Lazy Art Journaler? – Try This Method!

Are you a lazy art journaler? See this method! By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Do you keep an art journal or a sketchbook? Are you struggling to find your motivation for filling it regularly? Try this method, geared for a lazy art journaler and for those who have big creative blocks!

“How to” for a Lazy Art Journaler

1) Create one small area at a time like you were slowly building a map.

2) Write down your thoughts. They can be roads from one area to another.

3) Accept that you are stiff and conventional when you begin. The beginning is the home base, and it should make you feel safe and grounded.

4) When you leave the home base and move to the next small area, just focus on creating different than what you have so far. 

5) Don’t overthink. One area can be only one spot of color that you feel drawn to. Then add a small dot or line of another color to embark your imagination.

6) You can travel far in one sitting, or stay near the home base. One journey to your imagination can last weeks if that’s what it takes to fill the page.

7) If you want the page to be coherent, repeat some of the elements once in a while.

8) Artists are explorers. Never underestimate the meaning of this practice. Be open to what you can discover. When you are far away from your home base, take risks! In the end, it’s just paper and pigment, and any filled journal beats an empty one!

Are you a lazy art journaler? See this method! By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Get More Inspiration for Creating! – Join Bloom and Fly!

Bloom and Fly is a new community for everyone who wants to stay inspired and move forward in art.

We’ll start the new year with the theme “Mixed Media Sketchbooks for Setting Your Goals”. You will discover fun ways to get a grab on what you want to create in 2018!

In February, we’ll dive into the world of Rococo and Marie Antoinette and you’ll get ideas for any style of art. In March, you will get jumpstarts for adding abstract elements to your art. Whether you like realistic or fully abstract art, starting with abstract elements can boost your creative process.

>> Read more and sign up!

Loving Vincent and Purchasing Oil Paints

Schminke Mussini oil paints. Photo by Peony and Parakeet.

Yesterday, I opened the door of a local art supply store and headed to a specific shelf. On my way to the store, when walking on the narrow streets in the center of Helsinki, I felt it. The feeling that I got a year ago when I opened a tube of Mussini oil paint for the first time. I was attending an art class about old masters painting techniques, and we used the best oil paints I could imagine. Not that I could imagine so much because I had never used oil paints before. But I didn’t expect to experience that strange feeling. It contained both appreciation and excitement. The appreciation of color, and the excitement to learn more from it.

It was not that I would have been new to color. I had been painting with acrylic paints for a long time. When I was a teenager, I got them from my parents who thought that it was a perfect solution to me. No worrying about toxic painting fluids and still being able to paint with ease. The acrylic paints have developed a lot since that time, since the eighties. They have worked perfectly for my needs. I have found a good brand too. I really like Golden acrylics.

A self-portrait in Vincent van Gogh's style. By Paivi Eerola by Peony and Parakeet.

But now I was standing in the front of a vast collection of Mussini oil paint tubes. I picked the color chart and went through my choices one more time. For a whole year, I had been going through this in my mind: raw umber, zinc white, titanium white, yellow ochre and so on. It had been a mantra that changed a little bit every month. The paints are expensive, and I had to pick the colors carefully. One tube can cost more than 70 euros.

Plan for the Hand and Mind

After trying out the paints for the first time, I went to live in denial. Yes, I had painted the class pieces with oils because they were provided by the class. But the odorless and water-soluble acrylics felt much more suitable for me. After a while, my attitude changed a bit. I let myself dream about the oil paints. I visited the art supply store, touched the clean and shiny tubes, imagined getting just a bit of paint on a palette and make it last for as long as possible.

But dreaming and reality are surprisingly close. It’s difficult just to dream and not to do anything. So I made a plan that felt more like extortion. I had to get my floral painting class finished. I had to get several acrylic paintings finished. I had to figure out where and how I would store the paints. I had to get more information about the oil paints and the painting liquids.

I still had some finishing touches to do for my paintings in progress, but other than that I had followed the plan. So I started picking the tubes: raw umber, zinc white, titanium white, yellow ochre and so on. After selecting the colors, I went for the liquids: poppy oil, turpentine, and glossy dammar varnish.

When I left the store, my mind summarized the past year. Learning the old masters’ techniques had been essential for growing my technical skills. My art had become less imaginative, and more conventional.

Acrylic paintings by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

I had a turning point in 2016 when I felt that my imagination and my hand didn’t function so well together anymore. My imagination wanted to proceed to new territories, but my hand couldn’t follow. But now when my hand is wiser, I can also challenge my mind more freely. Purchasing the oil paints were a reward for the persistence that I have had for the last twelve months. However, it wasn’t the only reward. I was also going to see the new movie Loving Vincent.

Loving Vincent – The Movie

The movie theatre was about 10 minutes walk away from the art supply store. When I arrived, there were several queues for the tickets. I joined one. While I was waiting for my turn, a young man suddenly came to me and asked: “Do you want a free ticket? I have two, and my friend wasn’t able to come.” I happily accepted it and thanked the man. “Is this a sign?”, I asked myself. “Is this the final sign that I should do this – go forward, open the tubes, start painting my newest, odd ideas?” I don’t believe in destiny so much, but at that moment, it felt like Vincent van Gogh was talking to me: “Do that, paint those ideas, just like I painted mine.”

