Peony and Parakeet

How to Create Art that Reflects Your True Self?

Watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read her article about finding visual style!

We artists talk a lot about finding our visual style. But while working on with this watercolor painting, I started to wonder if we try to force it too much through big declarations like:

– “I am going to paint portraits only.”
– “I am a fantasy artist.”
– “I only do abstracts.”

Isn’t style more in small and practical decisions that take place when we are creating. The problems arise so quickly and accidentally that we routinely respond to them. We often follow the easiest or the most ordinary path which usually leads to art that doesn’t reflect our true selves.

Child Doesn’t Think about Visual Style

A girl with a carrot. Children are creative no matter what they do.

When I was a small child, every day was filled with wonders of life. When I didn’t think too much of what would be appreciated in the world of adults, I led myself to enjoy things fully. I didn’t question if my hair was ok when my mother asked me to get in front of the camera. I loved the sunny day, the attention, and was proud of that big carrot, a miracle grown in our own garden.

A watercolor painting in progress. You can't see your visual style in the beginning of the painting.

So, when starting a painting, more than trying to see the whole garden at once, I try to dig out a carrot – a small detail that I choose to embrace. It can look ugly and insignificant to others, but to me, it feels lovely.

Watercolor painting in progress.

If I start questioning if this is my style, it’s like saying “If you want to become an artist, you should hold a brush instead of a carrot” to the child. In the class Floral Fantasies, I have an exercise where we grow a painting from a baby to an adult. The painting that’s just a small child can’t look like a grown-up. At best, you move towards your true self layer by layer.

Overcoming the Seek of Acceptance

Expression-wise, the most important decisions are made when you have been painting for a while. Then you are dealing with a teenager. In general and also in paintings, it’s the age when you follow what others do and seek acceptance.

A watercolor painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read her article about visual style and small decisions that we make during creating.

I tend to lock too easily what comes up in the middle of the painting process. In this watercolor painting, I saw a duck coming up. It would have been so easy to make the duck the centerpiece of the painting. I like animals, and I know many of my customers like them too. But I wanted the image to be more mysterious and express growth. So I left the egg instead and changed the duck to a pot. It required a lot more work, but I am very happy with the decision!

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

Preserving Some, Letting Some Go

I have had the privilege to follow my dog Cosmo getting old. In the age of 14, has let go of many things, but he fights to keep the things he has always enjoyed. He wants to go for a walk in the woods, steal my socks, and roll over to get a pig’s ear.

Old dog.

With Cosmo, I have been thinking about how difficult it is to me to let go of the things that I don’t even want.

Here’s what we artists say to ourselves when we refuse to remove the duck, the obvious or the accidental elements:
– “Maybe somebody else will enjoy this painting.”
– “It was just an experiment.”
– “My next painting will be better.”
– “I don’t know if this is good or bad.”
– “I feel unfocused.”

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

If we try to preserve everything, we are left with nothing. Like Cosmo, we need to choose what makes life and our images rich and what reflects our true selves. Not forgetting “stealing socks” – embracing humor, small vices, often little embarrassing characteristics that make us who we are.

A detail of a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Her visual style is shown in the details.

To me, putting more value on these small decisions in the middle of creating has helped to make art that, more often than before, reflects my true self and is a clear presentation of my visual style.

A watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read her article on finding visual style.

You can still sign up for my class Floral Fantasies while it’s running. So sign up before May 24 to grab this class! >> Sign up here!

The Best Inspiration for Art

"Believe", handdrawn collage by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watch her video about making this piece!

I have often written about using your own art for inspiration and combining many ideas into one piece. But this time I want to show that more in detail. With the video below, I invite you to my studio to browse art journals and sketchbooks and see how you can practice, create, and also play.

The Best Inspiration for Art – Watch the Video!

Come to Draw with Us!

Animal Inkdom - a fun drawing class by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Come to draw and decorate animals with us at Animal Inkdom! You will get the published lessons immediately after the registration, and you can start drawing right away. Sign up for Animal Inkdom!

