Peony and Parakeet

The Only Thing You Desire to Paint – Whether You Are Aware of It Or Not

"Heaven and Earth", an oil painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. read about her blog post about painting a personal mystery.
“Heaven and Earth” – one of my latest oil paintings

I finally painted something that I have tried for years – my view of life and my personal mystery.

Art, Religion, and View of Life

Art and religion have been connected for centuries. Some see it primarily as a business connection – churches have ordered paintings and artists have made their living.

Murals of Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy
Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy

But I like to think that the connection is not only about money but that’s spiritual too. At best, art expresses what we think about life and death. This doesn’t mean that an image has to be gloomy, or that it has to illustrate any particular religion. Vice versa, I believe that every person has their view of life. Let’s call it a personal mystery!

Searching for Personal Mystery

Your personal mystery sets the direction of your deepest thoughts, but it’s difficult to put into words. Now and then, you can catch it emotionally. But intellectually, it can feel impossible to reach.

Church of the Savior on Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia
Church of the Savior on Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia

Even if your personal mystery is unique for you, it’s so authentic that it resonates with many other people too. When I go to historical places like the Church of the Savior on Blood, they have a flavor of my mystery. But still, it’s not quite in line with my deepest thoughts and feelings.

The Only Thing You Desire to Paint

Your personal mystery dictates your artistic goals. Whatever you say you want to accomplish, the deepest desire is to express your personal mystery. You can say you paint because you want to escape everyday life, but in truth, the escape is about reaching your mystery. No matter how successful you want to be, you also want to be authentic – and that requires discovering your mystery! Your visual style may seem like the primary goal but believe me, it’s secondary – just a tiny hammer in a big toolbox that you need to reveal your mystery.

Oil painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

No matter how orderly you begin the painting, the final goal of the process is to let go and become one with your mystery.

Painting Your Mystery

In the middle of the painting process, your mystery like a secret whisper, so sacred that it feels forbidden even to try revealing it. This secrecy sends mixed messages to your creativity and the process gets confusing and disappointing.

Oil painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

When painting the woman and all the colorful details, I started to hate the mess and get disconnected with it. The image felt too complicated and decorative, and I didn’t know what to do with it. I was traveling through strange places and wondering how to reach an unknown destination.

At this point, it’s tempting to give up. I put my painting away for months. My plan was to wipe the paint away with turpentine so that I can re-use the canvas for another painting. But about a month ago when I picked the unfinished piece again, I knew instantly how to finish it.

Making of "Heaven and Earth", an oil painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read about her blog post about painting a personal mystery.

Five Tips for Revealing Your Personal Mystery

I don’t think there’s a straightforward formula for revealing the mystery, but here are some things that are helpful:

  • Grow visual skills so that you can freely choose what you paint whether it’s representational or not. Learn to use references creatively, and study the principles of abstract art (my favorite book about abstract art).
  • Grow confidence so that you can let uncomfortable, erroneous, silly, and “wrong” things happen while creating. You won’t find the mystery if you stay in your normal zone (breaking the rules)
  • Grow imagination so that you can jump from one association to another and come up with a unique solution. Creating from prompts help with that (I recommend Inktober).
  • Curate what you love and value. List things that inspire you and keep filling and editing the list (remember to include innocent little secrets)
  • Become more aware of details and nuances in all art-related things. The more general you think (“I am an abstract artist”, “I draw faces only”, “these are pretty flowers”), the more difficult it is to connect with your uniqueness and find inspiration.

I used to think that when painting people, humans should look as realistic as possible. But I am more of an engineer and an innovator than a portrait painter. By trying to make the woman look like a real person, I had blocked my personal view of life appearing on the canvas.

"Heaven and Earth", an oil painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. read about her blog post about painting a personal mystery.

When I realized that the woman is just an anonym observer, the painting was very straight-forward to finish.

A detail of "Heaven and Earth", an oil painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. read about her blog post about painting a personal mystery.

My Personal Mystery

In my mind, science, beauty, and spirituality are all connected.

A detail of "Heaven and Earth", an oil painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. read about her blog post about painting a personal mystery.

The biggest miracle for me is how the universe works, and how I can take parts of that to create a new world.

A detail of "Heaven and Earth", an oil painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. read about her blog post about painting a personal mystery.

Historical buildings and paintings connect me to the origin of our culture and universe emotionally. To me, the painting looks historical enough to fit in.

Paivi Eerola at Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy.
Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy

In the future, I hope to create more pieces that express my personal mystery.

"Heaven and Earth", an oil painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. read about her blog post about painting a personal mystery.

For Finnish readers: Come to see this piece and more of my art! I show about 10 artworks in a group exhibition this month in Helsinki. Lisätietoja täällä!

All Things Necessary in My Artistic Journey

All Things Necessary by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. An illustration by the Finnish artist. Read about her artistic journey.

Here’s my recent drawing called “All Things Necessary.” It’s inspired by the discoveries that I made while building the class Magical Inkdom. When I taught IT professionals back in the 1990s, we teachers used to say that you learn best when you teach a class. We had to constantly learn new technologies, and it made us professionals not only in teaching but also in learning.

