Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Painting Moss and Coloring Green

This week is dedicated to moss and all the shades of green!

The Echo of Moss - Sammaleen kaiku. An oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland.
The Echo of Moss – Sammaleen kaiku, 60 x 80 cm, oil on canvas

Inspired by Moss

For some gardens, moss is a bad thing, but my husband and I always get delighted when we see moss appearing. It’s like velvet, an ancient treasure, woven hundreds of years ago and still vivid and strong.

Last month, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book called The Signature of All Things. The protagonist Alma was a moss researcher and the space where she worked and stored her samples felt inspiring because it seemed to be a world of its own. The Finnish title for the book is Tämä kokonainen maailmani – “this whole world of mine,” and I think it describes both the book and moss brilliantly.

Making of The Echo of Moss

In this painting “The Echo of Moss,” I have wanted to express the two sides of moss – how it enables life but also gently connects us with death. Watch the video to see how it progressed step by step!

I painted this piece in oils in two separate sessions. There was a week of drying time between them. I am not always that quick, but this time I was in the flow state before making the first stroke. Probably because the subject felt both inspiring and familiar, and I love the color green.

Painting and Coloring Moss

Moss is not difficult to paint or draw. You only need softly colored variegated green in the background and then randomly placed dots or short lines on the top. Here’s an example in watercolor.

Painting moss in watercolor.

This piece is a sample from my watercolor class Magical Forest which has a lesson on painting moss.

When working with colored pencils, color a variety of greens in different directions so that single strokes are not visible. You can use browns, blacks, yellows, and blues in layers to get a wide range of warm green shades. No outlines are needed.

Drawing moss in colored pencils.

To get natural-looking spotting, close your eyes and tap your pencil randomly on the paper.

Green Green Green!

Green is my favorite color nowadays. “Every painting can’t be green, Paivi, we want variety,” I said to myself before I started painting this one. I was just like my mother who used to give permission and then remind me that it can’t be expected to happen regularly. “Yes, mother, but I want to be a goddess of green!”

Paivi Eerola and her oil painting "The Echo of Moss"

“Everything is green,” said my husband when I asked him to take this photo.

Paivi Eerola and her painting The Echo of Moss in the garden.

“It’s intentional!” I said to him.
I hope that this post inspires you to explore moss and different shades of green!

P.S. Speaking of color, one of my classes, Planet Color, is retiring on Sept 30.

Planet Color, a painting class for beginners.

If you are a beginner in painting and want to use acrylic paints more, for example, in your art journals, check this class! Planet Color is now more than 50% OFF before it goes away! >> Buy here!

How Your Personal Story is Related to Your Art

This week, I share how my newest painting was born. At the same time, I talk about how the artist’s personal story affects the outcome.

Unelmien kevät - The Spring of Dreams, 40 x 50 cm, oil on canvas, by Paivi Eerola, Finland
Unelmien kevät – The Spring of Dreams, 40 x 50 cm, oil on canvas

My paintings usually reflect the current season. But now, when there’s a fall in Finland, something springy appeared on my canvas. I call this one “The Spring of Dreams.”

Observing a Flower – Engineer’s and Romantic’s Approaches

Last spring was beautiful. The apple and cherry trees were blossoming.

Apple and cherry trees blossoming.

And with the early summer came wonderful irises.

Purple irises in the garden.

I often take photos in the garden and examine the plants. As a former engineer, I try to see how they are constructed. Not how the petals are attached and such, but how the light constructs the flower, adding its own brushmark to it. As a romantic, I try to see a face of a flower. I look at it like it would be an animal or a human – like it has a name and a history. I am not searching for its eyes but trying to sense its needs and dreams.

This way, I don’t need to copy photos but can paint freely and intuitively. Then when random shapes begin to look like a lighted plant, I try to give it what it wants, even if it’s often a species that doesn’t even exist.

The Fight Between Too Stiff and Too Messy

However, the painting process is not always as straightforward as it sounds. Often the engineer adds something stiff, and the romantic wipes it off. Then the romantic makes a mess, and the engineer tries to clean it.

Wiping off paint. Painting in progress. Bringing in the personal story.

The engineer in me likes to build things with a brush: “There’s a chair, look!”

A detail of an abstract painting in progress.

The romantic in me likes leaves and swirls more.

