Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

How to Paint a Fantasy Horse Figurine

This week, we apply art to something different than usual. We use our skills to transform a Schleich horse or other plastic figurine into a fantasy animal.

Two customized Schleich horses in a flower field.

I have a soft spot for plastic horse collectors, and I follow many of them on Instagram. One of the most inspiring accounts is Lightning Leoo (@lightningleoo). Leo has organized community challenges on Instagram and Discord. I have participated in them a couple of times. Like Leo, most of those who customize collectible miniatures aim to make the animal look more realistic. However, I want to be more playful with colors and ideas.

Step 1 – Choose a Theme and Paint the First Layer

Start by choosing a theme that gives ideas for the coloring. The animal figurine here is a brown Schleich foal and my theme is daffodil. I used acrylic paints to make the legs green, the body yellow, the hoof orange-red, and the tail and the main white – just like the flower!

Scheich horse and the first step for customizing it. See more instructions!

At this point, the animal doesn’t look nice at all, but that’s ok. The idea is just to cover the original paint and make a simple foundation for the decoration.

Step 2 – Add More Tones and Decorations

After covering the original color with the theme colors, mix more tones of those colors. For example, if you have used one green in the previous step, now mix more green tones – cooler and warmer, darker and lighter, brighter and more muted. Add slight variations of tones on the top of the first color layer so that what used to be one solid color has now a gradient of tones. This makes the color more natural. Note: you can use this technique in any art!

A Schleich horse customization in progress.

In this project, I created color mixes of all kinds of greens, oranges, yellows, and whites.

At this point, you can also start decorating the figurine and use these color mixes in decorations, eyes,You and other details.

Decorating a Schleich fowl.

Get ideas for decorations from the theme! I painted small daffodils.

Step 3 – Optional – Add Shadows with Soft Pastels

Soft pastels make the figurine look more real and highlight the best parts. First, scrape them with a sharp blade to get color powder. Use a small brush to spread it where the shadows are, for example, where the leg meets the belly. You can also soften the color changes with pastels.

Repainting a Schleich fowl.

Attach the powder more permanently by spraying the fixative over it. Notice that after attaching the powder, you can continue with the finishing touches in acrylics!

Step 4 – Take a Fantastic Photo!

We always should take a good photo of the finished work, but with a fantasy horse, it is very rewarding. Find a place where you can fool the eye about the scale and bend down to take a photo a bit upwards.

Photographing a repainted Schleich fowl.

Another option is to make a gallery set up so that the background is white and the figurine is photographed like a piece of art.

Finished fantasy fowl repaint.

Another Example of a Fantasy Horse Repaint

Here’s a Schleich horse that is bigger than the Daffodil fowl. My theme for this one was peach. The decorations are simple, but there are many tones and lovely gradients.

A fantasy horse figurine, repainted Schleich horse by Paivi Eerola.

Making one foot in a different color adds drama and a bigger horse is easier to paint.

Two Schleich horses repainted by Paivi Eerola, Finland.

It was fun to photograph these two together!

Taking photos of Schleich horses. These are repainted fantasy horses.

Natural light creates its own effects and makes the fantasy look real.

Miniature horse figurine photography.

Horizontal lines in the background make the movement look more real.

Repainted Schleich horses.

Gift Box for Fantasy Horse

These small fantasy horses are great for presents. I gave the fowl to my friend who owns not just a collection of plastic figurines but a real horse too. I found a sturdy box that I had got when ordering paint tubes.

A gift box for a fantasy horse.

One side had writing on it, but I painted a floral decoration over it.

A gift box for a fantasy horse.

Creative Play as an Art Form

Playing has always been important to me. When I play, I get ideas that go beyond the ordinary and that combine different fields. In 2020, I even made a painting about the power of play called Steppe Wind.

Playing with fantasy horses. "Steppe Wind" - an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola, 2020.
Arotuuli – Steppe Wind, acrylics on canvas, 2020. See more about the painting process: Painting an Intuitive Fantasy

In the course Magical Inkdom, we draw and decorate paper horses and other animals.

Hand-drawn paper horses and a decorated background. Drawing a fantasy horse.
Horses and a fantastic background from Magical Inkdom

By playing we can enjoy the beauty and be comforted. It’s like we enter the same big hall of art but from a different door. Then when it’s time to get more serious, we have new energy and new power to overcome our fears.

Two repainted Schleich horses. Fantasy horse figurines.

That’s why I want to bring up topics like painting and photographing figurines in this blog.

