Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Learning from Artistic Influences – Answering a Question

This week, I have a letter for you who want more from your art. Success looks different in different stages, but wherever you are in the artist’s journey, intuition says that moving forward will be tedious. So, it’s tempting to find a shortcut.

Paivi Eerola and her watercolor art. Read more about Paivi's artistic influences and find what you can learn from them.
In 2019, I painted a lot in watercolor and felt I had found my thing. But the more I thought about it, I started doubting that watercolors did not support my new goals. It wasn’t a nice revelation, and it took about a year to swallow.

Last week, I got a message from a reader asking if I could recommend one or two artists that have influenced your work. “Who, in your opinion, is someone a new artist must learn about?” she wrote.

Here’s my answer to the message with some additional explanations and images.

Listing Artistic Influences

There are a lot of things that have influenced my work, starting from the slow and long summer days as a child in Nothern Karelia, browsing art history books in a local library, studying computer engineering and learning conceptual thinking, studying industrial design and learning the basics of visual communication through shapes, reading Paul Klee’s Pedagogical Sketchbook, learning old master techniques first in a couple of courses, then on my own, etc.

Two artists that I have admired in the past few years have been Peter Paul Rubens, a Baroque painter, and Wassily Kandinsky, an abstract art pioneer.

(These artists have inspired me to teach as well. In the last section of Floral Fantasies, you learn old master’s techniques, and in Floral Freedom, you learn abstract art through Kandinsky’s and Klee’s ideas.)

Paul Peter Rubens' painting in Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy.
A snapshot of Paul Peter Rubens’ painting “Consequences of War” at Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy. I think this is one of the most beautiful paintings in the world. I was mesmerized when I saw it, and I have a copy of it in the lid of the box where I store my paints.
Read more about my visit to Palazzo Pitti in 2017!

However, these may not be the answers you want to hear. The answer that is most beneficial for you is to ask yourself what’s the root reason for the question.

Questioning Your Direction

When I was searching for an answer to that question about ten years ago, I wanted to find a direction that would take me to the art world. I knew my skills weren’t spectacular, so I wanted to find someone successful who creates art that is simple enough. But then I realized that my taste was a way further, and the only admiration I had for those artists was in their courage to come up and the success as far as I was then able to define it.

Hand-drawn paper collage. Made by Paivi Eerola in 2012.
In 2012, I was eager to see if I could find my path by exploring and developing my hand-drawn line. The course Inspirational Drawing was born a few years later. Here’s the link to the second edition Inspirational Drawing 2.0.

I believe in intuition, and based on that, I assume that you are at the intersection, wondering whether to start going further forward: becoming braver to share your work, build stronger technical skills, and move to the next level in what influences your art and how.

In the next level, the answers become more complicated and multi-faceted. You should learn more about art history and all kinds of contemporary art, go to art museums and galleries, and stop to think not only on the level of “I like that red” but on a more conceptual level: “what does that red represent and how could that effect be created in other ways too?”

Expanding Knowledge and Inspiration for Art

As an artist, you belong to the chain of creative generations, and your roots are long and broad.

An artist Paivi Eerola from Finland painting in her studio. Read more about her artistic influences.
I have just started a new series of oil paintings where I combine art history, fantasy, and Finnish landscapes.

You might also be in a spot where you need to start looking for inspiration outside art, expand into designing, illustration, architecture, and further: nature, culture, and whatever fields are close to you. Art happens when things collide. The nature of art is to expand, not narrow down.

My letter ends here, but how would you have answered the question? Leave a comment!

Dolls and Angels – Video Blog Post

This week, I have a video blog post for you! I talk about dolls and angels – winter, the new class Doll World and Christmas memories, among other things!

Paivi Eerola and her paper dolls.

You will also see my table at the recent sales event. I hope you enjoy the video!

Dolls and Angels – Watch the Video!

Links to Related Blog Posts

Related Online Classes

How Your Personal Story is Related to Your Art

This week, I share how my newest painting was born. At the same time, I talk about how the artist’s personal story affects the outcome.

Unelmien kevät - The Spring of Dreams, 40 x 50 cm, oil on canvas, by Paivi Eerola, Finland
Unelmien kevät – The Spring of Dreams, 40 x 50 cm, oil on canvas

My paintings usually reflect the current season. But now, when there’s a fall in Finland, something springy appeared on my canvas. I call this one “The Spring of Dreams.”

Observing a Flower – Engineer’s and Romantic’s Approaches

Last spring was beautiful. The apple and cherry trees were blossoming.

Apple and cherry trees blossoming.

And with the early summer came wonderful irises.

Purple irises in the garden.

I often take photos in the garden and examine the plants. As a former engineer, I try to see how they are constructed. Not how the petals are attached and such, but how the light constructs the flower, adding its own brushmark to it. As a romantic, I try to see a face of a flower. I look at it like it would be an animal or a human – like it has a name and a history. I am not searching for its eyes but trying to sense its needs and dreams.

This way, I don’t need to copy photos but can paint freely and intuitively. Then when random shapes begin to look like a lighted plant, I try to give it what it wants, even if it’s often a species that doesn’t even exist.

The Fight Between Too Stiff and Too Messy

However, the painting process is not always as straightforward as it sounds. Often the engineer adds something stiff, and the romantic wipes it off. Then the romantic makes a mess, and the engineer tries to clean it.

Wiping off paint. Painting in progress. Bringing in the personal story.

The engineer in me likes to build things with a brush: “There’s a chair, look!”

A detail of an abstract painting in progress.

