Peony and Parakeet

Do You Aim for Clever or Honest Art? – Series of Inspiring Quotes #1

Abstact art by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
A digital image composed of two of my paintings from 2018.

This post and the next two posts of the following weeks will be about inspiring quotes that I have heard or read recently. I hope you will enjoy this series!

This Week’s Quote

“Art is the competition of honesty,
not the competition of cleverness.”

Who Said?
American fantasy artist Sam Flegal, originally a quote of an American painter Ran Ortner

Where?
One Fantastic Week YouTube Channel, episode “Artist Mentorship #15 – Fantasy Artist Allie Briggs

Fantasy artists Sam Flegal and Peter Mohrbacher run art discussions every week on YouTube, and they also mentor other fantasy artists to find their path. When their current mentee Allie Briggs tries to find her way to success, Sam and Peter dig deeper to discover what kind of art comes naturally to her. They talk about how important it’s to find themes that we want to create rather than consume. Then it’s not so much about what we would love to see ourselves doing and what we would like to invent but what we truly want to spend time with when we are actually creating. They also talk about how we can take almost any prompt and use the things we love to create to express the message behind the prompt.

Honestly, You Don’t Need a Grand Idea to Start Creating

A hand-drawn collage piece from the class Magical Inkdom. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

When I participated in Inktober art challenge last October, I understood that the basic idea doesn’t have to be anything grand. It’s the add-ons that bring the image to a new level. The more I drew by following the prompts, the more honest my art began to feel.

During the challenge, I confessed to both myself and to the world that I like to draw luxury, beautiful physical objects that I have taught to treat as vanity. Jewels, tassels, decorative flowers, luxurious fabric, glass, crystals, etc. I also permitted myself to first draw fur, then decorative animals, and get back to my childhood years of always yearning for a new pet.

Ink drawing by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
From the prompt “Double.” The idea was just to draw two horses.

Read also:

Honesty Is Not Modesty

Many foreigners say that Finland is a land of honesty. They feel that in Finland you are safe. Nobody steals from you, and you can trust to find your treasures where ever you leave them.

But for a Finnish person, this country is often a land of modesty. When Finnish people call somebody as an honest person, it means that he accepts his limitations and circumstances and doesn’t pretend anything else. We Finnish are supposed to appreciate simple things, and not to be dreamers, but doers. Why draw jewels, when you can document your everyday life?

Walking the dogs in the pouring rain.

However, to me, creating honest art has required that I accept my love for unapologetic beauty. I am in my element when designing overwhelmingly beautiful things and dressing up beautiful animals and ethereal creatures.

Start Your Path to Honest Art – Do This!

What are the little things that you don’t consume or possess, but you do often dream about just for fun? Draw them!

Hand-drawn playing cards by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Sign up for her online art class Magical Inkdom!

More inspiration: Join us to draw fantasy art – Sign up for Magical Inkdom!

Revamp Art Journal Pages So That They Spark Joy!

An art journal page spread by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Mixed media art.

Here’s an art journal spread that I just finished. First, it was just a couple of old black and white drawings that – like Marie Kondo would put it – didn’t spark joy. But I used the old floral drawings as an inspirational foundation for the revamped spread. How and why revamp art? Keep reading!

Why Revamp Art?

The more confident I have become in creating art, the more I have begun to see the potential in my old art. Busy sketches, not so beautiful messes, and clumsy paintings and drawings all show the level of inspiration that still satisfies me. It’s the level of execution that I want to change. I want to tidy up some messes and add more expression and depth. I am certain that Marie Kondo would approve the idea of working with the old art journal pages. Isn’t it quite minimalistic compared to buying new journals all the time?

Revamp 1 – Change the Topic of the Page

Maintain the composition but change the topic of the page!

Here’s the spread before I started re-working it. It has a couple of carelessly drawn floral clusters.

An art journal page ready for revamping. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I changed most of the flowers of the left page to animals, added more details and shadows, and made the lines and shapes neater.

A detail of ink drawing by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Then I used Derwent Artbars to color the line drawing.

Art journaling by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Revamp 2 – Tear the Page and Make Collage Art

I made some more drastic changes to the other page. I ripped parts of the black and white drawing that had been glued there. Then I went to my boxes of joy – the boxes that hold my hand-drawn collage pieces – and picked this motif.

The background was painted with white acrylic paint. I worked in layers, glued some of the ripped pieces and doodled carelessly, then added more paint.

An art journal page in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Revamp 3 – Paint Over a Part of the Page

I wanted to include a hand showing how I currently play with my art. I took a quick photo and used it as a reference.

An art journal page in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

See how similar a page from my first art journal from 2010 is!

Old and new art journals by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Have you documented your creative play? How you do it and how it makes you feel?

Art journaling and drawing collage pieces by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Revamp 4 – Cover a Page with a Piece from the Archive

Before I finished the spread above, I re-vamped another spread. This one only had some doodles on the right page, and then a drawing inspired by Mark Rothko glued on the left one.

An art journal page spread by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I found an old hand-drawn collage and glued it on the right page. In 2010, the collage was disappointing to me. I wanted to find my style and as a fashion illustration, the image looked clumsy.

However, it seems now that I wasn’t able to translate the message of the image correctly. Now, the piece makes me smile – there I am, sitting and handing the things that have always been inspirational to me: jewels and bags! I just wasn’t able to draw them like I did last October so I didn’t realize that they are the key elements for my visual voice.

