Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Limited Creative Time – A Personal Story

The Sense of Time, a watercolor painting created in limited creative time. By Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s my latest watercolor painting “The Sense of Time”, made just a couple of days ago. I limited my creative time immensely when painting this. But this time I want to share the whole story, not just images of how I made the painting. At the same time, you will see some of my summer crafting projects and learn a couple of fun facts about Finnish summer.

Peonies Embrace the Midnight Sun

When people ask what would be the best time to come to Finland, I always suggest summer. Finnish summer begins in June and ends in August. In my opinion, the best month is July. Even in the south, where I live, you can experience the midnight sun, warmth and see the best in Finnish people. Like peonies, we are all introverts in the dark and cold winter, But when the sun comes up, it’s all smile.

Finnish peonies grown under the midnight sun. By Peony and Parakeet.

Colors Compete with Shapes

My husband always has his summer vacation in July. As dog owners, our possibilities to travel are limited to day trips unless we take them to kennels or arrange somebody to look after them. As both of us love old art and antique, we always go to Billnäs and Fiskars for an antique fair. If you have watched a British television series Lovejoy, these are the places where you could see him and his assistants if they traveled to Finland. There are two antique fairs at the same time. They last 4 days and are packed with people selling and buying antique items in the middle of Finnish countryside. The fairs are partly indoors, partly outdoors and truly a collector’s heaven whether it rains or shines.

At an antique fair. Art class designed by Kaj Franck. A photograph by Peony and Parakeet.

When looking at the sales tables, I always notice color first. My husband, a skillful woodworker, examines the shapes. Together we are unbeatable!

Art Rises from the Dollhouse

It was both unfortunate and fortunate that I found an old display cabinet from Billnäs. Fortunate, because it’s just what I had dreamed of for my doll collection. Unfortunate, because I didn’t have the space for the dollhouse anymore. I had to empty the tiny kitchen with miniature wine bottles and delicacies as well as all the other tiny rooms filled with similar items.

Dollhouse dining table. By Peony and Parakeet.

While taking the little paintings off from the walls, I realized that one of them wasn’t just printed image. It was a cross-stitch project that I had made years ago! I remembered not being very happy with it. When I started it, I thought that I could make more than one and then sell some. I didn’t have any pattern and the end result didn’t look as painterly as I would have wanted. So I gave up the idea of making more and placed the piece above the dining table, in the spot where it wasn’t as visible as other pictures. No wonder I had forgotten it!

Miniature cross stitch sea painting. By Peony and Parakeet.

But now, it looks just perfect to me. Now I see more than just clumsy stitches. I see how my love to combine arts, crafts and design came out even when I was decorating a dollhouse.

William Morris Visits Ikea

One of my creative routines is organizing things. Even at antique fairs, I sometimes get the urge to rearrange items and I have to restrain myself. This spring, I was organizing a storage space of our house and found an old Ikea Moppe mini chest of drawers. Putting old stuff to use is a creative challenge that I am often willing to take. I went to Pinterest, saw boards like this and was ready to get started.

The first challenge was that I also wanted to use up old paints. The only paint with the suitable quality was baby blue. I wanted to place the mini chest in the library room near my doll collection and store fashion doll clothes in it. I had a hard time seeing baby blue suit to the style and color scheme of the library room. We have decorated the library room in the styles of 1890-1930s. The curtains have William Morris’s pattern. How could the Ikea mini chest ever with the style? Trusting that I could figure it out, I refused to buy new paint as I had another purchase in mind. I wanted to buy ceramic knobs for it.

Interior decoration and crafting. By Peony and Parakeet.

If I had to choose one material that I adore, it would be a difficult decision between ceramics and glass. But I think the winner would be ceramics. Even if I have never really dived deep into creating with clay, I love ceramic items. Especially if they are both decorative and expressive. I also like them to be a little rustic, have some handmade feel without being overly clumsy. The knobs I wanted to buy should also have some baby blue, some William Morris, look both old and modern and be traditional but somewhat innovative. Despite the high expectations, I optimistically began to search handmade ceramic knobs. It took a couple of days but my optimism paid off and I found just the perfect ones! They are made by an English woman living in Israel. Her Etsy shop is called “Clay is My Art”, a heaven for anyone who loves rustic, but sophisticated ceramics.

Ikea Moppe mini chest of drawers. Hacked by Peony and Parakeet. Ceramic knobs by Clay Is My Art Etsy shop.

As you can see in the photo, I was able to find decorative papers that not only matched the knobs, they fit perfectly to the style of the library room. The papers with palm plants are leftover wallpapers. The other two are from my scrapbooking paper stash.

Ikea Moppe mini chest of drawers. Hacked by Peony and Parakeet. Ceramic knobs by Clay Is My Art Etsy shop.

But wait, this story continues …

Leftover Flosses Praise the Pattern

Have you ever had anything in your home that was ok before you changed everything in its surroundings? My number one thing was a small key storage cabinet, which was fine in our old home on a muted dark red wall. But when placed on a bright yellow wall of our current home, it really bothered me. With the experience in cross stitching for dollhouses, I got an idea of stitching a dollhouse carpet pattern from Janet Granger‘s book Miniature Dollshouse Carpets.

