Creating a Floral Art Class

Art Nouveau Flowers, a hand-drawn paper collage by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Made for her art class Floral Fantasies in Three Styles.

This hand-drawn collage is one of the projects that I have made for the upcoming floral art class Floral Fantasies in Three Styles. It begins on Monday, 16th October and lasts for five weeks. Because developing a new class is a big thing and requires a lot of thoughts, I wanted to share some in this blog too. Now it’s also the best time to sign up because I close the registration once the class begins!

Do You Do Flowers?

Daisies and an ant

The idea for the class came to my mind last spring and honestly, I have been processing it almost every day ever since. I wanted to create an event where we learn from flowers and express our love for flowers.

Some artists declare: “I don’t do flowers!” But I think that in art, flowers are never just colorful plants. When you draw and paint florals, it’s your imagination that’s blooming there. It’s your emotion that grows and fills the blank space. Flowers are perfect ambassadors for the messages that you want to deliver through art.

Peony Love

Are You Still Moving Towards Your Kind of Art?

Yesterday, I read about a famous female composer Unsuk Chin from the local newspaper “Helsingin Sanomat.” She had just won the Wihuri Sibelius Prize of 150 000 EUR.

The journalist asked her:
“When did you find out what you want to express through art and how?”
She answered: “There’s no such moment. I am still moving towards my kind of music, and it’s a continuous struggle.”

I could relate with the reply so well. Aren’t we all there – continuously working towards something that feels more us, that’s more our kind of art!

Digital art from hand-drawn elements by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

That’s why when building classes, I aim for delivering methods that connect with the imagination. It’s challenging, but when succeeding, the results that I see in the participants, are heart-warming. I believe that we all want to learn new perspectives, but they also have to be designed so that everyone can make unique art out of them. In the end, you don’t create to copy but to express, and that’s always a personal thing.

Let Flowers Make You an Imaginative Artist!

So when developing Floral Fantasies in Three Styles, I wanted to find ways that connect us to the beauty and diversity of flowers. I wanted flowers to be food for the imagination, and I wanted you to feel and work as a floral artist in this art class.

Floral Illustrator
Some of you feel the Week 1 most inspiring as it’s about creating floral designs and illustrative work. If you love any of the 20th century’s styles or have been working with textiles or other crafts for some time, it will be inspiring.

Intuitive Watercolorist
Some of you make the most of Week 2 when we get looser and play with watercolors. If you see or feel stiffness in your art, this will be valuable.

Renaissance Painter
I think that for the most of you, the technique that I teach in Weeks 3 and 4 is a new one. It’s a really old painting technique, but I show how you can use it for today’s art. I have built the class so that the everything you learn from Weeks 1 and 2, set the foundation for the technique. We dive deeper into old art and learn to look at the paintings of the old masters in a new way. These two weeks will be especially enjoyable for you who want to find gentleness towards yourself and soft luxury to your expression.

Digital Art created from acrylic paintings by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Giving the Attention to Your Art

In Week 5, we will gather together for a live session and look at the art created during the first four weeks. We will share tips and encouragement, and enjoy your beautiful floral art. For all the five weeks, we will also have a Facebook group dedicated to sharing and discussions. This connecting part is one of the main reasons why I love teaching art so much. I love to see your work and also, dig a bit deeper – see the potential for moving to new directions or fine-tuning what’s already there.

So, I hope to see you in Floral Fantasies – Reserve your spot before the class begins!

Floral Fantasies in Three Styles – Reserve Your Spot Now!

Three Artist Types and Why You Should Become All of Them!

Blooming Centuries, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s my latest acrylic painting “Blooming Centuries”. With this piece, I show you how stepping into roles of three different types of artists can grow your skills.

Tight Focus – Don’t Believe it!

The conventional way to grow artistic skills is to choose your media, mindset, and style and stick with the choice. To me, this kind of tight focus has never worked. It feels boring and too straight-forward to work in practice. It forgets the fact that creativity comes with limited persistence but with unlimited imagination.

For example, when I have a heavy heart and want to get quickly into the core of it, I don’t want to stick with the technique that is more labor-oriented. On the other hand, when I want to think and adjust, quick and simple is not what makes the most of the contemplation. Sometimes my imagination wants to be playful, other times it wants to be timeless and deep. When the moment and the mood can define the supplies and techniques, I not only enjoy more but also surprisingly, learn more!

3 Moods – 3 Artist Types

In my upcoming workshop, I will expand your toolbox for creating art in various moods, rather than trying to force everything under one media and one way of working. I have defined three types of artists and picked the techniques accordingly.

Three artist types by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

The most interesting column in the table above is “Emotion” because it brings up the benefit of the mood.  When you imagine being a designer, you aim for clarity. You get happiness out of clearing your thoughts and communicating the essence. When you step into the role of an intuitive watercolorist, your core desire is freedom of expression. What appears on paper, is exciting and your adventurous mind makes the most of it. As a Renaissance painter, you are searching for the peace of mind. By creating a layer after another, you gently caress your way away from busy life.

Now you might say: “But Paivi, I am nothing but an intuitive painter. I am all about quickly creating a beautiful mess.” But don’t let your successes take you on the wrong track. Think about your struggles and what you can learn from the other artists. For example, if your mess has become nothing but beautiful it’s often because the small portion of clarity that we all need has been missing. Or if your mess looks too flat, it’s because your work doesn’t follow the concepts of the three-dimensional world. Also, the time that it takes to create tens of pieces quickly could be used to creating one piece that rises to another level.

