Friday, 21 October 2016

An inspiring art retreat in Scotland, and a relaxing holiday in Dorset

I am back from a 2 1/2 week holiday, which included an inspiring one week art retreat in Scotland, a relaxing 10 days at the opposite end of the isle, in Dorset, and my so far worst journey ever. 

So to get the moaning out of the way, first: another unpleasant "joy of travelling by air" episode, the worst ever so far, even worse than the "June episode". After an inspiring week in Scotland, I was to fly back from Aberdeen to London on Saturday noon, and from there travel on to Dorset. I had booked my flight and my train ticket, and was looking forward to arrive in Dorchester by 8pm. At the check-in counter, I was then informed that the plane was full, and that since I hadn't checked in online earlier, there was no seat available anymore. What??? What about having booked my seat for that particular flight a good 4 months earlier, and having paid about £150 for that leg of the journey alone?? Didn't that count for something? Apparently not. Unfortunately, it seems that it is common practice for airlines to overbook flights and count on a quite substantial number of people not showing up. As it so happened, it was holiday season for many people, and pretty much every one showed up. As it turned out, the whole disaster had already started the night before. From Friday evening to Saturday afternoon, all flights were overbooked. The practice adopted by British Airways in this a case was come first serve first, and dozens of people, who, like me, hadn't been able to check in online the day before, found themselves stuck and unable to travel as planned. Long queues of people, their nerves frayed to pieces, stressed out, shaking, close to tears, their holidays ruined by this whole experience, gobsmacked that something like this could happen with what they had believed to be a "proper, decent" airline... At least I only had a train to catch in London, but there were many people with connecting flights on to the States, to Australia and other far away destinations, who didn't know if and when they were able to get to their destinations.
I was eventually booked to a much later flight than my original midday flight, spending 6 hours at Aberdeen airport. Wen I finally arrived in Heathrow, a member of staff at the bus information insisted that it was not possible to buy a combined coach and train ticket, and then, after I told him that I had indeed bought said combined ticket many times before at the central bus station in terminal 1-3, suggested I might want to go there to get one. I did not, as the central bus station is a good 5-10 minutes bus or train journey from terminal 5, where I was. Eventually I found my way to the National Express office at the very end of the terminal, where I obtained my combined bus and train ticket, pretty exactly at the time when the bus was due at 7.50. So another hour of hanging around and waiting at an airport. When I finally got on the 9pm train at Woking, it was packed with people of all ages, many of whom, it seemed, coming from a football match. It was not really a very pleasant journey after an already utterly unpleasant day of travel, and after changing coaches twice, I eventually found a seat where I felt comfortable enough for the remaining 40 minutes. I have never been gladder to arrive at Dorchester. At about 11.30pm, I finally dropped by bags ton the floor at Ns, utterly exhausted after a good 15 hours of travel. What a day.
This was my first time flying with British Airways, and most probably my last. I have absolutely no intention of every using them again, if I can help it. I am well aware that they are not the only airline that overbooks flights, but there are other ways of dealing with such a situation.
Thankfully, the other three journeys all went smooth, including my flight back from London City Airport on Tuesday evening, which was a pleasant surprise. Seriously, I cannot remember the last time my flight back from London to Zürich wasn't delayed or even cancelled, such a rare occurrence this seems to have become be these days...

But on to more pleasant things now. Apart from that one day, I spent a fantastic, inspiring holiday. The first week was an art retreat in the northeast of Scotland with Gillian Lee Smith, in the charming coastal village of Gardenstown. Surrounded by stunning views of the cliffs and the sea, and with no mobile phone signal and limited internet access, it was the perfect place to spend a week of making art. I had been a little apprehensive about spending an entire week with more or less complete strangers - and sharing a cottage with some of them - but my fears were soon gone. It was a fantastic group of women, and it was a great pleasure to spend so much time with them, learning their stories and getting to know them. We arrived on Saturday evening, and had Sunday off to explore the surrounding and rest. As happens so often when I travel, the sky was blue and the temperatures comparatively mild. Indeed, it was sun and blue sky, and not even the tiniest drop of rain, the entire week I spent there. There are some lovely walks either side of Gardenstown, one to the old St John's Kirkyard, with fantastic views over the bay, the other to the old fishing village of Crovie.

