Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Force Yourself to Experiment!

Discus Fish, an art journal page with colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet. Combining realistic drawing and drawing from imagination.

One day at the local library, I browsed the latest issue of International Artist magazine. I must confess that I had to force myself to do that as the magazine showcases a lot of traditional and realistic art, landscapes, and portraits. Especially in the recent ten years, I have been more interested in examining what is seen inside my head, reflected from outside world, than to illustrate the exact images of the outside world. But now and then I like to force myself to examine things that I don’t feel drawn. It makes me more open and allows me to pick ideas that are hidden behind processes that I am unlikely to obey.

So I gave myself a task: pick any photo and draw one element from it! After drawing and coloring the element I was allowed to fill the rest of the art journal page freely. So if I followed the boring routine, I was able to treat myself in the end.

Choosing the Photo

My husband has an aquarium, and I love it. Just recently he bought five new discus fish. I happened to take a photo once they were released to the tank. I thought that this image would be just perfect for the purpose. The more I art journal, the more I think of it as a diary. It’s mainly a diary of my inner world, but this fish is so beautiful that I could happily let it swim to my imaginary world as well.

Blue Diamond discus fish

Realistic Drawing – Sketching the Fish

I don’t usually use a pencil as I like every stroke to be visible. However, this time, I followed the artists from International Artist magazine: they all seem to use pencil or charcoal for sketching. I drew a simple sketch of the fish taking care of proportions more than the details.

Sketching a discus fish by using a photo as a guideline, by Peony and Parakeet

Coloring the Fish

I followed the photo in color choices as well. I just made each of the color more vibrant. While coloring, I also added more details to the fish.

Discus Fish with colored pencils, by Peony and Parakeet. Combining realistic drawing with more free-form elements

After the fish had been finished, I gave myself the freedom to doodle my heart out.


Coloring the fish with colored pencils did not feel particularly inspirational. But when I began adding colors to the mess I had made around the fish, all the fun began! I was able to do anything – yes anything! I thought about water flowing and bubbling freely, and everything started to look more loose and alive, even the fish.

Coloring of an art journal page with colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet

Lessons Learned

After finishing the page, I asked myself, could I create more pages this way: combine realistic drawing with more imaginary elements. Yes, I could. But I think that it would be more fun to create it all freely: drawing the central element first with extra care and then adding surrounding elements. Or pick elements from various photos and construct a scene that way or … All in all, I got few new ideas, and this was a good experiment!

However, I know now why I love drawing that is liberated from all the expectations. It is much more fun and exciting! I also believe that it is good for us to both see and process what we think and feel. It is so liberating to let it all come out on the paper.

Discus Fish, an art journal page with colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet. This started as a realistic drawing and then moved forward.

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40 thoughts on “Force Yourself to Experiment!

  1. This is captivating! It draws me right in to the water!!!! So beautiful I only wish my hands and mind would let me create something so spectacular as this!!!!!!!!!!! Love what you did and how you did it!

  2. Paivi, your work always inspires me. I have been working in my journal daily which is not usual for me and I see my creative juices flowing more freely now. I typically start with some traditional drawing and then feel myself slowly start to let go. It’s all so very exciting! Your Inspirational drawing class has helped me to not worry so much about getting an exact drawing but to just have fun and create. Thanks again for creating this class!

    1. Jeri, thank you, so great to hear that you have benefited from Inspirational Drawing, been creating and most importantly, been able to continue developing your own process!

  3. Inspiring! I do mixed media collage and use a combination of paint, colored tissue, images and whatever else I lay my hands on. If something begins to look too much like “something” my wicked imp finds a way to fix that and I always like the result better than “something.” I think of the collages as dreams where things may seem familiar but then – not quite. I’m going to try this tip right away. Thank you!

  4. What a great idea! I want to give this method a try. I love your end result and the process sounds interesting.

  5. Thank you Parvati, you really inspire me; I have started to draw freely and coloring and love it. Do you also teach color and composition in your drawing course?

    1. Betsie, thanks! Yes, I also teach color and composition, all the basics but so that they can be applied more freely than in the traditional approach.

  6. Paivi, This drawing however you did is breath taking as is all
    of your work.
    I really enjoyed the class and I am still working on the last lesson. I want to do the art journal as you suggested.
    Carol Dickson

  7. Both this week and last week have been wonderful, thank you for the inspiration!

  8. starting with an illustrative image is a great way to begin drawing and let the image inspire a little world around it from our imagination. This would be a fun project to do with my granddaughter using a magazine image that she picks out and then we both have fun adding to the imaginary world where there is no wrong way to draw anything. I can’t wait to do that with her. Thanks for a fun way to spend a little quality time making art and memories.

    1. Oh, Mary, that is such a great idea! I think that it is wonderful to find ways how to get children involved too! Art belongs to all ages!

  9. Stunning! I finally gave myself permission to do the free-flow method you use, and am really amazed at how liberating it was! Thank you for sharing this with us!

  10. The result is absolutely beautiful. I recently completed a Sketchbook Skool assignment that asked us to draw a scene from ordinary life and inject imaginary things into it. I did a corner of my container garden and added a fairy castle.

    1. Lynne, thank you. The assignment sounds fun! When I was a child, I imagined that a part of our backyard was a castle, I saw rooms where other people saw just grass. If we could take all that imagination in use now, when we are creating as adults, it would be amazing!

  11. A great juxtaposition of realism and expression. This painting is wonderful! It commands attention with it’s wounderful array of marking and color. Thank You for sharing.

  12. I lobe that phrase….a diary of my inner life….to describe art journal as you do it. That inspired me as I just started journalling and really was wondering what it was doing for me. I enjoy the imaginative side of art as you do.

    1. June, when I began art journaling many years ago, it took me a while to realize that my art journal is not just a daily diary of my mundane life, it is an idea book which represents my imaginary world, it includes my feelings and most importantly: it makes me process my thoughts and imagine where I could go. I strongly believe that our imagination is connected to our future actions!

  13. This is fabulous! Love the bubbles and sense of movement. This is the kind of art that really speaks to me; I personally cannot get excited over super realistic art- might as well just take a photograph. 🙂 You’ve created such a fun colorful world for your fish to explore. I think he’s smiling!

    1. Mary, thank you! I hope that we all can find the kind of art where we could be like fish in the water! Happy and content, but also open and excited to see what every day and idea brings to our art!

  14. I usually go straight to Pinterest and then find new and exciting web sites. found you and the work parakeet caught my eye. Love birds love parakeets. Seeing your fish, and the back ground loved it.

    I do love the movement and all the color. I usually have been especially when I was much younger, always used charcoal, but have grown very fond of color in art and especially since I love flowers. I have not owned a peony and now i’m a bit curious about these flowers.

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