Peony and Parakeet

5 Ways to Love Yourself When Painting

Icebreaker, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read her post about how to love yourself when painting.

Here’s my recent watercolor painting. It’s called Icebreaker, and can I publicly say that I love it? Love, love, love. So this week, I daringly blog about how to selfishly love yourself when painting.

This is not my typical post. I would normally post things like “11 Ways to Make Your Painting More Abstract” or “7 Reasons Why Negative Painting is the Best Technique” or “3 Tips for Getting Closer to Your Style”. But after painting Icebreaker, I kind of melted. It became more true to me than ever before that we paint because we want this special kind of acceptance – the acceptance from ourselves.

When I whole-heartedly accepted what I had created, I didn’t just receive love from myself. I saw a long row of people congratulating me. All deceased, unfortunately, but still! There was my mother, saying that she knew I could do it. There was my father, looking away so that he could hide his smile. I saw my grandfather, a creative person I never met, congratulating me generously. And my dear aunt Rauha (which means Peace in English) was waving, looking just as lively and restlessly happy as she used to be. Now, this kind of love is what I want more and also spread more!

So this post is about turning your inner critic to your best fan. It’s not easy, and it may take like a lifetime, but it’s worth trying, so let’s begin!

1) Love Rises from the Mess

As a former engineer, I feel drawn to two-state things. Zero or one, yes or no, black or white, thick or thin, geometric or organic, the list is endless. But when painting, I like to be in the grey area, especially in the beginning. After the horrifying view of blank paper, my watercolors are sighing with relief: “She sprays and splashes so she must be having a good time.” And yes, I usually am.

But this mess is not just any mess to me. It’s a sign of hope. I hope to figure out what to do with it …

Watercolor painting in progress by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Let’s love this hopefulness in us! It’s a superpower that keeps us not only dreaming but creating too.

Yes, this superpower can look like a bad thing. It can keep us awake too late at night. It can make us buy too many brushes and focus on insignificant details like wallpaper when watching a movie. But our life is never boring or lonely when we get hopeful just by making a mess.

So, make a mess, accept the mess, fall in love with the mess! The more time you spend with the mess, the more likely you will figure it out.

2) Love What Is Secondary

Ideally, I would always know what to do next. Practically, I often have moments when I have no clue. Hope seems lost. I feel fake.

Watercolor painting in progress by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read her post about 5 ways to love yourself when creating art.

The best cure that I have found is to seek secondary things. They can be tiny spots or pretty accidental shapes, or sometimes I only admire how wet paint glows. It’s like filtering out 95 percent of the mess and seeing a few single things that look fascinating. Lovable.

Watercolor painting in progress by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I call these elements secondary because often they are just parts of the background. But by toning down the obvious and bringing up the less apparent, I can change the direction of the painting. What anyone can see is no longer my norm. I have moved on to what only I can see.

A detail of Icebreaker, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

There’s so much more in us than what other people can see. Some skills and characteristics may seem secondary to others, but every one of us is allowed to love and grow them whole-heartedly.

A detail of Icebreaker, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The hierarchy of the outer world doesn’t exist when you are in your inner world. You are free to appreciate discoveries that look secondary to others.

3) No Words, Just Color

It’s not easy to write about love. Love feels more like a combination of changing colors than a sentence with specific words. So when painting, let’s feel the love through color. When dipping your brush first to the paint and then to paper, exhale color. Next, put your face close to the paper and look at the spot so that it fills your view. Inhale. It’s your color. No one can take it from you. Love, love, love.

A detail of Icebreaker, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

4) Love the Vagueness

Yes, we want to find our style, our visual voice, our true self. But our boat is moving. We are changing, our life is changing, the world is changing. Everything is unsure and insecure. That also makes everything possible.

A detail of Icebreaker, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I like to build my paintings so that I leave this vagueness/possibility alive. Maybe there’s a flower, maybe not. Someone sees some triangles only, while others see a rosebud. There can be plenty of interpretations. I am vague, and everything is all right. My painting is a living organism, partly defined by the vague me, partly by the vague you.

A detail of Icebreaker, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Today we might love the current painting less than tomorrow. And our art may tell a different story after a couple of years. That’s ok.

No, that’s not ok. That’s fabulous!

5) Break It!

I admire brave people. I adore Tracy Chapman singing without a band. Her voice is not faultless, and many of her stories are not relatable to me. But I feel her honesty being present right there when I am listening to her through the headphones.

