Mixed Media Painting Idea – Revisiting Your Old Style

Lost and Found, a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Between 2010-2014 I was enthusiastic about decorative art. I called myself as a “decorative artist” and saw myself more as a designer than as an artist who focuses on expression. My upcoming class Collageland (thank you, everyone, for the feedback you gave in the last blog post!), is a retrospective to that period in my life. While editing the videos, I have been pondering about what inspired me back then and how it’s different from what motivates me now.

Some themes and styles often feel too familiar to me. They don’t seem to challenge me anymore, so I have moved on. But now it hit me how harsh it sounds and how unnecessarily harsh it sometimes also is. So when creating the pieces shown in this blog post, I gave myself permission to take it easy and get decorative. I also became curious about comparing my past decorative work with the pieces that I would produce today.

My comfort zone is getting inspired by design and translating that inspiration into art. So I made a mixed media painting that is inspired by the world of fashion, jewelry, lace, Renaissance murals, and botanical art. I call it “Lost and Found”. To embrace a designer’s approach to art, I also made two different color versions by processing the photo of the original artwork digitally in Photoshop.

Here’s Marine:

Lost and Found, a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. The colors have been changed digitally in this image. See her mixed media painting idea behind this one!

And here’s Botanical:

Lost and Found, a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. The colors have been changed digitally in this image. See her mixed media painting idea behind this one!

I don’t have many phase photos because I wanted to relax with that too but this is what I drew on my planner the previous day:

Sketching a mixed media painting idea. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

These quick sketches are the core of my creative process.

Another Painting with the Same Idea

I also made another design-inspired painting. The idea came from the ceramic art of the 1960s.

The photo below shows how the piece looked like before adding the decorative layers. Glowing watercolors remind me of the glazing used in ceramics. When this happens, I feel like I am a ceramic artist, playing with colors.

Dr Ph. Martin's Hydrus watercolors

A student of mine kindly donated Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus watercolors some time ago. First, I liked them, now I adore them. They are intensive and easy to use, and I especially love the coverage of white. I used Hydrus watercolors for “Lost and Found” too.

Retro Living, a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s the finished painting called “Retro Living”.  It is also a mixed media piece. I used colored pencils, PITT Artist Pens, and a correction pen for the last layers. I love these muted colors, so typical for the Finnish ceramics from the 60s. But then, I thought they might be too gloomy for many, so I made another version digitally that reminds me of furniture from that era:

Retro Living, a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. She altered colors digitally for this version.

Comparison

See my new gallery showing decorative art and designs from 2011 to this day. When I look at the newly-created pieces as a part of that collection, it looks to me like I have traveled a long journey in art. And I have – I just never thought that it would show in this decorative style as well. It makes me want to explore more of this and also, see exciting challenges in this direction too.

My challenge to you: Pick an old piece and make a new one using the similar techniques and style! 

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From Movie Posters to Art Journal Pages

The Discerning Diva - an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. See how to get ideas from movie posters!

“The Discerning Diva – She could be hired as the art director of this journal.”
This page is my version of the poster for the movie “The Big Lebowski”. I have borrowed the concept of weird glasses and the composition from the poster, but it is still a separate artwork, not an exact copy.

The Discovery of Movie Posters

After learning that I like to use of alphabet stamps in the art journal pages, I had been thinking about the next step in journaling. Last week I watched the poster artist James Victore‘s course  Bold & Fearless Poster Design on Creative Live. His style has very little to do with mine, but I became fascinated by the visual concept of posters.

Last weekend I found a book about 1990’s movie posters at the local library. I became fascinated by the compositions used in the posters. Then it hit me: maybe I could replace the main elements with my own and apply the visual concept of the poster to my personal stories!

How to pick ideas from movie posters?

I will show you how to make your own “Discerning Diva” (very easy) but before that, I want to show you another poster-inspired page.

An art journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet. See how to get ideas from movie posters!

The page on the left is inspired by the poster for the movie “The Matrix”. I picked few main elements and the general atmosphere from the poster. The page on the right is made a long time ago, but I like how the two pages tell the story about being inside someone’s brain.

Four tips for picking ideas from the movie posters:
1) Composition: Examine the placement of the title, the grouping of the main elements and the most noticeable color contrasts.
2) Subject: Think about how your life could be applied to the movie.
3) Process: Examine the poster carefully but when you start creating, focus on your page and make it your own.
4) Imagine: Remember that you can replace the elements of the poster with whatever you like. For example, a person can be replaced with a vase of flowers.

