Mixed Media Painting Idea – Revisiting Your Old Style

Lost and Found, a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Between 2010-2014 I was enthusiastic about decorative art. I called myself as a “decorative artist” and saw myself more as a designer than as an artist who focuses on expression. My upcoming class Collageland (thank you, everyone, for the feedback you gave in the last blog post!), is a retrospective to that period in my life. While editing the videos, I have been pondering about what inspired me back then and how it’s different from what motivates me now.

Some themes and styles often feel too familiar to me. They don’t seem to challenge me anymore, so I have moved on. But now it hit me how harsh it sounds and how unnecessarily harsh it sometimes also is. So when creating the pieces shown in this blog post, I gave myself permission to take it easy and get decorative. I also became curious about comparing my past decorative work with the pieces that I would produce today.

My comfort zone is getting inspired by design and translating that inspiration into art. So I made a mixed media painting that is inspired by the world of fashion, jewelry, lace, Renaissance murals, and botanical art. I call it “Lost and Found”. To embrace a designer’s approach to art, I also made two different color versions by processing the photo of the original artwork digitally in Photoshop.

Here’s Marine:

Lost and Found, a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. The colors have been changed digitally in this image. See her mixed media painting idea behind this one!

And here’s Botanical:

Lost and Found, a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. The colors have been changed digitally in this image. See her mixed media painting idea behind this one!

I don’t have many phase photos because I wanted to relax with that too but this is what I drew on my planner the previous day:

Sketching a mixed media painting idea. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

These quick sketches are the core of my creative process.

Another Painting with the Same Idea

I also made another design-inspired painting. The idea came from the ceramic art of the 1960s.

The photo below shows how the piece looked like before adding the decorative layers. Glowing watercolors remind me of the glazing used in ceramics. When this happens, I feel like I am a ceramic artist, playing with colors.

Dr Ph. Martin's Hydrus watercolors

A student of mine kindly donated Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus watercolors some time ago. First, I liked them, now I adore them. They are intensive and easy to use, and I especially love the coverage of white. I used Hydrus watercolors for “Lost and Found” too.

Retro Living, a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s the finished painting called “Retro Living”.  It is also a mixed media piece. I used colored pencils, PITT Artist Pens, and a correction pen for the last layers. I love these muted colors, so typical for the Finnish ceramics from the 60s. But then, I thought they might be too gloomy for many, so I made another version digitally that reminds me of furniture from that era:

Retro Living, a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. She altered colors digitally for this version.

Comparison

See my new gallery showing decorative art and designs from 2011 to this day. When I look at the newly-created pieces as a part of that collection, it looks to me like I have traveled a long journey in art. And I have – I just never thought that it would show in this decorative style as well. It makes me want to explore more of this and also, see exciting challenges in this direction too.

My challenge to you: Pick an old piece and make a new one using the similar techniques and style! 

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When Another Art Class or Business Class is Not What You Need

Art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

I was 17 years when I drew that red-haired girl sitting on a stone. Back then, I didn’t think about art as a business. I didn’t try to find my style. I wasn’t even fully aware of my lacking skills. Still, the image feels genuine to me. It illustrates the place where I still want to go in my imagination. I want to get rid of the everyday life, I want to climb higher, see the big picture, and feel the wind of change blowing against my face.

It took me tens of years to put my feeling into words – to become conscious of what I want to create and how I want to lead myself as an artist. I found my way by building methods that connect my imagination with what I do in practice. They include answering questions, finding images that speak to you, and creating art to process it all.

My coaching program The Exploring Artist is based on those methods. It is just what you need if you have been creating art for some time already. It’s different from the classes you have used to see and take.

When an Ordinary Art or Business Class Doesn’t Help You

Namely, the world is full of business classes that claim to know how you can sell your art. They teach you how to make a marketing strategy, review your business model, build your website, etc. But if you haven’t grown as an artist, know what kind of advocate you are, the investment is rarely worth all the money.

Similarly, the world is full of art classes. They teach you techniques that may grow your technical skills, but they don’t help, when you want to dive deeper, use the full potential of your imagination, and create from your personal standpoint.

The Exploring Artist – Sign up Now!

The Exploring Artist, the coaching program by Peony and Parakeet - not any ordinary art or business class

After The Exploring Artist, you might get excited about finding your people and take a business class. When you already know what kind of art you want to make and what kind of advocate for art you want to be, it will be enjoyable.

After The Exploring Artist, you might want to take an art class. When you know your blind spots, choosing the class and making the most of it, will be much easier.

