Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Designing Cross Stitch Patterns

This week, I have something very different than before: cross stitch!
Buy my first commercial design Primavera from my Etsy shop called Needle and Peony!

Primavera fancy lady portrait cross stitch pattern by Paivi Eerola.

There are two main reasons for designing this pattern. The first is the need for creative play and the second that I couldn’t find anything like this from other designers: a fantasy woman’s facial portrait that wouldn’t be a huge project.

Playing and Drawing in the Stitchly App

My need for creative play comes from being very serious with art this year. I have spent a lot of time in programming computer art and I have been painting a bit too. It’s all great but I started to miss drawing, and especially, making something that is purely illustrative and not so abstract and artistically challenging.

So because I have had cross stitching as a hobby almost all my life, I bought an app called Stitchly and started drawing there – on lunch breaks and such, a few stitches at time. First I just doodled freely with the Apple pen to get to know the app.

Designing cross stitch patterns in the Stitchly app.

Stitchly is easy to use and with the pen, drawing is fun and the squares get filled nicely. Of course, you can also import a photo and let the app create the chart automatically. But to make the image look realistic enough, the stitch count needs to be high and the design … well I don’t think it would be a design anymore, just a pixelated photo. So, when I design, I like to draw with the pen and if I use references, I only use them as inspiration and draw every square myself.

I also like that you can have a custom palette in Stitchly. I have made a palette that has all the DMC colors from my stash, so I can also check the real color when designing.

Drawing and Stitching Faces

When people begin drawing in adulthood, they often start with faces. Eyes, mouth, nose too. Facial features create a connection to the person born on paper. It’s also fun to draw hair and add decorations there.

So, one day it hit me that even when doing cross stitches, I can get company from the character I am stitching. However, couldn’t find a cross-stitch pattern that was a reasonable size and where the character was naturally asymmetrical, but still sparked the imagination.

My stitching time is lonely time in the evening. I clean the studio if I have been painting, and then pick extra glasses and while stitching, watch other cross stitchers’ videos on Youtube, so Flosstube as we cross stitchers call the channels.

Cross stitching in the evening

So when I wanted to stitch a facial portrait of an imaginary person, I decided to draw it in Stitchly. After making the chart, the fun started – I was stitching my own pattern!

Cross stitch project Primavera in progress

Primavera can be stitched in the colors I suggest in the pattern, but since there are only 11 colors, it’s easy to change them as you like.

DMC floss and aida cross stitch fabric

Although Primavera means spring, by changing the colors you can associate a different season or different theme with the character. The decorations are designed to be so general that they don’t limit the character you create.

Primavera fancy lady portrait cross stitch pattern by Paivi Eerola.

The hair has three colors of different darkness, the skin has four. The hair band has two colors close to each other. It is easy to change the accent colors of the mouth and eyes, and also the colors of the decorations.

You can buy the pattern for Primavera in my Etsy shop!

Needle and Peony

It feels nostalgic to have something on sale at Etsy again! Long before I became a full-time artist, I opened the Etsy shop called Kukkilintu, then later changed the name to Peony and Parakeet. That little shop had a major impact on my career and life. Most of my customers lived outside Finland and I started communicating more and more in English.

Folk bags by Paivi Eerola, Finland
Me and some of my folk bags in 2008.

Maybe some of the current readers of this blog were my customers over ten years ago when I sold folk bags (currently available as a knitting pattern), handknitted doll clothes, hand-decorated papers and cards!

Now I changed the shop name to Needle and Peony and intend to add some charts over time. Maybe some slow stitching ideas also, as I have some of them too. Last week, I set up an Instagram account called @needleandpeony to show my cross stitch projects – also what I have stitched from other designers.

Which Design Should I Do Next?

While designing Primavera, it hit me that I have a pile of drawings that I have made for classes and that could be turned into cross stitch patterns. When I browsed them, I couldn’t decide what to choose next, so I now ask you – what would you like me to design next? I have picked 5 drawings to choose from, leave a comment and let me know which one is your favorite! Which one of these would make a great cross stitch design?

