Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Start a Music-Inspired Art Journal!

Paivi Eerola with her journals, holding a music-inspired art journal.

In 2020, I made a mini-class for a collaboration project that included several artists. Each picked a topic that raised the feeling of gratitude.

I chose music. I had just seen a documentary about a musician called Avicii. He was a young Swedish boy who got into composing electronic music and, within a few years, became a world star. His story ended too soon, though.

This month, I read a biography about Avicii. The book had more explanations for why the life that everybody envied was unbearable. But still, his music feels pure and bright.

When I hear A Sky Full of Stars, I am a little girl on a cold Tuesday evening in Eastern Finland. After participating in an icon painting group, I walked down the snowy hill looking up. The starry sky was blue-black, I realized. Not black like for those who glance carelessly or blue like for those whose skies were always blue. Working with colors had made the world look more beautiful.

What song takes you back in time?
What colors do you find there?

Avicii composed dance music but was inspired by folk songs and old pop music that his father used to play. He open-mindedly mixed different styles and genres.

Which things can you bring from the past to refresh your art?
Which ideas from your queue could you combine?

Avicii started a song from a few sounds and short melodies and then layered them together.

Pick a pen and scribble something small along with your favorite music, then layer colors on the top!

Music-inspired art journal in progress

So, I suggest starting a music-inspired art journal!

I can now offer the class from the collaboration of 2020 individually. Only 15 EUR (about 17 USD), but be quick, the class is available for purchase only today to Feb 7!

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?

New Free Mini-Course for Subscribers

Great news! I have updated the free mini-course “Paint the Emotion” and it’s now called “Color the Emotion.” I have added a new project with colored pencils and more talk about how to approach art-making. The mini-course is about 40-minutes long and it’s available for all the subscribers of my weekly emails.

Here I am talking about the free mini-course in a video:

>> Subscribe here!

P.S. If you are already subscribed, no worries! I will send you an email today with the link to the mini-course!

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!

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