Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Get Creative in Drawing Ornaments!

This month, the focus is on art history. Art history is often talked about in a very serious tone, but let’s examine it through imagination and start by drawing ornaments!

Ornament Tells a Story from Childhood

It’s fascinating that even if the ornaments are stiff and organized compositions, one can express a whole story.

Strawberries and whipped cream, an illustrative ornament by Päivi Eerola, Finland.

The background of this drawing is a funny story from my childhood. When the school asked each student’s favorite food, I answered “Mansikoita ja kermavaahtoa!” – Strawberries and whipped cream” while the others listed macaroni dishes or meatballs. Both the teacher and the students were quite shocked by the answer, but I wondered how anyone would prefer to eat something so modest and usual.

This story tells a lot about how I’ve always wanted to get away from the mundane. I still want to draw things so that they look like a luxurious celebration rather than a gray everyday life. I like drawing jewels, lace, floral motifs, and swirls, and you can have a lot of those on the ornaments.

A closeup of an ornament, drawn in ProCreate by Paivi Eerola.

I often want to include people or animals too. For example here, I wanted to make the whisk half-human, and draw two fairies that enjoy the dessert.

A closeup of an ornament, drawn in ProCreate by Paivi Eerola.

The method that I teach for human poses in the course Doll World was very helpful here.

Inspiration from Antiques, Old Buildings, and Paintings

There are plenty of ornaments in my photo archive. When I visit old buildings, I go through doors, ceilings, wall panels, and floors, looking for nice ornaments.

Ornaments of the doors in Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy.
From Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy.

I also love to examine antiques closely.

Items from the antique collection of the Turku castle.
From the collection of the Turku castle, Finland.

Old paintings often have lovely frames. Whenever I photograph one, I always try to include the frame in the picture.

Pietro Perugino's painting and the beautiful frame. Uffizi gallery, Florence, Italy.
Pietà by Pietro Perugino, oil on wood, 1493-1494, photographed in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.

This frame is like an ornament representing a palace!

Lots of Simple Shapes

The decorative appearance of the ornaments can mislead you into overestimating their complexity. When an ornament is taken apart, the shapes can be quite simple.

Ornamental frame, a detail.
Ornamental frame from Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki

I love this kind of sophistication based on quantity and repetition, with which you can express anything – humorous subjects …

Smileys, an ornamental illustration by Paivi Eerola.

… or more serious.

Peace, an illustration by Paivi Eerola. Two fairies form an ornament.

This example shows well that you can also express light when drawing ornaments.

Ornaments Can Both Hide and Reveal

I am fascinated by the fact that although the subject can be drowned in decorative forms, it can also be brought out more directly and more concisely than in a regular drawing. Time travel to the past can become surreal when the horizon disappears and the items are arranged as part of a floating structure.

Combining ornament and imagination. A black and white line drawing by Paivi Eerola.

Ornaments as Collage Art

If drawing the whole ornament in one go feels too demanding, remember that the ornaments can also be collage art. You can glue individual elements so that they form a decorative tree or medallion. I have put together many kinds of ornaments from hand-drawn animals and hand-decorated papers.

Collage art in an art journal.
From one of my art journals.

You can also scan or photograph the drawings and assemble the ornament digitally with an image processing program. Here are animal figures and flowers from the course Animal Inkdom and a teacup from the course Magical Inkdom.

A digital collage of hand-drawn elements, a fun ornament with animals. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
Digital collage composed in Photoshop from hand-drawn items.

Drawing Ornaments is Expressing the World

After working with ornaments for a while, you begin to realize that the world is largely based on them. Surface patterns are everywhere. The beauty of organic forms can be found in all living things.

A drawing full of ornaments. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.

Ornaments build a bridge between the living and the non-living. They make the living an object and the object alive.

Hidden Love for Ornaments and How it Shows

I think that many of us have an innate need to design ornaments. Maybe you dream about designing fabrics or have a huge stash of them. Maybe you collect jewelry or save photos of them. Maybe you feel that something is lacking if you only draw or paint complete images and are not able to rearrange the composition so that it’s something more stylish and less representational.

I only realized this tendency of mine when I made ornaments as part of the illustration for a children’s book. Back then, I used transparent marker paper to design the symmetry, and my desk was full of different versions.

Drawing ornaments on marker paper

One day when picking the pen, I suddenly felt happy and meaningful: “I should do this more!” Since then, I have not underestimated even the smallest encounters with ornaments.

Drawing Ornaments Inspired by Embroidery

I relax from my work as an artist by doing cross-stitch and those projects also inspired me to draw ornaments.

Drawing an embroidery inspired ornament.

See here how to draw and color an embroidery-inspired ornament – Doodler’s Sampler Step by Step!

Drawing Ornaments without Perfect Symmetry

I drew the last ornament with the ProCreate app. The good things about it are that the background can be kept separate so that the background colors can be varied and it is easy to create symmetry. However, I think completely symmetrical ornaments are a bit too stiff and boring, so I also made quite a lot of asymmetry for this ornament.

Strawberries and whipped cream, an ornamental illustration by Paivi Eerola, Finland.

