Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Art-Making and Garden Life

This week, I talk about how gardening inspires both my husband and me. The garden is present in these two new miniature paintings as well.

Two miniature oil paintings, inspired by a garden. By Päivi Eerola, Finland.
“Kesän viemää” (gone with summer) and “Syksyn tuomaa” (brought by fall), miniature oil paintings on canvas, 6 x 6 inches

It is already autumn in Finland, but we have summer in our hearts because we have done a lot of work in the garden during the summer. My husband has put all his energy there, I don’t have quite as big a passion. The garden is his canvas, but for me, painting is the most important.

Freely Grown – and a New Sweet Spot

Päivi Eerola and her art, inspired by a garden. Watercolors and colored pencils on paper.

I have a new course in the making called Freely Grown, which I hope to run in late October and get for pre-sale next week. There we will paint layered flowers in watercolor and finish the painting with colored pencils.

Lately, I’ve found my sweet spot in the way I look at plants. I can see both playfulness and soulfulness in them. This perspective has brought new positivity to my life. I think that art always has a lot of possibilities. Making art is like walking down a long corridor full of doors. Now I have found a door where I can be funny and profound at the same time. This insight also affects the creation of the course. I’ve had a lot of fun, although I haven’t compromised on explaining the details.

Making a Dream Come True

The garden is my husband’s canvas. He’s been making a bigger water feature all summer. It’s big enough to be called a pond. I wasn’t terribly excited about it, but the further the project has progressed, the more I understand his vision.

Building a pond for the garden.

One of the hardest things both in art-making and garden life is visioning – so, dreaming! The dream must be simplified so that it can be remembered during the making. All projects have ugly phases. The dream must still be maintained.

Even these miniature paintings, for which I use leftover paints from the palette, looked pretty terrible at first.

Miniature paintings in progress. First dark layers.

However, I had a dream and knew these would become really nice.

Two miniature paintings inspired by a garden. By artist Paivi Eerola.

I also made small paintings like this earlier this year, remember?

Four miniature paintings by paivi Eerola.

See this blog post for more pics!

Planning a Garden

In the spring, we hired a professional garden planner to draw a plan for a part of our backyard.

Garden perennials. End of summer in the garden.

It was a bit like taking a course. We got points of view from a professional and she helped us to see further in our dreams. With that, I learned a lot about plants and how to plan a garden like dividing a house into rooms. It is not very far from a painting.

Two minuature paintings. Oil on canvas.

Think about a painting as a place that has its own identity. My small paintings are like tiny closets but bigger ones often like halls.

Runaway Sun – Karannut aurinko, 70 x 120 cm, oil on canvas. By Paivi Eerola.
Runaway Sun – Karannut aurinko, 70 x 120 cm, oil on canvas.

See more pics about this big painting in this blog post!

Art-Making and Garden – Back to the Pond

The pond is entirely my husband’s work – although he has probably watched all the pond-building videos on YouTube!

I feel that the pond already affects my paintings. Do you remember this watercolor painting I presented a couple of weeks ago?

Freely grown flowers and water. Watercolors and colored pencils on paper. By Paivi Eerola.

See this blog post for more pics!

I think I already have a little love for that pond, its plants, its reflections, and how it reminds me of Monet’s garden.

Pond view.

However, winter is already coming. Art-making and garden life will be a bit more separate then. But the flowers will bloom on the canvas. And my husband will start watching YouTube again to see what he could create next summer.

A closeup of a miniature painting inspired by garden life. By Paivi Eerola.

Can you relate? Do you have a garden?

Restarting a Painting

This week, we talk about restarting an old painting or restarting creating so that we have a new confidence and freedom.

Vapauden puolesta – For Liberty, 45 x 45 cm, oil on board. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.
Vapauden puolesta – For Liberty, 45 x 45 cm, oil on board

This piece called “For Liberty” was been painted on the top of an old work. It was a bit challenging to photograph because it’s painted on wooden paint board – a very smooth surface that reflects light. But before I go into more detail, I want to tell a story from my childhood that has had a big impact on me. If you have taken my classes, you might recognize my passion for acting!

“Open Your Arms”

I have been an enthusiastic actor as a teenager. Once I was the lead in a school play directed by the teacher. He was a very good director. “Spread your arms,” ​​he told me when we were practicing a scene. For a teen, spreading the arms was a huge gesture. I still remember how my hands reluctantly opened and released from the grip. But wide open, I suddenly had a sweet sense of confidence: I owned this arena and I was going to get an audience too. Everything will be fine and even better than before!

