Peony and Parakeet

What Artists Keep Doing – Series of Inspiring Quotes #3

This post ends the series of inspiring quotes that I have heard or read recently. In the last week, I wrote about the feeling of not being ready yet, and the week before about being honest about what you want to create. But now to this week’s inspiring quote!

"No! Don't Ever Quit Anything" Mixed media illustration by Paivi Eerola of Peonu and Parakeet.

This Week’s Quote

Don’t ever quit anything.

Who: Finnish journalist Kimmo Oksanen
Where: A column in the local newspaper Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish)

At the age of 16, Kimmo bought a typewriter and a guitar with the money earned from a summer job. He thought he could be a famous singer-songwriter. But he quitted singing and writing songs when he went to university and found out that lyrics are not “real poetry.” He also used to draw, paint and do sports when he was a teenager but ended up quitting all that too. He used to aim for perfection and didn’t realize that mistakes make the master. Now he regrets that he hadn’t just kept doing, and his advice is: “Start a lot and never quit anything.”

Not Quitting Crafting and Writing Made Me an Artist

When I was a teenager, like Kimmo, I also loved to write. I wrote poems and short stories and attended some competitions too. I was also a crafter, always knitting and crocheting. My deepest desire was to become a visual artist, and I painted and drew almost every day.

What artists keep doing. Drawing by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Then I saw a computer for the first time and fell in love. It was the early 1980s, and the computer age was just getting started, but I knew that technology was my thing. I changed my plans to become an English teacher to a software engineer. But despite my interest in computers, I kept on writing, drawing, and crafting. There was a period when I spent less time with creative activities, but in one way or another, I have been a writer and crafter all my life.

Making an illustration. Painting with watercolors. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

When art began to call me again, I also wanted to start a blog. I was still quite a beginner in art, and my vision was bigger than what I could put on paper, but the encouragement I got from the readers kept me going. But now when I think about it, my old hobbies also had some role in that. I had learned resilience from crafting, self-expression from writing, and the old dream of becoming an English teacher oddly changed to the courage to blog in a foreign language. Without being a writer and a crafter, I wouldn’t be a blogger, and without being a blogger, I wouldn’t have become a working artist.

Painting on an ink drawing. Illustraion in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I Regret Quitting These!

However, there are a couple of things that I loved as a child but quitted doing. I used to write short plays and gathered an acting group from a few of my schoolmates. I also played the violin for a few years. During the past four years as an artist, I have regretted quitting both. When running classes, it’s good to be able to present things in a memorable and fun way. When selecting the music to the class videos, I try to find songs that fit with the topic of the project and keep the attention on the subject. The little that I learned in my childhood years has been useful, and I wish I had continued both acting and playing through all the past years.

A detail of an illustration. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Stephen King and Does Talent Dictate What We Should Keep Doing?

In art, the question of talent usually comes up in the discussion sooner or later. I just finished reading Stephen King’s book “On Writing” where he tells how it’s just a waste of time trying to learn something that you don’t have any passion. His son played an instrument, but because he showed no talent to him, Stephen advised him to quit. He had wanted to see some free playing, some evident joy, and some promise of the career as a musician. Because there were none, he thought the son could use his 30-minute practice better than playing.

I find the story and in general, the discussion of talent depressing. It determines both the person and the profession from a very narrow perspective and generates powerlessness. That’s why I have tried to avoid to think whether I am talented enough or not. However, the question of talents always lurks somewhere behind the surface. I got to realize that when suddenly, a few weeks ago, I was told that my grandfather had graduated from a design school. He had been a farmer and died a long time ago. I never met him, but some of his letters have been saved. Based on them, he was an unhappy man who yearned for bigger challenges than what country life could offer. Clearly, he wasn’t meant to be a farmer, but someone who develops new things.

A detail of an illustration. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

When I heard what my grandfather had studied, a thin string around my heart broke, and the tension relieved. I was no longer the one who had just got an accidental obsession for art and design, but a link in the chain of generations. It became more meaningful than ever to continue the work that my grandfather wasn’t able to do. It also made me partly re-write my story – I had some talent after all! I have also felt embarrassed about how much that meant to me. In the end, the fact that we keep on practicing has much more effect on our skills than any inheritance.

Art is About Not Needing to Quit Anything

When making the illustration for the blog post, I brought things from the past that I carry with me. Many of them are funny and harmless, like my first dream profession of becoming the queen of England. My parents helped me to plant a bench of Queen Elizabeth roses under the window of my room. When drawing, I don’t have to quit that dream. I don’t have to quit anything.

A detail of an illustration. What artists should keep doing. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

In art, we enter a world where we get to play freely with the things that have made an impact on us. If we hadn’t experienced or practiced anything, our imagination wouldn’t have the tools and the topics we have now. Let’s keep practicing, let’s keep not quitting, and let’s be assured that whether we feel talented or not, we don’t have to give up anything when we keep drawing.

Magical horses. Hand-drawn paper collage by Finnish artist Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Take the Next Step – Do This!

