Peony and Parakeet

Watercolor Interiors – Four Tips

"Heritage" - a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s a watercolor painting that I made while being a student of Finnish watercolor artist Mika Törönen. I took the class to understand more about watercolors. Watercolor is a weird medium, and its weirdness fascinates me! Watercolors seem simple and easy at first. But the more you paint, and the more atmospheric you want your paintings, especially watercolor interiors, to be, the more challenging they become.

I have recently realized that more than outdoor sceneries, I love painting interiors. Here are some of my tips for painting watercolor interiors!

1) Start with Geometry and Positive Attitude

Last spring, I committed to learning more watercolor techniques. I built a class called Watercolor Journey.

In the past, when I was teaching IT professionals my colleagues often said: “You learn best when you are teaching.” First, it felt like cheating because I thought that teachers have to know everything already before starting a class. But when you have to break things into small manageable and teachable parts, deeper insights come up. This way I have found simple methods and easy guidelines for making rich and creative paintings.

This painting is made for the exercise of Watercolor Journey. It’s about painting geometric shapes and thus simplifying the interior. You can make the photo more blurry by squeezing your eyes, and focus on the flat shapes that you see from it, for example.

Pyhaniemi Manor, watercolor interiors by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

But methods, tips, and guidelines are not the only useful things that I have learned by building classes. By making sure that I teach with a smiling voice and appearance, I have learned to think positively about what I do and how to encourage myself. One of the most depressing things in classes is to hear negative self-talk, whether it comes from the teacher or the student. That’s why I think it’s important always to express positive emotions, the love for art, and all the enthusiasm that can be found from creating.

2) Choose a Reference You Love

Mika Törönen creates his beautiful paintings from the references. We also had to pick some for the class. I wanted to continue the inspiration that I got by visiting Italy a couple of years ago. I chose a snapshot taken from one of my favorite places – Palazzo Pitti, Florence. Many students used the same photos as references as the teacher did, but to me, it’s difficult to use references that I don’t have any connection.

"Heritage" - a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet and its reference photo, taken at Palazzo Pitti.

I didn’t aim for an exact copy but still, the photo was quite complicated and it took all the three sessions to complete to painting. I learned some tricks from Mika Törönen, like how to prevent the paper from curling while working (watch the video where I use the method for painting a watercolor bookmark), and the courage to use small shapes and lines of very thick paint when finishing.

The class was based on us students watching him paint. He wasn’t very good at translating his methods to words but as far as I saw it, a lot was to do with finding abstract elements from the photos and building a composition from that. He didn’t guide much, and the painting time was quite limited. The benefit for me was that I got new energy for working with watercolors. I painted a lot between the three weekly sessions.

3) Embrace Surreal to Express Emotions

One of the paintings that I have made recently, is this surreal interior. I used several references for this one and also worked quite loosely from them. Choosing one reference is not always the best starting point because it can control the work too much.

"Lonely", a surreal watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Here, my most important influencer was the feeling that I got after the first class session. The session was very quiet, and I felt the loneliness that felt both good and bad. Loneliness gives the chance to spend quality time with imagination. But of course, it is also a sad feeling.

When I have clarity about a specific emotion, I have both the positive and the negative aspect in mind. That tension inspires me to express it. In this painting, I used a fish to symbolize creativity that I connect with the time spent alone.

A detail of "Lonely", a surreal watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Often, the loneliness is in your head. You can feel alone even if you are surrounded by people. So I left a blank triangular ray of light that hits her head.

"Lonely", a surreal watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet, pictured upside down to show Palazzo Vecchio's interiors.

Working with creativity and without other people’s perspectives, can make things turn upside down. I used my photo of Palazzo Vecchio’s Hall of Five Hundred as a loose reference. If I turn the piece, you might recognize some of it.

4) Design the Lighting and Focus on the Light

Here’s my latest watercolor painting called “Eternity”. I think that it’s most loose of all the paintings of this blog post because here, I focused on the light.

"Eternity", a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

My reference photo was taken in an old church Chiesa del Gesu in Rome. It was only a starting point. After the first pale compositional layers, I abandoned it.

"Eternity", a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet and its reference photo taken in Rome.

The elements and the lighting didn’t quite match my vision of eternity, so I made a lot of changes. I also wanted to break the symmetry that is in the reference photo. I imagined setting a scene for a movie and let the water express the light more than what it would reveal. There are only a few sharp lines and clearly defined shapes. This way the result is a loose painting and looks less like a detailed drawing.

I used a lot of water when making this one! Sprayed, too!

Watercolor painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Watercolor Interiors – and Flowers!

I used Arches Rough 300 gsm watercolor paper for these three watercolor interiors. I hope that this blog post inspired you to pick your watercolor set and paint some watercolor interiors!

