Do You Feel Insecure About Your Art?

Art journal page by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

On Wednesday morning, I prepared my studio for a recording. Usually, when I set up the camera, I am excited and ready to paint. But this time I was struggling. However, I did manage to put the video together because it gave me the opportunity to talk about insecurity and self-doubt – common feelings for all artists!

Feeling Insecure and Why? – Watch the Video!

Follow the Inspiration – Join the Live Webinar!

A free live webinar from Paivi Eerola, Peony and Parakeet.
Meet me in a free live webinar! I will be sharing what inspires me currently and giving ideas for your art as well. Join me on September 21st, 11 AM PST / 2 PM EDT / 7 PM BST / 9 PM EEST!

To participate the webinar:
1) Register by choosing “Save My Spot!”
2) Mark the date Sept 21st and your local time to your calendar.
3) Follow the link a few minutes before the webinar begins.

I will be broadcasting live from my studio. Come to get new ideas for your art and chat with your friends in art! You will also hear more about my upcoming classes and how I have been collecting inspiration for them.

The event will be recorded, and the replay will be available for all who register.

Follow the Inspiration: Register here!

Consistency and How to Get Inspired by It

Art created with Faber-Castell Gelatos. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

When artists say that they need to focus and find their style, a big part of the problem is the lack of consistency. To me, “consistent” used to be a negative word meaning “boring,” “predictable,” and even “unimaginative.” But during the recent years, I have realized that there can be a lot of freedom in the consistency.

Here’s an example. Last Sunday, I wanted to do some art journal pages inspired by my recent trip to Italy. I was already heading towards my paints and brushes when something else came to my mind. It hit me that I have art supplies I haven’t used for a long time. One of them was Faber-Castell Gelatos. They weren’t very cheap, but I had only used a little of them. They were too clumsy and creating with them felt like painting with lipsticks. These were definitely a wrong choice when thinking about old master paintings and the era of Renaissance.

But now the challenge of using Gelatos started to intrigue me. The idea of bringing those crafty sticks to the past felt like turning on a time machine. For some artists, it would be a sign of inconsistency not to stick with particular art supplies only. But when my goals are to bring people with different skill levels together, reveal the treasures of art history, and regularly offer new ideas for creating art, it’s very consistent. So I didn’t unnaturally have to limit myself but was able to enthusiastically create the art journal pages and write this blog post.

Inspiration: Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, Rome

Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, Rome, Italy

My favorite place in Rome was a private art museum Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. It was located in the busy center, but after entering there, I  was in a peaceful and beautiful world. There were a lot of inspiring paintings, but Jan Brueghel was a new artist to me, and his landscapes were unbelievably detailed. These paintings could have been huge, and they would still look detailed. But they weren’t very big; the length was under 1 meter in the painting below.

Jan Brueghel and Hendrick van Balen, Allegory of Water

Another interesting thing was that Jan Brueghel collaborated with another artist Hendrick van Balen, who was specialized in painting figures. No wonder, the quality of these paintings is amazing! The painting above belongs to the series of four allegorical paintings, expressing the elements of water, fire, earth, and air. What a great theme for today’s artists too! And speaking of consistency: painting a series can also enforce that.

Abstract Landscape with Faber-Castell-Gelatos

I usually create art journal pages when my ideas are not mature enough for bigger paintings. Documenting these ideas in an art journal keeps the creative process flowing and maintains one aspect of consistency: the regularity of creating.

Abstract Landscape created with Faber-Castell Gelato Sticks. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her 3 tips for using gelatos!

Experimenting with Gelatos was fun, and I especially enjoyed inventing ways to add details with those clumsy sticks. By building layers, I was also able to achieve a color scheme that brings old paintings in mind. The consistent inspiration from the many styles seen in the history of art sets me free. It goes so deep into what I ponder the most: how things change all the time and how timelessness can still be present.

3 Technique Tips for Art Journaling with Faber-Castell Gelatos

One way to be consistent is to develop techniques that are reusable. Often when I invent a technique for a specific media, it can also be applied to a variety of supplies. I will now show you some ideas for working with Faber-Castell Gelatos. You can adjust these for many other art supplies as well. I begin a second art journal page to demonstrate the techniques.

1) Blending and Softening

The more I have studied Renaissance art, the more I have been into creating soft color transitions and muted colors. When beginning a new painting, I like to blend and soften a lot. With Gelatos, the best way to mix the colors is to use a sponge. In the photo below, you see that I have mixed white and pale pink for the face but haven’t blended reds and oranges together yet.

