Celebrating Artist Friendships

Together, a watercolor and gouache painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See the video of making this using liquid watercolors, aqua markers and gouache paint tubes.

There’s a theme that has been waiting in my blogging queue for a long time. It’s the meaning of friendships in the art world. I was about to write the blog post but then I thought it wouldn’t be as genuine as a video.

In this video blog post, I create a painting using art supplies generously donated by my student. The supplies are Spectrum Aqua Markers, Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus liquid watercolors and Turner acryl gouaches.

Here are the links to the websites mentioned in the video: a ceramic artist Johanna Rytkola, a visual artist Emmi Mustonen, the stick figure drawing class as a part of Imagine Monthly Fall 2016, a local workshop in Finland “Innostu taiteestasi”

Hopefully, you’ll enjoy the video!

Get Intuitive Focus + Reader’s Comment!

Rising Butterfly by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about getting intuitive focus!

“I am all over the place. I need to focus”.
It’s what I often hear when people talk about their creativity.

I used to scold myself there too. After a quilting class, I swore I would use all my creative time to modern quilting only. But after finishing one quilt project, I was ready to knit again. I questioned myself when I drew because I had just made a promise to focus on painting. I found it impossible to stick to one style or one genre of creating, and I saw that as my worst weakness.

Handspun socks by Peony and Parakeet.

But the more I have been into intuitive art, the more I have realized that creative people often underestimate the connections between what they do. The more conscious I have become about how my creative process works, the less I need to criticize my natural behavior.

4 Ways of Creating

I classify creating as:
– reflecting by creating
– generating ideas by creating
– imagining by creating
– and finally, focusing on the insight you’ve got by creating

If I write about past events in my planner or knit, it’s reflecting. When I get ideas, I create art journal pages or quick craft projects. With a collection of ideas, I can gradually gear my imagination towards the bigger themes that I want to express.

When I create just to save my ideas, I don’t work for hours to get everything right. It’s a piece that had to be created so that I can move on. But when I am creating a bigger project, like my big canvas painting last week, I fine-tune every little detail and put a lot more time into the project.

What Does Intuitive Focus Mean?

Intuitive focus means that you treat your activities as part of creative process. You continuously collect and process theories, techniques, ideas, approaches so that you can create your best pieces now and then. You embrace diversity in techniques, themes, styles, etc. Diversity will not be distracting if you spend enough time for reflecting.

Build intuitive focus! Record your ideas in art journals! By Peony and Parakeet.

Once you do this, you will get in touch with your root problems:
Your lack of focus on one activity or idea turns into a lack of ways to combine it all together.
Your lack of focus on one technique turns into a lack of foundation that can be applied to many techniques.

Teaching Art – Reader’s Comment

In my last weekly email (do subscribe!) I wrote about whether teachers share openly or not and why would they not:

“Last week, I read a comment somewhere on the internet. It praised a teacher about sharing openly. The commenter also said that she often gets the feeling that teachers hide something. Even if this was not about any of my classes it made me think. Do I share openly? Why would a teacher not share openly? When building classes, I try to focus on the essentials and be understandable, clear and not all over the place. That’s good, right?”

“But when teaching intuitive art, I have to admit that almost anything can be meaningful to the process. A random thought can steer the painting to a new direction. So I decided to add more video to my next class Nature in Your Mind showing how I ramble while creating and how it affects my painting. I also show how I use music to help me let go. While recording, I felt vulnerable. Every time I became silent, I forced myself to ask: what did I just think? There’s also the pressure of time. I can’t create for 7 hours and then make an educational video out of that.”

“So I have to choose smaller projects for the exercises and recordings. But truly, I don’t intentionally hide anything. I don’t think many teachers do. For some, explaining is more difficult than for others. Some find it difficult to give honest feedback. When I started teaching, I made a promise always to give as useful and as personalized feedback as possible while the workshop is running. For many, understanding the slight changes they can make is a game changer. It’s a pity if the teacher never points out those. Probably that’s the situation when the teacher seems to be hiding something. What do you think?”

Meri Andriesse wrote to me as a response to the email:

“I sign up for a lot of workshops in painting and mixed media and I find they vary greatly in content. To be honest, I don’t think some teachers have enough substantive content in their classes and they rush through without explaining why they are doing or not going or un-doing something. So much of what we see and hear focuses on the intuitive part of creativity but I think in order to use intuition you really need some foundation in composition and color theory/experimentation. Your workshops offer that and more and that is why I continue to sign up for them even though I don’t have adequate free time for art making.”

