Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Finding Emotional Connection Through Imagination

Imagination and emotional connection go hand in hand in art-making. If you don’t feel a connection with what you are creating, bring in more imagination and treat different areas of your work as characters – even if you won’t be including any humans. Let’s look at this example!

Kesäpäivä kalliolla - Summer Day on the Rock, 30 x 40 cm, oil on canvas, by Päivi Eerola, Finland.
Kesäpäivä kalliolla – Summer Day on the Rock, 30 x 40 cm, oil on canvas

This small painting is part of a series I made for the Albert Edelfelt Foundation exhibition. It will take place in August-September.

Inspired by Albert Edelfelt

Starting a painting.

For the colors and composition, I was inspired by Albert Edelfelt’s artwork “Koivujen alla – Under the Birches”. It is not this painting that I photographed in the Albert Edelfelt exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum, but another similar work that I made a mirror image of.

Koivujen alla II by Albert Edelfelt.
“Koivujen alla II” by Albert Edelfelt, 1882.
However, I was more inspired by another “Koivujen alla.” See the picture here!

My version of “Koivujen alla” didn’t have any people. Instead, I used my imagination to depict human characters in the form of a plant and an object.

Combine Inspiration and Observation!

A good way to get the imagination going is to combine two different things. For example, if you saw an artwork that inspired you to create, also gather unrelated observations from your surroundings. This way, you need your imagination to bring them into the same image.

In this project, I remembered a pine seedling that I had seen in a nearby rocky forest. The name of the area is Pöllökallio (owl rock) and we often go there with our dogs. This little pine tree was like a bonsai! It was so sweet that I took a photo of it.

A small pine tree on the rock - nature's bonsai. Art inspiration from observations.

When the pink color of Edelfelt’s painting met a crooked stem of the pine, a tree-like rose was born!

Emotional Connection by Asking: Who is This?

The rose became the most challenging part because I wanted it to resemble the woman with a hat in Edelfelt’s painting. I thought about the hat when I painted a rose, but it didn’t work at all.

Adjusting a flower painting with a small brush. Finiding emotional connection when painting abstract florals.

But then I came up with thinking about the character of the woman instead of her hat. That way my imagination met the emotional connection, and I quickly got the impression I wanted.

Build a Story to Boost the Emotional Connection!

One of the most common problems is that our art is full of separate islands. The sun might shine but the effect doesn’t show elsewhere. The person may smile but the eyes are not affected. There may be three ladies but what are their roles? Use your imagination to find connections between these islands and add elements that make the overall story make sense!

A detail of an oil painting by Paivi Eerola. Building emotional connection through connecting elements.

In my painting, there are not two women like in Edelfelt’s painting, but a rose, a leaf, and a feather – three introverts! The rose reaching for the sky has agreed to be the center point. The leaf examines herself through the pond. The feather has been a part of a bigger adventure and is now ready to shift the focus to others.

The small pond is a central element here. It brings the leaf and the feather together.

You can also see the colors of the rose elsewhere in the painting. For example, there are flying thoughts (red lines) that the rose tries to catch, and a bigger punch of roses that is in the background.

Expressing emotional connection. A detail of an oil painting by Paivi Eerola.

The painting is about three romantic introverts who went on a trip to a rocky forest on a lovely summer day. They are together, but in their own thoughts, just like the women in Albert Edelfelt’s painting.

Paivi Eerola and her oil painting Kesäpäivä kalliolla - Summer Day on the Rock. It's a story about three introverts going on a trip.

When we paint or draw people, we hope to bring the character to life with their facial features. But we don’t need facial features to find an emotional connection. Once you get the hang of it, you can draw or paint anything, even just different shaped spots on paper.

What do you think?

12 thoughts on “Finding Emotional Connection Through Imagination

  1. I appreciate your creativity so much! I am currently making some magazine collage collaborations, it is fun to to create relationships between the element the other artist glued down and my own.

  2. The watercolor paintings I do after viewing yours and reading the story you encircle them with, has taken on a new direction and new life-all to the good. Thank you for your creative generosity. 🌹

    1. I like your idea of creating characters and their emotions in a painting. Have you read the book ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ where the roses and daisies are characters in the story? You inspire me to try something similar. I enjoy reading your articles. Thank you.

  3. Love reading your thoughts. So inspiring. Helps me look differently at the world. I was picking some redcurrants today and i started thinking about jewels and red water falls..i thought…thats Paivi …

  4. I enjoy how you use your imagination. Fun, playful, practical and intimate.
    Wonderful to consider in the painting I am working on, it hasn’t spoken to me in days…. waiting for the next brush stroke. Or maybe I will just sit down and start playing.

    Your painting is lovely. I wish you a wonderful show.

    1. Thank you, Tammie! Definitely look at your painting with fresh eyes: how can you adjust the shapes so that they have more character?

  5. OMG … You have beautifully expressed the cognitive relationship connecting the painting with the active imagination… It’s like fairy whispers of pictorial images stroking the mind’s eye… How lovely !!!

    I will remember your words, ‘ our art is full of separate islands ‘ … ” Use your imagination to find connections between these islands and add elements that make the overall story make sense.! ”

    This is so evident in the beautiful continuity of your artwork. … I admire how your imagination flows … I’m inspired by the idea of breathing character and life into the shapes and color and giving them a voice upon the page.

    You are so right, we often create things with separate intentions on the canvas and forget about connecting the picture as a whole story… That is a good lesson.

    I always find hidden treasures in your artwork and blog, Paivi. Thank You for so kindly sharing.

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