Tips for using Faber-Castell gelatos by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

2) Adding Details

Thick sticks don’t work very well for details. You can use the edge of the stick and get fairly thin lines, but to me, they weren’t thin enough!

Tips for using Faber-Castell gelatos by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

However, I discovered that by using water, it’s possible to draw thinner lines with a brush. By adding water and rubbing gently, you can also remove some color and make tiny decorative spots that way.

Tips for using Faber-Castell gelatos by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

When painting with watercolors or acrylics, I like to work similarly: add a splotch of paint in one area and then quickly use it for details in other areas. It’s a fast and handy way to color details that need only a tiny portion of color each.

When finishing the face, I used colored pencils to draw the tiniest details. When keeping the Gelatos layers thin and smooth, it’s easy to add other media on the top.

Drawing with colored pencils on a surface covered with Faber-Castell Gelato sticks. Read more tips for working with Gelatos! By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

3) Keep on Adding Layers!

When I started making the art journal page, I only had an idea of a lady or a Madonna because that would complement the landscape. I rarely use reference photos when creating art journal pages. To me, it’s more about getting in touch with vague ideas and then process them to express something that’s deeper and more defined. When I was in the middle of making the page, I was pretty clueless about what to express. But I kept on adding layers and slowly improving the image. One way to practice consistency is to keep on working with the same piece even if it looks like crap. See how much my page changed – examine the phase photos below!

Finishing an art journal page by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read more about her tips!

In phase two, I remembered the atmosphere and the candles of Santa Maria Novella, a huge church in Florence. After finishing the page, I went to my photo archive and found an image that looks very similar to my page. It’s so surprising how many of its elements exist on the page even if I didn’t look at the photo at all!

Santa Maria Novella, Florence, Italy

Regularly taking photos and browsing them is one way to add more consistency for the creative process.

Consistency is In the Way You Adjust the Nuances

After I had created the page, I felt that the opposite page should continue the same atmosphere. So I quickly made an abstract landscape there. Now when I open the spread of the journal, it feels more intense.

Art journal page spread made with Faber Castel Gelatos. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her tips on working with Gelato sticks!

However, there are many things in these two pages that I don’t like. First and foremost, I don’t like the color scheme. It has too many bright colors and too few muted colors, and thus, it looks more modern that I would like it to look. I would like a color scheme that would be more like this:

An art journal page by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. She digitally changed the color scheme to fit better with the idea she had in mind. See her tips for maintaining the consistency when creating art!

Also, if my art journal spread would be a big painting instead, I would make the face much more detailed. It’s simplicity, and the 2-dimensional look bothers me! By self-evaluating your work, you can also increase the awareness of the nuances you like. Adjusting the nuances, in turn, results in more consistency. Because many times consistency is more in the way you work with the nuances than how you select the themes and choose the supplies.

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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!
>> Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0

Limited Creative Time – A Personal Story

The Sense of Time, a watercolor painting created in limited creative time. By Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s my latest watercolor painting “The Sense of Time”, made just a couple of days ago. I limited my creative time immensely when painting this. But this time I want to share the whole story, not just images of how I made the painting. At the same time, you will see some of my summer crafting projects and learn a couple of fun facts about Finnish summer.

Peonies Embrace the Midnight Sun

When people ask what would be the best time to come to Finland, I always suggest summer. Finnish summer begins in June and ends in August. In my opinion, the best month is July. Even in the south, where I live, you can experience the midnight sun, warmth and see the best in Finnish people. Like peonies, we are all introverts in the dark and cold winter, But when the sun comes up, it’s all smile.

Finnish peonies grown under the midnight sun. By Peony and Parakeet.

Colors Compete with Shapes

My husband always has his summer vacation in July. As dog owners, our possibilites to travel are limited to day trips unless we take them to kennels or arrange somebody to look after them. As both of us love old art and antique, we always go to Billnäs and Fiskars for an antique fair. If you have watched a British television series Lovejoy, these are the places where you could see him and his assistants if they traveled to Finland. There are two antique fairs at the same time. They last 4 days and are packed with people selling and buying antique items in the middle of Finnish countryside. The fairs are partly indoors, partly outdoors and truly a collector’s heaven whether it rains or shines.

At an antique fair. Art class designed by Kaj Franck. A photograph by Peony and Parakeet.

When looking at the sales tables, I always notice color first. My husband, a skillful woodworker, examines the shapes. Together we are unbeatable!

