Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Is Your Painting Introvert or Extrovert?

This week, I talk about the personality of paintings. Some are extroverts, some introverts!

Kotona Plutossa - At Home in Pluto, 90 x 140 cm. Oil painting by Paivi Eerola.
Kotona Plutossa – At Home in Pluto, oil on canvas, 90 x 140 cm

This oil painting, “Kotona Plutossa – At Home in Pluto,” is a part of my series Linnunrata – Milky Way, where I explore planets and outer space. (See previous work: the Earth here, Venus here, and the Sun here!)

Many Inspiration Sources

Earlier this year, I saw a documentary about Pluto, and it felt more familiar than many other planets that I have only read about. In the series, I imagine how the Milky Way could bloom and only take a small dose of the facts about the Planet.

Pluto’s ice volcanoes started the painting, but then I brought in more ideas. The central idea for this painting was home decor. I love mid-century modern houses and furniture, and many of the shapes have a similar feel.

A detail of Kotona Plutossa - At Home in Pluto. Oil painting by Paivi Eerola. An example of an introvert painting. Read more about introverts and extroverts!

Tricia Guild’s fabrics were another inspiration source. I have been her fan for decades and don’t even have to look at her photos to know what kind of florals she would like to bring to the painting.

Introvert or Extrovert? – Changing the Approach

Even if Pluto is a dwarf planet, this is my biggest painting so far. My style is detailed, and there’s a lot of space in 90 x 140 cm (about 35,5 x 55 inches). There were moments when I felt very unsure about how to proceed because when I asked the painting, it stayed quiet. “Can you hear me, Pluto?” I whispered several times. No response.

This painting clearly was an introvert. I felt like I wanted to quit.

I recognize this syndrome – what I call Big Picture Syndrome – by its signs:

  • You feel the need to look at the piece only from the big picture perspective, as a quick stroke here and another there would magically make everything work. In truth, you don’t yet have a clue what the carrying theme for the piece is, and should discover it by making the details more inspiring.
  • You feel negative about your potential as an artist but try to convince yourself that the piece is good enough. That someone will like it. And at the same time, you know it’s only an excuse for quitting. The truth is that some pieces are harder than others. Some paintings are extroverts that begin to speak to you right away. And some are introverts that need more time to open up. No need to blame yourself for that. Just keep working and trying to figure out what the piece wants!

“Can you hear me, Pluto?” I asked after bringing in new ideas and adjusting colors and shapes. I was relieved when she answered shyly “Pluto hears.” And when I finished the painting, it felt like coming home.

A detail of Kotona Plutossa - At Home in Pluto. Oil painting by Paivi Eerola. An example of an introvert painting. Read more about introverts and extroverts in this blog post!

Listening to an introvert painting is always helpful for learning new things about yourself. I became more aware of how much textiles and fabrics inspire me and I want to show that more later too. If you only accept extrovert art, moving forward is more difficult.

Childhood of an Introvert

Another thing that came to my mind was this small crayon piece from about 40 years ago. ( Read more about this one here!)

A childhood crayon drawing by Paivi Eerola.

When I put it here, I am astonished at how similar these two pieces look. No wonder she was so shy, there are a lot of years between us!

A Finnish artist Paivi Eerola and her big painting "Kotona Plutossa - At Home in Pluto." She talks about paintings being introverts or extroverts. How do you know if your painting is introvert or extrovert?

Everything has changed, and nothing has changed over the years, isn’t that so? Introvert or extrovert – try it!

Preparing For the Solo Show

My first solo show Linnunrata will be in June, and it’s keeping me super busy! I still have a couple of paintings that are not finished, and there are lots of edges to paint, hanging wires to attach, and varnishing to do. My current plan is to show 18 paintings, and every single one still has something that I need to do before the show. And there are posters to design, marketing to do, a lot of work!

Linnunrata will be at Gallery K, Tikkurila, Vantaa in June 3-19, 2022.

