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 at 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 a 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 timespan 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. Phenomenon 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 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 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 goodbye 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 glimpses 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 no 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 have merged into my own style. That’s what’s my goal with you too: that you’ll have a fun time with the classes and that you will be able to mix new things with what you already know and love.

Subscribe to my weekly emails – Get a free mini-course!

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 the 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 was portraits. They were either self-portraits or portraits of other people. So in Selfie Fantasy, you will not only learn easy ways to create 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 until 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
and get an immediate access to Selfie Fantasy – Sign up now!