When the end of the year gets closer, it’s time to look back. One of the big themes in 2019 has been watercolors. I gathered the paintings, filled my art shop, and made a Christmas video for you. I hope you enjoy the video below!
Happy Watercolor Holidays!
New Painting – Splashpompom!
Here’s the newest painting called “Splashpompom”. It has citrus fruits, marshmallows, and cotton flowers, and it’s all about partying in a magical forest! I really like this one!
Here are some details. The bursting orange:
White flowers that are like soft cotton clouds and flying marshmallows:
Some happy accidents that I highlighted with care:
It’s been quite a year, and I will post more about it in the next post, but this is for watercolors and my upcoming class Magical Forest. I hope you will join! >> Click here!
Wishing Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and all the good things for you and your creativity!
These fairies really speak to me. I feel that I should have started making these story scenes a long time ago and not wasted my time for stiff self-portraits, for example.
Life in Self-Portraits
As a teenager, I stared myself at the mirror and made self-portraits all the time. Any cardboard or piece of paper had my face!
Every time I wondered if this would be a portrait of an artist: “Would my dream come true? Is this piece good or not?”
It has taken tens of years to move from literal self-reflection to expressing my emotions and my inner world. If I could turn back the time, I would peg myself to move from technique back to childish imagination, because there’s always enough time to learn the techniques, and never enough time to deepen the expression.
This is a self-portrait from a couple of years ago, and I like that the inner world finally begins to show.
However, for me, the greatest satisfaction of art is not in self-portraits or portraits in general. I want my art to move from portraits to stories, be more dynamic than just staring faces, tell about my experiences, and how I can see them in a new light. I believe that our inner world is full of stories that connect us to other people on a deep level. When I have thought about my artistic style or whether my art is “good” or “bad,” I have often neglected this story-telling aspect.
Mirimer – From a Portrait to a Story
When painting “Mirimer”, there was a magical moment when I heard my mother calling my name. She passed away tens of years ago, and I thought I had forgotten the exact tone in her voice, but the painting brought back the memory. It must have been because of the blue color, her favorite. I realized that I wasn’t painting a portrait of a fairy anymore. I was painting the story of accepting loss as a part of life.
Mirimer became a blue-hooded angel, and the drops of water got some red to indicate that life carries pain that we can’t get to choose.
Illustrating Stories by Lucas Cranach
Stories also came to my mind when I went to see Lucas Cranach’s exhibition in the Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Lucas Cranach (The Elder) and her son, Lucan Cranach (The Younger), were not only German master painters in the 16th century, but they also knew how to run an art business. They had a workshop, an illustration studio, which had many employees, a logo, a style that everyone had to follow, and they produced prints too. So even if they lived in the Renaissance, they did what most artists today dream about. They built a visual world around stories that people yearned for.
Many of the Caranachs’ stories were from Greek mythology. This painting, my favorite from the exhibition, tells a story about Actaeon turning into a stag when Diana and the nymphs splash water on him. They don’t like him to watch them, and his dogs begin to attack him too!
In the painting below, there’s Venus and her child, a little cupid. The cupid has been stealing honey and the bees have bitten him.
There’s also an old poem, written in Latin on the top corner of the painting too:
As Cupid was stealing honey from the hive A bee stung the thief on the finger And so do we seek transitory and dangerous pleasures That are mixed with sadness and bring us pain
From Portraits to Stories – 5 Tips
Allow more intuition and imagination into your process: Add splashes and other unexpected elements. Spend time with a color that speaks to you. Instead of actively painting something, spend time discovering and highlighting what already can be seen.
Grow your skills from faces to body gestures. Learn to process a shape that’s on paper, in your head too so that you can find alternative ways to continue the painting.
Play with the scale of the elements. We tend to make shapes that are all equal in sizes. But if you want to paint a tiny fairy, for example, you need huge flowers to indicate the small size.
Let go of strict outlining, and leave room for spots of light and shadows. There’s no story without the atmosphere, and the atmosphere is created by setting the lighting.
Take time to let the story unfold. Often, the stories have many layers, and the first associations are just the path to deeper ones.
Magical Forest – Discover Stories by Painting!
Paint watercolor fairies and nature’s spirits in their magical surroundings. Enjoy freeing up your expression while exploring flowery woods, shallow ponds, leaf chapels, and adventurous sceneries. Magical Forest begins on January 1st >> Sign up Now!
This week, I want to share something I don’t always do publicly: experimenting! The exploration and experimentation also have an important role in my upcoming class Magical Forest, so it’s a perfect time for some play!
Experiments are great, especially when: – you want to try out new art supplies – you are working on a bigger piece and need time to think between layers – you have a very limited time to create – you want to practice new techniques – the process feels more important than the outcome: you need just to relax
This time, I could tick all the boxes! I had bought some new pans last week. A bigger painting was in progress. It was a late evening when I started painting. I wanted to use mostly angular, not so many organic shapes than usually, and I had lots of cheap watercolor paper for fun.
Cobalt Blue Spectral – Using Color as an Inspiration
I like to start an experiment by deciding a color or a couple of colors that I particularly enjoy. This time, I had a special treat – Cobalt Blue Spectral.
I have a small local art supply store in Helsinki, Finland, called Diverse. There are bigger stores in Helsinki too, but the service is never as good. The owner always has time to talk, and he knows what he sells. I happened to mention that I loved Cobalt Blue Spectral and that it’s so sad that St. Petersburg doesn’t produce it anymore. It was just one little sentence, among many. However, the sentence was heard, and I was astonished when the owner suddenly handed me a blue pan saying: “This is the last one that I have, and it’s from my personal collection.” So now, I have this amazing color again: Cobalt Blue Spectral. It’s much brighter than the usual cobalt and quite extraordinary indeed!
I also bought a few pans manufactured by Roman Szmal. The brand name is Aquarius, and I like all the Aquarius pans I have. Here I am testing a wonderful yellow Quinacridone Gold. I can’t get enough of warm yellows, and this is the most beautiful I have had so far. It’s golden orange when it’s thick, and lovely warm yellow when thinned.
I like to paint many small studies at the same time so that when I wait one to dry, I can continue another one.
Looking for the Blank Spots
A big part of the play for me is to notice all the small little accidents, especially the blank spots, and figure out how to save and highlight them as the painting progresses.
Including Experimentation for More Serious Pieces
I like to start bigger projects with an experimental mindset too. I use a lot of water so that I can later decide which accidents to enhance and which to hide. A spraying bottle is my trusted assistant.
The size of this painting in progress is a half sheet (approximately 38 x 56 cm / 15 x 22 inches). It has 100 % cotton paper, and Cobalt Blue Spectral shows there too. Compared to the experiments, my painting pace is much slower.
My little art room has been a watercolor studio during the last weeks. I also bought a cheap interchangeable frame from Ikea and ordered a Passepartout from a local framer. Now I can easily display half-sheet paintings!
Magical Forest – Come to Paint and Experiment with me!
“Valomio” – this is one of the pieces that I have painted for the new upcoming class called Magical Forest. This class is about painting watercolor fairies and nature’s spirits in their magical surroundings. We’ll combine both intentional and intuitive art-making, and dive deeper into four artist’s mindsets – Hope, Spirituality, Flow, and Curiosity. We’ll practice by drawing art journal or sketchbook pages, and then get looser in watercolor painting. Magical Forest is not about drawing or painting with references, but growing images from our imagination.