Peony and Parakeet

Cobalt Blue Spectral and Experimenting with Watercolors

Cobalt Blue Spectral, a watercolor study by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

This week, I want to share something I don’t always do publicly: experimenting! The exploration and experimentation also have an important role in my upcoming class Magical Forest, so it’s a perfect time for some play!

Why Experiment?

Experiments are great, especially when:
– you want to try out new art supplies
– you are working on a bigger piece and need time to think between layers
– you have a very limited time to create
– you want to practice new techniques
– the process feels more important than the outcome: you need just to relax

This time, I could tick all the boxes! I had bought some new pans last week. A bigger painting was in progress. It was a late evening when I started painting. I wanted to use mostly angular, not so many organic shapes than usually, and I had lots of cheap watercolor paper for fun.

Cobalt Blue Spectral – Using Color as an Inspiration

I like to start an experiment by deciding a color or a couple of colors that I particularly enjoy. This time, I had a special treat – Cobalt Blue Spectral.

White Nights watercolors, Cobalt Blue Spectral by St. Petersburg

I have a small local art supply store in Helsinki, Finland, called Diverse. There are bigger stores in Helsinki too, but the service is never as good. The owner always has time to talk, and he knows what he sells. I happened to mention that I loved Cobalt Blue Spectral and that it’s so sad that St. Petersburg doesn’t produce it anymore. It was just one little sentence, among many. However, the sentence was heard, and I was astonished when the owner suddenly handed me a blue pan saying: “This is the last one that I have, and it’s from my personal collection.” So now, I have this amazing color again: Cobalt Blue Spectral. It’s much brighter than the usual cobalt and quite extraordinary indeed!

Painting with Cobalt Blue Spectral watercolor by St. Petersburg. A painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I also bought a few pans manufactured by Roman Szmal. The brand name is Aquarius, and I like all the Aquarius pans I have. Here I am testing a wonderful yellow Quinacridone Gold. I can’t get enough of warm yellows, and this is the most beautiful I have had so far. It’s golden orange when it’s thick, and lovely warm yellow when thinned.

Trying out Roman Szmal Aquarious Quinacridone Gold. Experimenting with watercolors.

Multi-tasking

I like to paint many small studies at the same time so that when I wait one to dry, I can continue another one.

Watercolor experiments in progress by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Looking for the Blank Spots

A big part of the play for me is to notice all the small little accidents, especially the blank spots, and figure out how to save and highlight them as the painting progresses.

Discovering blank spots in watercolor painting. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Including Experimentation for More Serious Pieces

I like to start bigger projects with an experimental mindset too. I use a lot of water so that I can later decide which accidents to enhance and which to hide. A spraying bottle is my trusted assistant.

Watercolor painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The size of this painting in progress is a half sheet (approximately 38 x 56 cm / 15 x 22 inches). It has 100 % cotton paper, and Cobalt Blue Spectral shows there too. Compared to the experiments, my painting pace is much slower.

My little art room has been a watercolor studio during the last weeks. I also bought a cheap interchangeable frame from Ikea and ordered a Passepartout from a local framer. Now I can easily display half-sheet paintings!

Magical Forest – Come to Paint and Experiment with me!

Start the new year with the new class Magical Forest!
The early-bird sale ends on Cyber Monday, Dec 2 midnight PST.
>> Sign up Now!

Magical Forest – New Class about Intuitive Art-Making – Early-Bird Sale!

"Valomio" - a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. See her intuitive art-making class Magical Forest!

“Valomio” – this is one of the pieces that I have painted for the new upcoming class called Magical Forest. This class is about painting watercolor fairies and nature‚Äôs spirits in their magical surroundings. We’ll combine both intentional and intuitive art-making, and dive deeper into four artist’s mindsets – Hope, Spirituality, Flow, and Curiosity. We’ll practice by drawing art journal or sketchbook pages, and then get looser in watercolor painting. Magical Forest is not about drawing or painting with references, but growing images from our imagination.