Key cabinet with a cross stiched design and its new cover. By Peony and Parakeet.

It took all spring when working slowly but at the beginning of summer, I got it stitched. I also repainted the wooden parts. This time I did buy the dark green paint but this is still a project using leftovers. Namely, I didn’t just use the few colors set in the pattern. I used leftover skeins of embroidery floss creatively so that the carpet looks like an old antique one. I much prefer this look to using only a few colors.

Key storage cabinet with a cross stitch cover using leftover flosses. By Peony and Parakeet.

The cabinet looks great on the yellow wall. I temporarily took it down for photographing it in a better lighting. There was also another reason, connected to the watercolor painting …

Limited Creative Time – Craft Projects Inspire the Painting

This time I had limited creative time. Before I started painting, I placed the three handcrafted items on the table in front of me. The key cabinet, the mini chest and the miniature cross-stitch work were all there to inspire me. Then I glanced my watch and gave myself 15 minutes to paint the first layer. Namely, I had another project in progress too. I was editing one of the videos for Imagine Monthly Fall, the art journaling class that begins on August 1st. Editing videos requires a lot of concentration and I wanted to keep the quality good by taking small breaks. So after 45 minutes of editing, I had 15 minutes for my painting, all day.

Craft projects inspire the painting throughout the limited creative time. By Peony and Parakeet.

If you work in short periods of time like this, inspiration items become essential. Seeing the same objects again and again, even if you are not actually recreating any of them, maintains the focus and direction.

After four 15 minute sessions I was at the point where I had painted this and that with five different brushes but had no clue of what I was trying to express. It was fun to paint like this but clearly, I couldn’t finish the painting without setting up a longer session.

Watercolor painting in progress. By Peony and Parakeet.

Finishing – Summing Up

I soon discovered that being so aware of the time had also affected the painting. I saw clocks and pointers which made me ponder about the concept of time. It flies so quickly in creative activities that it’s difficult to think about it as a simple measure. This, in turn, made me think about the antiques and how great designs last time. After my husband and I are gone, there will always be new enthusiasts who will drool over those Kaj Franck‘s bowls.

I often finish my watercolors with colored pencils to easily add new layers of details and decorative lines. But this time, I was reminded of my craft projects: “Make the most of what you currently have.” So I resisted the urge to go to another room and get the jars of colored pencils. It only took an hour to finish the painting.

The Sense of Time, a watercolor painting created in limited creative time. By Peony and Parakeet.

Some midnight sun, some glassware, mini horizons, small amounts of leftover colors, block shapes and last but not least: the description of how my inner artist sees the sense of time.

The Way I Process Ideas and Produce Classes

This blog post demonstrates how I work with ideas. It’s not only one idea that goes into one piece of work, it’s a collection of ideas that have different levels. Some are more abstract, others are more concrete. I believe that every good art class is filled with multi-level ideas that in turn, embark your own ideas. That’s why I never underestimate the importance of the background study that I do for my classes. I listen to audiobooks. I go to libraries to browse books. I collect Pinterest boards and inspirational items. I make sketches and paintings that I call pre-class paintings (yes, the one above is one of these). They prepare me to bring my best to the classes that I produce. They ensure that the class is not only about one whimsical thing that I fell in love with but about a holistic, yet clear and inspiring view to the subject. All in all, we all have limited creative time.

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34 thoughts on “Limited Creative Time – A Personal Story

  1. Thanks so much for sharing a more in-depth look into your life as an artist. It was very interesting and intriguing to hear & see how your thoughts and ideas evolve into your artwork…

    1. Thank you, Jackie! I thought that when so many times I (and many other artists) show only the actual creating proess, this time I go more in depth and try to reveal the whole truth!

  2. I love your use of colors and that you have many skills and interests.I have painted many items in my house because I did not care for the original colors. I also discovered that pouncing with a small, damp sea sponge with craft paints can add depth and tone down brighter colors. Metallic gold paint is one of my favorites for this technique as you can lightly pounce in many directions and get a lacey web that is not garrish. Also, I worked on your Painter’s Ecstasy project and remembered the name , Hundertwasser. Opal sock yarns has a collection based on his work and I knitted two pairs a few years ago. Maybe you have knitted some, too?

    1. Terry, thanks! I have used a lot of thin paint surfaces recently including the use of all kinds of cloths and materials to remove the paint. So it was interesting to hear that you had found the same thing too: thin layers really add depth! Haven’t knitted with that yarn (yet!).

  3. Love to hear about your process and a bit of your life in Finland. I so glad you have made your ideas available to me and enjoy your classes!

  4. Thanks for this peek into your thoughts and private life. I so enjoy learning about why people create art and especially when they can articulate their thoughts as well as you can. I always learn something and have so enjoyed every single class I’ve had with you – learning but also creating with more satisfactory results. I can’t wait for this next class to begin!