I found the movie very emotional. Every time, I saw a familiar painting coming to live, tears came to my eyes. I realized that this movie had to be published now, not earlier. Vincent’s art has become so well-known during the past decades that it unifies us. Art that was odd for masses of the 19th century is understood by every one living the 21st century. It has become so familiar that it’s sometimes difficult to appreciate it. And still, we need to feel the togetherness that Vincent’s paintings can offer. They are like icons that make us stronger together.

Looking back helps us to move forward. As artists, we are all Vincent’s descendants. No matter how we paint, what technique we use, we know about modern art because of Vincent. We know more than the people of the 19th century, and that enables us to explore art to all kinds of directions.

Loving Vincent – Art from the Students

I want to celebrate Vincent by showing beautiful pieces made by my students. They are made from my class Selfie Fantasy that shows an adaptation of Vincent’s technique.

Christie Juhasz:

Vincent van Gogh inspiration by Christie Juhasz, USA. An art journal page spread made from the mini-course Selfie Fantasy by Peony and Parakeet.

Terry Whyte:

Vincent van Gogh inspiration from Terry Whyte, Canada. An art journal page spread made from the mini-course Selfie Fantasy by Peony and Parakeet.

Denise Dineen:

Vincent van Gogh inspiration by Denise Dineen, USA. An art journal page spread made from the mini-course Selfie Fantasy by Peony and Parakeet.

Gina Meadows:

Vincent van Gogh inspiration by Gina Meadows, USA. An art journal page spread made from the mini-course Selfie Fantasy by Peony and Parakeet.

Patricia Furey:

Vincent van Gogh inspiration by Patricia Furey, USA. An art journal page spread made from the mini-course Selfie Fantasy by Peony and Parakeet.

Stephanie Carney:

Vincent van Gogh inspiration by Stephane Carney, USA. An art journal page spread made from the mini-course Selfie Fantasy by Peony and Parakeet.

Have you seen the movie? What did you think about it?

Imagine Through Art – Buy 5 inspiring mini-courses! (including the Vincent-inspired one)

Klimt’s Garden with Students of Peony and Parakeet

We are heading for the winter in Finland. It has made me pull out the photos taken during the recent years from the garden. They remind me that the summer will come again. Together with my students, I dedicate this blog post for the famous Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and the way he saw the world. It’s a perfect perspective when you want to get inspiration from the garden!

Portraits with Scenes Instead of Faces Only

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Stephanie Carney, USA - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

Stephanie Carney shows so well how Gustav would see our gardens: full of decorative elements! This way of looking combines two perspectives. First, examining the details and their decorative nature. Second, seeing the big picture: how plants are not just individual and separate but integrated into a scene.

When browsing my photo library, I realized that I have a lot of close-up photos of flowers. But for this post, I picked images that show more than just ethereal petals. The images that have more than a few details make me more attached to my garden. I think it’s the same with paintings and drawings: instead of just sketching faces, we can show the whole experience.

That’s how Gustav Klimt built most of his portraits: not only focusing on faces but showing more of the world around the person by expressing it through decorative and abstract elements. Klimt’s mission was to combine decorative designs with fine arts, and I think it’s one of the reasons why his work is fascinating for us who like to sew, quilt, embroider, or do any crafts. When looking at Stephanie’s work, inspired by Klimt, I can easily imagine wearing that dress and stitching any of the beautiful motifs that can be picked from the picture!

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Stephanie Carney, USA - a detail of a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

From Messy Garden to Klimt’s Garden

I claim that we can look at the garden using “everyday eyes” or “magical eyes.” When using the everyday eyes, everything is “should,” “could” or “have to.” We see weeds, neglected areas, messy grass. But with the magical eyes, we see nature as art.

For example, these ferns from my back garden horrified me when I looked at them with the everyday eyes. All I could see was a neglected flower bench getting ready for the cold weather. “I should cut those,” I thought. Then I took a step back and … wow! Nature had made an Art Deco pattern for me! I felt grateful and inspired. For a moment, I was in Klimt’s garden.
Fern like an art deco pattern

Gustav Klimt understood that when we want to express the beauty, we want to express the experience, not just copy what we see. When looking with the magical eyes – when being in Klimt’s garden, our feelings get mixed with the things we see, and nothing is fully organized. That’s why the sun feels more than just a bright spot in the sky in Lorraine Cline’s work. It doesn’t only make flowers grow, but it’s an uplifting force for humans as well. We get wrapped in its warmth, and for a moment, we are just one of the many plants in Klimt’s garden.

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Lorraine Cline, USA - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

Quilted Garden

Gustav Klimt saw the world as a stream of patterns and colors. Sometimes they were symbolic, sometimes more literal like the artwork below, showing a baby’s quilt. Even if the painting is fine art, it honors crafts.

