Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

What to Do When You Admire an Artist

This post is about art, admiration, and spirituality and enabled by Arts Promotion Centre Finland. This is the ninth blog post of the project; see the first one herethe second one herethe third one herethe fourth one herethe fifth one herethe sixth one here, the seventh one here, and the eighth one here!

This week, I finished the last oil painting of the new series. It’s pretty large – about 27.5 x 35.5 inches – and I think it completes the series well because it’s the most dynamic of the seven.

Paradise of Wild Ones, oil on canvas, Paivi Eerola, 2021.
Paradise of Wild Ones – Villien paratiisi, oil on canvas, 70 x 90 cm

My goal in the series was to express spirituality through abstract art. The plan was to explore Wassily Kandinsky’s idea about releasing the inner sound of the shapes and get inspired by art from the 16th to 18th centuries. This last painting is a salute to my favorite artist: Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640).

Going Deeper – The Experience of Working with a Grant

Sadly, my three-month period of working with the grant is now coming to an end. During that, I painted a series of seven oil paintings, wrote several blog posts and weekly emails, plus a fictive essay in Finnish that that will hopefully get published somewhere. I still have the summarizing report to write and several paintings to varnish, but all the main work is done.

During the past months, my little studio has been filled with paintings. Every morning, before anything, I have gone there to both worry about the project and to enjoy the kind of excitement that only uncompleted work can give.

Oil painting in progress.

Despite the theme of spirituality, I haven’t lit any candles, meditated, or prayed. But I have slowed things down and taken time to question without forcing out the answer. At the same time, a clear schedule and content plan have brought structure to my days. I am grateful for the opportunity of doing this kind of deep work.

Painting abstractions and small details. By Paivi Eerola.

Many times when we create art, we hurry. A part of it is that we want to see the piece finished, but there’s more too. Art can make us feel uncomfortable and bring up memories we would rather want to leave behind. But making art can also point out stiffness, clumsiness, and differences between who we are and the artist we admire.

When You Admire an Artist – Rubens for Example!

Dear Peter Paul Rubens, I want to paint like you. I want to master the curvy lines, the soft transitions from one shade to another, the effortless flow in the composition, and something that I can’t name but that makes my heart beat faster every time I see one of your masterpieces.

With masterpieces, I mean paintings like “Four Continents” or “Four Rivers of Paradise” – this artwork has two alternative titles.

Four Rivers of Paradise by Paul Peter Rubens.
The Four Rivers of Paradise by Peter Paul Rubens, ca. 1615

Experts used to think that the painting had four continents and four rivers. Europe is the woman on the left, and her partner is the river Danube. Africa is the black woman, and her man is the Nile. The woman in the center back represents America, and her man is Rio de la Plata. The woman on the right is Asia, and her man is the Ganges. However, there’s a competing interpretation of the river figures. They may represent the four great rivers of the ancient East/paradise: the Euphrates, the Tigris, the Gihon, and the Pishon.

Rubens was born in an era where a shape could not be freed in the way we now can. He had to build a representation layer that people could explain and understand in a specific way. We humans have a strong need to label things. For example, when people see my work, they immediately begin to describe what they see.

But my paintings can produce many interpretations because I try to make shapes so that they raise several different kinds of associations. When painting, I focus more on how the shapes and colors interact with each other, not on one interpretation of what they represent.

Painting abstract shapes. How to paint when you admire an artist.

Rubens didn’t have the luxury to leave the shapes abstract – it would not be treated as a completed painting in the 17th century.

Tiger and child - A detail of Peter Paul Rubens's painting Four Continents.

And still, his expression has such a sense of mystery that it draws me in and forms a spiritual connection with humankind.

Creating with Hurry vs. Taking Time to Imagine

Recently, I have started to feel that it’s ok that I am not Rubens, Kandinsky, or any other admirable artist. By taking time for imagination, I still can feel a connection with them.

A detail of an oil painting by Paivi Eerola. How to paint when you admire an artist, like Paivi admires Rubens.

Rather than trying to reproduce what my favorite artists have created, I imagine that my little studio is a time capsule where they hang around. My sensitivity for them can get mixed with the rest of my imagination, and produce my kind of work, still supported by them.

In the studio of Paivi Eerola.

The core of art is that we are free to imagine. We are allowed to break the limits of time, explore the inner world, and go beyond literal ideas and explanations.

A detail of an oil painting "Paradise of Wild Ones" by Paivi Eerola. Read more about how to create when you admire an artist and want to paint like her/him.

