New Class: Imagine Monthly!

Imagine Monthly, an art journaling class by Peony and Parakeet

I have been preparing for the spring season and composing my newest class: Imagine Monthly. This art journaling class lasts from January to June and is slower-paced than my workshops. It also includes less tutoring, but will be perfect for developing artistic skills through regular practice, compelling techniques and new ideas. Hopefully I will see you there! (If you read this in November 2015, you might actually want to stop reading now and purchase the class, as it’s on Black Friday Sale!)

Planning a New Class is Like Creating a New Collection of Art

When I am planning a new class, I use notebooks. I have Moleskine sketchbooks where visual ideas get recorded and a green Moleskine notebook that I use for plans that need more writing. Building a class is a creative process that requires not one idea but hundreds of small ideas that are processed into one focused entity.

Moleskine art journals and a Moleskine notebook

When planning a new class, I try to keep the collection of ideas as diverse as possible. I try to include not only technique-oriented ideas but also philosophic ideas, principles, practical problems, various motifs and styles etc. This also affects how my notebooks are filled. I try to be open to all kinds of things and write single sentences, play with different styles and break the content in modules that I can use for building new kind of combinations.

Art journals and colored pencils

In my opinion, even most elaborate art journals should have occasional style changes and imperfect pages. It’s in the nature of art journaling to support creative process and not try to keep everything as tidy as possible. However, I have noticed that short sentences that made a perfect sense a couple of weeks ago don’t always remain useful. Same thing happens with fast sketches: some are just plain ugly!

Sketch with a black drawing pen

That’s why I think it’s important to make more detailed pages too: focus on the shapes and coloring and put more effort on saving the original idea.

Artwork by Peony and Parakeet

Like combining all kind of different ideas for one class, creating art is also a process of building new entities from smaller motifs. These motifs are like building blocks. If you have problems with your imagination, maybe you don’t have enough building blocks in your toolbox? Or if you want to take your style to a new direction, maybe you need new building blocks too?

Artwork by Peony and Parakeet

In my opinion, best art journals include quick sketches, collections of reusable building blocks and luxorious, imaginative pages. These art journals can work as creative portfolios – notebooks that we browse with pleasure to find new ideas for the next pieces.

Imagine Monthly – Pre-Order Now!

Sign up for a 6-month art journaling journey Imagine Monthly to get new building blocks and create pages that will take your art journals to a new level! To thank you, my most active followers and customers, I have tried to make the class as affordable as I can. And if you buy the class during Black Friday weekend, including Cyber Monday (Nov 26th-30th 2015 PST), you will even get a special discount price!

Imagine Monthly, art journaling class - Black Friday Sale!
>> Sign up by clicking here!

Find Your Own Art Journaling Inspiration!

Art journaling inspiration by Peony and Parakeet

After stretching my limits at the last blog post, I felt the need to go back to basics. I picked my Moleskine Watercolor Notebook and made three spreads by just answering to the question: what does constantly inspire me?

The short answer is: I am constantly inspired by the history of decorative art. I think it’s important to answer to the question in a general level like this, not only by listing specific artworks and other artists. That leaves more room for your own interpretation. If you define yourself tightly through other people, it is also more likely that you will find it hard to figure out what to create next and how to find your own style.

I am constantly inspired by embroidered fabrics and wool rugs from the first half of the 20th century.

Art journaling inspiration by Peony and Parakeet

I am constantly inspired by art glass, fabric prints and the way these characteristics have been transformed today’s street fashion, especially Japanese street fashion.

Art journaling inspiration by Peony and Parakeet

Art journaling inspiration by Peony and Parakeet

I am constantly inspired by Russian decorative plates, european Art Nouveau and the way they include drama with natural colors and shapes.

Art journaling inspiration by Peony and ParakeetArt journaling inspiration by Peony and Parakeet

Even if I don’t have the ability to paint decorative plates or the looks to wear Japanese street fashion, I can use them as a constant source of inspiration. I can let them show in art journals and other artworks, often in a way that is less literal but still obvious for myself.

When I think about the history of decorative art, I fill my mind with values that I can strongly resonate with: understanding nuances, focusing on details, telling stories that last time, uplifting people with beauty and spirituality, integrating technology with the production and always searching for higher knowledge to take it to the next level. It may not be the whole big picture of the subject, but it is how I look at it. That in turn, constantly inspires me to create art, to blog and to deliver new techniques and workshops.

