Paint Gentleness – Watch the video!

Gentle Flower, acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watch the video of how she made this!

It’s the time for a video blog post! This week, I talk about gentleness and how you can experience that through a painting technique. I show some basic elements from the old masters painting techniques. In the past, artists painted with oil paints. For acrylic paints, the secret is to use glazing medium for thinning the paint. Have fun!

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13 Prompts for Expressive Art – Illustrated by the Students of Peony and Parakeet

13 prompts for expressive art by Peony and Parakeet
When you wonder what to create next, here’s a list of prompts for expressive art! Use these for art journal pages, drawings, paintings, mixed media, even for creative writing. The inspirational quotes from famous artists complement each of the short prompts. The students of Peony and Parakeet created the beautiful pieces that illustrate the prompts. They are based on the mini-courses “Botanical Discovery” and “Romantic Geometry.” These mini-courses are included in Imagine Monthly Art Journaling Class Bundle 2.

1) Living Colors

Claude Monet: “I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.”

A hand-painted collage by Joan Lilley, UK. Based on the mini-course "Botanical Discovery" by Peony and Parakeet.

Joan Lilley, UK

2) Dreamy Sharpness

Rene Magritte: “If the dream is a translation of waking life, waking life is also a translation of the dream.”

A mixed media painting by Joan Lilley, UK. Based on the mini-course "Romantic Geometry" by Peony and Parakeet.

Joan Lilley, UK

3) Speaking with Shapes

Vincent van Gogh: “The emotions are sometimes so strong that I work without knowing it. The strokes come like speech.”

An art journal page spread by Eloise Luyk, USA. Based of the mini-course "Botanical Discovery" by Peony and Parakeet.

Eloise Luyk, USA

4)  Composition of Absurdness

M.C. Escher: “Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible. I think it’s in my basement… let me go upstairs and check.”

An art journal page spread by Eloise Luyk, USA. Based on the mini-course "Romantic Geometry" by Peony and Parakeet.

Eloise Luyk, USA

5) No Stereotypes!

Henri Matisse: “There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.”

An art journal page spread by Darci Hayden, USA. Based on the mini-course "Botanical Discovery" by Peony and Parakeet.

Darci Hayden, USA

6) Bring in The Sun!

Pablo Picasso: “Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun.”

An art journal page spread by Darci Hayden, USA. Based on the class Romantic Geometry by Peony and Parakeet.

Darci Hayden, USA

7) Taking Flight

Michelangelo: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

Hand-painted collage by Debs England, UK. Based on the mini-course "Botanical Discovery" by Peony and Parakeet.

Debs England, UK

8) Blue Escape

Wassily Kandinsky: “The deeper the blue becomes, the more strongly it calls man towards the infinite, awakening in him a desire for the pure and, finally, for the supernatural… The brighter it becomes, the more it loses its sound, until it turns into silent stillness and becomes white.”

An art journal page spread by Terry Whyte, Canada. Based on the mini-course "Romantic Geometry" by Peony and Parakeet.

Terry Whyte, Canada

9) Nature’s Mystery

Francis Bacon: “The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.”

A painted collage by Rochelle Zawisza, USA. Based on the mini-course "Botanical Discovery" by Peony and Parakeet.

Rochelle Zawisza, USA

10) Colors of the Night

Vincent van Gogh: “I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.”

An art journal page spread by Sue O'Mullan, USA. Based on the mini-course "Romantic Geometry" by Peony and Parakeet.

Sue O’Mullan, USA

11) Strong but Gentle

Paul Klee: “One eye sees, the other feels.”

An art journal page spread by Christie Juhasz, USA. Based on the mini-course "Botanical Discovery" by Peony and Parakeet.

Christie Juhasz, USA

12) Explosion

M.C. Escher: “We adore chaos because we love to produce order.”

A mixed media drawing by Diana Jackson, USA. Base on the mini-course "Romantic Geometry" by Peony and Parakeet.

Diana Jackson, USA

13) Panorama of Your Inner World

Wassily Kandinsky: “To create a work of art is to create the world.”

An art journal pages spread by Stephanie Carney, USA. Based on the mini-course "Romantic Geometry" by Peony and Parakeet.

Stephanie Carney, USA

Buy Botanical Discovery!

Georgia O’Keeffe: “I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.”

Botanical Discovery is a mini-course inspired by the famous American artist Georgia O’Keeffe and botanical art. Create beautiful collages from hand painted papers – Buy here!

Buy Romantic Geometry!

Wassily Kandinsky: “Everything starts from a dot.”

Romantic Geometry is a mini-course inspired by the famous abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky, Renaissance masters and computer games. It’s a journey through centuries and especially suitable for you who want to make your art more dynamic! – Buy here!

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Lessons from Palazzo Pitti – Don’t Apologize for Your Art!

Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Here’s my latest acrylic painting called “Strawberry Madonna.” I started it in February, and it’s my first painting using old masters’ techniques with acrylic paints. It’s much more difficult to use acrylics instead of oil paints, but I managed to find few tips and tricks that helped. But this blog post is not so much about the techniques. I want to write about being unapologetic when creating art. It feels like a never-ending journey to me, and I hope this blog post will resonate with you too.

Palazzo Pitti and Traveling to Florence, Italy

Last week, I traveled to Italy with my husband to see Renessaince art. We flew to Rome, then took a train to Florence. After spending a couple of days in Florence, we got back to Rome, spend a couple of nights there, and then flew back home. We visited so many museums that it was a bit exhausting at times. I took over 700 photos, and there were so many highlights in our journey that I decided not to try to fit it all in this blog post, but focus on the glory of Palazzo Pitti, an art museum located in Florence, and save other experiences for later.

Namely, seeing Palazzo Pitti on the first evening in Florence, reminded me of how needless it is to tone things down and how we can be as glorious as possible when creating art and when using our imagination.

One Chandelier is Never Enough!

When watching the chandeliers of Palazzo Pitti, my first thought was: “Isn’t one enough?”
Then I realized that on my artistic journey, I have often thought like that: “it should be enough.”

  • Creativity: “I should be enough to have one idea for one image.”
  • Time: “It should be enough to have two hours for this piece.”
  • Skills: “It should be enough to just have a little bit of fun with it.”
  • Potential: “It should be enough to stick with what I know now.”
  • Imagination: “It should be enough to replicate the reality.”

Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

But one idea, one short session, one technique, one reality, is never enough if you want to continue the journey. When you have passed the first steps in creating, the room gets bigger. Making art frustrates you. It feels like your chandelier is broken. But instead of continuously changing the chandelier, you need more chandeliers to lighten your way.

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

When you begin creating, it’s just fun to change the chandelier: the theme, the technique, the idea. But when you have been creating for a while, it becomes overwhelming. The nature of creativity is never to focus on one small thing at the time. One chandelier is never enough for the curious mind. You need to learn to:

  • combine your many ideas
  • take more sessions for one piece
  • find the blind spots in skills and knowledge
  • and the most important of all: increase your imagination so that it takes you above the everyday life.

When you have many chandeliers, you see it clearer why you create art and where you want to go with it. Don’t apologize for your lacking focus but embrace all aspects of your creativity!

Ask What Your Heart Says!

When I saw “The Horrors of War” by Peter Paul Rubens in Palazzo Pitti, it caused an immediate emotional reaction. I was in tears before I was able to analyze the painting. Even if the theme was very dramatic, violent even, the movement and the wind was so beautifully painted. To me, it expressed the beauty of change, the theme that has always been close to my heart.

Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

When I was a teenager, I often drew scenes or portraits where the wind was present. It just looked fun and dynamic. But the more I have been creating, the more I have realized that I love to express movement, change, and transformation in one way or another, and the wind is often a symbol of that in my work. Thinking about big changes is one of those chandeliers that always lightens my inspiration.

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

I believe in digging deeper behind the first reactions. If art makes you emotional, there’s something important that’s behind it. It’s often contradictory, something so different that you have a hard time in believing it.

It’s kind of funny how much time I spend at home, doing the daily routines, and how my mind is in grand transformations and explorations. But to find what’s your true passion, the mundane life and your everyday wishes don’t give answers to that. You need to connect with your imagination.

Don’t apologize for your circumstances but use your imagination to experience the freedom! 

Decorating is Not an Enemy for Expression!

One thing that I found very delightful in Palazzo Pitti was how the number of decorative designs. I have always felt drawn to decorative painting style and even called myself as a “decorative artist.” It was my way of saying that I don’t feel like being very expressive. But nowadays I think that it’s possible to combine both decorative and expressive together, and there’s no need to limit the inspiration. Namely, who couldn’t be inspired by this ceiling?

Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

And look at the door and the tabletop! The most amazing thing is that the table top is made from stoneware!

Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

We may not be the similar masters as those decorative artists, but the experience in crafts can still be a treasure chest of ideas. For example, in my Strawberry Madonna, I added a crocheted lace on her dress and truly enjoyed painting it!

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Don’t apologize for your background in crafts (or in anything) but see that as a part of your artistic journey!

About Confidence and Belonging

When walking in the aisles of Palazzo Pitti, I felt sweaty and modestly dressed. The Medici family would not have invited me to their party, for sure. I thought about my art too and how modest it felt after seeing the big masterpieces.

A Finnish artist Paivi Eerola at Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

But it’s not only my art but I also often struggle when writing these blog posts. I don’t want to just write about my thoughts. I want to write so that you would continue creating and evolving with me. I want to offer classes that make you draw the connecting lines between your brain and your heart.

So that the way you speak about your art, would include more joy and confidence.

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

So that the way you see art, would be filled with happy surprises and inspiration.