Gustav Klimt: "Baby (Cradle)," 1917/1918

Gustav Klimt: “Baby (Cradle),” 1917/1918

At Klimt’s garden, there’s no distinct border between nature’s and man’s creations. When you look at the world with the magical eyes, they become one.

Stella the beagle and her quilt. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Pirkko-Liisa Mannoja’s piece combines drawing and painting, but to me, it also looks like an art quilt.

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Pirkko Liisa Mannoja, Finland - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

When we use the everyday eyes, we see the world as clearly-defined objects. We see green grass and red flowers. But when we look with the magical eyes, we see things that are more abstract, like the way the light forms spots in the background. That’s one of the subtle things that make Pirkko-Liisa’s work shine.

In Klimt’s garden, the grass can be white, and the observer can be green.

Cosmo the beagle enjoying summer in the garden.

In Klimt’s garden, we treat trees like they were close friends. I love how Christie Juhasz expresses that in her beautiful art journal spread.

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Christie Juhasz, USA - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

In Klimt’s garden, martagons take us back to Art Nouveau with their decoratively shaped stems and delicately colored flowers.

Martagons. A photo by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

In Klimt’s garden, we connect with the outside world so that it lightens up our inner world. When I look at Mackie d’Arge’s gorgeous piece, I feel connected to both.

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Mackie d'Arge, USA - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

When we look at the world with the everyday eyes, we worry about the weather when we look up.

Spring Sky. A photo by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

But when we change to the magical eyes, the sky and the earth are not separate at all. Just like in Diana Jackson’s expressive piece!

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Diana Jackson, USA - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

Winter in Klimt’s Garden

I wrote most of this blog post yesterday. When I woke up this morning, the snow had come to Finland. It felt depressing. “The garden is gone,” I said to myself. But then I realized that I had my everyday eyes. When looking with the magical eyes, Klimt’s garden is there for sure. It has just changed its colors.

Winter in the garden. A photo by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Klimt’s Garden in Your Art Journal!

The student artwork in this blog post is created from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. In the mini-course, you can create a decorative garden scene in Gustav Klimt’s style. The mini-course is available as a part of Imagine Monthly Fall 2016 art journaling bundle, packed with four more inspiring themes and techniques. And to celebrate the snow arriving in Southern Finland, you will get the generous 30% off during the weekend (from Oct 26 to Oct 29, midnight PST). >> Buy now!

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet and her Klimt's garden - an art journal spread inspired by Gustav Klimt. From her mini-course Patterned Topiary. 

Create Klimt’s Garden: Buy Patterned Topiary + 4 inspiring mini-courses!

Why Every Artist Should Art Journal? – Facebook Live Recording

I had my first public Facebook live yesterday! If you missed it, watch the recording below. As this is a live recording via the Facebook app, the quality of the image and the lip sync aren’t brilliant. If you are interested in art journals and using them for growing as an artist, it’s worth watching!

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13 Prompts for Expressive Art – Illustrated by the Students of Peony and Parakeet

13 prompts for expressive art by Peony and Parakeet
When you wonder what to create next, here’s a list of prompts for expressive art! Use these for art journal pages, drawings, paintings, mixed media, even for creative writing. The inspirational quotes from famous artists complement each of the short prompts. The students of Peony and Parakeet created the beautiful pieces that illustrate the prompts. They are based on the mini-courses “Botanical Discovery” and “Romantic Geometry.” These mini-courses are included in Imagine Monthly Art Journaling Class Bundle 2.

1) Living Colors

Claude Monet: “I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.”

A hand-painted collage by Joan Lilley, UK. Based on the mini-course "Botanical Discovery" by Peony and Parakeet.

Joan Lilley, UK

2) Dreamy Sharpness

Rene Magritte: “If the dream is a translation of waking life, waking life is also a translation of the dream.”

A mixed media painting by Joan Lilley, UK. Based on the mini-course "Romantic Geometry" by Peony and Parakeet.

Joan Lilley, UK

3) Speaking with Shapes

Vincent van Gogh: “The emotions are sometimes so strong that I work without knowing it. The strokes come like speech.”

An art journal page spread by Eloise Luyk, USA. Based of the mini-course "Botanical Discovery" by Peony and Parakeet.

Eloise Luyk, USA

4)  Composition of Absurdness

M.C. Escher: “Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible. I think it’s in my basement… let me go upstairs and check.”

An art journal page spread by Eloise Luyk, USA. Based on the mini-course "Romantic Geometry" by Peony and Parakeet.

Eloise Luyk, USA

5) No Stereotypes!

Henri Matisse: “There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.”

An art journal page spread by Darci Hayden, USA. Based on the mini-course "Botanical Discovery" by Peony and Parakeet.

Darci Hayden, USA

6) Bring in The Sun!

Pablo Picasso: “Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun.”

An art journal page spread by Darci Hayden, USA. Based on the class Romantic Geometry by Peony and Parakeet.

Darci Hayden, USA

7) Taking Flight

Michelangelo: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

Hand-painted collage by Debs England, UK. Based on the mini-course "Botanical Discovery" by Peony and Parakeet.

