Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What are you up to wednesday - part 10

Another wednesday and another look at what I'm up to these days.

First of all my worktable. I have cheated a little by putting all the drawings I am going to use for my current little project on the table. In reality they were stacked on top of each other on the side cabinets. Anyway, I am making four small canvases with girl's faces on them. I am drawing the girls on paper with a pitt artist pen and then I am coloring them in with colored pencil (Derwent Coloursoft, for you art supply junkies out there).

If you look closely you can see all the girls are crying. Yes, it's sad, but it just had to be done! I'm a cruel artist, sometimes my subjects will just be submitted to misery. But when they are finished you will see the tears have a purpose. I have it all worked out in my head.

If you look even more closely you will also see two small sketches of silly creatures. That was done while listening to a podcast with Carla Sonheim. During that she gave a really simple, but wonderful exercise that will make you draw a creature of your own in just a few minutes. I loved it! Want to try it yourself, go here!  While you're there, also check out the other wonderful podcasts that Ricë did with all sorts of artists. She really knows how to dig into the artist's mind and soul. ;-)

Looking even more closely you will also see an apple lying on the table. That will the subject of my next EDM drawing for my drawing in may project. I will get to that right after I finish this post.

The girls from the above picture will be cut out and pasted on the canvases that are shown in the picture below and that I already prepared. That is to say, they will still get further embellished, but the basic background is done. It's two layers of paint with a crackle medium in between. The canvases measure 20x20 cm (about 8x8 inches).

They are waiting patiently on  my second studio table, that I pretty much use just for that purpose: to put stuff on to dry or to wait for being used.

To the side of my work table are my drawer cabinets from IKEA that I love so so much. They hold all my favorite supplies at hand and as you can see they are also very helpful in temporarily holding drawings or other elements to work on.

Those three girls were also drawn for the canvases, but I decided against them. I will eventually paste them in my sketchbook, but until then they sit pretty right there. I started this project with the girl on the left and she just didn't feel right. She was done in neocolor. Then I changed to a pen drawing and colored pencil and made the girl on the right. The technique was more to my liking, but the girl was just ... I don't know...I just didn't know what to do with her. After that the idea of the sad girls came to me out of nowhere and I made the three girls in the first picture. The girl in the middle of this one was supposed to be the fourth one, but she doesn't do it for me either, so I'm going to make another one that's a little less 'bleh'.

That's how it goes sometimes, you have to try different techniques and ideas and that will lead to something you like. I am starting to notice more and more that ideas don't come by themselves while you're waiting for inspiration. They come by doing the work and handling the materials. Sometimes you just have to make something, even if you don't know where you're going, and somehow during that process ideas will start forming. I love how that works!

Hope you're all having a very creative week!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Art connects hearts

Well, here it is, the mixed media piece I was working on during my last what-are-you-up-to post!

By the way, I seriously need to look into the art of photographing art, because when it comes to the bigger pieces it's so difficult to get them right. I tried photographing this piece in all sorts of ways, but it kept warping and trying to amend it in an editing program only seems to make it worse (the outline becomes straight, but the picture is all wrong then). The one I'm showing you now, was done with the piece lying on the floor and me standing over it with my camera. It's the best one I could do and trust me when I say, it's a huge improvement on the others. Oh well...

As you can see this is a mixed media piece with lots of layers (I loves me layers). Lots of different materials were used: neocolor mixed with gesso, acrylic paint, gel medium, several stencils and foam stamps, decorative papers, some rubber stamps, stazon ink, drawing pens, markers etc. I love doing these kinds of works, because it's so playful to just put layer upon layer and watch something grow. It's fun!

The sentiment on it is true for me too - art connects hearts. It's wonderful to meet kindred spirits when it comes to making art or the love of art, whether it be in person or online. Although I'm a bit of a loner (did I say 'a bit'? insert sarcastic laughter right here!) I do love the connections we can make through the internet and through artsy events or just by spending time with someone who understands what you do and why the hell you spend so much time and energy on something like this that has no purpose but to make you deliriously happy. So, in a way, this one is for all of you!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Book review - Painted pages - Sarah Ahearn Bellemare

Title: Painted pages : fueling creativity with sketchbooks & mixed media
Author: Sarah Ahearn Bellemare
Info: 128 p. - 2011
Finished on: 10 May 2011
Acquired through:
Rating: 6-8/10

What is it with mixed media books these days? It seems a lot of the new ones are absolutely wonderful to look at and a true feast on the eyes, but also they are seriously lacking in content. This book by the very talented Sarah Ahearn Bellemare is no exception. It makes it so hard to rate the book, because I really enjoyed flipping through it and looking at all the wonderful art. In fact I have to admit that is what sold this book to me when I was looking at it at But when a book promises to show me how to work with sketchbooks to generate ideas and creativity I guess I expect more than content that mostly reminds me of a pretty blog.

