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?

Creating Hope – Artist’s Mission

This week, I show three small paintings and talk about my mission of creating hope.

Playground, a small oil painting by Paivi Eerola.
Playground – Leikkikenttä, 22 x 27 cm, oil on canvas

Even if we have had some winter wonderland sceneries recently, the weather hasn’t been so great in Finland – icy roads, rain, darkness … And now, the horrendous news came about the war in Ukraine.

Winter scenery from Finland.

But this post is not about war, but the opposite. Namely, a long time ago, I realized that my word is “hope”. Here’s the story:

I visited a hospital to see my old ant, and another old woman grabbed my hand. She wanted me to say something that would take her pain away.

I still remember her desperate eyes begging for consolation.

We discussed shortly but then I ended the conversation by saying that I am quite young and I don’t have all the wisdom. She nodded, turning off the glimpse of hope she had got when I entered the room. At that moment, I knew that I wanted to do more of that hope thing, but how.

Nowadays, I try to transfer hope to every painting, and to every class as well. Yesterday I dug out small canvases that looked quite hopeless. I had started them last year and used leftover paint from bigger paintings. Then they had looked just ugly paintings that might not ever get finished. But now, all they missed was some hope!

Oil paintings in progress.

So I painted hope: saturated colors over muted ones, light glow over heavy shapes, rising wings on the top of descending petals – signs of life.

Creating hope. Artist's mission. Oil painting in progress.

I wanted to remove the harshness and replace it with gentleness.

Creating hope, artist worktable.

I also added the much-needed drop of utopia as well.

Promised Land, a small oil painting by Paivi Eerola.
Promised Land – Luvattu maa, 22 x 27 cm, oil on canvas

After leaving the hospital, I cursed myself for not giving the old woman what I called false hope. But now I think that the correct word is fantasy.

We all need fantasy to keep going.

Fantasy didn’t come to my young engineer’s mind, and it would have required the kind of bravery I didn’t have. But now, when I paint, I can do brave too.

Breakthrough, a small oil painting by Paivi Eerola.
Breakthrough – Läpimurto, 22 x 27 cm, oil on canvas

The qualities that don’t seem to be a part of me, can still exist in my art.

Three small oil paintings about hope. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

It gives me hope as a human.

Oil paintings by Paivi Eerola, Finland

Whether I use oils and canvases or colored pencils in a journal, all I create is hope. A gift that was initiated by a stranger in a hospital bed.

Artist Paivi Eerola and her paintings and drawings

I am looking for March when the new class will begin!

Fun Botanicum - an online class about drawing and coloring plants, by Peony and Parakeet.

>> 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!

Roaming Instinct – Why Not to Limit Artistic Inspiration

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

My second big painting is called “Roaming Instinct.”

Roaming Instinct - Vaellusvietti, an oil painting  by Paivi Eerola, Finland.
“Vaellusvietti – Roaming Instinct”, 120 x 100 cm, oil on canvas

This painting and the previous big one have been really significant to me.

Two big oil paintings in a small studio. By Paivi Eerola, Finland. Read what she thinks about inspiration and style.

Regular practice and the big size have helped me to relax and let go – break the glass between the inner and the outer world, as Wassily Kandinsky would say.

Can There Be Too Much Artistic Inspiration?

As long as I have created art, I have been inspired by a variety of things. It has often felt like it’s too much.

Here are some:

  • old portraits in fancy dresses
  • houseplants and their pots
  • midcentury-modern interiors
  • colorful kitsch
  • primitive dolls
  • dressage horses
  • English country gardens and cottages
  • Tibetan yaks
  • base jumping
  • mountain climbing
  • skateboards
  • graffitis
  • physics
  • outer space
  • mathematical algorithms

The list is ongoing and overwhelming!

I think this is not exceptional at all. The world is full of artistic inspiration. Like animals, we have a roaming instinct to explore further. No wonder they say that the hard choice for art-making is to choose what inspiration to pick.

Oil painting in progress.

But recently I have felt like I don’t have to pick. No matter what I paint, I can bring it all together. If I paint a flower, it can look like a nomad, or a mountain, or a furry animal, or a space station, I don’t have to define.

Shapes can have an identity of their own. A detail of an oil painting by artist Paivi Eerola, Finland.

Every element can have a strong identity and the overall scenery can have a strong sense of location even if I can’t name it. Some people say my paintings are underwater sceneries, others see outer space. For me, they can be both, and yet neither. I feel I am delivering more than what can be labeled.

Finding Your Artistic Voice/Style/Spirituality/Identity – Whatever You Call It!

I have created art for a long time expecting to become better at what to pick and why. I assumed that art would make me know myself better and yes, it has. But it’s surprising that now when I am painting, it doesn’t really matter who I am and how I get inspired. My art is not to limit or to focus but to integrate.

Paivi Eerola and one of her oil paintings. Read more about her thoughts on artistic inspiration!

When I started the project, one of the goals was to get clearer about my spirituality. My question was: “Can a former engineer create spiritual art?”

At the moment, I find it difficult to separate physical from the spiritual. All material things seem to have a spirit and everything immaterial seems to have a figure. When I paint, they mix and merge, and after a while, the painting seems to have a mind of its own. It tells what it wants, and my job is to obey.

Does this make sense? What do you think?

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