3 Secrets for Removing Stiffness When Creating Mixed Media Faces

Mixed media portrait by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her tips about removing stiffness when drawing faces!

When you don’t want to spend too much time on deciding what to create, a portrait is an easy choice. This blog post is for you who struggles with stiffness when drawing faces and feel the lack of imagination when creating mixed media faces.

1) Draw Curvier and Shorter Lines

Long straight lines or arcs and fully outlined shapes look stiff no matter what you create. Cut the lines, make them curvier and change their thickness. This way you express light and shadows in a 3-dimensional shape and let the viewer use the imagination to complete the shape.

Tips for reducing stiffness by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her article with more illustrated tips!

You can also use freely exploring line to create openness and softness as I have done in the eye below.

A detail of a mixed media portrait by Peony and Parakeet. See Paivi Eerola's tips about how to remove stiffness when creating mixed media faces!

Here’s the full portrait:

Self-Portrait in Mixed Media, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her illustrated tips about removing stiffness when drawing faces!

2) See the Light and Shadows as Shapes

When coloring, instead of filling the closed shape with color, create a composition of flowing shapes. If you are creating mixed media faces, using collage pieces, a tiny detail like lips or a chin can be constructed from several organic pieces.

Tips for reducing stiffness by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her article with more illustrated tips!

I often think about light as water that is poured on the face.

A detail of a mixed media portrait by Peony and Parakeet. See Paivi Eerola's tips about how to remove stiffness when creating mixed media faces!

3) Forget The Stereotypes – Focus on Expression

Stiffness is often a result of the stereotypes we have in our minds. We have a certain preconception how the lips should look like, what is the color of the skin, how the eye is constructed, and so on. Even if we used reference photos, these stereotypes often take over. But we can break the stiff ideas by steering our minds to more creative directions. Instead of thinking about drawing lips, think about drawing a landscape.  Instead of trying to control the big picture, think about facial features as miniature abstract art pieces in a larger puzzle.

Tips for reducing stiffness by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her article with more illustrated tips!

I often change the orientation of my piece while working. It helps me to focus on expression and to check that my miniature art piece looks good from all directions.

Tips for reducing stiffness by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her article with more illustrated tips!

These Secrets for Mixed Media Faces Originate from the 16th Century!

These are not new ideas. If you study portraits from 16th century very closely, you’ll see that the painters’ knew how to break the line, leave less important details less defined, use a wide range of colors, and make each area of the painting work on their own in addition to creating a seamlessly flowing stream. Here’s a detail of my recent painting where I have used Boccaccio Boccaccino’s painting about Gypsy Girl as one of the reference images. (I will blog about this painting later!)

A detail of Paivi Eerola's oil painting in Renaissance style.

So you can apply these secrets to any style!

Liberated Portraits in Practice

Knowing these things is good but when you want to integrate these kinds of formulated ideas into your art, seeing how to get started and getting feedback to notice the blind spots can be ground-breaking. In Lesson 4 of Inspirational Drawing 2.0, I guide you to create liberated self-portraits without reference images. I show you how to create collage pieces and compose mixed media faces and draw portraits by coloring with colored pencils only.

Portraits by Peony and Parakeet. See Paivi Eerola's tips about how to remove stiffness when drawing faces and when creating faces in mixed media! She also has a class called Inspirational Drawing 2.0 where you will learn to make these!

Start creating art that is full of imagination and expression!
>> Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

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!

Knitting and Painting – A Video Visit to My Studio!

"Channel into The World", an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Watch the video behind this painting and in the same time, see Paivi's studio!

This time I have something for you who likes to watch long videos. I love to knit (especially Leftie scarves) while watching video podcasts, so maybe you can pick up a project too and come to spend some time in my studio, talking about crafts, art inspiration, and painting supplies. I will create a craft-inspired art journal page and show many other pieces too.

A Day at the Studio – One Video in Two Parts

It is a really long video, so I have divided it into two parts. The first part is an introduction to a small project that I paint on the second part. The second part also shows some painting supplies. I hope you will enjoy both of them!