Let art journaling make you happy – fill your pages with subjects that truly inspire you!

P.S. Coming up soon! 6 mini classes from January to June, called “Imagination Monthly”. More information with an early bird discount next week! Subscribe to my newsletter so you won’t miss it!

Processing Visual Inspiration

November Still Life by Peony and Parakeet

Last week, I visited Natural History Museum of Helsinki. My idea was to take a sketchbook with me and make few sketches – if I happened to see something inspiring. My skeptic attitude changed once I entered the place. I remember visiting the museum over 20 years ago but only the front door of the old building seemed a bit familiar, everything else looked new to me. I wa mesmerized by the colors and details of stuffed animals, and only after a short while, almost overwhelmed by the amount of information and visual stimulation. It would have been impossible to put all the inspiration into sketches, so I took photos.

Natural History Museum of Helsinki

When I got back home, I knew I had to create an artwork inspired by the visit. But my mind seemed too full, not knowing where to start, what to express. I started a painting but against all my principles, I tossed it because I was totally clueless even if my mind was full of inspiration!

After a couple of days, I decided to make a sketchbook spread to help me process the subject. I loaded the photos to iPad and created several layers of watercolors while browsing the images.

Painting a sketchbook spread from photos taken from Natural History Museum of Helsinki

I wrote down some of my thoughts: how I admired lions and African animals in general when I was a child and how rich country Africa is, in terms of nature.

A sketchbook spread by Peony and Parakeet

After this spread, I asked myself: what inspiring did I see that than the animals. The answer was: glass cabinets and the concept of collections that were kind of surreal. With that in mind, I started a painting on a thick watercolor paper.

The first layers of an artwork, by Peony and Parakeet

Randomly creating new layers with ink mists, watercolors, alcohol inks and gouache paints, I focused on the color first. Greens, turquoises and ochras were the ones that made the strongest impact on me when looking inside the glass vitrines.

Phases to the end result, November Still Life, by Peony and Parakeet

With gold paint and white ink, I created more details to embark my imagination. Then I thought about slavic melancholy, fall, piano concertos and let all of that get mixed with glass and nature. When I looked at the end result, I kind of like the idea of mixing a landscape with a still life. The idea is surprisingly similar than what I saw in the museum: still lives that are also landscapes! I would have not thought it this way though without processing the subject so much. By taking photos, painting without a clue, working with the sketchbook and then creating a lot of layers made me somehow understand what inspired me in the first place. When I let go and followed the pencils and brushes, it was ready to come out.

November Still Life, by Peony and Parakeet

What I learned was: sometimes creative process takes a lot of time, a lot of phases, don’t stop too soon!

From Decorative to Expressive Art

"Self-Portrait as a Knitter", a mixed media artwork by Peony and Parakeet

Last Friday, I traveled two hours by train to a yarn shop at Tampere. Not just to shop new yarn, but to meet a popular knitting pattern designer Stephen West who had been invited to Finland. While I was attending his workshop, I was excited by the knits he showed and thestories he told. There were silent moments while we Finnish women counted stitches and pondered about what we heard. We Finnish can look very serious, silent and occupied (or like Stephen put it kindly: “Finnish carry themselves well”), even if we are about to burst with excitement. That introvert attitude is also visible in this recent mixed media artwork, “Self-Portrait as a Knitter”. The person’s focus is so much on details that the inspiration, the yellow spot in the back of the head, doesn’t have a room to show up.

From Over-Decorative to Expressive-Decorative

Sometimes similar kind of thing happens when we create art: the inspiration does not show in the end result. There can be so much decoration going on, that not much room is left for the expression. We cover the background with little motifs and surface patterns, instead of enhancing the characteristics that are already there.

A watercolor background by Peony and Parakeet

I admit, there’s something really fun and fulfilling to work with thin brushes, pens and pencils, and make a circle after a circle. It is like knitting a shawl, stitch by stitch.

Using Derwent Artbars, by Peony and Parakeet

However, we need to add a little more variety and contrasts for the expression to come through. It’s like changing the yarn or needle size once in a while!

Using Faber-Castell Gelatos, by Peony and Parakeet

And like in handknits, just when you think your work is ruined, you need to calm down and do the finishing.

Unfinished artwork by Peony and Parakeet

When knitting, you sew the seams, iron everything carefully and add the final balancing details.

