Finding Your Visual Voice – Free Webinar!

A letter to the reader of this blog:

Dear friend and soulmate in art,
Like you know, I have had this dream to be an artist from a little girl. Back then, and many times before taking the leap, I didn’t quite understand how unsure and tentative the life as an artist can be. When I was about five years old, I thought I knew what I liked to create and how. In a way, I did, but life got more complicated year after year. When I was about 16, I had a turning point. I discovered the way to paint that made me tremble with joy. Two of those paintings are still displayed here in my home, and they remind me of that time.

Two paintings from Paivi Eerola. She painted these as a teenager.

But then I got critical towards myself. I thought that my paintings lacked content, something. I thought that I need some experience in life to become a better artist. Soon after that, I started studying, lost my parents and all that made me stop painting. In the perspective of art, I became nobody to myself.

But if you have been following me, you already know that. And you know that my journey in art has been quite obsessive in the last years. It has felt like I had wasted all those years when I was not painting, and I need to hurry and fast forward before life ends. Losing close people make you realize that. That life does end some day, and the dreams can remain dreams. That’s why it’s sometimes necessary to step into the unknown and try the wings.

I started painting a new series about a month ago. ” I have put so much thought into the series that my brain hurts,” I wrote on Instagram. And the more I have been painting recently, the more I feel the same than as a teenager! Wow! It’s even better now when I have more ways to handle with the self-criticism.

A series of paintings in progress, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I also understand that this new euphoria has a simple explanation. My imagination, expression, and the technical skills finally meet. I have also discovered a process that feels natural to me. I know this won’t last forever. When the life changes, as it constantly does, I can’t develop or even maintain this. But at this very moment, I feel joy and relief. It is a pleasure to rest in this new base camp for a while before I feel the need to start climbing up or walking down to the mountain called art.

Because I am painting with oils, I need to wait for every layer to dry for a week or so. So these paintings will get more color slowly but surely. You will be surprised!

Oil painting in progress by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

During painting, I have been thinking: do you want to find your visual style or your visual voice? Is there a difference for you? To me, the voice is at a deeper level than style. I can play with styles, but the voice is more static, something that you have born with. Or is it only me who sees similarities between those teenage paintings and these recent ones?

I thought I record a video of these thoughts and show you some examples. But even if I can edit out all the umms and breaks from the video, it doesn’t feel so good to talk on a camera instead of talking to you. So I suggest we meet live on Jan 31, 11 am PST and chat about this together. Can you come?

Many warm greetings from

Free Live Webinar about Visual Voice

So yes, come to my live webinar “Finding Your Visual Voice – How to start the journey” where I tell some key points that have made a big difference to me!

A free webinar about visual voice by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

When you register, enter your time zone, and you will see when the webinar begins where you live. Save your spot even if you couldn’t come just at that very moment. You can then watch the recording later that week!

“Floral Fantasies in Three Styles” is Back!

One of the big things to me has been to find enjoyable techniques, including the ones that old master painters used. You can now study them too! I am rerunning my best technique workshop so far, Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles. It’s about taking the best tricks from three visual approaches and immerse into the beauty of flowers. The workshop is now in the early-bird sale, so it’s a great time to reserve your spot!

Floral Fantasies in Three Styles. Floral art workshop by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet that also teaches Flemish old masters' painting techniques.
If you haven’t attended my classes before, please be assured that you will be supported and your questions will be answered. I also run discussions and give visual suggestions if you run into problems. See what students have said!

So I hope to see you in the class and of course, at the webinar too!

Behind the Scenes in Finland 2017

With the new year, I was organizing my stuff and found an old reader survey from 2014. “Tell me about your life in Finland,” many wrote. So this blog post is for you! I share some highs and lows from the last year, and you will get to see my beautiful country too.

1) January – Am I an Artist?

First, we Finnish would not ever say “my beautiful country” in Finnish. We are too honest people and sometimes a bit pathetic in that. Everybody and everything are serious if you come to Finland.

After two and half years of making a full-time living with art, I started to question myself. Instead of a self-employed entrepreneur, could I call myself an artist? Could I have pink hair even if I am 47?

Paivi Eerola and sunset in Finland

I know that the question of calling yourself an artist is frightening for some of you too, so maybe you can relate. It’s a funny thing that the more you know about art, the more frightening the title is. It can be a dream, yes. It can be someone else, yes. But I, no.

In Finland, we like to ask about your education and then decide. Based on that, I am a designer and an engineer. Or not just an ordinary engineer, as I have a Master’s Degree in Technology, we call those “diplomi-insinööri” – “Diploma Engineer.” Most Finns wouldn’t even mention the designer part because engineering is much more important. Our prime minister is also a Diploma Engineer, and everybody knows that in Finland.

