Peony and Parakeet

Painting Watercolor Still Lives

A watercolor still life painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

I usually have a lot to say but this time I can barely type any words. I am madly in love with painting watercolor still lives. They keep coming! It feels that any topic can be put in the form of a still life whether I am painting a princess or a bonsai.

A watercolor still live painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I think that art is this kind of a bonsai: even if it would be nourished very little, it keeps staying alive, producing flowers and fruit. It’s both ancient and fresh at the same time.

First a Mess, Then a Still Life!

I love how watercolors have a mind of their own. Especially, when painting without reference photos, the first brush strokes feel exciting and the possibilites seem endless.

A beginning of a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

The bonsai painting was just a mess after the first layers. I had a lot of fun making the mess!

Starting a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and parakeet.

But I even had more fun bringing out the bonsai.

A detail of a watercolor still life painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I use an abstract approach, and it’s so exciting that it keeps me painting. What was first just a clumsy geometric shape is soon a delicate flower! I teach this technique in the upcoming class Floral Fantasies.

A detail of a floral still life painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

My Watercolor Set – A Mix of Brands

I like to use pans more than tubes because it’s much quicker to start painting right away, not wasting time for opening and cleaning the caps. But I also buy tubes because when a pan gets empty, I can use a tube to refill it.

Painting with watercolors by Paivi Eerola from Parakeet

My watercolor set of 36 pans is originally White Nights by St. Petersburg, but within time I have purchased other brands too.

New Pans – Roman Szmall Aquarius

One of my latest purchases are pans manufactured by Roman Szmal Aquarius watercolors. It’s a new professional quality brand from Poland. I find their color chart fascinating. For example, they have a very light pink called Cobalt Violet Light and their black called Aquarius Black is very granulating which means that it has a grainy texture. So far, my favorite of theirs is a warm grey called Przybysz’s Grey. It’s very good for muted color mixes. I am lucky that my local art supply store sells this brand!

Watercolor set of 36 pans and mixed brands.

Drawing a Watercolor Chart

Always when I change the pans, I also draw a new chart in a notebook. This is how the chart looks currently (VG = Van Gogh, RS = Roman Szmal, DS = Daniel Smith, “Oma sek“= my personal mix).

Watercolor Color Chart by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I love to curate my palette. When one color runs out, I consider carefully whether I buy more or change it! I also like to examine what the best order is for the pans, and as you see from the chart above, I often change the order a bit! This is my way to bond with the supplies, and every time I begin a new painting, I feel that they are my team, working with me!

Painting Watercolor Still Lives Together

Watercolor Still Lives by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Come to draw and paint flowers with me – Sign up for Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles!

Early-Bird Sale – Floral Fantasies

Paivi Eerola paints florals in watercolor. Check out her class Floral Fantasies in Three Styles.

“Paivi likes flowers,” I have heard many say, and yes, I do! A couple of years ago I built a comprehensive floral art class calledFloral Fantasies in 3 Styles. I am running this class again between April 29 – May 24th. I am also building a new module for it that is about painting still lives in watercolor – loosely without reference photos and that’s a lot of fun!

If you sign up before March 31st midnight PDT, you will get the class for the early-bird price. Watch the video below and sign up!

Freely Born Watercolor Florals

Floral still life by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watercolor painting.

I love to paint flowers without reference photos. “What flower is that?” My husband asked when I showed a couple of my recent floral paintings to him. I had no idea! My florals are born freely and they look a bit strange, but I like that. I like the idea of growing my flowers from the seeds – pigments – and watering them so that they will begin to bloom.

Watercolor Florals in Mixed Media

I have made these kinds of still lives for a long time, but I used to use acrylic paints, pencils, and pens too. Here’s one from 2016 (watch the process video).

Floral still life by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Mixed media painting.

Now that my skills have grown, I don’t feel the need to use acrylic paint to cover up some parts or a pen to sharpen others. I can just throw paint and water and then work from that. This kind of art is often more “the art of seeing” than “the art of creating”. Imagination is the only limit!

Painting a Layer by Layer

Painting watercolor florals by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I paint many layers, from light to dark. I don’t worry about over-doing! Using a lot of water and letting every layer dry properly is the key.

