Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Getting More into Drawing and Coloring

This week, I share a method that is helpful when you want to get more into drawing and find your style. It is called “topic-spirit-story-abstract.” With this method, art can open to you step by step!

Venus slipper orchid. An illustration by Paivi Eerola, Finland.

For me, everyday life experiences, illustrations, creative writing, and abstract art are all connected. If I take something away, the chain breaks and my expression stiffens. Most of my creative work follows this “topic-spirit-story-abstract” method. I don’t always have to draw a spirit, but recently I’ve spent time in such abstract dimensions when creating computer art that I have wanted to play with the spirits with colored pencils.

Start with Template!

When you want to practice the method, start by making a template! Divide the paper so that you have a part for the spirit and another part for more abstract coloring. You can just draw a line or be more creative and make a circle for the most figurative part, and several other divisions for more abstract ideas.

Topic-Spirit-Story-Abstract method for getting more into drawing and coloring. By Paivi Eerola.

Do some intuitive coloring with a light touch as a warmup before proceeding.

Method: Topic-Spirit-Story-Abstract

After the warmup, find a simple topic that you want to explore.

Think about your recent experiences and find something small and concrete there.

Garden center

In the example, my topic was a recent visit to a garden center. My husband bought me a beautiful venus slipper orchid there.

Second, imagine a spirit that symbolizes the topic.

Use your imagination – anything contains a spirit!

Drawing a spirit for a flower. Using imagination with colored pencils.

In the example, I was thinking about the venus slipper and how mysterious and exotic it looks for a Finn.

Third, let the spirit tell a larger story.

What other associations come to your mind when you think about the spirit? Think about literature, music, food, movies, places – what comes to your mind that enlarges the original topic. What is the world that the spirit can open?

Getting more into drawing and coloring. Illustration in progress.

In the example, I started thinking about the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland and Asian culture: sushi and rice bowls. I also had just browsed Kaffe Fassett‘s quilting books and thought about the richness that can be achieved with colors and simple shapes. I slowly enlarged the mixed yet curated world that I was able to reach through the spirit.

Fourth, explore more the abstract side of the discoveries through the story.

Play with the basic shapes and make decorative borders, ribbons, and patterns.

Getting more into drawing and coloring: combining organic and geometric shapes.

I find it easier to draw abstract motifs, ornaments, and patterns after finding the spirit than if I start from a blank paper.

Optional: Write the Story!

After making the image, I like to put stories to words. This helps me to get even more into drawing and makes my work as an artist more meaningful.

Venus Slipper Orchid, the spirit of a plant, illustration by Paivi Eerola.

Art is like a venus slipper. It’s like a plant in the back corner of a garden center. Those who only look at traditional roses won’t even notice it. But whoever dares to bend over the shy plant and curiously fit her mind to the shoe, becomes a master in a game where basic shapes break everything and then build a new whole. This way, the beauty of art is limitless, and not only on the surface.

Here’s another example that I made last week. Here, the center is reserved for the quote from the story, and the spirit and the motifs are in the frame.

Art is a spirit in a pencil. Quote and illustration by Paivi Eerola.

Art is a spirit in a pencil. A single pencil is nothing. It doesn’t cost much, takes up very little space, and you don’t even notice it if it’s at the bottom of your bag. But still, a pencil can connect us to art. When I was a child, I played with pencils while my big sister was coloring. Every pencil had a personality and while I was watching my sister draw, my herbs grow, and my teddy bear rest, I had no idea that those little moments would dictate my future. Art back then was only a spirit in a pencil. When art is a spirit in a pencil, we say yes to a journey that takes us closer to who we are. We say yes to expression that has no limits. This freedom is why I want to support creating.

Getting More Into Drawing Frames and Borders

Decorative art is a bridge between illustration and abstract expression.

Decorative stripes with colored pencils

Reality consists of both organic and geometric shapes. The question is: how can you bring both of these worlds into your art and use them in a creative way?

Making an illustration. Space for a quote.

I hope you find all this inspiring and helpful to get more into drawing and coloring.

Enrich Your Art – Play with Shapes!

This week it’s time to get inspired by shapes and start playing with them!

Art play with shapes. "Visionäärit - Visionaries", colored pencils, from 2023. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.
“Visionäärit – Visionaries”, colored pencils, from 2023.

My dear reader, I guess you follow my blog because you love colors. And yes, isn’t it wonderful to choose, for example, a colored pencil from among several different colors: “Should I pick pink or red, hmm?