My friend and I had been chosen to the school play because we had a private play club that we had put together. I wrote the script for the plays and we performed them to our class. It was great that our native language teacher allowed the performances. The teacher Varpu Lehtolainen and the teacher who directed the play, Taavi Lehtolainen, were married. Their creativity was inspiring. Their daughter is Leena Lehtolainen, who later became a famous author in Finland – no wonder!

Confidence for a Restart

When a person makes another person free, the feeling that he ignites is not based on successful performances in the past. The new self-confidence comes from seeing what will be possible in the future. You can go back and start over as many times as you want. Everything will be fine.

In 2020, I made an oil painting called “Wreath Maker.” However, I failed in varnishing and did not put it on display or for sale. The painting is painted on a board instead of a canvas, and it is quite challenging as a surface.

Wreath Maker, an oil painting that was restarted

When the local artists’ association asked for works with the theme “Red, White, Blue”, I came up with the idea of ​​sanding off the varnish and doing a new painting on top, somewhat based on the old one.

Restarting a painting

As soon as I started painting, there was this “spread your hands” feeling. I wanted to free the painting from its constraints and give the flowers their own roles.

Oil painting in progress.

Rubens’ paintings of battle scenes from the 17th century came to mind, and I wanted to make a grand theme too – where people wake up to defend their own values ​​and the flags are flying high.

Restarting to Release the Visual Voice

I have painted this in parts and between the sessions, I have been building a new course, where freedom is also a central subject. I wish I could be a teacher like Taavi Lehtolainen: “Spread your hands, control your space!”

Artist Paivi Eerola from Finland and her painting "For Liberty."

Art always does well when the flowers are allowed to grow freely and each in its own way.

A detail of "For Liberty." Oil on board. By Päivi Eerola.

A painting is released when it finds its meaning. I feel that’s what happened to this piece. The previous version was okay, but the message is now clearer, the painting is more airy, and the flowers are now more diverse and expressive.

When you want to fine-tune your visual voice, maybe this kind of freedom is what your art is lacking?

What do you think?

Start with Something – Following Picasso and Edelfelt

This week, we are using inspirational art as fuel for our own art. I show how I created my own version of Albert Edelfelt’s masterpiece by following the advice given by Pablo Picasso.

Paivi Eerola, Kohtalotoverit - Friends by Fate, oil on canvas, 2023. Inspired by Albert Edelfelt's painting Ruokolahden eukkoja kirkonmäellä - Women of Ruokolahti on the Church Hill.
Kohtalotoverit – Friends by Fate, 30 x 40 cm, oil on canvas.

“Friends by Fate” is a small painting, but one of my favorites from the series that I made for the current exhibition. Because the title of the exhibition is Taiteilijat Edelfeltin tunnelmissa – Artists in the Mood of Edelfelt, I wanted to make my versions of some of Albert Edelfelt’s (1854-1905) artworks. For example, I made this one, and this one. “Friends by Fate” uses Albert Edelfelt’s painting “Women of Ruokolahti on the Church Hill” as inspiration.

Albert Edelfelt, Ruokolahden eukkoja kirkonmäellä - Women of Ruokolahti on the Church Hill,129 × 158 cm, oil on canvas, 1887. Owned by Finnish National Gallery.
Albert Edelfelt, Ruokolahden eukkoja kirkonmäellä – Women of Ruokolahti on the Church Hill, 129 × 158 cm, oil on canvas, 1887. Owned by Finnish National Gallery.

This is a very famous painting in Finland. Even if Albert Edelfelt painted a lot of portraits of wealthy people to finance his profession, he became known for pieces like this that depict ordinary folk.

Start with Something!

I have always been intrigued by this Pablo Picasso’s (1881-1973) quote:

“There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward, you can remove all traces of reality.”

In my opinion, this applies to any art, not just abstract. You can always start with something and then make your own version.

For example, even if there are people in Albert Edelfelt’s painting, it doesn’t mean that my version has to have them.

Oil painting in progress. Creating an abstract composition inspired by Albert Edelfelt's work and getting inspired by Picasso when he says: You must start with something.

Start the painting with a similar composition, but then slowly let it grow in its own direction.

Oil painting in progress. Inspire by Albert Edelfelt's artwork and the sayings of Pablo Picasso.

In my version, the flowers and plants replace the women, and the location is different too. I was thinking about the area where I live and how people gather together on a summer evening.

Oil painting in progress. Finishing the details.

