Create Fantastic Art!

Fly to your imagination and paint the emotion.

Peony and Parakeet

What to Paint on Canvas?

This week, I invite you to think about what you should paint. It’s a general question and applies to any medium, but if you have purchased a canvas, the pressure is even higher. My story starts with dogs, and even if they don’t seem to match with the painting, they do. Read the story!

Syvällä soi - Sounds in the Deep, an oil painting on canvas by Paivi Eerola.
“Syvällä soi – Sounds in the Deep”, oil on canvas, 50 x 70 cm

Childhood Without Dog of My Own

If I had to choose one thing that dominated my childhood, it would be the yearning for a dog. When my sister was pushing me in a stroller, I was pointing and screaming “hauva,” which a Finnish word for “doggie.” “How could you instantly recognize a dog from any other animal no matter how it looked,” she wondered.

My father was a policeman, and he had trained two german shepherds a long time before I was born. But a family photo album had a few photos. “Jumi,” was the name of the more handsome one, and I must have drawn him hundreds of times with a trembling hand of a toddler. I pictured the dog standing on the top of the mountain in a sunset. It was an exotic view because there weren’t any mountains in the countryside of eastern Finland. I only saw them if I kneed down, looked up, and stretched my imagination.

Walking in Nature with Imagination

My envy and admiration for all people who had dogs grew steadily, and at the age of five, I had several that were in constant observation. One of them was Kaisa, a vet whose mother lived in a big apartment building next to our house. She had a Finnish spitz and sometimes kindly invited the children of the neighborhood for a forest walk. We were a small and noisy crowd. Everyone had their turn to hold the leash, and even if it was only a few minutes, I still remember how powerful I felt.

So even as a young teenager, I imagined dogs around me whenever I went for a walk. The boring life in a small town became much more bearable when I didn’t have to look around, but only to a close distance. There they were, two brown labrador retrievers that behaved exceptionally well no matter where I took them.

Paivi's childhood photo with roses

I preferred labradors because the royal family of England bred them. I had always wanted to be the queen of England, so my labradors certainly originated from Sandringham. My friend Anne had got a hold of a catalog of the Crufts dog show, and I excitedly picked the parents for mine. Every time I drew or knitted a dog, I tried to invent the best kennel name for me. “Starway’s” was one of my favorites. By then, my sister had married a man who had a spaniel, and from the spaniel club magazines, I found a new favorite breed: an American cocker spaniel.

Goodbye, Boredom!

The older I got, the more evident it became that I would leave my home town. Instead of frustratedly strolling in the fields and woods of the east, I would be happily hurrying on the busy streets of the south. And not alone, but with an American cocker spaniel of my own!

I would gladly say goodbye to lazy hot summer days when there was nothing else to do than examine the tussocks. When I once pointed them to my mother, she quietly said that our grass wasn’t proper like the apartment building had. But I found it much better. Instead of staring at individual blades, my imagination made wonders from the tussocks. They were luxurious carpets, cushions, and chairs, and when they looked up, I greeted them back. My grass tussocks were like dogs who had them – a flock that was always around and willing to join whatever I did.

When I got my first dog, I was already living in the south. It was an American cocker spaniel, of course. I lived in a flat, but between high buildings, there was a small wood. Unlike me, Anja had been born in an urban environment, and everything in nature wondered her. When she jumped back in surprise after seeing an ant, I realized that I was a country girl – no matter how much I loved palaces!

My next dogs have been beagles. With them, I am back in the world where looking down and examining closely is highly appreciated. Tussocks, hays, wildflowers, and brooks have returned.

What to Paint on Canvas?

In my artistic path from childhood to this day, I have thought that I should create the luxury that I don’t have. That my creativity is at its best when it produces what I miss. But in 2020, when the world quieted down, humble tussocks saw their moment. “Stop haunting me, you don’t even have a voice,” I whispered to them. “We have – and you used to listen, remember?” they responded.

And yes, when I pick the brush, I hear them again. Instead of trying to master the visual state of what I know very little of, I am painting the sounds in the deep. All that time when I wanted to be the queen of Sandringham labradors, I was, and I still am – a herder of mixed-breed tussocks!

Oil painting on canvas

How about You – What Should You Paint?

What you need to paint is not what you want to get and be, but what you have always got and been. The solution is not to find and paint what you love but to look in the opposite direction, find what’s been the most ordinary for you, even if it wouldn’t be that for others. The solution is not to paint how things look, but how they sound, smell, taste, and feel. In the book Point and Line to Plane, Wassily Kandinsky talks about releasing the inner sound of a shape.