A) Angel

Angel drawing by Paivi Eerola

See how I drew the angel in 2022: Angel Drawing for the Inner Child

B) Girl

Flower girl drawing by Paivi Eerola

This flowel girl was drawn for the course Doll World.

C) Cat

Funny cat drawing by Paivi Eerola

This cat was drawn for the course Magical Inkdom.

D) Leaf

Folk leaf drawing by Paivi Eerola.

This folk leaf is an older design, from 2015. See more: Art Quilts in a Modern Way

E) Horse

Fantasy horse drawing by Paivi Eerola

This fantasy horse was drawn for the course Magical Inkdom.

Tell me your favorite of the five – A) Angel, B) Girl, C) Cat, D) Leaf, or E) Horse?

Support me in the cross stitch design journey, here’s the link to purchase Primavera!

Art and Sacrifice – Must an Artist Drop Other Interests?

This week, I respond to a question about creative focus: when we want to move forward, should we focus on doing one thing and abandon other creative activities, like crafting?

Art and sacrifice - an illustration by Paivi Eerola
We have many identities, but some of them are more important than others. An illustration from 2019.

I got the idea for this blog post from an interesting discussion that is running in my community Bloom and Fly.

The discussion started when a member wrote:

I find that I have an interest in, perhaps, too many creative pursuits. I enjoy sketching, making journals, watercolors, acrylics, crafting, etc. I have observed that artists with a specific focus and dedication seem to be more successful and just plain good at what they do.

Of course, if one focuses on one ability, the hope is a gain in creative skills. Practice for purpose. So, should we know that in order to be very good at something, we must sacrifice other interests? Any thoughts?

I find that I have an interest in, perhaps, too many creative pursuits. I enjoy sketching, making journals, watercolors, acrylics, crafting, etc. I have observed that artists with a specific focus and dedication seem to be more successful and just plain good at what they do. Of course, if one focuses on one ability, the hope is a gain in creative skills. Practice for purpose. So, should we know that in order to be very good at something, we must sacrifice other interests? Any thoughts?

Here’s my answer!

Sacrificing a Hobby? What’s Your Priority?

When you want to move forward, the essential question about every activity is: “Is this activity for relaxation or for moving forward” so, “Is this hobby or work?”

Having many hobbies is a good thing. I am a professional artist, and I love my many hobbies. For example, I quilt, scrapbook, make cards, spin yarn, knit, and cross stitch. I don’t do everything every week, but I do these regularly in my spare time, mainly in the late evenings and weekends. If I learn new things in my hobbies, it’s nice, but it’s not why I do them. I do them for relaxation, to keep the balance in life, and to stay healthy.

Improv quilting as a hobby. Quilting and other crafts can be relaxing for an artist too.
I have a separate Instagram account @paivipeony for my quilting hobby, just to make sure that I remember to quilt once in a while.
My official Instagram account is @peonyandparakeet, and there, I only share art-related stuff.
Separating your hobbies from your work is essential when you want to see your artistry more clearer.

I also have two beagles that need quite a lot of exercise and lots of house plants that need care. Like my other hobbies, they have never been things that I would sacrifice to become a better artist. I would find it very difficult to lead a happy life focused on art-making only.

But when you want to move forward in visual art, you need to redefine creativity and art.

For many people, a simple quilt is a work of art, a sign of creativity. I get that. But when you want to move forward in art, you need to raise the bar and stop treating every activity as if it would require creativity.

Browsing a scrapbook. The crafting supplies should be separate from art supplies when you want to become an artist.

For example, if you don’t want to become a professional scrapbooker, decide that scrapbooking is not a creative activity for you. Yes, you learn self-expression and design from it, but treat it as a side bonus and define the meaning of the hobby differently. For example, I scrapbook because I want to get reminded of the good things that happen in real life – that everything is not about my imagination, but real life matters too. I want to take photos and get an outside view of my life. My paper crafting happens in a different space than art-making and with a different set of tools.

I don’t publish my paper crafting projects alongside my art. Sharing my art is work, and paper crafting is a hobby that’s reserved just for me. When I shop for crafting products, I am a consumer who enjoys buying pretty stuff. When I shop for art supplies, it’s much more serious. I check the pigments and the other quality factors and don’t feel like a shopper at all.