But then someone said to me that you must be kidding, you are an artist! He was an American though. Then I found a hairdresser who dyed my hair. And she was Finnish!

Blog Pick from 2017: 4 Big Misconceptions I Have Had About Art
Class Pick: Planet Color
(Relax, you are an artist!)

2) February – Second Summer

In Finland, only children celebrate birthdays unless you hit the milestone of 50, 60, 70 or so on. But for me, the whole February is my month of celebration. I buy fresh strawberries for the cake in July, and that begins the preparation for it.

Birthday cake with strawberries and February in Finland

February feels like a second summer. The winter sun always shines so brightly in February and really, if someone decorates the cake like that, isn’t she an artist!

Blog Pick: Life in an Art Journal – Dylusions Creative Journal Flip-Through
Class Pick: Coloring Freely

3) March – Sky is the Limit

In March, I received a t-shirt from the USA. “I am the new economy,” it said. That was from Tara Gentile, my business coach who has built a great community called CoCommercial for digital small business owners. We Finnish don’t believe in coaches. Business coaches and life coaches, they all go to the same category of people. We call them consultants. Everybody in Finland knows that consultants just try to get more money. So we choose not to use them unless we end up in the exceptional situation where we have to do something that we can’t figure out by ourselves.

Paivi Eerola, a visual artist and a member of CoCommercial from Finland

I had that kind of moment a couple of years ago. Because I am a Finn, I didn’t just google “I need a consultant.” I already had prepared myself for the worst case scenario. In 2013, I saw Tara’s first online business course at CreativeLive. Back then I was still safely in my day job but was planning the big escape from the cubicles. “That person could be my coach if I ever need one,” I thought. But then, because I am a Finn, I needed to double-check that.

In Finland, being trustworthy is important, so I am double-checking things all the time. So far, when typing this, I have checked: “when exactly did I dye my hair” (couldn’t find the exact date but based on my photo library I don’t lie if I say January 2017), “do people celebrate birthdays over 50” (according to Google: yes), “are this year’s strawberries doing fine in the freezer” (yes they are).

So yes, I met Tara in 2014 before leaving my day job in a small business conference in Scotland. Since then, she has helped me many times, and her community even more than that. I am happy to wear her promotional t-shirt and tell you that nowadays do believe in coaches, and also coach artists myself!

Blog Pick: 3 Secrets for Removing Stiffness when Creating Mixed Media Faces 
Class Pick: Inspirational Drawing 2.0
(my most popular art class has the second edition already!)

4) April – How to Escape Silence and Minimalism in Finland

There is one big shadow in the field of Finnish art and design. It’s a famous architect Alvar Aalto. He has passed away already, but he lives in every Finn. You only need to know what his surname means: “Wave.” Not “Sea” or “Storm” or “Burst,” just “Wave.” If you come to Finland, you soon notice that our white airplanes are not the only white and simplified designs. Finnish homes are usually white boxes with white ceramic tableware. Another color that we accept is black, nowadays also grey, because grey sofas are so practical.

In April, I got an invitation to an art exhibition from my artist friend Johanna Rytkölä. She is a trained artist, and we could call her Diploma Artist if there would be a title like that. She is the most knowledgeable and experienced person that I know in the world of fine art. In Finland, she has a one big But though. She is a ceramic artist. For Finns, ceramic means cups and saucers, not art. Johanna also often creates quite colorful pieces. But to play safe and to please my Finnish readers, I chose a white sculpture from her for the image.

Johanna Rytkölä's ceramic sculpture and spring in Finland

Johanna’s work is very different from my style. I often think about adding decoration to her pieces, and I am almost certain that she thinks of removing some from mine. She likes to create for the future, and I often get inspired by the past. But when we meet and close the door, we start talking lively, laughing and smiling, and we have lots of ideas about art. It’s like for one moment, we are not in this country of silent thinkers and small waves, but in the world of art that’s full of voices and energy.

Blog Pick from 2017: Easter Still Lifes in Watercolor
Class Pick: Modern Mid-Century
(show the designer in you!) and Stormy Scenery (show that storm inside you!)

5) May – The Icon

When I was a child, the only art class I could find was about painting icons. I was about 10, and in that age, you learn anything by heart. Red, blue, ochre, brown, white – if those were all the colors, so be it. I accepted any rule and tried my best to cope with a group of adult painters. My definition of an artist was clear back then: if you can paint an icon, you are an artist.

