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Peony and Parakeet

All In – Finding Uncommon Inspiration

This week, I share my biggest painting so far, and talk about computer games and all the things that should not inspire but that do!

"All In - Kaikki peliin" - oil painting by Paivi Eerola.
“All In” – “Kaikki peliin” – oil painting, 92 x 65 cm

Here’s the last painting of the series that I have been working on this year. It’s called “All In.” The Finnish translation “Kaikki peliin” is perhaps even more suitable because there’s the word “peli” – the game. In this painting, I made every element look like it moves – like in a computer game!

I Am Not a Gamer

No, I am not! Actually, I am the last person who should be talking about computer games because I don’t play them at all. But I have seen some commercials on television and Youtube, and they make my heart beat faster – that’s the tribe where I belong! Despite I hate seeing violence, and don’t usually even watch action movies. Action upsets me. In general, I prefer everything cute and pretty.

Oil painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola.
See the previous stages of this painting in this post!

My Imagination Loves Games

But when I paint, I am not just an artist with all kinds of brushes and tubes. I become a nerd who tries to find the fastest processor and the best graphics driver for rendering 3D from her brain. It no longer matters what kind of art I should create and how art should be created. I change to a guy who moves from one level to the next, always seeking more monsters, more excitement, more points.

A very detailed oil painting. Finding uncommon inspiration. By Paivi Eerola.

Because I don’t play the games, I should not even know how it is like. Yet, I feel I do. Namely, in my twenties, I chose computers over art. I felt I belonged to the world of introverts who built systems – worlds of their own. And now, when I paint, my paintings bring me back to the same setting – how to build a world that operates like a fast-moving game, with many layers and levels.

A detail of an oil painting by Paivi Eerola. Expressing excitement and danger.

This is not what I would have expected. If someone said to me: “Hey Paivi, you should paint game sceneries. Make your own games!” I am pretty certain that a couple of years ago my answer would have been: “You must be kidding. I am a feminine romantic who hates that stuff!”

The Adventure for Uncommon Inspiration

But art is an adventure. It’s not only a journey to a variety of techniques and skills but also an exploration that includes the darkest corners of your mind.

A detail of an oil painting by Paivi Eerola, inspired by computer games. Finding uncommon inspiration for art.

In 1980s, I was a girl who sat in a local library on hot summer days, browsing big books of old art. My dream was to become an artist, but knowing that it would not be safe or easy, I said I wanted to be an English teacher. Between the art books of the library, I saw young boys browsing computer magazines. I went to the shelf after them and knew that I also belonged there – to that group of nerds. And when I saw a computer for the first time, my heart beat fast like for the best painting of a museum.

A detail of an oil painting by Paivi Eerola. Loose brush strokes that express fast motion. Finding uncommon inspiration to discover visual voice and visual language.

Making a series of paintings has been quiet and hard work. I have had lots of self-doubts and melancholic moments between the sessions. But when I paint, it’s all good. My paintings say: “Tell me what you want and we will give it to you!” And often, I don’t know what to reply, but they seem to know anyway. Like I never told them how nerd I am, but they shamelessly reveal everything and apologize for nothing.

Paivi Eerola and her oil painting "All In"

We talk a lot about being unique as artists, but what about if a part of the solution is just to find inspiration that feels uncommon to us. It could be something that we try to get rid of but never seem to manage to do. Or something that we find appalling but still strangely captivating.

What could be your uncommon inspiration? Could the art that you create be a little different from the art that you like to consume? What do you think?

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?

Monet in the Box – Creativity and Shame

This week, I show my latest finished painting and talk about Monet and the hall of fame – no! – the box of shame!

Bluesomnia, oil painting by Paivi Eerola.
Bluesomnia – Sinisomnia (Finnish), oil, 65 x 81 cm

Last week, I participated in an online event organized by the Finnish Illustration Association. One of the speakers was Eeva Kolu, who talked about maintaining balance in life, not letting work take over all of it. She referred to a book that she had written which is unfortunately available only in Finnish. It’s called “Korkeintaan vähän väsynyt” (free translation: A Little Tired At Most)

I have been listening to the book on daily walks, and even if I am not finished yet, I already like the inner dialog that it raises. It makes me stop to ponder, sometimes agree, other times disagree. It’s not only pleasant, and yet, it’s definitely worth reading. One of the things Eeva Kolu brings up is shame. She says that shame defines the size of the box where we live. The box can become so small there’s not much room for life.

Starting a new painting. Painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola.

Eeva Kolu made me think about all the things I am shame of. Surprisingly, one of them is central to my art.

My Relationship With Old Art

When I was in my twenties and thirties, all I wanted to see was contemporary abstract art. In museums, I rushed through the old paintings because representational and traditional art was for mediocre people, and I didn’t want to be one of them. I felt shame about my uneducated family and the lack of abstract thinking in the surroundings where I came from. I had a new life with higher education, and my love for mathematics was well aligned with geometric shapes and lines.

Oil painting in progress. Painting water. Painting intuitively. By Paivi Eerola.

But age has made me understand more about my background and art as well. I have begun to love old art, and still, it’s something that causes me shame as well.

“Waterlilies,” my husband said when he saw this painting.

It made my box shrink. My intention was not to do any Monet. I just painted the dreamy blue that needed to come out, not make any imitation of anything.

Painting in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I Kind of Hate Monet’s Waterlilies

I have seen them in National Gallery in London. They are captivating. People love them.

But instead of making what people easily love, I would like to be an artist who sees to the future. Who builds paintings that are like complex machines. I should be a Leonardo of this age, imagining something technical that engineers will skillfully implement someday.

