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Peony and Parakeet

3 Tips for Improving Busy Mixed Media Pieces

This week, I have a revamped old piece, and share three tips about making busy mixed media pieces more attractive for the viewer.

"Song of Glass", a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. See how she revamped an old busy mixed media piece and made this!

The image above is a revamped version of the busy mixed media piece below. It’s 12 by 12 inches, and I originally made it back in 2014 for a blog post about how to paint glass.

A busy mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. See how she revamped this one!

I visited the Finnish Glass Museum a couple of weeks ago, so this piece felt really inspiring again! Let’s dive deeper into how I changed it.

Tip #1 – Cure the White Spot Fever

Back in 2014, I had fallen in love with all kinds of white pens, paints, and correction fluids. A little dot here, another there, and the element looked prettier. But adding dots and spots also make the piece busier. For the viewer, it’s like trying to find its way through crowded streets where everyone is trying to get the attention: “Hey, hey, hey, you there, look at me!”

Lots of small white dots can lead to problems in composition. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

When you are a doctor for the white spot fever, start by toning down all the spots that are located near the edges. We want to steer the eye to the middle first, so the edges don’t have to be so eye-catching. If this is the first time you work on this job, watercolors can be a good choice. Even if the pigment wouldn’t stick on all the surfaces, you get the impression of how the piece looks if you make the edges less noticeable. Turn the piece upside down, so that it’s easier to focus on the task, and not look at the big picture.

Painting over an old busy mixed media piece. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Of course, your pieces can have fever, even if it’s not the white spot fever. The general advice for any fever is to remove all the eye-catching small elements that are located near the edges.

Tip #2 – Form Friendships between Elements

Often when we don’t feel connected with the image, the image itself doesn’t express connection. When the elements are floating separately, there can be a lonely undertone in the whole piece. On the other hand, if there is no contrast between the elements, the image can look busy no matter how connected the elements are.

Here are my two versions side by side. In the old version, there are big glass jars, but the contrast between them is not very clear. There are a lot of small shapes that are floating lonely.

Improving old artwork. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

At best, adding connections make the image to deliver a message. When I looked at my piece, it was unclear to me what it was about. In the old blog post, I had written: “It’s about parents trying to protect their children. The parents have good intentions, and they do their best, but in the end, they have to let the child step into the world. I have painted two glass vases to represent the parents. The child sees the world through the parents, and even if they want to protect the child, they are fragile too.”

But now, I found the element that looked like jaws most intriguing. It seemed to be a rising spirit, a small but powerful baby dragon, which only needed a neck to become a central element.

Creating mixed media and painting with acrylic paints. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I used dark india inks and black pen to quickly sketch how I would connect the elements, and then continued the work with acrylics and lighter colors. I broke the biggest jar near the edge to two jars so that they won’t compete with the focal point so much.

Tip #3 – Make a Highway for the Viewer

Busy pieces often have so many paths for the eye that it’s not clear where to start and how to continue. The best thing is to be clear and make a highway that goes around the image. The viewer can then take smaller scenic routes around the details, but there’s always the big safe road to return to that leads to the main attractions.

Improving composition. Art advice by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Building a highway requires that you know what your main elements are. After finding the spirit of the jar, I made the red circle communicate with it. Now I added a couple of white spots so that it looks like there’s a voice or a reflection flying between the two. So there’s use for those white dots, just use them sparingly and near the places where you want to lead the eye!

Painting shadows with acrylic paints. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

With turquoise tones, I painted a route from the right bottom corner to the two central elements. I also added more depth to the image by painting shadows. Shadows would be my fourth tip, but it’s worth a separate post, so I will get back to it sometimes later.

No More Busy Mixed Media!

I named the revamped version as “Song of Glass” because it’s now about finding the singing spirit of the silent jars.

"Song of Glass", a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I hope you found this post helpful for busy mixed media pieces. See my classes for more handy tips and advice!

Inktober Warm-Up Exercise

Ink drawing by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. See her step-by-step instructions for creating black and white ink art that combines both abstract and realistic elements.

