Monday, May 23, 2016

Introducing the Morning Book

A few  posts ago I looked back on my year of painting every morning before breakfast from January 2015 to January 2016. You can read that post here.

Doing art every morning right after getting up has become quite addictive and I wanted to keep it up, but in a bit of an adapted format. So in February of this year I started with what I call the Morning Book.

The Morning Book is an art journal / sketchbook that I work in every morning for no more than half an hour. That's the only 'rule' I have. I can do whatever I want, use whatever materials I  want, work on a page as many days as I want. Just do a little something every morning.

For my first book (yes, I'm that optimistic, I think there will be more) I chose this art journal:


It's a Dylusions square journal that measures about 20x20 cm (8x8 inches) and has a lovely smooth cardstock in it. The paper is perfect for markers and mixed media, but I must also say it is not perfect for very wet media like watercolour. Using a lot of water will cause the paper to pillage a little. But less wet paints like acrylic or gouache should be fine. And wetting things like watersoluble markers or pencils goes splendidly too. It's just the more wet in wet stuff that the paper isn't suitable for.

I have worked in this book now for over a 100 days and I have to adapt from my previous morning practice. The biggest change being the fact that I often cannot finish a page in a day. So whereas last year in a 100 days I would have a 100 paintings, now I have about 40 pages done.
The more intricate pages can sometimes take up to a week to finish. So even more than my morning paintings this book is teaching me patience and how a little bit a day can add up to something in the long run.

Anyway, here are the first few spreads from the Morning Book!

On the left the inside pocked that came with the book. I do still intend to decorate that pocket. On the right the front page - a mandala drawn with a glaze pen and coloured in with regular gelpens.  

This is the only two page drawing I've done in the book so far. It's what I call 'system work'. Doodling within lines drawn at different distances from each other. This was done in Faber Castell Pittpens. 

On the left some abstract nonsense in watercolour. On the right a drawing done in Faber Castell Pittpens and then on top of that I added more definition in coloured pencil (Polychromos). 

On the left a pattern in Pittpens. On the right a mandala that was started in Pittpens, then decorated in  UniPoscapens (paintmarkers) and the outside was coloured with Pan Pastel. 

On the left a flower pattern in gouache and drawing pen, very reminiscent of patterns I did in my morning painting sketchbooks. On the right a mosaic done in Pittpens (love love love my pitts) and decorated with gelpens.

On the left a portrait done in washed Tombow Dual Brushpens. On the right a collage composition on top of a background in washed Tombows and further decorated with a permanent marker and gelpen. The Tombows seem absolutely made for the paper in this journal!

Two abstracts in washed Tombow Dual Brushpens. This is a good way to try out colour combinations. 

On the left a drawn garden in Pittpens. On the right the same colour Pittpens made a triangle pattern.

So far in this sketchbook I have been mostly drawn to markers. I think it's the smooth paper that makes them so attractive. I'm sure that if I had chosen watercolour paper I would have used more paint. It's fun to experiment with different media on this paper though.

I hope you enjoyed this first peek in my Morning Book. I'm sure there will be many more to come!

Wishing you all a wonderful and artsy day.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The A6

About a year and a half ago I fell in love with the idea of traveler's notebooks. They are basically leather (and sometimes fabric) covers filled with replaceable notebooks. In the beginning I only saw the official ones made by Midori, but soon I found out that there are tons of amazing people out there who make custom ones referred to in general as fauxdoris and often specifically named after the maker.

That's how I came into contact with Anja Verkooij of Adori Made With Love. She makes the most beautiful leather covers that you can order in any kind of colour and size custom made. The first adori she made for me was the beautiful aquagreen and blue journal cover that housed my journal last year. You can see it up close in this post from last november. I simply named that one The Adori, because it was the only one I had at the time.

I since have however ordered three more adori's from her (addicted? me?) in different sizes and for different purposes, none of them for journal use by the way.

The second one I ordered from her is the one I want to show you today.


Say hello to the A6! Yep, that's what I'm calling it and the reason should be obvious: it's an A6 size. Nice and small to fit in anything on the go. I ordered custom made inserts for it too, some with mixed media paper and some with watercolour paper. I wanted to have this cover be an on the go sketchbook, especially for those long crossings on the ferry when I visit the main land.

Unlike the Adori journal I wanted this to be a very basic cover with no extra charms or pendants or decorative items. Those would only get caught on things in my bag. The only thing I added was that little leather butterfly with my name on it that Anja kindly included in the packaging.


I picked the colours myself too which is the extra cool part about ordering handmade stuff. You can have an idea in your head and pay someone else (who knows what they're doing) to make it for you. This was a colour combination Anja hadn't tried yet and I feel it turned out fabulous.

I keep two inserts in it, one of each type of paper, so I can draw and sketch and colour and also paint when I want to. 

So now the A6 lives mostly in my backpack for when I go on trips to the mainland. I do not work in it very often and I have very limited supplies with me when I do. But it's good to know it's there.

