Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Let’s Draw a Winter Angel

This week, we draw a winter angel step by step!

Winter Angel by Päivi Eerola of Pepny and Parakeet. Colored pencil art.

The angel begins with a simple outline sketch. The hands and feet are hidden behind the dress, so it’s easy! The skirt is big so that you can treat it as a blank canvas for winter scenery.

Step 1 – Make an Outline Sketch

Pick an A4-size or US letter-size paper and a regular pencil.

Draw a horizontal center line and then another line that divides the upper part in half.

Place a head right above the upper line and draw a simple body and a long hem.

Sketches for a winter angel.
Click to see the picture bigger!

Add a circle for the halo behind the head, some marks for facial features, wings, and curves to divide the upper body into two parts.

Sketching a winter angel with a pencil.

Erase the sketched lines so that you can see them only vaguely. Compare the wings in the picture above with the next picture. After erasing, the pencil sketch is visible only barely.

Step 2 – Add Foundational Ideas

Change to colored pencils. Start with the face and color lightly. Get connected with the character that you are drawing. Add some skin tone and hair. You can also draw facial features, but do it with a light hand, aiming for a connection rather than perfection at this stage.

Drawing a winter angel - Step 2 - Add Foundational Ideas

With neutral colors, add ideas for a winter feel. I draw fur on the top part of the dress and then sky and trees on the skirt.

Step 3 – Color Beyond the Outlines

Get more creative by breaking the outlines. Think about the air that rises from the cold and circulates around the dress. Imagine winds, polar lights, and layers of snow, but also immaterial things: thoughts and feelings and their liveliness.

Drawing a winter angel - Step 3 - Color Beyond the Outlines

You can now use more colors but keep the coloring light and progress gradually layer by layer.

Step 4 – Add Details by Coloring

Go through the angel many times and add more details and shadows at every go.

Drawing a winter angel - Step 4 - Add Details by Coloring

The more details you add, the more your imagination grows. For example, the wings can have decorative motifs.

Drawing a winter angel - Step 4 - Add Details by Coloring

Make the angel more interesting by adding more asymmetry.

Drawing a winter angel - Step 4 - Add Details by Coloring

Draw elements like ice so that it’s placed differently on the two sides of the angel.

Step 5 – Cut Out and Finish

Cut the angel out of the paper and make final adjustments, especially near the cut-out edges. Now it’s also the time to make final adjustments to the facial features.

Drawing a winter angel - Step 5 - Cut Out and Finish

I added more decoration and cut a notch to the halo so that it’s like a glamorous hat.

Drawing a winter angel - Step 5 - Cut Out and Finish

Step 6 – Play with the Winter Angel!

Combine other items with the doll, and enjoy making the settings! I like to pull out stuff from my boxes of hand-drawn elements – boxes of joy, as I call them!

A small Christmas girl in colored pencils. By Päivi Eerola, Finland.

I drew this little Christmas Girl one evening when I was too tired to do anything else. I think it looks lovely with the winter angel!

Christmas girl and winter angel. Handdrawn figures by Päivi Eerola.

Doll World – Sign Up Now!

Come to draw more dolls and other beautiful items for your box of joy!

Doll World - an online class for learning to draw human figures and their clothing.

Doll World begins on January 1st, 2023. Watch the video and sign up here!

Hearts and Flowers – Draw Freely with Me!

This week we will grab colored pencils and draw freely in full color. Follow me step by step!

Drawing romantic hearts and flowers. Colored pencil art by Paivi Eerola.

This exercise is set so that we start simple and then get more creative. If you are a beginner, you can stop earlier, and if you have more skills and patience, you can go to the very end. You only need paper and colored pencils. I drew the picture in my colored pencil journal.

Step 1 – Draw a Flower and a Heart

Pick a brown or blue colored pencil and draw a flower and a heart.

Draw Freely Step 1 - Draw a Flower and a Heart

There’s nothing creative here, these are just the basic symbols of a flower and a heart. Place these on the corner of the page so that they are like a starting point for the rest of the image.

Step 2 – Draw a Tilted Flower and a Heart

Now draw a flower and a heart so that they look tilted. Having variation makes the image!

