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Peony and Parakeet

Mystical Side of Art(ist) in Progress

This week, I show an unfinished painting and talk about the mystical side of nature and art.

I have a big painting in progress. At least it’s the biggest one that I have ever made – 92 x 65 cm, about 36 x 26 inches. It’s an oil painting, and it takes time because it needs to dry between the sessions. The pics you see here are from the third session, and there’s at least one, maybe even two, to go. But this is the last piece of the series, so I don’t want to rush. The painting needs time to mature, and I want to end the series gloriously.

Paivi Eerola in her studio. A mystical painting in progress.

I don’t usually post about a piece that I haven’t finished yet. It’s like presenting an uneducated child that doesn’t quite know how to behave. But the more perfectly my art has aligned with my personality, the more I have started to embrace imperfection. My art will always be imperfect because I am imperfect. Life is imperfect.

Rational or Mystical?

My education in software engineering has shaped my beliefs about life for tens of years. But recently, I have had experiences that feel less scientific and more mystical.

Paivi Eerola sitting in her studio and painting an oil painting. Read more about her mystical art.

My paintings seem to know how they want to grow, and my ego disappears.

One Mystical Morning

One morning, when I was walking the dog, I saw a miraculous view. It was meant to be just an experiment. I asked myself to look at nature like I would look at a painting in progress. And suddenly, I saw everything in a new order – not organized by a hierarchy or by their aesthetic value. Gravel, weed, grass, dandelions, trees – all were equal and formed one mysterious mesh.

Nature's mystical imperfection.

I was part of that mesh too. Not any more valuable than a crooked stem of a dandelion, but still tremendously happy and free.

Every Stroke is a Weed – For How Long Can It Grow?

We art instructors talk often about visual hierarchy – there’s a lot of that in my classes too! The image needs a focal point, and there needs to be a visual flow in a composition. Otherwise, the image looks stiff and the viewer is left puzzled. But the more I have painted, the more I have postponed all that visual organization. That’s why you see me working on the table mostly, focusing on the details.

Paivi Eerola painting with oils. The painting is upside down.

When the painting is in progress, it grows all kinds of weeds, and it’s ok. Then, when I am close to an end, I will put the painting on the easel and improve the visual hierarchy and flow.

An oil painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

So, I let the child play freely first before teaching it to greet, bend the knees a bit, and make the viewer feel welcome. Before the last part, I can just enjoy the mesh and let the artist be one with the child.

An oil painting in progress. Mystical colors. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

What do you think? Does this make sense to you? Have you had mystical experiences?

6 thoughts on “Mystical Side of Art(ist) in Progress

  1. It makes perfect sense to me. I wish I had your eye. I usually see things much more literally, and have a hard time freeing my eyes and brain to unwind the mystery of it. I do love your posts!

  2. I like this idea, “When the painting is in progress, it grows all kinds of weeds, and it’s ok.” I tend to want things to look perfect right away. I’m experimenting with all kinds of scribbles and marks right now to try to get over my perfectionism. This post is very helpful to shift the mind away from the “end product” and focus more on enjoying the process. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Cheryl! It can help to listen to a book or music for a certain period of time where only exploring is allowed. Have fun!!

  3. So glad I caught this post…I have been busy with another course and almost missed it! Mysticism has been a part of my life for so long now…I would be unable to carry on without it. It began as a desire to understand the world (I was in my 20’s) and then I began studies, mostly on my own but also with my husband. At first there was intellectual endeavour, but after an intense mystical experience (I think I was about 26) I was convinced of the power of Something much greater than myself and imbued with Love–I was aware of a “fullness within” that I can only describe as the tender embrace of mother when one is a child. Perhaps, Paivi, you are aware that the experience is “ineffable”–cannot really be described in words.

    Mysticism (its meaning is difficult) has unfortunately been suppressed, misunderstood and even maligned in the past three to four hundred years. Yet, it has persisted–that is, if one knows where to look, or perhaps I might say where to feel it! Mystical literature seems often consigned to dusty shelves in sleepy bookshops or older libraries…sometimes picked up by a curious intellectual. A book might be skimmed then discarded for months or years until a sudden insight requires the reader to return to its pages and try to make sense. Yes, mysticism is a difficult concept; but if one remains true to its essence, one will find undiscovered beauties and treasures. And of course, we must always remember the Source–whatever name one wants to consign to it: God, the Tao, Spirit, the Divine, the Creator, and. so on. Because all religions have their very roots in mysticism, we tend to think that mysticism=religion. But this is clearly not the case. For one thing, almost every religion today has become dislocated from its beginnings. The very thing that made religions so valuable has been replaced by dogma and outer symbolism. It would require much struggle, I think, for religions to return to a place that is “truly” spiritual. So where else to find the (real) mystical? Well, whatever takes us inwardly toward the Soul, be it nature, poetry, literature, music or art because mysticism is always at the core of the most beautiful aspects of any culture. (Think of the poetry of Rumi!) It is important to remember that we are spiritual beings having a human experience though few of us recognize this. Indeed, sadly in this world of scientific materialism we are so accustomed to the rational and “left brain” thinking, that the mystical world seems a flighty almost “silly” thing from the past! I am constantly aware of our terrible (and terrifying) alienation from our Source and do what I can (at least in my own life) to make room for what is deeply important. Taking the time to “discover” the colours in a single leaf I come across can be the most satisfying moment in a day. In fact, when one contemplates nature or is “lost” whilst painting, time disappears–the “Timeless Moment”, unique to the limitless world!

    I think we all (even those who may dispute it) have flashes into the beyond, the transcendent realm. Most people do not “stop” and allow these experience to overtake them. For instance, they may notice the beauty in a sunset for a fleeting moment; yet it is just that–fleeting. They then quickly return to a normal routine. As Carl Jung said: “We have stripped all things of their mystery and numinosity; nothing is holy any longer.” Indeed, it is through the mystical experience that our world again becomes sacred and I believe that it is only through mysticism that our damaged world can be saved.

    But I have moved away from your lovely descriptions of your own experiences in nature and in painting. Yes, I know that we can have altered states of awareness–and most importantly, without any substances that may change the physiology of the brain! This is a prerequisite for the “true” mystical consciousness, often not recognized by those wanting an “immediate” experience. And this is where I think art plays an essential role. Art can be used to tap into the unconscious, to those hidden areas that will guide one into more meaningful perceptions of ourselves as “spiritual beings”, as I previously mentioned. At first, the artist may be impatient and confused– I really like your mention of weeds and the “uneducated child”. But after some time, the artist can perhaps, tame the child and at last present an exquisite garden. I want to become more successful with my art–but only if that means going into deeper levels and finding a way to express what is there. Your recent exercise on the Intuitive Approach is the essential form of art I am looking for–loved that!
    Since I have probably said too much here, I will end with this quote from that poet who moves us so sublimely into the world of dreams and beauty:
    “And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. I would not change it.”
    ~ William Shakespeare

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Louisa! It was interesting to read and a small gift to treasure. It has come as a surprise for me how art can tie superficial and ordinary things together so that the result feels mystical – that a route to a more spiritual art can be much more direct than I used to think, but also much less literal than it was, for example, when I was painting icons as a child.

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