Peony and Parakeet

Between Fine Art and Illustration – Combining Both Into One Artwork

Flower Fairy's Year by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. See how this project was made and read her thoughts about choosing between fine art and illustration.

This week, I continue showing pieces that will be presented in the upcoming group exhibition “Flower Gardener’s Diary” (Kukkatarhurin päiväkirja, 9.- 22.9.2019, Hietsun Paviljonki, Helsinki). This one is called “Flower Fairy’s Year.” I will be presenting both paintings and drawings, so I wanted to create a piece that would build a bridge between fine art and illustration. I hope you find this project inspirational!

Inspiration Piece: Wheel of Fortune

When building the class Magical Inkdom earlier this year, I made a fun drawing called Wheel of Fortune. It has a center that’s separate from the rest of the piece, and it can be rotated so that the heads of the figures change. The bigger drawing is attached on thick cardboard so that it feels like it’s a game board, not just a flimsy piece of paper.

Wheel of Fortune. Illustration by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I wanted to use the idea of a separate centerpiece and sturdy base for this project too.

Fine Art Centerpiece: A Miniature Oil Painting

The project started by finishing a miniature oil painting that I suitably had in progress. It’s only 4 by 4 inches.

A miniature oil painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The painting was made very traditionally. I sketched the face with charcoal, and then made an underpainting with umber and white. I used Bernardino Luini’s portrait of Saint Catherine as a loose reference for the facial features.

Making of a miniature oil painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The color layers were thin so that the previous layers stayed visible too. It took a bit of courage to give a green wash to the face, but I really like the result. Decorations were easy and fun. They are quick lines and shapes that make the saint look like a floral fairy.

Miniature oil painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

With oil, the most difficult thing is to wait for every layer to dry separately. Other than that, I find oil easier to handle than acrylic paint.

Illustration: Decorative Flower Frame

For the frame, I cut a piece of Bristol paper. It’s about 10 by 10 inches.

Drawing a decorative illustration. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I wanted to include flowers from January to December so that the frame is like a clock that has months instead of hours. The drawing was made with Copic Multiliners (I mostly use 0.05 tip), and I colored it with watercolors.

Coloring a decorative frame with watercolors. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Plywood Base

My original idea was to cut two layers of cardboard so that the topmost layer would have a 4-by-4-inch hole. But when I told my husband that “Ideally, the base would be wooden”, he went to his workshop and came back with a hand-carved plywood base!

Between fine art and illustration. Composing an artwork of painted and hand-drawn pieces.

Putting All The Pieces Together

I painted the plywood black near the surroundings of the miniature painting. It makes sure that the plywood won’t show if the piece is observed from different angles. I varnished the oil painting with Gamvar and let it dry overnight. I put a plastic plate over the frame to reduce the curviness of the paper after painting it with watercolors.

Between fine art and illustration. Composing an artwork of painted and hand-drawn pieces.

Then I glued the painting to the base with gel medium and attached the frame with double-sided tape. Finally, I marked a line of 0.5 cm from the edge of the base and made sure that the motifs extend there. This piece will be professionally framed, so I didn’t want to leave too much empty space around the edges.

Flower Fairy's Year by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. This piece combines fine art and hand-drawn illustration.

Between Fine Art and Illustration

In the art world, there’s a lot of talk about choosing between fine art and illustration. Many define fine art so that it comes up solely from the artist’s own creative expression when illustration illustrates a story or can easily be used with the text. One way to separate them is the number of copies. Fine art pieces are often unique or manufactured in very limited quantities only when illustrations are more of everyday art, consumed by the masses. Some say that it requires talent to create a piece of fine art, and just art education to create a piece of illustration.

In my artistic path, I have found the definitions both helpful and destructive. It has been essential for me to expand to illustration – to learn how to visualize text and written ideas. It has made me more connected with the surrounding world, and it has also brought me more work. However, I feel that art is free, and without exploring that freedom, it’s also difficult to create insightful illustrations. So I have tried to keep up with both worlds.

However, I hate when people say that you have to choose between fine art and illustration. For me, bringing the two approaches as close as possible has been a working solution. I think this project shows really well how one is not the enemy for the other.

Flower Fairy's Year by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. This piece combines fine art and hand-drawn illustration.

I can’t wait to show you more pieces that I have finished for the exhibition! I will also have many framed and will blog about how I selected the frames in the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned!

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All Things Necessary in My Artistic Journey

All Things Necessary by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. An illustration by the Finnish artist. Read about her artistic journey.

Here’s my recent drawing called “All Things Necessary.” It’s inspired by the discoveries that I made while building the class Magical Inkdom. When I taught IT professionals back in the 1990s, we teachers used to say that you learn best when you teach a class. We had to constantly learn new technologies, and it made us professionals not only in teaching but also in learning.

