Saturday 31 December 2016

Happy New Year

Wishing you all a very happy, healthy, successful and creative new year. 
May 2017 be a good one.

Friday 16 December 2016

A bit of this and that

The last two weeks have been a bit of a mixed creative bag. I'm not a great cook, and it's not something I particularly enjoy. I cook because I prefer home cooked food prepared with fresh ingredients instead of processed, pre-packaged ready to make food. I've become much better at it in the past few years, but I don't really quite know what I am doing. What has become more and more important for me recently, is that I use as much local and seasonal ingredients as possible. My recipe need to be quick and easy, and to require as few pots and pans as possible - three is definitely the absolute limit I can handle. I like using the oven. Shove it in and wait till i'ts ready. A couple of years ago, I started an illustrated recipe book, to collect recipes that work for me. I call it "The Onion-free Cookbook", because I hate onions, and I've never bought an onion in my life. Me and onions, we really just don't get along. It's enough for a waiter to walk past my table with freshly cut slice of onion for my eyes to start to sting and burst into tears. I haven't got very far with my recipes, but I've finally added an other one. Puff pastry pizza.

I haven't been very successful with my daily faces project. It seems that whenever I enjoy doing something and turn it into a little project or challenge, I immediately lose interest in it. I have been drawing faces, just not every day. But I've drawn other things too, so it's alright, really. At the moment, I love using all kinds of black pens.

They both look a bit grumpy and disapproving. I can relate to that. I'm not happy that there is no sign of snow yet. And when you do some lettering, it's always a god idea to really concentrate on what you're writing, and not let you get distracted...

These two pages started with the cup of tea on the left, but I thought that just adding "Earl Grey tea" was a bit boring, so I looked up some facts about Earl Grey tea and added them. I so much enjoyed doing that page, that I decided I wanted to do another one next to it. At the moment, you can get "Grittibänze" everywhere. They are a bread roll shaped like a little man. They're traditionally eaten on the 6th of December, but these days, it's more than just the one day. And since I had just bought one for my breakfast, I thought that would make a good page. I'm still trying to decide if I want to add some colour to the cup of the and the Grittibänz, or if I should just leave them as they are, black and white.

Two weeks ago, I finally started working on my Christmas cards for this year. Since I was a bit late, it had to be quick and easy. A little Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer-Robin was quickly carved, stamped and painted. 

Then I stamped the text. The Swedish version is definitely the easiest. The English isn't too bad either, but the German one definitely the trickiest and needed a lot of concentration. Unfortunately, most of my cards are in German.  The writing is the hardest part of all, but I'm glad to say that they've all been sent now.

And for the first time ever, I've made some "Wienachtsguetzli". In the German speaking countries (and probably in some other countries too), it is customary, to bake Christmas biscuits in December. There's a whole range of them, and many people bake different varieties. I decided that two were enough. The first ones I made (on the right below) were "Mailänderli", which are probably the most popular ones ever. They're a bit like shortbread. The traditional glazing is egg yolk, which gives them a rich golden colour, but you can add a bit of variation. I used lemon icing on some of them (top ones), which is why they look a bit pale. The other ones (on the left) are "Zitronestärnli". They were a bit of a pain to make. The dough is made of ground almonds, sugar, lemon zest and a bit of egg white. Try ot roll that out! I'll probably never do them again, but I'm glad I tried. And I'm happy to say that they all taste quite alright.

At the end of November, I spent a day in Schinznach. It was a beautiful autumn day, and I went for a walk along the river, taking some photos.

Friday 2 December 2016

A little face-a-day challenge

I've been wanting to do a little face-a-day challenge for ages, but then always somehow forgot about it. But then, last week, after drawing a quick face in my sketchbook in my lunch break at work, I decided to start it there and then. At least one face a day, for about a month, until December 22, which is when N will be coming, and the last day before my 2 weeks' Christmas holiday.

What better way to use all those pens and pencils in your pencil case, really get to know those pens you've been carrying around with you and never really use. I ordered a Sailor calligraphy pen a while ago, one of those fountain pens with a bent nib, and I'm really enjoying it. It was about time I started using it! Different mediums, different styles - just playing around, filling your sketchbook pages and getting lots of practice.

And last but not least...
This week, December 1 - 7, is Crohn's and Colitis Awareness Week.
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's Disease are the two main forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), chronic conditions where the immune system attacks the bowels. It can have devastating effects on people's lives, and for most, it means lifelong medication and recurrent phases of pain and other effects, as well as having to cope with shame and lack of understanding attached to an invisible illness that affects the taboo digestive system. The number of people being diagnosed with IBD is rising, among them more and more children, and so far, there is no cure for it.

