Friday 14 December 2018

Where's the time gone?

I can't believe it's already almost Christmas. Where has the time gone?

I had a week off last week, and I was looking forward to spending it at home, there was so much I wanted to do. Probably too much, because at the end of the week, I not only didn't feel relaxed at all, but also like I hadn't done anything at all. It was just a bit of an odd old week. But looking back, I have actually done quite a lot (see below). Maybe just not everything.

After a very long time, I finally took my acrylics out again. I started gently with adding more pages to my colour mixing book, and at the same time creating background pages with the left over paints in one of my art journals.

I also got a big old canvas out, that has been sitting around for a while because I didn't really know what to do with it. But now I finally have my own desk at work, after 2.5 month, with a very bare wall to stare at, so I thought this large canvas would be perfect. For some reason, I'm feeling drawn to painting landscapes at the moment, so I just slapped some paint on, thinking I might paint something from imagination. But I soon realised that wasn't really quite working. This will need a bit more work, a bit of looking through references and my photographs to find the right image that I would like to escape to from time to time at work. So there's not much yet to see on that canvas, but just picking up brushes and covering it with paint felt good.

I even spent a nice morning in the Kunsthaus (art museum) in Zürich, especially looking for landscape paintings, and it was a wonderful and inspiring experience, and after a week of feeling rather restless, finally calmed me down a bit. The best bit was not only to find inspiration, such as colour, subject matter, composition, style etc. The works of the Swiss artist Ferdinand Hodler, Giovanni Segantini and Albert Anker reminded me that I don't need to look further away for inspiration, as I tend to, but that I live in a country that has rich traditions and stunning landscapes - and they are not that far from my doorstep.

I was not only experimenting a bit on my canvas, but also in the kitchen. One thing I really wanted to make this week was bake a bread. A spelt bread. And then, I decided to not just go and make an ordinary spelt bread, but to attempt a sourdough spelt bread. Somehow, I always thought that sourdough was this mysteriously complicated affair that really only a professional baker could ever manage to make. Turns out that it is actually quite simple. All you need is basically water and flour. And patience. Because it takes at least five days until your starter, or mother, is ready and you can start baking. I found a very quick and simple recipe for baking my bread, and it came out disappointingly flat. I guess it was just a bit too quick and simple. Good things need a bit more time. But although it didn't look very pretty, it was actually very tasty. Even my Mum was very impressed and more than happy to take some of it home. And that means a lot! I've since looked up some more recipes and ordered a book as well. And I bought a banneton, which I've never even heard of until a few days ago. The mother has gone into the fridge for the moment, until the Christmas break, when I will have more time to try and attempt another bread. She might be asleep at the moment, but she's certainly smelling deliciously sour.

I also pickled some cucumbers and made Sauerkraut, both the traditional from white cabbage, and another one with red cabbage. The cucumbers are already ready to eat, but the Sauerkraut will need some more patience and another few weeks.

I'm looking forward to when I'll have some homemade spelt sourdough bread with homemade Sauerkraut!

Thursday 18 October 2018

A visit to the zoo

I love visitng the zoo here in Zürich, it's so beautiful, and now they've added a new enclosure - Australia, with the koalas as main attraction.

The emus and wallabies are free to roam and mingle with the visitors. The wallabies were a bit shy, though, and prefared to keep their distance. The emus, on the other hand, were very interested in investigating...

The elephants enjoyed some quality family time.

The Masoala hall is always a special place to visit. You never quite know what you're going to see. It's something different every time. But there's always something to see. And this little mouse lemur was just the sweetest little creature!

That plant must be especially delicious, because on our way back, we saw this little fellow. Usually, they just sit motionless upside down on tree trunks.

Gecko from Nordljus on Vimeo.

One of the animals you pretty much always see, is the chameleon. This time, we saw four different ones. What characters they are. And their colours, patterns and textures are just amazing.

The end of another wonderful day at the zoo, and one last glimpse back in the later afternoon light, before the zoo shut it's gate, and the animals got some well deserved peace and quiet.

Thursday 9 August 2018

The end of the heat wave and a visit to the local wildlife park

Ice lollies. They're basically what gets me through summer... I'm not a summer person at all, it's my least favourite season, and anything beyond 25 degrees Celsius is far too hot for me. But I think I'm not the only one who's glad that this heat wave is finally coming to an end. And my bronchitis has cleared up as well, at long last, last weekend, and I've got some energy back.
I've made some more banana kiwi lollies, but I also have some shop bought ones in the freezer. These melon and strawberry ones have been around for decades. The only ones of my favourite ice lollies that are still around. And I've eaten a lot of these this summer....