Painting watercolor florals by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I also like to imagine how flowers drop off the vase and start growing from the ground. In this dream, the vitality that the flowers have is tremendous.

A detail of a floral still life by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watercolor painting.

Water and Paper Paint Too!

Sometimes I work with many projects at the same time. Often, I just leave the painting to dry and go to do other stuff. At the beginning, I usually feel unsure about the mess on paper, but become happily surprised when I enter the studio and see it dried. Water and paper play with the pigment as much as I do. I love this uncontrollable nature of watercolors that makes the process of painting more like sharing a discussion than giving a speech.

Painting watercolor florals by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Look at that mess on paper and then the finished version!

Floral still life by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watercolor painting.

My favorite details of this painting are the big white spot and the small flowers that bend down.

A detail of a floral still life by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watercolor painting.

Coming Up – Floral Still Life Step by Step

Currently, I am making an extra lesson about this process of making a floral still life without reference photos. It will be available with the upcoming class Floral Fantasies in 3 Styles. The registration will open next week! I plan to make the new lesson a separate one so that if you have purchased the class before, you can buy the new lesson as an add-on when the class begins on April 29, 2019. Stay tuned!

Watercolor Inspiration – 5 Ideas and Techniques

Watercolor inspiration from Paivi Eerola. Watch her video about painting a watercolor bookmark.

Watercolor is a medium where I really want to grow my skills this spring. It’s so versatile and much quicker than oil painting, for example. It can be easily combined with drawings and and … Well, I think if you follow this blog, you also love watercolors! Here’s some watercolor inspiration!

1) Watercolor Bookmarks – A Small and Fun Project

Who wouldn’t like to get a hand-painted bookmark? Watch the video with practical tips for watercolor painting!

2) Illustration in Watercolor – Use a Drawing as a Starting Point

If you like to draw, pick one of your sketches and use that as a starting point. My drawing from last Inktober is very detailed, but I enjoyed painting it!

Ink pen drawing by Paivi Eerola.

Here’s my setting. I kept the sketch visible most of the time but allowed my painting to evolve too. I didn’t use any pencil to copy the drawing, I just started painting with pale colors and made adjustments layer by layer.

Creating a watercolor painting from an ink drawing. Using a sketchbook as an inspiration for watercolors. Watercolor painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s the finished painting. When I drew the sketch, I wanted the person to look like she’s contemplating, and wasn’t quite happy with the face. But here, I was more successful the facial features. Colors also add to the expression.

Watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her blog for more watercolor inspiration.

What I really liked in this project, was the lack of too many decisions at the same time. When I followed the composition and the elements of the drawing, I was able to focus more on the atmosphere.

3) Watercolor Sceneries – Play with the Level of Abstraction

Mastering watercolors is impossible without making most of the happy accidents and allowing abstract elements build the image. Try how abstract you can and want to go!

These images are from my class Watercolor Journey. The first landscape is quite realistic and representational. It’s easy to see that there are trees and the sun.

Watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watercolor inspiration from her class Watercolor Journey.

Here’s a more abstract version of the same project. Trees are not so clear anymore and the sun is more vague too, but on the other hand, it’s not as static as the previous one.

Abstract watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watercolor inspiration from her class Watercolor Journey.

Which of the two do you like more? How far do you want to go in your paintings?

4) Intuitive Painting – Loosen Up by Starting with Three Photos

If you like to solve mysteries, here’s a project for you! Pick three photos and use one for each of the three first layers. Watch the video for more detailed tips and instructions!

I definitely did not see that there would be a fish in my piece when I started!

Watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her video of how she made this using three inspiration photos for the first layers. Lots of tips included too.

With watercolors, the art of seeing can be sometimes more important as the art of painting!

5) Watercolor Collage – Join my Class Animal Inkdom!

I have also used watercolors several times in my class Animal Inkdom. In Module 3 where we explore the underwater world, watercolors are a natural choice. For example, in this collage project watercolors have a central role. You will learn ways to draw fun and unique sea life animals, and make a playful underwater scene.

Watercolor collage art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. A sample project from her class Animal Inkdom.

Come to draw and paint with us in Animal Inkdom! You will get the published lessons (including Module 3) immediately after the registration, and you can start drawing and painting right away. Sign up for Animal Inkdom here!

Scroll to top