Here’s the first part:

And here’s the second part:

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

Don’t Just Create Circles! Moving on with Freehand Drawing

Freehand drawing by Peony and Parakeet. Made for the class Inspirational Drawing 2.0

I have created this journal spread for the class Inspirational Drawing 2.0 where I teach freehand drawing that goes beyond just drawing circles. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have anything against circles. I think that I, if anyone, have had a real love affair with circles. In fact, it was all I drew for a long time.

Circle Love

Mixed media circles, by Peony and Parakeet. Read the blog post to move on creating more than just circles!

In 2010-2012, I spent most of my free time drawing circles.

Mixed media circles, by Peony and Parakeet. Read the blog post to move on creating more than just circles!

I even went to a few craft fairs to sell – hand-drawn circles!

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet in 2012

I firmly believed that if I create enough circles, I will find something new behind them. And yes, I slowly started to realize that there’s more than just making repeated circles that are more like backgrounds and patterns than expressive images. Now years later, I wish someone would have shown me how to move on – how to combine those repeating graphic shapes with lines that express more.

A detail of a freehand drawing. By Peony and Parakeet.

Do You Make Abstracts but Still Feel the Stiffness?

Circles and other geometric shapes are fun to create. But no matter how good I became in that, I never felt the same satisfaction that I felt when I was able to go beyond that. So when I meet people who say that they “make abstracts” and “want to get away from stiffness,” I totally get it. “I don’t really know what my abstracts represent,” says many who come to my classes. Drawing circles and playing with layers feels free first, but the more you want to express yourself, you need to explore more.

“More” doesn’t mean that you have to throw away what you have already learned. If you look at my two pieces, you can still see similarities. The first one made in 2011 called “Romance,” and the second in 2015 is called “Withering Peonies.” I called the first one “Romance” because I thought it’s all so romantic. But in the second one, I was able to express my love for peonies with much more expression without just drawing stiff flower-like shapes.

From creating circles to expressive freehand drawing. By Peony and Parakeet.

The satisfaction that came from being able to deliver a message, instead of just an atmosphere, was ground-breaking to me. My art became more powerful, impactful, it spoke not only to me but others as well.

That’s why I now teach
– how to open up and liberate the line
– how to communicate visually: create illustrations instead of backgrounds
– how to express inspiration and explore imagination in its full potential.

And that’s why my class Inspirational Drawing 2.0 exists. (Sign up here!)

A mixed media art journal page by Peony and Parakeet.

Freehand Drawing Video – Create with me!

I have made a video where we start with geometric shapes and then move on to liberate the line. To create with me, you will only need a black thin-tipped drawing pen and colored pencils (or any coloring supplies).

Art supplies for freehand drawing. By Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s the little drawing that we will create together.

An art journal page exploring freehand drawing. Watch the video to create this! By Peony and Parakeet.

And here’s the video!

Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet and her mixed media art journal page spread.

Dive deeper into communicating visually
and become passionate about expressing yourself!
>> Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

Intuitive Still Life – Video with Gelli Plates and Golden Open Acrylics

Intuitive still life painting using both Gelli plate and brushes. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s my latest painting, an intuitive still life with tulips. Last week, I had a short visit to an art supply store in Helsinki. I was surprised that they had a collection of Gelli plates for sale. When I got my first one several years ago, it wasn’t as accessible. I had to contact a shop in Italy which was the only retailer in Europe at that time. It’s great that Gelli plates have become more widely known. I have noticed that on my blog too. Month after month, the post “Self-Expression with Gelli Plate” is at top ten!

So I couldn’t help myself at the art supply store and bought another Gelli plate. My old one is 8 by 10 inches. The new one is a smaller, only 3 by 5 inches. It’s easier to handle and clean but mono printing with the big one is quicker.

Could Gelli Plates Be The Cure for Blank Paper Syndrome?

I wanted to have an experiment using both of the plates. Without any pre-planned idea about what my painting should represent, I would get over the blank paper syndrome using random monoprints. Then I would move on using brushes and working more intentionally. As always with mono printing, I used Golden Open Acrylics as paints because they don’t dry as quickly as regular ones.