Open a new page in your art journal or sketchbook. Draw and/or glue a collage of things you have grown to love and never stopped doing!

Come to draw fantastic art – Sign up for Magical Inkdom!

Revamp Art Journal Pages So That They Spark Joy!

An art journal page spread by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Mixed media art.

Here’s an art journal spread that I just finished. First, it was just a couple of old black and white drawings that – like Marie Kondo would put it – didn’t spark joy. But I used the old floral drawings as an inspirational foundation for the revamped spread. How and why revamp art? Keep reading!

Why Revamp Art?

The more confident I have become in creating art, the more I have begun to see the potential in my old art. Busy sketches, not so beautiful messes, and clumsy paintings and drawings all show the level of inspiration that still satisfies me. It’s the level of execution that I want to change. I want to tidy up some messes and add more expression and depth. I am certain that Marie Kondo would approve the idea of working with the old art journal pages. Isn’t it quite minimalistic compared to buying new journals all the time?

Revamp 1 – Change the Topic of the Page

Maintain the composition but change the topic of the page!

Here’s the spread before I started re-working it. It has a couple of carelessly drawn floral clusters.

An art journal page ready for revamping. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I changed most of the flowers of the left page to animals, added more details and shadows, and made the lines and shapes neater.

A detail of ink drawing by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Then I used Derwent Artbars to color the line drawing.

Art journaling by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Revamp 2 – Tear the Page and Make Collage Art

I made some more drastic changes to the other page. I ripped parts of the black and white drawing that had been glued there. Then I went to my boxes of joy – the boxes that hold my hand-drawn collage pieces – and picked this motif.

The background was painted with white acrylic paint. I worked in layers, glued some of the ripped pieces and doodled carelessly, then added more paint.

An art journal page in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Revamp 3 – Paint Over a Part of the Page

I wanted to include a hand showing how I currently play with my art. I took a quick photo and used it as a reference.

An art journal page in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

See how similar a page from my first art journal from 2010 is!

Old and new art journals by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Have you documented your creative play? How you do it and how it makes you feel?

Art journaling and drawing collage pieces by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Revamp 4 – Cover a Page with a Piece from the Archive

Before I finished the spread above, I re-vamped another spread. This one only had some doodles on the right page, and then a drawing inspired by Mark Rothko glued on the left one.

An art journal page spread by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I found an old hand-drawn collage and glued it on the right page. In 2010, the collage was disappointing to me. I wanted to find my style and as a fashion illustration, the image looked clumsy.

However, it seems now that I wasn’t able to translate the message of the image correctly. Now, the piece makes me smile – there I am, sitting and handing the things that have always been inspirational to me: jewels and bags! I just wasn’t able to draw them like I did last October so I didn’t realize that they are the key elements for my visual voice.

My collage was saying: “You should draw more bags and jewels, Paivi!” What does your old art speak to you now?

Revamp 5 – Add a Decorative Frame

During the years, I have made quite many of Mark Rothko inspired drawings, see this blog post! I love detailed drawings, and no matter how skillfully I would try to replicate Mark Rothko and other minimalists, I was never satisfied with the result.

Drawing a decorative frame on an art journal. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I wanted to hug the idea though and make a decorative frame around the old abstract.

This way I am saying that the level of inspiration is there – Mark Rothko really makes me want to create whenever I look at his paintings. But the level of execution that I enjoy and am best at is something totally different.

This spread really sparks joy to me now, and I also couldn’t resist playing a bit with the collage pieces.

Playing with hand-drawn art by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Isn’t it amazing how similar the style can be after so so many years, and after spending so long time trying to figure it out!

Playing with hand-drawn fantasy art by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s to Mark Rothko!

Playing with hand-drawn fantasy art by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. A decorative cat.

I am loving playing with the old art journal spreads, building the bridges between the years. If you separate inspiration from execution, does it make you look at your art in different eyes?

Playing with hand-drawn fantasy art by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. A decorative cat.

The Idea For This Blog Post Came from These

a) One of my notebooks mixes writing and drawing so that randomly scribble, doodle, and write there. It’s a private journal, and I didn’t want to publish its pages but the more full it has got, the more I have realized that when the sketches and writings are not organized chronologically, and I can revamp the pages repeatedly, they naturally produce new ideas.

b) Mackie d’Arge, a wonderful fellow artist from the USA, has shown her beautiful art in my art community Bloom and Fly. She has made many pieces by rebuilding and revamping her old artworks. It has given me the idea of looking at the potential of my old art and what could be made from there.

c) My classes Animal Inkdom and the upcoming Magical Inkdom are all about playing by drawing. I have wanted these classes to be fun, so they have made me include humor, fantasy, and play in my artistic process as well. They have made sure that my boxes of hand-drawn collage pieces stay filled even if I would “shop” there all the time! In Magical Inkdom, we will also draw decorative frames. >> Sign up Now!

Abstract Portrait – Paint with Me!

An abstract portrait by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watch the video with Paivi's tips and instructions!

