Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Selling Watercolor Paintings as Gifts

This week, I talk about making and selling watercolor paintings as gifts. At the same time, we celebrate the playfulness of watercolors.

"Kultaa huuhtoneet" - "Gold Panners", a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola. Size: A3. Abstract flowers in watercolor. Selling watercolor paintings as gifts.
“Kultaa huuhtoneet” – “Gold Panners”, watercolor, size: A3
See more and bigger pics at Taiko (online art store)

I love gift shops. My dream for a long time has been that, in addition to large oil paintings, I could sell smaller pieces as gifts. Recently, this has come true. I have sold many of my watercolor paintings not only directly but also via the Taiko online art store and the Gumbostrand Konst & Form gallery.

Art as Gifts vs. Art for Homes

An art buyer never buys art just for need. The work must appeal to the buyer on a deep level. Still, large paintings are chosen more according to the interior, and smaller ones are purchased as gifts. Sometimes a small painting is a gift to the buyer himself, often to someone else.

Packing a watercolor painting. Selling and making watercolor paintings as gifts.
I usually sell my watercolor art without a frame, especially if I mail it directly.

As a professional artist, I am more known for oil paintings, but I have dreamt that also my watercolor pieces would be in demand. I love to paint them and the idea of a perfect gift inspires me. However, it has taken time to grow my vision of how they should look.

Because I have grown many of my general painting skills with watercolors, my watercolor paintings have quite a similar style to my oil paintings. But with watercolors, I step in a slightly more illustrative direction. I want my watercolor art not to be too abstract, but approachable and atmospheric. See a collection of my recent watercolor paintings here!

Flower Art But With a Playful Attitude

My watercolor pieces usually have flowers. However, I don’t paint just static and spiritless flower arrangements. I see flowers as adventurous human or animal figures and get playful with them. On the one hand, the flowers are like dolls and teddy bears, and on the other hand, they are imperfectly perfect, feeling natural and real.

Starting a watercolor painting. The first layers.

When the playfulness really kicks in, painting is fun.

Negative painting in progress. Watercolor techniques.
I often use the technique called negative painting, to bring up the flowers.

I love to discover plants in the middle of random watercolor spots. I have also a course called Freely Grown about this kind of process.

Taking Several Sessions to Grow the Idea

Usually, the first layers of the painting are fast and only take an hour or two. But that’s when the painting is just a regular flower painting, not a special piece that has a special appeal. Within a couple of hours, there’s not much time to grow the idea further or adjust the details.

Painting flowers in watercolor.

I usually paint in several sessions where the first one or two lay the foundation and produce the basic painting, and where the next sessions (usually 2 to 4) grow the story and produce the finished look.

Using a narrow brush when working with details. Creating watercolor art.

For example, for this painting, I took walks to see flowers and to add some more to the painting. But after a while, that felt too traditional and then decided on the gold mining theme.

Bringing up older layers in watercolor. Watercolor techniques.

The further I go, the smaller the brush strokes become.

Working with a Progress Photo

I find it helpful to take a photo of the unfinished piece, and then use it as a reference. The small-sized picture makes it easier for me to spot the areas that still need adjusting.

Using a progress photo to point out the  parts that need adjusting. Making and selling watercolor art as gifts.

Looking at the photo also helps with distancing myself from the actual piece. I can ask: Do I love this? Would I buy this? When selling watercolor paintings as gifts, never underestimate the quality, always try a little higher.

Color over Color

Pigments are very different from each other. Some colors require many layers, and others can be used very thickly. Most artist-quality yellows have good coverage and work well for the finishing touches.

Painting layers in watercolor. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.

I have recently used smooth (hot press) watercolor paper because it’s best for tiny details.

Gentle Breakthroughs

I want to break boundaries with all my art, but in watercolor, I try to do it more gently than usual. In this painting, the flowers have caught Hokusai’s great wave from Japan and taken it to Lapland to pan for gold. And so it happened that the gold and the flowers started a decorative baroque party and everything small became surprisingly big and grand. Despite all this, this is a flower painting where the viewer can relax and enjoy the joyful atmosphere.

"Kultaa huuhtoneet" - "Gold Panners", a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola. Size: A3. Abstract flowers in watercolor. Selling watercolor paintings as gifts.

But whatever the story is, I try to express it so that it can evoke different memories and associations in different people. Somehow, the painting must make a gentle breakthrough in the eyes of the viewer – find a soft spot where the immersion can begin.

See more pics of “Kultaa huuhtoneet – Gold Panners” at the Taiko art store!

Freely Grown – Paint Watercolor Flowers with Me!

Freely Grown - online art course about painting watercolor flowers without references.

