Peony and Parakeet

5 Ways to Love Yourself When Painting

Icebreaker, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read her post about how to love yourself when painting.

Here’s my recent watercolor painting. It’s called Icebreaker, and can I publicly say that I love it? Love, love, love. So this week, I daringly blog about how to selfishly love yourself when painting.

This is not my typical post. I would normally post things like “11 Ways to Make Your Painting More Abstract” or “7 Reasons Why Negative Painting is the Best Technique” or “3 Tips for Getting Closer to Your Style”. But after painting Icebreaker, I kind of melted. It became more true to me than ever before that we paint because we want this special kind of acceptance – the acceptance from ourselves.

When I whole-heartedly accepted what I had created, I didn’t just receive love from myself. I saw a long row of people congratulating me. All deceased, unfortunately, but still! There was my mother, saying that she knew I could do it. There was my father, looking away so that he could hide his smile. I saw my grandfather, a creative person I never met, congratulating me generously. And my dear aunt Rauha (which means Peace in English) was waving, looking just as lively and restlessly happy as she used to be. Now, this kind of love is what I want more and also spread more!

So this post is about turning your inner critic to your best fan. It’s not easy, and it may take like a lifetime, but it’s worth trying, so let’s begin!

1) Love Rises from the Mess

As a former engineer, I feel drawn to two-state things. Zero or one, yes or no, black or white, thick or thin, geometric or organic, the list is endless. But when painting, I like to be in the grey area, especially in the beginning. After the horrifying view of blank paper, my watercolors are sighing with relief: “She sprays and splashes so she must be having a good time.” And yes, I usually am.

But this mess is not just any mess to me. It’s a sign of hope. I hope to figure out what to do with it …

Watercolor painting in progress by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Let’s love this hopefulness in us! It’s a superpower that keeps us not only dreaming but creating too.

Yes, this superpower can look like a bad thing. It can keep us awake too late at night. It can make us buy too many brushes and focus on insignificant details like wallpaper when watching a movie. But our life is never boring or lonely when we get hopeful just by making a mess.

So, make a mess, accept the mess, fall in love with the mess! The more time you spend with the mess, the more likely you will figure it out.

2) Love What Is Secondary

Ideally, I would always know what to do next. Practically, I often have moments when I have no clue. Hope seems lost. I feel fake.

Watercolor painting in progress by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read her post about 5 ways to love yourself when creating art.

The best cure that I have found is to seek secondary things. They can be tiny spots or pretty accidental shapes, or sometimes I only admire how wet paint glows. It’s like filtering out 95 percent of the mess and seeing a few single things that look fascinating. Lovable.

Watercolor painting in progress by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I call these elements secondary because often they are just parts of the background. But by toning down the obvious and bringing up the less apparent, I can change the direction of the painting. What anyone can see is no longer my norm. I have moved on to what only I can see.

A detail of Icebreaker, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

There’s so much more in us than what other people can see. Some skills and characteristics may seem secondary to others, but every one of us is allowed to love and grow them whole-heartedly.

A detail of Icebreaker, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The hierarchy of the outer world doesn’t exist when you are in your inner world. You are free to appreciate discoveries that look secondary to others.

3) No Words, Just Color

It’s not easy to write about love. Love feels more like a combination of changing colors than a sentence with specific words. So when painting, let’s feel the love through color. When dipping your brush first to the paint and then to paper, exhale color. Next, put your face close to the paper and look at the spot so that it fills your view. Inhale. It’s your color. No one can take it from you. Love, love, love.

A detail of Icebreaker, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

4) Love the Vagueness

Yes, we want to find our style, our visual voice, our true self. But our boat is moving. We are changing, our life is changing, the world is changing. Everything is unsure and insecure. That also makes everything possible.

A detail of Icebreaker, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I like to build my paintings so that I leave this vagueness/possibility alive. Maybe there’s a flower, maybe not. Someone sees some triangles only, while others see a rosebud. There can be plenty of interpretations. I am vague, and everything is all right. My painting is a living organism, partly defined by the vague me, partly by the vague you.

A detail of Icebreaker, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Today we might love the current painting less than tomorrow. And our art may tell a different story after a couple of years. That’s ok.

