Saturday, April 30, 2011

Book review - Art at the speed of life

I keep a booksy blog where I post which books I've read. I mostly do this for myself and it doesn't have much traffic on it, which is okay by me. It's not like this blog where I am looking for interaction and feedback.
But I thought it might be nice if I posted the book reviews I do on artsy books over here as well from now on. So here's one that I just posted:

Title: Art at the speed of life: motivation + inspiration for making mixed-media art every day
Author: Pam Carriker
Info: 144 p. - 2010
Finished: 18 April 2011
Acquired through: birthday gift
Rating: 7/10

This book was on the top of my artsy books wishlist since before it was even published, so when a dear friend gave it to me for my birthday I couldn't believe my luck! It's quite possible though that because of all the anticipation my expectations were too high. In any case the book only partially delivered what I expected.

First of all let me say this is by no means a bad book and I wouldn't advice against getting it, but when it comes to tips for incorporating art into your everyday life I think it just scratches the surface. In fact the book scratches way too many surfaces. There is a little something about just about everything a beginning mixed media artist might want to know, but it never goes beyond the little somethings. Most sections are so short that just when you get started to get interested in the subject it already moves on to the next thing.

I feel the book is written the way Carriker works at her art: many things going on at the same time, jumping back and forth, and never really focusing on one thing long enough for it to stick. This may be a wonderful book for people with short attention spans! ;-)

All that being said, there's good stuff too! The book offers many pages written by all sorts of mixed media artists and there are some very nice techniques and ideas shown. There's lots of eye candy too. I think this would be a wonderful book for someone who is new to mixed media or art making in general as it does give an introduction to many aspects of making art.

However if you want more in depth information on the subject of living an artful life and how to incorporate art into your busy schedule, I highly recommend reading Ricë Freeman Zachery's books "Living the creative life" and "Creative time and space".

Friday, April 29, 2011

Easter Weekend Drawing

I want to show you the drawings I made over the Easter weekend. I didn't do even half as much as I intended to (me and my big plans!), the weather was too good and so was the book I was reading ;-) But still, I managed to fill 9 pages of a watercolor sketchbook, better than nothing I suppose.

Some drawings are okay, some are lousy and of course I had to include a letter drawing and one of my little houses. For better or worse, here's all of them!

I made this just to get in the mood for drawing.

This was a detail of a little tree I saw in the woods. 

A view of the path I took in the woods.

A biking trail in the dunes.

Clouds around the sun.

A crow posed for me!

Little houses.

Daffodils in the middle of the woods!

Failed landscape, view of the dunes.

I may still color in the last two drawings to give them a little more life. Not sure yet.

At least the sketchbook is now started. I'm thinking about maybe making May about practicing more drawing, like I used April to do some abstract collages. We have to keep challenging ourselves, right? I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What are you up to wednesday - part 6

Look what the mail brought today. A very quick delivery from, yay! I'm addicted to amazon, because they keep telling me what kind of books I will like based on the books I've bought before and they are often right, haha! Anyway, these three arrived at my office today and I look forward to exploring them.

But the best part was actually HOW they arrived. Of course they were neatly sealed in plastic and then put in a cardboard box, which is how they are always shipped. But this time they arrived in a very special way indeed. My coworker came into the office carrying what looked like a big plastic trashbag and said "This came for you". Turns out my package arrived in the original (huge) US postal bag! Can you believe it?

It was the only package in the bag and that gave me these funny visions of me being the only person in the world who had a package delivered from the USA today. I saw these postal workers going all beserk like "Oh my just one package today, what are we to do?" and then one of them said "Wait, I have this bag right here, maybe that could work? We'll just leave it on so the package doesn't get lost.". ;-) I doubt this was the case, but I have never had a package delivered inside an actual postal bag before! It was like a wonderful little (big) bonus to the books.

I thought the bag and especially the lettering on it were so cool that I could not bring myself to throw it away. I mean, how many Dutch people get an original US postal bag delivered to their door?  It's made of really sturdy material, so I think I will one day use pieces of it to cover a journal or find some other purpose for it.  Ah, this is the curse of the creatively inclined, we can always find a use for everything!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

April collages and Easter plans

I try to blog about three times a week. Life gets in the way sometimes, but that's my goal. I was planning to do this post tomorrow (friday), but I came up with a little personal plan for Easter that kind of forced me to do an early post on my April Collages.

What are April Collages? you may wonder. Well they are collages made by me in April (I swear somebody ought to pay me to come up with these names!). It's a little project I started to challenge myself into doing half an hour of abstract collage everytime I go into the studio, before I start with my 'regular' stuff. The collages are 20x20 cm (about 8x8 inches) and the rules are:
- I may only work on them for half an hour at a time
- I may only use decorative papers and my glaze pen (so no paints and other supplies allowed)
- I may only work in abstract, so no images and no lettering

The idea is to get a little more comfortable with collage in itself and learning to just use shapes and forms for a composition. So far I have made about 6 collages this way and it's pretty interesting to do. It takes me about an hour to do one of them, so I can never finish one in one sitting, which is good too to train my patience muscle a little and learn to stop when it's time.