Paivi Eerola with her old masters' painting and spring in Porvoo, Finland

But in the group, I realized that there are icons and Icons. I knew I only painted icons with the small “i”. It wasn’t because they weren’t so flawless as my teacher’s. It was that they didn’t mean so much to me. Icons with the capital “I” represent what you would want to be if you were a saint. Nobody said this to me, I just knew it. I dreamt that someday I would paint an Icon.

Finally, by learning to paint like old masters at Emmi Mustonen‘s classes, and by combining two famous paintings, I made my Icon in 2017.  So if I were a saint, I would be a Madonna of animals. Having no children, I think it would fit me. As a Finn, nature is my church anyway.

Blog Pick from 2017: What Any Artist Can Learn from Old Masters
Class Pick: Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles
(coming up again in 2018!)

6) June – Two Kinds of Luxuries

Finland is a rich country with a poor history. If you come to Finland, you see a lot of new buildings and very little old ones. Often the poverty shows up in culture too. If Finnish men could choose, there would be only two activities that they call art. The first one is chopping firewood, the Finnish version of meditation, and the second one is ice hockey.

Palazzo Pitti Florence in June 2017 and summer in Finland

Luckily my husband is not a typical Finn! He likes to go to galleries, museums, and operas, so we had a wonderful time in Florence, Italy, in June! When visiting the heart-breakingly beautiful places in old Florence, it felt like I don’t want to go back to Finland anymore. But Finnish summer has a little luxury of its own: 20 to 24 hours of daylight, depending on how north you live!

Blog Picks from 2017: Lessons from  Palazzo Pitti, Ideas from Uffizi Gallery
Class Pick: Imagine Monthly Art Journaling Bundle 2 
(includes the mini-course Romantic Geometry, inspired by Renaissance art)

7) July – Failures

In 2017, I failed several times. Should I talk about them? I googled: “How to share failures.” The result: Yes, sharing is a good thing and yes, failures should be celebrated. Ok, let’s celebrate these:
1) I recorded a new class spending one sunny day inside the house from morning to late evening. My most efficient set of recordings ever. However, I didn’t find the time to edit those videos to get the class finished, and after six months, it’s still in my pipeline.
2) I studied old masters techniques for a whole year and created a painting class (the best ever if you ask me!). However, my marketing for the class failed, and it didn’t bring me the income that I had planned.
3) At the beginning of the year, I made new plans for networking. I wasn’t able to follow them.

Paivi Eerola in her studio in Finland.

Now when I think of it, the last one IS worth celebrating. Instead of networking, I got more friends than ever, both locally and online. And speaking of friends …

Blog Picks: Painting with Imagination, Bad Ideas Make You a Better Artist
Class Pick: Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles
(will be back in 2018!)

8) August – Friends in Fantasy

My native language is Finnish. It’s very different from English and best explained by the only extrovert of Finland, a comedian called Ismo Leikola. He won the competition of Funniest Person in The World in 2014, and we are very proud of him.

However, most Finns don’t participate international competitions or sell their work internationally. So when I met Eeva Nikunen at the old masters’ technique painting class, I was gladly surprised when she said that she sells her art abroad and produces content in English. And when we got to know each other more, we realized that we live fairly close! Eeva is a fantasy artist, and I admire her flawless drawing skills.

Finnish visual artists Paivi Eerola and Eeva Nikunen.

This photo has been taken from my studio when we had a painting day together. I wanted to bring some fantasy to it by placing a view from Hanko in the background. Hanko is a small town on the south coast of Finland that I visited in August.

More than just painting with Eeva, I have also had a pleasure to become friends with other brilliant artists from the old masters class: Emmi Mustonen, the excellent teacher, and Olli Kilpi, a very versatile artist and 3D motion designer.

In June, I launched The Exploring Artist – my first coaching program for artists. We became a very close-knit group, and I am honored to know all 13 of them. Check out and like these Facebook pages:  Claudia Kern, Wendy Holmgren, Carla HeistenSusan Rajkumar.

Blog Pick from 2017: Want to Find Your Art Style? Need to Focus?
Class Pick: The Exploring Artist
(will be back in 2018!)

10) September – Meeting Local Customers

When working mostly online, I rarely get to see my customers face to face. In September, I had two local classes: one for painting miniature carpets and another for freehand-drawing. Then in October, I booked a table at a local miniature fair and sold some left-over dollhouse furniture but also had some postcards and fabric designs with me. As you can see, it was fun!

Paivi Eerola and her hand-painted miniature carpets.

September and October are always the busiest months, and now when I look back, I don’t know how I managed to do it all: selling, painting, tutoring online, blogging, etc. Maybe because after work, late at night, I knitted a little and then slept the night peacefully.

