When I was a child, I wanted to be the Queen of England. It was the greatest thing I knew. We lived modestly in a small Finnish town near the Russian border. On Sundays, when we got a thick newspaper and bought a women’s magazine from the local kiosk, we talked about royals in Europe. The greatest of all was Queen Elizabeth, of course. I admired her so much that I got a flower bench under my bedroom window and roses called Queen Elizabeth planted on it.
Queen Elizabeth was my queen back then and still has been. She has been our queen for so long that she has seen more than most of us. With her, a time period that a single human can comprehend and remember vividly now goes away.
We, Finnish people, remember the queen’s visit to Finland in 1976. When my parents saw our politicians taking her to a forest in a walking suit, they were upset and ashamed. I remember my mother sitting on the sofa horrified and even a child understood that our love for forests could have been presented in a more sophisticated manner. But we didn’t get any headlines where the queen would complain about her circumstances, and in fact, we haven’t got much of those during all these years.
So here’s to Queen Elizabeth one more time. She inspired me to dream about jewels and kennels, courts and stables, tartans and silk, and because of her, I looked at forests like they were palaces. It made life so much better then, and it still carries me now when I am an artist.
This week, we draw a coloring page and color it creatively.
Inspiration from an Artist Friend Eeva Nikunen
This blog post is inspired by my artist friend Eeva Nikunen. She is a master at drawing coloring pages. She has many self-published books, and just recently, she drew the Alice in Wonderland coloring book for a famous British company Colouring Heaven. I especially love Eeva’s illustrations of men, and her drawing skills are superior, much further than mine. Of the two of us, she is more of an illustrator while I am a painter, but we both alternate with drawing and painting.
Art Nouveau has inspired me to create a set of coloring pages for the e-book Coloring Freely. Here are some samples of them.
Let’s Draw a Coloring Page!
There are great programs for drawing coloring pages like ProCreate and Adobe Illustrator. I like these programs, but I like to keep drawing with pens and pencils too. So let’s look at how to draw a coloring page by hand!
I started with a pencil, and the focus was first on the pose. When I had a rough idea of a woman romantically entering a scenery, I drew over the pencil lines with a black drawing pen. I like to use ink pens because I draw better when I can’t erase the lines. It makes me concentrate more, and my hand becomes steadier.
The sketch for the pose is number 1 in the photo. I think many of you would just throw it in the trash and think that the project is a disaster, but the secret is to keep going by tracing the sketch to another paper.
When tracing the old lines, you will get more ideas and new energy for adjusting the drawing. My second sketch had more elements, and I also started thinking about the facial expression of the character. When I ran out of ideas, I just drew hearts. Then I colored the sketch a bit to think about what the general idea of the image could be.
I like to develop ideas by drawing and coloring, not by thinking only. Many say they have images in their head, but mine are often too vague or too traditional. Drawing makes me more inventive and detailed. So, in the third sketch, the hearts were gone, and the lady had a bag, a leaf skirt, and a circle behind her. As you can see from the picture above, I threw the sketch away, but then when I thought about the blog post, I dug it out from the bin for the photo!
Here’s the third sketch without colors and the final version that I drew after coloring the third one for some time.
The final drawing is about saying goodbye to summer and hello to fall. The bag symbolizes summer and the circle became a giant pumpkin. If you compare my lines between the sketches, they become more delicate and detailed towards the end. The first sketch is a clumsy thing, but by redrawing the lady several times, I was able to make the design more flowing. Straight lines became curvier and curves got more notches, making the shapes more interesting. By leaving some of the elements visible only partly, the image looks more coherent and less floating.
Choosing Paper for Drawing and Coloring
The thin and smooth marker paper makes tracing easy. I got to know it when I was studying as an industrial designer. Art supply stores sell it. For coloring, I prefer thicker paper, so I scanned the image and printed it on a brown drawing paper.
Unbleached paper allows me to color a bit more carelessly and playing with pastels and whites is more fun.
An inspiring coloring page is not too detailed. I like pages that have some detailed elements, like the bag in mine, but that also have plenty of space for additional ideas. Then the coloring page can be treated as a foundation for creative coloring. For example, my page has pretty empty hem, and I can have fun by coloring freely – creating color changes and motifs that make the design more rich and stylish.
I also like to color over the lines so that coloring extends the original design.
Compare the coloring page and the colored version below to see the additions made with colored pencils only!
With colors, you can also change the style of the drawing. I think mine looks quite Alphonse Mucha without colors, but after coloring, less so. I like coloring shadows and making the design less flat than what Art Nouveau had.
The Intuitive Part of Intentional Art
After finishing a drawing that was born pretty intentionally, I like to ponder what had initiated it. I found this photo on my phone, taken a couple of days ago. The two-colored leaves looked so beautiful and bittersweet to me that I had snapped a picture of them.
I am sad that summer is over but also acknowledge that summers and falls are not separate. One carries the other. It’s not fall’s fault that the summer is gone, and the present that the summer gave is dear to her.
I hope this post inspires you to draw a coloring page through multiple sketches and then creatively color it!
