Peony and Parakeet

Making of a Miniature Painting

This week, I have a new miniature painting and share tips for making small-sized paintings in general.

Ebony, a miniature horse painting, 4 by 4 inches, by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Let me introduce Ebony, my newest miniature painting! It’s only 10 cm x 10 cm (4 inches x 4 inches). The size shows better in the photo below.

Holding a miniature horse painting, made by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

This is an oil painting, and it took over a month from start to finish, but just because I let each layer dry properly. There’s about a week drying time between each layer. If you use acrylic paints or watercolors, the process is much quicker!

The Beginning – Making Not So Beautiful Mess

As usual, I didn’t have any particular idea for the painting when I started. Here’s how the painting looked after a couple of layers.

The beginning of a miniature painting. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

My surface here is Ampersand Gessoboard Panel. It’s very smooth and thus suitable for small details. I had bought a pack of four over a year ago. I finished the first one last year, see this blog post!

When making an abstract mess, I don’t usually settle for pretty little messes, but make the mess more layered. When the mess is as ugly as I can bare, it begins to talk to me. It came to my mind, that the random strokes could be mane, and there could be a horse coming up.

The middle and the end of a miniature painting. This is called Ebony, and it's made by Paivi Eerola, Finland.

Using Negative Painting to Dig Out the Spirit

I like to use negative painting a lot. So here, I painted the background first so that it defined the head of the horse. When painting the surroundings, you slowly get closer to the actual spirit. It’s like taming a wild animal!

A small-sized horse painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Ebony is now a gentle soul, and she reminds me of Black Beauty, the television series in the 1970s. I watched every episode and it inspired me to play with plastic horses.

Working on small paintings on Ampersand Gessoboard Panels. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I still have two more panels to finish. I think I will dig out horses or other animals from their messes so that I get a small series of miniature paintings.

My Four Tips for Painting in Miniature

  • Start boldly and enjoy all kinds of mark-making and color play. If you are painting on paper, you can start with a bigger piece, and then cut it into smaller ones.
  • Make a few big shapes that contain smaller ones. In my painting, the horse is one big shape, the background another. Let smaller shapes break the borders of the bigger shapes so that the image doesn’t look stiff.
  • The negative painting technique where you paint the surroundings of the shape enables you to paint delicate shapes easily. Magical Forest is the class to take for mastering this technique!
  • We hold miniature pieces quite close when looking at them, so the quality of brushwork matters. Use thin paint, small brushes and even magnifiers if needed. Taking photos and zooming them helps to see the details too. Decodashery is the class to take for making the best out of every stroke!

Drawing Small

Small horse drawings by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Of course, your miniature artwork doesn’t have to be a painting, but a drawing! For me, drawing has been in a significant role in becoming a better painter. It can be just free drawing like in Inspirational Drawing, or more intentional practice like in Animal Inkdom and Magical Inkdom. I use both approaches in painting too.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s project. Do you like painting or drawing in small size?

New Oil Painting and Pretty Art Journaling

This week, I have finished an oil painting and started an art journal that I want to make as pretty as possible. I also talk about my aspire to paint horses and ask how deep you have to know the subject to own it in your art. This post has lots of pics!

Wreath Maker – Painting with Oils Like They Would be Watercolors

"Wreath Maker" - an oil painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet

I started this painting in January, and I am so glad that it’s finally finished. Even if this is an oil painting, I used the approach that’s best for watercolors – I started with pale pastels and worked towards darker tones. I really like painting like this, and the result pleases my eye. The pictures below show the process and I have also blogged about this painting in May 2020.

Making of an intuitive oil painting, by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The Series of Three Floral Paintings

The painting is called “Seppeleentekijä – Wreath Maker”. It’s the last one for the series of three paintings. The two first ones are watercolor pieces called “Jäänmurtaja – Ice Breaker” and “Soihdunkantaja – Torch Bearer.” I made the paintings so that they could be seen as a triptych where the flowers of the two watercolor paintings lean towards the centerpiece. Click the image below to see the series as a bigger picture!

A series of three floral paintings. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The Shelf of Art Journals – Re-Organizing the Studio

Making the three paintings was quite an accomplishment, and finishing the last piece made me feel empty. What to do next? Well, I don’t know about you, but if I need recreation, cleaning and organizing is the thing! While going through the stuff on the shelves of my little studio, I gathered the sketchbooks and art journals in one place.

