What’s in a Good Composition + last chance to sign up for Planet Color!

Quick question:
When you create art, how much time do you spend for composition?
I mean: trying to make it work, trying to balance it, trying to make it look more eye-catching?

For me, finishing the composition can take as much as 50% of my creating time! Some years ago, it was easily 75 % … I don’t find adjusting the details particularly relaxing. I take photos, use a mirror, and change the orientation of the piece to see if I have missed something. Sometimes I sleep overnight and make the last adjustments in the morning.

Testing a good composition. By Peony and Parakeet.

But teaching art has had some benefits here. I get to help people to make better compositions and thus, I have become faster. Namely, the two top requests that I get in my classes are: 1) How can I make this look finished? 2) What more could I add here?

So when I created a new class, Planet Color, I wanted to build a step-by-step creative process so that when you add elements, you don’t have to worry about the composition so much. I wanted to find ways that support you so that you can release your mind and fully enjoy working with colors.

What’s in a good composition?

Here’s my conclusion. A good composition has elements that a great party has:
1) concierges who invite the viewer to the painting
2) a star singer who takes the viewer’s attention
3) clear routes and breathing space which make wondering around easy
4) good food and good company which makes the viewer stay in the party

Art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Elements of a good composition.

I have built all these elements in one 7-step process. It doesn’t mean that this process produces identical paintings. It means that when you enter the finishing phase, you have already done most of the work you should do anyway. But without all the agony and with all the creative enjoyment! That’s why my workshop Planet Color is as much about composing elements as about releasing your mind with colors.

And again, if you have problems in making the final adjustments, I am there to help for all the 10 days.

Registration for Planet Color closes on Friday midnight PST, so there’s not much time left! Reserve your spot now!

See you there!

Using Color Schemes from Home Decor

Green talks to Black, a painting by Peony and Parakeet. Get inspired by using interior color schemes in your art!

In the early 1990s, I bought an interior design book from the UK. It’s called “Design and Detail” and it’s written by a famous designer Tricia Guild. She was not as well-known as she currently is back then, and I hadn’t known her before I saw the book.

Creating Art using Color Schemes from Home Decor

I felt drawn to the interior color schemes and the decorating style presented in Tricia Guild’s book. Never before had I felt such a strong appeal to home decor. I knew I liked to be surrounded by strong colors, but I had never seen them used in such a powerful way. Since then, my every home has had elements and spaces inspired by the book. Whether I lived in a small single room as a student, in a flat or a house, I have always browsed the book when I’ve needed inspiration for interior color schemes.

Tricia Guild's home decor book Design and Detail

Last week, I saw a picture that had one of the color selections that are presented in “Design and Detail.” It was the combination of green and black including a little bit off-white, yellow and muted orange-red. We already have that color scheme in our bedroom but at that moment, I wanted to play with those colors again. So I started a painting that has green and black and followed the instructions from my upcoming class Planet Color!

Green talks to Black, a painting by Peony and Parakeet. Get inspired by using interior color schemes in your art!

Once it was finished, I painted more interior color schemes from the book. Again, I used the 7-step method from Planet Color. I had so much fun creating these!

Warm and Inviting Colors

The dining area in Tricia Guild’s book looks very cozy. The striking combination of yellow and black is balanced with earthy colors and then brightened with a few warm, bright spots.

An art journal spread by Peony and Parakeet and Tricia Guild's book Design and Detail. Get inspired by using interior color schemes in your art!

My art journal spread is inspired by the flowers and vases. It also plays with angled and round shapes as seen in the dining room.

An art journal spread by Peony and Parakeet. Get inspired by using interior color schemes in your art!

Whites and Neutrals

I am definitely out of my comfort zone when using pale colors in larger quantities whether it’s creating art or home decor. But I wanted to try to get inspired by Tricia’s master bathroom. It was surprisingly easy when I focused on expressing the textures shown in the photo. The narrow color scheme also made me focus on adjusting the colors only slightly.

An art journal spread by Peony and Parakeet and Tricia Guild's home decor book Design and Detail. Get inspired by using interior color schemes in your art!

It is surprising how many tones can be created from a very restricted color palette. I also quite like the red/orange spot on the right and how it balances the upper left corner. When using neutral colors, even the smallest colorful detail can make a difference.

An art journal spread by Peony and Parakeet. Get inspired by using interior color schemes in your art!

Many Shades of Yellow

I had a bedroom that had quite a lot of warm yellows when I was a child. But before “Design and Detail,” I never thought I could have bright yellow walls. But during the years, I fell in love with the warm yellow shade that I call “Tricia Guild’s yellow.”

An art journal spread by Peony and Parakeet and Tricia Guild's home decor book Design and Detail. Get inspired by using interior color schemes in your art!

