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)

Thursday 17 November 2011

Art Every Day Month: Days 16 & 17

I've discovered a new medium yesterday, and I have a feeling that it might well become my favourite drawing/sketching medium: Rötel, or Sanguine. The English Sanguine refers to the "true" colour of blood (a reddish brown), while the German Rötel simply refers to the colour red (Rot). Rötel/Sanguine is made of clay and hematite, and has been used for drawing and sketching since the Renaissance. It usually needs to be fixed with a fixative, although the one I have is not a dry one, but an oil one, which means that doesn't smudge, and therefore needs no fixing. Which is perfect, as I always end up making a big mess when I use something like charcoal, and the only effect my fixative seems to have is to give me a headache.

I printed out an image of a typical Venetian scene from the internet yesterday, and did this Venice sketch on the train on my way to Swedish class. I really love sketching with this Sanguine pencil, it's so smooth and soft, and I simply adore the warm, earthy, reddish colour.

Today's sketch I did on the train again, after work. Two weeks ago, in my painting class, we talked about a painting we had made at least 10 years ago. It was based on a day in our life, with simple images or symbols of the things we had done that day. I have it in a sketchbook, and everytime I look at it, I still remember every detail of that day. So I decided to do a similar thing. I thought a double page of my sketchbook would be more than enough, but at the end, I needed two - it's because of my long commute everyday... So here's a typcial, ordinary day in my life, with me having to get up far too early, running to the train station to catch my train, commuting, working, and trying to sqeeze in far too many things in the evening once I'm finally home, and always ending up going to bed too late as a result. That strange image on top of the last page is me trying to take decent pictures to post on my blog without natural light, as it's already dark by the time I finally get home. I'm forever struggling to get the colours right, usually not very successfully. I've tried to scan the images, too, but our scanner at work does not seem to be very impressed by my creative outlet, and simply refuses to produce an acurate reproduction.

This one's my favourite of them all: it's when I arrive at the office at last, 2 1/2 hours after having got up, and finally getting my first cup of tea of the day.

I've done a lot of sketching these past 2 1/2 weeks, thanks to Art Every Day Month, and it's great, because really that is what I've wanted to do: draw and sketch more. I've always felt bad about my inadequate drawing/sketching skills, and it has influenced my creative confidence enormously. But today, I read something very comforting, in Victoria Finlay's wonderful book Colour. She tells the story, about Michelangelo visiting, according to his biographer Georgio Vasari, Titian in his studio, and although he liked Titian's way with colours, he commented afterwards that it was a pity that Titian had never learnt to draw well. It is, basically, about different approaches, about careful planning versus spontaneity. But to me, it is a reminder that we all have our strengths and weaknesses, and if we aren't so good at one thing, it doesn't mean that everything else we do is worthless because of that. Yes, I would love to be really, really good at drawing, but I probably just have to face the fact that it's not really my strength. And that is okay. There are very few who are real masters of all arts (and that includes not only amateurs). For the rest of us, well, we just have to focus on what we're good at, and keep practising what we're not so good at. Me, I'll definitely continue practise drawing and sketching. Especially now, that I discovered that wonderful Sanguine.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

My favourite London shops ~ Stamps Galore: Blade Rubber Stamps

I only discovered Blade Rubber Stamps this year. Before I left for London for my annual summer holiday, I did a little internet search to see if there were any shops selling rubber stamps in London. There was a shop, and even better, it was basically just around the corner of where I was staying. And it's a wonderful shop. Stamps galore, from floor to ceiling, on all the walls. Wooden mounted and unmounted rubber stamps, acrylic / clear stamps, foam stamps, metal stamps, and of course a great variety of ink pads to go with them. And there’s loads more. Patterned papers, stickers, rub-ons, stencils, embellishments, punches – a whole range of scrapbooking supplies in short. The shop has a lovely atmosphere, with friendly, helpful staff. I ended up going to that shop not only once during my two weeks summer holiday, but three times. And of course I went again in October.

They also have a Made To Order Rubber Stamp service, run classes and have a blog with lots of ideas, blogging tutorials, freebies, workshops, videos and links.

The shop is just opposite the main entrance of the British Museum, in Bury Place, and it’s pretty much in between Shepherds Falkiners and the third of may favourite London shops. They also have an online shop, and when I asked them if it was possible to order from outside the UK as well, was told that they ship to everywhere and only charge the actual postage. The only exception are punches, which they don’t sell via mail order, as they are too heavy.