Teaching art is often based on process videos only. Meri comments that too:

“Videos are great, but I also appreciate the pdf documents and diagrams and photos. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend your classes to anyone really interested in growing their art-making.”

Create intuitive art + set a foundation for your creating!
>> Sign up for Nature in Your Mind!
This is the last chance to register! The registration will close on Oct 10th midnight PST.

Four Steps to Finding Your Passion in Art

Paintings made for the workshops Planet Color and Nature In Your Mind. Canvas art by Peony and Parakeet.

I have two painting workshops coming up in October. It’s terribly exciting. It has been an investment regarding both the time and the other bits and pieces to create the classes. I have tried to create as coherent, useful and fun classes as possible, taking all the comments and suggestions into account without losing the focus and the real benefits that these workshops can provide.

Planet Color celebrates color in a 7-step process.
Nature in Your Mind creates a natural connection between the mind and the brush.

Finding Your Passion in Art

This blog post is a pre-session for Nature in Your Mind. With this post, I want to show how much potential and passion you can have as an artist. I also hope that you will sign up for Nature in Your Mind, discover more possibilities and get personalized guidance while having a great time painting!

1) Discover through Experimenting!

Think about art as an exploration journey! Through experimenting, you can pick ways that feel most natural and enjoyable to you. Just like there are thousands of species of birds, there are many ways to paint. If you use only one technique and one approach to painting, it’s like sitting on a balcony and listening to the same bird every morning. But if you stand up and go walking in nature, you will hear a variety of melodies.

Discoveries happen through experimenting. Try painting with a dry brush, a wet brush, a brush that has thin paint, a brush that has multiple of colors, etc. Start painting with one thought and then change your focus to another one. Learn to see the possibilities of an unfinished painting instead of judging it like it’s already finished. Start with safe and easy and then be open to small mistakes that can show you a new direction. If you weren’t able to mix an even color, embrace the variety of colors, the painterly look and go to a new path from there.

Experimenting with brush, finding a passion in art. By Peony and Parakeet

Experimenting in Three Levels

The way you paint most naturally isn’t what feels most comfortable at first. Staying on the balcony is easy. You can tell everybody that you have this friend, the bird that sings to you every morning. But you don’t know what you miss out if you only stay friends with one technique or one theme or one way to plan your painting.

My painting workshop Nature in Your Mind contains experimenting with paint in three levels.

Painting workshop Nature In Your Mind by Peony and Parakeet

First, playing with the way you look at things by changing the perspective in the middle of the painting.
Second, playing with a theme by building abstracts from realistic images.
Third, playing with control by taking turns with controlled and loose strokes.

While experimenting with these, you can pick ideas and techniques that suit the best for you and then start applying them to your art. You can set new goals and see how your art can bring more enjoyment not only to you but other people as well.

2) Listen What Other People Say about Your Art!

Let’s get back on the balcony. I remember the time when I felt totally lost in art making. It was like I had opened the door but didn’t see any birds singing. I felt alone. But then, I got tips on how to attract birds. I drew and painted what I saw other people do too. I felt like I had company but still, I felt limited. I was one of the many who had the same bird singing on the balcony. Sometimes it even felt like we were competing with whom the bird would sing the loudest.

A detail from digital art by Peony and Parakeet from 2011.

The situation changed when I started listening what other people say about me. I expanded my attention to how my art affects others. I found many comments extremely useful, even if the person was a family member, a blog reader, an art teacher or anyone who saw my art. First, there was just a word or two that I could grab. When I felt like I was following a path that was hardly visible, I found asking follow-up questions beneficial. I asked: “Why did you like this picture?” or even “Why didn’t you comment anything?”. The comments led me to strange places. But as I continued, my images changed, the voices got louder, and I heard more birds singing.

A detail of a mixed media piece by Peony and Parakeet. From 2011

But I wasn’t quite there yet. I hadn’t found what would personally resonate with me. After trying to see the big picture from people’s comments, I understood why we read horoscopes, click through personality tests, search for our personal style. We try to see our originality – where our talents truly are.

3) Accept That Your Flaws Can Be the Best in You!

