Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Art and Familiar Things – Inspiration from Sounds and Surroundings

This week is about getting inspiration from familiar things like songs and the sounds of the surroundings.

Poutapilven paluu - Return of the Summer Cloud, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 cm. By Päivi Eerola, Finland. Inspired by familiar things and surroundings.
Poutapilven paluu – Return of the Summer Cloud, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 cm.

I live in an area built in the 1960s. I love the mid-century modern tile houses and their old-fashioned gardens with apple trees and bush hydrangeas. One year, at the end of May, apple trees were blooming like crazy, and when I took the dogs for a walk on a sunny afternoon, I heard a family having a graduation celebration, singing beautifully in a choir. I felt I could touch the air and see the melody traveling on it, flying like a swallow, carelessly yet skillfully.

A detail of Poutapilven paluu - Return of the Summer Cloud, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 cm. By Päivi Eerola, Finland.

Visualizing Familiar Sounds and Songs

A similar kind of inspiring sight happens when I hear Aretha Franklin singing “Say a Little Prayer.” In the chorus, the choir sings the melody, and Aretha just throws in some sounds. It’s like she is the background singer there, except she’s not. The timing of the single notes is perfect, and their sound is powerful. I see her singing as lines that are effortless without being worthless, ornamental without being traditional.

See this post from 2014 for tips for using music as inspiration: 5 Ways Music Can Improve Your Art

A detail of Poutapilven paluu - Return of the Summer Cloud, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 cm. By Päivi Eerola, Finland.

When an old house is demolished, and that happens too much nowadays, they destroy the garden too. I see this constantly happening in our area, and it’s heartbreaking. I don’t look at the surroundings like a property developer but as an artist who seeks visual music. I want to see the old-fashioned songs: lines that are born when birds fly over the scenery, curves that butterflies make on the flowery fields, shadows that scream, and sunspots that quietly fade away. All that sound and movement creates music that inspires me to paint!

Paivi Eerola and her paintings. Read how she gets inspired by familiar things.

Northern Splendor – Seeing Familiar Things as a Fantasy

Usually, I have gone on an adventure to faraway unknown regions when painting, but in this series that I am working on, I’m in Finland, where gardens and nature alternate. I paint the light of northern summers and connect that with architectural ornaments.

Pohjolan loisto - Northern Splendor, oil on canvas, 60 x 70 cm. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.
Pohjolan loisto – Northern Splendor, oil on canvas, 60 x 70 cm.

In this painting, I imagined how a French couple from the 19th century visited Finland.

A detail of Pohjolan loisto - Northern Splendor, oil on canvas, 60 x 70 cm. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.

They then saw how the palaces and churches of Central Europe do exist in Finland too, but all this splendor is in nature instead of buildings.

A detail of Pohjolan loisto - Northern Splendor, oil on canvas, 60 x 70 cm. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.

My dream is to paint like Aretha sang – like it would all be careless strokes, yet so intentional and so creatively put that they break the surface of what’s ordinary and familiar.

Read That, Watched That, But Can It be Renewed?

I am currently working on a painting for a group exhibition. My theme is Alice in Wonderland!

Paivi Eerola in her studio. Read how she gets inspired by ordinary and familiar things.

It’s a tale that has been heard so many times. How to break through it? Exciting!

What familiar things inspire you?

Expressing Winter Memories

This week, I have a new winter-themed painting, and we talk about the many approaches for expressing winter and memories of any season.

Winter Night's Poem - Talviyön runoelma, 60 x 80 cm, oil on canvas, by Päivi Eerola, Finland.
Winter Night’s Poem – Talviyön runoelma, 60 x 80 cm, oil on canvas

Here’s my newest painting called Winter Night’s Poem. This time, the Finnish name is much more beautiful: Talviyön runoelma. I wanted to give the painting a poetic name – like Shakespeare’s play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Kesäyön unelma” but something more wintery. So I come up with the Finnish name, which sounds so romantic (if you know Finnish that is!), and then translated it to English as accurately as possible.

