Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Coming Up with Ideas that Make You an Artist

This week’s blog post is about working with ideas that bring more of you together and make you an artist.

Merkuriuksen lämpötilat - Mercury Temperatures, 30 x 50 cm, oil on canvas by Paivi Eerola
Merkuriuksen lämpötilat – Mercury Temperatures, 30 x 50 cm, oil on canvas

Here’s one of my newest paintings called Merkuriuksen lämpötilat – Mercury Temperatures. This oil painting is a part of my series Linnunrata – Milky Way, where I explore planets and outer space. (See previous work: Neptune here, Pluto herethe Earth hereVenus here, and the Sun here!)

My first intention was to create Mars, not Mercury, so I started with sharp strokes and fiery colors.

Painting in progress. How to come up with ideas that make you an artist?

But it happened that Mars appeared in another painting, so I changed the subject after the first layer. This wasn’t hard. All I needed was to get back to left-brain thinking, which I call my inner engineer.

Fact-Finding for Artistic Inspiration

It has been fun to find out facts about the planets. I have also had great discussions about them with my husband. We both love science and are interested in the bits of information about outer space. The mind-blowing fact about the planet Mercury is that its temperature varies about 650 degrees! Night and day in the same location can have very different temperatures.

Painting in progress. How to come up with ideas that make you an artist?

I try to keep the fact-finding separate from the painting process as possible. I want the facts to be just one of the many inspiration sources and be intuitive and inventive during actual art-making. For example, in this painting, I also thought about pattern designs, interior decorating, wallpapers of William Morris and Designers Guild, fantasy stories with unicorns, gardening … all kinds of inspiration got mixed into one piece.

Hidden Love for Natural Science

Over a couple of years, natural science has got more and more impact on my art. However, I have been pretty quiet about it because it feels weird to talk about science and then show flower paintings. But now, my inner engineer said that Mercury Temperatures is the only appropriate name for the piece, and I noticed how happy she looked, being involved and accepted more than many times before.

A detail of Merkuriuksen lämpötilat - Mercury Temperatures, oil on canvas by Paivi Eerola

This spring, I have learned a lot about leading myself artistically. I have noticed that if my inner engineer can provide concepts like “temperature changes” rather than direct images, my inner artist can then tie them freely with visual ideas. Together they form an effective pair. My inner engineer can provide exciting ideas based on her background studies, and my inner artist can still get all the creative freedom she needs.

Digging Deeper into the Professional Identity

It has started to feel that there’s a reason why I first studied engineering, then moved to design, and only finally to art. I play with the question that if my career had started as an artist, would I be studying technology now? It feels that my ideas are on several levels, and if I omit the science level, something is missing.

A detail of Merkuriuksen lämpötilat - Mercury Temperatures, oil on canvas by Paivi Eerola

For years and years, I have been trying to manage what my inner engineer can do and how she should not disturb the inner artist. But now, when I have given the inner engineer a significant role, the inner artist hasn’t complained at all. On the contrary, it feels like the artist praises the engineer and vice versa.

This understanding has also closed the gap between design and art. Some of my work can now be openly more design-oriented than others. My inner designer had a lot of fun participating in this painting.

Merkuriuksen lämpötilat - Mercury Temperatures, 30 x 50 cm, oil on canvas by Paivi Eerola

I feel happy about being able to use my curiosity about natural science in the artistic process. I have even started to think that my background in technology and science can be one factor that makes my art unique, even if it doesn’t get the leading role when marketing my work.

Coming Up With Genuine Ideas

We often think about using the skills from one profession to another very literally. But the identity in one can be used for another when we get to the level of ideas and inspiration. Every field has pieces of information that are super inspiring, especially if you already have the foundational knowledge of the area. With the knowledge, your imagination can build bridges between what is and what could be.

Ideas that make you an artist are not about art.

The artistic identity is more like an umbrella rather than an individual thing. An artist is a connector rather than a lonely one on a closed island.

What do you think?

Expressing Happiness in Art

This week, we look under ice and talk about expressing happiness!

Onnellisten maa - Happy Earth, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland
Onnellisten maa – Happy Earth, 70 x 120 cm, oil on canvas

What’s in the Name?

Here’s one of my latest paintings called Onnellisten maa. Like so many times before, I had difficulties translating it, but I came to a conclusion that the English name can be a bit different “Happy Earth” instead of “The Land of Happy Ones.” Maa is both earth and land in Finnish.

This painting is a part of my series Linnunrata – Milky Way, where I explore planets and outer space. The painting represents the planet Earth and Finland, my home country. (See previous paintings: Venus here and the Sun here!)

The name Linnunrata also has a double meaning in Finnish. It’s not only the name of our galaxy but also means bird’s route or track. My paintings often have bird-like shapes and flying objects, so it’s a perfect name for the series and for the upcoming exhibition that will also have some older pieces.

Inspired by Ice

Here’s how the painting started – lots of wild strokes in icy greens.