In the art journal spread, I played with various shades but six years ago, when we moved to our current house, I wanted to have that particular “Tricia Guild’s yellow” on a wall.

Yellow wall inspired by Tricia Guild's home decor book Design and Detail

Even if there were tens of yellows available as paint, “Tricia Guild’s yellow” wasn’t found in the color charts. I thought people must think I am mad being surrounded by all the yellows and shaking my head. Then I just picked one that was closest and we started painting. But it wasn’t the right shade and after one layer, it felt too warm. After carefully analyzing the yellow in the book and comparing it with the wall, I decided to add warm black to adjust the tone. And so we got “Tricia Guild’s yellow”, just the perfect tone on the wall!

Home decor - Mixing yellow paint to get just the right color

This story shows how many colors there are in the world and how little you experiment with if you are using only ready-made colors. Start mixing your colors! It is a reason why I built Planet Color, my color-oriented workshop!

An art journal spread by Peony and Parakeet. Get inspired by home decor!

Colors from Potted Garden Using Leftover Paint

After creating so many paintings, I ended up having some leftover paint on the palette. I decided to use the paint by getting inspired by exteriors too.

An art journal spread by Peony and Parakeet and Tricia Guild's home deocr book Design and Detail. Get inspired by using interior color schemes in your art!

Expressing a potted garden with circles is easy. Angular tiles are also easy to add to the picture.

An art journal spread by Peony and Parakeet. Get inspired by using interior color schemes in your art!

Sign up for Planet Color – Registration Closes at Sept 30!

Take your favorite interior design book, or Pinterest board, or any source that inspires you with color and sign up for Planet Color! I’ll show you how to experiment with colors so that your painting is more than just a selection of color samples. I’ll show how you can make colors interact and how to enjoy adding more instead of just making a mess! And if you are more of a minimalist, you can omit some steps of the process and create a simple yet eye-catching painting! The registration for the workshop closes on Friday, so reserve your spot now!

Planet Color, sign up for a color-oriented painting workshop!

Registration closes at Sept 30: Sign up now!

Four Steps to Finding Your Passion in Art

Paintings made for the workshops Planet Color and Nature In Your Mind. Canvas art by Peony and Parakeet.

I have two painting workshops coming up in October. It’s terribly exciting. It has been an investment regarding both the time and the other bits and pieces to create the classes. I have tried to create as coherent, useful and fun classes as possible, taking all the comments and suggestions into account without losing the focus and the real benefits that these workshops can provide.

Planet Color celebrates color in a 7-step process.
Nature in Your Mind creates a natural connection between the mind and the brush.

Finding Your Passion in Art

This blog post is a pre-session for Nature in Your Mind. With this post, I want to show how much potential and passion you can have as an artist. I also hope that you will sign up for Nature in Your Mind, discover more possibilities and get personalized guidance while having a great time painting!

1) Discover through Experimenting!

Think about art as an exploration journey! Through experimenting, you can pick ways that feel most natural and enjoyable to you. Just like there are thousands of species of birds, there are many ways to paint. If you use only one technique and one approach to painting, it’s like sitting on a balcony and listening to the same bird every morning. But if you stand up and go walking in nature, you will hear a variety of melodies.

Discoveries happen through experimenting. Try painting with a dry brush, a wet brush, a brush that has thin paint, a brush that has multiple of colors, etc. Start painting with one thought and then change your focus to another one. Learn to see the possibilities of an unfinished painting instead of judging it like it’s already finished. Start with safe and easy and then be open to small mistakes that can show you a new direction. If you weren’t able to mix an even color, embrace the variety of colors, the painterly look and go to a new path from there.

Experimenting with brush, finding a passion in art. By Peony and Parakeet

Experimenting in Three Levels

The way you paint most naturally isn’t what feels most comfortable at first. Staying on the balcony is easy. You can tell everybody that you have this friend, the bird that sings to you every morning. But you don’t know what you miss out if you only stay friends with one technique or one theme or one way to plan your painting.

My painting workshop Nature in Your Mind contains experimenting with paint in three levels.

Painting workshop Nature In Your Mind by Peony and Parakeet

First, playing with the way you look at things by changing the perspective in the middle of the painting.
Second, playing with a theme by building abstracts from realistic images.
Third, playing with control by taking turns with controlled and loose strokes.

While experimenting with these, you can pick ideas and techniques that suit the best for you and then start applying them to your art. You can set new goals and see how your art can bring more enjoyment not only to you but other people as well.

2) Listen What Other People Say about Your Art!

Let’s get back on the balcony. I remember the time when I felt totally lost in art making. It was like I had opened the door but didn’t see any birds singing. I felt alone. But then, I got tips on how to attract birds. I drew and painted what I saw other people do too. I felt like I had company but still, I felt limited. I was one of the many who had the same bird singing on the balcony. Sometimes it even felt like we were competing with whom the bird would sing the loudest.

