Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Selling Watercolor Paintings as Gifts

This week, I talk about making and selling watercolor paintings as gifts. At the same time, we celebrate the playfulness of watercolors.

"Kultaa huuhtoneet" - "Gold Panners", a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola. Size: A3. Abstract flowers in watercolor. Selling watercolor paintings as gifts.
“Kultaa huuhtoneet” – “Gold Panners”, watercolor, size: A3
See more and bigger pics at Taiko (online art store)

I love gift shops. My dream for a long time has been that, in addition to large oil paintings, I could sell smaller pieces as gifts. Recently, this has come true. I have sold many of my watercolor paintings not only directly but also via the Taiko online art store and the Gumbostrand Konst & Form gallery.

Art as Gifts vs. Art for Homes

An art buyer never buys art just for need. The work must appeal to the buyer on a deep level. Still, large paintings are chosen more according to the interior, and smaller ones are purchased as gifts. Sometimes a small painting is a gift to the buyer himself, often to someone else.

Packing a watercolor painting. Selling and making watercolor paintings as gifts.
I usually sell my watercolor art without a frame, especially if I mail it directly.

As a professional artist, I am more known for oil paintings, but I have dreamt that also my watercolor pieces would be in demand. I love to paint them and the idea of a perfect gift inspires me. However, it has taken time to grow my vision of how they should look.

Because I have grown many of my general painting skills with watercolors, my watercolor paintings have quite a similar style to my oil paintings. But with watercolors, I step in a slightly more illustrative direction. I want my watercolor art not to be too abstract, but approachable and atmospheric. See a collection of my recent watercolor paintings here!

Flower Art But With a Playful Attitude

My watercolor pieces usually have flowers. However, I don’t paint just static and spiritless flower arrangements. I see flowers as adventurous human or animal figures and get playful with them. On the one hand, the flowers are like dolls and teddy bears, and on the other hand, they are imperfectly perfect, feeling natural and real.

Starting a watercolor painting. The first layers.

When the playfulness really kicks in, painting is fun.

Negative painting in progress. Watercolor techniques.
I often use the technique called negative painting, to bring up the flowers.

I love to discover plants in the middle of random watercolor spots. I have also a course called Freely Grown about this kind of process.

Taking Several Sessions to Grow the Idea

Usually, the first layers of the painting are fast and only take an hour or two. But that’s when the painting is just a regular flower painting, not a special piece that has a special appeal. Within a couple of hours, there’s not much time to grow the idea further or adjust the details.

Painting flowers in watercolor.

I usually paint in several sessions where the first one or two lay the foundation and produce the basic painting, and where the next sessions (usually 2 to 4) grow the story and produce the finished look.

Using a narrow brush when working with details. Creating watercolor art.

For example, for this painting, I took walks to see flowers and to add some more to the painting. But after a while, that felt too traditional and then decided on the gold mining theme.

Bringing up older layers in watercolor. Watercolor techniques.

The further I go, the smaller the brush strokes become.

Working with a Progress Photo

I find it helpful to take a photo of the unfinished piece, and then use it as a reference. The small-sized picture makes it easier for me to spot the areas that still need adjusting.

Using a progress photo to point out the  parts that need adjusting. Making and selling watercolor art as gifts.

Looking at the photo also helps with distancing myself from the actual piece. I can ask: Do I love this? Would I buy this? When selling watercolor paintings as gifts, never underestimate the quality, always try a little higher.

Color over Color

Pigments are very different from each other. Some colors require many layers, and others can be used very thickly. Most artist-quality yellows have good coverage and work well for the finishing touches.

Painting layers in watercolor. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.

I have recently used smooth (hot press) watercolor paper because it’s best for tiny details.

Gentle Breakthroughs

I want to break boundaries with all my art, but in watercolor, I try to do it more gently than usual. In this painting, the flowers have caught Hokusai’s great wave from Japan and taken it to Lapland to pan for gold. And so it happened that the gold and the flowers started a decorative baroque party and everything small became surprisingly big and grand. Despite all this, this is a flower painting where the viewer can relax and enjoy the joyful atmosphere.

"Kultaa huuhtoneet" - "Gold Panners", a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola. Size: A3. Abstract flowers in watercolor. Selling watercolor paintings as gifts.

But whatever the story is, I try to express it so that it can evoke different memories and associations in different people. Somehow, the painting must make a gentle breakthrough in the eyes of the viewer – find a soft spot where the immersion can begin.

See more pics of “Kultaa huuhtoneet – Gold Panners” at the Taiko art store!

