Intuitive Still Life – Video with Gelli Plates and Golden Open Acrylics

Intuitive still life painting using both Gelli plate and brushes. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s my latest painting, an intuitive still life with tulips. Last week, I had a short visit to an art supply store in Helsinki. I was surprised that they had a collection of Gelli plates for sale. When I got my first one several years ago, it wasn’t as accessible. I had to contact a shop in Italy which was the only retailer in Europe at that time. It’s great that Gelli plates have become more widely known. I have noticed that on my blog too. Month after month, the post “Self-Expression with Gelli Plate” is at top ten!

So I couldn’t help myself at the art supply store and bought another Gelli plate. My old one is 8 by 10 inches. The new one is a smaller, only 3 by 5 inches. It’s easier to handle and clean but mono printing with the big one is quicker.

Could Gelli Plates Be The Cure for Blank Paper Syndrome?

I wanted to have an experiment using both of the plates. Without any pre-planned idea about what my painting should represent, I would get over the blank paper syndrome using random monoprints. Then I would move on using brushes and working more intentionally. As always with mono printing, I used Golden Open Acrylics as paints because they don’t dry as quickly as regular ones.

Here’s my painting after I had some fun with Gelli plates.

Intuitive still life painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

And here’s the finished piece.

Intuitive still life painting using both Gelli plate and brushes. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Intuitive Equals Subconscious!

After I had finished painting, I realized that it’s a combination of recent events: I got a lot of tulips for my birthday, made a strawberry birthday cake and enjoyed the winter sun with Stella.

Photo collage from February: tulips, birthday cake, winter sun.

Intuitive Still Life – Watch the Video!

Here’s a video about creating the intuitive still life. There you can see how adventurous my process was.

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Begin Like a Crafter, Finish Like an Artist

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

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

Begin Like a Crafter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find Routines that Start the Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finish Like an Artist – a) Do Something Risky

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

Black ink for a mixed media painting.

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

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

Finish Like an Artist – b) Bring in the Intention

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

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

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

Beagles at Christmas. By Peony and Parakeet.

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy drawing from inspiration and imagination!
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Start Drawing from Stick Figures!

Drawing Factory, a mini-course about drawing with the help of stick figures. As part of Imagine Monthly Fall 2016. By Peony and Parakeet.

If you browse my blog posts this fall, you would think that I have been painting only. But no, I have drawn too! I’m really happy about my recent mini-course that is available as a part of Imagine Monthly! It’s called Drawing Factory as it’s about drawing efficiently no matter what your current drawing skills are. Plus it’s inspired by Japan, the land of high-production factories and fascinating culture.

Drawing ATC Cards

I got the idea for the mini-course in summer when I got the urge to draw a series of ATC cards.
Hand-drawn ATC cards by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I had so much fun drawing these! While drawing, I thought about how much people use stamping instead of drawing in ATC cards. I felt liberated without them, drawing freely. How could I make hand-drawing more attractive and enjoyable?

Drawing with the Help of Stick Figures

Along drawing this big bunny art journal spread, I developed a series of tips and tricks about how you can create imaginative line drawings without tedious sketching.

Japanese Bunny, an illustration by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Her class Drawing Factory teaches creating illustrations with the help of stick figures.

My method is based on stiff lines as people often say: ” I can only draw a stick figure!” But sticks can be an answer, not a problem!

From a stick figure to an illustration. By Peony and Parakeet. Japanese Bunny, an illustration by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Paivi's class Drawing Factory teaches creating elaborate illustrations with the help of stick figures.

The panda is the project that I am creating in the class video. The video also includes a drawing lesson where I show how to build drawings, or should I say rich illustrations, based on simple lines.

Asian Panda in Japan, an illustration by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Her class Drawing Factory teaches creating illustrations with the help of stick figures.

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Messy Backgrounds – How to Create Art on Them?

Explorer's Destination, an art journal page using a messy background, by Peony and Parakeet. See the video of the process!

Here’s my latest art journal spread called “Explorer’s Destination”, based on a messy painted background. The spread is a bit rugged looking in the photo as it’s made on my older Dylusions Creative Journal. The journal is getting really full and the spread is in the end of the book so it was a bit difficult to photograph.

Full art journal by Peony and Parakeet

I remember when this journal was brand new and I was afraid of ruining it. Now all thosed filled pages, some more messy than others, make me happy! Am I the only one who loves journals that are worn and full, I wonder!

Messy Backgrounds – Do You Have Them Too?

