Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Before and After – Which Painting Style Do You Prefer?

This week, I share a revamp of a small painting and talk about painting style.

"Menuetti - Minuet" a small oil painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
“Menuetti – Minuet”, 22 x 27 cm, oil on canvas

Here’s my newest piece that I am quite fond of. But wait! This isn’t totally new, but a revamped one.

Husband Didn’t Approve

Earlier this month, I made a small painting that didn’t get approval from my husband.

– “Unfinished,” he said.
– “No, it’s just loose and abstract,” I claimed.

But soon after, I considered adjusting something a little. My husband has good taste, and I appreciate his opinion. Like most Finns, he is brutally honest, and often that’s what I want to hear, even if it would hurt a bit.

A small floral painting in loose and abstract painting style. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

But what to do with this one? Maybe just make a couple of clumsy shapes a bit curvier. But after having a wonderful conversation about conventionality with a friend who is also an artist, I felt that I could do it – go from one extreme to another.

Several Levels of Style

During the last couple of months, I have been trying to define my approach to art as levels of some sort – when should I go abstract, when do I want to make illustrations, and when my style needs to be decorative or design-oriented.

I have always thought that these levels are connected to what supplies I use. Like this:

If I paint, I am more abstract.

Valon valtakunta - The Empire of Light. An oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland.
Valon valtakunta – The Empire of Light, 50 x 61 cm, oil on canvas.

If I draw, I go in the illustrative direction.

Fantasy horse drawing in colored pencils by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

And if I embroider, it’s just decorative work for relaxation.

Paivi Eerola likes to embroider.

But it shouldn’t always have to be like that. The opposite could happen too.

Untraditional Use of Supplies – Mixing Levels of Style

Last summer, I started to do slow stitching – random simple stitches on fabric. Surprisingly, what first felt like decorative needlecraft started to produce abstract art. This piece is not traditionally decorative at all.

T2, textile art piece by Paivi Eerola. Abstract slow stitching. Free embroidery on fabric.
T2, free embroidery on fabric

And many of my recent images in colored pencils have been quite abstract and painterly, like this spread from my colored pencil journal.

A spread in a colored pencil journal. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. This represents a loose painting style even if it's drawn in colored pencils.

The art world is full of presumptions based on supplies.

Colored pencil artists replicate photos.
Watercolorists throw water on the paper and wait for the landscape to appear.
Abstract painters do it for interior design.
Decorative is reserved for folk artists.
And so on!

But I have come to the conclusion that supplies don’t define the levels of my style. I can freely choose how much I want to show each level of style in one piece.

So, we can break what’s expected and do what we want!

Inspiration from Many Styles

The same unrestricted approach applies to inspiration.

I went to Sinebrychoff Art Museum to see floral paintings, but the most inspiring piece was a traditional textile – what??? When I looked at the photos taken from the exhibition, it felt like a dirty secret.

There were many old masterpieces in oil, but a small traditional textile captivated me.

A detail of a satin stitch embroidery work by Anna Kjöllerfelt, 1800-1900
Satin stitch embroidery by Anna Kjöllerfelt, 1899-1900, a detail

“How can I be so inspired by that?
I shouldn’t think about that anymore.
At least, don’t tell anyone!”

But my creativity has a mind of her own when it comes to inspiration. If I look at my Instagram saves, sometimes I like to see old palaces or churches, and other times I find simple and rural terribly inviting. I love old portraits, but I am not particularly fond of painting humans myself. I consume all kinds of kitsch – banal florals, round-eyed dolls, plastic horses – like crazy, but I also love modern and straightforward that’s not similarly pretty at all.

And now, my creativity told me to revamp that abstract painting and go wild with decorative strokes.

“Take it to the Kitsch goddess,” she shouted.

“No one will like it,” I heard myself saying. But then it hit me that maybe we could do it together. I asked my inner Kandinsky: “Would you go decorative with me?” He nodded quietly but without hesitation.

Oil painting in progress. Choosing between different painting styles. By Paivi Eerola.

And so it happened that Mrs. Decorative, Mr. Abstract, and Miss Illustrative all painted together. It was a lot of fun!

Which One Do You Like Best – Before or After?

Before and after - Changing the style of a painting from loose abstract to more illustrative and decorative.

Which painting style do you prefer? It would be interesting to hear, leave a comment!

I have no regrets and my husband approved too. While I am waiting for the painting to dry, I glance at it frequently, smiling.

A small oil painting by a Finnish artist Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The painting follows a tradition but still feels like a breakthrough. I can now see further and wider. I could mix different painting styles in one big piece and bring a wider variety of inspiration into one work. So often, I have tried to move to the next level in technique, but now it feels that I need to level up artistic thinking!

News from My Little Studio

I have lots of painting work to be done in April. My private exhibition in June is still half-empty, but that’s partly a happy problem. My paintings have sold well, and I have a new prestigious gallery representation. The gallery is called Gumbostrand Konst och Form. I think it’s a great fit for my art because they also sell design pieces. Here’s my page on their website.

My home feels like a work in progress.

Paintings in progress.

The little studio space has unfinished paintings, and big blank canvases are waiting in the library room.

I also have a new online class going on – Fun Botanicum!

Fun Botanicum - an online class for colored pencils and botanical art

It’s so wonderful to see work from the students and have conversations about art. It makes all the other work less lonely, and I feel blessed to lead the lovely community. Especially now, when most of my spare time is spent worrying over the world situation, it feels good to be connected and also, serve others.

You can still hop in, sign up here!

40 thoughts on “Before and After – Which Painting Style Do You Prefer?

  1. Gosh I wish I had your creative talent. Can I come visit for a few months and watch you create your masterpieces. My choice is the second one.

