Peony and Parakeet

Intentional or Intuitive Art – Create Both!

Tree of Friendship, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s my new watercolor painting called “Tree of Friendship.” It’s painted freely, first by splashing water, and then by changing to more intentional strokes. But I also show another piece, a more controlled one that I made after this painting. I like to toggle between intuitive and intentional approaches, and maybe this is a working solution for you too in your artistic journey.

Intuitive Art – Start with Freedom!

I regularly need the freedom to paint without any predefined image in mind. If everything that I do is sketched, pre-planned, pre-thought, it’s suffocating. Watercolors have become my favorite medium because they dry rather quickly. I can also splash them without worrying about my safety or the cleaning of the clothes and the studio.

Creating intuitive art. Splashing paint and painting freely with watercolors. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Even if I begin with abstract shapes, most of my work is representational, at least to some degree, when it’s finished. So I slowly discover what the painting could represent and move towards a more intentional approach.

Intuitive art in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

However, I try not to force anything and leave many elements so that they are not fully realistic. I love this freedom between representational and abstract art.

Watercolor painting in progress. Finishing intuitive art. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

In the later stages, I practice intuition so that if I feel like I need to add irrational elements, I do it no matter how silly it is. Then I challenge myself to make them work. In this painting, some color was thrown on the forehead of the other fairy. The spot was connected with the big white flower by drawing a stem.

A detail of a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I also like to paint a small area at the time. Then time stops, and painting captivates me. It feels like an adventure, not knowing what will appear within time.

A detail of a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

When I paint intuitive art, I often end up creating a challenge that feels almost too big. My self-confidence gets low, and freedom gradually becomes a chaotic prison.

A detail of a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

After this painting, I felt pretty empty and disappointed. I barely managed to make it work, and I questioned many times if this is what I want to do as an artist. I painted this piece for about two days. It took one good night’s sleep to get over the disappointment!

Tree of Friendship, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. See the blog post about creating intuitive art!

This painting is about the beauty of true friendship, secretly connecting two different souls together. When I create intuitive art, I am often able to express bigger themes and more deeply than if I work intentionally.

Intentional Art – Start with Order!

After some free painting, I am usually ready for order, and this time was no exception. Updating the watercolor chart grounds me. I try to do it whenever a pan gets empty and needs to be replaced. The more that I have painted, the more planned my storage has become. I have documentation about the new color that will replace the old one after it’s been used. The upcoming colors have been mentioned in the chart under the actual color.

Watercolor chart by Finnish artist Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

So I have this very controlled side of me that makes me paint a new chart and then memorize it so that when I paint, I don’t have to guess or search for a specific color.

This intentional part of me likes to paint or draw in an illustrative style. Then I often make a quick sketch first. This time, I sketched the face and other main elements lightly with a pencil on watercolor paper and then filled the outlines by painting. I got inspiration from pre-raphaelite paintings and had been thinking for a long time to include more clocks in my work because I really like them.

Fairy watercolor painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Even if I painted the textures, shadows, etc. freely, there was definitely no splashing involved. I used water much more sparingly and knew what I was doing most of the time.

Fairy watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The intention of making this piece went so far that I had made a couple of collage pieces to test the style beforehand.

Painting collage pieces with watercolors by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I quite liked how they seemed to fit, and there was no emotional ups or downs!

Why Alternate Between the Intuitive and the Intentional?

If I only painted intuitively, my technical painting skills would stop growing and decay. If I only painted intentionally, my ideas would become too traditional, and I would express too little of myself.

Sometimes we intuitively feel the urge to one direction or another. When you say next time: “I would like to become an abstract painter”, maybe it can be interpreted so that you have left too little room for self-expression lately. Or, if you say “I find it difficult to understand or create abstract art,” maybe it means that you need to practice your technical skills to move forward. Whatever is the case, open the other door too. Permit yourself to let go, and then get back in control again.

Some readers may find this advice worrying, dangerous even when they want to find their style and be consistent in what they do. I would not worry about that too much. If you compare my pieces below, they are not very different from each other. The two approaches will strengthen your voice and make sure that you will keep growing your skills as well.

Matching an intuitive with an intentional painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I am currently building a class that consists of creating both intentional and intuitive art. I am interested to hear your thoughts on the subject! What do You think?

Out of a Creative Rut – Do What Illustrators Would Do!

Illustration by Paivi Eerola. Read her post about how to get out of creative rut by thinking what illustrators would do.

I am currently reading James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. It’s about growing skills and making changes in life a small step at a time. James Clear doesn’t believe in setting goals as much as building a new identity. James tells about a person who lost weight by thinking “what would healthy people do” every time he had to make a decision about eating, sleeping, and exercising. 

Bird and desserts. Illustration by Paivi Eerola. Read her post about how to get out of creative rut by thinking what illustrators would do.