The romantic in me likes leaves and swirls more.

Artistic Direction and Setting Guidelines

To stop the fights, I gave an artistic direction that set challenges for both of them: “We will be making a dreamy floral that has purple. The painting should fit a modern, feminine home that has some rustic elements as well.” Both the engineer and the romantic understand had a common understanding of style when picturing a space where the painting should fit. When I use this method, I choose a location in my home or a picture in an interior design book, or a photo found on Instagram.

Abstract floral painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola, Finland. Read more about her personal story.

When I was studying industrial design, these kinds of simple and concrete guidelines were called design drivers. Design drivers are different from design principles. Design principles are general guidelines to make your image more expressive and aesthetic. Design drivers are project-based and loosely define the outcome.

A detail of Unelmien kevät - The Spring of Dreams, 40 x 50 cm, oil on canvas, by Paivi Eerola, Finland. Setting design drivers for art and how they relate to your personal story.

Design drivers prevent me from painting this and that, but I try to make them so general that I can get creative and freely express myself. For example, the requirement to use purple in a painting is not a big limitation.

Personal Story and Art Projects

Behind design drivers, there’s a more general foundation, an artistic vision. My paintings always lean toward the past and have a historical feel. As an artist, I want to combine the past and the present in an uplifting way, creating a fantasy of immortality for the interior space. Because I lost both of my parents at a young age, I never thought I would live old. This way, my artistic vision, and personal story are connected.

Paivi Eerola and her oil painting Unelmien kevät - The Spring of Dreams. Read more about her personal story and process of making abstract florals.

I claim that art-making has many layers. It’s not only about the process, techniques, or assignment. The artistic vision and the personal story matter as well. You always have a chance to bring them in, whether you are painting or drawing. For example, if a course sets the starting point, the creative challenge is how to include your artistic vision and story in the projects. This time, rather than listing things you love, go deeper and think about your struggles. How do they define what you want to achieve in art?

Turning Memories into Paintings

This week, I talk about memories and art-making and how the connection between them can be loose but still important.

Tiikerinsilmä - Tiger's Eye, oil on canvas, 80 x 100 cm. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.
Tiikerinsilmä – Tiger’s Eye, oil on canvas, 100 x 80 cm

With this new painting, I want to talk about …

Books and Memories

My parents never visited another country, and as a child, I never traveled abroad. My first foreign trip was to England when I was 21 years old.

So when I think about my childhood, the first feeling that comes to mind is boredom. “Äiti, mitä mie tekisin – Mother, what could I do next?” I often asked. But my mother’s suggestions were never inspiring, and if my friends weren’t around, I usually chose to walk to the local library so that I could see the world.

My body was local, but my mind was international. Maybe it’s because our family had the book Tuhannen ja yhden yön satujaOne Thousand and One Nights, and I found it fascinatingly exotic at a very early age.

Childhood memories, with flowers
Admiring flowers in the 1970s

So the local library became my globe. As soon as I opened the door, I glanced at England, to the bookshelf where Jane Austen‘s novels were in a row. Then I went to Africa and Asia by browsing big encyclopedias of animals, searching for big cats. I traveled to Egypt when admiring the treasures of the pyramids. I spent hours in France and Italy, contemplating whether I liked impressionism or expressionism more. Pictures of folk dresses took me to the east, across the border. I traveled west over the sea to meet my friends Uudenkuun EmiliaEmily of the New Moon, Laura Ingalls, or Vihervaaran AnnaAnne of Green Gables. And I also spent quite a lot of time in a fictional American town through Spoonriver Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters.

When my fingers danced on the spines of the books, my mind contemplated where to go next. And always, I was able to find a place more pleasant than the small town in Eastern Finland.

Painting Freely, Inspired by Memories

This freedom of mind still inspires me. In fact, this blog is one channel to reach you who lives far away. Despite the distance, you may have read the same books, yet our memories are unique. The common stories and pictures get mixed with personal experiences and views.

Starting a painting, a studio view

No matter how current we want to be, memories always play some role in our art too. When painting freely, it’s not as literal as illustrating a story but more about the atmosphere and associations that a traveling brush can evoke.

Painting in progress. Painting freely and letting memories flow through associations. Creating intuitive art.

Like a child, we can get enthusiastic about very little – about a spot or a simple idea and then expand our thoughts, shapes, and colors.

Painting in a small studio, inspired by memories.

I believe that the more we paint, the more we remember who we naturally are.

My Artist’s Journey

My artist’s journey has been full of practice. A lot of it has been that I have developed a class of my recent revelations and then moved forward to find more. So, it’s been a very straightforward route that way, and I am oddly relieved that it has brought me where I am now, being able to use a brush as my pen and paint stories that go beyond words.

Right now, it doesn’t feel right to develop a new class about painting, especially when I already have the master class Floral Freedom.

Painting the edges of a big painting. The painting is sideways on an easel.
Painting the edges. This piece

However, with the current series of paintings, I have got new ideas for drawing. A big part of my painting skills and imagination have come from drawing practices, and I love the quickness and playfulness that pens and pencils enable. So stay tuned!

Tiger’s Eye – Memories into Painting

I painted this piece, Tiikerinsilmä – Tiger’s Eye, like it would be a good book, taking me to unexpected places. Just like a child sees the world in a library, as an artist, I try to stretch my memories and imagination so that I don’t get stuck in the mundane.

Paivi Eerola and one of her paintings in a garden.

What kind of memories and hopes came to your mind when reading this post? Did you, too, read One Thousand and One Nights, for example?

Scroll to top