Peony and Parakeet

Paint Gentleness – Watch the video!

Gentle Flower, acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watch the video of how she made this!

It’s the time for a video blog post! This week, I talk about gentleness and how you can experience that through a painting technique. I show some basic elements from the old masters painting techniques. In the past, artists painted with oil paints. For acrylic paints, the secret is to use glazing medium for thinning the paint. Have fun!

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Lessons from Palazzo Pitti – Don’t Apologize for Your Art!

Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Here’s my latest acrylic painting called “Strawberry Madonna.” I started it in February, and it’s my first painting using old masters’ techniques with acrylic paints. It’s much more difficult to use acrylics instead of oil paints, but I managed to find few tips and tricks that helped. But this blog post is not so much about the techniques. I want to write about being unapologetic when creating art. It feels like a never-ending journey to me, and I hope this blog post will resonate with you too.

Palazzo Pitti and Traveling to Florence, Italy

Last week, I traveled to Italy with my husband to see Renessaince art. We flew to Rome, then took a train to Florence. After spending a couple of days in Florence, we got back to Rome, spend a couple of nights there, and then flew back home. We visited so many museums that it was a bit exhausting at times. I took over 700 photos, and there were so many highlights in our journey that I decided not to try to fit it all in this blog post, but focus on the glory of Palazzo Pitti, an art museum located in Florence, and save other experiences for later.

Namely, seeing Palazzo Pitti on the first evening in Florence, reminded me of how needless it is to tone things down and how we can be as glorious as possible when creating art and when using our imagination.

One Chandelier is Never Enough!

When watching the chandeliers of Palazzo Pitti, my first thought was: “Isn’t one enough?”
Then I realized that on my artistic journey, I have often thought like that: “it should be enough.”

  • Creativity: “I should be enough to have one idea for one image.”
  • Time: “It should be enough to have two hours for this piece.”
  • Skills: “It should be enough to just have a little bit of fun with it.”
  • Potential: “It should be enough to stick with what I know now.”
  • Imagination: “It should be enough to replicate the reality.”

Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

But one idea, one short session, one technique, one reality, is never enough if you want to continue the journey. When you have passed the first steps in creating, the room gets bigger. Making art frustrates you. It feels like your chandelier is broken. But instead of continuously changing the chandelier, you need more chandeliers to lighten your way.

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

When you begin creating, it’s just fun to change the chandelier: the theme, the technique, the idea. But when you have been creating for a while, it becomes overwhelming. The nature of creativity is never to focus on one small thing at the time. One chandelier is never enough for the curious mind. You need to learn to:

  • combine your many ideas
  • take more sessions for one piece
  • find the blind spots in skills and knowledge
  • and the most important of all: increase your imagination so that it takes you above the everyday life.

When you have many chandeliers, you see it clearer why you create art and where you want to go with it. Don’t apologize for your lacking focus but embrace all aspects of your creativity!

Ask What Your Heart Says!

When I saw “The Horrors of War” by Peter Paul Rubens in Palazzo Pitti, it caused an immediate emotional reaction. I was in tears before I was able to analyze the painting. Even if the theme was very dramatic, violent even, the movement and the wind was so beautifully painted. To me, it expressed the beauty of change, the theme that has always been close to my heart.

Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

When I was a teenager, I often drew scenes or portraits where the wind was present. It just looked fun and dynamic. But the more I have been creating, the more I have realized that I love to express movement, change, and transformation in one way or another, and the wind is often a symbol of that in my work. Thinking about big changes is one of those chandeliers that always lightens my inspiration.

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

I believe in digging deeper behind the first reactions. If art makes you emotional, there’s something important that’s behind it. It’s often contradictory, something so different that you have a hard time in believing it.

It’s kind of funny how much time I spend at home, doing the daily routines, and how my mind is in grand transformations and explorations. But to find what’s your true passion, the mundane life and your everyday wishes don’t give answers to that. You need to connect with your imagination.

Don’t apologize for your circumstances but use your imagination to experience the freedom! 

Decorating is Not an Enemy of Expression!

One thing that I found very delightful in Palazzo Pitti was how the number of decorative designs. I have always felt drawn to decorative painting style and even called myself as a “decorative artist.” It was my way of saying that I don’t feel like being very expressive. But nowadays I think that it’s possible to combine both decorative and expressive together, and there’s no need to limit the inspiration. Namely, who couldn’t be inspired by this ceiling?

Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

And look at the door and the tabletop! The most amazing thing is that the table top is made from stoneware!

Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

We may not be the similar masters as those decorative artists, but the experience in crafts can still be a treasure chest of ideas. For example, in my Strawberry Madonna, I added a crocheted lace on her dress and truly enjoyed painting it!

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Don’t apologize for your background in crafts (or in anything) but see that as a part of your artistic journey!

