Thursday 31 May 2012

A trip to the north

I've spent 10 days in the beautiful city of Hamburg last week. It was my first time up there in the northern part of Germany. Have you ever been there? It's totally worth a visit, and definitely not my last time up there! I spent four of the 10 days there at a conference, but still had enough time to explore the city and even take a couple of day trips outside the city. Of course, being so close to the coast, I just had to see the sea. There was just one question: North or Baltic Sea?

The Baltic Sea was closer and more convenient, so the Baltic Sea it was. I took the train to the little town of Travemünde, and, when I arrived there, was overjoyed to see a whole big sandy beach full of Strandkörbe ("beach baskets"). Those Strandkörbe are typical of North Germany's North and Baltich Sea beaches, and while I had seen a Strandkorb as such before, I had never seen one actually standing on a beach. I don't know how many photos I took of them. They just made me happy :).

Of course I didn't just take photos of Strandkörbe, but I just wanted to quickly share these with you. It's a busy week, my suitcase is still waiting to get unpacked, and I will need a little bit more time until I'm fully back, and present in blog world.

I was glad to see that my blog post scheduling worked perfectly last week, and that my two posts were published as intended. But I must admit that I didn't really think about the fact that it all gets a bit onesided, especially as I didn't have any internet access. So I'll have a bit of catching up to do. I'm really looking forward to visit everyone's blogs. I'll just need a bit of time. But I'm back. And it feels good :)

Friday 25 May 2012

Tea with Mr Berry and his friends Rasp and Black

I've been having some serious troubles with my Messy Book. It's simply amazing with what the others in the Messy Book Group come up with, all these different ways of misstreating their books, and creating a wonderful mess. But I've been struggling. I'm usually messy and choatic enough, and I've no problem in constantly creating a mess in my home. But when it comes to books, and art, and paints, there's my little tendency of perfectionism coming through, that wants to create something lovely, something nice, and that simply doesn't want to rip apart a book, or bury it in the ground, or throwing it out in the rain.

But I'm determined to give it a go, and I've forced myself to do something I wouldn't usually do. So meet Mr. Berry. He lives in an ancient little town, far far away behind the mountains, and he loves to spend hours on end in his comfy chair, with his somewhat undefineable, but very friendly, cuddly pet Black at his feet and his feathery friend Rasp sitting conmfortably on his shoulder.

They drink innumerable cups of fragrant Earl Grey Tea and Mr. Berry makes up stories about fairies, sea monsters and other fabulous creatures, which have a tendency to come to life behind his back, hiding behind the chair, without him ever noticing.

If you suspect that the words in italics have more to do with this creation than just serving as random names for the characters and their preferred beverage, you're absolutely right. I used all the ingredients of my delicious breakfast that day for this page: rubbing the juicy paper bit at the bottom of the raspberry basket on to the page, rubbing in some Ear Grey tea leaves, and squashing a whole blackberry between the pages.

The blackberry was already a bit mouldy, so it was perfectly juicy and it didn't involve wasting a perfectly good blackberry. For which they are far too delicious really :). But aren't the colours just gorgeous? I guess the fact that they're among my favourite colours made it a lot easier to mess up the page :)

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Portrait #13

We didn't do self portraits after all in my drawing class last week (and I was not unhappy about it, to be honest). Instead we worked in pairs, sitting opposite each other, and drawing each other, defining the light areas and the adding more shadows and details. My 'model' was so absorbed in her drawing that she more often than not forgot to look up, but it was still a great exercise. I loved drawing this portrait.

I'm going to miss tonight's class, unfortunately, but I hope I'll get some practising done this week, and I'm looking forward to the next class next week. One of the things I enjoy most about the class is working together with other people. It's so fascinating, and inspiring, to see how seven people, all working with the same techniques and materials, at the same time, come up with seven completely different drawings.

Friday 18 May 2012

Playing with watercolours

On Saturday, I felt like taking out my watercolours again, after quite some while. I had an idea, an image in my head that I wanted to get down on paper. I have started doing more and more figurative and portrait painting lately, but abstract painting is something that still fascinates me and that I will always come back to. I just love the interplay of colours and textures.