In the course Freely Grown, I walk you through my watercolor painting process. Because the finishing touches with a small brush are the most challenging, we take the easier route and do them with colored pencils. In Freely Grown, you paint flowers freely without reference photos and create a unique painting from the given techniques and guidelines. >> Buy here!

Liberated Inspiration – Painting Freely

This week, I talk about liberated inspiration and share what I discovered about 8 years ago.

"Illallinen on katettu - Dinner is Served. A watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola.
“Illallinen on katettu – Dinner is Served”
>> See more pics at the Taiko art store!

Liberated Inspiration from 2015-2016

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the years 2015 and 2016. Then I combined watercolors, acrylic paints, and colored pencils for intuitive still lives. At the same time, I thought about how complex the forms of nature are and how I could create a more finished impression with nuances.

I have those pieces saved in an album. Watch a short video of me browsing the folder! Here you can see only a small part of the pieces – the album is thick!

Liberated Inspiration

These last couple of pieces shown in the video have stuck in my mind. This one:

"Summer is Coming" a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola, 2016.
Summer is Coming, 2016
See the blog post about making this!

And this one:

Harvest Still Life, a mixed media painting by Paivi Eerola, 2015.
Harvest Still Life, 2015
See the blog post about making this!

Both of these have a dark and romantic atmosphere that can be seen often in historical paintings, but there’s also liberated inspiration – meaning that no one dictates what that kind of painting should or shouldn’t have.

You can be inspired by what you have seen, but only pick the atmosphere from it.

Gerard van Honthorst, Supper with Lute Player, 1619-1620. I took the photo during my visit to the Uffizi Gallery in 2017.

I like this kind of inspiration the most. That you are inspired by something, but don’t take it too literally. Liberated inspiration boosts your enthusiasm but doesn’t tell what the final image should be.

I wanted a similar romantic yet liberated feel for this watercolor painting.

A detail of a floral watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola.

Imagine someone saying: “dinner is served” and bringing you to a table where good company and classical music would make the world look like it’s full of possibilities.

Painting Freely in Watercolor

It has always been important for me to paint freely without models and let randomness meet my imagination. In 2015, I developed a course called Liberated Artist. It was about creating a mess first and then solving it. It was a fun course.

I started this watercolor with a similar mess.

Painting freely in watercolor using liberated imagination. Painting in progress.

Then I switched to thinner brushes to finish the image.

Watercolor brushes for finishing.

I like the way the imaginative scenery, flowers, ornaments, and the table came all together into one image.

A finished watercolor painting that was painted without any models. See more examples of liberated imagination!

Coming Up: Liberated Artist Revisited

The Liberated Artist course is no longer available, but I got the idea to redo a small part of the course. In that, Päivi from 2015 will teach Päivi from 2024! I will follow the old instructions again, but like an experienced student, I also offer a bit of my current knowledge.

Here’s a sneak peek at the new mini-course called Liberated Artist Revisited.

A sneak peek at the new mini-course called Liberated Artist Revisited. By Paivi Eerola.

Liberated Artist Revisited will be published within a few weeks, but it’s likely to be a limited edition – only available for a limited time – so stay tuned!

Life After Death – Commissioned Art

This week, I have a commissioned art piece to show you. I have fewer words than I normally do – not only because the project is confidential, but also because this project went beyond words in many ways.

Floral tribute painting. Commissioned art piece. Oil on canvas. By the artist Paivi Eerola, Finland.

Last fall, I got a commission for this oil painting. It was ordered by a man in memory of his recently deceased spouse. We brought elements of the wife’s life and references to what she liked into the painting. The painting is, therefore, a secret portrait, from which loved ones recognize familiar things, but which do not need to be explained to strangers, unless they want to.

Commissioned Art – Sketch First

I started with a digital sketch. Here you can see the sketch and the final painting side by side.

Making commissioned art. A digital sketch made in ProCreate and a final oil painting. By Päivi Eerola, Finland.

I painted the sketch freely in the ProCreate app. The sketch is more abstract than the finished work and is more about the impression than the details.

Painting Process

After the sketch was approved, I ordered the canvas. The size of this piece is 50 x 40 cm (about 19.5 x 15.5 inches). Here are the first blurry layers.

Starting a flower painting. A commissioned art in progress.

I worked several sessions and let the painting dry for 1-2 weeks between the sessions.

Working on a commissioned art piece. Painting flowers layer by layer.

The sketch helped with the painting process so that I could save my energy on the details.

Final Treatments

When the painting was finished, I photographed it outdoors. The natural light is wonderful now when Finland has a lot of snow, but the shoot had to be done quickly.