About Confidence and Belonging

When walking in the aisles of Palazzo Pitti, I felt sweaty and modestly dressed. The Medici family would not have invited me to their party, for sure. I thought about my art too and how modest it felt after seeing the big masterpieces.

A Finnish artist Paivi Eerola at Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

But it’s not only my art but I also often struggle when writing these blog posts. I don’t want to just write about my thoughts. I want to write so that you would continue creating and evolving with me. I want to offer classes that make you draw the connecting lines between your brain and your heart.

So that the way you speak about your art, would include more joy and confidence.

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

So that the way you see art, would be filled with happy surprises and inspiration.

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

So that the way you explore the many styles, would make you see higher to your passion.

Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

So that the ideas that you get, would get full wings because you value them.

A detail of Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Here’s what we can learn from the treasures of Palazzo Pitti:

There’s no reason to be apologetic when creating and sharing your art. There’s no reason to underestimate the impact that art can have on your life and others as well.

Strawberry Madonna, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet - with a ceiling from Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

Art is Timeless but Our Time to Create It is Limited

The final image is a view from Palazzo Pitti. It is a reminder of how art can stand time but how our time to create is limited.

A view from Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

If your heart wants to create in a new way, don’t postpone it. If you are struggling, don’t delay solving the problem. I hope I will see you in my upcoming coaching program The Exploring Artist, where your art and your artistic identity is in focus. It’s about finding ways and confidence to create unapologetic art as well as building belongingness with the like-minded people.  >> Sign up here!

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Have You Ever Felt Like an Outsider?

Gypsy Madonna, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet, combining two Renaissance paintings into one

I have finished a new oil painting called “Gypsy Madonna.” I painted it at Emmi Mustonen‘s class during this spring while learning more about old masters’ painting techniques. It took about 42 hours from start to finish and about four months in calendar time. Every thin layer of paint had to dry before adding a new one. I show you some phase photos, but I focus on the deepest thing that I learned from this painting: feeling like an outsider and what to think about it.

The Basics of the Painting Process

My Gypsy Madonna combines two Renaissance paintings: Boccaccio Boccaccino‘s Gypsy Girl and Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine.

By Boccaccio Boccaccino and Leonardo da Vinci

First I was just on a mission to get better with the painting technique.

Making of a Gypsy Madonna using old masters painting techniques, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Then I wanted to play with the setting and discovered several stories that could be told through that (some of them are in this blog post).

Making of a Gypsy Madonna using old masters painting techniques, underpainting, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Experiences of Being an Outsider

One day during the painting process, I remembered a childhood memory of a real gypsy girl. The local library had a weekly hour for children to listen to fairy tales and to play together. We were playing a game where two of us danced in the middle while others were watching. There were a lot of children, all waiting for to be chosen. Someone picked me, and we danced in the center of the ring while others were cheering.

Then it was my turn, and my friend Anne almost stepped up. But I had seen a sad gypsy girl sitting there, head drooping. She knew that nobody would pick her up. It was one of those games that would only depress her. It broke my little girl’s heart to see her sadness. I just had to do it, leave Anne sitting and ask the girl to dance with me. I never forget that smile when we were swirling around. It may have been the best thing that I have done in my life so far.

Making of a Gypsy Madonna using old masters painting techniques, finishing, by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

When I continued painting, it was suddenly me in the picture. I became the gypsy girl who gently scratches her pet. The outsider who never got children because she was much more enthusiastic about her love for animals. The outsider who was the only girl in most of the classes when studying technology. The outsider who dreamt about art while trying to tackle the more practical career. There are so many moments when I have felt like a black Madonna, not quite fitting in.

A detail of a Gypsy Madonna, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet, combining two Renaissance paintings into one

Everybody Is an Outsider

To me, the finished image symbolizes the beauty of choosing differently, being different. Even if I know that it’s perfectly ok to be different, the painting helps me to connect with the feeling on a deeper level. It makes me empathize with other people as well. Everybody is an outsider despite their personal story. We all belong to a minority in some ways. We are all Gypsy Madonnas in one way or another.

A detail of Gypsy Madonna, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet, combining two Renaissance paintings into one

Have You Ever Felt That Nobody Understands Your Art?

To be honest, I feel shy about showing this painting. It’s not what I usually create, and I have shared some very personal stories. It has crossed my mind for several times how you, as a reader of this blog, might feel confused: “Is this what Paivi is creating nowadays? Is she going back to the Renaissance age?” I have also feared that the dark colors of the painting will make you want to stop reading. But on the other hand, I don’t want to stop exploring. If you don’t explore, you are unable to integrate new things into your creative work. Pablo Picasso has said: “To copy others is necessary, but to copy oneself is pathetic.” So no wonder if there are times when nobody understands what you are creating!