Here’s my painting after I had some fun with Gelli plates.

Intuitive still life painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

And here’s the finished piece.

Intuitive still life painting using both Gelli plate and brushes. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Intuitive Equals Subconscious!

After I had finished painting, I realized that it’s a combination of recent events: I got a lot of tulips for my birthday, made a strawberry birthday cake and enjoyed the winter sun with Stella.

Photo collage from February: tulips, birthday cake, winter sun.

Intuitive Still Life – Watch the Video!

Here’s a video about creating the intuitive still life. There you can see how adventurous my process was.

Enjoy creating more intuitively: Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

Expressing Inspiration Through Art

Storyteller's Power, a mixed media drawing by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read more about expressing inspiration through art!

I made this mixed media drawing “Storyteller’s Power” for the class Inspirational Drawing 2.0. I have created it from a collection of inspiration images. One of them is Luca Mombello’s Renaissance painting “The Immaculate and God the Father” which I saw at the recent renaissance art exhibition of The National Museum of Finland. Seeing the artwork, and how it reminded me of modern fantasy novels, caused a huge spark of inspiration. But when I heard that the frame was handmade by the painter, it felt mind-blowing. What an artist!

A set of inspiration images for creating art. One of the image is Luca Mombello¨s painting The Immaculate and God the Father"

Inspiration is Often Visual

It doesn’t have to be an art exhibition to make me inspired. I see ideas everywhere. Because of that, I am a useless listener without doodling or knitting. If I listen to a long lecture without nothing to do with my hands, I find visual ideas and inspiration everywhere. I look at the pipes attached to the ceiling or count the colors of the clothes. Soon, I have discovered a new idea that has nothing to do with what I came to listen! I believe that especially for visual people, inspiration is often visual too. We get excited by what we see and can’t help being drawn to colors and details.

Only You Can Express Your Inspiration!

Over three years ago I started to find a solution for expressing inspiration by drawing and painting. The world was full of images that embarked my excitement, but it seemed impossible to express it genuinely through art. I was either too intentional which brought stiffness, or too intuitive, which took me just further away from my original inspiration.

I already had some experience of using mood boards when studying design so I was certain that there was a solution to the problem. But rather than creating a new design, I wanted to use the images for enriching artistic expression. The idea was not to copy but boost imagination in a meaningful and intentional way. After all, inspiration is a personal feeling, and it should be interpreted in a personal way. Even if it’s evoked by something or someone, there’s always something unique in the way each one of us experiences it. Only you can express your inspiration!

A detail of Storyteller's Power, a mixed media drawing by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read more about expressing inspiration through art!

Expressing Inspiration Through Art

An inspirational image can quickly touch hearts but drawing and painting is a slower process. We can use images for picking visual ideas but we also need to process the inspiration so that we know why we got inspired in the first place. I believe that the images are like icons that bring up personal memories, points of view and aspirations. If we don’t connect with those, we don’t fully put the inspiration into use for art making.

At the first version of Inspirational Drawing, I showed a method for using an inspirational image as the source of ideas for a new drawing. At Inspirational Drawing 2.0, I introduce an improved process. It helps you to use one or more images as an inspiration source, connect with the thoughts and feelings that they evoke and create unique art from there. First, I show samples and walk you through a simplified process. Then I help you to create a bigger project that uses many kinds of inspiration along creating.

Paivi and Storyteller's Power, her mixed media drawing. Read more about expressing inspiration through art!

Claudia Watkins, one of the students says: “Paivi is a very profound lady. Her insights are amazing. Although having a technical background, Paivi sees beauty, philosophy, and art in everything. Paivi has helped me a lot in my art journey.”

Express Your Inspiration: Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

Mixed Media Seascapes – 5 Tips for Expressive Art

Notice the new, useful categories for the blog posts, see the sidebar “Posts by Theme” or if you are in mobile, see the end of the page!

