Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Joy of Nature in Colored Pencil

This week, we learn from nature and bring its joy to our colored pencil art.

Joy of nature. Colored pencil art by Paivi Eerola, Finland.

It makes me sad how colored pencils are used only for replicating photos, and how little there is room for free expression. Nature grows freely, so why not give our art the same opportunity? I hope this post inspires you to do more intuitive coloring!

Joy of Nature: Patchwork

Think about nature sceneries as crazy quilts that have fabrics and seams! The fabrics are larger areas and the seams are lines. Patchwork has short seams, so keep your lines quite short too.

Joy of nature and working with colored pencils: create something small and colorful!

When you walk in nature, stop, and see the quilt by searching for the mesh of trees and bushes. Observe how twigs cross over each other and form nature’s patchwork.

Nature's patchwork and disorder

Then when you start coloring a blank paper, focus on building the asymmetric and abstract style quilt, rather than thinking about trees and such.

Patchwork coloring. Creating freely with colored pencils. Exploring the joy of nature in colored pencil.

I find this kind of “patchwork coloring” a lot of fun. Many call this mark-making, but I like to think about creating a patchwork instead. Marks are a more abstract term but textiles connect me to the creative world that is full of ideas.

Joy of Nature: Harmony

Despite its patchy structure, nature sceneries have harmony that our art often lacks. When you walk in nature, step back to admire the big picture and point out the areas by their dominating colors. You could think that the sky and earth both have a few quilts: patchwork areas that mostly have similar colors.

Harmonic spring scenery

So, when your paper has all kinds of patchwork, compose larger areas by coloring over them so that they get a stronger identity in color. For example, you can have a couple of green areas, a dark area, a more neutral brown area, and one with very light colors.

Learning  from nature. Adding harmony to your colored pencil drawing.

So, first, you start coloring gently with a wider color scheme and then add larger unified layers over the colorful patchwork.

Joy of Nature: Spirit

I like to think that light is nature’s spirit. When you walk in nature, seek for this spirit. You miss the spirit, if you only point out the big concrete things in the scenery like bushes, trees, water, and sky. To see the spirit, you have to step into the abstract world and look for the light: odd shapes on the trunks of the trees, pattern play on the leaves, and in general, all kinds of small reflections.

Reflections from water.

For me, it’s helpful to think that the spirit has twins. One is the light and the other is the shadow. When you want more light, you will also get stronger shadows.

Adding nature's spirit to colored pencil art.

Light and shadows add contrast and scatter. When you add them to your piece, it becomes less harmonic, but also less boring.

Joy of Coloring Small

Recently, my colored pencil pieces have been quite small, and the paper has been divided into smaller pieces.

Joy of coloring small. Dividing the paper in parts.

Coloring can be a bit like weeding: you can do it little by little.

Spring garden

First, the result is nothing, but it will bloom over time.

Coloring freely with colored pencils.

Colored pencils beat other supplies when we are creating this kind of small joyful art.

Getting creative with colored pencils

Here one A4-sized paper has two pieces of colored pencil art. So, you can take short walks or long walks to express the joy of nature in colored pencil.

Colored pencils and colored pencil art. Learning visual principles from Mother Nature. Coloring freely without references.

Mother Nature is the best art teacher. That’s why most of my classes are about what I have learned from her.

Getting More into Drawing and Coloring

This week, I share a method that is helpful when you want to get more into drawing and find your style. It is called “topic-spirit-story-abstract.” With this method, art can open to you step by step!

Venus slipper orchid. An illustration by Paivi Eerola, Finland.

For me, everyday life experiences, illustrations, creative writing, and abstract art are all connected. If I take something away, the chain breaks and my expression stiffens. Most of my creative work follows this “topic-spirit-story-abstract” method. I don’t always have to draw a spirit, but recently I’ve spent time in such abstract dimensions when creating computer art that I have wanted to play with the spirits with colored pencils.

Start with Template!

When you want to practice the method, start by making a template! Divide the paper so that you have a part for the spirit and another part for more abstract coloring. You can just draw a line or be more creative and make a circle for the most figurative part, and several other divisions for more abstract ideas.

Topic-Spirit-Story-Abstract method for getting more into drawing and coloring. By Paivi Eerola.

Do some intuitive coloring with a light touch as a warmup before proceeding.

Method: Topic-Spirit-Story-Abstract

After the warmup, find a simple topic that you want to explore.

Think about your recent experiences and find something small and concrete there.

Garden center

In the example, my topic was a recent visit to a garden center. My husband bought me a beautiful venus slipper orchid there.

Second, imagine a spirit that symbolizes the topic.

Use your imagination – anything contains a spirit!

Drawing a spirit for a flower. Using imagination with colored pencils.

In the example, I was thinking about the venus slipper and how mysterious and exotic it looks for a Finn.

Third, let the spirit tell a larger story.