Art journals on a shelf. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Smash Books – Do You Still Remember Them?

Smash books as art journals. Pretty art journaling.

I found one almost empty old Smash Book – do you remember the time when everybody had them? See the flip-through videos of my two Smash Books here:

>> Pink Smash Book Flip-Through
>> Black Smash Book Flip-Through

The third Smash Book has a silver back and with that, I remembered how back then, all the art journals were more or less messy. In 2012, I daringly wrote a blog post that asked: “Can’t there be pretty art journaling?”

So it hit me, that the extra Smash Book could continue the tradition of the two past ones and be a pretty art journal. It could also be my tool for encouraging myself to paint what I really want, and not fall into the trap of trying to paint what seems more appropriate. Namely, I would like to paint things like … (gasping a bit)… ahem … HORSES! I tried to make a long list, but all I could think of was HORSES.

Horses – Can only an Expert Paint Them?

You see, I am no expert in horses, I have ridden on a horse only once, as a child, and I have never been living close to a stable. But I had toy horses, and I have always admired their beauty. I have tried to get rid of this disease by drawing zebras for the class Animal Inkdom, and horses for its independent sequel Magical Inkdom, but it hasn’t gone away.

A colorful zebra and a fantasy horse. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Can you paint something you are no expert in? Many years ago, I heard an interview with an artist who said that everything clicked when he started painting cows. He had been living with them most of his life, and he knew exactly how they are. You have to know what you paint, he claimed, as far as I can remember. It makes sense. I love plants and have always been growing some. I feel I know the soul of flowers and in the oil painting that I just finished, I wanted the flowers to reveal their soul, to be chatty and curious, just like they are if you silently observe them very, very closely.

But isn’t it possible to use the expertise for other things too – to transfer the soul of a flower to a horse, and thus, regain the mastery? To use the flowery language from Decodashery to express a moving thing?

Painting with silver and gold acrylics. Pretty art journaling. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Golden Heavybody acrylics.

It doesn’t have to be anything grand at first, just a small art journal page.

A decorative horse painted with silver and gold acrylics. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Pretty Art Journaling Can Be Reverse Creative Exploring

If I can paint a horse in the language of flowers, couldn’t it also be possible to revert the process? Could I make an art journal page from the painting, a sketch after a result?

Pretty art journaling. Making a pretty page. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I want to allow this free flow from one theme and one media to another happen again with this journal.

Pretty art journaling. An inner cover of a pretty art journal. By Peony and Parakeet.

The image of the painting was printed on a sticky canvas bought ages ago. Then I drew and colored the floral frame, and added some gold and silver paint too. Here’s the first spread of the “new” Smash Book – the new beginning of pretty art journaling!

Pretty art journaling. An art journal spread with painting and drawing. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Handmade Picture Shelf Finishes the Display

A part of reorganizing was to get a picture shelf on the wall. My skillful husband made it, and I absolutely love it.

A hand made picture shelf for paintings and a small table for displaying art and art journals.

Finished paintings, paintings in progress, and art journal spreads can now be displayed together.

Tell me, what inspires you at the moment?
What do you put in your list of what to paint or draw?

Classes which inspired this post:
Animal Inkdom – Draw and decorate wild animals! – Buy here!
Magical Inkdom – Draw the magic of mysteries and fairytales! – Buy here!
Decodashery – Paint beautiful florals and more! – Buy here!
Flowers masterclass: Floral FantasiesBuy here!

Imaginary People – How to Paint Their Soul?

This week, the theme is painting imaginary people and how to find their soul. There’s plenty of examples in this blog post!

Imaginary People - How to Paint Their Soul? An article by paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

One of the wonders of painting and drawing is that we can give birth to an imaginary person – that we can create someone who breathes, talks, and has a life of her own. However, many times the doll that I have on paper hasn’t come alive. Or she has taken just a few breaths, and after the creative spark has gone, she just stares with empty eyes. So no wonder that I have had a love-hate relationship for painting imaginary people. I want to experience the miracle, but it can also be too much of a struggle.

References – Working with a Soul that Breathes Already

Using a reference may be the least innovative solution but if you find an image that really speaks to you, it can be a good one. Tiny changes in facial features lead to a whole new person so if you don’t follow the reference in the smallest detail, yours is like distant relative to the original – familiar features but still unique. For this oil painting called “Heaven and Earth“, I used a detail of Sandro Botticelli’s painting “Madonna of the Magnificat” (1483) as a reference.

