Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Pleasures of Watercolor Painting

This week is about watercolor painting and the pleasures that can be found there!

Unelmille avautuneet - Opened to Dreams, a floral watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola.
Unelmille avautuneet – Opened to Dreams, 29,7 x 42 cm, watercolor

Getting Inspiration

Now I’ve been busy with a lot of different things – a new big art project, the new course Freely Grown, commissioned work, etc. Despite that, I stole some time and went to look at old paintings online – skillfully painted portraits of women in fancy dresses. They always make me want to paint, even though I prefer to paint plants and flowers instead of beauties.

Look at this painting of the Duchess Alexandra Iosifovna, painted by Franz Xaver Winterhalter in 1859!

Inspiration from portraits. Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Grand Duchess Alexandra Iosifovna, oil on canvas, a detail of a larger painting.
Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Grand Duchess Alexandra Iosifovna, oil on canvas.
A detail – only a part of the painting is in this image.

The colors, the brilliant brush strokes, and all the delicate and decorative details are so inspiring!

I used to think that inspirational images must be the same as what I want to paint next. So, if I wanted to paint flowers, then I would only look at flower paintings. But nowadays, I love to be inspired by something different. Then the inspiration doesn’t limit me. It doesn’t depict what I should do and how, but sets an atmosphere that I want to follow.

Love for Good Watercolor Paper

After getting inspired, I opened the closet of my studio, as if secretly from myself, and tore a clean sheet from the watercolor paper pad.

Arches hot press watercolor paper.
Arches Hot Press watercolor paper

One hundred percent cotton, aah! So soft, thick, and ready to receive color. Good paper is expensive, but I paint better when I know in advance that I don’t want to waste a sheet.

Painting and Doing Other Stuff at the Same Time

When I steal time to paint, watercolors are an easy choice. Especially in the beginning, I can do one coat quickly and then let it dry for hours while I do other work.

Pleasures of watercolor painting - starting with a mess.

I can add details little by little, and the pauses often just clarify the idea of ​​the subject of the painting. And when you paint slowly from light to dark, you can always fix it with the next layer.

Pleasures of watercolor painting - proceeding layer by layer.

I often have my iPad nearby and listen and watch something at the same time while I paint.

Watercolor painting in progress.

Luxury Combined with Minimalism

When finishing, it’s pleasurable to take just a little color on the brush, and often near the pan, if it has spilled there. I also check the corners of the palette, where unused paint easily remains. When the color is activated on paper, even a small amount becomes a treasure and an experience!

Painting in progress. Flowers in watercolor without references.

I always buy good artist-quality watercolors one pan and one tube at a time and use them right up to the end. If I buy a tube, I squeeze a small amount into a pan to dry and this way, use the tube in small portions. I love this kind of union of luxury and minimalism – definitely one of the pleasures of watercolor painting to me!

Watercolor painting and supplies.

Finally, I wash the brushes carefully. Washing with water is enough for most brushes, but I often use soap to make sure that all the color has come off. With clean brushes, it’s nice to start a new painting again when I find time.

From Detail to Detail

Here are some pictures of the details.

A detail of a floral watercolor painting by the artist Paivi Eerola.

I like to paint a lot of subtle details, and I love the warmth that yellow has.

A detail of a floral watercolor painting by the artist Paivi Eerola, Finland.

Signing the piece before the final finishing touches makes sure that the signature fits with the rest of the composition.

Pleasures of watercolor painting. A detail of a larger piece painted by Paivi Eerola.

I hope this blog post inspired you to pick watercolors and paint freely!

P.S. Freely Grown – You can still hop in!

Freely Grown - an online art class about painting flowers freely

>> Sign up here!

Everyday Life as an Artist

This post is about my current everyday life.

I was going to tell you that my life has been very ordinary lately: I wake up in the morning, take the dogs for a walk and start painting. In the evening, I practice my ideas with the ProCreate app or knit and let my subconscious work on art-making.

Paivi Eerola and many paintings in progress. Read about her everyday life as a visual artist in Finland.
Paintings in progress. I always bring them from the little studio to our larger library room to dry.

But if my dead parents heard about this life, they would claim that it’s not ordinary at all!

Visiting Exhibitions

Last week, I went to the big exhibition presenting the work of Albert Edelfelt at the Ateneum art museum in Helsinki. When I sat down to listen to seminar presentations about his work, my parents came to mind. They would have liked to see the exhibition. And they would be amazed to learn that I went to see it because of my work. I wanted to examine Edelfelt’s brush strokes in real life because I’m currently painting works for the show called “Taiteilijat Edelfeltin tunnelmissa – Artists in the Mood of Edelfelt.”

At the Piano, oil on canvas, Albert Edelfelt, 1884.
At the Piano, oil on canvas, Albert Edelfelt, 1884.

