Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Bringing Old-World Feel to Abstract Floral Painting

This week, let’s dive into the old-world feel and get inspired by the opera singer Edita Gruberová!

Venuksen satakieli - Nightingale of Venus, oil on canvas, by Paivi Eerola. Old-world feel in a floral abstract painting.
Venuksen satakieli – Nightingale of Venus, oil on canvas, 60 x 40 cm.

Ideas Behind the Painting

I listened to the opera singer Edita Gruberová (1946-2021) while working on this painting. Her version of the famous aria Queen of the Night from the opera Magic Flute is exquisite. Gruberová’s voice is partly like a bird’s not a human’s voice at all, and the aria brings that up well. The music editor Outi Paananen calls her a nightingale of Slovakia.

The transformation from a human to a bird felt inspiring. Maybe I could do a transformation of a painting so that my free and careless strokes would turn into decorative swirls, adding an old-world feel to an abstract floral painting. I had done something similar just recently but in a much smaller piece. See this blog post where I revamped a flower painting! From that experiment, I knew that it would take both time and patience. In a bigger piece, I could also get lost in the details so that the painting becomes confusing.

Before listening to Edita Gruberová, I already had a lot of ideas, collected in the blog post called Pink Inspiration. And now I wanted to add her and her birds to the painting too. I heard Edita’s story from Outi Paananen’s excellent radio program “Narrin aamulaulu” (in Finnish) on the Finnish Broadcasting Company. She had a clear artistic vision and strong willpower, and she demanded a lot of herself. It inspired me to challenge myself too.

Bringing Old-World Feel – 2 Tips!

In the past, painters often started with sketches and made detailed underpaintings with two or three colors. But a looser approach is not an enemy to the old-world feel.

Intuitive painting process - from the background to the details. Early stages of an unfinished painting.

When you want to bring an old-world feel to an abstract painting, two things are the most important:

  • Blurry on the bottom! Start from the background with soft transitions from light to dark, add blurry shapes, and paint like you would see the scenery from a far distance.
  • Sharp on the top! Add sharp shapes and lines on the top of blurry ones. You can sharpen some blurry shapes but do it only partly, leaving some parts more undefined. But most importantly, let sharp lines and shapes sing the melody of their own. If the background is the orchestra, the top layer is the singer that has a melody of her own.
Guideline for an old-world look

The thickness of the lines can change in places and there can be decorative dots too.

Timelessness Takes Time

It’s always tempting to get the piece finished quickly, but to get the sense of timelessness, the time has to stop while painting. So, I focused on tiny details and immersed myself in building a wondrous world with curves and swirls.

Old-world feel in curves and swirls. A detail of an oil painting by Paivi Eerola.

My lines are like old-fashioned handwriting in places. I have practiced them by drawing for a few years. Any note or waste paper can be used for practicing! I often doodled on planner pages.

Intuition and the Ability to (Not to!) See

As usual, I didn’t use any direct reference photos for the painting but worked intuitively. However, I tried to reduce the human ability to see ordinary concrete objects like flowers, faces, or such in simple forms. For a long time, I have thought that the ability to see is a part of creativity. But the more I create, the less I need the ability, at least in the first place. Seeing too soon makes me hurry and my art much less unique. So I try to let the shapes fly free and the big picture appear without too much forcing and seeing.

A detail of Venuksen satakieli - Nightingale of Venus, oil on canvas, by Paivi Eerola.

During the process, a little bird-like mesh appeared on the right. When I was making the final touches, and intentionally made him a partner in the center.

A detail of Venuksen satakieli - Nightingale of Venus, oil on canvas, by Paivi Eerola. How to bring an old-world feel with detailed strokes on abstract painting.

Sadly, Edita died last year, just before I discovered her, so I can’t send her a photo. But I want to honor her with this blog post and ask you to listen to her singing on Youtube. Isn’t that inspiring!

A Series in Progress

I have been painting like mad this month because I have to get everything finished for my solo show in June very soon. So, there are lots of paintings in progress in the studio!

Artist Paivi Eerola in her studio.

Easter was mostly spent with brushes, and if this wasn’t my ultimate passion, I would be quite exhausted already! Also, seeing the flow of wonderful creations from the students in my community Bloom and Fly energizes me a lot.

Let’s keep creating and inspiring each other!

Pop Music in Art Journal

This week – turn some pop music on and start art journaling!

Since I started working full-time as an artist in 2014, my taste for music has gone wider. Listening to different genres has enriched not only my life but also my art. Music has taken me to all kinds of visual worlds. Even one sound can bring color or a shape to mind.

Music in art journal. Create music-inspired pages.

I have an old book as a music-inspired art journal. I like how the variety of music is shown on its pages. Now I wanted to make a spread inspired by Asian pop.

Sometimes Music is a Human, Other Times a Machine

Asian pop music is fun to listen and very easy-going – like an acquaintance who is always ready for a visit to a candy shop and to have a light conversation about current movies.

But when I paint big paintings, I prefer music that’s more like a vehicle – no melodies, only interesting sounds that make me go deeper and deeper in concentration.

Abstract oil painting in progress.

Without a repeating chorus and clear rhythm, I don’t feel the need to express the music or paint at its speed. That’s how I have become a fan of contemporary classics that I used to find too boring.

Pop Music in Art Journal – Playtime with a Friend

But this week, I wanted my friend back. I went to the Finnish radio website and turned on the newest of “Papananaaman K-Pop Show” which plays current Asian pop. My candy store was the box where I keep my red, pink, purple, and orange colored pencils.

A box of red colored pencils and how to use them in an art journal.

