Join the adventure into the world of midsummer magic, wildflowers and fantasy cats. blog follows the path to fascinating art, where dreamy elements are playing with the reality - and illustrations are completed with Finnish wildflowers. Artist Sanna of the Sandcastle takes you into a journey to creativity, art and illustrations.

Vintage portrait or illustration - or both?

Below is a selection of older vintage and flower themed drawings.
Which one is your favorite? 1,2,3 or 4?
(You can leave a comment on Instagram or on Facebook)

In the picture above there´s a selection of vintage drawings from the past years. And this time I wanted to write a bit more about the realism in these drawings.

The works from the first to the fourth are in ascending order according to the amount of layers and the level of realism (picture below). Therefore the first drawing, number one, is the smallest drawing with only few pencil and colored pencil layers. The amount of drawn layers and the size of drawing then increases towards the number two and three -  and as a result the number four is the most realistic and largest of the drawings, and has also most of layers and shading in it.

One can explore the differences, but also the similarities of the selected drawings. The number one and four for example are both once designed to be also portraits.

Because the works number one and four (picture below) were initially created to be portraits, the drawings have unique proportions and likeness in their features. It is also interesting that the likeness is possible to achieve with such different styles. The number one for example was created with more modern beauty illustration style, when instead the number four has more traditional portrait style with orchid and vintage theme.

In addition the drawing number one called “Wearing Roses” is more like a sketchy portrait, but it can also be seen as a fashion or beauty illustration. It is also created with fewest layers and less shading compared to the other drawings. It is also an example of a drawing in a smaller size, because the size of the original is about 12cm x 17cm (approx.5x7inch). You can see the small size more obviously when the work is compared to the real roses in pictures below. 

Overall this particular drawing was a fascinating task, because the aim was to draw a very small and sketchy portrait into the style of fashion and beauty illustration.  As a result the number one can then be categorized as a beauty illustration themed portrait. In these kind of sketchy and light drawings, the facial features can still be drawn so that they are having also the likeness, in case they have been commissioned to be a portrait.

It is interesting how the likeness is achievable only with few lines and plainer style - or with reduced shading.

On the other hand one can also compare the pictures number one and three (picture below), and see how adding layers and shading is effecting the style and atmosphere of the drawing  - and also explore how much the style changes from sketchy illustration towards more realistic approach. Also in the drawing number three, the real hydrangea flowers are completing the drawing and bringing a whole new level to the work.

Usually it has been the purpose of the work that has defined the level of the realism of the drawing -  whether it has been about creating a portrait or instead an illustration - or even both at the same time.

Some of the drawings have been about exploring the fading boundaries between realism and illustration. And sometimes the differences have been quite subtle. It´s also fascinating how small changes can have such an impact when aiming either realistic or more illustrative style.

When looking at the selected works in the collection, for example the work number two has more stylized approach in the features (picture below). The  drawing number two called "Yesterday´s Flower"  was created for illustration purposes and is aiming for a bit more stylized character -  with imaginery features. Although this theme would also been possible to draw with a likeness if needed, for example if it were commissioned to be a portrait.

The level of realism in the drawings has always fascinated me. And I have enjoyed to play with different styles - whether it has been fashion or beauty illustration, more playful character design or even a highly detailed realistic drawing or portrait. And above all aiming for certain level of realism in the drawings has been exciting!

And creating different themes has also been giving a lot of inspiration to drawing, especially the vintage and flower themes with reduced colors. Adding that extra theme to the portrait has also given new ways, how to draw that traditional portrait a bit differently.

I have also listed below the links to the previous blog articles, where there´s more information about these spesific drawings and the creative process behind them.

Yesterday´s Queen

One, two, three flowers of hydrangea…
And look, suddenly there´s a path to yesterday!

Could one even time travel through that flower path... and then meet the Queen of yesterday?

The work called “Yesterday´s Queen” was created many years ago. This drawing was designed to have vintage style that resembles a bit of those old recolored vintage photos from the past. This work became also a combination of both vintage style and flower theme.