Sometimes I regret creating my art on the journals. When I created these mixed media seascapes for the mini-course Stormy Scenery, I wanted to keep the journals open and visible for days just to get back with the process and look at all the colors. And when I saw what my students had created, I secretly wished the same – that not so many weren’t in journals but frames. I want to share some art made from the mini-course and share some tips for expressive seascapes.

1) Play with Colors!

When creating the waves, show how the water reflects the colors from its surroundings. When there’s a storm, there will be a lot that’s moving, and it will affect the colors too. You can show your current state of mind as the sea and bring out the variety of thoughts and feelings. See how Claudia Watkins has made a row of waves with various colors.

Claudia Watkins, UK. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Claudia Watkins, UK

2) Create a Connection Between The Sky and The Sea!

If the sea represents you and the sky represents the outside world, how do they interact? Susan Rajkumar has expressed the connection in a brilliant way. It looks like the sea is willing to hug the sun and the overall feeling in the piece is warm and happy.

Susan Rajkumar, India. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Susan Rajkumar, India

Sheila McGruer’s sun has left the sea, and it has caused an explosion of energy.

Sheila McGruer, Australia. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Sheila McGruer, Australia

Sheila’s piece also has the softness which takes us to the next tip …

3) Express the Softness of Water

Cheryl Rayner shows the softness with both long strokes and splashes of water. With softness, you can practice gentleness towards yourself and others.

Cheryl Rayner, USA. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Cheryl Rayner, USA

4) Show The Movement of The Waves

Enjoy the transformation that happens when you focus on creating art! Strokes and lines express the movement. Lorraine Cline’s green sea is captivating because it’s wonderfully dynamic!

Lorraine Cline, USA. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Lorraine Cline, USA

Terttu Laitinen has the great eye of the storm.

Terttu Laitinen, Finland. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Terttu Laitinen, Finland

5) Make The Scene Look 3-Dimensional!

In any scene and any mind, some things are closer, and some things are further away. Add more 3-dimensional look to make some elements more blurry and some sharper than others. Satu Kontuvuori has a striking focal point where sharp white waves are on the top of the blurry black eye of the storm.

Satu Kontuvuori, Finland. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Satu Kontuvuori, Finland

Mackie d’Arge also has a clear focal point and lots of less defined splashes around it.

Mackie d'Arge, USA. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Mackie d’Arge, USA

Internal Seascapes – Connect with Your Internal Energy!

The mixed media seascapes shown in this blog posts are made from the mini-course Stormy Scenery which was part of my Imagine Monthly Spring series last year. You can now purchase it individually too. When creating Stormy Scenery, I was inspired by the long chain of seascape painters, especially by J.M.W. Turner and Ivan Aivazovski. I also have a Pinterest board called Internal Seascapes where I have collected inspirational sea paintings.

But in Stormy Scenery, more than just to paint the sea, I coach you through the process of opening up and bringing out your expression. With the mini-course, you are not so much mimicking the sea outside but expressing the power inside. I believe that every artist has a unique power as well as every day has a unique energy.

Create Mixed Media Seascapes!

Use colored pencils, watercolors, and acrylic paints to create expressive mixed media art!
>> Click here to buy Stormy Scenery!

Stormy Scenery, an art journaling mini-course by Peony and Parakeet

P.S. If you want more personal guidance and community support to get deeper in self-expression, you can still sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

Mixed Media Drawing Tutorial – Create Step by Step!

Intuitive mixed media drawing inspired by old still life paintings. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

With this blog post, I want to encourage you to
… draw from imagination
… fall in love with the combination of water-soluble media and colored pencils
… find inspiration from art that has been created hundreds of years ago

Inspiration from Old Still Lives

A few weeks ago, I visited a small art museum called Sinebrychoff Art Museum in Helsinki. I have visited it many times because it’s a cozy old building and small art exhibitions are refreshing more than overwhelming. One more reason is that in Finland you can buy a museum card for about 65 EUR and it gives you free access to most of the Finnish museums for a year. It became available in 2015, and since then I have visited museums more than ever before in a year.

