Peony and Parakeet

Mirrors and Windows – Which is you?

Watercolor painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read her article about mirrors and windows!

In 1978, The Museum of Modern Art opened a photography exhibition called Mirrors and Windows. It divided artists into two groups: Mirrors and Windows.

An excerpt of the press release:

“… the photograph is seen either as a mirror – a romantic expression of the photographer’s sensibility as it projects itself on the things and sights of this world; or as a window – through which the exterior world is explored in all its presence and reality”

When painting or drawing, this division becomes even clearer. Do you feel that, for example, a rose must reflect the mood of your thoughts (mirror)? Or do you want the rose to look recognizable and real (window)?

A detail of a watercolor painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Mirrors and Windows – The Way You Create

I think this comparison is the most interesting when thinking about the process of creating. That’s what matters most to us who create anyway!

Here’s how I redefine mirrors and windows:

  • Mirrors like to work intuitively and focus on a small area at the time.
  • Windows like to work from a photo or make a sketch and be able to see the big picture first.

I like both approaches even if I am more of a mirror myself. Actually, if I hadn’t practiced being a window, I couldn’t be the mirror that I am now. Usually, problems arise when you want to be a mirror but try to control the big picture through the process. Or if you want to be a window but don’t use any plans or references.

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet with her favorite watercolor brushes.

Altering Between the Approaches

The upcoming class Floral Fantasies in Three Styles has many projects. In some, you are a mirror. In others, you are a window. Flowers are so much fun to paint because they can be created with many styles and techniques. This is the class where I have heard these comments the most: “I would have never guessed that I enjoy this way of working, but I am!” It truly can surprise you how you create your best work.

The watercolor painting below is one of the class projects where I guide you to start loose. First, you will create simple abstract shapes and then magically transform them into flowers. A pleasurable to create and perfect for you who likes to be a mirror!

From the Garden - a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Also a class project for her class Floral Fantasies in Three Styles.

Floral Fantasies in Three Styles – Sign Up Now!

Spend four weeks drawing and painting flowers with me! The class will run between April 29 – May 24.
>> Sign up here!

Freely Born Watercolor Florals

Floral still life by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watercolor painting.

I love to paint flowers without reference photos. “What flower is that?” My husband asked when I showed a couple of my recent floral paintings to him. I had no idea! My florals are born freely and they look a bit strange, but I like that. I like the idea of growing my flowers from the seeds – pigments – and watering them so that they will begin to bloom.

Watercolor Florals in Mixed Media

I have made these kinds of still lives for a long time, but I used to use acrylic paints, pencils, and pens too. Here’s one from 2016 (watch the process video).

Floral still life by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Mixed media painting.

Now that my skills have grown, I don’t feel the need to use acrylic paint to cover up some parts or a pen to sharpen others. I can just throw paint and water and then work from that. This kind of art is often more “the art of seeing” than “the art of creating”. Imagination is the only limit!

Painting a Layer by Layer

Painting watercolor florals by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I paint many layers, from light to dark. I don’t worry about over-doing! Using a lot of water and letting every layer dry properly is the key.

Painting watercolor florals by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I also like to imagine how flowers drop off the vase and start growing from the ground. In this dream, the vitality that the flowers have is tremendous.

A detail of a floral still life by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watercolor painting.

Water and Paper Paint Too!

Sometimes I work with many projects at the same time. Often, I just leave the painting to dry and go to do other stuff. At the beginning, I usually feel unsure about the mess on paper, but become happily surprised when I enter the studio and see it dried. Water and paper play with the pigment as much as I do. I love this uncontrollable nature of watercolors that makes the process of painting more like sharing a discussion than giving a speech.

Painting watercolor florals by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Look at that mess on paper and then the finished version!

Floral still life by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watercolor painting.

My favorite details of this painting are the big white spot and the small flowers that bend down.

A detail of a floral still life by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watercolor painting.

Coming Up – Floral Still Life Step by Step

Currently, I am making an extra lesson about this process of making a floral still life without reference photos. It will be available with the upcoming class Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles. The registration will open next week! I plan to make the new lesson a separate one so that if you have purchased the class before, you can buy the new lesson as an add-on when the class begins on April 29, 2019. Stay tuned!

The Best Inspiration for Art

"Believe", handdrawn collage by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watch her video about making this piece!