I'm getting sidetracked here, but actually it kind of strangely reminded me of the Stampington magazine 'Artful Blogging'. I bought one issue of this magazine and all it seems to consist of is pictures from people's blogs and a small description of who they are. No actual inside tips on blogging or the techniques of building an artful blog and working with the available blog hosts out there or even just experiences and pointers on how to develop an audience for your blog (which is what I was expecting). Most featured artist's were just quickly talking about themselves, when they started a blog and how wonderful it all is and all the images come straight from their blogs too (To get sidetracked even a little more, this kind of bugged me, which may seem strange, but why would I pay a lot of money for a magazine that shows me pictures I can see for free online?). What I mean is, Artful Blogging is not about the act of blogging artfully, it's about showcasing people's blogs.

This book is just like that. It's about showcasing Ahearn Bellemare's work and surroundings and in a small way that of some of her friends. It seems the subject (sketchbooks as a fuel for mixed media) is just an excuse to do this and it shows wonderful work indeed and hints to interesting ideas and possibilities, but it does not follow through on them or gets into any detail at all.  Maybe it's the part of me that likes words and writing that just needs more text, more real content. If you're asking for an example of a book that does answer to my impossible standards? How about 'Collage Journeys" by Jane Davies or the art journaling books by L.K. Ludwig or the decorated pages/journal books by Gwen Diehn. They really get down to the nitty gritty of making art or art journals.

Of course it's more than okay to have a book that features the wonderful work of an artist and nothing more, that's actually great and Ahearn Bellemare's work is more than worth such a book, but then don't try to sell it to me as a book that's about the artistic process of using a sketchbook to develop ideas.

All in all I have rated this book twice. I give it 8 out of 10 for the beautiful work in it and if that's what you're going for, then by all means buy it, because it's worth it ten times over and I will be looking it over again and again for this. But I also give it 6 out of 10 for content. I guess it's obvious by now why. ;-)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Some more May drawings

My personal challenge to draw at the beginning of every studio session in May is still going strong. Since I last posted about this little project I have done seven new drawings. From this you can also conclude I was in the studio seven times ;-)

The second week into it I just didn't feel like coloring in my drawings, so I left them as they were. This also made it impossible for me to improve on an image by using gouache. I think sometimes a mediocre drawing can still be made to look good if you color it in a certain way. No escape like that this time!

The first one is a look at my messy desk. I find it difficult to draw a scene with so many things in it and this is by no means a good drawing, but I still kind of like how it reflects my desk of that day.

EDM#9 - Draw your messy desk

 Drawing hands is hard, but it's a good exercise and...your model is always available! ;-)

EDM#10 - Draw your hand

The next one is without a doubt the worst of the lot. This looks nothing like my sunglasses! Who would have thought drawing glasses would be so hard? To make up for the bad drawing I added some details of the glasses on the page to correct myself.

When I drew the next image something started to shift and that kind of surprised me. I no longer had the tendency to want to fill in every line, but started going for simpler lines and just getting the shapes down. This drawing of my hair dryer is not half bad. I have not idea how this shift came about. Maybe that's the thing that comes with practicing more?

EDM#16 - Draw a favorite tool

You may wonder about the assignment and my take on it, but my hair dryer is really one of my favorite tools in the studio. It helps me dry things faster and that is a wonderful thing for impatient little me.

After several black and white drawings it was time for some color again and I decided to try a technique somebody told me about when I attended the sketch crawl in January. He suggested putting areas of color in first to sort of loosely shape the subject you are going to draw and then just draw the correct lines over it. Those lines will come out off kilter, but the effect can be very nice. He was right.

EDM#13 - Draw your phone

My intention for this challenge was to do the EDM challenge that matched the date. So EDM#3 for the third of May and so on. But then impractical assignments started happening like "Draw a musical instrument" (I don't have a musical instrument) or just things I really didn't want to draw. So I decided it's okay to stray a little if the challenge is not to my liking or simply impossible to do.

What I also like now that I'm a little more into it, is trying out different approaches to these drawings. I had done colored in ones, black and white ones, off kilter ones and now I even added a little collage, just for the fun of it. Empty bottles are really hard to draw by the way.

The last one is my favorite so far. I just made a random colored background and then drew the picture over that. My normal pen was too thin and the drawing got 'lost' in all that color, so I went over it with a brush pen and I really like the result.