Knitted bags by Peony and Parakeet

When creating art, you bring up the most important details and connect the dots so that everything falls on its place. Sometimes there are debates whether decorative art can be expressive as well.  But you can be both decorative and expressive, when you give meaning to your motifs and let motifs to be pieces of a puzzle instead of covering everything evenly.

"Self-Portrait as a Knitter", a mixed media artwork by Peony and Parakeet

P.S. More decorative-Expressive art with watercolors: Watercolor 101 for Intuitive Painting
P.P.S If you are a knitter, you might want to check this out too: Folk Bag Workbook

Look Back to See Your Artistic Style!

Organizing old drawings and paintings, by Peony and Parakeet

We often search for something new: new art techniques, new ideas, new approaches. When I pulled out a worn-out cardboard box filled with my old drawings and paintings, they all felt very familiar at first. I saw only the obvious: a skill level, a theme or a technique. But when I stopped looking at the pieces individually and started grouping them, new insights occured.

Self-Portraits, by Peony and Parakeet

In 1988, when I was 19 years old, I made a watercolor painting called “Self Portrait as an Artist”. Soon after that, I went to study computer engineering and art didn’t seem so important anymore. But now, when working full-time in art, I love to compare these two paintings. There are 27 years between them but they still relate to each other. It is interesting to see how my understanding of being an artist has changed. The importance of ideas, visions and expression has grown and the ego and streotyped appearance has shrinked. I see similarities too: color choices, dynamic lines and dramatic atmosphere, foundational elements of my artistic style.

If you are hoping to find a new style, it is easy to miss that most of the elements are already there, just a little bit of fine-tuning is needed!

Glass inspired art, by Peony and Parakeet

In 2007 I began studying industrial design. One of the courses taught us to draw various materials like glass, wood and plastic. After 7 years I realized that I can use that kind of imitations for more expressive art too. I can play with the proportions and compositions. I also understood that I can use the things learned in the past, more widely and more freely. Instead of having only some ideas and simplifying those, I can have hundreds of ideas and combine most of them!

If you don’t know what to create next, combine what you have done before to a single artwork!

A forest by the lake, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet, in the age of 16

In 1985 I made this watercolor painting and remember my family liking it. For me, it was important that this image came from my imagination, it wasn’t made by following a photo or anything. It was born surprisingly easily and I felt a bit puzzled: “So quick and everybody likes it!”

The Forest Speaks, a watercolor painting by Peony and Parakeet

In 2014 I worked with a similar theme and again, with watercolors. This painting contained more emotion, it was about leaving back a certain phase in life and entering a new one. However, when I look at both of them now, I think about my country, Finland, and its nature. This is a land of forests and lakes and for Finnish, it is natural to use them as symbols in self-expression too. I can’t escape my roots and the older I become, I don’t even want to.

When you look back at your own work, what kind of themes and changes do you see? Could you create collections showing art that tells your personal stories and your journey to your current style? 

Liberated Artist, a 4-week online painting workshop

I believe in looking back and seeing forward. The 4-week online workshop Liberated artist will change the way you create art and the way you look at your past artworks.
The registration closes on Saturday 24th October, sign up now!

Add More Creativity to Your Art!

Harvest Stillife, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

This is my latest artwork with watercolors, acrylic paints and colored pencils, called “Harvest Stillife”. It’s created very intuitively, without any idea of the end result when started. But like so often before, when I selected images for this blog post, I found recent photos that must have been in my mind when I made this.

Photos from my garden

I love the complexity and the amount of details that can be seen in these shots from my garden. I think that many who struggle with creating art, overlook the complex nature of reality. In these photos, they only see a flower, a bush and some berries. Instead of labeling the obvious, you can examine all the color variations, different shapes,  sharpness and blurryness of the elements, depth, patterns, the way each color connects with the next … Then you can try to summarize what the hierarchy of all these factors in the photos could be, how all this could be modeled. It seems too complex to describe in a simple way. That’s when creativity starts working for the solution, figuring out what things to bring out without losing the connection to all of it.

A big part of the visuals today has a simple, graphic look. If you get exposed to that a lot, you might think that simplicity is the key to create good art. I believe it’s totally opposite: complex things are the best source of inspiration. Trying to see complex systems behind simple stereotypes feeds our creativity much more than trying to simplify the simple.

The same idea applies to painting: Embrace the complexity by adding a lot of variation and then bring out the essential.

