Friday, 11 May 2018

The end of the 100 Day Project, some travel sketches, and two new palettes

I knew, when I decided to take part in The 100 Day Project, that I wasn't going to do it every day, and that my holiday would certainly be a problem. But I ended up doing so little while I was away, that I decided there really just was no point to pretend and continue. So I'm just back to my normal goal of trying to draw daily, or least as much as possible. So these sketches where the last I did for the challenge before before my holiday.

Before my holiday, I put together a new watercolour palette, big enough to contain 24 colours, compact enough to carry around with me. It took me ages to put it together (I'm not good at making decisions....) but finally I came up with a selection I was happy with. At least for the moment. Some colours might not be essential, and admittedly, I chose them mainly because I liked them. That's the problem with colours. You really don't need that many to achieve a lot. But they are just so beautiful. Irresistible. We'll see how useful they will proof. That's the nice thing with watercolour palettes. You can always change and adjust them.

My goal of doing some outside sketching on my holiday wasn't very successful. I really only managed two times, at the beginning, when it was still warm. In the second half, the weather got rather cold and very windy. Certainly not the kind of weather to take out your art materials. At least not for me. But I got some drawing done, at least.

And then, although I've decided that I really have enough watercolour palettes now, and I really, really don't need another one for a while, I bought another one. I'm afraid I just couldn't resist. It's a limited edition from Schmincke, with twelve metallic colours and six metallic golds. I probably won't use them very often, the colours are quite subtle, but it'll be fun to get them out from time to time, and you can also mix them with your normal colours to add a bit of sparkle. And they come in that special square-ish palette, which is always useful to have.

It's difficult to catch the sparkle with the camera, but they really do shine and sparkle on paper.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Art materials, travel brushes, your inner critic & a new art challenge

Where's the time gone? I started writing this post almost a month ago. The time seems to be just flying, I can't believe that in a couple of weeks, one third of the year will already have passed. I feel we should still be somewhere at the beginning of February. Ah well. But I'm afraid this is going to be a very long post...

Art materials. Aren't they great? All those fabulous colours, watercolour boxes, brushes, pens, sketchbooks... Yes, art materials are great. And yes, finding something new can be inspiring and useful. But let's be honest, art materials can also be a bit of an excuse for avoiding to make art. We try something, it doesn't work out the way we wanted it, we're frustrated... and then we read about someone's palette, brushes... and we convince ourselves that if we just add those colours, buy that brand of paints, get a new brush, that useful little travel watercolour box, then, yes, then, all would be perfect and we'd spend our days happily making art every after. But as soon as that new ultimately perfect thing arrives, we've already read about an even more perfect thing that we first have to get before we then, finally, can produce the art that we're meant to do. And if that doesn't work out quite as we expected, it won't be long until we stumble upon another inspiring blog post, with some different paints, colours, brushes...I am certainly guilty of that, I sadly have to admit. And a result, I have a ridiculously large collection of brushes, paints, watercolour boxes, sketchbooks...

A lot of this has to do with our inner critic. That voice in our head, that constantly crushes our fragile confidence, that tells us that we're rubbish, that our drawings are silly, bad, ridiculous, that we're not good enough and never will be, just look at all the other's work, and who do you think you are for thinking you could do that too? You're just wasting your time. And money... I have found myself admiring a sketch for its style, simplicity, looseness, wonky lines and everything, and had to admit to myself that if I had made that very same sketch, I would have been frustrated, would have found it not good enough. We so easily judge ourselves so much harder, have far too many expectations that we cannot meet.

I came across this TED talk about your inner critic by Danielle Krysa, who gives some useful tips and tricks about how to deal with it.

I especially liked the idea of naming your critic. I named mine Septimus. Imagine an old Victorian bah-humbug type of man with a top hat. Bitter, shabby, miserly, misogynistic, prejudiced..... I mean, who would listen to someone like that? Let alone take him seriously and letting it affect you in what you do? He definitely is just a big old Jerk.

I started a little reference book with art materials for sketching, to remind me of the stuff I have. And of course sketching everything means that I'm actually sketching. And by using your materials, you will find out what actually works for you and what doesn't, which allows you to reduce your materials to your personal essentials - rather than your art hero's.

And here's another little trick that I was reminded to by someone on social media, to silence your inner critic for when you mess something up: just glue a piece of paper over the area, and draw over it. Certainly much better than putting away your sketchbook in frustration and not touching it again for weeks and months...