I believe that growing as an artist is about learning the best of the many approaches. It’s like getting ingredients for the soup and then making a personal recipe to fit the current mood and style.

3 Artist Types – 1 Painting!

With “Blooming Centuries,” I wanted to express how flowers may be fleeting things, but in general, they have a strong position in the history of art and design. Flowers have inspired artists and designers through past eras, and they still inspire us to create no matter what mood we have. This painting is based on playing with different artist types from a designer to a Renaissance painter.

Designer: Some elements of the painting are more related to crafts and design than to the fine art. They are built from geometric shapes and are quite minimalistic.

Blooming Centuries by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Geometric elements that have been created with designer's mindset.

Intuitive artist: There are also elements that have been born freely and intuitively.

Blooming Centuries by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. The intuitive elements of the painting.

Renaissance painter: Some of the elements have a lot of layers and are more 3-dimensional than others.

Blooming Centuries by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Layered elements created with old masters' painting techniques.

Another Example – Combining Intuitive with Art Nouveau

Let’s imagine that you love Art Nouveau. You adore Alphonse Mucha’s work and everything from the beginning of the 20th century. You want your style to include a lot of Art Nouveau but in a refreshing way. So you might think you need to focus on developing your drawing skills only. You draw and draw, and you get closer and closer to Alphonse but the new twist that you want to give to your drawings, “your personal style,” is missing.

But if you start learning from Intuitive Watercolorist and Renaissance Painter, your Art Nouveau designs will take a new turn. By adding more transparent layers, you can express liveliness so that it still looks graceful. By finding ways to manipulate water, you get free-flowing shapes more effortlessly. Your art no longer is a copy of what someone else has created, but it takes a direction of its own. You begin to appreciate all kinds of art because you want to add more spices to your recipe. Your passion for art gets stronger, and the joy you get from it grows bigger. When you struggle, you see a wider range of solutions than before.

Intuitive Nouveau, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

So, every Designer or Illustrator has something to learn from a Renaissance painter or an Intuitive Watercolorist. And the same applies to all artist types.

A detail of an intuitive watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Circles show three different mindsets that have been used for this painting.

Get into the Minds of the Three Artist Types!

In my online workshop Floral Fantasies in Three Styles, we will dive deeper into the three artist types. It will expand your impression of style and how to construct one.  It’s the class you don’t want to miss if you love flowers and want to become an imagination-driven artist! Reserve Your Spot Now!

A detail of Blooming Centuries, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Floral Fantasies in Three Styles: Reserve Your Spot Now!

Altering a Flower Painting – Inspiration from Vatican Museums

Queen of Fantasy by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. A flower painting with acrylics and glazing medium.

About three weeks ago, I quickly painted a small flower painting while sharing my thoughts about painting softly (see this blog post, which also includes a video).

A flower painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

During the past weeks, I have been wondering what to do with the painting.  I thought it could be a little more detailed and tell a bit more glorious story. So this morning, I decided to work more on it. Some artists are always afraid of “over-working” their paintings. But I belong to the group who thinks that the painting is almost never fully finished. There seem always to be more ideas I could add and more adjustments I should do.

1) Painting a Decorative Frame

This time I decided to use a selection of old decorative art as an inspiration source. I picked photos that I took from the visit to Vatican Museums in June. I often work like this: letting images spark ideas that I will add to my work. It’s not so much “copying” but picking concepts or generic ideas. My first inspiration came from these decorative panels.

Decorative floral panels from Vatican Museums

By using a Chinese marker, and a lid of a jar as a template I drew a circle on the center.

Painting a decorative flower painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

A huge porcelain piece and a beautiful ceiling inspired me to paint a frame with lots of swirls.

Beautiful details from Vatican Museums

I just added some burnt umber around the drawn line and then painted the swirls in white. I added several translucent layers to make the shapes look more three-dimensional.

Painting a decorative frame to a flower painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

2) Playing with Colors and Shapes

The next ideas came from this picture. It’s one of the many beautiful ceilings, so full of images and details that it’s almost overwhelming.

A beautiful ceiling from Vatican Museums.

The ceiling inspired me to add more color variation to the painting. I used mostly ultramarine blue, ochre, and cadmium yellow on the center, and quickly some elements with white on the bottom left corner. While waiting for each thin color layer to dry, I pondered what to do with the rest of the painting.

A process picture of a flower painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I almost heard a voice saying: “Stop right here, don’t ruin the painting!”

3) Letting Go – More is More!

While browsing the photos taken from Vatican Museums, I remembered the astonishment that came from the number of visitors there were. It was Friday afternoon, but the area was packed. Each huge corridor was filled by us, tourists walking and staring at the beautiful ceilings. The Sistine Chapel was even more crowded. Frescos, mosaics, statues, paintings and decorative textiles covered the surfaces. Everything was full in every possible way. And now in Finland, I was sitting in my half-empty studio with my half-empty painting.

So I said to myself: “Go for it!” And took some extra boost for my confidence by examining a photo of a wonderful wall textile. If men can be this decorative, why not just continue the painting!

A beautiful wall textile from Vatican Museums

I worked more with the center of the painting, making it grow towards the edges.

A flower painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

A detail of a mosaic floor gave me an idea to combine geometric shapes with curvier lines.

Mosaic floor from Vatican Museums.

