Peony and Parakeet

Breaking the Rules – Creating What’s Right for You

This blog post is about breaking the rules when choosing what to create.

Madonna of the Heart, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Let’s begin with this oil painting. Oil paintings are big projects for me, and I only finished two of them last year. The first was Temptation, and this is the second one, called Madonna of the Heart.

Following the Heart – Breaking the Rules

My Madonna is a small painting, only 18,5 x 23,5 cm, but it’s quite detailed. I first planned to make it fully abstract, but then got second thoughts.

Starting an oil painting, painting intuitively, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

As a child, I learned the basics of eastern-orthodox art by attending an icon painting group. I was taught many rules – what colors to choose, how to mix the right tones, how to build layers, etc. It was not just about learning the right techniques, but also obeying the long tradition. The repeating discussion in the group was the difference between right and wrong. There was very little room for creativity, and I loved it! I was about 10 years old and eager to learn new things. Work was challenging, and it was comforting to know that there’s one clear direction.

Madonna of the Heart, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

When painting the small canvas, I was tempted to travel back to my childhood, and participate in that small and safe group of icon painters again. But I also knew that it’s very wrong not to follow the rules. My supplies were wrong, my background was wrong, the whole idea was wrong. But it felt natural and tempting, so I made it.

Natural to You, Wrong to Some

Recently, I have found many creative blocks like this one. To paint an icon with oils on an abstract background is wrong to some, but it’s natural to me. I love painting intuitively, and the idea of an icon is the most beautiful that I know. Don’t we all need an image that offers consolation and reminds about kindness? To me, it has nothing to do with any specific religion. Everybody has a right to have a Madonna of the Heart.

While building the class Animal Inkdom, I have also filled my “boxes of joy” with hand-drawn collage pieces. Very soon after starting, I realized that the principle “natural to me, wrong to some” also applies to these small drawings.

Paivi's box of hand drawn collage pieces. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Yes, I love to draw flowers, birds, butterflies, very innocent stuff. But there are also pieces that are quite odd like this one.

Hand drawn ornament by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

This hand-drawn ornament has two women, both dressed in old Byzantine clothing, and the lion. It has a handle so that it can be held like a sacred image. This small drawing is packed with stories about my childhood. I remember the conversations with my mother, already passed away. I remember my idol, Joy Adamson, and her lion Elsa. I remember my love for blue color. Seeing all that together makes me happy.

I also love to play with the ornament by adding more handdrawn elements around it!

Hand-drawn ornaments by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Breaking the Rules Between Serious and Playful

So it happened that a carefully painted oil painting and this little ornament became equal. Of course, not equal in monetary value, but equal in the kind of satisfaction I get from them. And it also feels that this world that I am building is surprisingly inclusive, both humorous and deep. All I need to do is to make what’s natural to me, even if it would look wrong to some.

Paivi Eerola's art. An oil painting and hand-drawn ornaments. Breaking the rules of what's right and wrong in art.

We often miss this natural zone because we are so focused on what makes sense to others. When choosing what to create, we work with pre-defined labels like “portraits” or “art journal pages” or “abstracts.” We do what seems to be right for the genre, rather than step into the world where someone might not get it, or in the worst case, might get offended. Still, the freedom in art can’t exist without the freedom of imagination.

Come to Play and Draw with Me!

So, I dare to suggest: play with your art! Cross the boundaries between “right” and “wrong”! Follow the general rules of aesthetics but brea the rules of subject matters.

I think that with Animal Inkdom, you can nail it. You will get practical tips and techniques, but there’s also humor and play, all flavored with the love for wildlife.

Drawing animals and decorating them with motifs. Paivi Eerola has a fun drawing class called Animal Inkdom.

It’s still a good time to sign up for Animal Inkdom! The first one of the five modules is published, and you will get it right away after the registration.

Let’s keep on drawing, and never forget the playing part either!

How to Add Depth when Creating Abstract Mixed Media Florals

Blooming Cactus, a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watch her video about how to create this and add visual depth to your art!

When I started drawing and painting as an adult, it took quite a long time for me to understand the power of creating visual depth. Before that, every time I wanted to highlight a particular element, I added more lines to it and it just looked stiffer and stiffer. When you add depth, your art is not like a sentence where every word is underlined.

Instead, your art becomes more like a paragraph that invites the viewer to dig deeper.