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

So that the way you explore between the many styles, would make you see higher to your passion.

Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

So that the ideas that you get, would get full wings because you value them.

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Here’s what we can learn from the treasures of Palazzo Pitti:

There’s no reason to be apologetic when creating and sharing your art. There’s no reason to underestimate the impact that art can have on your life and others as well.

Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet - with a ceiling from Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

Art is Timeless but Our Time to Create It is Limited

The final image is a view from Palazzo Pitti. It is a reminder of how art can stand time but how our time to create is limited.

A view from Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

If your heart wants to create in a new way, don’t postpone it. If you are struggling, don’t delay solving the problem. I hope I will see you in my upcoming coaching program The Exploring Artist, where your art and your artistic identity is in focus. It’s about finding ways and confidence to create unapologetic art as well as building belongingness with the like-minded people.  >> Sign up here!

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Boosting Imagination + Last Days to Sign Up for Planet Color!

Boosting Imagination, an art journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet. Sign up for her painting class Planet Color to create fun and colorful abstracts!

Sometimes it’s difficult to use words when you want to give a hug. Like when I get emails that say: “I am afraid I have no imagination.”

I know how the story goes because I have experienced it several times myself: First, there’s no imagination and then if you manage to get started,  there are problems with the composition. I often turned the music louder just to make my brain make some sense of what I had created. And then next morning, I wondered why it’s so difficult to say whether my work is good or bad.

Regular practicing, getting a degree in design, educating myself through classes helped but if I could turn back time, I would have just given myself the formula that I have created for Planet Color and stop all the fuss. So nowadays when I get some occasional thoughts about lacking imagination, like last Monday, I open the class material and get started. The heart is for all of us who sometimes feel the need for boosting imagination.

Boosting Imagination. A detail of an art journal page. By Peony and Parakeet.

It’s the last week to sign up for Planet Color!
Watch a new video below to see what I think about boosting imagination, and to get more information about the class!

Last fall when I ran this class for the first time, it was for acrylic paints only.
But now I have included an extra video for those who want to apply the techniques to watercolors.

Planet Color, a painting class for beginners and for those who struggle with composition

>> Sign up before the class begins!

4 Social Tips for Improving Your Art – with The Students of Peony and Parakeet

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Tina Mitchell, Nicaragua.

This blog post is mostly illustrated by the students of the online painting class Planet Color. I am rerunning this class from April 24th to May 7th! Join me to paint fun abstract and colorful art! Suitable for beginners. Sign up before the class starts!

Social Tips

I call this set of tips “social” because instead of just talking in design terms like “white space” or “focal point,” I want to emphasize that art is a messaging tool. We, visual people, are sensitive to visual messages. Every image contains them whether they are added intentionally or unintentionally. As a teacher, I see my role as a guide who helps you to see what your pieces communicate and how you can fine-tune them to express the message that you want to deliver. In this blog post, I explain why beginning artists fail in visual communication and how to fix that. These social tips with sample images will improve the quality of your art!

Colorful mandalas by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read 4 social tips she has about creating art!

1) Bring Out The Leader, Express an Opinion

One of the things we all struggle the most is expressing an opinion. Even now, while I am writing this blog post, I am struggling with that. When I type the first few sentences, I become aware of all of you who might not like this post. I think of you who feels that you are more of a crafter, not a painter. And of you who thinks that this is too basic and you are far ahead. I am aware of you who likes fewer images, as well as you who doesn’t ever read a thing. Some images might look too dark or too white to your taste. Or you might not even like or value abstract art. What makes the writing even more difficult is that even my personal taste and opinions change during time, sometimes on a daily basis. And then I begin to think that who am I to write about this anyway. There are always people who know better and whose opinions could be more valuable.

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet browsing art journals.

It’s so easy to walk on that path of self-doubt and then rewrite the whole thing so that it actually says very little, nearly nothing. I might still remember the real meaning behind the words myself, but you might not get anything to take with you.

The same thing happens easily in art making too. By making every detail equal in size, sharpness, and color, we end up expressing something that’s nearly nothing. It’s just a gang of evenly spread elements waiting for a leader to be picked. But when you do that – choose a leader, express an opinion, say something with clarity that can make people take sides – then the impact is also born. See how Elaine Wirthlin does that in her painting!

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Elaine Wirthlin, USA.

2) Build Bridges, Don’t Stay Alone

When I saw a room full of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings in Musée d’Orsay, I was in tears. Yes, the original paintings were much more than what you could expect based on the photos and prints. But there was another reason too. I was crying because the room was packed with people. Knowing how lonely Vincent had been, it felt heart-breaking. Surely, if there had been social media at his time, he would have got his fan base! A small group of forward-thinkers, perhaps.