What do you think?

Abstract Birds

There is a saying that if you don’t know what else to add “Put a bird on it!” But this week I want to talk about birds as the main object of the picture, not just as a decoration. This blog post is also about abstract birds and their connection with realistic bird art.

Kuningaskalastajat - Kingfishers, oil on canvas, 80 x 80 cm. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.
Kuningaskalastajat – Kingfishers, oil on canvas, 80 x 80 cm.

Here’s my new painting, also bird-themed!

The Love for Real Birds

As a child, I saw a lot of birds and at some point, I started to learn to identify them. Ornithologist sounded like a great word and I have always been fascinated by people who are extremely enthusiastic about something. I learned about birds from a bird book I got from my parents, which was illustrated with drawings. I also drew birds myself, and it’s quite easy to recognize them once you’ve once drawn every detail.

Since those times my knowledge has unfortunately deteriorated, and I never became an ornithologist! But even though I’m no longer good at identification, I know birds as animals well. After all, I have had pet birds for decades. At the moment I have two budgies, Leonardo and Primavera. Over time, my interest in wild birds has started to return and a dream has surfaced, which the newest painting “Kingfishers” also tells about.

Here’s how it started! Wild strokes here and there.

Starting a new abstract painting. After the first layers.
Here’s how the painting started.

I think most of us have some relation to birds – what’s your story? Could you bring more of that to your art?

Dreaming of Birds

Ever since I was a child, I’ve wanted to see the kingfisher. In recent years, I’ve started imagining how one would sit on top of our mailbox on a summer’s day when I come down the hill towards home. And this spring I’ve started imagining kingfishers flying around the ditch along my walking path. I know that these are unlikely to come true, but they are still wonderful thoughts. Kingfishers are very rare here in Finland.

Painting abstract birds. Painting in progress.

So when I started a painting inspired by the ditch, I wanted those kingfishers there. After all, I had already written “kingfisher” in my notebook earlier this year when I started planning the new series of paintings.

Painting abstract birds. Painting in progress.

And when I researched the subject more, I found out that there are about 120 species of kingfishers. So I could paint many different ones in the same picture!

Birds by Von Wright Brothers

This month, I want to blog about art history too. And as a Finn, I have to introduce the brothers Magnus von Wright (1805–1868), Wilhelm von Wright (1810–1887), and Ferdinand von Wright (1822–1906). One of the most famous paintings here in Finland is “Taistelevat metsot”.

Fighting Capercaillies by Ferdinand von Wright, oil on canvas, 1886.
Taistelevat metsot – Fighting Capercaillies by Ferdinand von Wright, oil on canvas, 1886.

Von Wright brothers drew and painted huge numbers of birds and are remembered as bird artists. I saw this pigeon painting in the Ateneum Art Museum in 2018 when they had a big exhibition of von Wrights’s art.

Pigeons by Ferdinand von Wright, oil on canvas, 1870.
Kyyhkysiä – Pigeons by Ferdinand von Wright, oil on canvas, 1870.

For the Von Wrights, the recognisability of bird species was essential, and they also depicted birds from the perspective of their authentic living conditions and behavior.

Mallard Duckilings by Magnus von Wright, oil on canvas, 1841.
Sinisorsapoikue – Mallard Duckilings by Magnus von Wright, oil on canvas, 1841.

The paintings were very stylish and very aesthetic, but because of their accurate details, they also worked as scientific illustrations.

Flowers and Birds in the Corner of the Garden by Ferdinand von Wright, 1853 - 1854.
Kukkia ja lintuja puutarhan nurkassa – Flowers and Birds in the Corner of the Garden by Ferdinand von Wright, 1853 – 1854.

Unlike the von Wrights, I am not interested in the exact description of bird species, but rather in describing the vitality of life through birds.

Flying Birds and Their Abstract Shapes

I am especially fascinated by the ability to fly and I always try to look as closely as possible when I see a bird flying in the sky. When the bird flies high, its image breaks up and becomes an abstract composition. The flying bird serves us modern art in the middle of the mundane reality. A museum experience without visiting one!

Peippo - Finch, oil on canvas, 2021.
Peippo – Finch, oil on canvas, 2021. Read more about creating this one: Free Like a Bird

I often see finches and magpies here where I live. I think magpies are really beautiful birds and this painting of Ferdinand von Wright is fabulous even if its theme is a bit brutal.

