Peony and Parakeet

3 Tips for Improving Busy Mixed Media Pieces

This week, I have a revamped old piece, and share three tips about making busy mixed media pieces more attractive for the viewer.

"Song of Glass", a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. See how she revamped an old busy mixed media piece and made this!

The image above is a revamped version of the busy mixed media piece below. It’s 12 by 12 inches, and I originally made it back in 2014 for a blog post about how to paint glass.

A busy mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. See how she revamped this one!

I visited the Finnish Glass Museum a couple of weeks ago, so this piece felt really inspiring again! Let’s dive deeper into how I changed it.

Tip #1 – Cure the White Spot Fever

Back in 2014, I had fallen in love with all kinds of white pens, paints, and correction fluids. A little dot here, another there, and the element looked prettier. But adding dots and spots also make the piece busier. For the viewer, it’s like trying to find its way through crowded streets where everyone is trying to get the attention: “Hey, hey, hey, you there, look at me!”

Lots of small white dots can lead to problems in composition. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

When you are a doctor for the white spot fever, start by toning down all the spots that are located near the edges. We want to steer the eye to the middle first, so the edges don’t have to be so eye-catching. If this is the first time you work on this job, watercolors can be a good choice. Even if the pigment wouldn’t stick on all the surfaces, you get the impression of how the piece looks if you make the edges less noticeable. Turn the piece upside down, so that it’s easier to focus on the task, and not look at the big picture.

Painting over an old busy mixed media piece. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Of course, your pieces can have fever, even if it’s not the white spot fever. The general advice for any fever is to remove all the eye-catching small elements that are located near the edges.

Tip #2 – Form Friendships between Elements

Often when we don’t feel connected with the image, the image itself doesn’t express connection. When the elements are floating separately, there can be a lonely undertone in the whole piece. On the other hand, if there is no contrast between the elements, the image can look busy no matter how connected the elements are.

Here are my two versions side by side. In the old version, there are big glass jars, but the contrast between them is not very clear. There are a lot of small shapes that are floating lonely.

Improving old artwork. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

At best, adding connections make the image to deliver a message. When I looked at my piece, it was unclear to me what it was about. In the old blog post, I had written: “It’s about parents trying to protect their children. The parents have good intentions, and they do their best, but in the end, they have to let the child step into the world. I have painted two glass vases to represent the parents. The child sees the world through the parents, and even if they want to protect the child, they are fragile too.”

But now, I found the element that looked like jaws most intriguing. It seemed to be a rising spirit, a small but powerful baby dragon, which only needed a neck to become a central element.

Creating mixed media and painting with acrylic paints. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I used dark india inks and black pen to quickly sketch how I would connect the elements, and then continued the work with acrylics and lighter colors. I broke the biggest jar near the edge to two jars so that they won’t compete with the focal point so much.

Tip #3 – Make a Highway for the Viewer

Busy pieces often have so many paths for the eye that it’s not clear where to start and how to continue. The best thing is to be clear and make a highway that goes around the image. The viewer can then take smaller scenic routes around the details, but there’s always the big safe road to return to that leads to the main attractions.

Improving composition. Art advice by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Building a highway requires that you know what your main elements are. After finding the spirit of the jar, I made the red circle communicate with it. Now I added a couple of white spots so that it looks like there’s a voice or a reflection flying between the two. So there’s use for those white dots, just use them sparingly and near the places where you want to lead the eye!

Painting shadows with acrylic paints. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

With turquoise tones, I painted a route from the right bottom corner to the two central elements. I also added more depth to the image by painting shadows. Shadows would be my fourth tip, but it’s worth a separate post, so I will get back to it sometimes later.

No More Busy Mixed Media!

I named the revamped version as “Song of Glass” because it’s now about finding the singing spirit of the silent jars.

"Song of Glass", a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I hope you found this post helpful for busy mixed media pieces. See my classes for more handy tips and advice!

Painting an Intuitive Fantasy

This week, I have a new fantasy painting, and I also share tips about selecting colors.

"Arotuuli / Steppe Wind", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read her post about this intuitive fantasy painting!