A detail from digital art by Peony and Parakeet from 2011.

The situation changed when I started listening what other people say about me. I expanded my attention to how my art affects others. I found many comments extremely useful, even if the person was a family member, a blog reader, an art teacher or anyone who saw my art. First, there was just a word or two that I could grab. When I felt like I was following a path that was hardly visible, I found asking follow-up questions beneficial. I asked: “Why did you like this picture?” or even “Why didn’t you comment anything?”. The comments led me to strange places. But as I continued, my images changed, the voices got louder, and I heard more birds singing.

A detail of a mixed media piece by Peony and Parakeet. From 2011

But I wasn’t quite there yet. I hadn’t found what would personally resonate with me. After trying to see the big picture from people’s comments, I understood why we read horoscopes, click through personality tests, search for our personal style. We try to see our originality – where our talents truly are.

3) Accept That Your Flaws Can Be the Best in You!

I used to beat up myself for being too demanding, a perfectionist. I blamed myself not being good with routines either. To get through the mundane work, I have reinvented the wheel too many times. My husband has found the perfect way to make a bed and fill the dishwasher. I have found many different ways, and I am in search for more.

But a couple of years ago, I made a test that described how other people see me. The test said that my ability to invent unconventional ideas, make new interpretations of the old things and always aim for the highest standard attract people the most! That’s probably the reason you are reading this blog. I have become more open with the worst in me which, in turn, has inspired me to blog more and create more.  Sometimes the best things in us seem ugly to ourselves. However, authenticity attracts people. Our black can be pure gold to others. Our black can be like soil for the flowers that we can grow from there.

Nature's Spirit, a canvas painting by Peony and Parakeet.

4) Find Your Real Reason for Creating and Put It Into Words

When people ask me why I create, my first answer is: “Because I need to.” I need to have time for balancing my life, be able to reflect what has happened, and get energy from creative activities. But the answer doesn’t help me when I am staring at the blank canvas. I need a higher reason to create images that feel meaningful to me. I need more than some inspiring Pinterest boards to connect emotionally with my work. I need a direction, a statement that defines when I have succeeded and what I am passionate about.

I used to have a hard time in evaluating my pieces. Some looked ok, but there was something missing. Others were clumsy and awkward, but I felt connected with them. I wanted to create unique pieces and still, be as good as anyone creating with the same style. I wanted to make my personal version but yet didn’t have a clue what to include and what to exclude. I wanted to express myself but still, play to be someone else. I wanted to escape, yet seek for the truth. I felt I have to focus and limit myself but at the same time, I wanted to be free when creating. It all felt controversial.

My solution has been to find the words that describe the real reason why I am creating. It’s surprising that the words have been the answer because the problem seemed to be visual only. I think that our left brain has to understand what our right brain wants to express. It’s like after naming the birds you would hear them better. Whatever I create I have the same focus. It’s not a theme, it’s not a style, it’s the emotional connection that I want to make through whatever I create.

My Artist Statement

In my art, I want to console people. I want to express grief and sorrow, blacks and browns. But I also want to show the power that is more joyful and that comes in with brighter colors. I want my paintings to have the atmosphere of places that make you connect with your spirituality. I am inspired by churches, libraries, museums and special places in nature. I see spirituality as an uplifting timeless force that has no specific religion. I hope that even for a short moment, my art can be your icon, the image that connects you with your spiritual self. I wish that my art brings you hope no matter what your source of melancholy is. I wish that the images inspire you to overcome darkness, and even more: to go and create yourself.

Free Spirit, a painting by Peony and Parakeet.

When you have your inspiration in words, nature in your mind is a happy place. When you hear the birds singing, you can pick the melodies that resonate with your mission. You can choose techniques, compositions, and colors that you feel most naturally aligned. You may not always succeed, but your mission makes you continue creating. Instead of looking for the perfect technique, the perfect style, the perfect theme, search for what is behind in all that! Search for the mission that makes creating art most meaningful and inspiring to you! That is the real reason why you paint, and that’s also the key to finding more passion for creating art.

I want to help you not only with painting techniques but also with your passion. This is why Nature In Your Mind also has time and assistance for self-reflection and discussion; it’s not only hurrying from one painting to another.

Sign up for Nature in Your Mind!
Join me in painting nature themes, experimenting with techniques and ideas, and then discovering what’s behind in all that.
>> Reserve Your Spot Now!

How to Transform Ideas into Paintings

An art journal spread in a Moleskine Sketchbook. Heartful Ideas by Peony and Parakeet.

I am an idea person. When I get exposed to new things, my mind fills up with new ideas. Most of the ideas that pop into my mind are not that good. They are either too conventional or too radical. Some ideas are impossible to implement, and some have nothing to take on.

