Peony and Parakeet

The Beauty of Science – Illustrating a Children’s Book

Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers, a cover illustration for the book of C.L. Hunt. Illustration by Paivi Eerola.

This week, I want to show an example of how we can use art to change the world. My example is about illustrating science so that it also appeals to those who love beauty and fantasy. When we talk about inclusiveness, we often talk about what words to use and how but rarely talk about the style of images. My questions for you this week are:

How could your art invite people to try new things or to think in a new way? How could your art make new people feel included right away?

Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers

Last fall, I was hired to illustrate a children’s book. It was a big project – well over 60 images and ornaments, including the illustration for the cover, shown above. The book is called “Fairy Experiments For Thinkers and Tinkerers” and its goal is to inspire young girls to explore science through fun experiments. The book hasn’t been published yet, but my client C.L. Hunt has an email list where you can sign up to get notified when the book goes on sale: www.fairyexperiments.com

Black-and-White Drawings in Victorian Style

The book combines fantasy and science in a fascinating way. My client wanted to have black-and-white hand-drawings with a Victorian feel.

Fairy Queen, an illustration for the book Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers, author C.L. Hunt, illustrator Paivi Eerola.

Illustrating the Feminine Beauty of Science

This project soon became close to my heart. As a child, I fell in love with science at school and then later, studied software engineering at The Helsinki University of Technology. Natural science, especially physics and mathematics have always interested me. As a young girl, I bought copper sulfate from a pharmacy because I thought it was so beautiful. I warmed it to make bigger crystals from the powder and loved the glow.

I have had a few women, teachers and mentors, who have supported me during my career in technology. But I have also always known, even as a young girl, that I was in a masculine world. The assignments and the culture often felt strange and yes – let’s say it aloud: not beautiful at all.

Science is not just bolts and levers, it’s also a world of glitter, shimmer, and sunsets. Nature’s transformations, the structure of the universe, and the fascinating microcosmos are full of aesthetics. And still, most science books don’t show that beauty, at least not in a feminine way.

In this book, my goal was to combine intelligence and beauty so that the feel of the images is inviting and light-hearted too.

Illustrations for the book Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers, author C.L. Hunt, illustrator Paivi Eerola.

I was excited when my client wanted to combine fairy fantasies and practical science experiments. We were on the same page from the very beginning. In the end, she summarized the project:

“Paivi understood and appreciated my project, and her enthusiasm has kept me motivated to keep working on it. The images are very well suited to my book, and their style is exactly what I was looking for. Paivi kept to her schedule, communicated well when I had questions, and I was really happy creating a shared vision with Paivi. I recommend her warmly.”

– C.L. Hunt, the author of Fairy Experiments For Thinkers & Tinkerers”

Illustrating Girl Power – Stepping away from a Passive Role

Even if we wanted to show the beauty of science, the fairies needed to be more than pretty faces and poses. In the illustrations, fairies take an active role and make the most of nature’s forces. I drew plain and classic dresses for the fairies so that action gets the attention.

Illustrating science for girls. Illustrations for the book Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers, author C.L. Hunt, illustrator Paivi Eerola.

My client also wanted to have a variety of ethnic groups so that every girl can feel that the book is for her.

An illustration for the book Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers, author C.L. Hunt, illustrator Paivi Eerola.

Illustrating Science with a Flair of Fantasy

In the manuscript, there were wonderful descriptions that built bridges between reality and fantasy. My job was not only to demonstrate the essentials of the experiment but also tie them with imagination.

Illustrations for the book Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers, author C.L. Hunt, illustrator Paivi Eerola.

In these illustrations, fairies rule and take care of the world but also have fun. The book is all about exploring life’s miracles like the circle of life with step-by-step instructions.

Illustrations for the book Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers, author C.L. Hunt, illustrator Paivi Eerola.

With the book, the child becomes part of the royal guard of fairies, so my job was also to design a badge that could be colored. Here’s the badge with the rest of the visual world.

Illustrating science for girls. Illustrations for the book Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers, author C.L. Hunt, illustrator Paivi Eerola.

Expressing Natural Science as Ornaments

My favorite part of the projects was to design ornaments for fairy families. I hand-drew them all and used a computer only to make them symmetric.

Drawing ornaments for the book Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers, author C.L. Hunt, illustrator Paivi Eerola.

These ornaments take ideas from the illustrations and express the major chapters in a decorative way. They mark the chapters and make the book look more Victorian.

Illustrating science for girls. Ornaments for the book Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers, author C.L. Hunt, illustrator Paivi Eerola.

