Peony and Parakeet

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!

Artistic Embroidery with Pens and Paper

I am so excited!

Click to buy 21 Secrects Art Journaling workshop!

I will be teaching an online class as a part of 21 SECRETS Spring 2015! The class is called Artistic Embroidery with Pens and Paper.

An art journal page inspired by crazy quilting by Peony and Parakeet. A workshop about needlework inspired art journaling is available as a part of 21 Secrets Spring 2015 online course.

Class Description

Let the long history of textiles show up in your art journal! For hundreds of years people have created textile art to express themselves. In the workshop we will discover ways to imitate embroidery and quilting using paint, pen and paper! No actual sewing needed!

We will find inspiration from various stitches and techniques like crazy quilting, silk ribbon embroidery and modern patchwork. These art journal pages don’t only make you feel warm and welcomed, but also let you express the luxury only handmade can offer. After the workshop you will look at the family heirlooms in a new way!

Artistic Embroidery with Pens and Paper, an art journaling workshop by Peony and Parakeet, as a part of 21 Secrets spring 2015

21 SECRETS – 21 teachers!

By purchasing the class you will not only get that but also 20 other online classes from 20 other great artists!

21 SECRETS Spring 2015 on sale now!

Starts in April – Now available for preorder!

21 SECRETS Spring 2014 starts at 1st April and it is now available for preorder. Once the workshop starts in April, you will get a downloadable PDF including all 21 classes. It is packed with videos, full color photos, printouts and instructional content. You will get unlimited access to all 21 classes and a membership to the private Facebook community where you can discuss with me and the other teachers and participants. If you want to learn or boost your art journaling, this is the workshop to choose!

An embroidery inspired art journaling page. Join 21 SECRETS Spring 2015 to get a workshop from Peony and Parakeet!

Why preorder now?

I am a big believer of looking further ahead than to the next month. When you will see the spring light and start to wait for the summer, April is the perfect time to get something new for your journals and your skills.

And here’s another good reason to pre-order! The regular price for the 21 classes is 98 USD, if you preorder now it is only 69 USD! But be quick, the lowest price is available for the first 150 participants only!

21 SECRETS Spring 2015 PreOrder now!

I hope to see you at Artistic Embroidery with Pens and Paper! Click here to read more and preorder!

How to Imitate Glass with Paint

We Will Protect You, a mixed media watercolor painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read how to imitate glass with paint!
For this painting, I learned how to imitate glass. It is called “We Will Protect You,” and it’s about parents trying to protect their children. The parents have good intentions, and they do their best, but in the end, they have to let the child step into the world. I have painted two glass vases to represent the parents. The child sees the world through the parents, and even if they want to protect the child, they are fragile too.

Artistic Inspiration from Glassware

The idea for the painting began last Saturday when I went to the local library to get some ideas for the future blog posts. I saw the book called The Art of Glass. It was about Kaj Franck, a Finnish designer who was extremely skillful in designing glassware.

Goblet by Kaj FranckMost Finns have Kaj Franck’s glassware. He didn’t design unique pieces only, but everyday glass as well. My most precious glass item from him is this red “Goblet” which was originally owned by my aunt. She passed away ten years ago, and the color of this Goblet reminds me of her vivid character.

After browsing few pages of the book, I knew I had to make something glass-related. It’s not the first time the glass has inspired me: see the collage inspired by Nanny Still, and I have also knitted a folk bag inspired by Oiva Toikka. Both Nanny Still and Oiva Toikka are Finnish glass designers as well.

This time, I wanted not only to find out how to imitate glass but to explain it to you too. Before beginning the bigger painting, I painted few circles on a small paper and tried to make them look like glass.

Imitating glass by Peony and Parakeet

I used acrylic paints to paint the circles and then watercolors to add more circles around the previous ones. The shapes were softened with colored pencils. Then I added white with acrylic paint and a gel pen, and black with a PITT Artist Pen.

Imitating glass by Peony and Parakeet

I made each circle a bit different. I was not fully satisfied with them, though. The center circles were too solid in color. I decided to start the bigger painting with watercolors as they are easier for making transparent layers.

8 Tips on How to Imitate Glass

Imitating glass by Peony and Parakeet

1) Paint several transparent layers which intersect each other. Use a lot of water to create thin layers.

Imitating glass by Peony and Parakeet

2) Use a lot of hues and shades of the same color. Mix colors to get new tones which have slight differences from each other. Use small spots of other colors too as glass reflects its surroundings.

Imitating glass by Peony and Parakeet

3) Paint geometric shapes like circles, squares, half-circles, and triangles.

Imitating glass by Peony and Parakeet

4) Add white with acrylic paint. When painting the white shapes, soften one side of them by adding water.

Imitating glass by Peony and Parakeet

5) Use a black colored pencil to add dark near the sharp edges of white areas. Make the dark areas soft too.

Imitating glass by Peony and Parakeet

6) With correction pen, add brilliant white to highlight parts of the white areas.

Imitating glass by Peony and Parakeet

7) Add jet black with a black marker (I used a brush tip PITT Artist Pen) to make dark areas pop as well.

Imitating glass by Peony and Parakeet

8) Finish with thin lines using a gel pen and a black marker. It will make your glass look a bit thinner and more elegant.

We Will Protect You, a mixed media watercolor painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read how to imitate glass with paint!

What kind of glass do you like the most? Does mimicking materials interest you too?

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