Minimalism in Creating – Making the Most of What You Have

Ikebana, a mixed media painting with watercolors and colored pencils by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Here’s my latest little study in watercolor, called “Ikebana.” I finished it today, but for a long time, it was just a piece of watercolor paper with random doodles and colored spots. I had started the piece in December 2016 when running a local art class. I had just painted mindlessly while discussing with the students and then left the piece unfinished.

Choosing Not to Toss Away

When I was holding the unfinished, ugly painting, I thought of my choices. I could toss the paper away and forget the thing. Or I could treat it as a treasure and make the most of it, despite the controlling straight lines that went through the page and other uninspiring details. To me, choosing to continue the painting, is usually always the better choice. Making the most what I have calms me down, gives me a sense of purpose, and positively challenges me. I don’t consider it so much as a choice of saving money or space but getting a peace of mind.

I have also noticed that when I work on with the old pieces, I find new ways to make them more expressive. That in turn, helps me to develop better classes and help my students. This time, I was inspired by April’s theme of Bloom and Fly – surreal art!

Getting back to old doodles also reminds me that even if I can’t make all the details work together, art is never fully perfect. Often the minor “mistakes” add personality and interesting tension to the piece.

Storing finished pieces. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I also like to store the finished pieces organized in folders.

Using Up Old Art Supplies

One of my favorite things is to organize art supplies once in a while. I try to find the best places for them so that they get used up. I find it much more pleasurable to buy new supplies when there’s the actual need. It’s also nice when I have had time to think what to purchase next.

So when I noticed that some pans of my White Nights watercolor set are getting empty, I decided to experiment and fill some with paint from the old tubes. I found an old gouache tube by Schminke, the pink that I totally love but had forgotten, and I hope it will keep on wetting well even after the pan is fully dried.

Filling watercolor pans with tube paint. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read about her approach to minimalism!

One of the pans that I made, the muddy green, is a color mix. It’s a color that I usually use for watercolor paintings to give brighter colors more power.

My Meditation – Cleaning Brushes

The longer I have created art, the more I have put a focus on my brushes. I used to buy them carelessly and toss them away once they didn’t seem to work anymore. But nowadays, I like to appreciate what I have and take time to clean the brushes carefully after each painting session.

The cleaner that I currently use is The Masters Brush Cleaner, recommended to me by my artist friend Eeva Nikunen. I have saved many old brushes by cleaning them properly with this cleaner, and I couldn’t even think of cleaning oil paint from the brushes with anything else.

The Masters Brush Cleaner

This cleaner is a solid soap. You dip the brush in water and then rub the soap with the brush. Formerly, I only washed the brushes with warm water after watercolor painting. Now I use the cleaner for watercolor brushes too, and it’s lovely to begin a new painting session when my brushes are like new!

No Need for Inventing New Ideas

To me, looking old stuff with fresh eyes is one of the best things in art, and it applies to ideas as well. See “From Innovation to Experience” from 2014 and Origami from 2016-2018!

Art by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read how she embraces minimalistic thinking!

Is This Too Much Minimalism?

I was hesitant to write this blog post because I don’t want to take the joy out of buying new stuff and starting new art. I also enjoy that! But often the best cure for procrastination is to stop thinking what you don’t have and start using your creativity to make the most of what you already have. Bonding with the old supplies and ideas can give a sense of independence and freedom too.

“It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.” – Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

I heard this quote from one of the members of Bloom and Fly, and it feels appropriate here too!

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22 Responses to Minimalism in Creating – Making the Most of What You Have

  1. Kay says:

    So right, Paivi. Organizing and focusing on using what is on hand is calming and energizing. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.
    My cat inspires me in this way. She’s a homebody and never gets bored staying in the same house. Sometimes she sleeps up high on the cupboards, other times you’ll find her curled up in the bath tub, some days she’ll go for a walk along the piano keys. So many ways to experience the same space in new and different ways, and the same is true of our beloved art materials.

    • Päivi says:

      What a lovely comment, Kay! I love the comparison between the way a cat explores the familiar surroundings and how we can also find new approaches to the same old art supplies! Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Eloise Luyk says:

    Love this blog…on point for sure. Sometimes it is better to walk away from something and come back with fresh eyes and more ideas to finish it. The quote is so true!

