Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Creative Take on Damask Motifs

This week, we look at damask motifs from a new perspective. I challenge you to make this traditional motif your own and use it in your art!

Colored pencil art inspired by decorative motifs. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

It all started from a dream I saw a few days ago. “You should wear more decorative clothes, Paivi,” I was telling myself. “Like the old historical dress that you had at a ball as a teenager.”

Green damask fabric

I still have the dress. It has damask motifs – woven ornamental patterns that seem to never go out of date (more about their history). The idea of perfecting not only the actual swirls but also the shapes between is a good drawing practice that doesn’t have to be boring at all!

Illustration inspired by damask motifs. Colored pencils art by Paivi Eerola.

This week, I played with colored pencils mostly, but in 2015, I made a mixed media piece called Rococo. So check out this post too!

Rococo, mixed media collage with damask motifs
Rococo, 2015

Damask Lady

The reason for my dream was an unfinished page in my colored pencil journal. I had started it at the end of last year but found it terribly uninspiring. I didn’t feel any connection with the figure, and she looked like someone had forced her to be there. In a way, that had happened. After a series of big paintings, I was knackered, as readers from the UK and Australia would describe. I had no motivation to take a brush and only a little to do something with colored pencils.

First, I added a bit of watercolor to cover white and then colored intuitively without any predefined ideas or models.

Sketching by coloring. A journal spread in progress.

Sometimes it’s just that when you are tired, it’s best to leave the piece and come back later, even if it would be a tiny spread in a small journal. After the dream, I knew what to do: play with damask motifs!

Damask lady illustration in a journal. Colored pencil art by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I feel drawn to this damask lady. She looks both curious and self-confident – everything I would like to be in this new year!

Looser Damask Motifs – Nature

I got so inspired by coloring the swirly lady that the next spread was born quickly. Again, first some watercolor splashes, and then details with colored pencils.

If you compare the flowery spread above with the portrait below, you see the change in looseness. The flower is much freer than the lady, but I like both. I like how damask motifs can be seen as a part of nature – snow on trees, water drops, butterfly wings and their spots. But I also like how they can be more architecture- and design-related and a part of human fantasies and mysteries.

Damask lady from a colored pencil diary of Paivi Eerola.

Which take do YOU like more?

Sketching a Damask Motif

Next, I wanted to go even further in stiffening the expression. I would design a damask-inspired motif so that there would be no looseness at all.

Designing a damask motif.

I started by sketching the motif in the middle of the spread, using the fold as a guide to achieving the required symmetry. In damask motifs, the negative – the shape of the background – is as important as the positive is. So after the careless sketch, I then went through the surrounding area and adjusted its swirls.

Sketching a damask motif.

This motif felt like a forbidden fruit. I was surprised to hear myself saying: “You have crossed the line now, Paivi. Even if you always paint the inside, now it will be reverse – illustrating the outside world.” I didn’t get this first at all – I thought I was just drawing was a simple flowery ornament inspired by damask motifs!

But when I was making the finishing touches, I realized that my drawing did illustrate the outside world – our living room: a wooden ceiling, windows on the left, a wall rug on the right, a vanda orchid hanging without a pot, and the snake plants growing lower.

Damask motif in an illustration. Colored pencil art by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s a picture of my vanda when it was blooming in 2020!

Vanda orchid.

This spread is not loosely made at all, and yet I find that the looseness is how I unconsciously picked and interpreted the subject.

Colored pencil journal spread by Paivi Eerola.

Which of the pieces of this post inspire you the most?
Are you inspired by the stiffness or looseness?
How do you want your damasks to look?

Please leave a comment! It would be so interesting to know!

Art Inspiration from Lucas Cranach the Elder

This week, I gather inspiration for the next painting of a series, enabled by the grant that I got from Arts Promotion Centre Finland. This is the third blog post of this project, see the first one here and the second one here!

German Renaissance Portraits by Lucas Cranach

The first painting of my series (The Empire of Light) was inspired by Sandro Botticelli, Italy. Now I move further up in time and on a map and go to Germany to meet Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553). Here’s a spread in my colored pencil journal inspired by Cranach’s style.