This painting is called “Arotuuli,” which is “Steppe Wind” in English. “Aro” must be one of the few words that are shorter in Finnish than in English, as Finnish words are often very long. We write compound words without space, so it makes words look even longer.

Intuitive Fantasy Painting – Two Tips for the Beginning

I like to paint intuitively, and even if this painting has horses and a woman, it started with random strokes and abstract blocks, and I had no other idea than a secret wish to be able to include a horse at some point.

Tip 1 – Dark and Light

When filling the canvas with color, I like to make dark and light color mixes so that the 3-dimensional effect tickles my imagination.

Starting an intuitive painting. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Tip 2 – Less Can Be More

I also like to pick a narrow selection of colors so that the elements look like they are exposed to the same light. In this painting, I mostly used Phthalo Turquoise, Alizarin Crimson, Yellowish Green, and Titanium White. When mixing colors, less can be more!

A Couple of My Favorite Colors

I am especially fond of Yellowish Green and Alizarin Crimson, and I recommend them warmly. Let’s talk about them a bit more.

Color 1 – Yellowish Green

Yellowish Green is a color mix manufactured by Schminke Primacryl. I bought this tube because I love Daniel Smith’s Rich Green Gold in watercolors, and I wanted to have a similar tone in acrylics. I like colors that remind me of lemons and lime fruits – one of the most beautiful things in the world – and I always find use for yellows. This color is like two colors in one tube: it works very well with the mixes that require yellow, but it also produces beautiful greens with blues.

Yellowish Green by Schminke PrimAcryl.

Color 2 – Alizarin Crimson

Alizarin Crimson is an ugly red. I don’t think you would buy it if you didn’t know more about it. It looks like dried blood but works very well with color mixes. White reveals its gentler side, and when mixed with blues, you can get beautiful blacks, browns, and dark purples. It produces a pleasant and quite sunny orange with yellows, and in general, it’s a workhorse, always willing to step in.

Alizarin Crimson, a beautiful red for color mixes. Manufactured by Golden Acrylics.

Alizarin Crimson was originally manufactured from madder, but these old organic dyes faded or changed within time, so nowadays we use synthetic substitutes. I found this color in oils first. Schminke’s oil paint is called “Alizarin Madder Lake”. My tube, manufactured by Golden, is “Alizarin Crimson Hue”. Alizarin Crimson is sometimes called “Madder Lake” or “Alizarin Red,” and the tone may vary. Pick the darkest and ugliest one!

If you are a color nerd, Bright Earth by Philip Ball is a comprehensive book about pigments and their origin.

Here’s the painting before I started adding the figures. The image shows well how Yellowish Green and Alizarin Crimson work in color mixes.

An intuitive acrylic painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Intuitive Fantasy Shape by Shape

I painted the woman and the horses so that they are partly abstract and partly realistic. Some shapes exist just because they look beautiful, others because they are building blocks for the figures.

Painting details shape by shape. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here are some details of the finished painting. The more you zoom in, the more abstract the painting looks.

A detail of "Arotuuli / Steppe Wind", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. This painting has three horses.
A detail of "Arotuuli / Steppe Wind", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
A detail of "Arotuuli / Steppe Wind", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
A detail of "Arotuuli / Steppe Wind", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s the whole painting again.

I wanted to keep the colors light and bright to create an airy impression.

Intuitive Fantasy Painting – Big or Small?

“Arotuuli” is one of my biggest paintings. It’s 60 x 60 cm (about 23,5 x 23,5 inches) and painted on a stretched, fairly thick canvas. I like painting on smooth surfaces. My style is detailed, and the coarse structure doesn’t go well with it. The painting was started about a month ago, and I took few-hour sessions now and then. It’s not as slow as you would think, because the small strokes aren’t as tiny as with small pieces. Sometimes we produce clumsy just because we select a small size. For me, the bigger size has helped to create dynamic scenes rather than static portraits. “Arotuuli” continues the previous bigger painting “Paratiisi / Paradise.”

Paivi Eerola and her intuitive fantasy painting "Arotuuli / Steppe Wind."

But next week, something much smaller, even if I do have a new big canvas waiting!

Art Journal Video – Adding Text and Layers to Your Pages

This week is all about art journal inspiration. You see more spreads from the art journal I started a couple of weeks ago, and there’s also a video of making the spread below.