I wanted to use a cool palette of greys and dark blues, with a touch of red and bright turquoise, putting one layer on top of the other to create depth, and light and shadows.

The finished piece, by daylight. I put it into a white frame, behind glass, to see how it would look. It makes such a difference.

I'm sure that a traditional watercolourist would have a thing or two to say about my use of black and white paint and pen, and about transparency. But I'm not a traditional watercolourist, and to be honest, I've never quite understood that thing about not using black and white paint in watercolour (although some of the white areas above is the paper). I think they work just wonderfully.

Linking up to the terrific Paint Party Friday. Make sure to go and have a look at all the wonderful, inspirign work there. It's always a treat.

I'll be away from my computer for a few days, and I'm not sure if and when I'll have some internet access in. Have a wonderful weekend everyone, have fun and create. I'll be back again soon.

Thursday 17 May 2012


Sometimes you have a great idea in your head, and you get out your paints, and you start working, preparing all the pieces, only to find out, when you're putting them all together, that it just isn't going to work.

I wanted to contribute something to this month's Art-Journal-Journey Challenge, for May's theme "Zeit / Time". What is time for me? What comes to my mind when I think of time? Time flies, already it is mid May, which means that the spring season's in full bloom. Within a few weeks, the bare trees and brown grass have exploded into the freshest greens, the crops are growing in the fields, gardens are blooming, and the meadows look like green and white carpets. Very soon the summer sun will bleach out all colours, make the pale blue sky flicker, and send people flocking to the lake and river to find relief from the heat and humidity. Slowly, the days will begin to get shorter, the air will get cooler and drier, and the trees around will start to look as if they're on fire, glowing in the brightest reds and oranges, and the leaves rustle under your feet when you walk through the forest in the early morning mist. Soon, it will be cold even in the middle of the day, the air getting chillier and clearer, and beautiful delicate snow crystals start to cover the earth with a soft fluffy cover, turning the world into a perfect winter wonderland. I'm glad I live in a climate where the four seasons are very distinct (although I could do with a bit more snow in winter and less heat in summer). I had an idea about what I wanted to do and made a quick sketch for later, when I would have time to get to work.

I had been working all Saturday afternoon on a watercolour painting (more about it tomorrow), and I wanted to use the same technique for my seasons to reproduce the colours of the seaons.

Summer I found the hardest to do, probably because it is my least favourite season. Even though my idea of a perfect summer holiday does not include lying on a beach, baking in the hot sun and bathing in the sea, I usually spend them in countries where the sea plays an important part - Britain and Sweden.

It's probably not a coincidence that autumn, and especially winter, are the ones I like best. The warm oranges and cool greys and blues just work so well next to each other. I also like spring, though, green being one of my favourite colours after all. But winter is definitely my favourite :)

A palette full of colours of the seasons - spring greens, summer holiday yellows and blues, autumn's oranges and reds, and cool blues and greys of winter.

My idea was to create backgrounds and then stick the cut out watercolour seasons on to them. I used the same to colour palettes, and added some text. But when I was finished with them, I realised that it wouldn't really work the way I had imaged.

Even though I had tried to keep the art journal backgrounds as simple as possible, there were too many different things going on in them and the watercolours, that combining them would just be too much. So I'm leaving them as they are, as two different versions of the same theme.

As with the watercolours, it's again autumn, and especially winter, that I like best. I'm going to add some more text, I think, writing down some things about the seasons, and what I like about them.

By the way, have you ever noticed that all four seasons in English consist of six letters? That was definitely a very convenient fact for fitting the words on my art journal pages :).
Linking up to the fabulous Art Journal Journey and the wonderfully 
inspiring Palette & Paint.

Tuesday 15 May 2012

The joys and challenges of life model drawing

I signed up for a portrait and figure drawing evening class at the Volkshochschule (community college) in my city. I really like online classes, they are so convenient, as you can watch the video instructions whenever you want, and follow the lessons in your own pace. But I miss the "critial" part a bit. Sometimes it's helpful to be told where you're going wrong, what could be improved, and how, an experienced teacher pointing out something you've never noticed yourself. And this preferably while you're drawing, and not after you've finished the piece. And of course it's nice to meet some "real" people and have the whole thing in your own language.

