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!

Easter Still Lifes in Watercolor – Video Included!

Easter Still-Life, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watch the video about making this painting!

In February, I went to see an art exhibition with my husband. The destination was one of my favorite art galleries in Helsinki. Helsinki Contemporary has interesting artists, and I also like the gallery space and how it’s located in the center, near many art supply stores. This time I was to see watercolor paintings by

This time I was to see watercolor paintings by Kati Immonen. She is a master in watercolor techniques, but I also became fascinated by the theme. The exhibition called Flora included many still lifes that were like miniature worlds. My husband is fond of bonsai trees so he liked the theme too.

Easter Still Lifes with a Wet Brush

Yesterday when I picked up my watercolor set to paint something seasonal for you, I remembered the exhibition. I became inspired by the simple idea of painting a pot or a vase and then adding some spring flowers using a lot of water. By painting with a wet brush, the flowers could appear naturally along with any other unintentional decorative elements.

After painting with oils and acrylics recently, my skills were a bit rusty so I made three paintings. Here’s the first one.

Easter Flowers in Watercolor by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her blog post for painting easter still lifes!

Here’s the second one.

Easter Still Life in Watercolor by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her blog post for painting easter still lifes!

Easter Still Life on a Video

After the second painting, I turned on the camera and recorded a video of making the third one. It is a mixture of the two previous ones, a bit simpler than the first one yet somewhat complicated and refined than the second one. After creating these, I applaud Kati Immonen! I have a long way to go to challenge her, but it doesn’t prevent me from enjoying the watercolors from time to time. Watch the video with some tips to create your own spring painting!

Acrylics or Watercolors – You Choose!

I enjoyed painting with the watercolors so much that I made an extra video for my next online workshop Planet Color. Whether you want to use acrylics or watercolors (or both) in the class, I will help you! Sign up now! 

Planet Color online painting workshop by Peony and Parakeet. You can choose either acrylic paints or watercolors!

Freedom and Fear of Drawing – with Students of Peony and Parakeet

Asian Bunny, an illustration by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I dedicate this blog post for drawing, but I want to talk about cross stitching first. It’s one of my long-time hobbies, and I find it relaxing. I don’t have to make any decisions, use any imagination, just follow the chart, and the result will be just like I wanted it to be. Cross stitching is like a simple house plant. If you give a little bit of time for it fairly regularly, it will grow even if it doesn’t feel like so at first.

Paivi likes cross stitching

I can choose complicated charts or simple ones, and easily adjust the attention required for stitching. But there’s one problem that always remains: pixelation. Each image is made from single square-shaped stitches. No matter how complicated the design is or thick the fabric is, the pixelation is there.

Christmas at Gingerbread Lane, a cross stitching project in progess

Working with single stitches is not only a visual problem. It’s also a problem if we want to create more freely. Then we need a medium that allows faster and more flexible thinking. Like drawing. There are many kinds of drawing styles. When I want to experience creative freedom, I don’t do sketching using a pre-made model. (The photo shows a recent Renaissance-style painting in progress. I have designed it first in Photoshop.)

A sketch for a Renessaince style painting, by Peony and Parakeet

A Fear for Freedom – A Fear of Drawing

When I want to feel free, I don’t want models. Then it’s just a blank paper and a pen and a wish for a glimpse of imagination.

But freedom and fear are strangely connected. About three years ago, when I planned to leave my day job and start an art business, I warned myself. I told how I would no longer be anyone noticeable. I would have no office, no place to go every day, no colleagues to discuss with, no job title, no respect from others, no self-esteem. I would live in the darkest edge of the society and completely against the way of life I was taught. With these stories, I tried to prevent myself making the life change, and at the same time, I knew I had to try it. I had to turn the page and start a completely blank one.

Drawing on a blank page, by Peony and Parakeet.

I often connect with the same fear when I start drawing. That I am no one, that I have no power, that it is overwhelming and I don’t know what to do. But then, it’s the same gate that leads to the most wonderful feeling: the feeling of freedom.

Before I left my day job, I started to follow other self-employed women online. I listened to podcasts where they told their stories, and they all had one thing in common. They had put what they already know into use and then learned more. It made me list all the skills that I had and be more content about the decision I had made.

Paivi just before her life change

Drawing Factory Teaches You to Draw from Stick Figures

Still, on this day, I find it both assuring and inspiring to acknowledge what is already there before starting something new. So last year, I wanted to create a mini-course about line drawing, using the same philosophy. That was how Drawing Factory was born. It teaches you to start from stick figures and then move on to flowing lines and more imaginative illustrations.

Drawing Factory, a line drawing mini-course that helps you to lose your fear of drawing. By Peony and Parakeet.

