Little Assistants – How Pets Help with Art Making

Surreal Stella, a sketchbook page made with Derwent Artbars and waterbrush. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

I work at home with two dogs and four birds. My husband leaves early in the morning and then there are only us, the gang of seven. One of my little assistants is a beagle called Stella, a very cute little angel to every human but I think she would describe herself as a hungry hunter and would order a very different portrait than this one!

Gathering Inspiration

First, I take the dogs out for a walk. I solve most of my work-related problems and make plans in this private morning meeting, happening inside my head.  In the afternoon, there’s another walk, but that’s not as productive as the one in the morning.

I always carry a phone with me so that I can take photos if I happen to see something inspirational and artistic. As a result, I have a lot of pictures that are not so great or meaningful to memory keeping and such, but that look abstract art to me.

Photographing light and gathering inspiration for art.

This winter we have got quite a many snow storms. In February, it had snowed a lot during the day, so before we left our front yard, I was already taking photos of this mad whiteness that we were trying to overcome.

Snowstorm in Finland.

We had been wading for some time when I realized that I had lost my keys in the snow while taking photos. After a lot of sweat, and stepping back and forth, I finally found the keys in the middle of “the road.” During a year, there are many days in Finland where everyone else than dog owners have their meetings indoors.

Taking Healthy Breaks

On a workday, my dogs hang around quite a lot.  They have learned that if I set something on the floor, it’s not for them to lay down on.

Photographing art and having a pet around an art studio. Read more about the life of an artist who has pets!

They try to be patient when waiting for daily treats but maybe see their role as interrupters who force me to have short breaks now and then. Cosmo, the old one, is the leader who decides when to stop my work, and Stella quickly joins him.

Cosmo and Stella, Paivi Eerola's pets.

These breaks don’t always seem so healthy and fun to me. I am often in a very concentrated mode and find a soft touch of a nose just annoying. But who could resist these faces?

Getting Genuine Encouragement

The birds – four budgies called Henrietta, Citronelle, Dynamite, and Bonneville – see my work differently. They want to join me and encourage me when I am at my best. It means that every time I record videos, and they sense the excitement in my voice, they start chirping: “Go on, you are doing great! Oh Paivi, you are so inspiring!”

Paivi Eerola's fours budgies. Read about her life as an artist working from home.

Hearing the birds is a contradictory thing. My birds don’t lie so if I don’t hear any sounds when I am speaking, I know that my enthusiasm doesn’t show and I have to fix that. But despite the walls, the mic picks up the high-note sounds easily. So I have to stop recording, go to the library room to ask them to be quiet. Sometimes nothing else helps than darkening the room and adding a cover on their cage. It often feels cruel, especially after seeing them happy and excited first. So many of my videos have bird sounds in the background, and I hope that you forgive us!

Paivi Eerola's art studio.

Having Pets as Models

Cosmo and Stella are very proud of their modeling skills, and they think that the reward they need for every minute is very moderate too. However, it’s often cheaper for me to take a photo and use that as a reference.

Cosmo and Stella, Paivi Eerola's pets. Read how she describes her life as an artist working from home with pets.

Unfortunate for them, but I don’t often paint dogs. But this month, when the monthly theme of Bloom and Fly is stretching the imagination and adding surreal elements to art, I wanted to express how cute Stella is in my eyes.

Paivi Eerola's art studio.

Learning Leadership Skills

My position as the leader of the pack has strengthened during the past years. We all wait eagerly for my husband in the afternoons but I am often the one my pets turn with their needs. My husband loves them as much as I do, and it hasn’t always been this way. But the time spent with them matters, and it gives me the sense of satisfaction when I don’t have to leave my pets alone.

Paivi Eerola and her beagles. Read how she works from home with her pets!

This year, leading an online community has been new to me. In fact, when I left my day job in 2014, I thought that I would be just making self-study classes and taking care of the pets! There’s a false sense of independence built in the art making because most of the creating happen alone. But after running my first workshop, I realized that I can help more when there’s more interaction.

With the community, it has dawned on me that the role of a leader doesn’t mean that I have to know it all. We are all learning from each other. It’s a liberating thought, and it doesn’t only empower the leader, but the members as well.

We often have intentions to create a certain kind of art or share our art but postpone it because we feel that we need to figure it out by ourselves first. Some of the things that I have postponed are diving deeper into watercolor painting and develop more ways to use art for self-exploration.

A Detail of "Surreal Stella", a sketchbook page made with Derwent Artbars and waterbrush. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

But the truth is that when you have the support, changes start to happen. You get structure and kindness that gives you courage. There’s no need to struggle alone or wait until you are ready. The life is not so long after all.

Bloom and Fly – Don’t wait until you are more skillful, join the community now!

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40 Responses to Little Assistants – How Pets Help with Art Making

  1. Wendy says:

    Let the birds make their noises, no problem for me! I love hearing about your day and really enjoy these photos. I am so glad you found your keys and I am very curious what you wear out there in the snow. I love the community of artists that you are inspiring and hope to be in it forever!

  2. Linda says:

    I agree with Wendy. Bloom and Fly – such an apt title – is amazing, great support from the other artists and Paivi is our guiding mentor. I don’t want this adventure to end! Looking behind the scenes Paivi is joyful – thank you.

