Peony and Parakeet

Abracadabra – Magical Watercolor Effects

Magical watercolor effects. A watercolor painting called Abracadabra by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

My latest painting called “Abracadabra” is a big one, 56 x 38 cm or 28 x 15 inches. It was a lot of fun to create so I want to dedicate this post to the magical effects that water creates when painting with watercolors.

Magical Mess

Right from the beginning, this painting had a mind of its own. And as you can see from the photo, I also used a lot of water to make the process even more uncontrollable. The more I paint this way, the more boring all the other mediums feel. Watercolors are magical companions, introvert when in pans but extrovert on paper!

Tip: Start with a plenty of water!

Magical watercolor effects. A watercolor painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

In this project, I was testing Arches Cold Press watercolor paper, new to me. It has a weird smell when it’s wet but other than that I quite like it!

Fun Appearances

When I add some sharpness and control, I try to do that gently so that I don’t put too much burden on flowers that have born naturally. The idea is to bring out the best details.

Tip: Add dark shapes to bring out the magical watercolor effects!

Fascinating Translucency

Magical watercolor effects. A detail of a watercolor painting called Abracadabra by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

When painting with a lot of water, watercolor becomes magically transparent. I love how the colors get mixed when they are layered.

Tip: Let each layer dry properly!

Watercolors Can Draw!

Magical watercolor effects. A detail of a watercolor painting called Abracadabra by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I also like to think that watercolors can draw. When applying water, watercolor blooms with sharp frilly edges. These lines can be more than just lovely outlines. In the detail below, I used one to make a stem!

Magical watercolor effects. A detail of a watercolor painting called Abracadabra by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Tip: Use your imagination to make the most of what you have on paper!

Flow and Melody in the Safe Haven

I have had mixed emotions this spring. I have lost some old birds and my oldest dog has been sick. It’s been something that I have found difficult to share, it’s still so recent. But in the middle of all the worries, my studio has become a safe haven where I have been painting in the late evenings. The colors of the 16th-18th centuries and the pop songs of the 1980s have inspired me. Do you still remember Abracadabra by Steve Miller Band? A very superficial hit song but it has such a flow in the melody that it goes well with magical watercolor!

Paivi Eerola in her studio showing her watercolor painting Abracadabra.

Come to draw and paint flowers with me – Sign up for Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles!

3 Weird but Working Tricks for Portraits

Here’s the replay of yesterday’s free webinar “3 Weird but Working Tricks for Portraits”. There was a slight delay with some pictures, but I have edited the recording so that it won’t show there. I hope you will enjoy these ideas and mindsets!

Drawing Faces – Refresh the Way You Make Portraits!

In my new upcoming class Innovative Portraits, we will discover new paths to painting and drawing portraits. We will gather ideas, make sketches to process them and find solutions to the problems that have caused frustrations. This class also includes a 3-month membership in my art community Bloom and Fly so you will also get monthly live sessions and weekly feedback Tuesdays.

Innovative Portraits, drawing faces and portraits in mixed media. An online art class by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Innovative Portraits – Reserve Your Spot Now!

The early-bird price is available when you sign up before Sept 16, midnight PDT.
>> Sign up NOW!

Intuitive Painting with a Reference Image

Intuitive painting with a reference image – can it be possible? Let me show you how!

Madama Butterfly, an intuitive painting from the sketchbook of Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Here’s a painting from my sketchbook. It’s called “Madama Butterfly.” My reference image was this Renaissance painting called “Flora” by Tiziano Vecellio, 1515-1520. I took the photo last summer when visiting Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.

Flora by Tiziano Vecellio. Uffizi gallery. Photo by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

There are very little similarities in these two pieces. The pose is fairly similar, the composition and the facial features have some similarities, but that’s it. The style, the theme, and the technique are all different.

Tiziano Vecellio's painting Flora, and a painting from Paivi Eerola's sketchbook. See how she used the reference for the painting!

The Supplies And the Setting

I like to do fairly quick paintings on my big A3-sized sketchbook. For this sketchbook, I often use Derwent Artbars, a water brush, and Faber-Castell Gelatos because they are easy to layer and I am more relaxed than when working with tube paints. I use acrylic or oil paints for canvas paintings, and working with them is more serious. This time I wanted to demonstrate a concept or a method rather than creating a 30-hour painting.

Derwent Artbars, Faber-Castell Gelatos, and a waterbrush ready for making a sketchbook page.

1) From Intentional to Intuitive Painting

The first idea was to pick the pose and the composition loosely from the reference image and then add geometric shapes to fill the space.

First steps of an intuitive painting that also uses a reference image. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

After sketching the foundation of the figure, the triangles, rectangles, and circles were fun to paint without looking at the reference at all. I painted the face roughly, and then I used the reference image as a guide. But because at this early stage, I didn’t know what I want to express and what kind of person the figure could be, I didn’t bother to spend time perfecting the facial features. At this point, my painting resembles cubistic pieces from the early 20th century.

2) Changing the Style

When creating art for the sketchbook, I like my style to be a bit more illustrational than when I make bigger paintings. Even if I love cubism, I wanted my piece to be a bit more current.

Making an intuitive painting by using a reference image to some parts. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Nowadays, illustrations often use geometric shapes but rather than triangles or rectangles, the shapes are often round, and scallop edges seem to be a bit hit. So I started changing the painting by altering the shapes. This routine work gave me plenty of time to connect with my inner world and work intuitively from one association to another. I tend to be both nostalgic and romantic, so I thought how portrait painters often spend time with the clothing even if they are just a shell. Why not use it as a canvas for the memories, the ideas, and the achievements of the person?

Changing an artistic style by changing angular shapes to round shapes. Example by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

3) From Intuitive to Intentional

After rounding hundreds of triangles and rectangles, I realized that I was painting Madama Butterfly, the opera that I just saw last Saturday! I finished the face after this realization and adjusted other elements so that they fit with the theme.

Madama Butterfly, an intuitive painting from the sketchbook of Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

More Intuitive Inspiration from Opera

This is not the first time I have been intuitively inspired by opera!

>> Tosca

"Tosca" by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet
Tosca, 2015

>> The Phantom of the Opera

"The Phantom of the Opera" by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet
The Phantom of the Opera, 2016

>> La Traviata

"I Am Listening", a hand-drawn art journal page by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet
I Am Listening, 2015

>> The Marriage of Figaro

Opera, a mixed media collage by Peony and Parakeet.
Opera, 2014

And there’s also a video about
>> Kaija Saariaho’s Emilie

More About Simple Shapes

>> What to create from simple shapes – 6 ideas

Self-study classes:
>> Planet Color – release your mind by focusing on color!
>> Modern Mid-Century – put a modern twist to simple shapes!

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From Intuitive to Intentional Painting

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

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

Day 1 – Watercolors

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

Watercolor set

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

Beginning a painting with watercolors, by Peony and Parakeet

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

Creating a mixed media painting, by Peony and Parakeet

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

Day 2 – Acrylic Paints

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

Acrylic paint tubes

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

Creating a mixed media painting, by Peony and Parakeet

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

Creating a mixed media painting, by Peony and Parakeet

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

Day 3 – Colored Pencils

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

Colored Pencils

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

Creating an intuitive painting, by Peony and Parakeet

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

Day 4 – Acrylic Paints + Colored Pencils

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

Creating a mixed media painting, by Peony and Parakeet

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

Here’s the result again:

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

Intuitive Painting – Guess What!

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

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

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

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