My very unintentional mess was created by just using up extra paints left on a palette. I know that many of you have these kind of pages or canvases that are more like messy backgrounds than finished paintings. They are supposed to be finished some day but don’t look very inspiring after some time has gone by.

A messy background by Peony and Parakeet. See the video of how to paint internal landscapes using messy backgrounds as starting points!

So to help you make the most out of your messy backgrounds, I made a video about creating “Explorer’s Destination”. Hopefully it will help you to turn some of your messy backgrounds into more expressive pieces.

Watch the Video

Imagine Monthly – Sign Up Now!

Create art journal pages with techniques that grow your skills! Sign up for my art journaling master class Imagine Monthly Fall 2016!
Imagine Monthly Fall 2016, an art journaling master class by Peony and Parakeet

Let art journaling be the channel to grow your skills!
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Making the Most of Visual Nuances

"Summer is Coming", a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet
This is my latest mixed media painting “Summer is Coming”. It has been exceptionally warm weather in Finland and all that sunshine has brought summer not only to my mind, but to my painting too. I tell you now how I created the painting!

First Layers: Having Fun with Watercolors

The painting began with watercolors. I made a mess that didn’t look so good when looking at it from a distance. But it looked wonderful when taking close-up photos!

Starting a mixed media painting with watercolors, by Peony and Parakeet

After splashing the first couple of layers with a big brush, I changed to a smaller one. I painted simple shapes with soft edges and thought that maybe this will be an abstract piece.

Is This a Still life – Again?

Mixed media painting in progress, by Peony and Parakeet

But after a while, it looked like a still life! I must admit that I have developed some kind of obsession for still lives. I have loved them for a long time already. But recently it has begun to feel that anything could be expressed with them. Well, a Finnish artist Miina Äkkijyrkkä has painted and sculpted cows for all her life, so still lives might not be so bad …

More Details with Colored Pencils

With colored pencils, I made the flowers more distinct. I wanted to work as softly as I could so that the delicate look of watercolor paint would still be dominating.

Almost There – Visual Nuances

Then I entered the actual finishing phase. This is what I call “Almost There” phase. It is the point where many just call the painting finished, and they try not to think about it too much. But if I am teaching a class, I encourage people to continue. One way is to show them what they can do next. So I open the photo of the painting in Photoshop and make little adjustments. With these suggestions, I try to add more visual communication and interest to the painting. Sometimes a little spot of color can make a big difference! See what kind of suggestions I made for my painting!

Adding visual nuances - suggestions for finishing a mixed media painting, by Peony and Parakeet

What’s the Magic of Using Photoshop for Suggestions?

One thing is that I can zoom as far as I can. Another thing is that I can try out different kind of adjustments without making a mess. I don’t do this often for my paintings, but I wanted to show you how little guidance can take the image to the next level. This is one thing that an art teacher can do: show you how you can fine-tune your work so that it has those visual nuances that make the painting more dynamic and alive.

Finished Painting

Here’s the painting after finishing it according to the suggestions. I used colored pencils and white gesso for the final details.

"Summer is Coming", a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

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Painting in Liberated Style

March Still Life, a mixed media painting in a liberated style. By Päivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Welcome to my creative space to see how I create this mixed media painting “March Still Life”!
Watch the video and listen to my thoughts about creating and teaching art while I paint in a liberated style.

Liberate Your Art!
The workshop mentioned on the video is currently unavailable
but come and join the current online class Inspirational Drawing 2.0
where I guide you to be both intuitive and intentional. >> Sign up Now!

From Intuitive to Intentional Painting

The Phantom of the Opera, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

This is my latest mixed media painting called “The Phantom of the Opera.” Just saw the musical in The Finnish National Opera!  I don’t know about you, but when I go to see a performance like that, I know that it will appear in my art one way or another. With this blog post, I want to challenge you to think what is intuitive and what is intentional in art. And – can they be combined?

Day 1 – Watercolors

It was a sunny winter day when I started the painting. A friend from the UK was visiting me, and we were chatting while I painted the first layers. With watercolors, like many times before.

Watercolor set

I love how well watercolors support intuitive painting. You can just splash here and there and then get inspired by the result. In this phase, I tend to choose the colors quickly, based on what feels good. I would call this phase very intuitive also because I don’t usually have no idea about how the result would look.

Beginning a painting with watercolors, by Peony and Parakeet

After splashing watercolors on the paper, I tried to get something a bit more intentional out of it: distinct shapes, strokes and color areas.