"Heaven and Earth" - an oil painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s a close-up of the faces. I changed the angle of the face, opened the eyes more, and made the mouth look more determined.

Using a reference. "Heaven and Earth" by Paivi Eerola and "Madonna of the Magnificat" by Sandro Botticelli.

Sounds easy, but I often struggle with finding the soul when using references. With this painting, I tried to slowly work towards an individual personality, but creating a connection took a lot of time. Botticelli painted his soul, and it’s not the same as mine.

Here the work was in the early stage so that you can see how she has changed.

Using a reference. "Heaven and Earth" in an underpainting stage by Paivi Eerola and "Madonna of the Magnificat" by Sandro Botticelli. Read about Paivi's thoughts on painting imaginary people with or without a reference.

From the struggles of this painting and many others, I have learned this:

Working on the face alone never brings up the soul.

With the Madonna, as soon as I figured out the purpose and the style of the surroundings, I was able to finish the face.

The Soul Spreads Over the Painting

Even if a person is usually the focal point of the painting, the soul is not focused but spread.

The soul is in the setting, in the things, in the atmosphere. Even Botticelli’s Madonna can look just like a bored person without the crown, the light, the child, the book, etc.

"Madonna of the Magnificat" by Sandro Botticelli.

So no matter if you paint intuitively without pre-defined ideas, sketches, or references, or more intentionally with a clear idea of how you want your imaginary people to look like, seek for the soul in everything you paint.

Flowers have soul.

A detail of "Mirimer" - a floral watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Pots have soul.

A detail of "Mirimer" - a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Hair and hats have soul.

A detail of "Mirimer" - a watercolor fairy by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Inanimate and organic things also give the soul to the imaginary people.

A detail of "Mirimer" - a watercolor fairy painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read about how to paint imaginary people and their soul.
“Mirimer” – a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

In this watercolor painting called “Mirimer“, the fairy is the focal point, but her soul is spread all over the paper.

"Mirimer" - a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read about painting imaginary people and finding their soul.

Imaginary People Exist in Shapes and Colors As Well

The painting doesn’t even need to have a face. Your imaginary people can be abstract, like in this small acrylic painting that I recently painted on a sketchbook.

"Pinkpolka" - a small acrylic painting on a sketchbook by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Shapes and colors have soul.

A detail of "Pinkpolka" - an abstract painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Imaginary People – First or Last?

The idea for this post came from the question that I received a couple of days ago:

“I like your little people peeking out from within your art. I would like to learn more about that. Do you draw them first and paint around them or paint and then save a spot for them?”

I have many approaches.

"Rising Star", a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read about creating imaginary people by drawing and painting!

In Innovative Portraits, we use references and make a sketch. The soul begins with the plan.

"Valomio", a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Buy her class Magical Forest to learn to paint imaginary people like this little fairy!

In Magical Forest, we lure fairies to appear intuitively from the watercolor background. The soul begins with the feeling.

Art for the class Decodashery. Paint flowers, lace, cakes, and omaginary people called Decodollies! By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

In the new class, Decodashery, we start by building a visual world and then make the dollies to fit with it. So the soul is first just a small flower, then it expands to floral paintings, cakes, lace, and finally, the imaginary people are born. By gradually setting the style and the spirit is the best intentional way to add soul to your work.

Decodashery, an online art class by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Decodashery will begin on June 29, 2020. >> Sign up now!

Why I Paint White Flowers – How Your Artistic Voice is Influenced by Others

There’s a lot of talk about finding your artistic voice, but very little about how other people affect it. So this week, I share a story about my mother and her influence on my art.

Painting the Same Thing Again and Again

A couple of days ago, I was on a morning walk near my home in Southern Finland. The air was fresh as well as the view, dominated by the blue sky and white clouds. My beagles’ busy noses and a glimmering brook followed a sown field that had already started to green. Both birds and earphones fed entertaining listening. But all I could think of was my painting. Was it finished? Should I add more color to the flowers? What else did I need to adjust to make most of the tens of hours? I was alone with my dogs, but the inner critic kept me company: what kind of artist doesn’t even know the meaning of her images?

An oil painting in progress by artist Paivi Eerola, Finland. Read her article about how artistic voice is not only our personal choice, but can be influenced by others.
Signed, but is it finished?

