Boosting Imagination + Last Days to Sign Up for Planet Color!

Boosting Imagination, an art journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet. Sign up for her painting class Planet Color to create fun and colorful abstracts!

Sometimes it’s difficult to use words when you want to give a hug. Like when I get emails that say: “I am afraid I have no imagination.”

I know how the story goes because I have experienced it several times myself: First, there’s no imagination and then if you manage to get started,  there are problems with the composition. I often turned the music louder just to make my brain make some sense of what I had created. And then next morning, I wondered why it’s so difficult to say whether my work is good or bad.

Regular practicing, getting a degree in design, educating myself through classes helped but if I could turn back time, I would have just given myself the formula that I have created for Planet Color and stop all the fuss. So nowadays when I get some occasional thoughts about lacking imagination, like last Monday, I open the class material and get started. The heart is for all of us who sometimes feel the need for boosting imagination.

Boosting Imagination. A detail of an art journal page. By Peony and Parakeet.

It’s the last week to sign up for Planet Color!
Watch a new video below to see what I think about boosting imagination, and to get more information about the class!

Last fall when I ran this class for the first time, it was for acrylic paints only.
But now I have included an extra video for those who want to apply the techniques to watercolors.

Planet Color, a painting class for beginners and for those who struggle with composition

>> Sign up before the class begins!

4 Social Tips for Improving Your Art – with The Students of Peony and Parakeet

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Tina Mitchell, Nicaragua.

This blog post is mostly illustrated by the students of the online painting class Planet Color. I am rerunning this class from April 24th to May 7th! Join me to paint fun abstract and colorful art! Suitable for beginners. Sign up before the class starts!

Social Tips

I call this set of tips “social” because instead of just talking in design terms like “white space” or “focal point,” I want to emphasize that art is a messaging tool. We, visual people, are sensitive to visual messages. Every image contains them whether they are added intentionally or unintentionally. As a teacher, I see my role as a guide who helps you to see what your pieces communicate and how you can fine-tune them to express the message that you want to deliver. In this blog post, I explain why beginning artists fail in visual communication and how to fix that. These social tips with sample images will improve the quality of your art!

Colorful mandalas by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read 4 social tips she has about creating art!

1) Bring Out The Leader, Express an Opinion

One of the things we all struggle the most is expressing an opinion. Even now, while I am writing this blog post, I am struggling with that. When I type the first few sentences, I become aware of all of you who might not like this post. I think of you who feels that you are more of a crafter, not a painter. And of you who thinks that this is too basic and you are far ahead. I am aware of you who likes fewer images, as well as you who doesn’t ever read a thing. Some images might look too dark or too white to your taste. Or you might not even like or value abstract art. What makes the writing even more difficult is that even my personal taste and opinions change during time, sometimes on a daily basis. And then I begin to think that who am I to write about this anyway. There are always people who know better and whose opinions could be more valuable.

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet browsing art journals.

It’s so easy to walk on that path of self-doubt and then rewrite the whole thing so that it actually says very little, nearly nothing. I might still remember the real meaning behind the words myself, but you might not get anything to take with you.

The same thing happens easily in art making too. By making every detail equal in size, sharpness, and color, we end up expressing something that’s nearly nothing. It’s just a gang of evenly spread elements waiting for a leader to be picked. But when you do that – choose a leader, express an opinion, say something with clarity that can make people take sides – then the impact is also born. See how Elaine Wirthlin does that in her painting!

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Elaine Wirthlin, USA.

2) Build Bridges, Don’t Stay Alone

When I saw a room full of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings in Musée d’Orsay, I was in tears. Yes, the original paintings were much more than what you could expect based on the photos and prints. But there was another reason too. I was crying because the room was packed with people. Knowing how lonely Vincent had been, it felt heart-breaking. Surely, if there had been social media at his time, he would have got his fan base! A small group of forward-thinkers, perhaps.