Debs England, UK

8) Blue Escape

Wassily Kandinsky: “The deeper the blue becomes, the more strongly it calls man towards the infinite, awakening in him a desire for the pure and, finally, for the supernatural… The brighter it becomes, the more it loses its sound, until it turns into silent stillness and becomes white.”

An art journal page spread by Terry Whyte, Canada. Based on the mini-course "Romantic Geometry" by Peony and Parakeet.

Terry Whyte, Canada

9) Nature’s Mystery

Francis Bacon: “The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.”

A painted collage by Rochelle Zawisza, USA. Based on the mini-course "Botanical Discovery" by Peony and Parakeet.

Rochelle Zawisza, USA

10) Colors of the Night

Vincent van Gogh: “I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.”

An art journal page spread by Sue O'Mullan, USA. Based on the mini-course "Romantic Geometry" by Peony and Parakeet.

Sue O’Mullan, USA

11) Strong but Gentle

Paul Klee: “One eye sees, the other feels.”

An art journal page spread by Christie Juhasz, USA. Based on the mini-course "Botanical Discovery" by Peony and Parakeet.

Christie Juhasz, USA

12) Explosion

M.C. Escher: “We adore chaos because we love to produce order.”

A mixed media drawing by Diana Jackson, USA. Base on the mini-course "Romantic Geometry" by Peony and Parakeet.

Diana Jackson, USA

13) Panorama of Your Inner World

Wassily Kandinsky: “To create a work of art is to create the world.”

An art journal pages spread by Stephanie Carney, USA. Based on the mini-course "Romantic Geometry" by Peony and Parakeet.

Stephanie Carney, USA

Buy Botanical Discovery!

Georgia O’Keeffe: “I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.”

Botanical Discovery is a mini-course inspired by the famous American artist Georgia O’Keeffe and botanical art. Create beautiful collages from hand painted papers – Buy here!

Buy Romantic Geometry!

Wassily Kandinsky: “Everything starts from a dot.”

Romantic Geometry is a mini-course inspired by the famous abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky, Renaissance masters and computer games. It’s a journey through centuries and especially suitable for you who want to make your art more dynamic! – Buy here!

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4 Social Tips for Improving Your Art – with The Students of Peony and Parakeet

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Tina Mitchell, Nicaragua.

This blog post is mostly illustrated by the students of the online painting class Planet Color. I am rerunning this class from April 24th to May 7th! Join me to paint fun abstract and colorful art! Suitable for beginners. Sign up before the class starts!

Social Tips

I call this set of tips “social” because instead of just talking in design terms like “white space” or “focal point,” I want to emphasize that art is a messaging tool. We, visual people, are sensitive to visual messages. Every image contains them whether they are added intentionally or unintentionally. As a teacher, I see my role as a guide who helps you to see what your pieces communicate and how you can fine-tune them to express the message that you want to deliver. In this blog post, I explain why beginning artists fail in visual communication and how to fix that. These social tips with sample images will improve the quality of your art!

Colorful mandalas by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read 4 social tips she has about creating art!

1) Bring Out The Leader, Express an Opinion

One of the things we all struggle the most is expressing an opinion. Even now, while I am writing this blog post, I am struggling with that. When I type the first few sentences, I become aware of all of you who might not like this post. I think of you who feels that you are more of a crafter, not a painter. And of you who thinks that this is too basic and you are far ahead. I am aware of you who likes fewer images, as well as you who doesn’t ever read a thing. Some images might look too dark or too white to your taste. Or you might not even like or value abstract art. What makes the writing even more difficult is that even my personal taste and opinions change during time, sometimes on a daily basis. And then I begin to think that who am I to write about this anyway. There are always people who know better and whose opinions could be more valuable.

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet browsing art journals.

It’s so easy to walk on that path of self-doubt and then rewrite the whole thing so that it actually says very little, nearly nothing. I might still remember the real meaning behind the words myself, but you might not get anything to take with you.

The same thing happens easily in art making too. By making every detail equal in size, sharpness, and color, we end up expressing something that’s nearly nothing. It’s just a gang of evenly spread elements waiting for a leader to be picked. But when you do that – choose a leader, express an opinion, say something with clarity that can make people take sides – then the impact is also born. See how Elaine Wirthlin does that in her painting!

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Elaine Wirthlin, USA.

2) Build Bridges, Don’t Stay Alone

When I saw a room full of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings in Musée d’Orsay, I was in tears. Yes, the original paintings were much more than what you could expect based on the photos and prints. But there was another reason too. I was crying because the room was packed with people. Knowing how lonely Vincent had been, it felt heart-breaking. Surely, if there had been social media at his time, he would have got his fan base! A small group of forward-thinkers, perhaps.

I don’t think loneliness is good for anyone. Don’t get me wrong – I am all for introvert lifestyle. Being an introvert myself, I wouldn’t dream about reducing my quiet, creative moments. But in the end, being isolated and expressing isolation is never a solution. Sometimes we are in the wrong place at the wrong time like Vincent did, but with the internet, there are soul-mates for everyone. With your art, you can build connections, not enforce divisions.