Cooking is also not something I feel like doing when it's 30+ degrees, and I usually don't know what to get and make. But this cucumber salad is perfect. Delicious and refreshing. I used to make cucumber salad with a "normal" salad dressing with vinegar and oil, but no matter how much herbs and salt I added, it always ended up watery and tasteless. This one is my Mum's recipe, I meant to ask her about it for ages, and now that I finally have, I immediately added it into my illustration recipe book, so that I won't forget it anymore. It still gets a bit watery, but it keeps its taste, and I love it.

During our holiday, we went to the nearby Wildlife park, which is always worth a visit. We didn't really expect to see many animals, it was a hot summer afternoon, and I expected most of the animals to hide in the shade and sleep. The enclosures are large and built to imitate the animals natural habitat as closely as possible, which means that there's plenty of room for them to be out of sight. But we were so spoilt, in fact, I don't think I've ever seen so many different animals in a single visit!

Moose are one of my favourite animals, and I'm always happy to see them, and what a treat to see them so close up! A big one was resting right next to the fence, and a small one was nibbling at the trees a few metres away.

Of course there's plenty of wildlife in the woods and grass along the paths as well.

The mouse house is always worth a visit. They are just so sweet. But rather hard to capture, they are so quick.

The shy and beautiful wildcats were also strolling around right in front of your eyes. Such gorgeous animals.

We were so lucky to see the bears not only once, but twice! They came all the way down from the woods to the water, I guess they were hot too and wanted to cool down.

Junior had a splash in the water...

... while mummy bear was just staying cool and relaxed.

After we came back to the café for an ice lolly, the bears came back too. They too wanted a little snack.

We also saw the foxes, the alpine marmots, the wild boars, the bisons, including a baby bison!, the wild horses, and of course, the deer. But I didn't get many good photos, my wideangle/macro zoom lens is not really suited for animals. But it was a wonderful afternoon. We also went to the zoo, and I hope to share some photos from there next time.

Friday 3 August 2018

More lazy summer days, and more holiday photos

Well, this week hasn't been much different than last week. My bronchitis still hasn't cleared up and I've spent another week at home resting. I'm really getting fed up with it now. And it's still hot, even hotter than last week, which doesn't help. So not much time in the studio, but I got at least one sketch done. And I've edited some more photos from our holiday.

Back in April, I put together a new watercolour palette with 24 colours. Some I've been using for a while, and some of them were entirely new ones. This is what the new palette looked like three months ago, with all the pans filled with to the brim with delicious Daniel Smith paints.

And this is what it looks now. I'ts quite obvious, well, it certainly is when looking at the box in real life, which colours were used a lot - and which ones weren't. There's not much left of either Payne's Grey or Alizarin Crimson, which I use mixed together as a shadow colour. And I love Sap Green. The only ones of the new additions that I did use where Rose of Ultramarine and Goethite.

It's useful to look at your palette after having used it for some time, and see if there's any changes you might want to make. Maybe a certain colour didn't work out quite as well as you thought, and you might want to swap it for another one. Or you find that there's a colour missing that would be really useful. There's such a great range of paints available these days, in any medium, and it's very easy to get carried away and buy a colour just because it's so gorgeous.

We went on a couple of outings in the area. One trip was to the beautiful Seleger Moor. I've posted some photos from my last visit there back in May, when all the rhododendrons and azaleas, their main attractions, were in bloom. Even though there's not so much blooming at this time of year, it is still worth a visit. It's just a peaceful place to be, and of course there's always the frogs, bees and hummingbird moths.

This gorgeous frog was sitting right in the middle of the path. Perfect for taking photographs. Can you see the mosquito in his back, sucking his blood? Poor little thing. I can imagine how he felt, I've got bitten about eight times while we were there. There's even a little insect sitting right on his nose tip.

For our the last day of our holiday, we decided that we had done enough walking and that we wanted something a bit more relaxing. What better thing to do than take a boat trip. We took the train to Rapperswil and got on the boat for a short 12 minutes journey to Ufenau. It's a charming little island owned by the monastery of Einsiedeln. It has two medieval churches and a restaurant, and you can walk all around the island, with beautiful views of the mountains and the emerald, crystal clear water of Lake Zurich.