Here’s a close-up showing tiny additions on the left:

A close-up photo of a flower painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

4) Bringing up the Expression – Highlighting the Visual Message

Before the final touches, I still had some stiffness in expression. To me, it’s often difficult to fully trust my intuition unless I know what I am expressing. I was almost finished when I realized that my painting is about being a queen of the fantasy, ruling every little detail, making ships change their direction on the sea, and wearing a crown that shines further than anyone could imagine.

Altering a flower painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and parakeet.

Some Close-Up Photos of the Flower Painting

Ships sailing:

A detail of "Queen of Fantasy" by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. A flower painting with acrylics and glazing medium.

The center. This is a very small painting, only 12 by 12 inches total:

A detail of "Queen of Fantasy" by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. A flower painting with acrylics and glazing medium.

Floral Fantasies

Lately, I have been more and more aware of the fact that I want to paint fantasies. To me, the first version of the painting was too bland. I dress modestly, I hate wearing too much jewelry, my home is not full of stuff, and still, I want my art to be full, to go beyond what’s expected and accepted.

Flower painting, two versions. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I am currently preparing a new online workshop about painting flowers … If all goes well, it will take begin in October.

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The Inspiring World of Details – Ideas from Uffizi Gallery

Paivi Eerola and Gypsy Girl, a painting by Boccaccio Boccaccino

If you have followed my blog for some time, you know that this photo is very meaningful to me. It was a hot day in June when I visited Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. The huge old building was filled with world-class art. But I wasn’t just going to look at the famous masterpieces like Botticelli’s Primavera or Birth of Venus. I was searching a small painting of Boccaccio Boccaccino.

Meeting Boccaccio Boccaccino at Uffizi

Boccaccino’s painting made my heart bounce when I saw it on Google at the beginning of this year. I made my version of it during the spring.

Paivi Eerola and her oil painting combining Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci, and Gypsy Girl by Boccaccio Boccaccino

After finishing the painting, Boccaccino’s Gypsy Girl continued to fascinate me so that in June, I traveled to Italy with my husband to see the original painting. I tried to prepare myself for the situation that I wouldn’t see it. Sometimes museums lend paintings for other exhibitions or don’t have everything on display. But my journey wasn’t wasted: I got the chance to admire the painting, so tiny that I couldn’t believe my eyes. Namely, the whole spring I had tried to capture the gentle features for much bigger size, and it felt challenging!

Boccaccino's Gypsy Girl and Paivi's version, by Boccaccio Boccaccino and Paivi Eerola

Comparing Boccaccino’s Gypsy Girl and Paivi’s version

Now when I compare the details, I see many differences. My gypsy girl is not the same person than the original, but it’s ok. I feel that it resembles me and especially how I would like to be seen: gentle but observing, always protecting what’s precious.

Wouldn’t it be if I could tell my story to Boccaccio Boccaccino? I would tell him how I saw his painting on the Internet, in a big catalog that anyone can browse. I would tell him how I examined the images of the painting and painted a bigger version of it. He would probably wonder how I could afford for all the paints for the big version, and who had ordered such a large painting of a modest gypsy girl. “It’s just for me,” I would say, “this painting is so special that I don’t want to sell it.” “You must be a wealthy woman,” he would probably say and then continue: “Where did you say you come from?”. I would tell him about Finland, an area in the far north and show it on a map. Then I would tell him about airplanes. He wouldn’t probably believe anything!

But at the end, all I would like to say to him is this: “People from all over the world come to see your painting. They buy the ticket in advance. They queue. They sweat. They book the hotel based on its location. They take pictures of it. They examine them when they are back home.”

Isn’t that something any artist would like to hear?

More Uffizi – Some Ideas for Your Art Journals

1) Fresco Pages

Like any museum in Florence, Uffizi Gallery’s ceilings had a lot of frescos. The long hallways were full of illustrations.

Uffizi Gallery, ceilings

The round ceiling is so brilliant that I have to show you a close-up photo:

A painted ceiling at The Uffizi Gallery, Italy, Florence

I love how the branches go to the back and to the front of the bars, and how the color changes in the background. It’s such a great idea that I also quickly recorded it onto my art journal!

Art journal page idea by Peony and Parakeet

2) Delicate Patterns Filling Solid Areas

Another idea is to see the possibility of a solid or dull area. See how the grass can be more than just green color or green strokes. I saw quite a many paintings that had this:

Alesso Baldovinetti, Cafaggiolo Altarpiece, c. 1453, a detail

Alesso Baldovinetti, Cafaggiolo Altarpiece, c. 1453, a detail

3) Translucent Elements

I am fascinated by the number of veils in Renaissance art, and especially how they are painted.

Sandro Botticelli: The Cestello Annunciation, a detail

Sandro Botticelli: The Cestello Annunciation, a detail

They are like abstract art if you look at them closer! See how the line changes in strength and how a little bright spot makes the fabric look shiny!

Sandro Botticelli: The Cestello Annunciation, a detail

Sandro Botticelli: The Cestello Annunciation, a detail

I also loved how the veil was painting in this painting:

Sandro Botticelli: Madonna of the Magnificat, c. 1483

Sandro Botticelli: Madonna of the Magnificat, c. 1483

Another idea: add stripes on those translucent elements!

A detail of Sandro Botticelli's Madonna of the Magnificat, c. 1483

A detail of Sandro Botticelli’s Madonna of the Magnificat, c. 1483

4) Light on the Center

I end this blog post with the simple idea that came from a stunning painting. Create a very bright element in the center and then add dark shadows around the painting!