On Monday, we started working. Drawing, with charcoal and pencil, landscapes, portraits, oil bars, painting, acrylics, pastels... I had two sketchbooks I worked in, along with the bigger sheets of paper, an A5 Moleskine and an A4 Seawhite travel journal. Here's a few pages from my Moleskine, that I managed to scan so far. The A4 is too big for my scanner, and I haven't yet any good pictures of the bigger works I've done. On Monday, we went outside to he harbour for some sketching.

There was a jar full of sea shells and other treasures from nature and the sea in the studio, and I did a quick sketch of this lobster or crab claw. 

Spending a little time mixing colours. I liked those mixing palettes they had in the studio. A good mixing palette is something that's been on my to get list for ages.

I'll write some more about my week in Scotland soon, and I've got some more photos to share from my 10 days in Dorset too - we spent another fabulous day  at one of my favourite places there, Brownsea Island - but I've only been home 3 days now, and straight back to work, and I still have many photos, journal pages and thoughts to go and sort through.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Some WIP art journal pages, photos from Stockholm, and I'm packing my suitcase again

It has been yet another unproductive weekend spent mostly on the sofa, mostly thanks to a colonoscopy on Monday. Have you ever had a colonoscopy? Most people who have never had one, find the procedure itself the most worrying part, while actually, it is the least disagreeable part. At least if you have a doctor like mine - you get some muscle relaxing stuff put into your vein and happily doze through the whole thing. By far the worst part is that disgusting stuff you have to drink to completely clean your bowels beforehand. I've had several colonoscopies, and many more to come, and having to get those 2 litres down is always the thing I dread most. It takes me ages, and it just makes you feel sick and miserable and exhausted.

So I didn't get much drawing or painting done, this week, but I have a couple of journal pages that I started. The first one is in my Leuchtturm journal, and it turned into a bit of a colour sampling page, as I tried to decide which red to pack for my next adventure (more about that at the end of the post) - Cadminum Red Light (top) or Cadmium Red Medium (bottom). I decided for the latter.

I have quite a few stamps and stencils, but I hardly ever use them these days, and I try not to buy an new ones. I do like their designs, but in my art, I just prefer to use my own designs, instead of someone else's. But I went to a big craft shop in the centre of Stockholm, and I just couldn't resist buying some clear stamps with sentiments in Swedish.

These tow pages are in my Moleskine journal, and I actually started them in Stockholm, in my hotel room, using some of the pieces we had used and created during the workshop.

I also got some more photos from Stockholm and Vaxholm edited.The beautiful old town, Gamla Stan, with its warm coloured old and wonky buildings.

It was especially magical in the beautiful evening light.

Norrhamnen in the early morning light. If you ever go to Vaxholm, make sure to visit this little bay, just a few minute's walk from Söderhamnplan (where the bus and boats arrive), and to stop at the Hembygdsgårds Café. It's a charming place, and they have amazing food and cakes at the café! Unfortunately, I didn't have time to go there this time, I only had half an hour for a quick visit before the workshop started, but next time I'm there, I will!

On my last day, I met up with a friend I only knew from Facebook. We went to Rosendal, a charming garden with a café on Djurgården. Social media are great to find and connect with like minded people all over the world, but it still just isn't quite the same as actually having a coffee or lunch together and talking to each other in person. It was so lovely to meet her, and we had a great time, and it was the perfect thing to do before having to go to the airport and travel back home later that day.

Tomorrow, I'm off to another adventure. I've always wanted to go to an art retreat, but I was always far too late and they were sold out long before I even knew they existed. But a year ago, I was finally early enough, and now I'm going to spend next week drawing and painting in Scotland. I would have preferred for my two art adventures abroad to not be quite so close together. In my mind, I'm still in Stockholm, and still full of all the inspiration, which I can't wait to let flow into my art journal. But of course I'm also very much looking forward to next week, albeit feeling slightly apprehensive about spending an entire week with absolute strangers, in shared accommodation... But I'm sure it'll be a blast. And after Scotland, I'll travel to the other end of the isle, to lovely Dorset, to spend a relaxing week with N. I am really looking forward to that. Relaxing, resting, doing nothing, recharging. That's just what I need right now.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Back to every day life and more daily teacups

After all the great inspiration and new ideas and technique from the workshop in Vaxholm, of course I just wanted to take my art journal out and start playing. But my energy level is  extremely low at the moment, and I needed the weekend to just relax and catch up on sleep after my late flight home last Tuesday and straight back to work on Wednesday. I am slowly learning to listen to my body, and to not feel guilty for not doing anything when I need to slow down and rest. But although I didn't get as busy as I would have wanted to, I still got a bit of something done.

