Peony and Parakeet

Between Fine Art and Illustration – Combining Both Into One Artwork

Flower Fairy's Year by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. See how this project was made and read her thoughts about choosing between fine art and illustration.

This week, I continue showing pieces that will be presented in the upcoming group exhibition “Flower Gardener’s Diary” (Kukkatarhurin päiväkirja, 9.- 22.9.2019, Hietsun Paviljonki, Helsinki). This one is called “Flower Fairy’s Year.” I will be presenting both paintings and drawings, so I wanted to create a piece that would build a bridge between fine art and illustration. I hope you find this project inspirational!

Inspiration Piece: Wheel of Fortune

When building the class Magical Inkdom earlier this year, I made a fun drawing called Wheel of Fortune. It has a center that’s separate from the rest of the piece, and it can be rotated so that the heads of the figures change. The bigger drawing is attached on thick cardboard so that it feels like it’s a game board, not just a flimsy piece of paper.

Wheel of Fortune. Illustration by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I wanted to use the idea of a separate centerpiece and sturdy base for this project too.

Fine Art Centerpiece: A Miniature Oil Painting

The project started by finishing a miniature oil painting that I suitably had in progress. It’s only 4 by 4 inches.

A miniature oil painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The painting was made very traditionally. I sketched the face with charcoal, and then made an underpainting with umber and white. I used Bernardino Luini’s portrait of Saint Catherine as a loose reference for the facial features.

Making of a miniature oil painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The color layers were thin so that the previous layers stayed visible too. It took a bit of courage to give a green wash to the face, but I really like the result. Decorations were easy and fun. They are quick lines and shapes that make the saint look like a floral fairy.

Miniature oil painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

With oil, the most difficult thing is to wait for every layer to dry separately. Other than that, I find oil easier to handle than acrylic paint.

Illustration: Decorative Flower Frame

For the frame, I cut a piece of Bristol paper. It’s about 10 by 10 inches.

Drawing a decorative illustration. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I wanted to include flowers from January to December so that the frame is like a clock that has months instead of hours. The drawing was made with Copic Multiliners (I mostly use 0.05 tip), and I colored it with watercolors.

Coloring a decorative frame with watercolors. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Plywood Base

My original idea was to cut two layers of cardboard so that the topmost layer would have a 4-by-4-inch hole. But when I told my husband that “Ideally, the base would be wooden”, he went to his workshop and came back with a hand-carved plywood base!

Between fine art and illustration. Composing an artwork of painted and hand-drawn pieces.

Putting All The Pieces Together

I painted the plywood black near the surroundings of the miniature painting. It makes sure that the plywood won’t show if the piece is observed from different angles. I varnished the oil painting with Gamvar and let it dry overnight. I put a plastic plate over the frame to reduce the curviness of the paper after painting it with watercolors.

Between fine art and illustration. Composing an artwork of painted and hand-drawn pieces.

Then I glued the painting to the base with gel medium and attached the frame with double-sided tape. Finally, I marked a line of 0.5 cm from the edge of the base and made sure that the motifs extend there. This piece will be professionally framed, so I didn’t want to leave too much empty space around the edges.

Flower Fairy's Year by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. This piece combines fine art and hand-drawn illustration.

Between Fine Art and Illustration

In the art world, there’s a lot of talk about choosing between fine art and illustration. Many define fine art so that it comes up solely from the artist’s own creative expression when illustration illustrates a story or can easily be used with the text. One way to separate them is the number of copies. Fine art pieces are often unique or manufactured in very limited quantities only when illustrations are more of everyday art, consumed by the masses. Some say that it requires talent to create a piece of fine art, and just art education to create a piece of illustration.

In my artistic path, I have found the definitions both helpful and destructive. It has been essential for me to expand to illustration – to learn how to visualize text and written ideas. It has made me more connected with the surrounding world, and it has also brought me more work. However, I feel that art is free, and without exploring that freedom, it’s also difficult to create insightful illustrations. So I have tried to keep up with both worlds.

However, I hate when people say that you have to choose between fine art and illustration. For me, bringing the two approaches as close as possible has been a working solution. I think this project shows really well how one is not the enemy for the other.

Flower Fairy's Year by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. This piece combines fine art and hand-drawn illustration.

I can’t wait to show you more pieces that I have finished for the exhibition! I will also have many framed and will blog about how I selected the frames in the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned!

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Embellish with a Hand-Drawn Frame

Flower Gardener's Dream. Illustration by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Do you remember this piece? I drew it in June but back then it looked much more modest. It was only black and white, and there was no hand-drawn frame.

I rediscovered the drawing when I was going through recent drawings and paintings. I will attend a group exhibition called “Flower Gardener’s Diary” in September. I have quite a lot of work that goes under that title. In fact, if the exhibition would be called “No Flowers This Time”, I would be in trouble.

