Friday, 29 April 2016

Sketchbook pages

I've taken out my sketchbook again I've been busy filling the pages. Sometimes I feel more like painting with acrylics, in my art journal or on canvas, other times it's ink and watercolour sketches or drawings. But I want to make using my sketchbook a regular practice. It's something I've neglected too often but it's such good practice. And I do love watercolours, and one of my goals for this year is to master this medium. Or at least get a bit more comfortable and skilled working with it.



I treated myself to a new watercolour box and bruhes. And of course I had to make a colour chart. I like Schmincke paints. I also have a few Daniel Smith paints, but since I haven't used them often enough, I find that they do tend to get quite hard after a while. Schmincke are a German brand, and widely available here in Switzerland and also affordable. I'm now working on "perfecting" my palette. I also found a Winsor & Newton box that I bought in London a few years ago. One of those £34.95 instead of £127 speciall offers that one just can't resist.


I'm reading Margery Allingham's Campion books at the moment, I have a whole pile of them and I'm working my way through it. I've never seen the tv series, but Lugg does quite look like his description in the book. The page isn't quite finished yet, and I can't decide whether to add colour or not. But I think I'll just leave it an ink drawing.


I've started taking my sketchbook with me when I go out, and I'm trying to squeeze in half an hour of drawing time every morning before work. It's a peaceful and meditative way to start the day. I also try and draw in my lunchbreak, and next week, I want to start taking my watercolours with me too, rather than just add colour in the evening. And of course I try to draw at home too. Drawing every day



It's taken me well over a year to fill the sketchbook above and I couldn't wait for it to start a new one. Funny, now that I actually have finished it, I almost miss it. The sketchbook was a Stillman & Birn Beta, landscape format and the one I started is a Seawhite. Below are the first two pages. The new Sketchbook course has just started, and as you can see, I've been inspired by the teachers of the classes for these two.


I really want to love this sketchbook. Because Seawhite sketchbooks are available at one of the art shops in town, and it would just be so much easier and cheaper to get them there instead of having to order them from England. What I noticed, though, is that the paper seems to be slightly thinner and the shadow of the ink drawing on the back of the page is very visible. Also, I noticed that erasing pencil lines does not work very well. They remain visible. Both these things are a bit annoying. On the other hand, I added some colour to the page above last night, and the paper seems to take the paint quite well. So that's a plus. And coloured pencil works well too. I'm determined to finish this sketchbook before moving on to the next one, trying out different mediums. One drawing every day. The more I sketch, the quicker I finish the sketchbook.




Tuesday, 26 April 2016

April weather and some Magnolia polaroids

April is showing itself from its best side. Some sunny days with temperatures up to 20 degrees last week made all the trees burst into bloom. All kinds of trees laden with white and pink blossoms, such a joy to see. A solid downpour of various degrees all Saturday took down a great deal of the delicate blossom leaves, and for the last two days, temperatures dropped and we've had two mornings of snow, and more frost is threatening to kill off the apple blossoms. And today there's a strong wind that will make the remaining blossoms fly through the air. April, April, let's just hope you won't take this weather too far into May.

Polaroid SX-70 Alpha 1

I took these photos earlier in April. There's a beautiful big old magnolia tree down my street, and every year, I'm looking forward to see it bloom, hoping that the weather will hold long enough. This year, it did, and I took my whole arsenal of cameras to take photos of it, my Canon DSLR,  Nikon SLR, and three different Polaroid cameras.

Polaroid SX-70 Alpha 1

I haven't used the Polaroids since autumn and they all had only two or three photos left in them. Like food, film has a use by date, and letting them sit in the cameras for so long can give some funny effects. And each camera has its own characteristics too.

Polaroid SLR 680
I'm still waiting for the film in my Nikon AF to get full and have it developed. Being used to being able to snap 500 photos a day if I wanted to with my DSLR, I thought that having only 36 photos in a film might prove a real challenge when I started using the Nikon earlier this year. But it seems to take forever to fill that film. And 36 photos is still a whole lot more than the 8 in a Polaroid film.

Polaroid Image Pro

I'm looking forward to using my Polaroid cameras more often again once the weather turns warmer and less wet again. And I'm already racking my brain about which analogue camera to take with me on my holiday in June.

Friday, 15 April 2016

A couple of faces, and a very bad surprise

I haven't kept up with my 30 Faces challenge very well. I have to admit that by the end of last week, I was already getting a bit bored and uninspired with it, and I wasn't sure if I really wanted to continue with it. I decided to switch from painting in my journal to drawing with charcoal, and I enjoyed doing that.

Prompts:  Monochrome, Muted Palette, Silence, Music

But then came Tuesday, and it brought a bad surprise. This is what I used to see outside my bedroom window. A beautiful old apple tree full of character, a home and playground for many birds, which I enjoyed watching flying and hopping around in the garden. There even was a big gorgeous jay that used to turn up for a few days twice a year for the past two year. 


