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Peony and Parakeet

About Art and Knitting

Yarnie - an illustration about yarn obsession by the artist Paivi Eerola.
“Yarnie” – A digital illustration about yarn obsession when you escape to an island of wool and all you feel and hear is yarn.

Knitting Through Childhood

I learned to knit before school when I was about five years old. Before that, my older sisters had taught me to crochet, but it wasn’t enough. “There will be much more stitches, and they get dropped easily,” they said. But I was determined. I sat in the kitchen with a ball of dark green light-weight yarn and thin needles that had duck heads in the other end. I wrapped the yarn around the needles and was sure that I would figure it out by myself. It must have been an endearing sight because my sisters gave up and taught me to knit.

After that, I was unstoppable. My mother taught me to make socks and mittens, and when I went to school, I learned more from there. Our local library had a couple of shelves of knitting books, and I borrowed them regularly. As a teenager, I bought a knitting machine and made a sweater in a couple of days.

A purple and green sweater inspired by abstract art.
I attended in a teenagers’ knitwear design competition in the 1980s and got a price with this sweater, inspired by abstract art!
The good thing in the 1980s fashion is that the knits were so big that we never grow out of them!

Late-Night Knitting

Like art, knitting has always been with me. But even if I have had times in my life when I haven’t created art, I have never stopped knitting. No matter what crisis I had, how busy at work I have been, there has always been time and energy for knitting. It’s still like breathing – in, out – knit, purl.

As a child, I had a phase when I dreamed about being a textile artist. But the older I have become, the more I have realized that the connection between knitting and art-making must be looser for me. In the late evenings, when the working day is over, I say good-bye to the artist in me. Then it’s time to stop producing and start consuming. I browse online yarn stores, their Instagram accounts, and Ravelry.com – the ultimate database for knitters – and plan my next projects. I watch knitting podcasts on Youtube and knit obsessively as long as I can stretch the night. I don’t think about art, and I don’t feel like an artist. By following or adapting a pattern that someone else has written makes sure that I don’t have to think but just knit.

But strangely, for each big painting, I need a lot of knitting. It’s my way of processing all the ordinary so that the extraordinary can come up.

Intuitive fair isle knitting and intuitive paintings.
One of my recent sweaters that has “intuitive fair isle” as I call the colorwork without charts.

Art and Knitting – Work and Hobby

When I started blogging over ten years ago, my blog was about knitting. At that time, I also sold handmade bags called folk bags and wool that I produced in co-operation with my friend and a few farmers. There might still be some of you who have followed me since then. Thank you for sticking around!

A photo from 2008 when I had an Etsy store that sold handmade drawstring pouches called folk bags.
Later, I wrote a pattern for them. You can purchase it here!

When I grew my artist’s identity, I wanted not to talk about knitting anymore. I needed a hobby, not another job, and I felt that knitting and fine art don’t go so well together in public. People often have a hard time understanding that art can be a real job.

A sketch and the final illustration "Yarnie" by Paivi Eerola.
“Yarnie” is based on a black and white drawing that I made last year.

But last year, I decided that it’s time to approach art with greater confidence than before. It has made me more open, and maybe it has added a bit more self-acceptance too. So yes, I am both an artist and a knitter. Art is my work, and knitting is my hobby, but I would not be able to work without the hobby.

Does this make sense to you? Let me know what you think!

Collaged Fashionistas

This week’s post is dedicated to collaged fashionistas – fun paper dolls. It’s for all of us who love to get art inspiration from the world of textiles and fashion.

Collaged Fashionistas - digital art from hand-drawn and hand-painted elements. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I have been practicing surface pattern design daily this month and got quite a lot of patterns already. Of course, all of them are not so great and need more work, but I have really enjoyed challenging myself. I have experimented with all kinds of media – watercolor painting, line drawing, collage, and digital tools too.

Berries surface pattern design by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
A surface pattern design drawn in Adobe Illustrator

The more my computer gets filled with these designs, the more I want to see how they look when used. After all, a surface pattern is nothing without a surface to put it on!

So I printed some on paper and wrapped a couple of books. I also gathered some handmade stuff just to see how well digital designs fit with my handmade world.

A visual world of Peony and Parakeet

But I wasn’t satisfied at all. Books felt too flat. I needed a figure – a model to dress!