In this post I am showing you the first three I did. It's more difficult than I thought to work according to these self made rules, but I am sticking to them the best I can. This little challenge may be the first of more of taking 30 minutes of each studio session to practice something I want to learn or just do more of.

I'll show more of these collages in some next post(s).

Don't the shapes in the last one remind you of pretty  decorated Easter eggs? And wouldn't you know it, Easter is about to be here. I will have a glorious four days off and I have decided to spend them as a kind of hermit. I'm going off line for a few days, both computerwise and art wise. That is to say, no studio time, no sewing room, no internet. But...I have decided to spend my four days as if I am on vacation on my own island.

I have packed a satchel with some simple art supplies like I do when I travel and I have picked up a simple watercolor sketchbook. I am going to draw this weekend! I will go on long walks and bring my sketchbook instead of my camera. It will be like a little private four day sketchcrawl ;-) I have no idea how this will work out, but it should be fun ;-) I think I should call this the Easter Draw Event or something, haha.

Wishing you all a wonderful Easter and see you next week!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What are you up to wednesday - part 5

It's wednesday again. Time to show what I'm doing right now. Actually the table does not look very different from last time. I have done some things, but not much. I had family staying over for a few days and there was a meeting of my book club right after that. All wonderful, but it seriously cut into my studio time.

On the top you can see I am still working on my label/tag sheets. I am currently drawing number three of these. Because I got a little tired of doing the same thing however I also started preparing a book to become one of my next journals. I got this idea off a tutorial on iHanna's blog about making an altered book. You can find it here. I used an old atlas and tore out about half the pages. I haven't done much else to it yet, just painted over the cover with one layer of gesso. The torn out pages will be wonderful collage fodder, because they are maps and maps are, as everybody knows, way cool! ;-)

It seems to be all about making books right now. The above mentioned tags are for a handmade book I will put together some point in the future. I wanted to show some other parts for this book that I already prepared, namely the painted papers that the book will consist off.

These are simple white papers that have been painted and  (foam) stamped with gouache. I love how they turned out! So colorful and cheerful. And it's so relaxing to make these too.

I will use about half of them for the base pages of the book I intend to make. The other half will be used to decorate and stitch on to the  base pages and make things like pockets and borders. I can't wait to start putting it together, but I need more tags and elements first. So I have to be patient (not my strongest feature).

Lastly I am also still working on my little abstract collage project this april. I will show you some results of that in my next post. Until then!

Monday, April 18, 2011

A winner and another freebie

Well well well. It seems that the way to generate traffic to your blog and your flickr is just to give stuff away? Who knew? ;-)

All kidding aside I am baffled that 45 people responded to my give away and I am of course also really happy about it! So, let me not waste anymore time and get to the important stuff, like telling you who won.

My initial idea was really to write all the names on pieces of paper and draw from a hat, but that was in my naive days when I thought maybe ten people would respond. So I figured I'd use the modern convenience of the internet and use one of those random number generators instead. Now you'll just have to take my word for it, 'cause I simply don't have the time right now to figure out how to get the result directly onto my blog (although I've seen people do it). Anyway, when given a number between 1 and 45 the ever fair generator declared the winner should be number 19! Robbiegirl! Robbie, please let me know your snailmail at my mail address at c[dot]m[dot]j[dot]winkelman[at]home[dot]nl and I will send you your prize as soon as possible!  Congratulations!

For those of you who did not win and those of you who did not even participate I have another freebie to share on my flickr. It's a second sheet of self made labels. Just click the photo and you'll go to where you can download the original.


As you can see this time I've made them all about my little houses. Hope you like them! I know that I enjoy making these very much. More are to come, I'm already working on a third sheet so stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What are you up to wednesday - part 4

It's wednesday again. Time to show what I'm up to! First I'd like to show my work table as it is right now:

I am working on a second page of labels/tags for my fully handmade journal project. I have painted the papers already and am now making other elements to embellish those pages with. I am working on tags with my little houses on them and just started coloring them in. When they are finished they will become another freebie! It's really a lot of fun to make these tags.

I also wanted to show you something the mailman brought yesterday. A box full of goodies from my friend and partner in creative crime M.! For my birthday! I swear I've been having a birthday for a week now ;-) And it's not even over yet because some family members will stay for a few days the coming weekend! A ten day birthday, who doesn't want that?

