Create Fantastic Art!

Fly to your imagination and paint the emotion.

Peony and Parakeet

What to Paint on Canvas?

This week, I invite you to think about what you should paint. It’s a general question and applies to any medium, but if you have purchased a canvas, the pressure is even higher. My story starts with dogs, and even if they don’t seem to match with the painting, they do. Read the story!

Syvällä soi - Sounds in the Deep, an oil painting on canvas by Paivi Eerola.
“Syvällä soi – Sounds in the Deep”, oil on canvas, 50 x 70 cm

Childhood Without Dog of My Own

If I had to choose one thing that dominated my childhood, it would be the yearning for a dog. When my sister was pushing me in a stroller, I was pointing and screaming “hauva,” which a Finnish word for “doggie.” “How could you instantly recognize a dog from any other animal no matter how it looked,” she wondered.

My father was a policeman, and he had trained two german shepherds a long time before I was born. But a family photo album had a few photos. “Jumi,” was the name of the more handsome one, and I must have drawn him hundreds of times with a trembling hand of a toddler. I pictured the dog standing on the top of the mountain in a sunset. It was an exotic view because there weren’t any mountains in the countryside of eastern Finland. I only saw them if I kneed down, looked up, and stretched my imagination.

Walking in Nature with Imagination

My envy and admiration for all people who had dogs grew steadily, and at the age of five, I had several that were in constant observation. One of them was Kaisa, a vet whose mother lived in a big apartment building next to our house. She had a Finnish spitz and sometimes kindly invited the children of the neighborhood for a forest walk. We were a small and noisy crowd. Everyone had their turn to hold the leash, and even if it was only a few minutes, I still remember how powerful I felt.

So even as a young teenager, I imagined dogs around me whenever I went for a walk. The boring life in a small town became much more bearable when I didn’t have to look around, but only to a close distance. There they were, two brown labrador retrievers that behaved exceptionally well no matter where I took them.

Paivi's childhood photo with roses

I preferred labradors because the royal family of England bred them. I had always wanted to be the queen of England, so my labradors certainly originated from Sandringham. My friend Anne had got a hold of a catalog of the Crufts dog show, and I excitedly picked the parents for mine. Every time I drew or knitted a dog, I tried to invent the best kennel name for me. “Starway’s” was one of my favorites. By then, my sister had married a man who had a spaniel, and from the spaniel club magazines, I found a new favorite breed: an American cocker spaniel.

Goodbye, Boredom!

The older I got, the more evident it became that I would leave my home town. Instead of frustratedly strolling in the fields and woods of the east, I would be happily hurrying on the busy streets of the south. And not alone, but with an American cocker spaniel of my own!

I would gladly say goodbye to lazy hot summer days when there was nothing else to do than examine the tussocks. When I once pointed them to my mother, she quietly said that our grass wasn’t proper like the apartment building had. But I found it much better. Instead of staring at individual blades, my imagination made wonders from the tussocks. They were luxurious carpets, cushions, and chairs, and when they looked up, I greeted them back. My grass tussocks were like dogs who had them – a flock that was always around and willing to join whatever I did.

When I got my first dog, I was already living in the south. It was an American cocker spaniel, of course. I lived in a flat, but between high buildings, there was a small wood. Unlike me, Anja had been born in an urban environment, and everything in nature wondered her. When she jumped back in surprise after seeing an ant, I realized that I was a country girl – no matter how much I loved palaces!

My next dogs have been beagles. With them, I am back in the world where looking down and examining closely is highly appreciated. Tussocks, hays, wildflowers, and brooks have returned.

What to Paint on Canvas?

In my artistic path from childhood to this day, I have thought that I should create the luxury that I don’t have. That my creativity is at its best when it produces what I miss. But in 2020, when the world quieted down, humble tussocks saw their moment. “Stop haunting me, you don’t even have a voice,” I whispered to them. “We have – and you used to listen, remember?” they responded.

And yes, when I pick the brush, I hear them again. Instead of trying to master the visual state of what I know very little of, I am painting the sounds in the deep. All that time when I wanted to be the queen of Sandringham labradors, I was, and I still am – a herder of mixed-breed tussocks!

Oil painting on canvas

How about You – What Should You Paint?

What you need to paint is not what you want to get and be, but what you have always got and been. The solution is not to find and paint what you love but to look in the opposite direction, find what’s been the most ordinary for you, even if it wouldn’t be that for others. The solution is not to paint how things look, but how they sound, smell, taste, and feel. In the book Point and Line to Plane, Wassily Kandinsky talks about releasing the inner sound of a shape.

Abstract painting in progress. Read more about what to paint on canvas.

With the tussocks, the teachings of the abstract masters Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky have been groundbreaking to me. They have enabled me to paint more freely than ever and I have also built a class Floral Freedom from these teachings. Floral Freedom is especially for you, who wants the painting to look loose and naturally abstract, but who hasn’t find satisfactory results from “just making a mess.”

Good Accidents – When to Improvise

Painting in the studio

Art is never about just making a mess. Artists who say so are just unable to put it into words. Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee were not only exceptional painters but also exceptional teachers. They defined abstract art in methods and diagrams. In Floral Freedom, you get their theories in an easily understandable form and use them to paint flowers.

