3 Secrets for Removing Stiffness When Creating Mixed Media Faces

Mixed media portrait by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her tips about removing stiffness when drawing faces!

When you don’t want to spend too much time on deciding what to create, a portrait is an easy choice. This blog post is for you who struggles with stiffness when drawing faces and feel the lack of imagination when creating mixed media faces.

1) Draw Curvier and Shorter Lines

Long straight lines or arcs and fully outlined shapes look stiff no matter what you create. Cut the lines, make them curvier and change their thickness. This way you express light and shadows in a 3-dimensional shape and let the viewer use the imagination to complete the shape.

Tips for reducing stiffness by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her article with more illustrated tips!

You can also use freely exploring line to create openness and softness as I have done in the eye below.

A detail of a mixed media portrait by Peony and Parakeet. See Paivi Eerola's tips about how to remove stiffness when creating mixed media faces!

Here’s the full portrait:

Self-Portrait in Mixed Media, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her illustrated tips about removing stiffness when drawing faces!

2) See the Light and Shadows as Shapes

When coloring, instead of filling the closed shape with color, create a composition of flowing shapes. If you are creating mixed media faces, using collage pieces, a tiny detail like lips or a chin can be constructed from several organic pieces.

Tips for reducing stiffness by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her article with more illustrated tips!

I often think about light as water that is poured on the face.

A detail of a mixed media portrait by Peony and Parakeet. See Paivi Eerola's tips about how to remove stiffness when creating mixed media faces!

3) Forget The Stereotypes – Focus on Expression

Stiffness is often a result of the stereotypes we have in our minds. We have a certain preconception how the lips should look like, what is the color of the skin, how the eye is constructed, and so on. Even if we used reference photos, these stereotypes often take over. But we can break the stiff ideas by steering our minds to more creative directions. Instead of thinking about drawing lips, think about drawing a landscape.  Instead of trying to control the big picture, think about facial features as miniature abstract art pieces in a larger puzzle.

Tips for reducing stiffness by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her article with more illustrated tips!

I often change the orientation of my piece while working. It helps me to focus on expression and to check that my miniature art piece looks good from all directions.

Tips for reducing stiffness by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her article with more illustrated tips!

These Secrets for Mixed Media Faces Originate from the 16th Century!

These are not new ideas. If you study portraits from 16th century very closely, you’ll see that the painters’ knew how to break the line, leave less important details less defined, use a wide range of colors, and make each area of the painting work on their own in addition to creating a seamlessly flowing stream. Here’s a detail of my recent painting where I have used Boccaccio Boccaccino’s painting about Gypsy Girl as one of the reference images. (I will blog about this painting later!)

A detail of Paivi Eerola's oil painting in Renaissance style.

So you can apply these secrets to any style!

Liberated Portraits in Practice

Knowing these things is good but when you want to integrate these kinds of formulated ideas into your art, seeing how to get started and getting feedback to notice the blind spots can be ground-breaking. In Lesson 4 of Inspirational Drawing 2.0, I guide you to create liberated self-portraits without reference images. I show you how to create collage pieces and compose mixed media faces and draw portraits by coloring with colored pencils only.

Portraits by Peony and Parakeet. See Paivi Eerola's tips about how to remove stiffness when drawing faces and when creating faces in mixed media! She also has a class called Inspirational Drawing 2.0 where you will learn to make these!

Start creating art that is full of imagination and expression!
>> Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

Boosting Imagination + Last Days to Sign Up for Planet Color!

Boosting Imagination, an art journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet. Sign up for her painting class Planet Color to create fun and colorful abstracts!

Sometimes it’s difficult to use words when you want to give a hug. Like when I get emails that say: “I am afraid I have no imagination.”

I know how the story goes because I have experienced it several times myself: First, there’s no imagination and then if you manage to get started,  there are problems with the composition. I often turned the music louder just to make my brain make some sense of what I had created. And then next morning, I wondered why it’s so difficult to say whether my work is good or bad.

