Friday, 5 February 2016

Sketching, style, and doing it anyway

I've been sketching a lot recently. I'm trying to sketch every day, in my lunch break when I'm at work and in the evenings at home. Daily, if possible. Here's some of my latest drawings.

I live in a small town, there's a few shops but not too many since the big city (well, it's big for Switzerland, anyway) is very close. But for some reason, we have a Dutch shop. And it's been there for years. And last week, during my holiday, I finally went there. And got some of those lovely sprinkles to put on your bread. I remember them fondly from when I was a child and always got a slice of bread with sugar or sprinkles from the Dutch mum of my friend on the way to school. And they taste as delicious as they did back then.

I found this little travel box of mini water soluble coloured pencils in one of the department stores and of course I couldn't resist. They're perfect for adding a bit of colour to a sketch and fit into my pencil case, together with all my other pens and pencils that I take with me.

Back at work after the holiday, I didn't feel too happy and motivated about it, so I went to the nearby art shop to get some new materials during my lunch break to cheer me up. And of course I had to draw them all too. They had run out of the converters for the Art Pen, so I'm using the normal cartridges until I can get one. And since the ink isn't waterproof, I'm now making the best of that, and I'm really liking the results. A quick and easy way to add a bit of depth and shadow.

I find sketching among people, and especially sketching people among people, really hard. But it's something I'm pushing myself to do. And the university's cafeteria is a good place for that. So there I sit in my lunch break, looking for victims to quickly sketch while trying to avoid anyone noticing. I wanted to add a snippet of conversation, but it was so noisy that I couldn't make out any words at all. So I used the quote from my daily quote's app, and I think it is quite a fitting one. Then a large group of people crowded around the table next to mine and got far too close for comfort, and I decided to leave. But at least I had my sketch for the day done.

I've been thinking a lot about style when it comes to drawing and painting. And I know I'm not alone with this. I think it's a natural thing to do. But if it gets to the point that you're overthinking the whole thing and it actually keeps you from drawing or painting at all, then it's definitely a problem. I'm sure that even the accomplished sketchers and painters we admire sometimes struggle with this issue. I know for sure that some do, and, seeing their work, I would never in my have dreams have thought that sometimes, they feel exactly the same as me. But what they managed to do is to embrace and accept their style, and to just go on and do it anyway. So that's what I'm trying to do now too. Don't think, just sketch...

Friday, 29 January 2016

Hand lettering, and a trip to the alps

I've always liked drawing words and adding them to my sketches. A few years ago, I even took some calligraphy classes. Yet, handlettering is, in many ways, new to me, and something I want to explore more.

Above my new mantra, to remind me to not allow expectation, and the ensuing frustration, to take over.  I've started to take my sketchbook to work again, and to try and sketch in my lunch breaks as much as possible. There's only one weapon to fight the deadly pair - practice.

I'm enjoying a week's holiday this week. Since N had to work over Christmas and New Year, and we couldn't spend the holidays together, he came over this week for my birthday. We're taking it easy, relax and just go to the city or for walks. But on Wednesday, we set the alarm clock and got up early to spend the day in the mountains. We headed to the Berner Oberland, first to the picturesque village of Wengen, with its lovely wooden chalets and a view of the highest of the majestic trio, the Jungfrau.


Then we took the train up to the Kleine Scheidegg. Even up here, at 2,061m altitude, it was warm, especially in the sun, but at least there was plenty of snow. We spent some time lying in deck chairs, sipping tea and enjoying the sun. It was just absolutely perfect. From here, you can take the train to go up to the Jungfraujoch, also called Top of Europe, at 3,466m (we're saving that trip for another time).

There is no doubt that a trip up to the Jungfraujoch is an absolute highlight for many people, and I still rememer the ice caves up there from when I was a child, over 30 years ago.

But the most impressive view must be the infamous Eiger north face. That 1,800m almost vertical wall of rock and ice, one of the most dangerous and difficult ascents, which has attracted, fascinated and challenged many climbers, and claimed the lives of at least 64 of them since the first attempts of ascent in the mid 1930. I have to say, it's a complete mistery to me how anyone would even consider the thought of trying and climb up that mountain face! I much rather enjoy the view from the bottom.