Here are some of the pages I have filled so far:








The last two are in the watercolour insert (done in watercolour obviously), and the rest are in the mixed media one (done with faber castell pittpens).

I am absolutely in love with this little book as I am in love with all my dori's. I intend to do a post some day where they all feature together, but that's for a yet to be determined time in the future.

For now I wish you all a wonderful and artsy weekend. Make it a good one. :-)

 


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

From the ScrapBook (my journal)

Here's another look into my current journal, the ScrapBook, which is ...well...a scrapbook. 
I repurposed it as a journal, because I loved the format of it. It measures 25x25 cm (10x10 inches) and has different types of lovely paper in it and a couple of pages where you can insert loos ephemera.












You may guess from the pictures that these spreads were done in my first weeks after adopting my cat Spooky and there's even the drama of him going missing and his neutering. Fun times. :-)

Hope you enjoyed this peek and wishing you all a wonderful and artsy day.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Looking back on a year of Morning Paintings

Somewhere halfway January of 2015 I rather spontaneously decided to start a daily painting project I called Morning Paintings. I was inspired by Jennifer Orkin Lewis (who did a year long daily painting project for a while already at that time) and Pam Garrison (who was writing about following in Jennifers footsteps).

My plans weren't half as ambitious as theirs at that time, because I couldn't picture myself painting every day for a year at all. A year! That was way too big a commitment for someone who sometimes has trouble keeping things up even for a week. I was not going to set myself up to fail.
However I had this small and thin 32 page sketchbook that seemed like a reasonable place to start. Fill that up and see how it goes. So that was basically my plan: see if I could keep it up for a month. And if I could, that would be pretty amazing in itself and I'd have a little sketchbook full of paintings to show for it.

My rules were quite simple: fill a page every morning before breakfast. No themes, no working on techniques, no masterpieces necessary. Just. Fill. A. Page. I decided to use gouache, simply because I love the medium and wanted to work with it more.


Well, the rest is history as they say. A year later I had 330 paintings in seven sketchbooks! Most were done in gouache as planned unless I was away from home, because then my rather big Caran d'Ache gouache box was a bit too bulky and I worked with a small watercolour set instead.

I kept up my daily painting practice almost exactly a year. I think there's a difference of one or two days. This is simply because my seventh sketchbook was full and it seemed silly to start another one just for one or two paintings when I knew I was going to move on to something else.

You may wonder why there are not at least 363 paintings then? Well, that's life as they say. I got the flu in february of 2015 and pretty bad too and I decided not to do my morning paintings on vacations. The paintings were supposed to become routine, but vacations to me are about getting away from my routine. I did however do them when I was away on trips for work or family visits. Several paintings have been done at my sisters kitchen table and others on either the ferry or in a hotel.


I would like to talk a little about what a year of painting every morning has taught me and brought me.

1. A little bit every day goes a long long way.
This is something we all know in theory. Little things can add up to big things. But I never experienced it so directly as I did with these paintings. If somebody had asked me to fill seven sketchbooks with paintings in a year or to paint 330 paintings I would have been incredibly intimidated, but one little page a day almost secretly adds up. It's amazing.
I was surprised every time I reached another milestone of fifty more paintings or filled up another sketchbook. How did that happen? Well...one day at a time of course. It's not rocket science. It's not magic. It's not even special.
What this also means is that even if you have very little time you can do art. Thinking you are too busy is not a valid excuse. Do half an hour every day, or only five minutes. or only every week. Things will develop. One millimeter forward is still a movement forward.  Maybe it's slow going, but at least it's going.

2. I am disciplined. Who knew?
Discipline is a word I have never really connected with myself. Keeping things up for a long time, or starting new habits never really seemed my thing. I have given up on every diet I have every tried for instance.
But I was wrong. If it is something worth my dedication I will keep it up. I think I myself am the most surprised that I was able to put these paintings first every damned day.
I have learned the key to discipline is a strange combination of dedication and letting go. By that I mean that I had to really commit myself every day again, but at the same time had to allow myself the leeway to not do it if it simply was not practical or desired. I am not a machine after all.
But most of all it has to be something that is worth the trouble to me (not to the world, not to the magazines, not to my friends or family, not to lifestyle gurus, to me). Getting up extra early every morning was worth the trouble, because I enjoyed doing these paintings and was getting something out of them. That doesn't mean I always felt like doing them, it just means I decided to give it a try every day again and every day I was glad I did and those experiences build up over time and make it easier to do it again.


3. Sorry optimistic self helpers, a habit does not form in 30 days (or three weeks or four weeks or...)
I'm sure you've read the articles or seen the tv-shows or whatever where they tell you that if you just keep up something for a small amount of weeks you will have formed a habit. Well, I hate to break that bubble, but that turns out to be a big fat lie. I can honestly say it took me over half a year if not longer to really feel like this morning practice was ingrained into my system. And even then I had to consciously do it.
Yes, of course it gets easier over time and I think I am now indeed at a point where doing art right after getting out of bed is simply a thing I do, but still it is not as natural as brushing my teeth or showering. That is why the discipline is important and why it has to be worth it to you. Things that do not give you some kind of worthwhile personal reward are impossible to keep up long enough to have the time to even form a habit. Or maybe they are, but then you're just miserable every morning by forcing yourself to do something you don't even want. 