Here’s a quick abstract portrait from my sketchbook, painted with acrylic paints in 45 minutes. I didn’t use any reference photos for this one but just played with the shapes.

Create an Abstract Portrait – Watch the Video!

Get tips, ideas, and inspiration for your abstract portrait. Watch the video!

Innovative Portraits – Sign Up Now!

Innovative Portraits is about discovering new paths to painting and drawing portraits. Increase artistic looseness, find ways to get the proportions with ease, add more style by using shapes and colors, and invent ideas so that you never wonder what to put in the background. >> Sign up NOW!

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

Innovative Portraits includes a membership from October to December in my art community Bloom and Fly. You will also get monthly live sessions and weekly feedback Tuesdays. You will receive all the material that has already been published once you sign up, including the replay of October’s live session. >> Sign up NOW!

Expressing Mystery – Self-Portrait as a Fox

"Self-Portrait as a Fox" - an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

In my latest webinar, I showed some unconventional ways to make portraits. This week, I show how to build the sense of mystery for a portrait. Here’s my sample project, an acrylic painting that I made on a sketchbook. It’s called “Self-Portrait as a Fox.”

In Finnish, we have a saying “ketunhäntä kainalossa” – “to have a foxtail under the arm.” It means that someone tries to hide the true thoughts or goals, and you are noticing it. So it’s like a mystery that’s partly revealed without intention to do so.  When building a mystery for the portraits, you somehow have to show that foxtail – to reveal a part of the mystery. Otherwise, the viewer doesn’t realize there’s any mystery at all. Think about leaving the fox out of the portrait above and just trying to express it all with the eyes. It wouldn’t have the same effect.

Expressing Mystery 1 – Start with a Mysterious Space

The lighting has a lot to do with mystery. Think about mysterious scenes in the movies – the light plays an important role there. Instead of trying to add spots of light after adding the face, start by painting the space where all happens.

Step 1 for expressing mystery. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Expressing Mystery 2 – Discover Facial Features

Once you have painted the background full of fun details, try to see a person there. You don’t have to see the whole face, but a cheek, an eye or a nose is enough. Add more facial features so that you can better see the face. Don’t outline everything. It’s a mystery, remember! The face should look like it rises from the background.

Step 2 for expressing mystery. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I rarely get the facial features to look mysterious enough at this point. I suggest that you don’t even bother to try. Just make it clearer where the person is. For this project, I didn’t use any reference images for the face. If you do, use the reference to get some ideas, but don’t make the face too defined.

Expressing Mystery 3 – Connect the Face and the Background Together

Now add more elements to the background. Add geometric shapes to outline hair and to dig out other interesting stuff. You don’t have to know the mystery yet. Keep the process mysterious enough!

Step 3 for expressing mystery. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

To me, it usually happens that if I don’t know the mystery, I don’t have the idea of the facial expression either. I covered the mouth so that I don’t focus too much on that. Working with acrylics is easy because you can always add new layers.

Expressing Mystery 3 – Add Symbolic Elements

Boost the mystery by adding symbolic elements that create tension for the person. I chose a fox and a rose.

A fox and a rose. Photography by Paivi Eerola from Peony and parakeet.

To maintain the mysterious atmosphere, I painted the fox and rose petals so that they partly disappear into the background.

Step 3 for expressing mystery. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

If you use reference photos pick just some details that you replicate more carefully. Put the reference photos away after a while so that they don’t dictate you and reduce the mysterious feel.

Expressing Mystery 4 – Finish the Facial Features

Build connections between the elements and the face by adjusting the facial features. Think about something happening at the scene and the reaction that it embarks. Here, the woman and the fox react differently. The woman looks surprised, but the fox doesn’t. If I had continued with this setting, I would have also added the element that causes the reaction toHowever the picture.

Step 4 for expressing mystery. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

However, I was not satisfied with the idea of the woman and the fox reacting differently. So I repainted the nose and the mouth and made the face shorter so that the woman looks as conniving as the fox. Now the focus is on what they think and initiate.

Detail of an acrylic painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Expressing Mystery 5 – Repeat Some Shapes and Colors

To make the painting more unified and to highlight the mysterious feel, add similarities between the biggest elements. I made some of the triangles resemble the fox’s ears, and continued the fox so that there’s the tail too. The tail is very similar to the woman’s hair. This kind of vagueness – when the viewer doesn’t fully see what belongs to where – also adds to the mystery.

"Self-Portrait as a Fox" by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. An acrylic painting on a sketchbook. See her tips for expressing mystery in portraits!

I hope you enjoyed these tips, and hopefully, I will see you at Innovative Portraits as well!

Innovative Portraits – Refresh the Way You Make Portraits!

In the new upcoming class Innovative Portraits, we will discover new paths to painting and drawing portraits. This class is about increasing artistic looseness, adding more style by using shapes and colors, and inventing ideas so that you never wonder what to put in the background. >> Sign up NOW!

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

Innovative Portraits includes a 3-month membership in my art community Bloom and Fly so you will also get monthly live sessions and weekly feedback Tuesdays. >> Sign up NOW!

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