Peony and Parakeet

For a Late Bloomer in Art – Series of Inspiring Quotes #2

Magical Bunny. Illustration by Paivi Eerola, Finland.

This post continues the series of inspiring quotes that I have heard or read recently. The last week’s post was the first one of the series. It’s about being honest about what you want to create, read it here. But now to this week’s inspiring quote – especially geared to us who are late bloomers in art!

This Week’s Quote

“You will never arrive”

Who Said?
American illustrator Lisa Congdon

Where?
Lisa’s Instagram feed, here’s the link to the post

Lisa is also a late bloomer, not pursuing art right from the beginning. When she was starting her art career, she dreamed about living a successful and carefree life as an artist. She thought that when she has it all figured out, she will reach a happy destination. But when Lisa’s fame grew, new challenges came along. She wrote: “If I have arrived at all, it’s in a place of accepting that I will never arrive.”

One Masterpiece vs. Chain Reaction of Inspiration

Drawing collage pieces. A hand-drawn set of small tassels by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I am a late bloomer in art, just turned 50 this year, and been a working artist for only five years. The older I have got, the more aware I have become that one day this life is over. A few years ago, my reaction to it was to aim for creating pieces that will continue their life after my death. I wanted to leave a legacy. Recently, I have become to think differently, and Lisa’s post also contributed to that. I believe that everything we do for others is a legacy. Even this blog can be one of mine. And it’s not defined by how long the posts will be available, but by their effect on the readers.

Drawing collage pieces. A hand-drawn teacup by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The encouragement for art starts a chain reaction. When we support other people to create, they can do the same and pass the inspiration forward. The drops become a cupful, and our existence lasts longer. And when we take the pressure off from a single piece of art, it also gives us the courage to express what we truly love – referring to the last week’s blog post – that feels honest to us.

Do You Have This in Common with Leonardo?

Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci. Ink drawing by Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet.

Leonardo da Vinci was famous for not being able to do his commissions on time. He had several different projects on the go all the time, and some never got finished. He felt like he was a failure and saw himself more like an engineer than an artist. (10 things about Leonardo)

If Leonardo felt like he had never arrived, the feeling must be connected with creativity. When we are creative, we are on an adventure and don’t stay put. The journey becomes tedious and depressing if we focus too much on the destination instead of enjoying the views.

Magical art hand-drawn by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Heading Away from the Safe Road

Instagram is full of skillful art, and sometimes, it makes me question myself as an artist when millions and millions of “better” images are uploaded all the time. It has made me postpone sending my work to juried exhibitions and reaching for opportunities to do illustrative work because “I am not quite there.”

Paivi Eerola, a late bloomer in art, an artist from Finland, and her watercolor paintings.
Finnish Watercolor Society’s annual group exhibition in June 2019
Two more group exhibitions coming up in the fall!

I have started to think that if the fact is that we never arrive, I should get out of my comfort zone and try walking on some of the side paths too. I also want to allow myself to create more art that is humorous and that can’t be taken seriously because every time I do that, it makes me smile and brings the sun into my studio. I may not follow the road that I had imagined a long time ago, but it makes the adventure of being a late-bloomer more exciting.

Drawing humorous art. Magical art hand-drawn by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Take the Next Step – Do This!

Imagine that you already have all the artistic skills that you will ever get. Do something that you have postponed because you have been waiting for your skills to grow!

Come to create fantastic art – Sign up for Magical Inkdom!

Three Creative Approaches that Affect the Way You Feel About Your Art

Dreaming Ducks, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland

Here’s my latest oil painting called “Dreaming Ducks.” I started it in December 2017 and finished it just recently. It’s the biggest oil painting that I have made so far – 70 x 50 cm. I painted it too long, too many sessions, and lost my motivation several times. Painting became more challenging layer by layer and I demanded more of myself, never feeling fully happy what I had made.

1) Fine Art is a Stone on the Bottom of the Sea

Dreaming Ducks, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland

The deeper I dive into fine art, the heavier it feels. If creativity is a sea, fine art is like a big stone on the bottom. I have to dive deep, it takes time to reach it, and then it feels so heavy, that it’s often impossible to lift it. But then, on the other hand, it’s also an anchor, the core of my visual voice and artistic identity.