A bit over a year ago, I took a scrapbooking class (my first online class ever, and it was then, and because of it, that I started this blog). I enjoyed the class, which was based on colour, but I soon discovered that scrapbooking wasn’t really my thing. I completed three layouts, which I keep moving from one corner to the other, as I don’t really know what to do with them. Also, I found the whole scrapbooking supply industry far too overwhelming. There’s wonderful stuff there, no doubt, but it just left me with a feeling that it was all mainly about spending lots of money on all kinds of supplies, in order to create something, while I think that you should be able to create lots of stuff with only a small, but essential, supply of things. However, there are a few things, I must admit, I have come to love, most of all rubber stamps. I like to use them in some of my paintings, mostly in my art journal.

I really like these patterned cardboard letters I bought in October. The only problem with them is that I’m afraid I’ve already used up most of the useful letters and am now left with all the funny consonants. So now I’ll just have to use individual letters, rather than words, if I want to use them up.

I enjoyed doing these two pages in my art journal. I didn’t really know what I was going to do, I only knew that I wanted to use some of the supplies I had bought in the shop – the patterned papers, the stamps, the ink pads and the letters. I used acrylic paints matching the patterned papers as a base. The words then emerged in the process. Inspiration has been a big word for me this year. One of the biggest things to inspire me endlessly is nature, and colour has always been the driving force that made me pick up paint and brush in the first place. But it’s also the various products and techniques that inspire me to be creative and try out new things. I hope to give back to others a some of the inspiration I find in so many places and with so many artists out there.

And inspiring and inspired life – that is really what I’m looking for, and what I’ve been working hard at since the beginning of this year.

At Blade Rubber Stamps, they also have a great supply of magazines, such as Artful Blogging, Somerset Studio, Art Journaling, Stamper's Sampler, and many more. These magazines aren't available here in Switzerland, apparently, so it's nice to pick up a copy of some of them when I’m there. To be honest, it’s probably better they're not available here, as most probably, more often than not, I wouldn't be able to resist buying them. But it's nice to have the one or other from time to time. They're really inspiring, full of great ideas and photos.

So there’s now only one shop left in my little Favourite London Shops series. Next time, we’re going to take a step back in time and look at some very traditional materials – but in a different form.

Autumn in Russell Square, Bloomsbury, London

Monday 14 November 2011

Art Every Day Month: Week Two Summary

Week 2 of AEDM (Art Every Day Month). I posted day 8 separately, so here's the rest of what I've been doing during this second week. It was quite a busy week at work, with a big do at the end of the week, which meant long hours and having to spend two nights at a hotel. But I took my sketchbook, pencils, coloured water soluble pencils and one of those clever water fillable travel brushes with me. It was just a bit playing around, and trying out those coloured pencils, but it was fun to do, and definitely a good way to spend the evenings in a hotel room.

Wednesday, 9 November: I did just some simple drawing exercises. Blind drawing, drawing with left hand. I just realised that I forgot to scan or photograph them, but it doesn't really matter. The important thing is that I did something.

Thursday, 10 November: At the hotel, coloured water soluble pencils, inspired by all the coloured and fallen leaves, musing about the seasons and how the trees and leaves change during the course of the year.

Friday, 11 November: It was a long day and a late night, but I still managed to spend a little time sketching before turning in. I'm getting very fond of these coloured pencils. They're perfect for short trips and holidays.

Saturday, 12 November: I bought some more individual coloured pencils, as there aren't many browns and earth colours in the box. I only wanted to buy one or two, but of course ended up getting about ten. I can just never resist colours. But they're just perfect for this leaf. Glad to be back home again, but still inspired by those coloured pencils.

Sunday, 13 November: Finally time to paint, all day long. I did some art journaling. I've been thinking about dreaming and what my dreams are a lot lately (that's the things you dream about for your life, not the dreaming during the night while you're asleep ones), and when I put my thoughts to paint and paper, they always turn up as bubbles, circles, polka dots. I've added parts of Edgar Allen Poe's poem Dreams: I have been happy, tho' in a dream. / I have been happy- and I love the theme: / Dreams! in their vivid colouring of life, / As in that fleeting, shadowy, misty strife / Of semblance with reality, which brings / To the delirious eye, more lovely things / Of Paradise and Love- and all our own! / Than young Hope in his sunniest hour hath known.

Monday, 14 November: More art journaling. I wanted to try out at last some of the supplies I had bought in London last month for my second post in my Favourite Shops in London series - which I'll post later this week, together with more pictures.