Painting process

Watercolors and acrylic paints:

Phase 1 of Harvest Stillife, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

Placing a plastic wrap over the wet watercolor paint to add more delicate details:

Using a plastic wrap to create more details with watercolors

Ready for finishing:

Phase 2 of Harvest Stillife, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

A detail of the finished look, done with colored pencils and a black drawing pen:

A detail of Harvest Stillife, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

Creating abstract stillives so that they appear naturally is so much fun!

Harvest Stillife, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

Create your own natural stillives, landscapes, portraits and florals! – Sign up for Liberated Artist!

This is the painting workshop many have wished for: combining watercolors, acrylic paints and colored pencils, working intuitively at first and then getting more intentional in the end. I will thoroughly introduce you to this liberated way of working and help you finish your work so that it is not only free-flowing but also focused and meaningful.
Reserve your spot now!

5 Steps to an Abstract Landscape

http://Soil, Sun and Rain, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

Let’s paint together! The idea for this painting came from nature. Have you noticed that when the sun shines after the rain, everything sparkles! It’s so beautiful!

Snowbells after the rain, in Finland

Soil, sun and rain – even if they are different from one another, they all work together to make plants prosper. In the painting the soil is made with colored pencils, the sun with acrylic paints and the rain with watercolors. These art supplies are so basic but they also work so well together! Watch the video and create your own abstract landscape – “Soil, Sun and Rain”!

More easy starts and practical help for adding meaning to your images – Sign up for Liberated Artist!

Liberated Artist, an online painting workshop by Peony and Parakeet

Starts in the end of the month! See you there!

What Are the Cornerstones of Your Art?


I have always loved abstract paintings. It occured to me just recently that even if I rarely create realistic art, I rarely go to extremes in abstractism. But then, what would prevent me from doing that, putting those cornerstones of my style to a new order.

Namely, if you know what you love to create, why not play with that? Thick black color, sharp lines, dramatic color transitions, sense of movement and muted but standing-out colors – those are what I always seem to aim for.

This painting is called “Cornerstones” as I like this detail the most.


When you have your cornerstones set, you can feel free to experiment: use less of something, more of another thing, express deeper thoughts or become more playful.

My favorite supplies are watercolors, acrylic paints and colored pencils. They can be seen as cornerstones as well. If I create something a bit different, it doesn’t feel so scary when I use these old friends.

So I started the painting with watercolors. I had some leftover acrylic paints from other projects, so I stared at the watercolored surface and tried to figure out how to create something a little bit different with them.


One thing that I love in acrylic paints is to have many colors on a brush at the same time and get delicious color effects.



I worked with dairly thick brushes so no wonder when the artwork reached this point, I felt it needed some sharpness and movement.


Then I remembered the photos that I love to shoot. I adjust the shutterspeed low and move my camera to doodle with light. My photos are not brilliant but I absolutely love playing with the camera this way. These photos make me think of bit streams and all the wonderful technical innovations.


So I added a few sharp light details and it was finished!


Liberated Artist – A New Online Workshop!

Finding cornerstones can be a fun process if you use intutive approach for it! Sign up for my newest workshop Liberated Artist! This is the painting workshop many of you have wished for: combining watercolors, acrylic paints and colored pencils, working intuitively at first and then getting more intentional in the end. I will thoroughly introduce you to this liberated way of working and help you finish your work so that it is not only free-flowing but also focused and meaningful.
Reserve your spot now!


Farewell to Summer with Watercolors

Farewell to Summer, a watercolor painting by Peony and Parakeet

September has been surprisingly warm in Finland this year. I took a photo a couple of days ago and even if it’s warm and the sun is shining there’s a certain melancholy in the air.

Last days of summer

I don’t usually mimick photos but this time I made an exception. I used the photo about a half of the process and then finished the painting more freely. As I was recording videos for the upcoming painting workshop (more info in the end of the post), I already had all the cameras and such in place. So I made a short video showing how I created the painting.

It was still warm today. Stella was more than happy! Needless to say, she loves the sun.

Stella the beagle enjoys the warmth of the sun in Finland, late September

Coming up! – New class starts in Oct 26th! 

The registration to my online painting workshop will open next week! If you want to start with carefree strokes and end with meaning, this is a great class for you! I will show you how to create happy accidents with watercolors and acrylic paints and then turn those to abstract flowers, landscapes, portraits and still lives. The paintings will be finished with colored pencils. You will not only feel liberated but also connected to your art while you learn how to create understandable and fascinating images. Hopefully I will see you there!

P.S. If you have not subscribed my weekly newsletter yet, click here to subscribe and stay tuned!