Gerard van Honthorst, Adoration of the Child, 1619-1620

Gerard van Honthorst, Adoration of the Child, 1619-1620

As you can guess, it was an inspiring visit, and I could easily write and show more. Hopefully these inspired you, and hopefully, I will see you in the classes this fall.

Coming Up!

Online classes
Aug/Sept Collageland – a self-study class (textile-inspired collages)
Aug/Sept Inspirational Drawing 2.0 – available as self-study (drawing from imagination)
Oct/Nov Flower-themed online workshop (not your regular flower art class!)

Local workshops in Finland
Sept 9-10 Draw Freely – Piirrä vapaasti 1-2 (Suomeksi! – in Finnish)

Other news
I am planning to offer a free live webinar in September if I can just fit that into my schedule. Many have asked about my coaching program The Exploring Artist. I will rerun that at the beginning of next year.

Stay tuned and if you haven’t subscribed my weekly emails yet, subscribe here!

Paint Gentleness – Watch the video!

Gentle Flower, acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watch the video of how she made this!

It’s the time for a video blog post! This week, I talk about gentleness and how you can experience that through a painting technique. I show some basic elements from the old masters painting techniques. In the past, artists painted with oil paints. For acrylic paints, the secret is to use glazing medium for thinning the paint. Have fun!

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Mixed Media Painting Idea – Revisiting Your Old Style

Lost and Found, a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Between 2010-2014 I was enthusiastic about decorative art. I called myself as a “decorative artist” and saw myself more as a designer than as an artist who focuses on expression. My upcoming class Collageland (thank you, everyone, for the feedback you gave in the last blog post!), is a retrospective to that period in my life. While editing the videos, I have been pondering about what inspired me back then and how it’s different from what motivates me now.

Some themes and styles often feel too familiar to me. They don’t seem to challenge me anymore, so I have moved on. But now it hit me how harsh it sounds and how unnecessarily harsh it sometimes also is. So when creating the pieces shown in this blog post, I gave myself permission to take it easy and get decorative. I also became curious about comparing my past decorative work with the pieces that I would produce today.

My comfort zone is getting inspired by design and translating that inspiration into art. So I made a mixed media painting that is inspired by the world of fashion, jewelry, lace, Renaissance murals, and botanical art. I call it “Lost and Found”. To embrace a designer’s approach to art, I also made two different color versions by processing the photo of the original artwork digitally in Photoshop.

Here’s Marine:

Lost and Found, a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. The colors have been changed digitally in this image. See her mixed media painting idea behind this one!

And here’s Botanical:

Lost and Found, a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. The colors have been changed digitally in this image. See her mixed media painting idea behind this one!

I don’t have many phase photos because I wanted to relax with that too but this is what I drew on my planner the previous day:

Sketching a mixed media painting idea. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

These quick sketches are the core of my creative process.

Another Painting with the Same Idea

I also made another design-inspired painting. The idea came from the ceramic art of the 1960s.

The photo below shows how the piece looked like before adding the decorative layers. Glowing watercolors remind me of the glazing used in ceramics. When this happens, I feel like I am a ceramic artist, playing with colors.

Dr Ph. Martin's Hydrus watercolors

A student of mine kindly donated Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus watercolors some time ago. First, I liked them, now I adore them. They are intensive and easy to use, and I especially love the coverage of white. I used Hydrus watercolors for “Lost and Found” too.

Retro Living, a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s the finished painting called “Retro Living”.  It is also a mixed media piece. I used colored pencils, PITT Artist Pens, and a correction pen for the last layers. I love these muted colors, so typical for the Finnish ceramics from the 60s. But then, I thought they might be too gloomy for many, so I made another version digitally that reminds me of furniture from that era:

Retro Living, a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. She altered colors digitally for this version.

Comparison

See my new gallery showing decorative art and designs from 2011 to this day. When I look at the newly-created pieces as a part of that collection, it looks to me like I have traveled a long journey in art. And I have – I just never thought that it would show in this decorative style as well. It makes me want to explore more of this and also, see exciting challenges in this direction too.

My challenge to you: Pick an old piece and make a new one using the similar techniques and style! 

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Secret Language – Combining Two Ideas and Two Styles into One Image

The Secret Language of Peonies, an art journal page by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See how she made this!

This is my latest art journal page called “The Secret Language of Peonies.” I had two inspiration sources for this page.

Mid-Century Modern Brooch

The first part of my inspiration was a brooch that I found at an antique fair. I think it could be a Danish design from the 1950s or 1960s. It only cost 5 EUR, and I liked the idea of having a brooch that is like a piece of abstract art.

Mid-century modern brooch, wood inlay, teak, shell, stone

Drawing Shapes – Pencil and Felt-Tipped Pens

When I began the journal page, I only had an idea of creating something more graphic than usual.

The first steps for an art journal page by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See how she finishes this one and combines two styles to the same page.

I made a rough sketch with a pencil and then colored a part of it with Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pens. Once the coloring progressed, I felt that I need another idea for the page. I also needed to get more clarity of what I want to say with the image. So I didn’t finish the page but left it to wait for another time and inspiration.

For the Love of Peonies –  If They Could Speak …

I have nine peony bushes in the garden, and eight of them are blooming this summer. It’s like a big celebration to me, and I have been taking photos a lot. I also belong to the Finnish Peony Society, and they have a lively discussion group. While browsing my photos and seeing other people’s snapshots of peonies, I began to wonder why we always take these close-up photos, like the ones below.

Blooming peonies. Hei Hao Bo Tao and Bartzella.