I painted this piece for the local artist association’s winter-themed art exhibition. Winter sceneries aren’t really my thing, but I wanted to take the challenge. I started by exploring Japanese woodblock prints and made a small colored pencil study that is more like a fall scenery, but that has similar abstract elements than in the final painting.

Colored pencil art. An abstract scenery.

I talked more about this colored pencil piece in October’s video blog post.

Winter Memories

I found it challenging to get emotionally connected with the theme. As Finn, I do know winters. They are cold and dark, and there’s not much that I enjoy about them. As a child, I lived further north, and winters were even colder and darker. Here’s a picture of me in 1974 when I was 5 years old.

Winter memories from 1974.

However, I have one special winter memory. Earlier this year, in one of the weekly emails, I wrote about Avicii‘s music and how it brings the memory to my mind:

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.

I also remember getting an idea for a poem that I later wrote down. It was something about the starry sky. And there was a melody too. The sight, the words, and the sounds all formed this beautiful winter memory. And isn’t it so that memories are full of sensations of all kinds? Why should we then paint only what we see?

But then I heard myself saying: “Paivi, remember that it’s a winter-themed exhibition. It has to look like winter!”

How Does Winter Look Like?

In 2013, I made this hand-drawn collage for Christmas cards. It has a decorative approach to winter. Snow, hearts, berries, pastel colors – they all form a light-hearted and entertaining take on winter.

Hand-drawn paper collage, 2013.
A hand-drawn paper collage from 2013

An even more obvious choice would be to paint a realistic winter scenery with snow, trees, and such. Here’s a watercolor painting from 2018:

Fall and winter, two seasons in watercolor, Paivi Eerola's painting from 2018.
Two Seasons, watercolor, 2018 – From the class Watercolor Journey

My idea was to paint both fall and winter into the same piece. This is a class project from Watercolor Journey where we paint all kinds of sceneries in watercolor.

Winter in a Poem

But the more I thought about winter, the more connection I felt with the abstract side of it. I didn’t want to just paint an empty-looking scenery in black and white. I wanted the lights and darks to have a rhythm.

Starting an intuitive painting about winter.

My favorite poet Eeva-Liisa Manner has a winter poem that I have read hundreds of times because it was in a little poem book my family had. For a small child, the content felt strange, but the more I read it and the more I grew, I fell in love with its rhythm. The poem doesn’t rhyme, it’s free verse, very modern. But still, when I read it, I feel the rhythm, and when it ends, it feels like you have listened to a song, not read a poem. The words have been thrown into the air, carelessly, and yet, it feels like everything has a purpose. It’s like every word would have fought to get into to poem, and after accepted, they are ready to fly beautifully, each on their turn, and then to get mixed up even more elegantly in the reader’s mind.

Maybe you too, love poetry and have experienced the same. The words glow like jewels and have a long effect even if the time spend on the reading, is just a minute or two. Isn’t that what we aim for in visual art too?

Abstract painting in progress.

Wonders of a Winter Night

More than thinking about realistic scenery, I approached the painting with a poetic mindset. I imagined the sounds and rhythm of a winter night and visualized those. I trusted that the result will look wintery even if the painting is abstract.

Abstract painting in progress

I also thought about how things move, and one of my favorite details is the curvy black wind that blows snow.

A detail of Winter Night's Poem - Talviyön runoelma, oil on canvas, by Päivi Eerola, Finland.

Carelessly painted ice-like objects are on the top, and the sound of ice is visualized below them.

A detail of Winter Night's Poem - Talviyön runoelma, oil on canvas, by Päivi Eerola, Finland.

Probably the childhood memory of the winter night has stayed with me because it’s a little bit scary to walk alone in the cold and in the dark, under a few street lights only.

A detail of Winter Night's Poem - Talviyön runoelma, oil on canvas, by Päivi Eerola, Finland.

The color scheme was one of the challenges. I didn’t want the painting to look off-puttingly cold. Instead of only using blue and white, I brought a wide variety of tones but so that most of them are quite dark or pale.

A detail of Winter Night's Poem - Talviyön runoelma, oil on canvas, by Päivi Eerola, Finland.

Fortunately, winter is not here yet, but usually, we have the first snow in November. So the garden scenery will change soon!