My collage was saying: “You should draw more bags and jewels, Paivi!” What does your old art speak to you now?

Revamp 5 – Add a Decorative Frame

During the years, I have made quite many of Mark Rothko inspired drawings, see this blog post! I love detailed drawings, and no matter how skillfully I would try to replicate Mark Rothko and other minimalists, I was never satisfied with the result.

Drawing a decorative frame on an art journal. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I wanted to hug the idea though and make a decorative frame around the old abstract.

This way I am saying that the level of inspiration is there – Mark Rothko really makes me want to create whenever I look at his paintings. But the level of execution that I enjoy and am best at is something totally different.

This spread really sparks joy to me now, and I also couldn’t resist playing a bit with the collage pieces.

Playing with hand-drawn art by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Isn’t it amazing how similar the style can be after so so many years, and after spending so long time trying to figure it out!

Playing with hand-drawn fantasy art by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s to Mark Rothko!

Playing with hand-drawn fantasy art by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. A decorative cat.

I am loving playing with the old art journal spreads, building the bridges between the years. If you separate inspiration from execution, does it make you look at your art in different eyes?

Playing with hand-drawn fantasy art by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. A decorative cat.

The Idea For This Blog Post Came from These

a) One of my notebooks mixes writing and drawing so that randomly scribble, doodle, and write there. It’s a private journal, and I didn’t want to publish its pages but the more full it has got, the more I have realized that when the sketches and writings are not organized chronologically, and I can revamp the pages repeatedly, they naturally produce new ideas.

b) Mackie d’Arge, a wonderful fellow artist from the USA, has shown her beautiful art in my art community Bloom and Fly. She has made many pieces by rebuilding and revamping her old artworks. It has given me the idea of looking at the potential of my old art and what could be made from there.

c) My classes Animal Inkdom and the upcoming Magical Inkdom are all about playing by drawing. I have wanted these classes to be fun, so they have made me include humor, fantasy, and play in my artistic process as well. They have made sure that my boxes of hand-drawn collage pieces stay filled even if I would “shop” there all the time! In Magical Inkdom, we will also draw decorative frames. >> Sign up Now!

Three Creative Approaches that Affect the Way You Feel About Your Art

Dreaming Ducks, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland

Here’s my latest oil painting called “Dreaming Ducks.” I started it in December 2017 and finished it just recently. It’s the biggest oil painting that I have made so far – 70 x 50 cm. I painted it too long, too many sessions, and lost my motivation several times. Painting became more challenging layer by layer and I demanded more of myself, never feeling fully happy what I had made.

1) Fine Art is a Stone on the Bottom of the Sea

Dreaming Ducks, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland

The deeper I dive into fine art, the heavier it feels. If creativity is a sea, fine art is like a big stone on the bottom. I have to dive deep, it takes time to reach it, and then it feels so heavy, that it’s often impossible to lift it. But then, on the other hand, it’s also an anchor, the core of my visual voice and artistic identity.

A detail of Dreaming Ducks, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland

But at the same time, I believe that if we only create fine art, it narrows everything. It narrows our artistic vision because we lean too much towards what is appreciated in the art world. It narrows our audience, and we no longer serve all the people we are meant to serve. It suffocates our enthusiasm because we raise the bar all the time. We forget what really matters because we block ideas based on whether it’s fine art or not.

A detail of Dreaming Ducks, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland

Fine art makes us limit ourselves: “I paint abstracts only”, “I have to choose my palette and stick to it”, “I need to find my style”. When we have the mindset of a fine artist, we question what we do all the time.

A detail of Dreaming Ducks, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland

2) Creative Play is the Boat Floating on the Sea

But then, there’s the surface – the fun stuff that I personally missed too many years while growing my skills to reach the big stone.

Magical Inkdom, an online art class by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

These ink drawings are like a boat to me. I acknowledge now that it’s mindless to make the diving attempts if I don’t have anything supporting me on the surface. Something like drawing witty cats! I have made many for the upcoming class Magical Inkdom!

3) We Easily Miss the Water That Connects the Two

We have been talking about the bottom of the sea and the boat, but it’s all connected, right? It’s easy to forget the water when you are going for the stone or polishing the boat! An artist friend of mine pointed out this to me. She said: “Your work always contains designs.”

Like water, it was a no-brainer: “Well yes, I used to be a designer. I like to design things.” But at the same time, it was something I hadn’t really thought about.

Drawing a design from an oil painting. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read about the three approaches that you can take for your art!

I went to my computer, wiped the dust from my old Intuos 4 drawing tablet, opened Adobe illustrator, and started drawing.

Drawing a design from an oil painting. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The blue cat got a cousin! Look how I used the motifs above to complete this digital drawing.

A cat illustration by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Three Creative Approaches

Now I think that these approaches should be the elements of every creative process:
a) diving deeper to find the anchor – discovering your visual voice
b) sailing happily in a little boat – playing with your imagination
c) seeing the water that connects the stone and the boat – becoming more aware of your current capabilities and what you can accomplish now

When I started to see the water, I got the feeling that it’s all good. Anything that I do can be connected, repurposed, and fed back to the process. What I have dreamt can begin to happen now, not years later.

What do you think of these approaches? Can you apply them into your art? Which is the hardest and which is the easiest for you at the moment?

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!

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