Mid-Century Modern Style for Art Journals

Modern Mid-Century, a mini-course about making an art journal spread in mid-century modern style

This spring, I have published a new art journaling mini-course each month for Imagine Monthly. May’s mini-course is called Modern Mid-Century. This mini-course is all about mid-century modern style. You can use it to create decorative art journal pages that are not only flowers and hearts but show a wider range of designs.

Discovering a Magic Formula of Mid-Century Modern

The main inspiration for the Modern Mid-Century mini-course came from Annikki Hovisaari’s ceramic Peacock (“riikinkukko” in Finnish). Annikki Hovisaari was a designer in the Finnish ceramic factory Arabia in 1960s. We have the peacock on the living room wall. I look at it each day, admiring. So much can be expressed with simple shapes and thin lines! The mini-course includes plenty of samples.

Annikki Hovisaari, Riikinkukko/Peacock, Arabia

When I begin examining a new style, I try to see what’s essential there. What could be removed without changing the impression. And also: what could be added without loosing it. It’s like calculating a formula for a certain style. The secret is not trying to solve the whole big equation. It would be too difficult and highly argumentative. Even the experts of 20th century styles argue whether something is mid-century modern or not. I try to avoid that and just pick few of the central features. Then I focus on their relationship, forgetting the rest.

The best art classes give you ideas that you can expand and adjust to your liking. Whether you like mid-century modern or not, you can use the basic formula. With that, you can move forward towards your own ideas and aesthetics. This kind of conceptual approach will bring focus to more personal than to the style itself. Instead of trying to follow the style, you will be making new discoveries through it.

I made a couple of small pieces after finishing the mini-course. The first one, on the left below, is a birthday card made for my husband’s nephew. The second is a digital piece combining the idea of mid-century modern and the concept of a watch.

Mid-century modern inspired art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Create Your Own Mid-Century Modern Art

Sign up for Imagine Monthly!  You will not only get Modern Mid-Century, but all the mini-courses published so far, immediately after the purchase.

Imagine Monthly, a set of art journaling mini-courses

Imagine Monthly also has a private discussion group at Facebook. It’s fun to see what everyone has created from the mini-courses. In the middle of the month, I also lead a discussion topic related to the month’s theme.

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet in her mid-century modern living room

I believe that every art journal needs pages that are handpainted and handdrawn. It is joyful to browse pages that are more like illustrations than just layers of paint. With Imagine Monthly you will get new formulas for stretching your skills and discovering new techniques. Sign up now!

Bringing Life to Illustrations – Coloring the Air

The Chain of Generations, an art journal page spread by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

This is an art journal spread called “Chain of Generations”. I made this to express how decorative arts and crafts have connected women through generations. I feel I am part of that long chain, one foot in crafting and another in creating art.

Spinning wool

From an Accidental Start to an Intentional Theme

The making of the art journal spread began almost accidentally. I had doodled a border on the right page a long time ago. Then many months later, I had quickly drawn a women from 1920s and glued it beside the doodles.

Few weeks ago, I saw wonderful photos of Ukrainan folk art (pinned some to my Pinterest board Fantastic Folk Art). I got an idea of women connected with flying ribbons. I made a quick sketch with a pencil and then added more details with a drawing pen. I also got started with the coloring but finishing felt too much work back then.

Coloring tips for an art journal page spread by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

This happens to me often: I begin with one idea and end with another some time later. I think it’s one of the best things in creating art and especially in creating art journal pages. When there are no fixations, surprising connections can happen. Like here, the women on the right are from different eras: rococo and 1920s, just perfect to tell the story about how folk art and fashion and their timeless connection.

Inspiration from Atmosphere

While coloring the spread, I thought how I have always felt disconnected with folk art of my own country Finland. Instead, I have always loved Russian and other slavic countries’ approach to it. Finnish folk art feels very plain and unimaginative to me. Before the success in IT and education, Finland was a poor country. Many who come to Finland are surprised how few historic buildings there are and how modest the life seems to have been.

I have been born in Eastern Finland, near Russian border, but visited Russia only 3 years ago. The grand atmosphere of the big churches in St. Petersburg made a big impact on me. The mosaics at Church of the Savior on Blood (yes, all the “paintings” are made from tiny mosaic pieces) lighted by the candles inspired my coloring.