I hope you will start drawing ornaments right away whatever technique you choose!

Related Courses

Fantastic Watercolor Sceneries

This week, we explore watercolor sceneries. Landscapes have always been an uncomfortable theme for me, but despite that, I consider myself to be some kind of landscape painter. Even this digital watercolor painting is a landscape.

Watercolor garden, a digital painting in ProCreate by Paivi Eerola, Finland.
A digital watercolor painting in Procreate

Here I mixed the memories of the sunny days of the last fall with the eager wait for the upcoming blooming season.

What Do Landscapes Mean to You?

I think that landscapes are relevant to any growing artist. It is important to look at your relationship with basic themes such as:

  • human or animal – portrait
  • inanimate object – still-life
  • nature – landscape

Of these, I have the closest relationship with the landscape, and through that, I also have a special relationship with places.

Hello Fall, a watercolor painting. See more watercolor sceneries by Paivi Eerola.
“Hello Fall”, a watercolor painting from 2019. See the video of me painting this!

Even if I take photos of interesting sceneries, I am not at all enthusiastic about copying the landscape as it is. I’m a romantic who sees even the ugliest grass field as an exciting jungle. I often crouch down to explore the world from the perspective of a modest plant, where everything looks big and grand.

Spring flowers

The landscape can also be a stage for an event. When I looked out the window of my room as a child, I was saddened by the fact that nothing was happening in the small area of ​​detached houses. However, I paid attention to the house visible on the hill and how its roof seemed to change color in different lighting and in different seasons.

This kind of slow dynamics characteristic of the landscape is fascinating because when we paint we are not prisoners of time. We can fill the view with all kinds of activity. Various colors and states of one object can be gathered and everything can be lifted into flight and movement.

Creating watercolor sceneries in ProCreate.
Creating watercolor sceneries in ProCreate. Here I am working on the details. With two fingers, you can easily zoom in to focus on one detail and then quickly zoom back to the big picture.

By thinking about what a landscape means to me, I have built a bridge to my childhood and enabled creative play.

From Traditional Landscapes to Expanded Sceneries

Even if I now see playfulness in landscapes, it took me a long time to realize that traditional landscape painting can be expanded. You can choose to express a real place, but make a completely own interpretation of it.

Return of the Summer Cloud, oil on canvas, by Paivi Eerola, Finland.
“Return of the Summer Cloud,” oil on canvas, 2023. inspired by the old gardens of the area where I live. See this post to read more about this painting and making the fantasy out of your surroundings.

For me, watercolors have played a key role in this realization. In 2018, I started making small panorama paintings, in which I painted holiday travel memories, picking up details here and there from the photos as if reconstructing the place.

Small watercolor panoramas. See more watercolor sceneries by Paivi Eerola!

See this post to read more about these watercolor panoramas!

Holding a small watercolor painting.

I also had a small sketchbook where I made watercolor sceneries, some realistic, some fantasy. See this post to watch a video about keeping a watercolor diary!

Florence, Italy in a watercolor journal. By Paivi Eerola.
Florence, Italy – From the course Watercolor Journey

And of course, I also made the course Watercolor Journey from my insights.

In this course, you travel between imagination, memories, and reality. >> Buy here!

The Journey Continues

At the moment I am painting a small ditch, from which I have grown a beautiful landscape on a large canvas.

By the ditch.

In the painting, a lot is happening and nothing is static or insignificant.

Oil painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola.
Oil painting in progress.

In art, the only limit is our imagination. It doesn’t matter where we live, in our paintings we can make it the place we want to travel to next!

Dreamy Watercolor Flowers

I’ve been down with bad flu and haven’t been able to blog for the past week. But now I have recovered and continue the spring blog post series, where I go through techniques and themes that have been important in my artistic development. This week the topic is watercolors, flowers, and expressing dreaminess.

Watercolor roses, a digital watercolor painting in Procreate, by Paivi Eerola.
Watercolor Roses – A digital painting in Procreate.

Flower is a popular subject in art and I also like painting flowers very much. I don’t use models, I paint abstract shapes that look like flowers.

What Makes a Flower Dreamy?

In 2019, I painted a lot of flower-themed watercolors and then I thought about what flowers are all about for me.

Painting dreamy watercolor flowers. "Long Hot Summer", a watercolor painting, Paivi Eerola, 2019.
Long Hot Summer, watercolor, 2019.

The species of flower is not important to me. I often paint flowers that have no real equivalent. For me, the interesting thing about flowers is their relationship with light.

After Winter, a floral watercolor painting, Paivi Eerola, 2019.
After Winter, watercolor, 2019.

Without light, there are no flowers. The light continues the flower and makes it bigger and more beautiful.

Spring crocuses
Look at the light and shadows in these spring crocuses! The variation of darkness and lightness can be seen as loose and random. There’s no need to overanalyze it to create a dreamy flower picture.

When you paint light, dreamy watercolor flowers grow into the picture as if by themselves.

Using ProCreate and Apple Pencil to paint dreamy watercolor flowers.