In addition this drawing also had a bit of mythology twist in it. And what an inspiring subject it was! Trying to imagine that Queen of Yesterday when drawing...

This drawing was created with pencils and selected colored pencils like the orchid themed vintage drawing from the previous article (mystic glow of the orchids). Also this drawing is presenting grayscale facial features with colored flowers.

It is always so exciting to see what the partial coloring does to the drawing! The balance between grayscale and color is a great way to affect the atmosphere of the drawing and emphasize certain elements. In this case especially the flowers and the crown were really highlighted by coloring only them in the drawing.

After the drawing was completed, I added some real hydrangea flowers on top of the drawing. That gave then a complete new dimension to this work!

I also wanted this vintage drawing to have light blue color combined with the gray, and hydrangea flowers were then selected to complete this drawing. Not only the hydrangea flowers are blue, but they are also associating strongly with flowering - and that way they are also reminding of those past blooming moments that will become vintage memories.

At the same time the hand drawn flowers in this drawing had a bit different style compared to for example the previous orchid themed  drawing. In this work I was aiming instead more for the look of a bit artificial or "fake" flowers. Like the ones one could see in some of the old vintage photos. I wanted the Yesterday´s Queen to have few of those fake flowers that are a bit "unreal" and ageless, so that they would also symbolize the time that seems to have stopped. In some old vintage photos there´s that mystic atmosphere, like looking into the yesterday - and in the same time not being so sure if the flowers in the picture are real or fake.

For that reason the flowers were also left quite more plain comparing for example to the orchid themed drawing. In the detail pictures below that more rough and almost a bit imaginery style is seen in the approach, for example in the lines and shapes of the flowers.

Following that same mentioned rough style I have also drawn few of imaginery decayed leaves into the drawing that are left gray and uncolored... Those yesterday´s decayed leaves were a little detail and addition into the drawing, telling story of those already faded yesterday´s flowers. They are almost like a hidden message from the past. And in this case that´s also a message from the year 2012 when I created this vintage drawing.

Also the yellow and bit darkened golden crown was a symbolic addition to the drawing. Below in the picture there´s detail where one can see the hand drawn crown, parts of those drawn "fake" flowers and gray decayed leaves - as well as those fresh real hydranges flowers on top of the drawing.

Creating this work was like building a collage. And in those moments, when all the elements are finally coming together, it feels like the real and unreal could merge!

Remembering this work today with you was like walking that path of hydrangea flowers...

And that fragile path of flowers was taking me there again. In to the yesterday.

Wishing you all a wonderful and inspiring moments that some day just might be, your most precious vintage memories.

Mystic glow of the orchids

Night falls, but that mystic glow of the orchids just keeps one awake!
And it is getting surreal... could those orchids even fly?

Sharing some memories of the moment the vintage drawing was created many years ago. This work became a combination of layers drawn with pencils and with pink and light purple colored pencils. The drawing was designed to have vintage style, resembling a bit of old recolored vintage photos. Since then some commissioned portraits have also followed this kind of style.

For this particular drawing the orchid theme was important, not only with the pink orchids in the foreground, but also with those light “flying" orchid flowers in the grey background.

In this vintage styled drawing I combined pencils with colored pencils and played with the limited colors. As a result this drawing is presenting grayscale facial features with light pink and purple orchids.

The comparison between the gray tones and subtle pink colors is making the pink orchids to pop out from the drawing even more. The orchid flowers of the finished drawing were completely hand draw. I have drawn the orchids as if they would have been placed topmost on to the paper.  This resembles almost like creating a 3D work like in some of my illustrations, but this time the flowers were completely hand drawn.

When choosing a realistic style for the drawing, it was important to capture also the orchid flowers by drawing them very precisely, but yet naturally. The aim was to make the flowers look like one could actually touch them…

For this drawing I used real orchids as a reference. I placed the real orchids on to the paper right next to the drawing. And when drawing I was then looking at the real orchid flowers as a reference, and that way the right proportions were easier to achieve.