Church of the Savior on Blood

The atmosphere in these kind of old, precious buildings is amazing. As the theme of the spread was not only practical but also spiritual, an atmosphere of an old church felt a good choice to bring in.

The Chain of Generations, an art journal page spread by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Coloring “The Air”

Imagine that I had colored the spread so that I had stayed inside the outlines only. The page would have been much more flatter, contained much less atmosphere and emotion. When I color, I also try to color “the air”. I try to think not only about the light but also how the air feels on the face and how it interacts with the light.

Coloring tips: coloring "the air" by Peony and Parakeet

Things don’t have only one color when they are exposed to light. When coloring, think about the air and the lights flowing through the space. Color over the outlines and show those less obvious, but so essential, spacial streams!

The Chain of Generations, an art journal page spread by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Buy the E-Book – Coloring Freely!

Coloring doesn’t only have to be calming, it can be expressive and inspirational. Purchase my e-book Coloring Freely to learn more about coloring freely with colored pencils. The book can be used with any coloring page or with any blank page. Buy now!

Coloring Abstract Art – Watch the Video!

Coloring abstract art on a blank art journal page with colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet. See the video!

Coloring abstract art on a blank page is so much fun. Layering colors and discovering new shapes is like an adventure!

I created this freely colored abstract art piece onto my biggest art journal and recorded the process and some thoughts about coloring on a blank page. The video also introduces my newest e-book Coloring Freely.

Start your journey with colored pencils: Buy Coloring Freely!

Avoid Stiffness with Blurry Coloring!

Spring Bee. An art journal page with colored pencils by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Coloring freely.

This is a recent art journal page made with colored pencils. I call this “Spring Bee”. It’s all about sunny spring arriving to Finland. The page is also inspired by the techniques that I discovered while writing my latest e-book Coloring Freely.

Magical Blurriness

Every spring, when the first flowers pop up, I can’t resist taking photos of them. We in Finland have a long and cold winter. It’s such a joy to see colors, even subtle, again. This spring, I’ve been thinking a lot about softness and blurriness. The more I see it, the more magical the whole world looks like. When taking photos, I aim for sharp details, but in the end, it’s the blurriness in the background that makes the image.

Spring flowers

These photos are from past springs but they show well how distance, light and rain cause blurriness. To my eye, blurry elements look soft, magical. It’s like they could be anything my imagination can reach to! I believe that this is the way we should look at the world now and then to see its natural beauty.

Spring photos with blurriness

Less Stiffness – More Blurriness

When your art is less stiff, it allows the imagination to step in. It’s amazing what can appear from those blurry background layers.

Coloring an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

I had no idea what the page would actually represent before the bee showed up! By freely coloring with odd, short colored pencils found from my growing collection, I continued filling the page. Like in photos, everything doesn’t have to be sharp and understandable in your art. You can let the viewer make their own assumptions too.

Coloring an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

In the end, I drew some sharp lines and colored additional dark areas on the front. These welcome the eye to explore the rest of the page.

Coloring an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

This page has been created with colored pencils only. It has no sketching. It has been created just by coloring freely.


When the page was finished, I wrote my thoughts about the magic of blurriness on the opposite page. When I open this spread after few months, I will be happily surprised by the spring feelings.

Art journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet. Colored freely with colored pencils.

From Observations to Coloring Techniques

When I wrote Coloring Freely, I didn’t want to just explain how to use the techniques. I wanted to guide you to observe your surroundings. With the guided observation prompts, you will realize why the techniques work and what kind of insights they are based on. That way you don’t just color rationally, but also connect emotionally.

Coloring Freely - 6 Coloring Techniques to Boost Your Self-Expression

If your images are full of stiff outlines, it’s time to explore the world with different glasses and
start coloring freely: Buy the book!

Monet’s World of Energy

Strokes of Energy, an art journaling mini-course inspired by Claude Monet, taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

The famous impressionistic painter Claude Monet inspired me to creates this art journaling mini-course. Strokes of Energy has just been released as a part of Imagine Monthly.

Calmness vs. Energy

When I examined Monet’s painting style, I spent a lot of time with calming blues and greens.

Ultramarine blue is wonderful for Monet style color mixes

But the more I painted, the more I brought energy into the painting.  Even if you feel calm when watching Monet’s paintings, his painting style is much more than just lightly caressing the canvas. Directional strokes and plenty of colors are essential in Monet’s impressionistic style. The most fun part of using the active energy is creating all the juicy details with short strokes of paint.