It’s soon October and with that – Inktober! Last year, I did all 31 prompts. Read about my previous experience here and here!

This year, I intend to make at least some drawings. And because Inktober was such a great experience for me last year, I want to support you to take it too. Here’s an Inktober warm-up exercise. I hope it inspires you to use inks and black felt-tipped pens to create black and white art. Follow the steps to keep going!

1) Paint an Abstract Composition

Let’s start by playing with liquid ink! Mine is Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Ink. I make the image on Leuchtturm 1917 Sketchbook.

Inktober warm-up exercise - Step 1

Put a few drops of black ink on a palette. Mix some water to the ink so that it’s grey rather than pitch black. Make some pale strokes with a flat brush. Then add new strokes on the top of previous ones. Work slowly! Enjoy each stroke and the translucency of it.

Inktober warm-up exercise - Step 1

Turn the brush upward and make narrow strokes by using the tip of the flat brush. Experiment with both wet and dry brush.

Inktober warm-up exercise - Step 1

Pick a small round brush and add some ink on the top of the narrow strokes. Now you should have an abstract composition that has a variety of painted elements.

2) Fill Spaces Between the Painted Areas

Use a brush pen or black ink that hasn’t been watered down. Focus on the center of your composition.

Inktober warm-up exercise - Step 2

Fill most of the spaces between the painted areas with black ink. Leave some white to highlight the best parts. Black adds depth to the grey composition.

3) Draw Realistic Objects

Select black thin-tipped drawing pens of various thicknesses. I use Copic Multiliners from 0.05 to 1.0.

Choose a realistic object that you want to repeat in the image. My choice was women’s faces. For example, flowers or birds could be great too.

Inktober warm-up exercise - Step 3

Look at the abstract composition and seek for places where you can add the objects. Add more black, and adjust the shape of the pale areas so that they partly outline the objects. When drawing the objects, play with the scale so that some are big and some small no matter where they are located in the image. All the objects don’t have to be fully visible. Some can hide partly behind the abstract elements.

Inktober warm-up exercise - Step 3

I like to draw faces so that I sketch it first with a thin ink pen, and then adjust it by adding a black element beside the face. (In my classes Animal Inkdom and Magical Inkdom, I show easy step-by-step methods for drawing all kinds of fun figures.)

4) Doodle Decorations

Continue with the black drawing pens, and doodle on the blank and pale areas. I also use a handmade oval template to get a big geometric shape that is fun to decorate.

Inktober warm-up exercise - Step 4

For decoration, the sky is the limit, but I like jewels, frills, laces, waves, and flowers!

Before and after decoration- Ink drawing in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

When doodling, I also add shadows to the elements by drawing thin lines side by side.

5) Finishing Touches: Shadows and Highlights

Squeeze your eyes and point all the white areas. Usually, there are too many and it makes the image look busy. Pick a brush and paint most of the white with diluted black ink.

Inktober warm-up exercise - Step 5

Especially the areas that are near the edges are worth toning down.

Inktober warm-up exercise - Step 5

I also like to paint over the shadowed areas to give them a softer look.

Inktober warm-up exercise - Step 5

White gel pen can be handy for those areas that need a little bit more white.

Inktober Warm-Up – Finished Piece

Here’s my finished piece again. See how limited the number of white areas is.

Ink drawing by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. See her step-by-step instructions for creating black and white ink art that combines both abstract and realistic elements.

I hope you enjoyed this Inktober warm-up! Tell me – are you going to participate in Inktober?

The Best Inspiration for Art

"Believe", handdrawn collage by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watch her video about making this piece!

I have often written about using your own art for inspiration and combining many ideas into one piece. But this time I want to show that more in detail. With the video below, I invite you to my studio to browse art journals and sketchbooks and see how you can practice, create, and also play.

The Best Inspiration for Art – Watch the Video!

Come to Draw with Us!

Animal Inkdom - a fun drawing class by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Come to draw and decorate animals with us at Animal Inkdom! You will get the published lessons immediately after the registration, and you can start drawing right away. Sign up for Animal Inkdom!

Believe!

"Believe", a hand-drawn collage by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watch her video about art inspiration and making this piece!

