Don’t Just Create Circles! Moving on with Freehand Drawing

Freehand drawing by Peony and Parakeet. Made for the class Inspirational Drawing 2.0

I have created this journal spread for the class Inspirational Drawing 2.0 where I teach freehand drawing that goes beyond just drawing circles. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have anything against circles. I think that I, if anyone, have had a real love affair with circles. In fact, it was all I drew for a long time.

Circle Love

Mixed media circles, by Peony and Parakeet. Read the blog post to move on creating more than just circles!

In 2010-2012, I spent most of my free time drawing circles.

Mixed media circles, by Peony and Parakeet. Read the blog post to move on creating more than just circles!

I even went to a few craft fairs to sell – hand-drawn circles!

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet in 2012

I firmly believed that if I create enough circles, I will find something new behind them. And yes, I slowly started to realize that there’s more than just making repeated circles that are more like backgrounds and patterns than expressive images. Now years later, I wish someone would have shown me how to move on – how to combine those repeating graphic shapes with lines that express more.

A detail of a freehand drawing. By Peony and Parakeet.

Do You Make Abstracts but Still Feel the Stiffness?

Circles and other geometric shapes are fun to create. But no matter how good I became in that, I never felt the same satisfaction that I felt when I was able to go beyond that. So when I meet people who say that they “make abstracts” and “want to get away from stiffness,” I totally get it. “I don’t really know what my abstracts represent,” says many who come to my classes. Drawing circles and playing with layers feels free first, but the more you want to express yourself, you need to explore more.

“More” doesn’t mean that you have to throw away what you have already learned. If you look at my two pieces, you can still see similarities. The first one made in 2011 called “Romance,” and the second in 2015 is called “Withering Peonies.” I called the first one “Romance” because I thought it’s all so romantic. But in the second one, I was able to express my love for peonies with much more expression without just drawing stiff flower-like shapes.

From creating circles to expressive freehand drawing. By Peony and Parakeet.

The satisfaction that came from being able to deliver a message, instead of just an atmosphere, was ground-breaking to me. My art became more powerful, impactful, it spoke not only to me but others as well.

That’s why I now teach
– how to open up and liberate the line
– how to communicate visually: create illustrations instead of backgrounds
– how to express inspiration and explore imagination in its full potential.

And that’s why my class Inspirational Drawing 2.0 exists. (Sign up here!)

A mixed media art journal page by Peony and Parakeet.

Freehand Drawing Video – Create with me!

I have made a video where we start with geometric shapes and then move on to liberate the line. To create with me, you will only need a black thin-tipped drawing pen and colored pencils (or any coloring supplies).

Art supplies for freehand drawing. By Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s the little drawing that we will create together.

An art journal page exploring freehand drawing. Watch the video to create this! By Peony and Parakeet.

And here’s the video!

Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet and her mixed media art journal page spread.

Dive deeper into communicating visually
and become passionate about expressing yourself!
>> Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

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 without fear! – Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

Intuitive Still Life – Video with Gelli Plates and Golden Open Acrylics

Intuitive still life painting using both Gelli plate and brushes. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s my latest painting, an intuitive still life with tulips. Last week, I had a short visit to an art supply store in Helsinki. I was surprised that they had a collection of Gelli plates for sale. When I got my first one several years ago, it wasn’t as accessible. I had to contact a shop in Italy which was the only retailer in Europe at that time. It’s great that Gelli plates have become more widely known. I have noticed that on my blog too. Month after month, the post “Self-Expression with Gelli Plate” is at top ten!

So I couldn’t help myself at the art supply store and bought another Gelli plate. My old one is 8 by 10 inches. The new one is a smaller, only 3 by 5 inches. It’s easier to handle and clean but mono printing with the big one is quicker.

Could Gelli Plates Be The Cure for Blank Paper Syndrome?

I wanted to have an experiment using both of the plates. Without any pre-planned idea about what my painting should represent, I would get over the blank paper syndrome using random monoprints. Then I would move on using brushes and working more intentionally. As always with mono printing, I used Golden Open Acrylics as paints because they don’t dry as quickly as regular ones.

Here’s my painting after I had some fun with Gelli plates.

Intuitive still life painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

And here’s the finished piece.

Intuitive still life painting using both Gelli plate and brushes. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Intuitive Equals Subconscious!

After I had finished painting, I realized that it’s a combination of recent events: I got a lot of tulips for my birthday, made a strawberry birthday cake and enjoyed the winter sun with Stella.

Photo collage from February: tulips, birthday cake, winter sun.

Intuitive Still Life – Watch the Video!

Here’s a video about creating the intuitive still life. There you can see how adventurous my process was.

