The Exploring Artist Coaching Program – Get the Early-Bird Discount!

Sign up for The Exploring Artist coaching program! By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

This week, I am happy to open the registration for my new artist coaching program!

The Exploring Artist is a 12-week group coaching program for new visual artists, starting July 1st. You will learn how to own the big word “Artist” so that it brings quality and enthusiasm to your art making. This coaching is especially for you who wants to make more impact with your art whether you want to start sharing your art in social media, blogging about art, selling, teaching local or online classes, etc.

I only have 50 spots available so sign up now!  There’s also an early-bird discount!

4 Big Misconceptions I Have Had About Creating Art

 "My love for animals" - An art journal spread by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I come from a family who always valued arts and crafts, but my parents and relatives were not artists themselves. I spent my childhood drawing and painting, mostly animals because I feverishly wanted to have a pet of my own. My ultimate dream was to become a visual artist. Now when I look back, I see big misconceptions that I had about art. These misconceptions are not rare or unique, I hear and see people talking about them all the time. So I wanted to tell how I currently think about them and what I would say to anyone who has the same experience.

"Hilppa's puppies". A line drawing by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Misconception #1 – “Am I talented enough?”

People talk too much about talent when they talk about artists and art. I think the word should be banned, especially when talking about children and their creations. There are many other ways to encourage and admire. The problem about the word “talent” is that it implicates a thing that you can’t change in yourself – it’s there, or it’s not. Yes, some people are more visual than others. But there are so much more qualities that are needed for becoming an artist. For example, growing and combining ideas, and seeing principles and concepts behind real objects and events. Instead of just redrawing a photo of my beagle and her puppies in 2007, I could have put the warmth into focus and tell a bigger story about the unconditional love that I was witnessing at that moment.

If you question your talent, stop! Start learning how to process ideas, how to apply visual principles, and how to evaluate the quality of your work. The question implicates that you need to start learning and practicing! I love the ambition behind the question, but stop agonizing over it and start learning!

If you say, that you already are learning, but still question your talent, you are not learning enough on a higher level. If you are watching videos about someone painting, you also need to know the reasons behind the decisions the painter is making. You need to connect the theory with the actions. (That’s why I built the class Inspirational Drawing 2.0 – you will get not only the hows but also the whys)

Making a mess. Read about 4 big misconceptions about making art!

Misconception #2 – “All I want is creative freedom.”

Many years ago, when managing IT projects by day, I needed a creative outlet by night. I wanted to feel free, create loosely and make a beautiful mess. And so often, I only made a mess that didn’t set me free at all. When I was able to freely choose from the vast amount of art supplies, the beginning often felt suffocating. Then there was an agony in the end when I wasn’t able to be satisfied with the result. I added new layers after another and desperately tried to make it work.

There’s one big problem in creative freedom that I missed. To feel free, I needed the opposite. I needed limits and a direction. I didn’t need anything as defined or restricted as a reference photo or an image in my head. I needed to limit my supplies, my colors, and my feelings. As the work progressed I could have become more focused and experienced the freedom through the gained focus. Instead, I was overwhelmed by the choices.

If I could talk to myself now, I would say: “You don’t need freedom, you need to educate yourself in art. You need to explore what and how the master artists have expressed. That way you can find what’s your take on the big themes like landscapes, portraits, still lifes, and abstracts. Knowledge will give you the direction and set you free.”

There has to be a balance between creating and acquiring information. If you only make a mess, you easily invent the wheel again and again. On the other hand, if you only study art history, it can make you feel intimidated. However, knowing more doesn’t make you less unique. There’s no reason to avoid going to art museums, art galleries, browse and read books about art history (I often listen to art related audio books while creating). Understanding the background stories of artists and artworks, helps you to find your personal focus. (That’s why I sell Imagine Monthly Bundle 1 and Bundle 2 – so that you can connect dots between art history and your creative inspiration)

Paintings on the wall. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Misconception #3 – “Someday somebody will find me.”

When I started blogging over 10 years ago, I thought that someday someone would get in touch and say something like: “Hello, I am a hugely famous art critique, and I would like to buy your art because it’s so fabulous.” Not probably in those exact words, but you get the idea. I also wished that there would be a lot of people visiting my blog and admiring what I had created. But there were practically very few people visiting my blog even if blogs were very popular at that time.