Blog Pick: Don’t Just Create Circles! Moving On with Freehand Drawing 
Class Pick: Drawing Factory
(start from stick figures and play by drawing!)

10) October – One More Round!

Knitting is a very important hobby to me. Before working as an artist, I knitted more creatively than nowadays. After inventing new ideas every day, I want to do something monotonic in the evenings and knitting fits to that role too.

Paivi Eerola and her knitted sweater and the winter in Finland. Sweater design by Andrea Mowry.

As you have probably noticed, our seasons are very different. The warm and light summer changes gradually to a cold and dark winter. In 2017, the first snow came in October, and the new woolen sweater was just in time.

Blog Pick from 2017: Knitting and Painting – A Video Visit to My Studio
Class Pick: Folk Bag Workbook

11) November – Miracle Mornings

By November, the darkness becomes devastating. The tourist sites call Finland “the land of the midnight sun” but if you come here in November, you see the land of the midnight more than the sun.

Paivi Eerola's sketchbook and the darkness in Finland

This month, I changed my morning routine so that I started to wake up early, about 6 PM and spend the first couple of hours in the studio after taking the dogs for the morning walk. My studio has an artificial daylight lighting, and I love my miracle mornings. I get a lot done, and when I move to a different room to work on a computer, the sun has risen already. This routine has made me reorganize my studio, set up a process for a new series of paintings, and get computer-free time to process ideas – an important part of being an artist!

Blog Pick from 2017: How to Make Your Art More Captivating
Class Pick: Bloom and Fly Community 2018
(inspiration and friendships with other artists)

12) December – Independence

On 6th December, Finland celebrated the 100th anniversary. It was a big thing here. There had been celebrations throughout the year, but everything culminated for this day. To me, the most wonderful thing was to see that also the countries all over the world congratulated Finland by illuminating iconic venues and buildings with blue and white lights. It included Colosseum in Rome, the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City, Niagara Falls, etc. It made me feel grateful that our small country is getting this kind of attention!

Quilted christmas ornament and winter in Finland

When I was a poor student, I didn’t have money to buy Christmas decorations or gifts. So I made stuffed patchwork stars for relatives and friends and kept some myself too. I thought it was nothing compared to those fancy decorations sold in stores. But now, about 25 years later, the stars are my treasures that I proudly hang every Christmas.

In 2017, I was reminded again that it’s how my life has changed. My values have changed, the way I see things have changed. What used to be the sign of poverty, is now a symbol of wealth to me. The real wealth is time, and there’s a lot of that put into them.

Blog Pick from 2017: Helene Schjerfbeck – Step by Step Formula for Her Style

2017 – Year of Friends

Getting to know more new artists through my classes and other contacts, has been the best thing in 2017. I call 2017 the year of friends. How would you name your 2017?

Passion for Color? – Try This Method!

Passion for Color, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her step-by-step method for creating mixed media art by focusing on one color!

Create a color-focused art journal page! You can choose as many supplies as you want but just one color!

Step 1 – Pick Your Color!

What color speaks to you today? Red, blue, yellow, green, brown, black … Pick any that you feel drawn to! Collect the art supplies that you have in that color!

In most mornings, after taking the dogs out, I go to my studio and start creating sketches, or art journal pages, or continue paintings in progress. I often make a hot beverage called Sunny Grapefruit. I have bought it from a tea shop, but it doesn’t contain any tea, just fruits, and lemongrass. I sit down in an Ikea chair found at a flea market. I have painted it and put a sheep fleece on it, so it’s warm and cozy. All this warmth made me think about red.

Art supplies for a color-inspired mixed media piece. See the step-by-step method for creating an art journal page that focuses on color!

I chose the supplies so that they were all various tones of red ranging from orange to pink.

Step 2 – Source of Energy

Your color is the source of energy. Pick any coloring supply and make a simple circle somewhere on the page! However, don’t begin in the middle! Your work will look more expressive if you don’t make it symmetric.

Starting the morning by creating art. See the method for using one color for one mixed media piece!

I colored a soft circle with a couple of Faber-Castell Gelato Sticks.

Step 3 – Radiating Power

Add more color to the circle with different supplies! Imagine that your passion radiates strength. Use your imagination to color shapes and lines that are connected to the circle. Again, keep the design asymmetric.

Growing energy. See how to finish this mixed media piece!

I used colored pencils and thought about the sun and the fire. You can use your imagination based on the ideas that the color evokes. For example, if your color is blue, you can think about waves and the energy and the movement that they contain. Don’t overthink; it’s just a start! Usually, we get conventional ideas in the beginning but then become more inventive as the work progresses.

