Peony and Parakeet

Art Inspiration from Sanditon

This blog post is for us who love Jane Austen and Sanditon tv series. I watched the series last month, and it has inspired me a lot. I hope you enjoy this Sanditon inspiration overload!

Torchbearer – Esther and Lord Babington on the Beach

Torchbearer. A watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

My newest watercolor painting called Torchbearer had a modest beginning and I had no clue how to finish it – until I saw episode 8 of Sanditon!

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

My favorite female character of Sanditon is Esther and the scene where she is in the carriage with Lord Babington was so romantic! The sudden change in her appearance, his gentle smile, black horses, empty shore – oh my! It hit me, that even if my painting has flowers, not people, I could express the emotion from the scene.

A detail of Torchbearer. Inspired by Esther Denham of Sanditon. A watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The tallest flower and the glow come from Esther’s powerful spirit.

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

The flower that bends down, expresses her sensitivity.

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

I tried to paint every flower so that they highlight the bubbling energy. Their stems are like the carriage where the couple sat.

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

The black background represents both the horses and the lord, supporting Esther’s joy.

Torchbearer. A watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

In this painting, Esther is a torchbearer who leads us to better times.

Tin Box – A Souvenir from Sanditon

Inspired by Sanditon tv drama. Decorating a tin box with beads, embroidery floss, and hand-drawn and hand-painted papers. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I like little boxes that can be used for storing hand-drawn pictures and papers. I wanted to decorate a small tin box so that it would have old-fashioned and luxurious feel. So that I could think of it as a souvenir from Sanditon!

I already had saved a hand-drawn piece that was quite perfect in size.

Decorating a tin box with beads, embroidery floss, and hand-drawn and hand-painted papers. Inspired by the tv series Sanditon. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I also found some papers with a watercolor print. They were test runs of the surface pattern designed earlier this year. I mostly designed the pattern manually, so by painting a design on the center of the paper and then cutting the paper into four parts.

Designing a surface pattern in watercolor. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

This way you get a continuous design.

Designing a surface pattern in watercolor. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Avoid painting edges, and re-arrange papers until they are all fully painted.

Designing a surface pattern in watercolor. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Then scan the papers, and clean the edges in an image processing software. Here’s a sample of my design.

Designing a surface pattern in watercolor. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I made several variations in Photoshop. These papers go really well with hand-drawings, so they were perfect for the box.

Designing a surface pattern in watercolor. Test prints. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The center motif was first colored with watercolors.

Decorating a tin box with beads, embroidery floss, and hand-drawn and hand-painted papers. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Then I hand-stitched it on a background paper and added more hand-stitching around the center. In the photo below, I highlight the surroundings of the stitches with a pen so that they look more 3-dimensional.

Decorating a tin box with beads, embroidery floss, and hand-drawn and hand-painted papers. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I also added beads, more colors and decorative marks.

Decorating a tin box with beads, embroidery floss, and hand-drawn and hand-painted papers. Inspired by Sanditon tv series. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The centerpiece is a button with a shank removed. I love this little box!

Decorating a tin box with beads, embroidery floss, and hand-drawn and hand-painted papers. Inspired by Sanditon tv series. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Esther Denham – Sanditon Paper Doll

I also wanted to create something for my ever-growing collection of collage figures. “Just an unknown habitat of Sanditon”, I decided first. I didn’t use any reference and drew the doll just freely, but when she was colored, she looked just like Esther!

Drawing a paper doll. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I played with her proportions so that she has overly long legs. That way I could make the dress more imaginative. The hem was cut from one of the watercolor papers. I couldn’t help playing with her right away, trying wings on her, filling the teacup with herbs from Sanditon. The wings and the teacup are from my fun class Magical Inkdom.

Drawing a paper doll and playing with hand-drawn pieces. Inspired by Sanditon. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Her hat is also a collage piece cut from watercolor papers.

Hand-drawn paper doll inspired by Esther Denham of Sanditon. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Souvenirs from Sanditon!

Paper art inspired by the tv series Sanditon. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The Romance Continues

I am currently painting an oil painting that looks quite romantic already.

Oil painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

My vision is to make it the third in the series after Icebreaker and Torchbearer – and put it in the middle of them.

Two watercolor paintings of Paivi Eerola, an artist from Finland.

One Source of Inspiration – Many Interpretations

If you have been following my blog, you know that some of my projects are fine art, others more illustrational, and there can be a bit crafty things too. This blog post demonstrates well how the inspiration can be the same, but the interpretation is different. For me, the wide range of projects is a way to stay inspired and creative, and I hope that you have tolerance for all of them. I don’t believe in getting too serious or not getting serious at all. The humorous side of art allows us to get playful, and the playfulness feeds our ability to express the deeper side of our inspiration.

Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Esther can be the person who handed me a crafty gift box, or an innocent paper doll, or a mysterious flower in a painting that took tens of hours to create. The key to your artistic style is less in the looks and more in the inspiration. For me, it’s often old-fashioned romances, like Sanditon.

Welcome to my online classes!
– Paint watercolor fantasies – Sign up for Magical Forest!
– Draw the magic – Buy Magical Inkdom!

Happy New Year from Paivi’s Art Studio – Greetings in a Video!

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

On this last day of the decade, I share some moments from my art studio in Finland. Watch the 1-minute video!

