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Peony and Parakeet

Paint a Poem!

This week, we’ll talk about poems and how to turn them into paintings!

"Terät liitävät kirsikkapuista", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Inspired by Valter Juva's poem. Read Paivi's tips on how to paint a poem!

This acrylic painting is called “Terät liitävät kirsikkapuista,” and it’s my interpretation of Valter Juva’s poem from 1902.

The Finnish name is a bit difficult to translate. Terät liitävät have a double meaning: 1) blades flying in the air 2) petals falling freely. Namely, a petal – terälehti – is a compound word in Finnish. Terä is a tip or a blade. Lehti means a leaf.

This is not the only language-related thing in the poem, and I struggled with the translation. But here’s the best I could do!

English Translation of Valter Juva’s Poem

Terät liitävät kirsikkapuista,
ja virta vieno ne vie.
Se tyynine suvantoineen
mun onneni kymi lie.
Edges fall from cherry trees
and are caught by a gentle stream.
The river and its pools
are the well of my serene.
Suviyössä, mi tuoksuu ja värjyy,
veet kultahan sulautuu;
se lekkuu lännessä päivä
ja idässä kuultaa kuu
.
In the summer night, that smells and glows,
waters melt in gold;
in the west, the day is stirring,
and in the east, shines the moon.
Niin hiljaist’ on ja tyyntä!
Ja koskien alla veet
ne ahtaassa piirissä viipyy,
mut siinä on syvenneet.
It’s so quiet and calm!
And under the rapids,
waters dwell in a tight round
but have become deeper and deeper.

Passion for Poetry

When I was a teenager, poems were my passion in the same way drawing and painting have been. I used to read poetry, and almost daily, wrote my own. I even entered competitions, and some poems have been published. Later, this love for poems have reappeared occasionally: I have read or written some. In 2014, I even wrote a blog post about illustrating poems in art journaling.

But now, it feels that poetry has come to stay. Every time I open a big book (Runojen kirja – Book of Poems) that I won in a poem-writing competition in 1981, I see something that I want to paint. The book has over 800 pages filled with four centuries of Finnish poetry, but it’s not just that. With the book, I remember many poets that I used to read. My mind is blowing, and my brushes are jumping! “Paint paint paint,” they cry!

The first colorful layers of an acrylic painting. By artist Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Valter Juva’s poem was new to me, but I got inspired right away. This painting has a lot of yellow in the background!

Painting a half-abstract landscape inspired by a poem. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

It was a joy to paint those sharp petals and curvy cherry trees that so willingly release the flowers. The size of this painting is 50 x 60 cm (about 19,5 x 23,5 inches) so I was able to paint the details more roughly and quite quickly.

Paint a Poem – Trust the Inspiration!

Painting a poem doesn’t have to be about illustrating every word. It can be more about finding a personal view – how the poem loosely explains your current life and often past experiences too.

In Valter Juva’s poem, the connection between Japan (cherry trees) and Finland (bright summer nights) blew my mind. You who have read my blog for a long time, know that both my husband and I love everything Japanese, and we also have a Japanese garden.

Japanese garden in Finland.

White nights were magical last summer! East and west meet like in the poem!

Paint a Poem – Color the Words!

Poems are filled with interesting words that can have a double meaning or a specific nuance. We don’t even have to know what strange words actually mean. It can still have a certain feeling to us, and we can express that with colors and shapes.

A detail of Paivi Eerola's painting "Terät liitävät kirsikkapuista". Read her tips on how to paint a poem!

In Valter Juva’s poem, there’s a Karelian word lekkuu which means moving or stirring. To me, it has a relaxed undertone which makes me think about yellow-orange curves floating in the air, just above the water.

Paint a Poem – Break Borders!

In art, whether it’s poetry or painting, we can break borders. We don’t have to stick with one geographic location but create one that has characteristics of several places. Similarly, we are allowed to freely travel in time, from childhood to ancient history, and from the current moment to fantasy.

By changing the rules of reality, we can make representational elements symbolize more abstract things. They can be inanimate objects or nature’s elements, for example. In Valter Juva’s poem, waters have deep knowledge, In my painting, static trees take off and timid flowers jump from the plane.

Also, we can be magicians and make any material change its state. In the poem, water becomes gold, and in my painting, light is less immaterial and more touchable and concrete.

Poems are filled with metaphors, so why not let them in your paintings too!

"Terät liitävät kirsikkapuista", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland. Inspired by Valter Juva's poem.

Which poem would you like to paint?

Painting an Intuitive Fantasy

This week, I have a new fantasy painting, and I also share tips about selecting colors.

"Arotuuli / Steppe Wind", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read her post about this intuitive fantasy painting!