However, some things take time, and even if trying to find the best ways to work with both ink and watercolor enabled this piece, the idea behind it goes much further back in my artistic journey, to the year 2014.

A Great Idea but Not So Great Execution from 2014

I have archived many of the old blog posts because back in 2014 I wasn’t very good at writing, and the posts are too short for the search engines. But I found the blog post in my personal archive and here’s what I wrote back in 2014:

“I often get these ideas that cost a million. Like the big painting that shines in gold and silver. It would look like a reproduction of the beautiful doors I saw last year when visiting the Hermitage Museum, in St. Petersburg, Russia. Someday I will make it! So I made a small prototype. It is a wooden block that is covered with all kinds of stuff found in my crafting space.”

Mixed media collage. See how this project continued in Paivi Eerola's artistic journey.

This idea has haunted me since I made this crafty block, or I could say since I visited St. Petersburg, Russia. I have two blurry photos from that trip that I look at quite often. One is the golden door and the other is a handpainted plate at The State Russian Museum.

Paivi Eerola at museums in St. Petersburg, Russia.

I felt I had found the aesthetics that I also wanted to create. First, I thought I would literally need real gold. Here’s how I ended the blog post:

So, if you follow me, then you know what I will do if I win in a lottery! Real gold, jewels … wow, it will look astonishing.

I wish I could turn back time, and say to myself: “Don’t lose this idea! Keep creating, and once your skills will grow, you will find the way.”

Dumping the Idea – “It’s Too Superficial”

The problem with me has been that when my skills haven’t met my vision, I have let go of the ideas around it. I have said to myself:

– “It wasn’t what I wanted to create anyway.”
– “It was too superficial, I want to create deeper stuff.”
– “The idea was great but not what other people would want to see”
– “Only rich and overly successful people could do that.”
– “There will be new and better ideas that are easier to execute.”

And so I have felt lost many times in my artistic journey because I haven’t been able to re-create that golden door, my true desire.

Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read about her artistic journey.
Doodling in 2015.

Getting Back to the Idea with More Skills

But for Magical Inkdom, I wanted to create gold. There my main message has been that we can make the wrong right, and define what’s magical to us. So I drew some golden frames, and they looked magical! (Instructions will be published in Lesson 4.)

Hand-drawn collage art by paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Sign up for her class Magical Inkdom to draw fun fantasy art!

Of course, I couldn’t just have a little bit of gold and settle with that. So I began a new piece, approximately 18 by 18 inches. It’s the biggest ink drawing that I have made so far. I knew my skills are there. I didn’t need a sketch or a prototype but just pour out everything that I love.

Ink drawing in progress by paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

While I colored the drawing with watercolors, I thought about the appropriate title. The most accurate that came to my mind was “Kaikki tarpeellinen” meaning “All Things Necessary”. This kind of golden luxury may seem unnecessary and even overwhelming to many, but it’s necessary for me. I need to load this daily into my mind to keep my zest for life alive.

Coloring an ink drawing with watercolors by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

All Things Necessary: It’s a world where Salvador Dali travels to the Rococo era, and then back and forth between the Renaissance age and the 20th century.

All Things Necessary by Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet. A detail of an illustration by the Finnish artist.

It’s a world where golden birds lay Faberge eggs and land on golden fingers.

All Things Necessary by Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet. A detail of an illustration by the Finnish artist.

It’s a world where people, animals, and physical items share the same qualities and play the same symphony.

All Things Necessary by Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet. A detail of an illustration by the Finnish artist.

It’s a world where a cembalo plays a bit too loud, where all the gold hurts your eyes, and where the chaos is suspiciously acceptable.

All Things Necessary by Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet. A detail of an illustration by the Finnish artist.

It’s the same place that I was trying to find in 2011, when I was madly drawing circles, and when some of you started following this blog.

Doodled designs by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read about her artistic journey from these to illustrations.

All Things Necessary for Moving on in the Artistic Journey

This new piece has made me re-think about the whole discussion about the artistic journey and finding a visual voice. I have blogged a lot about it, coached people for it, but it’s not easy to dig out a quiet seed that needs a lot of time and care to grow. Our artistic vision, the road sign, can be an ugly “prototype” like my old craft project that we carelessly toss away!

Let’s hold on to the things that keep deeply touching us while growing our skills in drawing and painting.

All Things Necessary by Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet. An illustration by a Finnish artist. Read about her artistic journey.

Come to draw fantastic art with me – Sign up for Magical Inkdom!
Right after the registration, you will get all the lessons published so far, and you are good to start drawing! >> Sign up here!

Get Closer to True Artistic Expression – Draw Your Innocent Little Secrets!

The Secret Life of Pet Plants. Illustration by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Ink drawing colored with watercolors.

Here’s my latest art project, “The Secret Life of Pet Plants” – an illustration that I have composed of hand-drawn collage pieces. It’s about the love for house plants – the topic that’s close to my heart but that I haven’t touched much lately. I also wanted to include little secrets that I haven’t revealed in my art.

