Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Art Supplies and Emotions

This week, we ponder what kind of feelings and emotions our art supplies raise in us.

Do you remember these small paintings from a few weeks ago?

Four small oil paintings by the artist Päivi Eerola, Finland.
Four small oil paintings, 15 x 15 cm each.

I now got the fourth one finished, and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of them together. These are only 6 by 6 inches, and the small size enables me to study a style or an idea before making a bigger painting. So, in a way, these are like pages in an art journal – small art that is delightful to create and look at but that doesn’t fill a wall. It’s the first time I feel I can create quick experiments directly in oils. And this brings us to the topic of art supplies.

Crayons, Inks, and All the Possibilities

I have now painted on canvas in oil for over two years, and most of the other art supplies don’t inspire me so much anymore. I have all kinds of crayons, inks, and paint tubes that were purchased in a different mindset many years ago.

Playing with crayons.
Derwent Art Bars. See more crayon love!

Back then, a new supply meant a new beginning. Purchasing a box of crayons meant that I still believed in myself – that there was still hope that I will become an artist. See a video of me working with crayons – a blog post from 2017.

Created with Derwent Art Bars and Faber Castell Gelatos. By Päivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. See her post about art supplies and emotions!
Derwent Art Bars and Faber Castell Gelatos. >> See more crayon love!
Rising Star - graphite pencil, acrylic paints, oil pastels, from the class Innovative Portraits. Creating mixed media, choosing art supplies.
Rising Star – graphite pencil, acrylic paints, oil pastels, from the class Innovative Portraits

I like many of the pieces that I created back then, but now when I look at those boxes of crayons, the magic has gone away. All I can hear is the calling of my beloved oil paints.

There are two exceptions though.

Colored Pencils Are the Easiest Art Supplies

Colored Pencils bring me back to my childhood when I was drawing with my elder sisters, admiring what they did with them. For me, colored pencils were not just pencils, but dolls that had names. It was sad to see a doll that I loved get shortened and then finally thrown away!

Compared to oil paints, colored pencils have an advantage. There’s no preparation involved. When I paint with oils, I need to build the palette, clean the caps, select the brushes, protect the tabletop, etc. But with colored pencils, I can just grab a piece of paper or open another page in a journal and start coloring freely. When I am tired but still want to create something, it’s really nice.

Colored pencils on a journal. Choosing colored pencils as art supplies.
Autumn colorings from 2022, see the video where I talk more about colored pencils!

I have also liked to maintain my illustration skills, and colored pencils are great for that too. For example, see the newest course Doll World!

Watercolors Are a Great Teacher

I am also emotionally connected with my watercolor set. Even if I haven’t used it much lately, I feel that painting in a watercolor set my style. Many techniques that I use in oil were learned when I was painting in watercolor, for example, negative painting and building an image layer by layer.

Päivi Eerola, After Winter - Talven jälkeen, 38 x 28 cm, watercolor, 2019.
After Winter – Talven jälkeen, 38 x 28 cm, watercolor, 2019.

I also learned a lot about pigments and their behavior back then. It was a good learning experience to paint many pieces in a row.

Watercolor paintings in a studio. Choosing the art supplies that produce the best emotions.
Watercolor paintings from 2019.

I have several courses on watercolor, for example, Magical Forest for fairies and Floral Fantasies for floral still lives!

What about all those inks, crayons, and such, did I learn anything from them? Yes, of course, but when I look back, it feels like when I started to focus more on one media instead of mixed media, I also took a big leap forward in skills. My art went forward when I no longer tried to find a solution by changing the media but by growing the skill. I was also able to get a more emotional connection with the supplies and somehow that feels very important to me.

Oils vs. Acrylics as Art Supplies

Before oils, I painted in acrylics for some time. They are more practical. They don’t smell like wet oil does. The painting mediums have less odor too. They dry fast so painting is much faster, no need to wait for days before adding a new layer or making the finishing touches. Acrylics don’t require a similar kind of knowledge of pigments and painting mediums as oils do. In oils, you have to be careful with some pigments and the use of mediums because they may cause crackling.

Varnishing small oil paintings with Gamvar.
Varnishing small oil paintings. I do my best to build the layers of the painting so that it will last the test of time.

Despite all that worry, when I open my box of oil tubes, I feel different than if I pick acrylics.

The Emotions I Get When Painting in Oil

The oil paints connect me to the past. They take me to the time before I was even born.

Within seconds, I travel back to the beginning of the 20th century, meet the early abstract painters and impressionists, then continue my journey to the 19th century and meet pre-raphaelites, and move from them to those who wanted to capture the realism, and to those who were more romantics. Then again, within seconds, I go to the 18th century and admire all the floral still lives and women in beautiful dresses.

