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Peony and Parakeet

All In – Finding Uncommon Inspiration

This week, I share my biggest painting so far, and talk about computer games and all the things that should not inspire but that do!

"All In - Kaikki peliin" - oil painting by Paivi Eerola.
“All In” – “Kaikki peliin” – oil painting, 92 x 65 cm

Here’s the last painting of the series that I have been working on this year. It’s called “All In.” The Finnish translation “Kaikki peliin” is perhaps even more suitable because there’s the word “peli” – the game. In this painting, I made every element look like it moves – like in a computer game!

I Am Not a Gamer

No, I am not! Actually, I am the last person who should be talking about computer games because I don’t play them at all. But I have seen some commercials on television and Youtube, and they make my heart beat faster – that’s the tribe where I belong! Despite I hate seeing violence, and don’t usually even watch action movies. Action upsets me. In general, I prefer everything cute and pretty.

Oil painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola.
See the previous stages of this painting in this post!

My Imagination Loves Games

But when I paint, I am not just an artist with all kinds of brushes and tubes. I become a nerd who tries to find the fastest processor and the best graphics driver for rendering 3D from her brain. It no longer matters what kind of art I should create and how art should be created. I change to a guy who moves from one level to the next, always seeking more monsters, more excitement, more points.

A very detailed oil painting. Finding uncommon inspiration. By Paivi Eerola.

Because I don’t play the games, I should not even know how it is like. Yet, I feel I do. Namely, in my twenties, I chose computers over art. I felt I belonged to the world of introverts who built systems – worlds of their own. And now, when I paint, my paintings bring me back to the same setting – how to build a world that operates like a fast-moving game, with many layers and levels.

A detail of an oil painting by Paivi Eerola. Expressing excitement and danger.

This is not what I would have expected. If someone said to me: “Hey Paivi, you should paint game sceneries. Make your own games!” I am pretty certain that a couple of years ago my answer would have been: “You must be kidding. I am a feminine romantic who hates that stuff!”

The Adventure for Uncommon Inspiration

But art is an adventure. It’s not only a journey to a variety of techniques and skills but also an exploration that includes the darkest corners of your mind.

A detail of an oil painting by Paivi Eerola, inspired by computer games. Finding uncommon inspiration for art.

In 1980s, I was a girl who sat in a local library on hot summer days, browsing big books of old art. My dream was to become an artist, but knowing that it would not be safe or easy, I said I wanted to be an English teacher. Between the art books of the library, I saw young boys browsing computer magazines. I went to the shelf after them and knew that I also belonged there – to that group of nerds. And when I saw a computer for the first time, my heart beat fast like for the best painting of a museum.

A detail of an oil painting by Paivi Eerola. Loose brush strokes that express fast motion. Finding uncommon inspiration to discover visual voice and visual language.

Making a series of paintings has been quiet and hard work. I have had lots of self-doubts and melancholic moments between the sessions. But when I paint, it’s all good. My paintings say: “Tell me what you want and we will give it to you!” And often, I don’t know what to reply, but they seem to know anyway. Like I never told them how nerd I am, but they shamelessly reveal everything and apologize for nothing.

Paivi Eerola and her oil painting "All In"

We talk a lot about being unique as artists, but what about if a part of the solution is just to find inspiration that feels uncommon to us. It could be something that we try to get rid of but never seem to manage to do. Or something that we find appalling but still strangely captivating.

What could be your uncommon inspiration? Could the art that you create be a little different from the art that you like to consume? What do you think?

Artist’s Wishes and How Art Answers to Them

This week, I share a new painting and talk about artist’s wishes and goal-setting, but also about relaxation and self-listening.

Restless Heart

Restless Heart, oil painting by Paivi Eerola
Restless Heart – Levoton sydän, oil, 60 x 73 cm

During the past few weeks, spring has changed to summer in Finland. More colors have appeared in the garden, and there’s a color burst on canvas too. “For the readers of my blog,” I thought. “They love pinks, reds, and turquoises!”

Painting a Series and Learning to Breathe

Starting an oil painting. Read more about artist's wishes.
The first layers of “Restless Heart”

This spring, I have had an ambitious goal of painting a series of 9 canvases in oil, and I am coming to an end. There will be only one more after this piece.

Painting a series. Some finished, some in progress. By Paivi Eerola.
My studio is filled with paintings! The last one of the series is in progress – the big purple one on the bench. See all the finished oil paintings so far.

When I started the series, I entered a crossroads, and it was hard to see into the future. But after spending a lot of time in the studio and taking long walks, I have learned to breathe in a new way. Instead of exhaling only, I have learned to inhale too.