I have often written about using your own art for inspiration and combining many ideas into one piece. But this time I want to show that more in detail. With the video below, I invite you to my studio to browse art journals and sketchbooks and see how you can practice, create, and also play.

The Best Inspiration for Art – Watch the Video!

Come to Draw with Us!

Animal Inkdom - a fun drawing class by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Come to draw and decorate animals with us at Animal Inkdom! You will get the published lessons immediately after the registration, and you can start drawing right away. Sign up for Animal Inkdom!


"Believe", a hand-drawn collage by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watch her video about art inspiration and making this piece!

This week’s artwork, called “Believe” is also for sale in my art store.

Breaking the Rules – Creating What’s Right for You

This blog post is about breaking the rules when choosing what to create.

Madonna of the Heart, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Let’s begin with this oil painting. Oil paintings are big projects for me, and I only finished two of them last year. The first was Temptation, and this is the second one, called Madonna of the Heart.

Following the Heart – Breaking the Rules

My Madonna is a small painting, only 18,5 x 23,5 cm, but it’s quite detailed. I first planned to make it fully abstract, but then got second thoughts.

Starting an oil painting, painting intuitively, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

As a child, I learned the basics of eastern-orthodox art by attending an icon painting group. I was taught many rules – what colors to choose, how to mix the right tones, how to build layers, etc. It was not just about learning the right techniques, but also obeying the long tradition. The repeating discussion in the group was the difference between right and wrong. There was very little room for creativity, and I loved it! I was about 10 years old and eager to learn new things. Work was challenging, and it was comforting to know that there’s one clear direction.

Madonna of the Heart, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

When painting the small canvas, I was tempted to travel back to my childhood, and participate in that small and safe group of icon painters again. But I also knew that it’s very wrong not to follow the rules. My supplies were wrong, my background was wrong, the whole idea was wrong. But it felt natural and tempting, so I made it.

Natural to You, Wrong to Some

Recently, I have found many creative blocks like this one. To paint an icon with oils on an abstract background is wrong to some, but it’s natural to me. I love painting intuitively, and the idea of an icon is the most beautiful that I know. Don’t we all need an image that offers consolation and reminds about kindness? To me, it has nothing to do with any specific religion. Everybody has a right to have a Madonna of the Heart.

While building the class Animal Inkdom, I have also filled my “boxes of joy” with hand-drawn collage pieces. Very soon after starting, I realized that the principle “natural to me, wrong to some” also applies to these small drawings.

Paivi's box of hand drawn collage pieces. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Yes, I love to draw flowers, birds, butterflies, very innocent stuff. But there are also pieces that are quite odd like this one.

Hand drawn ornament by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

This hand-drawn ornament has two women, both dressed in old Byzantine clothing, and the lion. It has a handle so that it can be held like a sacred image. This small drawing is packed with stories about my childhood. I remember the conversations with my mother, already passed away. I remember my idol, Joy Adamson, and her lion Elsa. I remember my love for blue color. Seeing all that together makes me happy.

I also love to play with the ornament by adding more handdrawn elements around it!

Hand-drawn ornaments by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Breaking the Rules Between Serious and Playful

So it happened that a carefully painted oil painting and this little ornament became equal. Of course, not equal in monetary value, but equal in the kind of satisfaction I get from them. And it also feels that this world that I am building is surprisingly inclusive, both humorous and deep. All I need to do is to make what’s natural to me, even if it would look wrong to some.

Paivi Eerola's art. An oil painting and hand-drawn ornaments. Breaking the rules of what's right and wrong in art.

We often miss this natural zone because we are so focused on what makes sense to others. When choosing what to create, we work with pre-defined labels like “portraits” or “art journal pages” or “abstracts.” We do what seems to be right for the genre, rather than step into the world where someone might not get it, or in the worst case, might get offended. Still, the freedom in art can’t exist without the freedom of imagination.

Come to Play and Draw with Me!

So, I dare to suggest: play with your art! Cross the boundaries between “right” and “wrong”! Follow the general rules of aesthetics but brea the rules of subject matters.

I think that with Animal Inkdom, you can nail it. You will get practical tips and techniques, but there’s also humor and play, all flavored with the love for wildlife.

Drawing animals and decorating them with motifs. Paivi Eerola has a fun drawing class called Animal Inkdom.

It’s still a good time to sign up for Animal Inkdom! The first one of the five modules is published, and you will get it right away after the registration.

Let’s keep on drawing, and never forget the playing part either!

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