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Peony and Parakeet

Less Sketching, More Creativity!

Fairytale, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

Did you see my latest video: “Art is a Conversation”? I have made this piece by applying the principle presented in the video: letting one detail lead to another. No sketching involved!

The Creative Process with No Sketching Involved

I picked a random background made with watercolors and started adding collage pieces. They, in turn, inspired me to paint some elements with watercolors.

Starting point for a mixed media painting, by Peony and Parakeet

Here are the first steps:

Creating a mixed media painting without sketching by Peony and Parakeet

Why Sketch? Why Not?

You might feel the need for sketching because filling the blank page feels too scary. Some people want to sketch because they find it difficult to bring ideas that lead to something. If they create a collage, the result is just an evenly spread pattern and then what?

Dogs have taught me many things. One thing is to focus on the present. I try to teach them new things by dividing them into small steps. When I focus on explaining the next step only, they will listen and respond. They will do their best to understand and make most of my advice.

Paivi's beagles Cosmo and Stella from Peony and Parakeet

My beagles say: Stay close, focus and stop controlling what we can’t comprehend yet.

Those principals can be applied to art making too. Add new element close and partly on top of another. Enjoy each stroke, each color, and shape at a time. Stop worrying about the areas where you have not reached yet. Let creating grow your thoughts instead of being fixed to one idea.

Creating a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

When I reached the upper right corner, I saw a watercolor splotch that looked a little bit like a fairytale princess, so I quickly emphasized those shapes!

Creating a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

I believe that too much sketching brings too much stiffness: the stiffness of ideas, the stiffness of lines, the stiffness of composition.

Paivi and her beagle Stella from Peony and Parakeet

When we try to create with control, it is like trying to trace better than dogs do. We can guide them to sniff, but we also have to let them do the job.

Fairytale, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

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5 Ways Music Can Improve Your Art

Opera, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how you can improve your art with the help of music!

This mixed media collage is called “Opera”. For me, visual images have always been more important than sounds, but I still think that there’s a lot in common and a lot to learn from music.

Tip 1: Let Music Challenge You!

How would jazz look like as a collage? Paint the voice of your favorite artist! Create a  rhythm to your artwork!

A week ago was my first time in opera. I had bought the tickets as a birthday present for my husband who is a very cultured person. I was a bit worried about how I would endure the experience as I had disliked opera for all my life. At least the play was one of the easiest pieces, The Marriage of Figaro. While listening to the beautiful sopranos, I saw strong colors and lines in my mind. I began to think how powerful and intellectual music can be. I felt I was challenged! Could I ever express visually what I was experiencing?

However, when I began to create the collage, I did not think of opera. I knew that it would come out someday or another. Like many times, I just had a compelling idea of the technique I was going to use. I was going to create strong shapes with a molding paste.

Making of Opera, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how you can improve your art with the help of music!

But before opening the paste jar, I grabbed a sheet of heavy-weight watercolor paper and the box of india inks. Painting the background was fast with a thick brush.

Tip 2: Think Your Artwork as a Space for Music!

I read an interesting interview from the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. They had interviewed a famous Finnish painter Marika Mäkelä. She quoted another Finnish artist, Leena Luostarinen. She had said that you should imagine a lighting inside the painting. Even the colors of the painting should be considered through the lighting. I think it is ingeniously said. It made me think about the space I would create inside my artwork and how the lights, shadows and color contrasts should flow there. My addition to this thinking is: if the music was played in that space, think about how it would sound. Pick the shapes and lines to express that!

With these deep thoughts, I cut both heavy and light cardboard into pieces. They were attached to the background with a masking tape.

Making of Opera, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how you can improve your art with the help of music!

See how irregular the handcut shapes are! I love the uniqueness that only handcuts can give! I can’t understand the popularity of machine-cut stencils.

Making of Opera, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how you can improve your art with the help of music!

After placing the masks on the background, I added the molding paste, a lot of it! Some swirls were doodled on the paste, so that the surface would look lively.

Making of Opera, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how you can improve your art with the help of music!

I removed the masks carefully before the paste was dry. Drying time was really long, almost a day, even if I used a heat gun to fasten the process.  I usually like to take breaks from creating, so this extra waiting time did not frustrate me at all. While I was waiting, I was thinking about how I was going to paint the artwork. How would the light flow around these dramatic shapes?

Tip 3: Pick the Colors from the Music

Making of Opera, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how you can improve your art with the help of music!

