How to Make Your Art More Captivating

Captivating Connection by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her five tips for making your art more captivating!

Captivating is a big word, but I like to explore it from many angles. In this blog post, I give you six tips with examples. The first two are more related to the process of creating art than to the result. I believe that if the process itself doesn’t captivate, it’s less likely that the final piece will! The last four tips are about finishing your art so that it will be compelling.

1) Captivating Supplies – Choose What Gets You Going!

Using too many art supplies can cause overwhelm and unnecessary distraction. I choose the supplies based on how many hours I want to work on the project.

  • Under an hour: Black drawing pen and colored pencils. They are quick to grab and work on any paper.
  • Few hours: Water-soluble media like watercolors or inks. They cover big areas quickly, but they also allow detailed work, especially when combined with colored pencils.
  • Tens of hours: Acrylic or oil paints. The result lasts time and can include tens of layers.

The projects shown in this blog post have taken 2-4 hours. These are all created with water-soluble media but this time, not with watercolors or inks. Namely, while organizing my supplies, I found Faber-Castell Gelatos and Derwent Artbars from my stash. I bought them many years ago when I was obsessed with having all the mixed media artist’s stuff. I purchased this and that, tried everything for few times, and then got disappointed because they didn’t improve my art. My solution back then was to reduce the number of art supplies and learn more about the basics of visual communication. It worked much better than hoping for the miracle with the new supplies!

But now when I opened the boxes, I was looking at Fabel-Castell Gelatos and Derwent Artbars with the new perspective. They could be quick and handy for sketchbooks and art journals. Because both of them are water-soluble, they could watercolors and inks once in a while.

Starting an art journal page by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See more tips on how to create intuitively!

I have now used Derwent Artbars and Faber-Castell Gelatos for my big sketchbook. I use Artbars for detailed brushwork and Gelatos for big and blurry areas.It has been quick and fun. The downside is that the result is quite waxy and I don’t think it will endure time very well. Furthermore, I can’t cover the opposite page because the staining would ruin it. However, the old and neglected supplies have managed to inspire me, and I think it shows in my recent work as well. The image above shows how I started the piece that you can find at the beginning of this blog post.

2) Captivating Looseness – Start without Intention!

The second captivating thing is related to the process of creating as well. I like to start most of my pieces, whether they are small sketches, bigger art journal pages, or big paintings intuitively without accurate planning. Sometimes I have an image, a word or a style in mind. It inspires me to start, but as soon as I have sat down and made the first strokes, I try to let go of it and just enjoy creating freely from the imagination. In this short video, you see me working with Derwent Artbars and Faber-Castell Gelatos.

More videos: I have explained my adventurous creative process shortly in a mini-course called Loosed Up! It’s free for the subscribers of my weekly emails. If you haven’t a subscriber yet, subscribe here!

3) Captivating Story – Make Fantasy Portraits!

Artists often talk about communicating a story through art. Usually, referring to the story doesn’t mean so much what’s in the image, but how the image can deliver a handle to the viewer’s personal stories. One of the easiest ways to embark stories is to make a portrait that is relatable.

Even if you have started freely and intuitively, you can turn almost any blotch to a face, especially a side profile, by adding a color area that defines it. In my piece, I realized that with black, I could bring up two persons. I was intrigued by showing the connection between the two fantasy figures. To me, they express the two sides of me, when I am creating. One side is more feminine, full of emotion and ideas, and the other more masculine, trying to figure out how to put the ideas into subsequent steps. At best, these two sides work together and enter the same flow.

Making of Captivating Connection by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. See her tips on creating captivating art!

In the enlargement, you can see that the dark areas also include subtle details so that they are not monotone and so that they communicate the connection. The colors also play a role here. Blue expresses the connection that the two share together.

A detail of Captivating Connection by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her tips on how to make your art more captivating!

The story that you see in this piece doesn’t have to be the same than what I have told. For you, the image can bring a romantic moment to mind. Or it can take you to a fantasy movie. In the same way, the art that you make can have several meanings and when creating, focusing on the general message makes it more captivating. In this case, the message is the shared connection, and I have tried to adjust the details so that they all support this message.

4) Captivating Richness – Build a System!

Usually, the longer we work with one piece, the more valuable it will become. Not only that we get more attached to it ourselves, or that it has a higher monetary value, but also that time brings the richness of the details. This is especially the case if you don’t try to get the piece finished in one sitting but let it captivate your mind between the sessions.

Starting an art journal page by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See how this page grew to a bigger picture!