How to Add Depth – Create with Me!

In the video, I create a floral painting without any reference photos and give you some basic tips along the way. I use a mixed media approach and combine pens with paints to make the job easier!

Come and Create Unique Floral Treasures!

Level up your skills, find the process you love and let flowers show the way to expressive art! You don’t want to miss this class!

Floral Fantasies in Three Styles, a flower art class by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles begins on Feb 19th – sign up now!

 

Flower Art Inspiration from the Students of Floral Fantasies

Intuitive painting. Watercolors and watercolor brush. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Today, you will see beautiful art from the students of Floral Fantasies in Three Styles!

Floral Fantasies in Three Styles, a flower art class by Peony and Parakeet

In this online workshop, you play with three different approaches and pick the best from each of them.

Week 1 – Designs to Spark the Imagination

I think we all have browsed Instagram or Pinterest and found inspiring images from illustrators and pattern designers. In the first week, I show how to use flower photos to create simple designs that still look lively and unique. You will build designs from simple shapes and get inspiration from art nouveau, art deco, mid-century modern, and Scandinavian retro.

Flower art inspiration from Peony and Parakeet. See her floral art class Floral Fantasies in Three Styles!

What I love about the students’ designs, is that they are all so original and express personality as well. I have included my favorite detail in the images.

Stephanie Carney:

By Stephanie Carney, USA. Student artwork from Peony and Parakeet's class Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles.

Cathy Cale:

By Cathy Cale, USA. Student artwork from Peony and Parakeet's class Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles.

Diane Williams:

By Diane Williams, USA. Student artwork from Peony and Parakeet's class Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles.

Jenny Baeta:

By Jenny Baeta, UK. Student artwork from Peony and Parakeet's class Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles.

Gill Turner:

By Gill Turner, UK. Student artwork from Peony and Parakeet's class Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles.

Nancy Kvorka:

By Nancy Kvorka, USA. Student artwork from Peony and Parakeet's class Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles.

Week 2 – Watercolors to Bring Up Expression

In week 2, we go to a different direction but use the idea of simplifying as a foundation for painting intuitively. The best media for quick, intuitive painting is watercolors, of course!

Flower art inspiration from Peony and Parakeet. See her floral art class Floral Fantasies in Three Styles!

Tina Mitchell:

By Tina Mitchell, Nicaragua. Student artwork from Peony and Parakeet's class Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles.

Darci Hayden:

By Darci Hayden, USA. By Stephanie Carney, USA. Student artwork from Peony and Parakeet's class Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles.

Christy Tattersall:

By Christy Tattersall, USA. By Stephanie Carney, USA. Student artwork from Peony and Parakeet's class Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles.

Wendy Holmgren:

By Wendy Holmgren, USA. By Stephanie Carney, USA. Student artwork from Peony and Parakeet's class Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles.

You can be less or more abstract when creating flowers with watercolors. You can adjust the theme to paint a still life, scene or landscape. See how Lisa Wright’s and Pirkko-Liisa Mannoja’s styles are different, yet both have their strengths.

By Lisa Wright, USA and Pirkko-Liisa Mannoja, Finland. Student artwork from Peony and Parakeet's class Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles.

There are so many different kinds of energy that you can express from quiet power to bubbling bursts, or maybe you want to splash boldly as Darci did in her piece.

Weeks 3 & 4 – Acrylics and Glazing Medium to Create Softness

In the next two weeks, we use all the things we have learned from watercolors as a new foundation for painting with acrylics.  If you like to create quickly but get frustrated with the result, these weeks can be ground-breaking to you. Instead of rushing, you will calm down. You will see nuances and softness that you hadn’t noticed before. You will learn to use glazing medium so that it will make acrylic paints speak the language of flowers.

Flower art inspiration from Peony and Parakeet. See her floral art class Floral Fantasies in Three Styles!

This old technique has many applications. You can use it for intuitive art, and it’s especially good for figurative painting. Practically most of the old pieces from the 16th to the 18th century use the technique with oil paints. I have adapted the technique to acrylic paints. I also have experience in oil painting so I can give you some tips if you prefer oils instead. These pieces created by students are made with acrylics and glazing medium.

The first layers are painted with umber and white. It’s called underpainting. Martha Winslow shows you an example of that:

By Martha Winslow, USA. Student artwork from Peony and Parakeet's class Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles.