Yes, I am no artist at all. I paint white flowers, the easiest anyone can imagine, and the worst that my mother knew. “No white flowers,” she repeated to my father when her wedding anniversary came close, and he was about to buy a bouquet. “White flowers mean death.” And now, long after she has passed away, all I want to paint is white flowers.

Cherimona. Watercolor painting by artist Paivi Eerola.
Icebreaker. Watercolor painting by artist Paivi Eerola.
Torchbearer. Watercolor painting by artist Paivi Eerola.

Commenters are Your Art Coaches

Rebelling had no place in my upbringing during the 1970s and 1980s. As a teenager, I tried to respond to my mother’s corrections and criticism with an ignorant smile. Not for long. She didn’t hesitate to tell that it wasn’t a proper reaction. She was both a direct and shy person. Her presence was almost invisible in public gatherings, but at home, in her empire, she was the master of rights and wrongs. So when I showed drawings to her, she either approved or disapproved. She didn’t talk to me as directly as to my father – what to do or what not – but her words and facial expressions told everything.

My mother was like a strict gymnastic coach with high expectations, but she lacked one essential skill – the ability to show how the tricks could be done. She was as honest to herself as to anyone in this matter and put her energy for finding time, supplies, and art education for me. Time to create was the easiest part. My mother was a housewife. She had left her job at a young age right after she got married. She didn’t want her daughters to have the same destiny, so she did her best to keep me out of the kitchen and constantly reminded me how children would prohibit me from doing what I love.

Artist Paivi Eerola and her mother. Read about how she has influenced her artistic voice.
Me and my mother in 1984

We lived in a small town near the Russian border, and our family wasn’t wealthy. The only income came from my father’s pension. In the evenings, my mother wrote all the expenses on a small black book. But purchasing pens and paper was mandatory. To her, it was the lowest level of civilization, more important than books. Our town had one bookshop that sold some supplies, but after we got more knowledge from local art groups and competitions, it became evident that I needed a better and broader selection. So every month, when my parents drove to a bigger town, I was often with them, selecting paper, paint boards, crayons, and acrylic paints from a real art supply store.

A Praised Piece Sticks into Your Mind

When I was some years over ten, in one spring morning, I decided to try out a new set of crayons. It was just a warm-up, a quick landscape without using any reference. “Look, mother, what do you think,” I said like so many times before. She looked at the image, tightened her lips, but unlike her, she didn’t say much. Later, when I opened a narrow kitchen closet to pick an iron, I stopped. The landscape was taped inside the wooden door. “I like to look at it,” she said after seeing my puzzled face.

Landscape with crayons by artist Paivi Eerola. From her teenage years.

I was devastated. That little landscape didn’t deserve the place. So many times I had poured my heart out on paper and soon found out that it wasn’t to her liking. And now – I didn’t even color all the paper!

Finding the Why Behind Your Artistic Voice – Connecting the Appraisals and Repetitions

Fortunately, my mother was not the only one commenting on my art. My two big sisters had different opinions, and my teachers and friends as well. One piece didn’t satisfy them all, but there were always kind words from someone. It encouraged me to keep painting and drawing, as everyone, especially my mother, expected.

After my mother’s death, one stormy weekend, I traveled to the childhood home to pick things that I wanted to keep before we would sell it. The house was cold, but I knew it was the last time when I would see it like it used to be. Everything was clean and tidy. Performing tasks effectively with high quality had always fascinated my mother. “If I could choose what my profession was, it would be a researcher of work – if such a profession existed.”

When I got up the stairs to an attic, the sight would surprise anyone but me. The attic had always been nearly empty. In one corner, under a sloped sealing, my father had built a small closet for safe storage. I opened its little door, and there they were, neatly in a big cardboard box – my paintings and drawings. Not all, but a collection that my mother had curated over the years, the little crayon drawing included.

So a few days ago, when I was walking by the field and looking up in the sky, my mother came to me in the form of the freshly colored landscape. I now knew that my urge to paint white flowers hadn’t been an act against my mother, but a yearn for her acceptance that blank white blobs had once given to me. Now my question is: can I let go of them, or do I want to keep her in my art forever.

Paivi Eerola and her painting in progress. Read her thoughs about artistic voice and how other people affect it.

Who has influenced your art? Can you recognize how?

P.S. I also teach drawing and painting flowers in the class Floral Fantasies.

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