Create your own Claude Monet painting!

Monet’s Fresh Air to Your Art Journal

A big part of art journaling is about making sketches, experiments and building the collection of pages. But every art journal needs also pages that you want to watch again and again. They are like a breath of fresh air among all not so finished pages.

Paivi and her Monet

4 Published Mini-Courses, 2 More to Come

Alphonse Mucha, William Morris, Friedensreich Hundertwasser and Claude Monet have been my inspiration for this spring. When you sign up for Imagine Monthly, you will get all these 4 mini-courses right after the purchase and 2 more in the coming months.

Imagine Monthly - Art journaling mini-courses inspired by world-class art

Also, you will get to be a part of great community! Every week, when I look at the unique versions my students have made from the exercises, I am in awe. I feel extremely lucky to be part of the group and wish all those masters could still be alive and participate the conversation!

>> Imagine Monthly – Sign up here! 

Free Video – Flower Postcards

Flower Postcards with Watercolors and Colored Pencils, a video for Peony and Parakeet's newsletter subscribers

Flower Postcards

I have published a new free video but it’s available for the newsletter subscribers only.
If you are a subscriber you have already received the link to the video in the latest newsletter.
If you aren’t yet, subscribe here!

Flower Postcards with Watercolors and Colored Pencils, a video for Peony and Parakeet's newsletter subscribers

Liberated Artist – The registration will close soon!

The class starts on Monday April 4th and the registration will close on Sunday. Move away from stiff compostions to personal visual expression! Don’t miss this class, sign up now!

Liberated Artist - Sign up now!

From the Students of Liberated Artist

This blog post is dedicated to my painting workshop Liberated Artist.
Read how the students have experienced the class
and enjoy the wonderful art that they have made during the class! 

Make Creativity Bloom!

Christie Thomas says: “Every lesson started with a bit of fear, then once started I found that I often set it aside because I could not move on to the next step. I did not “see” anything. But with Paivi’s patient encouragement on the videos and free flowing hands, I watched, listened, and tried to follow the instruction even if it was completely foreign. I finished the pieces and feel excited about my creativity.”

Christine Thomas, USA. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Move Forward with Painting!

Geraldine Norris says: “The course allowed me to move on in my art practice, by being engaged with a teacher who is inspirational, celebrates diversity, creative expression and artistic self acceptance. I now feel I am able to see a sustainable way of moving forward with my painting by having experienced a clear connection with my intuition through the weekly exercise prompts, rather than always wanting to know what work is going to look like finished. In this course I have felt supported on the journey into the unknown and encouraged to make space for the unexpected.”

Geraldine Norris, Australia. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

See Art with Fresh Eyes!

Deb Weiers says: “The class made me more open to staying in the struggle, to be willing to walk away and come back with fresh eyes, to be able to wait longer for the art to come through. To stay open to the unexpected.”

Deb Weiers, Canada. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Express What You See and Feel!

Cheryl Rayner says: This class really helped me to see how I could start from ground zero and express something that was personal. I am even encouraged to start art journaling now, which I had always been turned off to, because it seemed like everyone was just trying to see how much product they could use! Paivi’s approach is far more meaningful.”

Cheryl Rayner, USA. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Let the Painting Grow to a Story!

Karen Nowviskie says: “I am no longer afraid of using watercolors. Most importantly, I have learned to embrace the unexpected and be open to the story of the painting.”

Karen Nowviskie, USA. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Bring More Elements into Your Creative Process!

Kathy Lewis says: “I am looking at creating so differently. I don’t even know how to start to describe my excitement for this course. I trust the process so much more and look into the colors to see things that I would never have noticed before. The actual coloring process has also changed. I love mixing watercolor, color pencil and acrylics! Never thought of some of these techniques before this class. Now I want to go through all the lessons again!”

Kathy Lewis, USA. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Compose with Colors!

Mackie d’Arge says: “The class inspired me to search harder for the hidden images that appear on the painted page. I’m looking at the balance of colors now instead of just the balance of images and lines in a composition. This class was a pure joy. It was four weeks of anticipation and struggle and frustration and trying again and again…but oh what fun!”

Mackie d'Arge, USA. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Take Creative Escapes!

