Painting Fantasy Portraits

"New Year", a small acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watch her creating this on a video!

This year, I have been thinking a lot about the balance between technical skills and the imagination. It seems that when I focus on either one, the other one suffers. Now when the year is nearly in the end, I have wanted to play with the imagination and cared less about the execution. I have always enjoyed creating intuitively: starting without intention and then figuring out what I want to express once the work has progressed.

Fantasy Figures Keep On Appearing!

Recently, I have seen fantasy figures whatever I am creating. I don’t know if it’s because I have been following fantasy artists lately or just that I haven’t been playing with portraits for a while. Here’s one of the colorful clusters from my sketchbook that I turned into a fantasy figure.

Fantasy portrait in progress. See the intuitive approach for painting fantasy figures!

I had a lot of fun with her imagining that she is a digital nomad, re-connecting with nature, running away from her phone!

"Digital Nomad", a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her intuitive approach of creating fantasy figures!

Fantasy Portrait in Oil

I also have two oil paintings in progress, and the first one is a kind of portrait too. After the geometric background, I wanted to put a giant pansy in the center, and then couldn’t resist adding a face. I have painted it using a reference for the most important facial features. Then I completed the person with a more loose approach.

Oil painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her tips for painting fantasy portraits!

This is just a beginning of the painting. It will have more details and color.

Painting Fantasy Portraits – An Intuitive Approach

The best fantasy is never borrowed but takes place in your imagination. I think the way to get connected to it, is to start freely without any reference photos. The painting that is shown at the beginning of this post looked like this before I discovered that there’s a face!

Painting fantasy portraits. See Paivi Eerola's intuitive approach!

Painting this one was an exciting process, and fortunately, I recorded some parts of it. I used a couple of tricks that I learned from my skillful artist friend Eeva Nikunen: using a dead color when exploring values and adding an even color wash over the whole painting to make it more unified.

Painting Fantasy Portraits – Watch the Video!

Happy Holidays! – See You in “Bloom and Fly”!

I am not sure whether I blog next week or not. So with this painting about the new year, I want to wish you Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Thank you for being there!

And of course, I hope to see you in Bloom and Fly at the beginning of January! We’ll start by planning your creative goals, then pick easy ideas from Rococo, explore abstracts together, etc. I will help you to express yourself so that it’s adventurous and imaginative!  >> Sign up here!

Create Pastel Softness!

Soulmates, an illustration by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about using pastel colors and see how this artwork was made!

This time it’s all cute! I had the feeling that this blog is getting too serious. Don’t get me wrong! I want serious, I love serious and hope that you do too! Still, behind all good art, there’s a big portion of imagination. And the best way to embark that imagination is to play a little!

Pastel Colors in Teddy Bears

Cute collector teddy bears manufactured by Steiff and Teddy Hermann

So I asked my teddy bears if they were willing to help me with this post. And they responded: “Yes, sure!” When I interviewed them, they reminded me that there are two big factors in cuteness: softness and pastel colors. “My friend is a black teddy and he does not get so many hugs as I do”, said Apple Blossom. Pink Princess continued: “It’s not just the color, but it’s the fluffy softness that’s important too!” And then they both agreed that the huge nose and strong eye contact make a teddy even more successful.

Pastel Colors in Old Scrap Pictures

Then I showed them the old scrap pictures that I had found from an antique flea market some years ago.

Cute vintage scrap pictures. Read more about using pastel colors in art!

“Oh yes!”, they giggled. “If you want to create something cute, these sure are good examples! Round shapes make them look reaaaaally soft!”

India Ink and Circles

I picked up my India ink bottles (used also in the video blog post last week) and tried to think about what kind of soft and cute to create with them.

Dr Ph Martin's Bombay india inks. Read more about creating pastel colors with them!

Then I remembered the round shapes. That could be the start.

Read more about using pastel colors and see how this artwork was finished!

So I painted some round shapes with pastel colors on a thin watercolor paper. While painting, I noticed that to get beautiful pastels you need to use a lot of white. Sometimes adding a lot of white can create hues that lack softness if the base color is cold. You can fix that by adding some yellow or a tiny portion of black. Speaking of soft and white, meet another teddy of mine called Niamh …

A white teddy bear, Niamh, manufactured by Charlie Bears

I am not a big fan of white but who could not love the color after seeing her!

Clustered Shapes

Back to the painting: Small shapes were added near the large ones to create cute creatures. I made some large shapes form the part of the background. More shapes were painted to made creatures more interesting.

Read more about using pastel colors and see how this artwork was made!

I made the shapes look dimensional and detailed with colored pencils.

Read more about using pastel colors and see how this artwork was made!


I finished the painting by adding more details and sharpening them with a white gel pen and a thin tip black marker. As a final touch, I added white acrylic paint on the face of the biggest creature. It lightens up the work and makes a great contrast with the black. Namely, if you look at the scrap pictures and the teddy bears, the black color makes pastels look so soft and bright. Small black dots here and there on a pastel colored circles can be enough to create a page that’s all soft and cute.

Soulmates, an illustration by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about using pastel colors and see how this artwork was made!

So, why not have a go: create a pastel colored art journal page to soften the hard world!

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Art Journal Inspiration from Children’s Books

An art journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about finding inspiration from children's books.

The art journal spread shown above is created from hand decorated papers, colored pencils, and markers. The main message here is “You can ride with your imagination in any way you want.” As it implies, I like my art journaling to capture dreams and fairy tales, not so much everyday life.

Mini-Worlds and Fantasies

I think that an art journal can be childish and playful. The way I see it, children’s books are the predecessors of them. Children’s books also combine illustrations and text to create mini-worlds and stories. I love to add both decorative and naive elements on the same page, and children’s books are great inspiration for that!

Read more about finding inspiration for art journaling from children's books.

I buy used children’s books from recycling centers. They cost only a few euros (few dollars). That is a fantastic value considering all the inspiration they can give. I pick the books that have a lot of good quality illustrations. As I love detailed drawings, I try to find books with sharp lines and many details. Browsing children’s books can be a good practice for finding your artistic style. Pick the books that you feel most drawn to and then list all the things they have in common. I prefer books that have matte pages because I sometimes create collages from them. Then it is good if I can draw or paint on them.

Illustrations from children's book and a collage by Peony and Parakeet. Read more about finding inspiration from children's books.

I made the collage on the right while teaching at a workshop last fall. It’s one of the pages where I have used the papers from children’s books. I often give few pages from various books for each participant of the workshop. It’s much easier to start creating when you don’t need to stare blank paper.

That little explorer resembles anyone who is entering the world of children’s books!

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Dancing with Imagination – Mermaid Illustration

Dancing With Imagination, an art journaling page, illustration by Peony and Parakeet

The reason why I have been practising by drawing millions of circles, again and again, is this: I want to express myself through illustration. I want to put my imagination into work and make my toughts and dreams visible.

Dancing With Imagination, a detail of an art journaling page, illustration by Peony and ParakeetAnd I have more dreams. You might remember that I painted icons when I was a child. It led me to dream about painting new kind of icons: images that are not connected to any particular religion but which have the similar uplifting effect.

Now I have understood that I want to dance with the imagination, go beyond, not only religion, but also reality. I want to illustrate imaginitive stories, fairy tales, and use them to uplift myself and hopefully others too.

I have found this through art journaling. I have made many ugly pages before I have realized: I can take any direction I want with my art, with my thinking.

I want to cherish the power of imagination and welcome you to do so too!

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