Thursday 24 September 2015

Work in progress, or finished piece?

I'm enjoying a lovely holiday in England at the moment, but I managed to squeeze in some painting time at the weekend, between the laundry, packing and general getting ready for a holiday. This is the first time I started a painting on a black background, but I really like the effect. So much so, that I'm not sure where to go with it now, or rather, if I want to go anywhere else with it. It can often be hard to decide, when a painting is done. And sometimes, it is done long before you thought it might be. And even though I can see quite a few areas that could do with some fixing, I think I might just leave it as it is.

And now I'll go and practice drawing some noses.... But first we're off to Bournemouth for the day, to see the Alfons Mucha exhibition.

Friday 18 September 2015

It's finally finished, and I'm off soon

I finally finished my landscape painting. All that was missing was a little house on top of the cliffs. Wouldn't that be a lovely place to live? Or at least to spend a holiday? Falling asleep to the sound of the waves at the bottom of the cliffs, breathing in the cool, fresh sea air on a walk on the beach first thing in the morning, maybe even dipping your toe into the water. I certainly wouldn't mind spending a week or two in such a place.

"Clifftop" - 40x60 cm, acrylics on canvas

The colours are quite muted, which makes the painting look a bit dark at times. But when light hits the canvas, the muted greens and yellow light up just as the grass and cliffs do when the sun suddenly emerges behind the clouds after a shower.

The painting was inspired by the Dorset coast, and while I'm not going to spend it in a lonely cliff top house, I'll be off very soon for a much needed two weeks holiday in that beautiful part of England. Hopefully, the weather will allow for lots of walks along the beach, cream teas outside, and maybe even the dipping of a toe in the sea. I'm not having very high hopes, though, and so I'm having a look around for what else we could do and where we could go. This place in Bournemouth looks pretty amazing, and there should be just about enough time to see the Alphonse Mucha exhibition before it ends.

Tuesday 15 September 2015

It was about time those two sketchbooks got finished

I finally got to finishing those two sketchbooks. I can't believe how long it took me, speak of putting things off... I stitched all three books together back in spring (after having had the paper lying around for a good few months) and finished the first of them. In August, I finally made and added the covers to the other two (and forgot to post the blog post I had prepared), and then, almost a month later, the spines have been glued on at last, and all three are now finished. I'm certainly not short of empty sketchbooks, which is probably why I didn't feel in a hurry to get them done, but it still annoys me a little bit that it took me so long to do them. I'll have to try and get organised a bit better, and get things done. No wonder I'm not getting anywhere, if I keep on working like this!

But anyway. Done they are now, and I'm very happy with how they turned out.

Preparing the spines. As with the first one, I left an extra bit on both sides, top and bottom, to fold over and glue down, to make it a bit sturdier.

Then carefully glueing them on to one side, trying to avoid to get the glue all over the fabric. Normally, when I use glue, usually with paper, I don't only apply the glue underneath, but also on top, to really get it stuck down properly. This also adds a protective coat to the paper for when it is the top coat (as with the covers), or a good base for when painting over it. With the fabric, however, you can't add glue on top without, so extra care is necessary.

And here are the last two finished sketchbooks.

And here's all three finished of them. The red one is slightly smaller, as the paper sheets were a different size. It's the same height as the others, but shorter in width.

The paper of the red one also has a different colour, a very light grey, and it has slightly less pages. The pages of other two have light cream colour.

With this kind of binding (coptic stitch), they open nice and flat, which is of course very useful to draw and paint in them. I don't really like spiral bound sketchbooks but prefer the hard bound ones, so it's important to make sure that they are bound in a way that allows them to open flat.

Now I just have to dare using them and start drawing and sketching in them...

Friday 11 September 2015

Visual meditations, and some thoughts about Mindfulness

My landscape painting is almost finished, there's only a tiny detail missing. But since I have already shared a few work in progress shots of it, I thought I'd spare you this one and post it once it's finished.
So today I'm sharing two little watercolour paintings. I felt that I wanted to put up some words that are especially important to me at the moment in my studio, but I didn't just want the words, I wanted some colour too. I had a couple of small frames that I wanted to use, so I measured out their size on a couple of pieces of watercolour paper, splashed some paints on them, and once they were dry, added the words.

And this is how they look in their frames. Now I just have to find a space on my walls for them.

I call these little paintings "visual meditations", as I've been thinking a lot about meditation and Mindfulness recently. Some time ago, when lying in bed one Sunday morning, after having yet again woken up tired and with a headache, I tried to remember the last time I had cheerfully jumped out of bed, full of energy and looking forward to the day ahead. I simply couldn't. There are a lot of things in my life that aren't how I would like them to be, and slowly but constantly, over many months, tenseness, discontentment, tiredness, negativity, headaches, unnecessary stresses had begun to permeate into my life. While there are some things that can't be changed as easily and quickly as I would like to, or simply are beyond my control, there are other stressed in my life that are caused simply by my tendency to worry about everything, and to take things far too seriously and personally, even things, and people, that, really, should not matter. These things drain me of all my energy and spirit, and leave me with constant feelings of frustration, self doubt and of generally not being good enough. And here I can start making changes, because these really are unnecessary. And it is not just a question of generally feeling better and being able to enjoy life more, but it's also an important question of health. Because of a chronic condition, I am constantly afraid that all this stressing and worrying will trigger the symptoms. I'm lucky enough that most of the time, it keeps quiet and doesn't give me any problems at all, and although I have also learnt last year that it can flare up without any obvious cause at all at any time, and I still believe that everything I do to generally feel happier and more content with myself and my life, will greatly benefit my health and condition too.