Setting creative goals for paintings. Read more about artist's wishes, a post written by Paivi Eerola.

My focus has been more on receiving, not so much on producing. This change of direction has given me new motivation for life.

A Beast Called Creativity – Or Is It a Pet?

For years, I was afraid of dying before I learn to paint. I have no children, and I wanted to create an artwork that would continue its life after I am gone. But now, I realize that my dream of leaving a legacy was improperly put. It defined the success that depended on other people. But creativity is a wild beast that doesn’t understand money, prestige, or hierarchy. It’s like my dog Stella. She loves me no matter what my title is. And she always tries her best to do what I want from her.

Stella the beagle.

I don’t think that the incapability to define my goal is unusual. Isn’t it so that often when we want to pursue art, we point to someone else’s work and say: “That’s how I want to paint, that’s who I want to be.”

Paul Cezanne and the Art of Wishing

On these warm and sunny days, I have been pondering why I paint, how I paint, and why it suddenly feels so good. “Take the painting outside, Paivi,” I heard a whisper. “Is this about Cezanne?” I asked.

Painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet.

Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), a french impressionist, has said: “When I judge art, I take my painting and put it next to a God-made object like a tree or flower. If it clashes, it is not art.” I have found this definition distressing and demanding but also practical. I have used it many times to check if the painting is finished or not.

Painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet.
Not finished yet – not enough liveliness! (Unfortunately the many flying bugs don’t show in the photo.)

Cezanne or not, I followed my inner voice and took the painting out several times. First, I had stress about insects and other flying objects. But then I heard my inner voice answering the question – why my paintings are full of movement and why I always want to add some uncontrolled restlessness.

An oil painting in progress. Painting details. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The answer is: The liveliness is the level of immortality that my creativity can produce.

A colorful painting in progress. Liveliness as a goal. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

My images express the eternal life that I have yearned for!

Creating art. Painting in progress, by Paivi Eerola.
Restless Heart, oil painting by Paivi Eerola, photographed in the garden.
Nature adds one more layer!

Artist’s Wishes – A New Door

Now I see a new door. I can ask anything, and my creativity will do it for me. The only reservation is that the answer may be unexpected.

You, too, have this door. And you, too, have a restless heart that tries to understand your wishes.

Restless Heart, oil painting by Paivi Eerola.
Restless Heart – Levoton sydän, oil, 60 x 73 cm

Artist’s Wishes – What Do You Think?

Oil painting by Paivi Eerola. Read more about creative goals and how art  tries to match them!

What do you think? How does your art match with your wishes? I am always looking forward to reading your comments!

Pros and Cons of Becoming an Artist

This week, I share my newest painting, and thoughts about a life change after becoming an artist – even if I don’t quite know where I will be heading next myself.

Blackbird - Mustarastas, an abstract oil painting by Paivi Eerola
Blackbird – Mustarastas, oil, 60 x 73 cm.

All my life I have wanted to be an artist. But first, I went to study software engineering because it was a much more sensible thing to do at a young age. And I loved computers. How can a girl love machines so much?

There’s this girl in me who looks in the future and gets excited about technology. And then there’s another girl who looks back to history and wants to paint like Rubens or Kandinsky.

Oil painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.

Pursuing the Dream of Becoming an Artist

After I got my degree in 1996, I repeated to myself “Paivi, you are a master of science – “diplomi-insinööri” for a couple of years. It felt so unbelievable!

But I had this other dream that I wanted to pursue, and it felt like my life would be too short for that. So many years were given to technology. However, in 2014, about seven years ago, I decided to give it a go.

Paivi Eerola in 2015, after leaving a day job to become an artist
Paivi in 2015, after leaving a day job to become an artist

Every day since then I have banged my head against the wall between the outer and inner world. I have learned to draw freely, get intuitive with watercolors, illustrate animals and magical fantasies, and paint flowers and abstracts.

Experimenting with watercolors
Experimenting with watercolors in 2019

I thought that I would be learning and teaching for the rest of my life, never coming home, but fully enjoying the journey.

Breaking Through in Becoming an Artist

However, this year, I found myself breaking through, seeing a new horizon. I had to really push myself to give finishing touches to my newest class Floral Freedom, and after reading Wassily Kandinsky’s book “Point and Line to Plane” the final small pieces fell in their places. It was like a big equation in an engineer’s mind became solved, and I found myself whispering: “Paivi, you are an artist.”

