Friday 23 June 2017

Just practising

Thank you everyone who commented and shared their views on blogging on my last post. I am glad that there are still many of us out there, who value blogs and are continuing blogging.

I've been busy these past few weeks mainly practising in my sketchbook. As I've mentioned earlier, I'm exploring botanical art at the moment and I'm taking a class to learning more about it. At the moment, it's all about drawing and graphite. I enjoyed drawing the tone scales, I never really quite realised how much difference there is between different brands. I always sort of assumed that an HB pencil was an HB pencil. Well, it isn't. My favourite brand is the classic Faber Castell 9000. This is also the lightest of the ones I tried out and it gives a good variation of tone. Caran d'Ache Grafwood and Staedtler Mars Lumograph are nice too. The Derwent Graphic I didn't really like. They were almost impossible to sharpen. For botanical drawing, you need a super sharp point. Often this is achieved by sharpening your pencils using a craft knife to cut away the wood, and sand paper to get a really long and pointed point. Here I used a new sharpener by M+R, which sharpens the pencil to a concave point. It sharpened the Faber Castells to a lovely point, the Grafwood are too big for the sharpener, the Mars Lumographs were okay too. But with the Graphics, the leads just kept breaking off. It was okay for the 2H, H and F, but for the rest, it was pretty much impossible. I have a few of those pencils, and I'll use them for other drawings, but definitely not for botanical drawing. Taking the time to make these tonal strips is certainly a very good way to getting to know your pencils - and finding your favourites!

I'm also practicing leaf drawing. And I still have a lot of practising to do! i have to admit that I became a bit sloppy with this one and the result is a very irregular drwaing. But it will be useful as a measure for my progress. In traditional botanical darwing, the subjects are drawn in actual size, which can be rather tricky. It's amazing how much detail there is in a leaf! A magnifying glass is quite essential, not only for getting a closer look at the leaf, but also for drawing. Drawing through a magnifiying glass is actually quite amazing! Especially when you look at your drawing afterwards and see the even layers that you would have had difficulties to achieve with the naked eye.
I started a new leaf but only got as far as the outline. Which means I now have to start all over again. That's the problem with leafs. You have to work relatively quick, as they wilt, some faster than others. Or maybe that's the advantage of drawing leaves. Once you've started, you have to keep going. No room for procrastination.

I also started working through Sue Vize's book Botanical Drawing Using Graphite and Coloured Pencils. I love the good old pencil, and am discovering the potential of coloured pencils. I wasn't aware how much you can actually mix colours by layering them. The colour wheel was done using just three colours, Cadmium Yellow, Ultramarin Blue and Alizarin Crimson.

There's lots of exercises in the book with both graphite and coloured pencils. They're a useful way to pracise your drawing skills as well as getting to know your tools. There are of course exercises in actual botanical art as well, I just haven't got so far yet.

Last weekend, there was a Medial Market here in Zürich, and my Mum and me went to have a look around. It was very nicely done, with a great mix of stalls selling hand made goods, food and entertainment, and wonderful costumes. It wasn't quite as hot as it is now yet, but I still wouldn't have wanted to wear some of those costumes, they look so hot!

The guards at the main entrance to the market - very popular with the Asian tourists...

The Medicus demonstrating is skills

The knights in their best plumes

Quackery and amber

Modern Middle Ages

The basket maker

Friday 9 June 2017

Leaf portraits - and some thoughts about blogging

I have have not posting very much here at the moment. It's not really because I don't want to, or because I'm tired of blogging. Well, I am a bit tired of the design of my blog, and I've been wanting to make some changes for absolutely ever, but that is another story.

I've come across some remarks here and there in the past few months, about more and more people questioning blogging and/or stopping to blog altogether. Personally, I think that's a shame and I don't have any intention of stopping myself, and I want to make some changing both in my own blogging as well as blog reading practice. I still think that blogs are the best way to show your work and all, in your own, personalised space. But maybe that's also because I don't like Facebook very much (especially as I don't seem to have much control over what I actually get to see, and I really dislike having some sort of algorithm make that decision for me). I do like Instagram, but I don't like to read longer posts on there. It's just too small on my phone.

I've been spending a lot of time with all kinds of drawing exercises in my sketchbook, and learning more about botanical art. It's fascinating - and a bit confusing - how much detail there is in a leaf, when you look closer! 

And that's why I haven't been blogging that much recently. Because there simply isn't much to show at the moment. It's just that not everything one draws, paints or sketches is really worth sharing. And I also think that it is important to keep some things for yourself. To do them just for fun, play, practice, without any intention of producing something post-worthy to be shared on social media. Process versus product.

There's so many things I want to do at the moment, and sometimes I feel that I'm not really getting anywhere. There never seems to be quite enough time. Especially as at the moment, I'm also working through 2 online classes, and a book. One of the classes I've been looking forward to for months, the other one came quite unexpected, as a free gift. But it turns out to be a very interesting class that could be just what I need right now, as is the book. But it does all take up a lot of time, and doesn't leave much left for painting. I'm trying to squeeze in more time for creativity during the week. Many people seem to opt for getting up an hour earlier in the morning and use that time to do something, be that drawing, reading, yoga etc.. But I already get up at 5.30, so that is definitely not an option for me. The TV is a big time waster for me, and I'm trying to switch it off more often in the evening and use that time for more rewarding things, and only watch things I actually really want to watch - like Springwatch at the moment. I love it!

Tuesday 6 June 2017

A spring walk

I live in a valley, surrounded by gentle hills and lots of trees, and at the edge of a forest. The forest has been put under protection in 2007 and declared a "regional nature park of national importance" in 2009. It is a nature reserve and a rare example of a large original forest, which means that nature is left untouched, with only little forest management. No trees are felled and fallen trees are left where they are, only if a tree has fallen over a path is the part covering the path cut off, but only that part. It's a beautiful place to be. A few days ago I met up with my Mum to walk along the bottom of the valley to the visitor centre. That part doesn't really have the most exciting scenery, it's a broad path, sometimes close to the railway line and the road on the other side of the river. But if you look closer, there is much to see, such as lots of wildflowers, little ponds full of newts and tadpoles. We left early in the morning to avoid the heat and luckily, this side of the valley was still in the shade.

In the past two centuries, there used to be lots of industry along the river, including a spinning mill and a paper mill. The factories closed long ago and almost all of the buildings have been pulled down by now, but there are still remnants to be found along the river. And with all the industry gone, it means that the river is now clean and full of diverse wildlife.

It's not a too long walk to the visitor centre on the other side of the bridge, but if you're too tired to walk back, you can take the train from here.

Because we were so early, the restaurant was still all empty when we arrived there, and we enjoyed a cup of coffee in the peace and quiet before it was no doubt flooded with people later in the day, it being a fine day and a public holiday.

We walked back again, the same way we came, parts of it among the trees, which is always the best part :)

There were so many wildflowers on the way, including some gorgeous aquilegia, bush roses, and even some rare wild orchids.

It was such a beautiful morning, so energising and enriching. I don't spend enough time in this beautiful area, which is just outside my doorstep, but I should definitely take more time to explore and enjoy it.