Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Art Deco Journal Covers

Art Deco style handmade journal covers by Peony and Parakeet
My sisters will get empty handmade journals from me for Christmas. They both like writing and literature so I hope they will put the journals in use. My idea is to include some photos, decorative papers, scrap pictures and such – so that the journal is like a handmade version of Smash book more than a basic blank book. I have also chosen the themes for the journals. The older sister will get an art deco themed book and the younger sister will get flowers and fairies. Here’s a snapshot of the latter.

Handmade smash book like journal covered with Elsa Beskow's illustration, by Peony and Parakeet

I had an old Elsa Beskow’s children’s book which I used for the cover image. There are plenty of pretty papers too! My other sister would not have this, it is much too cute for her. She likes something more artistic.

I chose art deco as I have been thinking a lot about that style lately. I love the muted, sliding color transitions combined with black and white. And I have been more and more into using graphic, sharp shapes.

Art Deco Journal Covers

I will show you how I made the covers for the art deco themed journal. First, I picked some Sticky Canvas by Claudine Helmuth Studio. It is a canvas sheet that is like a huge sticker. You can attach it without glue after you have finished it. You do not need sticky canvas for this project. You can use a drawing paper or thin fabric instead.

1) Background Colors

I started with watercolors, then used some Dylusions ink sprays. As the canvas got all wet, it got wrinkled. I emphasized the wrinkles by brushing Distress ink pads against the canvas.

Art Deco style handmade journal covers by Peony and Parakeet, step 1

Now I got the muted, soft color transitions. Next task was to add contrasts and sharpness to it.

2) Background Motifs

I cut art deco styled shapes from old cardboard boxes and arranged them on the canvas.

Art Deco style handmade journal covers by Peony and Parakeet, step 2

Then I sprayed with the black Dylusions ink spray over the shapes.

Art Deco style handmade journal covers by Peony and Parakeet, step 2 after spraying

3) Finishing the Covers

I cut two thick cardboard pieces for covers. Then I covered them with the sticky canvas. I had a couple of handmade decorated papers which I wanted to use too.

Art Deco style handmade journal covers by Peony and Parakeet, step 3, adding decorated papers

I added decorated papers to the covers. Colored pencils were used to highlight the muted tones. The holes were punched with Zutter Bind-It-All. It is amazing how thick it can cut!

Art Deco style handmade journal covers by Peony and Parakeet

The front and back covers are shown on the left, and the inside covers on the right.

Handmade journal covers by Peony and Parakeet

Now I just have to add pages, draw some art deco style ornaments to them and find a photo of my sister where she looks a bit like a beauty of that era!

Art Deco appeared first time in 1920-40s, just after Art Nouveau.  
Leave a comment, what do you like in Art Deco or have you noticed it at all? Have you ever made anything Art Deco?

Move Towards the Flow State!

Waterfall, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet, and instructions on how to get into the flow state

This mixed media painting is called Waterfall. It is inspired by the light in dark spaces.

Last week, I visited two places with old glass windows. The first was National Museum of Finland in Helsinki. The second was the Finnish painter Pekka Halonen’s summer cottage “Halosenniemi” in Tuusula. Both of them were built at the beginning of 20th century. Despite their windows, there’s fairly dark inside. While walking there, I saw how dark colors can be seen as soft and how daylight can look sharp.

Halosenniemi, Finland and bottles of spray ink for examining the light and the dark

Perhaps the especially hot summer weather had it’s role too. No wonder I thought so positively about shadows and … water! I was tempted to use color sprays for this artwork. That way I could work outside and move around while creating.

A Big Mess with Acrylic Paints

Before spraying, I used acrylic paints to create color areas. They would work as a resist so that I could reveal them again after spraying. But the most important thing with the acrylics was: I grabbed a wide brush and said goodbye to rational thinking.

When you start with big brushes and create intersecting layers, you will naturally get into the creative mood. You will also begin to move. It’s often necessary to even stand up to make those big strokes wide enough. Check the front page of Heikki Marila’s website. He is a Finnish painter who creates huge paintings inspired by art history. See how those paintings are created, lots of movement there!

Also remember to change and mix colors as often as possible! Think that you are climbing towards the flow state where the creativity meets the happiness! Each interruption, the change in the movement and color, is one step closer to the flow.

Waterfall, the phase photo by Peony and Parakeet

The mess that I created with acrylics made my rational side cry and emotional side warm up. I was ready to get some fresh air and start even the bigger mess with sprays.

Entering the Flow State using Spray Mists and Handcut Stencils

Waterfall, a phase photo by Peony and Parakeet

Here’s the first sprayed layer. Moving around the lawn and shaking the spray bottles were like a jump towards the flow state. I shook away the last rational thoughts and entered the happy state. I was flying.

Now, this is important: Be prepared to work quickly! When you get creative, you will get faster. There should be no need to rationalize what to do next or where to get the materials. They all have to be there. I had taken the scissors and a piece of paper with me. That allowed me to create stencils while waiting the layers to dry. I had also set up the blow dryer near the back door.

Spraying with ink, entering the flow state, by Peony and Parakeet

Running around the back garden with spray bottles, then inside to dry layers, then back again, I sprayed about five layers in total. As a result, I got the ugly mess shown in the photo right below. But I was not worried. I thought it looked amazing! One good thing when moving towards the flow: the inner critic leaves far behind!

I ended the day with spraying some areas with water. When wiping some of the spray ink away the acrylic paint areas were revealed.

Waterfall, the phase photo by Peony and Parakeet

Next morning I had a problem to solve. How to finish the painting? I decided to create small geometric shapes with colored pencils to resemble the sharpness that light makes in the dark space.

Finishing with Colored Pencils

When using big brushes and big movements, creating details with small strokes adds interest and balance.

Using colored pencils over inks and acrylic paint

Colored pencils are wonderful to highlight the best and reshape the worst areas. When working with small details, I try to focus on one small area at the time.


In the “big” phase, my focus was in the big picture. Now, when working small, my focus is in the details.


Balanced Composition

When I had gone through all the areas, I began to look at the big picture again. Then I made the final tweaks. So here it is:

Waterfall, upside down, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

Hmm … wait a minute! Now it is upside down! Well, while coloring the work, I thought the direction would be this. But then, I noticed that it could be any of these three:

Waterfall, which side up? By Peony and Parakeet

If the composition is balanced, the work will look balanced in any directions. By changing the direction, you can test if your composition is successful. Still, I rarely come to the result where changing the direction not only works but also tells the same story. I think that moving around the lawn had an impact here!

Experiment this in your art: Try to include physical movement into your creative process!

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