I used to beat up myself for being too demanding, a perfectionist. I blamed myself not being good with routines either. To get through the mundane work, I have reinvented the wheel too many times. My husband has found the perfect way to make a bed and fill the dishwasher. I have found many different ways, and I am in search for more.

But a couple of years ago, I made a test that described how other people see me. The test said that my ability to invent unconventional ideas, make new interpretations of the old things and always aim for the highest standard attract people the most! That’s probably the reason you are reading this blog. I have become more open with the worst in me which, in turn, has inspired me to blog more and create more.  Sometimes the best things in us seem ugly to ourselves. However, authenticity attracts people. Our black can be pure gold to others. Our black can be like soil for the flowers that we can grow from there.

Nature's Spirit, a canvas painting by Peony and Parakeet.

4) Find Your Real Reason for Creating and Put It Into Words

When people ask me why I create, my first answer is: “Because I need to.” I need to have time for balancing my life, be able to reflect what has happened, and get energy from creative activities. But the answer doesn’t help me when I am staring at the blank canvas. I need a higher reason to create images that feel meaningful to me. I need more than some inspiring Pinterest boards to connect emotionally with my work. I need a direction, a statement that defines when I have succeeded and what I am passionate about.

I used to have a hard time in evaluating my pieces. Some looked ok, but there was something missing. Others were clumsy and awkward, but I felt connected with them. I wanted to create unique pieces and still, be as good as anyone creating with the same style. I wanted to make my personal version but yet didn’t have a clue what to include and what to exclude. I wanted to express myself but still, play to be someone else. I wanted to escape, yet seek for the truth. I felt I have to focus and limit myself but at the same time, I wanted to be free when creating. It all felt controversial.

My solution has been to find the words that describe the real reason why I am creating. It’s surprising that the words have been the answer because the problem seemed to be visual only. I think that our left brain has to understand what our right brain wants to express. It’s like after naming the birds you would hear them better. Whatever I create I have the same focus. It’s not a theme, it’s not a style, it’s the emotional connection that I want to make through whatever I create.

My Artist Statement

In my art, I want to console people. I want to express grief and sorrow, blacks and browns. But I also want to show the power that is more joyful and that comes in with brighter colors. I want my paintings to have the atmosphere of places that make you connect with your spirituality. I am inspired by churches, libraries, museums and special places in nature. I see spirituality as an uplifting timeless force that has no specific religion. I hope that even for a short moment, my art can be your icon, the image that connects you with your spiritual self. I wish that my art brings you hope no matter what your source of melancholy is. I wish that the images inspire you to overcome darkness, and even more: to go and create yourself.

Free Spirit, a painting by Peony and Parakeet.

When you have your inspiration in words, nature in your mind is a happy place. When you hear the birds singing, you can pick the melodies that resonate with your mission. You can choose techniques, compositions, and colors that you feel most naturally aligned. You may not always succeed, but your mission makes you continue creating. Instead of looking for the perfect technique, the perfect style, the perfect theme, search for what is behind in all that! Search for the mission that makes creating art most meaningful and inspiring to you! That is the real reason why you paint, and that’s also the key to finding more passion for creating art.

I want to help you not only with painting techniques but also with your passion. This is why Nature In Your Mind also has time and assistance for self-reflection and discussion; it’s not only hurrying from one painting to another.

Sign up for Nature in Your Mind!
Join me in painting nature themes, experimenting with techniques and ideas, and then discovering what’s behind in all that.
>> Reserve Your Spot Now!

Paul Klee and the Art of Learning

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet and a new painting in progress.

This blog post is a personal story about being a student of Paul Klee. I will also share my thoughts about art classes and about their effect.

Paul Klee’s Pedagogical Sketchbook

It was a late evening in the beginning of July – one of those white nights that take place in the middle of summer in Finland. When the sun is up, it’s more tempting to stay awake than to go to sleep. It also felt better to pick a brush and paint than to slow down with knitting or watching tv. My brain activity was high. I didn’t want just paint, I wanted to learn something new.

While pondering about learning, I remembered a thin book that had been on my shelf for a while. It was borrowed from a library few weeks ago and I hadn’t opened it since. The title was called “Pedagoginen luonnoskirja” – Pedagogical Sketchbook, written by a famous abstract artist Paul Klee in 1925. The original version was written in German. In 1953, it was translated into English and finally into Finnish in 1997.  The long time span proves that the book has some ever-lasting content. But when I began to examine the first chapters with the brush in my hand, it seemed very uninspiring. The pages were black and white, no color, but the worst thing was: it looked like a math book! It had formulas, diagrams, references to geometry, anatomy, physics … What was I thinking about when I borrowed this book!