4. Doing art every morning before anything else enriches your life
Why? Because you are doing art every morning! Whatever else happens that day, you have been creative. You have made something. You filled a page. You played with paints. This is the hardest thing to really explain, but you're all creative people so I'm sure you get what I mean. If art and creativity or crafts are important to you it is incredibly self affirming to actively make time for it every day. This cannot be overrated. It is food for the soul. And your day is simply better if you start it by feeding your soul.


5. I got to know my paintbrush really well
I painted mostly with one round watercolour brush when I did these paintings and now it is my absolute favorite brush in the whole wide world. I cannot speak for other brushes, but this one pretty much does exactly what I want now. I can fill in shapes with it, paint with it and I can draw with it. I found out just how much I actually love to draw with a paintbrush. I guess it is true that practice makes perfect, or well...at least improves your brush strokes. It also means that if you want to learn about your art supplies, you have to use them. Don't save them for the right occasion. I pretty much used up that one Caran d'Ache gouache box and it was awesome.

6. Inspiration comes from doing
If I got one question a lot in the last year it was: how do you come up with something to paint every morning? The answer is: you don't. Sometimes yes, an idea would come to me right as I walked into the studio or even at night in bed. But just as often I had no idea what I was going to do that day. But there's something interesting about picking up a brush and paint every morning. It's like a muscle is being trained that just fills pages. If I didn't know what to do I could just pick a few colours and see if I could make an attractive pattern. The goal is filling the page, not make a fabulous painting. Just start by making a mark. And when you do another mark will follow. And then the inspiration comes. I wish it was the other way around, but it's not. The cool part however is that the more you do this, the easier this gets. And you can ruthlessly steal from your own previous ideas too! The more pages you fill the more you have to draw from.
I had exactly one morning when I really could not think of anything at all and then I decided that that would be the theme of my painting and I simply painted the words 'Even no inspiration can be inspiration' on the page and went from there.


7. I really found out what I naturally lean towards
Or maybe one could say I found my style? What I mean is that when you paint every morning patterns start to emerge. In my case often literally haha, because it became more obvious than ever how much I love love love patterns. So many of my paintings are pattern designs and ideas. But other things I apparently love are flowers, portraits, abstract nonsense, whimsy and mandalas. The amount of realistic paintings is very low. I did do some and they turned out quite nice, but they always seem to be a bit of a chore. I'd rather just make stuff up.
If you practice often enough this is bound to happen. It's why style is not a thing one should worry about too much. Style, like inspiration, comes from doing.
I have such great admiration for people who do realistic figurative art, but I apparently am not one of them.

8. One project leads to another
After one year of painting I stopped that project last January. Not because I didn't love it, but for practical reasons. Filling a page a day took too much time sometimes for the things I wanted to do. If I for instance made a more intricate pattern this could take up to two hours and that is time I simply did not have every morning.
However I had become very fond of my morning art practice and did not want to give that up. So while I was still working on my last morning paintings I started to think about ways to adjust my daily early dose of art.
Things I wanted to change were for instance:
  • the freedom to use every medium I want (not just gouache)
  • not having to finish a page every day, but being able to work on something for several days if needed
  • only spend 30 minutes on it every morning
That led to the project I am currently working on since February, which I call The Morning Book. I will tell you all about that in another post. Let me just say here that I love it. :-)


This morning art practice has become addictive. It's my version of daily meditation. Next to my journaling practice and my regular walks these are the things that keep me sane and help me clear my mind for other artistic endeavours and probably just life in general.

After a year of painting I don't really think I have become become a better painter or a better artist. But I do think my life has been enriched in a way that I never would have expected and I have learned things about myself and my art which influence the other things I do and make.

If you're still here after this wordy post I thank you for your attention and patience. I sincerely hope you have something that enriches your life and that brings you joy that is all yours and all for you. If you do, cherish it, and if you don't, try to find it. It doesn't have to be a daily thing, it doesn't have to be art. And it certainly has nothing to do with worldly success, status or money.

Feed your soul.




Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Walking from east to west

On an exceptionally beautiful spring day last week I decided to take an extra long walk from the east side of the island all the way to the west side. For me an extra long walk is a little over 15 km (I think that's about 10 miles).  It was such an idyllic day that I could not stop taking pictures with my phone.

Here's an impression of that walk for your enjoyment.

















It was like a little day trip on my own island and I enjoyed every minute of it.

I got a major sunburn that day too (ouch), but it was totally worth it!

Hope you are enjoying the beauty of whatever place you are at and wishing you a wonderful and artsy day.
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