It’s important to me to see what other artists have created. It makes me feel connected, discover new techniques, and it inspires me to do things a bit differently than what I see. I often ask: what’s lacking if this would be my work? In the painting above, I would have added abstract elements on the top, depicting music.

Pressures of Everyday Life

All work becomes mundane when you do it systematically and goal-oriented. There will be pressures that you didn’t even think about in your dreams. You have to remember to order the supplies in time, plan the sizes of the paintings, the subjects, and the schedule for each one, pick up dog hair from unfinished works at the time of shedding, clean the paint tubes, wash the brushes carefully, wonder if anyone likes the painting and worry if it’s finished or not. Making a series of paintings is always a financial investment.

Oil paint tubes. Artist's everyday life.

But when I am washing the floor from oil paint stains or doing something else mundane related to painting, I want to remember how wonderful it is to work on this project.

Painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola, Finland. Read about her everyday life as an artist.

After all, I love art history, and the very thought that my paintings go to the place where Albert Edelfelt spent his summers is inspiring.

Everyday Ponderings

Lately, I’ve been thinking about why I always deal with longing in my paintings. I easily lean into nostalgia. Albert Edelfelt depicted people and landscapes realistically, but he also sometimes dealt with history and went back in time.

Queen Blanche, oil on canvas, Albert Edelfelt, 1877.
Queen Blanche, oil on canvas, Albert Edelfelt, 1877. Blanche of Namur, the queen of Norway and Sweden, lived in the 14th century.

However, the difference between me and Albert is that he was interested in how things could have really happened and did detailed background research. I’m more inspired by how things could have gone differently.

Painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.

I don’t know how my parents thought my life would turn out. Many times it has gone differently than I would have guessed myself! Sometimes for good, sometimes for bad. Life as an artist is very unpredictable. Just when you think you have to stop, a new project comes up.

Everyday Task – Planning for the Future

Painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola. Read about her everyday life as an artist.

One of the hardest things in being an artist is to always move forward and think bigger. When this year’s plans are set, the next year begins to worry.

Garden in the morning in Finland.

Artists are always in progress and very similar to gardeners. When a person says: “My garden is now finished,” you know that it’s the beginner speaking. Gardens are never finished!

Painting in progress. Garden-inspired painting. Comparing gardens and creating art.

It’s the same thing with art – you will find yourself, but then you will change and have a new you to find. I try to get the most out of this everyday life because it too is about to change for sure.

Art and Sacrifice – Must an Artist Drop Other Interests?

This week, I respond to a question about creative focus: when we want to move forward, should we focus on doing one thing and abandon other creative activities, like crafting?

Art and sacrifice - an illustration by Paivi Eerola
We have many identities, but some of them are more important than others. An illustration from 2019.

I got the idea for this blog post from an interesting discussion that is running in my community Bloom and Fly.

The discussion started when a member wrote:

I find that I have an interest in, perhaps, too many creative pursuits. I enjoy sketching, making journals, watercolors, acrylics, crafting, etc. I have observed that artists with a specific focus and dedication seem to be more successful and just plain good at what they do.

Of course, if one focuses on one ability, the hope is a gain in creative skills. Practice for purpose. So, should we know that in order to be very good at something, we must sacrifice other interests? Any thoughts?

I find that I have an interest in, perhaps, too many creative pursuits. I enjoy sketching, making journals, watercolors, acrylics, crafting, etc. I have observed that artists with a specific focus and dedication seem to be more successful and just plain good at what they do. Of course, if one focuses on one ability, the hope is a gain in creative skills. Practice for purpose. So, should we know that in order to be very good at something, we must sacrifice other interests? Any thoughts?

Here’s my answer!

Sacrificing a Hobby? What’s Your Priority?

When you want to move forward, the essential question about every activity is: “Is this activity for relaxation or for moving forward” so, “Is this hobby or work?”

Having many hobbies is a good thing. I am a professional artist, and I love my many hobbies. For example, I quilt, scrapbook, make cards, spin yarn, knit, and cross stitch. I don’t do everything every week, but I do these regularly in my spare time, mainly in the late evenings and weekends. If I learn new things in my hobbies, it’s nice, but it’s not why I do them. I do them for relaxation, to keep the balance in life, and to stay healthy.

Improv quilting as a hobby. Quilting and other crafts can be relaxing for an artist too.
I have a separate Instagram account @paivipeony for my quilting hobby, just to make sure that I remember to quilt once in a while.
My official Instagram account is @peonyandparakeet, and there, I only share art-related stuff.
Separating your hobbies from your work is essential when you want to see your artistry more clearer.

I also have two beagles that need quite a lot of exercise and lots of house plants that need care. Like my other hobbies, they have never been things that I would sacrifice to become a better artist. I would find it very difficult to lead a happy life focused on art-making only.

But when you want to move forward in visual art, you need to redefine creativity and art.

