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Peony and Parakeet

About Playfulness and Spirituality in Art

This week, I talk about spirituality in art and claim that you also need humor and playfulness to become a spiritual artist.

Artist Paivi Eerola and her visual world.
My world, and a new painting in progress too!

I like to gather my work – big and small – together and mix and match them like they would be pieces in a puzzle. It also helps me to see if my classes support each other and ponder if I have approached imagination and art-making from all angles.

Paul Klee and The Power of a Child

My newest class Floral Freedom is the most schoollike of all. It is based on Paul Klee’s and Wassily Kandinsky’s teachings of abstract art. In the class, I have tried to focus on two books – Paul Klee’s Pedagogical Sketchbook and Wassily Kandinsky’s book Point and Line to Plane. But the books’ teachings have inspired me to search for background stories – find what enabled these artists to invent the abstract methods and theories.

One of the things that needed an explanation was that Paul Klee’s book is full of diagrams like it would be written by an engineer, and yet, his artworks are often playful, some even childish. Look at this painting, for example!

Paul Klee, Scenecio - Head of a Man Going Senile, 1922, 40.3 x 37.4 cm, Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland
Paul Klee, Scenecio – Head of a Man Going Senile, 1922, 40.3 x 37.4 cm, Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland

During the first world war, Paul wasn’t a soldier for a long time but transferred to a safer job where he was in the middle of aircraft engineers. But earlier, when he started a family, Paul wasn’t very successful in art at all. His wife worked to support them, and Paul practically took care of their only child, Felix. It wasn’t usual to be a stay-at-home dad in the early 20th century!

When Paul was taking care of Felix and struggled with art-making, he found humor and playfulness that later became a part of his signature style. But it’s not only that! When Paul became close friends with the masterful Wassily Kandinsky, he also made Wassily less serious and more playful. So here’s to all stay-at-home dads and mums!

Paivi Eerola and her paintings. Read more about her thoughts on spirituality in art.
I had a stay-at-home mom. Here’s my portrait of her, painted in 1987 when I was 18 years old.
There’s a recent finished painting in the background.

From Product Play to Spirituality

I believe that art happens when one extreme meets another. When my organized mind watches the snowstorm. When I want my art to be about happiness and life and realize that taking it deeper requires confronting fear and death.

In my experience, when you want your art to be more serious and spiritual, humor and playfulness must have some role too. And vice versa, the longer your walk in the path of play, the more serious and spiritual it gets.

When I started my blog over ten years ago, my art-making was very product-based. I bought new supplies almost weekly and experimented with all kinds of techniques and effects.

Art play with structure paste
Paivi’s Art Play in 2014

But the more I created, the more I wanted to move from materials to ideas and imagination. Instead of discovering ten new ways to produce circles on paper, I wanted to learn how to make the circles interact and transform into other shapes. This way, my art has gradually become not only more playful but more spiritual as well. 

Paul Klee said:
“Art does not reproduce what we see; rather, it makes us see.”

Rethinking Spirituality in Art

Nowadays, I connect playfulness with spirituality. It has also made me rethink how I approach spirituality in general. Here’s what I wrote this week on Peony and Parakeet’s Facebook page and on my Instagram feed:

The contents of the post about spirituality in art: When I was a child, my first art class was about icon painting. A group of adults gathered in the church near my home, and I wanted to be a part of them. They kindly accepted me, and I tried to paint as well as possible, carefully following the strict instructions. 

Madonnas and angels still arrive into my art now and then, but here's what intrigues me more: 

Making the painting more spiritual can be done by listening to the shapes and colors - what do they want, what kind of company they miss, and what kind of freedom they want to have? Then you don't have to paint an angel or a goddess but make their whispers visible. I claim that letting go of what you believe your spirituality to be, makes your art more spiritual. Your ego steps back, and the spirit of the painting comes up.

It would be interesting to hear what do you think. Does spirituality have a role in your art?

Impressionistic Floral Painting on Structure Paste

This week, I show how I made an extraordinary floral painting with acrylics and structure paste. See how I achieved the historical look!

Old Art Yearning, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola. She has used structure paste to make reliefs and a frame.

