Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

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!

Discovering a Character by Drawing

This week is about illustrating characters and discovering those that feel personal.

Country Girl illustration by Päivi Eerola.

Have you ever wanted to draw a face or a figure that would really touch your heart? I don’t only mean something that looks pretty on paper but someone that begins to speak to you when your eyes meet.

Starting from an Animal Figure

In the class Magical Inkdom, I mention the word “kissanukke” when we are drawing cats. Kissanukke is “cat doll” in English, but somehow I think it’s much funnier in Finnish. Say: kissanukke! The word is just hilarious.

Last week, I wondered why I think about that word so often. Maybe it’s a hint I should draw cats again. So, I picked a big smooth watercolor paper and a pencil to sketch a huge cat. I wanted to go big because I wanted the cat’s face to be large enough for working on facial features. I adjusted them for a long time with a pencil, and then with colored pencils. I wanted this kissanukke to be more than a doll – a living thing that speaks to me.

Drawing an animal character with colored pencils.

I love to use thick and smooth watercolor paper with colored pencils even when I don’t use water for the drawing.

Coloring details with crayons.

When the paper is big, it’s easy to dive deep into details and let them make the drawing more whimsical than the original sketch.

What’s Behind the Animal?

Story Hunter - a fairytale character by Paivi Eerola. Read more about discovering a character by drawing!

When Kissanukke was born, I asked her: “Who are you?” She said: “I am a hunter, and I can bring you anything you want!” I smiled at her: “What a magical cat you are, with the golden egg and all!” “I had two,” she said, “but the other one got missing when I tried to catch the geese. And I am no cat but a lion!”

Of course, she is a lion – how did I not see that before! I used to be a big fan of Joy Adamson and her lion Elsa as a child. No wonder my inner child has kept asking for cats!

Discovering Through a Different Pose

So, I thought, let’s draw another leijonanukke – lion doll – for the child. This time, I changed the pose so that the character would only need to glance sideways and wished that a shyer creature would appear.

Drawing with colored pencils. Whimsical colored pencil art in progress.

“Are you a hunter too?” I asked when discovering the new character. “No, I am an orchid whisperer! Shhh!”

Orchid Whisperer - an illustration by Paivi Eerola. Read more about discovering characters by drawing!

One of my orchids just stopped blooming, and I am eagerly waiting another to bloom. So, there’s a need for her too!

Illustrating characters with colored pencils. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Whisperer is smaller than Hunter. The small size also makes her look less finished in the pics. If you need to provide a hand drawing in a digital form, always draw larger than the asked size. The result looks neater that way.

Discovering a Human Character

This week, I went to the studio and gathered all the courage I got. “Hunter,” I said, “could you bring me a human that really touches my heart.”

And that’s how this little country girl came out – a true nature child!

A detail of the illustration Country Girl. By Paivi Eerola.

I didn’t use any references when drawing the girl and the cats. A reference can help us draw what’s expected but not what comes out naturally. References are great practice, and during the years, I have been practicing with them too. For example, in the class Innovative Portraits, we draw faces and use references creatively. But when discovering a character that feels like a soul mate, references become disturbing. Then it’s all about the connection with your inner self, traveling back in time for inspiration and forward in imagination.

Digital Pencil Work

I drew the girl on my iPad with Apple Pencil and the program called Procreate. I got these fancy tools as a birthday gift from my husband in February but have been waiting for the right moment to get to know them.

Drawing characters freely in Procreate using the Peppermint brush.

So far, I have mostly been using a simple digital brush called “Peppermint” that imitates a graphite pencil.

I will blog more about Procreate later, so it would be interesting to hear if you have used it. Also, if you have any questions, please let me know! However, if you are not into digital tools, don’t worry, I will keep on drawing with real pencils too!

Butterfly Art and Beyond

This week, I have some butterfly art, stories from the past, and plenty of inspiration for art-making.

Butterfly art with colored pencils by Paivi Eerola.

Here’s the newest spread of my colored pencil journal. I think it’s a little different than the pages so far – more detailed at least! You can see most of the previous spreads in this video; tell me what you think!

With this butterfly fantasy, I want to take you more than a hundred years back in time – to the end of the 19th century when a famous Finnish artist Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946) painted Violets in a Japanese Vase in 1890.