An art journal spread in a Moleskine Sketchbook. Color ideas by Peony and Parakeet.

When I was a child, I happily filled the days playing with what came to my mind. But when I was studying computer engineering at a university, I became a master in shooting down my ideas. It may sound depressing, but it has led to a brilliant realization for me: the number of ideas doesn’t equal to the number of projects. When you have limited creative time, you don’t have to divide it with all your creative ideas.

Raw Ideas – Bad that Produce Good

When a new idea comes to your mind, call it “a raw idea.” If you get visual ideas, quickly sketch them on your journal. If they are more words than images, write them down. Don’t over-analyze your sketches, treat this just a routine that makes you move on and continue producing new ideas.

A simple hand-drawn sketch by Peony and Parakeet. Recording ideas by sketching.

Raw ideas are often not so great, and you have to be careful not to spend too much time in implementing them. Raw ideas are like raw potatoes. Add some rosemary, salt, pepper, olive oil, carrots, onions, and zucchini and put them all in the oven for 30 minutes, and you will have a brilliant idea.

An art journal spread in a Moleskine Sketchbook. Ideas by Peony and Parakeet.

Many believe that getting new ideas is the thing. They fall in love with their raw ideas and then get disappointed with how they look on paper. But the essence of creating is in the processing. It’s about combining tens of ideas into one focused idea.

Record Everything!

An art journal spread in a Moleskine Sketchbook. Musical ideas by Peony and Parakeet.

We humans are very similar to computers in one aspect. We have a limited capacity of processing unsaved ideas. If you never draw or paint or write down your ideas, the processing of them becomes difficult, almost impossible.

An art journal spread in a Moleskine Sketchbook. Browsing an art journal. By Peony and Parakeet.

I often have an illusion that if I just think a little bit longer before I begin painting, l can start with better ideas. But then I remember that it’s just the opposite: when you see your raw ideas on paper, you can make them better. When you use the raw ideas to create the new painting, you can then visualize stories instead of creating single conventional elements.

An art journal spread in a Moleskine Sketchbook. Two conventional ideas meet more ideas. By Peony and Parakeet.

From a Disappointment to a Happy Art Journal Page

Here’s an example of how a conventional raw idea can turn into an expressive story.

An art journal spread in a Moleskine Sketchbook. Using up left-over paint by Peony and Parakeet.

When I am finishing a painting session, there’s always the same problem: I still have paint on my palette. Have you confronted this too?

It doesn’t feel good just to wash it away, so I take one of my art journals, and use it up. I often feel tired already, and painting isn’t particularly inspiring, especially when there’s a limited amount of colors left on the palette. I made this gloomy landscape on one of those moments. The painting looked sad and empty. It felt like I had wasted my time for a lousy raw idea. But then, another day came, and I got the idea to add pastel elements in the dark painting.

An art journal spread in a Moleskine Sketchbook. Inspired by The X-Files, made by Peony and Parakeet.

While painting, I remembered a television series, The X-files, that we used to watch with my boyfriend, now a husband, a long time ago. When an episode began, I always whistled the tune then grabbed my knitting. Although the episodes were terribly exciting, we always laughed at the whistling. The same mixture of suspense and happiness entered my spread after adding the pastel elements. The painting that had no real emotional connection became a reminder of a happy memory.

Ideas that Keep Coming Back

When you sketch ideas, you will also notice that most of them are very not different from each other.

An art journal spread in a Moleskine Sketchbook. Pastels with brights by Peony and Parakeet.

This similarity of ideas is fascinating. When I come up with the same idea again and again, I have to find out what’s behind it. Why does my mind repeatedly travel to the same place?

An art journal spread in a Moleskine Sketchbook. Expressing electricity by Peony and Parakeet.

When preparing for the fall, I was about to release only one new painting workshop: Nature in Your Mind. It’s an online class where I have processed a lot of technique ideas to give you the very best experiences and results in painting. But while working with Nature in Your Mind, I had one more idea that I kept shooting down again and again. No matter how much I did that, it always came back. I saw color. I saw circles. And yes, I sketched them hundreds of times just to get rid of them! But then one day I said to myself: “Ok let’s find out what behind this idea.” So I discovered a compelling formula for creating abstract paintings so that you can fully enjoy painting with colors.

Planet Color – Get the 7-step Formula!

With the 7-step formula, you can release your mind and focus on color. You can create unique paintings while experimenting with unique color combinations. You can work with your raw ideas and combine them to a bigger picture. The workshop is called Planet Color, reserve your spot now! 

Planet Color - a color-oriented painting workshop by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Enjoy colors and release your mind!
>> Sign up for Planet Color!

