Loosen Up! – Free Mini-Course for the Email Subscribers!

Loosen Up! - A mini-course about drawing and painting freely by Peony and Parakeet. Subscribe to her weekly emails and get this 2-part course for free!

Exciting news! I have created a new mini-course called Loosen Up! It is all about getting rid of the stiffness and starting to draw and paint more freely.

The mini-course has two parts. First, you will learn how to start creating freely without any pre-planned ideas. You will learn a set of tips and tricks on how to remove stiffness from your art. In Part 2, you will learn how to start with an intention, and still, bring more You in your work.

Loosen-Up is free for the subscribers of my weekly emails! If you haven’t subscribed yet, do it now and receive Part 1 immediately after subscribing!

See the video below if you hesitate!

Let me be your mentor in creating: Subscribe to my weekly emails!

Klimt’s Garden with Students of Peony and Parakeet

We are heading for the winter in Finland. It has made me pull out the photos taken during the recent years from the garden. They remind me that the summer will come again. Together with my students, I dedicate this blog post for the famous Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and the way he saw the world. It’s a perfect perspective when you want to get inspiration from the garden!

Portraits with Scenes Instead of Faces Only

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Stephanie Carney, USA - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

Stephanie Carney shows so well how Gustav would see our gardens: full of decorative elements! This way of looking combines two perspectives. First, examining the details and their decorative nature. Second, seeing the big picture: how plants are not just individual and separate but integrated into a scene.

When browsing my photo library, I realized that I have a lot of close-up photos of flowers. But for this post, I picked images that show more than just ethereal petals. The images that have more than a few details make me more attached to my garden. I think it’s the same with paintings and drawings: instead of just sketching faces, we can show the whole experience.

That’s how Gustav Klimt built most of his portraits: not only focusing on faces but showing more of the world around the person by expressing it through decorative and abstract elements. Klimt’s mission was to combine decorative designs with fine arts, and I think it’s one of the reasons why his work is fascinating for us who like to sew, quilt, embroider, or do any crafts. When looking at Stephanie’s work, inspired by Klimt, I can easily imagine wearing that dress and stitching any of the beautiful motifs that can be picked from the picture!

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Stephanie Carney, USA - a detail of a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

From Messy Garden to Klimt’s Garden

I claim that we can look at the garden using “everyday eyes” or “magical eyes.” When using the everyday eyes, everything is “should,” “could” or “have to.” We see weeds, neglected areas, messy grass. But with the magical eyes, we see nature as art.

For example, these ferns from my back garden horrified me when I looked at them with the everyday eyes. All I could see was a neglected flower bench getting ready for the cold weather. “I should cut those,” I thought. Then I took a step back and … wow! Nature had made an Art Deco pattern for me! I felt grateful and inspired. For a moment, I was in Klimt’s garden.
Fern like an art deco pattern

Gustav Klimt understood that when we want to express the beauty, we want to express the experience, not just copy what we see. When looking with the magical eyes – when being in Klimt’s garden, our feelings get mixed with the things we see, and nothing is fully organized. That’s why the sun feels more than just a bright spot in the sky in Lorraine Cline’s work. It doesn’t only make flowers grow, but it’s an uplifting force for humans as well. We get wrapped in its warmth, and for a moment, we are just one of the many plants in Klimt’s garden.

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Lorraine Cline, USA - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

Quilted Garden

Gustav Klimt saw the world as a stream of patterns and colors. Sometimes they were symbolic, sometimes more literal like the artwork below, showing a baby’s quilt. Even if the painting is fine art, it honors crafts.

Gustav Klimt: "Baby (Cradle)," 1917/1918

Gustav Klimt: “Baby (Cradle),” 1917/1918

At Klimt’s garden, there’s no distinct border between nature’s and man’s creations. When you look at the world with the magical eyes, they become one.

Stella the beagle and her quilt. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Pirkko-Liisa Mannoja’s piece combines drawing and painting, but to me, it also looks like an art quilt.

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Pirkko Liisa Mannoja, Finland - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

When we use the everyday eyes, we see the world as clearly-defined objects. We see green grass and red flowers. But when we look with the magical eyes, we see things that are more abstract, like the way the light forms spots in the background. That’s one of the subtle things that make Pirkko-Liisa’s work shine.

In Klimt’s garden, the grass can be white, and the observer can be green.

Cosmo the beagle enjoying summer in the garden.