I call this piece “Old Art Yearning” because I desperately miss Europe’s palazzos and museums. It would definitely be the time to pack the bags for a few-day trip to Vienna or some other old city, but I chose differently because of the pandemic. But first, look at the interior of Palazzo Doria Pamphilj in Rome. My husband and I visited the place on June morning in 2017, and it was pleasantly quiet, just suitable for dreaming about living there in the middle of luxury.

Interiors of Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, Rome.

So, what luxurious can you do when you are asked to stay home and be safe? I decided to create something that’s like a soft drink for the old art thirst: fake but sweet and consolating!

Old Art Yearning by Paivi Eerola. A detail of an acrylic painting which has structure paste.

The idea of using structure paste is from the summer, but back then, I didn’t quite see as far as I did this week.

Structure Paste Inspiration from Clay

This summer, my friend Johanna Rytkölä, a ceramic artist ran a flower pot class for a small group. My husband made a stylish and minimalistic bonsai pot, but mine came out quite different!

Ceramic handmade flower pot.

Even if my pot was not perfect, I wanted to experiment with a 3-dimensional surface for a painting right away. I dig out a jar of structure paste that some call molding paste as well. I have blogged about the paste twice before. In 2014, I made cardboard templates to create reliefs for a mixed media piece and in another project, I made surface textures with a variety of tools.

I decided to try the template technique again, and cut simple geometric holes to a thick cardboard.

Making cardboard templates for structure paste.

Then I placed the template on the top of the painting board and filled the holds with structure paste.

Filling cardboard templates with structure paste. Making reliefs for an acrylic painting.

I wasn’t completely satisfied with the edges of the structure paste shapes and put the board away.

Acrylic Painting on Structure Paste

But now, when I wanted to create something with historical feel, I remembered the board, and started painting on it. The small imperfections didn’t bother me so much anymore. All pieces can’t be so serious anyway. There has to be some room for creative play too!

Painting on structure paste with acrylics.

I decided to paint something loose and impressionistic that would still look decorative.

A floral acrylic painting in progress.

On the reliefs, the strokes were sharper and more controlled than on the background.

Painting a florals on structure paste.

But before I made the finishing touches, the piece looked too bare to me.

A floral panel that has structure paste shapes.

It needed a frame!

Making a Frame from Structure Paste

I still had some structure paste left and I found a piece of cardboard too. I traced the outline of the painting on a soft foam board and used that as a template for the center.

Making a frame for the painting from structure paste.

It’s not easy to make a smooth surface of the paste so I didn’t even try. Historical frames had all kinds of textures so the hills and valleys would look ok when painted.

A structure paste frame left to dry.

I painted the outer edge of the frame black and the inner edge with gold paint.

Painting a frame with gold and black acrylic paints.

The transition from black to gold became lovely when smudging the paint with fingers. I also added some gold mica flakes on the top of the gold parts and near the edge.

Adding gold mica flakes to a handmade frame.

Then the painting got some finishing touches and gold paint too.

Painting golden details on a structure paste reliefs.

I also added some acrylic paint on the frame.

A Mini-Monet for Old Art Yearners!

The finished piece is a bit clumsy, but I love the historical feel.

Old Art Yearning, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola. The frame and the reliefs are made of structure paste.

It’s my mini-Monet!

A detail of Old Art Yearning, a floral impressionistic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The unevenness of the structure paste in the edges looks quite good with the gold paint.

A detail of Old Art Yearning, a floral impressionistic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The frame was intentionally placed so that it’s not quite in the middle. This way I could make the piece more interesting. I really like how these painted spots look like nails or blueberries!

A detail of Old Art Yearning, a floral impressionistic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Just cardboard, structure paste, fake gold, acrylics, but I enter the gentle world of old art by looking at it!

A detail of Old Art Yearning, a floral painting with a handmade frame by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I display this piece in our library room which has more old-fashioned style than my studio.

Paivi Eerola and her paintings.

My painting has simple strokes but it’s still romantic. I have bent the principles of abstract art to serve the impressionistic style. It’s so much fun to paint freely like this!

Paint Dreamy Florals to Free Your Spirit!

Floral Freedom – the floral class based on Paul Klee’s and Wassily Kandinsky’s insights on abstract art – will begin on Dec 4, 2021. In this class flowers are not just passive decorations, but they fly, sing, and dream! >> Sign up Now!

Floral Freedom, an online painting class by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Floral Freedom is 20% off for the rest of November, so now is a good time to sign up!
>> Sign up now!

