Peony and Parakeet

Loving Vincent and Purchasing Oil Paints

Schminke Mussini oil paints. Photo by Peony and Parakeet.

Yesterday, I opened the door of a local art supply store and headed to a specific shelf. On my way to the store, when walking on the narrow streets in the center of Helsinki, I felt it. The feeling that I got a year ago when I opened a tube of Mussini oil paint for the first time. I was attending an art class about old masters painting techniques, and we used the best oil paints I could imagine. Not that I could imagine so much because I had never used oil paints before. But I didn’t expect to experience that strange feeling. It contained both appreciation and excitement. The appreciation of color, and the excitement to learn more from it.

It was not that I would have been new to color. I had been painting with acrylic paints for a long time. When I was a teenager, I got them from my parents who thought that it was a perfect solution to me. No worrying about toxic painting fluids and still being able to paint with ease. The acrylic paints have developed a lot since that time, since the eighties. They have worked perfectly for my needs. I have found a good brand too. I really like Golden acrylics.

A self-portrait in Vincent van Gogh's style. By Paivi Eerola by Peony and Parakeet.

But now I was standing in the front of a vast collection of Mussini oil paint tubes. I picked the color chart and went through my choices one more time. For a whole year, I had been going through this in my mind: raw umber, zinc white, titanium white, yellow ochre and so on. It had been a mantra that changed a little bit every month. The paints are expensive, and I had to pick the colors carefully. One tube can cost more than 70 euros.

Plan for the Hand and Mind

After trying out the paints for the first time, I went to live in denial. Yes, I had painted the class pieces with oils because they were provided by the class. But the odorless and water-soluble acrylics felt much more suitable for me. After a while, my attitude changed a bit. I let myself dream about the oil paints. I visited the art supply store, touched the clean and shiny tubes, imagined getting just a bit of paint on a palette and make it last for as long as possible.

But dreaming and reality are surprisingly close. It’s difficult just to dream and not to do anything. So I made a plan that felt more like extortion. I had to get my floral painting class finished. I had to get several acrylic paintings finished. I had to figure out where and how I would store the paints. I had to get more information about the oil paints and the painting liquids.

I still had some finishing touches to do for my paintings in progress, but other than that I had followed the plan. So I started picking the tubes: raw umber, zinc white, titanium white, yellow ochre and so on. After selecting the colors, I went for the liquids: poppy oil, turpentine, and glossy dammar varnish.

When I left the store, my mind summarized the past year. Learning the old masters’ techniques had been essential for growing my technical skills. My art had become less imaginative, and more conventional.

Acrylic paintings by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

I had a turning point in 2016 when I felt that my imagination and my hand didn’t function so well together anymore. My imagination wanted to proceed to new territories, but my hand couldn’t follow. But now when my hand is wiser, I can also challenge my mind more freely. Purchasing the oil paints were a reward for the persistence that I have had for the last twelve months. However, it wasn’t the only reward. I was also going to see the new movie Loving Vincent.

Loving Vincent – The Movie

The movie theatre was about 10 minutes walk away from the art supply store. When I arrived, there were several queues for the tickets. I joined one. While I was waiting for my turn, a young man suddenly came to me and asked: “Do you want a free ticket? I have two, and my friend wasn’t able to come.” I happily accepted it and thanked the man. “Is this a sign?”, I asked myself. “Is this the final sign that I should do this – go forward, open the tubes, start painting my newest, odd ideas?” I don’t believe in destiny so much, but at that moment, it felt like Vincent van Gogh was talking to me: “Do that, paint those ideas, just like I painted mine.”

I found the movie very emotional. Every time, I saw a familiar painting coming to live, tears came to my eyes. I realized that this movie had to be published now, not earlier. Vincent’s art has become so well-known during the past decades that it unifies us. Art that was odd for masses of the 19th century is understood by every one living the 21st century. It has become so familiar that it’s sometimes difficult to appreciate it. And still, we need to feel the togetherness that Vincent’s paintings can offer. They are like icons that make us stronger together.

Looking back helps us to move forward. As artists, we are all Vincent’s descendants. No matter how we paint, what technique we use, we know about modern art because of Vincent. We know more than the people of the 19th century, and that enables us to explore art to all kinds of directions.

Loving Vincent – Art from the Students

I want to celebrate Vincent by showing beautiful pieces made by my students. They are made from my class Selfie Fantasy that shows an adaptation of Vincent’s technique.

Christie Juhasz:

Vincent van Gogh inspiration by Christie Juhasz, USA. An art journal page spread made from the mini-course Selfie Fantasy by Peony and Parakeet.

Terry Whyte:

Vincent van Gogh inspiration from Terry Whyte, Canada. An art journal page spread made from the mini-course Selfie Fantasy by Peony and Parakeet.

Denise Dineen:

Vincent van Gogh inspiration by Denise Dineen, USA. An art journal page spread made from the mini-course Selfie Fantasy by Peony and Parakeet.