Tribute to Georgia O’Keeffe

Oak Leaf by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Tribute to Georgia O'Keeffe. Watch the video of painting this!

When walking the dogs, I wondered what could I take with me for the next painting. I saw a fallen oak leaf and felt a bit melancholic; it’s time to say goodbye to summer. Then I did exactly what Georgia O’Keeffe, an American artist (1887-1986), would have done: I picked up the leaf and once got home I painted it! Here’s how I got to know more about her and her painting style.

Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe

When so many of the participants of Imagine Monthly, my monthly art journaling class, named Georgia O’Keeffe as a favorite artist, my project during the summer was to get to know her better. I only knew that she had painted large flower paintings and some abstracts. But I didn’t know anything specific about her background and about her way of working. So I purchased a book about her life. It’s written by Laurie Lisle, and it’s called “Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe.” I bought an audio version so I could listen to it while I paint. I don’t recommend the book to anyone who wants to read an entertaining novel. I think it’s more like a historical study. But for anyone, who wants to learn the facts, it’s excellent.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Mindset

There are two things that I have thought a lot after reading the book. First is Georgia O’Keeffe’s personality. Apparently, she was not a very social person and quite straightforward in her sayings. Second is how her photographer husband supported her both by being her manager and her muse. I don’t think Georgia would have discovered her painting style without the discussions with her husband related to photography. These two facts make me believe that her mindset was very analytical. Even if she was a visual artist, she also was a scientist in her closed personal world. She examined plants like they were scientific specimens. It was like she could measure beauty and then create a new version of it. The more I listened to her life story, the more fascinated I became about her.

Those who live in the UK or are visiting the UK: There’s a big exhibition of Georgia O’Keeffe at Tate Modern until October 30!

Botanical Discovery – Create Unique Collage Art!

As a part of Imagine Monthly Fall 2016, I have published a class where you can create botanical art inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe. It has directions on how to cut organic shapes from watercolored papers and build a painted collage out of them. Sign up for Imagine Monthly and get this class immediately after registration!

Botanical Discovery, a collage art class by Peony and Parakeet. Inspired by Georgia O'Keeffe.

Painting an Oak Leaf – Watch the video!

The oak leaf shown at the beginning of the page is an acrylic painting on an art journal. I made it as a tribute to Georgia O’Keeffe and recorded a short video of the process. In the video you see me painting with a broad brush and flowing strokes. This is one of the techniques that I’ll show more in depth in my upcoming workshop Nature in Your Mind. I hope to see you there too!

Create collage art inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe: >> Sign up for Imagine Monthly
Paint nature themes with your left and right brain: >> Sign up for Nature in Your Mind

A Decorative Pattern for Art Journals and Beyond

Step-by-step instructions for a decorative pattern that can be used as it is or for creating collage art. By Peony and Parakeet.

A couple of months ago, I made a flip-through video of a full art journal. Many noticed a spread that was made from decorative papers mostly. I remembered that I took some photos while making the papers and I will share step-by-step instructions here. This pattern is good practice for motoric skills and drawing, but it can also go beyond! I used it for a more expressive purpose, for a collage art piece.

1) Paint Stripes with Watercolors

Use a fairly thin paper and paint it with watercolors. Use a selection of colors to create stripes or curves.

Step-by-step instructions for a decorative pattern that can be used as it is or for creating collage art. By Peony and Parakeet.

You can add drops of water if you want to make the background more interesting with bleeds.

Step-by-step instructions for a decorative pattern that can be used as it is or for creating collage art. By Peony and Parakeet.

Let the paper dry properly.

2) Decorate the Stripes by a Simple Loop Pattern

Using a thin-tipped black drawing pen, draw a simple loop and end it with a curve upwards. Without lifting the pen off the paper, add a bunch of loops on the top of the curve. Then continued by drawing a curved line downwards. Repeat and draw the whole row on the same go. Work fast and don’t worry too much about the symmetry or similarity of the loops.

Step-by-step instructions for a decorative pattern that can be used as it is or for creating collage art. By Peony and Parakeet.

After drawing the rows, frame the loops to make them more distinct. I used simple shapes to create flowers and leaves.

Step-by-step instructions for a decorative pattern that can be used as it is or for creating collage art. By Peony and Parakeet.

3) Color the Background and Add More Decoration

To make the watercolored layer look more lively, use felt-tipped pens (marker pens) and color the background around the doodled shapes. You can also add more color to doodled details and use white gel pen to add more decoration on colored areas.

Step-by-step instructions for a decorative pattern that can be used as it is or for creating collage art. By Peony and Parakeet.

Decorative Pattern in Many Colors

This pattern looks luxurious when you make many papers in many colors with slightly different decorations.

Step-by-step instructions for a decorative pattern that can be used as it is or for creating collage art. By Peony and Parakeet.

