Friday 30 August 2013

Zoo animals sketches: Birds

I bought this little sketchbook earlier this summer in an art shop in London. It's a handy square 14x14c, (5.5x5.5") journal with 128 pages and the rounded edges I love. I was a bit sceptical, because the pages, though heavyweight drawing paper, seemed a bit thin for watercolours. But as it said on the cover that it "accepts light watercolour washes without buckling", I thought I'd give it a try.

And I'm really pleased with it. It actually takes a lot more than just a l"light" watercolour wash, with only very little buckling, and most of all no bleeding through at all, which is something I had problems with with another sketchbook. So this little sketchbook is going to be my "zoo animals series" sketchbook, and here are some bird sketches done after the photos I took during my visit to the zoo.

The King Penguins. There just such fun to sketch.

The funny Shoebill, they have these amazing blue eyes, which somehow don't really look like birds' eyes.

The Green-Winged Macaw. I must say that I'm very grateful to the zoo that they have these, and not the Scarlet Macas, with their yellow wing feathers, as I really don't like yellow, but love green!

There's still lots of room in my sketchbook for more zoo animals, and there's lots more to come. I certainly took enough photos to keep me busy.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

A day at the zoo: Birds

I haven't been to the zoo for 10 years, so the week before last, I decided that it was time again. And thanks to my lovely work colleague, I even got a free ticket. A lot has changed in the past 10 years, and a lot is still changing. Zoo Zurich is working on improving the habitat for its animals, its aims is not anymore to display as many and as exotic animals as possible, but to contribute to the preservation of animals, especially those that are in danger of being extinct. It only keeps animals for which it can provide an appropriate living, which is why the polar bears and chimpanzees were sold to zoos that could provide that better. Many new enclosures have been built, and many more are being built and planned to improve condition, and animals are not kept as individuals species in separate enclosures, but mixed together, as they would in their natural habitat. The new enclosures are much bigger, recreating specific areas of the animals' natural habitat, and each new enclosure is linked with a conservation project. The zoo's aim is to mediate and educate, according to their motto "They who know animals, preserve animals".

Apart from my camera, I had also taken a little sketchbook, pencils, pencils, and even a little box of watercolour, in yet another attempt to do some on-site sketching. As with all other former attemps, I failed miserably. Well, this time, it really was just too hot, and there weren't (m)any convenient places to sit down and sketch. Also, it was quite busy (I was just one week too early - it was the last week of the school holiday...) So I just took pictures, which I'm now using as reference for sketches. Because I took so many pictures (almost 350), I've decided to turn them into a little series. All the animals are just so beautiful, funny, fascinating, amazing, it would be a pity to cram them all into one single blog post. I randomly start with some birds, simply because I wanted to start with sketching the penguins. They were the first animals I saw when I went there, and they just fascinated me endlessly. I went back there before I left, because they're just too sweet.

The majestic King Penguins

The funny and amazing Shoebill. They're huge, they get up to 110-150 cm tall, and have been described as "statue-like", as they stand motionless for ages. Certainly very handy for taking photos.

The gorgeously colourful Green-Winged Macaw. I just happened to pass by a zoo keeper giving a talk about macaws and feeding him (or her) nuts, which again provided a perfect opportunity to take photos of this wonderful creature.

Friday 23 August 2013

Be the unique you

A quick journal page, which I did mainly to use up some paint, and to try out some new markers. An idea popped into my mind, an image, which led to this page. I love how pages in my art journal just develop, by themselves.

Don't become a part of the anonymous mass, but be yourself. Belief in yourself, and follow your own path, your passion to become who you want to be.

Be true to yourself, be the unique you. It can be hard work to follow that path, to find the voice to express yourself, to make and follow your choices, and make your dreams come true. But it's a path well worth pursuing. And keep, and keep going.

I bought these new pens a few weeks ago. They're acrylic paint markers, with a broad flat nip that allows you to make lines from fine to broad. They come in two sizes, these are the smaller ones. The bigger ones seem a bit too broad for my liking. But I like the lines you make with this size. Perfect for adding doodles, marks, drawings, writing... I'll have to get some more colours soon.

Linking up to the wonderful Paint Party Friday, a wonderful place filled with unique artist. Be sure to pop over and have a look!

Monday 19 August 2013

Some layout changes, and the problem of changing the url

Today I finally made some changes to my blog layout. I've been wanting to do this for ages, and it's just the start of the blog makeover I'm planning. Now that I have my new computer, I could finally adjust the width of the whole blog, and add a second column so that not everything needs to be crammed into one long column anymore.

I also chose another template, although I'm not 100% happy with this one. I would have liked the background to be much more white. Plain white. And I had made all the changes for that, and liked the result a lot. For one small detail. I just couldn't get rid of that fine frame around the images, even though I had set everything on transparent. Which had worked perfectly with my old template. But with the new one, it just didn't. And I really don't know why. But I really really don't like that frame. So I just had to start all over again, and try out a different template. I'm going with this one for the moment, until I can make it work the way I really want it to be.

Changing the template/layout, although time consuming, is the easy part, though. The part that is giving me much more headache is the url thing. I don't know what I was thinking when I chose the "nordljusfollowyourstar" url name. Not much, I guess. Well, I didn't know then how this whole blog thing was going to develop, so that's an excuse. But it doesn't make the whole thing any better, really.