Abstract Art Theory for the Left Brain

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet learning from Paul Klee's Pedagogigal Sketchbook.

But then, I remembered that my artistic side wasn’t playing along when I found the book at the library. Being so thin, it could hardly be seen on the shelves filled with thick art books. Seeing its cover, my engineering side that got interested: can there be formulas for art? Is this the book that teaches the left brain to understand the right brain?

So even if I had my art journal open on the table and paints ready on the palette, I decided to switch gears and start reading the book – slowly and carefully like engineers do. After a couple of minutes, I was hooked. I was mesmerized by the world the book presented. Phenomenoms familiar from my physics studies were tied into modern abstract art. The book was broken into three parts. Each part contained short chapters. like tiny lessons. I decided to begin studying each chapter so that the engineer in me would read the it first. Then she would explain it to my artistic side who in turn, would fill an art journal page by playing with the concepts.

Side note: Interested in the book? Here’s a link to Amazon.com. There’s also a free PDF of the book available if you google it but I don’t link it here, as it may be an illegal copy.

Paul Klee’s Ideas in Practise

Art journal page inspired by Paul Klee's Pedagogical Sketchbook, by Peony and Parakeet.

When I eagerly studied the book, I felt I had a teacher, Paul Klee himself. It was exciting to listen to him talking about muscular movement, material structures, disturbed balance, how the perspective is experienced or how the blood circulates in a body. And most of all, how it’s all connected to visual communication and visual art. I imagined being one of his many students and even one of the most enthusiastic ones. I was constantly raising my hand, not only asking questions but also questioning: how did you come up with this idea, why have you omitted this fact?

Art journal page inspired by Paul Klee's Pedagogical Sketchbook, by Peony and Parakeet.

Do These Ideas Suit My Style?

Even if I was painting and reading like a maniac from one chapter to another, I was also in doubt. Stiff figures that I painted looked very old-fashioned to me. I had a teacher who hadn’t experienced the digital age, who hadn’t seen or created any contemporary art. “Tell me, Paul Klee, do these rules apply to many styles, including mine?”, I kept asking.

Art journal page inspired by Paul Klee's Pedagogical Sketchbook, by Peony and Parakeet.

But despite of the constant battle in my mind, I couldn’t put the book away. I went from one chapter to another and eagerly waited what my teacher would present in the next one. And when the last chapter was completed, I felt sad to leave the classroom and say good bye to my teacher. During the session, I had completed three big art journal spreads. They all looked like the middle of 20th century to me. The session seemed to be nothing else but a fun engagement when the sun finally set down.

The Aftermath of Learning

Abstract art by Peony and Parakeet

During the next weeks, I saw sudden climpses of Paul Klee. When I was taking photos, drawing, painting or just observing, Paul Klee’s theories began to merge with my own thinking and with my own style. The three spreads that I had made were exercises only. Once I left the classroom, I was free to apply those theories where suitable. This is what happens in every art class. You might think that the exercises are not fit for you. You might have doubts if the class fits your current style. And when you leave the class you might think: “Oh well, I don’t know if I ever do this again.”

But like the blood needs oxygen, creativity needs new theories, techniques and ideas. They are not threat to your style, they are essential to continue developing your style. That’s one main reason why I challenge you to learn new techniques at Imagine Monthly (you can still sign up!). That’s also a reason why I will be inviting you to join my newest online painting workshop, starting in October.

Coming Up: New Painting Workshop

I am really excited about this! Be assured that I will have something special for the beginners and a lot of new to focus on for the more advanced painters. The theme for the class is expressing nature. The registration for the new workshop will open next week with a short-time early bird pricing. I will give more details about the class then.

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet and her painting in progress.

While building the class I have practiced the techniques and ideas on a big canvas. This painting is still in progress, but I want to show it to you just to be able to compare the art journal pages above and how Paul Klee’s teachings has merged into my own style. That’s what’s my goal with you too: that you’ll have fun time with the classes and that you will be able to mix new things with what you already know and love.

Make sure you don’t miss the fun: Subscribe to my weekly emails!