On the other hand I wanted a bit more variation to the orchids of the drawing, so the drawn orchid flower in the middle was colored with warm pink colors, when instead the other two orchid flowers of the drawing were created with cooler and a bit more purple colors. In this case I also chose to leave the hand drawn orchids more lighter than the real ones, because I wanted the final drawing to have a balance between all the elements.

Keeping the real orchid flowers nearby gave also inspiration for this vintage drawing. And  when I was drawing that mystic glow of the orchid flowers was just captivating... and yes, kept me awake.

I wish inspiring moments to all blog readers!

Vintage Memories

At the moment I´m sharing some pictures of the old vintage drawings in the social media.
And vintage memories are taking over the blog too…

In the picture above is a work in progress picture of the old vintage themed drawings that were created several years ago. These drawings were designed to have a vintage style, resembling a bit of those old recolored vintage photos.

These works combined vintage style and flower themes. In addition the drawing on the left had also a bit of mythology theme in it. 

In these drawings I combined pencils with selected colored pencils - and played with the variations when using limited colors. In this case especially the flowers were emphasized by coloring only them with the colored pencils.

Yesterday´s flower

Do you still remember that yesterday´s flower?

This older drawing that I named as “Yesterday´s  Flower” was all about vintage mood, nostalgia and that little touch of yellow…

This drawing was a combination of pencil layers and a little touch of yellow from a colored pencil.

Sometimes it is nice to try different combinations with pencils and colored pencils. Different variations are so captivating. And it´s always so exciting to see, how those so small changes in the color balance can eventually change the whole mood of the picture.

Sometimes it can be just that little addition from the colored pencil that changes the whole atmosphere. Like that little hint of yellow that lights up the whole drawing.

For this drawing I wanted to create an atmosphere that really radiates nostalgia. I also wanted to emphasize the flower in the headband.  For that reason I designed the flower also to resemble an old vintage jewelry.  At the same time it was important that the flower would be plain and flat, because already due to its color the strong yellowish flower would be such a dominant element in the drawing.

I created the drawing layer by layer starting from greyish pencil layers and finishing with yellow colored pencil layers.

Along the way the real vivid yellow flowers were giving an inspiration for this drawing and created that extra yellow glow in the whole studio. And at the same time the white chrysanthemums were reminding to cherish also those subtle and sensitive shades in the pencil drawing.

Something old, something new... or maybe after all something surreal?

In the beginning of the New Year it´s nice to look back by sorting out old images and files. And after doing that I can now share with you also some pictures of the old drawings from the past years. So, let´s start with this fairy tale themed fantasy portrait of a cat.

Into this portrait the aim was to combine a fairy tale feeling and illustrative approach with a bit (pop) surreal twist.  As a result this drawing could then be seen as a fantasy portrait of a cat or as a fairy tale illustration - or both.

It was interesting to explore the fading boundary between portrait and illustration. Playing with the style and level of realism is always extremely fascinating! In this case the drawing process was like a journey to fantasy and flower world.  Being surrounded by flowers you can easily get carried away and even lose the sense of time.

The composition to this portrait was designed to be very symmetrical. Along with the symmetry it was important to keep all the elements in balance, and therefore for example all the flowers were drawn as unique variations.  The symmetrical approach was also an effective way to emphasize the stillness, but also highlight the illustrated viewpoint. The imaginary posture of the cat along with a bit styled whiskers were also leading the way to more fairy tale feeling. The fantasy theme with flowers had also a special meaning referring to the portrayed cat. And by drawing a layer after layer all those stories from this cat were captured too. Almost like this one portrait could tell the whole fairy tale story.

I wanted this drawing also to resemble the style of the old portrait paintings with vivid colors, especially in the red dress - although in this case I drew the portrait with colored pencils. The finished drawing was commissioned to be a part of a playful and pop surreal interior design. And for that reason the chosen colors were strong and bright.

I designed the historical dress style from imagination. The aim was to convey the feel of different fabrics and lace in the dress, but also the sense of fragile flowers. Like that the portrait would present not only the grandeur, but also the fragile sensitivity at the same time - describing that way also the different sides of the portrayed cat.