Freely Grown – Paint Watercolor Flowers with Me!

Freely Grown - online art course about painting watercolor flowers without references.

In the course Freely Grown, I walk you through my watercolor painting process. Because the finishing touches with a small brush are the most challenging, we take the easier route and do them with colored pencils. In Freely Grown, you paint flowers freely without reference photos and create a unique painting from the given techniques and guidelines. >> Buy here!

How to Add Depth When Coloring Freely

This week, we will color freely on a watercolor background and learn about adding depth to our colorings. I am using regular colored pencils, but you can also use watercolor pencils.

Garden spirits. Colored pencil art by Paivi Eerola.

My drawing is inspired by the garden and the ornamental shapes of the plants, insects, and birds. So, let’s go deep in the garden and create lushness!

Quick Start with Watercolors

Blank paper can feel intimidating, but if you fill it first with watercolors, coloring is fun.

I was going through my paper pads when I found an unfinished watercolor painting.

A watercolor background ready for coloring.

It was just a background with random spots but the paper was smooth, just perfect for colored pencils. I think the paper is Arches Aquarelle Hot Press, nice and sturdy, 300 gsm/140 lbs thick.

I picked up my pencils and started drawing and let my inspiration come from the painted shapes.

Drawing on a watercolor background.

I drew flowers, leaves, swirls, and all kinds of odd organic shapes that I would then later adjust.

Add Depth – Expand the Outlines!

When you draw, don’t just outline, but broaden the lines to form larger areas. For example, a black outline can be broadened so that it gradually gets lighter (“shadowing”) or so, that it remains dark and solid but expands to a larger and exciting shape.

Coloring over a watercolor background.

Dark and light should have clear differences so that you can point out separate areas: here’s dark, here’s light, here’s dark again, and so on.

Adding Depth is a Slow Process

When you are working without any references, you are on an adventure! What first looked like a flower, can become a butterfly after a while. Art is a shy fairy and it takes time to attract it.

In this intuitive coloring style, adding depth is a process where you slowly brighten or darken different areas. Start with a transparent layer, then add another one. When you have areas that haven’t been worked on with colored pencils yet, you can also use watercolors for layering.

Working with colored pencils and watercolors at the same time. Adding depth.

Compared to accurately replicating a photo, this kind of free coloring may first feel much faster. But if you aim for depth, it’s not!

Add Depth – Find the Spirit!

At some point, your piece feels full and finished. But at this point, let me ask you a question:

Have you found the spirit of your piece?

Have you found something soulful that seems too gentle for this world?
Or is there something that cuts your heart and feels painful?
The depth in art is not only visual but something that evokes emotion.

Colored pencil art in progress. Drawing details and adding depth.

In my piece, I discovered a spirit in the right upper corner. It’s not a flower or anything recognizable, but I felt it strongly.

After you have found the spirit, give more visibility to it. Make it so that it impacts the overall piece.

You Are the Sun

In your art, you are the sun. First, you can bring warmth to the piece by adding yellow. If you have areas that still take in watercolors, add a yellow wash over the greyish tones and let the warmth in.

Watercolor wash over a mixed media piece. Colored pencils and watercolors.

Second, remember that you really are the sun. So, you can decide how the light travels and where the shadows are. You don’t need to calculate how the shadows should go like there would be one correct solution. Start deciding who deserves the sunshine, and who doesn’t! Who gets more color, and who will stay more in the shadow?

Using colored pencils for highlighting the best barts. Adding depth by coloring.

In nature, there are all kinds of reflections, and I find them artistically inspiring. Look at this photo that I took today from our garden pond!

Reflections on a garden pond.

Playing with light, shadow, colors, and reflections is a lot of fun when you are creating freely. Remember that there’s no “shadow judge”, only “sun goddess” – you!

Add Depth – Force Yourself to Choose the Winners

Some people think about the composition all the time when they are creating, but I try to push that urge away as long as I can. You may have a lot of stuff on paper, but if you only highlight your favorites, balancing is easy. The problem is that you really have to choose!

Here, I have turned the paper upside down to get a different view of my work. That yellow flower looks very pretty, but the yellow butterfly shape near it is maybe even more attractive. Decisions, decisions!

Turning the piece upside down to analyze the composition. Creating freely with colored pencils and adding more depth step by step.

When I was at this point, I thought this was finished.

Colored pencil art in progress. This could have more depth. By Paivi Eerola.

But when you want to add more depth, you want to reduce the competition for attention. I wanted to make the spirit in the upper right corner and the yellow butterfly clear winners even if it meant I pushed back many pretty things.