In Klimt’s garden, we treat trees like they were close friends. I love how Christie Juhasz expresses that in her beautiful art journal spread.

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Christie Juhasz, USA - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

In Klimt’s garden, martagons take us back to Art Nouveau with their decoratively shaped stems and delicately colored flowers.

Martagons. A photo by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

In Klimt’s garden, we connect with the outside world so that it lightens up our inner world. When I look at Mackie d’Arge’s gorgeous piece, I feel connected to both.

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Mackie d'Arge, USA - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

When we look at the world with the everyday eyes, we worry about the weather when we look up.

Spring Sky. A photo by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

But when we change to the magical eyes, the sky and the earth are not separate at all. Just like in Diana Jackson’s expressive piece!

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Diana Jackson, USA - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

Winter in Klimt’s Garden

I wrote most of this blog post yesterday. When I woke up this morning, the snow had come to Finland. It felt depressing. “The garden is gone,” I said to myself. But then I realized that I had my everyday eyes. When looking with the magical eyes, Klimt’s garden is there for sure. It has just changed its colors.

Winter in the garden. A photo by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Klimt’s Garden in Your Art Journal!

The student artwork in this blog post is created from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. In the mini-course, you can create a decorative garden scene in Gustav Klimt’s style. The mini-course is available as a part of Imagine Monthly Fall 2016 art journaling bundle, packed with four more inspiring themes and techniques. And to celebrate the snow arriving in Southern Finland, you will get the generous 30% off during the weekend (from Oct 26 to Oct 29, midnight PST). >> Buy now!

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet and her Klimt's garden - an art journal spread inspired by Gustav Klimt. From her mini-course Patterned Topiary. 

Create Klimt’s Garden: Buy Patterned Topiary + 4 inspiring mini-courses!

Painting with Imagination – Watch the Video!

Bluebird, a watercolor and gouache painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watch the video about creating this painting and using imagination!

This week, I have made a special video for you! On the video, I paint with watercolors and talk about getting attention and growing imagination. They both are important for any artist. Honestly, it was quite exciting to talk and paint under two cameras, and I was afraid that I would just make a mess when I had so many things going on at the same time. But I tried to make the video so that it would feel like you would be visiting my studio and paint with me there. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

Painting with Imagination – Watch the Video!

Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles Begins Oct 16!
Floral Fantasies in Three Styles, a flower painting online workshop by Peony and Parakeet

Let flowers make you an imaginative artist! Reserve Your Spot Now!

Three Artist Types and Why You Should Become All of Them!

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

Here’s my latest acrylic painting “Blooming Centuries”. With this piece, I show you how stepping into roles of three different types of artists can grow your skills.

Tight Focus – Don’t Believe it!

The conventional way to grow artistic skills is to choose your media, mindset, and style and stick with the choice. To me, this kind of tight focus has never worked. It feels boring and too straight-forward to work in practice. It forgets the fact that creativity comes with limited persistence but with unlimited imagination.

For example, when I have a heavy heart and want to get quickly into the core of it, I don’t want to stick with the technique that is more labor-oriented. On the other hand, when I want to think and adjust, quick and simple is not what makes the most of the contemplation. Sometimes my imagination wants to be playful, other times it wants to be timeless and deep. When the moment and the mood can define the supplies and techniques, I not only enjoy more but also surprisingly, learn more!

3 Moods – 3 Artist Types

In my upcoming workshop, I will expand your toolbox for creating art in various moods, rather than trying to force everything under one media and one way of working. I have defined three types of artists and picked the techniques accordingly.

Three artist types by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

The most interesting column in the table above is “Emotion” because it brings up the benefit of the mood.  When you imagine being a designer, you aim for clarity. You get happiness out of clearing your thoughts and communicating the essence. When you step into the role of an intuitive watercolorist, your core desire is freedom of expression. What appears on paper, is exciting and your adventurous mind makes the most of it. As a Renaissance painter, you are searching for the peace of mind. By creating a layer after another, you gently caress your way away from busy life.

Now you might say: “But Paivi, I am nothing but an intuitive painter. I am all about quickly creating a beautiful mess.” But don’t let your successes take you on the wrong track. Think about your struggles and what you can learn from the other artists. For example, if your mess has become nothing but beautiful it’s often because the small portion of clarity that we all need has been missing. Or if your mess looks too flat, it’s because your work doesn’t follow the concepts of the three-dimensional world. Also, the time that it takes to create tens of pieces quickly could be used to creating one piece that rises to another level.