Create Your Discerning Diva!

1) Paint the background of the page.
I used acrylic paints to make the background strong and heavy-looking. Leave an unpainted area for the face. Add water to the paint and gently brush around the face. Wet strokes create the impression of a thin scarf and add dimension.

The Discerning Diva - instructions for an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

2) Color the face.
I used colored pencils to maintain the big contrast between the background and the face. Add some color for the skin. Draw a mouth and a nose.

The Discerning Diva - instructions for an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

3) Add glasses.
Go to your box of hand drawn papers. Cut two lenses. Attach with glue or gel medium. Add frames with pens. Make the glasses as decorative as you like!

The Discerning Diva - instructions for an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

4) Add text.
Pick a color that has a high contrast with the background and journal on the bottom of the page. I have used a correction pen for the title and a white gel pen (Uni-Ball Signo) for the text below the title.

The Discerning Diva - an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. See instructions on how to make your own diva!

5) Add finishing strokes.
With colored pencils, add some strokes below the face to represent a scarf.
Add few strokes to outline the scarf near the forehead.

More Ideas for Compositions

Surround Yourself with Inspiration - an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Inspired by movie posters.

Believe or not, this page is inspired by Austin Powers movie poster and hand embroidery! I think that hand embroidery has a lot in common with hand drawing.

Learn to draw from imagination and inspiration!
>> Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0

Get the Most Out of Art Critique

Accept Your Passion - an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet, read more about how to deal with art critique

My latest art journal page is inspired by a discussion in an art journal group. It was about how to deal with the criticism towards your art. One woman told a story which touched me deeply. Someone had accidentally seen photos of her art and asked if they were made by her little grandchildren. After that she did not feel comfortable making art again. The story made me think about how important other people’s reactions to our arts and crafts is. How much we yearn for comments and how the critique can scare us. I also share those feelings. These are my conclusions of the subject. (And yes, I have new pencils!)

1) Pick Your Specialists

Prismacolor Pencils

“Can you simplify, Paivi?”, said my teachers in so many words while I was studying industrial design. Because, in design, it all starts from the basic concepts, basic shapes and little alterations to them. I have always loved decorating. So I rushed through the first design decisions to get into adding swirls and tiny dots to the each of the designs. When I completed a sketch for a bar code reader, a teacher said: “What can I say, it is like a Russian icon painting with a flair of folk”. And he did not even know I had painted icons as a child!

“Your sketches all look the same”, he continued.
I did not get it. For me they were all so different.
– “The same shape is repeated all over again.”

When I went back home, I thought that studying industrial design was going to change me to the direction I did not like. Within a year I would be living on a white box with no carpets on the floor and wearing black glasses. But the end result was nothing like. My interest in art history and decorative art only increased within the time as practicing different styles helped me realize there’s no need to create too narrow image of my own art.

In the end of the studies, one of the teachers said to me, carelessly: We just got an application from a person who reminded you: so many details, so little simplifying! We can’t accept him in. To design is to simplify. Despite of your beginning, you do have learned that.” It meant a world to me – according to her, I was a simplifier, a designer.

In today’s world there’s a specialist for everything. I yearned for the specialist to testify, objectively. And once she did, I was happy. But later I have began to think that actually, in art, everyone has to define their own specialists. The range of art and design is huge and surely, everybody doesn’t like every piece of art.

So, don’t even expect that everybody likes your art – is a specialist of your style. Pick those that you want to please and forget the rest!

2) Improve Your Communication

Making of an art journal page, by Peony and Parakeet

An artist Ann Rea has said:  “Art is communication”. I think that focusing on what we want to say with our art is often more beneficial than focusing on the techniques. When someone comments our art, whether the feedback is positive or negative, we can always ask: “What do you see here? How does it make you feel? What do you like the most?” (Or “like the least”, if you are brave enough, and if you have chosen the person to be your specialist.)

Sometimes it is not so much about delivering a certain message, but touching people. When we are touched by our own art, it may seem suprising that others do not get touched by it. Then we need to improve our visual communication, or fill in the story verbally. (The power of art journaling!)

Instead of thinking “I want to become a better artist” you may want to think “I want to become a better visual communicator.” After that, you will often find art critique easier to swallow!

3) Set the Risk Level

Making of an art journal page, by Peony and Parakeet

If you only want to hear positive comments, set the risk level low. One way to do that is to stick with the realistic art and copy those who have a lot of general acceptance.