Art Rises from the Dollhouse

It was both unfortunate and fortunate that I found an old display cabinet from Billnäs. Fortunate, because it’s just what I had dreamed of for my doll collection. Unfortunate, because I didn’t have the space for the dollhouse anymore. I had to empty the tiny kitchen with miniature wine bottles and delicacies as well as all the other tiny rooms filled with similar items.

Dollhouse dining table. By Peony and Parakeet.

While taking the little paintings off from the walls, I realized that one of them wasn’t just printed image. It was a cross-stitch project that I had made years ago! I remembered not being very happy with it. When I started it, I thought that I could make more than one and then sell some. I didn’t have any pattern and the end result didn’t look as painterly as I would have wanted. So I gave up the idea of making more and placed the piece above the dining table, in the spot where it wasn’t as visible as other pictures. No wonder I had forgotten it!

Miniature cross stitch sea painting. By Peony and Parakeet.

But now, it looks just perfect to me. Now I see more than just clumsy stitches. I see how my love to combine arts, crafts and design came out even when I was decorating a doll house.

William Morris Visits Ikea

One of my creative routines is organizing things. Even at antique fairs, I sometimes get the urge to rearrange items and I have to restrain myself. This spring, I was organizing a storage space of our house and found an old Ikea Moppe mini chest of drawers. Putting old stuff into use is a creative challenge that I am often willing to take. I went to Pinterest, saw boards like this and was ready to get started.

The first challenge was that I also wanted to use up old paints. The only paint with the suitable quality was baby blue. I wanted to place the mini chest in the library room near my doll collection and store fashion doll clothes in it. I had hard time seeing baby blue suit to the style and color scheme of the library room. We have decorated the library room in the styles of 1890-1930s. The curtains have William Morris’s pattern. How could the Ikea mini chest ever with with the style? Trusting that I could figure it out, I refused to buy new paint as I had another purchase in mind. I wanted to buy ceramic knobs for it.

Interior decoration and crafting. By Peony and Parakeet.

If I had to choose one material that I adore, it would be a difficult decision between ceramics and glass. But I think the winner would be ceramics. Even if I have never really dived deep into creating with clay, I love ceramic items. Especially if they are both decorative and expressive. I also like them to be a little rustic, have some handmade feel without being overly clumsy. The knobs I wanted to buy should also have some baby blue, some William Morris, look both old and modern and be traditional but somewhat innovative. Despite of the high expectations, I optimistically began to search handmade ceramic knobs. It took a couple of days but my optimism payed off and I found just the perfect ones! They are made by an english woman living in Israel. Her Etsy shop is called “Clay is My Art”, a heaven for anyone who loves rustic, but sophisticated ceramics.

Ikea Moppe mini chest of drawers. Hacked by Peony and Parakeet. Ceramic knobs by Clay Is My Art Etsy shop.

As you can see in the photo, I was able to find decorative papers that not only matched the knobs, they fit perfectly to the style of the library room. The papers with palm plants are leftover wallpapers. The other two are from my scrapbooking paper stash.

Ikea Moppe mini chest of drawers. Hacked by Peony and Parakeet. Ceramic knobs by Clay Is My Art Etsy shop.

But wait, this story continues …

Leftover Flosses Praise the Pattern

Have you ever had anything in your home that was ok before you changed everything in its surroundings? My number one thing was a small key storage cabinet, which was fine in our old home on a muted dark red wall. But when placed on a bright yellow wall of our current home, it really bothered me. With the experience in cross stitching for dollhouses, I got an idea of stitching a dollshouse carpet pattern from Janet Granger‘s book Miniature Dollshouse Carpets.

Key cabinet with a cross stiched design and its new cover. By Peony and Parakeet.

It took all spring when working slowly but in the beginning of summer I got it stitched. I also repainted the wooden parts. This time I did buy the dark green paint but this is still a project using leftovers. Namely, I didn’t just use the few colors set in the pattern. I used leftover skeins of embroidery floss creatively so that the carpet looks like an old antique one. I much prefer this look to using only few colors.

Key storage cabinet with a cross stitch cover using leftover flosses. By Peony and Parakeet.

The cabinet looks great on the yellow wall. I temporarily took it down for photographing it in a better lighting. There was also another reason, connected to the watercolor painting …

Limited Creative Time – Craft Projects Inspire the Painting

This time I had limited creative time. Before I started painting, I placed the three handcrafted items on the table in front of me. The key cabinet, the mini chest and the miniature cross-stitch work were all there to inspire me. Then I glanced my watch and gave myself 15 minutes to paint the first layer. Namely, I had another project in progress too. I was editing one of the videos for Imagine Monthly Fall, the art journaling class that begins in August 1st. Editing videos requires a lot of concentration and I wanted to keep the quality good by taking small breaks. So after 45 minutes of editing, I had 15 minutes for my painting, all day.