The exhibition at Sinebrychoff Art Museum was about old still lives, painted in the 16th to 18th centuries. I have admired those old, elegant paintings with beautiful flowers and fruits of all sorts for a long time. I have a Pinterest board dedicated to the most luxurious still lives, and I often bring up little things that I have learned from watching them in my classes. So no wonder, I was very inspired after seeing the exhibition, and I had to create a small drawing just to let my imagination play with the memories of beautiful paintings.

Mixed Media Drawing with Imaginative Fruits and Flowers

I picked one of my art journals, a Daler- Rowney’s Graduate Sketchbook, and a black thin-tipped drawing pen that has permanent ink. I prefer sketching with a permanent pen rather than with a pencil. Not being able to erase anything makes me more creative. Using permanent ink allows me to play with wet media as well.

First, I started doodling from the edges towards the center. Then I added some watercolors on the top of the doodling leaving the center blank.

Making of an intuitive mixed media drawing inspired by old still life paintings. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Once the watercolor was dry, I added more doodling in the center and finished the page with colored pencils. The dark background makes the colorful flowers and fruit stand out.

This process was so simple that I wanted to make a small tutorial for another page inspired by old still lives. So here it comes!

Mixed Media Drawing – A Tutorial

1) Set the composition with simple shapes. Draw a big shape and then a smaller one. The shapes can intersect.

A tutorial for an intuitive mixed media drawing inspired by old still life paintings. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

2) Add the horizon by doodling. I wanted to make the drawing dynamic by giving the horizon a diagonal direction.

3) Paint the background leaving most of the shapes blank. I used watercolors, but you can use any water-soluble media like inks or watercolor pens. Just make sure that your lines will show through because it’s part of the visual appeal. Use more than just one color so that your painting inspires you in the next step. Let dry.

A tutorial for an intuitive mixed media drawing inspired by old still life paintings. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

4) Doodle your heart out! Without raising your pen from the paper, doodle over the painted background and on the center too.

5) Color the drawing with bright colors and dark shadows. I used colored pencils, but you can use almost any media for coloring. For example, felt-tipped pens work great. You can also continue to use water-soluble media for coloring. Add dark colors between the flowers and the leaves. Leave some of the painting made in Step 3 visible so that your drawing breathes.

A tutorial for an intuitive mixed media drawing inspired by old still life paintings. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

6) Add the final touches to balance the drawing. I added some lines to make the elements in the background more explanatory and a tiny flower that looks like it’s reaching them. I also made the top right corner look similar to bottom right corner to highlight the diagonal composition in the background.

Intuitive mixed media drawing inspired by old still life paintings. See step by step instructions for making this! By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Mixed Media Drawing – Say You Want to Explore More!

Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!
1) Enjoy Drawing from Imagination!
At Inspirational Drawing 2.0, you will quickly get in touch with you living line and lively imagination. You will also get personal help to finish your pieces so that they are meaningful and appealing to other people too.
>> Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

Buy a mixed media self-study class Flowing Greenery!
2) Practice Merging Painting with Drawing!

Learn to merge drawn areas with painted areas and play with shadows! Flowing Greenery is a self-study class with two projects, a small still life, and a bigger landscape.
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Buy an e-book Coloring Freely!
3) Get Creative with Colored Pencils!

Coloring doesn’t have to be stiff or boring. Learn to color freely whether it’s coloring a drawing or creating intuitive art directly on a blank page!
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Year 2016 in Review – In Terms of Art Supplies

A handdrawn collage by Peony and Parakeet. Her course Inspirational Drawing 2.0 teaches how to create these + more!

I am not usually so keen on “year in reviews,” but I thought it would be interesting to look back regarding art supplies used in 2016. When people ask me what supplies do I use, my quick response is: “Acrylic paints, watercolors, and colored pencils.” If I get detailed questions, I often refer to these blog posts: What Art Supplies Do I need? and What Acrylic Colors to Buy?

But it hit me that I have used a more diverse selection of supplies in 2016. And then, there are all kinds of necessary stuff that we don’t often mention but still use all the time. So, I dedicate this blog post to supplies. It’s not so much about the single pieces created in 2016. If you want to have a look at those, go to 2016 Gallery!