Art of Making the Most of the Ugliest

Digital art and a video story by Peony and Parakeet

This is a surprising video story about a continuous creative journey and about the art of making. If you are interested in reusing your art or creating digital art from your handmade pieces, this video is especially for you. (You might have seen some of the work shown here if you have liked Peony and Parakeet at Facebook.)

From Quilting to Digital Art – A Video

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What Artistic Direction to Take?

Explorer's Fountain, an art journal page spread by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

This is my latest art journal spread called “Explorer’s Fountain”. Before showing how I made it, I want to ask you the question that I have been pondering.

When Is the Beginning of a New Phase?

All artists have phases. But how to know when a new one begins? Is creating a continuum or are there certain points when you make the change? Or at least began to change?

I posted this image to Peony and Parakeet’s Facebook page with the text below, and I want to share this here too:

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

It wasn’t that long ago when I was 5!

As children, we know what we love. I wanted to be an artist and a teacher. I wanted to write and publish books. I wanted to live with pets. When we grow up, there seem to be more possibilities, and still, they feel less. It’s not much to be a manager when you have dreamed to be an artist. This is how I have felt personally and this is why I think we should do what we have always loved. Because it feels more fullfilling than anything else.

Just recently, art has begun to feel more fullfilling and exciting than ever before. I feel I have new skills, even if I can’t fully point out what they are. I feel I have new thoughts but when I try to grab them, they seem to disappear. My mind is filled with new kind of artistic focus, and still it’s like it has always been there, now I am just more connected to it. This makes me think that I am experiencing some kind of artistic change, moving from one phase to another.

The changing process is like a rain that starts with small drops. You can then decide whether you go back inside or get out and see what happens!

Learning from Practicing

Teaching classes have been small drops to me. As an art teacher I see all kind of styles and seek solutions to many kinds of creative problems. I am often so excited about my students and their creations that my own art feels like a secondary thing. But while I have helped people to bring out the best of their skills and get more clarity for their creative direction, it has been a school to me too. It’s like I have got a gift from my students, being able to build my own focus in a new way. So while you have practised, I have practised too!

large Dylusions Creative Journal

A large Dylusions Creative Journal is almost full and a new one has been acquired.

What’s Your Ambition in Art?

I have never understood the controversy between commercial approach and artistic freedom. I think we should search for the best audience to our art and find ourselves through the process. I know most of the people disagree with this. I do understand that many great art pieces wouldn’t have been born with this mindset. But my own ambition of being an artist doesn’t mean creating world class art and being the greatest of all. I think art as a service instead of end result only. I want to understand how people experience art and develop ways to make creating as fullfilling as possible. – What’s your ambition in art?

Triptych Approach – Create with Me!

Instead of focusing on single artworks, I look for creative concepts and processes. Just recently I got an idea of a triptych. The piece would be created with three different mediums, each taking one third of the final piece. But this triptych would have soft edges so that it would look like a one piece despite of the three distinct elements. Create this triptych with me and while creating, ponder about your artistic direction!

1) Start with Colored Pencils

Color freely with colored pencils so that you fill approximately one third of the page.
Add few small separate colored areas too.

Pondering about artistic direction while creating an art journal page

Using Old Pencils
I use Prismacolor and Garan d’Ache Luminance pencils “officially”. For example all the images of the e-book Coloring Freely have been colored with them. But when I am making a quick spread like this one, I often grab some odd short pencils and use them instead of the fancier ones.

2) Continue with Watercolors

Change to watercolors and paint the second third of the spread.
Try to make the transition from colored to painted areas as soft as possible.
In the end, paint an area that is separate from the main area.

Pondering about artistic direction while creating an art journal page

3) Fill the Rest with Acrylic Paints

Paint most of the remaining blank area with acrylic paint.
Add a small painted area on the right where you have colored with pencils. Acrylic paints can be used easily over colored pencils. Don’t cover too much, let every medium show!

Pondering about artistic direction while creating an art journal page

4) Finishing

Go through the whole page and fine-tune the spread with colored pencils and acrylic paints.
Add little details and nuances, don’t repaint the whole page.

Pondering about artistic direction while creating an art journal page

Here’s is my finished spread again.

Explorer's Fountain, an art journal page spread by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

5) Use Leftover Paint

If you still have some leftover paint on a palette, grab a new page and create a quick abstract!


Here’s mine, called “House with a View”.