I don’t think loneliness is good for anyone. Don’t get me wrong – I am all for introvert lifestyle. Being an introvert myself, I wouldn’t dream about reducing my quiet, creative moments. But in the end, being isolated and expressing isolation is never a solution. Sometimes we are in the wrong place at the wrong time like Vincent did, but with the internet, there are soul-mates for everyone. With your art, you can build connections, not enforce divisions.

A detail of a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

When being interviewed after a long career, Finnish opera singer Jorma Hynninen said: “All artists want to connect with other people through their art.”

Images that include bridges and closeness make us feel happy. In Sue Jorgensen’s work, I see the message how different personalities can work and move on together.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Sue Jorgensen, Australia.

3) Play with Many Identities, Become Free of Limitations

When I became more serious about art, I questioned my love for crafts. One of my crafty hobbies was scrapbooking. I took photos and wrote stories about my everyday life. Sometimes I challenged myself to journal and sometimes, I let the photos and the decorations tell the whole story like on the layout below that shows the four seasons by focusing on trees.

Four Seasons. A scrapbooking layout by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

“An artist who also scrapbooks” sounded like a big joke to me back then. But the more ambitious I have become in my art career, the more I have learned to value other things that I do, scrapbooking included. After a long work day, it makes me feel free to take the dogs for a walk and listen to scrapbooking podcasts. After using embellishments and photos, it makes me feel free when I pick up my brushes and work with canvases, without limiting myself to the concept of scrapbooking.

One person can wear many hats. Some people might have seen you only wearing one, and their opinions about you only relate with that. However, don’t let it limit and define yourself in the other areas of life. People who knew me as an IT project manager saw a different side of me than you who reads this blog. I may have inherited my detailed style from the engineering part, but there’s so much more that I want to express and play with than one chapter in my past.

An art journal page spread by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. She has a class called Planet Color for painting colorful abstracts!

Susana König’s painting reminds me about IT business and how it’s all teamwork too!

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Susana König, Germany.

In Debbie Kreischer’s painting, the decorative style can take a more expressive twist, showing how things are not so black and white after all.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Debbie Kreischer, USA.

In Lisa Clemmer’s painting, the colors are soft, but the shapes are dynamic. This controversy makes it compelling.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Lisa Clemmer, USA.

Linda Thompson’s painting has playful colors and the dynamics of a fun game.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Linda Thompson, Canada.

Lois Dimler’s painting is like a happy circus where everybody has fun!

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Lois Dimler, USA.

4) Listen to Others, Let It Inspire You

I have always been an idea person. I invent new things quickly and have always been eager to find all kinds of unique approaches, also in art. However, I have also noticed that we often overestimate the uniqueness and the originality of our first ideas. But when we start combining many ideas into one, the result can be something new. My idea of drawing your own coloring page is not that unique but the way I have colored it gives it a modern twist. (Also read: How to Transform Ideas into Paintings)

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet with her art journal.

It’s not good to try to protect yourself from seeing what others do. We consume all the time anyway. If not art, then something else. Listening to other people, seeing other people’s art and getting to know art history is not a threat but an enabler to your personal style. Sometimes it can be a real eye-opener to create from a similar standpoint with somebody else and then compare.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Meri Andriesse, USA.

Compare Meri Andriesse’s and Pirkko-Liisa Mannoja’s paintings above and below! They have many similarities, but their style is different. Meri’s piece is soft, carefree and modern while Pirkko-Liisa’s is strong, detailed and historical.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Pirkko-Liisa Mannoja, Finland.

I love people who speak enthusiastically about what they have done. Even if they would talk about something that I would never even want to try, like deep-sea diving, it’s fascinating to hear how they express their experiences. While listening, I imagine the places that I would explore if I were that person. It gives me ideas that I wouldn’t ever have found by myself.

We never know enough about art history, other artists, other people, other fields of expertise, other anything! Artist’s mindset is being an immaterial collector – collecting thoughts, stories, visuals, any ideas and then expressing that inspiration. By developing the ability to see nuances in other people’s talk and work, you will also begin to see what’s unique about you.