And at best, I continue the journey to the 17th and 16th centuries and see big paintings full of details. Then I also meet the masters that had the patience to make really thin layers and wait for each to dry before adding a new one.

This time traveling enables me to meet long-time friends like Wassily Kandinsky, Peter Paul Rubens, and Leonardo da Vinci and if I do some browsing before I start painting, I always find a new one that I want to meet and learn from.

Oil painting in progress. By Päivi Eerola, Finland.
One of the paintings that I will show you later this spring!

And now when I am painting for the upcoming Albert Edelfelt -themed exhibition, I also learn from him.

Kirsikankukka, oil on canvas, 15 x 15 cm, Paivi Eerola, Finland.
“Kirsikankukka” (Cherry Blossom), 15 x 15 cm, oil on canvas, inspired by Albert Edelfelt’s painting The Parisienne (Virginie)

There are many great artists today, but I feel that tracing what you love back to history is essential to artistic growth. I also get satisfaction from knowing that I belong to the chain of generations. Artists from the past, still live through me.

A small oil painting with thick edges. By Paivi Eerola.

Paintings In Progress

I have been painting quite a lot recently, and there are many more paintings in the queue.

Oil painting in progress.

These are in-progress pictures! I will show you the finished ones in the near future!

Oil painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola, Finland. See her post about art supplies.

I usually reserve a whole day for painting and try not to do anything else at the same time. If you want to follow a painting day, look for my Instagram stories where I usually post in-progress photos when I am testing the composition and such.

What are Your Favorite Art Supplies?

Miniature oil paintings by Paivi Eerola. The attic series.

Tell us what are your favorite art supplies at the moment!
It would also be interesting to know which supplies raise emotions in you
.

Colored Pencil Doodling

This week, we are doodling wildly with colored pencils.

Intuitive art with colored pencils. By Päivi Eerola.

Free doodling is the most natural way for me to create. I can just start. No browsing the internet for ideas, no trying to think what to express. It only requires trust that something will appear – that a problem I wasn’t aware of gets solved, a key to a door that I didn’t notice is found, and a place that didn’t exist is born for everyone to explore.

Mindless Doodling

When doodling with colored pencils, I like to pick a pencil and start coloring mindlessly.

Starting an intuitive art journal page.

I often pick a neutral color and use a light touch so that I can later add layers on the top.

Closeup for coloring curves.

The mindless curves can go on top of each other, already creating a new layer.

When I get bored, I pick another color and do the same.

Simple coloring and layering.

I try not to worry about how it looks because it’s just a warmup.

Enjoying Colors

When my thoughts begin to flow effortlessly, I add more colors. Now I color areas or spots over the doodles.

Coloring arcs and curves is fun.

I also highlight some parts of the doodles with color.

I cover most of the blank areas so that the image becomes less busy.

Coloring freely with colored pencils.

Drawing Something Intentional

If I get stuck and feel discouraged, I draw something to cheer me up.

Drawing a heart in the middle of doodling.

A heart is a message for myself: “Keep going; everything will be ok.”

Discovering by Shadowing

“What should I draw?” we often ask ourselves. I often push through by picking a fairly dark tone and shadowing around a random area.

Colored pencil art journaling in progress.

I also like to color stripes, so I color and shadow them. It usually doesn’t take long when I feel the sense of new, exciting scenery.

Doodling All The Crazy Stuff

Recently, I have become more open to allowing all the things that don’t seem to make sense. I also have got more courage to put expression over prettiness.

Doodling with colored pencils.

The success of this kind of wild doodling is connected with the more traditional art skills. I have noticed that after doing the projects for the class Doll World, I have been able to include human shapes and characters more effortlessly for drawings and paintings.

Colored Pencil Doodling – The Result

I think that the finished work expresses that I am at a crossroads. I have a new exciting project on the horizon that you will find out more about soon. I am considering what old things to continue and what to abandon.

Colored pencil doodling on a journal page. Intuitive use of colored pencils by the artist Paivi Eerola, Finland.

But I think that everything will be ok anyway because when I turn the spread upside down, the world still looks exciting and inviting.

A colored pencil journal page upside down. Intuitive art often makes sense when turned around too.

More Intuitive Art Projects

My classes – Inspirational Drawing and Intuitive Coloring, go into this kind of free-flowing process in more detail. If you prefer watercolors to doodles, check Magical Forest for a similarly intuitive approach.

Browsing a colored pencil journal

This small colored pencil journal is currently my favorite art journal. Check the class Fun Botanicum for a jump start for beginning colored pencil journal pages!

Birth of the Attic Paintings

What stories define you as an artist, and how could they inspire you to move forward?