The results of my hobbies are not brilliant, but I reserve my critical eye for my art. If I someday do not enjoy the hobby, I just stop and do something else. That’s ok because it’s not my work.

Where Does Your Best Energy Go?

I save my best energy for creating art. It’s my priority and my work.

Oil painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola. Read her article on art and sacrifice.

Many days are difficult, but that’s ok. I don’t expect to enjoy every moment. Even if I sometimes fiercely hate what I do, I will continue because, in the long run, it enables things that I want to accomplish in life.

Of course, like in every job, changes are needed if every single day is agony. But in general, I don’t expect things to go easily and effortlessly. I show up every weekday and create productions, not just single projects. Productions are, for example, a series of paintings that I will be exhibiting or a course that I will be launching. I try to think about my work as a series of things, not just single things that I throw to the world. I commit from three months to one year and don’t expect results immediately.

Series is always a big risk. Many classes have not sold as I expected them to, but some have been surprisingly successful. The same has happened with paintings. But the more I think of my work as a continuum or a curated collection, the more potential impact there is.

That’s also why I want to encourage you to make art journals, make a series of drawings to fill boxes of joy, and even take classes to commit to several projects.

Box of Joy by Paivi Eerola. Even filling a small box can be making a series of art.
Box of Joy: A tiny box can hold a world that you draw and then open to us.

Sacrificing Techniques: Drawing or Painting, Watercolors or Acrylics?

When you want to move forward in art, the most important question is not about the technique. It’s more important to consider what things you want to offer the world. If you think about this blog, would you really want me to focus on one technique, one theme, or one subject? And still, I have a clear focus that defines my offerings: I want people to get connected with their imagination.

Thus, when I fill my journals, it doesn’t make me feel less artist than if I make big oil paintings. My intention is the same – to inspire you to reach that inner child and use your imagination. Journal pages get published in my blog or classes and encourage you to create and imagine, and when someone buys a painting, it takes his or her mind from the wall to a different world.

Hand-drawn art and art classes by Paivi Eerola.

In the work-oriented mindset, you don’t just create for yourself but build a path to serve others. This path can, of course, begin from your own enjoyment, but the longer you want to go, the more it will also involve others.

When you see artists focusing on what they do, remember that they are mindful of how they serve you. Their life can include all kinds of things and activities; they just don’t show that to you. You don’t need to sacrifice your other hobbies; you only need to stop thinking of art as something that you do only for yourself.

This, however, doesn’t mean that you would do art only for the sake of pleasing others. When you are at the beginning of an artist’s journey, you are not conscious of how you can serve people the best way yet. You need to create more art, grow your skills, listen to yourself, and regularly show up to the world. I have found my path by updating this blog, which is now over 10 years old. So I thank you for helping me find my mission as an artist!

“Great, But I Don’t Want Art to Be Work for Me!”

Of course, we can have goals in our hobbies too, and many times the development begins as a hobby. But isn’t it so that when we set goals, they include secret dreams? Being aware of these hidden thoughts and facing how much work it will require is a part of the artist’s journey. And yes, some sacrifice is then needed.

If I think about myself, becoming an artist has required more passion and work than I thought. For example, getting over rejections has been hard but necessary. When everyone said “no,” it was difficult to see the potential “yes” in my work.

Preparing for my first solo show last year.

But life is short, and this is what I have ever wanted to accomplish in this life. And now, I even see a new horizon and want to accomplish more. Again, it feels overwhelming, but I know that if I treat it as work – as my priority, I will have a chance. I will write more about that in the near future!

Art and Sacrifice – What Do You Hope to Accomplish?

This is my counter question to the original one. What does being successful in art mean to you?

I also like this question: “How does success appear in your environment?” It’s like a mini question that leads to the big one. For example, imagine how your home looks when you have accomplished what you hope to do. How have you organized the supplies? What’s on your walls? What is the overall style and atmosphere? Even – where do you live then?

Any thoughts? Please leave a comment!