What other associations come to your mind when you think about the spirit? Think about literature, music, food, movies, places – what comes to your mind that enlarges the original topic. What is the world that the spirit can open?

Getting more into drawing and coloring. Illustration in progress.

In the example, I started thinking about the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland and Asian culture: sushi and rice bowls. I also had just browsed Kaffe Fassett‘s quilting books and thought about the richness that can be achieved with colors and simple shapes. I slowly enlarged the mixed yet curated world that I was able to reach through the spirit.

Fourth, explore more the abstract side of the discoveries through the story.

Play with the basic shapes and make decorative borders, ribbons, and patterns.

Getting more into drawing and coloring: combining organic and geometric shapes.

I find it easier to draw abstract motifs, ornaments, and patterns after finding the spirit than if I start from a blank paper.

Optional: Write the Story!

After making the image, I like to put stories to words. This helps me to get even more into drawing and makes my work as an artist more meaningful.

Venus Slipper Orchid, the spirit of a plant, illustration by Paivi Eerola.

Art is like a venus slipper. It’s like a plant in the back corner of a garden center. Those who only look at traditional roses won’t even notice it. But whoever dares to bend over the shy plant and curiously fit her mind to the shoe, becomes a master in a game where basic shapes break everything and then build a new whole. This way, the beauty of art is limitless, and not only on the surface.

Here’s another example that I made last week. Here, the center is reserved for the quote from the story, and the spirit and the motifs are in the frame.

Art is a spirit in a pencil. Quote and illustration by Paivi Eerola.

Art is a spirit in a pencil. A single pencil is nothing. It doesn’t cost much, takes up very little space, and you don’t even notice it if it’s at the bottom of your bag. But still, a pencil can connect us to art. When I was a child, I played with pencils while my big sister was coloring. Every pencil had a personality and while I was watching my sister draw, my herbs grow, and my teddy bear rest, I had no idea that those little moments would dictate my future. Art back then was only a spirit in a pencil. When art is a spirit in a pencil, we say yes to a journey that takes us closer to who we are. We say yes to expression that has no limits. This freedom is why I want to support creating.

Getting More Into Drawing Frames and Borders

Decorative art is a bridge between illustration and abstract expression.

Decorative stripes with colored pencils

Reality consists of both organic and geometric shapes. The question is: how can you bring both of these worlds into your art and use them in a creative way?

Making an illustration. Space for a quote.

I hope you find all this inspiring and helpful to get more into drawing and coloring.

Coloring Without Limits

This week, I want to talk about colored pencils and coloring without limits. You can color without a preconceived idea, without outlines, and without sketching.

Colored pencil art by Paivi Eerola, Finland. Coloring without limits, no outlines or sketching.

You only need to feel drawn to one color first. Recently, purple-blue has called me.

What to Draw?

Have you ever been thinking about what to draw when everything in the world seems to be drawn already? Maybe you too have wondered whether you draw a face, a bird, or a flower, and if so why. But there is always a secret path in art – the possibility to deviate from the traditional path at the very beginning and see what appears on paper freely.

Abstract art with colored pencils. Coloring in an art journal.

I have a small colored pencil journal where it’s easy to make a spread now and then.

Art journal page with colored pencils.

This was a quick and fun little project.

Choosing Paper with Colors

The smoothness of the paper affects the coloring experience. Single strokes are better visible on smooth paper.

Art journal page with abstract coloring. Coloring without limits.

My colored pencil journal has very smooth paper, and I find it less effortless to color than a rougher one.

Coloring on a smooth paper. Colored pencil art. Free coloring on blank paper.

But when I want the colors to shine more and achieve a little blurrier and thus a softer result, the paper is better when it has some tooth.

Coloring on Fabriano Accademia drawing paper. Coloring freely on a blank paper without limits.

I currently have a pad of Fabriano Accademia drawing paper and it’s very nice with colored pencils.

Coloring supplies. Colored pencils organized in boxes by color and paper for creating colored pencil art. Fabriano Accademia drawing paper.

I keep my pencils organized by color. All brands are mixed in one box. Some are watercolor pencils, some are regular, and all of them are in the same mix.

Just Start! – Two Tips

Bring the pencils to a place where you can see them often. And then …”Just start!”

Sometimes it’s easier said than done. When getting started feels like a chore, I have two tips for you.

First, let the color do the talking. Pick a pencil and examine it’s tone. Color lightly first, and then bring in more layers. Every color has a spirit. Connect with it like it’s your pet or an angel. You don’t need to rationalize why you feel drawn to this or that color. Find the pencil that resonates the best with your current self.

Coloring without limits - a start.

Second, give the color at least two other colors as friends. Often one color is very little, but when it’s side by side with two other colors, art will appear. A shape that has only one color is flat but with two other colors, it becomes much more lively.