Dog portrait of tibetan terrier called "Väinö"

Dog portrait of tibetan terrier called "Väinö".
Here´s a work in progress photo of the colored pencil drawing.

In this stage I´ve also started to add the smallest details of the white fur.
Detail from the portrait of Väinö.

And then look what happened to my white colored pencil…
after layers and layers of white fur.

I´m always delighted to see photos from my clients with their commissioned portraits. The owner of Väinö kindly sent me this photo (below) and wrote a lovely email about the moment when the portrait arrived home.  She wrote that Väinö was looking his portrait drawing and then went in front of the mirror to check his own reflection -  over and over again. Oh, what a cute and discerning art critic ;)

In the photo the portrait has just been picked up from the post office, and there´s also still the plastic wrap protecting the drawing. In the drawing you can also see the bit “groomed” style of the fur compared to the natural fur style that Väinö is having when the photo was taken.

The portrait drawing was created based on several reference photos. One photo was taken straight ahead and was offering the most important reference for the likeness and proportions. I also used many other reference pictures, also few close-ups from the eyes.

Wearing the roses

Just a brief passing moment.
Wearing the roses before they fade...

The drawing called "Wearing Roses" is a sketchy portrait, but in the same time the theme of this portrait was a beauty illustration. The aim of this drawing was to create a portrait that would have the likeness, but would also have only just few pencil layers, and only a bit of pink color. In this kind of sketchy and smaller portrait the facial features can still be drawn so that they are having also the likeness, in case it has been commissioned to be a portrait.

It was a special wish that this portrait would be very light and have a style of a beauty illustration. Because the portrait had already a ready chosen place waiting, near other illustration prints and artworks, it was important that the work had the same light and sketchy atmosphere than the other works in the same space. Therefore the style of this drawing was created only with pencil lines and very subtle pencil layers, and also with a few colored pencil layers.

This drawing was created in a small size around 12cm x 17cm (approx. 5x7 inch). And when the drawing is compared to the real roses in picture below, the small size is more obvious. Those real roses were also as a a color model and reference for this work, but they were drawn into the final drawing in a much smaller size.

Over all drawing this work was fascinating. Creating a very small, sketchy and light portrait into a style of beauty illustration was also a lot of fun! It was all about exploring the fading boundaries between realism and illustrative style.


Detail from an older fantasy portrait called "Blossoming".

Fairy fantasy portrait of a young girl. The face, dress and pose were drawn from a reference photo and rest of the fairy tale rose world was created from imagination. Work in progress picture at the stage where adding more layers and details.

Lady Fortuna randomly picked up the winner of the giveaway contest

Lady Fortuna can color the grey life with a touch of magic just like in my sketchbook… Look what happened! After some serious lottery preparations I can now announce that Lady Fortuna has also randomly picked up the lucky winner for the giveaway... And the Pet Portrait GIVEAWAY winner is Katie F! Congratulations!!

Without Lady Fortuna it would have been impossible for me to select only one winner from all your wonderful photos and comments. That´s why the lucky winner was randomly selected! A special thank you to all you who participated! Although there´s only one winner – all your comments and photos have touched me, you have amazing pets <3

Giveaway contest has ended in the Facebook - Guess I need help from the Lady Fortuna? PET PORTRAIT GIVEAWAY contest in Facebook has now ended. A big thank you to all you who made the effort and participated by leaving a comment or sharing your pet photo!

During this competition your comments and photos have touched me and brought tears to my eyes, but also made me smile. I appreciate every one of your comments and love the way they highlight all the different aspects that pets are bringing to our lives. <3

I have now a very difficult task to select the lucky winner. Actually it seems too impossible to put your comments or photos in any order because every single one of them is equally important. And I know that to every contestant their own pet is the most important and precious.

I guess that´s why the Lady Fortuna occurred to my sketchbook today and she will have an influence on the choosing process. So, let´s see who the Lady Fortuna will favor then... I´ll announce the winner officially in Facebook on Friday 14th of November.