Believe!

"Believe", a hand-drawn collage by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watch her video about art inspiration and making this piece!

This week’s artwork, called “Believe” is also for sale in my art store.

Joyful Art Taught by Drawing Paper Dolls

Mixed media art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. This one is called "Living Paper Doll"

Here’s my latest illustration called “Living Paper Doll.” It expresses the world of fantasy that I have been able to find after changing some of my artistic dreams.

Trade-Offs to Create Joyful Art

For a long time, one part of me has admired old master paintings, yearned for more visits to famous art museums, and desperately wanted to master more and more skills. Another part has been less serious, playing with the idea of getting back to childhood, drawing animals and paper dolls, re-reading books like Emily of the New Moon, and watching Bride and Prejudice for the 12th time …

After October, or should we say Inktober, these two parts have started to shake hands and discuss what to save and what to throw out. A lot of that inner conversation has been about changing technical skills to using more imagination. Another trade-off has been between abstract and representational art. I no longer aspire to create fully abstract paintings. More than a fine artist, I am an illustrator of the mind.

If you look at this piece from January 2018, its visual style is very similar to my current pieces. But content-wise the change is a big one. This now looks empty to me.

Abstract art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Freedom of the Line or the Mind?

How many times have we tried to grow our drawing and painting skills to become “looser”? And how many times it has led to more stiffness regarding the use of imagination?

I have to admit that often we art teachers can be blamed here. It’s easy to focus more on the technical side, composition and such, rather than supporting the growth in expression. But on the other hand, “techniques” and “step-by-step” are often the words that students want. Expression and imagination sound much vaguer.

However, joyful art is created with free spirit. Now I feel that if I had to choose one stiffness, it would be the stiffness of the line instead of the mind.

Joyful Art in Practice – Forgotten Piece Gets Completed

Last weekend, I organized my studio and found a piece that I had started in July. I hadn’t finished it because I had no idea how to proceed. It was made on a huge piece of paper that I had later cut smaller just to be able to store it more easily.

Creating mixed media art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Last summer, I did many experiments with graphite pencils. Here I also used watercolors, one of my favorite supplies. Now I wanted to add some ink drawing as well. It was a lot of fun drawing my current favorite subjects, animals, to this forgotten piece.

Creating mixed media art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Ink pens and watercolors go well together!

Creating mixed media art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Painting with watercolors and creating joyful art.

First I thought I make this piece a self-portrait by drawing my face on the background. But then I thought about my business name Peony and Parakeet, and how Peony represents beautiful things while Parakeet is for curiosity and play. So the idea of a face changed to a bird. Notice how the elements blend with each other, creating a sense of unity to the piece.

Mixed media art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watercolors, ink, and graphite pencils.

I toned down the bright white areas with yellowish green. I used Daniel Smith’s Rich Green Gold. It’s one of my favorites when painting with watercolors.

Mixed media art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. This one is called "Living Paper Doll"

Paper Playground in the Studio

My studio has always had a minimalistic feel, but now it has got more and more joyful art that I don’t want to put away!

Paivi Eerola's art studio full of joyful art.

One of the big joys in January has been the art that has been created by the participants of Animal Inkdom. On Monday, we will start a new module and it’s about drawing birds. I am so excited to see what everyone will create from the class projects.

Hand-drawn paper bird. Art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

These paper dolls feel alive to me. They radiate hope that was always present when I was a child. I was living in a dream world most of the times, and back then, there seemed to be nothing extraordinary. But for an adult, it’s amazing what the mind of a child can discover, and sad how we ruin that when starting to follow other people’s expectations.

A detail of a mixed media artwork called "Living Paper Doll" by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Art, Hope, and Humor!

There are no boundaries in art. Art includes hope and humor as well. To me, exploring humor joy has revealed new ways to create. I feel that I am now better at delivering a sense of mystery, dealing with dark themes, combining suspense and silliness, and accepting that sometimes art can be so bad that it’s almost the best possible kind of art!