Craft projects inspire the painting throughout the limited creative time. By Peony and Parakeet.

If you work in short periods of time like this, inspiration items become essential. Seeing the same objects again and again, even if you are not actually recreating any of them, maintains the focus and direction.

After four 15 minute sessions I was at the point where I had painted this and that with five different brushes but had now clue of what I was trying to express. It was fun to paint like this but clearly I couldn’t finish the painting without setting up a longer session.

Watercolor painting in progress. By Peony and Parakeet.

Finishing – Summing Up

I soon discovered that being so aware of the time had also affected the painting. I saw clocks and pointers which made me ponder about the concept of time. It flies so quickly in creative activities that it’s difficult to think about it as a simple measure. This in turn made me think about the antiques and how great designs last time. After me and my husband are gone, there will always be new enthusiastics who will drool over those Kaj Franck‘s bowls.

I often finish my watercolors with colored pencils to easily add new layers of details and decorative lines. But this time, I was reminded by my craft projects: “Make the most of what you currently have.” So I resisted the urge to go to another room and get the jars of colored pencils. It only took an hour to finish the painting.

The Sense of Time, a watercolor painting created in limited creative time. By Peony and Parakeet.

Some midnight sun, some glassware, mini horizons, small amounts of leftover colors, block shapes and last but not least: the description of how my inner artist sees the sense of time.

The Way I Process Ideas and Produce Classes

This blog post demonstrates how I work with ideas. It’s not only one idea that goes into one piece of work, it’s a collection of ideas that have different levels. Some are more abstract, others are more concrete. I believe that every good art class is filled with multi-level ideas that in turn, embark your own ideas. That’s why I never underestimate the importance of the background study that I do for my classes. I listen to audiobooks. I go to libraries to browse books. I collect Pinterest boards and inspirational items. I make sketches and paintings that I call pre-class paintings (yes, the one above is one of these). They prepare me to bring my best to the classes that I produce. They ensure that the class is not only about one whimsical thing that I fell in love with but about a holistic, yet clear and inspiring view to the subject. All in all, we all have limited creative time.

Sign Up for Imagine Monthly Fall!

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Take your art to a new level by practising drawing and painting with themes inspired by fine arts. Express prestigious nostalgia, impactful aesthetics and futuristic imagination through art journaling. Let’s make idea-full art journal pages your channel to move forward in art making!

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How to Know when Your Artwork is Finished?

Healing Power, a finished artwork by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

This is my latest painting called “Healing Power”. Painting this piece was so much fun so I decided to work with acrylics on a canvas. I’ll show you the main phases on creating this painting while giving my view on how to know when the artwork is finished.

Finished Artwork? – How to Analyze?

I have heard many advice on how to decide when your artwork is finished. The worst is: “When you feel like it is”. Often you are just tired, fed up and that’s not a good point to finish. Take a break instead, sleep over night and then continue!

Then there are more technical approaches like this one including an infographics or based on historical studies and interviewing artists like this one. But as my students usually want to bring more content and self-expression to their art I have composed a simple and short check list focusing on those only. And instead of diagrams, I show how I deal with the issue in practice.

1. Do You Have an Opinion?

Every time I begin creating, I have pretty conventional ideas. Like here, I thought that I would make a flower painting and express “tranquility”. But to truly express tranquility, I show also include anxiety. I should have an opinion, a personal view on the difference between tranquility and anxiety.

Now you say: “But this is just flowers and nothing deeper”. I don’t think so. If you want to express yourself, you should express an opinion of some kind. This doesn’t mean you have to begin with an opinion. It’s more like vice versa: stay open to what is going to appear! But if you don’t have any more thoughts than “flowers”, “tranquility”, “pink”, you are not finished yet.

Painting on canvas with acrylics

So while thinking about opinions, I got anxious and added some of it: brownish red!

adding contrast with dark paint, acrylic painting

Another way of asking this: “Does the painting have both light and darkness?”

2. Do You Have a Focus?

When I continued the painting, it felt good to add rectangular shapes on it. Then some more colors, then some directional brush strokes. But directional or not, I really didn’t have a clue where I was going. Maybe this could be a flower bunch and the white part on the bottom could be a pot. If so, I should make them more clear.

acrylic painting in prgress, no clear focal point

Another way of asking this: “Is it easy to know where to look at first?”

