Wait till the Painting is Finished

Intuitive art in progress, by Peony and Parakeet

What’s the definition of art? For me, art happens when something unexpected is allowed to step in to the creative process. Today’s story begins with the watercolor background that I painted without further thinking. Just had some fun with my favorite media. Water colors are so easy, light and forgiving!

After the background had dried, I decided to increase the color intensity in some spots with color pencils. I did not mean to start doodling but those pencils spoke to me: “Come on, let us dance a little”. How could I say no!

Painting in progress, by Peony and Parakeet

At some point I got deeper in my thoughts. I saw something happening in the painting.

Painting in progress, a detail, by Peony and Parakeet

The strokes of acrylic paint shortened. Some collage papers were added. The smaller the area I worked, the clearer the big picture looked. That phase was so exciting! Like opening the door and getting ready for the view.

Painting in progress, by Peony and Parakeet

Style Change

Once the painting was finished, I heard my own comment: “You’ve been there before. The colors, the atmosphere – nothing new here! Get your greys and paint it over!” And then, louder: “Jump, JUMP!” And while my left brain cried and right brain celebrated, I mixed the greys and painted how I felt and what I longed for.

The Unexpected, mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet. This went through a style change!

I could have stopped at any phase and declare the painting finished. But after jumping from cliff to cliff I found something new: the beauty of blacks, the simplicity behind my decorative style! So, my advice is: when you think about tossing that art journal page or craft project, don’t do that. Step towards the unexpected and let art reveal what you have escaped from!

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Mixed Media Pie Party

Mixed Media pies, Karelian pies by Peony and Parakeet

Karelian pies – tears come to my eyes when I remember a childhood memory of my past mother making them. And her story of my grandmother who made a pile of those for her six daughters every Saturday. Just some water, flour, rice and butter was needed. Or well, that’s what I thought before I made some by myself after moving away from home. Patience too, I recognized!

Mixed Media pies. Karelian Pies by Peony and Parakeet

I wanted to experiment with creating something not so serious. So I recreated Karelian pies. These mixed media pies are made of fabric, wool, lace, beads, buttons etc. And they look like baked after I added some fabric dye in the edges.

Mixed Media pie. Karelian Pies by Peony and Parakeet

When making these I remembered the emotional connection I have for the Karelian pies. They represent caring and love for me. In the area where I grew there where no celebration nor funeral where Karelian pies would not be served. The finer the occasion, the smaller the pies – and there were a hundred of them!

Mixed Media Karelian Pies by Peony and Parakeet

I thought I would create a fantasy world with my pies, linens and fancy tea but my thoughts became more real than I had ever suspected. I became to think how important people from the past quietly fade away when the time goes by. And how we can bring them back to our minds. Like inviting them for a cup of tea, even only in our thoughts.

Mixed Media Karelian Pies by Peony and Parakeet

While taking the photos I remembered a small table linen that I had embroidered as a teenager. Back then I dreamt about the future and wanted to make something very traditional Karelian for myself to treasure. I was inspired by the stories of how young women made their linen before they stepped into the marriage. That embroidered piece combined with the Karelian pies really speaks to me.

Art is freedom. Give yourself the freedom to create! You will get something precious in return.

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Pattern Design Simplified

Spring Flowers by Peony and Parakeet.rsvMany artists love painting faces, but I feel drawn to patterns. It must be the little engineer inside me who, after seeing almost anything, needs to know: could this be simplified and repeated?

Don’t get me wrong: I am not a big fan of over simplifying everything. Living in a country of snow and white box like houses with white sofas, I have had more than enough of simple forms. But when simplifying involves some clever thinking, hundreds of ideas have been created instead of one.

Namely, you can tweak and change simple structures almost endlessly.

It is like an engineer has made the skeleton which an artist can decorate.

Designing a Hand-Drawn Pattern

The paper above began when the engineer in me found a scanned image of a handpainted paper. The circle pattern was printed on it. Then it was given to the artistic side of me which went a little crazy.

Spring Flowers. Hand-drawn pattern by Peony and Parakeet. Download PDF to draw this!The pattern that the engineer had created was dull but the artist made it breathe. The result was analyzed carefully and a new surface pattern was born! This design is simple but fun, perfect for the use in collages or even for making cards or gift papers.

 Creating Variations

I also made another version of the same design. Creating variations and studying various color combos is so fun! I always decide to make just a simple paper but end up adding smaller and smaller details!

When decorating these papers I never know beforehand whether I will cut them to pieces for collages or frame them as they are. But I always scan them once they are finished so that I can use them again if I want to.

Variation of Spring Flowers design, by Peony and Parakeet

Instructions for the Hand-Drawn Pattern

I have written detailed step by step instructions for the pattern which I call Spring Flowers.