Abstract painting in progress. Read more about what to paint on canvas.

With the tussocks, the teachings of the abstract masters Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky have been groundbreaking to me. They have enabled me to paint more freely than ever and I have also built a class Floral Freedom from these teachings. Floral Freedom is especially for you, who wants the painting to look loose and naturally abstract, but who hasn’t find satisfactory results from “just making a mess.”

Good Accidents – When to Improvise

Painting in the studio

Art is never about just making a mess. Artists who say so are just unable to put it into words. Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee were not only exceptional painters but also exceptional teachers. They defined abstract art in methods and diagrams. In Floral Freedom, you get their theories in an easily understandable form and use them to paint flowers.

In this video (after the first two minutes), Helen Mirren talks about Wassily Kandinsky’s art. She first assumed Kandinsky’s work was just improvisation – “instinctive and improvisational and wild and of the moment,” but later learned that his work is constructed with care and thought.

Here’s how she says this:

I can also relate to what Helen Mirren says about acting – that you have to give the impression of the improvisation and naturalness and learn what’s a good accident. But I also have the definition of a good accident in visual art: it’s what you have used to see and know.

I feel that I know everything about the soul of grass tussocks. When I paint them, I don’t have to worry about people not liking them, not even if someone can paint them better. This grass is not any grass but how a 5-year old Paivi saw it, walked on it, and what she imagined from it.

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

I paint sounds of plants as I hear them, freely and without references. I don’t plan what to paint on a canvas, and I don’t follow any image of my mind. It feels like improvisation, but the process is technical and systematic. One shape follows another and I dive deep into the painting, creating and releasing tensions.

I am filled with excitement and emotion, but work systematically and intentionally, translating from spiritual to visual.

Syvällä soi - Sounds in the Deep, an oil painting on canvas by Paivi Eerola.

I really enjoyed painting this one – the first one of the new year! It’s called “Syvällä soi” which is a bit difficult to translate in English but it means that some are playing instruments or singing in the deep so the translation could be “Sounds in the Deep.”

Floral Freedom – Paint Dreamy Florals to Free Your Spirit

Floral Freedom, online art class by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Painting abstract florals in acrylics.

Come to learn the theories behind abstract art, and paint flowers with me – Sign up for Floral Freedom! We use acrylic paints for the projects. The class has already started, but you can still hop in. You will get the published lessons right away, and you have plenty of time to catch up and connect with me and the community. This class is comprehensive, and suitable for self-study too. Sign up now!

Painting an Intuitive Fantasy

This week, I have a new fantasy painting, and I also share tips about selecting colors.

"Arotuuli / Steppe Wind", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read her post about this intuitive fantasy painting!

This painting is called “Arotuuli,” which is “Steppe Wind” in English. “Aro” must be one of the few words that are shorter in Finnish than in English, as Finnish words are often very long. We write compound words without space, so it makes words look even longer.

Intuitive Fantasy Painting – Two Tips for the Beginning

I like to paint intuitively, and even if this painting has horses and a woman, it started with random strokes and abstract blocks, and I had no other idea than a secret wish to be able to include a horse at some point.

Tip 1 – Dark and Light

When filling the canvas with color, I like to make dark and light color mixes so that the 3-dimensional effect tickles my imagination.

Starting an intuitive painting. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Tip 2 – Less Can Be More

I also like to pick a narrow selection of colors so that the elements look like they are exposed to the same light. In this painting, I mostly used Phthalo Turquoise, Alizarin Crimson, Yellowish Green, and Titanium White. When mixing colors, less can be more!

A Couple of My Favorite Colors

I am especially fond of Yellowish Green and Alizarin Crimson, and I recommend them warmly. Let’s talk about them a bit more.

Color 1 – Yellowish Green

Yellowish Green is a color mix manufactured by Schminke Primacryl. I bought this tube because I love Daniel Smith’s Rich Green Gold in watercolors, and I wanted to have a similar tone in acrylics. I like colors that remind me of lemons and lime fruits – one of the most beautiful things in the world – and I always find use for yellows. This color is like two colors in one tube: it works very well with the mixes that require yellow, but it also produces beautiful greens with blues.

Yellowish Green by Schminke PrimAcryl.

Color 2 – Alizarin Crimson

Alizarin Crimson is an ugly red. I don’t think you would buy it if you didn’t know more about it. It looks like dried blood but works very well with color mixes. White reveals its gentler side, and when mixed with blues, you can get beautiful blacks, browns, and dark purples. It produces a pleasant and quite sunny orange with yellows, and in general, it’s a workhorse, always willing to step in.