3. Have You Told a Story?

I continued the painting by turning the it upside down as it seemed to be even easier to build a pot with flowers that way. When I was at step 1 (see the image below), the painting was a bit too busy so I added dark thin layers to make it easier to look at (step 2). But then, what does this painting mean? Does it really connect with my thoughts? No, not really!

Steps for finishing an artwork, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

After a break, I turned the painting upside down (3). I saw a woman there, wearing a hat and taking care of the flowers. Maybe that could be a start for a story? I continued painting, trying to make the woman clearer.

Then it hit me: she was some kind of an angel, holding some kind of a magic ball. And finally: this is about healing, a subject I have been thinking a lot lately. My older dog Cosmo has had stomache problems and I have worried about him. I have also thought about many of my students, either in the middle of the sickness or having someone close to worry about. If only I could have the magic power to make everything what’s wrong, back right!

Another way of asking this: Does every element on your artwork contribute or lead to what’s most important?

Healing Power, a finished artwork by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

This finished artwork is for you who would like to have that magic ball of healing power.

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Bringing Life to Illustrations – Coloring the Air

The Chain of Generations, an art journal page spread by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

This is an art journal spread called “Chain of Generations.” I made this to express how decorative arts and crafts have connected women through generations. I feel I am part of that long chain, one foot in crafting and another in creating art.

Spinning wool

From an Accidental Start to an Intentional Theme

The making of the art journal spread began almost accidentally. I had doodled a border on the right page a long time ago. Then many months later, I had quickly drawn a woman from 1920s and glued it beside the doodles.

A few weeks ago, I saw wonderful photos of Ukrainian folk art (pinned some to my Pinterest board Fantastic Folk Art). I got an idea of women connected with flying ribbons. I made a quick sketch with a pencil and then added more details with a drawing pen. I also got started with the coloring, but finishing felt too much work back then.

Coloring tips for an art journal page spread by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

This happens to me often: I begin with one idea and end with another some time later. I think it’s one of the best things in creating art and especially in creating art journal pages. When there are no fixations, surprising connections can happen. Like here, the women on the right are from different eras: Rococo and 1920s, just perfect to tell the story about how folk art and fashion and their timeless connection.

Inspiration from Atmosphere

While coloring the spread, I thought how I have always felt disconnected with folk art of my country Finland. Instead, I have always loved Russian and other Slavic countries’ approach to it. Finnish folk art feels very plain and unimaginative to me. Before the success in IT and education, Finland was a poor country. Many who come to Finland are surprised how few historic buildings there are and how modest the life seems to have been.

I have been born in Eastern Finland, near the Russian border, but visited Russia only three years ago. The grand atmosphere of the big churches in St. Petersburg made a big impact on me. The mosaics at Church of the Savior on Blood (yes, all the “paintings” are made from tiny mosaic pieces) lighted by the candles inspired my coloring.

Church of the Savior on Blood

The atmosphere in these kinds of old, precious buildings is amazing. As the theme of the spread was not only practical but also spiritual, an atmosphere of an old church felt a good choice to bring in.

The Chain of Generations, an art journal page spread by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Coloring “The Air”

Imagine that I had colored the spread so that I had stayed inside the outlines only. The page would have been much flatter, contained much less atmosphere and emotion. When I color, I also try to color “the air”. I try to think not only about the light but also how the air feels on the face and how it interacts with the light.

Coloring tips: coloring "the air" by Peony and Parakeet

Things don’t have only one color when they are exposed to light. When coloring, think about the air and the lights flowing through space. Color over the outlines and show those less obvious, but so essential streams!

The Chain of Generations, an art journal page spread by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Buy the E-Book – Coloring Freely!

Coloring doesn’t only have to be calming. It can be expressive and inspirational. Purchase my e-book Coloring Freely to learn more about coloring freely with colored pencils. The book can be used with any coloring page or with any blank page. Buy now!

More Time, Better Art?

Rococo, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

This artwork was inspired by Rococo, 18th-century-period style with curves, asymmetry, gold, and ornaments. When I think of Rococo, I think of time. Those elaborate women’s dresses: how long did it take to sew them? Or the porcelain table clocks, how many people, how many months did it took to get one finished and working?

The time we are living at the moment is totally different. Not that I want to spend half of my life to embroider one chair. But I cannot help thinking: sometimes we create quantity but not quality. We get frustrated of our lacking skills, lacking vision, but often, there’s a simple solution: time. Instead of creating three pages in a week to your art journal, make one.