But if you want to find your own style and in the end, truly touch people, take more risks! Experiment, observe, let go of the definitions you use for yourself, think about before you start to create and while creating, stop thinking! You can set the risk level for each individual piece, and go higher from one artwork after another.

Once in a while, give yourself a permission to make high-risk art! Sometimes it may also be good to take high risks when asking for comments! But never let anyone to keep you away from creating when you are on the way of unique self-expression.

In need of experimenting? – Join me to an art journaling workshop!

Pre-order 21 Secrets Spring where Paivi from Peony and Parakeet will teach Artistic Embridery with Pens and Paper!

This is one of the many art journal pages inspired by embroidery techniques. Meet me at 21 Secrets Art Journaling Workshop where I will show you my favorite embroidered textiles and teach you how to imitate the embroideries with pens and paper! The perfect project if you want to stretch your style on a safe environment! The workshop begins in April, but you can preorder now!

The Power of Positive Self-Criticism in Art

"Positivity grows", a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

My latest mixed media artwork is called “Positivity Grows”. It is dedicated to all of you who have a strong inner critic. If you want to improve, it is essential to evaluate your own work. But sometimes the self-criticism can have too negative tone. Have you experienced any of these?

1) Big Picture Panic
The artwork gets evaluated as a whole in a too early stage. It is like making a meal and after tasting the raw potatoes, you’d decide that it’s not going to succeed. “I must have done something wrong when peeling those potatoes!”

2) Overclean Obsession
You take the safe way: you don’t mix colors, don’t let anything intersect, draw sloo-owly, keep everything plain, simple and controlled. This reminds me of a tadpole (a baby frog) which I got from my friend when I was a child. The tadpole lived in a jar filled with muddy water. I picked a clean vase, poured plenty of tap water and put the little frog there. It did not live long. I did my best to take care of it but did not understand that for the tadpole, there was nothing to eat, nowhere to hide. So – Mix those colors! Add diversity! Give some nourishment to the growing artist in you!

3) Mistake Hunt
If you focus on the things that “went wrong” instead of those which “went right”, you are playing the wrong game. Art is in small nuances, it requires sensitivity and openness. If your self-evaluation is too negative, you do not notice the beautiful little details that appear in your art. They are often lucky accidents if you take care of the diversity. When enhanced, those details can take over and bring your end result to the new level.

Positive Self-Criticism

You can get cured of any of those diseases with a healthy dose of positive self-criticism. From the moment you make the first brush stroke, focus on the details and look for beautiful and interesting areas. I will show you how I did that while creating the artwork of this post.

Phase 1 – Watercolors

When I began the artwork of this post, I just made a mess with watercolors. I kind of made the muddy jar for tadpoles to prosper!

Watercolor background by Peony and Parakeet. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

After painting this, I could have just quitted and call it ruined. Or I could have tried to made that dark muddy area brighter. But instead, I began to investigate the painting closely.

Details from a watercolor background by Peony and Parakeet. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

My inner critic pointed the little details with so much beauty that I began to feel confident and excited. The whole process of making this artwork began to feel like an adventure. Instead of mistakes I was hunting treasures!

Phase 2 – Watercolors

Next I continued with watercolors and created new layers of elements. I took care of the diversity: there’s a lot of various hues and shapes. And even more important: the layers intersect so that they create new happy accidents.

A mixed media painting in progress by Peony and Parakeet. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

After painting this, I enjoyed this tiny detail: a yellow spot. It was like a little star! I felt I was lucky and genious at the same time.

A detail of a watercolor painting. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

I spent some time searching for more beautiful areas and enjoying them. With watercolors, the edges of brush strokes are often really beautiful.

A mixed media painting in progress by Peony and Parakeet. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

Phase 3 – Colored Pencils

To keep the diversity level high, I changed watercolors to colored pencils. I also changed the music I was listening to. Working from a small area to another, I enlarged the beautiful details found after another.

A mixed media painting in progress by Peony and Parakeet. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

In this phase I realized that the main theme of the artwork would be growth. I searched for the details that would express the theme. I found several and they made me happy!

A mixed media painting in progress by Peony and Parakeet. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

Phase 4 – Pens

New music and new supplies! This time I picked a black PITT Artist Brush Pen and a white gel pen (Uni-Ball Signo). I was encouraging myself to create strong contrasts. They would made the pretty details really pop. Again, I was not worrying over hiding the not-so-pretty details but enhancing the good ones.

A mixed media painting in progress by Peony and Parakeet. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

In this phase I began to look the artwork as a whole. However, instead of correcting the poor composition, I analyzed which of the details looked most appealing and how they were located.

