When there is a big crisis in the outer world, it’s important to protect and strengthen the inner world. In this project, we paint spiritual energy with loose strokes, continue it to form a face, and then add a protecting frame around the painting. I find this project soothing and healing. I hope it makes you pick the brushes again too!
A) Where to Paint?
I have made these paintings on my newest art journal which is a black Dylusions Creative Journal. It is my third Dylusions Creative Journal, and I really like this product. It’s durable, the paper is thick, and it can be closed with an elastic band.
My first two Dylusions Creative Journals were large ones, but the newest one is a bit smaller, the page size being 8 by 8 inches.
The links above are Amazon.com affiliate links to product pages.
This project can be made as a painting or as a collage where you paint the figure separately from the rest of the image.
When I did this project the first time, I made a collage. I painted the profile on a paper, cut it out, and glued on the art journal page, and then continued painting the background and adjusting the facial features. In the photo below, the white line shows how I cut the face.
If you choose the collage technique, it’s good if the paper is not too thick. I used Bristol paper, which is fairly sturdy but thinner and easier to attach than thick watercolor papers.
C) Pick the Colors that Bring Energy!
I painted the second version directly on an art journal page.
Both versions have a limited color palette. By picking only a few colors, they come alive and express energy more effectively than if you work with all the possible colors. So, choose the colors that energize you – that you feel drawn to at the moment.
I recommend choosing three different tubes of acrylic paint and adding white to the mix as well. If none of your colors is dark, pick black or another dark color so that you get a strong image with good contrasts.
For the first version, my colors were these (+ Titanium White):
For the second version, my colors were these (+ some Mars Black for finishing)
My acrylic paints are Golden Headybody Acrylics.
D) Paint Spiritual Energy!
Let’s create some abstract art! Use selected colors and paint with horizontal strokes. Mix white to get lighter strokes and make muddy mixes to get tones that make the pastels shine. Enjoy the colors and making most of the narrow selection.
If you paint directly on a page, mentally divide the page in half, and paint on the other side only. This way, you will have enough room for the face.
E) Sketch the Face!
Pick a pencil and sketch a profile. You can adjust it later by painting, so focus on the location of the face more than the actual look. I used a white pen in the photo below so that you can see my sketch clearly.
F) Draw a Frame!
Take a round object, for example, a plate, and draw a protective frame around the person.
G) Paint the Face!
Paint the skin and facial features. Instead of outlines, paint shapes. Allow yourself to be more unconventional. Don’t paint bright white scleras or red lips but shapes that connect the person with the abstract part of the painting. In this project, the energy that the strokes represent is more important than the person herself.
H) Paint the Background!
Surround the person with everything that soothes and heals. At this point, it can be just subtle strokes that will be more defined later, when you finish the painting.
Paint the frame too. Use muted colors so that the frame doesn’t take the energy away from the person.
I) Finishing: Give Her All the Beauty She Needs
Paint details with a thin brush so that she will get all the softness and beauty she needs. Again, prevent using intense colors for the details on the background.
Connect her forehead with the beauty so that she is in the middle of the energetic strokes and more delicate and soft fillings.
I also added some decorations on the frame.
Less Control – More Energy and Expression
Art is freedom! In this project, we started with wild strokes and then built a portrait around them. These kinds of less-controlled uses of supplies are an important part of self-expression.
On Thursday, March 26, 2020, I will be talking about doodling and how to expand it to various supplies and styles in my art community Bloom and Fly. The session will be recorded too. If you have bought my class this year, you are invited! I have sent an email to the members yesterday.
This blog post is for us who love Jane Austen and Sanditon tv series. I watched the series last month, and it has inspired me a lot. I hope you enjoy this Sanditon inspiration overload!
Torchbearer – Esther and Lord Babington on the Beach
My newest watercolor painting called Torchbearer had a modest beginning and I had no clue how to finish it – until I saw episode 8 of Sanditon!
My favorite female character of Sanditon is Esther and the scene where she is in the carriage with Lord Babington was so romantic! The sudden change in her appearance, his gentle smile, black horses, empty shore – oh my! It hit me, that even if my painting has flowers, not people, I could express the emotion from the scene.
The tallest flower and the glow come from Esther’s powerful spirit.
The flower that bends down, expresses her sensitivity.
I tried to paint every flower so that they highlight the bubbling energy. Their stems are like the carriage where the couple sat.
The black background represents both the horses and the lord, supporting Esther’s joy.
In this painting, Esther is a torchbearer who leads us to better times.