>> Download PDF

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Collage Mittens

Knitted mittens, collage mittens, knitting, crochet, by Peony and Parakeet

I needed new mittens so knitted them using some leftover yarns. But when finished, my knitted mittens looked so plain! Even if I had knitted stripes to make them more interesting. I got an idea: I crocheted embellishments which I sewed on the mittens. Yes, I like them now! Very folk with a modern twist!

Collage mittens, knitting, crochet, by Peony and Parakeet

The mittens were finished but this story is not over. I began to think how I got the idea about the crocheted embellishments. Well, you know my love for collages. I was thinking about collage mittens! I find these words most inspiring when combined: collage and mittens. I got plenty of ideas how I could take the concept even further and begin combining crochet, knit, quilted fabric, ribbons and so on. Probably I will make those crazy collage mittens next winter.

Remember, if you need new ideas, think about naming your project by thinking how they would call it in another substance area. For example, how would carved mittens look like?

Knitted mittens, collage mittens, knitting, crochet, by Peony and Parakeet, Päivi Eerola

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Bursting Circle – Self-Expression Exercise

Bursting Circle, a watercolor collage and a creative self-expression exercise by Peony and Parakeet

Here’s my interpretation of the creative self-expression exercise called Bursting Circle. It might sound too simple or a bit mechanic, but it can be used as a framework for self-expression: how am I today, how am I feeling?

Do the Self-Expression Exercise – Create Your Bursting Circle!

1) Pick a paper or a page of your art journal.
2) Draw freely a circle on a random area of the paper or the page.
3) Fill the circle with whatever you can think of: shapes, colors, anything. You can also use collage pieces.
4) Divide the paper by drawing a horizontal or vertical line.
5) Color each side of the line differently.
6) Imagine that the circle begins to leak or burst – how would you illustrate that?

Analyze After Creating!

Is your circle big or small?
What does it contain?
Is it located left or right?
Is it on the surface or under the surface?
Is it inside or outside?
Is it clearly shaped or is it merging to the background?
Does it burst, spill or radiate?
Is there any movement or does it stay still?
and so on …

Do not analyze the image before you are finished. There’s no one interpretation, but you can consider yourself as a circle and start from there. The part of the exercise is to get in touch with your own thoughts.

My painting tells me this: I feel more exposed than many times before. It is a good thing and it might even be a beginning of a life change. I might not be able to control it, but I feel I have a lot of decisions in my hands. I want to impact others, but I am also impacted at the same time. Maybe there’s a network where I am heading.

What does your picture tell you?

Another Version of Bursting Circle

Bursting Circle, a collage by Peony and Parakeet

I made this using watercolors, markers and color pencils. When looking at this, I wonder: Is there too much going on in my life at the moment? Well, it might be so but if I need to choose between too much and too little I always pick too much!

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Let Me Be Your Art Teacher

Paivi Eerola, Peony and Parakeet, in 1983During the years I have had all kind of art teachers. For example the bohemians of my childhood: two professional painters who taught on Saturdays at the children’s art school. Or that very strict old lady that gave exact instructions and kept the class of 30 teenagers busy with various techniques and approaches to art. I also remember a textile artist who taught freestyle weaving for adult students. She adjusted her view according to each student’s skills and desires. When I studied industrial design I was taught by an illustrator guy who was specialized in sketching the prototypes of sports cars. Despite of their different personalities they all had a big impact in my life.

What kinds of art teachers have you had? How have they impacted your life?

(Photo: Me 30 years ago at the art exhibition of the children’s art school)

There are some things that I would have liked to change in my teachers. They taught perspectives, techniques and theories but very little about self-expression. They showed the work of other artists but never spoke about the unique style that all of us naturally have. They gave exercises but never explained how to make creative thinking as a regular, enjoyable practice.

140224bI just had my 45th birthday and it’s about time to give back what life has given to me so far. So, I ask, let me be your art teacher! Let me show the fascination of using creativity. Let me give you new ideas how to find the artist in you. Most importantly, let me bring colors and imagination to your life. Whether your daily practice is just enjoying the images you feel drawn to or creating them yourself.

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What Art Supplies Do I Need?

Some basic art supplies, by Peony and Parakeet

One of the most popular questions that I get is: What art supplies do I need? What brands to buy? Here are my favourite principals in purchasing art supplies and the products that I most often buy.

Use What You have

Use what you have, watercolours, Peony and Parakeet

My first advice would be: before investing a lot of money use the stuff that you already have as long as you can. Creating art should not create more chaos and clutter. It should make you feel more content with your life. If you need to buy something, buy quality. That sends you the message that you value what you do. And you get better intensity of colors and most out of the various techniques.