This painting is called “Arotuuli,” which is “Steppe Wind” in English. “Aro” must be one of the few words that are shorter in Finnish than in English, as Finnish words are often very long. We write compound words without space, so it makes words look even longer.

Intuitive Fantasy Painting – Two Tips for the Beginning

I like to paint intuitively, and even if this painting has horses and a woman, it started with random strokes and abstract blocks, and I had no other idea than a secret wish to be able to include a horse at some point.

Tip 1 – Dark and Light

When filling the canvas with color, I like to make dark and light color mixes so that the 3-dimensional effect tickles my imagination.

Starting an intuitive painting. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Tip 2 – Less Can Be More

I also like to pick a narrow selection of colors so that the elements look like they are exposed to the same light. In this painting, I mostly used Phthalo Turquoise, Alizarin Crimson, Yellowish Green, and Titanium White. When mixing colors, less can be more!

A Couple of My Favorite Colors

I am especially fond of Yellowish Green and Alizarin Crimson, and I recommend them warmly. Let’s talk about them a bit more.

Color 1 – Yellowish Green

Yellowish Green is a color mix manufactured by Schminke Primacryl. I bought this tube because I love Daniel Smith’s Rich Green Gold in watercolors, and I wanted to have a similar tone in acrylics. I like colors that remind me of lemons and lime fruits – one of the most beautiful things in the world – and I always find use for yellows. This color is like two colors in one tube: it works very well with the mixes that require yellow, but it also produces beautiful greens with blues.

Yellowish Green by Schminke PrimAcryl.

Color 2 – Alizarin Crimson

Alizarin Crimson is an ugly red. I don’t think you would buy it if you didn’t know more about it. It looks like dried blood but works very well with color mixes. White reveals its gentler side, and when mixed with blues, you can get beautiful blacks, browns, and dark purples. It produces a pleasant and quite sunny orange with yellows, and in general, it’s a workhorse, always willing to step in.

Alizarin Crimson, a beautiful red for color mixes. Manufactured by Golden Acrylics.

Alizarin Crimson was originally manufactured from madder, but these old organic dyes faded or changed within time, so nowadays we use synthetic substitutes. I found this color in oils first. Schminke’s oil paint is called “Alizarin Madder Lake”. My tube, manufactured by Golden, is “Alizarin Crimson Hue”. Alizarin Crimson is sometimes called “Madder Lake” or “Alizarin Red,” and the tone may vary. Pick the darkest and ugliest one!

If you are a color nerd, Bright Earth by Philip Ball is a comprehensive book about pigments and their origin.

Here’s the painting before I started adding the figures. The image shows well how Yellowish Green and Alizarin Crimson work in color mixes.

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

Intuitive Fantasy Shape by Shape

I painted the woman and the horses so that they are partly abstract and partly realistic. Some shapes exist just because they look beautiful, others because they are building blocks for the figures.

Painting details shape by shape. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here are some details of the finished painting. The more you zoom in, the more abstract the painting looks.

A detail of "Arotuuli / Steppe Wind", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. This painting has three horses.
A detail of "Arotuuli / Steppe Wind", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
A detail of "Arotuuli / Steppe Wind", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.
A detail of "Arotuuli / Steppe Wind", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s the whole painting again.

I wanted to keep the colors light and bright to create an airy impression.

Intuitive Fantasy Painting – Big or Small?

“Arotuuli” is one of my biggest paintings. It’s 60 x 60 cm (about 23,5 x 23,5 inches) and painted on a stretched, fairly thick canvas. I like painting on smooth surfaces. My style is detailed, and the coarse structure doesn’t go well with it. The painting was started about a month ago, and I took few-hour sessions now and then. It’s not as slow as you would think, because the small strokes aren’t as tiny as with small pieces. Sometimes we produce clumsy just because we select a small size. For me, the bigger size has helped to create dynamic scenes rather than static portraits. “Arotuuli” continues the previous bigger painting “Paratiisi / Paradise.”

Paivi Eerola and her intuitive fantasy painting "Arotuuli / Steppe Wind."

But next week, something much smaller, even if I do have a new big canvas waiting!

Creating Small-Sized Art

Secret Wish, a small oil painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

Creating Small-Sized Art – Watch the Replay of the Live Broadcast!

Artist Trading Cards

ATC cards by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

>> Pointillism in ATC cards – Instructions

ATC cards by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her live blog post where she speaks about these!

>> My drawing class for those who can only draw stick figures!

Small Watercolor Panoramas

Watercolor panoramas by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Creating a watercolor panorama by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

See more in this blog post: Watercolor Panoramas to Express Travel Memories 

Creating a Small Canvas Painting

Preparing a small canvas painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet Preparing a small canvas painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet Painting on a small canvas. The underpainting. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Watch the recording a a live blog post where she shows these! Small-sized art. Painting a small canvas painting with oils. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

>> Add richness to your artistic expression – Join my art community Bloom and Fly

Eeva Nikunen’s Miniature Art

Miniature painting in progress. By Finnish fantasy artist Eeva Nikunen.