    1. Thanks, Mary! You know when I am writing in a foreign language I am constantly worried if I write so that other people can understand me. Thanks for removing at least a part of that worry!

  5. My thanks also for this peek into the life behind your public,online persona. Sharing our art and stories is a wonderful journey in bonding and mutual acceptance. I’m signed up for your fall class and I’m counting the days!! See you soon ;-}


  6. Really appreciate the degree of sharing you included in this post which totally reflects the varied influences in our lives and art. The finished work is beautiful in itself, but the combination of your process in creating it adds an extra dimension of inspiration. Looking forward to your next workshops.

  7. Thank you só much for sharing your way of life as well as your way of collecting inspiration items.
    In my opinion you’re a very good teacher and the way you explain the whole process is very clear.
    Enjoy your Finnish summer as much as you can with your husband and the dogs.

  8. Loved reading this post about your creative process. Thanks for taking the time to share it. Looking forward to your next workshop.

  9. Thank you for sharing your story and your inspirations. Yes, I do consider you a friend. I told my daughter and best friend that I have someone in Finnland that I am friends with and can hardly wait to get her emails. I wish I could take your classes but things are tight and not much left over by the middle of the month. But, I am trying to pick up what I can from your blog etc. Keep on creating as you are one of my favorite people to follow on the internet. Thanks again for showing us how to be creative.

    1. Thank you, Nancy! Great to hear that you enjoy the weekly emails! A general answer to everyone who have a tight budjet: the mini-courses I published last spring will all become available as self-study classes for a very reasonable price. The first three are available already, go to:

  10. Your work is so beautiful. It is an inspiration just to look at it. Thank you.

  11. Loved reading your post, Païvi, and the painting is gorgeous! I had a little smile at you having to restrain yoursel from rearranging things at the fair. I think we’ve all had that urge at one time or another. I really enjoyed my classes with you. I am putting your lessons to good use!

    1. Thanks, Sue! You know I am just not of those artists who have a messy studio. My inner engineer won’t allow it! Good to know you have been creating!!

  12. I fell in love with Finland when my daughter was studying law in Helsinki for a year – I visited three times! Although I only stayed around the city most of the time, I was lucky to go to a summer cottage in the country. I am so eager to come back and explore more! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas. I’m new to your blog and I am looking forward to reading more and seeing how the beauty of Finland inspires your art.

    1. Jakki, how wonderful that you have been in Finland! I don’t have a summer cottage but many find it essential to be able to fully enjoy Finnish summer. So great to hear that you’ve been able to see that side of Finnish living too! Welcome to follow my blog!

  13. Ihanasti tuunattu laatikosto, vau! Minäkin olen ajatellut tuunata oman laatikostoni ja tuosta minä saankin inspiraation aloittaa. Kiitos kun esittelit laatikoston, aivan ihana!
    Ihana on myös tuo sinun maalaus.

    1. Kiva, että tykkäsit laatikostosta, netti on pullollaan ideoita niiden tuunaamiseen, mutta mulle paras idea oli kääntää laatikot ympäri, jotta sain nupit ja vähän hienostuneemman ilmeen.

  14. Reading this post became a treasured moment in the middle of the night… I sit under the dark skies of the Death Valley region each summer night breathing, and watching for shooting stars. Your invocation of the midnight sun lit up my dark-sky heart. Thank you.

  15. I’m exhausted just reading all of this! How do you fit it all in????
    Well done, Paivi and thank you for sharing with us. Can’t wait for the Fall course!

    1. Joan, when I was studying computer engineering one of my fellow students called me “broadly narrow-minded”. So there are areas that many people have but that are not in my life, like I don’t have children, a summer cottage (refering to the discussion earlier in this thread), I don’t travel a lot, don’t watch much tv etc. So I focus a lot of in creative activities and I always take photos. I also keep everything what I have created in order so that I can find them easily, for example I have a keyword system for photos… Sometimes I envy people who have other kind of life and I try to have a break but usually after a day I am back creating and organizing – LOL!

      Hopefully you’ll love what I have to offer during the fall!

  16. Paivi, I really enjoyed the story of how this painting came together. I was fascinated with it when you first put it up on Instagram. Thank you for sharing this with us. 🙂

  17. Thank you for sharing your very colourful life. I love to see what you create, the colours you use and how you incorporate your whole life into your work.
    I would like to enrol in one of your classes later this year (after our upcoming trip home to Scotland ). Can you advise me the best one to take regarding coloured pencils, which I have rediscovered & am enjoying a lot.

    1. Norma, I love Scotland, did you see this blog post:

      I have a self-study class which contains an e-book and the video called Coloring Freely, which is 100 % colored pencils.

      I also have a workshop called Inspirational Drawing that I have run many times but have not scheduled it for the fall. I have plans to make it as an self-study class in the end of this year. It there will be a lot of requests for it, I will run it as a guided workshop too.

      Have great time in Scotland!

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