Many artists are afraid of “overworking,” but to my experience, “underworking” is more common. Also, only creating tiny pieces can be one form of underworking. See how a small art journal page, a modest scene, grew to a captivating system or a map when I continued the page!

Art journal page by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her tips on making your art more captivating!

When working with a detailed big picture, remember to leave some breathing space between crowded areas. Connected lines between the clusters make sure that your system is like a running machine with all the necessary pieces.

Creating a detailed art journal page. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her tips on making captivating art!

5) Captivating Clarity – Highlight a Direction!

Sometimes clarity can be more captivating than an overwhelming amount of details. My example is an orange that I drew one morning after a fruity breakfast.

I apologize for the low quality of the first image below. There you can see a shadow of me shooting the photo with my mobile phone. But actually, it brings up a good point about the clarity: when you are in doubt what to add, take a photo. It helps you to see your work with different eyes. You can zoom out to test if your image looks both clear and interesting when it’s small. You can also analyze, how your eye wanders around the work and where do you want to lead it. If your art looks like one big mess, adding a direction also brings more clarity.

An illustration in progress by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See how she made this more captivating!

With the orange, I wanted to express the forward-thinking attitude that I usually have in the early mornings. I wanted to add more importance to the single juicy drop that leaves the orange with the bouncing energy. The idea behind the illustration was not just express a fruit that explodes but how a source of energy can keep you moving forward. It’s similar to the idea of my community Bloom and Fly – to keep you inspired to create and remove creative blocks that prevent you from that!

Illustration by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Morning energy!

6) Captivating Contrast – Use Two Different Styles!

The last tip is about contrast. However, this time I don’t bring up the contrast in color, value, or size, but in style! Now you might say: “Paivi, I have been searching for a personal visual voice for so long. Are you talking about mixing different styles to one piece?” I certainly am! Don’t be a one-trick pony but go to see all kinds of art and practice all sorts of styles! Your technical skills will grow, and you will get ground-breaking ideas. Showing the versatility can also make your art more captivating. See how I combined abstract with realism how it makes the images more captivating and thought-provoking.

Combining abstract with realism by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. This is the abstract element, see how she adds a realistic element to the same picture!

With a realistic pansy, I was able to communicate the contradiction that we all get when we envy someone: “When a jewel wants to feel free and be a pansy … And when the pansy secretly wishes to live forever and be the jewel.”

Envy by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her tips on making your art more captivating!
By adding the realistic eye, I was able to express the difference between two different worlds – the inner and the outer world. Paul Klee has said it so brilliantly: One eye sees, the other feels.”

My Mind's Eye by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her tips on how to make your art more captivating!

Set Your Goals and Start Creating!

My community Bloom and Fly is for all who want to start and keep on creating. You can get help and encouragement for any art project, and we also have monthly themes.

Bloom and Fly, an inspiring art community by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

January’s theme is “Mixed Media Sketchbook as a Tool for Setting Your Goals.” You will get ideas on how to use a sketchbook or an art journal for creative goals. Rather than feeling restricted, you will feel energized by the possibilities behind the goals. An art journal can be a playbook that keeps you moving forward!

With January’s theme, you will also get easy jumpstarts for stepping into the world of art journaling without feeling the pressure to buy more supplies. The money spent on staying inspired and connected with like-minded artists can be more useful than adding extra supplies to your stash.

Make sure that 2018 is your year of art – Join Bloom and Fly!

Time to Change – From Teaching to Mentoring

Bloom and Fly, a mixed media painting with inks and acrylics, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

After finishing a series of canvas paintings, I have felt that it’s time to change. It has been smoldering in me for the whole year, but as we know, the change rarely happens in one go. There’s one big thing that I want to change in my teaching. I want to give more personalized suggestions and encouragement, and enable more sharing and connecting. I want to be a mentor rather than a teacher in the traditional meaning. When you start creating art, you need a teacher to follow. But when after a while, you will want to create something from your personal perspective. Then you will benefit more from observations about your art. When you have someone to help you see the possibilities in your expression, you will find it easier to grow your creativity. During this year, I have developed my online workshops in that direction, and the results tell me that I should continue on that path.

Questioning Your Talent vs. Willingness to Learn

Paivi Eerola and her paintings. She has spent a year creating a series of paintings and mentoring artists.

While pondering which paintings to frame, I was also thinking artist colleagues that have helped me to analyze my work in a new light. That’s one reason why I also want to enable connections between people who love to create art and even more importantly, want to change their art.