I believe that growing as an artist is about learning the best of the many approaches. It’s like getting ingredients for the soup and then making a personal recipe to fit the current mood and style.

3 Artist Types – 1 Painting!

With “Blooming Centuries,” I wanted to express how flowers may be fleeting things, but in general, they have a strong position in the history of art and design. Flowers have inspired artists and designers through past eras, and they still inspire us to create no matter what mood we have. This painting is based on playing with different artist types from a designer to a Renaissance painter.

Designer: Some elements of the painting are more related to crafts and design than to the fine art. They are built from geometric shapes and are quite minimalistic.

Blooming Centuries by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Geometric elements that have been created with designer's mindset.

Intuitive artist: There are also elements that have been born freely and intuitively.

Blooming Centuries by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. The intuitive elements of the painting.

Renaissance painter: Some of the elements have a lot of layers and are more 3-dimensional than others.

Blooming Centuries by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Layered elements created with old masters' painting techniques.

Another Example – Combining Intuitive with Art Nouveau

Let’s imagine that you love Art Nouveau. You adore Alphonse Mucha’s work and everything from the beginning of the 20th century. You want your style to include a lot of Art Nouveau but in a refreshing way. So you might think you need to focus on developing your drawing skills only. You draw and draw, and you get closer and closer to Alphonse but the new twist that you want to give to your drawings, “your personal style,” is missing.

But if you start learning from Intuitive Watercolorist and Renaissance Painter, your Art Nouveau designs will take a new turn. By adding more transparent layers, you can express liveliness so that it still looks graceful. By finding ways to manipulate water, you get free-flowing shapes more effortlessly. Your art no longer is a copy of what someone else has created, but it takes a direction of its own. You begin to appreciate all kinds of art because you want to add more spices to your recipe. Your passion for art gets stronger, and the joy you get from it grows bigger. When you struggle, you see a wider range of solutions than before.

Intuitive Nouveau, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

So, every Designer or Illustrator has something to learn from a Renaissance painter or an Intuitive Watercolorist. And the same applies to all artist types.

A detail of an intuitive watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Circles show three different mindsets that have been used for this painting.

Get into the Minds of the Three Artist Types!

In my online workshop Floral Fantasies in Three Styles, we will dive deeper into the three artist types. It will expand your impression of style and how to construct one.  It’s the class you don’t want to miss if you love flowers and want to become an imagination-driven artist! Reserve Your Spot Now!

A detail of Blooming Centuries, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Floral Fantasies in Three Styles: Reserve Your Spot Now!

The Inspiring World of Details – Ideas from Uffizi Gallery

Paivi Eerola and Gypsy Girl, a painting by Boccaccio Boccaccino

If you have followed my blog for some time, you know that this photo is very meaningful to me. It was a hot day in June when I visited Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. The huge old building was filled with world-class art. But I wasn’t just going to look at the famous masterpieces like Botticelli’s Primavera or Birth of Venus. I was searching a small painting of Boccaccio Boccaccino.

Meeting Boccaccio Boccaccino at Uffizi

Boccaccino’s painting made my heart bounce when I saw it on Google at the beginning of this year. I made my version of it during the spring.

Paivi Eerola and her oil painting combining Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci, and Gypsy Girl by Boccaccio Boccaccino

After finishing the painting, Boccaccino’s Gypsy Girl continued to fascinate me so that in June, I traveled to Italy with my husband to see the original painting. I tried to prepare myself for the situation that I wouldn’t see it. Sometimes museums lend paintings for other exhibitions or don’t have everything on display. But my journey wasn’t wasted: I got the chance to admire the painting, so tiny that I couldn’t believe my eyes. Namely, the whole spring I had tried to capture the gentle features for much bigger size, and it felt challenging!

Boccaccino's Gypsy Girl and Paivi's version, by Boccaccio Boccaccino and Paivi Eerola

Comparing Boccaccino’s Gypsy Girl and Paivi’s version

Now when I compare the details, I see many differences. My gypsy girl is not the same person than the original, but it’s ok. I feel that it resembles me and especially how I would like to be seen: gentle but observing, always protecting what’s precious.