In order to start making some necessary changes, I reached to what I always reach to first, when in need of help and inspiration - books. These are the books I'm reading at the moment. And next to them my lovely new aroma diffuser, which I bought after having knocked over my traditional tealight and water bowl one, and which not only fills the room with pleasant scents, but also with soft and lovely colour-changing light.

I actually bought the Mindfulness book about three years ago, read through the whole of it, started with week one (it's basically an eight week programme) and never got any further. I finally picked it up again, and tomorrow, I'll be at the end of week three. I have begun a daily practice of meditation and breathing exercises, and already I'm beginning to notice some changes. Not big ones. I still get annoyed about things, find myself with my shoulders up at my ears and my jaws aching from pressing my teeth together. But I'm also slowly beginning to feel more relaxed about things, a bit more content, taking things less seriously and personally, and sleeping a little bit better. I still regularly wake up between 4 and 5 in the morning, but then I just put on a guided meditation, and instead of spending the remaining time till the alarm goes off in that energy draining state of your mind going mad, and instead just happily doze off. In fact, I'm finding the guided meditations so relaxing, that I'm regularly falling asleep during them. Which I find a little bit annoying, because I actually want to do them. And I'm enjoying them. I have been interested in meditation for a long time but never really knew what and how to do it, which is why I'm grateful for the guided ones that come with the book. I've also started to practice yoga at home. I've been going to yoga classes on and off for years, but only started to really get into it recently. I was happy enough to go to class once a week in my lunch break, and I never thought that I would actually have the discipline to do it at home, by myself - and enjoy it. But I do. I found this great yoga app, which I find really helpful. It's like having your own private yoga class at home.

Mindfulness is an ongoing process. You don't just read the book, follow the programme, and that's it. It's a regular practice, a continuous learning process, but one that is well worth it. I'm still only at the very beginning, but already I can feel the benefits of it. And best of all, I'm feeling a lot more creative energy too. It is a practice I can highly recommend, and if you are interested in it and give it a try, the Mindfulness book is really a good and useful start. And if you are already practising it yourself, I'm very interested in hearing about your experiences and any tips you might want to share.

But enough now, this post has already become long enough, considering I only wanted to share my two little paintings. Have a happy, creative weekend, and Happy Paint Party Friday!

Tuesday 8 September 2015

Almost done - adding covers to the last two sketchbooks

I have left these two sketchbooks lying around far too long. I finished the first of my handbound sketchbooks, and stitched these two back in April, and since then, they've been waiting for their covers. I thought I didn't have any more cardboard boards that I could use, but looking again, I found the perfect ones. Two sheets, that were exactly twice the width of the sketchbooks. They needed very little cutting.

For the first one, I used an old discarded map (of a part of Norway) from my library. I liked the simple black and white design, with the blue lakes. This might make a travel sketchbook. For the second one, I used one of my favourite Japanese patterned papers. I love these delicate flowers on their green background.

After having covered the boards with the map and paper came the tricky bit - gluing the covers on to the sketchbook, and making sure they're all the right way up. I think I've now found a way that works well.

The last bit will be the spine. They would look alright without a spine too, I think, but the spine will help to keep them together, when the stitching might become a bit loose when they'll be used (if I'll ever dare using them...).

Friday 4 September 2015

Slow progress, and a little drawing challenge

Last Sunday, I spent the day in the beautiful countryside of Appenzell, to celebrate a 85th birthday. I would have loved to go for a proper walk, taking photos, but with temperatures of just over 30 degrees Celsius again, and not a cloud in the sky, it was just too hot for walking, and too bright for photos.

From the alpine meadows and cowbells to a very different landscape. With the heat, and being away all day on Sunday, I didn't get much painting done, but I made a little progress with my landscape. After having started it as an imagined landscape, I decided to take some inspiration form a real one, Kimmeridge Bay in Dorset. It still needs a lot of work done, but it's slowly taking shape. On Tuesday, with the beginning of September, summer made space for autumn, and now that the weather is getting cooler and wetter, I hope to be spending a lot more time in my studio.

I really enjoyed the August Break photo challenge last month. Thinking about the prompts and how to translate them into a photo, setting up a scene, choosing the camera, taking the shot... I felt a bit sad when it ended, it was nice to keep busy. So I decided to try and to my own little challenge. With all the photographing, and summer in general, I have much neglected drawing. I'm therefore trying to do a little drawing every evening of this month, well, almost every evening. Just a very quick sketch, nothing special or elaborate. And not on Wednesdays, as with the end of summer, Swedish class has started again, and I get back late. Here's the first two, Tuesday and Thursday. As I already have one sheep painting in progress, and another one planned, it only makes sense to practice drawing them. And I found these pretty acorns the other day, which made a lovely subject to draw too. Now I just have to remember to keep my little challenge up.

One disadvantage of the days getting shorter and darker is, of course, that it is much more difficult to get a good photo when having to take them in artificial light.

Tuesday 1 September 2015

A month in Polaroid: The August Break - The final week

The final week of the August Break, and the end of the challenge. I really enjoyed it, especially taking the photos with my vintage Polaroid cameras. And there was such a great bunch of people that took part, and shared their photos and stories in the Facebook group and on Instagram. I will definitely miss this community. I didn't take a photo each day, with the Polaroid cameras, that wouldn't have been possible. They need a bit more planning, so I took them when the conditions were right. I took each photo for each respective prompt, though.

I created a story of all of my photos on a new app that I just discovered. Well, it's probably not such a new app, but it's new to me. I love how you can turn your photos into little story books with it. I just wish there was a desktop version, having to do it all on your phone is quite time consuming. But fun too. And this will probably not be my last story.