Saturday 31 December 2011

Out with the old & in with the new

It's the last day of the "old" year already. Unblievable how fast the time flew by, both the whole year and the Christmas break. I had a whole list of things planned for the break, and of course, didn't get anything done (such as working on my blog design). Well, that's actually not true. I was quite busy and productive, and spent quite a few days painting. I finally worked through the She Art Workshop (before access expires in January) and created a total of six girls (and one boy). While these girls are not necessarily the kind of style I want for my own work, I do like them for more personal uses. Just for myself. I painted them on book covers to create a kind of journal for the new year, containing my dreams and wishes for 2012. It's not quite finished yet, there are still a few things I want to add during January. But I really like it so far, and I hope the new year will be as promising as my journal :).

Here's a detail from one of my girls, one I did after my own design. I'm a true winter's child; born in winter, and happiest when the the days are short and the world outside covered in white. And snow, ice, winter, the north etc., these are things that are part of my dreams and wishes for the new year.

I've spent the last few days "preparing" for the new year in various ways. I am not going to take any New Year's resolution for 2012. Last year, I decided for inspiration to be my guideline, and forget about resolutions for the first time. And it has been a good, successful year in this respect, full of inspiration and getting into the creative habit again. I noted down a few "things that would be nice to do and/or achieve" in the new year, though. If I can make them happen, good. If not, no tragedy either.

One of these things is patience & practice. I really enjoyed the watercolour workshop in Salzburg in mid December. It was three days full of inspiration, useful tips, hours of painting, home cooked food and prosecco. At the end of the workshop, we had to choose our two best paintings for a little exhibition and critique. I had a hard time choosing the two. In fact, I didn't like any of them. I'm still not really used to  watercolour, both the medium and the colours, the right amount of water, the right paper size and structure, etc. Maybe also the subject (city scapes) wasn't right for me, or at least not yet. But I received some encouragement, and I decided not to try and judge and compare too much. Instead, I am giving myself a whole year's time, in which I will just keep on practising, and at the end of next year, I'll judge and decide if I like it enough to keep on or if it just isn't for me.

Above the pile of paintings I did during the workshop. I actually didn't select the two I liked most for the critique, because I had a feeling the teacher would not really appreciate them. The one on top I call "Sunset over the river Thames". I was getting a bit tired of the paint never behaving the way I wanted it to and not getting the shapes right, and just wanted to play a bit with colours while trying to stick to the city theme ;). The one underneath I call "London sleet". A wet and rainy winter sky over St. Paul's. Done in about 10 minutes, but I really like the effect in the sky.

One of the two I selected for the critique is the one on top, "Fireworks over the river Thames", and with this I want to wish you

a very happy, inspiring, prolific, creative New Year. May all your dreams and wished for 2012 come true!

Saturday 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas

After all the hustle and bustle of pre-Christmas December, the decoration putting up and Christmas present shopping, it's Christmas Eve at last. For many of us, this means the beginning of a (long or short) Christmas break, of calming down, leaning back, sipping mulled wine, nibbling Christmas biscuits, lighting candles, and simply enjoying the season. I'm one of those lucky ones who doesn't have to go back to work until the new year, and I'm looking forward to more than a week of spending time with my family, going for long walks in the snow rain, reading on the sofa for hours, taking pictures of the winter wonderland outside (if I can find it...), and of course, lots of painting, drawing, sketching...

Wether you're having a long break ahead of you, or have to be back at work after Christmas, whether you're spending Christmas in the snow or under the hot sun, at home with your loved ones, or away ~

have a wonderful, peaceful, inspiring merry Christmas!

This time last year, we had masses of snow, but this year, alas, the birds are singing outside as if spring was just around the corner, it's so warm outside that you don't even need gloves, and on top of it all, it's raining. It's a white Christmas only in my dreams indeed, but I still hope that we'll have some more snow again in the next few days.

Saturday 17 December 2011

Salzburg * First impressions

Walking along the Salzach towards the city centre of Salzburg, getting a first impression of the town from one of the bridges, looking forward to exploring the old town and climbing up to the castle.

It's a lovely city, just the right size to walk around and see everything, with lots of shops, cafés, restaurants, museums, and, at this time of the year, Christmas markets. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to visit any of the museums, or do much shopping. But I walked around the streets in the old town, climbed up to the castle, and managed to get most of my Christmas shopping done.

Saturday 10 December 2011

In need of a little break...