No, that’s not ok. That’s fabulous!

5) Break It!

I admire brave people. I adore Tracy Chapman singing without a band. Her voice is not faultless, and many of her stories are not relatable to me. But I feel her honesty being present right there when I am listening to her through the headphones.

But for me, it’s often the fear that’s speaking. I hear myself shouting, “NO!” and that’s when I know that the answer should be “YES.” I know I am not alone here. We are often afraid to touch the painting even if we know it lacks something. The risk is real, but worth taking.

In this painting, it would have been so much easier not to paint that dark brown around the white area. But the ice wouldn’t start breaking otherwise.

A detail of Icebreaker, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read her blog post about how to love yourself while creating art.

Let’s love this creativity that wants to break what’s almost working. Let’s cherish this wild force that we have in us.

Icebreaker, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read her post about how to love yourself when painting.

Let’s love who we are when we paint, and when we are surrounded by our paintings!

Paivi Eerola and her watercolor paintings.

Icebreaker and other watercolor paintings are for sale at

I currently teach an online watercolor class Magical Forest with themes hope, spirituality, flow, and curiosity. You can still hop along! The class ends at the end of April, so there’s lots of time to catch up! >> Sign up here!

Out of a Creative Rut – Do What Illustrators Would Do!

Illustration by Paivi Eerola. Read her post about how to get out of creative rut by thinking what illustrators would do.

I am currently reading James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. It’s about growing skills and making changes in life a small step at a time. James Clear doesn’t believe in setting goals as much as building a new identity. James tells about a person who lost weight by thinking “what would healthy people do” every time he had to make a decision about eating, sleeping, and exercising. 

Bird and desserts. Illustration by Paivi Eerola. Read her post about how to get out of creative rut by thinking what illustrators would do.

Out of a Creative Rut by Asking What Would Illustrators Do

Since last fall, I have been practicing “what would illustrators do.” I have wanted to make art that is less abstract and more joyful and rememorize the things I learned when studying design several years ago.

Butterflies. Small drawings by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

When building the latest classes Animal Inkdom and Magical Inkdom, I have wanted to include more small projects than before so that you can quickly grab a pen and draw more regularly. James Clear advises building habits by combining them with our current ones. When we do something like having a cup of tea in the evening, we can also grab a pen and doodle a bit. It’s not much, but when it’s repeated regularly, the results will come.

Sealife. Bird and desserts. Illustration by Paivi Eerola. Read her post about how to get out of creative rut by thinking what illustrators would do.

To me, drawing small collage pieces has brought back the joy of drawing. I haven’t always had the time to do a lot, but I have made it a regular practice because “that’s what illustrators do.”

Illustrations by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Bullet journal art.

Drawings are Like Pets – Treating Them Gently

I have also developed gentle self-talk by thinking of these animals as my pets. That way, I don’t try to control the outcome too much or negatively judge a single piece. They are my pets, and I love and care about them because “that’s what animal lovers do.”

Hand-drawn collage pieces and illustrations by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Breaking a Creative Rut and Moving Forward

At the same time as I have developed the illustration classes, I have also built my illustration portfolio

Illustration by Paivi Eerola. Read her post about how to get out of creative rut by thinking what illustrators would do.

During the next couple of months, I am doing more “what illustrators do” when I am making images for a book. I will share more pics about this commission later.

Practicing illustration has also brought new perspectives to my fine art projects and what I want to create in general. So, I highly recommend practicing “what illustrators do” – especially if you are in a creative rut or have a too strong inner critic.

Start now – Animal Inkdom Is for Sale!

Online art class Animal Inkdom. Taught by Paivi Eerola, a Finnish illustrator.

This weekend: Buy Animal Inkdom for 59 EUR (normally 79 EUR).
The sale ends on Sunday midnight Sept 1st, 2019 (PDT).
>> Buy here!

What Artists Keep Doing – Series of Inspiring Quotes #3

This post ends the series of inspiring quotes that I have heard or read recently. In the last week, I wrote about the feeling of not being ready yet, and the week before about being honest about what you want to create. But now to this week’s inspiring quote!