However, some things take time, and even if trying to find the best ways to work with both ink and watercolor enabled this piece, the idea behind it goes much further back in my artistic journey, to the year 2014.

A Great Idea but Not So Great Execution from 2014

I have archived many of the old blog posts because back in 2014 I wasn’t very good at writing, and the posts are too short for the search engines. But I found the blog post in my personal archive and here’s what I wrote back in 2014:

“I often get these ideas that cost a million. Like the big painting that shines in gold and silver. It would look like a reproduction of the beautiful doors I saw last year when visiting the Hermitage Museum, in St. Petersburg, Russia. Someday I will make it! So I made a small prototype. It is a wooden block that is covered with all kinds of stuff found in my crafting space.”

Mixed media collage. See how this project continued in Paivi Eerola's artistic journey.

This idea has haunted me since I made this crafty block, or I could say since I visited St. Petersburg, Russia. I have two blurry photos from that trip that I look at quite often. One is the golden door and the other is a handpainted plate at The State Russian Museum.

Paivi Eerola at museums in St. Petersburg, Russia.

I felt I had found the aesthetics that I also wanted to create. First, I thought I would literally need real gold. Here’s how I ended the blog post:

So, if you follow me, then you know what I will do if I win in a lottery! Real gold, jewels … wow, it will look astonishing.

I wish I could turn back time, and say to myself: “Don’t lose this idea! Keep creating, and once your skills will grow, you will find the way.”

Dumping the Idea – “It’s Too Superficial”

The problem with me has been that when my skills haven’t met my vision, I have let go of the ideas around it. I have said to myself:

– “It wasn’t what I wanted to create anyway.”
– “It was too superficial, I want to create deeper stuff.”
– “The idea was great but not what other people would want to see”
– “Only rich and overly successful people could do that.”
– “There will be new and better ideas that are easier to execute.”

And so I have felt lost many times in my artistic journey because I haven’t been able to re-create that golden door, my true desire.

Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read about her artistic journey.
Doodling in 2015.

Getting Back to the Idea with More Skills

But for Magical Inkdom, I wanted to create gold. There my main message has been that we can make the wrong right, and define what’s magical to us. So I drew some golden frames, and they looked magical! (Instructions will be published in Lesson 4.)

Hand-drawn collage art by paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Sign up for her class Magical Inkdom to draw fun fantasy art!

Of course, I couldn’t just have a little bit of gold and settle with that. So I began a new piece, approximately 18 by 18 inches. It’s the biggest ink drawing that I have made so far. I knew my skills are there. I didn’t need a sketch or a prototype but just pour out everything that I love.

Ink drawing in progress by paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

While I colored the drawing with watercolors, I thought about the appropriate title. The most accurate that came to my mind was “Kaikki tarpeellinen” meaning “All Things Necessary”. This kind of golden luxury may seem unnecessary and even overwhelming to many, but it’s necessary for me. I need to load this daily into my mind to keep my zest for life alive.

Coloring an ink drawing with watercolors by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

All Things Necessary: It’s a world where Salvador Dali travels to the Rococo era, and then back and forth between the Renaissance age and the 20th century.

All Things Necessary by Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet. A detail of an illustration by the Finnish artist.

It’s a world where golden birds lay Faberge eggs and land on golden fingers.

All Things Necessary by Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet. A detail of an illustration by the Finnish artist.

It’s a world where people, animals, and physical items share the same qualities and play the same symphony.

All Things Necessary by Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet. A detail of an illustration by the Finnish artist.

It’s a world where a cembalo plays a bit too loud, where all the gold hurts your eyes, and where the chaos is suspiciously acceptable.

All Things Necessary by Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet. A detail of an illustration by the Finnish artist.

It’s the same place that I was trying to find in 2011, when I was madly drawing circles, and when some of you started following this blog.

Doodled designs by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read about her artistic journey from these to illustrations.

All Things Necessary for Moving on in the Artistic Journey

This new piece has made me re-think about the whole discussion about the artistic journey and finding a visual voice. I have blogged a lot about it, coached people for it, but it’s not easy to dig out a quiet seed that needs a lot of time and care to grow. Our artistic vision, the road sign, can be an ugly “prototype” like my old craft project that we carelessly toss away!

Let’s hold on to the things that keep deeply touching us while growing our skills in drawing and painting.

All Things Necessary by Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet. An illustration by a Finnish artist. Read about her artistic journey.

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What Artists Keep Doing – Series of Inspiring Quotes #3

This post ends the series of inspiring quotes that I have heard or read recently. In the last week, I wrote about the feeling of not being ready yet, and the week before about being honest about what you want to create. But now to this week’s inspiring quote!

"No! Don't Ever Quit Anything" Mixed media illustration by Paivi Eerola of Peonu and Parakeet.