But for me, it’s often the fear that’s speaking. I hear myself shouting, “NO!” and that’s when I know that the answer should be “YES.” I know I am not alone here. We are often afraid to touch the painting even if we know it lacks something. The risk is real, but worth taking.

In this painting, it would have been so much easier not to paint that dark brown around the white area. But the ice wouldn’t start breaking otherwise.

A detail of Icebreaker, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read her blog post about how to love yourself while creating art.

Let’s love this creativity that wants to break what’s almost working. Let’s cherish this wild force that we have in us.

Icebreaker, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read her post about how to love yourself when painting.

Let’s love who we are when we paint, and when we are surrounded by our paintings!

Paivi Eerola and her watercolor paintings.

Icebreaker and other watercolor paintings are for sale at paivieerola.com

I currently teach an online watercolor class Magical Forest with themes hope, spirituality, flow, and curiosity. You can still hop along! The class ends at the end of April, so there’s lots of time to catch up! >> Sign up here!

The Beauty of Science – Illustrating a Children’s Book

Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers, a cover illustration for the book of C.L. Hunt. Illustration by Paivi Eerola.

This week, I want to show an example of how we can use art to change the world. My example is about illustrating science so that it also appeals to those who love beauty and fantasy. When we talk about inclusiveness, we often talk about what words to use and how but rarely talk about the style of images. My questions for you this week are:

How could your art invite people to try new things or to think in a new way? How could your art make new people feel included right away?

Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers

Last fall, I was hired to illustrate a children’s book. It was a big project – well over 60 images and ornaments, including the illustration for the cover, shown above. The book is called “Fairy Experiments For Thinkers and Tinkerers” and its goal is to inspire young girls to explore science through fun experiments. The book hasn’t been published yet, but my client C.L. Hunt has an email list where you can sign up to get notified when the book goes on sale: www.fairyexperiments.com

Black-and-White Drawings in Victorian Style

The book combines fantasy and science in a fascinating way. My client wanted to have black-and-white hand-drawings with a Victorian feel.

Fairy Queen, an illustration for the book Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers, author C.L. Hunt, illustrator Paivi Eerola.

Illustrating the Feminine Beauty of Science

This project soon became close to my heart. As a child, I fell in love with science at school and then later, studied software engineering at The Helsinki University of Technology. Natural science, especially physics and mathematics have always interested me. As a young girl, I bought copper sulfate from a pharmacy because I thought it was so beautiful. I warmed it to make bigger crystals from the powder and loved the glow.

I have had a few women, teachers and mentors, who have supported me during my career in technology. But I have also always known, even as a young girl, that I was in a masculine world. The assignments and the culture often felt strange and yes – let’s say it aloud: not beautiful at all.

Science is not just bolts and levers, it’s also a world of glitter, shimmer, and sunsets. Nature’s transformations, the structure of the universe, and the fascinating microcosmos are full of aesthetics. And still, most science books don’t show that beauty, at least not in a feminine way.

In this book, my goal was to combine intelligence and beauty so that the feel of the images is inviting and light-hearted too.

Illustrations for the book Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers, author C.L. Hunt, illustrator Paivi Eerola.

I was excited when my client wanted to combine fairy fantasies and practical science experiments. We were on the same page from the very beginning. In the end, she summarized the project:

“Paivi understood and appreciated my project, and her enthusiasm has kept me motivated to keep working on it. The images are very well suited to my book, and their style is exactly what I was looking for. Paivi kept to her schedule, communicated well when I had questions, and I was really happy creating a shared vision with Paivi. I recommend her warmly.”

– C.L. Hunt, the author of Fairy Experiments For Thinkers & Tinkerers”

Illustrating Girl Power – Stepping away from a Passive Role

Even if we wanted to show the beauty of science, the fairies needed to be more than pretty faces and poses. In the illustrations, fairies take an active role and make the most of nature’s forces. I drew plain and classic dresses for the fairies so that action gets the attention.

Illustrating science for girls. Illustrations for the book Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers, author C.L. Hunt, illustrator Paivi Eerola.

My client also wanted to have a variety of ethnic groups so that every girl can feel that the book is for her.

An illustration for the book Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers, author C.L. Hunt, illustrator Paivi Eerola.

Illustrating Science with a Flair of Fantasy

In the manuscript, there were wonderful descriptions that built bridges between reality and fantasy. My job was not only to demonstrate the essentials of the experiment but also tie them with imagination.

Illustrations for the book Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers, author C.L. Hunt, illustrator Paivi Eerola.