Friday 18 November 2016

Patience, perseverance, and just doing it

I wrote up a whole long blog post yesterday, including all about my current misfortunes with mail order deliveries (one of them contained a big dead cockroach attached to the jumper I had ordered), as well as my creative 'confusion' (I can't think of a more accurate word to describe it right now) that I'm struggling with at the moment. But I'm going to spare you all the details. The mail order issues will hopefully all be sorted soon, and as to my creative confusion, well I think we've all been there. And will be there again. For most of us, as beautiful, nourishing and rewarding making art is, it is also a constant struggle. In many different ways. It certainly is for me. The fact that I'm constantly torn between completely different styles, techniques, mediums is a never ending source of frustration. I feel that I should 'decide' on something, and stick with that. But I can't, and it can all too easily lead to me ending up not doing anything at all. But moaning about it, and boring everyone with my moaning, isn't helping either. So I'm just trying to go with it, and not think about it too much, or even better, not at all, and instead pick up whatever medium I feel like and put something down on paper. Because at the end, that's still better than not doing anything at all, right?

Another thing I need to work on is patience (a candidate for my word for 2017?). And I guess I should add perseverance to that too. At the beginning of the year, I bought a Rotring fountain pet at my local art shop. Because they didn't have the converters in stock, I bought some cartridges. And since the ink in the cartridges wasn't waterproof, I decided to make the best of that and use it with a water brush. I loved it. I played with it for a bit, and then I put it away and never picked it up again. Same with my brush pen.

So there are the two things I want to allow/remind myself to do in the following weeks and months: to do whatever I feel like, even if it's the exact opposite of what I did the day before, because that's still always better than not doing anything at all. And to thoroughly try out and experiment with different mediums, and take them out regularly. Or get rid of them if it turns out that I don't really like them.

Friday 4 November 2016

A beautiful day out, and some drawings

After my week in Scotland, I spent another 10 days in beautiful Dorset. We didn't do much, we were both tired and wanted to just simply relax and take it easy.

We did go on one long day out, though, to one of our most favourite places - Brownsea Island.

 Like last time we went, it was a glorious day, and there are many places, where you feel that you are somewhere completely different, somewhere in the Mediterranean instead of the English Channel.

Brownsea Island is the only place in Britain, apart from Scotland, where there are red squirrels, and they are one of the main attractions for people to visit.

It's easy to understand why, as they are such adorable little creatures.

We didn't see as many as last time, but we still got a few good shots.

The two that came to say hello were very obliging, and remained sitting on the branch and eating nuts long enough for us to take photos.

There are also lots of peacocks on the island, and they were very friendly too. A mum and her young even followed us all across a big meadow when they realised that we were having a picnic on the other side, to keep us company, and even followed us for a while when we finally wandered off.

The pheasant we saw later in the afternoon seemed a lot shier. He kept walking away and hiding when I tried to snap a photo. Until N, who was a about 50 meters away, got out a bag of nuts - and suddenly all shyness forgotten, the pheasant ran across the grass towards him, and even picked N's treats right out of his hand!

There are lots of chicken too. I was busy picking up feathers all day, and when I got my plastic bag out to put some more away, I suddenly found myself surrounded but dozens of chickens and peacock, running from all directions toward me, expecting a treat.

When leaving the island, instead of going straight back, the the boat takes a little longer tour all around Brownsea and between islands and back to Pool harbour. Another special treat after a great day on the island. Especially with an evening sky like this.

I haven't really gotten back into my studio since I got home from my holiday. I'm in a tidying up and getting rid of stuff mood at the moment, rearranging and reorganising things. Things tend to accumulate far too easily over the years and I find that it gets in the way of using what I actually want to use, and can end up not doing much at all. So the stuff that I don't use anymore has to go so that the materials I do use and want to use are ready and at hand. Some creatives work well in a chaotic studio, but personally, I prefer it if it's reasonably tidy. Which more often than not mine isn't. But I'm working on it...

I have done some drawing, though, and after the art week in Scotland, I'm especially drawn to the good old pencil again. I just love pencils - and I have far too many of them. Although, can one really have too many pencils?

Friday 28 October 2016

What I take from the art retreat in Scotland - and a whole lot of photos

At the beginning of this month, I had the great pleasure to spend a week at an art retreat in Scotland. What a fabulous experience it has been! A wonderful group of 8 eager students and an inspiring teacher, gathering together to share their stories and learn from each other.