Draw Freely Step 2 - Draw a Tilted Flower and a Heart

Instead of a circle, draw an oval for the center of the flower. Change the length of the petals gradually. Draw the other side of the heart smaller so that it’s not symmetrical anymore.

I like to add some color right away – not much, just a light layer as a warmup.

Step 3 – Draw a Big Flower and Then a Heart Behind It

I bet your flowers and hearts are pretty similar in size and placed separately – like mine are! Let’s add variation by drawing a big flower and by placing a heart behind it. So here, the heart is only partly visible.

Draw Freely Step 3 - Draw a Big Flower and Then a Heart Behind It

Again, I drew the flower a little differently than before. I made the petals go on the top of the center. Now when the flowers and hearts are all a bit different, they look more lively too.

Step 4 – Color the Hearts and Flowers and the Background Around Them

Now pick a wider selection of pencils and color the hearts and flowers. Also, choose a background color and add some of it to the background.

Draw Freely Step 4 - Color the Hearts and Flowers and the Background Around Them

You can adjust the outlines if needed with the background color. Color lightly and leave most of the background blank.

Now you have a cute little drawing, but let’s draw more freely next!

Step 5 – Color Flowers on the Background

We now have stereotypes of flowers, but let’s go further and question them. When a flower wants to be free, it becomes less defined, and the center disappears. Make the background more lively by coloring three big blurry flowers freely.

Draw Freely Step 5 - Color Flowers on the Background

Without thinking about typical flowers, color stripes that go in different directions. They can have different lengths, be straight or curvy, and the result can look pretty odd!

Draw Freely Step 5 - Color Flowers on the Background

Then color rectangles on the top. Make three blurry flowers total – sets of stripes and rectangles, that is!

Draw Freely Step 5 - Color Flowers on the Background

Connect the elements so that the new ones go a little behind the old ones. When you want to create an emotional connection, create a visual connection!

Step 6 – Color Hearts on the Background

Without outlining, color a set of hearts with the background color, and then make a second set of white hearts by coloring the background.

Draw Freely Step 6 -  Color hearts on the background

Color around the heart, not the actual heart! The hearts can have various sizes. Place a part of the hearts near the edges so that they are only partly visible.

Then add more background color so that it goes partly over the background elements and makes the image a little darker and calmer.

Draw Freely Step 6 - Color hearts on the background

Now you have some free expression, but next, let’s go further and add more drama!

Step 7 – Color a Dark Path

Light always shines more brightly when there are also dark colors. Pick black and other dark pencils and plan a path that goes across your image from one corner to the opposite side of the center.

Draw Freely Step 7 - Color a dark path

First, color the chosen corner and the nearest edge. Then move towards the center. There, add shorter stripes and spots that mark the path and highlight the best parts of the image.

Now you have set the basic lighting. But in nature, light often travels less straight and makes the overall impression less stiff.
Next, we will get creative and free up the light!

Step 8 – Draw a Freeform Line and Color Its Sides Differently

Take a deep breath, and practice first. Stand up, and move a pencil in the air so that it creates curves. Then sit down and draw a curvy and continuous line that goes across the page.

Draw Freely Step 8 - Draw a Freeform Line and Color Its Sides Differently

Draw freely and lightly!

Draw Freely Step 8 - Draw a Freeform Line and Color Its Sides Differently

Then color around the line so that light and shadows alternate there. When darkening an area, notice that you can also color smaller shapes and patterns instead of using a solid color.

Draw Freely Step 8 - Draw a Freeform Line and Color Its Sides Differently

Hearts and flowers can also interact with the division so that they add more little curves to it.

Draw Freely Step 8 Draw a Freeform Line and Color Its Sides Differently

Here, the petals push the line away, creating small bumps.

If you want to add more interest to any other area, you can do the same: draw a line and then color the sides differently.

Draw Freely Step 8 - Draw a Freeform Line and Color Its Sides Differently

Now you have an atmospheric image, but does it have a message?
Next, let’s ponder what to express and color a little more!

Step 9 – Finishing with a Message

Ask yourself: what element do you like the best? My favorite thing was this blurry heart.