Watch the video below and reserve your spot!

The early-bird sale ends on Cyber Monday, Dec 2nd, 2019 (midnight PST). Reserve your spot now!

Embracing Artistic Origin – How to Make Images That Feel Genuine

Aquanora, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Finnish watercolorist. Read how she has become to embrace her artistic origin.

Here’s my recent watercolor painting called Aquanora (or “Akvanoora” if you say it in Finnish). I have always been passionate about art but never loved my paintings as much as I do now when I have been painting these wood spirits in watercolors (see this post and this one too).

I hope that this week’s post makes you ponder about your artistic origin. I claim that if you don’t recognize the origin when looking at your art, you don’t feel the connection with the images either.

My Cold and White Artistic Origin

The sad fact is that when I don’t paint, my life in Finland is about walking dogs and knitting. And most of the time, I dream about Europe’s glorious museums and palaces. Winters in Finland can be rough, and Stella and I don’t like them.

Finland in winter.

As you see from the photo, taken in winter a couple of years ago, Finland’s color is white. Not only winters are white, but Finnish people decorate their homes with white furniture. So even when it’s green and warm in summer, Finns stay cold in their white boxes. My home is considered very colorful, especially the bright yellow corridor gets glances. But recently, I have started to accept the Finn in me. I have come to love fresh white watercolor paper, filled with possibilities.

A watercolor painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

With watercolors, white has become my friend. Painting is like having a white fairy holding my hand, tightly at first, and then little by little she releases her grip.

Watercolor painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Even if I would like to be the painter of the Renaissance palazzos, I am a Finn walking the dogs in bad weather, knowing the core of whiteness instead of gold.

Artistic Origin Can Be Opposite to Inspiration

We are often inspired by things that are new and exotic. Our origin can feel so common that it’s barely recognizable. It’s what we see and breathe every day and often, it’s what we want to escape when we create art. But the more I have created, I have started to think otherwise. Because I live observing moss and other nature’s wonders more than marble floors, maybe I should paint more of that greenness too.

Stone covered with moss.

Namely, when European nobility played minuets in the 17th century, Finnish savages were freezing and starving in the land of thousand lakes and forests. So we know our stones, mosses, and swamps – the language of our nature – better than musical notes or calligraphed letters.

A detail of a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read how she has come to accept her artistic origin.

When European priests and saints trooped on huge church halls, Finns believed in Tapio, the god of the forest. Even if old beliefs are only old stories anymore, maybe it’s no wonder that these little fairies of mine rise from nature sceneries.

Aquanora. A detail of a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I have always thought that my art should not be spiritual because I don’t want to offend anyone. I don’t have any particular religious view myself, and because of that, I haven’t felt eligible to create spiritual art. But recently I have found it impossible to separate nature, spirituality, and imagination from each other. Nature can be our church, and for our imagination, there’s no conflict of dressing a wood spirit in a Renaissance outfit. By bringing the noble (inspiration), the wild (origin), and the playful (creativity) together, it can all fall into place. Art is about freedom after all.

How does your origin show in your art?
How could you deepen the connection?

A sketchbook page spread by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Fairies and wood spirits. Read about giving more attention to your artistic origin.

Coming Up – New Watercolor Class!

My sketchbooks are full of ideas for the upcoming class. It will be about nature’s light, textures, and spirits. There are intentional drawing exercises with pencil and intuitive painting projects with watercolors. I am looking forward to being your guide in the woods of creativity and self-expression. The class will begin in January and the early-bird sale is soon on Black Friday weekend. So stay tuned!

Intentional or Intuitive Art – Create Both!

Tree of Friendship, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s my new watercolor painting called “Tree of Friendship.” It’s painted freely, first by splashing water, and then by changing to more intentional strokes. But I also show another piece, a more controlled one that I made after this painting. I like to toggle between intuitive and intentional approaches, and maybe this is a working solution for you too in your artistic journey.