Background Papers

Fabriano watercolor paper and Canson drawing paper, Peony and Parakeet

If you make collages like I mostly do, most of your papers should be fairly thin. It is easier to cut and paste thin pieces of paper. The background that you are using can be canvas, watercolor paper, cardboard or any thicker surface. I often use acid-free Canson Drawing paper (thickness 120 g/m2, 80 lbs). And my favourite background paper is Fabriano cold pressed fine grain watercolour paper (thickness 200 g/m2, 90 lbs).



I also recommend that you buy a sketch book and make it your art journal. You can use a journal page as a background or glue or tape the background paper to the page. With the journal your creativity and self-acceptance grows page by page. Constantly getting back into what you have created enforces your style and makes you love what you do. I like the size of the bigger Dylusions Creative Journal. I also love Moleskine books and Smash books.

Colors – You Can Mix Them!

Three primary colors, Golden paints, Peony and Parakeet

I want to give general advice on colors first before digging deeper into various qualities and brands. If you have a fixed budget, use your money on quality instead of quantity. With three primary colors, yellow, red and blue, you create a pretty wide range of other colors and hues. If you only afford one, buy yellow. If you only afford two, buy yellow and red or blue considering which one you like more.

If you can afford five, buy white, black, red, blue and yellow. With that amount, you’ll survive a long time. When you mix black with the primary colors, you get beautiful melancholic muted shades. And with white, more cheerful pastels. If you can buy some more, buy another set of primary colors just different hues. If you have warm and cold yellows, reds and blues plus black and white, you can create a huge colour palette.


Watercolours, White Nights and Derwent, Peony and Parakeet

I love using watercolours and combining them with other materials like colour pencils. My watercolor set is an old Windsor & Newton set (pretty similar to this one). I have complemented that with some new White Nights pans. I love the quality of White Nights watercolors and recommend it for those who hate watercolor painting just because they use pans that do give the intensity needed. I also have gouache tubes but no not use them often. I love my little pans! For those who really want great pigments and less opacity, I would highly recommend Schminke gouache paints or watercolors in tubes.

Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints vs watercolours, Peony and Parakeet

I know many people that hate acrylic paints. The reason is usually that they have poor quality paints that they try to use like watercolors. Low-quality acrylic paints have poor intensity and gloss and coarse structure instead of smooth. While watercolors represent everything light weighted, acrylic paints are heavy and strong. Better than mixing them with plenty of water is to use little water or gel mediums (introduced later in this post).

Acrylic Paints in a box, Peony and Parakeet

My favorite brand in acrylics is Golden. They have affordable introductory sets that I highly recommend. Use very small amounts of color at a time. The color pigments are great, and the set will last for a long time. If you find it hard to squeeze small amounts and tend to use a lot of acrylic paints, Amsterdam has big economic tubes of acrylics in their standard series.

Gel Medium

Gel Medium and attaching collage pieces, Peony and Parakeet

I use gel medium to glue the pieces of my paper collages. I also use it with acrylic paints to give them more elasticity. For me, gel medium is a must have. I have tried several brands and spent plenty of time to find what I like most. My favourite is Golden Soft Gel Gloss. I also like the matte version of it.


Peony and Parakeet's collection of brushes

After preaching about quality over quantity I must admit that I do prefer to have a lot of brushes. And many of them are low-quality cheap brushes. I have come to this situation for two reasons. First, in the heat of creating I often forget to put the brush into the water and it gets ruined. Second, the more you vary the size and quality of the brush the more interesting your artwork will look like. So when buying your first brushes, buy a set that has both flat and round brushes in various sizes.

Colored Pencils

Colour pencils, the collection of Peony and Parakeet

Colored pencils have come a long way since I was a child.  They used to be hard and many times they tore the paper when trying to get something out of them. Nowadays there are wonderful colour pencils that everybody should use, including children! Caran d’Ache Pablo pencils have wax-like finish; I adore them! I also love Derwent Colorsoft and Derwent Inktense pencils. Inktense pencils are water soluble, and you can use them instead of watercolors in small areas.


Markers, from the collection of Peony and Parakeet

Some people prefer markers over colour pencils because markers are easier to use. I use both. I often combine them so that some layers or areas are colored with markers, some with color pencils. My ultimate favorite is Faber-Castell PITT Artist Brush Pen. They can be used on almost any surface. They can be bought in small sets or separately so you can acquire only a few ones first. I also have a collection of Copic markers. They are high quality and serve me well as they can be filled again and again. But if you start small, get few PITT pens, and you will be happy.

