Color the Emotion

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Coming Up with Ideas that Make You an Artist

This week’s blog post is about working with ideas that bring more of you together and make you an artist.

Merkuriuksen lämpötilat - Mercury Temperatures, 30 x 50 cm, oil on canvas by Paivi Eerola
Merkuriuksen lämpötilat – Mercury Temperatures, 30 x 50 cm, oil on canvas

Here’s one of my newest paintings called Merkuriuksen lämpötilat – Mercury Temperatures. This oil painting is a part of my series Linnunrata – Milky Way, where I explore planets and outer space. (See previous work: Neptune here, Pluto herethe Earth hereVenus here, and the Sun here!)

My first intention was to create Mars, not Mercury, so I started with sharp strokes and fiery colors.

Painting in progress. How to come up with ideas that make you an artist?

But it happened that Mars appeared in another painting, so I changed the subject after the first layer. This wasn’t hard. All I needed was to get back to left-brain thinking, which I call my inner engineer.

Fact-Finding for Artistic Inspiration

It has been fun to find out facts about the planets. I have also had great discussions about them with my husband. We both love science and are interested in the bits of information about outer space. The mind-blowing fact about the planet Mercury is that its temperature varies about 650 degrees! Night and day in the same location can have very different temperatures.

Painting in progress. How to come up with ideas that make you an artist?

I try to keep the fact-finding separate from the painting process as possible. I want the facts to be just one of the many inspiration sources and be intuitive and inventive during actual art-making. For example, in this painting, I also thought about pattern designs, interior decorating, wallpapers of William Morris and Designers Guild, fantasy stories with unicorns, gardening … all kinds of inspiration got mixed into one piece.

Hidden Love for Natural Science

Over a couple of years, natural science has got more and more impact on my art. However, I have been pretty quiet about it because it feels weird to talk about science and then show flower paintings. But now, my inner engineer said that Mercury Temperatures is the only appropriate name for the piece, and I noticed how happy she looked, being involved and accepted more than many times before.

A detail of Merkuriuksen lämpötilat - Mercury Temperatures, oil on canvas by Paivi Eerola

This spring, I have learned a lot about leading myself artistically. I have noticed that if my inner engineer can provide concepts like “temperature changes” rather than direct images, my inner artist can then tie them freely with visual ideas. Together they form an effective pair. My inner engineer can provide exciting ideas based on her background studies, and my inner artist can still get all the creative freedom she needs.

Digging Deeper into the Professional Identity

It has started to feel that there’s a reason why I first studied engineering, then moved to design, and only finally to art. I play with the question that if my career had started as an artist, would I be studying technology now? It feels that my ideas are on several levels, and if I omit the science level, something is missing.

A detail of Merkuriuksen lämpötilat - Mercury Temperatures, oil on canvas by Paivi Eerola

For years and years, I have been trying to manage what my inner engineer can do and how she should not disturb the inner artist. But now, when I have given the inner engineer a significant role, the inner artist hasn’t complained at all. On the contrary, it feels like the artist praises the engineer and vice versa.

This understanding has also closed the gap between design and art. Some of my work can now be openly more design-oriented than others. My inner designer had a lot of fun participating in this painting.

Merkuriuksen lämpötilat - Mercury Temperatures, 30 x 50 cm, oil on canvas by Paivi Eerola

I feel happy about being able to use my curiosity about natural science in the artistic process. I have even started to think that my background in technology and science can be one factor that makes my art unique, even if it doesn’t get the leading role when marketing my work.

Coming Up With Genuine Ideas

We often think about using the skills from one profession to another very literally. But the identity in one can be used for another when we get to the level of ideas and inspiration. Every field has pieces of information that are super inspiring, especially if you already have the foundational knowledge of the area. With the knowledge, your imagination can build bridges between what is and what could be.

Ideas that make you an artist are not about art.

The artistic identity is more like an umbrella rather than an individual thing. An artist is a connector rather than a lonely one on a closed island.

What do you think?

12 thoughts on “Coming Up with Ideas that Make You an Artist

  1. Such an intriguing idea. I have not seen this in words before. I wonder if this is why I get stuck and frustrated looking at art in Pinterest!

    1. Thanks, Wendy! This is conceptual thinking, and it’s a bit academic, doesn’t appear in the general art talk so much.

  2. I learned a lot about right brain (your inner artist) versus left brain (your “engineer” partner) from books by Betty Edwards. Her first book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, was so helpful when I taught middle school to adult
    students during my çareer.
    Your Milky Way series is very impressive and seems like a perfect example of using the skills of both sides of your brain.
    I have enjoyed seeing your work and reading your words about it.

    1. Thank you! I have that book, but it was disappointing for me, I learned those skills earlier than I acquired it. But it can be useful, I see.

  3. It feels as if your whole soul has gone into this painting! It is so subtle and dynamic all in the same piece of work. Great job, Paivi!

  4. Love your new painting, especially those little sparks of yellow! And I really like that idea of the artist as a connector.

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