What tip would you give?

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet with her abstract painting made for the class Planet Color.

Planet Color begins at April 24: Reserve your spot now!

Painting My Mind’s Eye – Abstract Color Fun!

"My Mind's Eye" - Abstract Color Fun by Peony and Parakeet. See Paivi's class "Planet Color"

I call this art journal spread “My Minds Eye.” It has one central element that resembles both an eye and a compass. Isn’t that how things are for visual people: seeing interesting things evokes all kinds of thoughts and lead to all sorts of paths? Like this morning when I had to stop on a walk to admire fragile ice on water puddles. When I was standing there, I wished that nobody sees my weirdness. I was staring at the ground, holding a phone to get photos, with two beagles that were very impatient, eager to move forward.

Ice is melting in Finland

Maybe the beginning of the spring made me paint with hot tones, and the ice most probably inspired me to include a similar translucent element in the painting.

A detail of "My Mind's Eye" by Peony and Parakeet. See Paivi's class Planet Color for painting fun abstracts!

7-step Method of Planet Color Used for Abstract Color Fun

I created the spread by following the 7-step method that I developed for the class Planet Color. I have repeated this process many times because it’s a fun and worry-free way to paint unique abstracts. For example, see the blog posts What’s in a Good Composition?, Using Color Schemes for Home Decor, and How to Transform Ideas into Paintings. I know I am not the only one who worries about the composition while painting and the 7-step method makes everything fall into place effortlessly.

Art journal spread by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. This is called "My Mind's Eye" and it's made with a method that she has developed for the class Planet Color.

Masking tape was used to frame the piece. I haven’t done that a lot in my journals, but I like the result.

Paivi's studio. By Peony and Parakeet.

My husband made me a new easel from an upright support of a shelving unit. It’s so handy and adjustable that I have started to use it a lot. I can use it even for art journal pages, not only for canvas art.

Planet Color – Sign up Now!

Planet Color, an online workshop for abstract color fun. By Peony and Parakeet.

I ran Planet Color for the first time last fall, but it’s coming back now! Whether you want to paint art journal pages, thick paper or canvases, this is a fun online workshop. It’s suitable for beginner painters and all who struggle with color compositions. >> Sign up here!

Video: How to Move from Figurative to Abstract Art?

A small watercolor abstract and it's details, by Peony and Parakeet. See the video about creating abstract art!

I made a video blog post again. This time I answered to a reader’s question about how to open up to create unique and abstract art. This video is especially for you who wants to move from figurative to abstract art.

In the end of the video, I paint an abstract-themed postcard with watercolors. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy it!

How to Move from Figurative to Abstract Art?

Paul Klee and the Art of Learning

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet and a new painting in progress.

This blog post is a personal story about being a student of Paul Klee. I will also share my thoughts about art classes and about their effect.

Paul Klee’s Pedagogical Sketchbook

It was a late evening in the beginning of July – one of those white nights that take place in the middle of summer in Finland. When the sun is up, it’s more tempting to stay awake than to go to sleep. It also felt better to pick a brush and paint than to slow down with knitting or watching tv. My brain activity was high. I didn’t want just paint, I wanted to learn something new.

While pondering about learning, I remembered a thin book that had been on my shelf for a while. It was borrowed from a library few weeks ago and I hadn’t opened it since. The title was called “Pedagoginen luonnoskirja” – Pedagogical Sketchbook, written by a famous abstract artist Paul Klee in 1925. The original version was written in German. In 1953, it was translated into English and finally into Finnish in 1997.  The long time span proves that the book has some ever-lasting content. But when I began to examine the first chapters with the brush in my hand, it seemed very uninspiring. The pages were black and white, no color, but the worst thing was: it looked like a math book! It had formulas, diagrams, references to geometry, anatomy, physics … What was I thinking about when I borrowed this book!

Abstract Art Theory for the Left Brain

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet learning from Paul Klee's Pedagogigal Sketchbook.

