This week, we celebrate watercolors. I have a new painting and great news: You can now purchase the watercolor module of the class Floral Fantasies separately. >> Buy here!
This painting is about living at maximum, embracing the visual richness of our surroundings, and having the courage to show up and reach high.
My Rusty and Shy Watercolor Set
Why did I choose watercolors for this kind of grand subject? Those timid little pans! “Hey, Paivi,” they whispered to me. “We doubt if we can dance anymore.”
We humans are like watercolors. It takes some time to handle a new element. When a part of us gets washed away, we first become bland and unclear.
Layer by Layer Towards The Maximum
But the mildness changes when layers begin to build up. The colors get brighter and the depth becomes more evident. Like a painting, a life that had no energy begins to breathe and sing.
What first felt uncontrollable, can lead to openness.
The failures of the beginning become background music, and the true identity is revealed layer by layer.
When the outer world is at a minimum, we have a chance to turn the inner world to a maximum. So why paint like a minimalist when the soul’s natural essence is a maximalist! Isn’t this the best time to let the inner artist out?!
Floral Fantasies – Watercolor Edition
By popular request, the watercolor module of Floral Fantasies is available separately from the rest of the class. The watercolor edition has four projects. There’s one small beginner project, two are slightly bigger but fun projects, and the last one is an in-depth project. You’ll start simple, but paint more richness and layers project by project. >> Buy now!
Floral Fantasies – both the watercolor edition and the full edition are on sale this weekend! The sale ends on March 7, 2021, at midnight PST. >> Buy now!
I visited the Finnish Glass Museum a couple of weeks ago, so this piece felt really inspiring again! Let’s dive deeper into how I changed it.
Tip #1 – Cure the White Spot Fever
Back in 2014, I had fallen in love with all kinds of white pens, paints, and correction fluids. A little dot here, another there, and the element looked prettier. But adding dots and spots also make the piece busier. For the viewer, it’s like trying to find its way through crowded streets where everyone is trying to get the attention: “Hey, hey, hey, you there, look at me!”
When you are a doctor for the white spot fever, start by toning down all the spots that are located near the edges. We want to steer the eye to the middle first, so the edges don’t have to be so eye-catching. If this is the first time you work on this job, watercolors can be a good choice. Even if the pigment wouldn’t stick on all the surfaces, you get the impression of how the piece looks if you make the edges less noticeable. Turn the piece upside down, so that it’s easier to focus on the task, and not look at the big picture.
Of course, your pieces can have fever, even if it’s not the white spot fever. The general advice for any fever is to remove all the eye-catching small elements that are located near the edges.
Tip #2 – Form Friendships between Elements
Often when we don’t feel connected with the image, the image itself doesn’t express connection. When the elements are floating separately, there can be a lonely undertone in the whole piece. On the other hand, if there is no contrast between the elements, the image can look busy no matter how connected the elements are.
Here are my two versions side by side. In the old version, there are big glass jars, but the contrast between them is not very clear. There are a lot of small shapes that are floating lonely.
At best, adding connections make the image to deliver a message. When I looked at my piece, it was unclear to me what it was about. In the old blog post, I had written: “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.”
But now, I found the element that looked like jaws most intriguing. It seemed to be a rising spirit, a small but powerful baby dragon, which only needed a neck to become a central element.
I used dark india inks and black pen to quickly sketch how I would connect the elements, and then continued the work with acrylics and lighter colors. I broke the biggest jar near the edge to two jars so that they won’t compete with the focal point so much.
Tip #3 – Make a Highway for the Viewer
Busy pieces often have so many paths for the eye that it’s not clear where to start and how to continue. The best thing is to be clear and make a highway that goes around the image. The viewer can then take smaller scenic routes around the details, but there’s always the big safe road to return to that leads to the main attractions.
Building a highway requires that you know what your main elements are. After finding the spirit of the jar, I made the red circle communicate with it. Now I added a couple of white spots so that it looks like there’s a voice or a reflection flying between the two. So there’s use for those white dots, just use them sparingly and near the places where you want to lead the eye!
With turquoise tones, I painted a route from the right bottom corner to the two central elements. I also added more depth to the image by painting shadows. Shadows would be my fourth tip, but it’s worth a separate post, so I will get back to it sometimes later.
No More Busy Mixed Media!
I named the revamped version as “Song of Glass” because it’s now about finding the singing spirit of the silent jars.
I hope you found this post helpful for busy mixed media pieces. See my classes for more handy tips and advice!
This week, the theme is painting imaginary people and how to find their soul. There’s plenty of examples in this blog post!
One of the wonders of painting and drawing is that we can give birth to an imaginary person – that we can create someone who breathes, talks, and has a life of her own. However, many times the doll that I have on paper hasn’t come alive. Or she has taken just a few breaths, and after the creative spark has gone, she just stares with empty eyes. So no wonder that I have had a love-hate relationship for painting imaginary people. I want to experience the miracle, but it can also be too much of a struggle.
References – Working with a Soul that Breathes Already
Using a reference may be the least innovative solution but if you find an image that really speaks to you, it can be a good one. Tiny changes in facial features lead to a whole new person so if you don’t follow the reference in the smallest detail, yours is like distant relative to the original – familiar features but still unique. For this oil painting called “Heaven and Earth“, I used a detail of Sandro Botticelli’s painting “Madonna of the Magnificat” (1483) as a reference.
Here’s a close-up of the faces. I changed the angle of the face, opened the eyes more, and made the mouth look more determined.
Sounds easy, but I often struggle with finding the soul when using references. With this painting, I tried to slowly work towards an individual personality, but creating a connection took a lot of time. Botticelli painted his soul, and it’s not the same as mine.
Here the work was in the early stage so that you can see how she has changed.
From the struggles of this painting and many others, I have learned this:
Working on the face alone never brings up the soul.
With the Madonna, as soon as I figured out the purpose and the style of the surroundings, I was able to finish the face.
The Soul Spreads Over the Painting
Even if a person is usually the focal point of the painting, the soul is not focused but spread.
The soul is in the setting, in the things, in the atmosphere. Even Botticelli’s Madonna can look just like a bored person without the crown, the light, the child, the book, etc.
So no matter if you paint intuitively without pre-defined ideas, sketches, or references, or more intentionally with a clear idea of how you want your imaginary people to look like, seek for the soul in everything you paint.
Flowers have soul.
Pots have soul.
Hair and hats have soul.
Inanimate and organic things also give the soul to the imaginary people.
In this watercolor painting called “Mirimer“, the fairy is the focal point, but her soul is spread all over the paper.
Imaginary People Exist in Shapes and Colors As Well
The painting doesn’t even need to have a face. Your imaginary people can be abstract, like in this small acrylic painting that I recently painted on a sketchbook.
Shapes and colors have soul.
Imaginary People – First or Last?
The idea for this post came from the question that I received a couple of days ago:
“I like your little people peeking out from within your art. I would like to learn more about that. Do you draw them first and paint around them or paint and then save a spot for them?”
In Magical Forest, we lure fairies to appear intuitively from the watercolor background. The soul begins with the feeling.
In the new class, Decodashery, we start by building a visual world and then make the dollies to fit with it. So the soul is first just a small flower, then it expands to floral paintings, cakes, lace, and finally, the imaginary people are born. By gradually setting the style and the spirit is the best intentional way to add soul to your work.