A detail of Dreaming Ducks, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland

But at the same time, I believe that if we only create fine art, it narrows everything. It narrows our artistic vision because we lean too much towards what is appreciated in the art world. It narrows our audience, and we no longer serve all the people we are meant to serve. It suffocates our enthusiasm because we raise the bar all the time. We forget what really matters because we block ideas based on whether it’s fine art or not.

A detail of Dreaming Ducks, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland

Fine art makes us limit ourselves: “I paint abstracts only”, “I have to choose my palette and stick to it”, “I need to find my style”. When we have the mindset of a fine artist, we question what we do all the time.

A detail of Dreaming Ducks, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland

2) Creative Play is the Boat Floating on the Sea

But then, there’s the surface – the fun stuff that I personally missed too many years while growing my skills to reach the big stone.

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

These ink drawings are like a boat to me. I acknowledge now that it’s mindless to make the diving attempts if I don’t have anything supporting me on the surface. Something like drawing witty cats! I have made many for the upcoming class Magical Inkdom!

3) We Easily Miss the Water That Connects the Two

We have been talking about the bottom of the sea and the boat, but it’s all connected, right? It’s easy to forget the water when you are going for the stone or polishing the boat! An artist friend of mine pointed out this to me. She said: “Your work always contains designs.”

Like water, it was a no-brainer: “Well yes, I used to be a designer. I like to design things.” But at the same time, it was something I hadn’t really thought about.

Drawing a design from an oil painting. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read about the three approaches that you can take for your art!

I went to my computer, wiped the dust from my old Intuos 4 drawing tablet, opened Adobe illustrator, and started drawing.

Drawing a design from an oil painting. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The blue cat got a cousin! Look how I used the motifs above to complete this digital drawing.

A cat illustration by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Three Creative Approaches

Now I think that these approaches should be the elements of every creative process:
a) diving deeper to find the anchor – discovering your visual voice
b) sailing happily in a little boat – playing with your imagination
c) seeing the water that connects the stone and the boat – becoming more aware of your current capabilities and what you can accomplish now

When I started to see the water, I got the feeling that it’s all good. Anything that I do can be connected, repurposed, and fed back to the process. What I have dreamt can begin to happen now, not years later.

What do you think of these approaches? Can you apply them into your art? Which is the hardest and which is the easiest for you at the moment?

Joyful Art Taught by Drawing Paper Dolls

Mixed media art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. This one is called "Living Paper Doll"

Here’s my latest illustration called “Living Paper Doll.” It expresses the world of fantasy that I have been able to find after changing some of my artistic dreams.

Trade-Offs to Create Joyful Art

For a long time, one part of me has admired old master paintings, yearned for more visits to famous art museums, and desperately wanted to master more and more skills. Another part has been less serious, playing with the idea of getting back to childhood, drawing animals and paper dolls, re-reading books like Emily of the New Moon, and watching Bride and Prejudice for the 12th time …

After October, or should we say Inktober, these two parts have started to shake hands and discuss what to save and what to throw out. A lot of that inner conversation has been about changing technical skills to using more imagination. Another trade-off has been between abstract and representational art. I no longer aspire to create fully abstract paintings. More than a fine artist, I am an illustrator of the mind.

If you look at this piece from January 2018, its visual style is very similar to my current pieces. But content-wise the change is a big one. This now looks empty to me.

Abstract art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Freedom of the Line or the Mind?

How many times have we tried to grow our drawing and painting skills to become “looser”? And how many times it has led to more stiffness regarding the use of imagination?

I have to admit that often we art teachers can be blamed here. It’s easy to focus more on the technical side, composition and such, rather than supporting the growth in expression. But on the other hand, “techniques” and “step-by-step” are often the words that students want. Expression and imagination sound much vaguer.

However, joyful art is created with free spirit. Now I feel that if I had to choose one stiffness, it would be the stiffness of the line instead of the mind.

Joyful Art in Practice – Forgotten Piece Gets Completed

Last weekend, I organized my studio and found a piece that I had started in July. I hadn’t finished it because I had no idea how to proceed. It was made on a huge piece of paper that I had later cut smaller just to be able to store it more easily.