Creative Take on Damask Motifs

This week, we look at damask motifs from a new perspective. I challenge you to make this traditional motif your own and use it in your art!

Colored pencil art inspired by decorative motifs. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

It all started from a dream I saw a few days ago. “You should wear more decorative clothes, Paivi,” I was telling myself. “Like the old historical dress that you had at a ball as a teenager.”

Green damask fabric

I still have the dress. It has damask motifs – woven ornamental patterns that seem to never go out of date (more about their history). The idea of perfecting not only the actual swirls but also the shapes between is a good drawing practice that doesn’t have to be boring at all!

Illustration inspired by damask motifs. Colored pencils art by Paivi Eerola.

This week, I played with colored pencils mostly, but in 2015, I made a mixed media piece called Rococo. So check out this post too!

Rococo, mixed media collage with damask motifs
Rococo, 2015

Damask Lady

The reason for my dream was an unfinished page in my colored pencil journal. I had started it at the end of last year but found it terribly uninspiring. I didn’t feel any connection with the figure, and she looked like someone had forced her to be there. In a way, that had happened. After a series of big paintings, I was knackered, as readers from the UK and Australia would describe. I had no motivation to take a brush and only a little to do something with colored pencils.

First, I added a bit of watercolor to cover white and then colored intuitively without any predefined ideas or models.

Sketching by coloring. A journal spread in progress.

Sometimes it’s just that when you are tired, it’s best to leave the piece and come back later, even if it would be a tiny spread in a small journal. After the dream, I knew what to do: play with damask motifs!

Damask lady illustration in a journal. Colored pencil art by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I feel drawn to this damask lady. She looks both curious and self-confident – everything I would like to be in this new year!

Looser Damask Motifs – Nature

I got so inspired by coloring the swirly lady that the next spread was born quickly. Again, first some watercolor splashes, and then details with colored pencils.

If you compare the flowery spread above with the portrait below, you see the change in looseness. The flower is much freer than the lady, but I like both. I like how damask motifs can be seen as a part of nature – snow on trees, water drops, butterfly wings and their spots. But I also like how they can be more architecture- and design-related and a part of human fantasies and mysteries.

Damask lady from a colored pencil diary of Paivi Eerola.

Which take do YOU like more?

Sketching a Damask Motif

Next, I wanted to go even further in stiffening the expression. I would design a damask-inspired motif so that there would be no looseness at all.

Designing a damask motif.

I started by sketching the motif in the middle of the spread, using the fold as a guide to achieving the required symmetry. In damask motifs, the negative – the shape of the background – is as important as the positive is. So after the careless sketch, I then went through the surrounding area and adjusted its swirls.

Sketching a damask motif.

This motif felt like a forbidden fruit. I was surprised to hear myself saying: “You have crossed the line now, Paivi. Even if you always paint the inside, now it will be reverse – illustrating the outside world.” I didn’t get this first at all – I thought I was just drawing was a simple flowery ornament inspired by damask motifs!

But when I was making the finishing touches, I realized that my drawing did illustrate the outside world – our living room: a wooden ceiling, windows on the left, a wall rug on the right, a vanda orchid hanging without a pot, and the snake plants growing lower.

Damask motif in an illustration. Colored pencil art by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s a picture of my vanda when it was blooming in 2020!

Vanda orchid.

This spread is not loosely made at all, and yet I find that the looseness is how I unconsciously picked and interpreted the subject.

Colored pencil journal spread by Paivi Eerola.

Which of the pieces of this post inspire you the most?
Are you inspired by the stiffness or looseness?
How do you want your damasks to look?

Please leave a comment! It would be so interesting to know!

Building and Breaking – Revealing Artistic Potential

This week, I talk about the hidden potential behind artworks and how we can reveal that by not only building but also breaking.

Modern Maximalist

Modern Maximalist, a surface pattern collection by Paivi Eerola.