There was quite a lot of work in the details. Albert’s work is not clumsy, so I wanted mine to be well-finished too.

Following Picasso and Edelfelt

I love to paint so that flowers and plants are the characters of the painting. I feel I can combine my sense of humor with my yearning for beauty.

A detail of an oil painting called Kohtalotoverit (Friends by Fate). By the artist Paivi Eerola, Finland.

Flowers have given me a secret language that I can use to express anything. With this realization, I feel more and more drawn to the boldness of Pablo Picasso, the re-creator of Diego Velázquez’s 1656 masterpiece “Las Meninas”.

Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.

Albert Edelfelt was also appreciated in his lifetime, but he didn’t have the confidence that Picasso had. He wrote to his mother:

” I fear nothing else than that I become a raté – a half-talent and an unhappy person.”
(Free translation from Finnish)

This kind of seriousness is what I recognize too: puolilahjakkuus – half-talent – who would like to be that! But still – or maybe because of that, it’s good to embrace playfulness when creating art.

Päivi Eerola and her painting inspired by Albert Edelfelt's work.

Like Edelfelt, you can recognize the fears and set the bar high.
But then, act like Picasso – Start with something and then ask: what could be and why not!

From Artist’s Focus to Artist’s Between

This week, I challenge you to question what the word “focus” means to you as an artist.

Paivi Eerola, Kahden maailman välissä - Between Two Worlds, 40 x 30 cm, oil on canvas
Kahden maailman välissä – Between Two Worlds, 40 x 30 cm, oil on canvas

I thought a lot about the artist’s focus when painting this piece. This was one of the last paintings to be finished for my exhibition.

Artist’s Focus

Have you ever said this:
“I want to find my focus in art.”

Although I want to direct my energy wisely as an artist, something in that statement has always bothered me.

For me, the essence of art is not narrowing, but expanding – not isolating but inviting. The artist expresses not only herself but humanity in general. And as humans, we are rarely completely serene or focused. We seldom belong to only one group, one era, or one world. We are often one foot in one field, one foot in another.

Painting the first strokes. Artist's focus comes to mind when starting a new painting.

When we create, could the inspiring word be more like “between” than “focus?”

Oil painting in progress

Focus is nice and pretty, but is it art?

Inspiration from Albert Edelfelt

In this series of paintings, my inspiration was the Finnish master painter Albert Edelfelt (1854-1905). For the painting of this post, I took ideas for the color scheme from this pastel work by Edelfelt. This piece is currently displayed at the Albert Edelfelt Exhibition in the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki.

Albert Edelfelt, Parisian Model in a Dressing Gown (Parisian Model in Robe), 1885
Albert Edelfelt, Parisian Model in a Dressing Gown (Parisian Model in Robe), 1885

While studying the colors, I thought about the end of the 19th century and the intelligent look of the woman. Wasn’t this also “between” rather than “focus?” Between a man and a woman, if you think about the relationship between the model and Albert. Between being a model and having her own thoughts, if you study a woman’s gaze. Between representation and abstraction, if you observe lines and shapes.

Abstract art began shortly after Edelfelt’s death. He probably already felt its presence, felt that he was between two worlds.

From Artist’s Focus to Artist’s Between

I decided to throw myself fully into being between two worlds in this painting.

An abstract floral painting in progress. Read more about finding artist's focus and what to think when you are creating.

“Between” is an uncomfortable state of being, so this painting couldn’t contain only easy and beautiful. “Between” is a bit like walking in nature and then bumping into apartment buildings. Or when you’re admiring clear water in a pond and your eyes fall on the filters. Focus can then only exist if you close your eyes. Not very eye-opening, eh?

Before and after finishing touches. An oil painting by Päivi Eerola, Finland.
Before and after finishing. Click the image or here to see it bigger!

This painting has two different styles and although it is small in size, I feel that it reveals the secret between what I do and what I think.

I noticed at the opening of the exhibition that I don’t like to talk about this work, because I find it somehow intrusive. Often when the paintings are created, they are nice characters, a bit shy and sensitive, but fun company. This one is straightforward and doesn’t hide its contradiction.

Paivi Eerola holding the oil painting "Kahden maailman välissä - Between Two Worlds". She claims that "artist's between" is a better concept than artist's focus.

However, there is a lot of power in the contradictions and lack of focus. I want to continue to challenge myself to draw artistic inspiration from it.

Do you also feel that you are between two worlds?
In art-making, could you replace the yearning for “focus” with the embracing of “between?”

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