A mixed media painting in progress by Peony and Parakeet. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

Phase 5 – Finishing

When finishing, I like to listen to the rhytmic music which gives me confidence to carefully adjust the balance of the work. I picked a white correction pen and a box of handdecorated papers. By doodling and cutting papers, I changed the composition so that the eye would find all the pretty little details one by one.

A mixed media painting in progress by Peony and Parakeet. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

The Summary

You can be analytical and critical when making art. You can also be strict: mix the colors, change the tempo, keep the image alive! But maintaining the gentleness and sensitivity is crucial too. Let the little details that appeal to you be the foundation for your self-expression!

"Positivity grows", a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about using positive self-criticism when creating art!

Blank Page Syndrome before Big Picture Panic?

Buy the video “Watercolor 101 for Intuitive Painting” where I will show you how you can get a fast start and keep going! Click here for the preview!

How to Trust Yourself when Creating Art

I Feel the Power, a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about making this and how to get rid of self-doubt when creating art
When I begin creating art I often have petty thoughts like: “I want to draw a flower” or “I want to create something pink”. Even if I create regularly many times a week, I am still bothered by the fear of failure. I know I have to handle that at as soon as it comes, preferably before the first brush stroke. Why? Wouldn’t it be fun to sometimes draw that single flower or create that pink square? I believe that if we give ourselves that kind of clear commands and simple tasks, we don’t really trust our creativity. The big question is always: do you trust yourself when creating art?

The Unpredictable Nature of Art

If you trust yourself, you can step into the world of unpredictability. Not knowing exactly what to aim for is a major factor when creating art. We can set restrictions and principles but we have to leave space for unpredictability. It means that we are more creative if we do not have the clear picture of the end result.

Setting Restrictions with Supplies

Art supplies. Read about using fiber paste and how to trust yourself when creating art.
These are the art supplies that I gathered when I began making the collage of this post. Watercolors, acrylic paints and fiber paste. I also picked a thick watercolor paper and cut it to a square. I chose the supplies but left behind the thoughts about what I was going to make.

Find what You Want to Express

My method is to browse art books just before creating art. I do it only for few minutes and I try to pick art that really lifts my spirit, raises the bar, sparks my imagination. Usually it is something from the history of world art. This time I browsed a picture book from impressionism.
Read about how to use art books to trust yourself when creating art.
So, do I advise you to get a book of impressionism? No. I advise you to name what spheres you want to reach when making art and pick images which resonate with that. They do not have to be the same style than what you want to accomplish. The more important is the feeling that they evoke in you. When I browsed the book of impressionism, I thought how art is above all the mundane things. How those artists who lived at the end of the 19th century have managed to describe the beauty in the way that is still understood. How the brush strokes, full of paint, were successfully set to represent weightless light. All that would be exciting to see in my piece too.

Watercolor strokes. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.
When the first watercolors hit the paper, I still had some self-doubt: I could not ever do anything like the great impressionists. I heard the sarcastic voice in my head: “Reborn Monet, yeah right!” But that sarcasm is the moment when I know I am almost there: I am almost leaving the rational side of me behind. Then I just need to wow to trust myself, stop seeing any desired images in my mind and start working fiercely.

Layering (With Some Moments of Self-Doubt)

Watercolor background by Peony and Parakeet. Read about making this and how to trust yourself when creating art.

I often start with watercolors because they cover the paper quickly. Even if I have the idea of creating some surface structure, I wanted to use watercolors first to get into the mood of uncontrolled splashes.

Acrylic paints. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.
While waiting for the watercolors dry, I mixed some acrylic paint. Pastel shades like many impressionists used to choose. Using pallette knife. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.
To get some interesting texture with the paint, I used a palette knife instead of a brush.
Making of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.
After playing a little with the palette knife and thick paint, I became clueless of how to continue. It’s important to recognize these moments. If you are not aware of these, your rational side takes the control and decides to do things you really cannot justify. Like: “Let’s use the rest of the paint to cover the surface evenly”. Or: “Let’s get some other colors and splash the paint here and there”. When you feel that you do not know what to do, don’t do the obvious. I might browse some pages of the book again to get back into the mood. Or change the media, the solution that I made this time. I doodled something not so important with the colored pencils just to realize I wanted to continue with watercolors and a thin brush.Making of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

When I got bored with colored pencils and watercolors, I opened the jar of fiber paste. Even if I often prefer to stay with the basic art supplies, fiber paste is something I like. It not only creates an interesting texture like watercolor paper, but it also works like a watercolor paper. You can paint over it with watercolors and create beautiful details to your work! Making of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Adding fiber paste. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

Trying to achieve distinct variation in the surface texture, I used the palette knife again.

