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.
>> Buy Flowing Greenery!

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!
>> Buy Coloring Freely!

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?

What Any Artist Can Learn from Old Masters

Draming Salome, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. A copy of a detail from Loretto da Brescia's old painting "Portrait of a Lady as Salome".

If you have followed me on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve already seen that I have had a special project in November. I have been painting a replica of an old painting and learning techniques that artists used already hundreds of years ago. These are called old master painting techniques. Famous old masters like Leonardo da Vinci and Johannes Vermeer used them when creating their masterpieces. My painting is a copy of detail from Moretto da Brescia‘s painting “Portrait of a Lady as Salome.” I call mine “Dreaming Salome” because I gave her a more dreamy look and different meaning. The portrait was painted in the course organized by The National Museum of Finland. The teacher of the course was Emmi Mustonen.

5 Tips You Can Learn from Old Masters

After painting my first oil painting, and the first one that uses these techniques, I feel that there is still a lot to learn. So I will be painting another one with these techniques during the spring. However, I have already found out a lot of things that can be used with any supplies, and I wanted to write a blog post about what you can take from my experience. These tips can be applied to any themes, even to abstract art. At the end of this post, there’s also a short video (watch it on YouTube) that shows more images from the process.

1) Don’t Get Discouraged in The Beginning!

A sketch and the finished painting using old masters techniques. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

My process of making the painting started with a charcoal sketch. While sketching, I felt I was just making a big mess. I pressed too hard, and the drawing wasn’t detailed enough. The image shows the sketch once it was cleaned with an eraser – just before the first layer of paint. If you compare it with the finished painting, there’s a huge difference between the two. The expression of the lady looked sad in the drawing, but she has a half-smile in the finished version. I understood that the facial features and characteristics are so subtle that it takes a long time to get them right.

When sketching, I hadn’t the persistence to finish her hair and shawl but still, I was able to make them quite detailed during the painting process. If I had made the original sketch without attending the course, I would have called it a failure and lost my hope of achieving something that would look like an old painting.

I often talk about raw ideas (see this blog post) and that applies to realistic art too. The first lines are just the beginning for understanding what the final work will be. When I was sketching, I only had a rough idea about how my lady should differ from the original version. But once I continued the painting process, my vision got clearer. So, stay curious about the insights that you will get during creating, and don’t get discouraged in the beginning!

2) Before Diving Deeper, Limit Your Supplies!

A detail of an underpainting when painting with old masters techniques. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

In my painting, the first layers were made with just two colors: burnt umber and zinc white. These first layers form a so-called underpainting that shows where the shadows and lighted areas are. It enforces the painter to look for contrasts, and on the other hand, it enables working with details without making color choices. The philosophy of underpainting can be applied to any media and style when it’s seen as a phase where you limit your supplies and add more content to the piece. When you go through every area in your work and make sure that it connects well with the next one, you will control the big picture through details. I find this much more enjoyable than trying to see everything at one glance all the time.

3) Slow Down to Maintain a Gentle Focus!

I was surprised by the positive feelings I went through while painting with old masters techniques. I thought that there would be a lot of demanding voices in my head, but the process surprised me. Even if I was stretched out from my comfort zone, I realized that there could be “a gentle focus,” where you put all your energy into work so that it improves your self-image too. I believe that this kind of new self-acceptance was based on two things.

First, I knew that it would take a long time to finish the painting. Six sessions in the classroom weren’t enough. I also had to do homework. Each of the layers had to dry before adding a new one, and drying took several daysThis slow pace felt old fashioned but good too. It made me think how much gentler we would be in general if weren’t so busy all the time. I also noticed how I became less worried about mistakes. When the progress is slow, mistakes start small, and it’s easier to correct them.

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet learning from the old masters.

The second thing that helped me was that we were using a finger to remove the brush strokes. When I gently caressed the canvas with paint, it affected my whole thinking. It felt like the beauty created and seen by Moretto da Brescia caressed my brain.

4) Don’t Try to Make Your Middle Look Like the End

Before attending the course, I made one decision: I would do my best to follow the teacher’s advice. Because I was not familiar with the techniques, I didn’t know beforehand how the painting should look after each layer. When I teach art, I often see people worry over details that will look gorgeous once they just move on to the next steps. It’s human to compare your middle to the desired end. But if you can set your criteria according to each phase, it will lead to the better quality.