It’s also difficult to grow artistic identity when a part of that experience is feeling like an outsider. When you start creating art, you want to find your personal way to do it, but those discoveries can also make you feel lonely sometimes. This contradictory has caused me to challenge myself. I want to be better at not only understanding my personal feelings but also supporting other artists in their explorations. In the end, we are all on the same journey. We are standing together on the border of art and the rest of the world, expressing the same view through different eyes.

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet, with Gypsy Madonna, one of her oil paintings. Read her blog post about feeling like an outsider as an artist and how to get through it!

Stay tuned for my new class for building belongingness, making art that matters, and strengthening your artistic identity! The registration will open in May!

Year 2016 in Review – In Terms of Art Supplies

A handdrawn collage by Peony and Parakeet. Her course Inspirational Drawing 2.0 teaches how to create these + more!

I am not usually so keen on “year in reviews,” but I thought it would be interesting to look back regarding art supplies used in 2016. When people ask me what supplies do I use, my quick response is: “Acrylic paints, watercolors, and colored pencils.” If I get detailed questions, I often refer to these blog posts: What Art Supplies Do I need? and What Acrylic Colors to Buy?

But it hit me that I have used a more diverse selection of supplies in 2016. And then, there are all kinds of necessary stuff that we don’t often mention but still use all the time. So, I dedicate this blog post to supplies. It’s not so much about the single pieces created in 2016. If you want to have a look at those, go to 2016 Gallery!

Must-Haves for Collage Art

The image that is at the beginning of this post is a collage made for January’s lesson at Inspirational Drawing 2.0 while teaching how to create unique collage pieces and enjoy freehand drawing. I have been blown away by the beautiful art created by my students, and I am more certain than ever that introducing the ideas for drawing piece by piece makes freehand drawing and the use of imagination easier than trying to build a bigger illustration in one piece. (You can still sign up for the class and get the first lesson immediately after the purchase!)

I like to create collage art to my biggest art journals. I have two of large Dylusions Creative Journals. The first one is almost full, so I hope I can fill it in 2017 and make a flip-through video of it. I purchased the second one last year because I love the quality of the paper. It’s perfectly smooth for colored pencils and sturdy enough for collage art.

Making of a hand-drawn paper collage. By Peony and Parakeet. Her course Inspirational Drawing 2.0 teaches how to create these + enjoy hand drawing!

Like in the previous years, I have used “Golden Soft Gel Gloss” gel medium for attaching the collage pieces and Tim Holtz’s non-stick scissors for cutting the pieces.

A new discovery is to use a piece of cotton cloth to remove excess gel medium. First, I started using old t-shirts for finger painting. But when learning old masters painting techniques at a class, we used old linens for cleaning the brushes and realized that they work well for wiping off too. Since then, I have been a collector of old cotton fabric pieces. A fellow artist told me that she has several plastic bags filled with waste cotton fabric for art making!

Cutting collage pieces. By Peony and Parakeet.

Speaking of collecting, I am still a collector of the best handmade supplies: hand drawn and hand painted paper pieces! If you have never tried creating collage pieces, see Step by Step page for basic instructions! I also have a mini-course called Doodled Luxury, that shows how to combine doodling with collage techniques.

Colored Pencils – Not for Art-Making Only!

Because I create a lot with colored pencils, I often get questions about which colored pencils to buy. Many contemplate between regular and water-soluble pencils. I love regular colored pencils because they are easy to carry and easy to use when you only have a minute or two. I use regular colored pencils also outside my art-making. I love to use them to make written notes more visual and add visual ideas to my notebooks and planners.

Work Planner Spread. By Peony and Parakeet. She uses Happy Planner for her art business.

It’s why I always have colored pencils in my reach, and I think it’s also why I find it so easy to create with them. If I have to create something quickly that isn’t very big in size, it feels natural to choose them. I use Prismacolor Soft Core pencils when I create art pieces and a selection of old pencils for more mundane purposes. My e-book Coloring Freely focuses on regular colored pencils and shows easy techniques for creative coloring.

Using watercolor pencils by Peony and Parakeet. See her class Inspirational Drawing 2.0.

I also have a mixed selection of watercolor pencils, and I enjoy using them too, especially in the beginning of coloring. Using water makes it quicker to fill a paper with a soft mix of colors. It is the technique I use a lot at Inspirational Drawing 2.0: starting the coloring with watercolor pencils, inks or watercolors and then moving on to dry supplies like colored pencils and felt-tipped pens.

Using Watercolor Paper – and Not!

This is a supply that makes my heart sing – I only have to touch it: a good quality watercolor paper! My absolute favorite: St Cuthberts Mill’s Saunders Waterford HP watercolor paper. It’s smooth and thick (300 gm2/140 lbs), and it’s perfect for both watercolors and colored pencils. I especially enjoy creating intuitive still lifes on the thick paper. I often cut the paper to a square to enable easy changes in orientation. See this blog post to watch me creating the intuitive mixed media painting below on a watercolor paper!

