Peony and Parakeet

Artistic Spirit between Abstract and Realistic

This week’s theme is the artistic spirit. I share a new painting, glimpses of my painting fever, and inspire you to explore the zone between abstract and realistic art.

"Paradise", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s an acrylic painting that I just finished yesterday. It’s called “Paradise” and it’s quite big: 61 x 50 cm, about 24 x 19,5 inches.

Painting at Late Evenings and Wee Hours

I like to paint in the late evenings when the world quiets down. Now when it’s summer, Finland floods in light, and nights are short. When the blackbirds begin to sign at 3 am, I know it’s time to wash the brushes.

Starting an intuitive painting. Connecting with the artistic spirit.
Painting abstract shapes. Connecting with the artistic spirit.

After a long night, I rush to the studio in the morning: “What have you done! You’ll never be able to finish it!”

Painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

But with this painting, I decided to accept whatever comes up. And with that, I have a little story to tell. I shared it on Peony and Parakeet’s Facebook page recently, but if you missed the post, here it is, with one of the paintings from the teenage years.

My Story about Artistic Spirit

An acrylic painting made by artist Paivi Eerola when she was a teenager.

As a teenager, I browsed big art books at the local library. I started hanging around with Matisse and Picasso and they said: “Hey Paivi, take this obsession from us, and make the most of it.” First, their inspiration was like a fever: mustpaint…mustpaint… mustpaint. Then, after too many matissepicassos, it became a burden and I went to study engineering.

During the past five years as a full-time artist, I have been hanging around with other guys – like Da Vinci, Caravaggio, and Rubens. Even if I first thought so, they are not much different. After too many rubenscaravaggios, the empty feeling takes over again.

But recently, I went to my studio secretly, picked the brushes, squeezed the paints, and in silence, I met a spirit. It was not me or any of my masters, but the spirit that arrives when we are ready to let go of the ego.

To paint like me, I need to let go of me. I am pretty sure Matisse and Picasso already told this, I was just so impressed by their names that I didn’t listen.

Painting an artistic spirit. An acrylic painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Abstract, Realistic, or Stylish?

Every time I make a class, I don’t only teach but also learn new things. The newest class Decodashery boosted my confidence to paint decorative motifs right from my imagination. Between “abstract” and “realistic,” there’s a zone that’s “stylish.” Then you simplify what’s real, and complicate what’s not. By simplifying, you dig the artistic spirit out of tangible things, and by complicating geometric shapes, you make the spiritual things more tangible.

"Paradise", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I really like this painting, and hope that you enjoy these close-up pics too.

A detail of "Paradise", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
A detail of "Paradise", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read her post about connecting with the artistic spirit.
A detail of "Paradise", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
A detail of "Paradise", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Wishing you many happy moments with painting and drawing!

Artist Paivi Eerola holding a painting called Paradise, in her garden.

Flower Gardener’s Diary – Welcome to My Art Exhibition!

Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet in a group exhibition Flower Gardener's Diary in Helsinki, FInland. Watch her video about this art exhibition.

I currently attend a group exhibition in Helsinki, Finland. The place is called “Hietsun paviljonki”, and it’s located on a beautiful beach quite near the center of the city. The art exhibition is open from 11th to 22nd September, so if you are in Helsinki during that time, welcome!

See the Exhibition – Watch the Video!

For those who can’t come, I have made a video of all the 11 pieces that I have there.

The Art of Framing

As you see on the video, I got several pieces framed for the show. My artist friend Eeva Nikunen has gorgeous frames in her paintings, so I used the same framer than she usually does. I am really happy with these frames!

For a drawing, that already had a hand-drawn decorative border, I chose a narrow frame that goes well with the fantasy theme too.

Framing art. A drawing by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

This frame also had a purple version, and I chose it for the houseplant-inspired piece. The purple frame highlights the green leaves beautifully. Originally, I hadn’t planned to frame this piece so I didn’t leave any blank space around the paper when creating it. The framer attached the drawing on the green cardboard first. I like this solution.