And last but not least, a new art challenge: Last week, The 100 Day Project started. The idea is to commit to something you want to do for 100 days and then, well, do it, and share it on Instagram. It started on April, 3 but you can jump in any time. It's also okay if you miss a day. I know from experience that I am very bad with these kinds of challenges. Especially the sharing part. It's not just that sometimes you produce a drawing that you don't really want to share, but it's all the photographing, scanning, editing and uploading involved. So I'm focusing on trying to draw or sketch or paint as often as possible, preferably every day but no pressure. And I'm sharing what I feel comfortable with and when I have the time.
So here's some of the sketches so far, done in various mediums, like watercolour, brush pen, fountain pen with a Fude nib, coloured pencils, quick sketches, blind/line drawings...

I'm off for a holiday at the end of the month, and hopefully I'll be able to keep up the drawing, and maybe even get some outdoor sketching done.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

It's been a while

It's been a while since I've been here, and in the mean time, not only another year has ended, and a new one begun, but spring is almost upon us as well. Not that it feels much like it at the moment. It's the coldest it's been this winter, -6 degrees Celsius max yesterday, and today it0s snowing like mad. It's not that I haven't done anything in these past three months. I've been working through a couple of online classes, doing some lunchtime sketching at work, but none of it particularly share-worthy. And my energy level has been about as low as the temperature at the moment, making it a struggle to pick up a pen at all in the evenings and at the weekends. But hopefully, things will pick up again soon now.

At the weekend in any case, I felt inspired to pick up my (new) pen for a quick pre-lunch sketch, before the pepper and courgette went into my curry.

I've started a little illustrated recipes book almost four years ago, but haven't added a lot of recipes. I don't like to cook. I only cook because I want to know what's in my food and don't want to eat processed and ready meals. I don't enjoy it, so cooking has to be quick and easy, something to get over and done with so that I can spend the rest of the time doing something I actually enjoy. Because I'm such an uninspired cook, I usually don't know what to cook. And that's why I've started this book. So that I have a number of quick and easy recipe ideas at hand. And while I don't enjoy the cooking itself, at least I had some fun drawing the recipe. I first started cooking this delicious Thai Yellow Curry a few months ago, and when I cooked it this Sunday, I realised that I had forgotten to buy a tomato, and I couldn't remember how much fish sauce went into it - was it one table spoon or one tea spoon? So I decided to spend the afternoon adding the basic recipe to my little book. Hopefully, more recipes will follow soon.

In January, N and I spent a lovely holiday together here in Switzerland. Lots of relaxing and going for walks in the area, but of course we also had to go on a day trip to the mountains for my birthday. This time we decided to head to the canton of Wallis, to Zermatt. From there we took the train up to Gornergrat at 3100m. There isn't really much you can do up there in winter, if you're not skiing, but it was a quite mild day with lots of snow, sunshine and a deep blue, cloudless sky, and so we ended up spending about 4 hours up there anyway. The views all around were absolutely spectacular. 29 mountains over 4000m, the Monte Rosa massif with Switzerland's highest peak, the Dufourspitze (4634m), the alps second largest glacier, the Gorner Glacier, and a few more, and of course the star of them all - Switzerland's most iconic mountain, the Matterhorn.

Matterhorn from up Gornergrat
Monte Rosa Glacier and Border Glacier with Dufourspitze
What else? After I stopped going to Swedish classes a year ago, I wanted to learn something new and I found this fun app Duolingo. For the past few months, I've been doing my (almost) daily lessons (they only take about 5-10 minutes) and I can now say that Ik spreek een beetje Nederlands. Well, I guess it's a bit of an exaggeration, it really is only a tiny number of (not always very useful) sentences. It will definitely be quite a while until I can read my copy of Jip en Jannecke. Until then, I just look at the beautiful illustrations by Fiep Westendorp. But it's great fun anyway.

And then here's a film I want to go and see at the cinema - Ex Libris: The New York Public Library. Hopefully one day I'll have the chance to actually visit the library itself, but until then, this films looks like well worth watching. And as a librarian, I guess it is a bit of a must :)

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Inktober 2017 - The End * and a bit about inks and nibs

This post is long overdue, the end of November is already in sight! I must admit that the air went out completely for the last couple of days of Inktober. But I wanted to fill this sketchbook, and in the end I did. Here's the last two drawings.

I enjoyed drawing every day. Well, most of the time. It can be difficult to fit in time for drawing during the week when you have a day job. I am constantly trying to do some drawing in my lunch breaks, and while I think it's a lot better to draw for only five minutes a day than not at all, I also find drawing for only five minutes a bit frustrating at times. I'd prefer to spend a bit more time on drawing.

During Inktober, I planned my evenings to fit in an hour or so of drawing. That is a habit I really wish to take away from this challenge, even though I have already sorely neglected it this month...
What I can definitely do without, though, is having to scan, edit and post the drawing every day. When everything worked out and the drawing turned out alright, it was fine. But when it didn't, it became stressful. There have been days when I spent more than an hour altogether on one drawing that just didn't work out only to then make a five minute one afterwards to post.

