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What Artists Keep Doing – Series of Inspiring Quotes #3

This post ends the series of inspiring quotes that I have heard or read recently. In the last week, I wrote about the feeling of not being ready yet, and the week before about being honest about what you want to create. But now to this week’s inspiring quote!

"No! Don't Ever Quit Anything" Mixed media illustration by Paivi Eerola of Peonu and Parakeet.

This Week’s Quote

Don’t ever quit anything.

Who: Finnish journalist Kimmo Oksanen
Where: A column in the local newspaper Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish)

At the age of 16, Kimmo bought a typewriter and a guitar with the money earned from a summer job. He thought he could be a famous singer-songwriter. But he quitted singing and writing songs when he went to university and found out that lyrics are not “real poetry.” He also used to draw, paint and do sports when he was a teenager but ended up quitting all that too. He used to aim for perfection and didn’t realize that mistakes make the master. Now he regrets that he hadn’t just kept doing, and his advice is: “Start a lot and never quit anything.”

Not Quitting Crafting and Writing Made Me an Artist

When I was a teenager, like Kimmo, I also loved to write. I wrote poems and short stories and attended some competitions too. I was also a crafter, always knitting and crocheting. My deepest desire was to become a visual artist, and I painted and drew almost every day.

What artists keep doing. Drawing by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Then I saw a computer for the first time and fell in love. It was the early 1980s, and the computer age was just getting started, but I knew that technology was my thing. I changed my plans to become an English teacher to a software engineer. But despite my interest in computers, I kept on writing, drawing, and crafting. There was a period when I spent less time with creative activities, but in one way or another, I have been a writer and crafter all my life.

Making an illustration. Painting with watercolors. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

When art began to call me again, I also wanted to start a blog. I was still quite a beginner in art, and my vision was bigger than what I could put on paper, but the encouragement I got from the readers kept me going. But now when I think about it, my old hobbies also had some role in that. I had learned resilience from crafting, self-expression from writing, and the old dream of becoming an English teacher oddly changed to the courage to blog in a foreign language. Without being a writer and a crafter, I wouldn’t be a blogger, and without being a blogger, I wouldn’t have become a working artist.

Painting on an ink drawing. Illustraion in progress. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I Regret Quitting These!

However, there are a couple of things that I loved as a child but quitted doing. I used to write short plays and gathered an acting group from a few of my schoolmates. I also played the violin for a few years. During the past four years as an artist, I have regretted quitting both. When running classes, it’s good to be able to present things in a memorable and fun way. When selecting the music to the class videos, I try to find songs that fit with the topic of the project and keep the attention on the subject. The little that I learned in my childhood years has been useful, and I wish I had continued both acting and playing through all the past years.

A detail of an illustration. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Stephen King and Does Talent Dictate What We Should Keep Doing?

In art, the question of talent usually comes up in the discussion sooner or later. I just finished reading Stephen King’s book “On Writing” where he tells how it’s just a waste of time trying to learn something that you don’t have any passion. His son played an instrument, but because he showed no talent to him, Stephen advised him to quit. He had wanted to see some free playing, some evident joy, and some promise of the career as a musician. Because there were none, he thought the son could use his 30-minute practice better than playing.

I find the story and in general, the discussion of talent depressing. It determines both the person and the profession from a very narrow perspective and generates powerlessness. That’s why I have tried to avoid to think whether I am talented enough or not. However, the question of talents always lurks somewhere behind the surface. I got to realize that when suddenly, a few weeks ago, I was told that my grandfather had graduated from a design school. He had been a farmer and died a long time ago. I never met him, but some of his letters have been saved. Based on them, he was an unhappy man who yearned for bigger challenges than what country life could offer. Clearly, he wasn’t meant to be a farmer, but someone who develops new things.