In ProCreate, it’s easy to zoom in and out, pick colors, and change brushes. Apple Pencil is also surprisingly pleasant to work with.

In real watercolors, splashing water more fun, but maintaining lightness is more challenging, especially when you only use the whiteness of the paper.

Adjusting details of a large floral watercolor painting.

Then you start with light layers and gradually add color. It’s surprising how much you can fix and fine-tune the details when working this way.

Dreamy Flowers by the Water

A digital flower painting in ProCreate using the default brushes.
Watercolor Poppies – A digital painting in ProCreate.

Another important element is water. That’s why flowers and watercolors go well together. Light, water, and flowers are a refreshing combination. I try to bring the element of water into the picture in one way or another.

Life Gives Me Plenty, dreamy watercolor flowers, Päivi Eerola, 2019.
Life Gives Me Plenty, watercolor, 2019.

I used to paint a lot of vases, but nowadays flowers grow more freely near water.

The Spring of Dreams, oil on canvas, Paivi Eerola, 2022.
“The Spring of Dreams”, oil on canvas, 2022. Oil paints have more substance and the overall impression is heavier than in watercolor.

I think that when a plant blooms, it dreams – just like we do when we make art!

Floral Fantasies – Paint Dreamy Watercolor Flowers!

For all flower lovers, I have a flower painting course Floral Fantasies, from which the watercolor part can also be purchased separately.

Floral Fantasies, an online course about painting dreamy watercolor flowers.
One of the projects of Floral Fantasies – dreamy florals in a vase

Floral Fantasies – Intuitive and loose approach to flowers – Buy here!

Response from the Universe

This week, I have exciting news and talk about life’s big decisions.

In the spring, I will only paint canvas, but later this year, in addition to that, I will also paint the virtual world! Namely, I have received a part-time 1-year grant from the Finnish Cultural Foundation to produce a digital, three-dimensional artwork called Unknown Land.

A grant from the Finnish Cultural Foundation

This is an excerpt of the application that I sent last fall to the foundation.

In my works, I search for a solution to the problems of the external world through the root causes, so strengthening the inner power of a person. By inner power, I refer to imagination and intuition – the human ability to imagine and sense the future. The future is an unknown land.

We can think of this unknown land as a new untouched continent. When we arrive there, everything seems like a newly born fantasy at first, but soon, we will see that this is not the case – only the emphasis has changed. Things emerge from the past, the meaning of which we have previously underestimated. In an unknown land, we are in a state where we no longer want to return to the past, but on the other hand, we cannot escape it. Then it is possible to see the old shadows in a new light and make an effort from that to the new one. Like my paintings, we, therefore, travel between the future and the past – the abstract and representational.

In the project, I will create an interactive virtual reality artwork based on my oil paintings. The project has many kinds of computer work – digital painting, 3D modeling, programming, testing, etc. So, things that feel more like my past self than the current one.

Past’s Big Decisions

Let’s rewind to the 1980s when I was making big decisions in my life. My father had just died. I was engaged but not in love. I sent applications to universities and got accepted by them all. Although I tried not to think about it in the picture below, I knew this would happen: I would move far away to the south to study technology, I would not marry the guy I was engaged to, and I would leave art – at least for a while.

Making big decisions in the 1980s

I had wanted to be an artist but didn’t think the art schools would be as accepting as the universities. I had self-evaluated my skills and talent, which weren’t where they should have been. When I said no to art, I got yes to many good things: intelligent ideas, challenging jobs, better income, etc. I was fascinated by computers, and I believed that the universe wanted me to study software engineering.

But later, it dawned on me that the universe is not quite that simple.

Worlds Are Fighting Over You

Even if I am not a big believer in destiny, I believe that there are worlds that fight over you. No matter how depressed on unpopular you feel at times, remember that some worlds would always do anything to win your heart. And even if you shout to the universe and it remains silent, the worlds are still there for you, waiting for the right moment.

Talviyön runoelma - Winter Night's Poem, oil on canvas, 60 x 80 cm, 2022. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.
Talviyön runoelma – Winter Night’s Poem, oil on canvas, 60 x 80 cm, 2022.

Art didn’t give up on me even if Technology won the battle in the 1980s. There have been big fights since. Last fall, just when Art thought that Technology had been beaten for good, I got excited about VR – virtual reality. Art and Technology have their own ways of capturing my attention. Art is like the beast of my inner world, demanding attention and energy. Technology always attacks outside – sends a few inspiring lines to read about innovations, an abbreviation to figure out, or an invitation to a special event for nerds.

“I will let the universe decide,” I told myself when I wrote the application. But so it happened that the two worlds that had been fighting over me for all my life finally agreed to come together. My life’s big decisions make sense now.

Changes Will Come

I will start the exciting new project in the fall. It will take a lot of my time, and changes will come, but I don’t want to think about them yet. I am painting for the next exhibitions and leading the class Doll World this spring. Then it’s time for Art and Technology to collide.

Butterfly fairies illustration by Paivi Eerola.
The fairies and butterflies from Doll World and the frame from Magical Inkdom

What are the worlds that are fighting over you? Tell us – leave a comment!

Scroll to top