I did this little sketch while in Stockholm, and finally added the lettering. There are loads of sausage huts and stalls every where around town, and even in the tiniest kiosk, you can usually get a grilled or cooked sausage. For me, when in Stockholm, a grilled sausage is a must. As are cinnamon rolls, mint krokant chocolate, and bags and bags of sour sweets...

I also finished this sketch that I did earlier this month, in a new sketchbook that I found in a local art shop. It's by AMI Art Material International, a brand that I didn't know, and it has 180g/m2 watercolour paper. The paper is smooth on one side, and has a bit of a strange texture on the other, sort of lines ridges. But it's bound so that you always have the same surface on both pages, left and right, so that you can have a double spread with the same texture. It is landscape format, as usual, but with approx. 20,5x14,5 cm slightly wider than the Moleskine watercolour journals, which I always find just a bit too narrow.

Another little sketch I did while in Stockholm. There's a shop called Pen Store in Södermalm, and of course I had to go and check it out. Pens, pens, pens, and some gorgeous notebooks too. Wonderful. Of course I had to by some pens... and sketch them...

I'm also back to my (almost) daily tea cup drawing. I'm trying a new approach to drawing them, and I think I might finally get the hang of it eventually.

It's not just all tea cups in my sketchbook, though. I just loved the pattern and colours of this pear. I have one box of all kinds of pens and some coloured pencils just in browns and greens, because I love those colours so much for drawing.

I finally got one of those blue Caran D'Ache photo pencils, and tried it out in a little abstract sketch in my Moleskine. I was a bit disappointed that the blue was still visible after scanning or taking photos, but of course, as usual, I hadn't read the instructions properly. It doesn't shop up when you scan or photocopy it in black and white only. Which is rather nice, actually. Because it means you can have it both ways. Scan it in colour to see it, and in black and white to make it disappear. And it's a nice blue anyway.

I didn't do much art journaling, but I have started a new art journal. I'm using a bright pink Leuchtturm 1917 sketchbook for this, which is slightly wider than a Moleskine. I've only got as far as a first couple of layers of background on the first two pages, but hopefully, I'll have more to show next week. As well as some more photos from Stockholm. I just didn't get round to any editing this week.

Friday, 16 September 2016

A magical long weekend in Sweden

I'm back from my long weekend in Stockholm, and it has been absolutely wonderful. The nice thing about going to Stockholm for me is, that I don't have to do anything, don't have to do the sights. I've been there before so many times, that I have seen all the views, sights, museums, all the things you would normally want to see when visiting a foreign city. So I just walk around, sit on benches, go to favourite places, enjoy familiar views. I didn't even take a lot of photos this time. Stockholm seems to be one big construction site at the moment. Everywhere, the ground has been ripped open, buildings are wrapped in scaffolding, and the skyline seems to be dominated by cranes. Good thing I took loads of photos four years ago. I also didn't go to any museums. I would have gone to the Nationalmuseum, but that is closed for renovation until 2018. The closest I got to a museum was wandering around Skeppsholmen and sitting in the outside café of Moderna Museet on Wednesday afternoon. After having been up since 4am, I was exhausted and it was lovely to sit in the shade, drink a refreshing iced latte and draw one of the red polka dot trees. As so often when I travel, the weather was unusually warm and sunny. Blue sky and up to 24 degrees Celsius. I am very grateful that it wasn't raining all the time, but it was getting a bit hot for me at times, I have to admit.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I attended Orly Avineri's The Visual Journal as Sanctuary workshop. It was truly magical. I am still glowing in the aftermath of this experience, and I'm finding it hard to put it into words. It was three days of stories, company, creating, transformation, growing, playing, chatting, experimenting, magic, wonder, alchemy, and so much more. It was a wonderful group of kind women and a glorious location. It was just simply perfect.

And I am very happy with my journal, that started out as a passport of a stranger and slowly turned into my own little book, developing and now containing so much more than I could have imagined or expected.

I really like taking online classes, they are a great opportunity to learn from teacher you would otherwise never be able to take a class with. But I had been wanting to go to a workshop or art retreat for ages, to actually be there, with the people, instead of just watching videos and posting in a Facebook group. And I'm so glad I went. I did not quite know what to expect, but whatever it was, the class far exceeded my expectations. If you ever have the chance to take a workshop with Orly Avineri, do it! It really is a great and enriching experience, and she is such a wonderful teacher and person.

I spent another one and a half days in Stockholm after the course, more walking around, being there, some shopping too, of course, and some more ice creams (I always feel like I'm in heaven with all the sweets around everywhere in Sweden!).