Somehow the days just don't seem to have enough hours at the moment, and I feel like I'm not getting anything done at all. I'm so in need of a holiday, of a change of scene, a few days to lean back and relax. Luckily, that's just what I have ahead of me, and I'm so looking forward to visiting Christmas markets, drinking mulled wine and hot chocolate, eating cakes, and taking lots of pictures in lovely Salzburg. And spending the whole day painting, without having to constantly run away to do a thousand other things while the paint dries. Hopefully, I'll learn some new watercolour techniques, get at least one decent painting done, find lots of inspiration, and meet some nice people. It's really just what I need right now :)

And hopefully, there'll be a few snowflakes too. It's been snowing a lot up in the mountains these last few days, but unfortunately, down here, we've only had lots of rain and wind, and the temperatures, well, it feels more like early spring than winter... It's only the Christmas lights and decorations, and all the Christmas markets that remind me of the season. But I keep hoping for that white Christmas :)

I'll be back in a week, with my batteries recharged, and looking forward to keeping up and in touch again with everyone. Have a wonderful week!

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Will I ever get it finished?

I found my knitting basket with some left over wool and all the knitting needles in the basement the other day and it made me want to do some knitting again. There wasn't enough left of the left over wool to turn it into something useful, so I bought some new wool for a nice, soft, long scarf. I just love the textures, and colours, and feel of wool. Quite irresistible.

Unfortunately, I'm not a very talented knitter, and scarves is really all I can do. I didn't quite realise how thin the wool was when I bought it, and now I'm afraid that I'll never finish my scarf, at least not before the end of winter. Especially as I keep dropping or accidentaly taking up additional stitches. So at the moment, the progress is three rows up, two rows back... And it's really a very  very simple pattern - just knit one, purl one (I had to look this up in a dictionary, in German it's just right and left stitches). But I still have to concentrate so much... and keep getting it wrong... :(

I'm combining two balls of wool in different colours, both to make it thicker and to soften the difference of colours rather than having three distinct stripes of colour. But still there's so much wool waiting to be knitted and turned into my scarf. But I'm enjyoing it, after all, and I'm looking forward to when it will be finished at last.

It's not really cold outside yet, and it's raining all day now, but there has been some talk about snow on the radio, so I keep hoping - and knitting.

Sunday 4 December 2011

2. Advent ~ Getting into Christmas mood

It's the 2. Advent today already, and therefore...

... high time for the Christmas decoration to go up. I've never been one for Christmas decorations, until last year. And now, I can't think how I did without :). (I'm far too afraid of burning down the house to actually ever light those candles, though...).

A friend of mine intoduced me to the Steiff teddybear Christmas limited editions collection a few years ago. And of course, once you start, you just have to have one every year. I'm still waiting for this year's teddy to be ready to be picked up at the shop. It's a snowflake!

It's definitely beginning to feel a lot more like Christmas time, even though there's still no snow, at least not down here.

It's all definitely helping to get into Christmas mood. Have a wonderful 2. Advent!

Friday 2 December 2011

Picture Inspiration Catch Up

The days and weeks just fly by at the moment, and I have so many things I want and try to do, that I never quite seem to manage to keep up with everything, as with Picture Inspiration. But although I've been bad with keeping up posting, both here and in the forum, I have been taking pictures all the time. So here's a bit of a catch up of the last four weeks:

Week 37: Texture love. In week 37 we were exploring textures, that is post processing photos with the use of texture images. Which is something I love and have been doing a lot, even though not so much recently. The mist on that Saturday morning made the shore on the other side of Lake Zürich completely disappear, leaving the little sailing boats looking a little lost and giving the whole scene a sort of timeless feel. I used three different textures to enhance this feel, two by Shadowhouse Creations, and one by Flypaper Textures.

Week 38: A Delicate Balance. The task was to find a delicate balance between image and texture. It was a grey morning, and I loved how the mist hung in between the colourful trees. However, the original picture was rather bland and boring, and needed some processing to bring out the colours. Apart from the usual levels, saturation and light adjustments, I used a subtle texture by Shadowhouse Creations to make the autumn colours shine and to add to the texture of the trees, without making the additional texture too obvious.

Week 39: Leaving Textures. We were leaving texture processing and were focusing on mere texture alone, which the season offers in abundance at this time of year. The leaves all around were of course perfect for this prompt. Not only are they in itself full of texture, but they cover the ground with a blanket of texture as well.