Step 4 – Explosion and Spin-Off

Change the supplies again, and imagine an explosion of energy. Let your circle grow but also become less solid. Create a spin-off that has a life of its own.

Using Derwent Artbars for mixed media art.

I used Derwent Artbars and water. I could have used watercolors instead, but nowadays, I often find it quicker to grab some Artbars and use a water brush when I am creating a mixed media piece.

Explosion of color. See step-by-step instructions on how to finish this art journal page!

Step 5 – Look Around!

So far you have focused on one area of the page. Now imagine, that the explosion reveals some of the surroundings. Add some pale elements but don’t cover the whole page.

Using Faber-Castell Gelatos for mixed media art. See how you can combine them with other art supplies!

I just made some soft splotches with Faber-Castell Gelatos. Notice how my explosion travels diagonally across the page and reveals areas that are also diagonal but in the reverse direction. Diagonals make the image look dynamic.

Step 6 – Birth

Color clearly-defined shapes that connect the energy source and the spin-off. Imagine that something concrete is born out of the explosion and moves forward. 

Abstract art journal page with mixed media supplies. See step-by-step instructions on how to finish this page!

I colored geometric shapes with Fabel Castell PITT Artist Pens. To highlight the movement, I make the shapes cross over each other. I also add bigger shapes that are shown only partly so that it looks like they are flying away.

Step 7 – Mountains

Color a big area of the page so that it’s like mountains have grown to your page. Again, keep one part of the page blank. Add some color to the other side of the blank area too so that the blank area is like a gulley between the mountains. 

Painting a color-oriented art journal page. See the step-by-step directions on how to make and finish this mixed media art journal page!

If you have acrylic paints, now it’s a good time to use those. Painting is quicker than coloring with pens, and you can also create layers easily.

Using acrylic paints for mixed media art. See step-by-step instructions for creating a color-inspired art journal page!

I use gel medium to make the acrylic paint more fluid and translucent. I also use two brushes so that there’s more variation in the brush strokes.

Step 8 – Jump!

Imagine being up in the mountains, looking down to the gulley. When you jump, you begin to see that the blank area also contains wonders. The fall is not so high than what you first expected. Softly color some vague shapes in the blank area.

A detail of a mixed media art journal page. See step by step instructions on how to focus on one color and create mixed media art!

I used Derwent Artbars and water.

Step 9 – Test and Adjust!

When creating abstract art, I find it practical to test it based on how well it fits with other patterns, textures, and shapes. I placed my sketchbook near the fireplace where we have a place to watch the fire. To me, it looks like my page doesn’t have enough contrast.

Matching the sketch with the interiors. See how this mixed media piece got changed after the analysis!

So I add some alizarin red which is very dark and some lighter orange to finish the mountain area.

Creating mixed media art. See a method that focuses on one color!

Now the contrast looks better.

Matching art with the interiors. See how this mixed media sketch was made!

Learning to Create – Using a Model, “How To,” or a Method?

There are many ways to learn:
a) Watching someone create and then following it accurately. This way you will create something that you wouldn’t have thought of figuring out yourself. The downside is that your expression and imagination has very little space to come through. You are learning technical skills mostly. Sometimes it can happen that you don’t know why you do what you do.
b) Learning how to use certain supplies in a certain manner. This makes you learn the characteristics of a certain art supply and the techniques that you can use. You can then use the techniques to produce your unique art. The downside is that if you don’t connect with your imagination, you lose the joy of creating. You know why you do what you do but don’t know where else you could use it.
c) Following a method that connects you with your imagination. This gives you preliminary ideas that you can then expand to fit your thoughts and to grow your style. The downside is that if you have no idea how to use the supplies, it will take up your energy.

My Methods

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet with her art journals

As a teacher and a mentor, I focus on the methods that grow the expression and imagination. Even if I value knowledge and techniques, my strength is in innovating new methods that help you to connect with your creativity. I have heard many say that when they analyze someone’s art, it’s easiest to focus on the technical part. I agree. There are more rights and wrongs to catch. But after creating in a very disciplined manner for the last year, I have come to this conclusion both as an artist and as a mentor: I want to grow my skills to all directions, but if I had to pick one, it would be imagination.

Boost Your Visual Imagination!

Without imagination, we just go around the same circle. We don’t feel free, and we end up believing that there’s one more technical trick around the corner that will change the game. But it’s the imagination that will do that. That’s why I don’t select students based on their supplies, or the technique or style they use. Together, we share our love for making the invisible visible and learning to use the techniques to serve that.