It's funny, if you do something long enough it sort of grows on you. Last week I still found these assignments to be 'homework', but now that I have started playing a little with techniques and materials it's getting to be quite fun! Who knew? ;-)

I'll keep you posted on the project as it continues. For now I'll just wish all of you a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What are you up to wednesday - part 9

After weeks and weeks of tag sheets and border sheets and drawing and coloring things in with gouache, I felt an unstoppable need for mixed media! Who can blame me? Doing the 'same thing' for a long time makes you long for something different and I wanted to get my hands dirty again. Well...mission accomplished! Just look how full and messy my work table is right now!

I put up my very much loved drawing board and started a mixed media piece on acrylic paper. It's pretty much finished. I may add a few details tonight, but it doesn't need much more.  I worked on it for the past couple of nights and I will show it to you up close probably some time next week.  For now I think you can see it's a very colorful piece! ;-)

As for the drawing board, I love using it to tape on paper I am working on or not so big canvasses. It's both practical and impractical. Working on it is practical, because you can put it in the exact right angle to have a good overview of what you're doing. Working around it is impractical, because it's so big it kind of blocks my view of the rest of the table. Still, I keep using it for the practical aspects ;-)

Downstairs at my art journaling table the situation is like this:

The roses journal is finished and my next journal ROD journal! If you don't remember this one, just check out this post I did in january.  I'm still very proud of it.
I had intended to use it as a vessel for the exercises from Liz Lamoreux book 'Inner Excavation', but somehow I just never got to doing that. (So many plans so little time.) So now it will be my next everyday journal. I just started it last saturday, so there's not much to see yet, but here's the spread from this morning and yesterday.

The decorative paper is challenging to write on, because you need something that really stands out on it in order to be able to read it and I like to be able to read my own writing. So this is also a good opportunity to experiment with pens and markers and see how they respond to different papers.

Peeking out behind the card on the left is an illustration by the 'silly' Carla Sonheim. I saw it on her flickr and just fell in love with it. You can see the full illustration here. The image is pasted on a print of a blog post by Ricë Freeman Zachery about creativity and what it is and what it is not. Everybody should read this and can do so over at her blog.

That's it for this wednesday. I hope you're all having a wonderfully creative week!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Second border sheet freebie

It's been a busy couple of days since I posted last wednesday and not much of them was spent on art. But I did manage to finish my second border sheet so at least there's a little freebie for you all to enjoy.

Just click on the picture and you will go to my flickr where you can download the image in different sizes including a 300 dpi original.

This is the last of the series that I made for the handmade book I'm going to do. Again feel free to use these borders in your art or journal. Teri of the blissfully art journaling group I'm a part of suggested making decorative tapes out of these borders and I think that's a very cool idea. You could print them on clear label sheets or sticker paper for instance and just use them to embellish envelopes or packages.

For my book I will be printing them on watercolor paper to make them nice and sturdy and stitch them onto the pages. I will do the same with the labels and tags I made.  I think for now however I want to take a little break from this project and maybe get my acrylics out tonight and do something different.

I'm also planning to do more hand drawn sheets. I have made a whole list of  possible subjects for these and they would keep me busy forever, but it's good to have ideas on the back burner for later. My idea is to do collage sheets that will also be freebies, but I have no idea when I will get around to that, I will keep you posted on this blog though. For now I hope you enjoyed what I made so far. Let me know if you use any of it, 'cause it makes me happy ;-)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What are you up to wednesday - part 8

It's wednesday again! Time goes so fast it feels like I just did this yesterday ;-) Let's see what I'm up to!

First of all a view of my work table. I am working on the second border sheet and started coloring it in. Because I have only colored in a small part of the sheet it has started to warp at the top, but we'll fix that later.

As you can see my childhood toy from my EDM drawing challenges is still sitting there. He's been sitting there since last friday. I just keep forgetting to put him back where he came from. But it looks kinda cosy this way, doesn't it?Maybe I'll just keep him around in the studio.

I am also working on the atlas. All it's pages are gesso'd and now I am adding some color with gouache and watered down acrylics (the watering down is to prevent sticking). Here's the last spread I did so far: 

It's gouache in several colors both painted and splattered on. As you can see the maps underneath make it look really nice. Now that I am doing these backgrounds again I am thinking about maybe doing a tutorial on them. It's really cool the effects you can get when you put watercolor or gouache over gesso. Because the gesso doesn't absorb it so easily you have time to manipulate the paint.

And here is the current state my journaling station. I don't show it that often, but as you can see it has accumulated a lot more art supplies. I am so spoiled!

The Roses Journal is almost full! I think two or three more spreads and it's on to the next one. No idea what kind of journal that will be yet. This photo album has gotten pretty thick though and I really enjoy working in it.