I have just designed a collection of surface patterns called Modern Maximalist. It’s drawn digitally in Adobe Illustrator and more modern than my work usually is. However, I love modern, especially the 1960s and 1970s styles. I was born at the end of the 1960s, live in a house built in the same era, and my love for retro has been too hidden in my art. But still, I didn’t want to design the collection based only on the images of others, but to build a bridge from my art to design. So, most of the motifs were based on this watercolor painting that I made a couple of weeks ago!

Maximalist, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola
Maximalist, watercolor, 37 x 55 cm.

More Artistic Potential by Building and Breaking

Often when we create art, we build. We communicate the big picture and compose bits and pieces so that they work together. We get happy accidents (and sometimes some not-so-happy ones) and aim to make an image where the overall atmosphere takes over the details.

But to reveal more, we also need to break. Then the romantic flower that was painted to represent a dreamer, becomes a more stylish and symbolic figure.

Avant Garden, a surface pattern by Paivi Eerola. From the collection Modern Maximalist.

Yellow flowers and all the yellow washes can be more geometric when they are away from the big picture.

Floral Harlequin, a surface pattern by Paivi Eerola. From the collection Modern Maximalist.
Pansy Power, a surface pattern by Paivi Eerola. From the collection Modern Maximalist.

The juicyness of the fruits and other decorative details can be reorganized.

Fruity Living, a surface pattern by Paivi Eerola. From the collection Modern Maximalist.
Juicy Breakfast, a surface pattern by Paivi Eerola. From the collection Modern Maximalist.
Spiritual Refresh, a surface pattern by Paivi Eerola. From the collection Modern Maximalist.

Picking Ideas from Other Images

We can also add more fuel, and break and pick from other images. This design called “List Maxima” uses motifs from the painting, but also the idea of a list that came from playing with the name of the collection, and fashion pictures that showed puffy and full dresses of the maximalist style.

List Maxima, a surface pattern by Paivi Eerola. From the collection Modern Maximalist.

By breaking and picking, we also develop our ability to curate – to see which inspiration suits what we have already done. It’s an essential part of a style-development and and growing artistic vision.

I saw a pleated skirt on Prince Charles’s wife Camilla Parker-Bowles, not a maximalist style at all, but wonderfully modern so I broke and picked the image and got creative from that.

Camilla Moe, a surface pattern by Paivi Eerola. From the collection Modern Maximalist.

Artists often say to me: “I need to focus!” But by focusing on narrowing, we non-creatively force ourselves to do one thing. By breaking and picking, we can curate all kinds of inspiration and be creative so that it grows our artistic vision.

Sweet Sensations, a surface pattern by Paivi Eerola. From the collection Modern Maximalist.

Revealing the Artistic Potential

No matter where you are in your artistic journey, your art benefits from the idea of building and breaking. Build to go deeper into the experience and break to reveal more ideas and potential! In practice, building often means painting, and breaking is often connected to drawing – even if, of course, you can use any techniques that suit you.

What was first a watercolor painting, could now be a quilt!

A quilt mockup from the fabrics designed by Päivi Eerola. From the collection Modern Maximalist. Read her blog post about revealing artistic potential.

Building and breaking can alternate endlessly when we combine new ideas and results with old ones.

Printed surface patterns. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here I am breaking and picking to create something new into my art journal.

A paper collage in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s what I built by cutting and glueing new prints and old hand-decorated papers.

A paper collage by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

And I couldn’t resist checking if this could work as a repeat too!

A surface pattern from collage art. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I hope you found this post about building and breaking inspiring!


Need help for finding your artistic potential and building artistic vision? Sign up for my coaching program called Artistic Vision!

Three Design Styles, a Gelli Plate, and a Brush

One of my goals for this year is to learn surface pattern design. I want to move back and forth between art and design, and add more design to this blog as well. This week, I picked three of my favorite designers and played with Gelli Plate to imitate their style. These don’t replicate any of their work, just their style.

Three different design styles, monoprinting with a Gelli plate. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Three Designers from Three Centuries

My three favorite designers are Tricia Guild, William Morris, and Wassily Kandinsky.