Tin Box – A Souvenir from Sanditon
I like little boxes that can be used for storing hand-drawn pictures and papers. I wanted to decorate a small tin box so that it would have old-fashioned and luxurious feel. So that I could think of it as a souvenir from Sanditon!
I already had saved a hand-drawn piece that was quite perfect in size.
I also found some papers with a watercolor print. They were test runs of the surface pattern designed earlier this year. I mostly designed the pattern manually, so by painting a design on the center of the paper and then cutting the paper into four parts.
This way you get a continuous design.
Avoid painting edges, and re-arrange papers until they are all fully painted.
Then scan the papers, and clean the edges in an image processing software. Here’s a sample of my design.
I made several variations in Photoshop. These papers go really well with hand-drawings, so they were perfect for the box.
The center motif was first colored with watercolors.
Then I hand-stitched it on a background paper and added more hand-stitching around the center. In the photo below, I highlight the surroundings of the stitches with a pen so that they look more 3-dimensional.
I also added beads, more colors and decorative marks.
The centerpiece is a button with a shank removed. I love this little box!
Esther Denham – Sanditon Paper Doll
I also wanted to create something for my ever-growing collection of collage figures. “Just an unknown habitat of Sanditon”, I decided first. I didn’t use any reference and drew the doll just freely, but when she was colored, she looked just like Esther!
I played with her proportions so that she has overly long legs. That way I could make the dress more imaginative. The hem was cut from one of the watercolor papers. I couldn’t help playing with her right away, trying wings on her, filling the teacup with herbs from Sanditon. The wings and the teacup are from my fun class Magical Inkdom.
Her hat is also a collage piece cut from watercolor papers.
Souvenirs from Sanditon!
The Romance Continues
I am currently painting an oil painting that looks quite romantic already.
My vision is to make it the third in the series after Icebreaker and Torchbearer – and put it in the middle of them.
One Source of Inspiration – Many Interpretations
If you have been following my blog, you know that some of my projects are fine art, others more illustrational, and there can be a bit crafty things too. This blog post demonstrates well how the inspiration can be the same, but the interpretation is different. For me, the wide range of projects is a way to stay inspired and creative, and I hope that you have tolerance for all of them. I don’t believe in getting too serious or not getting serious at all. The humorous side of art allows us to get playful, and the playfulness feeds our ability to express the deeper side of our inspiration.
Esther can be the person who handed me a crafty gift box, or an innocent paper doll, or a mysterious flower in a painting that took tens of hours to create. The key to your artistic style is less in the looks and more in the inspiration. For me, it’s often old-fashioned romances, like Sanditon.
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!
Now when Inktober is running, art prompts are especially popular. This week, we use them so that they highlight more than suffocate our self-expression.
Art Prompts – Threat Or Opportunity?
Using art prompts is a tricky thing. The prompt can be your master, telling you literally what to create. You can take “Snow” and draw a pile of white stuff, and then wonder if that was fun at all. On the other hand, many say that they want to create freely from their ideas but then struggle with getting in touch with what they truly want to create.
I have been using art prompts successfully to expand my artistic expression and to become more clear with my artistic vision. For me, a prompt is a starting point to discover things I love to spend time with. I don’t just draw the first idea that comes to my mind, but process it further before I start drawing.
Ideas vs. Techniques – How to Become a Better Artist with the Help of Art Prompts?
Art blogs rarely talk about processing ideas, and in general, the discussion about art, especially when artists lead it, is very technique-heavy. But if I had to choose between ideas and techniques, my choice would be ideas. In my opinion, it should be ideas that make you learn the techniques, not vice versa. The art that is only about mastering the techniques is more like craft – it can be skillfully made, but the freedom of expression and creativity doesn’t shine through. On the other hand, we sometimes create art that is packed with emotion that other people don’t see. Then the process was cathartic, but the lack of techniques flattened the expression.
Balancing between the ideas and the techniques is not easy, and all artists struggle with it. If you focus on the techniques only, the process of creating becomes joyless and meaningless. The ideas bring back the passion for creating. That’s why I also talk about ideas in my classes.
This week, I share my ideas behind the recent Inktober prompts (days 11-18). I rate how difficult each prompt was for me between 1 to 5, how I discovered the ideas for the images, and what I learned from the process. Like last week, I have also written stories for each image, articulating my thoughts after the creation process. This post is also an example of how you can use journaling to clarify your artistic vision. Words go well together with the art prompts. If you feel the need to write as a part of the actual image, you can challenge yourself in visual expression. Think about how you could visually express the words you want to write!