I took some steps further away from the flowers and tried to capture the atmosphere in my garden, instead of photographing just one flower.

Blooming peonies. Eden's Perfume in the front.

And then it hit me: I should also include the falling petals, the whole thing.

Blooming peonies. Coral Sunset and Bartzella.

I imagined how peonies are setting a big show, fireworks included, and how we people don’t always get it. Everything in this performance is beautiful in some way. We should let go of the idea of a single flower and embrace the whole experience instead.

It also made me think how it can be liberating for the peony bushes to let go of the flowers. Falling petals and the wind blowing through the bushes must make soft sounds that only spiders and ants can hear. This whispering sound, in turn, made me think about the imaginative language of peonies – what kind of language would that be? And while I photographed the bushes, it became apparent to me: if that language exists, if peonies can really talk, it would be something rich, with a lot of nuances, many kinds of words, complicated structures. Something that we people are perhaps too inadequate to understand.

Two Ideas and Two Styles – Combining Ideas to Deliver the Message

I felt the urge to express my thoughts about peonies visually. Then I remembered the art journal page that I hadn’t finished yet. The complicated and secret language of peonies fit perfectly with the abstract shapes. All I needed to do, was to add some reference to peonies to complete the visual message. Because the language was something that had a dimension of its own, I wanted to use different media for the flowers.

Making of an art journal page by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See how to combine two styles into one page!

So I painted the flowers with acrylic paint, just intuitively, without any fixated idea of how peonies should look.

Making of an art journal page by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See how to combine two styles into one page!

When peonies talk to each other, they see themselves in a different way than how we people see them. The flowers are just the frills. The heart of peonies is more intelligent than we think. It’s more like the brooch that I bought! Showing this controversy with two styles makes the page more interesting than sticking with one approach. What do you think?

An art journal page and two sources of inspiration. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See how she made this page step by step!

When there’s an imaginative story behind the image, I like to write down some thoughts on the opposite page of the journal. It makes the journal as an idea book for bigger paintings where I want to include more than one or two ideas.

Art journal page spread with inspiration from peonies. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I also have something else to share …

Coming up: “Collageland”

Many of you who have been following me for some time, know that some years ago I made a lesson for 21 Secrets Spring 2015 art journaling class called “Artistic Embroidery with Pens and Paper.” This class is no longer available, and I have got back the rights to publish the lesson as an individual piece separate from the rest of the class. However, a lot has happened in the video quality since those times. When I watched my lesson, I wanted to re-record it. And not only re-record it but add more ideas and inspiration into it.

I got the idea of inviting you to my studio to get inspired by the many embroidered pieces, fabrics and quilts I have to show you. I also wanted to deliver the experience of spending a day in my studio and creating paper collages from that textile inspiration. So it would be like seeing my country Finland as “Collageland” and then rebuild it in your imagination.

The recording of Collageland, a paper collage class inspired by textiles. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Last week, I recorded videos for one whole day from morning to evening. My husband also helped me so that we got the best footage for each step.  I am currently in the process of editing the videos. Collageland is geared for beginners who like to doodle and see more possibilities in self-expression through it. My original thought was to publish a self-study, but I also want to ask you: are you interested and if so, how would you like this class to be delivered?

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Consistency and How to Get Inspired by It

Art created with Faber-Castell Gelatos. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

When artists say that they need to focus and find their style, a big part of the problem is the lack of consistency. To me, “consistent” used to be a negative word meaning “boring,” “predictable,” and even “unimaginative.” But during the recent years, I have realized that there can be a lot of freedom in the consistency.

Here’s an example. Last Sunday, I wanted to do some art journal pages inspired by my recent trip to Italy. I was already heading towards my paints and brushes when something else came to my mind. It hit me that I have art supplies I haven’t used for a long time. One of them was Faber-Castell Gelatos. They weren’t very cheap, but I had only used a little of them. They were too clumsy and creating with them felt like painting with lipsticks. These were definitely a wrong choice when thinking about old master paintings and the era of Renaissance.

But now the challenge of using Gelatos started to intrigue me. The idea of bringing those crafty sticks to the past felt like turning on a time machine. For some artists, it would be a sign of inconsistency not to stick with particular art supplies only. But when my goals are to bring people with different skill levels together, reveal the treasures of art history, and regularly offer new ideas for creating art, it’s very consistent. So I didn’t unnaturally have to limit myself but was able to enthusiastically create the art journal pages and write this blog post.

Inspiration: Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, Rome

Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, Rome, Italy

My favorite place in Rome was a private art museum Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. It was located in the busy center, but after entering there, I  was in a peaceful and beautiful world. There were a lot of inspiring paintings, but Jan Brueghel was a new artist to me, and his landscapes were unbelievably detailed. These paintings could have been huge, and they would still look detailed. But they weren’t very big; the length was under 1 meter in the painting below.

Jan Brueghel and Hendrick van Balen, Allegory of Water

Another interesting thing was that Jan Brueghel collaborated with another artist Hendrick van Balen, who was specialized in painting figures. No wonder, the quality of these paintings is amazing! The painting above belongs to the series of four allegorical paintings, expressing the elements of water, fire, earth, and air. What a great theme for today’s artists too! And speaking of consistency: painting a series can also enforce that.

Abstract Landscape with Faber-Castell-Gelatos

I usually create art journal pages when my ideas are not mature enough for bigger paintings. Documenting these ideas in an art journal keeps the creative process flowing and maintains one aspect of consistency: the regularity of creating.