Out of a Creative Rut by Asking What Would Illustrators Do

Since last fall, I have been practicing “what would illustrators do.” I have wanted to make art that is less abstract and more joyful and rememorize the things I learned when studying design several years ago.

Butterflies. Small drawings by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

When building the latest classes Animal Inkdom and Magical Inkdom, I have wanted to include more small projects than before so that you can quickly grab a pen and draw more regularly. James Clear advises building habits by combining them with our current ones. When we do something like having a cup of tea in the evening, we can also grab a pen and doodle a bit. It’s not much, but when it’s repeated regularly, the results will come.

Sealife. Bird and desserts. Illustration by Paivi Eerola. Read her post about how to get out of creative rut by thinking what illustrators would do.

To me, drawing small collage pieces has brought back the joy of drawing. I haven’t always had the time to do a lot, but I have made it a regular practice because “that’s what illustrators do.”

Illustrations by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Bullet journal art.

Drawings are Like Pets – Treating Them Gently

I have also developed gentle self-talk by thinking of these animals as my pets. That way, I don’t try to control the outcome too much or negatively judge a single piece. They are my pets, and I love and care about them because “that’s what animal lovers do.”

Hand-drawn collage pieces and illustrations by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Breaking a Creative Rut and Moving Forward

At the same time as I have developed the illustration classes, I have also built my illustration portfolio

Illustration by Paivi Eerola. Read her post about how to get out of creative rut by thinking what illustrators would do.

During the next couple of months, I am doing more “what illustrators do” when I am making images for a book. I will share more pics about this commission later.

Practicing illustration has also brought new perspectives to my fine art projects and what I want to create in general. So, I highly recommend practicing “what illustrators do” – especially if you are in a creative rut or have a too strong inner critic.

Start now – Animal Inkdom Is for Sale!

Online art class Animal Inkdom. Taught by Paivi Eerola, a Finnish illustrator.

This weekend: Buy Animal Inkdom for 59 EUR (normally 79 EUR).
The sale ends on Sunday midnight Sept 1st, 2019 (PDT).
>> Buy here!

Zebra Madonna – Drawing Fantasy Art

Zebra Madonna, a hand-drawn collage by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

This fantasy art piece is a hand-made collage called “Zebra Madonna”. It’s made mostly with Copic markers, some elements have been colored with colored pencils. It’s hand-drawn from start to finish, mostly for my class Animal Inkdom where I show easy ways to draw and color wonderful wildlife animals like flying butterflies and running zebras.

Time Flies When You Are Having Fun

It often happens to me that I am going to draw just something small, but then end up making a bigger project. Jane Austen has a novel called “Sense and Sensibility”, but my inner conversation is not very romantic.

Sensibility says: “I have an idea.” Sense says: “Don’t!” Sensibility says: “I want to do it. Now.” Sense says: “It’s 2 AM, no way! Go to sleep and wait for tomorrow.”

What was I drawing in the middle of the night? A small drawing of a girl with a zebra. The girl is a bit like zebra herself, and the zebra looks almost like a unicorn without a horn.

Making of a Zebra Madonna, fantasy art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I started with a black and white drawing, but because coloring is fun too, I couldn’t resist. Time flew, and I was having fun.

For Animal Inkdom, I drew a lot of collage pieces as samples, and then many in the videos. So I have two boxes, big and small, that have all kinds of fantasy creatures. It felt like the zebra of the small drawing started calling his fellows, and these three came out!

Hand-drawn zebras by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Sign up for her class Animal Inkdom to learn to draw these!

Even if my zebra madonna was framed and all, I wanted to make a new image where the other zebras could join her. I cut a big piece of Bristol paper, approximately 14 x 20 inches. This is when I went to sleep! It was apparent that I would need quite a lot of energy to fill it with markers and doodles.

Self-Doubts

Next morning, I woke up determined to continue the project. I wanted to “paint” with markers – use several layers so that they would blend. I also wanted to draw with a very thin pen, Copic multiliner 0.03, so that most of the background would have subtle patterns. At this point, I wasn’t so sure if these were good ideas. Drawing took a long time, and markers weren’t so quick either.

Making of a Zebra Madonna, a hand-drawn collage by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I was also hesitating to use the zebras. Of all the animals that I had drawn for Animal Inkdom, they were my favorites. I reminded myself that because I had developed an easy way to make them, I could draw more at any time!

Before starting to ill the background, I had marked the places for the elements with a dashed line. Still, there was quite a lot to color. Here you can see how uneven the coloring is when there’s just one thin layer. I needed more layers!

Making of a Zebra Madonna, a hand-drawn collage by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. This piece is made mostly with Copic markers.

It’s typical that at some point my Sense is starting to say: “This wasn’t a very good idea.” I am at the rock bottom trying to figure out how the project could be finished quickly because it doesn’t seem so fun anymore.