House with a View, an abstract art journal page using leftover paint, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Analysing Artistic Direction

When thinking about artistic direction, it’s natural to analyze what’s good at the end result – what do you want to take from that to move forward. But it’s as important to think about the creative process and analyze that what felt good there.

After analyzing both ways, I think that my direction is this. I have always loved art history. I want it to show in my art but in a fresh way. I want to build bridges between old art created hundreds of years ago and today’s contemporary art. My latest art class Imagine Monthly already does a lot of that. But I also want to grow as an artist so that my personal expression grows stronger and so that I can reach more like-minded people with both my art and my classes.

Explorer's Fountain, an art journal page spread by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Challenge yourself to find your artistic direction
Sign up for Imagine Monthly Fall 2016!

From the Students of Liberated Artist

This blog post is dedicated to my painting workshop Liberated Artist.
Read how the students have experienced the class
and enjoy the wonderful art that they have made during the class! 

Make Creativity Bloom!

Christie Thomas says: “Every lesson started with a bit of fear, then once started I found that I often set it aside because I could not move on to the next step. I did not “see” anything. But with Paivi’s patient encouragement on the videos and free flowing hands, I watched, listened, and tried to follow the instruction even if it was completely foreign. I finished the pieces and feel excited about my creativity.”

Christine Thomas, USA. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Move Forward with Painting!

Geraldine Norris says: “The course allowed me to move on in my art practice, by being engaged with a teacher who is inspirational, celebrates diversity, creative expression and artistic self acceptance. I now feel I am able to see a sustainable way of moving forward with my painting by having experienced a clear connection with my intuition through the weekly exercise prompts, rather than always wanting to know what work is going to look like finished. In this course I have felt supported on the journey into the unknown and encouraged to make space for the unexpected.”

Geraldine Norris, Australia. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

See Art with Fresh Eyes!

Deb Weiers says: “The class made me more open to staying in the struggle, to be willing to walk away and come back with fresh eyes, to be able to wait longer for the art to come through. To stay open to the unexpected.”

Deb Weiers, Canada. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Express What You See and Feel!

Cheryl Rayner says: This class really helped me to see how I could start from ground zero and express something that was personal. I am even encouraged to start art journaling now, which I had always been turned off to, because it seemed like everyone was just trying to see how much product they could use! Paivi’s approach is far more meaningful.”

Cheryl Rayner, USA. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Let the Painting Grow to a Story!

Karen Nowviskie says: “I am no longer afraid of using watercolors. Most importantly, I have learned to embrace the unexpected and be open to the story of the painting.”

Karen Nowviskie, USA. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Bring More Elements into Your Creative Process!

Kathy Lewis says: “I am looking at creating so differently. I don’t even know how to start to describe my excitement for this course. I trust the process so much more and look into the colors to see things that I would never have noticed before. The actual coloring process has also changed. I love mixing watercolor, color pencil and acrylics! Never thought of some of these techniques before this class. Now I want to go through all the lessons again!”

Kathy Lewis, USA. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Compose with Colors!

Mackie d’Arge says: “The class inspired me to search harder for the hidden images that appear on the painted page. I’m looking at the balance of colors now instead of just the balance of images and lines in a composition. This class was a pure joy. It was four weeks of anticipation and struggle and frustration and trying again and again…but oh what fun!”

Mackie d'Arge, USA. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Take Creative Escapes!

Nea Wiseman says: “It’s a wonderful course. I am starting to free up my control buttons!”

Nea Wiseman, USA. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Overcome the Fear of Beginning!

Ulla M. Holm says: “I discovered that I need not be afraid of watercolors, or to start painting. I am beginning to find my own style.”

Ulla M. Holm, Sweden. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Express through Painting and Drawing!

Susan Rajkumar says: “Something huge inside of me changed, and then it became much easier to sit down and freely let it flow through me. Suddenly I could draw. Seriously. I don’t think about it much now. This was the best art course online.”

Susan Rajkumar, India. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Dive into Art More Often!

Claudia Kern describes: “I expanded my artistic toolbox to include acrylics and pencils which means much more can happen/unfold than working strictly with watercolors. So for me trusting that something as yet unknown to me would emerge and having more tools to use were both liberating. I have learned so much, and the structure of the class has enabled me to make a huge leap forward in making art a part of each day.”

Claudia Kern, USA. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Let Your Thoughts Grow while You Play!

