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Peony and Parakeet

Building and Breaking – Revealing Artistic Potential

This week, I talk about the hidden potential behind artworks and how we can reveal that by not only building but also breaking.

Modern Maximalist

Modern Maximalist, a surface pattern collection by Paivi Eerola.

I have just designed a collection of surface patterns called Modern Maximalist. It’s drawn digitally in Adobe Illustrator and more modern than my work usually is. However, I love modern, especially the 1960s and 1970s styles. I was born at the end of the 1960s, live in a house built in the same era, and my love for retro has been too hidden in my art. But still, I didn’t want to design the collection based only on the images of others, but to build a bridge from my art to design. So, most of the motifs were based on this watercolor painting that I made a couple of weeks ago!

Maximalist, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola
Maximalist, watercolor, 37 x 55 cm.

More Artistic Potential by Building and Breaking

Often when we create art, we build. We communicate the big picture and compose bits and pieces so that they work together. We get happy accidents (and sometimes some not-so-happy ones) and aim to make an image where the overall atmosphere takes over the details.

But to reveal more, we also need to break. Then the romantic flower that was painted to represent a dreamer, becomes a more stylish and symbolic figure.

Avant Garden, a surface pattern by Paivi Eerola. From the collection Modern Maximalist.

Yellow flowers and all the yellow washes can be more geometric when they are away from the big picture.

Floral Harlequin, a surface pattern by Paivi Eerola. From the collection Modern Maximalist.
Pansy Power, a surface pattern by Paivi Eerola. From the collection Modern Maximalist.

The juicyness of the fruits and other decorative details can be reorganized.

Fruity Living, a surface pattern by Paivi Eerola. From the collection Modern Maximalist.
Juicy Breakfast, a surface pattern by Paivi Eerola. From the collection Modern Maximalist.
Spiritual Refresh, a surface pattern by Paivi Eerola. From the collection Modern Maximalist.

Picking Ideas from Other Images

We can also add more fuel, and break and pick from other images. This design called “List Maxima” uses motifs from the painting, but also the idea of a list that came from playing with the name of the collection, and fashion pictures that showed puffy and full dresses of the maximalist style.

List Maxima, a surface pattern by Paivi Eerola. From the collection Modern Maximalist.

By breaking and picking, we also develop our ability to curate – to see which inspiration suits what we have already done. It’s an essential part of a style-development and and growing artistic vision.

I saw a pleated skirt on Prince Charles’s wife Camilla Parker-Bowles, not a maximalist style at all, but wonderfully modern so I broke and picked the image and got creative from that.

Camilla Moe, a surface pattern by Paivi Eerola. From the collection Modern Maximalist.

Artists often say to me: “I need to focus!” But by focusing on narrowing, we non-creatively force ourselves to do one thing. By breaking and picking, we can curate all kinds of inspiration and be creative so that it grows our artistic vision.

Sweet Sensations, a surface pattern by Paivi Eerola. From the collection Modern Maximalist.

Revealing the Artistic Potential

No matter where you are in your artistic journey, your art benefits from the idea of building and breaking. Build to go deeper into the experience and break to reveal more ideas and potential! In practice, building often means painting, and breaking is often connected to drawing – even if, of course, you can use any techniques that suit you.

What was first a watercolor painting, could now be a quilt!

A quilt mockup from the fabrics designed by Päivi Eerola. From the collection Modern Maximalist. Read her blog post about revealing artistic potential.

Building and breaking can alternate endlessly when we combine new ideas and results with old ones.

Printed surface patterns. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here I am breaking and picking to create something new into my art journal.

A paper collage in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Here’s what I built by cutting and glueing new prints and old hand-decorated papers.

A paper collage by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

And I couldn’t resist checking if this could work as a repeat too!

A surface pattern from collage art. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I hope you found this post about building and breaking inspiring!


Need help for finding your artistic potential and building artistic vision? Sign up for my coaching program called Artistic Vision!

About Art and Knitting

Yarnie - an illustration about yarn obsession by the artist Paivi Eerola.
“Yarnie” – A digital illustration about yarn obsession when you escape to an island of wool and all you feel and hear is yarn.

Knitting Through Childhood

I learned to knit before school when I was about five years old. Before that, my older sisters had taught me to crochet, but it wasn’t enough. “There will be much more stitches, and they get dropped easily,” they said. But I was determined. I sat in the kitchen with a ball of dark green light-weight yarn and thin needles that had duck heads in the other end. I wrapped the yarn around the needles and was sure that I would figure it out by myself. It must have been an endearing sight because my sisters gave up and taught me to knit.

After that, I was unstoppable. My mother taught me to make socks and mittens, and when I went to school, I learned more from there. Our local library had a couple of shelves of knitting books, and I borrowed them regularly. As a teenager, I bought a knitting machine and made a sweater in a couple of days.

A purple and green sweater inspired by abstract art.
I attended in a teenagers’ knitwear design competition in the 1980s and got a price with this sweater, inspired by abstract art!
The good thing in the 1980s fashion is that the knits were so big that we never grow out of them!

Late-Night Knitting

Like art, knitting has always been with me. But even if I have had times in my life when I haven’t created art, I have never stopped knitting. No matter what crisis I had, how busy at work I have been, there has always been time and energy for knitting. It’s still like breathing – in, out – knit, purl.

As a child, I had a phase when I dreamed about being a textile artist. But the older I have become, the more I have realized that the connection between knitting and art-making must be looser for me. In the late evenings, when the working day is over, I say good-bye to the artist in me. Then it’s time to stop producing and start consuming. I browse online yarn stores, their Instagram accounts, and Ravelry.com – the ultimate database for knitters – and plan my next projects. I watch knitting podcasts on Youtube and knit obsessively as long as I can stretch the night. I don’t think about art, and I don’t feel like an artist. By following or adapting a pattern that someone else has written makes sure that I don’t have to think but just knit.