Helene Schjerfbeck's flower painting Violets in a Japanese Vase.
Helene Schjerfbeck, Orvokkeja japanilaisessa maljakossa (Violets in a Japanese Vase). Oil on canvas. Size without the frame: 35 x 30 cm, 1890.

Although Helene wasn’t as famous back then, she had traveled and studied abroad. And now, she had just got back home after spending a year in Paris and England. After painting people, Helene was now drawn to make nature-themed pieces. It felt refreshing to change big and challenging portraits to small landscapes and still lives. Flowers became Helene’s consolation pieces. When she was sent to St. Petersburg to copy Russian masterpieces and thus bring educational reproductions to Finland (“here’s how the masters paint”), she painted flowers for her own joy in the evenings. (See Helene Schjerbeck’s later style and my adaptation for colored pencils in this blog post!)

I can relate to Helene. My main work is big oil paintings – abstract florals or landscapes – but I also make art that soothes and maintains rather than breaks through. While the first pieces of the new series are drying and waiting for their next layers, I feel drawn to the boxes of pencils.

Oil paintings in progress.
A couple of my oil paintings, still in progress.

At the beginning of the week, after painting the whole Sunday, I wanted to draw something just for me. “Butterflies!” my inner child asked.

Butterfly art with colored pencils. Drawing on a journal.

Here’s how far I got in one evening. This was before I traveled back in time to meet Helene – and another artist called Torsten Wasastjerna!

Fantasy Art in Villa Gyllenberg

In the middle of the week, my husband and I visited Villa Gyllenberg in Helsinki. It’s a museum that used to be the home of Signe and Ane Gyllenberg in the 20th century. The house was built in 1938, and it has a wonderful location near the sea.

Villa Gyllenberg, Helsinki. Art museum.

A part of the museum is a furnished old home with an extensive art collection, including Helene Schjerfbeck’s violet painting.

Villa Gyllenberg, Helsinki.

Just recently, Villa Gyllenberg got a new extension for art exhibitions. The new space has high walls and plenty of space, but still, there was something too big to fit there straight!

Falling Leaves, a huge oil painting by Torsten Wasastjerna, displayed in Villa Gyllenberg.

This is Torsten Wasastjerna’s oil painting Falling Leaves, made in 1897. It’s 550 cm high and 370 cm wide, one of the biggest Finnish paintings ever. My husband agreed to model beside it so that you get an idea of how big it is.

Inspired by Torsten Wasastjerna

Like Helene Schjerbeck, Torsten Wasastjerna (1863-1924) got an education in fine art and studied abroad too. But his consolation was fantasy. He did commission portraits to pay the bills but loved illustrating fairies and angels. He even wrote books. The first one was called Dröm och Värklighet – Dream and Reality.

Torsten Wasastjerna's book cover Dröm och Värklighet.

Torsten Wasastjerna’s fantasy world wasn’t as surreal as mine, but it felt close.

Fairy Tale Princess, an oil painting by Torsten Wasastjerna.
Torsten Wasastjerna: Sadun prinsessa – Fairy Tale Princess, 1895-1896. Oil on canvas, 106 x 162 cm.

When I got back home, I was inspired to work on the butterfly piece with much more detail than I first had planned.

Drawing butterfly art in colored pencils.

I added a person, a butterfly girl or a boy, to one of the wings.

Butterfly Art and Beyond

I am impressed by how dedicated Torsten was to his fantasy art, even if it was not valued by others.

A detail of the oil painting Fairy Tale Princess by Torsten Wasastjerna. Butterfly and a girl.
Torsten Wasastjerna: Sadun prinsessa – Fairy Tale Princess, a detail.

It made me think that I, too, can create “butterfly art” that goes beyond the butterflies – that challenges both my imagination and dedication.

So, I spent more hours than normally with this spread, adding details and then adjusting their shapes and colors.

Colored pencil inspiration.

It felt like my pencils reached a new level, getting closer to my heart than before.

Drawing and coloring butterflies with colored pencils.

The world that is naturally and effortlessly born in my paintings fed the more illustrative work too.

Colored pencil drawing in progress.

All this makes me think about how important it is to go to see art and use that for inner discussions: how am I different, what are my consolation pieces, and how do I show my dedication to art? Then butterfly art can go beyond butterflies in the same way as Helene’s violets are not just “violet art.”

A butterfly art spread in a colored pencil journal. By Päivi Eerola.

What do you think?

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