The above spread was done this morning and it's basically writing and a selection of the japanese masking tapes that I received through Etsy yesterday. Ooh, those tapes are so lovely! Now of course I want even more! Will the need for more art supplies ever stop? ;-)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Drawing in May

My new "30 minute studio warm up project" is on its way. I have been lucky that of the eight days that May has counted so far I was able to be in my studio for six. So I have six drawings to share from my watercolor sketchbook!

EDM #1 - Draw a shoe
Drawing is quite challenging for me. I'm no star at it and I find I only moderately enjoy it. That is to say: I don't really like drawing from life all that much. I don't hate it either, otherwise of course I would not give myself this challenge, but it's a little like doing homework.

EDM #2 - Draw a lamp
The funny thing is that I feel as if I should like it more. I'm in total awe of people who sketch their lives, their environments and just practice this skill over and over. When I see other people's sketchbooks I want that too. And what I do like about this little May-challenge is that I document every day objects from my life that have never been documented.

EDM #3 - Draw a wallet
 I mean, really, who takes pictures of their wallet? Or their desk lamp? Hmmm, now that I am considering this an idea pops into my head for a photographic challenge. Maybe one day I should do the EDM challenges differently, with photographs! Ooh, I have to write that one down in my notebook! ;-)

EDM #4 - Draw a cup
 When it comes to drawing what I mostly like is drawing things just for the fun of it. Things that are in my head and just make me smile. Like the freebie label sheets or my little houses. Maybe this also has to do with a lack of pressure in that it does not have to look like anything. Nobody's gonna look at my little houses and say: Hey those aren't up to building regulations! ;-) I guess I like my art as stress free as possible!

EDM #5 - Draw your bed
Still, this May drawing is a good practice and I am learning a little. The biggest thing I'm learning is that the things that look easiest to draw are actually the hardest. This really surprises me over and over again. For instance I thought my desk lamp and the cup with built in teapot would be super easy, but they are just impossible! I couldn't get them right at all. Very frustrating indeed!

EDM #6 - Draw a childhood toy
I've come to think this is because simple lines have to be caught just right or you will just get a wonky drawing. Whereas more complicated and curvy lines are much  more forgiving. Who's gonna tell if my wallet does not bend exactly that way and has some more thread hanging out of it?

All in all, this is an interesting experiment, but I don't think I will ever by an accomplished live drawer. I'll pick the make believe stuff any time. Hope you enjoyed looking at these anyway ;-)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Book review - The creative habit - Twyla Tharp

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Title: The creative habit - learn it and use it for life
Author: Twyla Tharp
Info: 243 p. - 2003
Finished: 6 May 2011
Acquired through:
Rating: 8/10

This is a very intriguing and inspiring book for anybody who is even remotely serious about their art.
Tharp is a succesful choreographer and uses examples out of her own life as well as those of other artists (in just about any field, so this is not a book about dance) to illustrate the importance of devotion and perseverance when it comes to living a creative life. Habits, discipline and simple hard work are the things she stresses again and again. This books  gives a no nonsense approach to art that really speaks to me.

The fact that Tharp is a choreographer and sometimes goes beyond what I would be willing to sacrifice for art's sake does not diminish the power of her message, which is like being spoken to by a very strict but wise teacher. Art comes with devotion and keeping up a practice. Depending on inspiration won't get you anywhere in the long run.

In between the chapters Tharp offers a series of interesting exercises to keep the creative juices flowing. Some of them are dance oriented, but that does not mean they are any less interesting. This book is one I will read and reread time and again to keep me focused and motivated.

If art is the bridge between what you see in your mind and what the world sees, then skill is how you build that bridge.

Solitude is an unavoidable part of creativity. Self-reliance is a happy by-product.

(Quoting Mark Twain)
"...the man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read."

Some people resent the idea of luck. Accepting the role of chance in our lives suggests that our creations and triumphs are not entirely our own, and that in some way we're undeserving of our success. I say, Get over it. This is how the world works. In creative endeavors luck is a skill.

The more you are in the room working, experimenting and banging away at your objective, the more luck has a chance of biting you on the nose.

I used to bask in the notion that all my obstacles to creative efficiency would vanish if I only had exactly the right resources (...) But I've learned that the opposite is true: limits are secret blessings, and bounty can be a curse.

Time (...) is our most limited resourse, but it is not the enemy of creativity that we think it is. The ticking clock is our friend if it gets us moving with urgency and passion. Give me a writer who thinks he has all the time in the world and I'll show you a writer who never delivers.