Wouldn’t it be if I could tell my story to Boccaccio Boccaccino? I would tell him how I saw his painting on the Internet, in a big catalog that anyone can browse. I would tell him how I examined the images of the painting and painted a bigger version of it. He would probably wonder how I could afford for all the paints for the big version, and who had ordered such a large painting of a modest gypsy girl. “It’s just for me,” I would say, “this painting is so special that I don’t want to sell it.” “You must be a wealthy woman,” he would probably say and then continue: “Where did you say you come from?”. I would tell him about Finland, an area in the far north and show it on a map. Then I would tell him about airplanes. He wouldn’t probably believe anything!

But at the end, all I would like to say to him is this: “People from all over the world come to see your painting. They buy the ticket in advance. They queue. They sweat. They book the hotel based on its location. They take pictures of it. They examine them when they are back home.”

Isn’t that something any artist would like to hear?

More Uffizi – Some Ideas for Your Art Journals

1) Fresco Pages

Like any museum in Florence, Uffizi Gallery’s ceilings had a lot of frescos. The long hallways were full of illustrations.

Uffizi Gallery, ceilings

The round ceiling is so brilliant that I have to show you a close-up photo:

A painted ceiling at The Uffizi Gallery, Italy, Florence

I love how the branches go to the back and to the front of the bars, and how the color changes in the background. It’s such a great idea that I also quickly recorded it onto my art journal!

Art journal page idea by Peony and Parakeet

2) Delicate Patterns Filling Solid Areas

Another idea is to see the possibility of a solid or dull area. See how the grass can be more than just green color or green strokes. I saw quite a many paintings that had this:

Alesso Baldovinetti, Cafaggiolo Altarpiece, c. 1453, a detail

Alesso Baldovinetti, Cafaggiolo Altarpiece, c. 1453, a detail

3) Translucent Elements

I am fascinated by the number of veils in Renaissance art, and especially how they are painted.

Sandro Botticelli: The Cestello Annunciation, a detail

Sandro Botticelli: The Cestello Annunciation, a detail

They are like abstract art if you look at them closer! See how the line changes in strength and how a little bright spot makes the fabric look shiny!

Sandro Botticelli: The Cestello Annunciation, a detail

Sandro Botticelli: The Cestello Annunciation, a detail

I also loved how the veil was painting in this painting:

Sandro Botticelli: Madonna of the Magnificat, c. 1483

Sandro Botticelli: Madonna of the Magnificat, c. 1483

Another idea: add stripes on those translucent elements!

A detail of Sandro Botticelli's Madonna of the Magnificat, c. 1483

A detail of Sandro Botticelli’s Madonna of the Magnificat, c. 1483

4) Light on the Center

I end this blog post with the simple idea that came from a stunning painting. Create a very bright element in the center and then add dark shadows around the painting!

Gerard van Honthorst, Adoration of the Child, 1619-1620

Gerard van Honthorst, Adoration of the Child, 1619-1620

As you can guess, it was an inspiring visit, and I could easily write and show more. Hopefully these inspired you, and hopefully, I will see you in the classes this fall.

Coming Up!

Online classes
Aug/Sept Collageland – a self-study class (textile-inspired collages)
Aug/Sept Inspirational Drawing 2.0 – available as self-study (drawing from imagination)
Oct/Nov Flower-themed online workshop (not your regular flower art class!)

Local workshops in Finland
Sept 9-10 Draw Freely – Piirrä vapaasti 1-2 (Suomeksi! – in Finnish)

Other news
I am planning to offer a free live webinar in September if I can just fit that into my schedule. Many have asked about my coaching program The Exploring Artist. I will rerun that at the beginning of next year.

Stay tuned and if you haven’t subscribed my weekly emails yet, subscribe here!

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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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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Helene Schjerfbeck – Step-by-Step Formula for Her Style

Portraits in the style of Helene Scherfbeck, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her step-by-step instructions!

In this blog post, I will show you how to create a stylish portrait and learn from a Finnish artist Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946).

The Famous Helene Schjerfbeck

Helene Scherfbeck had an impressionistic and fairly detailed style. But during the years, she became a true expressionist, a master of expressing the most essential through simplifying. She painted a lot of portraits, and many of them have become very valuable. The Red Haired Girl II was sold for 1.5 million euros at Sotheby’s last year. One of my aunts admired Helene Schjerfbeck, and many years ago, she bought me a book about her paintings. The book is called “Helene Scherfbeck – Elämä ja taide” (Life and Art), and it’s written by Lena Holger. To be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of the style and didn’t even browse the book for years. But the more I have learned about art, the more enthusiastic I have become to study various styles. As I love to figure out a formula behind a style, it started to feel tempting to solve Helene’s secrets too.

