Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Imagining Flower’s Spirit

When you want to draw or paint flowers that look unique and alive, imagine their spirit and discover what they would love to wear.

Kielomieli, 40 x 32 cm, oil on canvas, by Päivi Eerola, Finland. Painting lily of the valley.
Kielomieli, 40 x 32 cm, oil on canvas

Art is not only about techniques and replicating what we see. When you create, you have permission to imagine and be convinced that you know something more than anyone else. You are the best scientist in your imaginary world! In your world, you can mix different fields, like botanical illustration with fashion design. That’s what I did in this painting called Kielomieli.

Kielomieli – The Mind of Lily of The Valley

We have lily the valleys growing in our yard and even though I don’t pay much attention to them, I feel like I know them. That plant spreads in the shade and may seem modest, but its mind is always alert and it observes the world sharply.

This little flower also knows how to influence people. Even before I was born, in 1967, Yleisradio, the Finnish national broadcasting company, organized a vote for Finland’s national flower and the overwhelming winner was kielo – the lily of the valley. It makes Finns kneel and admire its fine shapes. Unlike other flowers, the color is secondary to the lily of the valley, until it produces berries. With berries, it underlines that it is not just a white, innocent little flower. Everyone knows their toxicity.

Lily of the valley. These flowers have a strong spirit.

The lily of the valley’s mind is a group mind where everyone dances to the same rhythm. It still doesn’t mean that a single plant would not also be an individual. She just doesn’t share her own thoughts publicly.

Many people love lily of the valleys, but this plant is not a rose that craves attention. Even if it lies low on the border of the earth, its mind is more sublime than that of other flowers. It sees far and high, and nothing can discourage it.

Choosing the Style to Go with the Spirit

When you think about the flower that you want to draw or paint, ask her about her style and aesthetics. For example, is it bohemian, classic, gothic, or country? If the flower would be a human, how would she like to dress?

Clothes can express the spirit.

In flowers, the details of petals and leaves are also very similar to the folds and seams of clothing. I often find it helpful to think about dresses, hats, and jewelry when painting plants.

Painting a flower's spirit and connecting that with fashion.
Painting “Disappearing Garden” and getting inspired by translucent fabrics. This blog post has the finished work.

I imagined the lily of the valleys to be formal and stiff. They wouldn’t wear a bathrobe in a photo but choose a classic-lined dress or a jacket. So I chose to paint them in a decorative style. First, I practiced painting roses in that way – see this blog post for more instructions!

A small study. Decorative painting style. Decorative flowers.
A small study in acrylics on paper, see how I painted this!

I have noticed that making a study speeds up my painting process even if the final painting would be different.

Painting a flower's spirit. Thinking about the details of clothes when painting flowers.

Once I had “loaded” that decorative style to my hand, I painted Kielomieli – the lily of the valley’s spirit.

Flower’s Spirit – Flower’s Portrait!

When visualizing the flower’s spirit, think about yourself as a portrait painter.

Cherries by Albert Edelfelt, 1878.
Cherries by Albert Edelfelt, oil, 1878.

You don’t need a face to express a flower’s spirit. When the color choices, shapes, and lines are aligned, they all paint a picture of a character.

A detail of Kielomieli, 40 x 32 cm, oil on canvas, by Päivi Eerola, Finland.
A detail of Kielomieli, 40 x 32 cm, oil on canvas, by Päivi Eerola, Finland.

I hope this blog post gave you new ideas to break the glass between reality and imagination!

Paivi Eerola and her painting Kielomieli.  By painting, she expresses the flower's spirit - here are lily of the valleys.

10 thoughts on “Imagining Flower’s Spirit

  1. I am thinking about my next painting , a cityscape, and the style of the city… thank you so much for the tips!

    Also I’m enjoying that last photo of you!

  2. It’s so lovely to observe your painting style emerge 🦋Thank you for sharing

  3. Such lovely thoughts. I so enjoy considering the flowers spirit. Thank you.
    Your painting is beautiful and overflows with spirit.

    A long time ago, I had a wee booklet. It talked about how some angels have the job of designing new flowers. Maybe you once were a flower angel.

  4. Amazing picture. I find reading your descriptions so inspiring. Wonderful. Thank you

  5. This was a wonderful post, and a fabulous painting! I absolutely love reading each week, you challenge my comfort zone in such a beautiful and inspiring way! I’m drawing many wildflowers in my nature journal at the moment for a class I am giving, Although my work is very representational, I’m going to start thinking about their spirits as I draw, and see what happens!

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