How to add dept when coloring creatively. Creating colored pencil art.

For example, the pink rose got toned down.

Room for Imagination

Things that are further away are blurry, like whispers, and things that are close, are sharp and louder. If everything shouts, and nothing whispers, the viewer will likely turn away. And vice versa, if everything only whispers, the viewer easily walks by.

Garden spirits. Colored pencil art by Paivi Eerola.

If depth is lacking, you look at a wall and can’t see further. Depth is not only the impression but the imagination. With depth, you begin to imagine what more could be there. That’s especially why I want to add depth to my art whatever the subject is.

Learn more about watercolors and colored pencils together: See my course Freely Grown!

Colored Pencils – Ornamental Approach

This week, we take an ornamental approach to colored pencils! We will color freely, but so that we don’t start with a blank paper.

Ornamental approach to colored pencils. Colored pencil art by Paivi Eerola, Finland.

This is the piece I am creating in the video. The process is fun and the result is ornamental.

Ornamental Approach – Watch the Video!

To get started, you will need drawing paper, pencil, eraser, ruler, and round templates, for example, plates or lids will do.

I hope this kind of ornamental coloring inspires you to start and keep going!

Joy of Nature in Colored Pencil

This week, we learn from nature and bring its joy to our colored pencil art.

Joy of nature. Colored pencil art by Paivi Eerola, Finland.

It makes me sad how colored pencils are used only for replicating photos, and how little there is room for free expression. Nature grows freely, so why not give our art the same opportunity? I hope this post inspires you to do more intuitive coloring!

Joy of Nature: Patchwork

Think about nature sceneries as crazy quilts that have fabrics and seams! The fabrics are larger areas and the seams are lines. Patchwork has short seams, so keep your lines quite short too.

Joy of nature and working with colored pencils: create something small and colorful!

When you walk in nature, stop, and see the quilt by searching for the mesh of trees and bushes. Observe how twigs cross over each other and form nature’s patchwork.

Nature's patchwork and disorder

Then when you start coloring a blank paper, focus on building the asymmetric and abstract style quilt, rather than thinking about trees and such.

Patchwork coloring. Creating freely with colored pencils. Exploring the joy of nature in colored pencil.

I find this kind of “patchwork coloring” a lot of fun. Many call this mark-making, but I like to think about creating a patchwork instead. Marks are a more abstract term but textiles connect me to the creative world that is full of ideas.

Joy of Nature: Harmony

Despite its patchy structure, nature sceneries have harmony that our art often lacks. When you walk in nature, step back to admire the big picture and point out the areas by their dominating colors. You could think that the sky and earth both have a few quilts: patchwork areas that mostly have similar colors.

Harmonic spring scenery

So, when your paper has all kinds of patchwork, compose larger areas by coloring over them so that they get a stronger identity in color. For example, you can have a couple of green areas, a dark area, a more neutral brown area, and one with very light colors.

Learning  from nature. Adding harmony to your colored pencil drawing.

So, first, you start coloring gently with a wider color scheme and then add larger unified layers over the colorful patchwork.

Joy of Nature: Spirit

I like to think that light is nature’s spirit. When you walk in nature, seek for this spirit. You miss the spirit, if you only point out the big concrete things in the scenery like bushes, trees, water, and sky. To see the spirit, you have to step into the abstract world and look for the light: odd shapes on the trunks of the trees, pattern play on the leaves, and in general, all kinds of small reflections.

Reflections from water.

For me, it’s helpful to think that the spirit has twins. One is the light and the other is the shadow. When you want more light, you will also get stronger shadows.

Adding nature's spirit to colored pencil art.

Light and shadows add contrast and scatter. When you add them to your piece, it becomes less harmonic, but also less boring.

Joy of Coloring Small

Recently, my colored pencil pieces have been quite small, and the paper has been divided into smaller pieces.

Joy of coloring small. Dividing the paper in parts.

Coloring can be a bit like weeding: you can do it little by little.

Spring garden

First, the result is nothing, but it will bloom over time.

Coloring freely with colored pencils.

Colored pencils beat other supplies when we are creating this kind of small joyful art.

Getting creative with colored pencils

Here one A4-sized paper has two pieces of colored pencil art. So, you can take short walks or long walks to express the joy of nature in colored pencil.

Colored pencils and colored pencil art. Learning visual principles from Mother Nature. Coloring freely without references.

Mother Nature is the best art teacher. That’s why most of my classes are about what I have learned from her.

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