These little secrets are often pretty innocent stuff that we have labeled with words “too childish” or “too weird.” They can become creative blocks and drain our energy if we try to avoid them. Really, life is too short not to get them on paper! We can get more serious after they are out – if we ever want to get back, that is! I think I stay on this track for a while – making art that I have always secretly wanted to see. It feels good to be close to this kind of true artistic expression.

A Couple of My Innocent Little Secrets

One of mine is my secret admiration for traditional (and often a little bit tacky) cross-stitch designs. They often have decorative borders and look more like a collection of motifs than a real scene.

Decorative frame in a crosstitch project.

Another one is that, to me, plants are like pets with personalities. We have a lot of plants, both outdoors and indoors, and I feel a deep connection to many.

Streptocarpus house plant.

Here are the steps for an illustration made from hand-drawn collage pieces.

1) Make Small Drawings

I started the process by drawing and coloring the main elements separately.

Drawing collage elements. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet.

I love using watercolors with smooth Bristol paper. The color is easy to layer and also to wipe off if needed.

Coloring collage elements with watercolors. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet.

2) Draw the Background

I placed the colored collage pieces on a background that I had made for the class Magical Inkdom and tried how they would work as a composition. I also drew a water drop just in case I needed a small element for balance.

Drawing backgrounds and collage elements. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Then I drew a new background and marked the areas where the elements would go.

Drawing backgrounds for collage art. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

3) Attach the Collage Pieces to the Background

I usually attach collage pieces with gel medium, but this time, I used double-sided tape. It is easier to control, so I didn’t have to worry about having the medium in the areas where I wanted to add more watercolors.

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

4) Display the Little Secrets!

The Secret Life of Pet Plants. Illustration by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Ink drawing colored with watercolors.

One wall of my studio is white so that I can photograph my work easily. But when I want to display the recent pieces, I don’t leave them on the wall but place them on the side table under a clear plastic plate. I love how this piece fits with the ones I have made for Magical Inkdom. It truly feels my true artistic expression at the moment.

An art display in the studio. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

With the African violet that looks like a cuddly guinea pig to me, I want to wish you a happy and creative weekend!

Guinea pig and African violet. Illustration by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Come to draw fantastic art with me – Sign up for Magical Inkdom!
Right after the registration, you will get all the lessons published so far, and you are good to start drawing! >> Sign up here!

Do You Aim for Clever or Honest Art? – Series of Inspiring Quotes #1

Abstact art by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
A digital image composed of two of my paintings from 2018.

This post and the next two posts of the following weeks will be about inspiring quotes that I have heard or read recently. I hope you will enjoy this series!

This Week’s Quote

“Art is the competition of honesty,
not the competition of cleverness.”

Who Said?
American fantasy artist Sam Flegal, originally a quote of an American painter Ran Ortner

Where?
One Fantastic Week YouTube Channel, episode “Artist Mentorship #15 – Fantasy Artist Allie Briggs

Fantasy artists Sam Flegal and Peter Mohrbacher run art discussions every week on YouTube, and they also mentor other fantasy artists to find their path. When their current mentee Allie Briggs tries to find her way to success, Sam and Peter dig deeper to discover what kind of art comes naturally to her. They talk about how important it’s to find themes that we want to create rather than consume. Then it’s not so much about what we would love to see ourselves doing and what we would like to invent but what we truly want to spend time with when we are actually creating. They also talk about how we can take almost any prompt and use the things we love to create to express the message behind the prompt.

Honestly, You Don’t Need a Grand Idea to Start Creating

A hand-drawn collage piece from the class Magical Inkdom. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

When I participated in Inktober art challenge last October, I understood that the basic idea doesn’t have to be anything grand. It’s the add-ons that bring the image to a new level. The more I drew by following the prompts, the more honest my art began to feel.

During the challenge, I confessed to both myself and to the world that I like to draw luxury, beautiful physical objects that I have taught to treat as vanity. Jewels, tassels, decorative flowers, luxurious fabric, glass, crystals, etc. I also permitted myself to first draw fur, then decorative animals, and get back to my childhood years of always yearning for a new pet.

Ink drawing by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
From the prompt “Double.” The idea was just to draw two horses.

Read also:

Honesty Is Not Modesty

Many foreigners say that Finland is a land of honesty. They feel that in Finland you are safe. Nobody steals from you, and you can trust to find your treasures where ever you leave them.

But for a Finnish person, this country is often a land of modesty. When Finnish people call somebody as an honest person, it means that he accepts his limitations and circumstances and doesn’t pretend anything else. We Finnish are supposed to appreciate simple things, and not to be dreamers, but doers. Why draw jewels, when you can document your everyday life?

Walking the dogs in the pouring rain.

However, to me, creating honest art has required that I accept my love for unapologetic beauty. I am in my element when designing overwhelmingly beautiful things and dressing up beautiful animals and ethereal creatures.

Start Your Path to Honest Art – Do This!

What are the little things that you don’t consume or possess, but you do often dream about just for fun? Draw them!

Hand-drawn playing cards by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Sign up for her online art class Magical Inkdom!

More inspiration: Join us to draw fantasy art – Sign up for Magical Inkdom!

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