When I opened the shutters on Tuesday morning, seeing the soft green leaves and pale pink buds emerging on the tree in the half dark made me smile, and I was looking forward to seeing it in full bloom soon. Then, when I got home in the evening and went into the bedroom, something felt odd. I couldn't quite put my finger on what was different. I went to the window to open it and it took a few seconds for the realisation to settle. The tree was gone. So thoroughly, there wasn't even a stump left. It was a shock. I've had no idea that my landlady was planning to have it cut down. It had probably been there long before she moved into the house, and that has been a few decades.


I loved this tree. It's old gnarled mossy branches with big mushrooms growing out of them, the shade and cool it gave my bedroom and flat in the summer, it's beautiful pink blossoms in spring that attracted the bees, all the birds that lived in it. I banged my head several times on that bird house, and smiled in bed before falling asleep in the autumn, when I heard the odd overripe apple plop down on the ground.


And that's not all of it. A few minutes later I realised that the other tree was gone too. A big huge beautiful tree at the end of the garden opposite my living room. A thick straight trunk with long thin evergreen branches hanging down (I have no idea what tree it was). I loved to see its branches dance around on windy evenings, and I could often see bats flying around there in the dusk. Gone too. Not a trace left.


I love trees, and every tree that is cut down hurts me in my heart, and seeing these beautiful friends gone is heartbreaking. And I really didn't understand why my landlady didn't tell and warn me about her plan. It's only me on the upper ground floor and my landlady on the first floor in this house. You should think it should be possible to communicate with each other? Of course it is her property, and she can do with it what she wants. But I would have wanted to know. After all, that tree was right outside my window and it's presence or absence affects my living space. It would just have been the decent thing. I would still have been heartbroken, but at least I would have been prepared.

Prompt: Water

I couldn't go upstairs to ask her about it on Tuesday, I was too upset about it. And I didn't feel much like thinking about drawing a face for the day's prompt either. But I did end up drawing in my sketchbook, putting down my feelings in words and ink lines.


I did ask her the next day, though. The big old tree had been sick and wasn't stable anymore, in danger of falling over. Fair enough. You wouldn't want a tree like that falling on your house, or anybody else's. But the old apple tree's only offence, apparently, was to be "old, ugly, and not producing many apples anymore anyway". Well, I found it beautiful and full of character, it brought me joy in so many ways. She didn't quite seem to understand first why I was rather upset about her not telling me in advance, but I think eventually she realised that I really cared about that tree. We're different people. She's social. I care about trees. I appreciate nature and its beautiful character, she only saw the work it made for her, and not the richness and life it provided.


I've been having the blinds drawn down all week, so that I don't have to see that dead, scared garden, that before was so full of life. Another thought entered my mind too. Maybe it is time to start looking for a new place? When I moved in, almost 9 years ago, I never thought I would stay here for that long. I'm not good with change, with letting go, and with trusting that something equal or even better might follow. And the thought of trying to a new, affordable flat that is still big enough to have a separate art room, is something bordering to a minor life crisis. But as one of my work colleagues said, the thought has been released out to the universe. And at the weekend, I plan to sit down and make a list of all the things my ideal new home should have. It might well take me another couple of years to finally find it and make the move. But there's no harm in starting to look around. And in the mean time, I'll work on seeing possibilities instead of obstacles...

Friday, 8 April 2016

30 Faces in 30 Days, Week 1

I'm doing the 30 Faces in 30 Days challenge this month, and the first week is already over. Here are my first seven faces, all done in acrylics/mixed media in my big Moleskine watercolour art journal.


Theme of day 1 was Drips & Splashes.

Day 2's theme was Dream and day 3's Text. It was a busy weekend, with family visiting, long walks in the forest and in the nearby animal park, good food and conversations. But it didn't leave much time, let alone energy for painting, so especially the one on Sunday evening was a real struggle.


The theme for day 4 was Wing, for day 5 White/High Key and for day 6 Twins. There are a few bottles of Lascaux paints in some of my, at the moment, favourite colours standing around on my desk, and I stuck to them for the rest of the week.


Yesterday's theme, that is day 6, was Animal Spirit. It's going towards the end of the week, and it is getting harder to do a painting in the evening, after work, when you really just want to flop into your comfy chair and watch Neighbours for a bit. Instead it's walking through the door, throwing your bag into the corner, getting the stuff ready and start working. A quick break for dinner, and yes, an episode of Neighbours, and back into the studio. Then trying to find a place where it is still reasonably light enough to take a photo, and then editing the photo, trying to get the colours right, because it really is already too dark for taking photos. And then it's already 9pm and time for a chat with N on Skype.