The class began last week Tuesday, and after introductions and looking at basic portrait proportion guidelines, we got to draw our first portrait. The teacher had taken her daughter with her, who was going to sit for us as a model. I found it very exciting, but also a bit scary, as I had never drawn from life before!

It certainly is a very different experience. What I found the hardest was the different relationship you have towards your model. I usually use photos from magazines, or other sources, and don't care so much about likeness and such. They're just images, serving me for practising, and my relationship to them is very detached.

But with life drawing, it's entirely different. It's so more personal, even if you don't really know your model personally. I really wanted to produce a good drawing of her, a good likeness, a pretty, nice one. As I progressed with my drawing, I was more and more concerned and dismayed at how stern and severe she looked on my paper. She was a lovely girl, and I somehow felt that this should show in the drawing. That she should look happy and friendly, and smiling, even though she actually wasn't smiling but looking rather serious as she sat for us. But there's this constant urge to please, that fear of offending.

So when the teacher came round to look at my work in progress, I felt I had to apologised for making her daughter look so sad and stern. She said I didn't have to apologise, as I was just trying to draw what I saw. I sometimes wonder though how much of ourselves goes into a drawing. Of the 100% percent that makes the finished portrait, how many percent is the model we draw, and how many percent is ourselves? I notice again and again when I draw a portrait, that there always seems to be a certain touch of sadness sneaking in. And it makes me think, and wonder. Is that just my own, personal drawing style emerging? Or is there more to it, on a deeper, subconscious? Should I be worryied?? I prefer the drawing style option...

Although my drawings from photographs usually look like humans, there's often not muchof a likeness. I think this portrait is the first one that actually really looks like the model it's drawn from. What made me most happy was that the model herself thought it was a good likeness (and that she wasn't offended at all :) ).

At the end we only had about 20 minutes left to discuss and draw he profile, It was even more of a challenge. It can be difficult at times to persuade the brain to see what is actually there instead of what it thinks how it should be. The face, the profile is one smooth line, without any sharp, protruding edges, it keeps telling you. But it is wrong, and you have to learn to ignore it, and trust your eyes. With your eraser, if necessary. And even if you successfully manage to turn off your brain, there still is the challenge of putting on paper what you see. That chin line was a real battle, I can tell you!

Tonight's the second class, and I'm really looking forward to it. It's going to be self portraits tonight, though, which I think will be a really difficult challenge. We'll see how it goes...

Sunday 13 May 2012

Sweet Mother's Day

I thought I'd bake a cake for my mum for Mother's Day today. Even the ingredients were happy to help me prepare a sweet surprise for my mum :). I didn't actually notice the smiley face until I looked at the photo, so it's upside down, I'm afraid.

Especially sweet decoration. The yellow and green ones would no doubt have suited the lemon cake much better.

But I just liked the pink and lilac ones better :)

No calory counting today! :)

Happy Mother's Day! 
Hope you all have/had a wonderful Sunday!

Friday 11 May 2012

Lazy Sunday sketches - radishes and berries

It's Friday again already, just a few hours till the weekend, and of course two great parties to join. As I don't have so much time during the week to paing, 'm always looking forward to spending all day in my studio during the weekend. Last weekend, though, I just couldn't get myself to pick up a paint brush at all. I felt totally uninspired, and so I finally gave up and decided to just take have a really lazy weekend and get some rest. By Sunday evening, while happily watching telly, I at last managed to pick up my sketchbook  for some lazy Sunday sketches (although I was too lazy to finish them).

One of the first lessosn in The Art of Wild Abandoment was about sketching radishes. You didn't have to do radishes, of course, but somehow I found them a comforable subject to sketch, and I keep coming back to them. In supermarkets over here, they are sold in bunches with their greens and other bits still on, not in the "tidied up" version found in some other places.

I love all the berries available at the moment. My favourites are no doubt blueberries, but I also love blackberries and raspberries. The blackberries are especially delicious at the moment. Firm and perfectly sweet. Irresistible. And their colour is just gorgeous.