Satumaa, a miniature oil painting from the Attic series. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.
“Satumaa” – oil on canvas, 15 x 15 cm

“Satumaa” is a Finnish word that’s something like “fairytale land.” This painting is only 15 x 15 cm!

Holding a painting from the Attic series. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.

I call these miniature pieces attic paintings. Here’s the story behind them.

Päivi’s Attic

When I was a child, I dreamed about running a shop. My main interest there was in product development. I wanted to design things and offer an attractive selection. We lived in a wooden house with a big attic, and I established my shop there. It was called “Päivin puikko” – Päivi’s Needle and had a modest selection of hand-crocheted things.

I remember the joyful sound of footsteps on the staircase when my two sisters came to visit. They were a lot older than me and had coins with them too. When they admired the little handmade items on the table, the feeling of acceptance ran through me. One sister grabbed a long chain and asked how much it was. “Twenty pennies,” I said. “But this is so long,” said the sister, ” you worked hard for it, I give you fifty.” Sold!

Stories That Define Us

The stories where we experience big feelings define us. I realized that when I tried to figure out how much I have to raise the prices of my paintings. It was necessary as I have grown as an artist, and the general prices have come up too. But a little child in me said: “Don’t!”

“Why,” I asked.

“Because your paintings are already too expensive for my shop in the attic,” she whispered.

And yes, I couldn’t imagine selling my big paintings in that little corner. Yet, I wanted to have something for her too.

“Here’s what we do,” I said to the child. “I will raise the prices, but I will paint some small studies for you, only 150 EUR each.”

A miniature painting in progress.

And that’s how these miniature paintings were born.

Miniature paintings from the Attic series. By Paivi Eerola, Finland. Thickness approximately 3 cm, over an inch.

I call these attic paintings. The size is only 15 x 15 cm, and they are born from left-over paints. They are the same high-quality oil paints that I use for bigger pieces, but I often have leftovers on the palette after a painting session.

Miniature paintings from the Attic series. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.
These are 3 cm high, and the painting continues on the sides. The fourth one is already in progress.

I am now much more comfortable with the higher prices when I have something for the attic – and for gift shops too!

Valkovuokko

Valkovuokko, a miniature painting from the Attic series. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.
Valkovuokko, oil on canvas, 15 x 15 cm

The English word for “Valkovuokko” is “wood anemone.”

Valkovuokko, a miniature painting from the Attic series. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.

Mansikkapaikka

“Mansikkapaikka” is “a strawberry place” in English. I was thinking about wild strawberries here.

Mansikkapaikka, a miniature painting from the Attic series. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.

These small canvases work well for studies. It’s good now when I am practicing Albert Edelfelt‘s painting style for my upcoming exhibition in Villa Albert.

Mansikkapaikka, a miniature painting from the Attic series. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.

Mansikkapaikka is inspired by Edelfelt’s painting Ahomansikoita.

Satumaa

I like to paint sceneries that are overly romantic and full of fantasy.

Satumaa, a miniature painting from the Attic series. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.

Satumaa was inspired by an older painting called “Luvattu maa – Promised Land.”

Promised Land - Luvattu maa, an oil painting by Päivi Eerola, Finland.

Promised Land was so much fun to paint that I wanted to repeat the idea of using a limited selection of shapes and expressing plants traveling toward the light.

Attic Paintings – Expansion of Style and Love for Plants

I placed “Mercury Temperatures” with the attic paintings to see how the small ones go with the bigger ones.

Floral abstract paintings by Paivi Eerola.

My love for plants and yearning for nostalgia and fantasy are well presented in both, I think!

My husband and I are enthusiastic about plants, especially decorative ones. Our home is like a flower shop now when I have got some bouquets for my birthday and when orchids are blooming.

Paivi Eerola and her husband with flowers.

When I think about the shop in the attic, I wonder how I could not see its influence earlier. The stories that define us can prevent us from growing. But the stories can also be the key to solutions that enable growth and change.

A floral abstract oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland.

What do you think?

Expressing Winter Memories

This week, I have a new winter-themed painting, and we talk about the many approaches for expressing winter and memories of any season.

Winter Night's Poem - Talviyön runoelma, 60 x 80 cm, oil on canvas, by Päivi Eerola, Finland.
Winter Night’s Poem – Talviyön runoelma, 60 x 80 cm, oil on canvas

Here’s my newest painting called Winter Night’s Poem. This time, the Finnish name is much more beautiful: Talviyön runoelma. I wanted to give the painting a poetic name – like Shakespeare’s play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Kesäyön unelma” but something more wintery. So I come up with the Finnish name, which sounds so romantic (if you know Finnish that is!), and then translated it to English as accurately as possible.