Draw Freely Step 9 - Finding the favorite detail

Even if it’s not a centerpiece like the big white flower, it felt like a force that affects the scenery the most. I often discover this kind of “background force” in my drawings and paintings. It seems to be the most strongly connected with the overall message that I want to tell.

The pink heart is like a lady who makes everybody fall in love with her. I want the overall scenery to look feminine but also have elements that include agony and the more desperate side of romantic feelings. I like the tension that I gave with some sharp lines and dramatic curves.

Draw Freely Step 9 - Finishing with a Message

Because everything has two sides, often finishing with the message means adding more tension. It makes the image feel more real and more relatable.

I hope this inspired you to draw freely!

Layering Colored Pencils – Magical Effects Step by Step

This week, I have a new spread for my colored pencil journal, and it’s based on layering colored pencils. I share detailed photos so that you can try this too!

Frozen - a spread in a colored pencil art journal  by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

This coloring technique creates magical looseness, even if it begins with very stiff shapes. Because layering the colored pencils is the key here, it’s important to keep the layers light because paper can’t hold color endlessly.

Step 1 – Set Atmosphere

Choose a color that sets the mood for the image. My choice was pink.

Step 1 of a fun colored pencil layering technique.

Color the background lightly, but leave some blank areas near the edges and where you want the focal point to be. The heart is my focal point.

The blank parts will allow you to include lovely color variations in the last layers. Color softly and avoid outlines so that the overall feel is magical from the first layer.

Step 2 – Add Pattern

Stick with the same pencil and continue the monotone look by coloring rings on the colored area.

Step 2 of a fun colored pencil layering technique.

Make sure that the rings are different in size and spread a little unevenly so that the result looks natural and interesting. Think about fabrics but not the easiest polka dots, but a bit more intricate design.

Monotone coloring.

Here’s a closeup of my rings. Again, I don’t use outlines but color them with short strokes that go in many directions.

Step 3 – Destroy

This step could be called “destruction” because now we color random shapes that don’t follow the previous layers at all. Bring in new bright colors. Color stripes, rectangles, random shapes, and lines freely.

Layering with colored pencils, work in progress.

You can go over the blank parts too but keep the focal point a little less untouched.

Step 3 of a fun colored pencil layering technique.

The idea is not to cover previous layers fully but to destroy their rhythm.

Detail of layers made with colored pencils.

Here’s a closeup of my work. The new shapes and lines have taken over, and the rings are not so well visible anymore.

Step 4 – Discover

Keep coloring, but now bring in darker tones too. Keep the layers light and shapes soft, but when you discover something that you like, highlight its edges with a darker color.

Step 4 of a fun colored pencil layering technique.

I didn’t use any green pencils in my spread, but it does have some green shades. Mixing black and yellow makes lovely olive green.

Now it’s also the time to bring some rings back to the foreground!

Layering with colored pencils. Creating natural and magical effects.

These rings remind me of perennial Bellis flowers!

Perennial Bellis flower

Here’s a closeup of digging out the rings – now flowers – with dark colors.

Highlighting with darker colors - a layering technique.

I don’t bring up all the rings, just some! This makes the layered look: some elements are covered and located further in the background, some come up to the foreground. The stiffness of the background pattern looks attractive when it’s combined with looser coloring.

Step 5 – Finish with Message

Your work will be finished when it delivers a message. The focal point, the heart in my case, is essential for achieving this. I like to work intuitively so that I don’t try to define the message right from the beginning but let the insight grow with the coloring. Here, I left the heart light and made it look icy and magical.

Step 5 of a fun colored pencil layering technique that brings a magical shine and depth.

First, I thought about this winter, how tough it has been to walk the dogs on icy roads, and how much I want spring to come. And then it hit me how ice must mourn when its life is coming to an ending. How between the first flowers, there’s a little block of ice, looking around, feeling isolated.

Frozen - a spread in a colored pencil art journal  by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

This little frozen heart is like a rare unicorn – reflecting the surroundings, introvertedly, like we all do when we are creating.

I find this kind of pondering an important part of art-making. That’s why I always try to end with a message even if viewers can freely find their explanations as well.

Fun Botanicum – Sign up Now!

