Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

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?

From Artist’s Focus to Artist’s Between

This week, I challenge you to question what the word “focus” means to you as an artist.

Paivi Eerola, Kahden maailman välissä - Between Two Worlds, 40 x 30 cm, oil on canvas
Kahden maailman välissä – Between Two Worlds, 40 x 30 cm, oil on canvas

I thought a lot about the artist’s focus when painting this piece. This was one of the last paintings to be finished for my exhibition.

Artist’s Focus

Have you ever said this:
“I want to find my focus in art.”

Although I want to direct my energy wisely as an artist, something in that statement has always bothered me.

For me, the essence of art is not narrowing, but expanding – not isolating but inviting. The artist expresses not only herself but humanity in general. And as humans, we are rarely completely serene or focused. We seldom belong to only one group, one era, or one world. We are often one foot in one field, one foot in another.

Painting the first strokes. Artist's focus comes to mind when starting a new painting.

When we create, could the inspiring word be more like “between” than “focus?”

Oil painting in progress

Focus is nice and pretty, but is it art?

Inspiration from Albert Edelfelt

In this series of paintings, my inspiration was the Finnish master painter Albert Edelfelt (1854-1905). For the painting of this post, I took ideas for the color scheme from this pastel work by Edelfelt. This piece is currently displayed at the Albert Edelfelt Exhibition in the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki.

Albert Edelfelt, Parisian Model in a Dressing Gown (Parisian Model in Robe), 1885
Albert Edelfelt, Parisian Model in a Dressing Gown (Parisian Model in Robe), 1885

While studying the colors, I thought about the end of the 19th century and the intelligent look of the woman. Wasn’t this also “between” rather than “focus?” Between a man and a woman, if you think about the relationship between the model and Albert. Between being a model and having her own thoughts, if you study a woman’s gaze. Between representation and abstraction, if you observe lines and shapes.

Abstract art began shortly after Edelfelt’s death. He probably already felt its presence, felt that he was between two worlds.

From Artist’s Focus to Artist’s Between

I decided to throw myself fully into being between two worlds in this painting.

An abstract floral painting in progress. Read more about finding artist's focus and what to think when you are creating.

“Between” is an uncomfortable state of being, so this painting couldn’t contain only easy and beautiful. “Between” is a bit like walking in nature and then bumping into apartment buildings. Or when you’re admiring clear water in a pond and your eyes fall on the filters. Focus can then only exist if you close your eyes. Not very eye-opening, eh?

Before and after finishing touches. An oil painting by Päivi Eerola, Finland.
Before and after finishing. Click the image or here to see it bigger!

This painting has two different styles and although it is small in size, I feel that it reveals the secret between what I do and what I think.

I noticed at the opening of the exhibition that I don’t like to talk about this work, because I find it somehow intrusive. Often when the paintings are created, they are nice characters, a bit shy and sensitive, but fun company. This one is straightforward and doesn’t hide its contradiction.

Paivi Eerola holding the oil painting "Kahden maailman välissä - Between Two Worlds". She claims that "artist's between" is a better concept than artist's focus.

However, there is a lot of power in the contradictions and lack of focus. I want to continue to challenge myself to draw artistic inspiration from it.

Do you also feel that you are between two worlds?
In art-making, could you replace the yearning for “focus” with the embracing of “between?”

Imagining Flower’s Spirit

When you want to draw or paint flowers that look unique and alive, imagine their spirit and discover what they would love to wear.

Kielomieli, 40 x 32 cm, oil on canvas, by Päivi Eerola, Finland. Painting lily of the valley.
Kielomieli, 40 x 32 cm, oil on canvas

Art is not only about techniques and replicating what we see. When you create, you have permission to imagine and be convinced that you know something more than anyone else. You are the best scientist in your imaginary world! In your world, you can mix different fields, like botanical illustration with fashion design. That’s what I did in this painting called Kielomieli.

Kielomieli – The Mind of Lily of The Valley

We have lily the valleys growing in our yard and even though I don’t pay much attention to them, I feel like I know them. That plant spreads in the shade and may seem modest, but its mind is always alert and it observes the world sharply.

This little flower also knows how to influence people. Even before I was born, in 1967, Yleisradio, the Finnish national broadcasting company, organized a vote for Finland’s national flower and the overwhelming winner was kielo – the lily of the valley. It makes Finns kneel and admire its fine shapes. Unlike other flowers, the color is secondary to the lily of the valley, until it produces berries. With berries, it underlines that it is not just a white, innocent little flower. Everyone knows their toxicity.

Lily of the valley. These flowers have a strong spirit.

The lily of the valley’s mind is a group mind where everyone dances to the same rhythm. It still doesn’t mean that a single plant would not also be an individual. She just doesn’t share her own thoughts publicly.

Many people love lily of the valleys, but this plant is not a rose that craves attention. Even if it lies low on the border of the earth, its mind is more sublime than that of other flowers. It sees far and high, and nothing can discourage it.

Choosing the Style to Go with the Spirit

When you think about the flower that you want to draw or paint, ask her about her style and aesthetics. For example, is it bohemian, classic, gothic, or country? If the flower would be a human, how would she like to dress?

Clothes can express the spirit.

In flowers, the details of petals and leaves are also very similar to the folds and seams of clothing. I often find it helpful to think about dresses, hats, and jewelry when painting plants.

Painting a flower's spirit and connecting that with fashion.
Painting “Disappearing Garden” and getting inspired by translucent fabrics. This blog post has the finished work.

I imagined the lily of the valleys to be formal and stiff. They wouldn’t wear a bathrobe in a photo but choose a classic-lined dress or a jacket. So I chose to paint them in a decorative style. First, I practiced painting roses in that way – see this blog post for more instructions!