Regular practicing, getting a degree in design, educating myself through classes helped but if I could turn back time, I would have just given myself the formula that I have created for Planet Color and stop all the fuss. So nowadays when I get some occasional thoughts about lacking imagination, like last Monday, I open the class material and get started. The heart is for all of us who sometimes feel the need for boosting imagination.

Boosting Imagination. A detail of an art journal page. By Peony and Parakeet.

It’s the last week to sign up for Planet Color!
Watch a new video below to see what I think about boosting imagination, and to get more information about the class!

Last fall when I ran this class for the first time, it was for acrylic paints only.
But now I have included an extra video for those who want to apply the techniques to watercolors.

Planet Color, a painting class for beginners and for those who struggle with composition

>> Sign up before the class begins!

Easter Still Lifes in Watercolor – Video Included!

Easter Still-Life, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watch the video about making this painting!

In February, I went to see an art exhibition with my husband. The destination was one of my favorite art galleries in Helsinki. Helsinki Contemporary has interesting artists, and I also like the gallery space and how it’s located in the center, near many art supply stores. This time I was to see watercolor paintings by

This time I was to see watercolor paintings by Kati Immonen. She is a master in watercolor techniques, but I also became fascinated by the theme. The exhibition called Flora included many still lifes that were like miniature worlds. My husband is fond of bonsai trees so he liked the theme too.

Easter Still Lifes with a Wet Brush

Yesterday when I picked up my watercolor set to paint something seasonal for you, I remembered the exhibition. I became inspired by the simple idea of painting a pot or a vase and then adding some spring flowers using a lot of water. By painting with a wet brush, the flowers could appear naturally along with any other unintentional decorative elements.

After painting with oils and acrylics recently, my skills were a bit rusty so I made three paintings. Here’s the first one.

Easter Flowers in Watercolor by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her blog post for painting easter still lifes!

Here’s the second one.

Easter Still Life in Watercolor by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her blog post for painting easter still lifes!

Easter Still Life on a Video

After the second painting, I turned on the camera and recorded a video of making the third one. It is a mixture of the two previous ones, a bit simpler than the first one yet somewhat complicated and refined than the second one. After creating these, I applaud Kati Immonen! I have a long way to go to challenge her, but it doesn’t prevent me from enjoying the watercolors from time to time. Watch the video with some tips to create your own spring painting!

Acrylics or Watercolors – You Choose!

I enjoyed painting with the watercolors so much that I made an extra video for my next online workshop Planet Color. Whether you want to use acrylics or watercolors (or both) in the class, I will help you! Sign up now! 

Planet Color online painting workshop by Peony and Parakeet. You can choose either acrylic paints or watercolors!

4 Social Tips for Improving Your Art – with The Students of Peony and Parakeet

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Tina Mitchell, Nicaragua.

This blog post is mostly illustrated by the students of the online painting class Planet Color. I am rerunning this class from April 24th to May 7th! Join me to paint fun abstract and colorful art! Suitable for beginners. Sign up before the class starts!

Social Tips

I call this set of tips “social” because instead of just talking in design terms like “white space” or “focal point,” I want to emphasize that art is a messaging tool. We, visual people, are sensitive to visual messages. Every image contains them whether they are added intentionally or unintentionally. As a teacher, I see my role as a guide who helps you to see what your pieces communicate and how you can fine-tune them to express the message that you want to deliver. In this blog post, I explain why beginning artists fail in visual communication and how to fix that. These social tips with sample images will improve the quality of your art!

Colorful mandalas by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read 4 social tips she has about creating art!

1) Bring Out The Leader, Express an Opinion

One of the things we all struggle the most is expressing an opinion. Even now, while I am writing this blog post, I am struggling with that. When I type the first few sentences, I become aware of all of you who might not like this post. I think of you who feels that you are more of a crafter, not a painter. And of you who thinks that this is too basic and you are far ahead. I am aware of you who likes fewer images, as well as you who doesn’t ever read a thing. Some images might look too dark or too white to your taste. Or you might not even like or value abstract art. What makes the writing even more difficult is that even my personal taste and opinions change during time, sometimes on a daily basis. And then I begin to think that who am I to write about this anyway. There are always people who know better and whose opinions could be more valuable.

