Peony and Parakeet

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!

Inktober Warm-Up Exercise

Ink drawing by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. See her step-by-step instructions for creating black and white ink art that combines both abstract and realistic elements.

It’s soon October and with that – Inktober! Last year, I did all 31 prompts. Read about my previous experience here and here!

This year, I intend to make at least some drawings. And because Inktober was such a great experience for me last year, I want to support you to take it too. Here’s an Inktober warm-up exercise. I hope it inspires you to use inks and black felt-tipped pens to create black and white art. Follow the steps to keep going!

1) Paint an Abstract Composition

Let’s start by playing with liquid ink! Mine is Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Ink. I make the image on Leuchtturm 1917 Sketchbook.

Inktober warm-up exercise - Step 1

Put a few drops of black ink on a palette. Mix some water to the ink so that it’s grey rather than pitch black. Make some pale strokes with a flat brush. Then add new strokes on the top of previous ones. Work slowly! Enjoy each stroke and the translucency of it.

Inktober warm-up exercise - Step 1

Turn the brush upward and make narrow strokes by using the tip of the flat brush. Experiment with both wet and dry brush.

Inktober warm-up exercise - Step 1

Pick a small round brush and add some ink on the top of the narrow strokes. Now you should have an abstract composition that has a variety of painted elements.

2) Fill Spaces Between the Painted Areas

Use a brush pen or black ink that hasn’t been watered down. Focus on the center of your composition.

Inktober warm-up exercise - Step 2

Fill most of the spaces between the painted areas with black ink. Leave some white to highlight the best parts. Black adds depth to the grey composition.

3) Draw Realistic Objects

Select black thin-tipped drawing pens of various thicknesses. I use Copic Multiliners from 0.05 to 1.0.

Choose a realistic object that you want to repeat in the image. My choice was women’s faces. For example, flowers or birds could be great too.

Inktober warm-up exercise - Step 3

Look at the abstract composition and seek for places where you can add the objects. Add more black, and adjust the shape of the pale areas so that they partly outline the objects. When drawing the objects, play with the scale so that some are big and some small no matter where they are located in the image. All the objects don’t have to be fully visible. Some can hide partly behind the abstract elements.

Inktober warm-up exercise - Step 3

I like to draw faces so that I sketch it first with a thin ink pen, and then adjust it by adding a black element beside the face. (In my classes Animal Inkdom and Magical Inkdom, I show easy step-by-step methods for drawing all kinds of fun figures.)

4) Doodle Decorations

Continue with the black drawing pens, and doodle on the blank and pale areas. I also use a handmade oval template to get a big geometric shape that is fun to decorate.

Inktober warm-up exercise - Step 4

For decoration, the sky is the limit, but I like jewels, frills, laces, waves, and flowers!

Before and after decoration- Ink drawing in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

When doodling, I also add shadows to the elements by drawing thin lines side by side.

5) Finishing Touches: Shadows and Highlights

Squeeze your eyes and point all the white areas. Usually, there are too many and it makes the image look busy. Pick a brush and paint most of the white with diluted black ink.

Inktober warm-up exercise - Step 5

Especially the areas that are near the edges are worth toning down.

Inktober warm-up exercise - Step 5

I also like to paint over the shadowed areas to give them a softer look.

Inktober warm-up exercise - Step 5

White gel pen can be handy for those areas that need a little bit more white.

Inktober Warm-Up – Finished Piece

Here’s my finished piece again. See how limited the number of white areas is.

Ink drawing by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. See her step-by-step instructions for creating black and white ink art that combines both abstract and realistic elements.

I hope you enjoyed this Inktober warm-up! Tell me – are you going to participate in Inktober?

Abstract Portrait – Paint with Me!

An abstract portrait by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watch the video with Paivi's tips and instructions!

Here’s a quick abstract portrait from my sketchbook, painted with acrylic paints in 45 minutes. I didn’t use any reference photos for this one but just played with the shapes.

Create an Abstract Portrait – Watch the Video!

Get tips, ideas, and inspiration for your abstract portrait. Watch the video!

Innovative Portraits – Sign Up Now!

Innovative Portraits is about discovering new paths to painting and drawing portraits. Increase artistic looseness, find ways to get the proportions with ease, add more style by using shapes and colors, and invent ideas so that you never wonder what to put in the background. >> Sign up NOW!

Innovative Portraits, drawing faces and portraits in mixed media. An online art class by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Innovative Portraits includes a membership from October to December in my art community Bloom and Fly. You will also get monthly live sessions and weekly feedback Tuesdays. You will receive all the material that has already been published once you sign up, including the replay of October’s live session. >> Sign up NOW!

Painting My Mind’s Eye – Abstract Color Fun!

"My Mind's Eye" - Abstract Color Fun by Peony and Parakeet. See Paivi's class "Planet Color"

I call this art journal spread “My Minds Eye.” It has one central element that resembles both an eye and a compass. Isn’t that how things are for visual people: seeing interesting things evokes all kinds of thoughts and lead to all sorts of paths? Like this morning when I had to stop on a walk to admire fragile ice on water puddles. When I was standing there, I wished that nobody sees my weirdness. I was staring at the ground, holding a phone to get photos, with two beagles that were very impatient, eager to move forward.

Ice is melting in Finland

Maybe the beginning of the spring made me paint with hot tones, and the ice most probably inspired me to include a similar translucent element in the painting.

A detail of "My Mind's Eye" by Peony and Parakeet. See Paivi's class Planet Color for painting fun abstracts!

7-step Method of Planet Color Used for Abstract Color Fun

I created the spread by following the 7-step method that I developed for the class Planet Color. I have repeated this process many times because it’s a fun and worry-free way to paint unique abstracts. For example, see the blog posts What’s in a Good Composition?, Using Color Schemes for Home Decor, and How to Transform Ideas into Paintings. I know I am not the only one who worries about the composition while painting and the 7-step method makes everything fall into place effortlessly.

Art journal spread by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. This is called "My Mind's Eye" and it's made with a method that she has developed for the class Planet Color.

Masking tape was used to frame the piece. I haven’t done that a lot in my journals, but I like the result.

Paivi's studio. By Peony and Parakeet.

My husband made me a new easel from an upright support of a shelving unit. It’s so handy and adjustable that I have started to use it a lot. I can use it even for art journal pages, not only for canvas art.

Planet Color – Sign up Now!

Planet Color, an online workshop for abstract color fun. By Peony and Parakeet.

I ran Planet Color for the first time last fall, but it’s coming back now! Whether you want to paint art journal pages, thick paper or canvases, this is a fun online workshop. It’s suitable for beginner painters and all who struggle with color compositions. >> Sign up here!

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