Artistic Direction and Setting Guidelines

To stop the fights, I gave an artistic direction that set challenges for both of them: “We will be making a dreamy floral that has purple. The painting should fit a modern, feminine home that has some rustic elements as well.” Both the engineer and the romantic understand had a common understanding of style when picturing a space where the painting should fit. When I use this method, I choose a location in my home or a picture in an interior design book, or a photo found on Instagram.

Abstract floral painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola, Finland. Read more about her personal story.

When I was studying industrial design, these kinds of simple and concrete guidelines were called design drivers. Design drivers are different from design principles. Design principles are general guidelines to make your image more expressive and aesthetic. Design drivers are project-based and loosely define the outcome.

A detail of Unelmien kevät - The Spring of Dreams, 40 x 50 cm, oil on canvas, by Paivi Eerola, Finland. Setting design drivers for art and how they relate to your personal story.

Design drivers prevent me from painting this and that, but I try to make them so general that I can get creative and freely express myself. For example, the requirement to use purple in a painting is not a big limitation.

Personal Story and Art Projects

Behind design drivers, there’s a more general foundation, an artistic vision. My paintings always lean toward the past and have a historical feel. As an artist, I want to combine the past and the present in an uplifting way, creating a fantasy of immortality for the interior space. Because I lost both of my parents at a young age, I never thought I would live old. This way, my artistic vision, and personal story are connected.

Paivi Eerola and her oil painting Unelmien kevät - The Spring of Dreams. Read more about her personal story and process of making abstract florals.

I claim that art-making has many layers. It’s not only about the process, techniques, or assignment. The artistic vision and the personal story matter as well. You always have a chance to bring them in, whether you are painting or drawing. For example, if a course sets the starting point, the creative challenge is how to include your artistic vision and story in the projects. This time, rather than listing things you love, go deeper and think about your struggles. How do they define what you want to achieve in art?

Turning Memories into Paintings

This week, I talk about memories and art-making and how the connection between them can be loose but still important.

Tiikerinsilmä - Tiger's Eye, oil on canvas, 80 x 100 cm. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.
Tiikerinsilmä – Tiger’s Eye, oil on canvas, 100 x 80 cm

With this new painting, I want to talk about …

Books and Memories

My parents never visited another country, and as a child, I never traveled abroad. My first foreign trip was to England when I was 21 years old.

So when I think about my childhood, the first feeling that comes to mind is boredom. “Äiti, mitä mie tekisin – Mother, what could I do next?” I often asked. But my mother’s suggestions were never inspiring, and if my friends weren’t around, I usually chose to walk to the local library so that I could see the world.

My body was local, but my mind was international. Maybe it’s because our family had the book Tuhannen ja yhden yön satujaOne Thousand and One Nights, and I found it fascinatingly exotic at a very early age.

Childhood memories, with flowers
Admiring flowers in the 1970s

So the local library became my globe. As soon as I opened the door, I glanced at England, to the bookshelf where Jane Austen‘s novels were in a row. Then I went to Africa and Asia by browsing big encyclopedias of animals, searching for big cats. I traveled to Egypt when admiring the treasures of the pyramids. I spent hours in France and Italy, contemplating whether I liked impressionism or expressionism more. Pictures of folk dresses took me to the east, across the border. I traveled west over the sea to meet my friends Uudenkuun EmiliaEmily of the New Moon, Laura Ingalls, or Vihervaaran AnnaAnne of Green Gables. And I also spent quite a lot of time in a fictional American town through Spoonriver Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters.

When my fingers danced on the spines of the books, my mind contemplated where to go next. And always, I was able to find a place more pleasant than the small town in Eastern Finland.

Painting Freely, Inspired by Memories

This freedom of mind still inspires me. In fact, this blog is one channel to reach you who lives far away. Despite the distance, you may have read the same books, yet our memories are unique. The common stories and pictures get mixed with personal experiences and views.

Starting a painting, a studio view

No matter how current we want to be, memories always play some role in our art too. When painting freely, it’s not as literal as illustrating a story but more about the atmosphere and associations that a traveling brush can evoke.

Painting in progress. Painting freely and letting memories flow through associations. Creating intuitive art.

Like a child, we can get enthusiastic about very little – about a spot or a simple idea and then expand our thoughts, shapes, and colors.

Painting in a small studio, inspired by memories.

