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.

Before

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).

Friday, 15 July 2016

New sketchbook

After having finished my Seawhite sketchbook, I started a new one straightaway. It's a brand I haven't used before but wanted to try out, as it's available locally. It's a Hahnemühle D&S A5 sketchbook with 140gsm natural white paper. I started with a title page in ink. The ink, I noticed, turned slightly spidery on the page, and when I added some watercolour, well, that didn't work at all. No moving around on the page, the paper just seemed to soak it all up and dry out immediately.


So I had a look at the label again - the D&S stands for "Draft & Sketch" and underneath it states "for pencil and charcoal". No mention of ink, or light wash, as many of the other non-watercolour sketchbooks do. My first thought was that I needed to start another sketchbook, but then I decided to see it as a challenge. To just use pencil and coloured pencils, and whatever other medium would work in this one (I'm always sceptical with using charcoal in a sketchbook because of the fixing. Last time I tried fixing pastels in a journal, I got a bad headache from all the fumes. But boy were those pastels fixed!). For watercolours, I would use the Moleksine watercolour journal that I had already started. The only drawback is that I now have to carry two sketchbooks with me, instead of just one, and my rucksack weighs a ton.


It is fun, tough, to use some mediums again, which I haven't used for a time, or not much yet. Those Magic Pencils work well, and they're great fun. She turned out a bit scary though, I'm afraid.


And of course coloured pencils. I love them, but haven't used them for a while. The cherries on the left were drawn with a Magic Pencil again, on the right I used my Polychromos coloured pencils. I don't think the lettering works very well here, but I wanted to add something to the page and see how pigment pens would work. They work perfectly, I'm happy to say, as you can see below too. I always struggle with proportions, and my subjects usually get too big and cut off.


I'm very happy to say that the paper also takes my beloved ink brush pen very well. So even if I can't use watercolours or my fountain pens in this sketchbook, it still leaves me with plenty of mediums to use, and many of which I probably wouldn't use as often, if at all, otherwise.



I tried my best to not cut the cow's nose off again, and this time, I got it right. This is in my Moleskine. I used one of the photos I took on a walk a couple of weeks ago. I'm always happy to see these cows, unlike so many others, they are allowed to keep their horns, as they should.


Again, most sketches (except the cherries and the pen cow) were done in my lunch break. Taking my sketchbook to work and finding a quiet corner after lunch for a quick sketch has become a habit I look forward to every day. You can always squeeze a drawing in, even if it's just for 5 minutes.

Friday, 8 July 2016

A sketchbook filled

On Wednesday, I filled the last page of my current sketchbook. It's such a great feeling to have filled a whole sketchbook. So satisfying. The sketchbook I was using before this one took me well over 2 years to finish. 2+ years, with long stretches of not picking it up at all. Of course it doesn't mean that I didn't do anything at all, but for someone who wants to keep a sketchbook and make drawing and sketching a regular practice, 2+ years to fill a 124 pages (a Stillman & Birn Alpha, 8.5x5.5 landscape, 150gsm) is a looong time. Far too long.


I'm happy to say that it took me a lot less time to finish this one. A bit over 2 months. This one is a Seawhite A5 portrait with 92 pages and 140gsm bright white paper (the creamy colour in the images is caused by the scanner). I'm not so happy with it, it takes watercolour reasonably well, but there's a bit of shadowing when using ink. But I decided to use it anyway, and fill it, and I'm glad I did. Even if it might not make it into the top range of favourite sketchbooks, it served me well, and contains different medias and subjects, holiday sketches, exercises from an online class, lots of palette sketches, lettering, portraits (I'm just discovering the Sktchy app)....


I have a ridiculous (and ever growing, despite of having sworn to not buy any new ones) stack of sketchbooks, am I'm now going to work my way through them, drawing and sketching (almost) daily, and so finding the one(s) I like best. I'm also tired of having sketchbooks lying around that only have the first couple of pages filled, so even if they're not 'perfect', I'm trying to fill them anyway.


This month is also World Watercolour Month, which I discovered quite by chance. The Facebook Group is filling up daily with the most gorgeous watercolours. Very inspiring. But also rather intimidating, if you're still learning to master your watercolours. But then, I'm not a "traditional" watercolourist, for me (as for many other sketchbook keepers), they serve a different purpose, and a lot of my daily drawing and sketching is done during my lunch break, which doesn't leave a lot of time. Like the ice lollies below, which were done in about 10 minutes. As it's getting hotter and hotter again, I thought about turning these into a little series, slurping my way through the ice cream freezers. The ice cream and ice lolly range, unfortunately, is somewhat limited here in Switzerland, but I'm sure I'll find enough to keep me cool and fill some sketchbook pages.



The next sketchbook I'm trying out is a Hahnemühle one. I'll share my first impressions of it next week.

I met some lovely cows on my walk on Monday, they were very friendly and nosy, all coming to the fence to say hello, perfect for taking photos. I think there has to be a cow sketch/drawing/painting coming very soon.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Dorset cream tea, and other delicacies

There are any things I'm looking forward to when going to England, and one of the is the food. My favourites are not always necessarily the most healthy and nutritiously valuable choices. But they are certainly delicious. And after all, when I'm there, I'm on holiday...
We hadn't had a cream tea in ages, the last time was well over a year ago, so we decided that it was definitely time for one. And we knew exactly where to go. Our all time favourite place for the best Dorset cream tea - Downhouse Farm café. It's not exactly easy to reach, but well worth the journey, both by car, and even by foot (it is quite a bit of a walk up there). It is high up on a hill, not far from the cliffs, a beautiful, peaceful garden to sit and relax - and enjoy a rich cream tea (and draw it). Homemade scones, a big pot of locally made clotted cream, and an equally big pot of delicious homemade strawberry jam. It's so rich, that it makes a full meal, so we always go there for lunch. 
The last bit of the way is one of those very narrow country lanes, with bushes on both sides, and there's been an argument between the locals and the council about who's responsible to look after a certain stretch of it for quite a while. As a result, it is in a very sorry state, and getting worse and worse every year. The first time N had taken me there, it had already been bad, with big holes everywhere. By now, the holes have become so deep, that someone has put bricks into them, to make the road passable at all. The result is that you not only have to drive at about 10 mph max, but that even then, all those holes make the car shake thoroughly, that you just can't stop laughing, it's so funny. It's like being on a funfair rides. We had aching bellies and tears streaming down our cheeks by the time we made it to the end of the stretch. I wonder what the state of the road will be like next time we go there.


Another classic, and guilty pleasure - N made cheese on toast for breakfast on many mornings during our holiday. Well, we were out and about all day, so we needed something substantial to start the day with...


Custard tarts always make me think of one of my favourite, classic tv series - As Time Goes By. One of the characters, Lionel, is very fond of them and always gets very, very grumpy if someone else in the household dares to eat this custard tarts. I can understand him :)


But of course there's more than food. A late afternoon, when the sun suddenly comes out, spent on the beach in West Bay.


And I always enjoy visiting the lighthouse on Portland Bill, on the Isle of Portland, and spending some time wandering around there. It's a special place, somehow. And of course, lighthouses are always fascinating.