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

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

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

Circle Love

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

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

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

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

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet in 2012

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

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

Do You Make Abstracts but Still Feel the Stiffness?

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

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

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

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

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

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

A mixed media art journal page by Peony and Parakeet.

Freehand Drawing Video – Create with me!

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

Art supplies for freehand drawing. By Peony and Parakeet.

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

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

And here’s the video!

Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

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

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

Expressing Inspiration Through Art

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

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

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

Inspiration is Often Visual

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

Only You Can Express Your Inspiration!

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

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

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

Expressing Inspiration Through Art

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

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

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

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

Express Your Inspiration: Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

Video: How to Move from Figurative to Abstract Art?

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

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

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

How to Move from Figurative to Abstract Art?

Drama and Contrasts in Art

Counterforces, a painting by Peony and Parakeet. See the video of how to include drama in your painting!

This is my latest painting called “Counterforces”. The idea for this came from the books that I have read recently. They are Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland. I picked those books, not because I would be writing a novel, but because I want to understand more about drama and how to bring it to visual art. With self-expression, I aim more about describing scenes and experiences than static figures. I want to experience the drama while I am creating and show the drama in the result as well.

Create Contrasts and Suspense – Watch the Video!

I recorded the process of creating the painting. While creating, I tried to bring as many contrasts as possible to the painting. The most memorable moments in our lives often include some drama – countering forces or feelings.

Let me be your art teacher: Subscribe to my weekly emails!

Stop to See Your Inner World!

From Innovation to Experience, an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

If you watched my recent video interview, you know that I love technology and innovations. People often say that technology is a tool. I do understand that phrase and agree with that to a certain point. But if I had to define technology, I would say that like art, it’s an experience. Whether I read about innovation in technology, or see an interesting artwork, I like to stop and think how I feel about it.

A sketch with a black pen, intuitive drawing by Peony and Parakeet

Now you might ask: “Why would I take any abstract concept or inanimate object and add emotion to it?”
My answer is: “Because that’s how you boost your imagination!”
When we see technology as a crowd in a concert or a tea cup as a gentle old lady, we will open the door to our inner world.

Intuitive drawing with colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet

Often it requires that we stop. Stop taking in universal generalizations, and start adding our associations. It does not mean that you should do it all the time, but in small moments, every day. Because like Terry Pratchett has said: “Humans need fantasy to be human.”

Making of an art journal page, by Peony and Parakeet

By drawing, we can work our fantasies so that they become insights. Instead of continuously searching inspiration from outside world, we can take time for processing information inside. When we integrate our past experiences with new ones, we can have an improved view of our life as a whole. As visual people, we can produce images that have that unified vision. These kind of holistic visions are almost impossible to express with words, that’s why they are called “the big picture.”

From Innovation to Experience, artwork with colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet

Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!
You will learn not only practical ways for processing inspirational material
but also how to let your subconscious take control.
Produce “the big pictures” of your experiences!
>> Sign up now!

Can You Draw?

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet, with pens and paints

All my life I have wanted to learn how to draw. Whatever skills I have learned during the years, there has always been this one yearn: to know how to draw. Sometimes I have thought that I finally master the skill, only to realize it again: No, not yet.

But now, when most of this agony is over, I want to share my story and ask you: what does it mean when you say you can or can’t draw? People often say: “I can’t even draw a stick figure!” That probably means that they refuse even to try.

Drawing Stick Figures

colorful autumn leaves

My most humiliating moment connected to drawing was when I was about 8 years old, and we had to draw trees at school. “Do not make a mess,” the teacher said. But oh no, I did make a mess, and I had to watch my teacher show me how to draw a tree. The tree that she drew looked nothing like one. It was barely a branch, almost just a stick. At least it was not a living tree. I heard her sighing and saying that she could not draw either!

three leaves , a stick figure drawing

Drawing Realistic Images

I continued practicing. As a result, I realized that those who drew stick figures did not actually look at the object. When they were given the three leaves, they drew three symbols of leaves. So I thought that if I examined the objects like they were not leaves at all, I could draw them more realistically.

three leaves, a realistic line drawing

But the three leaves, which I brought home in a pocket, are beautiful, natural, living things. When I look at them I feel their presence and they evoke thoughts. They are not just flat objects either. If I drew how my eyes trace the leaves, how would that look like?

Three leaves, a sketch-like drawing

This is what I learned in my teenage years: I could use several lines for drawing, starting with thin and light lines and ending with strong dark lines. The result would not be bad at all, even if I made mistakes in the beginning. This was when I first assumed that I could draw. At least I was able to produce realistic looking pictures.

Drawing without Models

But soon, I got doubts. Browsing art books every week at the local library of the small hometown, I saw many outstanding masterpieces. The deeper I dived into the art history, the more I thought about the difference between copying and drawing from the memory.  I assumed that most of the great artists had the ability to understand proportions and structures so that they could draw anything, without having a model or a photograph.

three leaves, drawn without a model

So I abandoned the models, mirrors, and other images. My goal was to draw whatever popped up into my mind. The amount of drawing that I had done had left marks on my memory. With some practice, I was able to draw ordinary objects, like leaves. But again, it did not satisfy me. I had discovered a new factor: a line. A line is not just a line. It is a kind of signature. It can be fast and effortless or slow and dull. And mine was more the latter.