Gina Meadows:

Vincent van Gogh inspiration by Gina Meadows, USA. An art journal page spread made from the mini-course Selfie Fantasy by Peony and Parakeet.

Patricia Furey:

Vincent van Gogh inspiration by Patricia Furey, USA. An art journal page spread made from the mini-course Selfie Fantasy by Peony and Parakeet.

Stephanie Carney:

Vincent van Gogh inspiration by Stephane Carney, USA. An art journal page spread made from the mini-course Selfie Fantasy by Peony and Parakeet.

Have you seen the movie? What did you think about it?

Imagine Through Art – Buy 5 inspiring mini-courses! (including the Vincent-inspired one)

Klimt’s Garden with Students of Peony and Parakeet

We are heading for the winter in Finland. It has made me pull out the photos taken during the recent years from the garden. They remind me that the summer will come again. Together with my students, I dedicate this blog post for the famous Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and the way he saw the world. It’s a perfect perspective when you want to get inspiration from the garden!

Portraits with Scenes Instead of Faces Only

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Stephanie Carney, USA - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

Stephanie Carney shows so well how Gustav would see our gardens: full of decorative elements! This way of looking combines two perspectives. First, examining the details and their decorative nature. Second, seeing the big picture: how plants are not just individual and separate but integrated into a scene.

When browsing my photo library, I realized that I have a lot of close-up photos of flowers. But for this post, I picked images that show more than just ethereal petals. The images that have more than a few details make me more attached to my garden. I think it’s the same with paintings and drawings: instead of just sketching faces, we can show the whole experience.

That’s how Gustav Klimt built most of his portraits: not only focusing on faces but showing more of the world around the person by expressing it through decorative and abstract elements. Klimt’s mission was to combine decorative designs with fine arts, and I think it’s one of the reasons why his work is fascinating for us who like to sew, quilt, embroider, or do any crafts. When looking at Stephanie’s work, inspired by Klimt, I can easily imagine wearing that dress and stitching any of the beautiful motifs that can be picked from the picture!

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Stephanie Carney, USA - a detail of a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

From Messy Garden to Klimt’s Garden

I claim that we can look at the garden using “everyday eyes” or “magical eyes.” When using the everyday eyes, everything is “should,” “could” or “have to.” We see weeds, neglected areas, messy grass. But with the magical eyes, we see nature as art.

For example, these ferns from my back garden horrified me when I looked at them with the everyday eyes. All I could see was a neglected flower bench getting ready for the cold weather. “I should cut those,” I thought. Then I took a step back and … wow! Nature had made an Art Deco pattern for me! I felt grateful and inspired. For a moment, I was in Klimt’s garden.
Fern like an art deco pattern

Gustav Klimt understood that when we want to express the beauty, we want to express the experience, not just copy what we see. When looking with the magical eyes – when being in Klimt’s garden, our feelings get mixed with the things we see, and nothing is fully organized. That’s why the sun feels more than just a bright spot in the sky in Lorraine Cline’s work. It doesn’t only make flowers grow, but it’s an uplifting force for humans as well. We get wrapped in its warmth, and for a moment, we are just one of the many plants in Klimt’s garden.

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Lorraine Cline, USA - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

Quilted Garden

Gustav Klimt saw the world as a stream of patterns and colors. Sometimes they were symbolic, sometimes more literal like the artwork below, showing a baby’s quilt. Even if the painting is fine art, it honors crafts.

Gustav Klimt: "Baby (Cradle)," 1917/1918
Gustav Klimt: “Baby (Cradle),” 1917/1918

At Klimt’s garden, there’s no distinct border between nature’s and man’s creations. When you look at the world with the magical eyes, they become one.

Stella the beagle and her quilt. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Pirkko-Liisa Mannoja’s piece combines drawing and painting, but to me, it also looks like an art quilt.

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Pirkko Liisa Mannoja, Finland - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

When we use the everyday eyes, we see the world as clearly-defined objects. We see green grass and red flowers. But when we look with the magical eyes, we see things that are more abstract, like the way the light forms spots in the background. That’s one of the subtle things that make Pirkko-Liisa’s work shine.

In Klimt’s garden, the grass can be white, and the observer can be green.

Cosmo the beagle enjoying summer in the garden.

In Klimt’s garden, we treat trees like they were close friends. I love how Christie Juhasz expresses that in her beautiful art journal spread.

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Christie Juhasz, USA - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

In Klimt’s garden, martagons take us back to Art Nouveau with their decoratively shaped stems and delicately colored flowers.

Martagons. A photo by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

In Klimt’s garden, we connect with the outside world so that it lightens up our inner world. When I look at Mackie d’Arge’s gorgeous piece, I feel connected to both.

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Mackie d'Arge, USA - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

When we look at the world with the everyday eyes, we worry about the weather when we look up.

Spring Sky. A photo by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

But when we change to the magical eyes, the sky and the earth are not separate at all. Just like in Diana Jackson’s expressive piece!

Inspired by Gustav Klimt. Diana Jackson, USA - a student artwork from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. By Peony and Parakeet.