Alizarin Crimson, a beautiful red for color mixes. Manufactured by Golden Acrylics.

Alizarin Crimson was originally manufactured from madder, but these old organic dyes faded or changed within time, so nowadays we use synthetic substitutes. I found this color in oils first. Schminke’s oil paint is called “Alizarin Madder Lake”. My tube, manufactured by Golden, is “Alizarin Crimson Hue”. Alizarin Crimson is sometimes called “Madder Lake” or “Alizarin Red,” and the tone may vary. Pick the darkest and ugliest one!

If you are a color nerd, Bright Earth by Philip Ball is a comprehensive book about pigments and their origin.

Here’s the painting before I started adding the figures. The image shows well how Yellowish Green and Alizarin Crimson work in color mixes.

An intuitive acrylic painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Intuitive Fantasy Shape by Shape

I painted the woman and the horses so that they are partly abstract and partly realistic. Some shapes exist just because they look beautiful, others because they are building blocks for the figures.

Painting details shape by shape. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here are some details of the finished painting. The more you zoom in, the more abstract the painting looks.

A detail of "Arotuuli / Steppe Wind", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. This painting has three horses.
A detail of "Arotuuli / Steppe Wind", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
A detail of "Arotuuli / Steppe Wind", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
A detail of "Arotuuli / Steppe Wind", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s the whole painting again.

I wanted to keep the colors light and bright to create an airy impression.

Intuitive Fantasy Painting – Big or Small?

“Arotuuli” is one of my biggest paintings. It’s 60 x 60 cm (about 23,5 x 23,5 inches) and painted on a stretched, fairly thick canvas. I like painting on smooth surfaces. My style is detailed, and the coarse structure doesn’t go well with it. The painting was started about a month ago, and I took few-hour sessions now and then. It’s not as slow as you would think, because the small strokes aren’t as tiny as with small pieces. Sometimes we produce clumsy just because we select a small size. For me, the bigger size has helped to create dynamic scenes rather than static portraits. “Arotuuli” continues the previous bigger painting “Paratiisi / Paradise.”

Paivi Eerola and her intuitive fantasy painting "Arotuuli / Steppe Wind."

But next week, something much smaller, even if I do have a new big canvas waiting!

Art Journal Video – Adding Text and Layers to Your Pages

This week is all about art journal inspiration. You see more spreads from the art journal I started a couple of weeks ago, and there’s also a video of making the spread below.

Adding text to art journal pages by Peony and Parakeet. Using alcohol ink with printed text blocks.

The world needs the kind of magic⁣
⁣where those who are seen as weak appear strong,⁣
⁣and where the future is gentler than the present.
⁣Let’s create that magic!⁣

Including Text in Art Journal Pages

I have a pile of these kinds of small stories about art and imagination. Or maybe I should say “a feed” instead of “a pile” because I post them regularly on Peony and Parakeet’s Facebook page. I have always liked writing, and I have a natural urge to share thoughts about my passion. So it hit me that I should write more in my art journals too. And why not use those stories that are born so effortlessly every week?

Handwritten text on an art journal page. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I have always wanted to find a genre where I would belong in art.
I follow fantasy artists closely because I love their openness and enthusiasm.
But I guess my genre would be defined more by the process rather than by the result.
Between every painting, I need internal processing by drawing, painting, and writing.
While many artists have sketchbooks, mine are more like creative diaries.
They don’t sketch the next painting but move my thoughts towards it.
We art journalers meet ourselves when we open our books.
Like thoughts, some pages are less finished, some more,
and when the journal is full, one chapter in life comes to an end.

Art Journal Pages with Typed Text Blocks

After writing by hand, I decided to make the next page so that the text would be typed. Not that I hate my handwriting, vice versa, hand-written pages always look great. But when I was a child, I used to write a lot with an old Bijou, and I missed the typed look. I still have the old typewriter, but the possibility to play with the size and style of the letters, made me use a computer instead.

A layered mixed media art journal page by Peony and Parakeet.

Every person has an imaginary world where priorities and hierarchies change.
In my imagination, plants always win.
Every morning when I look at my houseplants,
remove dried leaves, change their position,
they not only maneuver my hands but take over my mind.
I have tried to battle against these modest and silent spirits, but they always win.
So, when I’m painting, I am at their service!

Here’s the spread with the two pages side by side.

Adding text to art journal pages by Peony and Parakeet.

In the second spread, I wanted to play with the orientation and the shape of the text blocks.

Adding text to art journal pages by Peony and Parakeet.