I don’t think loneliness is good for anyone. Don’t get me wrong – I am all for introvert lifestyle. Being an introvert myself, I wouldn’t dream about reducing my quiet, creative moments. But in the end, being isolated and expressing isolation is never a solution. Sometimes we are in the wrong place at the wrong time like Vincent did, but with the internet, there are soul-mates for everyone. With your art, you can build connections, not enforce divisions.

A detail of a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

When being interviewed after a long career, Finnish opera singer Jorma Hynninen said: “All artists want to connect with other people through their art.”

Images that include bridges and closeness make us feel happy. In Sue Jorgensen’s work, I see the message how different personalities can work and move on together.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Sue Jorgensen, Australia.

3) Play with Many Identities, Become Free of Limitations

When I became more serious about art, I questioned my love for crafts. One of my crafty hobbies was scrapbooking. I took photos and wrote stories about my everyday life. Sometimes I challenged myself to journal and sometimes, I let the photos and the decorations tell the whole story like on the layout below that shows the four seasons by focusing on trees.

Four Seasons. A scrapbooking layout by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

“An artist who also scrapbooks” sounded like a big joke to me back then. But the more ambitious I have become in my art career, the more I have learned to value other things that I do, scrapbooking included. After a long work day, it makes me feel free to take the dogs for a walk and listen to scrapbooking podcasts. After using embellishments and photos, it makes me feel free when I pick up my brushes and work with canvases, without limiting myself to the concept of scrapbooking.

One person can wear many hats. Some people might have seen you only wearing one, and their opinions about you only relate with that. However, don’t let it limit and define yourself in the other areas of life. People who knew me as an IT project manager saw a different side of me than you who reads this blog. I may have inherited my detailed style from the engineering part, but there’s so much more that I want to express and play with than one chapter in my past.

An art journal page spread by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. She has a class called Planet Color for painting colorful abstracts!

Susana König’s painting reminds me about IT business and how it’s all teamwork too!

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Susana König, Germany.

In Debbie Kreischer’s painting, the decorative style can take a more expressive twist, showing how things are not so black and white after all.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Debbie Kreischer, USA.

In Lisa Clemmer’s painting, the colors are soft, but the shapes are dynamic. This controversy makes it compelling.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Lisa Clemmer, USA.

Linda Thompson’s painting has playful colors and the dynamics of a fun game.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Linda Thompson, Canada.

Lois Dimler’s painting is like a happy circus where everybody has fun!

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Lois Dimler, USA.

4) Listen to Others, Let It Inspire You

I have always been an idea person. I invent new things quickly and have always been eager to find all kinds of unique approaches, also in art. However, I have also noticed that we often overestimate the uniqueness and the originality of our first ideas. But when we start combining many ideas into one, the result can be something new. My idea of drawing your own coloring page is not that unique but the way I have colored it gives it a modern twist. (Also read: How to Transform Ideas into Paintings)

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet with her art journal.

It’s not good to try to protect yourself from seeing what others do. We consume all the time anyway. If not art, then something else. Listening to other people, seeing other people’s art and getting to know art history is not a threat but an enabler to your personal style. Sometimes it can be a real eye-opener to create from a similar standpoint with somebody else and then compare.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Meri Andriesse, USA.

Compare Meri Andriesse’s and Pirkko-Liisa Mannoja’s paintings above and below! They have many similarities, but their style is different. Meri’s piece is soft, carefree and modern while Pirkko-Liisa’s is strong, detailed and historical.

Student artwork from the class Planet Color. Pirkko-Liisa Mannoja, Finland.

I love people who speak enthusiastically about what they have done. Even if they would talk about something that I would never even want to try, like deep-sea diving, it’s fascinating to hear how they express their experiences. While listening, I imagine the places that I would explore if I were that person. It gives me ideas that I wouldn’t ever have found by myself.

We never know enough about art history, other artists, other people, other fields of expertise, other anything! Artist’s mindset is being an immaterial collector – collecting thoughts, stories, visuals, any ideas and then expressing that inspiration. By developing the ability to see nuances in other people’s talk and work, you will also begin to see what’s unique about you.

What tip would you give?

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet with her abstract painting made for the class Planet Color.

Planet Color begins at April 24: Reserve your spot now!

Knitting and Painting – A Video Visit to My Studio!

"Channel into The World", an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Watch the video behind this painting and in the same time, see Paivi's studio!

This time I have something for you who likes to watch long videos. I love to knit (especially Leftie scarves) while watching video podcasts, so maybe you can pick up a project too and come to spend some time in my studio, talking about crafts, art inspiration, and painting supplies. I will create a craft-inspired art journal page and show many other pieces too.

A Day at the Studio – One Video in Two Parts

It is a really long video, so I have divided it into two parts. The first part is an introduction to a small project that I paint on the second part. The second part also shows some painting supplies. I hope you will enjoy both of them!

Here’s the first part:

And here’s the second part:

Planet Color begins at April 24: Reserve your spot now!