Watercolor paintings by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

This spring I will rerun my class Floral Fantasies in Three Styles, where we paint watercolor florals, a very suitable theme to go with the interiors! There will also be an extra watercolor exercise, which will be available separately if you already have the class. Stay tuned!

Breaking the Rules – Creating What’s Right for You

This blog post is about breaking the rules when choosing what to create.

Madonna of the Heart, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Let’s begin with this oil painting. Oil paintings are big projects for me, and I only finished two of them last year. The first was Temptation, and this is the second one, called Madonna of the Heart.

Following the Heart – Breaking the Rules

My Madonna is a small painting, only 18,5 x 23,5 cm, but it’s quite detailed. I first planned to make it fully abstract, but then got second thoughts.

Starting an oil painting, painting intuitively, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

As a child, I learned the basics of eastern-orthodox art by attending an icon painting group. I was taught many rules – what colors to choose, how to mix the right tones, how to build layers, etc. It was not just about learning the right techniques, but also obeying the long tradition. The repeating discussion in the group was the difference between right and wrong. There was very little room for creativity, and I loved it! I was about 10 years old and eager to learn new things. Work was challenging, and it was comforting to know that there’s one clear direction.

Madonna of the Heart, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

When painting the small canvas, I was tempted to travel back to my childhood, and participate in that small and safe group of icon painters again. But I also knew that it’s very wrong not to follow the rules. My supplies were wrong, my background was wrong, the whole idea was wrong. But it felt natural and tempting, so I made it.

Natural to You, Wrong to Some

Recently, I have found many creative blocks like this one. To paint an icon with oils on an abstract background is wrong to some, but it’s natural to me. I love painting intuitively, and the idea of an icon is the most beautiful that I know. Don’t we all need an image that offers consolation and reminds about kindness? To me, it has nothing to do with any specific religion. Everybody has a right to have a Madonna of the Heart.

While building the class Animal Inkdom, I have also filled my “boxes of joy” with hand-drawn collage pieces. Very soon after starting, I realized that the principle “natural to me, wrong to some” also applies to these small drawings.

Paivi's box of hand drawn collage pieces. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Yes, I love to draw flowers, birds, butterflies, very innocent stuff. But there are also pieces that are quite odd like this one.

Hand drawn ornament by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

This hand-drawn ornament has two women, both dressed in old Byzantine clothing, and the lion. It has a handle so that it can be held like a sacred image. This small drawing is packed with stories about my childhood. I remember the conversations with my mother, already passed away. I remember my idol, Joy Adamson, and her lion Elsa. I remember my love for blue color. Seeing all that together makes me happy.

I also love to play with the ornament by adding more handdrawn elements around it!

Hand-drawn ornaments by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Breaking the Rules Between Serious and Playful

So it happened that a carefully painted oil painting and this little ornament became equal. Of course, not equal in monetary value, but equal in the kind of satisfaction I get from them. And it also feels that this world that I am building is surprisingly inclusive, both humorous and deep. All I need to do is to make what’s natural to me, even if it would look wrong to some.

Paivi Eerola's art. An oil painting and hand-drawn ornaments. Breaking the rules of what's right and wrong in art.

We often miss this natural zone because we are so focused on what makes sense to others. When choosing what to create, we work with pre-defined labels like “portraits” or “art journal pages” or “abstracts.” We do what seems to be right for the genre, rather than step into the world where someone might not get it, or in the worst case, might get offended. Still, the freedom in art can’t exist without the freedom of imagination.

Come to Play and Draw with Me!

So, I dare to suggest: play with your art! Cross the boundaries between “right” and “wrong”! Follow the general rules of aesthetics but brea the rules of subject matters.

I think that with Animal Inkdom, you can nail it. You will get practical tips and techniques, but there’s also humor and play, all flavored with the love for wildlife.

Drawing animals and decorating them with motifs. Paivi Eerola has a fun drawing class called Animal Inkdom.

It’s still a good time to sign up for Animal Inkdom! The first one of the five modules is published, and you will get it right away after the registration.

Let’s keep on drawing, and never forget the playing part either!

Oil Pastels and Spicing Up Your Art

Girl Power, mixed media art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. This piece has Sennelier oil pastels, acrylic paints, and graphite pencils.

This week, I show you how to use oil pastels with other art supplies. I also talk about spicing up your art, especially by choosing subjects that are so personal that they make you tremble a bit!

Early Memories of Oil Pastels

Making art can be compared to cooking. Sometimes the food tastes good because the ingredients and the way are processed go well together. That was how my mother cooked. Her food was delicious because it was fresh and made with care. Even if our family wasn’t wealthy, the time that she put on cooking, made the meals worth remembering. I still don’t know how she was able to include the thick layer of blueberries into her pie. When there was a local art competition for children with the theme “home,” it’s no wonder that this is what I drew.