My music-inspired pages are in the “beautiful mess” style that I show step-by-step in an art journal mini-class called Music. It’s relaxing to create step by step and not worry too much about the “proper” supplies. I played with black pens, stamping inks, and the shortest pencils.

Making a beautiful mess with the leftovers of art supplies.

When I create canvas paintings, I use oil paints, but acrylics are great for this kind of messy play.

Making a beautiful mess. Painting in progress.

The spread started as red, but I then introduced a wider range of candy colors gradually. This mono-tone approach is great when you want to keep things simple first, and then splash the colors in.

Expressing pop music in art journal.

I like the candy colors and the informal look of the finished spread – pop music in an art journal!

Music-inspired art journal spread. Asian pop played in the background.

I showed the spread to my Blythe dolls and they also gave their approval: “If that’s how you see Asian pop, we can live with that.”

Blythe dolls and a music-inspired art journal.

Maybe these dolls have made me listen to Asian pop in the first place! One thing so often leads to another.

Music in Art Journal – Step by Step!

Music art journal mini-class

The art journal mini-class Music is now available as an individual class. But you have to be quick – it will go away on Feb 7! >> Buy here!

Start a Music-Inspired Art Journal!

Paivi Eerola with her journals, holding a music-inspired art journal.

In 2020, I made a mini-class for a collaboration project that included several artists. Each picked a topic that raised the feeling of gratitude.

I chose music. I had just seen a documentary about a musician called Avicii. He was a young Swedish boy who got into composing electronic music and, within a few years, became a world star. His story ended too soon, though.

This month, I read a biography about Avicii. The book had more explanations for why the life that everybody envied was unbearable. But still, his music feels pure and bright.

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.

What song takes you back in time?
What colors do you find there?

Avicii composed dance music but was inspired by folk songs and old pop music that his father used to play. He open-mindedly mixed different styles and genres.

Which things can you bring from the past to refresh your art?
Which ideas from your queue could you combine?

Avicii started a song from a few sounds and short melodies and then layered them together.

Pick a pen and scribble something small along with your favorite music, then layer colors on the top!

Music-inspired art journal in progress

So, I suggest starting a music-inspired art journal!

I can now offer the class from the collaboration of 2020 individually. Only 15 EUR (about 17 USD), but be quick, the class is available for purchase only today to Feb 7!

Painting with Music and About Music

This post is about art, music, and spirituality and enabled by Arts Promotion Centre Finland. This is the eighth blog post of the project, see the first one herethe second one herethe third one herethe fourth one herethe fifth one here, the sixth one here, and the seventh one here!

Water Music - Vesimusiikkia, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola.
Water Music – Vesimusiikkia, 30 x 50 cm, oil on canvas

Lately, I have made two small pieces that go with the biggest paintings of the current series. So the one above has similar colors to the big blue painting in the photo below.

Big abstract floral oil paintings by Paivi Eerola.

And the other big painting on the right has a fairly similar color scheme to the second small one below.

Vivaldi's Crop - Vivaldin viljaa, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola.
Vivaldi’s Crop – Vivaldin viljaa, 30 x 50 cm, oil on canvas

These two small paintings are inspired by 17th- and 18th-century Baroque music. However, despite their theme and titles, I did not listen to Händel or Vivaldi while painting them! Namely, this fall, I have wanted not only to raise the bar in art-making but also to widen my taste for music.

So I have moved from melodic pop and baroque songs to electronic soundscapes and contemporary classical music. What used to be annoying and disturbing isn’t so anymore. I can paint more freely when a catchy melody isn’t telling me what to do.

Painting with Music or about Music

Rather than an instant energy booster, music can be seen as a concept or a memory that can be painted or drawn. I never thought before that a song could be a subject for my painting even if I don’t listen to it. Different music that plays in the background can start an inner journey to express the song. So you can paint with music A and express music B.

Expressing Händel's Water Music. Painting with music.

After finishing Water Music, I did play some Händel to check that the painting is in line with it.

Mixing Music with Other Inspiration Sources

Creating becomes exciting when inspiration is collected from several sources. One of my orchids surprised me with a small flower which affected the painting too.

Nature and art. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I often check that my art and plants go well together. I have taken the idea from Paul Cezanne, who said: “When I judge art, I take my painting and put it next to a God made object like a tree or flower. If it clashes, it is not art.”

Oil painting in progress. Painting with music and about music.

In the other small painting, Vivaldi’s violins are mixed with the recent incident of seeing a fox carrying a hare in his mouth.

A detail of an oil painting. Mixing inspiration from various sources.

I feel that listening to music that I call “asymmetric” has developed my thinking. Instead of going around and getting back to the melody, music can travel long distances without repetition and create a sense of a vast space. For example, a Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho‘s orchestra piece Orion opened that way.

Jazz for the Control Freak!

Next, my plan is to learn to tolerate jazz! My husband likes it, but it’s always been too rambling for me. “Music for those who like to be idle and lazy,” I have said sarcastically when he’s been listening to it.

But now I think differently. I don’t have to be the music. I can just let the music be what it was born to be. And similarly, the music lets me be. It’s like my best paintings: they let me be who I am, and I let them grow in the direction they want.

A detail of an oil painting. Expressing music by painting.

So, I can just be and let others be and still create a connection that takes us to the next level. I think that’s what it means to “let go” when we talk about intuition and creativity.

Two floral abstract paintings by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

My series will have seven paintings, and the last one is now on my easel. I will share more pics about it in later posts. It’s been quite a lot of painting and I have started to miss my colored pencils!

Painting in progess. Painting with music.

Tell me, do you paint and draw with the music? What kind of music do you listen to when creating?

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