Mary Werner says: “I learned to work in phases both with materials and with slowly completing the painting. I learned to begin with one image without knowing the whole picture allowed a deeper meaning to develop as I was involved with the slow building and thinking of the process. It gave my creativity a chance to play.”

Mary Werner, USA. Student artwork from the online painting workshop Liberated Artist taught by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

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Having an Art Blog

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet with her painting Free Spirit

With this blog post, I am celebrating 10 years of blogging! This blog started “only” about 7 years ago, but my first blog post was written in May 2005, over 10 years ago! So, this time it’s all about bloggging, what it has done for me, and what it can do for you as well!

One or Many Blogs?

I suggest that you only have a one blog and that you try to update it as regularly as you can. I have done the exact opposite at first …

My first blog was a knitting blog called “Päivi neuloo” (Paivi Knits). It was born at the time when knitting blogs started to become popular and when both local and virtual knitting groups were born. I was the founder of the first Finnish virtual knitting community, so of course I started blogging too. This blog doesn’t exist anymore, but I was able to create a screenshot from my personal archive.

Paivi's first blog post in 2005

Now when I look at those socks (my own design called “Ornamental Cabbage”) I can see the connection with my current work. But back then, I didn’t have a clue. I wasn’t very active blogger and often felt that I have more finished knits than single blog posts. So to release myself from the pressures of blogging every knitted item, I created a new blog “Sukanvarsi” which was focused on sock knitting only. Now I only had to blog about finished sock projects!

In 2008, I founded my first Etsy shop Kukkilintu. The shop needed a blog so I founded one. Updating this blog was much more fun even if I blogged in a foreign language, in English. I started to get followers from other sides of the world. Along showing the handcrafted projects, I tried to write something about my personal life and desires too. During this time, I became more and more interested in creating art again. So I founded a new blog called “Peony and Parakeet” It wasn’t meant to be much, just a place to post some collage art. One of the main reasons for its existence was that I wanted to participate in some challenges and be able to send links to my images.

But to my surprise, Peony and Parakeet started to get followers. To get Finnish followers too, I decided to start a new blog: Pioni ja Parakiitti, a similar than Peony and Parakeet, but in Finnish! For a couple of years I blogged both in English and in Finnish, updated many blogs and wished I only had one! In 2012, I finally decided to have only one English blog and move to my own website.

If I could turn back the time, I had only stayed in one blog and gradually moved to a more narrowed focus and towards blogging in English. Building a new audience from one blog to another takes much more time than expanding the current audience. Every time I began a new blog, I thought that I would be a better blogger in a new blog. But now, when looking back, I only see gradual development, not that changing one blog to another had made a big change.

How to Find Focus?

The best way to build a great blog is to blog about three kind of things:
1) things that make you really excited even if revealing them feels scary at first
2) things that resonate with your current audience
3) things that excite new audience as well.
When you manage to create blog posts that succeed in all those three, you have found your focus!

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet in 2010

Back in 2010

In 2010, I wanted to gain more audience. Blogging had become a regular practice and my new little Etsy shop, also called Peony and Parakeet, had also got some more customers. I examined digital marketing guides and realized that I needed to create a blog post that would be useful for my readers. So I did what was told, I wrote a blog post about creating handdecorated papers and waited for a couple of days. During that time, very little people read the post. I felt disappointed and forgot the whole thing. But now, when looking back, it’s my most popular blog post ever! It only took some time for people to find it.

For me, blogging has taught that other people see me often more clearly than I do. Including art that didn’t look so great to me has been one of the best things that I have done. By reading the comments, I have learnt so much and it has also, in turn, made me a better teacher and commenter. I think that it’s built in blogging that when publishing a new blog post, it feels nerve-wracking. I often worry about grammar mistakes and think that I must be the only person in the world interested in the subjects that I write about. But the truth is that the more you go into the core of your enthusiasm, the more you will attract others.

What Makes an Art Blog?

There are few things where I try to improve and hope that others will too.

1) Being a visual person, pictures are really important for me. When I see very small pictures and a lot of text, I turn away.
2) Having very little text and no personal images makes the blog more distant.
3) About the quality of artwork: the more the images communicate visually, the better. If the artwork does not embark imagination or only shows off technical skills, it remains empty.

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet with a painting that she made as a child

With blogging we can also add more meaning to our images. In the picture above, I am holding a painting that I made when I was about 10 years old. Our family is represented in flowers: the blue violets are my mother, the dark palm leaves are my father, the yellow flowers are my two sisters and the red flowers represent me. The second photo has been taken at my favorite spot, remembering the night when I made the art journal spread and enjoyed listening to opera.