Rainbow Journal – Fill a Small Notebook with Happy Art!

Rainbow Journal, an art project by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

This week, I get back to the project that I started earlier this spring. It’s a small notebook that I have filled with happy art. I call it Rainbow Journal because it has brought me both joy and hope. Here’s a quote from the video below:

“When working on this journal, I have been able to live inside a happy bubble momentarily. It’s been refreshing, and my inner critic has got gentler. I have gained new inspiration for my paintings and classes.”

Watch the video to get inspiration for yours!

Creative Prompts for Your Rainbow Journal

Use the following prompts to make yours!

Cover – Make It as Decorative as You Can!

Use a limited color palette and let the colors and shapes flow.

The covers of a small traveler's notebook insert. Raibow Journal by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Spread #1 – Get Inspired by Happy Interiors!

Think about textiles, wallpapers, and painted motifs on wooden furnitures and dishes.

Decorative paintings on a small notebook. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Spread #2 – Embrace the Good and the Innocence!

Once you have set the style of the world you are building, who could be wandering there, full of happy thoughts with an innocent mind?

A small art journal spread inspired by Jane Austen's book Emma, by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Spread #3 – Paint Something Juicy!

Show how it feels when the glass is full, even overflowing.

Rainbow journal. An art journal spread by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Gouache paints and watercolors.

Spread #4 – Grow the Flowers of Imagination!

The dark soil makes flowers grow and shine.

Floral notebook page spread by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Spread #5 – Show the Bright Future!

Get creative with rainbows, how many can you fit in?

A spread of Paivi's Rainbow Journal. By artist Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I hope this lifted your spirit and inspired you to keep creating!

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Bright and Decorative Art Style

Hand-painted traveler's notebook journal covers by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

This week, I needed colors that are so sweet that they almost taste on the tongue! I found a little watercolor notebook from my paper stash and made a gouache painting on the covers.

Watercolor journal.

Painting the Covers

I used a limited palette of gouache paints – pinks, reds, and greens, and made pastel hues by mixing them with white.

Using gouache paints on an art journal. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

After painting the background, I filled the covers with decorations.

Painting journal covers in a decorative art style. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet.

Making all the little dots and lines was both calming and refreshing. The darkness of the world faded away!

Painting details in a decorative art style. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet.

Here’s how the covers look when the journal is closed. Isn’t that sweet?!

Hand-painted traveler's notebook journal covers in a decorative art style. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Inside: Decorated Papers and Flowery Shapes

I also decorated an inked paper and taped it on the inside of the cover. Flowers are easy to make with colored pencils!

Making a hand-decorated paper by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet

I also combined gouache paints and colored pencils and made a mixed media drawing on the opposite page.

Traveler's notebook art journal spread by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Creating in a decorative art style.

Inspiration from the Movie Emma

A couple of weeks ago, I watched the movie called Emma, and the beauty of it blew my mind. I love Jane Austen’s stories and had planned to go to a movie theatre to watch it, but they closed. Fortunately, it became available on iTunes, and within 48 hours of the renting period, I was able to watch it twice! I have always enjoyed examining decorative tapestries, furniture, clothing, and such, so I took my time, especially on the second time, stopping the movie now and then just to admire the beautiful sceneries, interiors, and dresses.

Art Inspiration from Jane Austen. Harriet, Emma's friend. By paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s Emma’s friend Harriet and all kinds of decorative elements from my imagination.

Decorative Art Style – Fun to Design, Fun to Paint!

This year, I have been practicing pattern design, trying to make at least one pattern per month. I have used my watercolor paintings as an inspiration.

Surface pattern design, ideas from original art. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

These design ideas go back to my paintings as well. I have really enjoyed making them more decorative now.

Watercolors on an art journal page. Creating in a decorative art style by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I feel like I am connecting the dots between the many styles that I am fond of. It’s like William Morris, Marimekko, and decorative Russian metal trays are coming together. My detailed style to draw and the intuitive style to paint seem to integrate, and it all feels so effortless and fun. I am going to do more of this kind of decorative art style projects – I hope they inspire you too!

Related Blog Posts

>> From Art Journaling to Pattern Design
>> Paint Your Mental Images – Love for Russian metal trays
>> 8 Style Tips from the Students of Peony and Parakeet – William Morris inspired art journal spreads

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