We even saw this bussard, sitting on a leaveless branch right above our heads. It kept calling to its mate, which answered somewher in the distance. Just amazing.

I will definitely go to this little island again some time this summer. Maybe do some sketching too. For for now, it was time to get on the boat again for the almost 1 1/2 hour journey back to Zürich. We had been thinking about getting off somewhere along the journey, but it was so nice and relaxing to just sit on the boat, in the breeze, and watch the world slowly pass by, so that we decided to stay. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I would have been happy enough to just take the next boat, which was already waiting there, and do the journey all over again.

Friday 27 July 2018

Lazy summer days

After sketching almost every day in June, this month has been very poor artwise so far. For the first two weeks, I was on holiday, and then, back to work last week, I was beginning to feel a bit under the weather. Which turned out to be bronchitis, so I'm at home this week, resting and snoozing. I was hoping that by now, I'd feel noticably better, and might even be able to do some drawing or sketching, but it just doesn't seem to clear up. Which is a bit frustrating. At least I'm catching up with all the episodes of The Handmaid's Tale and Maigret that I've recorded. And yesterday, I managed at least one little sketch. I've been wanting to make these kiwi and banana ice lollies for ages, and they're sooo delicious! I'll definitely be making more of these!

N came here for our summer holiday, and I didn't pick up a pencil or brush for the entire time. We were out pretty much every day, on little day trips, and I took lots of photos. So this post is rather photo heavy...
We even went on a long weekend away to the southwest of Germany, in the Palatinate, to visit family. It was great to get away for a few days, and see something different. And I am glad we're not there now - the Palatinate is famous for its wine, the area is covered in vineyards, which means that the climate is mild, and it can get pretty hot in the summer. It was hot enough when we were there two weeks ago, up to 30 degrees Celsius, but this week, the thermometer is climbing up to 37 degrees.

On our first day there, Friday, we visited the beautiful city of Speyer, with it's famous cathedral. We even climbed up the 300 steps to the tower, which gave breathtaking views of the city and beyond. It really is a beautiful and picturesque town, and in the pedestrian city centre, there's one cafe after the other, selling the most delicious Italian ice cream. Heaven.

On Saturday, after a long breakfast in the garden with my relatives, and not really knowing what to do and where to go for the rest of the day, we somehow ended up in the city of Worms. Steeped in history, but not as pretty as Speyer by far. And having been spoilt by Speyer, we were rather disappointed. At least we got to see the Rhine close up and had a lovely lunch on it's bank. The big huge cargo boats were fascinating. This area has lots of beautiful and idyllic spots. But it is also very industrial, and those signs are very visible in many places.

On Sunday, we decided to stay closer to home, and went over to Mannheim to spend the afternoon in the Luisenpark. It is a huge park, built between 1892 and 1903, in the middle of the city, with gardens, a little zoo, aquarium, restaurants, a big Chinese pavillion and garden, greenhouses, a butterfly house, lots of play areas for childrens, and lots more. And of course, the lake with the Gondoletta - little boats that are pulled by an underwater rope. So relaxing. Last time I visited the park was at least 15 years ago, but as soon as we sat in the little boat, I remembered them - the carps. The lake is filled with big huge carps, which come swimming towards every boat, sticking out their big round mouths in the hope of some food. It's just too funny! We didn't get up the telecommunication tower, but I hope to do so one day. The views over Mannheim and Ludwigshafen must be amazing!

We almost missed the butterfly house. We were already on our way to the exit when we discovered it, and so we stayed for another hour...

On our last day, we travelled to the nearby town of Schwetzingen, with it's palace, and huge park and garden. You can only go inside the palace with a guided tour, either one or one and a half hours long. But we decided to give that a miss this time, and just explore the garden. It was the hottest day of all, and strolling around the vast park was quite enough.

There's also an old mosque-style building in the park, surrounded by an oriental garden, built between 1779 and 1791, when the Turkish style was popular.

 Even the Orangerie is absolutely massive. A little palace in itself. I liked the old model of it on display inside. Whoever made this must have had a wicked sense of humour!

I'm sure there must be some story behind this funny sculpture in the city square outside the palace gates, but I haven't investigated it so far. Maybe it was made by the same person as the Orangerie model...

Hopefully, next time I'll have more art to show again. But I'll also have loads more photos....
Have a wonderful weekend!