Here’s what I wrote on my Facebook page today:

“Am I talented enough?” – Pondering about it doesn’t take you forward. Replace it with the question: “Am I willing to learn?” Because art like any field has a set of principles and skills that you just need to know and practice.

Then there’s imagination and originality. Is that the talent that we talk about? I don’t think so. They are also skills that can be learned. They are about self-exploration, tolerating quiet time, being open to what inspires and irritates you.

When you see something that raises negative emotions, start questioning: “Why do I see this as a threat?” By answering, you will understand more about yourself, about people in general, and get the curiosity that makes you step out of the conventional. Your empathy and imagination will grow, and you become more willing to learn.

My art journal page from 2010, and my painting from 2017.

Paivi Eerola's art journal page from 2010, and her painting from 2017. Growing as an artist and becoming a mentor.

The Change Is in The Nuances

This week, I reorganized my art supplies and found an old art journal. Funny enough, there was this page: “Time to Change.” And when I compare it to the piece that I just painted, it looks quite similar if you omit the clumsiness.

Paivi Eerola's art journal page from 2013 and a glimpse of her newest painting.

Then I realized that the painting that I had created a year ago also looks quite similar. I sat by it holding the new piece, and it felt like the two come together.

Paivi Eerola and her paintings.

In art, the change is in the nuances. Many of your characteristics won’t change during the time. But how you express, invent and gain more self-knowledge will. Sometimes people say that they wish they would have started creating art sooner. I totally relate to that. I had a long break in creating when I was a young adult. But then, art is not just executing; it’s also about living. People who have more life’s experience than me, always make me humble. They have more to express, deeper insights to deliver. When I can help, inspire, and encourage with that, it makes my life meaningful as well.

Art Journaling and Mentoring

Paivi Eerola's art and her new sketchbook by The Pink Pig.

One thing that I don’t want to change is that I will keep on talking about art journaling. I believe in playing with ideas and not just creating big pieces. To me, a full sketchbook or art journal can be more of a treasure than a single canvas painting. Now when I have been painting bigger canvases, I also missed having a big sketchbook. So I purchased one that is twice the size than Dylusions Creative Journal that I usually use. It’s manufactured by a company called The Pink Pig from the UK.

Paivi Eerola and her art journals.

Bloom and Fly – Stay Tuned!

While browsing the art journals, I was planning for the upcoming spring season. Next year, I will run a new community called Bloom and Fly, and it’s for all who want to learn together with me. It will have a separate fee, but it will also include mentoring days, monthly live sessions and led discussions. You can share and work on any project there. So if you want support for creating from any of my self-study classes or any other art project that you desire to finish, join Bloom and Fly! The registration for the spring will open on Black Friday, Nov 24th. I will have a special discount for early birds so make sure that you won’t miss it!

Moleskine watercolor journal. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Hopefully, you are as excited as I am! If you haven’t subscribed to my weekly emails yet, now is the time!

Painting a Series – How I Managed It!

"Living Treasure", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read about her thoughts of painting a series.

I have just finished a series of five flower paintings on canvas. Yesterday, when I was walking back and forth from my studio to the rest of the house, preparing for the photography and the varnishing, I felt both relieved and terrified. I was relieved because nine months of hard work was at the end. I felt terrified because I had run out of excuses for delaying the start of a new series.

Technique Came First, Themes Second

But let’s get back to early spring when I was painting the first of the five paintings. My goal was to master old masters’ painting technique in acrylics so that I could teach it. I had no idea of how many pieces it would require. Before teaching, I needed to understand “why” not just “how.” I also had to develop a logic that makes learning possible, variations that show the possibilities of the technique, and the systematic way of working to make everything as understandable and to the point as possible.

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

When I was painting Strawberry Madonna, it soon became clear to me that I was nowhere near to be teaching the technique. I needed to fix my strokes constantly. Even if the fixing doesn’t show in the finished painting, it became clear that I needed more practice. I couldn’t fuss around that way while teaching.

So I bought new canvases and kept on painting. I made experiments, art journal pages, and had several paintings in progress at the same time. I focused on painting what I wanted to include in the class as well: flowers and playing with historical styles. Crafts like crochet, decorative painting, jewelry, fabric, etc were also sources of inspiration. Most of the pieces took tens of hours from me to finish. The quickest is “Four Seasons” that I recorded for the class. With the final touches added after the recording, it took less than ten hours to paint. “Queen of Fantasy” took much longer. You can see me starting it in the free video, but I adjusted the painting many times after that.