A detail of a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

When being interviewed after a long career, Finnish opera singer Jorma Hynninen said: “All artists want to connect with other people through their art.”

Images that include bridges and closeness make us feel happy. In Sue Jorgensen’s work, I see the message how different personalities can work and move on together.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Sue Jorgensen, Australia.

3) Play with Many Identities, Become Free of Limitations

When I became more serious about art, I questioned my love for crafts. One of my crafty hobbies was scrapbooking. I took photos and wrote stories about my everyday life. Sometimes I challenged myself to journal and sometimes, I let the photos and the decorations tell the whole story like on the layout below that shows the four seasons by focusing on trees.

Four Seasons. A scrapbooking layout by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

“An artist who also scrapbooks” sounded like a big joke to me back then. But the more ambitious I have become in my art career, the more I have learned to value other things that I do, scrapbooking included. After a long work day, it makes me feel free to take the dogs for a walk and listen to scrapbooking podcasts. After using embellishments and photos, it makes me feel free when I pick up my brushes and work with canvases, without limiting myself to the concept of scrapbooking.

One person can wear many hats. Some people might have seen you only wearing one, and their opinions about you only relate with that. However, don’t let it limit and define yourself in the other areas of life. People who knew me as an IT project manager saw a different side of me than you who reads this blog. I may have inherited my detailed style from the engineering part, but there’s so much more that I want to express and play with than one chapter in my past.

An art journal page spread by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. She has a class called Planet Color for painting colorful abstracts!

Susana König’s painting reminds me about IT business and how it’s all teamwork too!

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Susana König, Germany.

In Debbie Kreischer’s painting, the decorative style can take a more expressive twist, showing how things are not so black and white after all.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Debbie Kreischer, USA.

In Lisa Clemmer’s painting, the colors are soft, but the shapes are dynamic. This controversy makes it compelling.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Lisa Clemmer, USA.

Linda Thompson’s painting has playful colors and the dynamics of a fun game.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Linda Thompson, Canada.

Lois Dimler’s painting is like a happy circus where everybody has fun!

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Lois Dimler, USA.

4) Listen to Others, Let It Inspire You

I have always been an idea person. I invent new things quickly and have always been eager to find all kinds of unique approaches, also in art. However, I have also noticed that we often overestimate the uniqueness and the originality of our first ideas. But when we start combining many ideas into one, the result can be something new. My idea of drawing your own coloring page is not that unique but the way I have colored it gives it a modern twist. (Also read: How to Transform Ideas into Paintings)

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet with her art journal.

It’s not good to try to protect yourself from seeing what others do. We consume all the time anyway. If not art, then something else. Listening to other people, seeing other people’s art and getting to know art history is not a threat but an enabler to your personal style. Sometimes it can be a real eye-opener to create from a similar standpoint with somebody else and then compare.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Meri Andriesse, USA.

Compare Meri Andriesse’s and Pirkko-Liisa Mannoja’s paintings above and below! They have many similarities, but their style is different. Meri’s piece is soft, carefree and modern while Pirkko-Liisa’s is strong, detailed and historical.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Pirkko-Liisa Mannoja, Finland.

I love people who speak enthusiastically about what they have done. Even if they would talk about something that I would never even want to try, like deep-sea diving, it’s fascinating to hear how they express their experiences. While listening, I imagine the places that I would explore if I were that person. It gives me ideas that I wouldn’t ever have found by myself.

We never know enough about art history, other artists, other people, other fields of expertise, other anything! Artist’s mindset is being an immaterial collector – collecting thoughts, stories, visuals, any ideas and then expressing that inspiration. By developing the ability to see nuances in other people’s talk and work, you will also begin to see what’s unique about you.

What tip would you give?

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet with her abstract painting made for the class Planet Color.

Planet Color begins at April 24: Reserve your spot now!

Life in an Art Journal – Dylusions Creative Journal Flip-Through

An art journal page spread from Peony and Parakeet. Dylusions Creative Journal. See the flip-through video!

Don’t miss a flip-through video in the end of this blog post!

Four years ago, I purchased a new art journal – a big one. It was Dylusions Creative Journal, the largest size. In the beginning, I wanted to do everything “right.” I wanted my journal to have pages that are well-thought and carefully executed. The first couple of spreads went ok, but then, ugly pages started to appear. They were pages that I had just started but got tired on the way. Or pages which began so ugly that I didn’t feel like finishing them. But the longer I used my journal, the more I realized that I could have fun with those ugly pages. I could add more simple motifs and then color them all. I could add black paint and leave only some of the background visible. I could add more ugliness, and once it hit the saturation point, it became – something else.

Self portrait by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Sign up for her class Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

I am interested in learning all kinds of visual styles. Art journaling has supported it. One day I played a fashion designer and made a quick line illustration with poodles and all. It didn’t look inspiring back then, but a long time later, I had a lot of fun coloring it.

An art journal page spread from Peony and Parakeet. Made in Dylusions Creative Journal. See the flip-through video!