Phase photos of an oil painting using old master painting techniques. By Päivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

So, when laying the colors one by one, I tried to quench my worries about how yellow the dress looked or how red the fur was. When using old masters techniques, colors are not mixed on a palette. The pigments from the tubes are laid in thin layers as they are. So if you want green, you will start with yellow, let it dry for few days and then move on with blue. The transparent layers with soft edges result in a mixed color and a realistic look.

When painting these thin layers of color, I couldn’t help thinking that the skin was too uneven. But my teacher advised me to continue creating color differences to get the painting ready for “a white wash.” A thin layer of zinc white made the skin more even, and all the previous layers made sense. Try this approach of seeing layers and elements as building blocks to new ones!

5) Sharpen The Soft, Not Vice Versa!

I was often reminded to make every area and detail softer. Even most of the tiny spots were softened with a finger to make them more translucent and blurry without sharp edges. As a result of that, the painting looked blurry and untidy. But when finishing, sparingly added sharp lines and dots did the trick. It felt magical how suddenly the whole painting looked accurate. I learned that it’s very easy to sharpen the softness. Adding few strokes finished the fur. Adding a tiny sharp dot finished the eye. The nose didn’t need sharpening at all because I wanted to bring the eye to the mouth where I added a small white spot.

A detail of a painting made using old masters painting techniques. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

When you add softness, you will also make your work look more dimensional. Leonardo da Vinci has said:
“The beginnings and ends of shadow lie between the light and darkness and may be infinitely diminished and infinitely increased. Shadow is the means by which bodies display their form. The forms of bodies could not be understood in detail but for shadow.”

After painting my “Dreaming Salome,” I have become fascinated by watching the edges of items and how soft they are. I know that today’s world is sharp. We aim for sharp photos, clean graphic look and turn on the fluorescent lighting. The things we use are industrially made and as perfect as they have been designed on a computer. But try visiting Leonardo’s softer world! Light a candle and observe the lights and shadows. Let everything soft inspire you when you are creating art and reflect that softness towards yourself too!

Bonus: Make it Meaningful – Watch the Video!

My “Dreaming Salome” is now framed and she has a special place in our library room. I was so happy to be able to finish her before Christmas.

Dreaming Salome, an oil painting using old master painting techniques, finished and framed. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

This painting is my first exercise when learning from old masters, but it also has other symbolic meaning. I have made a short video showing the images from the class and how she was painted layer by layer. In the same time, I also explain what Dreaming Salome symbolizes to me.

Learn a New Approach – Sign up for inspirational Drawing 2.0!

If you have followed my blog before, you know that painting a replica of an old painting is not what I usually do. But if we limit ourselves to learning only one style, one approach, one tool, it prevent’s our artistic growth and the full use of our imagination.

Learn drawing from your inspiration and imagination!
>>Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!
The class has begun in January 1st but you will receive the first set of materials right after signing up.

Begin Like a Crafter, Finish Like an Artist

Waiting for Snow, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

Here’s what I made today: a mixed media painting with a Christmas theme. When I began creating, I had no idea that this will express the season. I didn’t even start with a blank paper but cut a piece of a big pre-painted watercolor paper. It had just careless splotches of color, and I had painted it months before to wait for the right moment. I had just enjoyed knitting some old sock yarn into socks, so I thought to use up that paper with the same mindset: using what I already have and making that more inspirational.

Begin Like a Crafter

I picked a black Zig drawing pen and started doodling without any idea in my mind. I often think about knitting or crocheting when I doodle. I feel more like a crafter than an artist at the beginning of the process. Exploring the paper with a pen is like crocheting with a hook and yarn. It’s much more relaxing than trying to find a grand idea first. When you starts as a crafter, you are ready to do the work. You don’t expect miracles to happen, you know you just have to keep on going, and it will get easier after a while.

Begin like a crafter, learn to start creating intuitively, by Peony and Parakeet

After filling most of the paper with crossing lines, I felt that there was a lack of connection between the drawing and the background painting. They looked like they were two separate layers, each made by a different person. But because I had used a good quality watercolor paper, I was able to add water and wipe off color here and there so that the layers began to interact.