Photographing a painting in natural light.

I varnished the painting with Gamvar after the photoshoot.

Varnishing an oil painting.

I like to think that varnishing was like giving a special blessing to the painting.

Spiritual Meaning

This project made my work as an artist feel even more meaningful than before. I learned more about what kind of artist I am.

A detail of a flower painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland.

I thought: “What could be a better assignment than building a bridge between life and death?”
What do you think?

How to Create Comforting Art

This blog post is for you who want to spread more joy through your art, and make your art more comforting and captivating.

Painting in watercolor

I am listening to an interesting course on writing. It’s Neil Gaiman Teaches the Art of Storytelling. Writing and making a picture have a lot in common. When you look at your piece, can you find a story – so, a conflict and a solution?

Conflict Creates More Comfort

Neil Gaiman says that beginning writers leave conflict out of their stories. And that it’s the conflict that makes the story interesting. The same goes for the picture. Beginner artists usually want to use only happy colors and draw or paint only beautiful and joyful things.

I too want to make comforting art – something that takes me to a softer world right in the beginning and that will lift the viewer’s mind when finished. But the conflict must still be allowed because first showing it, and then finding a solution for it, creates comfort and happiness.

"Tuulelta suojautuneet" - a watercolor painting by Päivi Eerola. Creating comforting art.
“Tuulelta suojautuneet” (those who got protected from the wind)
Purchase this painting via the Taiko art store!

For example, in this watercolor painting above, the flowers have run indoors because it has started to get windy and rain a little.

Imagine how they first evaluate the houses: “Where would we be welcomed the most?” And then they would push through the darkest window and settle on the windowsill close to each other.

Imagine stepping into that room and seeing shattered glass and feeling unpleasant coldness. But then the colorful flowers would bend towards you. What a pleasant surprise to receive in these windy times!

A detail of a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland. Displaying conflict and a solution to create more comforting art.

When I painted this, I wanted to protect myself from the winds of the world. I started with the flowers, but the painting only came true when the wind joined in.

Overcoming Difficulties Brings Comfort

For me, the most comforting art is the one where difficulties are overcome. For example, in this painting, the flowers have experienced loss, but are still ready to take risks again.

"Unelmille avautuneet" - watercolor flowers by Paivi Eerola
“Unelmille avautuneet” (those who opened to dreams)

Build Different Characters

Neil Gaiman says that his stories are largely in the hands of the characters. Also in painting, you have to identify the main characters. Blots easily turn into flowers, but don’t leave it at that! Make small changes to the shapes so that the personality of each flower comes out. Often it’s a very small adjustment that a beginner easily ignores as insignificant. The skill of building an expression for a form no matter what it represents develops with making.

Strong characters and an understanding of the place where everything happens create a story in the picture. My main characters are strong-minded and independent and the conflict is often a fight against wild conditions.

For example, winter has arrived here, but the flowers stubbornly decide to turn the clock back to a warmer time. In this conflict, the flowers lose their color to stay alive.

Expressing with watercolors. Spreading comfort throught art. "Talven voittaneet" - a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola.
“Talven voittaneet” (those who won winter)

Sometimes what feels good at first can break down in the long run. Can a flower live only in light? Don’t we get a better understanding of our outlines and boundaries in the shadows?

"Vapaasti kasvaneet" - a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola.
“Vapaasti kasvaneet” (those who grew freely)

On the other hand, when life has been nothing but darkness and the colors have faded, the power of light enables a fast recovery.

"Valosta voimaantuneet" - a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola.
“Valosta voimaantuneet” (those who got empowered by light)

Observe the Surroundings with Empathy and Imagination

As a director of disaster films, I am inspired by the survivors around me. This autumn, I listened to the lily of our new pond, who described how boldly she would soon bloom. Fall progressed and my suspicion grew. But just before the big storm, the bud opened for one day.

Lily of the pond. A photograph by Paivi Eerola.

You can survive of the deep waters – even only for a moment!

"Syvältä selvitytyneet" - watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola. Creating comforting art.
“Syvältä selviytyneet” (those who survived the deep)

The world of inanimate objects is also full of ideas when you use your imagination.

For example, wallpaper is one of the most pathetic things I know. The flowers are glued in place, but they still see and hear everything. If they were released, a lot of pent-up energy would be present. The silent and motionless wall flowers would party around the room. They had been thirsty for life for a long time.

"Janonsa sammuttaneet" - a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola. Using imagination in painting and drawing.
“Janonsa sammuttaneet” (those who quenched their thirst)

Isn’t that what happens when a person starts creating art? The frenzy inside her finally gets out!

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