A childhood drawing with oil pastels by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I remember struggling with the oil pastels, definitely not artist’s quality, but the drawing won the first prize. It was a little unpleasant that the organizer has written the prize in the drawing, but now it just adds a nostalgic flair to it.

My mother wanted her children to step away from cooking and caring for the home. She wanted me to get a good education and declined to teach me how to cook. I grew to question what women and men are supposed to do and felt rebellious in that respect. As a result, I went to study engineering and worked in a field that had mostly men.

QUESTION: What memories do oil pastels or other early art supplies bring to your mind? 

Sennelier Oil Pastels – First Experiment

I bought a small set of Sennelier oil pastels for mixed media art. I didn’t want to spend money on a bigger set until seeing if I like them or not. My first experiment was to draw a portrait on a small sketchbook.

Sennelier oil pastels and an example drawn by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

My mother used two spices mostly: salt and pepper. When creating art, salt and pepper are the lightness and the darkness of colors. You need both, but not too much. As beginners, we often think that we don’t need any salt and pepper. That the fresh ingredients – bright colors – will do the trick. But you need some paler and darker colors, not too much, but enough to harmonize a busy painting.

For the first experiment, I thought that making a basic portrait with salt and pepper would be enough. But creating just a pretty face often lacks expression, so I added a hand because oil pastels and fingers go together. No matter how hard I tried to use a palette knife for blending, I ended up enjoying the waxy feel of oil pastels on the fingertips.

A sketchbook page with Sennelier oil pastels by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

The first experiment made me remember why I had tossed away my old oil pastel set over 10 years ago. Oil pastels are messy! Later in the evening, I made a big mistake of not wiping the table carefully and then placing my cross-stitch projects on the very same tabletop. I had to wash oil pastel marks from the fabrics, and that was very upsetting!

Woman’s World – Oil Pastels with Graphite Pencils

I wasn’t ready to give up oil pastels but headed for the new experiment the next day. This time my idea was to use a sponge for blending and combine oil pastels with graphite pencils. They have called me more and more these days. Maybe it’s because my friend Eeva Nikunen uses graphite a lot and I have one of her drawings on the wall. I am not so much into using graphite alone, but I love using it with watercolors, so why not try it with oil pastels as well!

Making of a oil pastel drawing with Sennelier oil pastels. By a Finnish artist Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Making of this sketchbook page both excited and scared me. It went deeper than the first page and expressed thoughts that I don’t usually reveal to the public. I support women becoming equal with men, and often think even more strongly: it’s now the time of the history when we women can take power. I believe that it will liberate men too. Many young women say that they are equal already, but my experiences haven’t been quite like that. And when thinking back to the past, even when narrowing the focus only to the field of art, women have been neglected for centuries. So it can be woman’s world now if you ask me.

Woman's World, mixed media art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. A sketchbook page with Sennelier oil pastels and graphite pencils.

When creating this piece, I realized how much I had been used salt and pepper only: making images that are aesthetically pleasing, but that could be spiced up with the message.

QUESTION: What thoughts do you have that you haven’t expressed in your art?

When you think about “what to put in the background” next time, maybe perfect the face a little less and spend more time with a message no matter “what others think.”

Girl Power – Oil Pastels with Acrylic Paints

When I processed the theme – the power of women – further, I wanted to send encouragement to today’s young girls. Most girls that I have met are very smart but also polite and gentle. I wanted to express my appreciation for them.

This time, I wanted to try acrylic paints with oil pastels, and I also had a perfect reference image in mind. It was a miniature portrait of Europa Anguissola painted by her sister Lucia Anguissola. There were six sisters who all became painters in the Renessaince age, but only one of them, Sofonisba, continued her career. I saw the portrait of Europa a couple of years ago, and it’s sweet and amazingly detailed for a small painting.

This project was created in my Dylusions Creative Journal. Acrylics were my choice for the face, and I started very traditionally, making an underpainting with umber and white.

Painting a face. An underpainting with acrylics. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Again, I didn’t want this piece to be just about the face, so I added a hand too. Here you can see how far I worked with acrylic paint only.

Creating a portrait with mixed media. The first part: acrylic paints. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. This project was created on a large Dylusions Creative Journal.

Now to the oil pastels. After experimenting blending with a palette knife and a sponge, I gave up and used my fingers only. But I had a new weapon: baby wipes! They are very handy for removing paint both from the fingers and from the table top. After getting used to having a baby wipe in hand, the messiness of the media doesn’t bother anymore!

Blending Sennelier oil pastels. Using a finger with oil pastels. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I love blending out the color when working with oil pastels. It feels enjoyable and natural. I am excited to try these techniques with oil paints as well.

A mixed media portrait in progress. Acrylic paint and Sennelier oil pastels. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s one technique that I discovered: First, lay several colors carelessly on paper. It’s like throwing the ingredients into the pot!