Abstract Landscape created with Faber-Castell Gelato Sticks. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her 3 tips for using gelatos!

Experimenting with Gelatos was fun, and I especially enjoyed inventing ways to add details with those clumsy sticks. By building layers, I was also able to achieve a color scheme that brings old paintings in mind. The consistent inspiration from the many styles seen in the history of art sets me free. It goes so deep into what I ponder the most: how things change all the time and how timelessness can still be present.

3 Technique Tips for Art Journaling with Faber-Castell Gelatos

One way to be consistent is to develop techniques that are reusable. Often when I invent a technique for a specific media, it can also be applied to a variety of supplies. I will now show you some ideas for working with Faber-Castell Gelatos. You can adjust these for many other art supplies as well. I begin a second art journal page to demonstrate the techniques.

1) Blending and Softening

The more I have studied Renaissance art, the more I have been into creating soft color transitions and muted colors. When beginning a new painting, I like to blend and soften a lot. With Gelatos, the best way to mix the colors is to use a sponge. In the photo below, you see that I have mixed white and pale pink for the face but haven’t blended reds and oranges together yet.

Tips for using Faber-Castell gelatos by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

2) Adding Details

Thick sticks don’t work very well for details. You can use the edge of the stick and get fairly thin lines, but to me, they weren’t thin enough!

Tips for using Faber-Castell gelatos by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

However, I discovered that by using water, it’s possible to draw thinner lines with a brush. By adding water and rubbing gently, you can also remove some color and make tiny decorative spots that way.

Tips for using Faber-Castell gelatos by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

When painting with watercolors or acrylics, I like to work similarly: add a splotch of paint in one area and then quickly use it for details in other areas. It’s a fast and handy way to color details that need only a tiny portion of color each.

When finishing the face, I used colored pencils to draw the tiniest details. When keeping the Gelatos layers thin and smooth, it’s easy to add other media on the top.

Drawing with colored pencils on a surface covered with Faber-Castell Gelato sticks. Read more tips for working with Gelatos! By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

3) Keep on Adding Layers!

When I started making the art journal page, I only had an idea of a lady or a Madonna because that would complement the landscape. I rarely use reference photos when creating art journal pages. To me, it’s more about getting in touch with vague ideas and then process them to express something that’s deeper and more defined. When I was in the middle of making the page, I was pretty clueless about what to express. But I kept on adding layers and slowly improving the image. One way to practice consistency is to keep on working with the same piece even if it looks like crap. See how much my page changed – examine the phase photos below!

Finishing an art journal page by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read more about her tips!

In phase two, I remembered the atmosphere and the candles of Santa Maria Novella, a huge church in Florence. After finishing the page, I went to my photo archive and found an image that looks very similar to my page. It’s so surprising how many of its elements exist on the page even if I didn’t look at the photo at all!

Santa Maria Novella, Florence, Italy

Regularly taking photos and browsing them is one way to add more consistency for the creative process.

Consistency is In the Way You Adjust the Nuances

After I had created the page, I felt that the opposite page should continue the same atmosphere. So I quickly made an abstract landscape there. Now when I open the spread of the journal, it feels more intense.

Art journal page spread made with Faber Castel Gelatos. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her tips on working with Gelato sticks!

However, there are many things in these two pages that I don’t like. First and foremost, I don’t like the color scheme. It has too many bright colors and too few muted colors, and thus, it looks more modern that I would like it to look. I would like a color scheme that would be more like this:

An art journal page by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. She digitally changed the color scheme to fit better with the idea she had in mind. See her tips for maintaining the consistency when creating art!

Also, if my art journal spread would be a big painting instead, I would make the face much more detailed. It’s simplicity, and the 2-dimensional look bothers me! By self-evaluating your work, you can also increase the awareness of the nuances you like. Adjusting the nuances, in turn, results in more consistency. Because many times consistency is more in the way you work with the nuances than how you select the themes and choose the supplies.

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Bad Ideas Make You a Better Artist!

Handdrawn Paper Doilies by Peony and Parakeet

About four years ago, I got a crazy idea to draw doilies on a watercolor paper and cut them out like they would be crocheted pieces.

Handpainted Paper Doilies – Not So Good Idea

Handpainted Paper Doilies, a phase photo, by Peony and Parakeet

The process of painting the background circles and then decorate them with doodles was so much fun that I got carried away and made plenty.

Handdrawn Paper Doilies by Peony and Parakeet

After I had finished a pile, I enthusiastically showed them to my husband: “Look what I have made!”
– “What are these?”, he said. “What are you going to make from these?”
– “Maybe I share the idea in my blog or make a big wall hanging by joining the circles together. Wouldn’t that be cool!?”

I saw it on his face. He didn’t get it. And furthermore, he didn’t want paper doilies on our walls either.

Mandala Madness

But to me, the doilies made perfect sense even if they weren’t crocheted. By painting them, I wanted to build a bridge from crafts to art. The paper doily was a raw idea, and as I, fortunately, learned later, raw ideas can look really bad at first.

Big Ideas Come from Bad Ideas

The idea of a doily translated into art didn’t leave me alone. Last year, three years after inventing it, I launched a workshop called Planet Color, where I teach people to paint abstract compositions.

Planet Color and Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

For the class, I needed a lot more ideas. I also needed to build a system and a structure that any beginner can follow. I needed to set it loosely so that everyone can use their imagination, but make it clear so that there would be no room for frustration. The idea of a paper doily was a seed, but it took some time to grow the flower.