This Week’s Quote

Don’t ever quit anything.

Who: Finnish journalist Kimmo Oksanen
Where: A column in the local newspaper Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish)

At the age of 16, Kimmo bought a typewriter and a guitar with the money earned from a summer job. He thought he could be a famous singer-songwriter. But he quitted singing and writing songs when he went to university and found out that lyrics are not “real poetry.” He also used to draw, paint and do sports when he was a teenager but ended up quitting all that too. He used to aim for perfection and didn’t realize that mistakes make the master. Now he regrets that he hadn’t just kept doing, and his advice is: “Start a lot and never quit anything.”

Not Quitting Crafting and Writing Made Me an Artist

When I was a teenager, like Kimmo, I also loved to write. I wrote poems and short stories and attended some competitions too. I was also a crafter, always knitting and crocheting. My deepest desire was to become a visual artist, and I painted and drew almost every day.

What artists keep doing. Drawing by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Then I saw a computer for the first time and fell in love. It was the early 1980s, and the computer age was just getting started, but I knew that technology was my thing. I changed my plans to become an English teacher to a software engineer. But despite my interest in computers, I kept on writing, drawing, and crafting. There was a period when I spent less time with creative activities, but in one way or another, I have been a writer and crafter all my life.

Making an illustration. Painting with watercolors. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

When art began to call me again, I also wanted to start a blog. I was still quite a beginner in art, and my vision was bigger than what I could put on paper, but the encouragement I got from the readers kept me going. But now when I think about it, my old hobbies also had some role in that. I had learned resilience from crafting, self-expression from writing, and the old dream of becoming an English teacher oddly changed to the courage to blog in a foreign language. Without being a writer and a crafter, I wouldn’t be a blogger, and without being a blogger, I wouldn’t have become a working artist.

Painting on an ink drawing. Illustraion in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I Regret Quitting These!

However, there are a couple of things that I loved as a child but quitted doing. I used to write short plays and gathered an acting group from a few of my schoolmates. I also played the violin for a few years. During the past four years as an artist, I have regretted quitting both. When running classes, it’s good to be able to present things in a memorable and fun way. When selecting the music to the class videos, I try to find songs that fit with the topic of the project and keep the attention on the subject. The little that I learned in my childhood years has been useful, and I wish I had continued both acting and playing through all the past years.

A detail of an illustration. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Stephen King and Does Talent Dictate What We Should Keep Doing?

In art, the question of talent usually comes up in the discussion sooner or later. I just finished reading Stephen King’s book “On Writing” where he tells how it’s just a waste of time trying to learn something that you don’t have any passion. His son played an instrument, but because he showed no talent to him, Stephen advised him to quit. He had wanted to see some free playing, some evident joy, and some promise of the career as a musician. Because there were none, he thought the son could use his 30-minute practice better than playing.

I find the story and in general, the discussion of talent depressing. It determines both the person and the profession from a very narrow perspective and generates powerlessness. That’s why I have tried to avoid to think whether I am talented enough or not. However, the question of talents always lurks somewhere behind the surface. I got to realize that when suddenly, a few weeks ago, I was told that my grandfather had graduated from a design school. He had been a farmer and died a long time ago. I never met him, but some of his letters have been saved. Based on them, he was an unhappy man who yearned for bigger challenges than what country life could offer. Clearly, he wasn’t meant to be a farmer, but someone who develops new things.

A detail of an illustration. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

When I heard what my grandfather had studied, a thin string around my heart broke, and the tension relieved. I was no longer the one who had just got an accidental obsession for art and design, but a link in the chain of generations. It became more meaningful than ever to continue the work that my grandfather wasn’t able to do. It also made me partly re-write my story – I had some talent after all! I have also felt embarrassed about how much that meant to me. In the end, the fact that we keep on practicing has much more effect on our skills than any inheritance.

Art is About Not Needing to Quit Anything

When making the illustration for the blog post, I brought things from the past that I carry with me. Many of them are funny and harmless, like my first dream profession of becoming the queen of England. My parents helped me to plant a bench of Queen Elizabeth roses under the window of my room. When drawing, I don’t have to quit that dream. I don’t have to quit anything.

A detail of an illustration. What artists should keep doing. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

In art, we enter a world where we get to play freely with the things that have made an impact on us. If we hadn’t experienced or practiced anything, our imagination wouldn’t have the tools and the topics we have now. Let’s keep practicing, let’s keep not quitting, and let’s be assured that whether we feel talented or not, we don’t have to give up anything when we keep drawing.

Magical horses. Hand-drawn paper collage by Finnish artist Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Take the Next Step – Do This!

Open a new page in your art journal or sketchbook. Draw and/or glue a collage of things you have grown to love and never stopped doing!

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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!

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