Helene Scherfbeck - Elämä ja taide, a book about a famous Finnish artist, written by Lena Holger, published by Otava.

Independent Visions – Helene Schjerfbeck in New York!

There’s also another reason why I am writing this. Currently, there’s a rare opportunity to see Finnish female masters in New York, USA.   The Ateneum Art Museum, which is part of the Finnish National Gallery, displays an excellent exhibition at Scandinavia House from 29 April to 3 October 2017. The exhibition presents four early 20th-century Finnish artists from the Ateneum collection: Helene Schjerfbeck, Sigrid Schauman, Ellen Thesleff and Elga Sesemann. If you visit New York this summer, do go and see it, I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Here are a couple of Helene Scherfbeck’s paintings that you will see there.

Helene Schjerfbeck: Girl from California I (1919). Finnish National Gallery/Ateneum Art Museum, The Kaunisto Collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery/Hannu Aaltonen.

Helene Schjerfbeck: Girl from California I (1919). Finnish National Gallery/Ateneum Art Museum, The Kaunisto Collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery/Hannu Aaltonen.

I find the abstract nature of Helene’s style especially fascinating. The way she simplifies the spots where the light hits or where a shadow is formed is like she is building an abstract composition instead of painting a face.

Furthermore, the girl below is wearing a shawl that is like an abstract painting!

Helene Schjerfbeck: Girl from Eydtkuhne II (1927). Finnish National Gallery/Ateneum Art Museum, The Kaunisto Collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery/Hannu Aaltonen.

Helene Schjerfbeck: Girl from Eydtkuhne II (1927). Finnish National Gallery/Ateneum Art Museum, The Kaunisto Collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery/Hannu Aaltonen.

Mixing Helene Scherfbeck’s Style with My Personal Approach

One primary factor in building a style is the shape of the elements. I for one love organic elements and flowing form. Simple rectangles are not as appealing to me as more complicated and diverse shapes. However, I wanted to add Helene’s twist to a couple of watercolor paintings. As Helene Scherfbeck also painted still-lifes, I decided to paint a woman with a flower or two. First, I made a tiny painting and played with layers to create angular shapes. Then I painted a bigger watercolor painting with familiar flowing shapes but using the insights that I had got by painting the first one.

Watercolor paintings by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

After these two paintings, I was ready to record a simple formula for achieving Helene Scherfbeck’s style.

The Formula for The Modern Woman – Step by Step!

During this drawing process, improvise, but also check that your drawing is not symmetric. It makes the drawing dynamic and reduces stiffness.

1) Draw a couple of arcs to create a face. Then add rectangles and triangles for hair. It is a fun and easy way to add hair without focusing on the shape of the head.

A step-by-step guide to drawing a portrait in Helene Schefbeck's style, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet, step 1.

2) Add a neck and shoulders by drawing a rectangle and a couple of triangles that point to different directions. Then draw eyes, mouth, and other facial features. Use as many geometric shapes and simple lines as you can. After facial features, turn the work upside down and complement the drawing with geometric shapes so that it’s more like a balanced, asymmetric abstract painting than a portrait of a woman.

A step-by-step guide to drawing a portrait in Helene Schefbeck's style, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet, step 2.

3) Soften the shape of the hair, the clothing, and some of the facial features. Then color the face, neck, and hair. Helene Scherfbeck often used grayish colors for the skin and a more striking color for the hair.

A step-by-step guide to drawing a portrait in Helene Schefbeck's style, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet, step 3.

4) Add light and shadows on the face. Use mostly simple geometric elements.  Then turn the work upside down and finish the abstract composition by using color to balance the painting. Remember to maintain the asymmetry!

A step-by-step guide to drawing a portrait in Helene Schefbeck's style, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet, step 4.

5) Remove some sketch lines and add more finishing details if needed. If you used long lines, make some of them shorter so that your drawing is not so stiff.

A step-by-step guide to drawing a portrait in Helene Schefbeck's style, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet, step 5.

Helene Scherfbeck’s Style – The Combination of Simplicity and Softness

Even if Helene Scherfbeck’s style is very graphic, she also embraced uneven edges and soft color changes. This softness combined with distinct, even clumsy-looking geometric elements is the essence of her style.

A portrait in the style of Helene Scherfbeck, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her step-by-step instructions!