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet browsing art journals.

It’s so easy to walk on that path of self-doubt and then rewrite the whole thing so that it actually says very little, nearly nothing. I might still remember the real meaning behind the words myself, but you might not get anything to take with you.

The same thing happens easily in art making too. By making every detail equal in size, sharpness, and color, we end up expressing something that’s nearly nothing. It’s just a gang of evenly spread elements waiting for a leader to be picked. But when you do that – choose a leader, express an opinion, say something with clarity that can make people take sides – then the impact is also born. See how Elaine Wirthlin does that in her painting!

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Elaine Wirthlin, USA.

2) Build Bridges, Don’t Stay Alone

When I saw a room full of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings in Musée d’Orsay, I was in tears. Yes, the original paintings were much more than what you could expect based on the photos and prints. But there was another reason too. I was crying because the room was packed with people. Knowing how lonely Vincent had been, it felt heart-breaking. Surely, if there had been social media at his time, he would have got his fan base! A small group of forward-thinkers, perhaps.

I don’t think loneliness is good for anyone. Don’t get me wrong – I am all for introvert lifestyle. Being an introvert myself, I wouldn’t dream about reducing my quiet, creative moments. But in the end, being isolated and expressing isolation is never a solution. Sometimes we are in the wrong place at the wrong time like Vincent did, but with the internet, there are soul-mates for everyone. With your art, you can build connections, not enforce divisions.

A detail of a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

When being interviewed after a long career, Finnish opera singer Jorma Hynninen said: “All artists want to connect with other people through their art.”

Images that include bridges and closeness make us feel happy. In Sue Jorgensen’s work, I see the message how different personalities can work and move on together.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Sue Jorgensen, Australia.

3) Play with Many Identities, Become Free of Limitations

When I became more serious about art, I questioned my love for crafts. One of my crafty hobbies was scrapbooking. I took photos and wrote stories about my everyday life. Sometimes I challenged myself to journal and sometimes, I let the photos and the decorations tell the whole story like on the layout below that shows the four seasons by focusing on trees.

Four Seasons. A scrapbooking layout by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

“An artist who also scrapbooks” sounded like a big joke to me back then. But the more ambitious I have become in my art career, the more I have learned to value other things that I do, scrapbooking included. After a long work day, it makes me feel free to take the dogs for a walk and listen to scrapbooking podcasts. After using embellishments and photos, it makes me feel free when I pick up my brushes and work with canvases, without limiting myself to the concept of scrapbooking.

One person can wear many hats. Some people might have seen you only wearing one, and their opinions about you only relate with that. However, don’t let it limit and define yourself in the other areas of life. People who knew me as an IT project manager saw a different side of me than you who reads this blog. I may have inherited my detailed style from the engineering part, but there’s so much more that I want to express and play with than one chapter in my past.

An art journal page spread by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. She has a class called Planet Color for painting colorful abstracts!

Susana König’s painting reminds me about IT business and how it’s all teamwork too!

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Susana König, Germany.

In Debbie Kreischer’s painting, the decorative style can take a more expressive twist, showing how things are not so black and white after all.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Debbie Kreischer, USA.

In Lisa Clemmer’s painting, the colors are soft, but the shapes are dynamic. This controversy makes it compelling.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Lisa Clemmer, USA.

Linda Thompson’s painting has playful colors and the dynamics of a fun game.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Linda Thompson, Canada.

Lois Dimler’s painting is like a happy circus where everybody has fun!

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Lois Dimler, USA.

4) Listen to Others, Let It Inspire You

I have always been an idea person. I invent new things quickly and have always been eager to find all kinds of unique approaches, also in art. However, I have also noticed that we often overestimate the uniqueness and the originality of our first ideas. But when we start combining many ideas into one, the result can be something new. My idea of drawing your own coloring page is not that unique but the way I have colored it gives it a modern twist. (Also read: How to Transform Ideas into Paintings)

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet with her art journal.