Mackie d’Arge’s underpainting and the painting after some color layers:

By Mackie d'Arge, USA. By Stephanie Carney, USA. Student artwork from Peony and Parakeet's class Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles.

Susana Trew shows the softness I talked about earlier:

By Susana Trew, Canada. Student artwork from Peony and Parakeet's class Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles.

Leena Meinilä’s piece shows the romantic approach with glowing details that was popular in Renaissance:

By Leena Meinilä, Finland. Student artwork from Peony and Parakeet's class Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles.

Marie Jerred shows how you can still play with colors even if you are painting like old masters:

By Marie Jerred, Canada. Student artwork from Peony and Parakeet's class Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles.

Paula Snyder said about the class:  “The old masters portion was earth shaking for me. Really good material I’ll use all my life. I feel like I am turning a corner in my artistic growth.”

See how her painting is full of delicacy in shapes and colors, and still so captivating in simplicity.

By Paula Sneider, USA. Student artwork from Peony and Parakeet's class Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles.

Many contemporary painters use this old technique, especially the underpainting part. It helps you to get away from the flat look, and bring depth and 3-dimensional impression to your work. Wendy Holmgren’s flower is a beautiful example:

By Wendy Holmgren, USA. Student artwork from Peony and Parakeet's class Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles.

Marion Berkhout said: “I found a way of working which I didn’t expect at all. And it gave me the confidence to trust myself in art. The class gave me the opportunity to develop myself as an artist and learn new skills.”

Marion’s painting takes the old technique to the contemporary era:

By Marion Berkhout, The Netherlands. Student artwork from Peony and Parakeet's class Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles.

Come and Create Your Floral Treasures!

Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles begins on Feb 19th, and the early-bird registration closes this week.  Get the reduced price – sign up now!

Floral Fantasies in Three Styles, a flower art class by Peony and Parakeet

More Art Inspiration – Join the Free Webinar too!

Tomorrow, I will broadcast live from my studio in Finland and talk about finding your visual voice. Welcome to the webinar! >> Save your spot here

Finding Your Visual Voice, webinar for visual artists by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

The webinar will be recorded. If you save your spot, you can also watch the replay later!

Passion for Color? – Try This Method!

Passion for Color, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her step-by-step method for creating mixed media art by focusing on one color!

Create a color-focused art journal page! You can choose as many supplies as you want but just one color!

Step 1 – Pick Your Color!

What color speaks to you today? Red, blue, yellow, green, brown, black … Pick any that you feel drawn to! Collect the art supplies that you have in that color!

In most mornings, after taking the dogs out, I go to my studio and start creating sketches, or art journal pages, or continue paintings in progress. I often make a hot beverage called Sunny Grapefruit. I have bought it from a tea shop, but it doesn’t contain any tea, just fruits, and lemongrass. I sit down in an Ikea chair found at a flea market. I have painted it and put a sheep fleece on it, so it’s warm and cozy. All this warmth made me think about red.

Art supplies for a color-inspired mixed media piece. See the step-by-step method for creating an art journal page that focuses on color!

I chose the supplies so that they were all various tones of red ranging from orange to pink.

Step 2 – Source of Energy

Your color is the source of energy. Pick any coloring supply and make a simple circle somewhere on the page! However, don’t begin in the middle! Your work will look more expressive if you don’t make it symmetric.

Starting the morning by creating art. See the method for using one color for one mixed media piece!

I colored a soft circle with a couple of Faber-Castell Gelato Sticks.

Step 3 – Radiating Power

Add more color to the circle with different supplies! Imagine that your passion radiates strength. Use your imagination to color shapes and lines that are connected to the circle. Again, keep the design asymmetric.

Growing energy. See how to finish this mixed media piece!

I used colored pencils and thought about the sun and the fire. You can use your imagination based on the ideas that the color evokes. For example, if your color is blue, you can think about waves and the energy and the movement that they contain. Don’t overthink; it’s just a start! Usually, we get conventional ideas in the beginning but then become more inventive as the work progresses.

Step 4 – Explosion and Spin-Off

Change the supplies again, and imagine an explosion of energy. Let your circle grow but also become less solid. Create a spin-off that has a life of its own.

Using Derwent Artbars for mixed media art.

I used Derwent Artbars and water. I could have used watercolors instead, but nowadays, I often find it quicker to grab some Artbars and use a water brush when I am creating a mixed media piece.