Art play with simple shapes. "Walking the Dog," mixed media, from 2018. By the artist Päivi Eerola.
“Walking the Dog,” mixed media, from 2018.

I have a degree in industrial design and maybe that has influenced me to think like this:

A color is a child. A form is a mother.

Colors take spurts freely on the paper while forms set limits. But you can play with form too!

Back to Nature, acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola, 2020. Playing with organic shapes.
“Back to Nature”, acrylics on cardboard, from 2020.
See more about making this in this blog post!

There is no need to turn the mother into an old woman who only sees the reality.

The soul of any shape is abstract and yet, even a simple shape has an expression. It’s fun to draw random shapes and then carefully alter them.

Retro living. Mixed media art. 2017. Art play with shapes.
“Retro Living,” mixed media, from 2017.
See more about making this in this blog post!

Shapes form a design language that you can constantly enrich. Don’t just draw isolated geometric shapes, but combine them to get more interesting ones!

The Secret Language of Peonies. Art journal page. Mixed media.
The Secret Language of Peonies, from 2017.
More about making this in this blog post!

When you have a shape on paper, give your full attention to it.

Art Play with Shapes

Talk to the shape! Interview it!

Don’t ask what she represents, but what kind of world she would like to create around herself.

Paradise, acrylic painting, by Paivi Eerola, 2020. Playing between realistic and abstract.
“Paradise,” acrylics on paintboard, from 2020.
See more about making this in this blog post!

Ask where she belongs, and what kind of shapes she would like to meet.

"Arotuuli - Steppe Wind," acrylics on canvas, from 2020, Paivi Eerola, Finland. Abstract painting with horses and a variety of shapes.
“Arotuuli – Steppe Wind,” acrylics on canvas, from 2020.
See more about making this in this blog post!

Shapes can take you to imaginative places where realistic and abstract meet. Once you have been traveling for some time, you will notice that the delicacy of art is in the form, and the color – the child – is there only as a spice.

Jupiterin malja - Jupiter's Bowl, oil on canvas, 2022, by Paivi Eerola, Finland. Full of shapes and movement.
“Jupiterin malja – Jupiter’s Bowl,” oil on canvas, 2022.
See more about making this in this blog post!See more pics on the Finnish Art Store Taiko!

Art play with shapes – What are your thoughts? Tell us in the comments!

Now and Then – Development of Style

I started a grant project in October. The project lasts a year and covers half of my working time. I am making a digital artwork that can be experienced with virtual glasses. This will definitely give a boost for my artistic development, including the style as well.

3D art. Stories about artistic development.
A snapshot of one of the new experiments in 3D.
I used a fun sculpting app called Nomad and a 3D modeling software called Blender.
This image is based on replicating one shape only.

One of the recent practical changes is that I have given up using a Mac computer and bought a new Windows gaming laptop, which I call Turandot. I am now writing this blog post with her. She must have imagined that she would be owned by a young man, but no – she has a woman in her fifties. Turandot must have sounded like a great name to her, but after googling it, she might have been upset: Puccini’s opera! Well, she just has to adjust and learn my style.

Style Development – Looking Back

The new big project has made me think back and explain it all to Turandot. Ten years ago, I wanted to learn to paint so well that I would be satisfied with my paintings: “I could then die happy!” I thought that as an artist I had to abandon what I have been until then and build a new vision and a new world of my own.

A sketchbook page inspired by fantasy art. Two people share a connection. By Paivi Eerola. Pondering about artistic development.
A sketchbook page from 2017.

When my paintings started to reach the level I had hoped for, I felt first grateful and then empty. I couldn’t see forward anymore.

Jubilee in Neptune, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola.
Jubilee in Neptune, an oil painting from 2022.
See the gallery of my oil paintings!

Now, however, I’m on the brink of something new again and the crises of the past seem strange: how was I so hopeless? Why didn’t I realize that everything meaningful that I’ve done in my life will tie into my art over time?

Always a Beginner

My artist friend said that I have developed quickly as an artist. However, it doesn’t always feel that way. I always have self-criticism and always notice things to improve. That’s why it feels frustrating now when I’m starting over again and building a three-dimensional digital expression. At the same time, I remind myself that the beginning of today is much further than the beginning 10 years ago – there is a lot that I already know and what I can already see, not only style-wise but in a more general level as well.