This journey has taught me that it is possible to live with wild thoughts no matter what direction they take. Like a rare animal, a thought can be shy and fast, and thus, require sitting before the trust is formed.

I started the project with the definition of spirituality, but now the greatest lesson seems to be to let go of any single definition and find more, no matter what the subject is.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. Who do you admire, for example, if not anything else!

Painting with Music and About Music

This post is about art, music, and spirituality and enabled by Arts Promotion Centre Finland. This is the eighth blog post of the project, see the first one herethe second one herethe third one herethe fourth one herethe fifth one here, the sixth one here, and the seventh one here!

Water Music - Vesimusiikkia, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola.
Water Music – Vesimusiikkia, 30 x 50 cm, oil on canvas

Lately, I have made two small pieces that go with the biggest paintings of the current series. So the one above has similar colors to the big blue painting in the photo below.

Big abstract floral oil paintings by Paivi Eerola.

And the other big painting on the right has a fairly similar color scheme to the second small one below.

Vivaldi's Crop - Vivaldin viljaa, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola.
Vivaldi’s Crop – Vivaldin viljaa, 30 x 50 cm, oil on canvas

These two small paintings are inspired by 17th- and 18th-century Baroque music. However, despite their theme and titles, I did not listen to Händel or Vivaldi while painting them! Namely, this fall, I have wanted not only to raise the bar in art-making but also to widen my taste for music.

So I have moved from melodic pop and baroque songs to electronic soundscapes and contemporary classical music. What used to be annoying and disturbing isn’t so anymore. I can paint more freely when a catchy melody isn’t telling me what to do.

Painting with Music or about Music

Rather than an instant energy booster, music can be seen as a concept or a memory that can be painted or drawn. I never thought before that a song could be a subject for my painting even if I don’t listen to it. Different music that plays in the background can start an inner journey to express the song. So you can paint with music A and express music B.

Expressing Händel's Water Music. Painting with music.

After finishing Water Music, I did play some Händel to check that the painting is in line with it.

Mixing Music with Other Inspiration Sources

Creating becomes exciting when inspiration is collected from several sources. One of my orchids surprised me with a small flower which affected the painting too.

Nature and art. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I often check that my art and plants go well together. I have taken the idea from Paul Cezanne, who said: “When I judge art, I take my painting and put it next to a God made object like a tree or flower. If it clashes, it is not art.”

Oil painting in progress. Painting with music and about music.

In the other small painting, Vivaldi’s violins are mixed with the recent incident of seeing a fox carrying a hare in his mouth.

A detail of an oil painting. Mixing inspiration from various sources.

I feel that listening to music that I call “asymmetric” has developed my thinking. Instead of going around and getting back to the melody, music can travel long distances without repetition and create a sense of a vast space. For example, a Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho‘s orchestra piece Orion opened that way.

Jazz for the Control Freak!

Next, my plan is to learn to tolerate jazz! My husband likes it, but it’s always been too rambling for me. “Music for those who like to be idle and lazy,” I have said sarcastically when he’s been listening to it.

But now I think differently. I don’t have to be the music. I can just let the music be what it was born to be. And similarly, the music lets me be. It’s like my best paintings: they let me be who I am, and I let them grow in the direction they want.

A detail of an oil painting. Expressing music by painting.

So, I can just be and let others be and still create a connection that takes us to the next level. I think that’s what it means to “let go” when we talk about intuition and creativity.

Two floral abstract paintings by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

My series will have seven paintings, and the last one is now on my easel. I will share more pics about it in later posts. It’s been quite a lot of painting and I have started to miss my colored pencils!

Painting in progess. Painting with music.

Tell me, do you paint and draw with the music? What kind of music do you listen to when creating?

Roaming Instinct – Why Not to Limit Artistic Inspiration

This post is about artistic inspiration and spirituality and enabled by Arts Promotion Centre Finland. This is the seventh blog post of the project, see the first one herethe second one herethe third one herethe fourth one herethe fifth one here, and the sixth one here!

My second big painting is called “Roaming Instinct.”

Roaming Instinct - Vaellusvietti, an oil painting  by Paivi Eerola, Finland.
“Vaellusvietti – Roaming Instinct”, 120 x 100 cm, oil on canvas

This painting and the previous big one have been really significant to me.

Two big oil paintings in a small studio. By Paivi Eerola, Finland. Read what she thinks about inspiration and style.

Regular practice and the big size have helped me to relax and let go – break the glass between the inner and the outer world, as Wassily Kandinsky would say.

Can There Be Too Much Artistic Inspiration?