But strangely, for each big painting, I need a lot of knitting. It’s my way of processing all the ordinary so that the extraordinary can come up.

Intuitive fair isle knitting and intuitive paintings.
One of my recent sweaters that has “intuitive fair isle” as I call the colorwork without charts.

Art and Knitting – Work and Hobby

When I started blogging over ten years ago, my blog was about knitting. At that time, I also sold handmade bags called folk bags and wool that I produced in co-operation with my friend and a few farmers. There might still be some of you who have followed me since then. Thank you for sticking around!

A photo from 2008 when I had an Etsy store that sold handmade drawstring pouches called folk bags.
Later, I wrote a pattern for them. You can purchase it here!

When I grew my artist’s identity, I wanted not to talk about knitting anymore. I needed a hobby, not another job, and I felt that knitting and fine art don’t go so well together in public. People often have a hard time understanding that art can be a real job.

A sketch and the final illustration "Yarnie" by Paivi Eerola.
“Yarnie” is based on a black and white drawing that I made last year.

But last year, I decided that it’s time to approach art with greater confidence than before. It has made me more open, and maybe it has added a bit more self-acceptance too. So yes, I am both an artist and a knitter. Art is my work, and knitting is my hobby, but I would not be able to work without the hobby.

Does this make sense to you? Let me know what you think!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine's Day by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Hand-drawn collage art composed digitally.

When like-minded hearts gather together, life feels wonderful.
What starts from a simple circle can grow wings,
and then support others.
Isn’t that what creating is all about?
Happy Valentine’s Day!

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The Power of Boredom

When I was a child, my most prevalent feeling was boredom. It felt like childhood was a long wait for things to happen, life to start. I was at the mercy of others and dreamed of the time when I could do it all by myself.

Moments of boredom are necessary for creativity. Digital collage made of hand-drawn and hand-painted elements. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

At that time, in the 1970s, there was no iPad to keep me company. Instead, I often grabbed the only picture book from the shelf where my parents kept their books. It was a softcover book about old paintings. I was staring at Monet and Manet while my mother cooked us dinner. The book wasn’t big, and the images were small. But this way, culture was introduced to me at a young age. Having this one book on the shelf, my parents unknowingly affected my life’s journey.

I was browsing the book in a colorful living room.

It had yellow, orange and red textiles and a grey sofa. Later, the colors were changed to warm green, and brown. It was all fine before my mother bought greyish mint green curtains. She was exhilarated about the color and kept talking about how well mint green fitted with the rest of the decoration. I, in turn, was in shock – cool green doesn’t fit with the warm tones! Every time I was in that room, the curtains made me feel uncomfortable. I waited for the day to pick my own palette!

Enjoying colors. Digital art made of handpainted and handdrawn elements. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

My sisters were living in a red room. It also had white, so it was quite cheery, but I didn’t like the colors. Even the table had a red frame, and it bothered me quite a bit. When my sisters moved away, and the room became mine, my parents traveled to the nearest big town Joensuu to buy new wallpaper. And when they came back, surprisingly, my father, who never had anything to say about the colors, had chosen little yellow roses! “Aww … everything has to be changed to yellow now!” I cried. My mother agreed. They bought curtains that had yellow flowers, a yellow clock, a carpet that had yellow and brown, and sunny yellow bedcovers for the two beds that the room still had. 

Back to childhood. Watercolor painting and a photo of a clock. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and parakeet.
I still have that clock!

I was thinking about these colors all the time.

Did everything match? What I liked and what I didn’t like? I assumed that all people were similar, contemplating their color choices, walking around their homes, thinking about the tint of the curtains.

Digital art made from handpainted and handdrawn elements. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

My first art book got abandoned when I started using the local library. It had huge books filled with master paintings. For years, I sat in the library and waited for my life to begin. I admired the colors, and Picasso and Matisse became my favorites.

Boredom increases creativity. Digital art that uses hand-painted elements. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

At a young age, I knew that green is not only green. It could be muddy green or mint green or something between. And when I was accepted in the local icon-painting group, I also learned that there can be a strictly defined range of tones. It was so satisfying when my teacher told me that I had produced not only an acceptable but beautiful blue for the background. We all used the same amount of the same pigments, and still, every one of us had a slightly different blue. Amazing!

Digital art from hand-painted elements by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read about how her childhood affected her art!

When walking to my home from a group session held at the cellar of the nearest church, I looked at the dark starry sky and admired its deep shade against the white snow. The number of colors that I was able to see was growing all the time.

Illustration by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

All this seemed insignificant back then.

I was just filling the moments of boredom while waiting for my life to begin. And then, finally, I grew up, moved away, went to study, met my future husband, got a dog and a good job, built a career, bought a house. 

Paivi Eerola and her art.

But when I am creating, these events feel less important. Instead, I want to get back to those childhood years trying to remember every single dull moment and detail, including the tone of my yellow bedroom. I am dependable on that boredom. It defines me as an artist. Everything genuine and sincere in my art can be connected with my childhood, with the age of boredom.

Leaf Chapel, a watercolor painting by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet

Does your childhood show in your art? Do you aim for the images that you see other people create, or are you geared to finding your own? This is one of the carrying themes in Lesson 2 of Magical Forest, starting on February 1st.

Hop along! The class ends at the end of April, and you will get Lesson 1 right after the registration. >> Sign up here!

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