Rebuilding Art – Using Reference Images for Self-Expression

Using a reference image as a model for the painting. By Peony and Parakeet.

This blog post is about composing new art by using reference images. At the moment, I have a couple of paintings in progress that are based on reference images, and I also show other examples as well.

Why Don’t Artists Always Tell About Using Reference Images?

While painting my first oil painting at The National Museum of Finland, the visitors of the museum were able to visit the studio and watch us paint. Many people asked why we paint copies of the old paintings. The teacher Emmi Mustonen replied that it’s a good way to learn the old painting techniques and develop the understanding of formal elements. But I got the feeling that some of the people didn’t get it. Their facial expressions were imprinted on my mind, and it made me ponder why using reference images raises conflicting feelings.

Even if most artists who create realistic art or include realistic elements in their art, use reference images, many are not very open about it. I think that one reason is that many artists believe that people know that already and another reason that the process is not interesting. My experience is that there are surprisingly many people who assume that artists don’t take photos or use other than live models. And to me, the process of composing a new image from old ones is fascinating. I always stop to see an article where an artist shows how the reference images were used. I am especially interested if it’s about choosing the photos and combining several reference images into one piece.

Strawberry Madonna – Combining Several Reference Images to Tell a Story

A reference image of Strawberry Madonna and painting in progress. By Peony and Parakeet.

I am currently painting an acrylic painting on canvas that I call “Strawberry Madonna.” It’s my first using old masters’ painting techniques with acrylics instead of oil paints. The idea for the painting started differently than usually. I invented the title first and then started to think how Strawberry Madonna would look. I wanted to find a young woman who would have lips like she had just eaten a strawberry. By googling Renaissance paintings, I found Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio‘s painting. After that, I moved to building a story around the original idea.

Strawberry Madonnas are young girls who enjoy life without worries, have long summer holidays, eat strawberries, learn to crochet and read books like Emily of the New Moon or Anne of Green Gables. I have been one of them, and I feel quite nostalgic about it. I wanted the painting to include surrealistic elements. It has a big strawberry that is placed so that it could be a sleeve of the madonna’s dress. I am also going to change the flowers in the hair wreath to strawberry flowers and play with green and red paint. It will happen when I move on from underpainting to adding colors. In the background, there’s a photo that I took last summer. I am going to make it a little less detailed.

I used Photoshop to compose the reference image and made the sketch on canvas with charcoal. I drew a grid to make the sketching quicker.

Girl with a Ferret – Changing the Meaning with a Simple Trick

A reference image and a painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I have also started a new oil painting under the guidance of Emmi Mustonen. I got to pick the reference image freely. I wanted to pick an old Renessaince painting, but I couldn’t find any that would have a couple of my favorite features when painting with old masters’ techniques. I love to paint fur and fabric, and I wanted to find a face that would include openness. I fell in love with Boccaccio Boccaccino‘s portrait of a gypsy girl, but it didn’t have any fur. So I remembered Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine” and created a new image by combining the two in Photoshop. I have several stories about this one.

The first one is about today’s society and how the pets have become more human in our eyes. I want to show the similarities in the wild gypsy girl and the tame ferret. Another story is about young girls and their love for taking care of animals. They might not know the wildlife, but they help to rescue animals and are ready to work hard when taking care of them. They are against fur clothing and not afraid to show it. The third story goes back to the 16th century. I imagine that the gypsy girl was hired to dress up and hold the ermine because the lady didn’t have the patience to pose for the artist. In the end, she never showed. The artist became frustrated and painted the girl instead. I can imagine the magical moment when the girl realized that she would be in the final painting instead of a lady.

I would like to talk with Boccaccio Boccaccino about my version. I also wonder, how he was able to paint the portrait of the gypsy girl when the artists mostly painted for churches and aristocrats back then.

At Monet’s Garden – Including All the Good Stuff to the Same Image

Last spring, I published a mini-course called Strokes of Energy as a part of the Imagine Monthly Spring series. I asked my students to name their favorite artists, and Claude Monet was among most popular ones. But when I thought about Claude Monet, I didn’t want just to serve those who love the garden or those who adore his way to paint the sky, or those who want to express the windy scenes. I wanted to have all the good stuff in one image and then some more.

A digital collage combining 3 paintings from Claude Monet. By Peony and Parakeet.

So I created a reference image in Photoshop combining three of Claude Monet’s paintings: “Woman with a Parasol” and a couple of paintings from the water lily series. Then I invented a technique where you can paint some of the elements as collage pieces so that you can adjust the overall composition before making the final decisions. This way it is possible to add more details one by one and improve the image during the actual creative process.

A Monet-inspired art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. See her mini-course Strokes of Energy.

So this painting is about a woman who is experiencing strong wind. She doesn’t mind wind catching her parasol. She enjoys the fresh air and the beautiful scene around her.