It’s not good to try to protect yourself from seeing what others do. We consume all the time anyway. If not art, then something else. Listening to other people, seeing other people’s art and getting to know art history is not a threat but an enabler to your personal style. Sometimes it can be a real eye-opener to create from a similar standpoint with somebody else and then compare.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Meri Andriesse, USA.

Compare Meri Andriesse’s and Pirkko-Liisa Mannoja’s paintings above and below! They have many similarities, but their style is different. Meri’s piece is soft, carefree and modern while Pirkko-Liisa’s is strong, detailed and historical.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Pirkko-Liisa Mannoja, Finland.

I love people who speak enthusiastically about what they have done. Even if they would talk about something that I would never even want to try, like deep-sea diving, it’s fascinating to hear how they express their experiences. While listening, I imagine the places that I would explore if I were that person. It gives me ideas that I wouldn’t ever have found by myself.

We never know enough about art history, other artists, other people, other fields of expertise, other anything! Artist’s mindset is being an immaterial collector – collecting thoughts, stories, visuals, any ideas and then expressing that inspiration. By developing the ability to see nuances in other people’s talk and work, you will also begin to see what’s unique about you.

What tip would you give?

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet with her abstract painting made for the class Planet Color.

Planet Color begins at April 24: Reserve your spot now!

Knitting and Painting – A Video Visit to My Studio!

"Channel into The World", an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Watch the video behind this painting and in the same time, see Paivi's studio!

This time I have something for you who likes to watch long videos. I love to knit (especially Leftie scarves) while watching video podcasts, so maybe you can pick up a project too and come to spend some time in my studio, talking about crafts, art inspiration, and painting supplies. I will create a craft-inspired art journal page and show many other pieces too.

A Day at the Studio – One Video in Two Parts

It is a really long video, so I have divided it into two parts. The first part is an introduction to a small project that I paint on the second part. The second part also shows some painting supplies. I hope you will enjoy both of them!

Here’s the first part:

And here’s the second part:

Planet Color begins at April 24: Reserve your spot now!

Painting My Mind’s Eye – Abstract Color Fun!

"My Mind's Eye" - Abstract Color Fun by Peony and Parakeet. See Paivi's class "Planet Color"

I call this art journal spread “My Minds Eye.” It has one central element that resembles both an eye and a compass. Isn’t that how things are for visual people: seeing interesting things evokes all kinds of thoughts and lead to all sorts of paths? Like this morning when I had to stop on a walk to admire fragile ice on water puddles. When I was standing there, I wished that nobody sees my weirdness. I was staring at the ground, holding a phone to get photos, with two beagles that were very impatient, eager to move forward.

Ice is melting in Finland

Maybe the beginning of the spring made me paint with hot tones, and the ice most probably inspired me to include a similar translucent element in the painting.

A detail of "My Mind's Eye" by Peony and Parakeet. See Paivi's class Planet Color for painting fun abstracts!

7-step Method of Planet Color Used for Abstract Color Fun

I created the spread by following the 7-step method that I developed for the class Planet Color. I have repeated this process many times because it’s a fun and worry-free way to paint unique abstracts. For example, see the blog posts What’s in a Good Composition?, Using Color Schemes for Home Decor, and How to Transform Ideas into Paintings. I know I am not the only one who worries about the composition while painting and the 7-step method makes everything fall into place effortlessly.

Art journal spread by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. This is called "My Mind's Eye" and it's made with a method that she has developed for the class Planet Color.

Masking tape was used to frame the piece. I haven’t done that a lot in my journals, but I like the result.

Paivi's studio. By Peony and Parakeet.

My husband made me a new easel from an upright support of a shelving unit. It’s so handy and adjustable that I have started to use it a lot. I can use it even for art journal pages, not only for canvas art.

Planet Color – Sign up Now!

Planet Color, an online workshop for abstract color fun. By Peony and Parakeet.

