Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Finding Emotional Connection Through Imagination

Imagination and emotional connection go hand in hand in art-making. If you don’t feel a connection with what you are creating, bring in more imagination and treat different areas of your work as characters – even if you won’t be including any humans. Let’s look at this example!

Kesäpäivä kalliolla - Summer Day on the Rock, 30 x 40 cm, oil on canvas, by Päivi Eerola, Finland.
Kesäpäivä kalliolla – Summer Day on the Rock, 30 x 40 cm, oil on canvas

This small painting is part of a series I made for the Albert Edelfelt Foundation exhibition. It will take place in August-September.

Inspired by Albert Edelfelt

Starting a painting.

For the colors and composition, I was inspired by Albert Edelfelt’s artwork “Koivujen alla – Under the Birches”. It is not this painting that I photographed in the Albert Edelfelt exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum, but another similar work that I made a mirror image of.

Koivujen alla II by Albert Edelfelt.
“Koivujen alla II” by Albert Edelfelt, 1882.
However, I was more inspired by another “Koivujen alla.” See the picture here!

My version of “Koivujen alla” didn’t have any people. Instead, I used my imagination to depict human characters in the form of a plant and an object.

Combine Inspiration and Observation!

A good way to get the imagination going is to combine two different things. For example, if you saw an artwork that inspired you to create, also gather unrelated observations from your surroundings. This way, you need your imagination to bring them into the same image.

In this project, I remembered a pine seedling that I had seen in a nearby rocky forest. The name of the area is Pöllökallio (owl rock) and we often go there with our dogs. This little pine tree was like a bonsai! It was so sweet that I took a photo of it.

A small pine tree on the rock - nature's bonsai. Art inspiration from observations.

When the pink color of Edelfelt’s painting met a crooked stem of the pine, a tree-like rose was born!

Emotional Connection by Asking: Who is This?

The rose became the most challenging part because I wanted it to resemble the woman with a hat in Edelfelt’s painting. I thought about the hat when I painted a rose, but it didn’t work at all.

Adjusting a flower painting with a small brush. Finiding emotional connection when painting abstract florals.

But then I came up with thinking about the character of the woman instead of her hat. That way my imagination met the emotional connection, and I quickly got the impression I wanted.

Build a Story to Boost the Emotional Connection!

One of the most common problems is that our art is full of separate islands. The sun might shine but the effect doesn’t show elsewhere. The person may smile but the eyes are not affected. There may be three ladies but what are their roles? Use your imagination to find connections between these islands and add elements that make the overall story make sense!

A detail of an oil painting by Paivi Eerola. Building emotional connection through connecting elements.

In my painting, there are not two women like in Edelfelt’s painting, but a rose, a leaf, and a feather – three introverts! The rose reaching for the sky has agreed to be the center point. The leaf examines herself through the pond. The feather has been a part of a bigger adventure and is now ready to shift the focus to others.

The small pond is a central element here. It brings the leaf and the feather together.

You can also see the colors of the rose elsewhere in the painting. For example, there are flying thoughts (red lines) that the rose tries to catch, and a bigger punch of roses that is in the background.

Expressing emotional connection. A detail of an oil painting by Paivi Eerola.

The painting is about three romantic introverts who went on a trip to a rocky forest on a lovely summer day. They are together, but in their own thoughts, just like the women in Albert Edelfelt’s painting.

Paivi Eerola and her oil painting Kesäpäivä kalliolla - Summer Day on the Rock. It's a story about three introverts going on a trip.

When we paint or draw people, we hope to bring the character to life with their facial features. But we don’t need facial features to find an emotional connection. Once you get the hang of it, you can draw or paint anything, even just different shaped spots on paper.

What do you think?

Imagining Flower’s Spirit

When you want to draw or paint flowers that look unique and alive, imagine their spirit and discover what they would love to wear.

Kielomieli, 40 x 32 cm, oil on canvas, by Päivi Eerola, Finland. Painting lily of the valley.
Kielomieli, 40 x 32 cm, oil on canvas

Art is not only about techniques and replicating what we see. When you create, you have permission to imagine and be convinced that you know something more than anyone else. You are the best scientist in your imaginary world! In your world, you can mix different fields, like botanical illustration with fashion design. That’s what I did in this painting called Kielomieli.

