These spreads have an impression of a messy mixed media look – collage, paints, and all – but they have been made with colored pencils only.
Confessions from a Former Art Journal Book Junkie
Let’s first turn back time over ten years when my best hobby was art journaling. My day job took a lot of time, so buying became a part of self-expression. I bought almost every possible book about art journaling and dreamed about becoming a mixed media artist.
Now when I look at these books, their examples look clumsy, sometimes even ugly. But I still get attracted by the easiness that made me buy the books: “Messy is ok, you can do it!” And so did I: mixed paints, pens, collage, and all the possible media into one spread. “Mixed media techniques” was the word that I was looking for when browsing a book store or Youtube.
Art Journals Started a Journey
These journals were all the art that I created for a long time. Like the books stated, I assumed that the messy pages would be enough to define me as an artist. In some ways, I was right. A messy art journal style was a ticket to the world of art-making, blogging, even teaching. For example, in Collageland, I use paints, pens, and scissors to create fun and messy pages.
But in 2013, when I was in a local art supply store and proudly presented one of the journals to the owner, his fake smile told me that I hadn’t even started yet. In the traditional side of art-making, that is!
Nowadays, I think of myself being a traditional artist rather than a mixed media crafter. I prefer to stick with one medium at a time and my main artworks are more on the traditional side. And I wince every time when someone calls me a mixed media artist!
But art journaling has led me to so many happy places that I don’t ever want to get too far from it. Often, I have just replaced images from magazines with my own hand drawings.
So, instead of collecting products, I can be the product. My most popular classes like Animal Inkdom and Magical Inkdom have started on that idea.
Choosing the Shortest Pencils
The best thing that I have learned from art journaling is to not over-think and just start creating. It often feels like my hand knows more than my brain. So, when I want to think further and forward, I say to my shortest pencils: “Let’s create something messy, like in the old times!”. And these little pensioners are always willing to get back to work and do what’s expected.
Using old and much-used pencils also takes off the pressure of pursuing brilliancy right from the beginning. For example, before I started building the class Intuitive Coloring, preliminary pieces were made with the shorties, and then for the actual recordings, I picked longer and more prestigious pencils.
So, when coloring a mess, do it with a small and diverse set of retired pencils that no longer care if you are a true artist or not!
Collage Imitation in Messy Art Journal Style
On the first spread, I mimicked what we used to include in our messy art journals: paper scraps, geometric stencils, scribbling, simple marks like x’s and o’s, flowers, and curves.
Just keep layering until the paper is covered, and don’t forget to mimic the glue too! Make the elements go on top of each other, or erase a part of them to make everything look integrated.
Look at my little pencils! Aren’t they endearing? I have started to carry them in a pencil case so that they are always with me, ready to be pampered.
Paint Imitation in Messy Art Journal Style
Then let’s change the mindset a bit and move from mimicking products to imitating paints. Start with stripes and small splotches and slowly grow them so that they cover more of the blank page.
When we make a mess with paints, the edges are jagged, so color freely and intentionally make errors on the shapes.
My orange rectangles represent a product, a stencil maybe, but most of the elements are more like watercolor, acrylics, or inks.
Watercolor spots have dark edges that softly fade away. By adding more colors, you can make the spots look translucent.
Acrylic paint has wider shadows, reflections of light (stripes and spots), and less transparency.
Add tiny spots too and make sure that their patterning is irregular.
Drawing all kinds of splashes and drops was so much fun that I am now thinking: could I imitate watercolor in oils. Doesn’t this prove that mess-making and traditional fine art are not so far away from each other after all?
I hope this inspired you to pick your pencils and start faux mixed media with them!
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.
Let’s give an art makeover for an old painting! The idea for this blog post came last month when I was running out of paper. Instead of traveling to an art supply store, I stayed home as was advised, and found another solution: reusing old paintings!
My starting point was practical, but the benefits were spiritual – the journey that had ended, started again. I picked pieces that were made about 30 years ago – when I was in my 20s. At that time, I studied software engineering but still felt partly an artist.
Makeover Tip #1 – Change the Subject
The paintings from the 1990s look very different from my current work, but after examining old paint strokes, I did recognize myself. Although the strokes were rougher and the shapes simpler, they were still very much the same. The subject has changed, but my love for playing with shapes never went away.
Makeover Tip #2 – Save Something Old
When revamping the painting, I like to save something from the original one. So here, I kept a part of the yellow curtain but altered its color with a thin layer of paint so that it fits with the new color scheme. Old curtain, new home.
Makeover Tip #3 – Change the Colors
The old painting has screaming colors, but I wanted something more sophisticated for the revamped version, called “Ceruleana.” As the name suggests, the new painting is a tribute to Cerulean Blue.
Cerulean Blue is an expensive but lovely color, especially when mixed with white. It makes every engineer a romantic and looks heavenly with ochre and yellow tones.
But this post is not only about blues and its hues, I have another example too! This one has a lot of Magenta (“Medium Magenta” of Golden Acrylics), and the colors are very different from the original muddy version.
Art Makeover Tip #4 – Change the Orientation
The original was an artistic self-portrait like the first one. I did those a lot back then, and in every picture, I tried to look a bit different. But my imagination never got this far! The revamped version is horizontal but here they are side by side so that you can compare.
I like how the original version is still present in the new one!
Makeover Tip #5 – Use the Old Painting as a Foundation
This magenta abstract was so much fun to make. The old painting was like a map that had roads and towns, and when trusting them to lead me to one place to another, I didn’t have to worry about composition or such. I picked the easy abstract painting style from my class Planet Color. The whole process was relaxing, and the painting is called “Cosytopia.” A place to escape the big bad world.
Extreme Art Makeover – Polish and Varnish!
Like in any makeover, why not do it to the very end! Take care that the brushstrokes are smooth where they need to be, and shapes stylish enough for a party.
If the painting has a sturdy background, varnish it too! Ceruleana was painted on a cardboard canvas, so I used a polymer varnish on it. Before the varnish, I added a layer of glossy gel medium. (A detailed post about varnishing)
Glossy varnish makes colors glow beautifully. Even if this is an old revamped acrylic painting on cardboard, it may happen that someone someday says: “Oo-oh, it’s an oil painting, isn’t it?”
I hope this post inspired you to make the most of your supplies and past artistic endeavors!
Planet Color – Weekend Sale!
My beginner painting class Planet Color is for sale between May 28th to 31st! The normal price is 35 EUR, now only 25 EUR. >> Buy here!