    • Päivi says:

      Thank you, Eloise! Isn’t it funny that it often feels SO important to get the piece finished in one session? But then if you have another session, you realize how much the ideas have deepened and matured + how you can also add a new twist and create something very different than what you usually do. That has happened to me so many times!

  3. Emma says:

    Thank you for this. Sometimes when one is feeling stuck ( me, a lot, this past year and a half ) it’s so helpful to start some movement going by cleaning and organizing, creating new energy in the art space. This post reminds me to change my perspective, look at old things that are hiding in plain sight and try to see them with fresh eyes. All of a sudden there’s something new and inspiring! Great reminder, Paivi.

    • Päivi says:

      Thanks for sharing, Emma! I can totally share your experience – that touching and moving the supplies bring out the inspiration. I often think of my studio as my shop. I put those that I want to sell – meaning: use! – more visible and make the whole selection look more inviting.

  4. Cindy Richter says:

    Really enjoying your blog. This one gives me hope that sometime in the future I can re-visit my “dud” and bring something more into them to make them better. I also have to take time to organize my supplies since I often forget what I have. At this point in my journey I think I have a little bit of everything. I get excited when I watch other artists trying new products and run to buy it. Need to step back and see what I have. Thanks for the insights.

    • Päivi says:

      Cindy, that happens to me too: I forget what I have! It actually happened a lot more often when I stored my art supplies in multiple places. Now I have set them so that they are all in one location in my studio room. It saves not only money but time as well!

  5. Mary W says:

    The last set of paintings really got me thinking. I found I was drawn totally to the one on the right and not to the other one even though it contained more of the beautiful pastels that I so enjoy looking at. Then I tried to determine the reason for getting so involved with the one on the right. (I did think it was a huge painting until I saw the picture of you holding it.) I came up with a short list of all the things that I struggle with doing and you had plainly put in place for me to discover. The deep darks, the blurry parts, the detailed/intricate portions, the wild colors tamed with dull. Just looking at it gives me so many reasons to do as you say and not as I do. LOL Thanks again for teaching me – I learned a lot just by looking this time. The side by side comparison is what did it.

    • Päivi says:

      Mary, I think the biggest difference between those two is the visual flow. The one on the left is very balanced but it lacks the flow that keeps the eye circulating in the image. When you build the flow, the viewer gets to see all kind of fun details.

      If you just balance the work, it can look clear and harmonious but it doesn’t captivate the viewer in the same way. I think that balance is quite easy to achieve, but the flow needs more practice. I often help artists with this issue – getting away from a stiff balance, and start building a flow that captivates the viewer.

  6. Julie Short says:

    Great ideas…thank you

  7. Phyllis Thomason says:

    This blog really inspired me. I love to organize my art supplies, studio and painting area. Some times it can help my momentum when an idea strikes me and I don’t have to search for that tool that I need to begin. Organization ends frustration!

    I love your work. Your colors make me smile.

  8. Elaine Salvitti says:

    when my husband became so ill the room I had used as my “studio” needed to be converted to a sick room with all the equipment…His illness has leveled off but he still needs the same space I was finally able to convert a loft room for myself jusg a small space but it is mine.I found so many supplies I forgot about Always wanting to try the next NEW thing, Now I am trying to find my way with this room and how it will work best for me I have organized not like that did it different try again but it is a comfort sort of job My problem is also finding something I forgot about and then sitting down and have a go at using it I so envy your easy going way of art I love what you do and I try to be as loose and easy but for me it is a fight and perfect never happens . A puzzle for certain

    • Päivi says:

      Elaine, thank you for sharing! I have a motto that organizing always pays back because it will lead to finding something forgotten.

  9. Rae Lynn Reffruschinni says:

    I always enjoy reading your blog and viewing your work. It is amazing! The contrast of bright and dull keeps them fascinating. But, I especially like the wildness.

  10. Lori Link says:

    I am so drawn to your style of creating art. It is inspiring. My studio will never be “Finnish” organized, lol. But I am working on my version of “Tennessee” organized. Thank you for your inspiration!

    • Päivi says:

      Thanks, Lori! I think we all have our versions of being organized and it’s as wonderful as the fact that we are all different kinds of artists!

  11. Deborah Quinn says:

    No, organizing is not too Finnish! HA! I am so inspired by your blog and such beautiful, rich art. Thank you!