Colored Pencils Say This All The Time

I know many colored pencils complain that they always have to create something figurative and realistic. They envy paints who can roam freely on paper and how people only smile at their tricks. Colored pencils are too often squeezed tightly and pressed hard against paper at the very beginning. They have to follow strict discipline and are under pressure to produce something that looks real. And when they try to do exactly as they are told, the result is stiff. “Nothing like what can be achieved with paints,” their owners say which makes the pencils sad. If they could choose they would be coloring without limits.

I believe in free education when it comes to colored pencils: “Make what you want and enjoy!” I often say to them. “Imagine that you are something more than just pencils!”

Colored pencil art in progress. No sketching, just coloring without limits.

My pencils jump out of their boxes and do all kinds of silly marks. They are like paints.

Without Limits – Imagine You Are More!

In art, it is terribly important that we imagine to be more than what we are. Be more skillful, more innovative, more unique, and more important. Then, at that very moment, the pencils, life, and fantasy cannot be separated. The colors speak inside us and the art steps in.

Colored pencil artist's work table - pencils organized by color, a smooth surface on the table top. Colored pencil art by Päivi Eerola.

Love of Coloring Without Limits

When I was a child, colored pencils often kept me company. They still bring me joy and I want to keep staying their advocate.

A journal spread and a small drawing, both colored intuitively and freely, without limits. Colored pencil art can be more abstract than you think.

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Using White as a Color in Painting and Drawing

In this post, we explore the color white and find ideas on how we could change the way we use it in art-making.

Käännekohta - Turning Point, oil on canvas, 50 x 61 cm, by Paivi Eerola, Finland.
Käännekohta – Turning Point, oil on canvas, 50 x 61 cm.

I posted this painting about a month ago, but I still had to fix it! You might not notice the difference, but it matters to me. I have changed the center of the painting so that it is more abstract.

Painting over details with a thin brush.

A long time ago I thought that it doesn’t matter if I don’t like some detail of my work or if I don’t like some of my work in general. I thought there would always be someone who would like it.

But the longer I’ve been painting, the more important it has become that I have to be a fan of my own work. When you are a beginner, quantity is more important than quality. But I’ve been working for a long time and the equation has thus turned the other way.

Before and after - fixing a white painting.
Before and after. I changed the center and some other details.

I know some would prefer the more realistic flowers, but I don’t! I have too much reality around me, especially now when the weather has been too cold to be spring.

Living in a White Country

This painting is also special because it has so much color that is difficult for me – white! There is far too much white here in Finland. Even if now is the end of April, we got a lot of snow a couple of days ago!

Spring in Finland - snowing can still happen.

I think white is a terrible color because it is full of emptiness.

Artist Paivi Eerola and her oil paintings.

Finnish people usually have white walls and white furniture, but our home is full of colors. I love to display my paintings on this yellow wall.

Not One White But Many Whites

In the recent painting, I wanted to play with pastels and show the side of white that is often not talked about.

A detail of a white oil painting by Paivi Eerola. Many whites and pastel shades in one painting.

For an artist, there is not just one white. There is a warm white that holds the promise of the sun. There is a purple-toned white that falls in love when it sees a deep cold red. There is a white that allures you with a hint of sweet mint. So, many whites, not just one Finnish white!

It’s exciting to mix various whites and then see how the pastel colors slowly begin to appear. You need a lot of white and just a little bit of color to get the toned whites and pale pastels.

Titanium or Zinc White?

The most common white in paint tubes are Titanium White and Zinc White. In oils, you have to be careful with zinc white because it can cause crackles. I mostly use only Titanium White. I would love to use Zinc White because it’s more transparent. In this painting, I have tried my best to bring the soft transparent effects mostly with Titanium White, but it’s not easy!

Vapauden puolesta - For Liberty, oil on board, 45 x 45 cm. By Päivi Eerola, Finland.
Vapauden puolesta – For Liberty, oil on board, 45 x 45 cm.

In acrylics and gouache paints, you can use Zinc White more freely.

When White is Not Needed

Beginners think that adding white on top can fix everything. Ten years ago, I was madly doodling with a white gel pen. What went wrong, got covered with white circles. But white also can make the piece busy and destroy depth. Here’s a quick example of the small collage piece that I made in 2014 (here’s the old blog post with the video too). The first is the old piece and the second is a photoshopped version showing how I would fix it now.

A collage piece that lacks depth and has too much white and a demonstration of how it could be fixed.

When I tone down the white, the image gets clearer and the depth grows. The highlights in the central parts get more attention and it’s easier to know where to look. I wish someone would have pointed this out to me back then. It took a lot of time to realize this!

If White Were a Person …

I am pretty sure that if White were a person she would say: “I have much more potential than you think. Stop seeing me as a blank background or a quick fix to a piece that lacks contrasts!”

Paivi Eerola and her paintings.

What’s your relationship with White?

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