Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Turning Memories into Paintings

This week, I talk about memories and art-making and how the connection between them can be loose but still important.

Tiikerinsilmä - Tiger's Eye, oil on canvas, 80 x 100 cm. By Paivi Eerola, Finland.
Tiikerinsilmä – Tiger’s Eye, oil on canvas, 100 x 80 cm

With this new painting, I want to talk about …

Books and Memories

My parents never visited another country, and as a child, I never traveled abroad. My first foreign trip was to England when I was 21 years old.

So when I think about my childhood, the first feeling that comes to mind is boredom. “Äiti, mitä mie tekisin – Mother, what could I do next?” I often asked. But my mother’s suggestions were never inspiring, and if my friends weren’t around, I usually chose to walk to the local library so that I could see the world.

My body was local, but my mind was international. Maybe it’s because our family had the book Tuhannen ja yhden yön satujaOne Thousand and One Nights, and I found it fascinatingly exotic at a very early age.

Childhood memories, with flowers
Admiring flowers in the 1970s

So the local library became my globe. As soon as I opened the door, I glanced at England, to the bookshelf where Jane Austen‘s novels were in a row. Then I went to Africa and Asia by browsing big encyclopedias of animals, searching for big cats. I traveled to Egypt when admiring the treasures of the pyramids. I spent hours in France and Italy, contemplating whether I liked impressionism or expressionism more. Pictures of folk dresses took me to the east, across the border. I traveled west over the sea to meet my friends Uudenkuun EmiliaEmily of the New Moon, Laura Ingalls, or Vihervaaran AnnaAnne of Green Gables. And I also spent quite a lot of time in a fictional American town through Spoonriver Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters.

When my fingers danced on the spines of the books, my mind contemplated where to go next. And always, I was able to find a place more pleasant than the small town in Eastern Finland.

Painting Freely, Inspired by Memories

This freedom of mind still inspires me. In fact, this blog is one channel to reach you who lives far away. Despite the distance, you may have read the same books, yet our memories are unique. The common stories and pictures get mixed with personal experiences and views.

Starting a painting, a studio view

No matter how current we want to be, memories always play some role in our art too. When painting freely, it’s not as literal as illustrating a story but more about the atmosphere and associations that a traveling brush can evoke.

Painting in progress. Painting freely and letting memories flow through associations. Creating intuitive art.

Like a child, we can get enthusiastic about very little – about a spot or a simple idea and then expand our thoughts, shapes, and colors.

Painting in a small studio, inspired by memories.

I believe that the more we paint, the more we remember who we naturally are.

My Artist’s Journey

My artist’s journey has been full of practice. A lot of it has been that I have developed a class of my recent revelations and then moved forward to find more. So, it’s been a very straightforward route that way, and I am oddly relieved that it has brought me where I am now, being able to use a brush as my pen and paint stories that go beyond words.

Right now, it doesn’t feel right to develop a new class about painting, especially when I already have the master class Floral Freedom.

Painting the edges of a big painting. The painting is sideways on an easel.
Painting the edges. This piece

However, with the current series of paintings, I have got new ideas for drawing. A big part of my painting skills and imagination have come from drawing practices, and I love the quickness and playfulness that pens and pencils enable. So stay tuned!

Tiger’s Eye – Memories into Painting

I painted this piece, Tiikerinsilmä – Tiger’s Eye, like it would be a good book, taking me to unexpected places. Just like a child sees the world in a library, as an artist, I try to stretch my memories and imagination so that I don’t get stuck in the mundane.

Paivi Eerola and one of her paintings in a garden.

What kind of memories and hopes came to your mind when reading this post? Did you, too, read One Thousand and One Nights, for example?

20 thoughts on “Turning Memories into Paintings

  1. Your work is so beautiful!!! My favorite childhood book is: The Secret Garden. Although Laura Ingalls books fascinated me too!

  2. Thank you for sharing your childhood adventures. I love the way you write about your art and also when you tell stories or some of your very precious memories. Thank you! As a child I got a book with russian winter stories and loved them so much. They were full of witches, wonderful, mystical creatures and most of all – dark winter nights. There is no time of the year more magical than winter . Those let me fly between the stars, dance with snowflakes, walking through a palce made of ice and snow shimmering like millions of chrystals. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Birgit! So interesting to hear that you also had a storybook that inspired you. I didn’t read those as a child but later, I have come crossed with old Russian winter tale illustrations and they look very inspiring.

  3. Très beau ! Mon livre préféré est “Féérie dans l’île” de Gérald Durell. J’aurai aimé vivre comme ça. A 76 ans, j’en rêve toujours.

    1. Translated via Google Translate: “Beautiful ! My favorite book is “Féérie dans l’île” by Gérald Durell. I would have liked to live like that. At 76, I still dream of it.”

      Féérie dans l’île is a book called “My family and Other Animals”

      Thank you Janine! Definitely let that book come part of your artistic expression if you haven’t yet. Let it find its ways!