Oil paintings in a studio marking an artistic development.
A studio view from 2021. Oil paintings.

The balance between encouraging yourself and criticizing yourself is essential when making art. You have to be able to observe your pictures as if they were created by someone else and at the same time, you have to see forward – what all this could be and where it could lead when I will learn more skill and imagination.

A hand-drawn collage. Doodles, scribbles, and animals.
A hand-drawn collage from 2014.

Fortunately, I haven’t listened to those who say that everything you do must be in the same style and form a unified experience. When you’re a beginner, forcing a certain style only leads to getting stuck at a level where you really don’t want to stay. When you’ve done enough, your own style pushes out naturally.

Acrylics on paper. One of the examples in the stream of artistic development.
Acrylic painting on paper from 2020.

Yarn, Thread, Line, and a Telescope!

10 years ago, my line was clumsy and closed, while now it’s elegant and curious, like a telescope that lets me see beyond what I’m currently aware of.

An abstract oil painting by Paivi Eerola.
Winter Night’s Poem from 2022

I’ve always liked knitting and embroidery. Thread and line have a lot in common. That’s where my style started.

An art journal page about crochet.
From 2013, inspired by crochet
Collageland teaches this style!

Now my task is to continue developing my style and step into the world of digital art. However, I will still be drawing and painting next year, so there is no need to worry that this blog will change too much!

Restarting a Painting

This week, we talk about restarting an old painting or restarting creating so that we have a new confidence and freedom.

Vapauden puolesta – For Liberty, 45 x 45 cm, oil on board. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.
Vapauden puolesta – For Liberty, 45 x 45 cm, oil on board

This piece called “For Liberty” was been painted on the top of an old work. It was a bit challenging to photograph because it’s painted on wooden paint board – a very smooth surface that reflects light. But before I go into more detail, I want to tell a story from my childhood that has had a big impact on me. If you have taken my classes, you might recognize my passion for acting!

“Open Your Arms”

I have been an enthusiastic actor as a teenager. Once I was the lead in a school play directed by the teacher. He was a very good director. “Spread your arms,” ​​he told me when we were practicing a scene. For a teen, spreading the arms was a huge gesture. I still remember how my hands reluctantly opened and released from the grip. But wide open, I suddenly had a sweet sense of confidence: I owned this arena and I was going to get an audience too. Everything will be fine and even better than before!

My friend and I had been chosen to the school play because we had a private play club that we had put together. I wrote the script for the plays and we performed them to our class. It was great that our native language teacher allowed the performances. The teacher Varpu Lehtolainen and the teacher who directed the play, Taavi Lehtolainen, were married. Their creativity was inspiring. Their daughter is Leena Lehtolainen, who later became a famous author in Finland – no wonder!

Confidence for a Restart

When a person makes another person free, the feeling that he ignites is not based on successful performances in the past. The new self-confidence comes from seeing what will be possible in the future. You can go back and start over as many times as you want. Everything will be fine.

In 2020, I made an oil painting called “Wreath Maker.” However, I failed in varnishing and did not put it on display or for sale. The painting is painted on a board instead of a canvas, and it is quite challenging as a surface.

Wreath Maker, an oil painting that was restarted

When the local artists’ association asked for works with the theme “Red, White, Blue”, I came up with the idea of ​​sanding off the varnish and doing a new painting on top, somewhat based on the old one.

Restarting a painting

As soon as I started painting, there was this “spread your hands” feeling. I wanted to free the painting from its constraints and give the flowers their own roles.

Oil painting in progress.

Rubens’ paintings of battle scenes from the 17th century came to mind, and I wanted to make a grand theme too – where people wake up to defend their own values ​​and the flags are flying high.

Restarting to Release the Visual Voice

I have painted this in parts and between the sessions, I have been building a new course, where freedom is also a central subject. I wish I could be a teacher like Taavi Lehtolainen: “Spread your hands, control your space!”

Artist Paivi Eerola from Finland and her painting "For Liberty."

Art always does well when the flowers are allowed to grow freely and each in its own way.

A detail of "For Liberty." Oil on board. By Päivi Eerola.

A painting is released when it finds its meaning. I feel that’s what happened to this piece. The previous version was okay, but the message is now clearer, the painting is more airy, and the flowers are now more diverse and expressive.

When you want to fine-tune your visual voice, maybe this kind of freedom is what your art is lacking?

What do you think?

Scroll to top