Peony and Parakeet

The Essence of Your Art

Collage Art by Peony and Parakeet

I found this old collage piece when I organized my archives. It is a design that I have used as a part of the fabric called Flow. As art journaling cute little girls with lovely little animals, is so popular nowadays, this made me think: what’s the essence of art is for me. And also, I would love to hear what it is for you!

For me, it’s not the play, even if I love playing. It’s not the colors even if I am totally for them. It’s not even the circles, my favorite shapes. I might aim for the certain styles, I love art nouveau and expressionism, for sure. But the essence of everything is that I want to create “everyday icons”, the images that make me stop, drop everything mundane and get in touch with my the inner thoughts.

Technically compositions, colors, shapes, styles, etc. create that. But when I am happy with the result, I do not think about those anymore. I think about what I feel and think right now and where it can take me.

The best thing is that everybody can create their personal icons, sacred images, mandalas, whatever you want to call them. They don’t need to be connected to any religion. They can just be connected to experiences, moments or beauty which uplift your spirit.

This is what I thought when I saw this old artwork. And now I wonder, what can I do better. How can I make this blog be the place for anyone to stop, then start creating – the essence of their art!

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From Movie Posters to Art Journal Pages

The Discerning Diva - an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. See how to get ideas from movie posters!

“The Discerning Diva – She could be hired as the art director of this journal.”
This page is my version of the poster for the movie “The Big Lebowski”. I have borrowed the concept of weird glasses and the composition from the poster, but it is still a separate artwork, not an exact copy.

The Discovery of Movie Posters

After learning that I like to use alphabet stamps in the art journal pages, I had been thinking about the next step in journaling. Last week I watched the poster artist James Victore‘s course  Bold & Fearless Poster Design on Creative Live. His style has very little to do with mine, but I became fascinated by the visual concept of posters.

Last weekend I found a book about 1990’s movie posters at the local library. I became fascinated by the compositions used in the posters. Then it hit me: maybe I could replace the main elements with my own and apply the visual concept of the poster to my personal stories!

How to pick ideas from movie posters?

I will show you how to make your own “Discerning Diva” (very easy) but before that, I want to show you another poster-inspired page.

An art journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet. See how to get ideas from movie posters!

The page on the left is inspired by the poster for the movie “The Matrix”. I picked few main elements and the general atmosphere from the poster. The page on the right is made a long time ago, but I like how the two pages tell the story about being inside someone’s brain.

Four tips for picking ideas from the movie posters:
1) Composition: Examine the placement of the title, the grouping of the main elements and the most noticeable color contrasts.
2) Subject: Think about how your life could be applied to the movie.
3) Process: Examine the poster carefully but when you start creating, focus on your page and make it your own.
4) Imagine: Remember that you can replace the elements of the poster with whatever you like. For example, a person can be replaced with a vase of flowers.

Create Your Discerning Diva!

1) Paint the background of the page.
I used acrylic paints to make the background strong and heavy-looking. Leave an unpainted area for the face. Add water to the paint and gently brush the area around the face. Wet strokes create the impression of a thin scarf and add dimension.

The Discerning Diva - instructions for an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

2) Color the face.
I used colored pencils to maintain the big contrast between the background and the face. Add some color to the skin. Draw a mouth and a nose.

The Discerning Diva - instructions for an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

3) Add glasses.
Go to your box of hand drawn papers. Cut two lenses. Attach with glue or gel medium. Add frames with pens. Make the glasses as decorative as you like!

The Discerning Diva - instructions for an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

4) Add text.
Pick a color that has a high contrast with the background and journal on the bottom of the page. I have used a correction pen for the title and a white gel pen (Uni-Ball Signo) for the text below the title.

The Discerning Diva - an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. See instructions on how to make your own diva!

5) Add finishing strokes.
With colored pencils, add some strokes below the face to represent a scarf.
Add few strokes to outline the scarf near the forehead.

More Ideas for Compositions

Surround Yourself with Inspiration - an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Inspired by movie posters.

Believe or not, this page is inspired by Austin Powers movie poster and hand embroidery! I think that hand embroidery has a lot in common with hand drawing.