Enjoy creating more intuitively: Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

Traveler’s Notebook as Art Journal

Midori Traveler's Notebook spread by Peony and Parakeet. See her ideas in a video too!

I ordered a Midori Traveler’s Notebook last year, in August. I couldn’t help myself because based on Instagram, it seemed to me that everybody had one! I was curious to know what’s so special about it. Midori Traveler’s Notebook is practically a piece of leather with a binding system for small notebooks, often referred as “inserts.” I also ordered a few blank inserts. When I received the set at the beginning of September, I wasn’t so impressed. I didn’t like the smell of the leather, and the paper in the small notebooks was so thin that writing showed through. But I knew many of those who make planner pages had changed to a Traveller’s Notebook, so had many scrapbookers and art journalers. I had to try it!

Traveler’s Notebook as a Visual Diary

I decided to start a notebook where I combine journaling and drawing. It would be a kind of visual diary where I would add random thoughts and illustrate them. I began with daily events, but once I got the hang of it, I wrote more openly about anything that came to my mind. Like in the spread below, I write about how Finnish Post is in trouble when people don’t send letters anymore and when the postbox is on the phone rather than anywhere else. I also speculate what would happen if people suddenly started writing letters again.

Midori Traveler's Notebook spread by Peony and Parakeet. See her ideas in a video too!

In the next spread, I show the current year and the next year walking side by side on the left page. The right page is inspired by a Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and her inspiring exhibition in Helsinki Art Museum.

Midori Traveler's Notebook spread by Peony and Parakeet. See her ideas in a video too!

Supplies for Traveler’s Notebook

I mostly use a thin-tipped black drawing pen and colored pencils. I sometimes add a little bit watercolor or water with watercolor pencils. Random collage pieces are also used, but I mainly use thin paper so that the bulkiness doesn’t affect my drawing in the next pages.

Midori Traveler's Notebook spread by Peony and Parakeet. See her ideas in a video too!

Alternating between Words and Images – Watch the Video!

I don’t sketch but just start by drawing a small motif or writing a couple of words. While creating a page, I like to maintain a dialog between drawing and writing. A written thought leads to a visual element and vice versa. To show this technique I have created a short video where you can see me writing and drawing, and at the same time, I show some ideas about what you can put in your notebooks.

Because the video is quite small in size, here’s a close-up of the page that I am creating in the video.

Midori Traveler's Notebook spread by Peony and Parakeet. See her ideas in a video too!

And here’s the video which shows a few more pages too.

Get more ideas and enjoyment by drawing!
>> Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0

Why Sign Up for One More Art Class?

Short answer: Because of the enjoyment of drawing from inspiration and imagination!
Longer answer: 

In-Depth Introduction to Inspirational Drawing 2.0

I am extremely excited about my upcoming drawing class Inspirational Drawing 2.0! I want to share my excitement with you by talking about:

  • loosening up by drawing
  • expressing inspiration
  • freehand perspective drawing
  • creating liberated portraits
  • building dynamic compositions.

Whether you sign up or not, you might still want to watch this video! (Sign up here!)

Moleskine Sketchbook – Another Full Art Journal!

Rococo inspired page on a Moleskine Sketchbook, by Peony and Parakeet.

I just finished my red Moleskine Sketchbook. It always feels like an accomplishment when an art journal gets full.  So I’m happy to show a couple of photos and a flip-through video of all the pages!

Moleskine Sketchbook as an Art Journal

Moleskine Sketchbooks are one of my favorite books for art journaling. The paper is sturdy, and it can be used with a variety of supplies. I use mostly watercolors, acrylic paints, colored pencils and PITT artist pens. But I also use inks, gel pens, hand-decorated papers for collages, etc. The small size is handy for quick pages and easy to put in a bag. However, sometimes the size is a little bit too small, especially for acrylic paintings. So I also use other journals, especially large Dylusions Creative Journals. The paper is very smooth, so it’s not ideal for watercolors. But I don’t mind that too much, I use a little less water to make watercolors work with the paper. Some prefer coarser paper for colored pencils but I love how effortless it is to color the pages in Moleskine Sketchbook.

1960s inspired page on a Moleskine Sketchbook, by Peony and Parakeet.

The Purpose of an Art Journal

For me, art journals are little more than just sketchbooks. I like to call them “idea books” as I often process my ideas further when I am working on the page. I don’t always make one page on the same go, but work with it several times, adding more ideas as the page progresses. However, I have quite low expectations on how my pages will look. They are not pieces of art but more like collections of ideas to me.