Doodling a Hand-Drawn Frame

I had given it a title “Flowers for the Soul” for this piece, but I thought I could rename it as “Flower Gardener’s Dream” if I would polish it a bit.

Black and white fairy drawing by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. See how this changes when a hand-drawn frame is added to it!

I cut a larger piece of paper and started drawing rough doodles around it. I can doodle quite quickly because I have been practicing a lot lately. I haven’t only drawn a bunch of exercises and additional examples for the class Magical Inkdom but also learned a lot when watching myself in the videos while editing them. It reminds me of athletes who train themselves mentally by watching their performances. Fortunately, doodling is not an Olympic sport because it would be my obsession to be the one who represented Finland!

Making a hand-drawn frame by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

It always amazes me that what is first just an ugly doodle, becomes a decent drawing after adding shadows and details. The magic of time and effort!

An illustration and a hand-drawn frame for it. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Coloring the Image + My Favorite Color

If I had to name the favorite color of my watercolor set, I would probably say Daniel Smith’s Rich Green Gold. It’s an ugly-looking paste that looks more like Poor Wasted Mud, but when you add water to it, you begin to hear music, feel the atmosphere of a big palace, and you straighten the back because the rich woman inside you is wearing an elaborate dress.

Coloring an ink drawing with watercolors. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Most of that cool yellowish color is Rich Green Gold. Who could not love that luxurious color!

Two Versions – With and Without the Frame

I used double-sided tape to attach the image on the larger paper with the frame. Here are the two versions side by side. Which of them do you like better?

Two versions of the same drawing. The other one has color and a decorative hand-drawn frame. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I am happier with the colored version because it highlights the night scene.

Flower Gardener's Dream, a detail. Illustration by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

After all, this is about us who love flowers so much that they fill our minds also when we are sleeping.

Flower Gardener's Dream, a detail. Illustration by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Hand-Drawn Frame Obsession Continues

I have also been finishing some oil paintings that have been in progress for an embarrassingly long time. Having a deadline is a powerful motivator, eh? I don’t show them all in this blog post, but save them for upcoming weeks. Here’s a snapshot of the tiniest one. She is some kind of flower fairy too, and I am thinking about making a hand-drawn frame around her too. Because this is an oil painting on board, it would require some extra assembly. But I think it would look wonderful if there would be hand-drawn flowers around her. What do you think?

Miniature oil painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

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All Things Necessary in My Artistic Journey

All Things Necessary by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. An illustration by the Finnish artist. Read about her artistic journey.

Here’s my recent drawing called “All Things Necessary.” It’s inspired by the discoveries that I made while building the class Magical Inkdom. When I taught IT professionals back in the 1990s, we teachers used to say that you learn best when you teach a class. We had to constantly learn new technologies, and it made us professionals not only in teaching but also in learning.

However, some things take time, and even if trying to find the best ways to work with both ink and watercolor enabled this piece, the idea behind it goes much further back in my artistic journey, to the year 2014.

A Great Idea but Not So Great Execution from 2014

I have archived many of the old blog posts because back in 2014 I wasn’t very good at writing, and the posts are too short for the search engines. But I found the blog post in my personal archive and here’s what I wrote back in 2014:

“I often get these ideas that cost a million. Like the big painting that shines in gold and silver. It would look like a reproduction of the beautiful doors I saw last year when visiting the Hermitage Museum, in St. Petersburg, Russia. Someday I will make it! So I made a small prototype. It is a wooden block that is covered with all kinds of stuff found in my crafting space.”

Mixed media collage. See how this project continued in Paivi Eerola's artistic journey.

This idea has haunted me since I made this crafty block, or I could say since I visited St. Petersburg, Russia. I have two blurry photos from that trip that I look at quite often. One is the golden door and the other is a handpainted plate at The State Russian Museum.

Paivi Eerola at museums in St. Petersburg, Russia.

I felt I had found the aesthetics that I also wanted to create. First, I thought I would literally need real gold. Here’s how I ended the blog post:

So, if you follow me, then you know what I will do if I win in a lottery! Real gold, jewels … wow, it will look astonishing.

I wish I could turn back time, and say to myself: “Don’t lose this idea! Keep creating, and once your skills will grow, you will find the way.”

Dumping the Idea – “It’s Too Superficial”

The problem with me has been that when my skills haven’t met my vision, I have let go of the ideas around it. I have said to myself:

– “It wasn’t what I wanted to create anyway.”
– “It was too superficial, I want to create deeper stuff.”
– “The idea was great but not what other people would want to see”
– “Only rich and overly successful people could do that.”
– “There will be new and better ideas that are easier to execute.”

And so I have felt lost many times in my artistic journey because I haven’t been able to re-create that golden door, my true desire.

Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read about her artistic journey.
Doodling in 2015.

Getting Back to the Idea with More Skills

But for Magical Inkdom, I wanted to create gold. There my main message has been that we can make the wrong right, and define what’s magical to us. So I drew some golden frames, and they looked magical! (Instructions will be published in Lesson 4.)