I ran Planet Color for the first time last fall, but it’s coming back now! Whether you want to paint art journal pages, thick paper or canvases, this is a fun online workshop. It’s suitable for beginner painters and all who struggle with color compositions. >> Sign up here!

Don’t Just Create Circles! Moving on with Freehand Drawing

Freehand drawing by Peony and Parakeet. Made for the class Inspirational Drawing 2.0

I have created this journal spread for the class Inspirational Drawing 2.0 where I teach freehand drawing that goes beyond just drawing circles. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have anything against circles. I think that I, if anyone, have had a real love affair with circles. In fact, it was all I drew for a long time.

Circle Love

Mixed media circles, by Peony and Parakeet. Read the blog post to move on creating more than just circles!

In 2010-2012, I spent most of my free time drawing circles.

Mixed media circles, by Peony and Parakeet. Read the blog post to move on creating more than just circles!

I even went to a few craft fairs to sell – hand-drawn circles!

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet in 2012

I firmly believed that if I create enough circles, I will find something new behind them. And yes, I slowly started to realize that there’s more than just making repeated circles that are more like backgrounds and patterns than expressive images. Now years later, I wish someone would have shown me how to move on – how to combine those repeating graphic shapes with lines that express more.

A detail of a freehand drawing. By Peony and Parakeet.

Do You Make Abstracts but Still Feel the Stiffness?

Circles and other geometric shapes are fun to create. But no matter how good I became in that, I never felt the same satisfaction that I felt when I was able to go beyond that. So when I meet people who say that they “make abstracts” and “want to get away from stiffness,” I totally get it. “I don’t really know what my abstracts represent,” says many who come to my classes. Drawing circles and playing with layers feels free first, but the more you want to express yourself, you need to explore more.

“More” doesn’t mean that you have to throw away what you have already learned. If you look at my two pieces, you can still see similarities. The first one made in 2011 called “Romance,” and the second in 2015 is called “Withering Peonies.” I called the first one “Romance” because I thought it’s all so romantic. But in the second one, I was able to express my love for peonies with much more expression without just drawing stiff flower-like shapes.

From creating circles to expressive freehand drawing. By Peony and Parakeet.

The satisfaction that came from being able to deliver a message, instead of just an atmosphere, was ground-breaking to me. My art became more powerful, impactful, it spoke not only to me but others as well.

That’s why I now teach
– how to open up and liberate the line
– how to communicate visually: create illustrations instead of backgrounds
– how to express inspiration and explore imagination in its full potential.

And that’s why my class Inspirational Drawing 2.0 exists. (Sign up here!)

A mixed media art journal page by Peony and Parakeet.

Freehand Drawing Video – Create with me!

I have made a video where we start with geometric shapes and then move on to liberate the line. To create with me, you will only need a black thin-tipped drawing pen and colored pencils (or any coloring supplies).

Art supplies for freehand drawing. By Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s the little drawing that we will create together.

An art journal page exploring freehand drawing. Watch the video to create this! By Peony and Parakeet.

And here’s the video!

Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet and her mixed media art journal page spread.

Dive deeper into communicating visually
and become passionate about expressing yourself!
>> Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

Life in an Art Journal – Dylusions Creative Journal Flip-Through

An art journal page spread from Peony and Parakeet. Dylusions Creative Journal. See the flip-through video!

Don’t miss a flip-through video in the end of this blog post!

Four years ago, I purchased a new art journal – a big one. It was Dylusions Creative Journal, the largest size. In the beginning, I wanted to do everything “right.” I wanted my journal to have pages that are well-thought and carefully executed. The first couple of spreads went ok, but then, ugly pages started to appear. They were pages that I had just started but got tired on the way. Or pages which began so ugly that I didn’t feel like finishing them. But the longer I used my journal, the more I realized that I could have fun with those ugly pages. I could add more simple motifs and then color them all. I could add black paint and leave only some of the background visible. I could add more ugliness, and once it hit the saturation point, it became – something else.

