Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

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!

Kaunosielu – Painting and Drawing Sensitivity

Kaunosielu is a Finnish word for which I don’t know an English equivalent. It means a dreamer who loves beauty, but the word has an ironic undertone. This romantic soul, alienated from everyday life, cares little about taking care of practical matters and frequently stops to admire the beauty around her.

Kaunosielu, oil on canvas, 70 x 60 cm

I’ve been thinking about people’s yards in my neighborhood a lot lately. The new houses have a small lawn area, a wooden patio, and a row of white cedars. These homes are advertised as “easy-to-maintain yards” in real estate ads. And yet, it often happens that when time passes, a few violets or a peony bush appear. It makes me believe that we all are “kaunosielu people” who have a sensitive heart and eye for beauty.

Analyzing a painting.

So my Kaunosielu painting is dedicated to that part of you who stops after seeing something beautiful. This topic was challenging for me because I usually express movement. Here, however, it’s all about staying rather than leaving and looking rather than running away.

Inspiration from Pastel Drawings

I am making a series of paintings for an exhibition called “In the Mood of Albert Edelfelt” and I have browsed a lot of Albert Edelfelt’s (1854-1905) works. Surprisingly, his pastel drawings fascinate me the most. Look at this woman, for example – or rather – her dress!

Albert Edelfelt, Dalinin kevätlaulu. Pastels on paper.
Dalinin kevätlaulu – Dalin’s Spring Song by Albert Edelfelt

I see a similarity with flowers in old portraits. The outfits are pleated like the petals of ​​flowers and the lines form interesting patterns.

I also started using chalk brushes in the ProCreate app. Here is a digital pastel drawing: peonies and strawberries.

A digital pastel drawing created in ProCreate. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.

I have done oil pastel work for the course Innovative Portraits, but now I dug out the soft pastels.

Drawing with soft pastels.

Soft pastels are more chalky than oil pastels and maybe a bit more difficult too because, unlike oil pastels, soft pastels also need fixative.

A pastel drawing in a sketchbook. Floral abstract by Paivi Eerola.

This is just a small notebook and a small piece but I like to practice between bigger paintings.

Kaunosielu on Canvas

My painting Kaunosielu is painted in oil, but it is close to pastel artworks in terms of color scheme and the use of lines.

Päivi Eerola and her painting Kaunosielu

The painting is inspired by a lovely pastel drawing by Albert Edelfelt called “At the Window.” I was lucky enough to see this work authentically in the Albert Edelt exhibition of the Ateneum Art Museum. This piece is 68 x 62 cm, so it’s quite large for a work drawn on paper. And look at that frame!

Albert Edelfelt, At the Window, pastel on paper.

I was especially fascinated by the composition, and as soon as I started my painting, I felt that now it was coming: Kaunosielu! I had been planning to do a piece called that for a long time.

Abstract oil painting in progress.

I wanted to incorporate haziness and vagueness into this painting, but at the same time use strong variations in darkness. With the big differences in color value, I wanted to create a sense of presence similar to Albert Edelfelt’s paintings.

Abstract floral oil painting called Kaunosielu in progress.

When I took this photo in the morning sun, it felt like the moment stopped and two Kaunosielus came into the picture.

Paivi Eerola and her painting Kaunosielu.

This photo shows so well how darkness and light go hand in hand.

This Week’s Challenges for Your Art-Making

  • Empathize with the kaunosielu personality: Examine what it means to be an impractical but sensitive sielu – soul!
  • Examine old portrait paintings. Dind the similarities between flowers and luxurious dresses.
  • Be bolder with contrasts. Enhance your expression by combining pastel colors with really dark blues and browns.
  • Experiment with soft pastels or oil pastels or mimic their effects with other art supplies.

I hope all these tips inspire you to start creating!

Get Creative in Drawing Ornaments!

This month, the focus is on art history. Art history is often talked about in a very serious tone, but let’s examine it through imagination and start by drawing ornaments!

Ornament Tells a Story from Childhood

It’s fascinating that even if the ornaments are stiff and organized compositions, one can express a whole story.

Strawberries and whipped cream, an illustrative ornament by Päivi Eerola, Finland.

