Finding Your Purpose in Art – Remember that You Never Create Just for Yourself!

A Day in The Garden, a watercolor and ink painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read her thoughts about finding the purpose for your art making!

Here’s my latest small mixed media painting called “A Day in The Garden.” I used Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus Fine Art Watercolors and Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Inks for making it. Like the title says, the inspiration for the painting came from the time spent in the garden.

Garden Inspiration – For the Beauty of Tulips

Tulips from Paivi's garden, see her garden inspired art at www.peonyandparakeet.com

Even if the spring is about two weeks behind this year in Finland, we had a lovely weather last Sunday. The tulips were blooming, and I decided to go out and do some weeding to make them stand out.

As I was working in the sun, I soon warmed up. When putting away my cotton cardigan, I noticed a little red robin watching me. He sat in the bushes but had a curious look on his face. As I often talk to my budgies, I couldn’t help myself telling him how fine looking little bird he was. He clearly enjoyed my voice because he flew closer. He must have been a young bird as it didn’t take long before he was so close that I could almost touch him!

Garden Inspiration – For the Nourishment of A Red Robin

Dr. Ph. Marten's Hydrus Watercolors and Bombay India Inks. A photo by Paivi Eerola, a visual artist from Finland.

As the little bird grabbed an insect in his beak, I realized why he was so interested in me. Working the soil made it easier for him to find food. In the first place, I had thought about having some me-time in the garden and making room for beauty, but then unexpectedly I had got an audience, a client even! It caused me to think how similar it is with art. In the beginning, the practice can be very self-serving, but art never lives in a vacuum. Even if we would hide our pieces, art always has an impact on its surroundings. If not directly, then through our actions.

Making of a mixed media painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Purpose Needs People

Our soul-searching through art making can start similarly as the day in the garden, with an intention to spend some time with beauty. But as we progress, we begin to yearn for a deeper meaning. I believe that this purpose is related to people. Even just thinking about sharing art with other people brings in a wider perspective, a bigger vision, and more ways to use the imagination. No matter whether you ever share, sell, blog or show your pieces to anyone, you can still work with the themes like opening up, finding words that boost your art making process, and imagining the people you want to connect with through your art.

Mixed media painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

If we focus on style issues only, we will never see the whole ecosystem. We are like gardeners who sweat for their tulips but miss the impact on their environment.

Ideas Change but the Passion Stays the Same

A detail of a mixed media painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read her thoughts about finding the purpose for your art making!

In a coaching program The Exploring Artist, I talk about finding “Your People.”  There may be only one red robin in the beginning, but recognizing that they do exist is inspiring. Imagining what you can be for them is a big thing when you want to find a passion and a direction for your art making.

A detail of a mixed media painting. Dr. Ph. Marten's Hydrus Watercolors and Bombay India Inks. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read her thoughts about finding the purpose for your art making!

Namely, your targets of interest can and should change all the time. But your passion stays the same for a much longer period. You don’t have to create similar pieces again and again. You can freely explore the world of art and imagination. Your red robins will follow you because they know that you’ll always find something that benefits them too.

An American singer-songwriter Conor Oberst has said:
“Art is essentially communication. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum. That’s why people make art, so other people can relate to it.”

Sign up for The Exploring Artist to discover the passion behind your art
and to become more confident with the big word “artist”!

Easter Still Lifes in Watercolor – Video Included!

Easter Still-Life, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watch the video about making this painting!

In February, I went to see an art exhibition with my husband. The destination was one of my favorite art galleries in Helsinki. Helsinki Contemporary has interesting artists, and I also like the gallery space and how it’s located in the center, near many art supply stores. This time I was to see watercolor paintings by

This time I was to see watercolor paintings by Kati Immonen. She is a master in watercolor techniques, but I also became fascinated by the theme. The exhibition called Flora included many still lifes that were like miniature worlds. My husband is fond of bonsai trees so he liked the theme too.

Easter Still Lifes with a Wet Brush

Yesterday when I picked up my watercolor set to paint something seasonal for you, I remembered the exhibition. I became inspired by the simple idea of painting a pot or a vase and then adding some spring flowers using a lot of water. By painting with a wet brush, the flowers could appear naturally along with any other unintentional decorative elements.

After painting with oils and acrylics recently, my skills were a bit rusty so I made three paintings. Here’s the first one.

Easter Flowers in Watercolor by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her blog post for painting easter still lifes!

Here’s the second one.

Easter Still Life in Watercolor by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her blog post for painting easter still lifes!

Easter Still Life on a Video

After the second painting, I turned on the camera and recorded a video of making the third one. It is a mixture of the two previous ones, a bit simpler than the first one yet somewhat complicated and refined than the second one. After creating these, I applaud Kati Immonen! I have a long way to go to challenge her, but it doesn’t prevent me from enjoying the watercolors from time to time. Watch the video with some tips to create your own spring painting!

Acrylics or Watercolors – You Choose!

I enjoyed painting with the watercolors so much that I made an extra video for my next online workshop Planet Color. Whether you want to use acrylics or watercolors (or both) in the class, I will help you! Sign up now! 

Planet Color online painting workshop by Peony and Parakeet. You can choose either acrylic paints or watercolors!

Using Color Schemes from Home Decor

Green talks to Black, a painting by Peony and Parakeet. Get inspired by using interior color schemes in your art!

In the early 1990s, I bought an interior design book from the UK. It’s called “Design and Detail” and it’s written by a famous designer Tricia Guild. She was not as well-known as she currently is back then, and I hadn’t known her before I saw the book.

Creating Art using Color Schemes from Home Decor

I felt drawn to the interior color schemes and the decorating style presented in Tricia Guild’s book. Never before had I felt such a strong appeal to home decor. I knew I liked to be surrounded by strong colors, but I had never seen them used in such a powerful way. Since then, my every home has had elements and spaces inspired by the book. Whether I lived in a small single room as a student, in a flat or a house, I have always browsed the book when I’ve needed inspiration for interior color schemes.

Tricia Guild's home decor book Design and Detail

Last week, I saw a picture that had one of the color selections that are presented in “Design and Detail.” It was the combination of green and black including a little bit off-white, yellow and muted orange-red. We already have that color scheme in our bedroom but at that moment, I wanted to play with those colors again. So I started a painting that has green and black and followed the instructions from my upcoming class Planet Color!

Green talks to Black, a painting by Peony and Parakeet. Get inspired by using interior color schemes in your art!

Once it was finished, I painted more interior color schemes from the book. Again, I used the 7-step method from Planet Color. I had so much fun creating these!

Warm and Inviting Colors

The dining area in Tricia Guild’s book looks very cozy. The striking combination of yellow and black is balanced with earthy colors and then brightened with a few warm, bright spots.

An art journal spread by Peony and Parakeet and Tricia Guild's book Design and Detail. Get inspired by using interior color schemes in your art!

My art journal spread is inspired by the flowers and vases. It also plays with angled and round shapes as seen in the dining room.

An art journal spread by Peony and Parakeet. Get inspired by using interior color schemes in your art!

Whites and Neutrals

I am definitely out of my comfort zone when using pale colors in larger quantities whether it’s creating art or home decor. But I wanted to try to get inspired by Tricia’s master bathroom. It was surprisingly easy when I focused on expressing the textures shown in the photo. The narrow color scheme also made me focus on adjusting the colors only slightly.

An art journal spread by Peony and Parakeet and Tricia Guild's home decor book Design and Detail. Get inspired by using interior color schemes in your art!

It is surprising how many tones can be created from a very restricted color palette. I also quite like the red/orange spot on the right and how it balances the upper left corner. When using neutral colors, even the smallest colorful detail can make a difference.

An art journal spread by Peony and Parakeet. Get inspired by using interior color schemes in your art!

Many Shades of Yellow

I had a bedroom that had quite a lot of warm yellows when I was a child. But before “Design and Detail,” I never thought I could have bright yellow walls. But during the years, I fell in love with the warm yellow shade that I call “Tricia Guild’s yellow.”

An art journal spread by Peony and Parakeet and Tricia Guild's home decor book Design and Detail. Get inspired by using interior color schemes in your art!

In the art journal spread, I played with various shades but six years ago, when we moved to our current house, I wanted to have that particular “Tricia Guild’s yellow” on a wall.

Yellow wall inspired by Tricia Guild's home decor book Design and Detail

Even if there were tens of yellows available as paint, “Tricia Guild’s yellow” wasn’t found in the color charts. I thought people must think I am mad being surrounded by all the yellows and shaking my head. Then I just picked one that was closest and we started painting. But it wasn’t the right shade and after one layer, it felt too warm. After carefully analyzing the yellow in the book and comparing it with the wall, I decided to add warm black to adjust the tone. And so we got “Tricia Guild’s yellow”, just the perfect tone on the wall!

Home decor - Mixing yellow paint to get just the right color

This story shows how many colors there are in the world and how little you experiment with if you are using only ready-made colors. Start mixing your colors! It is a reason why I built Planet Color, my color-oriented workshop!

An art journal spread by Peony and Parakeet. Get inspired by home decor!

Colors from Potted Garden Using Leftover Paint

After creating so many paintings, I ended up having some leftover paint on the palette. I decided to use the paint by getting inspired by exteriors too.

An art journal spread by Peony and Parakeet and Tricia Guild's home deocr book Design and Detail. Get inspired by using interior color schemes in your art!

Expressing a potted garden with circles is easy. Angular tiles are also easy to add to the picture.

An art journal spread by Peony and Parakeet. Get inspired by using interior color schemes in your art!

Sign up for Planet Color!

Planet Color, online painting workshop by Peony and Parakeet

Take your favorite interior design book, or Pinterest board, or any source that inspires you with color, and sign up for Planet Color! I’ll show you how to experiment with colors so that your painting is more than just a selection of color samples. I’ll show how you can make colors interact and how to enjoy adding more instead of just making a mess! And if you are more of a minimalist, you can omit some steps of the process and create a simple yet eye-catching painting! Reserve your spot now!

Avoid Stiffness with Blurry Coloring!

Spring Bee. An art journal page with colored pencils by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Coloring freely.

This is a recent art journal page made with colored pencils. I call this “Spring Bee.” It’s all about sunny spring arriving in Finland. The page is also inspired by the techniques that I discovered while writing my latest e-book Coloring Freely.

Magical Blurriness

Every spring, when the first flowers pop up, I can’t resist taking photos of them. We in Finland have a long and cold winter. It’s such a joy to see colors, even subtle, again. This spring, I’ve been thinking a lot about softness and blurriness. The more I see it, a more magical the whole world looks. When taking photos, I aim for sharp details, but in the end, it’s the blurriness in the background that makes the image.

Spring flowers

These pictures are from past springs, but they show well how distance, light, and rain cause blurriness. To my eye, blurry elements look soft, magical. It’s like they could be anything my imagination can reach! I believe that this is the way we should look at the world now and then, to see its natural beauty.

Spring photos with blurriness

Less Stiffness – More Blurriness

When your art is less stiff, it allows the imagination to step in. It’s amazing what can appear from those blurry background layers.

Coloring an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

I had no idea what the page would represent before the bee showed up! By freely coloring with odd, short colored pencils found from my growing collection, I continued filling the page. Like in photos, everything doesn’t have to be sharp and understandable in your art. You can let the viewer make their assumptions too.

Coloring an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

In the end, I drew some sharp lines and colored additional dark areas on the front. These welcome the eye to explore the rest of the page.

Coloring an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

This page has been created with colored pencils only. It has no sketching. It has been created just by coloring freely.

Journaling

When the page was finished, I wrote my thoughts about the magic of blurriness on the opposite page. When I open this spread after few months, I will be happily surprised by the spring feelings.

Art journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet. Colored freely with colored pencils.

From Observations to Coloring Techniques

When I wrote Coloring Freely, I didn’t want just to explain how to use the techniques. I wanted to guide you to observe your surroundings. With the guided observation prompts, you will realize why the techniques work and what kind of insights they are based on. That way you don’t just color rationally, but also connect emotionally.

Coloring Freely - 6 Coloring Techniques to Boost Your Self-Expression

If your images are full of stiff outlines, it’s time to explore the world with different glasses and
start coloring freely!

Coloring Freely:  Buy the e-book!

Free Video – Flower Postcards

Flower Postcards with Watercolors and Colored Pencils, a video for Peony and Parakeet's newsletter subscribers

Flower Postcards with Watercolors and Colored Pencils

This step-by-step video is perfect for all who want to start painting intuitively, more from imagination than from photos. If you are a subscriber you have already received the link to the video with the weekly email. If you aren’t a subscriber yet, subscribe here!

Flower Postcards with Watercolors and Colored Pencils, a video for Peony and Parakeet's newsletter subscribers

See My Watercolor Art Journal

Moleskine Watercolor Notebook

More Free Videos about Watercolors

How to paint Watercolor Postcards in Vintage Style – another, older video
Painting in Liberated Style – mixed media with watercolors
>> All blog posts about watercolor painting – plenty of those!

Step-by-step instructions for unique art: Buy Watercolor 101 for Intuitive Painting

Roses with Colored Pencils – Draw with Me!

Roses drawing by Peony and Parakeet, watch the video of drawing and coloring roses with colored pencils!

I know some of you prefer abstract themes, some more realistic. But maybe you are like me who loves to combine realistic themes, for example, roses, with more intuitive and abstracts shapes.

Copying? – No!

There are people who say that you have to copy photos to create realistic art. I don’t believe that. If you fairly accurately know the structure of the subject, there’s no need to have a photo in hand. Instead, you can focus on your point of view and express how you experience the subject.

Perspective Drawing? – No!

Some people say that you need to fully master perspective and shadowing to make your drawing look dimensional. I don’t believe that either. If you know how to work with colors, you can do a lot.

Blind Spots? – Most probably!

I do believe that most beginner artists have blind spots. Maybe you use too raw colors, maybe your every element is similar in size, maybe your lines are too stiff, maybe you get discouraged in the very beginning when not knowing what to create. Whether you love abstract or realistic, the blind spots are often the same. My workshops help you to get through the blind spots.

Coloring Roses – Draw with me!

But even if the workshops didn’t interest you, grab your colored pencils and draw the roses with me! Namely, thinking doesn’t boost your imagination and grow your skills in the way doing does.

Get more instructions for colored pencils: Buy Coloring Freely!

Tribute to Finnish Art Rugs

"Ryijyneilikat" - "Rug Carnations", a mixed media painting with watercolors and colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet

I made this painting just before Christmas but as it has a special story, I wanted to blog about it later when I had more time to write. Actually, I didn’t even plan for creating anything in the middle of holiday cleaning and cooking. But I just had to.

Finnish Art Rugs

Namely, my husband bought a wall art rug (“ryijy” in Finnish) from an online auction and it happened to arrive just before Christmas eve. We had been searching for one for some time. It had to suit with the colors and style of our living room and not be enormous (as many of them often are). We had a designer in mind too – Ritva Puotila, a Finnish woman who has recently designed carpets for her own company Woodnotes. In 1950-60s, she used to design beautiful, painterly Finnish art rugs. The rug that my husband found was her design called  “Fireside Evening” and I think it looks wonderful in our mid-century modern living room (which has a fireplace in the opposite wall).

Finnish wall art rug, ryijy, Fireside Evening, designed by Ritva Puotila

As you can see from the close-up photo, the rug is not only black and red but has many colors to create the painterly effect. At those times, in 1950-60s, wall rugs were fashionable in Finland and especially these kind of rugs that are as much modern art as home textiles. Many women bought the patterns and sewed or weaved their rugs by themselves. My mother was one of them. She chose a rug design called “Ruutrikki” (a made-up word that resembles “broken squares”) and the designer might have been Päikki Briha, if I remember correctly. Here’s an old photo of me and my father showing the rug in the background. That rug also has a lots of colors. It was difficult to zoom in, but hopefully you get the idea.

Ruutrikki, a Finnish art rug, ryijy

While touching and admiring our new red rug, I got very emotional. My mind was filled with mixed emotions. I was happy about the new art textile that would bring a warm atmosphere to our living room. On the other hand, while browsing the old photos, I saw people that have passed a way, photographed in front of my mother’s rug. When I remembered that many of those art rugs were sketched with watercolors and then transformed to a grid pattern, I just couldn’t help it. I had to take out my watercolor set and start a new painting even if it was getting late and I felt pretty tired.

Creating a Mixed Media Painting

While painting, I didn’t think about anything particular, but of course, the rugs found their way to the end result …

Creating of "Ryijyneilikat" - "Rug Carnations", a mixed media painting with watercolors and colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet

The painting turned out to be some kind of still life with a dark vase and few sad-looking carnations. Carnations were my mother’s favorite flowers and my father used to buy them for her every year, at their wedding anniversary.

A detail of "Ryijyneilikat" - "Rug Carnations", a mixed media painting with watercolors and colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet

If you look at Finnish art rugs at my Pinterest board, many of them have some kind of melancholy in them. Maybe it’s caused by a combination of muted colors, high contrasts and simplified, abstract approach. These were the elements that used in my painting too.

I finished the painting with colored pencils and named it as “Ryijyneilikat” – “Rug Carnations”. They are imaginary flowers that grow downwards, that are not used to be centerpieces, that blend in the background. They enforce other elements of the still life to step up and go forward. Just like my modest mother did for her children.

"Ryijyneilikat" - "Rug Carnations", a mixed media painting with watercolors and colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet

Create midcentury modern designs from simple shapes!
See more of my living room and get step-by-step introductions!
>> Buy Modern Midcentury!

Add More Creativity to Your Art!

Harvest Stillife, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

Here is my abstract still-life with watercolors, acrylic paints, and colored pencils, called “Harvest Stillife.” It’s created very intuitively, without any idea of the end result when started. But like so often before, when I selected images for this blog post, I found recent photos that must have been in my mind when I made this.

Photos from my garden

I love the complexity and the amount of details that can be seen in these shots from my garden. Many who struggle with creating art, overlook the complex nature of reality. In these photos, they only see a flower, bush, and some berries. Instead of labeling the obvious, you can examine all the color variations, different shapes,  sharpness and blurriness of the elements, depth, patterns, the way each color connects with the next … Then you can try to summarize what the hierarchy of all these factors in the photos could be, how all this could be modeled. It seems too complex to describe in a simple way. That’s when creativity starts working for the solution, figuring out what things to bring out without losing the connection to all of it.

A big part of the visuals today has a simple, graphic look. If you get exposed to that a lot, you might think that simplicity is the key to creating good art. I believe it’s totally opposite: complex things are the best source of inspiration. Trying to see complex systems behind simple stereotypes feeds our creativity much more than trying to simplify the simple.

The same idea applies to painting: Embrace the complexity by adding a lot of variation and then bring out the essential.

Painting an Abstract Still-Life

Watercolors and acrylic paints:

Phase 1 of Harvest Stillife, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

Placing a plastic wrap over the wet watercolor paint to add more delicate details:

Using a plastic wrap to create more details with watercolors

Ready for finishing:

Phase 2 of an abstract still-life, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

A detail of the finished look, done with colored pencils and a black drawing pen:

A detail of Harvest Stillife, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

Creating abstract still lives so that they appear naturally is so much fun!

Harvest Stillife, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

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Farewell to Summer with Watercolors

Farewell to Summer, a watercolor painting by Peony and Parakeet. Painting with watercolors.

September has been surprisingly warm in Finland this year. I took a photo a couple of days ago and even if it’s warm and the sun is shining there’s a certain melancholy in the air.

Last days of summer

I don’t usually mimick photos but this time I made an exception. I used the photo about a half of the process and then finished the painting more freely. As I was recording videos for the upcoming painting workshop, I already had all the cameras and such in place. So I made a short video showing how I created the painting.

Painting with Watercolors – Watch the video!

It was still warm today. Stella was more than happy! Needless to say, she loves the sun.

Stella the beagle enjoys the warmth of the sun in Finland, late September

Start painting with watercolors! See my class Watercolor 101 for Intuitive Painting

Thank You for Being There!

Two things happened yesterday. First, I sent my 100th email newsletter! I know there are people who have subscribed to it from 2010 when I sent out the first one. (If you are not a subscriber yet, click here!) Thank you!

Second, I saw sunflowers in full bloom and thought how they are like art: bringing joy and relaxation! I was working in my recording studio today, remembered the flowers and made this video for you. Thank you for being there, remember to nurture your creativity!

Drawing Sunflowers

Watch more of my videos!