That’s what I love with art journals. The pages don’t get lost, and the ideas don’t get forgotten. Sometimes the ideas are abstract and timeless …

An art journal page from Peony and Parakeet. Made in Dylusions Creative Journal. See the flip-through video!

… and sometimes they are illustrations about what’s happening around the world.

An art journal page from Peony and Parakeet. Made in Dylusions Creative Journal. See the flip-through video!

Filling the pages in a random order adds its flavor to the journal. A grid-like paper patchwork felt innovative once, but not anymore. It feels pretty stiff, especially when there are freely doodled elements on the opposite page.

An art journal page spread from Peony and Parakeet. Dylusions Creative Journal. See the flip-through video!

But I don’t want to rip off the pages that don’t seem to fit. I accept them all. They are all explorations on the land of Art and Imagination. Sometimes I didn’t get very far, but I believe that all the trips benefited each other. I also believe that when painting on canvases, I feel more confident because I have played freely in my art journals.

Dylusions Creative Journal – Watch the Flip-Through Video!

See all the pages of my large Dylusions Creative Journal!

Enjoy drawing by starting from stick figures! – Buy Drawing Factory!

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Rebuilding Art – Using Reference Images for Self-Expression

Using a reference image as a model for the painting. By Peony and Parakeet.

This blog post is about composing new art by using reference images. At the moment, I have a couple of paintings in progress that are based on reference images, and I also show other examples as well.

Why Don’t Artists Always Tell About Using Reference Images?

While painting my first oil painting at The National Museum of Finland, the visitors of the museum were able to visit the studio and watch us paint. Many people asked why we paint copies of the old paintings. The teacher Emmi Mustonen replied that it’s a good way to learn the old painting techniques and develop the understanding of formal elements. But I got the feeling that some of the people didn’t get it. Their facial expressions were imprinted on my mind, and it made me ponder why using reference images raises conflicting feelings.

Even if most artists who create realistic art or include realistic elements in their art, use reference images, many are not very open about it. I think that one reason is that many artists believe that people know that already and another reason that the process is not interesting. My experience is that there are surprisingly many people who assume that artists don’t take photos or use other than live models. And to me, the process of composing a new image from old ones is fascinating. I always stop to see an article where an artist shows how the reference images were used. I am especially interested if it’s about choosing the photos and combining several reference images into one piece.

Strawberry Madonna – Combining Several Reference Images to Tell a Story

A reference image of Strawberry Madonna and painting in progress. By Peony and Parakeet.

I am currently painting an acrylic painting on canvas that I call “Strawberry Madonna.” It’s my first using old masters’ painting techniques with acrylics instead of oil paints. The idea for the painting started differently than usually. I invented the title first and then started to think how Strawberry Madonna would look. I wanted to find a young woman who would have lips like she had just eaten a strawberry. By googling Renaissance paintings, I found Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio‘s painting. After that, I moved to building a story around the original idea.

Strawberry Madonnas are young girls who enjoy life without worries, have long summer holidays, eat strawberries, learn to crochet and read books like Emily of the New Moon or Anne of Green Gables. I have been one of them, and I feel quite nostalgic about it. I wanted the painting to include surrealistic elements. It has a big strawberry that is placed so that it could be a sleeve of the madonna’s dress. I am also going to change the flowers in the hair wreath to strawberry flowers and play with green and red paint. It will happen when I move on from underpainting to adding colors. In the background, there’s a photo that I took last summer. I am going to make it a little less detailed.

I used Photoshop to compose the reference image and made the sketch on canvas with charcoal. I drew a grid to make the sketching quicker.

Girl with a Ferret – Changing the Meaning with a Simple Trick

A reference image and a painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I have also started a new oil painting under the guidance of Emmi Mustonen. I got to pick the reference image freely. I wanted to pick an old Renessaince painting, but I couldn’t find any that would have a couple of my favorite features when painting with old masters’ techniques. I love to paint fur and fabric, and I wanted to find a face that would include openness. I fell in love with Boccaccio Boccaccino‘s portrait of a gypsy girl, but it didn’t have any fur. So I remembered Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine” and created a new image by combining the two in Photoshop. I have several stories about this one.

The first one is about today’s society and how the pets have become more human in our eyes. I want to show the similarities in the wild gypsy girl and the tame ferret. Another story is about young girls and their love for taking care of animals. They might not know the wildlife, but they help to rescue animals and are ready to work hard when taking care of them. They are against fur clothing and not afraid to show it. The third story goes back to the 16th century. I imagine that the gypsy girl was hired to dress up and hold the ermine because the lady didn’t have the patience to pose for the artist. In the end, she never showed. The artist became frustrated and painted the girl instead. I can imagine the magical moment when the girl realized that she would be in the final painting instead of a lady.

I would like to talk with Boccaccio Boccaccino about my version. I also wonder, how he was able to paint the portrait of the gypsy girl when the artists mostly painted for churches and aristocrats back then.

At Monet’s Garden – Including All the Good Stuff to the Same Image

Last spring, I published a mini-course called Strokes of Energy as a part of the Imagine Monthly Spring series. I asked my students to name their favorite artists, and Claude Monet was among most popular ones. But when I thought about Claude Monet, I didn’t want just to serve those who love the garden or those who adore his way to paint the sky, or those who want to express the windy scenes. I wanted to have all the good stuff in one image and then some more.