Magpies Around the Dead Female Capercaillie by Ferdinand von Wright,1867.
Harakoita kuolleen koppelon ympärillä – Magpies Around the Dead Female Capercaillie by Ferdinand von Wright,1867.

Many blackbirds live in our garden and I have also painted them in 2021.

Abstract bird. Mustarastas - Blackbird, oil on canvas, 2021, Paivi Eerola.
Mustarastas – Blackbird, oil on canvas, 2021. Read more about creating this one: Pros and Cons of Becoming an Artist

I find it fun to adjust abstract shapes so that they express the essence of the bird. Here’s the Kingfishers painting again, photographed by my husband in the front garden.

Kuningaskalastajat - Kingfishers, oil on canvas, 80 x 80 cm. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.

And here are some pictures of details so that you can examine brush strokes and abstract birds more closely.

Detail of Kuningaskalastajat - Kingfishers, oil on canvas, 80 x 80 cm. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.
Detail of Kuningaskalastajat - Kingfishers, oil on canvas, 80 x 80 cm. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.

If you think about kingfishers, painting them can’t be just about flying near a stream, it has to be about catching fish too. To bring that up, the bird on the left below looks a bit like a fish.

Detail of Kuningaskalastajat - Kingfishers, oil on canvas, 80 x 80 cm. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.

Not So Abstract Birds to Get to Know Them

Of course, a flying bird can also be created so that it’s not abstract but has many decorative details. This project is from the course Animal Inkdom and is drawn in several sessions piece by piece so that it’s more manageable and fun.

Animal art. Animal Inkdom. Illustration by Paivi Eerola.

In the center is a bird that flies into the animal world. When re-examining this, I hope that over time I would paint all kinds of animals in my abstract style. It is often necessary to study the animal for a long time before an abstract can be derived from it.

The Connection Between Letting Go and Not Letting Go

Painter of abstract birds. Paivi Eerola and her painting Kingfishers photographed in the garden.

So if you wish that your expression would be freer, one way is to go deep into the subject. Not just to look at what a kingfisher looks like, for example, but to live its life, experience a deep identification with it and look for forms that express that emotional connection.

Often both the forms and the connection are first found through creating art that is less abstract and more accurate. I think that it would have been quite easy for the Von Wright brothers to become abstract bird artists, but the time wasn’t right for them. They left a legacy though, and I am one of their followers.

3D Paper Collage of Hand-Drawn Art

This week, let’s play with hand-drawn paper pieces and create 3D collage art.

3D paper collage by Paivi Eerola

My example is eight by eight inches (about 20 x 20 cm), so fairly small, but it has quite a lot of details. I used foam tape to add dimension to it, and the result is lovely. It brings embroidery or applique to my mind.

3D effects with foam tape. A closeup of hand-drawn collage art.

The idea of using foam tape between the layers is familiar to many from card-making, but I think the result is much more original when you use your own hand-drawn art.

Boxes of Joy – Shops Made by You for You

For years, I have been inspired by the idea of creating my own little paper shop. This shop is not about selling stuff for others but creative play where you are both a shop owner and its best customer. This picture is from 2016, when my shops were pretty simple and contained mostly paper sheets.

Playing with paper.
See the blog post from 2016: Painterly Collage in Rut Bryk’s style

But the longer I have been in business, the more demanding my customer has got. I have got requests from myself to draw doodles, embroidery imitations, animals, magical stuff, flowers, dolls, and the little shops that I call boxes of joy have increased year by year and course by course.

Working with hand-drawn paper pieces to create 3D paper collage.

Sometimes the things I have drawn feel too precious to put to use. For example, the roses that I made for Doll World.

Hand-drawn rose for collage art.

But the older the pieces get, the more I try to use them. And if something doesn’t “sell,” I can recolor it or add something to it so that I – my best customer – feel tempted to “buy” it.

Drawing on collage art.

I like this process of adding more to something that’s pretty full already!

Thick Paper Love

One of my favorite papers is thick and smooth watercolor paper. It is suitable for both painting and drawing, but I sometimes avoid it because the collage gets so bulky. But for 3D effects, thick paper is perfect. It’s sturdy and goes very well with foam tape. Another paper that I like is Bristol paper. It’s not so thick but very smooth and sturdy enough for 3D.

Making of a 3D paper collage. Hand-drawn pieces, scissors, foam tape.

The background of this 3D paper collage is hand-painted watercolor paper. The elements are hand-drawn on watercolor paper or Bristol paper mostly.