Making of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

Then my mind was empty again, so I browsed few pages from the book again and then continued with colored pencils.

Making of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

When I reached the next point of frustration, I decided to change to the watercolors and work with high speed. Working fast helps to get creativity flow.

Making of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

Once the paper was covered all over, I started adding details. A white correction pen is great as it usually works on any surface.

Making of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

Hand decorated papers are great for details. I picked some of my prettiest papers and began to cut them. The paper shown in the picture isn’t that great as an artwork, but it’s versatile for collages as it has a lot of variation.

Finishing

Finishing a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

I felt that it was time to begin finishing the work. It is always useful to stop and think. I often put the artwork somewhere where I can look at it, like on the nearest book shelf. Then I step away and try to figure it out where to lead the viewer’s eye. Here’s another step where you should not question your trust: It will be great! You just need to connect some dots and find the lost pieces of the puzzle. Like I did when I realized that there is someone in the picture. I added the faces and made the rest of the character more visible. Then some tiny adjustments to the composition and after that, the work was finished.

A detail of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

I think that this piece is aesthetically very much my style, but the impressionistic approach to the surface structure makes the work interesting.

A detail of a collage painting by Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to trust yourself when creating art.

Never underestimate the power of layering: this is my favorite detail, the white area showing the blank watercolor paper. It was created in the first phase, and it still exists in the end. If I had done the obvious and filled the paper with each media layer by layer, this little detail would not exist. So, cherish each stroke and trust your creativity! Focus on the feeling, not to the result! You are allowed to feel like a world class artist even if you know you are not. Fly to the world of imagination!

This might also interest you: – Stretch Your Artistic Style

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Imitate Ceramic Art!

An art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. See the instructions on how to imitate ceramic art and ceramic tiles with correction pen and watercolors

A strange cat in the shadows.
Too many apples for the tree to bear.
A blackbird complains: Dry mouth!
Still, it’s a paradise: my garden.

This is an art journal page where I wanted to achieve two things:
1) imitate Scandinavian ceramic artists of 1940-1960s
2) write a poem and illustrate it

Scandinavian Ceramic Artists

Annikki Hovisaari, a Finnish ceramic artistLet’s start with the artists: Annikki Hovisaari from Finland and Lisa Larson from Sweden. They are women who made beautiful ceramic art in 40s-60s. Annikki Hovisaari died in 2004 but Lisa Larson is still alive and she has a website too.

Me and my husband own a couple of Annikki Hovisaari’s work. We have bought those from antique fairs.

I found out about Lisa Larson in Scandinavian Retro magazine nr 1/2014. You can also see the best work of hers by searching from Google with the search term “Lisa Larson tile”

When I examined the work of these two artists, it was clear that a white correction pen would be perfect to imitate the lines. I made a couple of small pages by combining the correction pen with acrylic paints and PITT Artist Pens. However I was not fully satisfied with the outcome. These did not have the liveliness in color that I wanted to achieve.

An art journal spread by Peony and Parakeet

But after making these I realized how I would use the correction pen and what I would combine it with: watercolors! Here’s how you can create your own ceramic tile look!

1) Doodle with correction pen

Instructions on how to imitate the look of ceramic tiles, by Peony and Parakeet

2) Use watercolors for coloring

Instructions on how to imitate the look of ceramic tiles, by Peony and Parakeet

The correction pen works as a resist. You can watercolor over the white doodles. After painting add some water and wipe the paint off from the doodles.

3)  Add contrast and draw thin black lines

Instructions on how to imitate the look of ceramic tiles, by Peony and Parakeet

When you are done with watercolors, don’t stop yet. Add color variation and contrasts to doodled shapes. You can also work with colored pencils when finishing if it feels easier. Finally take a thin black marker and add thin lines in the center of white doodles or both sides of the doodles. These lines will make your work look sharper and more dimensional.

Instructions on how to imitate the look of ceramic tiles, by Peony and Parakeet

Here you can see the difference that finishing makes. At this stage I have also added the poem. But actually my process began by writing the poem. I have discovered that if I want more depth in journaling, it’s better to write it first.

Have fun with this simple technique!

Instructions on how to imitate the look of ceramic tiles, by Peony and Parakeet

More ceramic art inspiration and playing with simple shapes
>> Modern Mid-Century art journaling mini-course