But then, I remembered that my artistic side wasn’t playing along when I found the book at the library. Being so thin, it could hardly be seen on the shelves filled with thick art books. Seeing its cover, my engineering side that got interested: can there be formulas for art? Is this the book that teaches the left brain to understand the right brain?

So even if I had my art journal open on the table and paints ready on the palette, I decided to switch gears and start reading the book – slowly and carefully like engineers do. After a couple of minutes, I was hooked. I was mesmerized by the world the book presented. Phenomenoms familiar from my physics studies were tied into modern abstract art. The book was broken into three parts. Each part contained short chapters. like tiny lessons. I decided to begin studying each chapter so that the engineer in me would read the it first. Then she would explain it to my artistic side who in turn, would fill an art journal page by playing with the concepts.

Side note: Interested in the book? Here’s a link to Amazon.com. There’s also a free PDF of the book available if you google it but I don’t link it here, as it may be an illegal copy.

Paul Klee’s Ideas in Practise

Art journal page inspired by Paul Klee's Pedagogical Sketchbook, by Peony and Parakeet.

When I eagerly studied the book, I felt I had a teacher, Paul Klee himself. It was exciting to listen to him talking about muscular movement, material structures, disturbed balance, how the perspective is experienced or how the blood circulates in a body. And most of all, how it’s all connected to visual communication and visual art. I imagined being one of his many students and even one of the most enthusiastic ones. I was constantly raising my hand, not only asking questions but also questioning: how did you come up with this idea, why have you omitted this fact?

Art journal page inspired by Paul Klee's Pedagogical Sketchbook, by Peony and Parakeet.

Do These Ideas Suit My Style?

Even if I was painting and reading like a maniac from one chapter to another, I was also in doubt. Stiff figures that I painted looked very old-fashioned to me. I had a teacher who hadn’t experienced the digital age, who hadn’t seen or created any contemporary art. “Tell me, Paul Klee, do these rules apply to many styles, including mine?”, I kept asking.

Art journal page inspired by Paul Klee's Pedagogical Sketchbook, by Peony and Parakeet.

But despite of the constant battle in my mind, I couldn’t put the book away. I went from one chapter to another and eagerly waited what my teacher would present in the next one. And when the last chapter was completed, I felt sad to leave the classroom and say good bye to my teacher. During the session, I had completed three big art journal spreads. They all looked like the middle of 20th century to me. The session seemed to be nothing else but a fun engagement when the sun finally set down.

The Aftermath of Learning

Abstract art by Peony and Parakeet

During the next weeks, I saw sudden climpses of Paul Klee. When I was taking photos, drawing, painting or just observing, Paul Klee’s theories began to merge with my own thinking and with my own style. The three spreads that I had made were exercises only. Once I left the classroom, I was free to apply those theories where suitable. This is what happens in every art class. You might think that the exercises are not fit for you. You might have doubts if the class fits your current style. And when you leave the class you might think: “Oh well, I don’t know if I ever do this again.”

But like the blood needs oxygen, creativity needs new theories, techniques and ideas. They are not threat to your style, they are essential to continue developing your style. That’s one main reason why I challenge you to learn new techniques at Imagine Monthly (you can still sign up!). That’s also a reason why I will be inviting you to join my newest online painting workshop, starting in October.

Coming Up: New Painting Workshop

I am really excited about this! Be assured that I will have something special for the beginners and a lot of new to focus on for the more advanced painters. The theme for the class is expressing nature. The registration for the new workshop will open next week with a short-time early bird pricing. I will give more details about the class then.

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet and her painting in progress.

While building the class I have practiced the techniques and ideas on a big canvas. This painting is still in progress, but I want to show it to you just to be able to compare the art journal pages above and how Paul Klee’s teachings has merged into my own style. That’s what’s my goal with you too: that you’ll have fun time with the classes and that you will be able to mix new things with what you already know and love.

Make sure you don’t miss the fun: Subscribe to my weekly emails!

Coloring Abstract Art – Watch the Video!