Boost your imagination by joining my community Bloom and Fly! We’ll start with a method for your creative goals, then pick easy ideas from Rococo, explore abstracts together, etc. I will help you to express yourself so that it’s adventurous and imaginative!  >> Sign up here!

Mixed Media Sketchbook as a Tool for Self-Discovery

This week, I am talking about using a mixed media sketchbook or an art journal in a new way.

Mixed Media Sketchbook – Watch the video!

Bloom and Fly! – Set Your Goals and Start Creating!

My community Bloom and Fly is for all who want to start and keep on creating. You can get help and encouragement for any art project, and we also have monthly themes.

Bloom and Fly, an inspiring art community by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

January’s theme is “Mixed Media Sketchbook as a Tool for Setting Your Goals.” You will get ideas on how to use a sketchbook or an art journal for creative goals. Rather than feeling restricted, you will feel energized by the possibilities behind the goals. An art journal can be a playbook that keeps you moving forward!

Make sure that 2018 is your year of art – Join Bloom and Fly!

Painting Fantasy Portraits

"New Year", a small acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watch her creating this on a video!

This year, I have been thinking a lot about the balance between technical skills and the imagination. It seems that when I focus on either one, the other one suffers. Now when the year is nearly in the end, I have wanted to play with the imagination and cared less about the execution. I have always enjoyed creating intuitively: starting without intention and then figuring out what I want to express once the work has progressed.

Fantasy Figures Keep On Appearing!

Recently, I have seen fantasy figures whatever I am creating. I don’t know if it’s because I have been following fantasy artists lately or just that I haven’t been playing with portraits for a while. Here’s one of the colorful clusters from my sketchbook that I turned into a fantasy figure.

Fantasy portrait in progress. See the intuitive approach for painting fantasy figures!

I had a lot of fun with her imagining that she is a digital nomad, re-connecting with nature, running away from her phone!

"Digital Nomad", a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her intuitive approach of creating fantasy figures!

Fantasy Portrait in Oil

I also have two oil paintings in progress, and the first one is a kind of portrait too. After the geometric background, I wanted to put a giant pansy in the center, and then couldn’t resist adding a face. I have painted it using a reference for the most important facial features. Then I completed the person with a more loose approach.

Oil painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her tips for painting fantasy portraits!

This is just a beginning of the painting. It will have more details and color.

Painting Fantasy Portraits – An Intuitive Approach

The best fantasy is never borrowed but takes place in your imagination. I think the way to get connected to it, is to start freely without any reference photos. The painting that is shown at the beginning of this post looked like this before I discovered that there’s a face!

Painting fantasy portraits. See Paivi Eerola's intuitive approach!

Painting this one was an exciting process, and fortunately, I recorded some parts of it. I used a couple of tricks that I learned from my skillful artist friend Eeva Nikunen: using a dead color when exploring values and adding an even color wash over the whole painting to make it more unified.

Painting Fantasy Portraits – Watch the Video!

Happy Holidays! – See You in “Bloom and Fly”!

I am not sure whether I blog next week or not. So with this painting about the new year, I want to wish you Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Thank you for being there!

And of course, I hope to see you in Bloom and Fly at the beginning of January! We’ll start by planning your creative goals, then pick easy ideas from Rococo, explore abstracts together, etc. I will help you to express yourself so that it’s adventurous and imaginative!  >> Sign up here!

How to Make Your Art More Captivating

Captivating Connection by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her five tips for making your art more captivating!

Captivating is a big word, but I like to explore it from many angles. In this blog post, I give you six tips with examples. The first two are more related to the process of creating art than to the result. I believe that if the process itself doesn’t captivate, it’s less likely that the final piece will! The last four tips are about finishing your art so that it will be compelling.

1) Captivating Supplies – Choose What Gets You Going!

Using too many art supplies can cause overwhelm and unnecessary distraction. I choose the supplies based on how many hours I want to work on the project.

  • Under an hour: Black drawing pen and colored pencils. They are quick to grab and work on any paper.
  • Few hours: Water-soluble media like watercolors or inks. They cover big areas quickly, but they also allow detailed work, especially when combined with colored pencils.
  • Tens of hours: Acrylic or oil paints. The result lasts time and can include tens of layers.

The projects shown in this blog post have taken 2-4 hours. These are all created with water-soluble media but this time, not with watercolors or inks. Namely, while organizing my supplies, I found Faber-Castell Gelatos and Derwent Artbars from my stash. I bought them many years ago when I was obsessed with having all the mixed media artist’s stuff. I purchased this and that, tried everything for few times, and then got disappointed because they didn’t improve my art. My solution back then was to reduce the number of art supplies and learn more about the basics of visual communication. It worked much better than hoping for the miracle with the new supplies!