A beginning of an intuitive painting.

These greens are composed of Titanium White, Raw Umber, and Nicosia Green Earth. The green is a new color that I purchased recently. It’s earthy, not bright at all, but wonderfully suitable for an intuitive painting inspired by our globe.

I also wanted to throw in some blue. At the beginning of April, thin ice covered all the puddles and reflected the sky.

Ice is cracking. Finnish spring.

Here’s how the painting looked after adding some Prussian Blue over the greens.

Painting in progress.

My puppy Saima found ice interesting too!

A beagle puppy on thin ice. Spring in Finland.

We in Finland are known for icy surfaces, not only in nature but in people too. Our most known celebrity must be a winning formula driver Kimi Räikkönen, also known as The Iceman. “Shut up, let me drive” was his regular message to the team when he was in the middle of the race.

But ice is never only ice. It makes us think about what’s under it. How does Räikkönen feel when he turns the wheel and pushes the pedals – pressure, joy, passion? What is the storm inside an icy person?

Expressing Happiness

Despite all the ice, Finland has been selected as the happiest country in the world again. It’s the fifth time in a row! With the painting, I wanted to tell what makes Finland the happiest. At the same time, I wanted to express what makes the planet Earth so special.

So, it was time to break the ice and bring in more colors.

Painting in progress, introducing more colors and expressing happiness.
In progress, now the color palette is wider.

The best feeling when creating art is freedom. We are free to express and discover.

When expressing happiness, seek signs of life. For example:

  • Could that spot move if I poke it with a line?
  • Could those two lines be connected and thus get wings?

And when a creature is born, let him live in peace! Don’t force him to look like a certain species, but let him be unique in his world. I often aim for the impression of an uncharted area where a human, the viewer, enters for the first time.

Expressing happiness. A detail of Onnellisten maa - Happy Earth, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland

I also try to express impact so that the painting makes sense. So, make the movement in one corner cause something else to change. And when you introduce a new color, do it gradually so that it doesn’t only flourish. There should be a beginning and an end to its path.

Expressing happiness. A detail of Onnellisten maa - Happy Earth, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland

These two needs are not only what a painting or a drawing hopes to have. They are also important for humans. We want to feel independent and free and still impactful and connected so that life moves forward. I think Finland has been successful in both.

A Finnish aritst Paivi Eerola and her oil painting.

Now, most ice has melted, and our spring has started. Some say that Finnish people change when the summer comes. They see us stop to look at the sun and even smile sometimes!

Painting and teaching are my ways to express happiness.
How have you spread happiness through art?

Art Inspiration from Period Dramas

This week, I am sharing art inspiration impacted by period dramas.

Visual Deliciousness of Period Dramas

I am a fan of period dramas. Recently, I have been watching Gilded Age and Bridgerton. Both of them have beautiful outdoor and indoor scenes, and dresses too, of course! My eyes like the delicious visual world they illustrate and my heart always feels a bit lighter after an episode or two.

Romantic illustration - art inspiration from period dramas.
A digital illustration composed of hand-drawn elements. The paper doll was inspired by the drama series Sanditon, see more!

Even if the dramas have historical settings, their colors are not dull at all. A picnic in the forest looks vibrant and is full of sunlight.

Mushroom forest. From the class Fun Botanicum.
A mushroom forest from the class Fun Botanicum. >> Sign up here!

I like how flowery everything is, and how the jewelry frames the faces of young ladies.

Flower Fairy's Year - art by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
Flower Fairy’s Year, see how I combined oil painting and the illustrated frame in practice!

Being so inspired by period dramas, it’s no wonder that my art is full of romantic and old-fashioned elements. They speak fantasy to me.

Doodler's Sampler - a drawing inspired by old embroidery designs
Doodler’s Sampler. See step-by-step instructions for an embroidery-inspired drawing!

Fantastic Old-World Impact

Ornamental tree in colored pencils. Romantic art by paivi Eerola. See more art inspiration from period dramas!
Freely colored ornamental tree. Learn more about this technique in the class Intuitive Coloring.

I think that every artist needs to find their approach to fantasy and fairytales – how to use imagination and what to express with it?

Romantic illustration - art inpiration from period dramas.
A digital illustration composed of hand-drawn elements. The background is from the class Fun Botanicum.

I am fascinated by the power of the inner world and all my pieces are inner sceneries in one way or another.

Abstract floral watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
Long Hot Summer, watercolor. For painting abstract flowers in watercolor, see the class Floral Fantasies!

Pablo Picasso has said: “Art is a lie that tells the truth.” Similarly, I would say that art is a fantasy that gives us what we need.

Bringing Fantasy to Life

Paivi Eerola and her colored pencil diary. The drawing is from the class Fun Botanicum.

I often talk about seeing art as a story or a collection rather than a single piece. In the new class, Fun Botanicum, we create a set of illustrations that are all unique but still a part of the series. This is a great project for setting a style and bringing different coloring techniques together.