  3. Marianne Perry says:

    I agree about the birdsong in the background of your videos. Don’t shush them! It’s wonderful thinking that on the other side of the world, you are there in your studio and the birds are cheering you on. The glimpses of the world outside your home are always interesting and add depth to what you post. Thank you!

  4. Rita says:

    I love your work and your videos are full of energy, also because of the happy birds, they do not bother me, au contraire!I also appreciate your humor .

  5. CARLA says:

    Bird sound is happy sound. No issues hearing that! Now, dog barking would probably be tough! Having 2 dogs and snow myself I know! As a member of the community I love the posts where we share our lives and spaces and our personal struggles outside what we put on our canvases and papers as much if not more than technical skills or such. How we decide what to paint or make…where we do it and the progress of it’s development and thoughts as we make the changes. I like that part best!

    • Päivi says:

      Thank you, Carla! Fortunately, my beagles find my art very boring and they usually fall asleep when I am recording.

      I am very fortunate to have you in the community!

  6. Linda says:

    Enjoying these posts so much- and the free course you sent is amazing! I have never encountered your wonderful techniques before and they are beautiful!

  7. Mary W says:

    ADORE the birds singing merrily in the background. When I walk my dog I always listen for the free music each evening. Always seems the birds are joyfully praising God in the morning for another day and in the evening are quietly giving thanks for all they need. Birds inspire me and you teach me how to express that inspiration. I adore you, also! Your watercolor of the dog is just wonderful. I can almost feel that wet nose giving me a little push to get up and play or walk. The one beautiful eye is urging me strongly to get up and the other eye is displaying what I find in my dogs soul – beauty.

  8. Cindy Richter says:

    Oh, let the birds express themselves. It is wonderful to hear birds chirping. My husband has four feeders in our backyard and we love to listen and watch them all. And my dog is my best critic, she loves to see what I am working on and if she sniffs I know that I may not have done as good job as she thinks I could. With a pensive look or a tentative lick I know she loves it. Thanks so much for sharing your art and most of all your experience with us.

    • Päivi says:

      Thanks for sharing, Cindy! I am so happily delighted that there are so many, including you, who can relate to this post!

  9. Julie says:

    Are all the dogs in Finland this cute? 🐕 🐶 The birdies are beautiful too. You have a wonderful family!

  10. Elaine Salvitti says:

    I love animals of any kind. The sounds of there lives in the background is very soothing to me Your work inspires me to try and see more. Thank you Elaine

  11. Rae Lynn Reffruschinni says:

    I love my little pet pride of cats, too! let the birds sing! I enjoy hearing about your day very much.

  12. Lisa Jones says:

    Nice hearing about your day and your process Paivi. And I don’t mind hearing the birds either!

  13. Cosmo and Stella are cute and they look calm. I had parakeets as I grew up and they are so smart. Thanks for sharing your studio buddies. I love our two Maltese brother and sister adoptees, Digger and Foxy. Plus, a beautiful cat we named Kitty Boots adopted us! We love and enjoy our furballs.
    I admire your organizing skills, my studio is a mess. Perhaps I can follow your example and straighten up enough so I can find things better when I want to produce art work.

  14. Nancy Kvorka says:

    The birds are wonderful Paivi! I can live vicariously through you with your birds since I do not have any of my own. Just the ones outside, which I enjoy watching for. I have a hummingbird that I think hangs around year to year. Plus lots of crows, which I talk to. I talk to my dogs all the time. As I also work at home, they are my co-workers too. I say each morning, let’s go to work and off we go. They get treats too though!

  15. Jakki Garlans says:

    Paivi, your dogs are beautiful. We got our lovely miniature wire haired dachshund, Eeva, from a breeder in Finland. Eeva lived in Helsinki with my daughter for the first 9 months of her life, and now she has spent 12 years in the US. I have never painted her – I never thought I had the skills, but perhaps I will try. She brings me great joy and has taught me to see and feel the love in her heart, and to see the world from her point of view. She has blessed me!

  16. Wendy says:

    I just reread your blog and noticed “structure and kindness” . I really appreciate that!

  17. Maria says:

    Paivi, your dogs are so beautiful. You have taken wonderful photographs of them. I could “feel” the softness of their ears, coats and noses as I was looking at the pictures. I love the watercolour and that one realistic, soulful eye fully communicating the dog’s personality. Thanks for everything,
    Maria

  18. Elaine Wirthlin says:

    Oh Paivi, your pets are adorable and your doggie picture is just perfect! We had a cockatiel who lived to be 28 years old. He lived with us for 26 years. He was full of personality! My husband and I are excited to be traveling to your country on a 14 day Viking Cruise this summer. I wish I could visit with you!

  19. Kay says:

    So delightful to get to know your “assistants.” Your birds and dogs are charming. I know how much companionship, comfort, and inspiration my own pets provide, and they do, in fact, seem to tune into my mood and synch with the creative energy.

  20. denise says:

    oh i love the bird sound Paivi, let them sing its so beautiful to hear them so excited for you, i love your classes and art, keep doing your wonderful work