In 2014, I made a business plan to quit my day job. My goal was to teach online art classes, and I listed titles that sound funny now, like “Colored Pencils Revisited.”
I presented the plan to a local business advisor. Even if she didn’t know much about teaching internationally, she felt that I should do it.
“If you fail, you won’t fall from high,” she said, referring to my modest list of investments and expenses.
Starting small is a beautiful thing. To gather what you have and mix it with something new. To revisit what mattered once and find a new intuitive way to do it again.
Revisiting – What Mattered and Still Does
As a child, I ran a craft shop in the attic. I remember the excitement when I heard my sisters on the steps and the satisfaction when my sister held a simple crochet chain and said: “Oh, Paivi, this is so long that it should be priced higher,” laying much more coins on my hand than expected.
I also remember the joy when my mother had just sharpened colored pencils. They were in a small open plastic box and ready to be picked. Many of them were too short to go to the sharpener, so my mother had used a knife. She did that weekly because the pencils got used all the time.
This project is just simple flowers in a vase, but the layering of colors in an impressionistic style makes it special.
Supplies – Colored Pencils and Paper
I used watercolor pencils but mostly dry, so you can have any colored pencils for this project. My selection has some fancy Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle pencils, but mostly old Staedler Karat watercolor pencils.
Karat pencils are getting so short that I need an extender for convenient coloring, but they look endearing and I want to give them a long life!
Step 1 – Color Circles Across the Page
Let’s begin with circles. Color a variety – full circles, half-circles, hollow and filled ones, big and small! Pick only a few colors first, and only fill a diagonal that goes across the paper.
Color lightly so that you can add more layers on the top later. If you have watercolor pencils, you can spread the colors with water.
Step 2 – Color Short Stripes on the Top
Color short stripes over the circles. Now you can use a wider variety of colors and enlarge the size of the colored area.
I arranged my pencils so that they are grouped by color families. It helped a lot in this project, especially for the color areas in the next step.
Step 3 – More is More!
Continue coloring circles and stripes in various sizes and colors so that they fill the paper.
You can have so short and tiny stripes that they are more like spots. Stripes can go in different directions. Change the orientation of the paper once in a while.
Even if you color tiny elements, divide the page into big areas. The diagonal in Step 1 is one of them. Each area can have many layers and colors but decide which color will dominate. For example, I have a blue area on the left bottom corner.
Step 4 – Color a Dark Vase
Color dark stripes on either side of the centerline to form a vase. Leave some space between the stripes so that it looks like it’s dark glass.
You can also add some shadows below the vase to make it look more like Monet’s work. I used blue for them.
Step 5 – Highlight the Best Flowers
Add more bright colors and details to make a few flowers that catch the eye more than others.
I don’t draw any outlines, but continue to color freely in short strokes.
Step 6 – Make Sure That You Have Enough Variety
Color more so that you have a wider variety of colors and shapes. See how I have used both vertical and horizontal stripes on the left top corner. They look a bit like windows or trees. Monet often had abstract elements like these in his work.
When you color more, make sure that blank paper isn’t visible everywhere. Color lightly over the areas that are less important. When they don’t have any bright white, the overall impression is less busy.
Step 7 – Finishing Like Monet
Go through your colorings one more time. Color lightly over large areas to make them look more unified and add dark spots near the best details so that they become more noticeable.
Here’s a closeup of the finished work – lots of small dots, stripes, and layers!
Colored pencils are very versatile. You can really color like Monet! I like this painterly look a lot.
Recently, my life has not been a life of a middle-aged woman, but of a female tiger. With a new puppy, we have tried to find a balance in the family, and it has felt like a fight sometimes.
At some point in every evening, I become exhausted and demand my herd to calm down. It’s usually 21:34 exactly, so it seems that we run an accurate schedule.
But there’s not much else accurate in our life, because the puppy requires us – like my husband kindly puts it – to go with the flow. We are not talking about a flow state here, but a flow of random things that keep the puppy either awake or asleep.
I feel that the puppy is like a peacock which my husband, I, and our older beagle Stella stare at – the central character of our zoo who makes us happy or miserable, and often both at the same time.
We have had stress. Stella got ill and my oldest budgie Bonneville died, both sudden events.
But when Stella got back from the hospital, I began to think that we will survive. That the peacock sometimes looks like a dove, and that the rest of us can just admire its flight through the youth.
But that would be another page for my colored pencil diary!
This week, I started a project that I have been thinking about for quite a while: a colored pencil art journal! I hope this post inspires you to keep a visual journal too.
From Mundane to Fantastic
The idea of this journal is to connect everyday events with the world of fantasy. I want it to be a visual diary that is inspired by the ordinary but still goes beyond it. I
Books and Pencils
I have kept small art journals before too, and they still feel inspiring many years later. The two old art journals below are Moleskine sketchbooks.
The new one is a blank notebook from Archer & Olive. I chose it because I really like Archer & Olive as a company, and I’ve grown to like their bright white paper for bullet journaling. The size of the new notebook is A5 (5,75 x 8,25 inches), so a little bigger than the old sketchbooks but still very manageable.
When ordering the notebook, I got a discount code, so click here to get 10% off if you haven’t purchased from Archer & Olive before.
I have been purchasing new pencils too. Yesterday, I went to Helsinki to visit art supply stores and got some colored pencils – a mixed selection to expand my knowledge of different brands. So far, I have mostly used wax-based pencils like Prismacolor Soft Core and Caran d’Ache Luminance, but now I also got oil-based Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils. I also bought some Caran d’Ache watercolor pencils and more Luminance that has been my favorite so far. I have always mixed all kinds of pencils in my drawings and continue to do so!
Starting a Colored Pencil Journal
I usually fill an art journal by choosing the pages randomly. But because this journal is about my everyday life, I wanted it to be chronological and start from the first spread. It’s exciting to see how it will change and what kind of secondary stories the images will tell.
What to Draw First?
I suggest you let your journal develop intuitively so that you move from one association to another and mix all kinds of ideas together. So often, the fantasy is in the mix, not in the single element.
My first ideas: a horse and moss greens. A horse because I love to draw them and moss because currently, our garden has plenty of it. We like it more than grass, so we are not complaining!
I don’t use water often, but now with the thick 160gsm paper, I smoothened the strokes of the bottom layer with a water brush. After drawing the moss horse, dandelions and all kinds of weeds came to my mind. Namely, while watching the puppy, I have been weeding almost daily and thinking that weeds are quite pretty too.
Let the Ideas and Associations Flow!
Then, of course, there’s this puppy, Saima! She makes me look at the leaves, twigs, stones, everything that she can find on the ground. My favorite moments in creating are those when I focus on the details and forget the surrounding world. I think Saima does the same many times in a day. For her, reality feels like a fantasy. We, adults, need to find the fantasy in our minds.
I tried Derwent’s burnishing pencil for the first time and quite liked it.
I was also inspired by rain, the wet tiles in the backyard, sunny mornings, and how I love old portrait paintings even if I can’t fully understand why. My favorite fruits are lemons, and it will be exciting to see how many times they reappear in the journal.
A spread with pencils is not a big project like a canvas painting, but can still feel satisfying, especially when the journal progresses.