Here are some that I made!

Step-by-step instructions for a decorative pattern that can be used as it is or for creating collage art. By Peony and Parakeet. Step-by-step instructions for a decorative pattern that can be used as it is or for creating collage art. By Peony and Parakeet.

Decorative Pattern in Collage Art

I am fascinated by the interface between art, design, and crafts. The idea for the pattern came from knitting. I wanted to find a similar relaxing circular motion using a pen instead of a knitting needle. So that’s how a craft transformed into a design. But design can also be a part of a more expressive piece.

When Geese Fly Over, a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

In this collage, I use decorative paper pieces with painting. My starting point was a watercolor background, acrylic paint, and a piece of decorative paper.

Creating a mixed media painting using hand-decorated paper. By Peony and Parakeet.

I cut a couple of decorative shapes and glued them on the background with gel medium.

Glueing collage pieces. By Peony and Parakeet.

Then I continued with painting using acrylic paints. In the finishing phase, I also used some more paper pieces and few colored pencils. A week or two ago, I heard the geese flying over our house. They were leaving Finland, going to a warmer place for a winter. Their sounds made me think how limited we people are, not being able to fly so freely, not always being able to stick so tightly together. The screams of the geese felt bright yellow and for a short moment, I wanted to join them and not stay in Finland, waiting for snow …

When Geese Fly Over, a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Make sense of creating more freely! – Sign up for my online painting workshops!
Enjoy colors to release your mind: Sign up for Planet Color!
Express nature experiences, as naturally as possible: Sign up for Nature in Your Mind! 

New Online Painting Workshops – See the videos!

I have two new online painting workshops in October! See the videos and sign up!

Planet Color
 is suitable for beginners and focuses on color!

Nature in Your Mind is for those who have been painting for a while and who love nature themes!

I have got quite a lot of feedback about the intensity of my workshops: that people wish they could reflect more and have some time after the most intense part of the workshop with the opportunity to get more personal feedback. So I have taken this into account in this workshop, thank you all who have filled the feedback form after my workshops! I get back to them all the time and use them when planning new courses like this one!

Come along and free up your painting!

>> Sign up for Planet Color!
>> Sign up for Nature in Your Mind!

Hopefully I will meet you in either of these – or in both!

Paul Klee and the Art of Learning

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet and a new painting in progress.

This blog post is a personal story about being a student of Paul Klee. I will also share my thoughts about art classes and about their effect.

Paul Klee’s Pedagogical Sketchbook

It was a late evening in the beginning of July – one of those white nights that take place in the middle of summer in Finland. When the sun is up, it’s more tempting to stay awake than to go to sleep. It also felt better to pick a brush and paint than to slow down with knitting or watching tv. My brain activity was high. I didn’t want just paint, I wanted to learn something new.

While pondering about learning, I remembered a thin book that had been on my shelf for a while. It was borrowed from a library few weeks ago and I hadn’t opened it since. The title was called “Pedagoginen luonnoskirja” – Pedagogical Sketchbook, written by a famous abstract artist Paul Klee in 1925. The original version was written in German. In 1953, it was translated into English and finally into Finnish in 1997.  The long time span proves that the book has some ever-lasting content. But when I began to examine the first chapters with the brush in my hand, it seemed very uninspiring. The pages were black and white, no color, but the worst thing was: it looked like a math book! It had formulas, diagrams, references to geometry, anatomy, physics … What was I thinking about when I borrowed this book!

Abstract Art Theory for the Left Brain

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet learning from Paul Klee's Pedagogigal Sketchbook.

But then, I remembered that my artistic side wasn’t playing along when I found the book at the library. Being so thin, it could hardly be seen on the shelves filled with thick art books. Seeing its cover, my engineering side that got interested: can there be formulas for art? Is this the book that teaches the left brain to understand the right brain?

So even if I had my art journal open on the table and paints ready on the palette, I decided to switch gears and start reading the book – slowly and carefully like engineers do. After a couple of minutes, I was hooked. I was mesmerized by the world the book presented. Phenomenoms familiar from my physics studies were tied into modern abstract art. The book was broken into three parts. Each part contained short chapters. like tiny lessons. I decided to begin studying each chapter so that the engineer in me would read the it first. Then she would explain it to my artistic side who in turn, would fill an art journal page by playing with the concepts.

Side note: Interested in the book? Here’s a link to Amazon.com. There’s also a free PDF of the book available if you google it but I don’t link it here, as it may be an illegal copy.

Paul Klee’s Ideas in Practise

Art journal page inspired by Paul Klee's Pedagogical Sketchbook, by Peony and Parakeet.

