Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Painting Moss and Coloring Green

This week is dedicated to moss and all the shades of green!

The Echo of Moss - Sammaleen kaiku. An oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland.
The Echo of Moss – Sammaleen kaiku, 60 x 80 cm, oil on canvas

Inspired by Moss

For some gardens, moss is a bad thing, but my husband and I always get delighted when we see moss appearing. It’s like velvet, an ancient treasure, woven hundreds of years ago and still vivid and strong.

Last month, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book called The Signature of All Things. The protagonist Alma was a moss researcher and the space where she worked and stored her samples felt inspiring because it seemed to be a world of its own. The Finnish title for the book is Tämä kokonainen maailmani – “this whole world of mine,” and I think it describes both the book and moss brilliantly.

Making of The Echo of Moss

In this painting “The Echo of Moss,” I have wanted to express the two sides of moss – how it enables life but also gently connects us with death. Watch the video to see how it progressed step by step!

I painted this piece in oils in two separate sessions. There was a week of drying time between them. I am not always that quick, but this time I was in the flow state before making the first stroke. Probably because the subject felt both inspiring and familiar, and I love the color green.

Painting and Coloring Moss

Moss is not difficult to paint or draw. You only need softly colored variegated green in the background and then randomly placed dots or short lines on the top. Here’s an example in watercolor.

Painting moss in watercolor.

This piece is a sample from my watercolor class Magical Forest which has a lesson on painting moss.

When working with colored pencils, color a variety of greens in different directions so that single strokes are not visible. You can use browns, blacks, yellows, and blues in layers to get a wide range of warm green shades. No outlines are needed.

Drawing moss in colored pencils.

To get natural-looking spotting, close your eyes and tap your pencil randomly on the paper.

Green Green Green!

Green is my favorite color nowadays. “Every painting can’t be green, Paivi, we want variety,” I said to myself before I started painting this one. I was just like my mother who used to give permission and then remind me that it can’t be expected to happen regularly. “Yes, mother, but I want to be a goddess of green!”

Paivi Eerola and her oil painting "The Echo of Moss"

“Everything is green,” said my husband when I asked him to take this photo.

Paivi Eerola and her painting The Echo of Moss in the garden.

“It’s intentional!” I said to him.
I hope that this post inspires you to explore moss and different shades of green!

P.S. Speaking of color, one of my classes, Planet Color, is retiring on Sept 30.

Planet Color, a painting class for beginners.

If you are a beginner in painting and want to use acrylic paints more, for example, in your art journals, check this class! Planet Color is now more than 50% OFF before it goes away! >> Buy here!

Colored Pencil Blogger – A Video Blog Post!

This week, I have a video blog for you. It’s full of art inspiration, especially if you want to fall in love with colored pencils.

Colored pencil journal spread by Paivi Eerola, a colored pencil blogger. Watch her video to get more colored pencil inspiration.
This is one of the projects that I show in the video.

Stories and Inspiration – Watch the Video!

I decided that I have blogged about colored pencils so much that I can call myself a colored pencil blogger!

The video is longer than what I usually record. Is a 30-minute video too much? Tell me what you think!

Links to the Related Blog Posts

Posts about the colored pencil projects shown in the video:

Posts about the paintings shown in the video:

How Your Personal Story is Related to Your Art

This week, I share how my newest painting was born. At the same time, I talk about how the artist’s personal story affects the outcome.

Unelmien kevät - The Spring of Dreams, 40 x 50 cm, oil on canvas, by Paivi Eerola, Finland
Unelmien kevät – The Spring of Dreams, 40 x 50 cm, oil on canvas

My paintings usually reflect the current season. But now, when there’s a fall in Finland, something springy appeared on my canvas. I call this one “The Spring of Dreams.”

Observing a Flower – Engineer’s and Romantic’s Approaches

Last spring was beautiful. The apple and cherry trees were blossoming.

Apple and cherry trees blossoming.

And with the early summer came wonderful irises.

Purple irises in the garden.