So when you consider the price of The Exploring Artist, think how much you would spend on those other classes. Consider how much time have you already spent without truly growing your artistic identity.

This is a rare opportunity to work with your art, and give it the attention it has needed for years already.

>> The Exploring Artist begins July 1st – Hurry and sign up now!

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Bad Ideas Make You a Better Artist!

Handdrawn Paper Doilies by Peony and Parakeet

About four years ago, I got a crazy idea to draw doilies on a watercolor paper and cut them out like they would be crocheted pieces.

Handpainted Paper Doilies – Not So Good Idea

Handpainted Paper Doilies, a phase photo, by Peony and Parakeet

The process of painting the background circles and then decorate them with doodles was so much fun that I got carried away and made plenty.

Handdrawn Paper Doilies by Peony and Parakeet

After I had finished a pile, I enthusiastically showed them to my husband: “Look what I have made!”
– “What are these?”, he said. “What are you going to make from these?”
– “Maybe I share the idea in my blog or make a big wall hanging by joining the circles together. Wouldn’t that be cool!?”

I saw it on his face. He didn’t get it. And furthermore, he didn’t want paper doilies on our walls either.

Mandala Madness

But to me, the doilies made perfect sense even if they weren’t crocheted. By painting them, I wanted to build a bridge from crafts to art. The paper doily was a raw idea, and as I, fortunately, learned later, raw ideas can look really bad at first.

Big Ideas Come from Bad Ideas

The idea of a doily translated into art didn’t leave me alone. Last year, three years after inventing it, I launched a workshop called Planet Color, where I teach people to paint abstract compositions.

Planet Color and Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

For the class, I needed a lot more ideas. I also needed to build a system and a structure that any beginner can follow. I needed to set it loosely so that everyone can use their imagination, but make it clear so that there would be no room for frustration. The idea of a paper doily was a seed, but it took some time to grow the flower.

Sowing flower seeds

Often when we admire other people’s art, we see the flowers instead of seeds. Most artists don’t show the seeds because many times, like in my case, they are pretty pathetic. Still, it’s the seeds, the raw ideas, that make the published work possible.

Finland 200 – Not So Good Idea

Before I started making a new big painting, I saw some elegant yet simple still lifes in my mind. I had just seen a superb piece of art, a Finnish sculptor Laila Pullinen’s bronze sculpture Spring in Man. So I wanted to start a new painting with the intention to create something grand and dramatic to celebrate Finland’s 100th anniversary. “This would be called Finland 200”, I declared.

First layers of an imaginative painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read how you can turn your bad ideas into good ones!

After painting for a couple of hours or so, I began to wonder what I wanted to say. Starting the painting with this much drama felt like a bad idea and I wasn’t convinced about the centerpiece either. Would that be some kind of mushroom or what? Then my bad ideas just got worse – I decided to continue by writing an imaginary story about Finland after 100 years.

Writing a story in an journal, by Peony and Parakeet

While quickly pouring the words out on my journal, I didn’t realize that I was actually writing a dystopia. The idea of a catastrophe in nature seemed exciting at first, but while painting, I realized that my visuals became very gloomy and weird-looking. I tried to make something positive out of it. I wrote a happy end to my story and painted a pink bubble with rare flowers inside it. That would be a new treasure of Finland, something everyone would want to come and see.

An imaginative painting in progress by Peony and Parakeet. Read how you can turn your bad ideas into good ones!

Even if the painting wasn’t finished yet, I already hated it. My original idea was bad enough, and now I had some more. I felt the despair rising.

New Vision – Imagination Takes the Lead

Luckily, I have a secret weapon for these situations. I connect with my passion and use the imagination to go to my happy place. It sets the mood, reminds why I create art and loads the right atmosphere into my mind while I am creating. The side of me that wants to control steps back and the side of me that is good at persuading re-evaluates the work.

– “What about changing the orientation of the painting,” she said.
– “And loose all the hard work?”, my pessimistic side responded.
– “No, nothing would be lost, we would just add a little bit of color over it.”
– “Color? What color?”
– “Brown,” she said cheerfully.
– “Why on earth would I pick brown of all the colors?”

And then she reminded me gently about my passion, about what inspires me and how I can feel free.

Phase photos of an imaginative painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read how you can turn your bad ideas into good ones!

And she was right. I loved the painting after adding layers with umber. It became clear to me what the painting would be. Not Finland 200, but expressing something that has been here for hundreds of years and most probably stays the same for the next hundred: nature’s wonders when exploring the garden. I continued the painting by adding flowers that I have had in the garden. I adjusted the elements in the first layers so that they became the building blocks of the new vision.