Plants are a fun theme to explore what you can do with colored pencils and imagination!
>> Sign up here!

What to Do When You Admire an Artist

This post is about art, admiration, and spirituality and enabled by Arts Promotion Centre Finland. This is the ninth blog post of the project; see the first one herethe second one herethe third one herethe fourth one herethe fifth one herethe sixth one here, the seventh one here, and the eighth one here!

This week, I finished the last oil painting of the new series. It’s pretty large – about 27.5 x 35.5 inches – and I think it completes the series well because it’s the most dynamic of the seven.

Paradise of Wild Ones, oil on canvas, Paivi Eerola, 2021.
Paradise of Wild Ones – Villien paratiisi, oil on canvas, 70 x 90 cm

My goal in the series was to express spirituality through abstract art. The plan was to explore Wassily Kandinsky’s idea about releasing the inner sound of the shapes and get inspired by art from the 16th to 18th centuries. This last painting is a salute to my favorite artist: Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640).

Going Deeper – The Experience of Working with a Grant

Sadly, my three-month period of working with the grant is now coming to an end. During that, I painted a series of seven oil paintings, wrote several blog posts and weekly emails, plus a fictive essay in Finnish that that will hopefully get published somewhere. I still have the summarizing report to write and several paintings to varnish, but all the main work is done.

During the past months, my little studio has been filled with paintings. Every morning, before anything, I have gone there to both worry about the project and to enjoy the kind of excitement that only uncompleted work can give.

Oil painting in progress.

Despite the theme of spirituality, I haven’t lit any candles, meditated, or prayed. But I have slowed things down and taken time to question without forcing out the answer. At the same time, a clear schedule and content plan have brought structure to my days. I am grateful for the opportunity of doing this kind of deep work.

Painting abstractions and small details. By Paivi Eerola.

Many times when we create art, we hurry. A part of it is that we want to see the piece finished, but there’s more too. Art can make us feel uncomfortable and bring up memories we would rather want to leave behind. But making art can also point out stiffness, clumsiness, and differences between who we are and the artist we admire.

When You Admire an Artist – Rubens for Example!

Dear Peter Paul Rubens, I want to paint like you. I want to master the curvy lines, the soft transitions from one shade to another, the effortless flow in the composition, and something that I can’t name but that makes my heart beat faster every time I see one of your masterpieces.

With masterpieces, I mean paintings like “Four Continents” or “Four Rivers of Paradise” – this artwork has two alternative titles.

Four Rivers of Paradise by Paul Peter Rubens.
The Four Rivers of Paradise by Peter Paul Rubens, ca. 1615

Experts used to think that the painting had four continents and four rivers. Europe is the woman on the left, and her partner is the river Danube. Africa is the black woman, and her man is the Nile. The woman in the center back represents America, and her man is Rio de la Plata. The woman on the right is Asia, and her man is the Ganges. However, there’s a competing interpretation of the river figures. They may represent the four great rivers of the ancient East/paradise: the Euphrates, the Tigris, the Gihon, and the Pishon.

Rubens was born in an era where a shape could not be freed in the way we now can. He had to build a representation layer that people could explain and understand in a specific way. We humans have a strong need to label things. For example, when people see my work, they immediately begin to describe what they see.

But my paintings can produce many interpretations because I try to make shapes so that they raise several different kinds of associations. When painting, I focus more on how the shapes and colors interact with each other, not on one interpretation of what they represent.

Painting abstract shapes. How to paint when you admire an artist.

Rubens didn’t have the luxury to leave the shapes abstract – it would not be treated as a completed painting in the 17th century.

Tiger and child - A detail of Peter Paul Rubens's painting Four Continents.

And still, his expression has such a sense of mystery that it draws me in and forms a spiritual connection with humankind.

Creating with Hurry vs. Taking Time to Imagine

Recently, I have started to feel that it’s ok that I am not Rubens, Kandinsky, or any other admirable artist. By taking time for imagination, I still can feel a connection with them.

A detail of an oil painting by Paivi Eerola. How to paint when you admire an artist, like Paivi admires Rubens.

Rather than trying to reproduce what my favorite artists have created, I imagine that my little studio is a time capsule where they hang around. My sensitivity for them can get mixed with the rest of my imagination, and produce my kind of work, still supported by them.

In the studio of Paivi Eerola.

The core of art is that we are free to imagine. We are allowed to break the limits of time, explore the inner world, and go beyond literal ideas and explanations.

A detail of an oil painting "Paradise of Wild Ones" by Paivi Eerola. Read more about how to create when you admire an artist and want to paint like her/him.

This journey has taught me that it is possible to live with wild thoughts no matter what direction they take. Like a rare animal, a thought can be shy and fast, and thus, require sitting before the trust is formed.

I started the project with the definition of spirituality, but now the greatest lesson seems to be to let go of any single definition and find more, no matter what the subject is.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. Who do you admire, for example, if not anything else!

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