This week’s artwork, called “Believe” is also for sale in my art store.

Joyful Art Taught by Drawing Paper Dolls

Mixed media art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. This one is called "Living Paper Doll"

Here’s my latest illustration called “Living Paper Doll.” It expresses the world of fantasy that I have been able to find after changing some of my artistic dreams.

Trade-Offs to Create Joyful Art

For a long time, one part of me has admired old master paintings, yearned for more visits to famous art museums, and desperately wanted to master more and more skills. Another part has been less serious, playing with the idea of getting back to childhood, drawing animals and paper dolls, re-reading books like Emily of the New Moon, and watching Bride and Prejudice for the 12th time …

After October, or should we say Inktober, these two parts have started to shake hands and discuss what to save and what to throw out. A lot of that inner conversation has been about changing technical skills to using more imagination. Another trade-off has been between abstract and representational art. I no longer aspire to create fully abstract paintings. More than a fine artist, I am an illustrator of the mind.

If you look at this piece from January 2018, its visual style is very similar to my current pieces. But content-wise the change is a big one. This now looks empty to me.

Abstract art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Freedom of the Line or the Mind?

How many times have we tried to grow our drawing and painting skills to become “looser”? And how many times it has led to more stiffness regarding the use of imagination?

I have to admit that often we art teachers can be blamed here. It’s easy to focus more on the technical side, composition and such, rather than supporting the growth in expression. But on the other hand, “techniques” and “step-by-step” are often the words that students want. Expression and imagination sound much vaguer.

However, joyful art is created with free spirit. Now I feel that if I had to choose one stiffness, it would be the stiffness of the line instead of the mind.

Joyful Art in Practice – Forgotten Piece Gets Completed

Last weekend, I organized my studio and found a piece that I had started in July. I hadn’t finished it because I had no idea how to proceed. It was made on a huge piece of paper that I had later cut smaller just to be able to store it more easily.

Creating mixed media art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Last summer, I did many experiments with graphite pencils. Here I also used watercolors, one of my favorite supplies. Now I wanted to add some ink drawing as well. It was a lot of fun drawing my current favorite subjects, animals, to this forgotten piece.

Creating mixed media art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Ink pens and watercolors go well together!

Creating mixed media art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Painting with watercolors and creating joyful art.

First I thought I make this piece a self-portrait by drawing my face on the background. But then I thought about my business name Peony and Parakeet, and how Peony represents beautiful things while Parakeet is for curiosity and play. So the idea of a face changed to a bird. Notice how the elements blend with each other, creating a sense of unity to the piece.

Mixed media art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watercolors, ink, and graphite pencils.

I toned down the bright white areas with yellowish green. I used Daniel Smith’s Rich Green Gold. It’s one of my favorites when painting with watercolors.

Mixed media art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. This one is called "Living Paper Doll"

Paper Playground in the Studio

My studio has always had a minimalistic feel, but now it has got more and more joyful art that I don’t want to put away!

Paivi Eerola's art studio full of joyful art.

One of the big joys in January has been the art that has been created by the participants of Animal Inkdom. On Monday, we will start a new module and it’s about drawing birds. I am so excited to see what everyone will create from the class projects.

Hand-drawn paper bird. Art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

These paper dolls feel alive to me. They radiate hope that was always present when I was a child. I was living in a dream world most of the times, and back then, there seemed to be nothing extraordinary. But for an adult, it’s amazing what the mind of a child can discover, and sad how we ruin that when starting to follow other people’s expectations.

A detail of a mixed media artwork called "Living Paper Doll" by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Art, Hope, and Humor!

There are no boundaries in art. Art includes hope and humor as well. To me, exploring humor joy has revealed new ways to create. I feel that I am now better at delivering a sense of mystery, dealing with dark themes, combining suspense and silliness, and accepting that sometimes art can be so bad that it’s almost the best possible kind of art!

Humorous and joyful art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Come to Animal Inkdom to draw with us, we’ll start with the birds on Monday. The previous module “Bees and Butterflies” arrives immediately after signing up, and you are good to go! >> Sign up here!

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