Coloring abstract art on a blank art journal page with colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet. See the video!

Coloring abstract art on a blank page is so much fun. Layering colors and discovering new shapes is like an adventure!

I created this freely colored abstract art piece onto my biggest art journal and recorded the process and some thoughts about coloring on a blank page. The video also introduces my newest e-book Coloring Freely.

Start your journey with colored pencils: Buy Coloring Freely!

Video: Abstract Painting

Wheel Mechanics, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet
I made this abstract mixed media painting last fall and it has been waiting in the queue ever since as I also recorded a video of the process and had no time editing it.

The painting is called “Wheel Mechanics”. It expresses my thoughts about how good engineering, design and art are connected together but maybe you see something else? With abstract art, it’s good to present a basic idea (in this case: “merging”) in such a general level that it leaves room for interpretations. That’s one of the main difficulties in creating abstract art, I think.

I was about to make a video introducing my online classes so I combined the two together. You can watch me painting + get info about the classes.

Inspirational Drawing is the next class!

Inspirational Drawing, an art class for those who want to draw without boundaries

It’s my “the drawing class” and especially good for you who wants to enjoy drawing without boundaries. See these blog posts for fabulous drawings created by the students of this class: Explore by Drawing!, Do You Have a Talent for Creating Art? and sign up now!

5 Steps to an Abstract Landscape

http://Soil, Sun and Rain, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

Let’s paint together! The idea for this painting came from nature. Have you noticed that when the sun shines after the rain, everything sparkles! It’s so beautiful!

Snowbells after the rain, in Finland

Soil, the sun and rain – even if they are different from one another, they all work together to make plants prosper. In the painting, the soil is made with colored pencils, the sun with acrylic paints and the rain with watercolors. These art supplies are so basic but they also work so well together! Watch the video and create your own abstract landscape – “Soil, Sun and Rain”!

More instructions for watercolors: Buy Watercolor 101 for Intuitive Painting

What Are the Cornerstones of Your Art?

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I have always loved abstract paintings. It occurred to me just recently that even if I rarely create realistic art, I rarely go to extremes in abstract. But then, what would prevent me from doing that, putting those cornerstones of my style to a new order.

Namely, if you know what you love to create, why not play with that? Thick black color, sharp lines, dramatic color transitions, sense of movement and muted but distinct colors – those are what I always seem to aim.

This painting is called “Cornerstones” as I like this detail the most.

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When you have your cornerstones set, you can feel free to experiment: use less of something, more of another thing, express deeper thoughts or become more playful.

My favorite supplies are watercolors, acrylic paints, and colored pencils. They can be seen as cornerstones as well. If I create something a bit different, it doesn’t feel so scary when I use these old friends.

So I started the painting with watercolors. I had some leftover acrylic paints from other projects, so I stopped to watch the watercolored surface and tried to figure out how to create something a little bit different with them.

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One thing that I love in acrylic paints is to have many colors on a brush at the same time and get delicious color effects.

 

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I worked with fairly thick brushes so no wonder when the artwork reached this point, I felt it needed some sharpness and movement.

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Then I remembered the photos that I love to shoot. I adjust the shutter speed low and move my camera to doodle with light. My photos are not brilliant, but I absolutely love playing with the camera this way. These photos make me think of bit streams and all the wonderful technical innovations.

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So I added a few sharp light details, and it was finished!

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Drama and Contrasts in Art

Counterforces, a painting by Peony and Parakeet. See the video of how to include drama in your painting!

This is my latest painting called “Counterforces”. The idea for this came from the books that I have read recently. They are Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland. I picked those books, not because I would be writing a novel, but because I want to understand more about drama and how to bring it to visual art. With self-expression, I aim more about describing scenes and experiences than static figures. I want to experience the drama while I am creating and show the drama in the result as well.

Create Contrasts and Suspense – Watch the Video!

I recorded the process of creating the painting. While creating, I tried to bring as many contrasts as possible to the painting. The most memorable moments in our lives often include some drama – countering forces or feelings.

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