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!

Fall or Fairytale? – Creating Your Forest

This week, I talk about the colorful bridge that art can build between real and unreal.

Toivomusten metsä - Forest of Wishes, 40 x 50 cm, oil on canvas, 2022. By artist Paivi Eerola, Finland.
Toivomusten metsä – Forest of Wishes, 40 x 50 cm, oil on canvas, 2022.

This is my latest oil painting called Forest of Wishes. My fall is filled with those – wishes! Wishes that can’t be fulfilled.

I wish winter would only last a day or so. I wish there would be regular life for regular people – not war, not suffering, not lack of anything. And while I am thinking about these melancholic thoughts, it feels like my creativity ignores them and lives in a fairytale. I want to draw you in this fairytale too. I hope these pictures inspire you to create and make life more magical!

Hello Fall – Hello Colors!

In art, colors can make a fairytale. My oil painting brought this older watercolor piece to mind. Like “Forest of Wishes,” this one uses blue in a similar way: to create a connection with the viewer. It’s a reminder that blue can be strong and soulful and approach the viewer, not just stay still in the background.

Hello Fall, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola. A forest scenery.
Tervehdys, syksy! – Hello Fall, 38 x 28 cm, watercolor, 2019.

There’s also a video of painting this!

This painting started with the reference photo, but once the painting process got further, the expression replaced it. And splattering with a brush is a lot of fun!

The Magic of Growth

When I look at our garden, the wonders of summer become visible when trees prepare for fall. They have grown a lot, for example, this monkaburi – a pine tree that we planted a few years ago. Back then, it felt like it would take forever for it to form a gate over our heads, but now it already has a branch that grows over the path.

Monkaburi in the fall

The magic of growth also happens when filling a blank paper or a canvas. First, there’s very little life, but by adding more colors, shapes, and layers, we can grow a forest.

Fairytale painting in progress.

Sometimes the forest comes in one piece, and other times in many little pieces.

The same applies to artistic growth: sometimes it happens quickly, other times more gradually. I like to break the rules of being a serious artist only and allow play to show me the magic.

A beagle and a ball in the fall.

I want to learn from Saima, our youngest beagle. She is obsessed with the ball, but when we mention that to her, she seems to laugh: “It’s only a hobby!” At the same time, fetching the ball seems to be both her passionate work, but also a tool for imagining and playing.

Fall Fairytale

In the forest of wishes, we want to use a different mirror for ourselves – not to see the limitations but imagine the potential. It’s an exciting place that has many dangers as well.

A detail of Toivomusten metsä - Forest of Wishes, 40 x 50 cm, oil on canvas, 2022. By artist Paivi Eerola, Finland.

Going deep can take us deep down, but when combined with play, the humor steps in. Here’s my wish for a winter that would only last one day!

Playing with handdrawn and handpainted scrap reliefs. By Paivi Eerola.

Ask: “Is it the fall or is it a fairytale – real or unreal?” And then answer: “Today it’s a fairytale, a colorful escape!”

A detail of Toivomusten metsä - Forest of Wishes, 40 x 50 cm, oil on canvas, 2022. By artist Paivi Eerola, Finland.

Art can truly add magic to our lives. I feel that life isn’t real without the unreal.

Paivi Eerola and her painting in the fall garden.

What do you think?

Painting Moss and Coloring Green

This week is dedicated to moss and all the shades of green!

The Echo of Moss - Sammaleen kaiku. An oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland.
The Echo of Moss – Sammaleen kaiku, 60 x 80 cm, oil on canvas

Inspired by Moss

For some gardens, moss is a bad thing, but my husband and I always get delighted when we see moss appearing. It’s like velvet, an ancient treasure, woven hundreds of years ago and still vivid and strong.

Last month, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book called The Signature of All Things. The protagonist Alma was a moss researcher and the space where she worked and stored her samples felt inspiring because it seemed to be a world of its own. The Finnish title for the book is Tämä kokonainen maailmani – “this whole world of mine,” and I think it describes both the book and moss brilliantly.

Making of The Echo of Moss

In this painting “The Echo of Moss,” I have wanted to express the two sides of moss – how it enables life but also gently connects us with death. Watch the video to see how it progressed step by step!

I painted this piece in oils in two separate sessions. There was a week of drying time between them. I am not always that quick, but this time I was in the flow state before making the first stroke. Probably because the subject felt both inspiring and familiar, and I love the color green.

Painting and Coloring Moss

Moss is not difficult to paint or draw. You only need softly colored variegated green in the background and then randomly placed dots or short lines on the top. Here’s an example in watercolor.

Painting moss in watercolor.

This piece is a sample from my watercolor class Magical Forest which has a lesson on painting moss.

When working with colored pencils, color a variety of greens in different directions so that single strokes are not visible. You can use browns, blacks, yellows, and blues in layers to get a wide range of warm green shades. No outlines are needed.

Drawing moss in colored pencils.

To get natural-looking spotting, close your eyes and tap your pencil randomly on the paper.

Green Green Green!

Green is my favorite color nowadays. “Every painting can’t be green, Paivi, we want variety,” I said to myself before I started painting this one. I was just like my mother who used to give permission and then remind me that it can’t be expected to happen regularly. “Yes, mother, but I want to be a goddess of green!”

Paivi Eerola and her oil painting "The Echo of Moss"

“Everything is green,” said my husband when I asked him to take this photo.

Paivi Eerola and her painting The Echo of Moss in the garden.

“It’s intentional!” I said to him.
I hope that this post inspires you to explore moss and different shades of green!

P.S. Speaking of color, one of my classes, Planet Color, is retiring on Sept 30.

Planet Color, a painting class for beginners.

If you are a beginner in painting and want to use acrylic paints more, for example, in your art journals, check this class! Planet Color is now more than 50% OFF before it goes away! >> Buy here!

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