Garden-inspired painting in progress by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

My painting is not finished yet, but it’s already a good example of how the raw ideas can be translated to more inspiring ideas with the help of imagination.

Bad Art, Bad Ideas – Also Behind This Blog Post!

Before I wrote this blog post, I decorated my work planner to get ideas for it. I cut pretty ladies from a wedding magazine and put funny hats on them. While creating this, I thought how this kind of activity would be seen something that a “real artist” would not do, yet it’s essential to me to have a bit of play regularly. So that’s how I got the idea of revealing some bad ideas and how essential this kind of exploration is for producing work that you want to publish.

A planner spread using images from a wedding magazine. By Peony and Parakeet.

When Your Best Art Exists Only in Your Mind

Before I started making the paper doilies, I had wonderful daydreams inspired by my beautiful yarn stash. By seeing beautiful images in my mind, I came up with my bad idea, the ugly version of those daydreams.

Daydreaming is good, but it’s not successful when you try to translate something you see in your mind to paper. The creative process rarely works so literally. The images in our minds are often vague. Copying them detail by detail is practically impossible. The imagination is more like the leader who supports your art making, not a manager who controls it or the specialist who does the work. During the recent years, I have developed a method of using imagination to connect with the passion of creating art. I teach this method in the group coaching program called The Exploring Artist.

6 Steps to Making an Impact

6 steps to making an impact with your art. Sign up for the Exploring Artist, a group coaching program by Peony and Parakeet!

The Exploring Artist helps you to connect the play with your deeper passion and use that to move forward in all levels of art-making. During this program, you will:
– lead yourself by playing and imagining
– grow ideas from your personal feelings and experiences
– remove blind spots and build skills through the challenges
– get confident for publishing your art, whether it’s just friends or a bigger group of your people

The Exploring Artist is also about connecting and soul-searching within a friendly group. We will work through 6 steps and have live group coaching sessions, where your art and your art-making is in focus.

This is not a class where you create after me and try to get to the similar result. It’s for you who wants to get support and guidance for creating freely from your personal standpoint. You can use any media you are comfortable with and apply the methods to your visual project(s). If you feel that you are “all over the place,” and want to find a creative direction, The Exploring Artist is the program for you!

The Exploring Artist - a coaching program for new artists by Peony and Parakeet

The Exploring Artist begins July 1st – Sign up Now!

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Feeling Dissatisfied with Your Art? – Watch the video!

Decorative illustration by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watch the video about drawing this one and about feeling dissatisfied with your art!

This week, I talk about why we can feel disconnected and dissatisfied with our art no matter what other people say about it. I also address the issue why the exercises of taking inspiration photos and creating from them don’t always work. At the end of the video, I create this decorative illustration which is a new version of a class assignment from 6 years ago!

Feeling Dissatisfied with Your Art? – Watch the Video!

Build Your Artistic Identity – Discover Your Passion!

The Exploring Artist - A coaching program for artists by Peony and Parakeet

The Exploring Artist begins at July 1st – Sign up Now! 

Feeling Disconnected with Your Art? – Learn from My Story

I feel really passionate about this topic, so I made an illustrated story about how I cured it. I shared this on my Facebook page. For those who don’t use Facebook, I share it here too. Click the image to see it bigger!

Feeling disconnected with your art? Read Paivi Eerola's story about how to cure it!Here’s the link to my latest coaching program – come to solve this issue with me: http://www.peonyandparakeet.com/exploring-artist/

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Lessons from Palazzo Pitti – Don’t Apologize for Your Art!

Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Here’s my latest acrylic painting called “Strawberry Madonna.” I started it in February, and it’s my first painting using old masters’ techniques with acrylic paints. It’s much more difficult to use acrylics instead of oil paints, but I managed to find few tips and tricks that helped. But this blog post is not so much about the techniques. I want to write about being unapologetic when creating art. It feels like a never-ending journey to me, and I hope this blog post will resonate with you too.

Palazzo Pitti and Traveling to Florence, Italy

Last week, I traveled to Italy with my husband to see Renessaince art. We flew to Rome, then took a train to Florence. After spending a couple of days in Florence, we got back to Rome, spend a couple of nights there, and then flew back home. We visited so many museums that it was a bit exhausting at times. I took over 700 photos, and there were so many highlights in our journey that I decided not to try to fit it all in this blog post, but focus on the glory of Palazzo Pitti, an art museum located in Florence, and save other experiences for later.