I grew up with Caran d'Ache Neocolor. Well, actually with everything Caran d'Ache. Since it is a Swiss manufacturer, they're the dominant brand here, and the only brand used in school for everything, from pencils to fountain pens (no ballpoint pens allowed in my time), to watercolour and gouache paints, and of course the Necolor crayons. I still have my very first box of crayons, but I haven't used them very often since my school time. It wasn't until I took the first online course with Christy Tomlinson, actually, that I re-discovered them.

I've been using them more and more often lately, and I'm adding new colours to my palette. They're quite cheap here, actually, and I think I'll soon have the whole range of 126 colours! They are especially handy, in combination with a water reservoir brush, for lazy sofa sketchings. But I'll also take them with me on my planned trips this year (not long until the first one now :) ), to do some sketching. I've always wanted to sketch while on holiday, but somehow never managed. But this year, there are no excuses. A sketchbook, a box of Neocolor II crayons and a water reservoir brush - you can take these anywhere!

Linking up to Paint Party Friday (even though they're only half finished sketches) and Palette & Paint (even though there isn't much of a palette to show, and even less paint, I'm afraid).

But this coming weekend, I'm going to spend much time in the studio, and get my paints and brushes, and hopefully, I'll have some more to show next week. Have a great and inspiring Friday everyone!

Tuesday 8 May 2012

If you're not inspired to paint, just have a lazy Sunday - and bake something delicious

I didn't feel much like painting, or sketching, or anything really, so I decided to just take a break and have a lazy weekend. I was very much in the mood of doing some baking, though, and I had recently discovered a recipe for bluerry flan I wanted to try. These flans are very popular in Switzerland, you find them all over the country under different names - Wähe in Zürich, Chueche in Bern, Flade in St. Gallen, Dünne in Schaffhausen to name just a few. They come in sweet and salty, the most popular being cheese (of course), spinach, apple, plum and apricots. I've never seen blueberry ones before, so I was very happy when I found the recipe.

I bought a ready made dough (I'm a rather lazy cook, I'm afraid), generously covered it with ground almonds, and added a thick layer of blueberries on top. Thick, fresh, sweet blueberries. Yummy.

Preparing the glaze couldn't be easier, it only consists of cream curd/quark (or whatever  it's called in English), eggs, sugar and vanilla sugar. I added some fresh vanilla in addition. Eventhough I'm not a great cook at all, unfortunately, I always like to alter the recipe a bit.

Pouring the glaze over the blueberries, and the flan is ready to go into the oven.

Than it's just waiting... It doesn't take too long though, less than an hour (and that's even including the preparation! Well, if you're using a ready made dough, that is...).

The result: only slightly burned, but otherwise looking good.

And it tasted good too! The thick layer of ground almonds made the bottom nicely firm and crunchy, and not at all soggy as I had feared.

The combination of bluerry and vanilla.... simply Delicious!

I might be baking this flan a lot now, as long as those fresh, sweet and tasty blueberries are around. What's your favourite cake/pie/tart/flan that you love making?

Saturday 5 May 2012

Wild Abandonment blog hop

My first blog hop ever! I'm so excited to participate!

I signed up for Junelle Jacobsen's and Christy Tomlinson's workshop The Art of Wild Abandoment a few weeks ago. After having taken quite a few online classes last year, I resolved not to take any this year, but spending more time and energy on my own work instead. But I just couldn't resist this one. It sounded so much fun. And I'm enjyoing it big time, even if I haven't come very far yet, to be honest. There's just so much I want to do and paint, and the weekend only has so many hours... But the class is open the whole year, so I still have time to watch all the videos and do the exercises without missing anything.

Claire Smillie had the idea to do a blog hop and organised, even and created this wonderful badge too. Thanks Claire! So today, we're all sharing something we did inspired by the workshop on our blog , a sketch or a journal page or a painting or an object, and link to each other in one big circle.