Framing art. A drawing by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I wanted something silvery for the madonna painting and chose a broad white frame that also has real silver! It wasn’t the cheapest option …

Framing art. A painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I was a bit doubtful if I could find a perfect frame for my big yellow drawing but this one really hit home.

Framing art. A drawing by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I hope this inspired you to frame some of your pieces!

Paintings ready for an art exhibition. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Coming Up!

I have another group exhibition coming up soon (Sept 20 to Oct 8). It’s in Gallery K in Vantaa, Finland. The show is called “Raffia ja smoothia”Rough and Smooth, and it’s organized by the local professional artist association.

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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Varnishing, Framing, and Celebrating Your Best Paintings

"Temptation", an oil painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

I have finished an oil painting called “Temptation.” I started it at the beginning of this year and after tens of painting sessions and weeks of drying time, I finally got it finished, varnished, and framed. So it’s time for celebration! So, the theme for this blog post is our best work, and especially our best paintings.

I have been planning this post for well over a year to get all the images I want to show you, and the experiences that I want to share with you, so I am happy that with the latest painting, the time has come for this article too!

Best Work – How to Know?

In art, there are very few absolute rights and wrongs, so this question can have many answers. But here’s how I know when I have produced my best work:
1) Time: I have worked on the painting for tens of hours and tens of sessions. Even if some artists work quickly, in general, most people underestimate the time that professional artists spend with their pieces. Overworking is rarer than underworking!
2) Message: I know why the painting exists. 
I can start a painting without a specific idea in mind, but when the painting progresses, I need to find a connection and a story to be able to make all the decisions needed.
3) Details: I have paid attention to every area of the painting.
Some areas can be freer or less detailed than others but they have to be aligned with the overall message of the painting, supporting the most important areas.

Painting an oil painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Best Work – Test!

I have a couple of tests that I always use for my best work. Try these!

A) Do you want to hang your painting on your wall?
Here, I mean your painting, on your wall in your home. When I use this test, I don’t imagine anyone else’s home or anyone else’s wall. If I don’t want the painting on the wall, it’s likely that no one else will either.

B) Do you see your painting as a treasure?

Place the painting on the table, walk away from the room, and then come back and glance at it. If your instant reaction is that there’s a valuable item on the table, the painting is close to the finish. Here, the difficult thing is that you need to recognize your reaction quickly and glance at the painting from a distance. The further away you can be and get the impression of a treasure, the better. When I use this test, I try to alienate myself from the painting before entering the room.

Holding "Temptation", an oil painting on canvas by Paivi Eerola, a Finnish artist.

When you have produced a painting that meets your criteria, why not varnish, frame and celebrate it?! These are all important steps to me. Let’s start with varnishing!

Before Varnishing – Take Photos!

Varnishing makes the painting harder to photograph because it will have glares more easily. If you have produced your best work, you will also want to get good photos of them!  I use a tripod when taking photos, and if the weather is good, I take the photos in natural light.

Photographing a painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Varnishing an Oil Painting – The Traditional Way

Oil paintings are tricky to varnish because they dry slowly. The drying time depends on how thick the layers are and how much drying time there has been between them. In any case, it’s months, and it can be more than a year! With “Gypsy Madonna,” I waited for nine looooong months.  Every layer had dried a week or more, and they were very thin, so based on the advice that I got, that would be enough.

Varnishing an oil painting with Rublev Dammar Finishing Varnish. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet, Finland.

I bought Rublev Conservar Dammar Gloss Varnish with UV protection and applied it with a broad and soft goat bristle brush.

Varnishing an oil painting with Rublev Dammar Finishing Varnish. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet, Finland.