Namely, seeing Palazzo Pitti on the first evening in Florence, reminded me of how needless it is to tone things down and how we can be as glorious as possible when creating art and when using our imagination.

One Chandelier is Never Enough!

When watching the chandeliers of Palazzo Pitti, my first thought was: “Isn’t one enough?”
Then I realized that on my artistic journey, I have often thought like that: “it should be enough.”

  • Creativity: “I should be enough to have one idea for one image.”
  • Time: “It should be enough to have two hours for this piece.”
  • Skills: “It should be enough to just have a little bit of fun with it.”
  • Potential: “It should be enough to stick with what I know now.”
  • Imagination: “It should be enough to replicate the reality.”

Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

But one idea, one short session, one technique, one reality, is never enough if you want to continue the journey. When you have passed the first steps in creating, the room gets bigger. Making art frustrates you. It feels like your chandelier is broken. But instead of continuously changing the chandelier, you need more chandeliers to lighten your way.

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

When you begin creating, it’s just fun to change the chandelier: the theme, the technique, the idea. But when you have been creating for a while, it becomes overwhelming. The nature of creativity is never to focus on one small thing at the time. One chandelier is never enough for the curious mind. You need to learn to:

  • combine your many ideas
  • take more sessions for one piece
  • find the blind spots in skills and knowledge
  • and the most important of all: increase your imagination so that it takes you above the everyday life.

When you have many chandeliers, you see it clearer why you create art and where you want to go with it. Don’t apologize for your lacking focus but embrace all aspects of your creativity!

Ask What Your Heart Says!

When I saw “The Horrors of War” by Peter Paul Rubens in Palazzo Pitti, it caused an immediate emotional reaction. I was in tears before I was able to analyze the painting. Even if the theme was very dramatic, violent even, the movement and the wind was so beautifully painted. To me, it expressed the beauty of change, the theme that has always been close to my heart.

Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

When I was a teenager, I often drew scenes or portraits where the wind was present. It just looked fun and dynamic. But the more I have been creating, the more I have realized that I love to express movement, change, and transformation in one way or another, and the wind is often a symbol of that in my work. Thinking about big changes is one of those chandeliers that always lightens my inspiration.

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

I believe in digging deeper behind the first reactions. If art makes you emotional, there’s something important that’s behind it. It’s often contradictory, something so different that you have a hard time in believing it.

It’s kind of funny how much time I spend at home, doing the daily routines, and how my mind is in grand transformations and explorations. But to find what’s your true passion, the mundane life and your everyday wishes don’t give answers to that. You need to connect with your imagination.

Don’t apologize for your circumstances but use your imagination to experience the freedom! 

Decorating is Not an Enemy for Expression!

One thing that I found very delightful in Palazzo Pitti was how the number of decorative designs. I have always felt drawn to decorative painting style and even called myself as a “decorative artist.” It was my way of saying that I don’t feel like being very expressive. But nowadays I think that it’s possible to combine both decorative and expressive together, and there’s no need to limit the inspiration. Namely, who couldn’t be inspired by this ceiling?

Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

And look at the door and the tabletop! The most amazing thing is that the table top is made from stoneware!

Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

We may not be the similar masters as those decorative artists, but the experience in crafts can still be a treasure chest of ideas. For example, in my Strawberry Madonna, I added a crocheted lace on her dress and truly enjoyed painting it!

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Don’t apologize for your background in crafts (or in anything) but see that as a part of your artistic journey!

About Confidence and Belonging

When walking in the aisles of Palazzo Pitti, I felt sweaty and modestly dressed. The Medici family would not have invited me to their party, for sure. I thought about my art too and how modest it felt after seeing the big masterpieces.

A Finnish artist Paivi Eerola at Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

But it’s not only my art but I also often struggle when writing these blog posts. I don’t want to just write about my thoughts. I want to write so that you would continue creating and evolving with me. I want to offer classes that make you draw the connecting lines between your brain and your heart.

So that the way you speak about your art, would include more joy and confidence.

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

So that the way you see art, would be filled with happy surprises and inspiration.

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

So that the way you explore between the many styles, would make you see higher to your passion.

Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

So that the ideas that you get, would get full wings because you value them.

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Here’s what we can learn from the treasures of Palazzo Pitti:

There’s no reason to be apologetic when creating and sharing your art. There’s no reason to underestimate the impact that art can have on your life and others as well.

Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet - with a ceiling from Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

Art is Timeless but Our Time to Create It is Limited

The final image is a view from Palazzo Pitti. It is a reminder of how art can stand time but how our time to create is limited.