I made another double page for my Dreams & Wishes Journal for 2012, which consists of recycled book covers. The lesson included part of a girl with a layered skirt and the things "we bring". What is us, what makes us what we are. My version turned out to be my studio, and the things that inspire me. Not the studio I have at the moment, which isn't a proper studio at all but just a small room in the flat with serves as library, study - and studio. But I'm dreaming of having a proper studio one day, a studio that is just a studio. A good sized room, light and cheerful with enough room for all the supplies and stuff, and full of inspiration and art.

So there's my easel in my studio, and of course all the supplies like brushes. My camera is also an important part of my creativy. Not only for taking inspiring image to paint from and for taking photos of my art to post here, but also photography itself as an art form that fascinates me. And of course there's the inspiration that gets you going. Nature is something that inspires me greatly, hence the flowers. And the books, well, I just couldn't live without them (quite literally, considering that I'm a librarian).

And of course there has to be a cat. My beloved cat which I had half my life died three years ago just a few days before Christmas (it was a very dismal Christmas for sure that year), and I still miss her. It's not practical to have a cat at the moment, but one day, I'll have one again. And I couldn't image my proper studio without a one. So the cat had to go on the page too.

If you followed the chain, you've come here from Tracey Cedara Dunn's blog Thru the Attic Door who's become addicted to Caran d'Ache Neocolor II. Next in line is Marsa Fisher aka GCgirl, do hop over and see her take on a project from the class, a beautiful note board, and follow the chain to see what everyone else did.

Friday 4 May 2012

Light & shadows, and the calming effects of earth tones

It was a short week, with Tuesday a holiday and Monday therefore a bridge day, but I'm still glad it's Friday. The past two, three weeks have been a bit emotional (was it something in the air? the stars?), and this week's theme for the Artist's Play Room Challenge "Light & Dark" seemed as fitting as last week's "Rainbow" theme had been. Where there's light, there's shadow, and when everything seems dark, there'll be a light lighting up the shadows somewhere again. There's always both, has to be, as if there was only one of them left, something would definitely be very seriously wrong.

I was quit busy over my prolonged weekend, adding two more pages made of recycled book covers to my Dreams & Wishes Journal for 2012, working some more on the background of my green canvas, but most of all working in my art journal, playing with the light & dark theme. I didn't much think about which colours to choose. Of course there had to be light (Titanium White) and dark (Payne's Grey), but I found myself reaching automatically for the earth tones for my palette.

The Siennas and Umbras (for the portrait I used only Raw and Burnt Umbra) have such a calming, balancing, grounding effect, I think. Close your eyes, and you can just feel the warm Tuscany wind on your face, your feet firmly on the ground, closely connection with the earth, the brown and red and yellow earth between your toes.

I came home late on Wednesday, after my Swedish class, but managed to catch the last 15 minutes of a programme on telly about colour. They talked about the natural pigments, the earth tones of Italy and France, and showed a place in the Provence, in Roussillon, which was dedicated to preserving the old earth colours, most of all the French Ochre (which in Italy is called Sienna or Siena, after the Tuscan city of Siena). The place, the Conservatoire des ocres et de la couleur, also holds workshops about these colours, and how to make them yourself. It all sounded so fascinating, and I'd really love to take such a workshop. It sounds so inspiring! I have to take a closer look at their website, but as I understood so far, the courses are all in French only, and I'm afraid my French is definitely not up to such a specialised course.

But it made me think of exploring these earth colours a bit more, and maybe doing a series of paintings with them, and experimenting a bit. Well, we'll see. I definitely enjoyed painting my earthy portrait.

The more I look at the portrait, the more I like her (despite of all the things and proportions that are wrong). She seems to have that calm and content look on her face I've been lacking for quite some time. And I could swear she winked at me while I wrote this post. "You'll see, things will be all right. Everything will be fine", she seems to be saying. Well, I hope she's right.

I've been a terrible contact this past week. I linked up a post to Paint Party Friday last week, but never really got round to visiting and commenting on the other participants entries. Which is really a shame, as it is such a wonderful, lively and inspiring place. I meant to catch up during the week, but somehow, I had so many things on my mind. It would have been better not link up at all. But I promise to do better this week!

Have a wonderful Friday everyone!