Prompt 1 – Snow
Difficulty: 1 – Easy Ideas: I live in Finland, I know snow! I was thinking about the harshness of winter and if my new orchids will survive it. I am always inspired by Russian folk art and wanted to the illustration look like a northern fairytale. Lessons Learned: When I look at the image, my emotional reaction is strong. This is who I am and what I love to create at the moment.
Story: Hope carries us. When times are hard, we have the need to protect and nurture. We want to find something to fight for. Even if those things are like rare orchids, freshly wounded, impossible to plant, we want to believe they can be saved. Women have the strength to give a home to a helpless. As well as the weakness to suffocate with love. Still, it is one of the reasons why the world functions, how we can cope through the snowy seasons, and why absolute compassion still exists in this universe.
Prompt 2 – Dragon
Difficulty: 4 – Challenging Ideas: I elaborate on my challenges more in the story part below, but this prompt made me feel that it has to be done quickly and with as little damage as possible! So I picked my sketchbook and found a face, painted with watercolors, and decided to made it look like a dragon. The agony disappeared once I started drawing, and I really enjoyed adding horns, scales, and all. Lessons Learned: Drawing can be a role-play or a dress-up party where I can stretch my perception of myself.
Story: This prompt has been the most uncomfortable for me so far in this year’s challenge. I do like to draw animals, but I haven’t seen myself as the one who draws dragons. I realized that I was also questioning whether YOU want to see any dragons either, and every time I begin to overthink what I should or shouldn’t draw, there’s a creative block that I must overcome. So, I wanted to show myself that yes, I can be the dragon lady. I don’t just create art to protect and admire what I love, but to become open to new adventures. I had a lot of fun drawing this one, inspired by Renaissance too!
Prompt 3 – Ash
Difficulty: 2 – Normal Ideas: Ash reminded me of the Phoenix bird, and I wanted to include some orchids too. My original idea was just to make a woman rising from the ash, but I accidentally drew the thumbs on the wrong side of the hands! Then I remembered cupids from old paintings and added the two little girls so that the hands are theirs. I really like those two mischief-makers. Lessons Learned: Working with the non-erasable media stretches creativity and mistakes can take the work to the new level. The processing of ideas can happen also while creating, not only before.
Story: We are all mythical phoenix birds. When one era ends, another one begins. About 10 years ago, I had a long row of African violets. Then a few years later, I fell in love with Streptocarpus flowers. Now they are gone, and I am beginning a new era in my hobby of growing houseplants – the era of orchids! So my love for plants is regularly reborn. Do you recognize this kind of rebirth in your life?
Prompt 4 – Overgrown
Difficulty: 1 – Easy Ideas: One of the easiest prompts for me! The image came instantly to my mind, and all I had to do is to draw it. I wanted to make the hands, legs, and wings for the playful fairy so that they are very plant-like. Lessons Learned: I need to draw more fairies. It’s funny that I haven’t ever been drawn to them before this year, and now I am really fond of them! I guess I have found my way to interpret their playfulness.
Story: I used to think that when my art grows, it will become deeper and deeper, reaching the remotest end of fine art. But during the past couple of years, my images have become more humorous, playful, and illustrational. It’s been surprising to notice that the same building blocks and ideas that could express the agony in the world can be used for making illustrations that include hope, even childishness. I cherish this child in me, and I want her always to grow bigger than her current pot. And at the same time, I want to protect her from becoming so big that she stops seeing life’s little pleasures.
Prompt 5 – Legend
Difficulty: 5 – Agonizing Ideas: I hated the prompt. It made me think about photo-realistic images of Marilyn Monroe and old rock stars which are not my favorite art at all. Then I tried to approach the subject from the story-perspective, and all that I could think of was Robin Hood, King Arthur, and other similar historical stories that didn’t inspire me. I realized that I needed to pick a legend that I truly appreciate, and Jane Austen came to my mind. Lessons Learned: I really like this illustration! There’s a lot of elements, but their hierarchy is so clear that the image is easy to look at. It was perhaps because I started the sketch in the evening, but finished the image the next morning. All the ideas that I had, fell in place during the night.
Story: Jane Austen is one of the most famous women in history. Do you think she predicted that? Did she know her books would make an impact on the world for hundreds of years? But there she was, alone with her thoughts in late evenings like creative people do, planning her plots. Her life was just a blink of an eye in the universe, but still, the cosmos echoes her name. Generations after generations, we have a human bond with her – no matter how linear time feels and no matter if we really even knew what she looked like.