Collaged Fashionistas in Paper

After taking the photo of the books, I remembered someone who would be perfect for it. I created her – or should I say cut her – in 2014. Back then, I used to run art journaling classes in a local scrapbooking store, and I had an idea about a class where we would draw fashion items like clothing, jewelry, and such. But the class was scheduled for May which is a busy month for Finnish women, and it never took place. However, I made an online class called Collageland four years after this idea, and it was also one of the seeds for the class Magical Inkdom. So never underestimate those preliminary ideas that don’t seem to fly off right away!

Muotitalo - an art class brochure from 2014 by Peony and Parakeet. A collaged fashion model the cover.
I was able to find the class brochure from my archives. The title “Muotitalo” means “Fashion House.”

And now I wanted to hire that fashion-obsessed fashionista to showcase my patterns! I wondered if she would still return my calls but phoned her anyway.

“Hi Myriad, are you still modeling?”
“Oh, hi, yes – if it’s for real this time,” she said. “And I want shorter hair!”
“I’ll make you bald,” I promised.

So I cut a new Myriad and I really like what those seven years have done to her!

Making a paper collage doll - a collaged fashionista by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

A Living Doll Gets Back to Fashion

“I like the boots,” she said. “But the skirt feels so heavy!” But she wore it without further complaints because that’s what models do. They get all kinds of silly wraps around them and just keep posing no matter what.

A detail of a collaged paper doll. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

“These boots make me want to go for a walk!” she said joyfully. And so she stepped into one of my paintings like she would own the view.

A collaged paper doll. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

“This is fine art,” I said to her. “Models like you don’t belong in these kinds of paintings.”
“Oh nonsense,” she responded. “This is a windy Siberian meadow, and it’s just perfect for the shoot. What kind of clothes do you have?”

I had a lot to show her but here’s one project that may interest you especially. Last year, I made a surface pattern in watercolor.

Painting a surface pattern in watercolor.

I wasn’t fully pleased with it but I had stored it anyway. This week, I made some leaf motifs in illustrator and mixed them with the pattern, and it looks like batik now. I wanted Myriad to wear this!

A watercolor batik surface pattern design by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

From Paper to a Digital Fashion Model

To get the pattern on Myriad, I made a new version of her in Adobe Illustrator. I marked different parts in different colors and layers so that I could dress her in Adobe Photoshop.

Collaged fashionistas in paper and in digital form. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I added some shadows and additional effects and put the painting that I made last year in the background with some blurry effects so that the clothes would stand out.

Collaged Fashionistas - digital art from hand-drawn and hand-painted elements. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s a closeup of the watercolor design. Her cheerful scarf has hand-drawn motifs.

A collaged Fashionista - digital art displaying surface patterns. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

And here’s a closeup of the skirt and shoes that have a pattern too.

A detail of a digital art work displaying surface patterns. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

My planner for 2021 has a quote from Kandinsky: “There’s no must in art because art is free.” To me, it means challenging myself. That after all that I have learned in the last seven years, I can still feel the same freedom as a beginner. And that if we push ourselves creatively, our world keeps expanding and we accept more than one technique, or one style, or one truth. Art is never about absolute rights or wrongs because art is free. As a teacher, I find this reminder especially important.

Erin Condren montlhy planner with a customized quote from Wassily kandinsky. Artist's business planner.

Making collaged fashionistas have brought many more ideas of how I can display my designs! More of them in the future posts.

Annual Birthday Sale for the Illustrator in Us

Birthday Sale

I love fine art, but life gets heavy if it’s filled with that only. I believe that behind every artist, there’s an illustrator too. The one who likes to play and smile, and say it in a way that everyone gets it, children included. So this year’s birthday sale is dedicated to the illustrator in us. If you have ever considered this or taking these online classes, now is the time!

Animal Inkdom

Normally 79 EUR, now 59 EUR (about 72 USD).
>> Buy Now!

Animal Inkdom, online art class by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet

Draw Fantastic wildlife – buy now!

Magical Inkdom

Normally 59 EUR, now 49 EUR (about 60 USD).
>> Buy Now!

Magical Inkdom, online art class by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet

Draw cats, fairies, wonderlands – buy now!

Decodashery

Normally 50 EUR, now 39 EUR (about 48 USD).
>> Buy Now!

Decodashery, online art class by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet

Paint vintage beauty – buy now!

The sale ends on Valentine’s Day, Feb 14th, midnight PST.

Let’s keep smiling, dreaming, and making it all visible too!