For many people, a simple quilt is a work of art, a sign of creativity. I get that. But when you want to move forward in art, you need to raise the bar and stop treating every activity as if it would require creativity.

Browsing a scrapbook. The crafting supplies should be separate from art supplies when you want to become an artist.

For example, if you don’t want to become a professional scrapbooker, decide that scrapbooking is not a creative activity for you. Yes, you learn self-expression and design from it, but treat it as a side bonus and define the meaning of the hobby differently. For example, I scrapbook because I want to get reminded of the good things that happen in real life – that everything is not about my imagination, but real life matters too. I want to take photos and get an outside view of my life. My paper crafting happens in a different space than art-making and with a different set of tools.

I don’t publish my paper crafting projects alongside my art. Sharing my art is work, and paper crafting is a hobby that’s reserved just for me. When I shop for crafting products, I am a consumer who enjoys buying pretty stuff. When I shop for art supplies, it’s much more serious. I check the pigments and the other quality factors and don’t feel like a shopper at all.

The results of my hobbies are not brilliant, but I reserve my critical eye for my art. If I someday do not enjoy the hobby, I just stop and do something else. That’s ok because it’s not my work.

Where Does Your Best Energy Go?

I save my best energy for creating art. It’s my priority and my work.

Oil painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola. Read her article on art and sacrifice.

Many days are difficult, but that’s ok. I don’t expect to enjoy every moment. Even if I sometimes fiercely hate what I do, I will continue because, in the long run, it enables things that I want to accomplish in life.

Of course, like in every job, changes are needed if every single day is agony. But in general, I don’t expect things to go easily and effortlessly. I show up every weekday and create productions, not just single projects. Productions are, for example, a series of paintings that I will be exhibiting or a course that I will be launching. I try to think about my work as a series of things, not just single things that I throw to the world. I commit from three months to one year and don’t expect results immediately.

Series is always a big risk. Many classes have not sold as I expected them to, but some have been surprisingly successful. The same has happened with paintings. But the more I think of my work as a continuum or a curated collection, the more potential impact there is.

That’s also why I want to encourage you to make art journals, make a series of drawings to fill boxes of joy, and even take classes to commit to several projects.

Box of Joy by Paivi Eerola. Even filling a small box can be making a series of art.
Box of Joy: A tiny box can hold a world that you draw and then open to us.

Sacrificing Techniques: Drawing or Painting, Watercolors or Acrylics?

When you want to move forward in art, the most important question is not about the technique. It’s more important to consider what things you want to offer the world. If you think about this blog, would you really want me to focus on one technique, one theme, or one subject? And still, I have a clear focus that defines my offerings: I want people to get connected with their imagination.

Thus, when I fill my journals, it doesn’t make me feel less artist than if I make big oil paintings. My intention is the same – to inspire you to reach that inner child and use your imagination. Journal pages get published in my blog or classes and encourage you to create and imagine, and when someone buys a painting, it takes his or her mind from the wall to a different world.

Hand-drawn art and art classes by Paivi Eerola.

In the work-oriented mindset, you don’t just create for yourself but build a path to serve others. This path can, of course, begin from your own enjoyment, but the longer you want to go, the more it will also involve others.

When you see artists focusing on what they do, remember that they are mindful of how they serve you. Their life can include all kinds of things and activities; they just don’t show that to you. You don’t need to sacrifice your other hobbies; you only need to stop thinking of art as something that you do only for yourself.

This, however, doesn’t mean that you would do art only for the sake of pleasing others. When you are at the beginning of an artist’s journey, you are not conscious of how you can serve people the best way yet. You need to create more art, grow your skills, listen to yourself, and regularly show up to the world. I have found my path by updating this blog, which is now over 10 years old. So I thank you for helping me find my mission as an artist!

“Great, But I Don’t Want Art to Be Work for Me!”

Of course, we can have goals in our hobbies too, and many times the development begins as a hobby. But isn’t it so that when we set goals, they include secret dreams? Being aware of these hidden thoughts and facing how much work it will require is a part of the artist’s journey. And yes, some sacrifice is then needed.

If I think about myself, becoming an artist has required more passion and work than I thought. For example, getting over rejections has been hard but necessary. When everyone said “no,” it was difficult to see the potential “yes” in my work.

Preparing for my first solo show last year.

But life is short, and this is what I have ever wanted to accomplish in this life. And now, I even see a new horizon and want to accomplish more. Again, it feels overwhelming, but I know that if I treat it as work – as my priority, I will have a chance. I will write more about that in the near future!

Art and Sacrifice – What Do You Hope to Accomplish?

This is my counter question to the original one. What does being successful in art mean to you?

I also like this question: “How does success appear in your environment?” It’s like a mini question that leads to the big one. For example, imagine how your home looks when you have accomplished what you hope to do. How have you organized the supplies? What’s on your walls? What is the overall style and atmosphere? Even – where do you live then?

Any thoughts? Please leave a comment!

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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