Creating a mixed media painting, by Peony and Parakeet

The painting looked like it could be a still life with wine grapes and some fruits. But I did not have more time to continue with the painting, so I saved it in my album. I love to create 12 by 12 paintings as they fit on a regular scrapbooking album. I also love the square shape as it is easy to change the orientation of the picture in the middle of the process.

Day 2 – Acrylic Paints

About a week later I picked out the painting again. This time, I wanted to add some acrylic paint to it. I find the combination of transparent watercolor and non-transparent acrylic paint very attractive. When touching the acrylic paint tubes, I get ideas about color mixes that would work with the watercolor background. I would call this pretty intuitive step too.

Acrylic paint tubes

As I am a very detail-oriented person when painting, I try to be bold when painting with acrylics. Broad strokes add more interest to detailed paintings.

Creating a mixed media painting, by Peony and Parakeet

In the end, the painting still looked like a still life, but I wasn’t quite confident about the orientation of the painting.

Creating a mixed media painting, by Peony and Parakeet

Here you can see the difference between the end of day 1 (watercolors) and the end of day 2 (acrylics).

Day 3 – Colored Pencils

Because I love details, I also love to use colored pencils. With colored pencils, it’s easy to add little nuances here and there, and I also like the look of pencil strokes on the painting.

Colored Pencils

Day 3 was a day after day 2, but it was still before I had seen the musical. When I work with colored pencils, I am often very intentional. First, I had an idea to create wine glasses of the two round elements, but then I changed the orientation of the painting and saw lamps in the ceiling!

Creating an intuitive painting, by Peony and Parakeet

Which one do you like the best: the wine glasses or the lamps?

Day 4 – Acrylic Paints + Colored Pencils

Day 4 was after the musical. I got an idea from one of the scenes. The painting continued with acrylics expressing the famous chandelier crash!

Creating a mixed media painting, by Peony and Parakeet

So far I had been pretty intentional but then changed to intuitive. I played the music and tried to get into it as much as I could. I used both acrylic paints and colored pencils.

Here’s the result again:

The Phantom of the Opera, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

Intuitive Painting – Guess What!

The story doesn’t end here! While photographing the finished painting, I glanced at my feet and saw the same color scheme in my socks! I had just finished them before Day 1 and worn them ever since. So, this painting actually started when I was picked the yarn from my stash for the socks. No, wait – it began when I bought the wool that I spun to the yarn …!

Handmade socks and mixed media painting share the same color scheme, by Peony and Parakeet

Combining intuitive with intentional is a lot of fun! It’s the best cure for getting rid of stiffness in the result. The intuitive parts allow you to feel free when painting; the intentional parts bring more clarity to the painting.

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Less Sketching, More Creativity!

Fairytale, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

Did you see my latest video: “Art is a Conversation”? I have made this piece by applying the principle presented in the video: letting one detail lead to another. No sketching involved!

The Creative Process with No Sketching Involved

I picked a random background made with watercolors and started adding collage pieces. They, in turn, inspired me to paint some elements with watercolors.

Starting point for a mixed media painting, by Peony and Parakeet

Here are the first steps:

Creating a mixed media painting without sketching by Peony and Parakeet

Why Sketch? Why Not?

You might feel the need for sketching because filling the blank page feels too scary. Some people want to sketch because they find it difficult to bring ideas that lead to something. If they create a collage, the result is just an evenly spread pattern and then what?

Dogs have taught me many things. One thing is to focus on the present. I try to teach them new things by dividing them into small steps. When I focus on explaining the next step only, they will listen and respond. They will do their best to understand and make most of my advice.

Paivi's beagles Cosmo and Stella from Peony and Parakeet

My beagles say: Stay close, focus and stop controlling what we can’t comprehend yet.

Those principals can be applied to art making too. Add new element close and partly on top of another. Enjoy each stroke, each color and shape at a time. Stop worrying about the areas where you have not reached yet. Let creating grow your thoughts instead of being fixed to one idea.

Creating a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

When I reached the upper right corner, I saw a watercolor splotch that looked a little bit like a fairytale princess, so I quickly emphasized those shapes!

Creating a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

I believe that too much sketching brings too much stiffness: the stiffness of ideas, stiffness of lines, stiffness of composition.

Paivi and her beagle Stella from Peony and Parakeet

When we try to create with control, it is like trying to trace better than dogs do. We can guide them to sniff, but we also have to let them do the job.