I like to think music as colors. The lower the notes, the darker the colors are. A melancholic song is also darker than the cheerful one. Red and orange are for deep, rich voices. You do not need to overanalyze it: just get into the feeling of the music and pick the colors that come to your mind! The Marriage of Figaro has both bright and dark sounds. I also wanted to express the dramatic nature of the music with colors.

Tip 4: Move to the Rhythm of the Music While Creating

Making of Opera, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how you can improve your art with the help of music!

When the painting gets near the end, I often stand up. I need to see my work properly to find the essence of it.  This is the stage where I usually put the music on if I have not done it before. I wave my hands and take steps to the rhytm of the music. I try to get as close as possible to the feeling that I want to express. I also try to be as focused as possible.

White gel pen and black markers were in use as I dived into the melodies of the opera.

Tip 5: Focus Your Energy with the Help of Music

It is important not to change the music too much when you want to focus. If you listen to the variety of songs just when you make the final touches, it might not do good for your work. I often play the same song repeatedly when I am finishing the work.

A detail of Opera, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how you can improve your art with the help of music!

On the other hand, when I am in the earlier stages of the work, I am not that careful. I listen to this and that as long as it gives me the energy to continue. I like to listen to the music that gives me confidence and which doesn’t feel too themed. Here are my recent favorites for boosting the creative process: A Sky Full of Stars (Coldplay), Viva La Vida (Coldplay), This Years Love (David Grey), Change (Tracy Chapman), September (Earth, Wind & Fire), Flower (Kylie Minogue), Thorn in My Side (Eurythmics), I Say a Little Prayer (Aretha Franklin).

Opera, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how you can improve your art with the help of music!

I love how dimensional my artwork became. I am also happy how finished it looks. Hand decorated papers were helpful while finishing the work. With them, it is easy to add details that are interesting and different. Just do not use the same paper too much!

Sometimes I aim for flying lines and relaxed touch, but this time – it was all about opera! My computer was playing The Marriage of Figaro in high volume and I was pushing my boundaries to express the quality of the music. Then finally, after placing the two red pieces, I felt that I have solved it, the riddle of opera music!

Opera, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how you can improve your art with the help of music!

What music do you listen to while creating? Try changing the music if you want to fine-tune your art or expand to new areas!

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Fabric Collages

A collage made from fabric pieces, by Peony and Parakeet. See the instructions to make fabric collages!
The idea for this card came from the pile of fabric scraps that I have. I began to wonder: could I use these instead of papers to create fabric collages?

Fabric scraps in a drawer

Fabric Collages – A School Project from the Past

I also remembered one happy moment from the childhood. I was about 10 years old. A teacher asked us to bring fabric scraps to school. We were asked to cut the fabric into pieces and create a collage from them. My schoolmates were not excited but I was thrilled. I cut the fabrics into tiny pieces and began to glue them on a paper.

Fabric collage, a detail

When I had finished the collage, I was very pleased with it. I had also had such a good time. Little did I know that I would be cutting tiny pieces whole my life – that the moment I picked the scissors was to follow me many times afterwards!

A fabric collage made by Paivi from Peony and Parakeet, in the age of 10

1) Cut and Glue the Fabric Pieces

The supplies for fabric collages are simple: scissors, glue, paper, fabrics.

Creating a fabric collage, by Peony and Parakeet

2) Add a Layer of Gel Medium

Because my collage was small, I wanted to add some fine details and extra layering. To be able to do that, I covered the first layer with the gel medium.  When dried, I would be able to doodle with markers and create dimensions by adding more layers.

Creating a fabric collage, adding layers with gel medium, by Peony and Parakeet

My favorite is Golden Soft Gel Gloss but any gel medium will do. Even if I am not a big fan of buying more stuff, purchasing this is a good investment. You can use gel medium not only to create surfaces but also glueing paper pieces when making paper collages.

Unfinished fabric collage, doodling on the gel medium surface, a technique by Peony and Parakeet

3) Add Doodling

When gel medium dries it becomes transparent and you can doodle with thin markers or gel pens on it. Make sure to dry it first throughly!

4) Add More Details From Fabric Pieces

Adding gel medium on fabric surface. See instructions for creating fabric collages! By Peony and Parakeet.

After doodling on the first layer, I wanted to add details like the house in the middle. After constructing the house with fabric pieces and glue, I added gel medium to the details to add some doodling on them.

The photo below shows how the fabric is layered. A part of the card is covered with gel medium and feels like plastic. There are also fabric pieces without any coverage on the top and they feel soft.

A fabric collage card by Peony and Parakeet

You do not need a sewing machine to enjoy working with fabrics!

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