Hand-drawn collage art by paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Sign up for her class Magical Inkdom to draw fun fantasy art!

Of course, I couldn’t just have a little bit of gold and settle with that. So I began a new piece, approximately 18 by 18 inches. It’s the biggest ink drawing that I have made so far. I knew my skills are there. I didn’t need a sketch or a prototype but just pour out everything that I love.

Ink drawing in progress by paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

While I colored the drawing with watercolors, I thought about the appropriate title. The most accurate that came to my mind was “Kaikki tarpeellinen” meaning “All Things Necessary”. This kind of golden luxury may seem unnecessary and even overwhelming to many, but it’s necessary for me. I need to load this daily into my mind to keep my zest for life alive.

Coloring an ink drawing with watercolors by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

All Things Necessary: It’s a world where Salvador Dali travels to the Rococo era, and then back and forth between the Renaissance age and the 20th century.

All Things Necessary by Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet. A detail of an illustration by the Finnish artist.

It’s a world where golden birds lay Faberge eggs and land on golden fingers.

All Things Necessary by Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet. A detail of an illustration by the Finnish artist.

It’s a world where people, animals, and physical items share the same qualities and play the same symphony.

All Things Necessary by Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet. A detail of an illustration by the Finnish artist.

It’s a world where a cembalo plays a bit too loud, where all the gold hurts your eyes, and where the chaos is suspiciously acceptable.

All Things Necessary by Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet. A detail of an illustration by the Finnish artist.

It’s the same place that I was trying to find in 2011, when I was madly drawing circles, and when some of you started following this blog.

Doodled designs by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read about her artistic journey from these to illustrations.

All Things Necessary for Moving on in the Artistic Journey

This new piece has made me re-think about the whole discussion about the artistic journey and finding a visual voice. I have blogged a lot about it, coached people for it, but it’s not easy to dig out a quiet seed that needs a lot of time and care to grow. Our artistic vision, the road sign, can be an ugly “prototype” like my old craft project that we carelessly toss away!

Let’s hold on to the things that keep deeply touching us while growing our skills in drawing and painting.

All Things Necessary by Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet. An illustration by a Finnish artist. Read about her artistic journey.

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Get Closer to True Artistic Expression – Draw Your Innocent Little Secrets!

The Secret Life of Pet Plants. Illustration by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Ink drawing colored with watercolors.

Here’s my latest art project, “The Secret Life of Pet Plants” – an illustration that I have composed of hand-drawn collage pieces. It’s about the love for house plants – the topic that’s close to my heart but that I haven’t touched much lately. I also wanted to include little secrets that I haven’t revealed in my art.

These little secrets are often pretty innocent stuff that we have labeled with words “too childish” or “too weird.” They can become creative blocks and drain our energy if we try to avoid them. Really, life is too short not to get them on paper! We can get more serious after they are out – if we ever want to get back, that is! I think I stay on this track for a while – making art that I have always secretly wanted to see. It feels good to be close to this kind of true artistic expression.

A Couple of My Innocent Little Secrets

One of mine is my secret admiration for traditional (and often a little bit tacky) cross-stitch designs. They often have decorative borders and look more like a collection of motifs than a real scene.

Decorative frame in a crosstitch project.

Another one is that, to me, plants are like pets with personalities. We have a lot of plants, both outdoors and indoors, and I feel a deep connection to many.

Streptocarpus house plant.

Here are the steps for an illustration made from hand-drawn collage pieces.

1) Make Small Drawings

I started the process by drawing and coloring the main elements separately.

Drawing collage elements. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet.

I love using watercolors with smooth Bristol paper. The color is easy to layer and also to wipe off if needed.

Coloring collage elements with watercolors. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet.

2) Draw the Background

I placed the colored collage pieces on a background that I had made for the class Magical Inkdom and tried how they would work as a composition. I also drew a water drop just in case I needed a small element for balance.

Drawing backgrounds and collage elements. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Then I drew a new background and marked the areas where the elements would go.

Drawing backgrounds for collage art. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

3) Attach the Collage Pieces to the Background

I usually attach collage pieces with gel medium, but this time, I used double-sided tape. It is easier to control, so I didn’t have to worry about having the medium in the areas where I wanted to add more watercolors.

Coloring an illustration with watercolors. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

4) Display the Little Secrets!

The Secret Life of Pet Plants. Illustration by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Ink drawing colored with watercolors.

One wall of my studio is white so that I can photograph my work easily. But when I want to display the recent pieces, I don’t leave them on the wall but place them on the side table under a clear plastic plate. I love how this piece fits with the ones I have made for Magical Inkdom. It truly feels my true artistic expression at the moment.

An art display in the studio. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

With the African violet that looks like a cuddly guinea pig to me, I want to wish you a happy and creative weekend!

Guinea pig and African violet. Illustration by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

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