This week, I talk about memories and art-making and how the connection between them can be loose but still important.
With this new painting, I want to talk about …
Books and Memories
My parents never visited another country, and as a child, I never traveled abroad. My first foreign trip was to England when I was 21 years old.
So when I think about my childhood, the first feeling that comes to mind is boredom. “Äiti, mitä mie tekisin – Mother, what could I do next?” I often asked. But my mother’s suggestions were never inspiring, and if my friends weren’t around, I usually chose to walk to the local library so that I could see the world.
My body was local, but my mind was international. Maybe it’s because our family had the book Tuhannen ja yhden yön satuja – One Thousand and One Nights, and I found it fascinatingly exotic at a very early age.
So the local library became my globe. As soon as I opened the door, I glanced at England, to the bookshelf where Jane Austen‘s novels were in a row. Then I went to Africa and Asia by browsing big encyclopedias of animals, searching for big cats. I traveled to Egypt when admiring the treasures of the pyramids. I spent hours in France and Italy, contemplating whether I liked impressionism or expressionism more. Pictures of folk dresses took me to the east, across the border. I traveled west over the sea to meet my friends Uudenkuun Emilia – Emily of the New Moon, Laura Ingalls, or Vihervaaran Anna – Anne of Green Gables. And I also spent quite a lot of time in a fictional American town through Spoonriver Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters.
When my fingers danced on the spines of the books, my mind contemplated where to go next. And always, I was able to find a place more pleasant than the small town in Eastern Finland.
Painting Freely, Inspired by Memories
This freedom of mind still inspires me. In fact, this blog is one channel to reach you who lives far away. Despite the distance, you may have read the same books, yet our memories are unique. The common stories and pictures get mixed with personal experiences and views.
No matter how current we want to be, memories always play some role in our art too. When painting freely, it’s not as literal as illustrating a story but more about the atmosphere and associations that a traveling brush can evoke.
Like a child, we can get enthusiastic about very little – about a spot or a simple idea and then expand our thoughts, shapes, and colors.
I believe that the more we paint, the more we remember who we naturally are.
My Artist’s Journey
My artist’s journey has been full of practice. A lot of it has been that I have developed a class of my recent revelations and then moved forward to find more. So, it’s been a very straightforward route that way, and I am oddly relieved that it has brought me where I am now, being able to use a brush as my pen and paint stories that go beyond words.
Right now, it doesn’t feel right to develop a new class about painting, especially when I already have the master class Floral Freedom.
However, with the current series of paintings, I have got new ideas for drawing. A big part of my painting skills and imagination have come from drawing practices, and I love the quickness and playfulness that pens and pencils enable. So stay tuned!
Tiger’s Eye – Memories into Painting
I painted this piece, Tiikerinsilmä – Tiger’s Eye, like it would be a good book, taking me to unexpected places. Just like a child sees the world in a library, as an artist, I try to stretch my memories and imagination so that I don’t get stuck in the mundane.
What kind of memories and hopes came to your mind when reading this post? Did you, too, read One Thousand and One Nights, for example?
One night in April, after a long workday, my spirit was low, and I felt tired. But after stepping outside to take the dogs out one more time, I saw a beautiful moonlight. I even took a picture but just with my phone camera, and the photo doesn’t do justice to the sight.
Everything looked black and white at first, but after a while, my eye saw a subtle variety of tones. It was like a message from the moon: “Paint me next! Let me be a part of your galaxy!”
Fantasy Art Connects Imagination and Past
This was not the first time expressing the moonlight magic. A few years ago, I started to feel that my art needed more fantasy. I had begun to follow many fantasy artists, for example, Jasmine Beckett-Griffith and Annie Stegg. Imaginative realism – as the genre is called – felt inviting. In 2018, I participated first time in the Inktober challenge, and in 2019 I made a class called Magical Inkdom.
The world of Magical Inkdom is playful and colorful, but so that some elements look historical, just like in imaginative realism, where the story often happens in the past.
I wanted fantasy art to be present in my upcoming show too. So I wanted to make a painting with a similar historical yet fantasy-oriented look. My goal was to create a traditional floral but still include something that would tickle the imagination and feel magical.
A slightly extraordinary composition and a combination of both decorative and more abstract elements make this painting stand out.
I am also surprisingly fond of the color scheme and it was much more fun to paint than I expected.
Expressing Magic and the Ability to Disappear
A part of the magic is that something almost disappears and then appears again, just like the moon in a cloudy sky. There are lots of blurry elements in this painting, even if you might not notice them right away. A sharp line and some dots on a blurry spot make the flower.
Old master painters of the 16th to 18th centuries used this technique a lot.
For example, look at the hair and the pearls in this portrait. Just blurry spots that have been sharpened with lighter and sharper strokes and dots. Don’t they look magical!
Preparing for the Show
This painting is small, 30 x 50 cm. Here’s a quick snapshot where you can see the size better.
I am currently varnishing paintings for my upcoming solo show in June. All the tabletops are full and the not-so-pleasant odor is in the air. I hope to have photos of the show next week.