Week 40: Grateful Day. We don't have Thangsiving over here, but this does not mean that we don't have a lot of things to be grateful for, big and small, essential and trivial. So what am I thankful for? There are things I take for granted but which aren't really so self-evident, things that could be better - but also a lot worse, things I worked hard for and deserve, and things where I'm really just lucky, little luxuries that simply make me feel good. Among the last is the fact that, despite my job and long daily commute and all the other every day stuff, I still find time and energy to be creative. And it add so much value to my life.

We received the prompt for Week 41 yesterday. And this one is really going to be a challenge!

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Art Every Day Month: Day 30

The last day of November today, and with it the last day of Art Every Day Month. Time certainly flies by when you are creative! It was a great experience, and made me try out and get into some new things, techniques and supplies, which I really enjoyed. I also profited from the challenge of trying to do something small (almost) every day. It doesn't have to be a big painting on canvas every time. A little sketch, a drawing, watercolour pencils... it's such a good exercise to just do something, anything, no matter how small, every day. I actually didn't do something on each and every day. I had one or two days when I just didn't had the time, or simply wasn't inspired. It happens, and it's okay too. But I managed to do something on most of the day, which is actually a lot more than I expected. So I'm really happy. And the community of all the Art Every Day Month participants has been so inspiring and rewarding! The talent and creativity out there is really amazing!

A big thank you to Leah Piken Collidas of Creative Every Day, who hosted the challenge and who gave us a platform to share our work and connect with each other. Thank you!

And so here is my last contribution to Art Every Day Month. Two days ago, when I posted my unenthusiastic Saint Nichoals, Nigel asked for a reindeer, and how could I possibly ignore his request. So here is it, a little reindeer in the  snow just for you, Nigel :). (Click here for some music to go with it)

He looks a bit exhausted, poor chap. I first thought it was because of all the work he has to do this time of the year, but then I remembered that the present delivery service doesn't start until later next month. So my conclusion is that he's a little bit drunk, naughty little thing. But maybe a glass of red wine is just the right thing now, to celebrate a whole month of creating art (almost) every day. Cheers to all my fellow participants!

Actually, Art Every Day Month is not the only challenge Leah hosts. In the past three years, she has also hosted the Creative Every Day Challenge, and I've been so inspired this month, that I'm seriously thinking about joining this challenge, if she will host it again next year. There's a theme for each month, and I really like this idea. (I have been doing a similar thing with Picture Inspiration, where we are given a prompt each week for a photograph. It is a great challenge and inspiration to come up with something for a theme I wouldn't necessarily have thought about myself.) Even though it is called an "every day challenge", it doesn't actually mean that you have to  post something every day, which really would be absolutely impossible. Also, "creativity" is meant in a very broad sense.

Well, I'm definitely going to miss Art Every Day Month, but to be honest, I'm also quite looking forward to taking a bit slower again. These past few days especially, where I tried to do and post something every day, have been exhausting (I feel a little bit like my litte reindeer), and I definitely need to catch up on some sleep! But if there's going to be a Creative Every Day Challenge for 2012, I'm almost certainly in!

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Art Every Day Month: Day 29

Only one more day to go with Art Every Day Month, and till Decemeber. Today, I thought I'd do some baubles to help me get into Christmas mood.

I also went to the city after work, to enjoy the Christmas lights everywhere (and to have a constant battle with White Balance, I really never know which option to chose at night, and with all the lights. None of the options really seem to work...). But I just loved the reflections in the river!

I also bought some wool to knit a scarf or two. I'm really bad at knitting, and I can only do simple and straight, so it really has to be just scarves. It'll be my challenge for December. At least I'll be ready for when the snow comes :)

Monday 28 November 2011

Art Every Day Month: Day 28

Day 28 of Art Every Day Month, and only two more days to go! Even if it's not quite yet December, the Christmas season is already in full swing. Yesterday was the first advent, and there were numerous Saint Nicholas processions everywhere ringing (quite literally in some cases, see below) in the season. It's less than four weeks till Christmas, the Christmas lights and decorations are on everywhere. But somehow, I'm just so not in the mood yet. Don't know why, as I quite like this season, really. So I thought it would help if I sketched a Saint Nicholas, or "Samichlaus", as we call here (he's not quite the same as Santa, even though they look similar).

Hmmm, didn't really help much yet. Maybe if I added some colour? Some bright christmassy red, surely that would help?!

But alas!, my "Samichlaus" looks about as unenthusiastic about the whole business as me. And he also looks a bit undernourished. Maybe that's why he's so grumpy?  Hmmm, maybe I should get out my Dean Martin Christmas CD, or the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain one, maybe that will help to put some Christmas feelings into the air? 