Bright White

Using white pens, by Peony and Parakeet

If you have followed me, you know that I do not make white art. I do not create white areas or spend a great deal of time creating romantic scenes like putting off-white tulips on a white background. But having something bright white is essential for me. I love to put some white spots and then color them with markers or paints. That makes colors shine! I take my bright whites very seriously and have spent too much money to find the ones that work for me.

Butterfly, a collage by Peony and Parakeet

In gel pens, Uniball Signo is my favorite. I also use correction pens and Copic’s Opaque White that comes in small jars. You can replace these with white acrylic paint using a thin brush, so nothing to worry if you do not purchase any of these.

So – What Art Supplies Do I Really Need?

If you have read this far, it might feel like you need plenty. But really, you only need some pens and paper to get started.

Few pans of watercolors, maybe a couple of color pencils or PITT markers and you are good to go. Supplies do not make you an artist. The constant practice does.

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Get Inspired by Fine Arts

Inspired by fine arts. Painting by Emile Vernon. Collage by Peony and Parakeet

The world of fine arts is bursting with ideas that you can use in art journaling or any crafts. On the left, there is Emile Vernon’s painting Elegant Lady with a Bouquet of Roses. On the right, you can see my interpretation.

Painting by Emile Vernon, Collage by Peony and Parakeet

The secret is not to copy but find the concept of the painting and transfer it to your personal style. I began with the dominant factor of the painting which was the beautiful dress. Then I added the various details of the painting in my style. Almost weightless objects and angular lines combined with soft shapes create the atmosphere for both of the work. Because I love surface patterns I wanted to study the painting as a pattern too. I must admit I love the result. It represents the kind of nostalgia that I find very appealing.

Memory of a Dream, a collage by Peony and Parakeet

Another painting to go. I chose Claude Monet’s Impression Sunrise.

Monet's Impression Sunrise, Collage by Peony and Parakeet

Here I kept the theme of the painting but used torn paper pieces to represent the thick brush strokes. The sun was the most interesting detail, so I made many of them. A horizontal composition combined with vertical lines was also repeated. I copied many of the concepts but not the exact painting.

Monet's Impression Sunrise, Collage by Peony and Parakeet

How do you do it?

1) Take your favorite painting and analyze it to pieces. What is the composition, the colors and their relations, the eye-catching details?
2) Reconstruct the pieces and add some of the things that are typical to your personal style.

After this exercise, you’ll never complain about the lack of ideas! The whole world of fine art is waiting for you.

Get Inspired and Express Your Inspiration!
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Increase Your Creativity

Courage, a collage by Peony and Parakeet. See creativity tips for artists.

People often say to me that they have very little creativity. They describe how difficult it is for them to let go when crafting or making art. I assume that everybody have blocks in their creativity. I struggle with them too. But here’s how I managed to get rid of many obstacles and enjoy creating.

First, speed up! Create faster. You will get into uncomfortable, unbalanced state where the voices in your head say: “Slow down! You need to think first! Don’t do that! NO!” And then it’s easy, you just do the exact opposite: increase your speed, stop thinking what color you choose, implement all the wildest ideas (like mess up the areas which begin to look ok). Replace your NO with YES! You can do anything!

Courage, a detail. Collage by Peony and Parakeet

Stop drawing lines that do not intersect! Put the elements on the top of each other. Get rid of the clear shapes. If you work fast enough you will stop comparing your work with others. You will have your unique thing going on. The truth is that somewhere under the surface is your own style, your own creativity, your own spirit.

Just a while ago I read an article about visual culture now and after 25 years. An expert was interviewed. He said that it will be proven that all the images are equal. It hit me: even if there are great masters in art, great talents, in the end all the images are equal in the general perspective. And even more important: in the personal perspective the most important images are created by ourselves. Only our creative mind can reveal all the wonderful things that are hidden behind the no’s and dont’s.

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Choosing Creativity

Art Nouveau by Night, watercolor painting by Peony and Parakeet. Choosing creativity over television.

This watercolor piece was made last summer. It was found when I organized my papers. During a long summer night I browsed one of my favorite books: Alphonse Mucha Masterworks. After closing the book I wanted to make something Art Nouveau myself!

My sisters used to say that I am an affective person. I get easily excited and affected by everything that surrounds me. Within years I have learned to steer myself by choosing what’s around me. No one can choose everything, but there’s plenty of choices that can be made during the day. Like which book to open.

More than before I choose to close the television. I also try to stop browsing endlessly what others have made. It is surprising how little input is needed to get the creativity flowing. Having a glimpse of Mucha’s masterpieces can be enough. Limiting consuming and increasing creating can take us closer what we want, like time traveling to Art Nouveau.

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