I know that you can change the url in Blogger easily enough. Basically, you just go to Settings > Basic, and type in your new blog address. In order to make it easier for people to find you again, you can then create a new blog with your old blog address, and use that to redirect to your new address. So far so good. But. What I haven't found out yet is how it will affect the Followers option. I know that wherever my old blog address is saved/bookmarked etc. it will not be automatically adjusted, but has to be changed manually (hence the handy option of reclaiming your old blog address as redirection). But does that also apply to the Followers option? Because that would be quite a pity, really, now that I finally managed to get above the 100 followers mark. It would mean to start all over again. But I fear that that is what it means...

Then there's also the question of what address to use. Just changing that ridiculous "nordljusfollowyourstar" to a shorter version and keep the .blogspot addition, or create a custom domain name, without the .blogspot? That of course would look very neat. But would that mean that I would have to buy a domain? And where would I do that? I really have no idea. Not to mention the option of choosing a different platform altogether, such as Wordpress, which, as I understand, gives a whole lot more options of customising your blog, and even integrate both a website and a blog, should I ever wish to have a website. (Which I'm not sure of). I once had a library-related Wordpress blog, and somehow, I just didn't really like its designs so much. It seems so much more technical, and not enough creative. Typepad, I think, would be the third possible option.

So many questions to consider to get it right, as I don't want to keep changing my url again and again. 

Have you ever changed your url, or thought about doing so? I'd be very grateful for your tips, recommendations, thoughts, experiences, opinions, advice, suggestions....

Thursday 15 August 2013

And another painting job done

After having spent hours painting my little storage box table thingy, I had quite enough of painting pieces of furniture, especially such with loads of holes in it. But then there was this little wooden folding table, plain and simple, and very useful, but not really very attractive. I kept it in the basement, only taking it up ocasionally, when needed. Certainly not something I would want standing around in my home. 

Like my box table, I had wanted to paint it for ages. But although I could hardly stretch my aching back, and hardly hold a brush with my blistered fingers, I knew that if I didn't paint it now, it would stand around in the basement for another 5 years, and anyway, I still had some paint left, and I would never be able to open that tin of paint every again if I didn't use up the paint now.

So off I went again. With all its flat surfaces and no holes, it should be a quick job. And it was. After those endless holes, painting the table was a delight.

And thanks to the fast drying primer, acrylic paint and varnish, I was finished in less than half a day. And what a difference it made! This little table certainly won't go down into the basement again.

I want to mainly use it as a neutral surface for photography, such as for taking pictures of these lovely wooden horses from Sweden, which I took for my next post in my "Stockholm i mitt hjärta" series, which I'll be posting very soon, hopefully.

But now, I really don't fancy any furniture painting for some time!

Sunday 11 August 2013

A different painting day

When I decided that Saturday was going to be a day entirely dedicated to painting, I had something quite different in mind that what I ended up doing. But there was this thing, that had been bugging me for ages. That little box thingy from IKEA, that I'm using as a sofa table. I'd been wanting to paint it for ages. I remembered about it last weekend, but with temperatures well over 30 degrees, it was far too hot. But this weekend was perfect. Dry, sunny, and about 25 degrees.

So went to the DIY shop early in the morning to get some paint, and at about 10.30 installed myself in the shade under the old apple tree, and happily started painting away. There was a light breeze, the birds were singing, butterflies were dancing around the lavender bushes, and as I started to apply the first brush strokes of paint, I was thinking about all the things I wanted to do later in the afternoon, when I was done with my little painting job.

It soon became clear to me that this would take me a lot longer than I had thought. All those holes turned out quite tricky to paint, and very time consuming to do. And because of them, I had to paint the insides too.

One finished...

Four more to go... And this was actually only the first layer, a special primer for wood, to avoid warping.

By the time I was finished with all five pieces, it was half past five in the evening. At least the primer dried within minutes, so, after carrying everything back inside and taking a short break, I could spend the rest of the evening applying a second coat of white paint. This time, I didn't bother about all the holes anymore but applied the paint only on the outer surfaces. Just don't look too closely, and it all looks quite alright. On Sunday morning I applied a last varnishing coat to protect the surface. Again only on the outer surfaces.

I must admit that had I known how long this was going to take, I would probably never have started in the first place. But I'm quite glad I didn't know, because the white looks sooo much better. I really love my little new old table thingy.

Friday 9 August 2013


I had all these bits and pieces lying around on my desk, leftover pieces of patterned paper, a piece of burlap fabric that had decorated a nice jar of tomato sauce, some ribbon, and some pieces of tea bag.

Getting tired of shoving them from one side of the desk to the other and back, I decided to use them all up for a journal page. I didn't really know what I wanted to do, so I just glued down the pieces, and let it evolve from there. It's one of the things I like about my art journal, to be able to just let it flow, without planning.

What emerged was a blooming flower garden. I had chosen the colours to match the colours of my supplies, but of course, almost all of the paper and ribbon got covered up completely. But they added all kinds of texture. I especially liked the texture of the burlap, although it was quite difficult to paint, as it just soaked up all the paint I splashed on.

Be present in every moment and bloom

Linking up to the wonderful Paint Party Friday. Make sure to pop round there and look at all the fabulous contributions!