Self portrait by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Sign up for her class Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

I am interested in learning all kinds of visual styles. Art journaling has supported it. One day I played a fashion designer and made a quick line illustration with poodles and all. It didn’t look inspiring back then, but a long time later, I had a lot of fun coloring it.

An art journal page spread from Peony and Parakeet. Made in Dylusions Creative Journal. See the flip-through video!

That’s what I love with art journals. The pages don’t get lost, and the ideas don’t get forgotten. Sometimes the ideas are abstract and timeless …

An art journal page from Peony and Parakeet. Made in Dylusions Creative Journal. See the flip-through video!

… and sometimes they are illustrations about what’s happening around the world.

An art journal page from Peony and Parakeet. Made in Dylusions Creative Journal. See the flip-through video!

Filling the pages in a random order adds its flavor to the journal. A grid-like paper patchwork felt innovative once, but not anymore. It feels pretty stiff, especially when there are freely doodled elements on the opposite page.

An art journal page spread from Peony and Parakeet. Dylusions Creative Journal. See the flip-through video!

But I don’t want to rip off the pages that don’t seem to fit. I accept them all. They are all explorations on the land of Art and Imagination. Sometimes I didn’t get very far, but I believe that all the trips benefited each other. I also believe that when painting on canvases, I feel more confident because I have played freely in my art journals.

Dylusions Creative Journal – Watch the Flip-Through Video!

See all the pages of my large Dylusions Creative Journal!

Enjoy drawing without fear! – Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

Rebuilding Art – Using Reference Images for Self-Expression

Using a reference image as a model for the painting. By Peony and Parakeet.

This blog post is about composing new art by using reference images. At the moment, I have a couple of paintings in progress that are based on reference images, and I also show other examples as well.

Why Don’t Artists Always Tell About Using Reference Images?

While painting my first oil painting at The National Museum of Finland, the visitors of the museum were able to visit the studio and watch us paint. Many people asked why we paint copies of the old paintings. The teacher Emmi Mustonen replied that it’s a good way to learn the old painting techniques and develop the understanding of formal elements. But I got the feeling that some of the people didn’t get it. Their facial expressions were imprinted on my mind, and it made me ponder why using reference images raises conflicting feelings.

Even if most artists who create realistic art or include realistic elements in their art, use reference images, many are not very open about it. I think that one reason is that many artists believe that people know that already and another reason that the process is not interesting. My experience is that there are surprisingly many people who assume that artists don’t take photos or use other than live models. And to me, the process of composing a new image from old ones is fascinating. I always stop to see an article where an artist shows how the reference images were used. I am especially interested if it’s about choosing the photos and combining several reference images into one piece.

Strawberry Madonna – Combining Several Reference Images to Tell a Story

A reference image of Strawberry Madonna and painting in progress. By Peony and Parakeet.

I am currently painting an acrylic painting on canvas that I call “Strawberry Madonna.” It’s my first using old masters’ painting techniques with acrylics instead of oil paints. The idea for the painting started differently than usually. I invented the title first and then started to think how Strawberry Madonna would look. I wanted to find a young woman who would have lips like she had just eaten a strawberry. By googling Renaissance paintings, I found Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio‘s painting. After that, I moved to building a story around the original idea.

Strawberry Madonnas are young girls who enjoy life without worries, have long summer holidays, eat strawberries, learn to crochet and read books like Emily of the New Moon or Anne of Green Gables. I have been one of them, and I feel quite nostalgic about it. I wanted the painting to include surrealistic elements. It has a big strawberry that is placed so that it could be a sleeve of the madonna’s dress. I am also going to change the flowers in the hair wreath to strawberry flowers and play with green and red paint. It will happen when I move on from underpainting to adding colors. In the background, there’s a photo that I took last summer. I am going to make it a little less detailed.

I used Photoshop to compose the reference image and made the sketch on canvas with charcoal. I drew a grid to make the sketching quicker.