Adding text to art journal pages by Peony and Parakeet. Using alcohol ink with printed text blocks.

The world needs the kind of magic⁣
⁣where those who are seen as weak appear strong,⁣
⁣and where the future is gentler than the present.
⁣Let’s create that magic!⁣

Including Text in Art Journal Pages

I have a pile of these kinds of small stories about art and imagination. Or maybe I should say “a feed” instead of “a pile” because I post them regularly on Peony and Parakeet’s Facebook page. I have always liked writing, and I have a natural urge to share thoughts about my passion. So it hit me that I should write more in my art journals too. And why not use those stories that are born so effortlessly every week?

Handwritten text on an art journal page. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I have always wanted to find a genre where I would belong in art.
I follow fantasy artists closely because I love their openness and enthusiasm.
But I guess my genre would be defined more by the process rather than by the result.
Between every painting, I need internal processing by drawing, painting, and writing.
While many artists have sketchbooks, mine are more like creative diaries.
They don’t sketch the next painting but move my thoughts towards it.
We art journalers meet ourselves when we open our books.
Like thoughts, some pages are less finished, some more,
and when the journal is full, one chapter in life comes to an end.

Art Journal Pages with Typed Text Blocks

After writing by hand, I decided to make the next page so that the text would be typed. Not that I hate my handwriting, vice versa, hand-written pages always look great. But when I was a child, I used to write a lot with an old Bijou, and I missed the typed look. I still have the old typewriter, but the possibility to play with the size and style of the letters, made me use a computer instead.

A layered mixed media art journal page by Peony and Parakeet.

Every person has an imaginary world where priorities and hierarchies change.
In my imagination, plants always win.
Every morning when I look at my houseplants,
remove dried leaves, change their position,
they not only maneuver my hands but take over my mind.
I have tried to battle against these modest and silent spirits, but they always win.
So, when I’m painting, I am at their service!

Here’s the spread with the two pages side by side.

Adding text to art journal pages by Peony and Parakeet.

In the second spread, I wanted to play with the orientation and the shape of the text blocks.

Adding text to art journal pages by Peony and Parakeet.

Art is not just about being in the present. You can ask questions like:
What would be possible if I were tens of years younger?
If I were somebody else?
If I traveled to any time and place?
Even: if the laws of physics were absent?
These questions may first have a bit bitter tone,
but in art, these ifs taste sweet.
Our real-life can be like living in a pot,
but through our imagination,
we can reach further.
No matter who you would not want to be in real life,
in the world of art, it’s all good.

Mixed Media Art Journal Pages

For the second spread, I printed a gouache painting that I had made for the class Decodashery on a sticky canvas and adhered it on the page.

Life in a Pot. A gouache painting with collage by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I really like the yellow-green circles, made with alcohol inks.

In this spread, I also used hand-drawn and hand-painted collage pieces made from the classes Magical Inkdom and Decodashery.

Magical art journal spread by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I added green to the cat so that it fits with the rest of the page.

Art Journal Magic – Watch the Video!

See the process of attaching printed text, using alcohol inks, and painting with acrylics more in detail by watching the video below!

I hope the video inspired you to fill your journals!

Draw animals and more: Animal Inkdom, Magical Inkdom
Paint decorative flowers and more: Decodashery

Sale! Classes are Retiring!

Stormy Scenery from Imagine Monthly Bundle 1, by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet

I have been revamping the website, and it’s been a big cleaning process as well. Three classes are now retiring: 2 different Imagine Monthly art journaling bundles from 2016, and my first online class ever Watercolor 101 for Intuitive Painting, recorded in 2014. These classes are 50% off for this weekend only, and then they will be gone. The sale ends on August 2nd, 2020, midnight PDT.

>> Imagine Monthly Bundle 1 (6 mini-courses)
>> Imagine Monthly Bundle 2 (5 more mini-courses)
>> Watercolor 101 for Intuitive Painting (1 video)

One of my personal favorites is Romantic Geometry from Imagine Monthly Bundle 2, a mini-course inspired by Wassily Kandisky.

Romantic Geometry from Imagine Monthly Bundle 2, by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.com

Have a creative weekend!

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