When I eagerly studied the book, I felt I had a teacher, Paul Klee himself. It was exciting to listen to him talking about muscular movement, material structures, disturbed balance, how the perspective is experienced or how the blood circulates in a body. And most of all, how it’s all connected to visual communication and visual art. I imagined being one of his many students and even one of the most enthusiastic ones. I was constantly raising my hand, not only asking questions but also questioning: how did you come up with this idea, why have you omitted this fact?

Art journal page inspired by Paul Klee's Pedagogical Sketchbook, by Peony and Parakeet.

Do These Ideas Suit My Style?

Even if I was painting and reading like a maniac from one chapter to another, I was also in doubt. Stiff figures that I painted looked very old-fashioned to me. I had a teacher who hadn’t experienced the digital age, who hadn’t seen or created any contemporary art. “Tell me, Paul Klee, do these rules apply to many styles, including mine?”, I kept asking.

Art journal page inspired by Paul Klee's Pedagogical Sketchbook, by Peony and Parakeet.

But despite of the constant battle in my mind, I couldn’t put the book away. I went from one chapter to another and eagerly waited what my teacher would present in the next one. And when the last chapter was completed, I felt sad to leave the classroom and say good bye to my teacher. During the session, I had completed three big art journal spreads. They all looked like the middle of 20th century to me. The session seemed to be nothing else but a fun engagement when the sun finally set down.

The Aftermath of Learning

Abstract art by Peony and Parakeet

During the next weeks, I saw sudden climpses of Paul Klee. When I was taking photos, drawing, painting or just observing, Paul Klee’s theories began to merge with my own thinking and with my own style. The three spreads that I had made were exercises only. Once I left the classroom, I was free to apply those theories where suitable. This is what happens in every art class. You might think that the exercises are not fit for you. You might have doubts if the class fits your current style. And when you leave the class you might think: “Oh well, I don’t know if I ever do this again.”

But like the blood needs oxygen, creativity needs new theories, techniques and ideas. They are not threat to your style, they are essential to continue developing your style. That’s one main reason why I challenge you to learn new techniques at Imagine Monthly (you can still sign up!). That’s also a reason why I will be inviting you to join my newest online painting workshop, starting in October.

Coming Up: New Painting Workshop

I am really excited about this! Be assured that I will have something special for the beginners and a lot of new to focus on for the more advanced painters. The theme for the class is expressing nature. The registration for the new workshop will open next week with a short-time early bird pricing. I will give more details about the class then.

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet and her painting in progress.

While building the class I have practiced the techniques and ideas on a big canvas. This painting is still in progress, but I want to show it to you just to be able to compare the art journal pages above and how Paul Klee’s teachings has merged into my own style. That’s what’s my goal with you too: that you’ll have fun time with the classes and that you will be able to mix new things with what you already know and love.

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What to Create from Simple Shapes? 6 ideas

When I catch myself building a visual image in my mind, I say to myself that my hands have to process the idea first. The idea can be a decorative design or a new painting or anything visual. When my mind is vigorously trying to create images that I would be happy with, my hands don’t understand my mind at all. My mind is a fool and my hands are ruthless.


In my mind, I can easily miss the elements that are needed for building the beautiful image. If I imagine a scene, the details that make the scene look so wonderful, are not all there. My mind only has a glimpse. The connection from the mind to the hands feels easier if it’s the other way around. The hand draws a couple of circles and the mind gets creative with them. This way building the bridge from my mind to my hands seems to work much better. Big pictures, personal stories, attractive designs are not born in my mind first. They are born in a conversation that is led by my hand drawing with pen on paper.

But hands don’t decide when to get started, the mind does. This is why I will give you few ideas to start the conversation between your hands and your mind. Like this, this and this post, this blog post is illustrated by my students. The art journal pages that you see here have been made at Modern Mid-Century art journaling class.

1) Build ornaments by grouping simple shapes.

6 ideas to play with simple shapes. By Peony and Parakeet

Nel Wisse has created colorul clusters and then grouped them to bigger ornaments.

Nel Wisse, Netherlands. A student artwork for the art journaling class Modern Mid-Century.

2) Create a surface pattern and cut a shape from it.

6 ideas to play with simple shapes. By Peony and Parakeet

For example, see Darci Hayden’s cat and the stairs! Shapes that include patterns look always fascinating. (More patterned paper ideas)

Darci Hayden, USA. A student artwork for the art journaling class Modern Mid-Century.

3) Play with Sizes and Layers

6 ideas to play with simple shapes. By Peony and Parakeet

Cut some elements smaller and add dimension to your page by playing with layers.
Sue Jorgensen has a good variety of both large and small elements.

Sue Jorgensen, Australia. A student artwork for the art journaling class Modern Mid-Century.

4) Build a map, a house or a room plan

6 ideas to play with simple shapes. By Peony and Parakeet

A clear hierarchy between the elements pleases also your left brain.
Marie Jerred’s fox is in the middle of an adventure!