She also uses strong lines and bold colors to draw the viewer’s attention to the selected details. However, she does that very sparingly like there would be a limited storage of lines and pigments.

A portrait in the style of Helene Scherfbeck, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her step-by-step instructions!

Find The Passion Behind Your Many Styles

I often find it distracting when people talk about their personal style like it would be the final destination for their artistic journey. They say tat once they have found their style, it would be like coming home and they would never need to go back to explore. I think it can be a harmful mindset. It leads to thinking that artists could be divided into three categories: a) those who search their style, b) those who stick with their style, and c) those who are afraid of going deeper because they don’t want to stop playing. That kind of controversy is not good at all! Going deeper allows, not prohibits, playing! Creative people are meant to travel spiritually!

Portraits in the style of Helene Scherfbeck, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her step-by-step instructions!

Instead of searching for your perfect style, your final destination, connect with your passion! Your passion can be like a base camp for your explorations, energizing you to take up new challenges.

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet, a Finnish artist inspired by art history.

Sign up for The Exploring Artist to discover the passion behind your art
and to become more confident with the big word “artist”!

The Exploring Artist, a coaching program for building an artistic identity by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Finding Your Purpose in Art – Remember that You Never Create Just for Yourself!

A Day in The Garden, a watercolor and ink painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read her thoughts about finding the purpose for your art making!

Here’s my latest small mixed media painting called “A Day in The Garden.” I used Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus Fine Art Watercolors and Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Inks for making it. Like the title says, the inspiration for the painting came from the time spent in the garden.

Garden Inspiration – For the Beauty of Tulips

Tulips from Paivi's garden, see her garden inspired art at www.peonyandparakeet.com

Even if the spring is about two weeks behind this year in Finland, we had a lovely weather last Sunday. The tulips were blooming, and I decided to go out and do some weeding to make them stand out.

As I was working in the sun, I soon warmed up. When putting away my cotton cardigan, I noticed a little red robin watching me. He sat in the bushes but had a curious look on his face. As I often talk to my budgies, I couldn’t help myself telling him how fine looking little bird he was. He clearly enjoyed my voice because he flew closer. He must have been a young bird as it didn’t take long before he was so close that I could almost touch him!

Garden Inspiration – For the Nourishment of A Red Robin

Dr. Ph. Marten's Hydrus Watercolors and Bombay India Inks. A photo by Paivi Eerola, a visual artist from Finland.

As the little bird grabbed an insect in his beak, I realized why he was so interested in me. Working the soil made it easier for him to find food. In the first place, I had thought about having some me-time in the garden and making room for beauty, but then unexpectedly I had got an audience, a client even! It caused me to think how similar it is with art. In the beginning, the practice can be very self-serving, but art never lives in a vacuum. Even if we would hide our pieces, art always has an impact on its surroundings. If not directly, then through our actions.

Making of a mixed media painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Purpose Needs People

Our soul-searching through art making can start similarly as the day in the garden, with an intention to spend some time with beauty. But as we progress, we begin to yearn for a deeper meaning. I believe that this purpose is related to people. Even just thinking about sharing art with other people brings in a wider perspective, a bigger vision, and more ways to use the imagination. No matter whether you ever share, sell, blog or show your pieces to anyone, you can still work with the themes like opening up, finding words that boost your art making process, and imagining the people you want to connect with through your art.

Mixed media painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

If we focus on style issues only, we will never see the whole ecosystem. We are like gardeners who sweat for their tulips but miss the impact on their environment.

Ideas Change but the Passion Stays the Same

A detail of a mixed media painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read her thoughts about finding the purpose for your art making!

In a coaching program The Exploring Artist, I talk about finding “Your People.”  There may be only one red robin in the beginning, but recognizing that they do exist is inspiring. Imagining what you can be for them is a big thing when you want to find a passion and a direction for your art making.

A detail of a mixed media painting. Dr. Ph. Marten's Hydrus Watercolors and Bombay India Inks. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read her thoughts about finding the purpose for your art making!

Namely, your targets of interest can and should change all the time. But your passion stays the same for a much longer period. You don’t have to create similar pieces again and again. You can freely explore the world of art and imagination. Your red robins will follow you because they know that you’ll always find something that benefits them too.

An American singer-songwriter Conor Oberst has said:
“Art is essentially communication. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum. That’s why people make art, so other people can relate to it.”

Sign up for The Exploring Artist to discover the passion behind your art
and to become more confident with the big word “artist”!

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!