Let’s Get Inspired by Tassels!

This week, we dive deep into the soul of tassels and get the most out of our creativity.

Saturnuksen kirkko - Church of Saturn, an oil painting on canvas by Paivi Eerola.
Saturnuksen kirkko – Church of Saturn, 50 x 30 cm, oil on canvas

Here’s one of my newest paintings called Church of Saturn. This oil painting is a part of my series Linnunrata – Milky Way, where I explore planets and outer space. (See previous work: Jupiter here, Uranus herethe Moon hereMercury hereNeptune here, Pluto herethe Earth hereVenus here, and the Sun here!) When I painted it, I thought about the rings of Saturn, the god of agriculture, branches and twigs, an old wooden church from my childhood, wabi-sabi, and the beauty of – tassels!

Tassel Dolls

When I was living in Eastern Karelia in the 1970s, the simplest doll we could make was a tassel doll. I painted it in watercolors so that you can check if it’s something that you had too!

Watercolor painting of a tassel doll.

The doll was made of wool yarn and so simple that even a 5-year-old could make it. It’s a good example of a thing that is not valued by our adult self, but that brings up our inner child: “Hey, Miss Tassel, where do you want to go?”

Tassels as Extra Decorations

"Double" from Inktober 2018. An ink drawing by Paivi Eerola. Horses with tassels.

I rediscovered my love for tassels in 2018 when I participated in the Inktober challenge. Back then, I thought of tassels being a fun accessory and I have enjoyed using them as extra decorations in my drawings.

This week, I drew a new tassel for my boxes of joy and had a lot of fun making it.

Drawing a decorative tassel.

First I drew some circles and lines with a black drawing pen, then added textures and shadows in the style I each in the classes Animal Inkdom and Magical Inkdom.

Coloring a tassel with colored pencils.

After colored pencils, I picked some other hand-drawn pieces from my boxes and admired the luxurious collection.

A collection of decorative handdrawn elements.

Who needs shopping when you can have your own personal store and draw all the good stuff for it!

Blowing Life to a Tassel

A tassel drawing can be more than a decoration only. You can have more fun by playing with it so that it will get a personality. Imagine a tassel as a person or an animal – a living thing. Here I see two tassel ladies on a stroll!

Small tassel drawings.

Now, the tassel has a mind of its own. An artist can see any simple object as an element of expression.

In the painting “Church of Saturn,” the tassels have a spirit that makes them an integral part of nature.

Oil painting in progress, painting tassels.

These tassels are organic, and the style is abstract rather than illustrative.

A detail of Saturnuksen kirkko - Church of Saturn, an oil painting on canvas by Paivi Eerola.

As artists we need to do this – go beyond what’s expected and commonly seen.

Ornamental Figure with Tassels

In the class Magical Inkdom, I draw a funny bunny with a tassel on her head and now I got the idea of making an ornamental figure so that the tassels form the body.

Small drawings inspired by antique tassels.

To make a symmetrical ornament, I traced the tassel three times on the right side marker paper. Marker paper is thin so it’s easy to see through it.

Making an ornamental drawing that has tassels.

Then I taped the paper to the window and traced the three tassels on the left side of the paper. I added additional elements to the center and some facial features too. My tassel doll!

Drawing an ornament on marker paper. Ornamental figure with tassels.

But when I continued the drawing, I got a crazy idea of a knitting hamster. Tens of years ago, I was a hamster breeder, attending shows and everything. I know those little animals well! Knitting is one of my favorite hobbies and the thought of a hamster collecting all the yarn and trying to knit it made me smile.

An ink drawing in progress. Shadowing and adding details to tassels.

Then the word “Knitwork Orange” came to my mind, and I included the orange as well!

Knitwork Orange - an ink drawing by Paivi Eerola.

Here’s me, in the middle of the night, knitting away!

Tassel Dolls on Mars

Last spring, I had a small canvas that was first just a mess. I like to start my paintings in this intuitive way and without a plan. I had some leftover paint so nothing was wasted.

Starting a small canvas painting intuitively.

The first ideas are terribly traditional and mine was to make a vase with flowers.