What I really liked about the challenge was the focus on a particular medium. It made me try out all kinds of different inks and nibs, and I really enjoyed drawing with dip pens. I got my old nibs and inks out, and bought some new ones too.

My favourite inks are the Rohrer & Klingner Ausziehtusche (Drawing ink). I especially like the bistre. The Zeichentusche (Calligraphy ink) is nice too, and comes in a great variety of colours. All of them are water proof.
Sennelier inks are lovely too. Their India ink, or China ink, as it's called, is a nice deep black. The colour ones have a glossy sheen if applied thicker.  There's some very nice shades of browns, including bistre and burnt sienna, which are very different from the R&K shades of the same name.
I like the Winsor & Newton India ink, but I'm not a great fan of their coloured ones, to be honest. I only bought the two browns, peat brown and nut brown, and I have to say, I can't really see the difference. Maybe as a wash, but certainly not in a line. I used them with a paint brush as a wash, and it didn't really work that well either. For me, they are just too transparent.

There are so many nibs that it can get a bit confusing. Even more so to identify them (a magnifying glass is very helpful here!) and remember which one's which once you put them in a pen holder. I looked for both drawing and mapping nibs, and I discovered that although some seem to be from different manufacturers, they are actually the same. The 'Manuscript' nibs I bought in England turned out to be the same as the 'Standardgraph' nibs I got here in Switzerland - they are both 'Leonardt' nibs.

To make things easier, I made two reference sheets, one for inks and one for nibs, which I glued into my studio journal. While there's a great variety of beautiful pen holders for the larger nibs, unfortunately for the smaller ones, there seems to be only one - a simple red wooden one. As many of the drawing nibs are the smaller ones, you quickly end up with a whole bunch of almost identical looking pens. I used Washi tape to distinguish them so that from now on, I know exactly which nib is which. Hopefully, this will help me use them a lot more from now on.

I also went through all the nibs I already had at home, tried each and every one out and threw away the ones that didn't work form me. Among the keepers are these specialty nibs: the George W. Hughes Redonda pen that gives a double line, and the two Speedball Steelbrush nibs that are great for lettering.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Inktober 2017 - Week Four

We are nearing the end of the month, and with it, the end Inktober challenge. Only a couple more days to go. I'm not complaining when it's over, this week, it really is becoming a bit of a struggle now.

Day 22: Dip pen & ink

Day 23: Ink

Day 24: Brush pen, pen

Day 25: Fude pen

Day 26: Fude nib fountain pen

Day 27 & 28: Dip pen & ink

Thoughts and insights:
  • Our brain and how it works is absolutely fascinating. And slightly scary...
  • Drawing with dip pen and ink is so different than with pens. Somehow it makes you draw differently. And it certainly looks differently. Or is that just because of the ink?
  • The same colour can look completely different from one manufaturer to another. Just look at Rohrer & Klingner's and Senneliers bistre. Both are nice colours, though
  • It's useful to make some sort of ink colour charts for reference
  • It's also useful to find a system to remember which nib is which...
  • It's becoming a bit of a struggle now. 

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Inktober 2017 - Week Three

It's the third week of Inktober and I'm still keeping my daily drawing habit up. In fact, it's becoming easier, and more and more day, I'm looking forward to the evening, when I can sit down and draw.

Day 15: Dip pen & ink

Day 16: Fineliner pens

Day 17: Pens

Day 18: Dip pen & ink

Day 19: Pens

Day 20:

Day 21: Dip pen & ink

Thoughts and insights:
  • Did I mention that I love dip pens?
  • Crosshatching is a bit like watercolour - it looks easy and simple, but it's not
  • I wish I was better at drawing from imagination and didn't have to rely on reference images
  • But then I guess that's part of trying to get into the daily drawing habit
  • Because of copyright reasons, it can be really difficult to find reference images for some subjects
  • Some drawings therefore just have to remain practice pieces only, without being shared
  • But then, not everything always needs to be shared
  • It's all about practice in the end
  • And about enjoying it

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Inktober 2017 - Week Two

Another week of daily drawing.

Day 8: Pen

Day 9: Dip pen and ink, and pens

Day 10: Pen

Day 11: Dip pen & ink

Day 12: Dip pen & ink

Day 13: Dip pen & ink

Day 14: Dip pen & ink

Thoughts and insights:
  •  I figured out how to change the setting on my scanner so that it now scans the entire page. Yay!
  • Stippling is so much fun with a dip pen!
  • Inks are so versatile, you can use them for drawing, washes and even mix them together
  • I love dip pens!
  • So many different nibs! I'm going through the ones I have, adding ones, and throwing out the ones that don't work for me. No point hanging on to them. I only want what works
  • An excuse to go to the art shop :)
  • Drawing every day is good, but finishing and posting a drawing every day is quite stressful.
  • But I'm not giving up
  • Done is better than perfect