We then took the train down the other side, to Grindelwald and walked around there for a bit before, tired but happy, taking the long journey back home. One of my intentions for this year is to take the occasional trip up to the mountains, something I haven't done for far too long. And this trip certainly was a good strat. Mountains are just good for my soul.

A day spent high up in the mountains and the snow - me, I can't think of a better way to spend my birthday.

Eiger (3,970m), Mönch (4,107m) and Jungfrau (4,158m)

Friday, 22 January 2016

A perfect Sunday

Last Sunday was just the perfect day for staying at home. And what a perfect way to start the day, after a 30 min Yoga practice, with some painting and a fairy tale. There's a whole series of Grimm's fairy tales made by German television in the past few years, and I recently discovered that you can watch most of them online on their website.

My pile of 25x25 squares is slowly growing. I've already finished six of them, which is twice as much as the one-a-week I had planned to do. But then I'm sure there'll be weeks when I won't be able to paint one at all. And in the end, it doesn't really matter how many I do anyway. The point is to practice. They're like sketchbook pages. Not really finished pieces, although, of course, they can be that too. More or less finished, with sometimes just a a few charcoal sketches and nothing else.

And while I was adding some snowflakes to my paiting, outside, it was snowing too.

Unfortunately, it is already getting warmer again, and the snow is quickly melting away. And next week, the temperatures are going up even more again, well over 0 degrees. What a mad winter.

Friday, 15 January 2016

A visual library of sorts, and some snow

I can't believe we're already in the middle of January. Time seems to be both standing till and running at the same time. The beginning of a new year is always a bit of a strange time, I find. A bit quiet, a bit restless, like when you arrive in a strange town for the first time and have yet to figure out your way around. But also quite cosy, and perfect for staying at home in the warm, curl up on the sofa with a hot water bottle, a warm woolly blanket and a hot chocolate. And of course also for spending time in the studio.

I painted two more of my 25x25 squares. The first one didn't quite turn out as I wanted, but I didn't yet want to work on fixing it, so I just started another one. That's the good thing with those. You can just try something out, and then take certain elements and use them again, and again, and see what you can do with them. I imagine it like a library of ideas, images, patterns, that you can refer back to whenever you want/need some ideas. A growing library of references, hopefully. So even the ones that go wrong can still contain some useable elements, and therefore deserve a place in stacks.

I'm happy to say that by now, the snow has not only arrived in my painting, but also outside. It's only a very thin layer yet, but it's a start. Now just keep coming, snow, keep coming!

Friday, 8 January 2016

No expectations, no pressure, just fun and play

New year, new goals, dreams, intentions. One of them is to blog more often, and here we are, already a week into the new year, and I haven't posted anything until today. But I'm also keeping one of my biggest intentions in mind, that of letting go of expectations, of the pressure I tend to put myself under. In life, in my art, in everything. And instead to just do the job, as good as I can.

I want to spend a lot more time in my studio this year, and to figure out where I want to go with my art. But most of all to just paint. Without expectations. And to help me take the pressure off things, I've come up with a little project or challenge for myself. A little 25x25cm painting on paper, just to explore, experiment and learn. One a week. Of course it can be more than just one a week, and it's not the only thing I want to do, but - no pressure. Last weekend I did the first one. She turned out a lot more pink than I expected, but that's alright too. After all, the whole point of this exercise is to let go and have fun. A pure practice and learning experience.

I've been reading a lot of complaints on social media about the weather some are experiencing at the moment - cold and snow. And how they feel they are/have been born in the wrong place. Well, I certainly feel that too. But the other way round, as I am made for snow and low temperatures, but unfortunately, we're not having any of it here at the moment. Being up in the alps, going for a walk in the early morning, the crisp cold snow scrunching under your feet. The air so cold that with every inbreath, the hair in your nose slightly freeze together. The first rays of the sun appearing behind the mountaintop, transforming the thick layer of snow into a carpet of sparkling diamonds. Coming home with your cheeks red and burning from the cold, warming yourself with a big mug of steaming hot chocolate, before going out again to spend more time in the beautiful winter wonderland.