Colored Pencils for 3D Paper Collage

Back in 2016, I used acrylic paints a lot. But nowadays, they feel less tempting. Not only because they are messier than colored pencils or watercolors but also because they are too similar to oil paints that I use for canvas paintings. I want to separate play from the pieces that I sell.

Collage art in progress.

With play, I also want to grow my drawing skills. Colored pencils are great for that. They also go well together with watercolors. I have had a break with watercolors, but I hope to use them more this year.

3D paper collage of hand-drawn elements.

I like the many tones of green in this piece! I have colored many white parts with green to integrate the pieces better with the background.

Artist’s Life – Upcoming Projects

My playing time will get more limited soon because I will start a new series of oil paintings. I have been invited to a wonderful art history-related group exhibition that begins in August, and there is a smaller fantasy-related show in April. I will tell you more about these in the upcoming posts.

This spring is also full of art in other ways. I enjoy seeing all the lovely dolls from the participants of Doll World and other classes in my Bloom and Fly community. I hope to help you there as much as I can throughout the year. I am also participating in a Finnish artist coaching program to get to know the practices of the fine art world better. You have enabled my growth, and I hope that my growth will also benefit you. I hope that 2023 will be a good year of art for both of us.

The Electrical Life of Any Artist

This week I have a consolation post for any artist!

Flying Cats illustrated by Paivi Eerola. Read her article about the electrical life of an artist!
Cats and wings made for the class Magical Inkdom

We start from a movie and then let thoughts fly from top to bottom and come back up.

The Movie – The Electrical Life of Louis Wain

Just a couple of days ago, I watched an inspiring movie called The Electrical Life of Louis Wain. It’s a story about the illustrator Louis Wain (1860-1939) who got famous for his cat drawings. Louis Wain’s life was full of misery, he was poor, responsible for five unmarried sisters, lost her wife to breast cancer soon after the marriage, made bad business decisions, and suffered grief and mental illness.

At the Play - an Exciting Moment. A cat illustration by  Louis Wain.
A cat illustration by Louis Wain

And yet, Louis’s cat drawings were fun illustrations full of liveliness and details.

The Two Undertones of Any Day

The movie felt strangely therapeutic. Maybe partly because it expressed so well what I had been thinking lately: how life has both melancholic and uplifting undertones and how important it is to recognize and make room for both of them.

For Louis, life had two separate sides – the harsh reality and the wonderous world of imagination. I think that many of us can relate to that even if in our lives, the melancholic and uplifting undertones would spread more evenly. If I think about my artist life, there have been so many rejections that where I am now is a small miracle. And if I think about the future, more small miracles are needed to move forward.

Here’s a short video about my journey so far.

This video was published on my Instagram account first, so the proportions were optimized for that.

Those Who Believe in You

In the end, you only need to have one person who believes in you as an artist. Many times you can be that person for yourself. Like Louis, the world of imagination has the power to keep the uplifting undertone going.

A detail of the drawing called "Blue". By Paivi Eerola. Read more about her points on the electrical life of any artist!
A detail of the drawing “Blue” from 2019.

But for me, there have been times when a small miracle has been needed – that someone else brings me up. When Louis found supporters in the movie, I thought of mine. They are a part of my electrical life story. Who could be yours?

It wasn’t easy to contact any of them – ask, apply, and reach out just after losing the belief and energy, but doing that has pushed me forward. Sometimes they have been friends, but many times strangers who have given me a chance to connect with their audience. In the art world, and especially in the fine art world, people are hesitant to accept outsiders. But once you get one door open, some others will open up too. The number of your supporters will grow step by step.

Opening Up for Small Miracles

In the beginning, art was something I did in secret. If I didn’t believe in my art, I simply stopped creating for a while. But the more I created, the more I wanted to find connections with other people. First with others who create, and then more publicly. After going public, stopping is much harder because you start to see wider: There must be someone who says yes.

Doll illustrations by Paivi Eerola.

I see that the melancholic and uplifting undertones are wrapped around each other like two plies in a yarn. By expressing both of them, not only a person but also her art becomes stronger – more touching and captivating. It’s then easier to make small miracles happen – have positive electricity as Louis Wain would put it.

What do you think? Have you seen the movie?

P.S. If you want to turn back the clock and learn from 6-years-younger Paivi, here’s your chance! Planet Color, is retiring on Sept 30, at midnight PDT.

Planet Color, a painting class for beginners.

If you are a beginner in painting and want to use acrylic paints more, for example, in your art journals, check this class! Planet Color is now more than 50% OFF before it goes away! >> Buy here!

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