As long as I have created art, I have been inspired by a variety of things. It has often felt like it’s too much.

Here are some:

  • old portraits in fancy dresses
  • houseplants and their pots
  • midcentury-modern interiors
  • colorful kitsch
  • primitive dolls
  • dressage horses
  • English country gardens and cottages
  • Tibetan yaks
  • base jumping
  • mountain climbing
  • skateboards
  • graffitis
  • physics
  • outer space
  • mathematical algorithms

The list is ongoing and overwhelming!

I think this is not exceptional at all. The world is full of artistic inspiration. Like animals, we have a roaming instinct to explore further. No wonder they say that the hard choice for art-making is to choose what inspiration to pick.

Oil painting in progress.

But recently I have felt like I don’t have to pick. No matter what I paint, I can bring it all together. If I paint a flower, it can look like a nomad, or a mountain, or a furry animal, or a space station, I don’t have to define.

Shapes can have an identity of their own. A detail of an oil painting by artist Paivi Eerola, Finland.

Every element can have a strong identity and the overall scenery can have a strong sense of location even if I can’t name it. Some people say my paintings are underwater sceneries, others see outer space. For me, they can be both, and yet neither. I feel I am delivering more than what can be labeled.

Finding Your Artistic Voice/Style/Spirituality/Identity – Whatever You Call It!

I have created art for a long time expecting to become better at what to pick and why. I assumed that art would make me know myself better and yes, it has. But it’s surprising that now when I am painting, it doesn’t really matter who I am and how I get inspired. My art is not to limit or to focus but to integrate.

Paivi Eerola and one of her oil paintings. Read more about her thoughts on artistic inspiration!

When I started the project, one of the goals was to get clearer about my spirituality. My question was: “Can a former engineer create spiritual art?”

At the moment, I find it difficult to separate physical from the spiritual. All material things seem to have a spirit and everything immaterial seems to have a figure. When I paint, they mix and merge, and after a while, the painting seems to have a mind of its own. It tells what it wants, and my job is to obey.

Does this make sense? What do you think?

Longing for Freedom – An Intuitive Floral Still Life

This week, I have an intuitive floral still life! It’s the biggest painting that I have made so far – about 47 x 39 inches.

This post is also about artistic and spiritual freedom and enabled by Arts Promotion Centre Finland. This is the sixth blog post of the project, see the first one herethe second one herethe third one here, the fourth one here, and the fifth one here!

About Flying and Freedom

"Longing for Freedom - Vapaudenkaipuu", oil, 120 cm x 100 cm - an intuitive still life by Paivi Eerola
“Longing for Freedom – Vapaudenkaipuu”, oil, 120 cm x 100 cm
Vapaudenkaipuu is one of the most beautiful Finnish words that I know. Listen to me saying it by clicking the audio!

Our back garden is a mall for birds. We get to see many species and, if lucky, some butterflies too. I became interested in birds in the early 90s when I shared an apartment with a friend who had budgies and a cockatiel. Living with the birds made me notice them outside too. And what a great ability they have – flying!

“Free like a bird,” they say, and yes, flying and freedom do belong together. But when a blue tit enters a small bond under our dining room window, I see worry. Worry if he manages to clean himself before my beagles run out of the door or before bigger birds take their turn. His freedom is limited like anyone’s in this world. Even a dove couple who I jokingly call “the owners of the spa” are frightened by their surroundings. Last summer, a dove was killed near our home, maybe by a fox, and it took some time for the couple to reappear.

Flocks, couples – we are born not only to be free but also dependent on each other. When we have each other, we are safer than alone.

But birds have taught me that the longing for freedom is also about safety. The blue tit feels safe enough to wash on the ground because he is free to take off. Insignificant dots, that’s what we all are to him. And still, he also enjoys that we do exist – we who keep the bond clean and pretty.

Intuitive Version of 17th Century Floral Still Life

Starting an intuitive still life. A studio view of an artist Paivi Eerola.

I wanted this painting to be my version of 17th century still lives. They had black backgrounds and were filled with things that had hidden meanings.

17th century Dutch still life, a detail. Jacob Vosmaer, 1613.
Detail of Dutch Jacob Vosmaer’s still life, ca. 1613. Tulips for nobility, butterflies for transformation, a withered flower and a salamander for decay and death.

Nowadays, we can be freer and let the colors and shapes hit straight to our souls. We have the artistic and spiritual freedom to create intuitively and also, feel safe enough to open our inner world to others.

Two big intuitive floral still lives by artist Paivi Eerola.

Freedom – What are your thoughts? Does it show in your art?

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