March Still Life, a mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet.
March Still Life, 2016

Even if I love smooth watercolor paper, I don’t want to limit the use of watercolors. I use watercolors constantly and often with paper that is not designed for it. I like to carelessly splash watercolors on any paper because there are a lot more opportunities to use watercolors than to use watercolor paper. For example, watercolor paper is not good for collage pieces because it’s too thick. I like to use sketching paper instead.

Watercolor painting in Hundertwasser's style. By Peony and Parakeet.

The best exploration with watercolors so far happened in 2016. I studied Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s way of using watercolors and created a mini-course about imaginative painting style. This painting style uses only a little water, and it’s easy to apply on almost any paper. See the mini-course Painter’s Ecstasy!

The Year of Canvas

If I had to name one supply that marks 2016, it would be canvas. I have created more canvas pieces than ever before. I have painted five small acrylic paintings and two medium-sized paintings. “Human Nature” was not a wall-sized, but so far the biggest that I have painted. See this blog post: 5 Lessons Learned When Painting on Big Canvas

"Human Nature" by Peony and Parakeet. This was her biggest painting in 2016.

I always take the canvas more seriously than if I create a painting on a watercolor paper or an art journal. A blank paper syndrome is nothing compared to a blank canvas syndrome! But I enjoy larger projects between smaller ones, and I have two blank canvases waiting for 2017 creations.

Experiments with New Supplies

Oil paints 
I would have never guessed that I would be 47 years old before trying out oil paints for the first time, but that was how it went. I started painting as a young teenager and my parents purchased acrylic paints to me. They explained that using oil paints would require all kinds of liquids that would not be safe and acrylic paints were better in that way. They were so right! Not to mention all the smells! I live in a house built in the 1960s, and the smell stays there for some time. It would be impossible to me to use oil paints daily just because of that.

Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet exploring old master painting techniques with oil paints.

But I have signed up for an art class and will start my second oil painting next week using the old masters’ techniques. (See this blog post to read what any artist can learn from old masters!) I love the pigment and gloss of good quality oil paints. We are using Schminke’s Mussini oil paints, and they are the best quality paints that I have ever experimented with.

Soft Pastels
During 2016, I saw quite a lot of art that was created with soft pastels. I almost bought Unison soft pastels to treat myself but then realized that I already had a small set of Rembrandt soft pastels. I had purchased them many years ago for industrial design studies, but we had been using them very differently than how people use them usually. We scraped them to get powder and used the powder to create soft shadows.

A detail of an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Made using soft pastels.

I created an art journal page (see the full image in the middle of this blog post) to try them out. Now I just grabbed the sticks and drew with them, but it felt like there was powder everywhere. And then, in the end, I had to use fixative, of course. It felt tedious even if it was not. I had no desire for new pastels anymore, but afterward, I have wondered if I gave up too easily. Maybe I should try the soft pastels again sometimes in 2017.

Liquid Watercolors and Watercolor Markers
In the late fall, I got a couple of surprise packages from one of my students! I got to use liquid watercolors and watercolor markers for the first time, and I liked both of them.

Art supplies. Liquid watercolor bottles.

I like the intensity of color in liquid watercolors. Mine are Dr. Ph. Martins’s Hydrus watercolors.

A detail of a painting made with gouache, watercolor markers and liquid watercolors. By Peony and Parakeet.

Watercolor markers seem to be very versatile because you can use them with or without water. I also received a set of gouache paints, and they encouraged me to dig out my old gouache tubes as well. To see what I created with the new supplies, watch this video blog post!

Going Digital?

Based on 2016, my answer is both yes and no. Yes, I have created digital art, see this blog post especially! I have used Adobe Photoshop CS5 for so many years that it feels very intuitive and I don’t have to think about the commands and such, I can just focus on the fun stuff.

Digital art by Peony and Parakeet.

But when I create digital art, I like to use my hand-drawn and hand-painted pieces as building blocks. I know that many buy stock photos, but it feels much more exciting to me to use my art as a starting point. Sometimes when I don’t work I buy a digital kit and have fun with it, but that’s just playing in my spare time (Sometimes I do wonder, how much do I have to create, to stop creating …)

I have a student at Inspirational Drawing 2.0 who is adapting the exercises to work with her iPad mostly. I look forward to seeing more of this happening because I see a potential of more people going into creating art. However, I don’t want to spend all of my time with devices, so I enjoy creating pieces by hand and as long as I can do it, I think I will, also in 2017!

What about you? What supplies were new to you in 2016, and what supplies are you going to continue using in 2017?

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