A digital collage combining 3 paintings from Claude Monet. By Peony and Parakeet.

So I created a reference image in Photoshop combining three of Claude Monet’s paintings: “Woman with a Parasol” and a couple of paintings from the water lily series. Then I invented a technique where you can paint some of the elements as collage pieces so that you can adjust the overall composition before making the final decisions. This way it is possible to add more details one by one and improve the image during the actual creative process.

A Monet-inspired art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. See her mini-course Strokes of Energy.

So this painting is about a woman who is experiencing strong wind. She doesn’t mind wind catching her parasol. She enjoys the fresh air and the beautiful scene around her.

Ulla’s Take

One of the students, Ulla M. Holm, made a Photoshop sketch from another set of Monet’s paintings and then painted the image with short impressionistic strokes. I love how the result also reminds me of her home country, Sweden!

A Monet-inspired art journal spread by Ulla M. Holm, a student of Peony and Parakeet.

Using Reference Images More Intuitively – From a Story to an Experience

I admit having mixed feelings about following the reference images carefully. With my art, I want to express freedom, and I don’t think that following reference images too closely helps with that. On the other hand, I don’t want to restrict myself doing abstracts only or creating similar paintings one after another. Many artists create the same again and again and become better and better with that. To me, art is about exploring and the hook there is to widen my perspective continuously.

So even if you would prefer abstract art, it doesn’t mean you can’t have reference images. Instead of connecting with the actual story, you can connect with an emotional experience.

Emile Vernon's painting and Paivi Eerola's abstract interpretation. By Peony and Parakeet.

I picked colors and ideas from Emile Vernon’s painting and imagined what it would be like wearing that soft dress. The dress felt like a dream, so I wrote: “Muisto unelmasta” –  “a memory of a dream” in the image.

Using reference images: a photo and an abstract interpretation. By Peony and Parakeet. To learn how to do this, sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

Here’s another example from my class Inspirational Drawing 2.0: a photo from The National Library of Finland and my interpretation, “The Power of Knowledge.”

Do yo want to experiment with this approach using your personal reference images? >> Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

For the Fans of Monet – Strokes of Energy

My Monet-inspired mini-course Strokes of Energy is now available as an individual self-study course. >> Buy Strokes of Energy!

Strokes of Energy, a Monet-inspred mini-course by Peony and Parakeet.

Geraldine’s Take

I want to end this blog post with a skilled artist Geraldine Norris from Australia who created her version of Monet in my class. She had just seen an art exhibition showing Monet’s work, and I think it shows how deeply she connected with the experience.

A Monet-inspired painting by Geraldine Norris, Australia, a student of Peony and Parakeet.

But wait, there is more beautiful Monet-inspired art from my students, see the presentation page of Strokes of Energy!

Until next time!

Freedom and Fear of Drawing – with Students of Peony and Parakeet

Asian Bunny, an illustration by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I dedicate this blog post for drawing, but I want to talk about cross stitching first. It’s one of my long-time hobbies, and I find it relaxing. I don’t have to make any decisions, use any imagination, just follow the chart, and the result will be just like I wanted it to be. Cross stitching is like a simple house plant. If you give a little bit of time for it fairly regularly, it will grow even if it doesn’t feel like so at first.

Paivi likes cross stitching

I can choose complicated charts or simple ones, and easily adjust the attention required for stitching. But there’s one problem that always remains: pixelation. Each image is made from single square-shaped stitches. No matter how complicated the design is or thick the fabric is, the pixelation is there.

Christmas at Gingerbread Lane, a cross stitching project in progess

Working with single stitches is not only a visual problem. It’s also a problem if we want to create more freely. Then we need a medium that allows faster and more flexible thinking. Like drawing. There are many kinds of drawing styles. When I want to experience creative freedom, I don’t do sketching using a pre-made model. (The photo shows a recent Renaissance-style painting in progress. I have designed it first in Photoshop.)

A sketch for a Renessaince style painting, by Peony and Parakeet

A Fear for Freedom – A Fear of Drawing

When I want to feel free, I don’t want models. Then it’s just a blank paper and a pen and a wish for a glimpse of imagination.

But freedom and fear are strangely connected. About three years ago, when I planned to leave my day job and start an art business, I warned myself. I told how I would no longer be anyone noticeable. I would have no office, no place to go every day, no colleagues to discuss with, no job title, no respect from others, no self-esteem. I would live in the darkest edge of the society and completely against the way of life I was taught. With these stories, I tried to prevent myself making the life change, and at the same time, I knew I had to try it. I had to turn the page and start a completely blank one.

Drawing on a blank page, by Peony and Parakeet.

I often connect with the same fear when I start drawing. That I am no one, that I have no power, that it is overwhelming and I don’t know what to do. But then, it’s the same gate that leads to the most wonderful feeling: the feeling of freedom.