Creativity needs time. The first thoughts are often the least innovative. When we take the time to dig deeper, we reach frustrations, but also new solutions.

Working in short periods of time

Creating of a mixed media painting by Peony and parakeet

I used to have a difficult time working in phases. I wanted my work to be finished at one go. Leonardo da Vinci certainly did not have problems with that. He spent over ten years painting Mona Lisa. He did not dedicate all of that time to one painting; he did other things too. But he let his subconscious work during the breaks.  So, while waiting for the watercolor to dry, I engaged myself in other activities.

Creating a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

I built the foundation for this work with several thin layers of watercolors. Then I worked with colored pencils and watercolors to add details. Thin, flat brush is my favorite when adding details with paint.

Creating a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

Some might call it finished, but I wanted to add tension and interest. As this was about rococo, some shimmer seemed appropriate!

Rococo glitter!

Creating a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet. Using Inka Gold.

I have few colors of Inka Gold, beeswax based metal paint. They seemed just right for this artwork. And speaking of Rococo, some gold would be appropriate too. I love Golden brand’s gold acrylic paint.

Golden acrylics gold paint. A photo by Peony and Parakeet.

Finishing

I added some hand decorated papers to add variation and continued completing the tiny details.

Rococo, a detail of a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

The size of the artwork is 12 inches by 12 inches. It took about three days from start to finish.

Rococo, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet

The quality of one artwork cannot be measured by the time the artist spent with it. Great art can be born quickly when the skills and the creativity meet. But on the other hand, if you want to improve your art and increase your creativity, why not focus on one artwork for a bit longer time.

What do you think? Can you make time work for you?

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Find Your Hidden Inspiration for Drawing Details

Growing towards Light by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about how to find inspiration for drawing.

This colored pencil drawing is an art journal page. It is called “Growing Towards Light.” It’s inspired by the beauty of tiny details found in plants.

For a long time, I have wanted to write about looking at tiny treasures for drawing inspiration. It is the subject that I might have mentioned, but not put fully in focus. Last week two things happened that made me decide to bring it up.

Blooming Houseplant

First, one of our houseplants blossomed. The plant is probably a prayer plant, and it has such modest flowers that we almost missed the whole thing. But once I took few photos and examined them more closely, I was in awe of the blossom’s beauty.

Blossoming house plant

I admire the shape of the stem, how beautifully angled it is, the sharp buds, dark seeds, and the delicate flower. It all looks like perfect, well-thought, well-executed combination of aesthetics and science. I feel not only inspired by the little details but how it also makes me think of the quality of my art: I should continuously raise the bar a little bit higher, work more carefully, become more patient and get further in my thoughts. It sounds a bit harsh as I am writing this, but when watching the nature, it is very inspiring. Maybe we all should sometimes follow the prayer plant:  use the time to create a smaller work but take more care of the details!

Mr. Mac and Me

The second thing that is related to the subject of the post is the email that I got from Claire, one of the readers. One of the best things about writing the blog is the interaction. My favorite thing is when I get ideas and suggestions about what to examine next. Claire remembered that I am a big fan of Charles Rennie Macintosh and his wife (see this post when I visited Scotland to see their art). She sent me a link to the review of a newly published novel. The novel is Esther Freud’s “Mr. Mac and Me, “ It tells a story about Charles Rennie Macintosh through the lens of a 13-year-old boy who gets to know him. Very interesting! I added the book immediately to my wish list.

At the end of the review, there’s a quote from the book where the young boy talks about Macintosh’s flower drawings: “I go closer. I look at everything for what else is hidden. There’s the head of a duck folded into a sunflower’s stem …” For me, that implies how the beauty can be the result of many little details. That challenges us to build our art from well-formed shapes, no matter how small they are, and believe that each of them will increase the beauty of the whole artwork.

Drawing Details

Like said, the perspective in decorative art is in the details and their perfection. Instead of sketching something grand, the decorative artwork starts small and gets bigger by adding tiny details one after another.

Art journal drawings by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about how to find inspiration for drawing.

These are some of my unfinished art journal pages. I love to draw with a thin black permanent pen. The inability to erase anything makes me start small! If a blank paper feels scary for you, create a watercolor painting first and then start doodling. My video “Watercolor 101 for Intuitive Painting” presents the method how to get started without any specific pre-thought idea in mind.

Growing towards Light by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about how to find inspiration for drawing.

More Skills and Inspiration!

Grow your skills in creative coloring >>Buy the e-book Coloring Freely!