Thank you for all the photos, comments and likes <3
And welcome to all new fans who have just recently found their way to my Sandcastle :)

There´s still time to participate in the competition - one lucky winner will win a free pet portrait drawing! reached the magical 10 000 likes in Facebook! During the celebration one lucky winner WINS FREE PET PORTRAIT drawing including also postage worldwide. Participate in Facebook and you might win a free drawing from your own pet photo! Just leave a COMMENT or POST your PET PHOTO in Facebook page. The time to participate is 10.10.2014–11.11.2014  and the winner will be announced on 14.11.2014.

GOOD LUCK to the competition! And a big thank you to all fans for all the likes and support <3

Fantasy cat portrait with pencils

The pet portrait can be also a bit different and fantasy themed!

Fantasy pet portrait with pencils. This is an older work in progress picture from my personal project. After sketching all the symbolic elements are here starting to find their own places in the portrait.

Close up from the fantasy pencil pet portrait. It felt almost like I would have been sewing the fantasy clothes, when I was drawing the details in to this pencil drawing :) has reached 10 000 likes in Facebook - Join the celebration and participate in the competition! has reached the magical 10 000 likes in Facebook! Feeling grateful and it´s now my turn to thank all the fans! So, it´s time for exciting giveaway, where the lucky winner WINS FREE PET PORTRAIT drawing including also postage worldwide.

Participate in Facebook and you just might win a free drawing from your own pet photo! Leave a COMMENT or POST your PET PHOTO in in Sandcastle Facebook page. The time to participate is 10.10.2014–11.11.2014  and the winner will be announced on 14.11.2014.

GOOD LUCK to the competition! And a big thank you to all fans for all the likes and support <3

Pinacoteca di Brera

I finally got the chance to visit the Pinacoteca Brera in Milano.
The Pinoteca di Brera website (also virtual gallery in there):

I´ve waited the possibility to go through this entrance for a long time...

For me the highlight of the visit was to see the amazing paintings of Francesco Hayez.

Especially to see the "Il Bacio" in real life. More info about the painting:


And the "Odalisca" from Hayez too.


But this room became my favourite for other reasons too.


Because the same room had also other treasures: the beautiful landscape painting called "Paesaggio lagunare" from Guglielmo Ciardi and from Girolamo Induno the painting called "Triste Presentimento". And also paintings from Giovanni Fattori.

Below is photo of very effective work from Pellizza da Volpedo (Giuseppe Pellizza) called " Human flood".

In Palazzo Pitti in Florence


One of my favourite places in Florence is Galleria D'Arte Moderna in Palazzo Pitti. Great portraits every time! More about the paintings in



This photo below is from the Palatine Gallery (also in Palazzo Pitti). Located on the left wing of the Palazzo, the Palatine Gallery includes works of art by Italian and European masters of the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

In the Palatine Gallery all the details, paintings and sculptures are creating a new bigger picture – like a dreamlike reality, where all the elements are melting together. And it´s never enough to stare at all the details. The Palatine Gallery and rooms are one of the places where you just would like to lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling - and it´s almost what I did when taking this photo.


And behind the Palazzo Pitti there´s also the beautiful Boboli Gardens.

Kitten for monday

What a soft and cute start for the week with a kitten portrait!
Work in progress pictures from the pencil drawing.

Techniques of the Old Masters

Over the years I´ve also studied the techniques of the old masters. Here´s work in progress picture from my unfinished paintings - reminding that learning from the great old masters is an eternity project.

Portrait of Odie

The portrait of Odie has reached home USA! Here´s the model, the finished drawing and on the right few of the original reference photos. Likeness was drawn from the photo up on the right. The color and the lightness of the hair were adjusted from the another small photo below that.

Several other photos were also used to achieve Odie´s style with longer hair, for example on the tips of the ears and cheek area. You can see the difference when comparing the current look on the left and the reference photos style with the white hair in the ears (covering almost completely the dark brown areas of the ears). All these little details were considered into the portrait.

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