My spot in the studio - wish I could have taken the light home with me - and the view...

Monday we spent visiting the Heritage Centre - listening to stories from the town's past, and taking lots of photos from the many vintage photos displayed there - and sketching outside around the harbour. On Tuesday to Friday, we got to work in the studio. And what a beautiful place it is! A spacious room with big windows on three sides, overlooking the beautiful bay. This was the view form my desk - it was hard sometimes not to get distracted by it, or rather inspired by the waves and deep colours of the sea, fluffy clouds in the sky and the chimneys on the buildings below.

That view certainly could be very distracting at times... Just look at the colour of the sea!

Gillian, our teacher, usually did drawing or painting demonstrations in the morning, and then spent the rest of the day working with each of us individually. We did portraits and landscapes in charcoal and acrylics, worked with pastels, oil bars, pencils, inks... whatever medium or subject you wanted to work in, try out, deepen your skills or challenge yourself with.

Our dedicated teacher helping one of the students - under  the watchful eyes of the studio manager...

We all had different goals, expectations, aims... I didn't really want to focus on a specific technique or subject, my aim, wish, goal was somewhat more general, less tangible. I have been writing a lot about my art making practice - or absence of it - and something that has come up again and again, was the concept of process. I had come to realise that somehow, I wasn't enjoying the process anymore, but instead was focusing too much on the result. Art making had become something to get over and done with, resulting in mostly quick sketches in my sketchbook while my paints lay untouched for ages. I somehow had ended up feeling that I always needed to produce something that I could show (to whom?), as if I needed some sort of justification for spending time creating art (again, to whom??). Few were the times that I sat down and spent a longer period of time on a drawing. Now of course there is nothing wrong with quick sketches. They are useful and valuable, and if you haven't got much time, always better than nothing. But I wanted to do more than that, but it seemed I just simply wasn't able to. Most of the weekends were spent avoiding going into the studio and ending in frustration about yet another weekend "wasted". That was what I wanted most out of this week - to learn to enjoy the process again. Process, not product.

Another view through one of the windows of the studio

Not filling the page... Leaving space... Letting go... Dare to leave it unfinished... Focusing on a specific area and leave the rest... Not focusing on creating a finished product... Being bold... Dare... Expressive, bold marks... Not too much blending... No expectations... Enjoying the process, the art materials in my hand... Creating for the joy of creating, for myself, most of all...

Here's some of the work I created during the week:

Cliffs, outdoor sketch in A4 sketchbook, pencil

Charcoal portrait on paper, ca. 40x60cm

Charcoal portrait on paper, ca. 40x60 cm

Charcoal and oilbars, drawing based on a drawing in my sketchbook done at the harbour earlier in the week, paper, ca. 40x60cm

Sea shell study in my A4 sketchbook, pencil

Portrait in pencil, in my A4 sketchbook, on a tea stained page

Acrylic monochrome portrait in my A4 sketchbook

It truly was an inspiring week. The quietness and peacefulness of the place, the friendliness of the people, the beautiful views and stunning surrounding, the company. The creativity, inspiration, art making and relaxed atmosphere in the studio.

St John's kirkyard with the remains of the church built in 1513, and the stunning view over the bay

I often went for a little walk in the morning, before class. Spending time on the beach collecting shells, watching a curlew looking for its breakfast in the shallow water, breathing in the cool, fresh air and the peacefulness of my surrounding. 

Early morning on the beach at lowtide - because of its location, it always took quite some time for the sun to reach the town
Early morning reflections
The early bird catches the fish

The nearby village of Crovie. The poles were once used to dry the fishing nets. Today, they are used for laundry.

I really enjoyed spending so much time focusing on just creating, and I worked hard on my goals for this week, trying to do many different things, feeling that whatever I would start there, I would be able to take home with me, and continue. Now I have to take it all into my little studio at home and work on establishing a regular studio routine, and simply just do the work.

So many charming and quirky corners in this little town

The end of October also marks the anniversary of my little blog. What started with learning to use my new DSLR camera and photo editing back in 2010 has led to finding and exploring a whole new, exciting world of techniques, art materials, online workshops and courses, so much different form the local painting class I had been going to for a few years, to practicing and deepening my skills, and continuing to explore and learn. Where will it lead to next? I don't know. But it's nice to have this little space, and to sometimes look back to what I did then, and how my creative journey has developed. And I guess I'll hang around here for a bit longer.