Sowing flower seeds

Often when we admire other people’s art, we see the flowers instead of seeds. Most artists don’t show the seeds because many times, like in my case, they are pretty pathetic. Still, it’s the seeds, the raw ideas, that make the published work possible.

Finland 200 – Not So Good Idea

Before I started making a new big painting, I saw some elegant yet simple still lifes in my mind. I had just seen a superb piece of art, a Finnish sculptor Laila Pullinen’s bronze sculpture Spring in Man. So I wanted to start a new painting with the intention to create something grand and dramatic to celebrate Finland’s 100th anniversary. “This would be called Finland 200”, I declared.

First layers of an imaginative painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read how you can turn your bad ideas into good ones!

After painting for a couple of hours or so, I began to wonder what I wanted to say. Starting the painting with this much drama felt like a bad idea and I wasn’t convinced about the centerpiece either. Would that be some kind of mushroom or what? Then my bad ideas just got worse – I decided to continue by writing an imaginary story about Finland after 100 years.

Writing a story in an journal, by Peony and Parakeet

While quickly pouring the words out on my journal, I didn’t realize that I was actually writing a dystopia. The idea of a catastrophe in nature seemed exciting at first, but while painting, I realized that my visuals became very gloomy and weird-looking. I tried to make something positive out of it. I wrote a happy end to my story and painted a pink bubble with rare flowers inside it. That would be a new treasure of Finland, something everyone would want to come and see.

An imaginative painting in progress by Peony and Parakeet. Read how you can turn your bad ideas into good ones!

Even if the painting wasn’t finished yet, I already hated it. My original idea was bad enough, and now I had some more. I felt the despair rising.

New Vision – Imagination Takes the Lead

Luckily, I have a secret weapon for these situations. I connect with my passion and use the imagination to go to my happy place. It sets the mood, reminds why I create art and loads the right atmosphere into my mind while I am creating. The side of me that wants to control steps back and the side of me that is good at persuading re-evaluates the work.

– “What about changing the orientation of the painting,” she said.
– “And loose all the hard work?”, my pessimistic side responded.
– “No, nothing would be lost, we would just add a little bit of color over it.”
– “Color? What color?”
– “Brown,” she said cheerfully.
– “Why on earth would I pick brown of all the colors?”

And then she reminded me gently about my passion, about what inspires me and how I can feel free.

Phase photos of an imaginative painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read how you can turn your bad ideas into good ones!

And she was right. I loved the painting after adding layers with umber. It became clear to me what the painting would be. Not Finland 200, but expressing something that has been here for hundreds of years and most probably stays the same for the next hundred: nature’s wonders when exploring the garden. I continued the painting by adding flowers that I have had in the garden. I adjusted the elements in the first layers so that they became the building blocks of the new vision.

Garden-inspired painting in progress by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

My painting is not finished yet, but it’s already a good example of how the raw ideas can be translated to more inspiring ideas with the help of imagination.

Bad Art, Bad Ideas – Also Behind This Blog Post!

Before I wrote this blog post, I decorated my work planner to get ideas for it. I cut pretty ladies from a wedding magazine and put funny hats on them. While creating this, I thought how this kind of activity would be seen something that a “real artist” would not do, yet it’s essential to me to have a bit of play regularly. So that’s how I got the idea of revealing some bad ideas and how essential this kind of exploration is for producing work that you want to publish.

A planner spread using images from a wedding magazine. By Peony and Parakeet.

When Your Best Art Exists Only in Your Mind

Before I started making the paper doilies, I had wonderful daydreams inspired by my beautiful yarn stash. By seeing beautiful images in my mind, I came up with my bad idea, the ugly version of those daydreams.

Daydreaming is good, but it’s not successful when you try to translate something you see in your mind to paper. The creative process rarely works so literally. The images in our minds are often vague. Copying them detail by detail is practically impossible. The imagination is more like the leader who supports your art making, not a manager who controls it or the specialist who does the work. During the recent years, I have developed a method of using imagination to connect with the passion of creating art. I teach this method in the group coaching program called The Exploring Artist.

6 Steps to Making an Impact

6 steps to making an impact with your art. Sign up for the Exploring Artist, a group coaching program by Peony and Parakeet!

The Exploring Artist helps you to connect the play with your deeper passion and use that to move forward in all levels of art-making. During this program, you will:
– lead yourself by playing and imagining
– grow ideas from your personal feelings and experiences
– remove blind spots and build skills through the challenges
– get confident for publishing your art, whether it’s just friends or a bigger group of your people

The Exploring Artist is also about connecting and soul-searching within a friendly group. We will work through 6 steps and have live group coaching sessions, where your art and your art-making is in focus.

This is not a class where you create after me and try to get to the similar result. It’s for you who wants to get support and guidance for creating freely from your personal standpoint. You can use any media you are comfortable with and apply the methods to your visual project(s). If you feel that you are “all over the place,” and want to find a creative direction, The Exploring Artist is the program for you!

The Exploring Artist - a coaching program for new artists by Peony and Parakeet

The Exploring Artist begins July 1st – Sign up Now!

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Lessons from Palazzo Pitti – Don’t Apologize for Your Art!

Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Here’s my latest acrylic painting called “Strawberry Madonna.” I started it in February, and it’s my first painting using old masters’ techniques with acrylic paints. It’s much more difficult to use acrylics instead of oil paints, but I managed to find few tips and tricks that helped. But this blog post is not so much about the techniques. I want to write about being unapologetic when creating art. It feels like a never-ending journey to me, and I hope this blog post will resonate with you too.