Anyway, here's a detail of M.'s wonderful gift:

In the box were several fabrics (my sewing room is rejoicing right now), a beautiful sketch folder, a dipping pen with different nibs, four colors of bister (which is a type of drawing ink that you mix yourself), some wonderful photo's of both of my deceased cats (she's a great photographer and I will probably use the images for two mixed media pieces to remember them by), a lovely piece of art mail,  and the most cool thing of all: she made a stamp based on one of my art pieces! You can see samples of it in the picture. It's the piece I use in all my profiles on the web! It's made from a simple eraser and I can't believe she did this, such a wonderful idea.

And just to show you what a talented gal she really is, here's her blog, her flickr and her fotothing. Take a look and leave lots of admiring comments!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Freebie + give-away

Today is my birthday! I turned 41 and since I have no hangups about aging I am quite happy with that. I still can't believe I have the privilege of getting to be a real grown up (well... sort of) and see how it feels to get older. I like how I get a better sense of self and more peace of mind with who I am as the years go by. That being said, the years do go by way too fast, don't they? ;-)

To celebrate this joyous occasion I thought I'd hand out two gifts to you, my sweet readers. The first is a little freebie for all of you and the second is for one lucky person who gets drawn from a hat (or a cap or whatever else I have available at the moment). Read on for the details.

Freebie sheet of self made labels:
I am currently working on a new handmade journal, that will be somewhat ROD-style, but with all the elements made by me, myself and I, so no recycled parts or pretty ready made papers this time. This means I am painting and decorating papers myself and thinking about how I want the cover to look, but also that I want to make my own tags and labels and other decorative elements to put inside the book. It's the first time I'm doing something like this, so it's a fun challenge to draw my own designs.

I finished my first sheet of labels/tags this weekend and I thought I would share it with you. I drew the labels with a fineliner and colored them in with gouache and felt tip pens. The outer shapes are from a stencil that I have for a cutting system by Fiskars. But what's in these shapes is all my own doing.  I haven't had such fun in drawing in a long time. They are simple, but colorful and I hope you like them. If you click on the picture it will take you to my flickr, where you can download the original size. It's scanned at 300 dpi, so it should be good enough to print. I recommend printing it on cardstock or (even better) watercolor paper. There is little black line on the top and left side of the image (I did not trim the scan correctly and was too lazy to correct it), but it's outside of the labels, so it shouldn't matter.

For future reference: I will make at least three more sheets of labels/tags and I will put those up as freebies as well when they are done, so stay tuned! I can't wait to incorporate them in the new journal. The colors just make me so happy.

First blog give-away
My second gift to you is my first blog give-away! I anounced it a short while back and now it's here.
Recently I finished two notebooks that are 6x6 inches (15x15 cm), inspired by my ROD journal. They are filled with beautiful scrapbook papers and elements, all by Tilda. They were a try out for me to see how a different size and a different kind of cover would work out, so I am keeping one myself as a sample and the other one goes to one of you! Here's a picture of the two books together, you get to win the top one, because it turned out just a little better than the other one.

Here are some spreads of the book you might win:

And here are some overall views to give you an idea of the outside and inside.

The book has 24 pages of two different sizes and the inside covers have pockets to put stuff into.

If you want to win this little book, all you have to do if leave a comment on this post before next monday (april 18). That day I will put your names in a container and draw a lucky winner. I have no idea if any of you even want this little notebook, but hey, if there's only one who does that one is sure to get it, haha, so if you like it I hope you participate! I will post the winner a week from now! Looking forward to your responses.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bye bye Heart Journal - Hello Roses Journal

It's time for some everyday journal pages again. I closed the book on the heart journal about four weeks ago. I wanted to show you the last spread I did in this journal. It's not the last spread in the book, but somewhere in the middle where I had still left some pages unfinished.

After the heart journal it was time for a new book and I decided to leave the landscape format behind me for a while and choose a spiral bound photo-album as my next journal. The cool part of a photo-album is that it has these transparent protective sheets of paper between the regular pages and I found that those were really nice to write on! This also gives an interesting effect to the page underneath.

The cover of this book was plain purple linen, so I upgraded it a little with a simple layer of a napkin with roses on it and some lettering. Here's how it looks now:

It's quite simple and to keep it simple I dubbed it The Roses Journal. Really, how do I come up with these things? My journals are always called something so obvious that it makes you want to go "Duh" ;-)

Anyway, here's some pages from that journal. They are mostly decorated pages with writing on them and one collage. I of course chose the pages where I didn't mind if people read the writing. I don't really have that many secrets, but I am wary of putting up pages where I mention other people even if it's in a good way. It's just to give you an idea what the journal looks like on the inside. For those who don't speak Dutch: since the writing is from the past few weeks it's all about my cat Mara being sick and my worries about her. This just shows that my journal really does reflect my daily life ;-)

The last one is actually the beginning of a personal project I am doing outside of the journal now, which is spending about 30 minutes a day working on small abstract collages. It's a kind of practice for me to get more comfortable with abstract collage and working with just shapes and patterns instead of integrating words and images. When I have more of these collages I will of course show them on my blog.