Ulla’s Take

One of the students, Ulla M. Holm, made a Photoshop sketch from another set of Monet’s paintings and then painted the image with short impressionistic strokes. I love how the result also reminds me of her home country, Sweden!

A Monet-inspired art journal spread by Ulla M. Holm, a student of Peony and Parakeet.

Using Reference Images More Intuitively – From a Story to an Experience

I admit having mixed feelings about following the reference images carefully. With my art, I want to express freedom, and I don’t think that following reference images too closely helps with that. On the other hand, I don’t want to restrict myself doing abstracts only or creating similar paintings one after another. Many artists create the same again and again and become better and better with that. To me, art is about exploring and the hook there is to widen my perspective continuously.

So even if you would prefer abstract art, it doesn’t mean you can’t have reference images. Instead of connecting with the actual story, you can connect with an emotional experience.

Emile Vernon's painting and Paivi Eerola's abstract interpretation. By Peony and Parakeet.

I picked colors and ideas from Emile Vernon’s painting and imagined what it would be like wearing that soft dress. The dress felt like a dream, so I wrote: “Muisto unelmasta” –  “a memory of a dream” in the image.

Using reference images: a photo and an abstract interpretation. By Peony and Parakeet. To learn how to do this, sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

Here’s another example from my class Inspirational Drawing 2.0: a photo from The National Library of Finland and my interpretation, “The Power of Knowledge.”

Do yo want to experiment with this approach using your personal reference images? >> Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

For the Fans of Monet – Strokes of Energy

My Monet-inspired mini-course Strokes of Energy is now available as an individual self-study course. >> Buy Strokes of Energy!

Strokes of Energy, a Monet-inspred mini-course by Peony and Parakeet.

Geraldine’s Take

I want to end this blog post with a skilled artist Geraldine Norris from Australia who created her version of Monet in my class. She had just seen an art exhibition showing Monet’s work, and I think it shows how deeply she connected with the experience.

A Monet-inspired painting by Geraldine Norris, Australia, a student of Peony and Parakeet.

But wait, there is more beautiful Monet-inspired art from my students, see the presentation page of Strokes of Energy!

Until next time!

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!

Mixed Media Seascapes – 5 Tips for Expressive Art

Notice the new, useful categories for the blog posts, see the sidebar “Posts by Theme” or if you are in mobile, see the end of the page!

Sometimes I regret creating my art on the journals. When I created these mixed media seascapes for the mini-course Stormy Scenery, I wanted to keep the journals open and visible for days just to get back with the process and look at all the colors. And when I saw what my students had created, I secretly wished the same – that not so many weren’t in journals but frames. I want to share some art made from the mini-course and share some tips for expressive seascapes.

1) Play with Colors!

When creating the waves, show how the water reflects the colors from its surroundings. When there’s a storm, there will be a lot that’s moving, and it will affect the colors too. You can show your current state of mind as the sea and bring out the variety of thoughts and feelings. See how Claudia Watkins has made a row of waves with various colors.

Claudia Watkins, UK. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Claudia Watkins, UK

2) Create a Connection Between The Sky and The Sea!

If the sea represents you and the sky represents the outside world, how do they interact? Susan Rajkumar has expressed the connection in a brilliant way. It looks like the sea is willing to hug the sun and the overall feeling in the piece is warm and happy.

Susan Rajkumar, India. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Susan Rajkumar, India

Sheila McGruer’s sun has left the sea, and it has caused an explosion of energy.

Sheila McGruer, Australia. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Sheila McGruer, Australia

Sheila’s piece also has the softness which takes us to the next tip …

3) Express the Softness of Water

Cheryl Rayner shows the softness with both long strokes and splashes of water. With softness, you can practice gentleness towards yourself and others.

Cheryl Rayner, USA. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Cheryl Rayner, USA

4) Show The Movement of The Waves

Enjoy the transformation that happens when you focus on creating art! Strokes and lines express the movement. Lorraine Cline’s green sea is captivating because it’s wonderfully dynamic!

Lorraine Cline, USA. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Lorraine Cline, USA

Terttu Laitinen has the great eye of the storm.

Terttu Laitinen, Finland. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Terttu Laitinen, Finland

5) Make The Scene Look 3-Dimensional!

In any scene and any mind, some things are closer, and some things are further away. Add more 3-dimensional look to make some elements more blurry and some sharper than others. Satu Kontuvuori has a striking focal point where sharp white waves are on the top of the blurry black eye of the storm.

Satu Kontuvuori, Finland. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Satu Kontuvuori, Finland

Mackie d’Arge also has a clear focal point and lots of less defined splashes around it.

Mackie d'Arge, USA. One of the mixed media seascapes from Peony and Parakeet's class Stormy Scenery.

Mackie d’Arge, USA

Internal Seascapes – Connect with Your Internal Energy!