Removing watercolor paint to make the painting more vivid. By Peony and Parakeet.

Again, I felt like a crafter adding stitches that would tie the two layers together. I also used white and black colored pencils to enhance the effect.

Begin like a crafter, learn to start creating intuitively, by Peony and Parakeet

Find Routines that Start the Change

Working with black is my thing. It always brings in more excitement, more drama, and my identity begins to change from a crafter to an artist. This time, just holding a black pencil, made me want to start painting. I picked few bottles of India ink first.

Using India inks in mixed media painting. By Peony and Parakeet.

My brush felt stiff, and the shapes that I painted were controlled and modest. But I knew I just had to keep going. There were times when I stopped too soon, and I have seen that happening to many people too. When you stop too soon, you are still too much of a crafter. You try to focus, and you don’t feel like doing anything risky.

Begin like a crafter, learn to start creating intuitively, by Peony and Parakeet

I changed to white acrylic paint to get more ideas and contrasts. There were some round shapes on the paper, but I had no idea what they could be.

Begin like a crafter, learn to start creating intuitively, by Peony and Parakeet

Finish Like an Artist – a) Do Something Risky

After spending some time painting, I was ready to take risks. All I needed was to choose a little black ink bottle and turn on Jean-Michel Jarre’s Stardust, a song that always gets me into the flow. Uncontrollable black brush strokes felt scary, and of course, there’s a risk of “ruining everything”. I often set an area, where I don’t go. This time I decided to be as wild as I want but leave the center of the biggest bubble alone.

Black ink for a mixed media painting.

Before doing this phase, I convince myself that my subconscious knows what I could bring up from the mess because I have been staring that for a while already. I often repeat the words “trust” and “knowledge” before I turn to the music. I try to be as quick as I can and focus on adding more speed to my brush. This short phase where I leave the crafter behind is the most enjoyable thing in creating. I feel free while pushing the limits of my creativity.

Finish like an artist, learn to let go when painting, by Peony and Parakeet

Finish Like an Artist – b) Bring in the Intention

After adding those black strokes and splotches, I knew what I was expressing: holiday decorations on this black Christmas. In the southern Finland where I live, all the snow melt away just before Christmas Eve. I had taken photos just a couple of days ago that connect well with the painting. In this last phase, I try to find the fastest and most natural route to finishing the painting and focus more on composition and clarity than trying to make the image other than what it seems to be already. Accepting that my image can go to the area that is unknown to me at the beginning of the process, allows me to be less stiff.

Waiting for Snow, a mixed media painting with Christmas photos that complete the imagenery. By Peony and Parakeet.

I find it so fascinating that art is a combination of knowledge and letting go. There are clear guidelines for communicating visually such as how to set your composition. And still, it’s also about taking all that knowledge and jumping into the unknown. Every day, I want to know more and then, relax more!

Beagles at Christmas. By Peony and Parakeet.

First Lesson of Inspirational Drawing 2.0 – Start with a Mood, Finish with an Image!

Like knitting starts from the first stitch, drawing starts from the first line. Somewhere between the lines the transformation happens and the crafter changes to an artist. The ideas grow with the imagination. Moods turn to motifs, motifs to modules, modules to streams, streams to images.

Learn to enjoy drawing! Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0! An art class by Peony and Parakeet.

The first lesson of Inspirational Drawing 2.0 will be published on January 1st. This is the class you don’t want to miss! Every lesson takes you further in enjoying drawing from inspiration and imagination! I will help you create unique art in unique ways that will make you absorb the knowledge and then let your ideas grow.

Learn to enjoy drawing! Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0! An art class by Peony and Parakeet.

Enjoy drawing from inspiration and imagination!
>> Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0

Pointillism – A Quick Way, Step by Step!

ATCs that are like pointillistic paintings but made using colored pencils and felt-tipped pens. See the step-by-step instructions! By Peony and Parakeet.

I am honored to be one of the guest artists in Documented Life Project this month. I was given a theme (pointillism) and a project type (artist trading card, ATC). As long as I followed those, I could do anything with any supplies. These kind of challenges are fun because you get such enough restrictions to get started but can still create freely. However, I have one fixation with artistic trading cards. I like them to be portraits, either humans or animals.(See ATCs in this post, for example!) So I chose a very traditional subject, women from the past.