Art is not just about being in the present. You can ask questions like:
What would be possible if I were tens of years younger?
If I were somebody else?
If I traveled to any time and place?
Even: if the laws of physics were absent?
These questions may first have a bit bitter tone,
but in art, these ifs taste sweet.
Our real-life can be like living in a pot,
but through our imagination,
we can reach further.
No matter who you would not want to be in real life,
in the world of art, it’s all good.

Mixed Media Art Journal Pages

For the second spread, I printed a gouache painting that I had made for the class Decodashery on a sticky canvas and adhered it on the page.

Life in a Pot. A gouache painting with collage by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I really like the yellow-green circles, made with alcohol inks.

In this spread, I also used hand-drawn and hand-painted collage pieces made from the classes Magical Inkdom and Decodashery.

Magical art journal spread by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I added green to the cat so that it fits with the rest of the page.

Art Journal Magic – Watch the Video!

See the process of attaching printed text, using alcohol inks, and painting with acrylics more in detail by watching the video below!

I hope the video inspired you to fill your journals!

Draw animals and more: Animal Inkdom, Magical Inkdom
Paint decorative flowers and more: Decodashery

Intuitive Painting Step by Step

This week, we are creating an intuitive painting step by step. This project is more about following a process and mindset than trying to replicate my example.

"Deer to Dream" - an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Follow the step by step instructions for an intuitive painting like this!

I call this “Deer to Dream” because if you look at it from a distance, it looks like a bunch of flowers the view is more interesting when you find the deer. This is a small acrylic painting, 35 x 27 cm (about 13,5 x 10,5 inches).

Step 1 – Explore Mud – Paint a Background

Pick a few tubes and mix colors freely. Allow mud to be born!

Starting a painting. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Don’t expect clarity right from the beginning, but trust that the painting process will purify your mind. The muddy start will make you grounded.

Step 2 – Take a Flight – Paint a Flock

Intuitive painting step by step - Step 2. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

With a bit brighter tones, add strokes so that they make a stream across the painting. Paint dark shapes so that they group the strokes.

Keep the focus on expressing the movement rather than trying to create something accurate and realistic. The groups can be flowers or birds or anything that comes to your mind.

Intuitive painting in progress - Step 2. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Your spirit has raised from the mud and begun a journey to a new world.

Step 3 – Land Towards the Light – Add Bright Pastels to the Flock

Intuitive painting step by step - Step 3. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Mix white to the colors, and add bright strokes to the elements. They are now exposed to light, and the flight is getting closer to its destination.

Intuitive painting in progress - Step 3. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

You can leave the painting like this, but for me, intuitive painting is an adventure rather than a safe performance, something that includes risk and excitement, and we haven’t gone far enough yet. So, let’s keep painting!

Step 4 – Become Adventurous – Paint over the Elements

Intuitive painting step by step - Step 4. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

When we want to deepen the process, disruption is needed. Use a little bit more water and make brush strokes that partly cover what you have painted so far.

Intuitive painting in progress - Step 4. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

New layer is like an emotion that takes over. It makes the painting messier, but also freer and more open to new ideas.

Step 5 – Explore the Wilderness – Paint Details

Intuitive painting step by step - Step 5. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The painting is now like a wilderness, and you need to know its every corner. Slowly go through every small area and forget the big picture. Make paths from one element to another, allow some parts to become more intense than others, and add little spots and strokes where you want the eye to stop and admire the view.

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

Imagine that every shape has a personality and that it’s your mission to make the shapes interact with each other. Connections can be built so that they share a line, a color, or form.

In this step, you begin to experience creative freedom. At first, it’s like a smell that you become slowly aware of. It’s a possibility to take a new direction and follow your instinct. So again, let’s keep painting!

Step 6 – Dare to Dream – Meet a Spirit

Intuitive painting step by step - Step 6. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Dare to dream further than what you would expect in the beginning! Every painting has a spirit and your mission as an intuitive painter is to recognize it. Even if it’s you who created the painting, the spirit is free.

Feeling the presence of the painting’s spirit is often enough, but recently, I have dared to look at it to the eye and paint it too.

You may also want to read my previous post about artistic spirit!

"Deer to Dream" - an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Intuitive Painting Step by Step with Watercolors?

I used acrylic paints for the project but it’s possible to follow the process for watercolors too. Here are my additional tips for watercolors:

  • Start with lots of water and very light tones.
  • Let the painting dry between every step.
  • Slowly darken the color palette of the painting towards the last step.

More to Come – A Big Intuitive Painting in Progress

Artist Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet and her intuitive paintings.

I hope that you enjoyed this project! I also have a big intuitive painting in progress, and I am excited about how it has taken off. I will talk more about it in upcoming posts.

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