A small study. Decorative painting style. Decorative flowers.
A small study in acrylics on paper, see how I painted this!

I have noticed that making a study speeds up my painting process even if the final painting would be different.

Painting a flower's spirit. Thinking about the details of clothes when painting flowers.

Once I had “loaded” that decorative style to my hand, I painted Kielomieli – the lily of the valley’s spirit.

Flower’s Spirit – Flower’s Portrait!

When visualizing the flower’s spirit, think about yourself as a portrait painter.

Cherries by Albert Edelfelt, 1878.
Cherries by Albert Edelfelt, oil, 1878.

You don’t need a face to express a flower’s spirit. When the color choices, shapes, and lines are aligned, they all paint a picture of a character.

A detail of Kielomieli, 40 x 32 cm, oil on canvas, by Päivi Eerola, Finland.
A detail of Kielomieli, 40 x 32 cm, oil on canvas, by Päivi Eerola, Finland.

I hope this blog post gave you new ideas to break the glass between reality and imagination!

Paivi Eerola and her painting Kielomieli.  By painting, she expresses the flower's spirit - here are lily of the valleys.

Five Tips for Painting Nature’s Richness

This blog post is for you who want to create less stiff and more abstract art. First, I suggest rephrasing your goal. Say you want to get closer to nature – to paint nature’s richness!

Kuolematon kukkakimppu - Immortal Bouquet, 70 x 60 cm, oil on canvas. Abstract floral art by Paivi Eerola, Finland.
Kuolematon kukkakimppu – Immortal Bouquet, 70 x 60 cm, oil on canvas

In this painting, flowers fly recklessly in every direction. This kind of disorder is part of nature’s richness. I used to think that it could be achieved by quickly throwing paint here and there, but I am much more successful when I create these beautiful messes in an orderly way.

Experiencing Nature’s Richness

Although I live in a big town, there is a cornfield in our neighborhood. I often walk along the path that goes by it. In August 2020, I was walking with my dog ​​Stella. When I reached the beginning of the trail, I was greeted by a magical sight. The surroundings of the path were full of butterflies!

An outdoor scene. Walking with a dog and exploring nature's richness.

I tried to take photos, but only close-ups were successful. Butterflies are such small and fast insects that they cannot be distinguished from a distance, even if there are many of them.

Exploring nature's richness. Butterflies flying on a meadow.

But the experience stuck in my mind. Now, years later, I wanted to capture it but in a bit different setting. I wanted to depict a situation where someone would throw a bouquet of flowers in the air and they would magically start flying in the air like butterflies.

Working in Layers

I started the painting by making a background for it. I painted a grid in the style of Paul Klee. I teach this beginning technique in the course Floral Freedom.

The beginning of a floral abstract painting. Painting in progress.

I then started to create nature’s richness on top of the grid with brushstrokes. I added flying flowers several times and dried every layer before starting a new one.

Taking Photos for Inspiration

I often take photos of plants and nature scenery. Even Claude Monet has said: “The richness I achieve comes from nature, the source of my inspiration.” I don’t use the photos as references but for teaching myself nature’s language. I examine an image to see nature’s richness, for example, the shapes that light throws and all the variation there is if you forget what the image represents.

Take a look at this flower bouquet I put together for Midsummer: the flowers consist of several layers and have differences in size and shape.

Midsummer flower bouquet. Nature's richness in bloom.

Think about one flower as a collection of strokes that form motifs.

Five Tips for Painting Nature’s Richness

When you add motifs on the background, remember nature’s richness and do otherwise than what you are used to:

  1. Don’t cover it all over again! Create a sense of depth by covering the previous layer only partly. This way, every layer has fewer motifs than the previous one. Paint the first motifs with muted tones and slowly introduce stronger colors.
  2. Don’t repeat the same thing! Get natural variation by painting many different repeating motifs. Change the sizes and distances of similar motifs so that they look more irregular. Use many brushes and think about every stroke as a word. How rich is your language?
  3. Don’t design fabric but tell a story! Make an expressive image, not only a surface pattern. Despite the chaos, make one area stand out. Make this focal point stronger by adjusting some other distinctive motifs so that they clearly point to it. Avoid spreading white spots everywhere. They distract the viewer and make the painting flat.
  4. Don’t leave your motifs lonely! Bring more unity by connecting motifs together. You can use lines, intersections, and surrounding space. Think about the painting as a collection of mini landscapes.
  5. Don’t hurry! Give your painting time to grow. Take breaks and keep your painting somewhere where you can observe it. You have probably already tried many times to paint quickly, now choose another way and slowly immerse yourself in the painting.
Painting a floral abstract painting. Embracing nature's richness in art.

In this orderly way, the painting begins to look more and more finished naturally.

A detail of Kuolematon kukkakimppu - Immortal Bouquet, 70 x 60 cm, oil on canvas. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.

At the last layer, it takes some courage to paint larger and brighter motifs on top of smaller and more muted ones.

Nature’s Richness – Expressing Mortality in Immortal

A part of nature’s richness is to allow some flowers to fall and die, and some rise and fly. Dark colors, sad strokes, and downward lines all give power to the bright and happy ones. You can take your piece outdoors and see if it’s one with the surroundings. My course Floral Freedom is packed with techniques and further ideas.

Painting nature's richness and testing it so that you take the piece outdoors. Here's Immortal Bouquet and the Finnish artist Päivi Eerola.

This painting “Immortal Bouquet” tells about the hopeless desire to live forever but also about the fact that life does continue when thinking about nature. An immortal bouquet is an unreal wish for the one who gathers the flowers, but on the other hand, it’s also true: flowers are reborn in nature every year.

What do you think?

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