Student Artwork

I offered Drawing Factory as a part of Imagine Monthly Fall 2016, the series of monthly mini-courses. See some of the gorgeous pieces that my students have made from the course! Another central theme in the course is Japan, the land of pretty details and high productivity and that has inspired Denise Dineen, Linda Robson, Christie Juhasz, Stepanie Carney, Marie Jerred, and Kathy Gallant, too.

Denise Dineen, USA. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Linda Robson, Canada. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Christie Juhasz, USA. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Stephanie Carney, USA. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Marie Jerred, Canada. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Kathy Gallant, Canada. Student Artwork from the mini-course Drawing Factory.

Overcome Your Fears for Line Drawing – Buy Drawing Factory!

Drawing Factory is now available as a single self-study class. >> Click here to buy!
You can also buy the whole bundle of five art journaling classes, published last year as Imagine Monthly Fall 2016.

Thank you for supporting my journey now and during the last three years!

Expressing Inspiration Through Art

Storyteller's Power, a mixed media drawing by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read more about expressing inspiration through art!

I made this mixed media drawing “Storyteller’s Power” for the class Inspirational Drawing 2.0. I have created it from a collection of inspiration images. One of them is Luca Mombello’s Renaissance painting “The Immaculate and God the Father” which I saw at the recent renaissance art exhibition of The National Museum of Finland. Seeing the artwork, and how it reminded me of modern fantasy novels, caused a huge spark of inspiration. But when I heard that the frame was handmade by the painter, it felt mind-blowing. What an artist!

A set of inspiration images for creating art. One of the image is Luca Mombello¨s painting The Immaculate and God the Father"

Inspiration is Often Visual

It doesn’t have to be an art exhibition to make me inspired. I see ideas everywhere. Because of that, I am a useless listener without doodling or knitting. If I listen to a long lecture without nothing to do with my hands, I find visual ideas and inspiration everywhere. I look at the pipes attached to the ceiling or count the colors of the clothes. Soon, I have discovered a new idea that has nothing to do with what I came to listen! I believe that especially for visual people, inspiration is often visual too. We get excited by what we see and can’t help being drawn to colors and details.

Only You Can Express Your Inspiration!

Over three years ago I started to find a solution for expressing inspiration by drawing and painting. The world was full of images that embarked my excitement, but it seemed impossible to express it genuinely through art. I was either too intentional which brought stiffness, or too intuitive, which took me just further away from my original inspiration.

I already had some experience of using mood boards when studying design so I was certain that there was a solution to the problem. But rather than creating a new design, I wanted to use the images for enriching artistic expression. The idea was not to copy but boost imagination in a meaningful and intentional way. After all, inspiration is a personal feeling, and it should be interpreted in a personal way. Even if it’s evoked by something or someone, there’s always something unique in the way each one of us experiences it. Only you can express your inspiration!

A detail of Storyteller's Power, a mixed media drawing by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read more about expressing inspiration through art!

Expressing Inspiration Through Art

An inspirational image can quickly touch hearts but drawing and painting is a slower process. We can use images for picking visual ideas but we also need to process the inspiration so that we know why we got inspired in the first place. I believe that the images are like icons that bring up personal memories, points of view and aspirations. If we don’t connect with those, we don’t fully put the inspiration into use for art making.

At the first version of Inspirational Drawing, I showed a method for using an inspirational image as the source of ideas for a new drawing. At Inspirational Drawing 2.0, I introduce an improved process. It helps you to use one or more images as an inspiration source, connect with the thoughts and feelings that they evoke and create unique art from there. First, I show samples and walk you through a simplified process. Then I help you to create a bigger project that uses many kinds of inspiration along creating.

Paivi and Storyteller's Power, her mixed media drawing. Read more about expressing inspiration through art!

Claudia Watkins, one of the students says: “Paivi is a very profound lady. Her insights are amazing. Although having a technical background, Paivi sees beauty, philosophy, and art in everything. Paivi has helped me a lot in my art journey.”

Express Your Inspiration: Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0!

Mixed Media Seascapes – 5 Tips for Expressive Art

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

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

1) Play with Colors!

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

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

Claudia Watkins, UK

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

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

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

Susan Rajkumar, India

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

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

Sheila McGruer, Australia

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

3) Express the Softness of Water

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

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

Cheryl Rayner, USA

4) Show The Movement of The Waves

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

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

Lorraine Cline, USA

Terttu Laitinen has the great eye of the storm.

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

Terttu Laitinen, Finland

5) Make The Scene Look 3-Dimensional!

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

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

Satu Kontuvuori, Finland

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

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

Mackie d’Arge, USA

Internal Seascapes – Connect with Your Internal Energy!

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

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

Create Mixed Media Seascapes!

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

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

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