Painting abstract art, by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

And similarly, as after graduating in 1996, the achievement felt unbelievable. But this time, its tone was different. It was not a validation received from others but from myself and thus, felt more holistic and life-changing. Yes, I may have been an artist for others for some time already, but finally, I have become an artist in the eyes of myself. It has made me want to put recent paintings side by side and continue the series boldly and unapologetically.

There’s also unexpected sadness in this happiness. The imaginary world that I have been building for the last years has fully opened, but with that, something has closed too. The old routines are gone. I no longer question what I should create in terms of subject or style. All I have to do is to fill a palette and start painting.

I am still unaware of what’s coming next. How to sustain myself. How to live after solving a puzzle that has been in my head for 53 years.

Blackbird in a New Territory

Blackbird - Mustarastas, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola
Blackbird – Mustarastas, oil, 60 x 73 cm.

Every morning when I open the door, I see blackbirds in our front garden. They seem modest and hard-working. They rarely rest, and when they sing, it seems to be for a purpose. These colorless birds don’t ever surprise or make my head spin.

But yesterday, I noticed that a blackbird had left the garden and entered my inner world. And it was so delightful, like a sign of hope in all the unawareness and misery that I have had recently. Isn’t it amazing that someone so insignificant as a blackbird can reach a soul, even secretly? That someone so plain and muddy can shine so brightly when it lands in another territory!

Paivi Eerola surrounded by her art. Read her story about becoming an artist!

I hope you’ll stick with me, take my classes,
and hop in where ever you are in your artist’s journey.
I promise to stay around and help you as a teacher and a coach

at least for the rest of this year.

Can or Can’t Draw – Did You Know This About Drawing?

Before you decide whether you can or can’t draw, read this!

Last week, I re-organized my art supplies. Paints and painting mediums got a more accessible location, and pens and other drawing supplies went into a closet. It was a consequence of the revelation that I had become a painter.

Artist Paivi Eerola in her studio

But instead of declaring the love for painting, this post is about drawing!

Namely, my journey in art has been gathered around finding my line. To me, the line is the voice. It’s the leading singer, while colors and heavier shapes are the rest of the orchestra. The line itself is enough to make any piece of art sing.

I am listening, an example of drawing freely from inspiration by Paivi Eerola. If you say you can't draw, maybe you define drawing too narrowly.
“I Am Listening” from 2015, black drawing pen and colored pencils

“I can’t draw” was my problem for too many years. Then I realized that we define drawing too narrowly.

We aim for the skills of drawing realistic objects and then end up worrying about the stiffness of our work. “I want to be more spiritual, I want to be more abstract, I want to see me in my drawings.” Have you ever thought like this?

My solution was to abandon references and start drawing circles.

Handdrawn circles. This doesn't have to be the only thing you can draw.
Circles from 2011

Don’t Just Draw Circles!

Those years spent with circles now felt like a waste of time. I didn’t have guidance for freehand drawing, and I did what felt comfortable at first. But circles are closed and rigid shapes, and when you want to open up and loosen up, you need to open and loosen your circles too.

Here’s a short 4-minute video from 2017 that shows how you can move forward from drawing circles.

Drawing – like any art – has two sides.

One side is a skill of controlling a pen or a brush so that the result is attractive and aesthetically pleasing. But drawing is also a skill of getting out of control and expressing the limitlessness of the mind.

Both skills support each other. Clarity and stiffness add ornamental beauty to loose lines. And drawing wildly helps with showing more personality when you want to be in control.

Drawing from imagination with a thin-tipped drawing pen. If you can't draw, try this!

For me, exploring drawing from the other angle was ground-breaking.

I developed a class called Inspirational Drawing, where we draw and color freely but also use inspiration images to boost imagination. Inspirational Drawing 2.0 is the latest version of this popular class.

Inspirational Drawing, an online art class about drawing freely

You know you can draw when drawing feeds inspiration.

When I paint, I start with a vague idea and go where happy accidents lead me. I don’t need much to get started. The first idea can be just a color combination from an old painting.

Painting lines with a brush - one form of drawing!

By practicing inspirational drawing, I found my living line, and the energy that’s packed into it is enough for any sized painting. My line sings, and the rest of the orchestra supports it.

This Too Shall Pass, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola. Exploring living line by painting.
This Too Shall Pass, oil painting, 60 x 73 cm, 2021

So, isn’t it sad if we try to improve our art without paying any attention to our line?
If we try to release the expression without releasing the line, giving the full power to the leading singer?
If we say we can or can’t draw without allowing free expression?

What do you think?

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