10 Years of Blogging – Celebrate with Me!

Have a look at the new Gallery page!
Check the updated Create page!

Tell me in the comments:
Do you have a blog? If not, are you planning to begin one?
Feel free to include a link to your blog!

Look Back to See Your Artistic Style!

Organizing old drawings and paintings, looking back to see an artistic style, by Peony and Parakeet

We often search for something new: new art techniques, new ideas, new approaches. When I pulled out a worn-out cardboard box filled with my old drawings and paintings, they all felt very familiar at first. I saw only the obvious: a skill level, a theme or technique. But when I stopped looking at the pieces individually and started grouping them, new insights occurred.

1) Look for Repeating Elements and Themes

Self-Portraits, by Peony and Parakeet

In 1988, when I was 19 years old, I made a watercolor painting called “Self-Portrait as an Artist.” Soon after that, I went to study computer engineering, and art didn’t seem so important anymore. But now, when working full-time in art, I love to compare these two paintings. There are 27 years between them, but they still relate to each other. It is interesting to see how my understanding of being an artist has changed. The importance of ideas, visions, and expression has grown, and the ego and stereotyped appearance have shrunk. I see similarities too: color choices, dynamic lines and dramatic atmosphere, foundational elements of my artistic style.

If you are hoping to find a new style, it is easy to miss that most of the elements are already there, just a little bit of fine-tuning is needed!

2) Combine Past Ideas

Glass inspired art, by Peony and Parakeet

In 2007 I began studying industrial design. One of the courses taught us to draw various materials like glass, wood and plastic. After seven years I realized that I could use that kind of imitations for more expressive art too. I could play with the proportions and compositions. I also understood that I could use the things learned in the past, more widely and more freely. Instead of having only some ideas and simplifying those, I can have hundreds of ideas and combine most of them!

If you don’t know what to create next, combine what you have done before to a single artwork!

3) Embrace Your Roots

A forest by the lake, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet, in the age of 16

In 1985 I made this watercolor painting and remembered my family liking it. For me, it was important that this image came out of my imagination, it wasn’t made by following a photo or anything. It was born surprisingly easily, and I felt a bit puzzled: “So quick, and everybody likes it!”

The Forest Speaks, a watercolor painting by Peony and Parakeet

In 2014 I worked with a similar theme and again, with watercolors. This painting contained more emotion than the old one. This painting was about leaving back a certain phase in life and entering a new one. However, when I look at both of them now, I think about my country, Finland, and its nature. This country is a land of forests and lakes and for Finnish, it is natural to use them as symbols in self-expression too. I can’t escape my roots and the older I become; I don’t even want to.

When you look back at your work, what kind of themes and changes do you see? Could you create collections showing art that tells your personal stories and your journey to your current artistic style?  See also the post about stretching your artistic style!

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What Are the Cornerstones of Your Art?


I have always loved abstract paintings. It occurred to me just recently that even if I rarely create realistic art, I rarely go to extremes in abstract. But then, what would prevent me from doing that, putting those cornerstones of my style to a new order.

Namely, if you know what you love to create, why not play with that? Thick black color, sharp lines, dramatic color transitions, sense of movement and muted but distinct colors – those are what I always seem to aim.

This painting is called “Cornerstones” as I like this detail the most.


When you have your cornerstones set, you can feel free to experiment: use less of something, more of another thing, express deeper thoughts or become more playful.

My favorite supplies are watercolors, acrylic paints, and colored pencils. They can be seen as cornerstones as well. If I create something a bit different, it doesn’t feel so scary when I use these old friends.

So I started the painting with watercolors. I had some leftover acrylic paints from other projects, so I stopped to watch the watercolored surface and tried to figure out how to create something a little bit different with them.


One thing that I love in acrylic paints is to have many colors on a brush at the same time and get delicious color effects.



I worked with fairly thick brushes so no wonder when the artwork reached this point, I felt it needed some sharpness and movement.


Then I remembered the photos that I love to shoot. I adjust the shutter speed low and move my camera to doodle with light. My photos are not brilliant, but I absolutely love playing with the camera this way. These photos make me think of bit streams and all the wonderful technical innovations.


So I added a few sharp light details, and it was finished!


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