Girl with a Ferret – Changing the Meaning with a Simple Trick

A reference image and a painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I have also started a new oil painting under the guidance of Emmi Mustonen. I got to pick the reference image freely. I wanted to pick an old Renessaince painting, but I couldn’t find any that would have a couple of my favorite features when painting with old masters’ techniques. I love to paint fur and fabric, and I wanted to find a face that would include openness. I fell in love with Boccaccio Boccaccino‘s portrait of a gypsy girl, but it didn’t have any fur. So I remembered Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine” and created a new image by combining the two in Photoshop. I have several stories about this one.

The first one is about today’s society and how the pets have become more human in our eyes. I want to show the similarities in the wild gypsy girl and the tame ferret. Another story is about young girls and their love for taking care of animals. They might not know the wildlife, but they help to rescue animals and are ready to work hard when taking care of them. They are against fur clothing and not afraid to show it. The third story goes back to the 16th century. I imagine that the gypsy girl was hired to dress up and hold the ermine because the lady didn’t have the patience to pose for the artist. In the end, she never showed. The artist became frustrated and painted the girl instead. I can imagine the magical moment when the girl realized that she would be in the final painting instead of a lady.

I would like to talk with Boccaccio Boccaccino about my version. I also wonder, how he was able to paint the portrait of the gypsy girl when the artists mostly painted for churches and aristocrats back then.

At Monet’s Garden – Including All the Good Stuff to the Same Image

Last spring, I published a mini-course called Strokes of Energy as a part of the Imagine Monthly Spring series. I asked my students to name their favorite artists, and Claude Monet was among most popular ones. But when I thought about Claude Monet, I didn’t want just to serve those who love the garden or those who adore his way to paint the sky, or those who want to express the windy scenes. I wanted to have all the good stuff in one image and then some more.

A digital collage combining 3 paintings from Claude Monet. By Peony and Parakeet.

So I created a reference image in Photoshop combining three of Claude Monet’s paintings: “Woman with a Parasol” and a couple of paintings from the water lily series. Then I invented a technique where you can paint some of the elements as collage pieces so that you can adjust the overall composition before making the final decisions. This way it is possible to add more details one by one and improve the image during the actual creative process.

A Monet-inspired art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. See her mini-course Strokes of Energy.

So this painting is about a woman who is experiencing strong wind. She doesn’t mind wind catching her parasol. She enjoys the fresh air and the beautiful scene around her.

Ulla’s Take

One of the students, Ulla M. Holm, made a Photoshop sketch from another set of Monet’s paintings and then painted the image with short impressionistic strokes. I love how the result also reminds me of her home country, Sweden!

A Monet-inspired art journal spread by Ulla M. Holm, a student of Peony and Parakeet.

Using Reference Images More Intuitively – From a Story to an Experience

I admit having mixed feelings about following the reference images carefully. With my art, I want to express freedom, and I don’t think that following reference images too closely helps with that. On the other hand, I don’t want to restrict myself doing abstracts only or creating similar paintings one after another. Many artists create the same again and again and become better and better with that. To me, art is about exploring and the hook there is to widen my perspective continuously.

So even if you would prefer abstract art, it doesn’t mean you can’t have reference images. Instead of connecting with the actual story, you can connect with an emotional experience.

Emile Vernon's painting and Paivi Eerola's abstract interpretation. By Peony and Parakeet.

I picked colors and ideas from Emile Vernon’s painting and imagined what it would be like wearing that soft dress. The dress felt like a dream, so I wrote: “Muisto unelmasta” –  “a memory of a dream” in the image.

Using reference images: a photo and an abstract interpretation. By Peony and Parakeet. To learn how to do this, sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

Here’s another example from my class Inspirational Drawing 2.0: a photo from The National Library of Finland and my interpretation, “The Power of Knowledge.”

Do yo want to experiment with this approach using your personal reference images? >> Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

For the Fans of Monet – Strokes of Energy

My Monet-inspired mini-course Strokes of Energy is now available as an individual self-study course. >> Buy Strokes of Energy!

Strokes of Energy, a Monet-inspred mini-course by Peony and Parakeet.