Kielomieli – The Mind of Lily of The Valley

We have lily the valleys growing in our yard and even though I don’t pay much attention to them, I feel like I know them. That plant spreads in the shade and may seem modest, but its mind is always alert and it observes the world sharply.

This little flower also knows how to influence people. Even before I was born, in 1967, Yleisradio, the Finnish national broadcasting company, organized a vote for Finland’s national flower and the overwhelming winner was kielo – the lily of the valley. It makes Finns kneel and admire its fine shapes. Unlike other flowers, the color is secondary to the lily of the valley, until it produces berries. With berries, it underlines that it is not just a white, innocent little flower. Everyone knows their toxicity.

Lily of the valley. These flowers have a strong spirit.

The lily of the valley’s mind is a group mind where everyone dances to the same rhythm. It still doesn’t mean that a single plant would not also be an individual. She just doesn’t share her own thoughts publicly.

Many people love lily of the valleys, but this plant is not a rose that craves attention. Even if it lies low on the border of the earth, its mind is more sublime than that of other flowers. It sees far and high, and nothing can discourage it.

Choosing the Style to Go with the Spirit

When you think about the flower that you want to draw or paint, ask her about her style and aesthetics. For example, is it bohemian, classic, gothic, or country? If the flower would be a human, how would she like to dress?

Clothes can express the spirit.

In flowers, the details of petals and leaves are also very similar to the folds and seams of clothing. I often find it helpful to think about dresses, hats, and jewelry when painting plants.

Painting a flower's spirit and connecting that with fashion.
Painting “Disappearing Garden” and getting inspired by translucent fabrics. This blog post has the finished work.

I imagined the lily of the valleys to be formal and stiff. They wouldn’t wear a bathrobe in a photo but choose a classic-lined dress or a jacket. So I chose to paint them in a decorative style. First, I practiced painting roses in that way – see this blog post for more instructions!

A small study. Decorative painting style. Decorative flowers.
A small study in acrylics on paper, see how I painted this!

I have noticed that making a study speeds up my painting process even if the final painting would be different.

Painting a flower's spirit. Thinking about the details of clothes when painting flowers.

Once I had “loaded” that decorative style to my hand, I painted Kielomieli – the lily of the valley’s spirit.

Flower’s Spirit – Flower’s Portrait!

When visualizing the flower’s spirit, think about yourself as a portrait painter.

Cherries by Albert Edelfelt, 1878.
Cherries by Albert Edelfelt, oil, 1878.

You don’t need a face to express a flower’s spirit. When the color choices, shapes, and lines are aligned, they all paint a picture of a character.

A detail of Kielomieli, 40 x 32 cm, oil on canvas, by Päivi Eerola, Finland.
A detail of Kielomieli, 40 x 32 cm, oil on canvas, by Päivi Eerola, Finland.

I hope this blog post gave you new ideas to break the glass between reality and imagination!

Paivi Eerola and her painting Kielomieli.  By painting, she expresses the flower's spirit - here are lily of the valleys.

Five Tips for Painting Nature’s Richness

This blog post is for you who want to create less stiff and more abstract art. First, I suggest rephrasing your goal. Say you want to get closer to nature – to paint nature’s richness!

Kuolematon kukkakimppu - Immortal Bouquet, 70 x 60 cm, oil on canvas. Abstract floral art by Paivi Eerola, Finland.
Kuolematon kukkakimppu – Immortal Bouquet, 70 x 60 cm, oil on canvas

In this painting, flowers fly recklessly in every direction. This kind of disorder is part of nature’s richness. I used to think that it could be achieved by quickly throwing paint here and there, but I am much more successful when I create these beautiful messes in an orderly way.

Experiencing Nature’s Richness

Although I live in a big town, there is a cornfield in our neighborhood. I often walk along the path that goes by it. In August 2020, I was walking with my dog ​​Stella. When I reached the beginning of the trail, I was greeted by a magical sight. The surroundings of the path were full of butterflies!