Palazzo Pitti and Traveling to Florence, Italy

Last week, I traveled to Italy with my husband to see Renessaince art. We flew to Rome, then took a train to Florence. After spending a couple of days in Florence, we got back to Rome, spend a couple of nights there, and then flew back home. We visited so many museums that it was a bit exhausting at times. I took over 700 photos, and there were so many highlights in our journey that I decided not to try to fit it all in this blog post, but focus on the glory of Palazzo Pitti, an art museum located in Florence, and save other experiences for later.

Namely, seeing Palazzo Pitti on the first evening in Florence, reminded me of how needless it is to tone things down and how we can be as glorious as possible when creating art and when using our imagination.

One Chandelier is Never Enough!

When watching the chandeliers of Palazzo Pitti, my first thought was: “Isn’t one enough?”
Then I realized that on my artistic journey, I have often thought like that: “it should be enough.”

  • Creativity: “I should be enough to have one idea for one image.”
  • Time: “It should be enough to have two hours for this piece.”
  • Skills: “It should be enough to just have a little bit of fun with it.”
  • Potential: “It should be enough to stick with what I know now.”
  • Imagination: “It should be enough to replicate the reality.”

Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

But one idea, one short session, one technique, one reality, is never enough if you want to continue the journey. When you have passed the first steps in creating, the room gets bigger. Making art frustrates you. It feels like your chandelier is broken. But instead of continuously changing the chandelier, you need more chandeliers to lighten your way.

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

When you begin creating, it’s just fun to change the chandelier: the theme, the technique, the idea. But when you have been creating for a while, it becomes overwhelming. The nature of creativity is never to focus on one small thing at the time. One chandelier is never enough for the curious mind. You need to learn to:

  • combine your many ideas
  • take more sessions for one piece
  • find the blind spots in skills and knowledge
  • and the most important of all: increase your imagination so that it takes you above the everyday life.

When you have many chandeliers, you see it clearer why you create art and where you want to go with it. Don’t apologize for your lacking focus but embrace all aspects of your creativity!

Ask What Your Heart Says!

When I saw “The Horrors of War” by Peter Paul Rubens in Palazzo Pitti, it caused an immediate emotional reaction. I was in tears before I was able to analyze the painting. Even if the theme was very dramatic, violent even, the movement and the wind was so beautifully painted. To me, it expressed the beauty of change, the theme that has always been close to my heart.

Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

When I was a teenager, I often drew scenes or portraits where the wind was present. It just looked fun and dynamic. But the more I have been creating, the more I have realized that I love to express movement, change, and transformation in one way or another, and the wind is often a symbol of that in my work. Thinking about big changes is one of those chandeliers that always lightens my inspiration.

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

I believe in digging deeper behind the first reactions. If art makes you emotional, there’s something important that’s behind it. It’s often contradictory, something so different that you have a hard time in believing it.

It’s kind of funny how much time I spend at home, doing the daily routines, and how my mind is in grand transformations and explorations. But to find what’s your true passion, the mundane life and your everyday wishes don’t give answers to that. You need to connect with your imagination.

Don’t apologize for your circumstances but use your imagination to experience the freedom! 

Decorating is Not an Enemy for Expression!

One thing that I found very delightful in Palazzo Pitti was how the number of decorative designs. I have always felt drawn to decorative painting style and even called myself as a “decorative artist.” It was my way of saying that I don’t feel like being very expressive. But nowadays I think that it’s possible to combine both decorative and expressive together, and there’s no need to limit the inspiration. Namely, who couldn’t be inspired by this ceiling?

Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

And look at the door and the tabletop! The most amazing thing is that the table top is made from stoneware!

Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

We may not be the similar masters as those decorative artists, but the experience in crafts can still be a treasure chest of ideas. For example, in my Strawberry Madonna, I added a crocheted lace on her dress and truly enjoyed painting it!

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Don’t apologize for your background in crafts (or in anything) but see that as a part of your artistic journey!

About Confidence and Belonging

When walking in the aisles of Palazzo Pitti, I felt sweaty and modestly dressed. The Medici family would not have invited me to their party, for sure. I thought about my art too and how modest it felt after seeing the big masterpieces.

A Finnish artist Paivi Eerola at Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

But it’s not only my art but I also often struggle when writing these blog posts. I don’t want to just write about my thoughts. I want to write so that you would continue creating and evolving with me. I want to offer classes that make you draw the connecting lines between your brain and your heart.

So that the way you speak about your art, would include more joy and confidence.

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

So that the way you see art, would be filled with happy surprises and inspiration.

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

So that the way you explore between the many styles, would make you see higher to your passion.

Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

So that the ideas that you get, would get full wings because you value them.

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Here’s what we can learn from the treasures of Palazzo Pitti:

There’s no reason to be apologetic when creating and sharing your art. There’s no reason to underestimate the impact that art can have on your life and others as well.

Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet - with a ceiling from Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

Art is Timeless but Our Time to Create It is Limited

The final image is a view from Palazzo Pitti. It is a reminder of how art can stand time but how our time to create is limited.

A view from Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

If your heart wants to create in a new way, don’t postpone it. If you are struggling, don’t delay solving the problem. I hope I will see you in my upcoming coaching program The Exploring Artist, where your art and your artistic identity is in focus. It’s about finding ways and confidence to create unapologetic art as well as building belongingness with the like-minded people.  >> Sign up here!

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