Working with oil pastels. Using oil pastels in mixed media. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Second, mix the colors with a finger – beautiful – not the finger but the art!

Working with oil pastels. Using oil pastels in mixed media. Blending of Sennelier oil pastels. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I also wanted to add some pencil strokes too. Loud and bold oil pastels look very appealing when they meet the quiet power of graphite drawing.

Using graphite pencils in mixed media art. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

So this one is for young girls: “I wish you all the luck and all the power. Europa Anguissola abandoned painting when she got married, but you don’t have to. You can be anything, and we support you!”

Girl Power, mixed media art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. This piece has Sennelier oil pastels, acrylic paints, and graphite pencils.

Who do you want to send greetings through your art?

Free Like a Bird – Oil Pastels with Turpentine

The true test for the oil pastels: how do they work with abstract art and intuitive process. This time I used colored pencils and graphite as well.

Creating abstract art using mixed media. Oil pastels, colored pencils, graphite pencils. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

In the middle of making this abstract piece, a new problem came up. I wanted to spread a thin layer of paint, and tone down some areas. I got the idea of thinning the pastel with the medium that I use for oil painting. The painting liquid has poppy oil, Dammar varnish, and turpentine. After googling, it seemed that turpentine could thin oil pastels. So I rubbed some color on a palette, added few drops of the painting liquid and started painting.

Thinning oil pastels. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

The liquid worked very well. Of course, the odor of turpentine can be unbearable for many. Working in small amounts, and keeping the lid closed reduces it a bit, though.

Thinnning oil pastels and using a brush for painting with them. Oil pastel technique tips by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s my finished piece: “Free Like a Bird.” It’s what I hope for everyone, regardless of the gender.

Free Like a Bird", mixed media art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Created with Sennelier oil pastels, colored pencils, and graphite pencils.

If you compare the images of this blog post, the abstract piece leaves more room for interpretations. Recently, I have felt more and more drawn into creating abstracts, and letting go of delivering a pre-chewed message. Cooking without a recipe can be much harder than you would first think. Making a vast selection of foods, learning to use pepper and salt, helps. But first and foremost, art is not just a matter of learning how to cook a meal. It’s also the matter of choosing what you want to serve to the world. And no matter how clumsy the execution, the subject can be the most significant spice.

The Exploring Artist Begins on Sept 10 – Sign Up Now!

The Exploring Artist is a 12-week group coaching program for artists, between Sept 10 – Nov 30, 2018. This coaching is for you who wants to get clear about your artistic passion and become more open about your art, for example, share your art in social media, blog about art, sell your originals and prints, teach classes, etc.

The Exploring Artist - a coaching program for you who wants to become more confident and get clear about your artistic passion. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

In The Exploring Artist, you will get coaching as a part of a small and tight-knit group. I will personally help you to put your passion into words and visual insights. We will work together to discover what you want to change in your art, where you want to move forward and how to do it. >> Sign up now!

 

10 Rococo Art Ideas for Creative Romantics

This week I share some old and new pieces that are inspired by Rococo and give art prompts for all who are like-minded romantics. Let’s send greetings to Marie Antoinette, and create some Rococo-inspired art!

1) Masquerade

Three-Eyed Antoinette, rococo-inspired art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See more of her rococo art ideas!
Three-Eyed Antoinette, 2018

2) Passion for Jewels

Rococo by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet
Rococo, 2015

3) Bird’s Nest

Marie's Bird, a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet
Marie’s Bird, 2018

4) Listening to Mozart

Graceful Aria by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet
Graceful Aria, 2014

5) Anyone Can Fly

"Envy", from the sketchbook of Paivi Eerola by Peony and Parakeet
Envy, 2017

6) Eye of a Romantic

My Mind's Eye, a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet
My Mind’s Eye, 2017

7) Ornamental Figure

Orna, a collage from hand-decorated papers by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet
Orna, 2012

8) Mimicking Embroidery

Embroidered Ornament, colored pencils on scrapbook paper by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet
Embroidered Ornament, 2015 (colored pencils on scrapbook paper)

9) Loose Ornament

Loose Rococo, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet
Loose Rococo, 2018

10) Softness All-Around

Rococo Dream by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet
Rococo Dream, 2018

Join Bloom and Fly – Move Forward with an Inspiring Community!

Bloom and Fly is a community for you who wants to explore visual and adventurous ideas, get feedback and suggestions for your art, and connect with like-minded art enthusiasts. We have a private Facebook group, monthly themes, live sessions, and weekly opportunities for practical help and feedback.

Bloom and Fly is geared for those who have been creating for some time. It doesn’t offer regular step-by-step walk-throughs where everyone creates the same project. You will get ideas, tips, and process photos around the monthly theme but if you are a beginner, buy one of my self-study classes (for example, Inspirational Drawing 2.0) to accompany your membership!

Registration is now open for Spring season (April – June 2018): Sign up here!

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