Three Design Styles, a Gelli Plate, and a Brush

One of my goals for this year is to learn surface pattern design. I want to move back and forth between art and design, and add more design to this blog as well. This week, I picked three of my favorite designers and played with Gelli Plate to imitate their style. These don’t replicate any of their work, just their style.

Three different design styles, monoprinting with a Gelli plate. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Three Designers from Three Centuries

My three favorite designers are Tricia Guild, William Morris, and Wassily Kandinsky.

Tricia Guild a designer from the UK, and she has a company Designer’s Guild, and I have been her fan since the 1990s when I discovered her book Design and Detail. It’s been my interior design guide for 30 years, and all my homes have got ideas from that book.

William Morris is also English, but he lived earlier, in the 19th century. Two rooms of our home have curtains designed by his company, and I regularly admire their clever repeats and ornamental shapes.

Wassily Kandinsky was more of an artist than a designer, but he taught designers in a famous Bauhaus art school in the early 20th century. For me, he is the father of modern design. I see his paintings in the works of most midcentury modern designers. Lately, he has felt even closer, when I have been built a class Floral Freedom that is based on his and Paul Klee’s teachings.

Who are your favorite designers?

Three Designers – Three Color Palettes

I have always liked making hand-decorated papers. Actually, my most popular blog post is this ancient one: How to Make Your Own Patterned Paper from 2010. So let’s get back to basics and make some!

First, I painted the backgrounds with acrylic paints and a flat brush. This set a color palette for each paper.

Three painted backgrounds. The backgrounds set a color palette for the papers.

Muted pastels and rich darker tones remind me of Tricia Guild. She often uses stripes or checks too. William Morris has greyish colors and many of his designs have dark backgrounds. Wassily Kandinsky often had a very light background in his paintings.

Three Design Styles – Three Kinds of Shapes

I continued each of the papers by mono-printing motifs with a Gelli Plate. For Tricia Guild’s style, I used a small plate and painted the motifs with a brush on a plate, then pressed the plate on the paper. Because Tricia’s style is often quite relaxed, there was less pressure for perfect outlines.

Monoprinting with a small Gelli plate. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

William Morris’s designs are very sharp and ornamental. I cut out ornaments freehand from paper and used both negative and positive shapes. I used both a big Gelli Plate and a small one.

Monoprinting with Gelli plates. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s how the paper looked after mono-printing.

Monoprinting with Gelli plates. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Wassily Kandinsky’s shapes are mostly geometric, so I cut templates that had circles, lines, squares and triangles.

Making a template for monoprinting. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s how the paper looked after mono-printing.

Monoprinting geometric shapes.

Three Design Styles – Three Levels of Detail

After mono-printing, I finished the papers by painting. I used a narrow brush and made small tweaks only.

Adding details to a monoprint with a brush. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I like Tricia Guild’s designs because there modern meets classic and historical. They feel luxurious, but still comfortable. They don’t require similar perfection from the space than William Morris’s designs. So I didn’t perfect every shape or line, just added a bit more realism to the floral motifs. Here’s the finished paper.

A patterned paper inspired by Tricia Guild's design style. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

William Morris’s designs are full of outlined motifs, and I connect them with books. “For people who have a library,” I wrote in a notebook that I keep for studying. But I quite liked my mono-print, and didn’t want to stiffen everything. So I only outlined a part of the motifs, and added some small dots and thin lines inside the shapes.

Finishing a monoprint by painting. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s the finished paper. I really like the big yellow motif! Maybe that could be a part of my future designs.

A patterned paper inspired by William Morris's design style. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Wassily Kandinsky’s work didn’t lack details either. But if William Morris is for bookworms, then maybe Wassily is for systematic thinkers – for more scientific than humanistic introverts, and for those who love mathematics.

Adding details to a monoprint with a brush. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I used the monoprint as a foundation for the composition of shapes and followed Wassily’s advice and ideas from his book Point and Line to Plane, the book that I teach in the class Floral Freedom as well. Here’s the finished paper.

A patterned paper inspired by Wassily Kandinsky's design style. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Three Wallpapers

I wanted to see how these papers could work as repeats. I didn’t have time to play with the repeats properly, but here are some quickly made images to demonstrate how the motifs would look in a smaller scale, for example, as a wallpaper.

A sketch for a surface design by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
A sketch for a surface design by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
A sketch for a surface design by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

It was a full day, but I had fun making these! Tell me, which three designers would you pick?

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