Intuitive Art – Start with Freedom!

I regularly need the freedom to paint without any predefined image in mind. If everything that I do is sketched, pre-planned, pre-thought, it’s suffocating. Watercolors have become my favorite medium because they dry rather quickly. I can also splash them without worrying about my safety or the cleaning of the clothes and the studio.

Creating intuitive art. Splashing paint and painting freely with watercolors. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Even if I begin with abstract shapes, most of my work is representational, at least to some degree, when it’s finished. So I slowly discover what the painting could represent and move towards a more intentional approach.

Intuitive art in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

However, I try not to force anything and leave many elements so that they are not fully realistic. I love this freedom between representational and abstract art.

Watercolor painting in progress. Finishing intuitive art. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

In the later stages, I practice intuition so that if I feel like I need to add irrational elements, I do it no matter how silly it is. Then I challenge myself to make them work. In this painting, some color was thrown on the forehead of the other fairy. The spot was connected with the big white flower by drawing a stem.

A detail of a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I also like to paint a small area at the time. Then time stops, and painting captivates me. It feels like an adventure, not knowing what will appear within time.

A detail of a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

When I paint intuitive art, I often end up creating a challenge that feels almost too big. My self-confidence gets low, and freedom gradually becomes a chaotic prison.

A detail of a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

After this painting, I felt pretty empty and disappointed. I barely managed to make it work, and I questioned many times if this is what I want to do as an artist. I painted this piece for about two days. It took one good night’s sleep to get over the disappointment!

Tree of Friendship, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. See the blog post about creating intuitive art!

This painting is about the beauty of true friendship, secretly connecting two different souls together. When I create intuitive art, I am often able to express bigger themes and more deeply than if I work intentionally.

Intentional Art – Start with Order!

After some free painting, I am usually ready for order, and this time was no exception. Updating the watercolor chart grounds me. I try to do it whenever a pan gets empty and needs to be replaced. The more that I have painted, the more planned my storage has become. I have documentation about the new color that will replace the old one after it’s been used. The upcoming colors have been mentioned in the chart under the actual color.

Watercolor chart by Finnish artist Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

So I have this very controlled side of me that makes me paint a new chart and then memorize it so that when I paint, I don’t have to guess or search for a specific color.

This intentional part of me likes to paint or draw in an illustrative style. Then I often make a quick sketch first. This time, I sketched the face and other main elements lightly with a pencil on watercolor paper and then filled the outlines by painting. I got inspiration from pre-raphaelite paintings and had been thinking for a long time to include more clocks in my work because I really like them.

Fairy watercolor painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Even if I painted the textures, shadows, etc. freely, there was definitely no splashing involved. I used water much more sparingly and knew what I was doing most of the time.

Fairy watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The intention of making this piece went so far that I had made a couple of collage pieces to test the style beforehand.

Painting collage pieces with watercolors by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I quite liked how they seemed to fit, and there was no emotional ups or downs!

Why Alternate Between the Intuitive and the Intentional?

If I only painted intuitively, my technical painting skills would stop growing and decay. If I only painted intentionally, my ideas would become too traditional, and I would express too little of myself.

Sometimes we intuitively feel the urge to one direction or another. When you say next time: “I would like to become an abstract painter”, maybe it can be interpreted so that you have left too little room for self-expression lately. Or, if you say “I find it difficult to understand or create abstract art,” maybe it means that you need to practice your technical skills to move forward. Whatever is the case, open the other door too. Permit yourself to let go, and then get back in control again.

Some readers may find this advice worrying, dangerous even when they want to find their style and be consistent in what they do. I would not worry about that too much. If you compare my pieces below, they are not very different from each other. The two approaches will strengthen your voice and make sure that you will keep growing your skills as well.

Matching an intuitive with an intentional painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I am currently building a class that consists of creating both intentional and intuitive art. I am interested to hear your thoughts on the subject! What do You think?

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