Marie Jerred, Canada. A student artwork for the art journaling class Modern Mid-Century.

Stephanie Carney’s Flamingo is just entering a house of dreams.

Stephanie Carney, USA. A student artwork for the art journaling class Modern Mid-Century.

5) Express Micro or Macro World

Both micro and macro biology deal with basic shapes. Explore either molecules or satellites!
Susan Prothero’s micro world is captivating.

Susan Prothero, UK. A student artwork for the art journaling class Modern Mid-Century.

Elise Tobler‘s space is full of life!

Elise Tobler, USA. A student artwork for the art journaling class Modern Mid-Century.

6) Find a connection to a story

Explain what you associate with the shapes and then move on to a more illustrational approach. Elaine Wirthlin’s spread is an awesome example!

Elaine Wirthlin, USA. A student artwork for the art journaling class Modern Mid-Century.

Buy the class: Modern Mid-Century!

Modern Mid-Century, an art journaling class that teaches drawing and collage art based on simple shapes. By Peony and Parakeet.

Designers in 1950s and 1960s (like Annikki Hovisaari from Finland and Lisa Larsson from Sweden) truly knew how to play with simple shapes. Modern Mid-Century is a self-study art journaling class where I am inviting you to my living room and showing inspiring examples from the middle of the 20th century. Then I will help you to design your own unique motifs and build a collage that is both decorative and expressive.

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet with the art journal spread playing with simple shapes.

Modern Mid-Century
Start playing with simple shapes!
 >> Buy Now!

Have Some Vincent van Gogh in Your Life!

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet has an art journaling class about painting like Vincent van Gogh.

When I opened Imagine Monthly Fall 2016 art journaling class for registration, my question to the first participants was: “What is your favorite artist?” The ultimate winner was Vincent van Gogh. So I went to the local library and picked up two huge books showcasing all his paintings. I wanted to create a class that inspires not only playing in his style, but which also makes people relate to him. I wanted to enable people to put their world next to his and see it in full color like he did.

Life in Full Color

Whether you are an actual engineer or not, I think that you too have an inner engineer. She likes the home to be organized and clean. She takes responsibilities seriously. She worries over the practical stuff.

I have some ironing to do again!

But then, truly, you also have an inner artist. She doesn’t care what time it is or whether she’s hungry or not. She doesn’t have a clue if somebody needs her to be somewhere else. Her world has no linear time. She has no other duties than to explore. She sees colors and textures when the engineer sees dirty laundry and a shopping list. No, she would not stay alive without the inner engineer. But the inner engineer could never live the life in full color without the inner artist.

Vincent van Gogh

Thinking about Van Gogh, an art journal page spread by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Me and Vincent van Gogh, merged into one person.

Here’s what every inner engineer knows about Vincent van Gogh: He was a poor artist from the 19th century, painting with thick medium. He had mental issues and he sold only one painting.

But the inner artist feels that he was her soul-mate. He saw yellow sky and blue ground when other people saw the perfect weather to sow the seed. He saw glorious sunset when other people saw withering flowers. For people of that time, his portraits and sketches looked clumsy even if he had caught the essence. Namely, in his world, the essential thing to do was not to engineer but to express. Instead of aiming for objectivity, he was the master of subjectivity.

Van Gogh Moments

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet has an art journaling class about painting like Vincent van Gogh.

I believe that most people create art because they need “Van Gogh Moments”. In those moments, you can pick any color for any object, not only green for the grass like the inner engineer would suggest. In those moments, you can not only play with colors but also experience the interaction between the hues and shades. Just like van Gogh did! If you look at any detail in his paintings, you will see the interaction of colors.

Selfie Fantasy is an art journaling class about painting like Vincent van Gogh.

So while the inner engineer waits for the important phone call, the inner artist hears her colors speaking. While the inner engineer worries if she will ever meet someone again, the inner artist paints him or her right there beside her.

Selfie Fantasy

Selfie Fantasy is an art journaling class about painting like Vincent van Gogh.

When I browsed through the two big books of van Gogh’s paintings, I realized that a big part of his production were portraits. They were either self-portraits or portraits of other people. So in Selfie Fantasy, you will not only learn easy ways for creating a colorful and swirly scene in Vincent van Gogh’s style. You will also get step-by-step instructions for adding some familiar faces onto your art journals. In the class video, I use those methods to paint my mother and me. My mother is there on the spread, glowing on her wedding day, much earlier than when I was born. This time she is in the foreground because in real life she was always the one in the background, supporting my creativity. She truly was my inner engineer till the day she passed away about 25 years ago.

Give some “Van Gogh Moments” for your inner artist!
Sign up for Imagine Monthly Fall 2016
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