From March 15 to May 15, 2022, I run an online class for us who are inspired by nature and fantasy and love plants. The class is called Fun Botanicum and we will draw fantasy plants by scribbling, doodling, and layering with colored pencils. Join us!

The early-bird sale ends soon! Early-bird price: 59 EUR, now 49 EUR. >> Sign Up Now!
The sale ends on Feb 20, 2022, at midnight PST.

Wild Botanical Art – Create with Colored Pencils and Watercolors

This week, I created wild botanical art. I drew plants with delicate details like in botanical illustrations, but with a few differences. My plants are not any real species, and the jungle where they grow is more like my inner world at its best, not a real location on the planet.

Wild Botanical Art by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Colored pencils and watercolors.

Watercolors First!

Before putting colored pencils into work, I made some backgrounds with watercolors. I had very smooth watercolor paper – hot press quality. My friend Eeva Nikunen recommended Arches Hot Press paper that she has used for detailed graphite drawings. It’s a bit pricey but so smooth and lovely for colored pencils too. However, any smooth watercolor paper would work with this technique.

Painting watercolor backgrounds for wild botanical art.

I used a lot of water for the first layer and made random splotches with a spraying bottle. This kind of wild watercolor painting is fun, but when I tried to pick one of the four experiments for colored pencils, I found the results uninspiring. So I asked myself what kinds of nature’s shapes or colors would I want to see more, and answered: “All kinds of hays inspire me a lot!”

Love for Sharp-Shaped Botanicals

We have lots of house plants that have sharp leaves.

Sharp-leafed houseplants. Inspiration for botanical art.

And when I walk in nature, I always look for hays and how light hits them.

Hays. Inspiration for botanical art.

So, then after some drying time, I made thin lines that went wildly here and there.

Painting lines that are like hays on watercolor backgrounds.

After the lines, I found the green one on the bottom left very inviting, so I chose that for coloring.

Coloring Freely and Wildly

Colored pencils work well on the watercolor background and smooth paper. It was enjoyable to color freely. I didn’t follow the shapes or lines painted in watercolor but created new layers.

Coloring with colored pencils on a watercolor background.

I have started to store my colored pencils in shallow plastic boxes grouped in color families. This way, every pencil gets seen, and the differences between tones are easy to identify.

Should Plant People Draw Plants?

My husband and I are plant people. Our home is filled with house plants and we have all kinds of plants in our garden. It has been quite a job to save the plants from our new puppy Saima!

Beagles enjoy the sun. A house plant as a palm tree.

Plants have also always been present in my paintings. But recently, I have thought that maybe I could focus more on them with colored pencils too. It often feels that I come home when I am inspired by plants and travel abroad when I am creating something else. I want to challenge myself out of my comfort zone, but if there’s a strong resonation, like a secret companionship, should I listen to it?

Wild botanical art with colored pencils on a watercolor background.

More Wild Botanical Art – Playing Mode On!

It was so much fun to work on this project that I wanted to do more. So, I colored these small scraps – a fruit and a leaf!

Hand-drawn scraps for collage art.

And then it was playing time. How wild can this go?

Playing with hand-drawn scraps. Botanical theme.

Create Wild Botanical Art – Five Tips!

  • Start by creating a wilderness that calls you.
  • Color layers of random shapes and lines. When you see something that could be a plant, turn it into one!
  • Don’t worry about identifying the plants – treat them as rarities that only you can find!
  • Make detailed a little more detailed – botanical art goes crazy with details!
  • Revamp – Add some plants from your box of joy!
  • Bonus tip: Nature is full of curves, so make sure you also have some.
Curvy leaves of a house plant. Inspiration for botanical art.

Botanical Art by Ernst Haeckel

Many years ago, a blog reader mentioned Ernst Haeckel’s botanical art. Since then, I have admired his work. Here’s a part of his illustration from 1904. Lots of greens spiced with warm colors and so many details!

Ernst Haeckel's botanical art, a detail of his bigger work.

Mine is not nearly as sharp and detailed as Haeckel’s, but I approve it anyway. Plants have different personalities, and so do their interpretations!

Wild Botanical Art by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Colored pencils, watercolors, some hand-drawn collage.

Tell me, do you like drawing plants? What kinds of plants especially?

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