In this video (after the first two minutes), Helen Mirren talks about Wassily Kandinsky’s art. She first assumed Kandinsky’s work was just improvisation – “instinctive and improvisational and wild and of the moment,” but later learned that his work is constructed with care and thought.

Here’s how she says this:

I can also relate to what Helen Mirren says about acting – that you have to give the impression of the improvisation and naturalness and learn what’s a good accident. But I also have the definition of a good accident in visual art: it’s what you have used to see and know.

I feel that I know everything about the soul of grass tussocks. When I paint them, I don’t have to worry about people not liking them, not even if someone can paint them better. This grass is not any grass but how a 5-year old Paivi saw it, walked on it, and what she imagined from it.

Oil painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I paint sounds of plants as I hear them, freely and without references. I don’t plan what to paint on a canvas, and I don’t follow any image of my mind. It feels like improvisation, but the process is technical and systematic. One shape follows another and I dive deep into the painting, creating and releasing tensions.

I am filled with excitement and emotion, but work systematically and intentionally, translating from spiritual to visual.

Syvällä soi - Sounds in the Deep, an oil painting on canvas by Paivi Eerola.

I really enjoyed painting this one – the first one of the new year! It’s called “Syvällä soi” which is a bit difficult to translate in English but it means that some are playing instruments or singing in the deep so the translation could be “Sounds in the Deep.”

Floral Freedom – Paint Dreamy Florals to Free Your Spirit

Floral Freedom, online art class by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Painting abstract florals in acrylics.

Come to learn the theories behind abstract art, and paint flowers with me – Sign up for Floral Freedom! We use acrylic paints for the projects. The class has already started, but you can still hop in. You will get the published lessons right away, and you have plenty of time to catch up and connect with me and the community. This class is comprehensive, and suitable for self-study too. Sign up now!

When You Want Your Art to Be Less Stiff

This week, I want to be direct because I feel really passionate about this: what happens when art is stiff and why it should not be. There’s too much talk about balance and composition and too little about the stiffness of the mind.

How to Be Less Stiff and Start Painting More Loosely

I know this is what you think:
“I want my art to be less stiff.”

The modern master Paul Klee would answer:
Art does not reproduce what we see; rather, it makes us see.

Let me elaborate. There’s a door between the outer and inner world. As a painter, you choose whether you step outside or inside.

You can walk outside, pick a flower, and try to reproduce what you see. It’s often the easiest way – for a teacher too – because the comparison has more absolute rights and wrongs. Yet, many who paint realistically say that their flowers look too heavy, that the details are difficult to get right, and they wish they could be looser.

Then there’s the other way. You can step in. You can paint the line, a shape, bring tension and interaction, and slowly begin to see. Flowers of the inner world are not passive nor lonely. They have no restrictions of the real world but can fly, sing, and dream!

Painting flowers so that the outcome is less stiff. From the class Floral Freedom.

When you want to see further in your artistic path, you want to step in. 

You don’t want to paint what’s already been seen, but bring out the invisible – how we feel. Life is full of sceneries that can’t be photographed but need to be painted.

Meadows of the soul.

Abstract masters Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky spent their lives figuring out how to visualize the inner world. In Floral Freedom, we apply Paul’s and Wassily’s ingenious techniques to floral art. 

I hope you will join me, pick paints and brushes, and step in. >> Sign up NOW!

New Beginnings

Has this happened to you?

I want to start a new chapter in art-making, change direction, and feel the excitement again.

Some say that this “new-beginning-thinking” is a thread for their artistry. That their problem is not to stick with one thing long enough so that the work is more coherent.

But new beginnings are built within creativity. Like nature, we need a new season now and then. In spring, trees begin to grow new leaves, and meadows new flowers. When nourished, they grow stronger and more beautiful year by year.

My new class Floral Freedom is this kind of creative nourishment. You will start building your visual language all over again. I teach both in theory and practice what I have learned from the two master abstract painters Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky.

Floral Freedom combines the intellectual and the emotional side so that you will wholeheartedly enjoy painting again. You won’t copy photos but use abstract techniques to express the flowers of the soul.

Yes, it will be a new beginning.

You will gather your paints and look at them from a new perspective.
You will paint lines and shapes with Paul’s and Wassily’s point of view.
You won’t see flowers right from the beginning but still end up with a floral painting!
You will stop dividing what’s abstract and what’s concrete,
and your art will grow from those insights.

The beginning that builds the foundation is never a thread but a strength.

We often wait for the right time to the new beginning. It’s easy to postpone it, I know. My mother passed away with too many regrets. The time never seemed to be right. A new beginning would always be somewhere in the future.

I have had a similar problem with Floral Freedom. I have wanted to build this class since 2016, after reading Paul Klee’s Pedagogical Sketchbook. But there have always been excuses – what I am capable of and what’s appropriate and safe. This summer, I even planned not to build a new class at all. I have made so many of them already.

But then I heard me saying:
“Don’t leave without teaching what you have got from Paul and Wassily! You’ll always regret not doing that!”