"Queen of Fantasy", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Painting a Series – The Most Important Insight

The funny thing about all this is that I wasn’t intentionally painting a series. Working towards the goal of mastering and understanding the old masters’ technique, gave direction to my work. If I had thought about the series more intentionally, I would have probably freaked out! Now when I look back, the most important thing to me was that I expressed the power of flowers in all my paintings but thought about it differently in all the five paintings.

  • For “Living Treasure” I got ideas from gardening.
  • “Strawberry Madonna” connects flowers with fruits and their taste.
  • “Queen of Fantasy” is about flowers representing romance.
  • “Blooming Centuries” tells how flowers have always inspired painters, designers, and crafters.
  • “Four Seasons” shows sisu, a Finnish word for resilience when you work against all the odds and still find the spirit to bloom and prosper.

"Four Seasons", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

So I had a set of generic themes that were repeated in all the paintings, but different interpretations of them. That made them work as a series but so that they don’t look identical at all. Being very intentional about the series and prohibiting new ideas emerge while working can lead to a very boring result and in my case, it would probably make me quit because the lack of excitement and adventure that keeps me going.

I think this insight could also be useful for those who seek for their style. Rather than painting the same thing and get bored by it, find bigger themes and use your creativity to approach them from different angles.

New Era – New Series

During the past couple of months, I have felt fear when thinking where I want to go with my art. I have contemplated that can I share my plans or just keep them hidden because it’s likely that I will fail. For quite some time, I have felt the need to paint abstract art that plays with textures and geometry. I think many of the paintings of this series already have some of that.

I have a funny name for the style of the new series. It is “kinetic-romantic abstract realism.” “Kinetic” means that I want to include movement that is related to machines. “Romantic” means that I want to express through beauty and relationships. “Abstract Realism” refers to the idea of mimicking realistic surface materials for abstract shapes. Very odd, I know, and it terrifies me.

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

Creativity is a Living Treasure – Watch the Video!

Before the new beginning, it’s time to celebrate the finished series. I have made a short video of the five pieces and the thoughts that came to my mind when painting them. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy the video!

My Painting on Your Wall?

These paintings are also for sale! I sell them directly, and the prices are:

“Four Seasons” – 300 EUR
“Queen of Fantasy” – 300 EUR
“Blooming Centuries” – 500 EUR
“Strawberry Madonna” – 500 EUR
“Living Treasure” – 900 EUR

Contact me via email paivi@peonyandparakeet.com. I will send you the estimate of the shipping cost and when agreed, the invoice via Paypal.

Loving Vincent and Purchasing Oil Paints

Schminke Mussini oil paints. Photo by Peony and Parakeet.

Yesterday, I opened the door of a local art supply store and headed to a specific shelf. On my way to the store, when walking on the narrow streets in the center of Helsinki, I felt it. The feeling that I got a year ago when I opened a tube of Mussini oil paint for the first time. I was attending an art class about old masters painting techniques, and we used the best oil paints I could imagine. Not that I could imagine so much because I had never used oil paints before. But I didn’t expect to experience that strange feeling. It contained both appreciation and excitement. The appreciation of color, and the excitement to learn more from it.

It was not that I would have been new to color. I had been painting with acrylic paints for a long time. When I was a teenager, I got them from my parents who thought that it was a perfect solution to me. No worrying about toxic painting fluids and still being able to paint with ease. The acrylic paints have developed a lot since that time, since the eighties. They have worked perfectly for my needs. I have found a good brand too. I really like Golden acrylics.

A self-portrait in Vincent van Gogh's style. By Paivi Eerola by Peony and Parakeet.

But now I was standing in the front of a vast collection of Mussini oil paint tubes. I picked the color chart and went through my choices one more time. For a whole year, I had been going through this in my mind: raw umber, zinc white, titanium white, yellow ochre and so on. It had been a mantra that changed a little bit every month. The paints are expensive, and I had to pick the colors carefully. One tube can cost more than 70 euros.

Plan for the Hand and Mind

After trying out the paints for the first time, I went to live in denial. Yes, I had painted the class pieces with oils because they were provided by the class. But the odorless and water-soluble acrylics felt much more suitable for me. After a while, my attitude changed a bit. I let myself dream about the oil paints. I visited the art supply store, touched the clean and shiny tubes, imagined getting just a bit of paint on a palette and make it last for as long as possible.