"No! Don't Ever Quit Anything" Mixed media illustration by Paivi Eerola of Peonu and Parakeet.

This Week’s Quote

Don’t ever quit anything.

Who: Finnish journalist Kimmo Oksanen
Where: A column in the local newspaper Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish)

At the age of 16, Kimmo bought a typewriter and a guitar with the money earned from a summer job. He thought he could be a famous singer-songwriter. But he quitted singing and writing songs when he went to university and found out that lyrics are not “real poetry.” He also used to draw, paint and do sports when he was a teenager but ended up quitting all that too. He used to aim for perfection and didn’t realize that mistakes make the master. Now he regrets that he hadn’t just kept doing, and his advice is: “Start a lot and never quit anything.”

Not Quitting Crafting and Writing Made Me an Artist

When I was a teenager, like Kimmo, I also loved to write. I wrote poems and short stories and attended some competitions too. I was also a crafter, always knitting and crocheting. My deepest desire was to become a visual artist, and I painted and drew almost every day.

What artists keep doing. Drawing by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Then I saw a computer for the first time and fell in love. It was the early 1980s, and the computer age was just getting started, but I knew that technology was my thing. I changed my plans to become an English teacher to a software engineer. But despite my interest in computers, I kept on writing, drawing, and crafting. There was a period when I spent less time with creative activities, but in one way or another, I have been a writer and crafter all my life.

Making an illustration. Painting with watercolors. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

When art began to call me again, I also wanted to start a blog. I was still quite a beginner in art, and my vision was bigger than what I could put on paper, but the encouragement I got from the readers kept me going. But now when I think about it, my old hobbies also had some role in that. I had learned resilience from crafting, self-expression from writing, and the old dream of becoming an English teacher oddly changed to the courage to blog in a foreign language. Without being a writer and a crafter, I wouldn’t be a blogger, and without being a blogger, I wouldn’t have become a working artist.

Painting on an ink drawing. Illustraion in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I Regret Quitting These!

However, there are a couple of things that I loved as a child but quitted doing. I used to write short plays and gathered an acting group from a few of my schoolmates. I also played the violin for a few years. During the past four years as an artist, I have regretted quitting both. When running classes, it’s good to be able to present things in a memorable and fun way. When selecting the music to the class videos, I try to find songs that fit with the topic of the project and keep the attention on the subject. The little that I learned in my childhood years has been useful, and I wish I had continued both acting and playing through all the past years.

A detail of an illustration. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Stephen King and Does Talent Dictate What We Should Keep Doing?

In art, the question of talent usually comes up in the discussion sooner or later. I just finished reading Stephen King’s book “On Writing” where he tells how it’s just a waste of time trying to learn something that you don’t have any passion. His son played an instrument, but because he showed no talent to him, Stephen advised him to quit. He had wanted to see some free playing, some evident joy, and some promise of the career as a musician. Because there were none, he thought the son could use his 30-minute practice better than playing.

I find the story and in general, the discussion of talent depressing. It determines both the person and the profession from a very narrow perspective and generates powerlessness. That’s why I have tried to avoid to think whether I am talented enough or not. However, the question of talents always lurks somewhere behind the surface. I got to realize that when suddenly, a few weeks ago, I was told that my grandfather had graduated from a design school. He had been a farmer and died a long time ago. I never met him, but some of his letters have been saved. Based on them, he was an unhappy man who yearned for bigger challenges than what country life could offer. Clearly, he wasn’t meant to be a farmer, but someone who develops new things.

A detail of an illustration. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

When I heard what my grandfather had studied, a thin string around my heart broke, and the tension relieved. I was no longer the one who had just got an accidental obsession for art and design, but a link in the chain of generations. It became more meaningful than ever to continue the work that my grandfather wasn’t able to do. It also made me partly re-write my story – I had some talent after all! I have also felt embarrassed about how much that meant to me. In the end, the fact that we keep on practicing has much more effect on our skills than any inheritance.

Art is About Not Needing to Quit Anything

When making the illustration for the blog post, I brought things from the past that I carry with me. Many of them are funny and harmless, like my first dream profession of becoming the queen of England. My parents helped me to plant a bench of Queen Elizabeth roses under the window of my room. When drawing, I don’t have to quit that dream. I don’t have to quit anything.