But now when I opened the boxes, I was looking at Fabel-Castell Gelatos and Derwent Artbars with the new perspective. They could be quick and handy for sketchbooks and art journals. Because both of them are water-soluble, they could watercolors and inks once in a while.

Starting an art journal page by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See more tips on how to create intuitively!

I have now used Derwent Artbars and Faber-Castell Gelatos for my big sketchbook. I use Artbars for detailed brushwork and Gelatos for big and blurry areas.It has been quick and fun. The downside is that the result is quite waxy and I don’t think it will endure time very well. Furthermore, I can’t cover the opposite page because the staining would ruin it. However, the old and neglected supplies have managed to inspire me, and I think it shows in my recent work as well. The image above shows how I started the piece that you can find at the beginning of this blog post.

2) Captivating Looseness – Start without Intention!

The second captivating thing is related to the process of creating as well. I like to start most of my pieces, whether they are small sketches, bigger art journal pages, or big paintings intuitively without accurate planning. Sometimes I have an image, a word or a style in mind. It inspires me to start, but as soon as I have sat down and made the first strokes, I try to let go of it and just enjoy creating freely from the imagination. In this short video, you see me working with Derwent Artbars and Faber-Castell Gelatos.

More videos: I have explained my adventurous creative process shortly in a mini-course called Loosed Up! It’s free for the subscribers of my weekly emails. If you haven’t a subscriber yet, subscribe here!

3) Captivating Story – Make Fantasy Portraits!

Artists often talk about communicating a story through art. Usually, referring to the story doesn’t mean so much what’s in the image, but how the image can deliver a handle to the viewer’s personal stories. One of the easiest ways to embark stories is to make a portrait that is relatable.

Even if you have started freely and intuitively, you can turn almost any blotch to a face, especially a side profile, by adding a color area that defines it. In my piece, I realized that with black, I could bring up two persons. I was intrigued by showing the connection between the two fantasy figures. To me, they express the two sides of me, when I am creating. One side is more feminine, full of emotion and ideas, and the other more masculine, trying to figure out how to put the ideas into subsequent steps. At best, these two sides work together and enter the same flow.

Making of Captivating Connection by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. See her tips on creating captivating art!

In the enlargement, you can see that the dark areas also include subtle details so that they are not monotone and so that they communicate the connection. The colors also play a role here. Blue expresses the connection that the two share together.

A detail of Captivating Connection by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her tips on how to make your art more captivating!

The story that you see in this piece doesn’t have to be the same than what I have told. For you, the image can bring a romantic moment to mind. Or it can take you to a fantasy movie. In the same way, the art that you make can have several meanings and when creating, focusing on the general message makes it more captivating. In this case, the message is the shared connection, and I have tried to adjust the details so that they all support this message.

4) Captivating Richness – Build a System!

Usually, the longer we work with one piece, the more valuable it will become. Not only that we get more attached to it ourselves, or that it has a higher monetary value, but also that time brings the richness of the details. This is especially the case if you don’t try to get the piece finished in one sitting but let it captivate your mind between the sessions.

Starting an art journal page by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See how this page grew to a bigger picture!

Many artists are afraid of “overworking,” but to my experience, “underworking” is more common. Also, only creating tiny pieces can be one form of underworking. See how a small art journal page, a modest scene, grew to a captivating system or a map when I continued the page!

Art journal page by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her tips on making your art more captivating!

When working with a detailed big picture, remember to leave some breathing space between crowded areas. Connected lines between the clusters make sure that your system is like a running machine with all the necessary pieces.

Creating a detailed art journal page. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her tips on making captivating art!

5) Captivating Clarity – Highlight a Direction!

Sometimes clarity can be more captivating than an overwhelming amount of details. My example is an orange that I drew one morning after a fruity breakfast.

I apologize for the low quality of the first image below. There you can see a shadow of me shooting the photo with my mobile phone. But actually, it brings up a good point about the clarity: when you are in doubt what to add, take a photo. It helps you to see your work with different eyes. You can zoom out to test if your image looks both clear and interesting when it’s small. You can also analyze, how your eye wanders around the work and where do you want to lead it. If your art looks like one big mess, adding a direction also brings more clarity.

An illustration in progress by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See how she made this more captivating!

With the orange, I wanted to express the forward-thinking attitude that I usually have in the early mornings. I wanted to add more importance to the single juicy drop that leaves the orange with the bouncing energy. The idea behind the illustration was not just express a fruit that explodes but how a source of energy can keep you moving forward. It’s similar to the idea of my community Bloom and Fly – to keep you inspired to create and remove creative blocks that prevent you from that!