Explosion of color. See step-by-step instructions on how to finish this art journal page!

Step 5 – Look Around!

So far you have focused on one area of the page. Now imagine, that the explosion reveals some of the surroundings. Add some pale elements but don’t cover the whole page.

Using Faber-Castell Gelatos for mixed media art. See how you can combine them with other art supplies!

I just made some soft splotches with Faber-Castell Gelatos. Notice how my explosion travels diagonally across the page and reveals areas that are also diagonal but in the reverse direction. Diagonals make the image look dynamic.

Step 6 – Birth

Color clearly-defined shapes that connect the energy source and the spin-off. Imagine that something concrete is born out of the explosion and moves forward. 

Abstract art journal page with mixed media supplies. See step-by-step instructions on how to finish this page!

I colored geometric shapes with Fabel Castell PITT Artist Pens. To highlight the movement, I make the shapes cross over each other. I also add bigger shapes that are shown only partly so that it looks like they are flying away.

Step 7 – Mountains

Color a big area of the page so that it’s like mountains have grown to your page. Again, keep one part of the page blank. Add some color to the other side of the blank area too so that the blank area is like a gulley between the mountains. 

Painting a color-oriented art journal page. See the step-by-step directions on how to make and finish this mixed media art journal page!

If you have acrylic paints, now it’s a good time to use those. Painting is quicker than coloring with pens, and you can also create layers easily.

Using acrylic paints for mixed media art. See step-by-step instructions for creating a color-inspired art journal page!

I use gel medium to make the acrylic paint more fluid and translucent. I also use two brushes so that there’s more variation in the brush strokes.

Step 8 – Jump!

Imagine being up in the mountains, looking down to the gulley. When you jump, you begin to see that the blank area also contains wonders. The fall is not so high than what you first expected. Softly color some vague shapes in the blank area.

A detail of a mixed media art journal page. See step by step instructions on how to focus on one color and create mixed media art!

I used Derwent Artbars and water.

Step 9 – Test and Adjust!

When creating abstract art, I find it practical to test it based on how well it fits with other patterns, textures, and shapes. I placed my sketchbook near the fireplace where we have a place to watch the fire. To me, it looks like my page doesn’t have enough contrast.

Matching the sketch with the interiors. See how this mixed media piece got changed after the analysis!

So I add some alizarin red which is very dark and some lighter orange to finish the mountain area.

Creating mixed media art. See a method that focuses on one color!

Now the contrast looks better.

Matching art with the interiors. See how this mixed media sketch was made!

Learning to Create – Using a Model, “How To,” or a Method?

There are many ways to learn:
a) Watching someone create and then following it accurately. This way you will create something that you wouldn’t have thought of figuring out yourself. The downside is that your expression and imagination has very little space to come through. You are learning technical skills mostly. Sometimes it can happen that you don’t know why you do what you do.
b) Learning how to use certain supplies in a certain manner. This makes you learn the characteristics of a certain art supply and the techniques that you can use. You can then use the techniques to produce your unique art. The downside is that if you don’t connect with your imagination, you lose the joy of creating. You know why you do what you do but don’t know where else you could use it.
c) Following a method that connects you with your imagination. This gives you preliminary ideas that you can then expand to fit your thoughts and to grow your style. The downside is that if you have no idea how to use the supplies, it will take up your energy.

My Methods

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet with her art journals

As a teacher and a mentor, I focus on the methods that grow the expression and imagination. Even if I value knowledge and techniques, my strength is in innovating new methods that help you to connect with your creativity. I have heard many say that when they analyze someone’s art, it’s easiest to focus on the technical part. I agree. There are more rights and wrongs to catch. But after creating in a very disciplined manner for the last year, I have come to this conclusion both as an artist and as a mentor: I want to grow my skills to all directions, but if I had to pick one, it would be imagination.

Boost Your Visual Imagination!

Without imagination, we just go around the same circle. We don’t feel free, and we end up believing that there’s one more technical trick around the corner that will change the game. But it’s the imagination that will do that. That’s why I don’t select students based on their supplies, or the technique or style they use. Together, we share our love for making the invisible visible and learning to use the techniques to serve that.

Boost your imagination by joining my community Bloom and Fly! We’ll start with a method for your creative goals, then pick easy ideas from Rococo, explore abstracts together, etc. I will help you to express yourself so that it’s adventurous and imaginative!  >> Sign up here!

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