The mixed media seascapes shown in this blog posts are made from the mini-course Stormy Scenery which was part of my Imagine Monthly Spring series last year. You can now purchase it individually too. When creating Stormy Scenery, I was inspired by the long chain of seascape painters, especially by J.M.W. Turner and Ivan Aivazovski. I also have a Pinterest board called Internal Seascapes where I have collected inspirational sea paintings.

But in Stormy Scenery, more than just to paint the sea, I coach you through the process of opening up and bringing out your expression. With the mini-course, you are not so much mimicking the sea outside but expressing the power inside. I believe that every artist has a unique power as well as every day has a unique energy.

Create Mixed Media Seascapes!

Use colored pencils, watercolors, and acrylic paints to create expressive mixed media art!
>> Click here to buy Stormy Scenery!

Stormy Scenery, an art journaling mini-course by Peony and Parakeet

P.S. If you want more personal guidance and community support to get deeper in self-expression, you can still sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

Year 2016 in Review – In Terms of Art Supplies

A handdrawn collage by Peony and Parakeet. Her course Inspirational Drawing 2.0 teaches how to create these + more!

I am not usually so keen on “year in reviews,” but I thought it would be interesting to look back regarding art supplies used in 2016. When people ask me what supplies do I use, my quick response is: “Acrylic paints, watercolors, and colored pencils.” If I get detailed questions, I often refer to these blog posts: What Art Supplies Do I need? and What Acrylic Colors to Buy?

But it hit me that I have used a more diverse selection of supplies in 2016. And then, there are all kinds of necessary stuff that we don’t often mention but still use all the time. So, I dedicate this blog post to supplies. It’s not so much about the single pieces created in 2016. If you want to have a look at those, go to 2016 Gallery!

Must-Haves for Collage Art

The image that is at the beginning of this post is a collage made for January’s lesson at Inspirational Drawing 2.0 while teaching how to create unique collage pieces and enjoy freehand drawing. I have been blown away by the beautiful art created by my students, and I am more certain than ever that introducing the ideas for drawing piece by piece makes freehand drawing and the use of imagination easier than trying to build a bigger illustration in one piece. (You can still sign up for the class and get the first lesson immediately after the purchase!)

I like to create collage art to my biggest art journals. I have two of large Dylusions Creative Journals. The first one is almost full, so I hope I can fill it in 2017 and make a flip-through video of it. I purchased the second one last year because I love the quality of the paper. It’s perfectly smooth for colored pencils and sturdy enough for collage art.

Making of a hand-drawn paper collage. By Peony and Parakeet. Her course Inspirational Drawing 2.0 teaches how to create these + enjoy hand drawing!

Like in the previous years, I have used “Golden Soft Gel Gloss” gel medium for attaching the collage pieces and Tim Holtz’s non-stick scissors for cutting the pieces.

A new discovery is to use a piece of cotton cloth to remove excess gel medium. First, I started using old t-shirts for finger painting. But when learning old masters painting techniques at a class, we used old linens for cleaning the brushes and realized that they work well for wiping off too. Since then, I have been a collector of old cotton fabric pieces. A fellow artist told me that she has several plastic bags filled with waste cotton fabric for art making!

Cutting collage pieces. By Peony and Parakeet.

Speaking of collecting, I am still a collector of the best handmade supplies: hand drawn and hand painted paper pieces! If you have never tried creating collage pieces, see Step by Step page for basic instructions! I also have a mini-course called Doodled Luxury, that shows how to combine doodling with collage techniques.

Colored Pencils – Not for Art-Making Only!

Because I create a lot with colored pencils, I often get questions about which colored pencils to buy. Many contemplate between regular and water-soluble pencils. I love regular colored pencils because they are easy to carry and easy to use when you only have a minute or two. I use regular colored pencils also outside my art-making. I love to use them to make written notes more visual and add visual ideas to my notebooks and planners.

Work Planner Spread. By Peony and Parakeet. She uses Happy Planner for her art business.

It’s why I always have colored pencils in my reach, and I think it’s also why I find it so easy to create with them. If I have to create something quickly that isn’t very big in size, it feels natural to choose them. I use Prismacolor Soft Core pencils when I create art pieces and a selection of old pencils for more mundane purposes. My e-book Coloring Freely focuses on regular colored pencils and shows easy techniques for creative coloring.

Using watercolor pencils by Peony and Parakeet. See her class Inspirational Drawing 2.0.

I also have a mixed selection of watercolor pencils, and I enjoy using them too, especially in the beginning of coloring. Using water makes it quicker to fill a paper with a soft mix of colors. It is the technique I use a lot at Inspirational Drawing 2.0: starting the coloring with watercolor pencils, inks or watercolors and then moving on to dry supplies like colored pencils and felt-tipped pens.

Using Watercolor Paper – and Not!