I miss that there isn't any time left to do anything else. But then there are, of course, there's a lot of good things too. The fact that time is limited means that you have to work quick, which in turn means working loser. And of course doing a face every day is a great practice, and I hope that it will help me with some issues I always have when doing portraits. I don't know if I will make it to the end of the challenge, but for the moment, I certainly intend to keep going for a bit longer.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Playing with abstract painting, and a challenge

Over the Easter weekend, I spent some time in my studio playing with abstracts.


It is just so much fun to not have a plan and to simply glue down some collage bits on a piece of paper and start moving some paint around on the paper. 


Use whatever is lying around and catches your fancy. Why not try and see what you can do with some graphite powder and paints?


And if you work in a series, you can put one piece aside, work on another, and then come back to it later, when it's dry, to put on another layer. I wasn't happy with the one above at first, it just didn't seem to work. Until I got the pink crayons out. Now I love it.


I'm really glad I re-discovered my crayons! They just add so much vibrancy. And I'm glad I've kept so many of my old annual rail cards, they're great for moving paint around (as is of course any other kind of card). Unfortunately, the railway changed their system, so now everything goes onto one permanent card. Apart from the fact that I don't like the new system at all, it's a shame about the regular supply of cards.


I'm not usually very good with challenges. There's only a few I managed to do from beginning to end, such as some years of the Summer of Colour, the 75 Day Sketch Challenge, and the August Break photo challenge.
But I'm thinking about trying and challenge myself to take part in the Soulful Faces - 30 Faces in 30 Days Challenge, hosted by Galia Alena and Annie Hamman, which starts today! I have to say that some of the prompts sound scary! Just drawing a face every day would be a challenge, but having to come up with something suitable for each prompt every day, well, that really is a challenge. I will probably have to do more than one face on certain days to make up for others, such as Wednesdays, when I have an evening class to go to. But even then, doing, finishing something every day seems impossible. But maybe still worth a try. And that's what I intend to do. I'll see how it goes...

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Happy Easter

Are you enjoying  your Easter break? Did you remember to put your clocks forward today? I must admit I'm not a fan of switching to summertime. You get up early, and it's already late. And I've started going to work a bit earlier two weeks ago, so that means that next week, I will have to leave the house in the dark again.


I am having a quiet and relaxing Easter break at home, doing a bit of this and that, and sometimes not much at all. The weather is a bit of a mixed bag. Pouring down with rain all Friday, a sunny and warm spring day yesterday, and for today and tomorrow, it's going to a be a bit of everything - sun, clouds, rain.


Yesterday finally felt like a proper spring day, so I grabbed my cameras and went out to snap some spring flowers. I've been seeing lots of photos of beautiful magnolia trees in full bloom in the UK on Instagram, but here, they're still only just beginning to blossom. I love this magnolia tree at the bottom of my street, and I'm looking forward to seeing it bloom every year. I just hope that we get a few nice and dry days to enjoy it as much as possible.


Lots of flowers appearing in the gardens too, big and small.



Friday, 18 March 2016

A special anniversary, and the art of bulb growing

Yesterday, my aunt and uncle celebrated a very special anniversary - their 65th wedding anniversary! Here in the German speaking part of the world, it is called "Eiserne Hochzeit" - the iron anniversary. I created a card for this special occasion, using one of their wedding photo as a template and reproducing it with a transfer technique, some tea staining and watercolours.


The cut out image went on the front of the simple card of watercolour. I'm thinking about adding some lines on top and bottom, but I haven't quite decided yet.


For the main text inside, I used my new Pilot Parallel pen. It was quite hard work on this rough paper, but I like the effect of the broken line. I was just afraid that it would ruin my new pen. Tomorrow, we'll be celebrate this anniversary with the whole family. It means spending 7+ hours on the train there and back, but it's well worth it, and I'm looking forward to it very much.


As to growing flowers from bulbs - I'm sure there's a special art to this, but one that I, unfortunately, haven't mastered. I saw all these gorgeous images of amaryllis blooming at Christmas, and crocuses and narcicusses ready for spring. I bought two amaryllis in November. One produced such huge leaves that it threatened to fall off the windowsill, but never any flowers. The other one shot up and flowered within half the stated time, only to wither a couple of days later and then completely collapsed. 



The crocusses I nursed for weeks in the dark of the cellar, watering them regularly and watching their progress. There was another one in a glass, that started to rot weeks ago. In the pot there were three bulbs, one shot up, one remained small and the third rotted away too. So I was looking for just two flowering plants. But they wilted away before they even started to flower properly. I don't know what I did wrong. I was trying to find the magazine with the gorgeous flowers (they didn't seem to have any of my problems) but I must have thrown it away. And I'm afraid that's where these are going too...