I discovered artists who really can draw. Like Finnish female artist Miina Äkkijyrkkä. I envied those flowing lines. Meanwhile, I had graduated as an industrial designer. Should I get back to school again? And if so, where? I decided to learn by myself.

At this point, I have to tell you that I have learned many crafts by myself, and it has not always been very efficient. When I learned quilting, I refused to iron even if every quilting book said so. It took me ten years to master that skill, meaning: use that iron and acknowledge that it does make the difference. When I decided to learn drawing, I was afraid that I would omit something important again while rushing towards the goal. So I took a very slow approach. I figured out that if I start with a basic shape and make enough repeats, I will learn to draw. So I picked my favorite shape, a circle, and began doodling.

Drawing Styles

While learning to draw a circle with an expressive line, I realized that I could pick out my circles from those made by others. So I added a new factor to the definition of drawing: a style. I wanted to have my own style, my own line. Most evenings, after the day job, I drew circles examining my thoughts and the way of looking at the world. I learned that a simple circle could be a very complicated shape. And even more: when combined with other circles, it’s almost too complicated. You can draw small circles, big circles, closed circles, open circles, ovals … add circles inside another circle, build a tower with circles … I became fascinated by the circles. It felt like knitting: a small movement after another, and within few weeks, you will have something grand to look at!

three leaves, a line drawing by Peony and Parakeet

As months and months went by, I had a growing hunch that I had found my style. I became convinced that if I am brave enough to let that circle alter its shape, I can draw with my own voice. Once I jumped into that, I felt tremendous joy. Looking at the shapes flowing out of my pen was amazing. Could I finally call that drawing?

Then I remembered something that I had always loved: imitation. The joy of finding my own style changed to the urge to learn to imitate different styles. It would be so great to draw like many masters that I had admired since browsing the art books at the public library!

Three leaves, a line drawing by Peony and Parakeet

I wanted not only to draw like romantic, but I also wanted to draw in an edgy and masculine way.

Three leaves, a line drawing by Peony and Parakeet

I wanted to simplify without taking the life out of the drawing.

Three leaves, a line drawing by Peony and Parakeet

I wanted to learn various historical styles, like art nouveau.

Drawing from Imagination

Ants flying with leaves, a skecth by Peony and Parakeet

And I also wanted to learn to use the imagination and play with the theme. Wouldn’t it be cute if ants could use the falling leaves as airplanes? Then they would certainly have their own landing strip and air traffic control!

The Definition of Drawing

Then one day I realized that, for me, learning how to draw is not about me drawing. It is more about making you draw. I think that teaching drawing is my final definition about the ability to draw. That’s why I am currently creating a book about how to learn drawing in a way that is enjoyable and something very different from the tutorials you have seen around the internet and book stores.

Let me be your art teacher: Subscribe to my weekly emails!

Bursting Circle – Self-Expression Exercise

Bursting Circle, a watercolor collage and a creative self-expression exercise by Peony and Parakeet

Here’s my interpretation of the creative self-expression exercise called Bursting Circle. It might sound too simple or a bit mechanic, but it can be used as a framework for self-expression: how am I today, how am I feeling?

Do the Self-Expression Exercise – Create Your Bursting Circle!

1) Pick a paper or a page of your art journal.
2) Draw freely a circle on a random area of the paper or the page.
3) Fill the circle with whatever you can think of: shapes, colors, anything. You can also use collage pieces.
4) Divide the paper by drawing a horizontal or vertical line.
5) Color each side of the line differently.
6) Imagine that the circle begins to leak or burst – how would you illustrate that?

Analyze After Creating!

Is your circle big or small?
What does it contain?
Is it located left or right?
Is it on the surface or under the surface?
Is it inside or outside?
Is it clearly shaped or is it merging to the background?
Does it burst, spill or radiate?
Is there any movement or does it stay still?
and so on …

Do not analyze the image before you are finished. There’s no one interpretation, but you can consider yourself as a circle and start from there. The part of the exercise is to get in touch with your own thoughts.

My painting tells me this: I feel more exposed than many times before. It is a good thing and it might even be a beginning of a life change. I might not be able to control it, but I feel I have a lot of decisions in my hands. I want to impact others, but I am also impacted at the same time. Maybe there’s a network where I am heading.

What does your picture tell you?

Another Version of Bursting Circle

Bursting Circle, a collage by Peony and Parakeet

I made this using watercolors, markers and color pencils. When looking at this, I wonder: Is there too much going on in my life at the moment? Well, it might be so but if I need to choose between too much and too little I always pick too much!

Let me be your art teacher: Subscribe to my weekly emails!