Learn to draw from imagination and inspiration!
>> Buy Inspirational Drawing 2.0

Get the Most Out of Art Critique

Accept Your Passion - an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet, read more about how to deal with art critique

My latest art journal page is inspired by a discussion in an art journal group. It was about how to deal with the criticism towards your art. One woman told a story which touched me deeply. Someone had accidentally seen photos of her art and asked if they were made by her little grandchildren. After that she did not feel comfortable making art again. The story made me think about how important other people’s reactions to our arts and crafts is. How much we yearn for comments and how the critique can scare us. I also share those feelings. These are my conclusions of the subject. (And yes, I have new pencils!)

1) Pick Your Specialists

Prismacolor Pencils

“Can you simplify, Paivi?”, said my teachers in so many words while I was studying industrial design. Because, in design, it all starts from the basic concepts, basic shapes and little alterations to them. I have always loved decorating. So I rushed through the first design decisions to get into adding swirls and tiny dots to the each of the designs. When I completed a sketch for a bar code reader, a teacher said: “What can I say, it is like a Russian icon painting with a flair of folk”. And he did not even know I had painted icons as a child!

“Your sketches all look the same”, he continued.
I did not get it. For me, they were all so different.
– “The same shape is repeated all over again.”

When I went back home, I thought that studying industrial design was going to change me to the direction I did not like. Within a year I would be living on a white box with no carpets on the floor and wear black glasses. But the end result was nothing like. My interest in art history and decorative art only increased within the time as practicing different styles helped me realize there’s no need to create a too narrow image of my own art.

At the end of the studies, one of the teachers said to me, carelessly: We just got an application from a person who reminded you: so many details, so little simplifying! We can’t accept him in. To design is to simplify. Despite your beginning, you do have learned that.” It meant a world to me – according to her, I was a simplifier, a designer.

In today’s world, there’s a specialist for everything. I yearned for the specialist to testify, objectively. And once she did, I was happy. But later I have begun to think that actually, in art, everyone has to define their own specialists. The range of art and design is huge and surely, everybody doesn’t like every piece of art.

So, don’t even expect that everybody likes your art – is a specialist of your style. Pick those that you want to please and forget the rest!

2) Improve Your Communication

Making of an art journal page, by Peony and Parakeet

An artist Ann Rea has said:  “Art is communication”. I think that focusing on what we want to say with our art is often more beneficial than focusing on the techniques. When someone comments our art, whether the feedback is positive or negative, we can always ask: “What do you see here? How does it make you feel? What do you like the most?” (Or “like the least”, if you are brave enough, and if you have chosen the person to be your specialist.)

Sometimes it is not so much about delivering a certain message, but touching people. When we are touched by our own art, it may seem surprising that others do not get touched by it. Then we need to improve our visual communication or fill in the story verbally. (The power of art journaling!)

Instead of thinking “I want to become a better artist” you may want to think “I want to become a better visual communicator.” After that, you will often find art critique easier to swallow!

3) Set the Risk Level

Making of an art journal page, by Peony and Parakeet

If you only want to hear positive comments, set the risk level low. One way to do that is to stick with the realistic art and copy those who have a lot of general acceptance.

But if you want to find your own style and in the end, truly touch people, take more risks! Experiment, observe, let go of the definitions you use for yourself, think about before you start to create and while creating, stop thinking! You can set the risk level for each individual piece, and go higher from one artwork after another.

Once in a while, give yourself a permission to make high-risk art! Sometimes it may also be good to take high risks when asking for comments! But never let anyone keep you away from creating when you are on the way of unique self-expression.

In need of experimenting? – Join me for an art journaling workshop!

Pre-order 21 Secrets Spring where Paivi from Peony and Parakeet will teach Artistic Embridery with Pens and Paper!

This is one of the many art journal pages inspired by embroidery techniques. Meet me at 21 Secrets Art Journaling Workshop where I will show you my favorite embroidered textiles and teach you how to imitate the embroideries with pens and paper! The perfect project if you want to stretch your style in a safe environment! The workshop begins in April, but you can preorder now!

The Power of Positive Self-Criticism in Art

"Positivity grows", a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

My latest mixed media artwork is called “Positivity Grows”. It is dedicated to all of you who have a strong inner critic. If you want to improve, it is essential to evaluate your own work. But sometimes the self-criticism can have too negative tone. Have you experienced any of these?