I often take photos in the garden and examine the plants. As a former engineer, I try to see how they are constructed. Not how the petals are attached and such, but how the light constructs the flower, adding its own brushmark to it. As a romantic, I try to see a face of a flower. I look at it like it would be an animal or a human – like it has a name and a history. I am not searching for its eyes but trying to sense its needs and dreams.

This way, I don’t need to copy photos but can paint freely and intuitively. Then when random shapes begin to look like a lighted plant, I try to give it what it wants, even if it’s often a species that doesn’t even exist.

The Fight Between Too Stiff and Too Messy

However, the painting process is not always as straightforward as it sounds. Often the engineer adds something stiff, and the romantic wipes it off. Then the romantic makes a mess, and the engineer tries to clean it.

Wiping off paint. Painting in progress. Bringing in the personal story.

The engineer in me likes to build things with a brush: “There’s a chair, look!”

A detail of an abstract painting in progress.

The romantic in me likes leaves and swirls more.

Artistic Direction and Setting Guidelines

To stop the fights, I gave an artistic direction that set challenges for both of them: “We will be making a dreamy floral that has purple. The painting should fit a modern, feminine home that has some rustic elements as well.” Both the engineer and the romantic understand had a common understanding of style when picturing a space where the painting should fit. When I use this method, I choose a location in my home or a picture in an interior design book, or a photo found on Instagram.

Abstract floral painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola, Finland. Read more about her personal story.

When I was studying industrial design, these kinds of simple and concrete guidelines were called design drivers. Design drivers are different from design principles. Design principles are general guidelines to make your image more expressive and aesthetic. Design drivers are project-based and loosely define the outcome.

A detail of Unelmien kevät - The Spring of Dreams, 40 x 50 cm, oil on canvas, by Paivi Eerola, Finland. Setting design drivers for art and how they relate to your personal story.

Design drivers prevent me from painting this and that, but I try to make them so general that I can get creative and freely express myself. For example, the requirement to use purple in a painting is not a big limitation.

Personal Story and Art Projects

Behind design drivers, there’s a more general foundation, an artistic vision. My paintings always lean toward the past and have a historical feel. As an artist, I want to combine the past and the present in an uplifting way, creating a fantasy of immortality for the interior space. Because I lost both of my parents at a young age, I never thought I would live old. This way, my artistic vision, and personal story are connected.

Paivi Eerola and her oil painting Unelmien kevät - The Spring of Dreams. Read more about her personal story and process of making abstract florals.

I claim that art-making has many layers. It’s not only about the process, techniques, or assignment. The artistic vision and the personal story matter as well. You always have a chance to bring them in, whether you are painting or drawing. For example, if a course sets the starting point, the creative challenge is how to include your artistic vision and story in the projects. This time, rather than listing things you love, go deeper and think about your struggles. How do they define what you want to achieve in art?

Draw a Coloring Page and Color It Creatively!

This week, we draw a coloring page and color it creatively.

Fall Is Coming - an illustration by Paivi Eerola. See how this was first drawn as a coloring page!
Fall is Coming!

Inspiration from an Artist Friend Eeva Nikunen

This blog post is inspired by my artist friend Eeva Nikunen. She is a master at drawing coloring pages. She has many self-published books, and just recently, she drew the Alice in Wonderland coloring book for a famous British company Colouring Heaven. I especially love Eeva’s illustrations of men, and her drawing skills are superior, much further than mine. Of the two of us, she is more of an illustrator while I am a painter, but we both alternate with drawing and painting.

Inspiration from Historical Styles

The Victorian era inspires Eeva, and I love it too. In 2020, I illustrated a book called Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers. It had over 60 Victorian-style line drawings and one simple coloring page as well. I have used a similar drawing style in the classes Animal Inkdom and Magical Inkdom.

Animal Inkdom by Paivi Eerola. A victorian-style line drawing.
One of the projects from the class Animal Inkdom, before coloring.

I also like Art Nouveau and Alphonse Mucha‘s illustrations. See this old blog post from 2015 where I draw in Art Nouveau style!

Art Nouveau style drawing.

The blog post has a short drawing video too.

Art Nouveau has inspired me to create a set of coloring pages for the e-book Coloring Freely. Here are some samples of them.