And yes, the better time for the class may come, but this is also a fact:
new beginnings don’t wait forever. 

As you see, Floral Freedom is a very special class. I hope you will join me, pick the paints and brushes, and give yourself the joy of a new beginning.

Black Friday Week Sale

Floral Freedom is 20% off. 
The sale ends on Monday, Nov 30, midnight PST.
The class begins on Dec 4.
>> Sign up now!

Impressionistic Floral Painting on Structure Paste

This week, I show how I made an extraordinary floral painting with acrylics and structure paste. See how I achieved the historical look!

Old Art Yearning, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola. She has used structure paste to make reliefs and a frame.

I call this piece “Old Art Yearning” because I desperately miss Europe’s palazzos and museums. It would definitely be the time to pack the bags for a few-day trip to Vienna or some other old city, but I chose differently because of the pandemic. But first, look at the interior of Palazzo Doria Pamphilj in Rome. My husband and I visited the place on June morning in 2017, and it was pleasantly quiet, just suitable for dreaming about living there in the middle of luxury.

Interiors of Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, Rome.

So, what luxurious can you do when you are asked to stay home and be safe? I decided to create something that’s like a soft drink for the old art thirst: fake but sweet and consolating!

Old Art Yearning by Paivi Eerola. A detail of an acrylic painting which has structure paste.

The idea of using structure paste is from the summer, but back then, I didn’t quite see as far as I did this week.

Structure Paste Inspiration from Clay

This summer, my friend Johanna Rytkölä, a ceramic artist ran a flower pot class for a small group. My husband made a stylish and minimalistic bonsai pot, but mine came out quite different!

Ceramic handmade flower pot.

Even if my pot was not perfect, I wanted to experiment with a 3-dimensional surface for a painting right away. I dig out a jar of structure paste that some call molding paste as well. I have blogged about the paste twice before. In 2014, I made cardboard templates to create reliefs for a mixed media piece and in another project, I made surface textures with a variety of tools.

I decided to try the template technique again, and cut simple geometric holes to a thick cardboard.

Making cardboard templates for structure paste.

Then I placed the template on the top of the painting board and filled the holds with structure paste.

Filling cardboard templates with structure paste. Making reliefs for an acrylic painting.

I wasn’t completely satisfied with the edges of the structure paste shapes and put the board away.

Acrylic Painting on Structure Paste

But now, when I wanted to create something with historical feel, I remembered the board, and started painting on it. The small imperfections didn’t bother me so much anymore. All pieces can’t be so serious anyway. There has to be some room for creative play too!

Painting on structure paste with acrylics.

I decided to paint something loose and impressionistic that would still look decorative.

A floral acrylic painting in progress.

On the reliefs, the strokes were sharper and more controlled than on the background.

Painting a florals on structure paste.

But before I made the finishing touches, the piece looked too bare to me.

A floral panel that has structure paste shapes.

It needed a frame!

Making a Frame from Structure Paste

I still had some structure paste left and I found a piece of cardboard too. I traced the outline of the painting on a soft foam board and used that as a template for the center.

Making a frame for the painting from structure paste.

It’s not easy to make a smooth surface of the paste so I didn’t even try. Historical frames had all kinds of textures so the hills and valleys would look ok when painted.

A structure paste frame left to dry.

I painted the outer edge of the frame black and the inner edge with gold paint.

Painting a frame with gold and black acrylic paints.

The transition from black to gold became lovely when smudging the paint with fingers. I also added some gold mica flakes on the top of the gold parts and near the edge.

Adding gold mica flakes to a handmade frame.

Then the painting got some finishing touches and gold paint too.

Painting golden details on a structure paste reliefs.

I also added some acrylic paint on the frame.

A Mini-Monet for Old Art Yearners!

The finished piece is a bit clumsy, but I love the historical feel.

Old Art Yearning, an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola. The frame and the reliefs are made of structure paste.

It’s my mini-Monet!

A detail of Old Art Yearning, a floral impressionistic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The unevenness of the structure paste in the edges looks quite good with the gold paint.

A detail of Old Art Yearning, a floral impressionistic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The frame was intentionally placed so that it’s not quite in the middle. This way I could make the piece more interesting. I really like how these painted spots look like nails or blueberries!

A detail of Old Art Yearning, a floral impressionistic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Just cardboard, structure paste, fake gold, acrylics, but I enter the gentle world of old art by looking at it!

A detail of Old Art Yearning, a floral painting with a handmade frame by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I display this piece in our library room which has more old-fashioned style than my studio.

Paivi Eerola and her paintings.

My painting has simple strokes but it’s still romantic. I have bent the principles of abstract art to serve the impressionistic style. It’s so much fun to paint freely like this!

Paint Dreamy Florals to Free Your Spirit!

Floral Freedom – the floral class based on Paul Klee’s and Wassily Kandinsky’s insights on abstract art – will begin on Dec 4, 2021. In this class flowers are not just passive decorations, but they fly, sing, and dream! >> Sign up Now!

Floral Freedom, an online painting class by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Floral Freedom is 20% off for the rest of November, so now is a good time to sign up!
>> Sign up now!

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