Must-Haves for Collage Art

The image that is at the beginning of this post is a collage made for January’s lesson at Inspirational Drawing 2.0 while teaching how to create unique collage pieces and enjoy freehand drawing. I have been blown away by the beautiful art created by my students, and I am more certain than ever that introducing the ideas for drawing piece by piece makes freehand drawing and the use of imagination easier than trying to build a bigger illustration in one piece. (You can still sign up for the class and get the first lesson immediately after the purchase!)

I like to create collage art to my biggest art journals. I have two of large Dylusions Creative Journals. The first one is almost full, so I hope I can fill it in 2017 and make a flip-through video of it. I purchased the second one last year because I love the quality of the paper. It’s perfectly smooth for colored pencils and sturdy enough for collage art.

Making of a hand-drawn paper collage. By Peony and Parakeet. Her course Inspirational Drawing 2.0 teaches how to create these + enjoy hand drawing!

Like in the previous years, I have used “Golden Soft Gel Gloss” gel medium for attaching the collage pieces and Tim Holtz’s non-stick scissors for cutting the pieces.

A new discovery is to use a piece of cotton cloth to remove excess gel medium. First, I started using old t-shirts for finger painting. But when learning old masters painting techniques at a class, we used old linens for cleaning the brushes and realized that they work well for wiping off too. Since then, I have been a collector of old cotton fabric pieces. A fellow artist told me that she has several plastic bags filled with waste cotton fabric for art making!

Cutting collage pieces. By Peony and Parakeet.

Speaking of collecting, I am still a collector of the best handmade supplies: hand drawn and hand painted paper pieces! If you have never tried creating collage pieces, see Step by Step page for basic instructions! I also have a mini-course called Doodled Luxury, that shows how to combine doodling with collage techniques.

Colored Pencils – Not for Art-Making Only!

Because I create a lot with colored pencils, I often get questions about which colored pencils to buy. Many contemplate between regular and water-soluble pencils. I love regular colored pencils because they are easy to carry and easy to use when you only have a minute or two. I use regular colored pencils also outside my art-making. I love to use them to make written notes more visual and add visual ideas to my notebooks and planners.

Work Planner Spread. By Peony and Parakeet. She uses Happy Planner for her art business.

It’s why I always have colored pencils in my reach, and I think it’s also why I find it so easy to create with them. If I have to create something quickly that isn’t very big in size, it feels natural to choose them. I use Prismacolor Soft Core pencils when I create art pieces and a selection of old pencils for more mundane purposes. My e-book Coloring Freely focuses on regular colored pencils and shows easy techniques for creative coloring.

Using watercolor pencils by Peony and Parakeet. See her class Inspirational Drawing 2.0.

I also have a mixed selection of watercolor pencils, and I enjoy using them too, especially in the beginning of coloring. Using water makes it quicker to fill a paper with a soft mix of colors. It is the technique I use a lot at Inspirational Drawing 2.0: starting the coloring with watercolor pencils, inks or watercolors and then moving on to dry supplies like colored pencils and felt-tipped pens.

Using Watercolor Paper – and Not!

This is a supply that makes my heart sing – I only have to touch it: a good quality watercolor paper! My absolute favorite: St Cuthberts Mill’s Saunders Waterford HP watercolor paper. It’s smooth and thick (300 gm2/140 lbs), and it’s perfect for both watercolors and colored pencils. I especially enjoy creating intuitive still lifes on the thick paper. I often cut the paper to a square to enable easy changes in orientation. See this blog post to watch me creating the intuitive mixed media painting below on a watercolor paper!

March Still Life, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet.

March Still Life, 2016

Even if I love smooth watercolor paper, I don’t want to limit the use of watercolors. I use watercolors constantly and often with paper that is not designed for it. I like to carelessly splash watercolors on any paper because there are a lot more opportunities to use watercolors than to use watercolor paper. For example, watercolor paper is not good for collage pieces because it’s too thick. I like to use sketching paper instead.

Watercolor painting in Hundertwasser's style. By Peony and Parakeet.