Here some pictures of our local "Chlausumzug" (Saint Nicholas procession), complete with the bell ringers (I'm sure they never feel the cold, those bells must weigh a ton!), a whole truck load of Saint Nicholas', and even a bunch of junior ones too :)

According to the weather forecast, there should be some snow coming in the middle of the month. I hope we'll have some down here as well. That would most definitely put me in the mood for Christmas!

Art Every Day Month: Days 21 - 27

Week four of Art Every Day Month is already over, and its only a few days left. I can't believe how quickly the time went! This week wasn't quite as productive as I had wished. But sometimes, one just has too many other things on one's mind that keep distracting one's thoughts and concentration. I managed to get something done, or at least began something, almost every day, although some of it was rather frustrating.

Monday, 21 November: My mind had been running wild since the early hours of the day, and it needed some sorting out. So instead of painting, drawing, sketching etc. I spent the entire evening jotting down my thoughts into my journal.

Tuesday, 22 November: My thoughts kept wandering off, and I found it hard to focus on what I was doing, so my drawing attempts resulted in only half a dog. He doesn't look too happy about it, the poor thing...

Wednesday, 23 November: I spent the afternoon going through a pile of antiquarians' and auctions catalogues, and I found a lovely 1920s image of what must have been a champagne ad. I copied it into my sketchbook in the train on my way to Swedish class. I don't really know why I always feel like drawing in that particular train, it's always crowded and constantly swaying and jouncing. It's not really a very comfortable train.

Thursday, 24 November: I met up with a friend after work so got home later. I did continue working on my watercolour techniques reference book, though.

Friday, 25 November: I had the day off, and so much to do that I kept running around all day. The biggest achievement was that I finally, finally decided on a fabric for my new old sofa. It  actually took me  an embarrasing 15 months to decide... Luckily, I found a very patient upholsterer. No idea how long it will take now until it will be ready and in the living room. I didn't dare to ask... It'll be ready when it's ready. I just hope I made the right decision about the fabric...!! I tried to do some kind of watercolour landscape scene in the evening. I want to practise as much as possible with watercolours to be ready for the workshop in mid December, but it just didn't work at all. So I decided to give up and call it a day. I'll finish it later. Or maybe I'll just leave it and start something new.

Saturday, 26 November: At last, I started working on the new picture for the living room, now that the sofa fabric is sorted out, and I spent all morning working on it. The bubble theme is still going on. So many things on my mind, so many bubbles in my head. Not quite sure yet how exaxtly I want it to be, but I want lots of texture.

Sunday, 27 November: From bad to worse. This week really wasn't a good week, creatively speeking. I really should have just forgotten about that watercolour sketch I started on Friday, as it got from bad to much worse. Isn't there a saying, that you need to make bad art first in order to start making good art, or something like that? Well, this is certainly as bad as it can get. Only good for cutting up and re-using for some collage or something. Ah well, the week's over, and hopefully, with it my creative low.

Saturday 26 November 2011


This friendly little cat came sneeking up on me while I was taking pictures during my walk this afternoon and insisted on being stroked and cuddled, and kept following me for quite a while when I walked on. I've been wanting to take cat pictures for quite a while, but finding a suitable subject wasn't so easy. I really whish I had already had my camera when my cat was still alive. I managed to get some pictures of this one, but it's not easy, they move so fast, and I think that that big black thing before one's face makes them rather uncomfortable. But doesn't she have the most beautiful green eyes?

Time spent with cats is never wasted. (Sigmund Freud)

A cat will be your friend, but never your slave. (Théophile Gautier)

By associating with the cat one only risks becoming richer. (Colette)

I'll have to try and draw and/or paint this cat. And one day, I'll definitely have a cat again.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

More Space and Light: improvements in my studio

Okay, light, and especially space are not really terms that apply to my studio. And even studio does not really describe it. It's a "studio" really. A mix of a study-cum-library-cum-place-where-I-create. It's small, and getting messy with colours usually requires some shifting of both stuff and furniture. Not practical, really, but all I have at the moment. And better than nothing. And I've been making some improvements over the course of this year. A new, big and bright lamp on the ceiling, a lovely new cabinet, and, more recently, a bigger desk and some more storage space. The window was the last thing to tackle. I had a lovely semi-transparent orange curtain, which bathed the room in a golden light in the early morning sun - but made it rather dark for the rest of the day while covering up the window board. I had been thinking about how to get the maximum of light while avoiding passersby peeking through the street facing window. Well, it's a mezzanine flat, actually, so not street level, but I'm a bit paranoid in that respect... I must admit though that I love peeking into other people's homes :).