Before I left my day job, I started to follow other self-employed women online. I listened to podcasts where they told their stories, and they all had one thing in common. They had put what they already know into use and then learned more. It made me list all the skills that I had and be more content about the decision I had made.

Paivi just before her life change

Drawing Factory Teaches You to Draw from Stick Figures

Still, on this day, I find it both assuring and inspiring to acknowledge what is already there before starting something new. So last year, I wanted to create a mini-course about line drawing, using the same philosophy. That was how Drawing Factory was born. It teaches you to start from stick figures and then move on to flowing lines and more imaginative illustrations.

Drawing Factory, a line drawing mini-course that helps you to lose your fear of drawing. By Peony and Parakeet.

Student Artwork

I offered Drawing Factory as a part of Imagine Monthly Fall 2016, the series of monthly mini-courses. See some of the gorgeous pieces that my students have made from the course! Another central theme in the course is Japan, the land of pretty details and high productivity and that has inspired Denise Dineen, Linda Robson, Christie Juhasz, Stepanie Carney, Marie Jerred, and Kathy Gallant, too.

Denise Dineen, USA. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Linda Robson, Canada. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Christie Juhasz, USA. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Stephanie Carney, USA. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Marie Jerred, Canada. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Kathy Gallant, Canada. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Overcome Your Fears for Line Drawing – Buy Drawing Factory!

Drawing Factory is now available as a single self-study class. >> Click here to buy!
You can also buy the whole bundle of five art journaling classes, published last year as Imagine Monthly Fall 2016.

Thank you for supporting my journey now and during the last three years!

Mixed Media Seascapes – 5 Tips for Expressive Art

Notice the new, useful categories for the blog posts, see the sidebar “Posts by Theme” or if you are in mobile, see the end of the page!

Sometimes I regret creating my art on the journals. When I created these mixed media seascapes for the mini-course Stormy Scenery, I wanted to keep the journals open and visible for days just to get back with the process and look at all the colors. And when I saw what my students had created, I secretly wished the same – that not so many weren’t in journals but frames. I want to share some art made from the mini-course and share some tips for expressive seascapes.

1) Play with Colors!

When creating the waves, show how the water reflects the colors from its surroundings. When there’s a storm, there will be a lot that’s moving, and it will affect the colors too. You can show your current state of mind as the sea and bring out the variety of thoughts and feelings. See how Claudia Watkins has made a row of waves with various colors.

Claudia Watkins, UK. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Claudia Watkins, UK

2) Create a Connection Between The Sky and The Sea!

If the sea represents you and the sky represents the outside world, how do they interact? Susan Rajkumar has expressed the connection in a brilliant way. It looks like the sea is willing to hug the sun and the overall feeling in the piece is warm and happy.

Susan Rajkumar, India. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Susan Rajkumar, India

Sheila McGruer’s sun has left the sea, and it has caused an explosion of energy.

Sheila McGruer, Australia. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Sheila McGruer, Australia

Sheila’s piece also has the softness which takes us to the next tip …

3) Express the Softness of Water

Cheryl Rayner shows the softness with both long strokes and splashes of water. With softness, you can practice gentleness towards yourself and others.

Cheryl Rayner, USA. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Cheryl Rayner, USA

4) Show The Movement of The Waves

Enjoy the transformation that happens when you focus on creating art! Strokes and lines express the movement. Lorraine Cline’s green sea is captivating because it’s wonderfully dynamic!

Lorraine Cline, USA. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Lorraine Cline, USA

Terttu Laitinen has the great eye of the storm.

Terttu Laitinen, Finland. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Terttu Laitinen, Finland

5) Make The Scene Look 3-Dimensional!

In any scene and any mind, some things are closer, and some things are further away. Add more 3-dimensional look to make some elements more blurry and some sharper than others. Satu Kontuvuori has a striking focal point where sharp white waves are on the top of the blurry black eye of the storm.

Satu Kontuvuori, Finland. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Satu Kontuvuori, Finland

Mackie d’Arge also has a clear focal point and lots of less defined splashes around it.

Mackie d'Arge, USA. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Mackie d’Arge, USA

Internal Seascapes – Connect with Your Internal Energy!

The mixed media seascapes shown in this blog posts are made from the mini-course Stormy Scenery which was part of my Imagine Monthly Spring series last year. You can now purchase it individually too. When creating Stormy Scenery, I was inspired by the long chain of seascape painters, especially by J.M.W. Turner and Ivan Aivazovski. I also have a Pinterest board called Internal Seascapes where I have collected inspirational sea paintings.

But in Stormy Scenery, more than just to paint the sea, I coach you through the process of opening up and bringing out your expression. With the mini-course, you are not so much mimicking the sea outside but expressing the power inside. I believe that every artist has a unique power as well as every day has a unique energy.

Create Mixed Media Seascapes!

Use colored pencils, watercolors, and acrylic paints to create expressive mixed media art!
>> Click here to buy Stormy Scenery!

Stormy Scenery, an art journaling mini-course by Peony and Parakeet

P.S. If you want more personal guidance and community support to get deeper in self-expression, you can still sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!