I painted this piece for the local artist association’s winter-themed art exhibition. Winter sceneries aren’t really my thing, but I wanted to take the challenge. I started by exploring Japanese woodblock prints and made a small colored pencil study that is more like a fall scenery, but that has similar abstract elements than in the final painting.

Colored pencil art. An abstract scenery.

I talked more about this colored pencil piece in October’s video blog post.

Winter Memories

I found it challenging to get emotionally connected with the theme. As Finn, I do know winters. They are cold and dark, and there’s not much that I enjoy about them. As a child, I lived further north, and winters were even colder and darker. Here’s a picture of me in 1974 when I was 5 years old.

Winter memories from 1974.

However, I have one special winter memory. Earlier this year, in one of the weekly emails, I wrote about Avicii‘s music and how it brings the memory to my mind:

When I hear A Sky Full of Stars, I am a little girl on a cold Tuesday evening in Eastern Finland. After participating in an icon painting group, I walked down the snowy hill looking up. The starry sky was blue-black, I realized. Not black like for those who glance carelessly or blue like for those whose skies were always blue. Working with colors had made the world look more beautiful.

I also remember getting an idea for a poem that I later wrote down. It was something about the starry sky. And there was a melody too. The sight, the words, and the sounds all formed this beautiful winter memory. And isn’t it so that memories are full of sensations of all kinds? Why should we then paint only what we see?

But then I heard myself saying: “Paivi, remember that it’s a winter-themed exhibition. It has to look like winter!”

How Does Winter Look Like?

In 2013, I made this hand-drawn collage for Christmas cards. It has a decorative approach to winter. Snow, hearts, berries, pastel colors – they all form a light-hearted and entertaining take on winter.

Hand-drawn paper collage, 2013.
A hand-drawn paper collage from 2013

An even more obvious choice would be to paint a realistic winter scenery with snow, trees, and such. Here’s a watercolor painting from 2018:

Fall and winter, two seasons in watercolor, Paivi Eerola's painting from 2018.
Two Seasons, watercolor, 2018 – From the class Watercolor Journey

My idea was to paint both fall and winter into the same piece. This is a class project from Watercolor Journey where we paint all kinds of sceneries in watercolor.

Winter in a Poem

But the more I thought about winter, the more connection I felt with the abstract side of it. I didn’t want to just paint an empty-looking scenery in black and white. I wanted the lights and darks to have a rhythm.

Starting an intuitive painting about winter.

My favorite poet Eeva-Liisa Manner has a winter poem that I have read hundreds of times because it was in a little poem book my family had. For a small child, the content felt strange, but the more I read it and the more I grew, I fell in love with its rhythm. The poem doesn’t rhyme, it’s free verse, very modern. But still, when I read it, I feel the rhythm, and when it ends, it feels like you have listened to a song, not read a poem. The words have been thrown into the air, carelessly, and yet, it feels like everything has a purpose. It’s like every word would have fought to get into to poem, and after accepted, they are ready to fly beautifully, each on their turn, and then to get mixed up even more elegantly in the reader’s mind.

Maybe you too, love poetry and have experienced the same. The words glow like jewels and have a long effect even if the time spend on the reading, is just a minute or two. Isn’t that what we aim for in visual art too?

Abstract painting in progress.

Wonders of a Winter Night

More than thinking about realistic scenery, I approached the painting with a poetic mindset. I imagined the sounds and rhythm of a winter night and visualized those. I trusted that the result will look wintery even if the painting is abstract.

Abstract painting in progress

I also thought about how things move, and one of my favorite details is the curvy black wind that blows snow.

A detail of Winter Night's Poem - Talviyön runoelma, oil on canvas, by Päivi Eerola, Finland.

Carelessly painted ice-like objects are on the top, and the sound of ice is visualized below them.

A detail of Winter Night's Poem - Talviyön runoelma, oil on canvas, by Päivi Eerola, Finland.

Probably the childhood memory of the winter night has stayed with me because it’s a little bit scary to walk alone in the cold and in the dark, under a few street lights only.

A detail of Winter Night's Poem - Talviyön runoelma, oil on canvas, by Päivi Eerola, Finland.

The color scheme was one of the challenges. I didn’t want the painting to look off-puttingly cold. Instead of only using blue and white, I brought a wide variety of tones but so that most of them are quite dark or pale.

A detail of Winter Night's Poem - Talviyön runoelma, oil on canvas, by Päivi Eerola, Finland.

Fortunately, winter is not here yet, but usually, we have the first snow in November. So the garden scenery will change soon!

Paivi Eerola and her painting Winter Night's Poem - Talviyön runoelma

I hope this blog post inspired you to express winter or any season that you have fond memories of!

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