I believe that the more we paint, the more we remember who we naturally are.

My Artist’s Journey

My artist’s journey has been full of practice. A lot of it has been that I have developed a class of my recent revelations and then moved forward to find more. So, it’s been a very straightforward route that way, and I am oddly relieved that it has brought me where I am now, being able to use a brush as my pen and paint stories that go beyond words.

Right now, it doesn’t feel right to develop a new class about painting, especially when I already have the master class Floral Freedom.

Painting the edges of a big painting. The painting is sideways on an easel.
Painting the edges. This piece

However, with the current series of paintings, I have got new ideas for drawing. A big part of my painting skills and imagination have come from drawing practices, and I love the quickness and playfulness that pens and pencils enable. So stay tuned!

Tiger’s Eye – Memories into Painting

I painted this piece, Tiikerinsilmä – Tiger’s Eye, like it would be a good book, taking me to unexpected places. Just like a child sees the world in a library, as an artist, I try to stretch my memories and imagination so that I don’t get stuck in the mundane.

Paivi Eerola and one of her paintings in a garden.

What kind of memories and hopes came to your mind when reading this post? Did you, too, read One Thousand and One Nights, for example?

Adventurous Art is Like an Action Movie

This week, I show you my newest painting and talk about the adventurous side of art.

Yön kuningatar (Queen of the Night), 80 x 100 cm, oil on canvas, by Päivi Eerola, Finland.
Yön kuningatar (Queen of the Night), 80 x 100 cm, oil on canvas

I am not a big fan of action movies. I love their beginnings when the sun shines, and everything is fine but leave the sofa when something terrible happens. Then things get out of control, cars get faster than they should be, people lose their relaxed look, and the life that appeared so organized first falls apart. Some fly up towards the darkness while others fall down. Nothing is like it should be. Everything requires movement and action in that disturbed world.

However, when I paint, I always end up in an action movie. So for me, a painting can only start by facing fears. It’s like carefully opening the curtain and trying to adjust the mind to tolerate the rough surroundings first, then find the beauty and spirit in them.

Facing the Fears – Starting a Painting

For years I searched for my artistic voice from things I loved. But ironically, I found my tone in the things that feel appalling. So, like a young man who sits down and picks the next action movie from Netflix, I go to my studio, fill the palette and hear the opening notes.

Creating adventurous art. Starting a painting - studio view.

Unlike the man, I have never wanted to be an action hero, and still, I sail against the storm with only a few brushes as my companion. Before the first high point of the movie, the man thinks he should do something different, clean the dishes, or read a good book. And similarly, I question if this profession of mine is sensible at all. After all, it’s only the paint that I maneuver when the others keep the world going.

Creating adventurois and intuitive art. Brushwork.

But then, like the man, I get immersed in the adventure. He is no longer a young bloke without the skills of an action hero, and similarly, I am no longer a middle-aged woman. There’s this dangerous jungle, and we are on a mission to clear the mess and make justice.

Telling the Story Under the Surface

Like in an action movie, the violent and cold setting hides another layer – vulnerability. The story behind an action hero is always heart-breaking. He has lost or left a loved one or protects someone he values.

Painting in progress. The diversity of strokes.

At best, the painting is not only full of action but brings up what’s behind the sharp strokes.

Dealing with Distractions

Just when the movie reaches the climax, something mundane happens.

Studio dog.

The young man’s phone rings, the washing machine peeps, or the dog wants to go out. “Just when everything began to unfold!” I shout with him.

Studio view. Painting in progress.

But sooner or later, we return to the movie, enjoy the freedom, and finally reach the happy ending. When the adventure is over, our minds are a bit empty, but that is what action movies do. They take you to another place and reset your mind.

Creating Adventurous Art is About Producing Too

Being a painter is still a little different. Instead of only passively watching, you are also actively creating. While enjoying the freedom, you also produce it. You design the environment, act on all the roles, and direct the plot. It takes time to learn all that.

Painting adventurous art.

However, I feel that the best adventures are revealed by painting.

Yön kuningatar (Queen of the Night), a detail. Abstract art by Päivi Eerola, Finland.

When flowers can then be the actors, not just silent models, a flower painting is far from boring.

Päivi Eerola and her oil painting Queen of the Night (Yön kuningatar).
See the gallery of my recent artworks

What do you think? What does adventurous art mean to you?

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