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek to the upcoming book Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers by C.L. Hunt!

An illustration for the book Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers, author C.L. Hunt, illustrator Paivi Eerola. Read her post about illustrating science.

Learn to Draw with Me! I teach line-drawing techniques (+ using your imagination) in my classes Animal Inkdom and Magical Inkdom!

Hire Me as an Illustrator! See my portfolio in Hire an Illustrator!

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!

Magical Forest – New Class about Intuitive Art-Making – Early-Bird Sale!

"Valomio" - a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. See her intuitive art-making class Magical Forest!

“Valomio” – this is one of the pieces that I have painted for the new upcoming class called Magical Forest. This class is about painting watercolor fairies and nature’s spirits in their magical surroundings. We’ll combine both intentional and intuitive art-making, and dive deeper into four artist’s mindsets – Hope, Spirituality, Flow, and Curiosity. We’ll practice by drawing art journal or sketchbook pages, and then get looser in watercolor painting. Magical Forest is not about drawing or painting with references, but growing images from our imagination.

Watch the video below and reserve your spot!

The early-bird sale ends on Cyber Monday, Dec 2nd, 2019 (midnight PST). Reserve your spot now!

Embracing Artistic Origin – How to Make Images That Feel Genuine

Aquanora, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Finnish watercolorist. Read how she has become to embrace her artistic origin.

Here’s my recent watercolor painting called Aquanora (or “Akvanoora” if you say it in Finnish). I have always been passionate about art but never loved my paintings as much as I do now when I have been painting these wood spirits in watercolors (see this post and this one too).

I hope that this week’s post makes you ponder about your artistic origin. I claim that if you don’t recognize the origin when looking at your art, you don’t feel the connection with the images either.

My Cold and White Artistic Origin

The sad fact is that when I don’t paint, my life in Finland is about walking dogs and knitting. And most of the time, I dream about Europe’s glorious museums and palaces. Winters in Finland can be rough, and Stella and I don’t like them.

Finland in winter.

As you see from the photo, taken in winter a couple of years ago, Finland’s color is white. Not only winters are white, but Finnish people decorate their homes with white furniture. So even when it’s green and warm in summer, Finns stay cold in their white boxes. My home is considered very colorful, especially the bright yellow corridor gets glances. But recently, I have started to accept the Finn in me. I have come to love fresh white watercolor paper, filled with possibilities.

A watercolor painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

With watercolors, white has become my friend. Painting is like having a white fairy holding my hand, tightly at first, and then little by little she releases her grip.

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

Even if I would like to be the painter of the Renaissance palazzos, I am a Finn walking the dogs in bad weather, knowing the core of whiteness instead of gold.

Artistic Origin Can Be Opposite to Inspiration

We are often inspired by things that are new and exotic. Our origin can feel so common that it’s barely recognizable. It’s what we see and breathe every day and often, it’s what we want to escape when we create art. But the more I have created, I have started to think otherwise. Because I live observing moss and other nature’s wonders more than marble floors, maybe I should paint more of that greenness too.

Stone covered with moss.

Namely, when European nobility played minuets in the 17th century, Finnish savages were freezing and starving in the land of thousand lakes and forests. So we know our stones, mosses, and swamps – the language of our nature – better than musical notes or calligraphed letters.

A detail of a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read how she has come to accept her artistic origin.

When European priests and saints trooped on huge church halls, Finns believed in Tapio, the god of the forest. Even if old beliefs are only old stories anymore, maybe it’s no wonder that these little fairies of mine rise from nature sceneries.

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

I have always thought that my art should not be spiritual because I don’t want to offend anyone. I don’t have any particular religious view myself, and because of that, I haven’t felt eligible to create spiritual art. But recently I have found it impossible to separate nature, spirituality, and imagination from each other. Nature can be our church, and for our imagination, there’s no conflict of dressing a wood spirit in a Renaissance outfit. By bringing the noble (inspiration), the wild (origin), and the playful (creativity) together, it can all fall into place. Art is about freedom after all.

How does your origin show in your art?
How could you deepen the connection?

A sketchbook page spread by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Fairies and wood spirits. Read about giving more attention to your artistic origin.

Coming Up – New Watercolor Class!

My sketchbooks are full of ideas for the upcoming class. It will be about nature’s light, textures, and spirits. There are intentional drawing exercises with pencil and intuitive painting projects with watercolors. I am looking forward to being your guide in the woods of creativity and self-expression. The class will begin in January and the early-bird sale is soon on Black Friday weekend. So stay tuned!

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