As you can see from the flip-through video, my ideas are often connected to art history and different styles. The first photo of this blog post shows a spread inspired by Rococo. The second photo shows a spread that I made after browsing designs from the 1960s. Even if I sometimes write short stories or make notes about my current thoughts, I mostly write about beautiful things that I have seen and visualize the ideas I have gotten from it.

My art journals are not chronological diaries but random visual notes that I process to full images. I can make a quick sketch of a rose one day and then continue the page with painting on the other day. When I am working with a new art class, I use art journals to record my visual ideas and practice the techniques. I also see creating art journal pages a route to bigger paintings. When I paint on canvas, I use the ideas that I have come up with when making the pages. Every artist should also be an art journaler!

Flip-Through Video

Create Step by Step!

I have gathered all the most popular free step-by-step instructions and all my flip-through videos on a separate page. Go to Create Step by Step!

Video: How to Move from Figurative to Abstract Art?

A small watercolor abstract and it's details, by Peony and Parakeet. See the video about creating abstract art!

I made a video blog post again. This time I answered to a reader’s question about how to open up to create unique and abstract art. This video is especially for you who wants to move from figurative to abstract art.

In the end of the video, I paint an abstract-themed postcard with watercolors. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy it!

How to Move from Figurative to Abstract Art?

Celebrating Artist Friendships

Together, a watercolor and gouache painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See the video of making this using liquid watercolors, aqua markers and gouache paint tubes.

There’s a theme that has been waiting in my blogging queue for a long time. It’s the meaning of friendships in the art world. I was about to write the blog post but then I thought it wouldn’t be as genuine as a video.

In this video blog post, I create a painting using art supplies generously donated by my student. The supplies are Spectrum Aqua Markers, Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus liquid watercolors and Turner acryl gouaches.

Here are the links to the websites mentioned in the video: a ceramic artist Johanna Rytkola, a visual artist Emmi Mustonen, the stick figure drawing class as a part of Imagine Monthly Fall 2016, a local workshop in Finland “Innostu taiteestasi”

Hopefully, you’ll enjoy the video!

Tribute to Georgia O’Keeffe

Oak Leaf by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Tribute to Georgia O'Keeffe. Watch the video of painting this!

When walking the dogs, I wondered what could I take with me for the next painting. I saw a fallen oak leaf and felt a bit melancholic; it’s time to say goodbye to summer. Then I did exactly what Georgia O’Keeffe, an American artist (1887-1986), would have done: I picked up the leaf and once got home I painted it! Here’s how I got to know more about her and her painting style.

Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe

When so many of the participants of Imagine Monthly, my monthly art journaling class, named Georgia O’Keeffe as a favorite artist, my project during the summer was to get to know her better. I only knew that she had painted large flower paintings and some abstracts. But I didn’t know anything specific about her background and about her way of working. So I purchased a book about her life. It’s written by Laurie Lisle, and it’s called “Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe.” I bought an audio version so I could listen to it while I paint. I don’t recommend the book to anyone who wants to read an entertaining novel. I think it’s more like a historical study. But for anyone, who wants to learn the facts, it’s excellent.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Mindset

There are two things that I have thought a lot after reading the book. First is Georgia O’Keeffe’s personality. Apparently, she was not a very social person and quite straightforward in her sayings. Second is how her photographer husband supported her both by being her manager and her muse. I don’t think Georgia would have discovered her painting style without the discussions with her husband related to photography. These two facts make me believe that her mindset was very analytical. Even if she was a visual artist, she also was a scientist in her closed personal world. She examined plants like they were scientific specimens. It was like she could measure beauty and then create a new version of it. The more I listened to her life story, the more fascinated I became about her.

Those who live in the UK or are visiting the UK: There’s a big exhibition of Georgia O’Keeffe at Tate Modern until October 30!

Botanical Discovery – Create Unique Collage Art!

As a part of Imagine Monthly Fall 2016, I have published a class where you can create botanical art inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe. It has directions on how to cut organic shapes from watercolored papers and build a painted collage out of them. Sign up for Imagine Monthly and get this class immediately after registration!

Botanical Discovery, a collage art class by Peony and Parakeet. Inspired by Georgia O'Keeffe.

Painting an Oak Leaf – Watch the video!

The oak leaf shown at the beginning of the page is an acrylic painting on an art journal. I made it as a tribute to Georgia O’Keeffe and recorded a short video of the process. In the video you see me painting with a broad brush and flowing strokes. This is one of the techniques that I’ll show more in depth in my upcoming workshop Nature in Your Mind. I hope to see you there too!

Create collage art inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe: >> Sign up for Imagine Monthly
Paint nature themes with your left and right brain: >> Sign up for Nature in Your Mind