Paivi Eerola and her painting Winter Night's Poem - Talviyön runoelma

I hope this blog post inspired you to express winter or any season that you have fond memories of!

Painting Roses and Their Spirit

This week, we get inspiration from roses – their spirit, resilience, and decorative beauty.

Ruusun henki - The Spirit of The Rose, 22 x 25 cm, oil on canvas. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.
Ruusun henki – The Spirit of The Rose, 22 x 25 cm, oil on canvas

With this post, I want to encourage you to expand the use of decorative art. You can add decorative elements to any art style! See another example in the older blog post: From Decorative to Expressive Art

The Spirit of the Rose Stays Alive in The Fall

Roses surprise me every fall. When other flowers have given up weeks ago, roses still make buds and continue to bloom. Not as galore as in summer, but they try their best on cold nights and cloudy days. The spirit of the rose is born from warmth and light, but once it’s up, it doesn’t quench easily.

Autumn rose.

In our garden, roses are more my husband’s thing – I collect peonies! But in the fall, I have to admit how superior roses are, queens of the garden, one could say. When the colorful leaves take over the scenery, even the most modest rose flowers stand out simply because they are different in colors and shapes.

Paivi Eerola and her small rose painting.

It reminds me of how resilience and beauty are connected. So mere persistence in creating makes your art beautiful.

Expressing with Small and Decorative

This painting is a small one, only 20 x 25 cm (approximately 8 x 10 inches). When I was a beginner in painting, the small size felt easier. But nowadays, I prefer big canvases, and if I want to create something small, I usually grab my colored pencils, not brushes. But on the other hand, I like the challenge that the small size gives.

Painting roses in oils.

When painting roses in a small size, I need to have an extra focus on the quality of brushwork. Even the tiniest strokes should be elegant, especially if the painting is called ”The Spirit of the Rose.”

A detail of Ruusun henki - The Spirit of The Rose, oil on canvas. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.

Decorative paintings often look very static, but I like to add movement with lines. At best, my small paintings are like short classical musical pieces with a clear melody, lots of short violin strokes, and clever piano tunes in major. It often helps me if I define the desired outcome by other art forms like music or movies.

A rose painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland.

But decorative art has its limitations. The spirit of a rose is not visible if you only paint one kind of rose and if all that you paint is roses. Add flower variations, how the flowers affect their surroundings, and how the surroundings gather around the flowers. Add elements that resemble the living spirit, and let colors interact too so that the roses are not separate but part of the living scenery. So, painting roses is never just about roses, it also expresses how you see the world.

Painting Roses – Decorative Flowers of Decodashery

Even if single floral motifs are often not so expressive, I am fascinated by the techniques of decorative art, especially folk art. A couple of years ago, I noticed that I need practice with the brushstrokes. I wanted to learn to paint in a decorative style and then combine that with a looser and more abstract approach that I already had in my style toolbox. I think that style should not be a matter of narrowing down but expanding, and I felt that more experience in decorative painting was something that I could benefit from. So I made a course called Decodashery and painted flowers after flowers to improve my strokes.

Painting roses - handpainted roses in watercolors and acrylics, from the online course Decodashery
Decorative roses in watercolors and acrylics from the class Decodashery

You see, preparing for the course requires deep understanding. A teacher isn’t only someone who masters the technique but one who can also break it into pieces and explain it. And by doing that, the skill becomes more stable and versatile. So, you can create quicker when knowing how things are constructed, and it’s easier to adapt the technique to your own liking. In the classes, whether you are a student or a teacher, the resilience grows, and the spirit of the rose becomes stronger: ”There’s still time to bloom, and I will do it!”

Drawing Roses and Flower Girls – New Course Is in the Making

This fall, I have not only been painting a new series but also developing a new course.

A rose-covered box full of handdrawn figures.

Its working title is ”Doll World,” and it’s about drawing human figures. I think it’s a skill that enables us to do illustrations that captivate the viewer and something that we all would like to do for fun too. We will draw flowers as warmups and decorate the dresses with colored pencils. I plan to run the class next year and open the registration next month. So stay tuned!

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!

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