Line drawings for coloring pages. From the book Coloring Freely by Paivi Eerola.
Illustrations from the e-book Coloring Freely.

Let’s Draw a Coloring Page!

There are great programs for drawing coloring pages like ProCreate and Adobe Illustrator. I like these programs, but I like to keep drawing with pens and pencils too. So let’s look at how to draw a coloring page by hand!

I started with a pencil, and the focus was first on the pose. When I had a rough idea of a woman romantically entering a scenery, I drew over the pencil lines with a black drawing pen. I like to use ink pens because I draw better when I can’t erase the lines. It makes me concentrate more, and my hand becomes steadier.

The sketch for the pose is number 1 in the photo. I think many of you would just throw it in the trash and think that the project is a disaster, but the secret is to keep going by tracing the sketch to another paper.

Many versions of the same coloring page: sketches, final version and a print on unbleached paper.
Many versions of the same coloring page: 1-3) sketches, 4) the final page, and 5) the print of the final page. Click to see a bigger image!

When tracing the old lines, you will get more ideas and new energy for adjusting the drawing. My second sketch had more elements, and I also started thinking about the facial expression of the character. When I ran out of ideas, I just drew hearts. Then I colored the sketch a bit to think about what the general idea of the image could be.

I like to develop ideas by drawing and coloring, not by thinking only. Many say they have images in their head, but mine are often too vague or too traditional. Drawing makes me more inventive and detailed. So, in the third sketch, the hearts were gone, and the lady had a bag, a leaf skirt, and a circle behind her. As you can see from the picture above, I threw the sketch away, but then when I thought about the blog post, I dug it out from the bin for the photo!

Here’s the third sketch without colors and the final version that I drew after coloring the third one for some time.

A sketch for the coloring page and the final version. See how to draw a coloring page!
A sketch and the final version of the coloring page.

The final drawing is about saying goodbye to summer and hello to fall. The bag symbolizes summer and the circle became a giant pumpkin. If you compare my lines between the sketches, they become more delicate and detailed towards the end. The first sketch is a clumsy thing, but by redrawing the lady several times, I was able to make the design more flowing. Straight lines became curvier and curves got more notches, making the shapes more interesting. By leaving some of the elements visible only partly, the image looks more coherent and less floating.

Choosing Paper for Drawing and Coloring

The thin and smooth marker paper makes tracing easy. I got to know it when I was studying as an industrial designer. Art supply stores sell it. For coloring, I prefer thicker paper, so I scanned the image and printed it on a brown drawing paper.

Making a coloring page. Papers for sketching a coloring.
Translucent marker paper for the drawing and thicker paper for the printed page.

Unbleached paper allows me to color a bit more carelessly and playing with pastels and whites is more fun.

Creative Coloring

An inspiring coloring page is not too detailed. I like pages that have some detailed elements, like the bag in mine, but that also have plenty of space for additional ideas. Then the coloring page can be treated as a foundation for creative coloring. For example, my page has pretty empty hem, and I can have fun by coloring freely – creating color changes and motifs that make the design more rich and stylish.

Coloring a hand-drawn coloring page.

I also like to color over the lines so that coloring extends the original design.

Creative coloring of a coloring page with colored pencils.

Compare the coloring page and the colored version below to see the additions made with colored pencils only!

A coloring page and the colored version.

With colors, you can also change the style of the drawing. I think mine looks quite Alphonse Mucha without colors, but after coloring, less so. I like coloring shadows and making the design less flat than what Art Nouveau had.

The Intuitive Part of Intentional Art

After finishing a drawing that was born pretty intentionally, I like to ponder what had initiated it. I found this photo on my phone, taken a couple of days ago. The two-colored leaves looked so beautiful and bittersweet to me that I had snapped a picture of them.

Fall leaves.

I am sad that summer is over but also acknowledge that summers and falls are not separate. One carries the other. It’s not fall’s fault that the summer is gone, and the present that the summer gave is dear to her.

A detail of an illustration, drawn and colored by Paivi Eerola, Finland.

I hope this post inspires you to draw a coloring page through multiple sketches and then creatively color it!

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