Now back home, I'm looking forward to getting back to my easel and art journal, and incorporating and experimenting with the new techniques I've learnt at the workshop.

I'll try and post some more photos next week, once I've gone through them all and had time for some editing. It seems that my card reader is broken and it took me ages to figure out how to get the photos off the card and into Lightroom, so I didn't get round to much editing yet.

Friday, 2 September 2016

More daily sketches, and packing my suitcase

Can you believe it's September already? What happened to slow and boring August? Well, it wasn't very exciting but it was certainly not slow. And with the school holidays, it was nice and quiet. Now it's all busy and full of people everywhere again, but at least that means that summer is almost over at last. And I've got some exciting trips coming up too to look forward to.
But first some new pens, lots of brown pens. I love brown pens, but finding the right brown is difficult. The Art Line Multipen is definitely my favourite shade, and the Pilot G Tec is a much loved pen. Very strange, though, that the shades differ so much with the different tip widths in the Artline Calligraphy pen.

I watched a documentary about Hieronymus Bosch the other day, or rather, about the museum in his home town ’s-Hertogenbosch, which wanted to celebrate Hieronymus' 500th anniversary with an exhibition. The documentary followed the museum peoples' search for suitable artwork (the museum itself doesn't own any of his work). There are only about 25 works by Bosch, and since it was common for artists in the Middle Ages to have their own workshop with apprentices and other artists, working for them, it can often be difficult to determine if or which parts of a piece was painted by the master himself or by his employees, and sometimes the workshops continued to paint in their master's style even after his death. The methods to find out are fascinating. A dendrochronologist (someone who dates wood) was able to proof that a certain painting was definitely not painted by Bosch, as the tree that the panel was made from was cut after his death. How they are able to determine the exact year of when a certain tree was cut in the 16th century is quite beyond me!
The museum then received an e-mail form an amateur art historian who thought that a painting he had seen in a museum somewhere in the US might be an unknown Bosch. The curators travelled to the States and examined the piece and eventually came to the conclusion, much to the joy of the museum, that it was indeed a real Bosch. One of the methods they used was comparing Bosch's way of painting a staff. Rather than painting the staff itself, he just added light on one side and shade on the other, resulting in an optical illusion of a staff. Of course we know about how to play with and use light and shade these days, but how often would we end up actually painting a staff instead of using this simple trick? I thought it was fascinating, anyway, and wanted to try it out in my sketchbook, to see how that would work, just with pencil. It works perfectly. And it's definitely something to remember. We can indeed still learn so much, if not everything, from the old masters!

I have also continued my almost daily drawing practice, although I had a bit of a lazy weekend, as with temperatures at around 32 degrees Celsius, all I could do was lie on the sofa and move as little as possible. I could really do without this late summer heat wave! I found some acorns lying on the path on my way to work earlier this week and picked them up to draw them in my lunch break. I'm always happy to see them. A sign that although it's still, and uncomfortably humid, at the moment, autumn is finally around the corner. I like drawing them, they have such nice shapes, and the shapes then inspired me to do some lettering with them in my lunch break yesterday.

I have drawn a few new tea cups too. There's still room for improvement with some of my oval shapes there...

I'm thinking about doing a portrait drawing challenge. 99 portraits or 100 portraits (actually I started that one a few years ago...), or just 50 portraits. I'm not very good at keeping up with a challenge, and a daily challenge is a bit too much, but on the other hand I think these challenge are a good way of practicing something specific that you want to improve on.

Next week, I'll be travelling to Stockholm for an extended weekend. From Friday to Sunday I will be in beautiful Vaxholm for Orly Avineri's The Visual Journal As Sanctuary workshop. I'm really excited about it! I'll also have a few days of wandering around and re-visiting favourite spots in one of my most favourite places, Stockholm. I lived there for a year many years ago, studying at Stockholm University, and going back there always feels like coming home. My only problem is packing my suitcase. So much stuff we have to take for the workshop (and that I'll be missing the last episode of The Out-Laws)! Three different kinds of gesso (white, black and transparent), and it's all rather bulky and heavy.

And I just can't make up my mind about which colours to take. I selected some colours and then put them all down on a journal page, thinking that this way I could choose which one to take and which one to leave at home. But with every one I put down, I thought, ah no, I definitely want this one! I'll have to try and reduce their number over the weekend! I also bought some small empty containers to fill with some of the paints so that it won't get too much. And I discovered Posca pens! Well, the white pen, anyway. I'm always looking for white opaque pens, and this one I just love!

