Peony and Parakeet

Mirrors and Windows – Which is you?

Watercolor painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read her article about mirrors and windows!

In 1978, The Museum of Modern Art opened a photography exhibition called Mirrors and Windows. It divided artists into two groups: Mirrors and Windows.

An excerpt of the press release:

“… the photograph is seen either as a mirror – a romantic expression of the photographer’s sensibility as it projects itself on the things and sights of this world; or as a window – through which the exterior world is explored in all its presence and reality”

When painting or drawing, this division becomes even clearer. Do you feel that, for example, a rose must reflect the mood of your thoughts (mirror)? Or do you want the rose to look recognizable and real (window)?

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

Mirrors and Windows – The Way You Create

I think this comparison is the most interesting when thinking about the process of creating. That’s what matters most to us who create anyway!

Here’s how I redefine mirrors and windows:

  • Mirrors like to work intuitively and focus on a small area at the time.
  • Windows like to work from a photo or make a sketch and be able to see the big picture first.

I like both approaches even if I am more of a mirror myself. Actually, if I hadn’t practiced being a window, I couldn’t be the mirror that I am now. Usually, problems arise when you want to be a mirror but try to control the big picture through the process. Or if you want to be a window but don’t use any plans or references.

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet with her favorite watercolor brushes.

The upcoming class Floral Fantasies in Three Styles has many projects. In some, you are a mirror. In others, you are a window. Flowers are so much fun to paint because they can be created with many styles and techniques. This is the class where I have heard these comments the most: “I would have never guessed that I enjoy this way of working, but I am!” It truly can surprise you how you create your best work.

The watercolor painting below is one of the class projects where I guide you to start loose. First, you will create simple abstract shapes and then magically transform them into flowers. A pleasurable to create and perfect for you who likes to be a mirror!

From the Garden - a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Also a class project for her class Floral Fantasies in Three Styles.

Floral Fantasies in Three Styles – Sign Up Now!

Spend four weeks drawing and painting flowers with me! The class will run between April 29 – May 24.
>> Sign up here!

Abracadabra – Magical Watercolor Effects

Magical watercolor effects. A watercolor painting called Abracadabra by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

My latest painting called “Abracadabra” is a big one, 56 x 38 cm or 28 x 15 inches. It was a lot of fun to create so I want to dedicate this post to the magical effects that water creates when painting with watercolors.

Magical Mess

Right from the beginning, this painting had a mind of its own. And as you can see from the photo, I also used a lot of water to make the process even more uncontrollable. The more I paint this way, the more boring all the other mediums feel. Watercolors are magical companions, introvert when in pans but extrovert on paper!

Tip: Start with a plenty of water!

Magical watercolor effects. A watercolor painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

In this project, I was testing Arches Cold Press watercolor paper, new to me. It has a weird smell when it’s wet but other than that I quite like it!

Fun Appearances

When I add some sharpness and control, I try to do that gently so that I don’t put too much burden on flowers that have born naturally. The idea is to bring out the best details.

Tip: Add dark shapes to bring out the magical watercolor effects!

Fascinating Translucency

Magical watercolor effects. A detail of a watercolor painting called Abracadabra by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

When painting with a lot of water, watercolor becomes magically transparent. I love how the colors get mixed when they are layered.

Tip: Let each layer dry properly!

Watercolors Can Draw!

Magical watercolor effects. A detail of a watercolor painting called Abracadabra by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I also like to think that watercolors can draw. When applying water, watercolor blooms with sharp frilly edges. These lines can be more than just lovely outlines. In the detail below, I used one to make a stem!

Magical watercolor effects. A detail of a watercolor painting called Abracadabra by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Tip: Use your imagination to make the most of what you have on paper!

Flow and Melody in the Safe Haven

I have had mixed emotions this spring. I have lost some old birds and my oldest dog has been sick. It’s been something that I have found difficult to share, it’s still so recent. But in the middle of all the worries, my studio has become a safe haven where I have been painting in the late evenings. The colors of the 16th-18th centuries and the pop songs of the 1980s have inspired me. Do you still remember Abracadabra by Steve Miller Band? A very superficial hit song but it has such a flow in the melody that it goes well with magical watercolor!

Paivi Eerola in her studio showing her watercolor painting Abracadabra.

Come to draw and paint flowers with me – Sign up for Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles!

Painting Watercolor Still Lives

A watercolor still life painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

I usually have a lot to say but this time I can barely type any words. I am madly in love with painting watercolor still lives. They keep coming! It feels that any topic can be put in the form of a still life whether I am painting a princess or a bonsai.

A watercolor still live painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I think that art is this kind of a bonsai: even if it would be nourished very little, it keeps staying alive, producing flowers and fruit. It’s both ancient and fresh at the same time.

First a Mess, Then a Still Life!

I love how watercolors have a mind of their own. Especially, when painting without reference photos, the first brush strokes feel exciting and the possibilites seem endless.

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

The bonsai painting was just a mess after the first layers. I had a lot of fun making the mess!

Starting a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and parakeet.

But I even had more fun bringing out the bonsai.

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

I use an abstract approach, and it’s so exciting that it keeps me painting. What was first just a clumsy geometric shape is soon a delicate flower! I teach this technique in the upcoming class Floral Fantasies.

A detail of a floral still life painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

My Watercolor Set – A Mix of Brands

I like to use pans more than tubes because it’s much quicker to start painting right away, not wasting time for opening and cleaning the caps. But I also buy tubes because when a pan gets empty, I can use a tube to refill it.

Painting with watercolors by Paivi Eerola from Parakeet

My watercolor set of 36 pans is originally White Nights by St. Petersburg, but within time I have purchased other brands too.

New Pans – Roman Szmall Aquarius

One of my latest purchases are pans manufactured by Roman Szmal Aquarius watercolors. It’s a new professional quality brand from Poland. I find their color chart fascinating. For example, they have a very light pink called Cobalt Violet Light and their black called Aquarius Black is very granulating which means that it has a grainy texture. So far, my favorite of theirs is a warm grey called Przybysz’s Grey. It’s very good for muted color mixes. I am lucky that my local art supply store sells this brand!

Watercolor set of 36 pans and mixed brands.

Drawing a Watercolor Chart

Always when I change the pans, I also draw a new chart in a notebook. This is how the chart looks currently (VG = Van Gogh, RS = Roman Szmal, DS = Daniel Smith, “Oma sek“= my personal mix).

Watercolor Color Chart by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I love to curate my palette. When one color runs out, I consider carefully whether I buy more or change it! I also like to examine what the best order is for the pans, and as you see from the chart above, I often change the order a bit! This is my way to bond with the supplies, and every time I begin a new painting, I feel that they are my team, working with me!

Painting Watercolor Still Lives Together

Watercolor Still Lives by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Come to draw and paint flowers with me – Sign up for Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles!

Early-Bird Sale – Floral Fantasies

Paivi Eerola paints florals in watercolor. Check out her class Floral Fantasies in Three Styles.

“Paivi likes flowers,” I have heard many say, and yes, I do! A couple of years ago I built a comprehensive floral art class calledFloral Fantasies in 3 Styles. I am running this class again between April 29 – May 24th. I am also building a new module for it that is about painting still lives in watercolor – loosely without reference photos and that’s a lot of fun!

If you sign up before March 31st midnight PDT, you will get the class for the early-bird price. Watch the video below and sign up!

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