But my art has a mind of its own. No, a mind of mine. Or would I dare to say: a mind of my shame. I am stuck to the past, so I paint the past. I reach the worlds that feel excitingly unknown first but turn out familiar once the painting is finished. I end up recreating instead of inventing. That’s my shame.

A detail of Bluesomnia, oil painting by Paivi Eerola. Read her post about Claude Monet and creativity!

In my classes and in this blog, I talk about old art now and then. But compared to the amount I think about stiff renaissance portraits, romantic baroque sceneries, frilly victorian dresses, cubistic still-lives, and all the masterpieces from the 15th to 20th century, it’s very little.

“My Readers Want Their Art to Be Current”

That’s what I say to myself often. The readers – you – don’t like old art so I try not to write about it. And still, the expected goal to be current seems ridiculous sometimes. There’s a bridge between current and old, and it’s very difficult to be current without knowing what’s not.

That bridge – or should I call it a long historical timeline – is the place where my creativity naturally lies. My shame is also my utmost love. When I paint, I don’t think about Rubens, Monet, Picasso, or Kandinsky. When you love something deeply, with the skills, it comes out naturally.

A detail of Bluesomnia, oil painting by Paivi Eerola.

“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.”

Claude Monet

Monet’s attitude seems very unintellectual. And yet, if you think about what you create and have created, can you relate? That sometimes it’s necessary to omit the feeling of intellectual understanding, bypass the shame, and simply love – so, widen the box instead of trying to get out of it?

A detail of Bluesomnia, oil painting by Paivi Eerola.

Thumbs up or down for talking about art history and old masters? Share your thoughts in the comments!

P.S. Claude Monet is “a guest teacher” in the class Floral Freedom!

Free Like a Bird – Creating Free from Expectations

This week, I write about my personality type based on Thomas Erikson’s book Surrounded by Idiots and how to paint free from expectations.

"Finch" - an oil painting by Paivi Eerola. Read more about how she paints freely!
“Finch – Peippo” – oil, 50 x 61 cm

Here’s my newest painting. When finishing it, I became surprised gladly when “Blackbird” got a little sister “Finch.” Here’s Blackbird again:

"Blackbird" - an oil painting by Paivi Eerola. Abstract art and ideas.
“Blackbird – Mustarastas” – oil, 60 x 73 cm

Book: Surrounded by Idiots – The Four Types of Human Behaviour

All my life, I have had strong opinions about how and what I should paint. And yes, these opinions have not been something like “powerful dreams” but more like pushy commands. I didn’t even realize how pushy they have been until I read Thomas Erikson’s book “Surrounded by Idiots.” It made me think about my personality from a new perspective.

Even if the idea of the book – dividing personalities into four categories and naming them by colors – could be taken as nonsense, after reading it, I can’t help thinking about how “red” I am. An ambitious fact-oriented person who has pushed herself to the utmost limit with this art-making obsession.

If you are “yellow,” you probably think that I should either have fun or move on. “Greens” might recommend taking a rest and stopping working too hard. And “Blues” claim that the book is not scientifically proved and there’s no reason to quit.

But I have discovered a new solution. It’s been a joy to use my red energy only to make sure that I keep painting. When I open the tubes, my redness is gone. I am open to painting anything. Every ugly start feels like an invitation to the jungle: Let’s see what’s going on in the inner world.

Painting wildly when the personality type is red (based on the book Surrounded by Idiots)

Breaking the Glass – Growing Compassion Towards Inanimate Things

In the class Floral Freedom, you dive deep into Wassily Kandinsky’s ideas about abstract art. Among other things, he talks about breaking the glass – stopping being the observer and starting to be the one that experiences things. Now when I have been pushing myself for almost seven years, the glass has become thin. I feel joy about how easily it breaks right after squeezing the paint on the palette.

For a red person, it has been difficult to break through. I have been giving orders and tightened the control from time to time. But now, the only goal for the spring is to paint all the canvases that I purchased earlier this year. Not questioning what I paint, but just do it.

Filling canvases, painting without an ego,

“Do it!” the red in me commands matter-of-factly and then leaves me working. After breaking the glass, I arrive at a lobby that’s filled with all kinds of stuff. For example, there are tulips that my husband removed from the bench where they were not supposed to grow.

Tulips in a vase

They twisted and turned in the vase, like wild animals in a cage, trying to break free. And when they withered, they became angry and devastated beasts, desperate to continue their lives. They didn’t want to face the fact that they wouldn’t reproduce like they were born to do.

The beauty of withering tulips.

When painting, we can see similar things or just glide on the glass and bypass them. Shapes that don’t get the place in the spotlight. Lines that disappear before they reach high enough.

Painting abstract art by Paivi Eerola

But if we put our mind into noticing them, we can make these inanimate splotches of paint breath and fly, even save some ugly spots. Not because we would hasten and thus compromise the quality, but because we feel sudden compassion towards their character.

Before and after - starting wildly and painting freely. By Paivi Eerola.

Then a picture is not forced but appears naturally. However, the result is not static or exact like the observer would want. Instead, it describes the inner experience of being.

Paivi Eerola and her painting Finch. Read more about her red personality and what she thinks about Thomas Erikson's book Surrounded by Idiots.

The Experience of Being a Finch

In this painting, the being is a little bird, facing danger, trying to take care of its nest, flying and falling, still living the summer of her life.

"Finch" - an oil painting by Paivi Eerola, photographed against the sky.

Have you read Thomas Erikson’s book Surrounded by Idiots? Do you see a connection between your personality and art-making?

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