When I was a child, my most prevalent feeling was boredom. It felt like childhood was a long wait for things to happen, life to start. I was at the mercy of others and dreamed of the time when I could do it all by myself.
At that time, in the 1970s, there was no iPad to keep me company. Instead, I often grabbed the only picture book from the shelf where my parents kept their books. It was a softcover book about old paintings. I was staring at Monet and Manet while my mother cooked us dinner. The book wasn’t big, and the images were small. But this way, culture was introduced to me at a young age. Having this one book on the shelf, my parents unknowingly affected my life’s journey.
I was browsing the book in a colorful living room.
It had yellow, orange and red textiles and a grey sofa. Later, the colors were changed to warm green, and brown. It was all fine before my mother bought greyish mint green curtains. She was exhilarated about the color and kept talking about how well mint green fitted with the rest of the decoration. I, in turn, was in shock – cool green doesn’t fit with the warm tones! Every time I was in that room, the curtains made me feel uncomfortable. I waited for the day to pick my own palette!
My sisters were living in a red room. It also had white, so it was quite cheery, but I didn’t like the colors. Even the table had a red frame, and it bothered me quite a bit. When my sisters moved away, and the room became mine, my parents traveled to the nearest big town Joensuu to buy new wallpaper. And when they came back, surprisingly, my father, who never had anything to say about the colors, had chosen little yellow roses! “Aww … everything has to be changed to yellow now!” I cried. My mother agreed. They bought curtains that had yellow flowers, a yellow clock, a carpet that had yellow and brown, and sunny yellow bedcovers for the two beds that the room still had.
I was thinking about these colors all the time.
Did everything match? What I liked and what I didn’t like? I assumed that all people were similar, contemplating their color choices, walking around their homes, thinking about the tint of the curtains.
My first art book got abandoned when I started using the local library. It had huge books filled with master paintings. For years, I sat in the library and waited for my life to begin. I admired the colors, and Picasso and Matisse became my favorites.
At a young age, I knew that green is not only green. It could be muddy green or mint green or something between. And when I was accepted in the local icon-painting group, I also learned that there can be a strictly defined range of tones. It was so satisfying when my teacher told me that I had produced not only an acceptable but beautiful blue for the background. We all used the same amount of the same pigments, and still, every one of us had a slightly different blue. Amazing!
When walking to my home from a group session held at the cellar of the nearest church, I looked at the dark starry sky and admired its deep shade against the white snow. The number of colors that I was able to see was growing all the time.
All this seemed insignificant back then.
I was just filling the moments of boredom while waiting for my life to begin. And then, finally, I grew up, moved away, went to study, met my future husband, got a dog and a good job, built a career, bought a house.
But when I am creating, these events feel less important. Instead, I want to get back to those childhood years trying to remember every single dull moment and detail, including the tone of my yellow bedroom. I am dependable on that boredom. It defines me as an artist. Everything genuine and sincere in my art can be connected with my childhood, with the age of boredom.
Does your childhood show in your art? Do you aim for the images that you see other people create, or are you geared to finding your own? This is one of the carrying themes in Lesson 2 of Magical Forest, starting on February 1st.
Hop along! The class ends at the end of April, and you will get Lesson 1 right after the registration. >> Sign up here!
Here’s my latest oil painting called “Dreaming Ducks.” I started it in December 2017 and finished it just recently. It’s the biggest oil painting that I have made so far – 70 x 50 cm. I painted it too long, too many sessions, and lost my motivation several times. Painting became more challenging layer by layer and I demanded more of myself, never feeling fully happy what I had made.
1) Fine Art is a Stone on the Bottom of the Sea
The deeper I dive into fine art, the heavier it feels. If creativity is a sea, fine art is like a big stone on the bottom. I have to dive deep, it takes time to reach it, and then it feels so heavy, that it’s often impossible to lift it. But then, on the other hand, it’s also an anchor, the core of my visual voice and artistic identity.
But at the same time, I believe that if we only create fine art, it narrows everything. It narrows our artistic vision because we lean too much towards what is appreciated in the art world. It narrows our audience, and we no longer serve all the people we are meant to serve. It suffocates our enthusiasm because we raise the bar all the time. We forget what really matters because we block ideas based on whether it’s fine art or not.
Fine art makes us limit ourselves: “I paint abstracts only”, “I have to choose my palette and stick to it”, “I need to find my style”. When we have the mindset of a fine artist, we question what we do all the time.
