Painting a Series – How I Managed It!

"Living Treasure", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read about her thoughts of painting a series.

I have just finished a series of five flower paintings on canvas. Yesterday, when I was walking back and forth from my studio to the rest of the house, preparing for the photography and the varnishing, I felt both relieved and terrified. I was relieved because nine months of hard work was at the end. I felt terrified because I had run out of excuses for delaying the start of a new series.

Technique Came First, Themes Second

But let’s get back to early spring when I was painting the first of the five paintings. My goal was to master old masters’ painting technique in acrylics so that I could teach it. I had no idea of how many pieces it would require. Before teaching, I needed to understand “why” not just “how.” I also had to develop a logic that makes learning possible, variations that show the possibilities of the technique, and the systematic way of working to make everything as understandable and to the point as possible.

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

When I was painting Strawberry Madonna, it soon became clear to me that I was nowhere near to be teaching the technique. I needed to fix my strokes constantly. Even if the fixing doesn’t show in the finished painting, it became clear that I needed more practice. I couldn’t fuss around that way while teaching.

So I bought new canvases and kept on painting. I made experiments, art journal pages, and had several paintings in progress at the same time. I focused on painting what I wanted to include in the class as well: flowers and playing with historical styles. Crafts like crochet, decorative painting, jewelry, fabric, etc were also sources of inspiration. Most of the pieces took tens of hours from me to finish. The quickest is “Four Seasons” that I recorded for the class. With the final touches added after the recording, it took less than ten hours to paint. “Queen of Fantasy” took much longer. You can see me starting it in the free video, but I adjusted the painting many times after that.

"Queen of Fantasy", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Painting a Series – The Most Important Insight

The funny thing about all this is that I wasn’t intentionally painting a series. Working towards the goal of mastering and understanding the old masters’ technique, gave direction to my work. If I had thought about the series more intentionally, I would have probably freaked out! Now when I look back, the most important thing to me was that I expressed the power of flowers in all my paintings but thought about it differently in all the five paintings.

  • For “Living Treasure” I got ideas from gardening.
  • “Strawberry Madonna” connects flowers with fruits and their taste.
  • “Queen of Fantasy” is about flowers representing romance.
  • “Blooming Centuries” tells how flowers have always inspired painters, designers, and crafters.
  • “Four Seasons” shows sisu, a Finnish word for resilience when you work against all the odds and still find the spirit to bloom and prosper.

"Four Seasons", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

So I had a set of generic themes that were repeated in all the paintings, but different interpretations of them. That made them work as a series but so that they don’t look identical at all. Being very intentional about the series and prohibiting new ideas emerge while working can lead to a very boring result and in my case, it would probably make me quit because the lack of excitement and adventure that keeps me going.

I think this insight could also be useful for those who seek for their style. Rather than painting the same thing and get bored by it, find bigger themes and use your creativity to approach them from different angles.

New Era – New Series

During the past couple of months, I have felt fear when thinking where I want to go with my art. I have contemplated that can I share my plans or just keep them hidden because it’s likely that I will fail. For quite some time, I have felt the need to paint abstract art that plays with textures and geometry. I think many of the paintings of this series already have some of that.

I have a funny name for the style of the new series. It is “kinetic-romantic abstract realism.” “Kinetic” means that I want to include movement that is related to machines. “Romantic” means that I want to express through beauty and relationships. “Abstract Realism” refers to the idea of mimicking realistic surface materials for abstract shapes. Very odd, I know, and it terrifies me.

"Blooming Centuries", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Creativity is a Living Treasure – Watch the Video!

Before the new beginning, it’s time to celebrate the finished series. I have made a short video of the five pieces and the thoughts that came to my mind when painting them. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy the video!

My Painting on Your Wall?

These paintings are also for sale! I sell them directly, and the prices are:

“Four Seasons” – 300 EUR
“Queen of Fantasy” – 300 EUR
“Blooming Centuries” – 500 EUR
“Strawberry Madonna” – 500 EUR
“Living Treasure” – 900 EUR

Contact me via email paivi@peonyandparakeet.com. I will send you the estimate of the shipping cost and when agreed, the invoice via Paypal.