A small floral painting in progress.

But after this, I was taken to another planet, to Mars! There, tassel dolls met art deco, and I had a lot of fun finishing the painting with all the decorative details.

Painting decorative details in oil. Getting creative in painting.

I love the Great Gatsby movie from 2013. It has the best party scenes and good music. I had a lot of fun creating a tassel doll party that took place on another planet.

"Kultahatut Marsissa - Gatsbies on Mars", a small oil painting by Päivi Eerola, Finland.
Kultahatut Marsissa – Gatsbies on Mars, 22 x 27 cm, oil on canvas

This small piece ends the Milky Way series – 11 oil paintings from March to May. I have taken a break from creating art, but feel like I am recovering now. Thanks to making the tassel drawings for this post! I hope they work for you too!

About Art and Knitting

Yarnie - an illustration about yarn obsession by the artist Paivi Eerola.
“Yarnie” – A digital illustration about yarn obsession when you escape to an island of wool and all you feel and hear is yarn.

Knitting Through Childhood

I learned to knit before school when I was about five years old. Before that, my older sisters had taught me to crochet, but it wasn’t enough. “There will be much more stitches, and they get dropped easily,” they said. But I was determined. I sat in the kitchen with a ball of dark green light-weight yarn and thin needles that had duck heads in the other end. I wrapped the yarn around the needles and was sure that I would figure it out by myself. It must have been an endearing sight because my sisters gave up and taught me to knit.

After that, I was unstoppable. My mother taught me to make socks and mittens, and when I went to school, I learned more from there. Our local library had a couple of shelves of knitting books, and I borrowed them regularly. As a teenager, I bought a knitting machine and made a sweater in a couple of days.

A purple and green sweater inspired by abstract art.
I attended in a teenagers’ knitwear design competition in the 1980s and got a price with this sweater, inspired by abstract art!
The good thing in the 1980s fashion is that the knits were so big that we never grow out of them!

Late-Night Knitting

Like art, knitting has always been with me. But even if I have had times in my life when I haven’t created art, I have never stopped knitting. No matter what crisis I had, how busy at work I have been, there has always been time and energy for knitting. It’s still like breathing – in, out – knit, purl.

As a child, I had a phase when I dreamed about being a textile artist. But the older I have become, the more I have realized that the connection between knitting and art-making must be looser for me. In the late evenings, when the working day is over, I say good-bye to the artist in me. Then it’s time to stop producing and start consuming. I browse online yarn stores, their Instagram accounts, and Ravelry.com – the ultimate database for knitters – and plan my next projects. I watch knitting podcasts on Youtube and knit obsessively as long as I can stretch the night. I don’t think about art, and I don’t feel like an artist. By following or adapting a pattern that someone else has written makes sure that I don’t have to think but just knit.

But strangely, for each big painting, I need a lot of knitting. It’s my way of processing all the ordinary so that the extraordinary can come up.

Intuitive fair isle knitting and intuitive paintings.
One of my recent sweaters that has “intuitive fair isle” as I call the colorwork without charts.

Art and Knitting – Work and Hobby

When I started blogging over ten years ago, my blog was about knitting. At that time, I also sold handmade bags called folk bags and wool that I produced in co-operation with my friend and a few farmers. There might still be some of you who have followed me since then. Thank you for sticking around!

A photo from 2008 when I had an Etsy store that sold handmade drawstring pouches called folk bags.
Later, I wrote a pattern for them. You can purchase it here!

When I grew my artist’s identity, I wanted not to talk about knitting anymore. I needed a hobby, not another job, and I felt that knitting and fine art don’t go so well together in public. People often have a hard time understanding that art can be a real job.

A sketch and the final illustration "Yarnie" by Paivi Eerola.
“Yarnie” is based on a black and white drawing that I made last year.

But last year, I decided that it’s time to approach art with greater confidence than before. It has made me more open, and maybe it has added a bit more self-acceptance too. So yes, I am both an artist and a knitter. Art is my work, and knitting is my hobby, but I would not be able to work without the hobby.

Does this make sense to you? Let me know what you think!

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