The best exploration with watercolors so far happened in 2016. I studied Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s way of using watercolors and created a mini-course about imaginative painting style. This painting style uses only a little water, and it’s easy to apply on almost any paper. See the mini-course Painter’s Ecstasy!

The Year of Canvas

If I had to name one supply that marks 2016, it would be canvas. I have created more canvas pieces than ever before. I have painted five small acrylic paintings and two medium-sized paintings. “Human Nature” was not a wall-sized, but so far the biggest that I have painted. See this blog post: 5 Lessons Learned When Painting on Big Canvas

"Human Nature" by Peony and Parakeet. This was her biggest painting in 2016.

I always take the canvas more seriously than if I create a painting on a watercolor paper or an art journal. A blank paper syndrome is nothing compared to a blank canvas syndrome! But I enjoy larger projects between smaller ones, and I have two blank canvases waiting for 2017 creations.

Experiments with New Supplies

Oil paints 
I would have never guessed that I would be 47 years old before trying out oil paints for the first time, but that was how it went. I started painting as a young teenager and my parents purchased acrylic paints to me. They explained that using oil paints would require all kinds of liquids that would not be safe and acrylic paints were better in that way. They were so right! Not to mention all the smells! I live in a house built in the 1960s, and the smell stays there for some time. It would be impossible to me to use oil paints daily just because of that.

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet exploring old master painting techniques with oil paints.

But I have signed up for an art class and will start my second oil painting next week using the old masters’ techniques. (See this blog post to read what any artist can learn from old masters!) I love the pigment and gloss of good quality oil paints. We are using Schminke’s Mussini oil paints, and they are the best quality paints that I have ever experimented with.

Soft Pastels
During 2016, I saw quite a lot of art that was created with soft pastels. I almost bought Unison soft pastels to treat myself but then realized that I already had a small set of Rembrandt soft pastels. I had purchased them many years ago for industrial design studies, but we had been using them very differently than how people use them usually. We scraped them to get powder and used the powder to create soft shadows.

A detail of an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Made using soft pastels.

I created an art journal page (see the full image in the middle of this blog post) to try them out. Now I just grabbed the sticks and drew with them, but it felt like there was powder everywhere. And then, in the end, I had to use fixative, of course. It felt tedious even if it was not. I had no desire for new pastels anymore, but afterward, I have wondered if I gave up too easily. Maybe I should try the soft pastels again sometimes in 2017.

Liquid Watercolors and Watercolor Markers
In the late fall, I got a couple of surprise packages from one of my students! I got to use liquid watercolors and watercolor markers for the first time, and I liked both of them.

Art supplies. Liquid watercolor bottles.

I like the intensity of color in liquid watercolors. Mine are Dr. Ph. Martins’s Hydrus watercolors.

A detail of a painting made with gouache, watercolor markers and liquid watercolors. By Peony and Parakeet.

Watercolor markers seem to be very versatile because you can use them with or without water. I also received a set of gouache paints, and they encouraged me to dig out my old gouache tubes as well. To see what I created with the new supplies, watch this video blog post!

Going Digital?

Based on 2016, my answer is both yes and no. Yes, I have created digital art, see this blog post especially! I have used Adobe Photoshop CS5 for so many years that it feels very intuitive and I don’t have to think about the commands and such, I can just focus on the fun stuff.

Digital art by Peony and Parakeet.

But when I create digital art, I like to use my hand-drawn and hand-painted pieces as building blocks. I know that many buy stock photos, but it feels much more exciting to me to use my art as a starting point. Sometimes when I don’t work I buy a digital kit and have fun with it, but that’s just playing in my spare time (Sometimes I do wonder, how much do I have to create, to stop creating …)

I have a student at Inspirational Drawing 2.0 who is adapting the exercises to work with her iPad mostly. I look forward to seeing more of this happening because I see a potential of more people going into creating art. However, I don’t want to spend all of my time with devices, so I enjoy creating pieces by hand and as long as I can do it, I think I will, also in 2017!

What about you? What supplies were new to you in 2016, and what supplies are you going to continue using in 2017?