Altering a Flower Painting – Inspiration from Vatican Museums

Queen of Fantasy by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. A flower painting with acrylics and glazing medium.

About three weeks ago, I quickly painted a small flower painting while sharing my thoughts about painting softly (see this blog post, which also includes a video).

A flower painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

During the past weeks, I have been wondering what to do with the painting.  I thought it could be a little more detailed and tell a bit more glorious story. So this morning, I decided to work more on it. Some artists are always afraid of “over-working” their paintings. But I belong to the group who thinks that the painting is almost never fully finished. There seem always to be more ideas I could add and more adjustments I should do.

1) Painting a Decorative Frame

This time I decided to use a selection of old decorative art as an inspiration source. I picked photos that I took from the visit to Vatican Museums in June. I often work like this: letting images spark ideas that I will add to my work. It’s not so much “copying” but picking concepts or generic ideas. My first inspiration came from these decorative panels.

Decorative floral panels from Vatican Museums

By using a Chinese marker, and a lid of a jar as a template I drew a circle on the center.

Painting a decorative flower painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

A huge porcelain piece and a beautiful ceiling inspired me to paint a frame with lots of swirls.

Beautiful details from Vatican Museums

I just added some burnt umber around the drawn line and then painted the swirls in white. I added several translucent layers to make the shapes look more three-dimensional.

Painting a decorative frame to a flower painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

2) Playing with Colors and Shapes

The next ideas came from this picture. It’s one of the many beautiful ceilings, so full of images and details that it’s almost overwhelming.

A beautiful ceiling from Vatican Museums.

The ceiling inspired me to add more color variation to the painting. I used mostly ultramarine blue, ochre, and cadmium yellow on the center, and quickly some elements with white on the bottom left corner. While waiting for each thin color layer to dry, I pondered what to do with the rest of the painting.

A process picture of a flower painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I almost heard a voice saying: “Stop right here, don’t ruin the painting!”

3) Letting Go – More is More!

While browsing the photos taken from Vatican Museums, I remembered the astonishment that came from the number of visitors there were. It was Friday afternoon, but the area was packed. Each huge corridor was filled by us, tourists walking and staring at the beautiful ceilings. The Sistine Chapel was even more crowded. Frescos, mosaics, statues, paintings and decorative textiles covered the surfaces. Everything was full in every possible way. And now in Finland, I was sitting in my half-empty studio with my half-empty painting.

So I said to myself: “Go for it!” And took some extra boost for my confidence by examining a photo of a wonderful wall textile. If men can be this decorative, why not just continue the painting!

A beautiful wall textile from Vatican Museums

I worked more with the center of the painting, making it grow towards the edges.

A flower painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

A detail of a mosaic floor gave me an idea to combine geometric shapes with curvier lines.

Mosaic floor from Vatican Museums.

Here’s a close-up showing tiny additions on the left:

A close-up photo of a flower painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

4) Bringing up the Expression – Highlighting the Visual Message

Before the final touches, I still had some stiffness in expression. To me, it’s often difficult to fully trust my intuition unless I know what I am expressing. I was almost finished when I realized that my painting is about being a queen of the fantasy, ruling every little detail, making ships change their direction on the sea, and wearing a crown that shines further than anyone could imagine.

Altering a flower painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and parakeet.

Some Close-Up Photos of the Flower Painting

Ships sailing:

A detail of "Queen of Fantasy" by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. A flower painting with acrylics and glazing medium.

The center. This is a very small painting, only 12 by 12 inches total:

A detail of "Queen of Fantasy" by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. A flower painting with acrylics and glazing medium.

Floral Fantasies

Lately, I have been more and more aware of the fact that I want to paint fantasies. To me, the first version of the painting was too bland. I dress modestly, I hate wearing too much jewelry, my home is not full of stuff, and still, I want my art to be full, to go beyond what’s expected and accepted.

Flower painting, two versions. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I am currently preparing a new online workshop about painting flowers … If all goes well, it will take begin in October.

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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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