This is a supply that makes my heart sing – I only have to touch it: a good quality watercolor paper! My absolute favorite: St Cuthberts Mill’s Saunders Waterford HP watercolor paper. It’s smooth and thick (300 gm2/140 lbs), and it’s perfect for both watercolors and colored pencils. I especially enjoy creating intuitive still lifes on the thick paper. I often cut the paper to a square to enable easy changes in orientation. See this blog post to watch me creating the intuitive mixed media painting below on a watercolor paper!

March Still Life, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet.

March Still Life, 2016

Even if I love smooth watercolor paper, I don’t want to limit the use of watercolors. I use watercolors constantly and often with paper that is not designed for it. I like to carelessly splash watercolors on any paper because there are a lot more opportunities to use watercolors than to use watercolor paper. For example, watercolor paper is not good for collage pieces because it’s too thick. I like to use sketching paper instead.

Watercolor painting in Hundertwasser's style. By Peony and Parakeet.

The best exploration with watercolors so far happened in 2016. I studied Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s way of using watercolors and created a mini-course about imaginative painting style. This painting style uses only a little water, and it’s easy to apply on almost any paper. See the mini-course Painter’s Ecstasy!

The Year of Canvas

If I had to name one supply that marks 2016, it would be canvas. I have created more canvas pieces than ever before. I have painted five small acrylic paintings and two medium-sized paintings. “Human Nature” was not a wall-sized, but so far the biggest that I have painted. See this blog post: 5 Lessons Learned When Painting on Big Canvas

"Human Nature" by Peony and Parakeet. This was her biggest painting in 2016.

I always take the canvas more seriously than if I create a painting on a watercolor paper or an art journal. A blank paper syndrome is nothing compared to a blank canvas syndrome! But I enjoy larger projects between smaller ones, and I have two blank canvases waiting for 2017 creations.

Experiments with New Supplies

Oil paints 
I would have never guessed that I would be 47 years old before trying out oil paints for the first time, but that was how it went. I started painting as a young teenager and my parents purchased acrylic paints to me. They explained that using oil paints would require all kinds of liquids that would not be safe and acrylic paints were better in that way. They were so right! Not to mention all the smells! I live in a house built in the 1960s, and the smell stays there for some time. It would be impossible to me to use oil paints daily just because of that.

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet exploring old master painting techniques with oil paints.

But I have signed up for an art class and will start my second oil painting next week using the old masters’ techniques. (See this blog post to read what any artist can learn from old masters!) I love the pigment and gloss of good quality oil paints. We are using Schminke’s Mussini oil paints, and they are the best quality paints that I have ever experimented with.

Soft Pastels
During 2016, I saw quite a lot of art that was created with soft pastels. I almost bought Unison soft pastels to treat myself but then realized that I already had a small set of Rembrandt soft pastels. I had purchased them many years ago for industrial design studies, but we had been using them very differently than how people use them usually. We scraped them to get powder and used the powder to create soft shadows.

A detail of an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Made using soft pastels.

I created an art journal page (see the full image in the middle of this blog post) to try them out. Now I just grabbed the sticks and drew with them, but it felt like there was powder everywhere. And then, in the end, I had to use fixative, of course. It felt tedious even if it was not. I had no desire for new pastels anymore, but afterward, I have wondered if I gave up too easily. Maybe I should try the soft pastels again sometimes in 2017.

Liquid Watercolors and Watercolor Markers
In the late fall, I got a couple of surprise packages from one of my students! I got to use liquid watercolors and watercolor markers for the first time, and I liked both of them.

Art supplies. Liquid watercolor bottles.

I like the intensity of color in liquid watercolors. Mine are Dr. Ph. Martins’s Hydrus watercolors.

A detail of a painting made with gouache, watercolor markers and liquid watercolors. By Peony and Parakeet.

Watercolor markers seem to be very versatile because you can use them with or without water. I also received a set of gouache paints, and they encouraged me to dig out my old gouache tubes as well. To see what I created with the new supplies, watch this video blog post!

Going Digital?

Based on 2016, my answer is both yes and no. Yes, I have created digital art, see this blog post especially! I have used Adobe Photoshop CS5 for so many years that it feels very intuitive and I don’t have to think about the commands and such, I can just focus on the fun stuff.

Digital art by Peony and Parakeet.

But when I create digital art, I like to use my hand-drawn and hand-painted pieces as building blocks. I know that many buy stock photos, but it feels much more exciting to me to use my art as a starting point. Sometimes when I don’t work I buy a digital kit and have fun with it, but that’s just playing in my spare time (Sometimes I do wonder, how much do I have to create, to stop creating …)

I have a student at Inspirational Drawing 2.0 who is adapting the exercises to work with her iPad mostly. I look forward to seeing more of this happening because I see a potential of more people going into creating art. However, I don’t want to spend all of my time with devices, so I enjoy creating pieces by hand and as long as I can do it, I think I will, also in 2017!

What about you? What supplies were new to you in 2016, and what supplies are you going to continue using in 2017?