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Peony and Parakeet

Illustrating Poems in Art Journaling

An art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read about illustrating poems in art journaling!

A lace doily waits to be picked up again.
A young girl’s fingers where an old woman used to fiddle.
How many beginnings can one hold?

This is an art journal page which illustrates a poem. I usually create the image first and then add the text. This time, I wrote the poem first and then illustrated it. Namely, for a long time I have had a desire to include creative writing in my art journals. I have loved poems since a small child and I used to write them all the time. After I grew up and moved away from home, it gradually stopped. But now years later, poems seem a great addition to art journal pages. Especially because I usually start writing a poem with a visual image in mind. Wouldn’t it be suitable to document that image too?

Of course, you do not have to be a poet to get into illustrating poems. You can also illustrate the poems that other people have written. Poems are great tools to get connected with the visual images that represent feelings. I think poems make a perfect pair with visual self-expression!

Illustrating Poems

1) Getting in touch with the feeling

Read the poem several times.
What kind of atmosphere does it create?  What metaphors does it use? Are there physical objects or people to include?

There’s a risk of getting too rational here. Try answering these too:
What kind of memories or thoughts does the poem raise in you? What kind of rhythm, music or dance does it resemble?

2) Sketching

Lightly sketch the elements you want to include to the page. Write the poem or at least reserve a place for it.

I used watercolors for sketching. Light painting can bring a more intuitive approach to your work than using a pencil. You don’t need to know your exact composition yet. Think this phase as the first steps in the dark! Do not take it too seriously (= too rationally)! Focus on the feeling you want to express!

An art journal page in development by Peony and Parakeet. Read about illustrating poems in art journaling!

3) Expressing with composition

After sketching, adjust the composition by adding more elements to the page! With poems, I often feel that if the composition delivers the message, the rest is trivial or easy. There’s so much content in the words itself.

I wanted my page to lean to the right and then up. Right – because there’s a strong connection to the future in the text. Up – because the doily waits to be picked up in the story. I also chose the colors accordingly: blue representing the old and red representing the new.

An art journal page in development by Peony and Parakeet. Read about illustrating poems in art journaling!

4) Finishing

This phase is to fine-tune everything already created.

I wanted to add the feeling of fabric and emphasize the upward movement by adding thick lines with watercolors. I also made the lace more detailed. Then I added some dark areas to make lighter areas pop. A thin black marker and colored pencils are great for the finishing touches when using watercolors on the page.

A detail of an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read about illustrating poems in art journaling!

The page was made on a separate watercolor paper and then attached to the journal. Watercolors work best on watercolor paper. Even if you use a thin watercolor paper it’s better than using a smoother surface.

An art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read about illustrating poems in art journaling!

Illustrating Poems – A Minimalistic Approach

You know that I am not a particularly fond of minimalism in self-expression but with poems, I think it can be a very effective approach.

An art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read about illustrating poems in art journaling!

A yellow spot on a white painting.
A happy thought when leaving.
I saw the sun on a cloudy morning,
The one to brighten my being.

This poem of mine began with a visual image that called for simplicity. When aiming for lots of space, acrylic paints can be a better medium to use than watercolors. Acrylic paints have more substance themselves, and it’s easy to add slight, yet powerful color changes with them.

In this page, I divided the poem into three parts. The composition was built accordingly.

A detail of an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read about illustrating poems in art journaling!

The first part is focused on expressing the latter sentence: the leaving. It is bittersweet, light peachy orange.

A detail of an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read about illustrating poems in art journaling!

The second part visualizes the sun in cloudy weather.

A detail of an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read about illustrating poems in art journaling!

The last part communicates the person, her being and her relation to the world that she is leaving behind.

An art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read about illustrating poems in art journaling!

With acrylics, it’s easy to work on any surface. I used white gesso instead of white paint but only to save some money.

Art Journal of Poems

Think about having an art journal that is filled with illustrated poems! What a treasure would it be! The best things in life are those we can create ourselves.

