Peony and Parakeet

The Power of Boredom

When I was a child, my most prevalent feeling was boredom. It felt like childhood was a long wait for things to happen, life to start. I was at the mercy of others and dreamed of the time when I could do it all by myself.

Moments of boredom are necessary for creativity. Digital collage made of hand-drawn and hand-painted elements. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

At that time, in the 1970s, there was no iPad to keep me company. Instead, I often grabbed the only picture book from the shelf where my parents kept their books. It was a softcover book about old paintings. I was staring at Monet and Manet while my mother cooked us dinner. The book wasn’t big, and the images were small. But this way, culture was introduced to me at a young age. Having this one book on the shelf, my parents unknowingly affected my life’s journey.

I was browsing the book in a colorful living room.

It had yellow, orange and red textiles and a grey sofa. Later, the colors were changed to warm green, and brown. It was all fine before my mother bought greyish mint green curtains. She was exhilarated about the color and kept talking about how well mint green fitted with the rest of the decoration. I, in turn, was in shock – cool green doesn’t fit with the warm tones! Every time I was in that room, the curtains made me feel uncomfortable. I waited for the day to pick my own palette!

Enjoying colors. Digital art made of handpainted and handdrawn elements. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

My sisters were living in a red room. It also had white, so it was quite cheery, but I didn’t like the colors. Even the table had a red frame, and it bothered me quite a bit. When my sisters moved away, and the room became mine, my parents traveled to the nearest big town Joensuu to buy new wallpaper. And when they came back, surprisingly, my father, who never had anything to say about the colors, had chosen little yellow roses! “Aww … everything has to be changed to yellow now!” I cried. My mother agreed. They bought curtains that had yellow flowers, a yellow clock, a carpet that had yellow and brown, and sunny yellow bedcovers for the two beds that the room still had. 

Back to childhood. Watercolor painting and a photo of a clock. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet.
I still have that clock!

I was thinking about these colors all the time.

Did everything match? What I liked and what I didn’t like? I assumed that all people were similar, contemplating their color choices, walking around their homes, thinking about the tint of the curtains.

Digital art made from handpainted and handdrawn elements. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

My first art book got abandoned when I started using the local library. It had huge books filled with master paintings. For years, I sat in the library and waited for my life to begin. I admired the colors, and Picasso and Matisse became my favorites.

Boredom increases creativity. Digital art that uses hand-painted elements. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

At a young age, I knew that green is not only green. It could be muddy green or mint green or something between. And when I was accepted in the local icon-painting group, I also learned that there can be a strictly defined range of tones. It was so satisfying when my teacher told me that I had produced not only an acceptable but beautiful blue for the background. We all used the same amount of the same pigments, and still, every one of us had a slightly different blue. Amazing!

Digital art from hand-painted elements by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read about how her childhood affected her art!

When walking to my home from a group session held at the cellar of the nearest church, I looked at the dark starry sky and admired its deep shade against the white snow. The number of colors that I was able to see was growing all the time.

Illustration by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

All this seemed insignificant back then.

I was just filling the moments of boredom while waiting for my life to begin. And then, finally, I grew up, moved away, went to study, met my future husband, got a dog and a good job, built a career, bought a house. 

Paivi Eerola and her art.

But when I am creating, these events feel less important. Instead, I want to get back to those childhood years trying to remember every single dull moment and detail, including the tone of my yellow bedroom. I am dependable on that boredom. It defines me as an artist. Everything genuine and sincere in my art can be connected with my childhood, with the age of boredom.

Leaf Chapel, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet

Does your childhood show in your art? Do you aim for the images that you see other people create, or are you geared to finding your own? This is one of the carrying themes in Lesson 2 of Magical Forest, starting on February 1st.

Hop along! The class ends at the end of April, and you will get Lesson 1 right after the registration. >> Sign up here!

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!

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