  4. Love this post! I fell in love with Anne of Green Gables in my early teens and she was, truly, an inspiration to me to be fully myself. And at 74 years of age, and millions of mistakes later, I am surprised at how many childhood memories arise these days, and I realise that in many ways, I have circled back to that little person who dreamed so big, was fearless and sure of her value in this world, even though she was in an orphanage and very confused about her place in the world. Thank you for reminding me.

    1. Thank you, Tosca! It’s amazing how books can mend and uplift! I also find it interesting how much childhood and art are connected. Your comment made me also think about the strength that a child has, and how our inner child can still feed our creativity if we let that happen.

  5. I know I say this a lot, but this one really is my favorite.
    I have so many wonderful memories of our local children’s Library. The smell of it as I walked through the door, the child sized large topped wooden table. Row upon rows of books all filed in order. My favorite way to find my choices for the week were to walk up and down the aisles, pulling out whatever title caught my eye. I always opened each book, noticing the feel, was it brand new with an unbroken spine or was it soft and well loved, shabby with folded pages. I would read the first page of each one I looked at, did it interest me, or was it going back on thee shelf. I’d check the card in the back of the book, had it been marked a lot? I was very serious about my books! Sometimes I would even feel sorry for a book if it hadn’t been read a lot and take it home and read it through. We were only allowed six books at a time so during the Summer I walked there twice. Hot afternoons meant a shade tree and a book. Vivid memories!

    1. Thank you, Yvonne, this painting is one of my favorites too.
      Your description of the local library and how it made you feel is just brilliant and I can relate to it so well. Thanks so much for the wonderful comment!

  6. Hi Paivi, Love the story behind the painting. So fascinating the way you get inspired making beautiful art. I’m now thinking of my favorite book (Hector Malot, alone on the world) and i might try to journal with this story in mind. Thank you so much for the blogs. Always make happy. 💚💚

    1. Thank you, Jacqueline! I haven’t read that book, but I googled it and I think I should! Definitely let that book inspire you in every way!

  7. A favorite book–how does one decide–around 11 or so the book I read and then drew pictures of was “The Black Stallion” Oh I loved the thought of being able to find this beautiful horse and ride away—fantasized about that magical island my whole life–even now at 77–but since then I don’t think I have a favorite–I always have at least one book I’m reading and sometimes 2 at a time–there are so many delicious stories to find. Because of you, I am finding the beauty of colored pencils–totally enjoying learning, experimenting–next is to play more with water colors. I painted with oils many years ago; also acrylics–but the last few years have been brushless–time to start again–thank you for your inspiration

    1. Thanks for the lovely comment, Helen! I read a lot of horse books as a child and still love to draw them. How wonderful that you have become fond of colored pencils! You can combine them easily with watercolors too.

  8. Hello Paivi!

    How wonderful to remember the books we read as children that influenced our imaginations and let us travel to different times and places. For me, it would be difficult to pick a favourite. I was an only child, quite sheltered and having few friends. In those days books were my friends and the first one that will always be exceptional was “Winnie the Pooh” along with the delightful books of poems by the same author–all read to me by my Dad. Later, I found magnificent companions in such works as: “The Wonderful Fashion Doll”, “Penny”, “Misty of Chincoteague” and the lovely books by Marguerite de Angeli, my best-loved being “Thee, Hannah!” about a little Quaker girl. These books were illustrated by the authors and I still have some…I think the images influenced me in a very special way. (For some reason I missed a few great ones like: “The Velveteen Rabbit” and “The Secret Garden” and even “Peter Pan”!! However, I was able to enjoy them as an adult!) I’m so glad you also read “Anne of Green Gables” which my Mom gave me when I was about 12. I absolutely adored that book as well as the ones that followed by Lucy Maud Montgomery. “Little Women” also touched me deeply. By the way, when any of my childhood books were made into movies I refused to to watch them–heaven only knows how many times “Anne” has been made into a dreadful series! No, I’ve always wanted to keep them “pure”–as I personally knew and loved them!

    It is great to remember all these (and many other books as well) that kept me company when I was a girl. But it’s terribly sad to see what has happened in the world of children’s literature. While there are still some exemplary examples, I see too many that are unrefined and frankly, crude. But then this is just another symptom, I guess, of a postmodern world.

    Anyway, I don’t want to leave on a depressing note. The books I knew are still a part of me and always will be.

    Thank you for this lovely opportunity to reminisce!

    1. Thank you for sharing your childhood books and thoughts, Lynne! Little Women was also a book that my sisters and I read eagerly. I am glad I read many of the books before the movie so that the movie didn’t replace my imagination.

      The whole discussion of this post has been wonderful. It’s full of creative ideas and has made me google things I had almost forgotten!

  9. Tiger’s Eye is beautiful! You are a painter that writes really well. I’m hoping to read your memoir some some day!

  10. I am always so impressed by your imagination, Paivi – especially as I don’t seem to have much! I did, however, love the Flower Fairies illustrated poetry book as a child and not that long ago bought the book again – so somewhere in there is a child waiting to get out!

    1. Thank you, Joan! Your flower paintings are so delicate that there must be a child behind them, just a bit shy to get out. How wonderful that you have that book again as an inspiration!

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