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Surface Patterns for Hot Summer Days

Summer spread in a Smash Book, by Peony and Parakeet

This July has been wonderful in Finland. I have enjoyed gardening and photographing and it shows in my art journal too.

Summer flowers by Peony and Parakeet

Both the wildflowers and flowers in the garden look great with a dark background. So when I made the drawing with colored pencils, I added some shadows too. Great way to express sunshine is to combine black with yellow!

But my main focus was on summer fabrics. It is so much fun to design prints for summer dresses.

Art journaling about summer fabrics by Peony and Parakeet

The collage of the left is an old one. A sketch for a surface pattern made in 2011. It was made by cutting circles from handdecorated papers. This time I replicated the design by cutting circles from stamped papers.

Summer crafting by Peony and Parakeet

The summery prints are mostly made by stamping here. Paper scraps like old scrapbooking papers can be altered easily with markers, colored pencils and stamps. I always try to add subtle color variation in the background to keep the result interesting. Thinking about shadows help here too.

As you can see, my colored pencils are always with me! Hopefully your summer has been as wonderful as mine!

Find Where You Belong to

Folk art themed art journal spread made to a Smash book, by Peony and Parakeet

It took just a few seconds looking at the pictures of folk dresses to become almost overwhelmingly inspired. I hurried to my fashion themed Smash book and created this art journal spread.

Fabulous, a Smash book page by Peony and ParakeetAnd then I had to make even one more page. Folklore and folk art always make me feel like this: fabulous! They give me both the sense of belonging and the sense of freedom. I feel that I am one part of the long chain of all the women, of Finnish women, of my mother and grandmothers. At the same time I am not defined by them, just empowered by them. With folk style, I can express my roots and origin without constraints.

They say that one of the basic needs is to belong to someone, to somewhere. I think that creating art can greatly enforce that feeling.

What kind of art makes you feel like that you are included? Maybe enjoying creating is not so much about finding one’s personal style but finding ways to feel belonged.

Folk art style art journaling. A detail of an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

If you want to develop, it will be insufficient to create art that touches only you. You will want to get connected to other people as well. I claim that the deeper you go in your own self-expression, the more you will also touch others. Our mothers and grandmothers may have very little in common but we can share the goal to create something new and original from our heritage.

A detail of an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

We do not have to think shapes or lines. It is often enough to dive into the colors. For me, colors represent the feeling. Shapes and lines are just to support them.

Art journal made from a Smash book by Peony and Parakeet

Find the colors from your origin and mix them with the colors of your present life. You are free to create any combinations! The best colors give you the sense of belonging. They will also inspire you to create art that is filled with meaning.

See this journal fully finished! >> Watch the flip-through video!

Finished Art Journal

In 2012 I bought a pink Smash book. Two years later, it’s now finished. With this video, I want to encourage you to continue art journaling. Whatever a single page looks like, it will be pretty and meaningful when being part of the full book.

Finished Art Journal – A Thick Book!

A Smash Book, a finished art journal by Peony and Parakeet.

I love handling full books, the thick, filled pages just temp to open them again and again! Smash books have a lot of pages and I had to remove several of them when my book grew thicker page by page.

House plant, a paper collage by Peony and ParakeetSee the blog posts written during the years about this finished art journal:

Pretty Art Journaling
the first pages and introducing the concept of the journal

There’s a Little Girl in All of Us
drawing faces

Smash Book or Handmade Journal
using Smash book as an art journal

Homemade Happiness
creating more pages

Art Journaling about Imagination
a spread celebrating imagination

Would You Try That
playing jewellery designer

You may also recognize some artwork on the video that has been shown in this blog. I often use art journals to save them.

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Here’s the back cover again which I finished on the video. I create decorated elements (like the centerpiece of the flower) now and then. They are stored with hand decorated papers and when I create collages they often work as jump starts. It always looks better if all the elements are not made in the same day! The same is with the journal itself – keep on decorating, day by day, one piece at the time!

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