But dreaming and reality are surprisingly close. It’s difficult just to dream and not to do anything. So I made a plan that felt more like extortion. I had to get my floral painting class finished. I had to get several acrylic paintings finished. I had to figure out where and how I would store the paints. I had to get more information about the oil paints and the painting liquids.

I still had some finishing touches to do for my paintings in progress, but other than that I had followed the plan. So I started picking the tubes: raw umber, zinc white, titanium white, yellow ochre and so on. After selecting the colors, I went for the liquids: poppy oil, turpentine, and glossy dammar varnish.

When I left the store, my mind summarized the past year. Learning the old masters’ techniques had been essential for growing my technical skills. My art had become less imaginative, and more conventional.

Acrylic paintings by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

I had a turning point in 2016 when I felt that my imagination and my hand didn’t function so well together anymore. My imagination wanted to proceed to new territories, but my hand couldn’t follow. But now when my hand is wiser, I can also challenge my mind more freely. Purchasing the oil paints were a reward for the persistence that I have had for the last twelve months. However, it wasn’t the only reward. I was also going to see the new movie Loving Vincent.

Loving Vincent – The Movie

The movie theatre was about 10 minutes walk away from the art supply store. When I arrived, there were several queues for the tickets. I joined one. While I was waiting for my turn, a young man suddenly came to me and asked: “Do you want a free ticket? I have two, and my friend wasn’t able to come.” I happily accepted it and thanked the man. “Is this a sign?”, I asked myself. “Is this the final sign that I should do this – go forward, open the tubes, start painting my newest, odd ideas?” I don’t believe in destiny so much, but at that moment, it felt like Vincent van Gogh was talking to me: “Do that, paint those ideas, just like I painted mine.”

I found the movie very emotional. Every time, I saw a familiar painting coming to live, tears came to my eyes. I realized that this movie had to be published now, not earlier. Vincent’s art has become so well-known during the past decades that it unifies us. Art that was odd for masses of the 19th century is understood by every one living the 21st century. It has become so familiar that it’s sometimes difficult to appreciate it. And still, we need to feel the togetherness that Vincent’s paintings can offer. They are like icons that make us stronger together.

Looking back helps us to move forward. As artists, we are all Vincent’s descendants. No matter how we paint, what technique we use, we know about modern art because of Vincent. We know more than the people of the 19th century, and that enables us to explore art to all kinds of directions.

Loving Vincent – Art from the Students

I want to celebrate Vincent by showing beautiful pieces made by my students. They are made from my class Selfie Fantasy that shows an adaptation of Vincent’s technique.

Christie Juhasz:

Vincent van Gogh inspiration by Christie Juhasz, USA. An art journal page spread made from the mini-course Selfie Fantasy by Peony and Parakeet.

Terry Whyte:

Vincent van Gogh inspiration from Terry Whyte, Canada. An art journal page spread made from the mini-course Selfie Fantasy by Peony and Parakeet.

Denise Dineen:

Vincent van Gogh inspiration by Denise Dineen, USA. An art journal page spread made from the mini-course Selfie Fantasy by Peony and Parakeet.

Gina Meadows:

Vincent van Gogh inspiration by Gina Meadows, USA. An art journal page spread made from the mini-course Selfie Fantasy by Peony and Parakeet.

Patricia Furey:

Vincent van Gogh inspiration by Patricia Furey, USA. An art journal page spread made from the mini-course Selfie Fantasy by Peony and Parakeet.

Stephanie Carney:

Vincent van Gogh inspiration by Stephane Carney, USA. An art journal page spread made from the mini-course Selfie Fantasy by Peony and Parakeet.

Have you seen the movie? What did you think about it?

Imagine Through Art – Buy 5 inspiring mini-courses! (including the Vincent-inspired one)

Klimt’s Garden with Students of Peony and Parakeet

We are heading for the winter in Finland. It has made me pull out the photos taken during the recent years from the garden. They remind me that the summer will come again. Together with my students, I dedicate this blog post for the famous Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and the way he saw the world. It’s a perfect perspective when you want to get inspiration from the garden!

Portraits with Scenes Instead of Faces Only

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Stephanie Carney, USA - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

Stephanie Carney shows so well how Gustav would see our gardens: full of decorative elements! This way of looking combines two perspectives. First, examining the details and their decorative nature. Second, seeing the big picture: how plants are not just individual and separate but integrated into a scene.

When browsing my photo library, I realized that I have a lot of close-up photos of flowers. But for this post, I picked images that show more than just ethereal petals. The images that have more than a few details make me more attached to my garden. I think it’s the same with paintings and drawings: instead of just sketching faces, we can show the whole experience.