Well, I finally found the perfect solution: a simple blind and transparent (or is it translucent?) window film. I found, and mail-ordered, the perfect window film at one of my favourite shops in Stockholm, Designtorget. Very conveniently, it arrived on Monday last week, on my day off, so in the afternoon up went the blind, and on went the film, and my little "studio" was perfect at last. Well, as perfect as it can be, anyway :). And I had now the perfect space to hang up the lovely gift I received from my cousin three weeks ago.

Now I have space for my brushes and other painting stuff, without having to be afraid of it fading and /or getting otherwise damaged by the sun. The blind allows so much more light to get in, without me feeling exposed and observed by passersby and neighbours.

And there's now room and light to paint by the window. Creating the right atmosphere in one's creative space is so important.

But one of my most favourite things still are the fairy lights. I love fairy lights, and this one is an espially long one, which goes around the cabinet, over the door and along the bookshelves, covering half of the room and lighting it up beautifully.

I really love how different the window film looks depending on the time of day and light outside. The blue hour is my favourite time of the day in winter anyway, but now, it's even more magical.

My dream of a proper studio (and I tell you in my head I already now exactly how it looks like) still seems light years away, but until it, hopefully, may come true one day, I at least have a room I'm happy with and enjoy spending time in.

Sunday 20 November 2011

Art Every Day Month: Day 20 * Plan B

I've been looking forward to this weekend for weeks, ever since I discovered a new class about printing techniques being offered. I signed up straight away, and I couldn't wait to finally get the chance to try some printing. I have wanted to do this for such a long time, but there weren't really (m)any classes available. Unfortunately, there don't seem to be many fellow printing enthusiasts around, as at the beginning of last week I received an e-mail that the class was cancelled.

So here I was, with the whole weekend at my disposal. And of course, I wasn't idle, even though it didn't involve any printing. Instead, I used the whole of today to prepare for another class I'm going to take, next month. A watercolour workshop I'm really excited about (and I just really, really hope that this one is not going to be cancelled too!!).

I have been very busy all day, though not really producing any "art" for day 20 of Art Every Day Month. Instead, I spent the day doing exercises in various watercolour techniques, which I intend to use both as a reference and as a reminder. Not all turned out equally well, and some didn't seem to work at all, or only revealed that they did work after all once the paint was completely dry. Well, I should know by know that watercolours involves and requires a lot of patience!

I really enjoyed this exercise though, and I'm so amazed and fascinated by the versatility of this medium. Doing these samples really helped me to get to know waterclours better. And I've already started another set of these, this time into a Moleskine watercolour sketchbook, which allows more space for notes along with the samples, and which will be much more convenient to carry around.
One of my favourite techniques is "granulation". It's one of the simplest, just a simple wash, but with a great effect. The secret is in the colour you use. Perfect for this techniques are for example Cerulean Blue, or Coelinblau in German, after "caelum", Latin for "sky", which is the one I used. Other colours that work with this technique include Ultramarine, Cobalt, Manganese, Yellow Ochre, Viridian Green, Raw Sienna and Raw Umber. What you do is basically just apply a wash - and then let the pigments of these colours do their magic. Simply marvellous. (For those colours which do not naturally create this effect, there are some aids available to get the same effect).

Saturday 19 November 2011

Art Every Day Month: Days 18 & 19

One of the many things I want to practise drawing and sketching are humans. So I tried to do some small portraits last night for day 18 of Art Every Day Month. The one on the left right was the first one I did, drawn from memory of a sketch I did a few weeks ago. For the others, I used the theatre programme of a play I saw in London last months. While I at least  manage to get them to look like humas, I'm still far away from achieving a real life-like likenenss, so the actors are not really recognisable at all. Of course I used my newly discovered, and already much beloved Sanguine pencil again.

Today, day 19, I finally got out my calligraphy things again. It's something I've neglected far too long. Two, three years ago, I could rarely spend an evening without getting my nibs, pens and inks out. But with all the other things happening since then, they somehow got a bit neglected, though not completely forgotten. It wasn't only me that had become rusty, my poor nibs seem to have suffered too. I definitely have to get them out more often again!

I'm afraid my proportions are, as usual, all wrong. It's because I'm always too lazy to prepare and rule my paper correctly. I just want to write. Also, I never manage to write something without making mistakes. I'm concentrating so much on the shape of the letters when I'm writing, that I completely forget the words, and so sooner or later, make a mistake.

Colourless green ideas sleep furiously (Noam Chomsky)