Geraldine’s Take

I want to end this blog post with a skilled artist Geraldine Norris from Australia who created her version of Monet in my class. She had just seen an art exhibition showing Monet’s work, and I think it shows how deeply she connected with the experience.

A Monet-inspired painting by Geraldine Norris, Australia, a student of Peony and Parakeet.

But wait, there is more beautiful Monet-inspired art from my students, see the presentation page of Strokes of Energy!

Until next time!

Freedom and Fear of Drawing – with Students of Peony and Parakeet

Asian Bunny, an illustration by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I dedicate this blog post for drawing, but I want to talk about cross stitching first. It’s one of my long-time hobbies, and I find it relaxing. I don’t have to make any decisions, use any imagination, just follow the chart, and the result will be just like I wanted it to be. Cross stitching is like a simple house plant. If you give a little bit of time for it fairly regularly, it will grow even if it doesn’t feel like so at first.

Paivi likes cross stitching

I can choose complicated charts or simple ones, and easily adjust the attention required for stitching. But there’s one problem that always remains: pixelation. Each image is made from single square-shaped stitches. No matter how complicated the design is or thick the fabric is, the pixelation is there.

Christmas at Gingerbread Lane, a cross stitching project in progess

Working with single stitches is not only a visual problem. It’s also a problem if we want to create more freely. Then we need a medium that allows faster and more flexible thinking. Like drawing. There are many kinds of drawing styles. When I want to experience creative freedom, I don’t do sketching using a pre-made model. (The photo shows a recent Renaissance-style painting in progress. I have designed it first in Photoshop.)

A sketch for a Renessaince style painting, by Peony and Parakeet

A Fear for Freedom – A Fear of Drawing

When I want to feel free, I don’t want models. Then it’s just a blank paper and a pen and a wish for a glimpse of imagination.

But freedom and fear are strangely connected. About three years ago, when I planned to leave my day job and start an art business, I warned myself. I told how I would no longer be anyone noticeable. I would have no office, no place to go every day, no colleagues to discuss with, no job title, no respect from others, no self-esteem. I would live in the darkest edge of the society and completely against the way of life I was taught. With these stories, I tried to prevent myself making the life change, and at the same time, I knew I had to try it. I had to turn the page and start a completely blank one.

Drawing on a blank page, by Peony and Parakeet.

I often connect with the same fear when I start drawing. That I am no one, that I have no power, that it is overwhelming and I don’t know what to do. But then, it’s the same gate that leads to the most wonderful feeling: the feeling of freedom.

Before I left my day job, I started to follow other self-employed women online. I listened to podcasts where they told their stories, and they all had one thing in common. They had put what they already know into use and then learned more. It made me list all the skills that I had and be more content about the decision I had made.

Paivi just before her life change

Drawing Factory Teaches You to Draw from Stick Figures

Still, on this day, I find it both assuring and inspiring to acknowledge what is already there before starting something new. So last year, I wanted to create a mini-course about line drawing, using the same philosophy. That was how Drawing Factory was born. It teaches you to start from stick figures and then move on to flowing lines and more imaginative illustrations.

Drawing Factory, a line drawing mini-course that helps you to lose your fear of drawing. By Peony and Parakeet.

Student Artwork

I offered Drawing Factory as a part of Imagine Monthly Fall 2016, the series of monthly mini-courses. See some of the gorgeous pieces that my students have made from the course! Another central theme in the course is Japan, the land of pretty details and high productivity and that has inspired Denise Dineen, Linda Robson, Christie Juhasz, Stepanie Carney, Marie Jerred, and Kathy Gallant, too.

Denise Dineen, USA. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Linda Robson, Canada. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Christie Juhasz, USA. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Stephanie Carney, USA. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Marie Jerred, Canada. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Kathy Gallant, Canada. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Overcome Your Fears for Line Drawing – Buy Drawing Factory!

Drawing Factory is now available as a single self-study class. >> Click here to buy!
You can also buy the whole bundle of five art journaling classes, published last year as Imagine Monthly Fall 2016.

Thank you for supporting my journey now and during the last three years!