Winter in Klimt’s Garden

I wrote most of this blog post yesterday. When I woke up this morning, the snow had come to Finland. It felt depressing. “The garden is gone,” I said to myself. But then I realized that I had my everyday eyes. When looking with the magical eyes, Klimt’s garden is there for sure. It has just changed its colors.

Winter in the garden. A photo by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Klimt’s Garden in Your Art Journal!

The student artwork in this blog post is created from the mini-course Patterned Topiary. In the mini-course, you can create a decorative garden scene in Gustav Klimt’s style. The mini-course is available as a part of Imagine Monthly Fall 2016 art journaling bundle, packed with four more inspiring themes and techniques. And to celebrate the snow arriving in Southern Finland, you will get the generous 30% off during the weekend (from Oct 26 to Oct 29, midnight PST). >> Buy now!

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet and her Klimt's garden - an art journal spread inspired by Gustav Klimt. From her mini-course Patterned Topiary. 

Create Klimt’s Garden: Buy Patterned Topiary + 4 inspiring mini-courses!

Altering a Flower Painting – Inspiration from Vatican Museums

Queen of Fantasy by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. A flower painting with acrylics and glazing medium.

About three weeks ago, I quickly painted a small flower painting while sharing my thoughts about painting softly (see this blog post, which also includes a video).

A flower painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

During the past weeks, I have been wondering what to do with the painting.  I thought it could be a little more detailed and tell a bit more glorious story. So this morning, I decided to work more on it. Some artists are always afraid of “over-working” their paintings. But I belong to the group who thinks that the painting is almost never fully finished. There seem always to be more ideas I could add and more adjustments I should do.

1) Painting a Decorative Frame

This time I decided to use a selection of old decorative art as an inspiration source. I picked photos that I took from the visit to Vatican Museums in June. I often work like this: letting images spark ideas that I will add to my work. It’s not so much “copying” but picking concepts or generic ideas. My first inspiration came from these decorative panels.

Decorative floral panels from Vatican Museums

By using a Chinese marker, and a lid of a jar as a template I drew a circle on the center.

Painting a decorative flower painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

A huge porcelain piece and a beautiful ceiling inspired me to paint a frame with lots of swirls.

Beautiful details from Vatican Museums

I just added some burnt umber around the drawn line and then painted the swirls in white. I added several translucent layers to make the shapes look more three-dimensional.

Painting a decorative frame to a flower painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

2) Playing with Colors and Shapes

The next ideas came from this picture. It’s one of the many beautiful ceilings, so full of images and details that it’s almost overwhelming.

A beautiful ceiling from Vatican Museums.

The ceiling inspired me to add more color variation to the painting. I used mostly ultramarine blue, ochre, and cadmium yellow on the center, and quickly some elements with white on the bottom left corner. While waiting for each thin color layer to dry, I pondered what to do with the rest of the painting.

A process picture of a flower painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I almost heard a voice saying: “Stop right here, don’t ruin the painting!”

3) Letting Go – More is More!

While browsing the photos taken from Vatican Museums, I remembered the astonishment that came from the number of visitors there were. It was Friday afternoon, but the area was packed. Each huge corridor was filled by us, tourists walking and staring at the beautiful ceilings. The Sistine Chapel was even more crowded. Frescos, mosaics, statues, paintings and decorative textiles covered the surfaces. Everything was full in every possible way. And now in Finland, I was sitting in my half-empty studio with my half-empty painting.

So I said to myself: “Go for it!” And took some extra boost for my confidence by examining a photo of a wonderful wall textile. If men can be this decorative, why not just continue the painting!

A beautiful wall textile from Vatican Museums

I worked more with the center of the painting, making it grow towards the edges.

A flower painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

A detail of a mosaic floor gave me an idea to combine geometric shapes with curvier lines.

Mosaic floor from Vatican Museums.

Here’s a close-up showing tiny additions on the left:

A close-up photo of a flower painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

4) Bringing up the Expression – Highlighting the Visual Message

Before the final touches, I still had some stiffness in expression. To me, it’s often difficult to fully trust my intuition unless I know what I am expressing. I was almost finished when I realized that my painting is about being a queen of the fantasy, ruling every little detail, making ships change their direction on the sea, and wearing a crown that shines further than anyone could imagine.

Altering a flower painting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and parakeet.

Some Close-Up Photos of the Flower Painting

Ships sailing:

A detail of "Queen of Fantasy" by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. A flower painting with acrylics and glazing medium.

The center. This is a very small painting, only 12 by 12 inches total:

A detail of "Queen of Fantasy" by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. A flower painting with acrylics and glazing medium.

Floral Fantasies

Lately, I have been more and more aware of the fact that I want to paint fantasies. To me, the first version of the painting was too bland. I dress modestly, I hate wearing too much jewelry, my home is not full of stuff, and still, I want my art to be full, to go beyond what’s expected and accepted.

Flower painting, two versions. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I am currently preparing a new online workshop about painting flowers … If all goes well, it will take begin in October.

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