2) Creative Play is the Boat Floating on the Sea
But then, there’s the surface – the fun stuff that I personally missed too many years while growing my skills to reach the big stone.
These ink drawings are like a boat to me. I acknowledge now that it’s mindless to make the diving attempts if I don’t have anything supporting me on the surface. Something like drawing witty cats! I have made many for the upcoming class Magical Inkdom!
3) We Easily Miss the Water That Connects the Two
We have been talking about the bottom of the sea and the boat, but it’s all connected, right? It’s easy to forget the water when you are going for the stone or polishing the boat! An artist friend of mine pointed out this to me. She said: “Your work always contains designs.”
Like water, it was a no-brainer: “Well yes, I used to be a designer. I like to design things.” But at the same time, it was something I hadn’t really thought about.
I went to my computer, wiped the dust from my old Intuos 4 drawing tablet, opened Adobe illustrator, and started drawing.
The blue cat got a cousin! Look how I used the motifs above to complete this digital drawing.
Three Creative Approaches
Now I think that these approaches should be the elements of every creative process: a) diving deeper to find the anchor – discovering your visual voice b) sailing happily in a little boat – playing with your imagination c) seeing the water that connects the stone and the boat – becoming more aware of your current capabilities and what you can accomplish now
When I started to see the water, I got the feeling that it’s all good. Anything that I do can be connected, repurposed, and fed back to the process. What I have dreamt can begin to happen now, not years later.
What do you think of these approaches?Can you apply them into your art? Which is the hardest and which is the easiest for you at the moment?
Here’s my newest watercolor painting called “Brave” (for sale in my art store!) I got an idea of using a horse to symbolize bravery that comes with finding your passion(s). Isn’t it a romantic thought to see the passion as a horse inside us, rising from the depth and blowing strength!
Past Passion for Horses
Recently, I have found a lot to be passionate about. Many of those things have been inspiring to me as a child. but I have let them go for tens of years. One of these things is horses. I used to play a lot with toy horses, and I was also addicted to taking care of my hobby-horse, an ugly plastic blue thing! Sadly, I rarely saw real horses and I haven’t ever had a horse as a companion.
Once my parents took me to a field where a small horse farm offered horse-riding for children. They lifted me on a big Finnish Horse that had no saddle. Someone walked the horse, and I tried to keep myself sitting straight even if the back of the horse was really slippery. I made it to the center of the field and then fell off. The field offered a soft ground, and the horse didn’t step on me. They offered me a horse with a saddle, and it was much more comfortable! That’s most of the practical experience I have about horses. But of course, my theoretical knowledge was much more vast. As a child, I had borrowed all the possible horse books from the library and stayed busy building stables or crocheting rugs for the toy horses.
Finding the Creative Play with Horses Again
It must be early teenage years when I got alienated from the subject. Since then, I had never had a desire to own a horse, to ride a horse, or to do anything with horses. Until I participated in Inktober, the monthly drawing challenge. While making this drawing, my love for horses was reawakened.
As adults, we easily ignore things that resonate with us but that don’t belong to our outer world. Even if we can draw and paint anything, we easily define ourselves with outer standards. If not having experience about real horses didn’t bother me as a child, it shouldn’t worry now either. I may not be a horsewoman in the outer world, but I can have a stable as big as I want in the inner world.
Creating Horse Art with Watercolors
I started the painting from the flowers and as usual, didn’t use any pencil sketch. It’s a bit risky way to create, but I love problem-solving and knowing exactly what to put and where is not always a practical solution for me. Here are some quick early stage pics! I used a reference loosely for the head of the horse.
I was painting happily but in the middle of the process, I was in trouble, not knowing how to finish the piece. When working with watercolors, it’s especially tempting to just stop so that the painting doesn’t end up too dark.
But here, I loved the idea and didn’t want to leave it looking unfinished and busy.
Planning in the Middle of the Project
I took a snapshot of the unfinished painting and made a plan in Photoshop. This is how I help my students all the time, and it’s a very handy skill to have!
The first image above is the starting point, and the next images are made in Photoshop. They demonstrate what changes should be made next. This time, I also followed the plan. But sometimes it happens, that I end up with a totally different solution but which would have never crossed my mind without the Photoshop play.
Late Night in the Studio
I like to paint so that I watch tv shows or video podcasts on my iPad at the same time. It can happen that I paint a romantic and profound piece and then watch a tv reality show that I can barely stand! Sometimes it feels like the worst the show, the better the painting becomes!
I hope you enjoyed this blog post! What did you love as a child but that doesn’t show in your current creative life?