A detail of an illustration. What artists should keep doing. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

In art, we enter a world where we get to play freely with the things that have made an impact on us. If we hadn’t experienced or practiced anything, our imagination wouldn’t have the tools and the topics we have now. Let’s keep practicing, let’s keep not quitting, and let’s be assured that whether we feel talented or not, we don’t have to give up anything when we keep drawing.

Magical horses. Hand-drawn paper collage by Finnish artist Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Take the Next Step – Do This!

Open a new page in your art journal or sketchbook. Draw and/or glue a collage of things you have grown to love and never stopped doing!

Come to draw fantastic art – Sign up for Magical Inkdom!

For a Late Bloomer in Art – Series of Inspiring Quotes #2

Magical Bunny. Illustration by Paivi Eerola, Finland.

This post continues the series of inspiring quotes that I have heard or read recently. The last week’s post was the first one of the series. It’s about being honest about what you want to create, read it here. But now to this week’s inspiring quote – especially geared to us who are late bloomers in art!

This Week’s Quote

“You will never arrive”

Who Said?
American illustrator Lisa Congdon

Lisa’s Instagram feed, here’s the link to the post

Lisa is also a late bloomer, not pursuing art right from the beginning. When she was starting her art career, she dreamed about living a successful and carefree life as an artist. She thought that when she has it all figured out, she will reach a happy destination. But when Lisa’s fame grew, new challenges came along. She wrote: “If I have arrived at all, it’s in a place of accepting that I will never arrive.”

One Masterpiece vs. Chain Reaction of Inspiration

Drawing collage pieces. A hand-drawn set of small tassels by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I am a late bloomer in art, just turned 50 this year, and been a working artist for only five years. The older I have got, the more aware I have become that one day this life is over. A few years ago, my reaction to it was to aim for creating pieces that will continue their life after my death. I wanted to leave a legacy. Recently, I have become to think differently, and Lisa’s post also contributed to that. I believe that everything we do for others is a legacy. Even this blog can be one of mine. And it’s not defined by how long the posts will be available, but by their effect on the readers.

Drawing collage pieces. A hand-drawn teacup by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The encouragement for art starts a chain reaction. When we support other people to create, they can do the same and pass the inspiration forward. The drops become a cupful, and our existence lasts longer. And when we take the pressure off from a single piece of art, it also gives us the courage to express what we truly love – referring to the last week’s blog post – that feels honest to us.

Do You Have This in Common with Leonardo?

Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci. Ink drawing by Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet.

Leonardo da Vinci was famous for not being able to do his commissions on time. He had several different projects on the go all the time, and some never got finished. He felt like he was a failure and saw himself more like an engineer than an artist. (10 things about Leonardo)

If Leonardo felt like he had never arrived, the feeling must be connected with creativity. When we are creative, we are on an adventure and don’t stay put. The journey becomes tedious and depressing if we focus too much on the destination instead of enjoying the views.

Magical art hand-drawn by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Heading Away from the Safe Road

Instagram is full of skillful art, and sometimes, it makes me question myself as an artist when millions and millions of “better” images are uploaded all the time. It has made me postpone sending my work to juried exhibitions and reaching for opportunities to do illustrative work because “I am not quite there.”

Paivi Eerola, a late bloomer in art, an artist from Finland, and her watercolor paintings.
Finnish Watercolor Society’s annual group exhibition in June 2019
Two more group exhibitions coming up in the fall!

I have started to think that if the fact is that we never arrive, I should get out of my comfort zone and try walking on some of the side paths too. I also want to allow myself to create more art that is humorous and that can’t be taken seriously because every time I do that, it makes me smile and brings the sun into my studio. I may not follow the road that I had imagined a long time ago, but it makes the adventure of being a late-bloomer more exciting.

Drawing humorous art. Magical art hand-drawn by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Take the Next Step – Do This!

Imagine that you already have all the artistic skills that you will ever get. Do something that you have postponed because you have been waiting for your skills to grow!

Come to create fantastic art – Sign up for Magical Inkdom!

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