Always when varnishing, it’s good to:
1) double-check and follow the instructions of the specific product that you use. Don’t rely on the instructions that come with the bottle but go to the manufacturer’s website to see if there’s more advice.
2) apply a small amount of varnish and keep the layer thin.
3) let the previous varnishing layer dry properly before adding a new layer. Usually, a couple of layers are needed.
4) if possible, reserve a brush for varnishing only

Varnishing an Oil Painting – A Quick Solution

Luckily, there’s an alternative for traditional oil varnishes. It’s called Gamvar Picture Varnish. I got to know about it from my artist friend Eeva Nikunen. She has also made a process video about using Gamvar.

Varnishing an oil painting with Gamvar Picture Varnish. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet, Finland.

This medium only requires the surface to feel dry. So it can be applied after a few weeks after finishing the oil painting. I used Gamvar for the first time now, and because it’s thicker, it’s much easier to handle than the traditional varnish. Spreading Gamvar is more like rubbing with small strokes than painting with long strokes. A little sturdier brush works better here. I used a watercolor brush.

Varnishing an oil painting with Gamvar Picture Varnish. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet, Finland.

The pleasure of varnishing is the same regardless of the medium. The colors become more vibrant, and the painting begins to shine. I prefer using glossy to matte varnishes because I love the extra glow!

Varnishing an Acrylic Painting

Varnishing is not just for oil paintings! You can varnish acrylic paintings as well, just remember that they have their own products. I mostly use Golden acrylic paints, so when varnishing acrylic paintings, I have also used products of the same brand.

Varnishing an acrylic painting. Step 1: Adding a layer of gel medium. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

First, I add a layer or two of gel medium (Golden Soft Gel Gloss) before I begin the varnishing. Gel medium separates the paint layers from the varnishing layer. I mix some water with the gel medium to make it more fluid so that the brush strokes don’t show so well. I use a broad and flat brush and let every layer dry before adding a new one. It’s good to wait at least a day because polymer products can feel dry even if they haven’t dried properly yet.

Varnishing an acrylic painting. Step 2: Adding a layer of glossy polymer varnish. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Then I add 1-3 layers of Golden’s glossy polymer varnish. It has to be mixed with water, and every layer has to dry 3-6 hours before adding a new one. I try not to put too much pressure on the brush so that the brush strokes won’t show.

Freshly varnished paintings by Paivi Eerola, Finland.

I think that after varnishing, the increase of the vibrancy is as visible as with oil paintings. Definitely worth the effort!

Celebrating the Finished Painting – Framing

If my opinion, the best way to celebrate the finished painting is to get it framed. If varnishing is the makeup, framing is the dress. The impact of the frame is incredible when it fits well and continues the personality of the painting. Sorry about the glare in the sample images!

Gypsy Madonna, an oil painting combining Leonardo da Vinci's and Boccaccio Boccaccino's work. Framed and varnished. By Paivi Eerola from Finland.

I use a local professional framer because I love the quality. I chose an old-fashioned and heavy frame for the Renaissance-style painting, and it made it look like an old masterpiece. Without frames, the image was much more modest.

For this acrylic painting, I chose a dark frame that makes the colors shine.

Living Treasure, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Framed, varnished, and sold.

If the frame were lighter, the dark colors of the background would have got more attention, and the result wouldn’t be as harmonic.

Today, I got “Temptation” from the framer. Because this painting is like a collection of treasures, I wanted the frame to be luxurious too.

"Temptation", an oil painting by Paivi Eerola, a Finnish artist. Varnished and framed.

Celebrating the Finished Painting – Music!

I also like to celebrate my best pieces by listening to some music when admiring them. I try to find a song that is aligned with the painting and it’s often a song that I have already listened when working on the piece. For “Temptation”, the song is Musetta’s aria from Puccini’s opera “La Boheme”. After exposing the painting to the critical eye for so long, it’s time to forget the struggles and enjoy the accomplishment. I find this combination of musical and visual pleasure one of the best joys in life.

A detail of "Temptation", an old painting by Peony and Parakeet.

I hope you too will celebrate your best work!

P.S. “Temptation” is now available in my art store, see more detailed photos there!

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