Art journal spread inspired by Lucas Cranach the Elder's art.

She is a weird-looking little woman but so are Lucas’s portraits too.

Portrait paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder.
Lucas Cranach the Elder, Portrait of a Young Woman (1525), Portrait of a Young Woman (probably Princess Emilia of Saxony, before 1537), Dido (1547)

Their faces are small and not so pretty at all, at least according to today’s standards. Are these two even smiling at all? Is that boredom or irony?

Portraits by Lucas Cranach the Elder.

Cranach’s women seem so arrogantly materialistic that it doesn’t feel suitable for a series about spirituality at all. But because expressing light is impossible without painting the darkness, I have decided to explore spirituality’s ultimate opposites as well. Like insolence, materialism, and money.

Lucas Cranach’s Super Production

Lucas Cranach the Elder wasn’t just a painter. He was a businessman who ran a workshop and a pharmacy too. His unusually large workshop wasn’t just for fine art. Printing presses produced religious images for people who had less money.

St Mary Magdalene (a detail) by Lucas Cranach the elder.
Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Ecstasy of St Mary Magdalene (a detail), woodcut, 1506

Lucas Cranach surely knew how to run a business. When he needed pigments, he decided to found a pharmacy at the same go. He got friends with prestigious people like Martin Luther. I can imagine Lucas whispering to Martin at a dinner: “What kind of images does your religious movement need? I can produce thousands of them!”

Illl-Matched Lovers by Lucas Cranach the Elder, a detail.
Lucas Cranach the Elder, Ill-Matched Lovers, 1530

He must have had a sense of humor too. And yet, his figures and the way he painted the clothing, are a bit stiff and clumsy.

From Cranach’s Bluntness To Sharp Pencils

When Botticelli made an elegant curve, Cranach added a straight like like saying: “That’ll do. They won’t notice it anyway.” So my Cranach imitation was built around similar angular lines and weird proportions.

Colored pencils on Archer and Olive's blank notebook.

But the more I worked with the face, the more real it felt. The woman wasn’t just an angel but had vices as well. She felt so relatable and maybe because I was glancing at my new sharpener. In the middle of the spirituality project, I had become very materialistic and spent almost 150 EUR on it.

Caran d'Ache metal pencil sharpener in action.
Caran d’Ache metal pencil sharpening machine, Calvin Klein blue.

Botticelli’s goddesses wouldn’t be even willing to touch it. But Cranach’s women would grab the handle without hindrance. They would crank fast and smile quietly, and it would all look a little immodest.

A detail in Lucas Cranach the Elder's painting Dido. Dido's face.

My workshop has produced a lot of pencil shavings lately.

Caran d'Ache metal pencil sharpener, Calvin Klein blue.

I can assure you that all my pencils are sharp!

Long Live the Spirit of Lucas Cranach!

Queen Dido’s smile in Cranach’s painting is deceiving. She had made a decision to leave the materialistic world.

A detail in Lucas Cranach the Elder's painting Dido.

Her story goes like this: Dido founded the city of Carthago after her husband died. Then her lover, a Trojan hero Aineias was taken away and in agony, she killed herself.

Black and white always go together. Dido was not just a wealthy royal, but a sensitive woman too. Maybe Lucas Cranach and Martin Luther had deep discussions over dinner. Perhaps my sharpener will live longer than I do and serve many enthusiastic colorers after me.

Colored pencil art in progress. Colored pencils and art journaling.

The most inspiring detail in Dido’s clothing is this carelessly painted ornament on the hem. It just floats there! It doesn’t follow the folds of the fabric at all. But its living line documents Cranach’s spirit.

A detail in Lucas Cranach the Elder's painting Dido. A hand-painted ornament.

No matter what the subject is, art always carries a spirit with the way we draw lines.

A detail of colored pencil art by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Like Cranach, I made two layers of lines, first x-shapes, then swirls.

