and Parakeet

Both the wildflowers and flowers in the garden look great with a dark background. So when I made the drawing with colored pencils, I added some shadows too. Great way to express sunshine is to combine black with yellow!

But my main focus was on summer fabrics. It is so much fun to design prints for summer dresses.

Art journaling about summer fabrics by Peony and Parakeet

The collage of the left is an old one. A sketch for a surface pattern made in 2011. It was made by cutting circles from handdecorated papers. This time I replicated the design by cutting circles from stamped papers.

Summer crafting by Peony and Parakeet

The summery prints are mostly made by stamping here. Paper scraps like old scrapbooking papers can be altered easily with markers, colored pencils and stamps. I always try to add subtle color variation in the background to keep the result interesting. Thinking about shadows help here too.

As you can see, my colored pencils are always with me! Hopefully your summer has been as wonderful as mine!

Make Samplers to Save Bits and Pieces

Samplers by Peony and Parakeet, using stamping and embroidery

My sampler madness began when I found an unfinished embroidery project. I had started it two years ago on an online course called Happy-Go-Lucky Stitchalong. It was led by Amy Powers and the goal was to embroider a sampler showing all the things that make you happy.

An embroidered sampler by Peony and Parakeet, a phase photo

It was only a two-week course and I got some more squares done than what is shown here but there was still plenty to go. I had dyed the fabric with monoprinting method and quite liked it. I was not happy with all the embroidery that I had made but I felt compelled to finish this project. The embroidery floss I had to finish this looked so tempting!

Embroidery floss

So I began to work little every day for a couple of weeks. Some of the squares were remade and some were complemented with extra stitches.

Stitching an embroidered sampler, by Peony and Parakeet

In the end I added some more details to the background fabric using the same method than in the beginning. By using a glass plate and textile dye I was able to prints some more color and doodling to make the result even more interesting.

Monoprinting fabric, by Peony and Parakeet

I painted the frame with bright coral red to create an athmosphere of hot summer days (which I love and which are all too rare in Finland).

An embroidered sampler, sampler ideas by Peony and Parakeet

I am pretty happy with the finished piece. Can you spot a peony and a parakeet there?

While stitching the sampler, I was thinking about samplers in general. They can be really handy of saving things. Even virtually! Isn’t Pinterest like a big sampler too?

An embroidered sampler, sampler ideas by Peony and Parakeet

I chose not to spend an extra hour at Pinterest but make a stamped sampler showcasing some of my favorite stamps.

Phase photo of a stamped sampler, by Peony and Parakeet

Folk style suits well to samplers so I decided to make a sampler that reminds me of folk costumes. I doodled around the stamped images to get extra details. Then I colored them with colored pencils and markers.

Phase photo of a stamped sampler, by Peony and Parakeet

Thinking of folk costumes, I got the idea of adding buttons in the middle of each square. They all had to be different, of course. That way they would repeat the idea of a sampler too.

Adding buttons to a stamped sampler, sampler ideas by Peony and Parakeet

Before sewing the buttons I had painted the frame with faux antique paint. Many folk costumes use a lot of lace and ribbons so I picked all the stamps which were like them. Luckily I had so many that I was able to use each once and get the decoration around the frame.

Rubber stamped sampler inspired by folk costumes, sampler ideas by Peony and Parakeet

While making this sampler I got the idea of a sampler made from handdecorated papers. Wouldn’t it be cool to have an art journal page showcasing the scraps of papers? Or just coloring and drawing 9 squares while on vacation, one per day and then gather them into a sampler. Or giving each family member a square … The possibilities are endless!

Rubber stamped sampler inspired by folk costumes, sampler ideas by Peony and Parakeet

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

Can Rubber Stamping Be Art?

Rubber stamping and hand drawing by Peony and Parakeet

I love to explore the fine line between making art and creating crafts. One morning I woke up questioning myself: “Could rubber stamping be art?”  I posted the question on Twitter and got one answer. It was “I would think so.” Yes, I would think so too! The only problem left was: how to stamp so that the result still has my style and does not look too mechanical.

Rubber Stamping without Repeats

I decided to create flowers that have stamped centers but hand drawn pedals.  I used each stamp only once. It is so tempting to stamp one more time with the same stamp! But if you avoid repeats the result looks much more genuine! The only stamp that I used more than once was the leaf stamp. Even the leaf could be different each time, but I ran out of the different shapes.

Rubber stamping and hand drawing by Peony and Parakeet, phase 1

I used black ink and doodled the pedals with a thick black marker. That way the doodles looked pretty similar to the stamped images.

Rubber stamping and hand drawing by Peony and Parakeet, phase 2

Then I colored the stamped areas and hand doodles with markers. And finally, of course: added even tinier hand drawn details with black markers and white correction pens!

Rubber stamping and hand drawing by Peony and Parakeet, a detail

The result is a decorated paper with plenty of flowers but with this concept: using each stamp only once and adding doodles by hand you can create even complex illustrations – something that could be called art!

Here’s another example, made in 2013. In this project, I have used corner stamps that I have borrowed from my friend. They are not placed in corners but stamped to all directions. Then I added doodling. Thin black pen goes well with stamped motifs.

Doodling with stamping.

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