Hope you enjoyed this little tour of my current journal and wishing you a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What are you up to wednesday - part 3

Today a view of my sewing table/cabinet thingy (whatever you call it). I'm right smack between projects right now. I finished two little booklets yesterday that are done ROD style, but with a different kind of cover. This cover is directly sewn onto the paper. I will show more of these two books in a next post. One of these will be my very first blog give away! Yay! So stay tuned for that!

On the right a fun and wonderful surprise that I received through the mail today. It's an early birthday present from my friend P. My birthday is not until april 11, but I know how this goes: when you order online you always tend to be on the safe side ;-) It's a beautiful deluxe set of graphite pencils. This is exactly the kind of thing I would love to own, but always feel is too decadent to buy for myself. I mean, it's not like I don't own any pencils. So I am really really happy with this set (I'm doing a little happy dance right now). Thank you P!.

Finally a thank you to all the kind words I received both here and elsewhere about the loss of my cat. It means a lot to me.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mara Cat is dead

It was the saddest of weekends, or actually the past few weeks have been quite sad and worrisome. My cat Mara was struck by a minor stroke and got from not even that bad to much worse to a point where she had to be euthanised last saturday.

It's strange how fast these things can go. Here's a page from my journal that I wrote just yesterday, all about my grief of course, but I'm showing it because there are two photographs in it that are almost exactly a month apart. I still can't get my head around the quick change!

The first photo shows Mara at her best. It was taken in the early morning, which is the time when I usually write in my journal. As you can see she liked to be on top of things, usually quite literally. This was already far away for her. She usually lay against my left hand while I was writing with my right. She loved attention and had no shame in asking for it, or should I say 'demanding it'?  ;-)
The second photo was taken last friday and shows just how miserable she had become. Her expression says it all. I had to bind her legs in bandages because she was gnawing at them and all the fur was dissappearing. I had to protect the skin from further damage. She was dehydrated and lost a lot of weight. She could barely find the strength to walk anymore, but she kept her dignity and kept using the litter box, which was amazing to me.

The whole thing started three weeks ago. Until that moment she had never been sick or hurt in all her 15 years of living (unlike her brother who died last september and who was a real trouble maker). She started shaking her head and her legs as if she wanted to shake something off and her personality kind of changed from being the most affectionate and talkative cat in the world to be being much more aloof and quiet. The vet thought she had had a minor stroke and said it was quite possible she could recover over time. So I still had hope mixed with all my fears. That's why there's still some humor in the journal page I did shortly after she got sick.

It's a small painting in my journal done with poster paints and a glaze pen. It's a little play on words. On the one hand it's of course about my fear of losing her, but on the other hand it's a display of a character trait of hers. She was really easily offended and then literally sat like that a little away from me, but in plain view just to show me she was not amused. ;-)

But things got worse rather fast. She lost strength, she simply forgot to eat (I had to remind her to eat and drink), she started to breathe more difficultly. Every now and then she would have this small period of feeling better and I hoped she would recover after all, but it always was one step forward and two steps back. Until the point where I thought maybe it would be better to let her go. I wanted to ask the vet for advice first though. But I felt there was little chance she would get better. I made a little work on paper about this, just to get this sad energy out.

Last saturday was the final day. She had gotten so bad that there was no doubt left in my mind that I should save her from any worse. So in the morning the vet helped her out. I had never been present at a thing like this before and I expected it to be somewhat cold and clinical, but it was nothing like that at all. In fact it may be the kindest thing I have ever done for her. She went quietly and without pain and I am happy to say she did so after one wonderful life!

I was and still am really sad of course. It's not easy losing such a great cat. I'm not one of those people who thinks of cats as equal to people, but the fact remains that this cat and her brother before her spent eight years with me and except for vacations were my constant companions in those years. I got them both from an animal shelter when they were seven years old, and I can't recommend getting an older cat enough to anybody. They can be so cool and sweet!

After it was over I went home and cleared some stuff away and then I took her into the dunes and buried her (that's the great thing about living here, lots of wonderful remote places for a thing like that). She lies close to her brother, be it not in the exact same spot.

I made this journal page after I came home again.

The heart is made of the same fabric as the one I wrapped her in when I went to bury her. I did not bury her with anything though. I want nature to take her as fast as possible, that's just what feels right to me.

So, now I have gone from two cats to one cat to no more cats. The house feels really empty without them and I keep expecting a cat around every corner, which is really strange. I will definitely go to an animal shelter some time in the future to get another cat, but first I want to get over these two and just be alone for a while.