Prompt 6 – Wild
Difficulty: 2 – Normal Ideas: Because the prompt is so general, I just picked an inspirational image from my Instagram archive, and started from there. The image was a photo of an old clock, and it reminded me how the sense of time disappears when creating. So I made the clock look like it floats and falls apart, and followed my intuition for all the other elements. The couple on the left corner probably came because I have been watching Dancing With the Stars while drawing! Lessons Learned: I like to express movement and create surrealistic illustrations. It makes me feel free, and sometimes it’s important to focus on the process of creating rather than controlling the result.
Story: There’s a place in your mind where everything gets mixed, where nothing stays static, and where rules are broken. What you can’t do is only other people’s false assumptions. The way they define drawing – or any other skill – doesn’t matter anymore. You are in a place where all is wrong and thus so right. Time flies, and you live forever. Go wild and get creating to travel there!
Prompt 7 – Misfit
Difficulty: 3 – Hard Ideas: This prompt was for Friday, and I want Fridays to be a bit more light-hearted than other weekdays. So I wanted to make a humorous illustration that would start the weekend in a cheerful mood. First, it felt a bit challenging to combine the prompt with the humor. I love to draw women in historical dresses, and it made me think about how romantic mind and everyday chores are a definite misfit! Lessons Learned: The empty space can be used to highlight the message. Here the composition is built so, that the romantic steps toward the past (to the left), the butterfly scene directs the eye towards her face and lower lip, and the empty space highlights the bucket. The bucket and the emptiness of the horizontal scene created by the hem are central to the message. It took a couple of extra sketches to get all the elements in place.
Story: Sweeping, scrubbing, dusting … Misfit chores for artistic souls like us, at least today!
Prompt 8 – Ornament
Difficulty: 2 – Normal Ideas: I have been drawing ornaments quite a lot lately, and I love it. Every time I design an ornament, it makes me feel like I am doing something that I am meant to do. It’s probably because it’s so close to my studies in engineering and industrial design. This time I wanted to make an ornament that’s not symmetrical, and that would also express a personal story. Lessons Learned: Many of my ideas easily take the form of an ornament, and I would also like to teach making them! (Would you be interested?)
Story: This prompt is especially close to my heart. It reminds me of how important it is to become the true self. When I studied industrial design, I realized that my expression was too ornamental. “Simplify, simplify,” my teachers said. Plastic stuff that we were taught to design has to be manufactured as cheaply as possible. But I took another route and geared towards art. Ten years have passed by, and I still struggle to accept how ornamental I see the world.
But that’s how it is. To me, an ornament is a time machine. I can travel through the history of humanity by merely picking shapes of any era. It also brings me closer to my roots. My grandfather studied drawing, and my father drew to me when I was a child. These two men passed away a long time ago. I never got to see my grandfather, and I wasn’t very close to my father. But now there’s this strange yet pleasant feeling of being who I am meant to be. I continue the chain of generations, fulfilling not only my dreams but also my father’s and grandfather’s secret wishes. These people enabled me the life I am living, and I am giving back to them by drawing and designing – being as ornamental as I can be.
Repeating Art Prompts – Another Version of Ornament
Difficulty: 2 – Normal Ideas: I started working with the prompt “Ornament”, but then realized, that this one is a more time-consuming piece. So I finished it for Day 19, instead of making the official prompt of the day. The idea became from art deco table lamps. They often have a statue that holds the bulb. I didn’t use any reference for this one, and lately, my drawing skills have grown so that I have drawn a lot without any references. I enjoy that a lot! Lessons Learned: This one started as a quick sketchbook drawing, but I got hooked about the idea and made it a gouache painting, black and white, in the spirit of Inktober. The paper of the sketchbook (Leuchturm A4) wasn’t suitable for wet media, but I finished the painting anyway. My gouache paints were Arteza in colors Noir and Titanium White. Noir wasn’t pitch black but more greyish tones. The cheap paints usually have white to lower the price. The process would have been much more pleasurable with the art supplies of better quality. It would be best if the idea, the technique, and the choices of supplies would serve each other!
Story: I call this “The Guardians of Imagination” and it is to our soul sisters in art. They keep the lights of imagination switched on, and support others to do the same. They bring the best of the past times to this day, so let’s thank them, and let’s be sisters to them as well.
This painting is my last contribution to this year’s Inktober. I am currently working on a big illustration project, and want to focus on finishing it next week.
More About Art Prompts
Here are some older blog posts that you might want to check out too.
Experiences from Inktober 2018 when I finished all the 31 prompts: