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

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

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

Mid-Century Modern Brooch

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

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

Drawing Shapes – Pencil and Felt-Tipped Pens

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

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

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

For the Love of Peonies –  If They Could Speak …

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

Blooming peonies. Hei Hao Bo Tao and Bartzella.

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

Blooming peonies. Eden's Perfume in the front.

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

Blooming peonies. Coral Sunset and Bartzella.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I also have something else to share …

Coming up: “Collageland”

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

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

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

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

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Bad Ideas Make You a Better Artist!

Handdrawn Paper Doilies by Peony and Parakeet

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

Handpainted Paper Doilies – Not So Good Idea

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

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

Handdrawn Paper Doilies by Peony and Parakeet

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

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

Mandala Madness

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

Big Ideas Come from Bad Ideas

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

Planet Color and Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

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

Sowing flower seeds

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

Finland 200 – Not So Good Idea

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

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

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

Writing a story in an journal, by Peony and Parakeet

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

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

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

New Vision – Imagination Takes the Lead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Your Best Art Exists Only in Your Mind

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

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

6 Steps to Making an Impact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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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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