An outdoor scene. Walking with a dog and exploring nature's richness.

I tried to take photos, but only close-ups were successful. Butterflies are such small and fast insects that they cannot be distinguished from a distance, even if there are many of them.

Exploring nature's richness. Butterflies flying on a meadow.

But the experience stuck in my mind. Now, years later, I wanted to capture it but in a bit different setting. I wanted to depict a situation where someone would throw a bouquet of flowers in the air and they would magically start flying in the air like butterflies.

Working in Layers

I started the painting by making a background for it. I painted a grid in the style of Paul Klee. I teach this beginning technique in the course Floral Freedom.

The beginning of a floral abstract painting. Painting in progress.

I then started to create nature’s richness on top of the grid with brushstrokes. I added flying flowers several times and dried every layer before starting a new one.

Taking Photos for Inspiration

I often take photos of plants and nature scenery. Even Claude Monet has said: “The richness I achieve comes from nature, the source of my inspiration.” I don’t use the photos as references but for teaching myself nature’s language. I examine an image to see nature’s richness, for example, the shapes that light throws and all the variation there is if you forget what the image represents.

Take a look at this flower bouquet I put together for Midsummer: the flowers consist of several layers and have differences in size and shape.

Midsummer flower bouquet. Nature's richness in bloom.

Think about one flower as a collection of strokes that form motifs.

Five Tips for Painting Nature’s Richness

When you add motifs on the background, remember nature’s richness and do otherwise than what you are used to:

  1. Don’t cover it all over again! Create a sense of depth by covering the previous layer only partly. This way, every layer has fewer motifs than the previous one. Paint the first motifs with muted tones and slowly introduce stronger colors.
  2. Don’t repeat the same thing! Get natural variation by painting many different repeating motifs. Change the sizes and distances of similar motifs so that they look more irregular. Use many brushes and think about every stroke as a word. How rich is your language?
  3. Don’t design fabric but tell a story! Make an expressive image, not only a surface pattern. Despite the chaos, make one area stand out. Make this focal point stronger by adjusting some other distinctive motifs so that they clearly point to it. Avoid spreading white spots everywhere. They distract the viewer and make the painting flat.
  4. Don’t leave your motifs lonely! Bring more unity by connecting motifs together. You can use lines, intersections, and surrounding space. Think about the painting as a collection of mini landscapes.
  5. Don’t hurry! Give your painting time to grow. Take breaks and keep your painting somewhere where you can observe it. You have probably already tried many times to paint quickly, now choose another way and slowly immerse yourself in the painting.
Painting a floral abstract painting. Embracing nature's richness in art.

In this orderly way, the painting begins to look more and more finished naturally.

A detail of Kuolematon kukkakimppu - Immortal Bouquet, 70 x 60 cm, oil on canvas. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.

At the last layer, it takes some courage to paint larger and brighter motifs on top of smaller and more muted ones.

Nature’s Richness – Expressing Mortality in Immortal

A part of nature’s richness is to allow some flowers to fall and die, and some rise and fly. Dark colors, sad strokes, and downward lines all give power to the bright and happy ones. You can take your piece outdoors and see if it’s one with the surroundings. My course Floral Freedom is packed with techniques and further ideas.

Painting nature's richness and testing it so that you take the piece outdoors. Here's Immortal Bouquet and the Finnish artist Päivi Eerola.

This painting “Immortal Bouquet” tells about the hopeless desire to live forever but also about the fact that life does continue when thinking about nature. An immortal bouquet is an unreal wish for the one who gathers the flowers, but on the other hand, it’s also true: flowers are reborn in nature every year.

What do you think?

How to Paint a Fantasy Horse Figurine

This week, we apply art to something different than usual. We use our skills to transform a Schleich horse or other plastic figurine into a fantasy animal.

Two customized Schleich horses in a flower field.

I have a soft spot for plastic horse collectors, and I follow many of them on Instagram. One of the most inspiring accounts is Lightning Leoo (@lightningleoo). Leo has organized community challenges on Instagram and Discord. I have participated in them a couple of times. Like Leo, most of those who customize collectible miniatures aim to make the animal look more realistic. However, I want to be more playful with colors and ideas.

