Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

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!

Discovering a Character by Drawing

This week is about illustrating characters and discovering those that feel personal.

Country Girl illustration by Päivi Eerola.

Have you ever wanted to draw a face or a figure that would really touch your heart? I don’t only mean something that looks pretty on paper but someone that begins to speak to you when your eyes meet.

Starting from an Animal Figure

In the class Magical Inkdom, I mention the word “kissanukke” when we are drawing cats. Kissanukke is “cat doll” in English, but somehow I think it’s much funnier in Finnish. Say: kissanukke! The word is just hilarious.

Last week, I wondered why I think about that word so often. Maybe it’s a hint I should draw cats again. So, I picked a big smooth watercolor paper and a pencil to sketch a huge cat. I wanted to go big because I wanted the cat’s face to be large enough for working on facial features. I adjusted them for a long time with a pencil, and then with colored pencils. I wanted this kissanukke to be more than a doll – a living thing that speaks to me.

Drawing an animal character with colored pencils.

I love to use thick and smooth watercolor paper with colored pencils even when I don’t use water for the drawing.

Coloring details with crayons.

When the paper is big, it’s easy to dive deep into details and let them make the drawing more whimsical than the original sketch.

What’s Behind the Animal?

Story Hunter - a fairytale character by Paivi Eerola. Read more about discovering a character by drawing!

When Kissanukke was born, I asked her: “Who are you?” She said: “I am a hunter, and I can bring you anything you want!” I smiled at her: “What a magical cat you are, with the golden egg and all!” “I had two,” she said, “but the other one got missing when I tried to catch the geese. And I am no cat but a lion!”

Of course, she is a lion – how did I not see that before! I used to be a big fan of Joy Adamson and her lion Elsa as a child. No wonder my inner child has kept asking for cats!

Discovering Through a Different Pose

So, I thought, let’s draw another leijonanukke – lion doll – for the child. This time, I changed the pose so that the character would only need to glance sideways and wished that a shyer creature would appear.

Drawing with colored pencils. Whimsical colored pencil art in progress.

“Are you a hunter too?” I asked when discovering the new character. “No, I am an orchid whisperer! Shhh!”

Orchid Whisperer - an illustration by Paivi Eerola. Read more about discovering characters by drawing!

One of my orchids just stopped blooming, and I am eagerly waiting another to bloom. So, there’s a need for her too!

Illustrating characters with colored pencils. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Whisperer is smaller than Hunter. The small size also makes her look less finished in the pics. If you need to provide a hand drawing in a digital form, always draw larger than the asked size. The result looks neater that way.

Discovering a Human Character

This week, I went to the studio and gathered all the courage I got. “Hunter,” I said, “could you bring me a human that really touches my heart.”

And that’s how this little country girl came out – a true nature child!

A detail of the illustration Country Girl. By Paivi Eerola.

I didn’t use any references when drawing the girl and the cats. A reference can help us draw what’s expected but not what comes out naturally. References are great practice, and during the years, I have been practicing with them too. For example, in the class Innovative Portraits, we draw faces and use references creatively. But when discovering a character that feels like a soul mate, references become disturbing. Then it’s all about the connection with your inner self, traveling back in time for inspiration and forward in imagination.

Digital Pencil Work

I drew the girl on my iPad with Apple Pencil and the program called Procreate. I got these fancy tools as a birthday gift from my husband in February but have been waiting for the right moment to get to know them.

Drawing characters freely in Procreate using the Peppermint brush.

So far, I have mostly been using a simple digital brush called “Peppermint” that imitates a graphite pencil.

I will blog more about Procreate later, so it would be interesting to hear if you have used it. Also, if you have any questions, please let me know! However, if you are not into digital tools, don’t worry, I will keep on drawing with real pencils too!

Angel Drawing for the Inner Child

As a child, I had a collection of scrap reliefs – small pictures printed and cut from glossy paper. A very common one was a simple angel with a head between wings. This week, I created my version of an angel drawing.

Angel drawing by Päivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. See her blog post about making this one!

This is only a small piece on smooth watercolor paper, but the child in me likes it a lot!

My Approach to Drawing and Painting

My desire for art can be summed up in two parts. The first part is to go on an adventure by painting freely.

Painting freely from intuition. By paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

When I paint, I feel that it’s the only thing that I want to do and where I am good at.

But then, after washing the brushes, comes the second part. A child in me evokes and says: “Draw to me!” Like I often said to my father or to my sisters when I was only a few years old. The child doesn’t require much: “Something pretty!” (Watch a video about my inner child!)

Child’s Enthusiasm in Angel Drawing

I used to adore whatever my father or sisters drew. Now, similarly, I feel the acceptance of the child right from the beginning. No matter how I struggle with any detail, the child’s enthusiasm keeps me drawing.

Starting an angel drawing.

And even if I had just thought that I should only paint and do nothing else, drawing a small ornament feels as natural and enjoyable. The same creative stream seems to feed both parts of my artistic expression.

Coloring details after a rough pencil sketch.

A simple sketch gets more ideas when I start adding details. Coloring a halo with yellow feels boring, so I draw clouds, then a rainbow. An unwritten story begins to flow into the image.

Small Tweaks to a Simple Sketch Make the Angel Drawing

Creating colored pencil art by using imagination.

Simple shapes become more interesting when I keep drawing. Quick and simple wings get more decoration, and small adjustments to the face and hair add up.

Angel drawing in progress.

At best, I get the feeling that, like in painting, I can go in any direction and create a world of my own.

Adding details to an angel drawing.

This little weather angel became a treasure to my inner child even before it was finished.

Coloring an angel drawing.