In these illustrations, fairies rule and take care of the world but also have fun. The book is all about exploring life’s miracles like the circle of life with step-by-step instructions.

Illustrations for the book Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers, author C.L. Hunt, illustrator Paivi Eerola.

With the book, the child becomes part of the royal guard of fairies, so my job was also to design a badge that could be colored. Here’s the badge with the rest of the visual world.

Illustrating science for girls. Illustrations for the book Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers, author C.L. Hunt, illustrator Paivi Eerola.

Expressing Natural Science as Ornaments

My favorite part of the projects was to design ornaments for fairy families. I hand-drew them all and used a computer only to make them symmetric.

Drawing ornaments for the book Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers, author C.L. Hunt, illustrator Paivi Eerola.

These ornaments take ideas from the illustrations and express the major chapters in a decorative way. They mark the chapters and make the book look more Victorian.

Illustrating science for girls. Ornaments for the book Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers, author C.L. Hunt, illustrator Paivi Eerola.

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek to the upcoming book Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers by C.L. Hunt!

An illustration for the book Fairy Experiments for Thinkers and Tinkerers, author C.L. Hunt, illustrator Paivi Eerola. Read her post about illustrating science.

Learn to Draw with Me! I teach line-drawing techniques (+ using your imagination) in my classes Animal Inkdom and Magical Inkdom!

Hire Me as an Illustrator! See my portfolio in Hire an Illustrator!

Happy New Year from Paivi’s Art Studio – Greetings in a Video!

Watercolor painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

On this last day of the decade, I share some moments from my art studio in Finland. Watch the 1-minute video!

Many times when people look at art, they say admiringly: “How did the artist do that?” They assume that the artist intentionally painted every spot. But often, art is more about seeing what accidental spots to preserve rather than how to intentionally paint them. It’s the nature of art to explore the wild and uncontrollable side of life, and it’s the job of an artist to make it serve the expression.

During the past years, I have tried many art techniques, many approaches, but this the journey that’s for me – to produce and teach art that goes out of control at times, and that has unrealistic and abstract elements as well.

Start the New Year by Painting the Magic

Magical Forest begins on January 1st, 2020! >> Sign up Now!

Your Art in 2020 – How to Set Creative Goals?

Paintings by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read about what she recommends about setting creative goals!

Here’s the problem with creative goals:

When forcing yourself to focus on a few things only, you will get bored and feel restricted. Rather than gaining more meaning for your art, you drift further away from what you are. You are then also less likely to fascinate and serve other people as well.

But let’s think this way:

The core of your creativity needs space for expanding. Don’t set a single technique, skill, project, or source of inspiration as your primary goal. Instead, ask:

“What kind of fantasy world do I want to build?”

Look Further Rather than Narrow the Goal

Don’t just say: “I want to paint flowers,” but imagine a place where your flowers grow. For example, is it a palace with huge vases, or a meadow full of light? Continue to travel further: what’s around them, where do they lead, what kind of patterns, colors, and atmosphere are there? When searching for inspiration, select things that fit with your imaginary world.

When you think about the world instead of a style, you allow things to get mixed and merged. You will see the many things you do as one big world-building factory. Your art-making is then more focused on how to integrate than how to minimize, and you become many steps closer to your true self.

A knitted bag designed by Paivi Eerola and her drawing. Read about how she sets creative goals and sees her creativity as a fantasy world!

Creative Goals – Frequently Asked Questions

“I want to become an abstract painter, how does this world-building fit with that?”
Abstract art also sets an atmosphere and takes ideas from representational things. If you try to avoid that, you won’t have any ideas for abstract art. The inspiration for the world-building also includes all the senses. You can curate what sounds and music belong to your world, for example. It’s also a mental thing: think what kind of philosophy and experiences you want to express, and see them as events in your world. You can go as far as you want, but start simple and expand as you create and integrate.

“I just want to create like my idol X.X. does.”
What kind of world is she or he building? What is missing if you think about your origin and your childhood? Two people never have similar worlds. But that’s also where the exciting part begins: our worlds can cross and enrich each other. 

Painting abstract flowers in watercolor. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Come to Draw and Paint with Us!

Come to expand your visual world lesson by lesson! Forest is a place where nature meets both abstract and representational, intuitive and intentional.
>> Sign up for Magical Forest!

Magical Forest - an online painting workshop by Paivi Eerola. We'll paint magical forest scenes with watercolor.

The class begins on January 1st, 2020! >> Sign up Now!

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