Step 1 – Choose a Theme and Paint the First Layer

Start by choosing a theme that gives ideas for the coloring. The animal figurine here is a brown Schleich foal and my theme is daffodil. I used acrylic paints to make the legs green, the body yellow, the hoof orange-red, and the tail and the main white – just like the flower!

Scheich horse and the first step for customizing it. See more instructions!

At this point, the animal doesn’t look nice at all, but that’s ok. The idea is just to cover the original paint and make a simple foundation for the decoration.

Step 2 – Add More Tones and Decorations

After covering the original color with the theme colors, mix more tones of those colors. For example, if you have used one green in the previous step, now mix more green tones – cooler and warmer, darker and lighter, brighter and more muted. Add slight variations of tones on the top of the first color layer so that what used to be one solid color has now a gradient of tones. This makes the color more natural. Note: you can use this technique in any art!

A Schleich horse customization in progress.

In this project, I created color mixes of all kinds of greens, oranges, yellows, and whites.

At this point, you can also start decorating the figurine and use these color mixes in decorations, eyes,You and other details.

Decorating a Schleich fowl.

Get ideas for decorations from the theme! I painted small daffodils.

Step 3 – Optional – Add Shadows with Soft Pastels

Soft pastels make the figurine look more real and highlight the best parts. First, scrape them with a sharp blade to get color powder. Use a small brush to spread it where the shadows are, for example, where the leg meets the belly. You can also soften the color changes with pastels.

Repainting a Schleich fowl.

Attach the powder more permanently by spraying the fixative over it. Notice that after attaching the powder, you can continue with the finishing touches in acrylics!

Step 4 – Take a Fantastic Photo!

We always should take a good photo of the finished work, but with a fantasy horse, it is very rewarding. Find a place where you can fool the eye about the scale and bend down to take a photo a bit upwards.

Photographing a repainted Schleich fowl.

Another option is to make a gallery set up so that the background is white and the figurine is photographed like a piece of art.

Finished fantasy fowl repaint.

Another Example of a Fantasy Horse Repaint

Here’s a Schleich horse that is bigger than the Daffodil fowl. My theme for this one was peach. The decorations are simple, but there are many tones and lovely gradients.

A fantasy horse figurine, repainted Schleich horse by Paivi Eerola.

Making one foot in a different color adds drama and a bigger horse is easier to paint.

Two Schleich horses repainted by Paivi Eerola, Finland.

It was fun to photograph these two together!

Taking photos of Schleich horses. These are repainted fantasy horses.

Natural light creates its own effects and makes the fantasy look real.

Miniature horse figurine photography.

Horizontal lines in the background make the movement look more real.

Repainted Schleich horses.

Gift Box for Fantasy Horse

These small fantasy horses are great for presents. I gave the fowl to my friend who owns not just a collection of plastic figurines but a real horse too. I found a sturdy box that I had got when ordering paint tubes.

A gift box for a fantasy horse.

One side had writing on it, but I painted a floral decoration over it.

A gift box for a fantasy horse.

Creative Play as an Art Form

Playing has always been important to me. When I play, I get ideas that go beyond the ordinary and that combine different fields. In 2020, I even made a painting about the power of play called Steppe Wind.

Playing with fantasy horses. "Steppe Wind" - an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola, 2020.
Arotuuli – Steppe Wind, acrylics on canvas, 2020. See more about the painting process: Painting an Intuitive Fantasy

In the course Magical Inkdom, we draw and decorate paper horses and other animals.

Hand-drawn paper horses and a decorated background. Drawing a fantasy horse.
Horses and a fantastic background from Magical Inkdom

By playing we can enjoy the beauty and be comforted. It’s like we enter the same big hall of art but from a different door. Then when it’s time to get more serious, we have new energy and new power to overcome our fears.

Two repainted Schleich horses. Fantasy horse figurines.

That’s why I want to bring up topics like painting and photographing figurines in this blog.

What do you think?

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