The best thing that I did back then was that I started following business people. Many recommended setting up an email list. It felt awkward enough to blog, so it didn’t feel natural at all. In 2010, I decided to trust the advice and sent my first group email to 9 subscribers. Even if they had deliberately subscribed my emails, I felt like I was spamming the world. After a year and seven more emails, I had 95 subscribers. I still felt like a spammer, but because the number was growing, I couldn’t stop either. By blogging and sending emails regularly, I got more subscribers, and my feelings changed. Sending the emails felt more like a service than spam, and in 2014, I started posting them weekly. (If you are not a subscriber yet, subscribe here!)

When I write my weekly emails, I don’t write to “hugely famous art critiques.” I write to my soul-mates who love art and are always eager to learn more. I write to people who want to explore all kinds of approaches to art and who want to share the enthusiasm and ambition behind all that.

If you are waiting for somebody to find you, make sure that you also do the work. Being consistent and learning business and marketing means a lot. But there’s also one more misconception that I want to bring up that relates to this one.

The Modern Woman, a watercolor painting by Peony and Parakeet.

Misconception #4 – “Images are enough.”

Let’s get back to the time when I started blogging and was hoping to get more readers. Well, yes “readers,” even if I wrote very little. I thought that images are enough. If I made a picture pretty enough, where would I need the words? Do I even have to say my real name “Paivi Eerola,” isn’t “Peony and Parakeet” enough?

But we need the names, the words, the faces, the stories to get connected with people. It’s scary and difficult, but it’s also necessary. As artists, we need to make the process visible. We need to make the knowledge that we have gained visible. We need to open our minds and tell what we feel when we create. We need to tell how our creations can relate to the viewers as well. Even old master painters still need the words. The museums organize guided tours and offer audio guidance through headphones. There are books and biographies. The sad truth is that many of the artists who died undervalued didn’t use enough words.

There are also other things that we need to include than just words. These are the ways we photograph, exhibit and handle our art; the way we show joy about what we have created; the way we participate and include people into discussions rather than staying silent. I refuse to call all that with the word “marketing” because I think it’s much larger than only that. It’s about growing your artistic identity where you can spread your passion and where you feel the need to do so. Then it’s more than about your images – whether they are “good enough” or whether you are “talented enough.” It’s about using art as diversely as possible to connect with people. It’s a good cycle to build, as these connections also improve your art.

A Finnish visual artist Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet and her art journal.

Check out my new coaching program “The Exploring Artist” for building belongingness, making art that matters, and strengthening your artistic identity! >> Sign up now!

Technique, Style or Identity – Which Comes First to You?

A detail of Gypsy Madonna, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Technique

During the recent ten years, I have wanted to learn and experiment with art techniques. It has been fun to combine all kinds of media and see what comes out. And even when using one medium only, techniques have been important to me. Like recently, when I have learned to paint like the old masters. But with techniques, come the rules: first this, then that. It feels safe at first, but then, it can also be too restricting.

A detail of Vincent van Gogh inspired art journal spread by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Style

To me, the personal style means something that I am comfortable with doing, and that makes my work recognizable. But for a long time now, I have felt a sense of sadness when people say that they want to find their voice. One of my favorite creative play has been to play with styles. Being very intentional about the style issues can take the play out of the game.

Hand-drawn collage art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Identity

The more I have tried to focus on techniques or style, the more I have thought about the third thing, the artistic identity. I tried to keep all that inside me, but I am not very good at hiding things, so I was about to explode before finally, in the last month, I wrote on Facebook:

“Style or Identity? – Even when working full-time as an artist, I sometimes still have problems in calling myself an artist. I wonder, why there’s so much talk about finding your style and so little about finding your identity as an artist?

It includes me too. I often talk and think about style issues when I should think about identity issues. It’s easier to analyze the line, the theme, the mark making, than talk about things that go deeper.

I mean things like:
1) Why do you make art?
2) How do you define the quality of your art?
3) What’s your role in the art community?
4) What’s different with you from the artists that you admire?
5) When and how do you know that you have succeeded as an artist?

Most of these questions are valid whether you are a beginner or more advanced. The answers change when your journey progresses.”