Humorous and joyful art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Come to Animal Inkdom to draw with us, we’ll start with the birds on Monday. The previous module “Bees and Butterflies” arrives immediately after signing up, and you are good to go! >> Sign up here!

Breaking the Rules – Creating What’s Right for You

This blog post is about breaking the rules when choosing what to create.

Madonna of the Heart, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Let’s begin with this oil painting. Oil paintings are big projects for me, and I only finished two of them last year. The first was Temptation, and this is the second one, called Madonna of the Heart.

Following the Heart – Breaking the Rules

My Madonna is a small painting, only 18,5 x 23,5 cm, but it’s quite detailed. I first planned to make it fully abstract, but then got second thoughts.

Starting an oil painting, painting intuitively, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

As a child, I learned the basics of eastern-orthodox art by attending an icon painting group. I was taught many rules – what colors to choose, how to mix the right tones, how to build layers, etc. It was not just about learning the right techniques, but also obeying the long tradition. The repeating discussion in the group was the difference between right and wrong. There was very little room for creativity, and I loved it! I was about 10 years old and eager to learn new things. Work was challenging, and it was comforting to know that there’s one clear direction.

Madonna of the Heart, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

When painting the small canvas, I was tempted to travel back to my childhood, and participate in that small and safe group of icon painters again. But I also knew that it’s very wrong not to follow the rules. My supplies were wrong, my background was wrong, the whole idea was wrong. But it felt natural and tempting, so I made it.

Natural to You, Wrong to Some

Recently, I have found many creative blocks like this one. To paint an icon with oils on an abstract background is wrong to some, but it’s natural to me. I love painting intuitively, and the idea of an icon is the most beautiful that I know. Don’t we all need an image that offers consolation and reminds about kindness? To me, it has nothing to do with any specific religion. Everybody has a right to have a Madonna of the Heart.

While building the class Animal Inkdom, I have also filled my “boxes of joy” with hand-drawn collage pieces. Very soon after starting, I realized that the principle “natural to me, wrong to some” also applies to these small drawings.

Paivi's box of hand drawn collage pieces. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Yes, I love to draw flowers, birds, butterflies, very innocent stuff. But there are also pieces that are quite odd like this one.

Hand drawn ornament by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

This hand-drawn ornament has two women, both dressed in old Byzantine clothing, and the lion. It has a handle so that it can be held like a sacred image. This small drawing is packed with stories about my childhood. I remember the conversations with my mother, already passed away. I remember my idol, Joy Adamson, and her lion Elsa. I remember my love for blue color. Seeing all that together makes me happy.

I also love to play with the ornament by adding more handdrawn elements around it!

Hand-drawn ornaments by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Breaking the Rules Between Serious and Playful

So it happened that a carefully painted oil painting and this little ornament became equal. Of course, not equal in monetary value, but equal in the kind of satisfaction I get from them. And it also feels that this world that I am building is surprisingly inclusive, both humorous and deep. All I need to do is to make what’s natural to me, even if it would look wrong to some.

Paivi Eerola's art. An oil painting and hand-drawn ornaments. Breaking the rules of what's right and wrong in art.

We often miss this natural zone because we are so focused on what makes sense to others. When choosing what to create, we work with pre-defined labels like “portraits” or “art journal pages” or “abstracts.” We do what seems to be right for the genre, rather than step into the world where someone might not get it, or in the worst case, might get offended. Still, the freedom in art can’t exist without the freedom of imagination.

Come to Play and Draw with Me!

So, I dare to suggest: play with your art! Cross the boundaries between “right” and “wrong”! Follow the general rules of aesthetics but brea the rules of subject matters.

I think that with Animal Inkdom, you can nail it. You will get practical tips and techniques, but there’s also humor and play, all flavored with the love for wildlife.

Drawing animals and decorating them with motifs. Paivi Eerola has a fun drawing class called Animal Inkdom.

It’s still a good time to sign up for Animal Inkdom! The first one of the five modules is published, and you will get it right away after the registration.

Let’s keep on drawing, and never forget the playing part either!

Scroll to top