New Inspiration for Fantasy Art

My way to cope with what I call “the ugly phase” is to focus on a small area and start listening to an audiobook or a podcast. I also get inspired by colors, mostly by … black! It makes other colors shine, and my collection of black pens is growing steadily. I find it difficult to express any fantasy without black!

Making of a Zebra Madonna, a hand-drawn collage by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. This piece is made mostly with Copic markers.

Fantasy art can be just fantasy and play, but I usually have a deeper thought in my mind. Despite the happy colors and fantasy feel, the message that I have in mind often has dark tones. Here zebras symbolize things in our past that have been difficult first, but after accepting them, they have become our strength.

Fantasy Art – Zebra Madonna in Detail

Here’s the finished piece again.

Zebra Madonna, fantasy art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

And because it has a lot of details, here are some pictures of them.

A detail of Zebra Madonna, fantasy art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

The butterflies are also from my class Animal Inkdom. I think they fit perfectly to the color scheme. I also added the third butterfly on the background. It’s just a careless drawing but it adds depth because it looks to be further away than the two colorful collage elements.

A detail of Zebra Madonna, fantasy art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

The most of the flowers have jeweled centers and are inspired by my free mini-course Flowers and Jewels.

A detail of Zebra Madonna, fantasy art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

One of the zebra is flying with the butterflies, and if you look carefully, you can see his wings that I doodled vaguely.

A detail of Zebra Madonna, fantasy art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I like how the black continues the framed image and gives more depth and contrast. The right upper corner has a grey layer so that it doesn’t take the attention away from the central elements.

Drawing and Playing in Animal Inkdom

Come to draw and decorate animals with us in Animal Inkdom! You will get the published lessons immediately after the registration, and you can start drawing right away. Sign up forĀ Animal Inkdom here!

Watercolor Inspiration – 5 Ideas and Techniques

Watercolor inspiration from Paivi Eerola. Watch her video about painting a watercolor bookmark.

Watercolor is a medium where I really want to grow my skills this spring. It’s so versatile and much quicker than oil painting, for example. It can be easily combined with drawings and and … Well, I think if you follow this blog, you also love watercolors! Here’s some watercolor inspiration!

1) Watercolor Bookmarks – A Small and Fun Project

Who wouldn’t like to get a hand-painted bookmark? Watch the video with practical tips for watercolor painting!

2) Illustration in Watercolor – Use a Drawing as a Starting Point

If you like to draw, pick one of your sketches and use that as a starting point. My drawing from last Inktober is very detailed, but I enjoyed painting it!

Ink pen drawing by Paivi Eerola.

Here’s my setting. I kept the sketch visible most of the time but allowed my painting to evolve too. I didn’t use any pencil to copy the drawing, I just started painting with pale colors and made adjustments layer by layer.

Creating a watercolor painting from an ink drawing. Using a sketchbook as an inspiration for watercolors. Watercolor painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s the finished painting. When I drew the sketch, I wanted the person to look like she’s contemplating, and wasn’t quite happy with the face. But here, I was more successful the facial features. Colors also add to the expression.

Watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her blog for more watercolor inspiration.

What I really liked in this project, was the lack of too many decisions at the same time. When I followed the composition and the elements of the drawing, I was able to focus more on the atmosphere.

3) Watercolor Sceneries – Play with the Level of Abstraction

Mastering watercolors is impossible without making most of the happy accidents and allowing abstract elements build the image. Try how abstract you can and want to go!

These images are from my class Watercolor Journey. The first landscape is quite realistic and representational. It’s easy to see that there are trees and the sun.

Watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watercolor inspiration from her class Watercolor Journey.

Here’s a more abstract version of the same project. Trees are not so clear anymore and the sun is more vague too, but on the other hand, it’s not as static as the previous one.

Abstract watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watercolor inspiration from her class Watercolor Journey.

Which of the two do you like more? How far do you want to go in your paintings?

4) Intuitive Painting – Loosen Up by Starting with Three Photos

If you like to solve mysteries, here’s a project for you! Pick three photos and use one for each of the three first layers. Watch the video for more detailed tips and instructions!

I definitely did not see that there would be a fish in my piece when I started!

Watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her video of how she made this using three inspiration photos for the first layers. Lots of tips included too.

With watercolors, the art of seeing can be sometimes more important as the art of painting!

5) Watercolor Collage – Join my Class Animal Inkdom!

I have also used watercolors several times in my class Animal Inkdom. In Module 3 where we explore the underwater world, watercolors are a natural choice. For example, in this collage project watercolors have a central role. You will learn ways to draw fun and unique sea life animals, and make a playful underwater scene.

Watercolor collage art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. A sample project from her class Animal Inkdom.

Come to draw and paint with us in Animal Inkdom! You will get the published lessons (including Module 3) immediately after the registration, and you can start drawing and painting right away. Sign up for Animal Inkdom here!

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