A view from Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

If your heart wants to create in a new way, don’t postpone it. If you are struggling, don’t delay solving the problem. I hope I will see you in my upcoming coaching program The Exploring Artist, where your art and your artistic identity is in focus. It’s about finding ways and confidence to create unapologetic art as well as building belongingness with the like-minded people.  >> Sign up here!

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Finding Your Purpose in Art – Remember that You Never Create Just for Yourself!

A Day in The Garden, a watercolor and ink painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read her thoughts about finding the purpose for your art making!

Here’s my latest small mixed media painting called “A Day in The Garden.” I used Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus Fine Art Watercolors and Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Inks for making it. Like the title says, the inspiration for the painting came from the time spent in the garden.

Garden Inspiration – For the Beauty of Tulips

Tulips from Paivi's garden, see her garden inspired art at www.peonyandparakeet.com

Even if the spring is about two weeks behind this year in Finland, we had a lovely weather last Sunday. The tulips were blooming, and I decided to go out and do some weeding to make them stand out.

As I was working in the sun, I soon warmed up. When putting away my cotton cardigan, I noticed a little red robin watching me. He sat in the bushes but had a curious look on his face. As I often talk to my budgies, I couldn’t help myself telling him how fine looking little bird he was. He clearly enjoyed my voice because he flew closer. He must have been a young bird as it didn’t take long before he was so close that I could almost touch him!

Garden Inspiration – For the Nourishment of A Red Robin

Dr. Ph. Marten's Hydrus Watercolors and Bombay India Inks. A photo by Paivi Eerola, a visual artist from Finland.

As the little bird grabbed an insect in his beak, I realized why he was so interested in me. Working the soil made it easier for him to find food. In the first place, I had thought about having some me-time in the garden and making room for beauty, but then unexpectedly I had got an audience, a client even! It caused me to think how similar it is with art. In the beginning, the practice can be very self-serving, but art never lives in a vacuum. Even if we would hide our pieces, art always has an impact on its surroundings. If not directly, then through our actions.

Making of a mixed media painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Purpose Needs People

Our soul-searching through art making can start similarly as the day in the garden, with an intention to spend some time with beauty. But as we progress, we begin to yearn for a deeper meaning. I believe that this purpose is related to people. Even just thinking about sharing art with other people brings in a wider perspective, a bigger vision, and more ways to use the imagination. No matter whether you ever share, sell, blog or show your pieces to anyone, you can still work with the themes like opening up, finding words that boost your art making process, and imagining the people you want to connect with through your art.

Mixed media painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

If we focus on style issues only, we will never see the whole ecosystem. We are like gardeners who sweat for their tulips but miss the impact on their environment.

Ideas Change but the Passion Stays the Same

A detail of a mixed media painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read her thoughts about finding the purpose for your art making!

In a coaching program The Exploring Artist, I talk about finding “Your People.”  There may be only one red robin in the beginning, but recognizing that they do exist is inspiring. Imagining what you can be for them is a big thing when you want to find a passion and a direction for your art making.

A detail of a mixed media painting. Dr. Ph. Marten's Hydrus Watercolors and Bombay India Inks. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read her thoughts about finding the purpose for your art making!

Namely, your targets of interest can and should change all the time. But your passion stays the same for a much longer period. You don’t have to create similar pieces again and again. You can freely explore the world of art and imagination. Your red robins will follow you because they know that you’ll always find something that benefits them too.

An American singer-songwriter Conor Oberst has said:
“Art is essentially communication. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum. That’s why people make art, so other people can relate to it.”

Sign up for The Exploring Artist to discover the passion behind your art
and to become more confident with the big word “artist”!

Want to Find Your Art Style? Need to Focus?

"Towards Summer", a gouache painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See the video where she paints this!

This blog post is dedicated to you who have been creating art for some time, and want to find your art style and a clearer focus. I have a bit different take on these issues than what you would probably expect. I think that forcing your creativity is not the way to go. Instead of making yourself to focus on one idea, I suggest that you learn to integrate your many ideas. And instead of trying to find your perfect art style, start building your artistic identity by doing some soul searching on a deeper level!

Finding Focus and Your Art Style – Watch the video!

I talk about focus and art style while creating the gouache painting. Watch the video below!

Sign up for The Exploring Artist to discover the passion behind your art
and to become more confident with the big word “artist”!

The Exploring Artist - a coaching program for new visual artists by Peony and Parakeet. When you want to find your art style ...

See the full program description for The Exploring Artist and sign up now!
When you sign up before June, you will get an early bird discount!

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.

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