The background of this drawing is a funny story from my childhood. When the school asked each student’s favorite food, I answered “Mansikoita ja kermavaahtoa!” – Strawberries and whipped cream” while the others listed macaroni dishes or meatballs. Both the teacher and the students were quite shocked by the answer, but I wondered how anyone would prefer to eat something so modest and usual.

This story tells a lot about how I’ve always wanted to get away from the mundane. I still want to draw things so that they look like a luxurious celebration rather than a gray everyday life. I like drawing jewels, lace, floral motifs, and swirls, and you can have a lot of those on the ornaments.

A closeup of an ornament, drawn in ProCreate by Paivi Eerola.

I often want to include people or animals too. For example here, I wanted to make the whisk half-human, and draw two fairies that enjoy the dessert.

A closeup of an ornament, drawn in ProCreate by Paivi Eerola.

The method that I teach for human poses in the course Doll World was very helpful here.

Inspiration from Antiques, Old Buildings, and Paintings

There are plenty of ornaments in my photo archive. When I visit old buildings, I go through doors, ceilings, wall panels, and floors, looking for nice ornaments.

Ornaments of the doors in Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy.
From Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy.

I also love to examine antiques closely.

Items from the antique collection of the Turku castle.
From the collection of the Turku castle, Finland.

Old paintings often have lovely frames. Whenever I photograph one, I always try to include the frame in the picture.

Pietro Perugino's painting and the beautiful frame. Uffizi gallery, Florence, Italy.
Pietà by Pietro Perugino, oil on wood, 1493-1494, photographed in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.

This frame is like an ornament representing a palace!

Lots of Simple Shapes

The decorative appearance of the ornaments can mislead you into overestimating their complexity. When an ornament is taken apart, the shapes can be quite simple.

Ornamental frame, a detail.
Ornamental frame from Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki

I love this kind of sophistication based on quantity and repetition, with which you can express anything – humorous subjects …

Smileys, an ornamental illustration by Paivi Eerola.

… or more serious.

Peace, an illustration by Paivi Eerola. Two fairies form an ornament.

This example shows well that you can also express light when drawing ornaments.

Ornaments Can Both Hide and Reveal

I am fascinated by the fact that although the subject can be drowned in decorative forms, it can also be brought out more directly and more concisely than in a regular drawing. Time travel to the past can become surreal when the horizon disappears and the items are arranged as part of a floating structure.

Combining ornament and imagination. A black and white line drawing by Paivi Eerola.

Ornaments as Collage Art

If drawing the whole ornament in one go feels too demanding, remember that the ornaments can also be collage art. You can glue individual elements so that they form a decorative tree or medallion. I have put together many kinds of ornaments from hand-drawn animals and hand-decorated papers.

Collage art in an art journal.
From one of my art journals.

You can also scan or photograph the drawings and assemble the ornament digitally with an image processing program. Here are animal figures and flowers from the course Animal Inkdom and a teacup from the course Magical Inkdom.

A digital collage of hand-drawn elements, a fun ornament with animals. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
Digital collage composed in Photoshop from hand-drawn items.

Drawing Ornaments is Expressing the World

After working with ornaments for a while, you begin to realize that the world is largely based on them. Surface patterns are everywhere. The beauty of organic forms can be found in all living things.

A drawing full of ornaments. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.

Ornaments build a bridge between the living and the non-living. They make the living an object and the object alive.

Hidden Love for Ornaments and How it Shows

I think that many of us have an innate need to design ornaments. Maybe you dream about designing fabrics or have a huge stash of them. Maybe you collect jewelry or save photos of them. Maybe you feel that something is lacking if you only draw or paint complete images and are not able to rearrange the composition so that it’s something more stylish and less representational.

I only realized this tendency of mine when I made ornaments as part of the illustration for a children’s book. Back then, I used transparent marker paper to design the symmetry, and my desk was full of different versions.

Drawing ornaments on marker paper

One day when picking the pen, I suddenly felt happy and meaningful: “I should do this more!” Since then, I have not underestimated even the smallest encounters with ornaments.

Drawing Ornaments Inspired by Embroidery

I relax from my work as an artist by doing cross-stitch and those projects also inspired me to draw ornaments.