And when I handed the angel to her, she was thrilled to have her in the collection.

Cutting out an angel drawing like it would be a scrap relief.

It feels that if I don’t cut the picture, it’s not ready for play!

Going Detailed with Colored Pencils

It has taken time to find colored pencil techniques to achieve similarly detailed touch like in Animal Inkdom and Magical Inkdom.

Boxes of handdrawn scrap reliefs by Peony and Parakeet.

Making small pieces with colored pencils is more challenging than with ink pens, but maybe it doesn’t matter. I remember having a huge paper doll as a child. So, I could go larger without disappointing the inner child!

Drawing scrap reliefs in colored pencils by Peony and parakeet.

What would you like to create for your inner child?

Butterfly Art and Beyond

This week, I have some butterfly art, stories from the past, and plenty of inspiration for art-making.

Butterfly art with colored pencils by Paivi Eerola.

Here’s the newest spread of my colored pencil journal. I think it’s a little different than the pages so far – more detailed at least! You can see most of the previous spreads in this video; tell me what you think!

With this butterfly fantasy, I want to take you more than a hundred years back in time – to the end of the 19th century when a famous Finnish artist Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946) painted Violets in a Japanese Vase in 1890.

Helene Schjerfbeck's flower painting Violets in a Japanese Vase.
Helene Schjerfbeck, Orvokkeja japanilaisessa maljakossa (Violets in a Japanese Vase). Oil on canvas. Size without the frame: 35 x 30 cm, 1890.

Although Helene wasn’t as famous back then, she had traveled and studied abroad. And now, she had just got back home after spending a year in Paris and England. After painting people, Helene was now drawn to make nature-themed pieces. It felt refreshing to change big and challenging portraits to small landscapes and still lives. Flowers became Helene’s consolation pieces. When she was sent to St. Petersburg to copy Russian masterpieces and thus bring educational reproductions to Finland (“here’s how the masters paint”), she painted flowers for her own joy in the evenings. (See Helene Schjerbeck’s later style and my adaptation for colored pencils in this blog post!)

I can relate to Helene. My main work is big oil paintings – abstract florals or landscapes – but I also make art that soothes and maintains rather than breaks through. While the first pieces of the new series are drying and waiting for their next layers, I feel drawn to the boxes of pencils.

Oil paintings in progress.
A couple of my oil paintings, still in progress.

At the beginning of the week, after painting the whole Sunday, I wanted to draw something just for me. “Butterflies!” my inner child asked.

Butterfly art with colored pencils. Drawing on a journal.

Here’s how far I got in one evening. This was before I traveled back in time to meet Helene – and another artist called Torsten Wasastjerna!

Fantasy Art in Villa Gyllenberg

In the middle of the week, my husband and I visited Villa Gyllenberg in Helsinki. It’s a museum that used to be the home of Signe and Ane Gyllenberg in the 20th century. The house was built in 1938, and it has a wonderful location near the sea.

Villa Gyllenberg, Helsinki. Art museum.

A part of the museum is a furnished old home with an extensive art collection, including Helene Schjerfbeck’s violet painting.

Villa Gyllenberg, Helsinki.

Just recently, Villa Gyllenberg got a new extension for art exhibitions. The new space has high walls and plenty of space, but still, there was something too big to fit there straight!

Falling Leaves, a huge oil painting by Torsten Wasastjerna, displayed in Villa Gyllenberg.

This is Torsten Wasastjerna’s oil painting Falling Leaves, made in 1897. It’s 550 cm high and 370 cm wide, one of the biggest Finnish paintings ever. My husband agreed to model beside it so that you get an idea of how big it is.

Inspired by Torsten Wasastjerna

Like Helene Schjerbeck, Torsten Wasastjerna (1863-1924) got an education in fine art and studied abroad too. But his consolation was fantasy. He did commission portraits to pay the bills but loved illustrating fairies and angels. He even wrote books. The first one was called Dröm och Värklighet – Dream and Reality.

Torsten Wasastjerna's book cover Dröm och Värklighet.

Torsten Wasastjerna’s fantasy world wasn’t as surreal as mine, but it felt close.

Fairy Tale Princess, an oil painting by Torsten Wasastjerna.
Torsten Wasastjerna: Sadun prinsessa – Fairy Tale Princess, 1895-1896. Oil on canvas, 106 x 162 cm.

When I got back home, I was inspired to work on the butterfly piece with much more detail than I first had planned.

Drawing butterfly art in colored pencils.

I added a person, a butterfly girl or a boy, to one of the wings.

Butterfly Art and Beyond

I am impressed by how dedicated Torsten was to his fantasy art, even if it was not valued by others.

A detail of the oil painting Fairy Tale Princess by Torsten Wasastjerna. Butterfly and a girl.
Torsten Wasastjerna: Sadun prinsessa – Fairy Tale Princess, a detail.

It made me think that I, too, can create “butterfly art” that goes beyond the butterflies – that challenges both my imagination and dedication.

So, I spent more hours than normally with this spread, adding details and then adjusting their shapes and colors.

Colored pencil inspiration.

It felt like my pencils reached a new level, getting closer to my heart than before.

Drawing and coloring butterflies with colored pencils.

The world that is naturally and effortlessly born in my paintings fed the more illustrative work too.

Colored pencil drawing in progress.

All this makes me think about how important it is to go to see art and use that for inner discussions: how am I different, what are my consolation pieces, and how do I show my dedication to art? Then butterfly art can go beyond butterflies in the same way as Helene’s violets are not just “violet art.”

A butterfly art spread in a colored pencil journal. By Päivi Eerola.

What do you think?

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