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!

Friday, 5 August 2016

There's a life lesson in there somewhere

My Mum gave me these plants a few months ago. They were small, both taken from the same plant, and both the same size. The one on the left quickly grew and got bigger and fatter. The one on the right grew slowly and only little. At times I wondered if it would make it at all. And suddenly, last week, I noticed something, what was that coming out of that smaller one? Flowers!

Last Saturday I told my Mum about it, and she pointed out the obvious: While the one on the left had put all its energy into growing quickly and getting big and fat, the one on the left had saved its energy and put it into producing flowers. Of course, it makes perfect sense. Isn't nature clever, and can't she teach us a thing or two.

And here's another lesson. Last weekend, I finally got my acrylics out again. After absolute ages. I had this big canvas standing around, with some layers on, and I thought it was time to add some more.


I selected a few paint tubes, mostly greens and blues, and a brayer, and started adding layers. It was going quite well, the brayer allows you to cover bigger areas quickly and adds some nice texture too. Some dripping in contrasting colours, some white, some more brayering - and it all got rather muddy and messy.

Present stage
I decided to let it dry and work on it on another day, but then added some white to try and brighten it up a bit. Of course, after all the dripping and spraying with water, it was still far from dry, and so adding the white just added to the mess. So here's the lesson to remember for next time: have patience and just leave it until it's dry.

The good things is, of course, that it doesn't really matter that it got all that messy, the next layers will cover it up. And I think there will be lots more layers going on this one. I have no idea what to do with it, so this might well become my "let it all out" canvas.

And one last thing. I love drawing with ink, and love my fountain pens. They're great to carry around with you. But I want to use dip pens again more often, at least when I'm at home. I have a whole collection of nibs and inks, and tried out some of them. I love these colours. Now I just have to find a sketchbook that can take these inks.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Sketchbookbinding again

I meant to get my acrylic paints out again this weekend, as it's been far too long, but instead, I ended up cleaning the flat all Saturday, and then spending most of Sunday stitching together some new sketchbooks. Since it is so difficult to find sketchbooks with proper watercolour paper in a format that is not landscape, I decided to make my own. A big online art shop here has a special offer on Fabriano paper twice a year, so I ordered some paper in their summer sale last month. I have some beautiful Artistico paper in my stack, but decided to try out a less expensive paper for the sketchbooks. I ordered the Disegno 5 paper, eight 70x100cm sheets each, 210g/qm and 300g/qm. After an afternoon spent kneeling on the floor and folding and tearing up each sheet into 8 smaller sheets, you not only end up with aching knees and fingers, but also with 16 pages of a good sized 18.75x25cm for each large sheet. That makes two sketchbooks with 64 pages each for each batch (or rather 62 pages, as the first and last page will be glued down to the cover).

As I don't make sketchbooks very often (last time was here, here and, for the finished results here), it always takes me a while to get my head round the coptic stitch again. As you can see, I totally messed it up in my first (bottom) attempt. That's what happens if you stop reading the instructions properly halfway through and instead start watching a film on tv, because you think you've figured it out... It seems to be holding together, so I might just leave it. Or maybe I undo it and start again. I haven't decided yet. This weekend, I hope to find some cardboard in my stashes and do the covers.

I did do a quick sketch of an aubergine amidst all the dusting and hoovering and mopping on Saturday, though. It had to be quick, as I wanted to cook it. I used my new sword liner brush from Rosemary & Co. It has a funny shape and you don't really have a lot of control over it, which makes painting with it much looser.

And I've been trying to keep up my lunch time sketching up too, although this week, it's only been on two days, as I finally, after far too long a time, I managed to drag myself to yoga class Thursday lunchtime. And it did me a lot of good too. So not that much sketching this week, but I added a couple more ice lolly to this work in progress.

Friday, 22 July 2016

A day in the mountains

Last Monday, I spent the day in the mountains, a day trip I've been wanting to do in a long time. It was the perfect day, and with temperatures reaching up to a humid 30 degrees Celsius down here, it was definitely more agreeable up there. I took the train at 7am, and after changing trains twice and then on to the postbus for the last bit, I finally arrived at my destination. It felt so good to get off the bus, in that fresh air, with uninterrupted views, surrounded by beautiful nature. I love the mountains. I always feel at peace up there.

At an altitude of 2,007 metres, Dürrboden lies at the end of the Dischmatal. Above the tree line, the alp is treeless, the grass covered with rocks and heather, and at this time of the year, also with an abundance of wild alpine flowers that is just simply amazing.

From Dürrboden, you can continue and hike up and over the Scaletta pass at 2,606 metres, and on to the Engadin on tours of several hours. I only walked a few hundred metres futher up, spending about an hour happy about just being there.

I prefer to take the 13km walk down through the valley back to Davos. The path is easy to walk, and the landscape always slightly changing. Surrounded by mountains, gorgeous views, deep blue sky, fluffy clouds, the lush greens of the meadows, the colours of the wild flowers. Hardly any people, just the occasional alp farm. And of course cows.

I had also taken my sketchbook and watercolours and found great spot with a bench overlooking the valley. It was rather windy up there, though, I had to put the water on the ground, which wasn't very convenient, and the paint kept drying out. But at least I captured the feel of that day. The intense colours, the deep blue sky, the lush greens.

The Dischmabach, a small river, flows down the valley, carrying with it the fresh, cold water from the snow of the mountains. I love these alpine rivers. The colour of the water! I wish I could have put my feet into the water.

Toward the end of the valley, the landscape becomes gentler and richer. No more rock covered meadows, but instead rich farmland and trees. And more people. But still that abundance of wild flowers.

From the end of the valley to the train station was another good 45 minutes, and when I finally arrived, I could hardly walk anymore. The whole walk had taken me almost 5 hours, with time for taking photos and my quick sketch, and by the time I got on the train, I felt sore and aching from head to toes, and every little patch of skin that I missed with my sun cream was burnt, and the rest was also glowing in a bright lobster red. I was exhausted but happy. What else can you be, after spending the day in such a place!

I did some more drawing and sketching, but it is one of those weeks, when everything just turns out wrong. I'm okay with it, even a rubbish drawing is better than no drawing, but they're just not shareworthy. But I hope that the photographs make up for it. And I'm sorry for posting so many of them, and the small sizes, but I didn't have much time for editing, and I just couldn't make up my mind about which ones to choose. And I took over 200 pictures, so this is still just a small selection... :). (I think when you click on them, you can see them larger).