Nea Wiseman says: “It’s a wonderful course. I am starting to free up my control buttons!”

Nea Wiseman, USA. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Overcome the Fear of Beginning!

Ulla M. Holm says: “I discovered that I need not be afraid of watercolors, or to start painting. I am beginning to find my own style.”

Ulla M. Holm, Sweden. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Express through Painting and Drawing!

Susan Rajkumar says: “Something huge inside of me changed, and then it became much easier to sit down and freely let it flow through me. Suddenly I could draw. Seriously. I don’t think about it much now. This was the best art course online.”

Susan Rajkumar, India. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Dive into Art More Often!

Claudia Kern describes: “I expanded my artistic toolbox to include acrylics and pencils which means much more can happen/unfold than working strictly with watercolors. So for me trusting that something as yet unknown to me would emerge and having more tools to use were both liberating. I have learned so much, and the structure of the class has enabled me to make a huge leap forward in making art a part of each day.”

Claudia Kern, USA. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Let Your Thoughts Grow while You Play!

Mary Werner says: “I learned to work in phases both with materials and with slowly completing the painting. I learned to begin with one image without knowing the whole picture allowed a deeper meaning to develop as I was involved with the slow building and thinking of the process. It gave my creativity a chance to play.”

Mary Werner, USA. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Sign Up for Liberated Artist!

The class begins on April 4th, reserve your spot now!

Making the Most of Visual Nuances

"Summer is Coming", a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet
This is my latest mixed media painting “Summer is Coming”. It has been exceptionally warm weather in Finland and all that sunshine has brought summer not only to my mind, but to my painting too. I tell you now how I created the painting!

First Layers: Having Fun with Watercolors

The painting began with watercolors. I made a mess that didn’t look so good when looking at it from a distance. But it looked wonderful when taking close-up photos!

Starting a mixed media painting with watercolors, by Peony and Parakeet

After splashing the first couple of layers with a big brush, I changed to a smaller one. I painted simple shapes with soft edges and thought that maybe this will be an abstract piece.

Is This a Still life – Again?

Mixed media painting in progress, by Peony and Parakeet

But after a while, it looked like a still life! I must admit that I have developed some kind of obsession for still lives. I have loved them for a long time already. But recently it has begun to feel that anything could be expressed with them. Well, a Finnish artist Miina Äkkijyrkkä has painted and sculpted cows for all her life, so still lives might not be so bad …

More Details with Colored Pencils

With colored pencils I made the flowers more distinct. I wanted to work as softly as I could so that the delicate look of watercolor paint would still be dominating.

Almost There – Visual Nuances

Then I entered the actual finishing phase. This is what I call “Almost There” phase. It is the point where many just call the painting finished and try not to think about it too much. But if I am teaching a class, I encourage people to continue. One way is to show them what they can do next. So I open the photo of the painting in Photoshop and make little adjustments. With these suggestions I try to add more visual communication and interest to the painting. Sometimes a little spot of color can make a big difference! See what kind of suggestions I made for my own painting!

Adding visual nuances - suggestions for finishing a mixed media painting, by Peony and Parakeet

What’s the Magic of Using Photoshop for Suggestions?

One thing is that I can zoom as far as I can. Another thing is that I can try out different kind of adjustments without making a mess. I don’t do this often for my own paintings but I wanted to show you how little guidance can take the painting to the next level. This is one thing that an art teacher can do: show you how you can fine-tune your work so that it has those visual nuances that make the painting more dynamic and alive.

Finished Painting

This is the painting after finishing it according to the suggestions. I used colored pencils and white gesso for the final details.

"Summer is Coming", a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

The suggestions are based on visual principles that will make the mess disappear and the visual message appear. I will explain them in practice at the online painting workshop Liberated Artist.

At the class, if you have problems proceeding with your painting, I will also make personalized suggestions! Due to this kind of personalized guidance, I can only take a limited amount of students. The class starts at 4th April. Reserve your spot now!

Painting in Liberated Style

March Still Life, a mixed media painting by Päivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Welcome to my creative space to see how I create this mixed media painting “March Still Life”!
Watch the video and listen to my thoughts about creating and teaching art while I paint.

Liberate Your Art!

Sign up for my unique painting workshop Liberated Artist where I guide you to be both intuitive and intentional. I will help you to take your art to the next level! The class begins at April 4th. Reserve your spot now!