Illustration by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Morning energy!

6) Captivating Contrast – Use Two Different Styles!

The last tip is about contrast. However, this time I don’t bring up the contrast in color, value, or size, but in style! Now you might say: “Paivi, I have been searching for a personal visual voice for so long. Are you talking about mixing different styles to one piece?” I certainly am! Don’t be a one-trick pony but go to see all kinds of art and practice all sorts of styles! Your technical skills will grow, and you will get ground-breaking ideas. Showing the versatility can also make your art more captivating. See how I combined abstract with realism how it makes the images more captivating and thought-provoking.

Combining abstract with realism by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. This is the abstract element, see how she adds a realistic element to the same picture!

With a realistic pansy, I was able to communicate the contradiction that we all get when we envy someone: “When a jewel wants to feel free and be a pansy … And when the pansy secretly wishes to live forever and be the jewel.”

Envy by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her tips on making your art more captivating!
By adding the realistic eye, I was able to express the difference between two different worlds – the inner and the outer world. Paul Klee has said it so brilliantly: One eye sees, the other feels.”

My Mind's Eye by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her tips on how to make your art more captivating!

Set Your Goals and Start Creating!

My community Bloom and Fly is for all who want to start and keep on creating. You can get help and encouragement for any art project, and we also have monthly themes.

Bloom and Fly, an inspiring art community by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

January’s theme is “Mixed Media Sketchbook as a Tool for Setting Your Goals.” You will get ideas on how to use a sketchbook or an art journal for creative goals. Rather than feeling restricted, you will feel energized by the possibilities behind the goals. An art journal can be a playbook that keeps you moving forward!

With January’s theme, you will also get easy jumpstarts for stepping into the world of art journaling without feeling the pressure to buy more supplies. The money spent on staying inspired and connected with like-minded artists can be more useful than adding extra supplies to your stash.

Make sure that 2018 is your year of art – Join Bloom and Fly!

Loosen Up! – Free Mini-Course for the Email Subscribers!

Loosen Up! - A mini-course about drawing and painting freely by Peony and Parakeet. Subscribe to her weekly emails and get this 2-part course for free!

Exciting news! I have created a new mini-course called Loosen Up! It is all about getting rid of the stiffness and starting to draw and paint more freely.

The mini-course has two parts. First, you will learn how to start creating freely without any pre-planned ideas. You will learn a set of tips and tricks on how to remove stiffness from your art. In Part 2, you will learn how to start with an intention, and still, bring more You in your work.

Loosen-Up is free for the subscribers of my weekly emails! If you haven’t subscribed yet, do it now and receive Part 1 immediately after subscribing!

See the video below if you hesitate!

Let me be your mentor in creating: Subscribe to my weekly emails!

Lazy Art Journaler? – Try This Method!

Are you a lazy art journaler? See this method! By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Do you keep an art journal or a sketchbook? Are you struggling to find your motivation for filling it regularly? Try this method, geared for a lazy art journaler and for those who have big creative blocks!

“How to” for a Lazy Art Journaler

1) Create one small area at a time like you were slowly building a map.

2) Write down your thoughts. They can be roads from one area to another.

3) Accept that you are stiff and conventional when you begin. The beginning is the home base, and it should make you feel safe and grounded.

4) When you leave the home base and move to the next small area, just focus on creating different than what you have so far. 

5) Don’t overthink. One area can be only one spot of color that you feel drawn to. Then add a small dot or line of another color to embark your imagination.

6) You can travel far in one sitting, or stay near the home base. One journey to your imagination can last weeks if that’s what it takes to fill the page.

7) If you want the page to be coherent, repeat some of the elements once in a while.

8) Artists are explorers. Never underestimate the meaning of this practice. Be open to what you can discover. When you are far away from your home base, take risks! In the end, it’s just paper and pigment, and any filled journal beats an empty one!

Are you a lazy art journaler? See this method! By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Get More Inspiration for Creating! – Join Bloom and Fly!

Bloom and Fly is a new community for everyone who wants to stay inspired and move forward in art.

We’ll start the new year with the theme “Mixed Media Sketchbooks for Setting Your Goals”. You will discover fun ways to get a grab on what you want to create in 2018!

In February, we’ll dive into the world of Rococo and Marie Antoinette and you’ll get ideas for any style of art. In March, you will get jumpstarts for adding abstract elements to your art. Whether you like realistic or fully abstract art, starting with abstract elements can boost your creative process.

>> Read more and sign up!