When your order is 1) identity, 2) style, 3) technique

you allow more play,
you take on bigger challenges,
and you connect more with other artists.

Stay tuned for a new challenge-based coaching class to grow your artistic identity!

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet with one of her paintings in progress. Read more about finding your style in art!

This post is a sample of my weekly emails. Subscribe here!

Have You Ever Felt Like an Outsider?

Gypsy Madonna, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet, combining two Renaissance paintings into one

I have finished a new oil painting called “Gypsy Madonna.” I painted it at Emmi Mustonen‘s class during this spring while learning more about old masters’ painting techniques. It took about 42 hours from start to finish and about four months in calendar time. Every thin layer of paint had to dry before adding a new one. I show you some phase photos, but I focus on the deepest thing that I learned from this painting: feeling like an outsider and what to think about it.

The Basics of the Painting Process

My Gypsy Madonna combines two Renaissance paintings: Boccaccio Boccaccino‘s Gypsy Girl and Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine.

By Boccaccio Boccaccino and Leonardo da Vinci

First I was just on a mission to get better with the painting technique.

Making of a Gypsy Madonna using old masters painting techniques, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Then I wanted to play with the setting and discovered several stories that could be told through that (some of them are in this blog post).

Making of a Gypsy Madonna using old masters painting techniques, underpainting, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Experiences of Being an Outsider

One day during the painting process, I remembered a childhood memory of a real gypsy girl. The local library had a weekly hour for children to listen to fairy tales and to play together. We were playing a game where two of us danced in the middle while others were watching. There were a lot of children, all waiting for to be chosen. Someone picked me, and we danced in the center of the ring while others were cheering.

Then it was my turn, and my friend Anne almost stepped up. But I had seen a sad gypsy girl sitting there, head drooping. She knew that nobody would pick her up. It was one of those games that would only depress her. It broke my little girl’s heart to see her sadness. I just had to do it, leave Anne sitting and ask the girl to dance with me. I never forget that smile when we were swirling around. It may have been the best thing that I have done in my life so far.

Making of a Gypsy Madonna using old masters painting techniques, finishing, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

When I continued painting, it was suddenly me in the picture. I became the gypsy girl who gently scratches her pet. The outsider who never got children because she was much more enthusiastic about her love for animals. The outsider who was the only girl in most of the classes when studying technology. The outsider who dreamt about art while trying to tackle the more practical career. There are so many moments when I have felt like a black Madonna, not quite fitting in.

A detail of a Gypsy Madonna, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet, combining two Renaissance paintings into one

Everybody Is an Outsider

To me, the finished image symbolizes the beauty of choosing differently, being different. Even if I know that it’s perfectly ok to be different, the painting helps me to connect with the feeling on a deeper level. It makes me empathize with other people as well. Everybody is an outsider despite their personal story. We all belong to a minority in some ways. We are all Gypsy Madonnas in one way or another.

A detail of Gypsy Madonna, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet, combining two Renaissance paintings into one

Have You Ever Felt That Nobody Understands Your Art?

To be honest, I feel shy about showing this painting. It’s not what I usually create, and I have shared some very personal stories. It has crossed my mind for several times how you, as a reader of this blog, might feel confused: “Is this what Paivi is creating nowadays? Is she going back to the Renaissance age?” I have also feared that the dark colors of the painting will make you want to stop reading. But on the other hand, I don’t want to stop exploring. If you don’t explore, you are unable to integrate new things into your creative work. Pablo Picasso has said: “To copy others is necessary, but to copy oneself is pathetic.” So no wonder if there are times when nobody understands what you are creating!

It’s also difficult to grow artistic identity when a part of that experience is feeling like an outsider. When you start creating art, you want to find your personal way to do it, but those discoveries can also make you feel lonely sometimes. This contradictory has caused me to challenge myself. I want to be better at not only understanding my personal feelings but also supporting other artists in their explorations. In the end, we are all on the same journey. We are standing together on the border of art and the rest of the world, expressing the same view through different eyes.

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet, with Gypsy Madonna, one of her oil paintings. Read her blog post about feeling like an outsider as an artist and how to get through it!

Stay tuned for my new class for building belongingness, making art that matters, and strengthening your artistic identity! The registration will open in May!

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.

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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!

160513d

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
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