1) Big Picture Panic
The artwork gets evaluated as a whole in a too early stage. It is like making a meal and after tasting the raw potatoes, you’d decide that it’s not going to succeed. “I must have done something wrong when peeling those potatoes!”

2) Overclean Obsession
You take the safe way: you don’t mix colors, don’t let anything intersect, draw sloo-owly, keep everything plain, simple and controlled. This reminds me of a tadpole (a baby frog) which I got from my friend when I was a child. The tadpole lived in a jar filled with muddy water. I picked a clean vase, poured plenty of tap water and put the little frog there. It did not live long. I did my best to take care of it but did not understand that for the tadpole, there was nothing to eat, nowhere to hide. So – Mix those colors! Add diversity! Give some nourishment to the growing artist in you!

3) Mistake Hunt
If you focus on the things that “went wrong” instead of those which “went right”, you are playing the wrong game. Art is in small nuances, it requires sensitivity and openness. If your self-evaluation is too negative, you do not notice the beautiful little details that appear in your art. They are often lucky accidents if you take care of the diversity. When enhanced, those details can take over and bring your end result to the new level.

Positive Self-Criticism

You can get cured of any of those diseases with a healthy dose of positive self-criticism. From the moment you make the first brush stroke, focus on the details and look for beautiful and interesting areas. I will show you how I did that while creating the artwork of this post.

Phase 1 – Watercolors

When I began the artwork of this post, I just made a mess with watercolors. I kind of made the muddy jar for tadpoles to prosper!

Watercolor background by Peony and Parakeet. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

After painting this, I could have just quitted and called it ruined. Or I could have tried to make that dark muddy area brighter. But instead, I began to investigate the painting closely.

Details from a watercolor background by Peony and Parakeet. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

My inner critic pointed the little details with so much beauty that I began to feel confident and excited. The whole process of making this artwork began to feel like an adventure. Instead of mistakes, I was hunting treasures!

Phase 2 – Watercolors

Next, I continued with watercolors and created new layers of elements. I took care of the diversity: there’s a lot of various hues and shapes. And even more important: the layers intersect so that they create new happy accidents.

A mixed media painting in progress by Peony and Parakeet. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

After painting this, I enjoyed this tiny detail: a yellow spot. It was like a little star! I felt I was lucky and genius at the same time.

A detail of a watercolor painting. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

I spent some time searching for more beautiful areas and enjoying them. With watercolors, the edges of brush strokes are often really beautiful.

A mixed media painting in progress by Peony and Parakeet. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

Phase 3 – Colored Pencils

To keep the diversity level high, I changed watercolors to colored pencils. I also changed the music I was listening to. Working from a small area to another, I enlarged the beautiful details found after another.

A mixed media painting in progress by Peony and Parakeet. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

In this phase I realized that the main theme of the artwork would be growth. I searched for the details that would express the theme. I found several and they made me happy!

A mixed media painting in progress by Peony and Parakeet. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

Phase 4 – Pens

New music and new supplies! This time I picked a black PITT Artist Brush Pen and a white gel pen (Uni-Ball Signo). I was encouraging myself to create strong contrasts. They would make the pretty details really pop. Again, I was not worrying about hiding the not-so-pretty details but enhancing the good ones.

A mixed media painting in progress by Peony and Parakeet. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

In this phase I began to look the artwork as a whole. However, instead of correcting the poor composition, I analyzed which of the details looked most appealing and how they were located.

A mixed media painting in progress by Peony and Parakeet. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

Phase 5 – Finishing

When finishing, I like to listen to the rhythmic music which gives me the confidence to carefully adjust the balance of the work. I picked a white correction pen and a box of hand decorated papers. By doodling and cutting papers, I changed the composition so that the eye would find all the pretty little details one by one.

A mixed media painting in progress by Peony and Parakeet. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

The Summary

You can be analytical and critical when making art. You can also be strict: mix the colors, change the tempo, keep the image alive! But maintaining the gentleness and sensitivity is crucial too. Let the little details that appeal to you be the foundation for your self-expression!

"Positivity grows", a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

Blank Page Syndrome before Big Picture Panic?

Buy the video “Watercolor 101 for Intuitive Painting” where I will show you how you can get a fast start and keep going! Click here for the preview!

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