This week, I make a watercolor painting and talk about how artist’s life can seem different than what it is.
Let’s turn back time and see how this painting came to life!
Is the Art Understood – A Story about Hilma af Klint
It’s a hot summer day, and watercolors are calling me. So I wet a paper, and after the water has soaked in, I start painting with a big brush.
With the first strokes, I listen to the last minutes of an audiobook that has kept me company for a few weeks. It’s “Hilma af Klintin arvoitus” (The mystery of Hilma af Klint) by Pirkko Kotirinta. It’s a new book, published this year and currently only available in Finnish.
Even if the book is about Hilma af Klint (1862-1944), an interesting Swedish abstract pioneer, the companionship with the book hasn’t been pleasant. Mostly because I wanted to know about Hilma’s thoughts and philosophies – her inner life. But the book focuses on the external events and on the author’s background investigation for those.
When the book ends, I think about how people who admire artists from the outside perspective often romanticize things that are not romantic at all. There has been a lot of them around Hilma too. These people say: “The artist chose not to sell her art” or “The artist wanted to keep her art private,” but honestly, no professional artist wants that.
Instead, it can happen as it did for Hilma, that despite all the effort, the art was not respected or understood, and that breaks the artist’s heart. Hilma af Klint decided that the time would be more suitable later. So, she stated that her work had to be kept secret for 20 years after death.
Every artist wants to be current, but art has its own timeline. Sometimes it’s too far in the past, and sometimes – like Hilma’s – in the future. Painting freely is like a game where every layer is a new level. The result is unexpected, yet synchronized with the inner clock of the artist.
Boring and Not – Two Sides of Artist’s Life
People who look at artists from the outside perspective think that they live a carefree and eventful life. Therefore, they try to solve the mystery of Hilma af Klint by tracking the external events instead of internal ones. Artist’s handwritten diaries can be too confused, and it’s less complicated to travel from town to town and follow the actual footsteps. But most of Hilma’s life was spiritual, and her 193 gigantic temple paintings, laborious to create.
From the external perspective, art-making is one of the most boring things if you measure it by the amount of silence and concentration.
However, what happens in the inner world, can make the artist’s life most exciting. We get to fly to a new land, find a color, be a color! We get to transmit a spirit through shapes and their interaction.
At first, accidental spots of color cause traditional associations: “Here could be a leaf, there a flower.” But when we let them go, a more personal layer opens: “Here’s something that reminds me of teenage years.” And slowly, more layers unfold, colors give room to shapes, and something that first sounded like a foreign language reaches the natural rhythm, and everything falls in place.
I work from light to dark and slowly add depth. The process of moving from traditional to natural is the toughest one for me. It requires to face many unpleasant memories – mental monsters that guard the paradise. From the outside perspective, I only make slow strokes for hours. But inside, I am crossing a storming sea feeling afraid of failure and success at the same time. The monsters are roaring on both shores and the only way to get through is not to beat but tame them.
The monsters are often visible in my paintings too. People often point them when choosing their favorite details: “I like this. How did you do that?”
The two sides of art – the technical and the spiritual – are always present. Thus, art is always about both learning the strokes and living the strokes.
Paivi’s Watercolor Classes & Exhibitions
No matter what media you end up loving, watercolors have a lot to teach! Color washes, the negative painting technique, making simple shapes more elegant – all these techniques are useful for any art. Paivi likes to think about her watercolor set as a little assistant, always eager to work, and someone who sets her back on track.
- Watercolor Journey – outer and inner sceneries
- Floral Fantasies – loose and layered bouquets
- Magical Forest – intuitive watercolor painting
If you are in Italy or Finland, come to see Paivi’s watercolor paintings! “Shyeling” is displayed in the international group exhibition in Fabriano from June 20 to Oct 31. “Torchbearer” and “Maximalist” are displayed in the Akvart gallery in Helsinki from July 12-25, 2021.