Many times when people look at art, they say admiringly: “How did the artist do that?” They assume that the artist intentionally painted every spot. But often, art is more about seeing what accidental spots to preserve rather than how to intentionally paint them. It’s the nature of art to explore the wild and uncontrollable side of life, and it’s the job of an artist to make it serve the expression.

During the past years, I have tried many art techniques, many approaches, but this the journey that’s for me – to produce and teach art that goes out of control at times, and that has unrealistic and abstract elements as well.

Start the New Year by Painting the Magic

Magical Forest begins on January 1st, 2020! >> Sign up Now!

From Portraits to Stories – How to Dive Deeper in Visual Expression

"Mirimer" - a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. See her blog post about moving from portraits to stories in visual expression.

Here’s my latest watercolor painting called “Mirimer”. The name is a combination of “Miracles” and “Meri” (sea in Finnish). I love to invent these names that mix the two languages!

When I started this piece, I had two things in mind: I wanted to use Cobalt Blue Spectral (see the previous blog post about this gorgeous color), and I also wanted to continue my series of watercolor fairies.

Watercolor fairies by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet

These fairies really speak to me. I feel that I should have started making these story scenes a long time ago and not wasted my time for stiff self-portraits, for example.

Life in Self-Portraits

As a teenager, I stared myself at the mirror and made self-portraits all the time. Any cardboard or piece of paper had my face!

A self-portrait by Paivi Eerola. See her blog post about how to move from portraits to stories.

Every time I wondered if this would be a portrait of an artist: “Would my dream come true? Is this piece good or not?”

It has taken tens of years to move from literal self-reflection to expressing my emotions and my inner world. If I could turn back the time, I would peg myself to move from technique back to childish imagination, because there’s always enough time to learn the techniques, and never enough time to deepen the expression.

A self-portrait by Paivi Eerola.

This is a self-portrait from a couple of years ago, and I like that the inner world finally begins to show.

However, for me, the greatest satisfaction of art is not in self-portraits or portraits in general. I want my art to move from portraits to stories, be more dynamic than just staring faces, tell about my experiences, and how I can see them in a new light. I believe that our inner world is full of stories that connect us to other people on a deep level. When I have thought about my artistic style or whether my art is “good” or “bad,” I have often neglected this story-telling aspect.

Mirimer – From a Portrait to a Story

When painting “Mirimer”, there was a magical moment when I heard my mother calling my name. She passed away tens of years ago, and I thought I had forgotten the exact tone in her voice, but the painting brought back the memory. It must have been because of the blue color, her favorite. I realized that I wasn’t painting a portrait of a fairy anymore. I was painting the story of accepting loss as a part of life.

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

Mirimer became a blue-hooded angel, and the drops of water got some red to indicate that life carries pain that we can’t get to choose.

A detail of a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola. See the blog post about moving from portraits to stories.

Illustrating Stories by Lucas Cranach

Stories also came to my mind when I went to see Lucas Cranach’s exhibition in the Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Lucas Cranach (The Elder) and her son, Lucan Cranach (The Younger), were not only German master painters in the 16th century, but they also knew how to run an art business. They had a workshop, an illustration studio, which had many employees, a logo, a style that everyone had to follow, and they produced prints too. So even if they lived in the Renaissance, they did what most artists today dream about. They built a visual world around stories that people yearned for.

Lucas Cranach the Younger, Diana and Actaeon.

Many of the Caranachs’ stories were from Greek mythology. This painting, my favorite from the exhibition, tells a story about Actaeon turning into a stag when Diana and the nymphs splash water on him. They don’t like him to watch them, and his dogs begin to attack him too!

Paivi Eerola and Lucas Cranach, the Younger. See Paivi's blog post about moving from portraits to stories in visual expression.

In the painting below, there’s Venus and her child, a little cupid. The cupid has been stealing honey and the bees have bitten him.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Venus and Cupid the Honey Thief

There’s also an old poem, written in Latin on the top corner of the painting too:

As Cupid was stealing honey from the hive
A bee stung the thief on the finger
And so do we seek transitory and dangerous pleasures
That are mixed with sadness and bring us pain

A detail of a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola.

From Portraits to Stories – 5 Tips

  1. Allow more intuition and imagination into your process: Add splashes and other unexpected elements. Spend time with a color that speaks to you. Instead of actively painting something, spend time discovering and highlighting what already can be seen.
  2. Grow your skills from faces to body gestures. Learn to process a shape that’s on paper, in your head too so that you can find alternative ways to continue the painting.
  3. Play with the scale of the elements. We tend to make shapes that are all equal in sizes. But if you want to paint a tiny fairy, for example, you need huge flowers to indicate the small size.
  4. Let go of strict outlining, and leave room for spots of light and shadows. There’s no story without the atmosphere, and the atmosphere is created by setting the lighting.
  5. Take time to let the story unfold. Often, the stories have many layers, and the first associations are just the path to deeper ones.

Magical Forest – Discover Stories by Painting!

Magical Forest, an online art class by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Move from portraits to stories and paint nature and fairies in watercolor!

Paint watercolor fairies and nature’s spirits in their magical surroundings. Enjoy freeing up your expression while exploring flowery woods, shallow ponds, leaf chapels, and adventurous sceneries. Magical Forest begins on January 1st >> Sign up Now!

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?

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