  2. I love both styles, but am personally drawn to the second iteration. Beautiful work!

  3. Both versions are lovely. In musical terms, I see your first version as staccato. The revised is more lyrical or legato (fluid, sinuous) and my eye lingers longer on each curving stroke. It is softer, almost mystical-looking.

  4. I definitely prefer the second work. It is more lyrical and mystical, with hidden elements that need to be found. I love it!

  5. I like both a lot! Maybe I prefer the second one better because I haven’t mastered something like that yet. But seriously, I love all your stuff…❤

  6. I like the ‘after’ version better, not because of style, but because it’s more opulent, richer in colors and shapes and holds my interest longer. To see all the tresures hidden there…. I find I like many different styles as well, and I think it’s the coherence of someghing that apeals to me, no matter how, or in what style or era it’s made. Sometimes symmetry creats coherence, sometimes an abstract does. It has to make sense to me, then I like it. There are probably some geometric and color rules behind it, but definitly not the style itself. Having said that, at my core I’m like a crow that loves colors and shapes and bling!!!

    1. Thank you, Pazit! I think sometimes the associations are more important than the actual image. It’s also a challenge as an artist – how to express something that’s deep in humanity and in a way that captivates the more superficial parts of the mind too.

  7. I love it that you’re doing so well! I also love reading about how you think–you have some wonderful insights. Thank you so much for sharing, and enjoy filling in your gallery space! Congratulations!

  8. I like both but prefer the latter one due to the increased complexity of lines, shapes, and color. The addition of the purplish-pink flowers in the lower center is the ‘pop’ that makes the entire painting particularly intriguing to me. I’d love to see your work in person!

    1. Thank you, Nan! I like that you pointed out the small but important detail – the purple area. I often have something like that in my paintings – a secondary element that seems to explain all the others.

  9. Ambas obras son destacables. Prefiero la primera, por u libertad, frescura y espontaneidad. Eso es lo que me transmite. En cambio la segunda, definitivamente revela otro estilo, si bien es más elaborado, más trabajado lo veo de menor calidad y calidez.
    Felicitaciones por ambas!

    — English translation via Google Translate —
    Both works are remarkable. I prefer the first, for its freedom, freshness and spontaneity. That’s what it conveys to me. The second, on the other hand, definitely reveals another style, although it is more elaborate, more elaborate, I see it with less quality and warmth.
    Congratulations for both!

  10. I like both and saw them differently-the first one as representative of the tumultuous times our world lives in now. The second one flows, is rich and filled with hope for new, better times-times of peace. The first one was not ‘unfinished’-it is a painting of its own. Both of them are. They are wonderful.

  11. Both of your versions are gorgeous, but I actually prefer the fist, because I love the energy and motion in the looser strokes. Maybe it’s because I am working on that myself.

  12. Paavi,
    I will be brutally frank here too and tell you that my first impression was to ask why your husbands impression should count more than the artist herself’s does.? I wanted to ask exactly who he is to tell YOU about YOUR work. My first thought.

    Secondly, I like the more crisp version #2.

    Partners always have an opinion, like that inner critic. We just thank them and then move on doing what you want.

    Yours is the most important opinion when it comes right down to it.

    Sign me, a loyal fan or BE GOOD TO OUR PAAVI!!


    1. Thank you, Laura! My paintings definitely have a mind of their own too, but I have a few people whose opinions I value greatly. My artistic development during the past years would not have happened without them. When I paint a lot, I get blinded by my work, and fresh eyes are needed. Another situation is when I want to challenge myself, like here. I think we all need other people sometimes even if we are the art directors of our own art. I try to be those fresh eyes and that challenger for my students.

  13. It’s a tough choice, but I am more “drawn” to the second one! Your work is beautiful — magical and mystical at the same time! There is always something to look at more closely and there is no other artist whose work makes me say “how does she do that?” more than your work! Thank you for sharing it with us.

    1. Thank you, Karyl! It made me smile when your wrote “how does she do that” because I think that I have explained my processes as much as I am able to in my classes, so probably more than most artists!

  14. The After is more unique, it has your special style. I really admire the color pencil spread !

  15. Hi Päivi!
    I like the more detailed one best, because it seems to have more activity and joy. It says more to me. I appreciate all of your style levels and also the way you combine them. Maybe you’re like a musician who plays more than one instrument and so has the freedom to experiment and combine influences.

  16. Hello Päivi:

    My brain likes the second one, because there’s more a bit definition, the first one confuses me….but is nice too. To be reeeeally honest I wish we were neighbors. I’m in the American northwest ,please come over. I have an extra room. I’ like your painting style. Take care, happy spring to you.

  17. I have one word for you: RAIN. It is spring and during a small but intense shower, a ray of sun pierces through and we see the beauty of the new flowers, but distorted somewhat by the shadow of rain! In the second, the rain has stopped, the sun is fully out and now our flowers are rained washed, lush and shining like jewels in the sun that is now fully out! (I love both, but the second satisfies me more.)

    I also have many interests and draw inspiration from art that is raw and “unfinished” as much as I do from very “graphic” pieces like fabric designs. I find that the first perhaps corresponds more to my unconscious, while the latter is an immediate sensation that connects with some memory. Never is one better than the other–there is so much complexity in perception!

    1. Wonderfully described, and I like the thought of rain, it could also be a lack of light, an atmospheric soft darkness that makes everything blurry.

  18. Hi Paivi. I have to agree with your husband on this painting. The revamped one looks alive and with incredible movement and reminds me of the flowing and dancing sea anemones that one sees in tropical oceans or aquariums. It piques the imagination and has a more emotional vibe to me.

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