Colored Pencil Journal

This journal spread will be my inspiration for a new abstract oil painting.

An art journal spread made with colored pencils. Inspired by Lucas Cranach the Elder's work. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

My little journal has quite many drawings already. I browse it often and it brings me joy.

Do you also have an art journal, a visual diary, or a sketchbook that you like to browse and fill? Can you find your living line there?

Colored pencil visual diary by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

P.S. My photos of Lucas Cranach the Elder’s paintings are from an exhibition in 2019, see this blog post for more pics!

Art is a Lemon Tree – How’s Your Lemonade?

This week, I talk about art and lemonade and share some news about the rest of the year!

I was going to make a cheerful spread on my colored pencil diary, celebrating a beginning of a period that I have never experienced so far in my life. But I started the drawing intuitively, and here’s what came up: a murky image with a bittersweet impression!

Life Gave Me Lemons - a spread in a visual journal by Paivi Eerola

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” they say.

I have never been fond of that kind of forced optimism, but I guess there’s also a seed of truth. In art, you have to make most of what you have.

What Kinds of Lemons Does the Tree Produce?

In 2014, when I became a full-time artist, I thought about growing my skills and how that would naturally lead to something good. But nowadays, my leap has felt more like changing a long CV in technology and service design to a very short, almost non-existent, CV in art.

Art is like a lemon tree. You can nurture it, but you can’t change its variety. Over the years, I have learned not only to teach but also to illustrate, make surface designs, and even draw ornaments and logos. But my heart has always been in fine art, and especially in intuitive abstracts.

"All In" - abstract art - an oil painting by Paivi Eerola
“All In” – oil painting on canvas, 92 x 65 cm

In my opinion, fine art makes the best lemons. But the weather is harsh, and the harvest becomes too small to be enough for the lemonade. So my passion for teaching has often been the lemonade maker, not the actual paintings.

Paivi Eerola in her studio with her puppy Saima.
Saima and I after the last recording of the new class Intuitive Coloring.

But now, things change for a few months. I have got a grant from The Arts Promotion Centre Finland to create a series of paintings and write about the process. I will publish the art and most of the writings here in my blog, so you will also get to drink this lemonade!

The project has a set theme that also includes a background study. I will also continue the colored pencil diary and document a part of the process in colored pencils. Later posts will reveal more.

I hope that my project will also inspire you to create – grow more lemons and make your kind of lemonade!

A colored pencil diary by Paivi Eerola. Art journaling in colored pencils.

P.S. You can still sign up for Intuitive Coloring! You will get the published lessons immediately after signing up, and can start having fun right away. >> Sign Up Now!

Life in a Colored Pencil Diary

Recently, my life has not been a life of a middle-aged woman, but of a female tiger. With a new puppy, we have tried to find a balance in the family, and it has felt like a fight sometimes.

A tiger and a peacock. A spread for a colored pencil diary. Art journaling without words. A fantasy illustration.

At some point in every evening, I become exhausted and demand my herd to calm down. It’s usually 21:34 exactly, so it seems that we run an accurate schedule.

Beagle puppy.

But there’s not much else accurate in our life, because the puppy requires us – like my husband kindly puts it – to go with the flow. We are not talking about a flow state here, but a flow of random things that keep the puppy either awake or asleep.

Drawing an oval.

I feel that the puppy is like a peacock which my husband, I, and our older beagle Stella stare at – the central character of our zoo who makes us happy or miserable, and often both at the same time.

Making of a colored pencil diary. Drawing a face with colored pencils.

We have had stress. Stella got ill and my oldest budgie Bonneville died, both sudden events.

Coloring a page for a visual diary.

But when Stella got back from the hospital, I began to think that we will survive. That the peacock sometimes looks like a dove, and that the rest of us can just admire its flight through the youth.

Cute beagle puppy

But that would be another page for my colored pencil diary!

Colored pencil diary by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Archer & Olive's blank notebook as a visual diary.

P.S. For more colored pencil inspiration, remember to sign up for Intuitive Coloring!

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