Create Fantastic Art!

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Peony and Parakeet

Starting a Colored Pencil Journal

This week, I started a project that I have been thinking about for quite a while: a colored pencil art journal! I hope this post inspires you to keep a visual journal too.

From Mundane to Fantastic

Moss horse, lemons and dandelions. Colored pencil journal spread by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The idea of this journal is to connect everyday events with the world of fantasy. I want it to be a visual diary that is inspired by the ordinary but still goes beyond it. I

Books and Pencils

I have kept small art journals before too, and they still feel inspiring many years later. The two old art journals below are Moleskine sketchbooks.

Small art journals - Moleskine sketchbooks and Archer & Olive notebook.

The new one is a blank notebook from Archer & Olive. I chose it because I really like Archer & Olive as a company, and I’ve grown to like their bright white paper for bullet journaling. The size of the new notebook is A5 (5,75 x 8,25 inches), so a little bigger than the old sketchbooks but still very manageable.

When ordering the notebook, I got a discount code, so click here to get 10% off if you haven’t purchased from Archer & Olive before.

Archer & Olive notebook and a mixed selection of colored pencils.
The yellow linen cover isn’t the most practical choice, it will probably be grey after the journal is full!

I have been purchasing new pencils too. Yesterday, I went to Helsinki to visit art supply stores and got some colored pencils – a mixed selection to expand my knowledge of different brands. So far, I have mostly used wax-based pencils like Prismacolor Soft Core and Caran d’Ache Luminance, but now I also got oil-based Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils. I also bought some Caran d’Ache watercolor pencils and more Luminance that has been my favorite so far. I have always mixed all kinds of pencils in my drawings and continue to do so!

Starting a Colored Pencil Journal

I usually fill an art journal by choosing the pages randomly. But because this journal is about my everyday life, I wanted it to be chronological and start from the first spread. It’s exciting to see how it will change and what kind of secondary stories the images will tell.

What to Draw First?

I suggest you let your journal develop intuitively so that you move from one association to another and mix all kinds of ideas together. So often, the fantasy is in the mix, not in the single element.

My first ideas: a horse and moss greens. A horse because I love to draw them and moss because currently, our garden has plenty of it. We like it more than grass, so we are not complaining!

Starting a colored pencil journal. Using water with watercolor pencils.

I don’t use water often, but now with the thick 160gsm paper, I smoothened the strokes of the bottom layer with a water brush. After drawing the moss horse, dandelions and all kinds of weeds came to my mind. Namely, while watching the puppy, I have been weeding almost daily and thinking that weeds are quite pretty too.

Art journaling with colored pencils. Using many brands and many layers in the same spread.

Let the Ideas and Associations Flow!

Then, of course, there’s this puppy, Saima! She makes me look at the leaves, twigs, stones, everything that she can find on the ground. My favorite moments in creating are those when I focus on the details and forget the surrounding world. I think Saima does the same many times in a day. For her, reality feels like a fantasy. We, adults, need to find the fantasy in our minds.

Beagle puppy explores nature.

I tried Derwent’s burnishing pencil for the first time and quite liked it.

Using a Derwent burnishing pencil.

I was also inspired by rain, the wet tiles in the backyard, sunny mornings, and how I love old portrait paintings even if I can’t fully understand why. My favorite fruits are lemons, and it will be exciting to see how many times they reappear in the journal.

Using Archer & Olive's blank notebook as a colored pencil journal. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
In a fantasy world, dandelion can be a size of a horse, and the horizon can be non-existent.

A spread with pencils is not a big project like a canvas painting, but can still feel satisfying, especially when the journal progresses.

What do you think?

P.S. For more colored pencil inspiration, remember to sign up for Intuitive Coloring!

Art Makeover – Revamp Your Old Paintings!

Ceruleana, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. See her blog post about how to revamp old paintings and make art makeovers!

Let’s give an art makeover for an old painting! The idea for this blog post came last month when I was running out of paper. Instead of traveling to an art supply store, I stayed home as was advised, and found another solution: reusing old paintings!

My starting point was practical, but the benefits were spiritual – the journey that had ended, started again. I picked pieces that were made about 30 years ago – when I was in my 20s. At that time, I studied software engineering but still felt partly an artist.

Makeover Tip #1 – Change the Subject

Art makeover - read Paivi Eerola's tips on how to revamp an old painting!

The paintings from the 1990s look very different from my current work, but after examining old paint strokes, I did recognize myself. Although the strokes were rougher and the shapes simpler, they were still very much the same. The subject has changed, but my love for playing with shapes never went away.

Makeover Tip #2 – Save Something Old

Art makeover by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

When revamping the painting, I like to save something from the original one. So here, I kept a part of the yellow curtain but altered its color with a thin layer of paint so that it fits with the new color scheme. Old curtain, new home.

Makeover Tip #3 – Change the Colors

The old painting has screaming colors, but I wanted something more sophisticated for the revamped version, called “Ceruleana.” As the name suggests, the new painting is a tribute to Cerulean Blue.

Golden Artist Colors Cerulean Blue and Paivi Eerola's painting Ceruleana.

Cerulean Blue is an expensive but lovely color, especially when mixed with white. It makes every engineer a romantic and looks heavenly with ochre and yellow tones.

Acrylic painting in progress. By artist Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

But this post is not only about blues and its hues, I have another example too! This one has a lot of Magenta (“Medium Magenta” of Golden Acrylics), and the colors are very different from the original muddy version.

Golden Artist Colors Medium Magenta and Paivi Eerola's painting Cosytopia.

Art Makeover Tip #4 – Change the Orientation

The original was an artistic self-portrait like the first one. I did those a lot back then, and in every picture, I tried to look a bit different. But my imagination never got this far! The revamped version is horizontal but here they are side by side so that you can compare.

Another art makeover by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I like how the original version is still present in the new one!

Makeover Tip #5 – Use the Old Painting as a Foundation

This magenta abstract was so much fun to make. The old painting was like a map that had roads and towns, and when trusting them to lead me to one place to another, I didn’t have to worry about composition or such. I picked the easy abstract painting style from my class Planet Color. The whole process was relaxing, and the painting is called “Cosytopia.” A place to escape the big bad world.

Cosytopia, an abstract acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Extreme Art Makeover – Polish and Varnish!

Like in any makeover, why not do it to the very end! Take care that the brushstrokes are smooth where they need to be, and shapes stylish enough for a party.

Painting details by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

If the painting has a sturdy background, varnish it too! Ceruleana was painted on a cardboard canvas, so I used a polymer varnish on it. Before the varnish, I added a layer of glossy gel medium. (A detailed post about varnishing)

Varnishing an acrylic painting. By paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Glossy varnish makes colors glow beautifully. Even if this is an old revamped acrylic painting on cardboard, it may happen that someone someday says: “Oo-oh, it’s an oil painting, isn’t it?”

A varnished acrylic painting. Ceruleana by Paivi Eerola.

I hope this post inspired you to make the most of your supplies and past artistic endeavors!

Planet Color – Weekend Sale!

Planet color, an online painting class by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Great for beginner painters!

My beginner painting class Planet Color is for sale between May 28th to 31st! The normal price is 35 EUR, now only 25 EUR. >> Buy here!

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!

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!

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