Fairytale, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

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Processing Visual Inspiration

November Still Life by Peony and Parakeet

Last week, I visited Natural History Museum of Helsinki. My idea was to take a sketchbook with me and make few sketches – if I happened to see something inspiring. My skeptic attitude changed once I entered the place. I remember visiting the museum over 20 years ago but only the front door of the old building seemed a bit familiar, everything else looked new to me. I wa mesmerized by the colors and details of stuffed animals, and only after a short while, almost overwhelmed by the amount of information and visual stimulation. It would have been impossible to put all the inspiration into sketches, so I took photos.

Natural History Museum of Helsinki

When I got back home, I knew I had to create an artwork inspired by the visit. But my mind seemed too full, not knowing where to start, what to express. I started a painting but against all my principles, I tossed it because I was totally clueless even if my mind was full of inspiration!

After a couple of days, I decided to make a sketchbook spread to help me process the subject. I loaded the photos to iPad and created several layers of watercolors while browsing the images.

Painting a sketchbook spread from photos taken from Natural History Museum of Helsinki

I wrote down some of my thoughts: how I admired lions and African animals in general when I was a child and how rich country Africa is, in terms of nature.

A sketchbook spread by Peony and Parakeet

After this spread, I asked myself: what inspiring did I see that than the animals. The answer was: glass cabinets and the concept of collections that were kind of surreal. With that in mind, I started a painting on a thick watercolor paper.

The first layers of an artwork, by Peony and Parakeet

Randomly creating new layers with ink mists, watercolors, alcohol inks and gouache paints, I focused on the color first. Greens, turquoises and ochras were the ones that made the strongest impact on me when looking inside the glass vitrines.

Phases to the end result, November Still Life, by Peony and Parakeet

With gold paint and white ink, I created more details to embark my imagination. Then I thought about slavic melancholy, fall, piano concertos and let all of that get mixed with glass and nature. When I looked at the end result, I kind of like the idea of mixing a landscape with a still life. The idea is surprisingly similar than what I saw in the museum: still lives that are also landscapes! I would have not thought it this way though without processing the subject so much. By taking photos, painting without a clue, working with the sketchbook and then creating a lot of layers made me somehow understand what inspired me in the first place. When I let go and followed the pencils and brushes, it was ready to come out.

November Still Life, by Peony and Parakeet

What I learned was: sometimes creative process takes a lot of time, a lot of phases, don’t stop too soon!

Challenge yourself in mixed media art! Buy a bundle of 6 art journaling classes!

From Decorative to Expressive Art

"Self-Portrait as a Knitter", a mixed media artwork by Peony and Parakeet

Last Friday, I traveled two hours by train to a yarn shop at Tampere. Not just to purchase new yarn, but to meet a famous knitting pattern designer Stephen West who had been invited to Finland. While I was attending his workshop, I was excited by the knits he showed and the stories he told. There were silent moments. We, Finnish women, counted stitches and pondered about what we heard. We Finnish can look very serious, quiet and occupied, even if we are about to burst with excitement. Stephen put it kindly: “Finnish carry themselves well.” That introvert attitude is also visible in this recent mixed media artwork, “Self-Portrait as a Knitter”. The person’s focus is so much on details that the inspiration, the yellow spot in the back of the head, doesn’t have room to show up.

From Over-Decorative to Expressive-Decorative

Sometimes similar kind of thing happens when we create art: the inspiration does not show in the result. There can be so much decoration going on, that not much room is left for the expression. We cover the background with little motifs and surface patterns, instead of enhancing what’s already there.

A watercolor background by Peony and Parakeet

I admit, it’s fun and fulfilling to work with thin brushes, pens, and pencils. Making a circle after a circle is like knitting a shawl, stitch by stitch.

Using Derwent Artbars, by Peony and Parakeet

However, it’s good to add a little more variety and contrasts so that the expression comes through. It’s like changing the yarn or needle size once in a while!

Using Faber-Castell Gelatos, by Peony and Parakeet

And like in handknits, just when you think your work is ruined, you need to calm down and do the finishing.

Unfinished artwork by Peony and Parakeet

When knitting, you sew the seams, iron everything carefully and add the final balancing details.

Decorative art. Folk bags by Peony and Parakeet.

When creating art, you bring up the most important details and connect the dots so that everything falls into its place.

You can create both expressive and decorative art.

Sometimes there are debates whether decorative art can be expressive as well.  But you can be both decorative and expressive. You can give meaning to your motifs. You can let motifs be pieces of a puzzle instead of covering everything evenly.

"Self-Portrait as a Knitter", a mixed media artwork by Peony and Parakeet. Creating both expressive and decorative art.

More decorative-expressive art with watercolors: Watercolor 101 for Intuitive Painting
If you are a knitter, check this out too: Folk Bag Workbook