See more of Eeva’s detailed art at eevanikunen.com

Next Week: Eeva Nikunen

Resilience – How Eeva Nikunen Managed to Create a Series of 50 Drawings

Eeva Nikunen and her Creative Journal.

I will interview fantasy artist Eeva Nikunen on May 3rd 6 PM Finnish time (4 PM in the UK, 8 AM PDT) This is another live broadcast of my blog, and everyone is welcome to listen to us. Eeva has just launched a self-published journal of over 50 detailed pencil drawings. We will be talking about resilience and what she has learned from creating a series and how she has been able to carry through the project all by herself.

If you can, come see us live:
>> Save your spot here!

Painting a Series – How I Managed It!

"Living Treasure", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Read about her thoughts of painting a series.

I have just finished a series of five flower paintings on canvas. Yesterday, when I was walking back and forth from my studio to the rest of the house, preparing for the photography and the varnishing, I felt both relieved and terrified. I was relieved because nine months of hard work was at the end. I felt terrified because I had run out of excuses for delaying the start of a new series.

Technique Came First, Themes Second

But let’s get back to early spring when I was painting the first of the five paintings. My goal was to master old masters’ painting technique in acrylics so that I could teach it. I had no idea of how many pieces it would require. Before teaching, I needed to understand “why” not just “how.” I also had to develop a logic that makes learning possible, variations that show the possibilities of the technique, and the systematic way of working to make everything as understandable and to the point as possible.

"Strawberry Madonna", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

When I was painting Strawberry Madonna, it soon became clear to me that I was nowhere near to be teaching the technique. I needed to fix my strokes constantly. Even if the fixing doesn’t show in the finished painting, it became clear that I needed more practice. I couldn’t fuss around that way while teaching.

So I bought new canvases and kept on painting. I made experiments, art journal pages, and had several paintings in progress at the same time. I focused on painting what I wanted to include in the class as well: flowers and playing with historical styles. Crafts like crochet, decorative painting, jewelry, fabric, etc were also sources of inspiration. Most of the pieces took tens of hours from me to finish. The quickest is “Four Seasons” that I recorded for the class. With the final touches added after the recording, it took less than ten hours to paint. “Queen of Fantasy” took much longer. You can see me starting it in the free video, but I adjusted the painting many times after that.

"Queen of Fantasy", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Painting a Series – The Most Important Insight

The funny thing about all this is that I wasn’t intentionally painting a series. Working towards the goal of mastering and understanding the old masters’ technique, gave direction to my work. If I had thought about the series more intentionally, I would have probably freaked out! Now when I look back, the most important thing to me was that I expressed the power of flowers in all my paintings but thought about it differently in all the five paintings.

  • For “Living Treasure” I got ideas from gardening.
  • “Strawberry Madonna” connects flowers with fruits and their taste.
  • “Queen of Fantasy” is about flowers representing romance.
  • “Blooming Centuries” tells how flowers have always inspired painters, designers, and crafters.
  • “Four Seasons” shows sisu, a Finnish word for resilience when you work against all the odds and still find the spirit to bloom and prosper.

"Four Seasons", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

So I had a set of generic themes that were repeated in all the paintings, but different interpretations of them. That made them work as a series but so that they don’t look identical at all. Being very intentional about the series and prohibiting new ideas emerge while working can lead to a very boring result and in my case, it would probably make me quit because the lack of excitement and adventure that keeps me going.

I think this insight could also be useful for those who seek for their style. Rather than painting the same thing and get bored by it, find bigger themes and use your creativity to approach them from different angles.

New Era – New Series

During the past couple of months, I have felt fear when thinking where I want to go with my art. I have contemplated that can I share my plans or just keep them hidden because it’s likely that I will fail. For quite some time, I have felt the need to paint abstract art that plays with textures and geometry. I think many of the paintings of this series already have some of that.

I have a funny name for the style of the new series. It is “kinetic-romantic abstract realism.” “Kinetic” means that I want to include movement that is related to machines. “Romantic” means that I want to express through beauty and relationships. “Abstract Realism” refers to the idea of mimicking realistic surface materials for abstract shapes. Very odd, I know, and it terrifies me.

"Blooming Centuries", an acrylic painting by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Creativity is a Living Treasure – Watch the Video!

Before the new beginning, it’s time to celebrate the finished series. I have made a short video of the five pieces and the thoughts that came to my mind when painting them. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy the video!

My Painting on Your Wall?

These paintings are also for sale!- Buy them directly from me here!

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