Pointillism Can Be Tedious!

Like most of us, I have always admired Georges Seurat‘s paintings. In the 1980s, a Finnish illustrator made images that were composed of small points. It might have been an artist called Osmo Omenamäki. As a teenager, inspired by him and Seurat, I decided to be a pointillist artist too. I picked my felt-tipped pens and started to draw dots. Oh my! I was barely able to finish a postcard size drawing. I couldn’t believe how many small dots are needed to fill even a small blank area! I was almost traumatized by that experience!

So now, over 30 years later, I didn’t even think about creating the project with felt-tipped pens only. ATCs are small, but not that small! However, with felt-tipped pens, it is easy to make intentional tiny dots in a variety of colors. But I also needed something else to make the coloring faster. Colored pencils leave the spots visible, and they are easy to control. So I chose them to fill the blanks between the dots.

Practicing – Spots with Many Colors

Before the actual project, I practiced my ideas. I made the dots using a variety of colors and then added more colors with colored pencils.

Pointillism in an artist trading card. See the step by step instructions. By Peony and Parakeet.

Because the colors in dots weren’t as important as coloring with colored pencils, I got an idea of using brown shades only. It would be like an underpainting, a technique that old masters often used in portraits. They painted shadows with umber and then applied the rest of the colors so that the shadows showed through. So I will show you how you can do a similar kind of “under-dotting” and then apply the actual colors with colored pencils!

1) Under-Dotting with Felt-Tipped Pens

You will need four shades of felt-tipped pens for this step. I use Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pens in colors “Light Flesh”, “Green Gold”, “Raw Umber” and “Caput Mortuum”.  I didn’t use any model like a photo but just created intuitively, making the features more accurate color by color.

Pointillism, step by step. Step 1 by Peony and Parakeet.

With the palest of color, sketch an oval using small dots. The liberating thing here is that when you start with a pale color and make little dots, you can make many “mistakes” and correct them as you go. One spot in a wrong place can be easily changed! Fill the oval with dots so that you leave blank space where you plan mouth, eyes, and nose to be. When they seem to be in place, add some dots for details. Don’t worry if your woman looks pretty ugly. This is just the first layer!

Change to darker shades and add shadows to the face. Then sketch the hair and clothes using little dots only.

Pointillism, step by step. Step 1, under-dotting. By Peony and Parakeet.

Every shade adds a little bit more to the image.

2) Basic Coloring with Black and Colored Pencils

Now add black spots to the darkest of details. Old portraits often had a dark background, so I added black spots there too.

Pointillism, step by step. Step 2 by Peony and Parakeet.

Using colored pencils, color the card so that white shows only where you want to have it in the end. I used Caran d’Ache Pablo pencils in blue, red and yellow. Remember that you can mix colors by layering. You can get many beautiful tones from the primary colors.

3) More Liveliness with Colored Pencils

Finally, add shadows so that the details look 3-dimensional. If you only have primary colors like I had, you can get a dark background by adding blue, red and yellow layers there. If your portrait looks too dark, use an eraser to lighten and soften the colors.

Pointillism, step by step. Step 3 by Peony and Parakeet.

In the end, check the facial features of your woman. Add small lines where you want to turn the attention. Don’t draw the lines near the nose but on the lips and the eyes.

Pointillism, step by step. Step 3 and facial features. By Peony and Parakeet.

Celebrating Blurriness

Here are my finished cards again. I think they look delightfully blurry!

Pointillism-themed artist trading cards. See the step-by-step instructions. By Peony and Parakeet.

The more I want to reduce stiffness in my art, the more I feel the need to embrace blurriness. With blurriness, I also feel more self-acceptance, more ease with errors, more open to possibilities.

Reducing stiffness is one of the main themes in my newest class too. The class is called Inspirational Drawing 2.0 and it’s about drawing from imagination and inspiration. Watch the introductory video below!

Inspirational Drawing 2.0: Liberate your line and sign up now!

Video: How to Move from Figurative to Abstract Art?

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

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

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

How to Move from Figurative to Abstract Art?