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Peony and Parakeet

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!

Three Creative Approaches that Affect the Way You Feel About Your Art

Dreaming Ducks, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland

Here’s my latest oil painting called “Dreaming Ducks.” I started it in December 2017 and finished it just recently. It’s the biggest oil painting that I have made so far – 70 x 50 cm. I painted it too long, too many sessions, and lost my motivation several times. Painting became more challenging layer by layer and I demanded more of myself, never feeling fully happy what I had made.

1) Fine Art is a Stone on the Bottom of the Sea

Dreaming Ducks, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland

The deeper I dive into fine art, the heavier it feels. If creativity is a sea, fine art is like a big stone on the bottom. I have to dive deep, it takes time to reach it, and then it feels so heavy, that it’s often impossible to lift it. But then, on the other hand, it’s also an anchor, the core of my visual voice and artistic identity.

A detail of Dreaming Ducks, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland

But at the same time, I believe that if we only create fine art, it narrows everything. It narrows our artistic vision because we lean too much towards what is appreciated in the art world. It narrows our audience, and we no longer serve all the people we are meant to serve. It suffocates our enthusiasm because we raise the bar all the time. We forget what really matters because we block ideas based on whether it’s fine art or not.

A detail of Dreaming Ducks, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland

Fine art makes us limit ourselves: “I paint abstracts only”, “I have to choose my palette and stick to it”, “I need to find my style”. When we have the mindset of a fine artist, we question what we do all the time.

A detail of Dreaming Ducks, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola, Finland

2) Creative Play is the Boat Floating on the Sea

But then, there’s the surface – the fun stuff that I personally missed too many years while growing my skills to reach the big stone.

Magical Inkdom, an online art class by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

These ink drawings are like a boat to me. I acknowledge now that it’s mindless to make the diving attempts if I don’t have anything supporting me on the surface. Something like drawing witty cats! I have made many for the upcoming class Magical Inkdom!

3) We Easily Miss the Water That Connects the Two

We have been talking about the bottom of the sea and the boat, but it’s all connected, right? It’s easy to forget the water when you are going for the stone or polishing the boat! An artist friend of mine pointed out this to me. She said: “Your work always contains designs.”

Like water, it was a no-brainer: “Well yes, I used to be a designer. I like to design things.” But at the same time, it was something I hadn’t really thought about.

Drawing a design from an oil painting. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Read about the three approaches that you can take for your art!

I went to my computer, wiped the dust from my old Intuos 4 drawing tablet, opened Adobe illustrator, and started drawing.

Drawing a design from an oil painting. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

The blue cat got a cousin! Look how I used the motifs above to complete this digital drawing.

A cat illustration by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Three Creative Approaches

Now I think that these approaches should be the elements of every creative process:
a) diving deeper to find the anchor – discovering your visual voice
b) sailing happily in a little boat – playing with your imagination
c) seeing the water that connects the stone and the boat – becoming more aware of your current capabilities and what you can accomplish now

When I started to see the water, I got the feeling that it’s all good. Anything that I do can be connected, repurposed, and fed back to the process. What I have dreamt can begin to happen now, not years later.

What do you think of these approaches? Can you apply them into your art? Which is the hardest and which is the easiest for you at the moment?

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