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Peony and Parakeet

Art Journey to Spirituality – Let’s Begin!

This week, we will begin a journey to express spirituality through art. Think about this and the upcoming blog posts as an interactive diary that you can adapt to your own work. The idea is to question and examine first and then intuitively find more truths.

Introduction to the Journey

Paivi Eerola in her studio

As I wrote last week, I have got a grant from The Arts Promotion Centre Finland to create a series of paintings and write about the process.

In the series, I will dive deeper into Wassily Kandinsky’s idea of unleashing the inner sound of form (check the class Floral Freedom). I will also examine the art of the 16th and 17th centuries and get influences from there. My paintings will express spirituality, but they won’t be subject to any particular worldview or religion.

I will work both systematically and intuitively. I will create studies in my colored pencil diary that help me to build a formal language for each intuitive painting (check the class Intuitive Coloring).

Keeping a colored pencil sketchbook

I hope this 3-month project inspires you to start an art journey to your spirituality! Take a bit of time for it every week, have a sketchbook or an art journal, maybe create a few paintings too. You can also write down names, quotes, and personal thoughts. The idea is to keep ideas and associations flowing while art gets created!

I hope to hear your thoughts in the comments! If you want more social support, purchase any of my classes and you will get to my community Bloom and Fly for the rest of the year. We will have discussions about this project in the Facebook group of the community.

Ok, let’s begin!

How to Define Spirituality

First, let’s ask what spirituality is! Google replies:

“the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.”

But as artists, we don’t have to obey any general answer. Rather, it’s expected that our art expresses our personal points of view. I also believe that any word can start a journey. The first answer is just a ticket, and the answers get deeper piece by piece.

Paivi Eerola and her art. Follow her art journey to spirituality in her blog!

Connection, empathy, and understanding – I imagine squeezing these three words in my hands like they would be paper tokens. I want to connect with artists in the past, empathize with their shapes, and understand how to go deeper. But instead of getting overly serious, I also want to learn to play. The goal is to create a spectrum rather than one truth. 

What three words would you pick as your tickets to a spiritual journey?

Meeting Sandro Botticelli

The first painting of the series will be the one that started last July. It was then black and white, an underpainting only.

An oil painting in progress. Black and white underpainting. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

This week I got back to it and brought in more colors.

Oil painting in progress. Starting an art journey to spirituality. By Paivi Eerola.

Even if the painting is not finished yet, the colors took me to meet the first companion of my journey – Sandro Botticelli.

The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli
The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli

Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) was an Italian painter. I have seen his famous paintings Primavera and The Birth of Venus in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, but many other pieces inspire me too.

Botticelli equals perfection in many ways. His shapes and lines are so flawlessly beautiful that they make me shiver. He didn’t paint alone but had apprentices. I wonder what it would be like to work in his workshop – trying to paint a curvy line that would get his approval! Botticelli was born again in the 1850s when the Pre-Raphaelites found him. The easy way to fall in love with Botticelli’s work is to look at, for example, Evelyn de Morgan’s (1855-1919) romantic ladies. After those, it’s easy to greet Sandro too.

Botticelli’s Spirituality

I made this little study of Botticelli’s style in colored pencils to examine how his shapes are. It’s often good to let the hand think instead of using only the mind.

A study of Sandro Botticelli's art and spirituality by Paivi Eerola. Colored pencils notebook.

When I imagine discussions with Botticelli, he whispers out romantic mysteries. “Your stories would make great plays,” I tell him. But what interests me most is not the characters themselves, but how ornamental their speech is and how much in detail he describes their clothing and the overall setting.

Madonna of the Magnificat by Sandro Botticelli
Madonna of the Magnificat by Sandro Botticelli

I think the spiritual in Botticelli is the way he empathizes with things. For example, how a thin vail looks like the extension of the soul. Or how the flowers that are on the ground continue on the dress and fly in the air. Sandro’s people look immersed in their surroundings.

Primavera by Sandro Botticelli
Primavera by Sandro Botticelli

Like Wassily Kandinsky would say, they seem to be not watching something as outsiders but being an integral part of the overall experience. I hope that this understanding will somehow help me to finish the painting!

Colored pencils study for an oil painting. Exploring spirituality through art.

Tell me, who is the first companion in your art journey to spirituality? Botticelli or somebody else?

11 thoughts on “Art Journey to Spirituality – Let’s Begin!

  1. I feel that spirituality is the basis of all significant art. Recently I found this quote about artist Coral Fourie:
    “…[N]on-figurative art portrays the artist’s soul and that when art exposes that which cannot be seen, it is not merely a copy or purely decorative. She feels that this reveals an emotional state, a story, a meaning and that not all pictures are art because not all pictures bear witness to the soul.”

    While I do a lot of representational art, I am most pleased with those containing mystery, since they are more likely to come from my unconscious. The mystical in art, music, and poetry fascinates me. Carl Jung said that “life has a spiritual purpose beyond material goals” and he advocated trust in inner, transcendent work so as to discover and fulfill our deep innate and unique potential. I consider this to be essential; that it has mainly been lost in our post-modern world is a tragedy, not only for us as individuals but for the human race.

    Päivi, your interest in Botticelli and your little romantic interludes are truly captivating! And I love your inspired image. I have not studied the art of the old masters, so this is a fresh insight for me. My favourite artist in the realm of ‘spirit’ must be Paul Klee since I find myself returning again and again to his symbolic paintings and incredible use of colour even if I’m unsure of what he was trying to convey. They speak to the imagination and that is what’s important.

    I am always looking for new doorways into the invisible world and hoping to make them visible. Thank you for this enlightening post!

    1. Thank you for your insightful comment, Louisa! About imagination: I think that imagination and spirituality are tied together. How could there be art that would feel spiritual but that would not speak imagination?! So, enjoy Paul Klee’s pieces freely and trust your personal interpretations, I am pretty sure Paul would be ok with anything you come up with!

  2. Botticelli is also one of my favourite old masters, but Paivi you have made me see him in a different light and today I shall get out my art books on him again and have a good look at his paintings. Thank you for your inspiration.

  3. I tried to pick an artist for my spiritual journy, but I’m not sure what a spiritual journy is…I think all art comes from the spirit, so the very creative process is spiritual. Even when we come to the page with intention, unintentional things seep from the mind through the hand and onto the paper. I also agree that art is about observing. That’s why Albrech Durer came to my mind, even though he painted concrete objects, he captured their essence, the essence of the weeds and the rabbit for instance. I also thought of John Singer Sargent, and it was funny you mentioned him in the 3rd lesson mail….I saw his paintings in London about 10 years ago and was stunned at the life that poured out of the canvass. So….I’m a little overwhelmed at the moment with all I want to do and learn, but I won’t give up! 🙂

    1. I am glad you follow along, Pazit! I think we don’t have to know what the journey will be, we can just follow a path and let it unfold. I intend to meet many artists, so no need to pick only one either. You can have one inner discussion with an artist and then move on to the next one.

  4. I love anything by Van Gogh. I love his colors and strokes and how they blend together to form the vision. He was a troubled soul, I feel, because he tried so hard to “see” and wanted others to see too. It’s a shame some artists are only successful after their death. Minds need to be opened without judgement.
    BTW, I LOVE THE NEW OIL. It feels like a cool morning breeze releasing the spirit within.

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