How I miss the alps. And winter. After that terrible summer (that's my definition) of 4 months of sunshine day after the day, and temperatures well above 30 degrees C, I think I deserve a proper winter now. But temperatures are still closer to 10 than to 0, and there's no snow in sight. But I haven't given up hope of Sunday walks in the snow yet. And another of my intentions for this year is to go on the one or other day trips to the mountains this year.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Good Bye 2015

2015 hasn't been the most exciting year, still a lot of things that I would have liked to change this year, are the same as 12 months ago. But it hasn't been a bad year either. No illness, no misfortunes or bad surprises. The one or other serioush health issue within the family, but everyone is still alive and doing well. 

It's always easy to only focus on the things one didn't achieve and that didn't work out, and to ignore the ones one has accomplished, and the good things that happen. So here's a few good things to remember (in no particular order).

  • I finally managed not to kill every orchid that entered my home. I've tried again and again over the years, but they never survived for long. This year, all of my three orchid have not only survived, but are thriving and flowering, and continuously producing new flowers.

  • I wrote 85 blogposts, which is almost 2.5 times more than last year 
  • I started a (more or less) regular meditation and yoga practice, and am trying to live more mindfully
  • I read 33 1/2 books, among them Gombrich's The Story of Art, a book I have been wanting to read for years and years

  • I spent more time in the studio, worked through an online course and even got my art journal out again
  • I celebrated my 5th blog anniversary
  • I discovered instant photography and aquired a little family of vintage Polaroid cameras

  • I started to write in my journal regularly, and started a daily journaling practice 3 months ago
  • I met some pretty awesome people online, and even had coffee with one of them in person in West Bay, Dorset
  • I finally made my own Christmas cards, including carving a stamp
  • N and I spent some wonderful holidays together, inlcuding a 4 day trip to the Alsace and Southern Germany (at furnace like temperature) in summer, and some amazing day trips to Brownsea Island (and meeting lots of sweet red squirrels there), Charmouth Beach and some other plaes in Dorset in September

I might not have achieved everything that was on my "to do" list at the beginning of the year, but I'm sure there is lots more that could be added to this list and that I can't think of right now.

Good Bye 2015, all in all, you've been a pretty good year.

Happy New Year everyone!

Hope that 2015 has been good to you too, and that 2016 will be an amazing year for all of us!

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Journals, planners, and the new year

My pile of journals, diaries and notebooks is slowly growing. I've kept journals sporadically over many years, but it's only this year that I really started to get into a more regular journaling practice. Earlier this year, I read Tristine Rainer's The New Diary, which showed me a whole new way of using a diary, including many different journaling techniques, which were pretty much all new to me. And in September, I began a new journaling routine - writing in my journal every day. And with every new practice comes a new journal to suit that particular practice. I also like my 5 year diaries. I've kept them for the past six years, and it's fun to see, on one page, what you've been doing on a particular day over the period of 5 years.

I also like to take this time of the year to prepare for the new year. To sit down and reflect on the year that is coming to an end, and to write down my plans, goals, and dreams for the new year that is coming. This year, I'm also preparing a special book, a sort of guide to accompany me through the year and help me keep on track, as I tend to lose sight too easily of all the plans, intentions, goals, and dreams as the year progresses. I'm also trying out a couple of special planners to help me get organised and to get things done. I'm looking forward to see how and if they work for me. But most of all I want to take it easy this year. Over the past years, I've tended to put too much pressure on the new year. Too much of the "this year, everything will be completely different" attitude. I'm still going to write a big list of all the things I want to change, achieve, make come true, but instead of expecting big things to miraculously happen, I'll just get on with doing the work, step by step, and trying to do my best.

What's your practice? Do you keep journals, diaries, special notebooks? Do you have a special routine or ritual to prepare for the new year?