Tricia Guild a designer from the UK, and she has a company Designer’s Guild, and I have been her fan since the 1990s when I discovered her book Design and Detail. It’s been my interior design guide for 30 years, and all my homes have got ideas from that book.

William Morris is also English, but he lived earlier, in the 19th century. Two rooms of our home have curtains designed by his company, and I regularly admire their clever repeats and ornamental shapes.

Wassily Kandinsky was more of an artist than a designer, but he taught designers in a famous Bauhaus art school in the early 20th century. For me, he is the father of modern design. I see his paintings in the works of most midcentury modern designers. Lately, he has felt even closer, when I have been built a class Floral Freedom that is based on his and Paul Klee’s teachings.

Who are your favorite designers?

Three Designers – Three Color Palettes

I have always liked making hand-decorated papers. Actually, my most popular blog post is this ancient one: How to Make Your Own Patterned Paper from 2010. So let’s get back to basics and make some!

First, I painted the backgrounds with acrylic paints and a flat brush. This set a color palette for each paper.

Three painted backgrounds. The backgrounds set a color palette for the papers.

Muted pastels and rich darker tones remind me of Tricia Guild. She often uses stripes or checks too. William Morris has greyish colors and many of his designs have dark backgrounds. Wassily Kandinsky often had a very light background in his paintings.

Three Design Styles – Three Kinds of Shapes

I continued each of the papers by mono-printing motifs with a Gelli Plate. For Tricia Guild’s style, I used a small plate and painted the motifs with a brush on a plate, then pressed the plate on the paper. Because Tricia’s style is often quite relaxed, there was less pressure for perfect outlines.

Monoprinting with a small Gelli plate. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

William Morris’s designs are very sharp and ornamental. I cut out ornaments freehand from paper and used both negative and positive shapes. I used both a big Gelli Plate and a small one.

Monoprinting with Gelli plates. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s how the paper looked after mono-printing.

Monoprinting with Gelli plates. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Wassily Kandinsky’s shapes are mostly geometric, so I cut templates that had circles, lines, squares and triangles.

Making a template for monoprinting. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s how the paper looked after mono-printing.

Monoprinting geometric shapes.

Three Design Styles – Three Levels of Detail

After mono-printing, I finished the papers by painting. I used a narrow brush and made small tweaks only.

Adding details to a monoprint with a brush. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I like Tricia Guild’s designs because there modern meets classic and historical. They feel luxurious, but still comfortable. They don’t require similar perfection from the space than William Morris’s designs. So I didn’t perfect every shape or line, just added a bit more realism to the floral motifs. Here’s the finished paper.

A patterned paper inspired by Tricia Guild's design style. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

William Morris’s designs are full of outlined motifs, and I connect them with books. “For people who have a library,” I wrote in a notebook that I keep for studying. But I quite liked my mono-print, and didn’t want to stiffen everything. So I only outlined a part of the motifs, and added some small dots and thin lines inside the shapes.

Finishing a monoprint by painting. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s the finished paper. I really like the big yellow motif! Maybe that could be a part of my future designs.

A patterned paper inspired by William Morris's design style. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Wassily Kandinsky’s work didn’t lack details either. But if William Morris is for bookworms, then maybe Wassily is for systematic thinkers – for more scientific than humanistic introverts, and for those who love mathematics.

Adding details to a monoprint with a brush. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I used the monoprint as a foundation for the composition of shapes and followed Wassily’s advice and ideas from his book Point and Line to Plane, the book that I teach in the class Floral Freedom as well. Here’s the finished paper.

A patterned paper inspired by Wassily Kandinsky's design style. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Three Wallpapers

I wanted to see how these papers could work as repeats. I didn’t have time to play with the repeats properly, but here are some quickly made images to demonstrate how the motifs would look in a smaller scale, for example, as a wallpaper.

A sketch for a surface design by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
A sketch for a surface design by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
A sketch for a surface design by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

It was a full day, but I had fun making these! Tell me, which three designers would you pick?

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