Drawing an embroidery inspired ornament.

See here how to draw and color an embroidery-inspired ornament – Doodler’s Sampler Step by Step!

Drawing Ornaments without Perfect Symmetry

I drew the last ornament with the ProCreate app. The good things about it are that the background can be kept separate so that the background colors can be varied and it is easy to create symmetry. However, I think completely symmetrical ornaments are a bit too stiff and boring, so I also made quite a lot of asymmetry for this ornament.

Strawberries and whipped cream, an ornamental illustration by Paivi Eerola, Finland.

I hope you will start drawing ornaments right away whatever technique you choose!

Related Courses

Fantastic Watercolor Sceneries

This week, we explore watercolor sceneries. Landscapes have always been an uncomfortable theme for me, but despite that, I consider myself to be some kind of landscape painter. Even this digital watercolor painting is a landscape.

Watercolor garden, a digital painting in ProCreate by Paivi Eerola, Finland.
A digital watercolor painting in Procreate

Here I mixed the memories of the sunny days of the last fall with the eager wait for the upcoming blooming season.

What Do Landscapes Mean to You?

I think that landscapes are relevant to any growing artist. It is important to look at your relationship with basic themes such as:

  • human or animal – portrait
  • inanimate object – still-life
  • nature – landscape

Of these, I have the closest relationship with the landscape, and through that, I also have a special relationship with places.

Hello Fall, a watercolor painting. See more watercolor sceneries by Paivi Eerola.
“Hello Fall”, a watercolor painting from 2019. See the video of me painting this!

Even if I take photos of interesting sceneries, I am not at all enthusiastic about copying the landscape as it is. I’m a romantic who sees even the ugliest grass field as an exciting jungle. I often crouch down to explore the world from the perspective of a modest plant, where everything looks big and grand.

Spring flowers

The landscape can also be a stage for an event. When I looked out the window of my room as a child, I was saddened by the fact that nothing was happening in the small area of ​​detached houses. However, I paid attention to the house visible on the hill and how its roof seemed to change color in different lighting and in different seasons.

This kind of slow dynamics characteristic of the landscape is fascinating because when we paint we are not prisoners of time. We can fill the view with all kinds of activity. Various colors and states of one object can be gathered and everything can be lifted into flight and movement.

Creating watercolor sceneries in ProCreate.
Creating watercolor sceneries in ProCreate. Here I am working on the details. With two fingers, you can easily zoom in to focus on one detail and then quickly zoom back to the big picture.

By thinking about what a landscape means to me, I have built a bridge to my childhood and enabled creative play.

From Traditional Landscapes to Expanded Sceneries

Even if I now see playfulness in landscapes, it took me a long time to realize that traditional landscape painting can be expanded. You can choose to express a real place, but make a completely own interpretation of it.

Return of the Summer Cloud, oil on canvas, by Paivi Eerola, Finland.
“Return of the Summer Cloud,” oil on canvas, 2023. inspired by the old gardens of the area where I live. See this post to read more about this painting and making the fantasy out of your surroundings.

For me, watercolors have played a key role in this realization. In 2018, I started making small panorama paintings, in which I painted holiday travel memories, picking up details here and there from the photos as if reconstructing the place.

Small watercolor panoramas. See more watercolor sceneries by Paivi Eerola!

See this post to read more about these watercolor panoramas!

Holding a small watercolor painting.

I also had a small sketchbook where I made watercolor sceneries, some realistic, some fantasy. See this post to watch a video about keeping a watercolor diary!

Florence, Italy in a watercolor journal. By Paivi Eerola.
Florence, Italy – From the course Watercolor Journey

And of course, I also made the course Watercolor Journey from my insights.

In this course, you travel between imagination, memories, and reality. >> Buy here!

The Journey Continues

At the moment I am painting a small ditch, from which I have grown a beautiful landscape on a large canvas.

By the ditch.

In the painting, a lot is happening and nothing is static or insignificant.

Oil painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola.
Oil painting in progress.

In art, the only limit is our imagination. It doesn’t matter where we live, in our paintings we can make it the place we want to travel to next!

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