I won't be posting anything next Friday, as I'll be art journaling with a bunch of lovely people in beautiful Vaxholm. But I hope that I'll have plenty to show the week after.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Finished sketchbooks and some daily drawing

I'm a bit in a strange mood at the moment. I get easily annoyed and grumpy, and I just want to get home and have my peace and quiet. The weather isn't helping much either. For the past few weeks, it's been a constant mix of a few days of blazing hot temperatures followed by a few days of cooler weather with lots of rain. Both of which I'm not particularly fond of. I'm not feeling much like blogging, or even switching on my computer in the evening. I just want to watch tv and draw. The drawing bit, at least, is a good thing. And since I got a few pages filled in my sketchbook, I thought I'd might give it a try and put it all into a blog post after all.

I finished my sketchbooks last weekend, glueing on the covers and backs. I decided to restitch the one where I messed up the stitch, as it wasn't as tight as thought after all. I don't like the glueing part at all, but I do like how they turned out.

Thanks to the coptic stitch, they lie nice and flat on the table.

Two of the sketchbooks have 210g/qm paper, and two have 300g/qm, both Fabriano Disegno 5. I haven't used this paper before, but it's a watercolour paper, and not quite as expensive as the Artistico. They didn't have the smooth surface, so these have a bit of a tooth. I'm looking forward to see how it is to paint on it.

So far, I have only painted the colour charts of the two watercolour boxes I'm using at the moment in one of the sketchbooks. This is the one for which I used an old map for the covers. It's a map of an area in Sweden, and I'm thinking about taking it with me on my trip to Stockholm next month.

A couple of weeks ago, I made a quick drawing of my tea cup in the morning, and I got so annoyed with how it turned out. Such a simple shape, really, and yet, that oval shape just seems to be the most difficult thing to draw. It looked like a drawing of someone who had just drawn something for the first time in their life. So I decided to draw my tea cup every day for 2 weeks to try and get that shape into my hand. I missed a couple of days, but then on others, I drew more than one, so that's okay. I quite enjoyed drawing the different cups and using different pens, and discovering some tins of tea at the back of the cupboard that I haven't used in ages, like the "Hexenkräuter" (witch's herbs) tea, which is so delicious. The three women I quickly drew from a little table at the window in one of the buildings on the campus, a nice and quiet spot that I've been using a lot in my lunch breaks these past few weeks.

I also started a new Moleskine sketchbook, for lettering practice, and general drawing and doodling, and for all the pens that don't work in my Hahnemühle sketchbook. I meant to add some text to these bananas, but I haven't got round to it yet. But it's maybe a good thing I'm posting it now, as I might mess it up completely. Getting both the lettering AND the spelling right seems quite impossible at the moment.

I read this quote, or something like it, a few months back on the façade of a building here in town, and thought it was funny. And it was the only thing I could come up with for the prompt of a daily photography challenge this month. I forgot to post it in that group, actually, and I'm generally not doing a very good job with keeping up with the challenge. But I enjoyed the lettering. And sometimes I do manage to get the spelling right.

I went to a concert with my Mum last Tuesday. Well, actually, it wasn't a concert but an opera. Carmen. It was a sort of "half opera". It was in the old concert hall in the city, with the orchestra in its usual place in the middle and the choir behind. It did had all the characters too, and they were all dressed in beautiful Spanish costumes (gorgeous swooshy skirts), but it just didn't have the usual opera décor. It was very nice, but of course I had "one of those people" sitting in front of me. I didn't have my sketchbook with me, but I had the page already in my head, so I made sure to memorise the shape of her head, low hairline and very long neck.

I'm so glad it's Friday, and the weekend ahead. Peace and quiet and lots of time to myself. And at the moment, I'm especially looking forward to Friday evenings, as that means that I get to spend an hour with the Goethals. The Goethals are five sisters in the Belgian tv series The Out-Laws (Clan), one of which is married to Jean-Claude "De Kloot" (The Prick), an exceptionally nasty piece of work, whom the other four sister try to get rid of. He's such an unpleasant man that you just wish every time that their clever plans succeed at last, but he seems to have more lives than the proverbial cat. And then, ad the end of the episode, you are glad, after all, that he did get away yet again, because that means that there'll be another episode next week. It's hilarious, and just the thing you need when you're having a bit of a grumpy phase. 

A very happy and cheerful weekend to you!