A detail of an illustration. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

When I heard what my grandfather had studied, a thin string around my heart broke, and the tension relieved. I was no longer the one who had just got an accidental obsession for art and design, but a link in the chain of generations. It became more meaningful than ever to continue the work that my grandfather wasn’t able to do. It also made me partly re-write my story – I had some talent after all! I have also felt embarrassed about how much that meant to me. In the end, the fact that we keep on practicing has much more effect on our skills than any inheritance.

Art is About Not Needing to Quit Anything

When making the illustration for the blog post, I brought things from the past that I carry with me. Many of them are funny and harmless, like my first dream profession of becoming the queen of England. My parents helped me to plant a bench of Queen Elizabeth roses under the window of my room. When drawing, I don’t have to quit that dream. I don’t have to quit anything.

A detail of an illustration. What artists should keep doing. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

In art, we enter a world where we get to play freely with the things that have made an impact on us. If we hadn’t experienced or practiced anything, our imagination wouldn’t have the tools and the topics we have now. Let’s keep practicing, let’s keep not quitting, and let’s be assured that whether we feel talented or not, we don’t have to give up anything when we keep drawing.

Magical horses. Hand-drawn paper collage by Finnish artist Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

Take the Next Step – Do This!

Open a new page in your art journal or sketchbook. Draw and/or glue a collage of things you have grown to love and never stopped doing!

Come to draw fantastic art – Sign up for Magical Inkdom!

10 thoughts on “What Artists Keep Doing – Series of Inspiring Quotes #3

  1. Paivi – what an inspiring blog post. I wept both with sadness, for your grandfather, and, at the same time, with joy for you that you are part of a chain that you never knew existed.
    I admire your bravery writing such profound thoughts in your blog post, as you say, in a foreign language. My French skills never progressed beyond stilted sentences, but I don’t think we learned it in the same way you learn English in Finland. I have followed your blog for a few years now, and I am so delighted to see how you have come to fully embrace your art and your artistic self. It makes me happy for you.
    Thank you for all you share.

    1. Thank you, Jakki! It takes a surprisingly lot of practice to be able to use a foreign language. We have an excellent school system in Finland, but it has taken a lot of my time to learn to write and speak somewhat fluently. Once I stopped overthinking grammar and pronunciation, it got easier. I think that like in visual art, the most important thing is to get the message through and make the experience of looking/reading at least a bit pleasurable.

  2. I agree that no one should quit something they are passionate about. You can get better at anything with practice. And, passion makes practice happen!

  3. So very true. I will always remember touring the gallery of painter Felix Nussbaum’s work in Germany, and how he he continued painting even when he knew his days were numbered. He even changed the medium he worked in to avoid the turpentine smell that might give away his hiding spot, as he knew he would probably soon be killed. I don’t think we can separate art from living, as it is our work, our calling, our privilege to have this marvelous adventure that deepens our experience and helps us transcend those forces that would keep us down. Talent is like intellect, it defines itself by the act of using it. Your writing and your art are such an inspiration.
    (My Finnish ancestors came to the USA and worked in mundane, difficult jobs, but they always found joy in making music. They were artists, and I remember the beauty they brought to our lives from playing their violins and other instruments in spite of having no expensive, formal training.)

    1. Thank you for the wonderful comment, Kathryn! I had to google Felix Nussbaum, and I am glad to found his surrealistic paintings – being a big fan of surrealistic art. His life had a sad end but the passion remains visible.

      I loved how you described art and talent, and it was interesting to know about your Finnish ancestors as well! Thank you!

  4. Wonderful post, Paivi! The thing about talent is that it is beyond our control. It is valuable, but willingness and consistent effort matter more in the long run. Even passion waxes and wanes. In daily life, we all give to others in different ways, and we all depend on what others give to us. As a receiver of the effort of others, both creative and otherwise, it is not people’s natural talent that matters to me. It is their skill, and sometimes it is simply their cheerful willingness to do what they do! Anything we feel driven to learn is worth learning, at whatever pace we can manage.

    1. Thank you, Melinda! Very well put, and I love that you brought up how much the openness and willingness matters.

  5. Thank you for this post! You and your writing and art are truly an inspiration to me!

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