Creating mixed media art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Last summer, I did many experiments with graphite pencils. Here I also used watercolors, one of my favorite supplies. Now I wanted to add some ink drawing as well. It was a lot of fun drawing my current favorite subjects, animals, to this forgotten piece.

Creating mixed media art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Ink pens and watercolors go well together!

Creating mixed media art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Painting with watercolors and creating joyful art.

First I thought I make this piece a self-portrait by drawing my face on the background. But then I thought about my business name Peony and Parakeet, and how Peony represents beautiful things while Parakeet is for curiosity and play. So the idea of a face changed to a bird. Notice how the elements blend with each other, creating a sense of unity to the piece.

Mixed media art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watercolors, ink, and graphite pencils.

I toned down the bright white areas with yellowish green. I used Daniel Smith’s Rich Green Gold. It’s one of my favorites when painting with watercolors.

Mixed media art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. This one is called "Living Paper Doll"

Paper Playground in the Studio

My studio has always had a minimalistic feel, but now it has got more and more joyful art that I don’t want to put away!

Paivi Eerola's art studio full of joyful art.

One of the big joys in January has been the art that has been created by the participants of Animal Inkdom. On Monday, we will start a new module and it’s about drawing birds. I am so excited to see what everyone will create from the class projects.

Hand-drawn paper bird. Art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

These paper dolls feel alive to me. They radiate hope that was always present when I was a child. I was living in a dream world most of the times, and back then, there seemed to be nothing extraordinary. But for an adult, it’s amazing what the mind of a child can discover, and sad how we ruin that when starting to follow other people’s expectations.

A detail of a mixed media artwork called "Living Paper Doll" by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Art, Hope, and Humor!

There are no boundaries in art. Art includes hope and humor as well. To me, exploring humor joy has revealed new ways to create. I feel that I am now better at delivering a sense of mystery, dealing with dark themes, combining suspense and silliness, and accepting that sometimes art can be so bad that it’s almost the best possible kind of art!

Humorous and joyful art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Come to Animal Inkdom to draw with us, we’ll start with the birds on Monday. The previous module “Bees and Butterflies” arrives immediately after signing up, and you are good to go! >> Sign up here!

Technique, Style or Identity? Which comes first to you?

I re-wrote an old blog post because this is the subject that’s close to my heart!

Technique

During the past ten years, I have wanted to learn and experiment with art techniques. It has been fun to combine all kinds of supplies and see what comes out. It has often felt that after I have learned the technique, I can then do whatever I want with it. But many times, adding a new technique to my repertoire has just grown more doubts about my style.

Playing with collage art techniques. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Style 

Style means something that you are comfortable with doing, and that makes your work recognizable. When I have been unsuccessful in finding my visual style, I have had too much focus on the result and too little on the play. Techniques may change, but discovering the how you can process inspiration and what inspires you, and then connecting all that with shapes and colors and compositions, produces style.

Three Churches of St. Petersburg. A mixed media watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Made for the class Watercolor Journey.

Identity

Even when working full-time as an artist, I sometimes still have problems in calling myself an artist. I wonder, why there’s so much talk about finding your style and so little about finding your identity as an artist? It includes me too. I often talk and think about style issues when I should think about identity issues. It’s easier to analyze the line, the theme, the mark making, than talk about things that go deeper.

Things like:

1) Why do you make art?
2) How do you define the quality of your art?
3) What’s your role in the art community?
4) What’s different with you from the artists that you admire?
5) When and how do you know that you have succeeded as an artist?

Most of these questions are valid whether you are a beginner or more advanced. The answers change when your journey progresses.

Paivi Eerola and her oil painting Heaven and Earth.

When your order is 1) identity, 2) style, 3) technique
your art becomes more expressive because you allow more play,
you take on new challenges because your art has a purpose,
and you connect more with people because you have a natural urge to share.

The Exploring Artist – Few Spots Left!

The Exploring Artist - a coaching program for finding your artistic identity. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

In The Exploring Artist, you will grow your artistic identity in a small and tight-knit group. I will personally help you to put your passion into words and visual insights. We will work together to discover what you want to change in your art, where you want to move forward and how to do it. The registration closes on Sunday, Sept 9 (midnight PDT).

>> Sign up now!

Scroll to top