That’s how Gustav Klimt built most of his portraits: not only focusing on faces but showing more of the world around the person by expressing it through decorative and abstract elements. Klimt’s mission was to combine decorative designs with fine arts, and I think it’s one of the reasons why his work is fascinating for us who like to sew, quilt, embroider, or do any crafts. When looking at Stephanie’s work, inspired by Klimt, I can easily imagine wearing that dress and stitching any of the beautiful motifs that can be picked from the picture!

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Stephanie Carney, USA - a detail of a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

From Messy Garden to Klimt’s Garden

I claim that we can look at the garden using “everyday eyes” or “magical eyes.” When using the everyday eyes, everything is “should,” “could” or “have to.” We see weeds, neglected areas, messy grass. But with the magical eyes, we see nature as art.

For example, these ferns from my back garden horrified me when I looked at them with the everyday eyes. All I could see was a neglected flower bench getting ready for the cold weather. “I should cut those,” I thought. Then I took a step back and … wow! Nature had made an Art Deco pattern for me! I felt grateful and inspired. For a moment, I was in Klimt’s garden.
Fern like an art deco pattern

Gustav Klimt understood that when we want to express the beauty, we want to express the experience, not just copy what we see. When looking with the magical eyes – when being in Klimt’s garden, our feelings get mixed with the things we see, and nothing is fully organized. That’s why the sun feels more than just a bright spot in the sky in Lorraine Cline’s work. It doesn’t only make flowers grow, but it’s an uplifting force for humans as well. We get wrapped in its warmth, and for a moment, we are just one of the many plants in Klimt’s garden.

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Lorraine Cline, USA - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

Quilted Garden

Gustav Klimt saw the world as a stream of patterns and colors. Sometimes they were symbolic, sometimes more literal like the artwork below, showing a baby’s quilt. Even if the painting is fine art, it honors crafts.

Gustav Klimt: "Baby (Cradle)," 1917/1918

Gustav Klimt: “Baby (Cradle),” 1917/1918

At Klimt’s garden, there’s no distinct border between nature’s and man’s creations. When you look at the world with the magical eyes, they become one.

Stella the beagle and her quilt. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Pirkko-Liisa Mannoja’s piece combines drawing and painting, but to me, it also looks like an art quilt.

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Pirkko Liisa Mannoja, Finland - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

When we use the everyday eyes, we see the world as clearly-defined objects. We see green grass and red flowers. But when we look with the magical eyes, we see things that are more abstract, like the way the light forms spots in the background. That’s one of the subtle things that make Pirkko-Liisa’s work shine.

In Klimt’s garden, the grass can be white, and the observer can be green.

Cosmo the beagle enjoying summer in the garden.

In Klimt’s garden, we treat trees like they were close friends. I love how Christie Juhasz expresses that in her beautiful art journal spread.

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Christie Juhasz, USA - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

In Klimt’s garden, martagons take us back to Art Nouveau with their decoratively shaped stems and delicately colored flowers.

Martagons. A photo by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

In Klimt’s garden, we connect with the outside world so that it lightens up our inner world. When I look at Mackie d’Arge’s gorgeous piece, I feel connected to both.

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Mackie d'Arge, USA - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

When we look at the world with the everyday eyes, we worry about the weather when we look up.

Spring Sky. A photo by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

But when we change to the magical eyes, the sky and the earth are not separate at all. Just like in Diana Jackson’s expressive piece!

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Diana Jackson, USA - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

Winter in Klimt’s Garden

I wrote most of this blog post yesterday. When I woke up this morning, the snow had come to Finland. It felt depressing. “The garden is gone,” I said to myself. But then I realized that I had my everyday eyes. When looking with the magical eyes, Klimt’s garden is there for sure. It has just changed its colors.

Winter in the garden. A photo by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Klimt’s Garden in Your Art Journal!

The student artwork in this blog post is created from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. In the mini-course, you can create a decorative garden scene in Gustav Klimt’s style. The mini-course is available as a part of Imagine Monthly Fall 2016 art journaling bundle, packed with four more inspiring themes and techniques. And to celebrate the snow arriving in Southern Finland, you will get the generous 30% off during the weekend (from Oct 26 to Oct 29, midnight PST). >> Buy now!

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet and her Klimt's garden - an art journal spread inspired by Gustav Klimt. From her mini-course Patterned Topiary. 

Create Klimt’s Garden: Buy Patterned Topiary + 4 inspiring mini-courses!

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!