(Quoting an anonymous CEO)
"You only need  one good reason to commit to an idea, not four hundred. But if you have four hundred reasons to say yes and one reason to say no, the answer is probably no."

Be generous. I don't use that word lightly. Generosity is luck going in the opposite direction, away from you.

The one thing that creative souls around the world have in common is that they all have to practice to maintain their skills. Art is a vast democracy of habit.

In its purest form, inexperience erases fear. You do not know what is and is not possible and therefore everything is possible.

Without passion all the skill in the world won't lift you above craft. Without skill all the passion in the world will have you eager but floundering. Combining the two is the essence of the creative life.

When people who have demonstrated talent fizzle out or disappear after early creative success, it's not because their gifts, that famous "one percent inspiration", abandoned them; more likely they abandoned their gift through a failure of perspiration.

When you create beauty and wonder from the metaphorical stone that the builder refused, you have achieved mastery.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Three freebies and a birthday card

I'm having a fabulous four days off work and I am taking some extra time in the studio. With this I am also finding out I am not one of those people that can work in the studio all day long. It doesn't matter what I do or how much I like it, after about four hours I just get fed up with it. This means I was rather cranky when I left my studio last nigh after a full days work and I won't be doing that again this weekend. Looks like I need variety even when it comes to the stuff I love.

So today I am alternating between studio time, reading time and going for a walk (not in that order by the way).
I have four things to share with you, well actually three things you may share and one I guess won't do you much good, because it has a person's name on it and unless you happen to have a friend named Tonny who's birthday is coming up you won't have much use for the birthday card I made her ;-)

Let's get to the freebies first. Here are two more tag sheets for you to use. Again they are handdrawn and colored in with gouache. I let go of the felt tip pens, because after I left one of the previous ones out in the sun for only a short while the pink already started to fade and that's no good! So it's all gouache from now on.

The first one is my least favorite of all of them so far. I don't know. It just didn't do what I wanted it to and I simply didn't feel inspired by it. But I guess it's still kind of colorful and I will use it for my self made journal.

The next one I really really like. I went to some softer colors by mixing the gouache with a little more water and I like the theme of flowers that I put in the labels.

After all these labels (I made four sheets in total as you may recall) it was high time for some other elements, so I started thinking about what else I could do and it hit me: borders! So here's my very first border sheet! These were such fun to make!

If you want to use these sheets in your art feel free to do so. You can click on the pictures and it will take you to my flickr where you can download them in various sizes including the 300 dpi original. You don't have to tell me if you use them, but it would sure make my day if you did ;-)

And here's the promised birthday card:

There they are again: my little houses! I made this card as a kind of try out for maybe making more cards in the future. I am really falling in love with this handdrawn stuff that I can color in with gouache. It's almost like meditation. The only 'bad' thing about it is the time it takes to fill in all those little details, but I guess that's why it feels like meditation too, haha.

I am currently working on a second border sheet, where the borders will be longer and of course those will become a freebie too. After that I think I will have enough to start putting the book together. I can't wait!

I hope you enjoy my freebies, if only just looking at them. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What are you up to wednesday - part 7

Whenever I take a picture of my worktable for what are you up to wednesday, it feels like nothing has changed even though I have been working really hard. The point is I've been working on the same kind of thing for a while now, which is tag/label sheets for my selfmade journal project. I have now finished four sheets of them and I am working on a sheet of borders.

I just finished drawing it and  have colored in just a small part of the sheet. On the left you can see the two sheets of labels I did before the current sheet. I will put these up as freebies on friday and I hope to have finished the border sheet then too.

It's very relaxing to make these sheets and I may be getting a little addicted to doing them. They are just simple pen drawings that I fill in with gouache. While I work on them I listen to podcasts of interviews with artists by Ricë Freeman Zachery. It's a good way to spend my studio time!

On a different note: remember my little houses? I have gotten several responses from people who have done stuff with my tutorial and just today I received a mail from Andria who did her own houses in her journal after mine. It's so cool that  people are inspired by them, so check out this post on her blog if only because she praises me to kingdom come which is very good for my oversensitive ego ;-) Thank you Andria!

On a second different note: the may drawing practice is on it's way. I have made three drawings already! I will show them in one of my future posts. I know that there are people out there who, when they do a daily project, post every day, but I just don't have the time. You will see them all though, promise (I'm not sure I'm doing you a favor when I say that, haha).

On a third different note: the atlas I am preparing to become a journal has now been fully gesso'd. Now I can add some color to it's pages. I am taking a free journaling workshop by Roz Stendahl through the Strathmore site. I may have said this before: Roz is my hero, so I could not resist a free workshop by her and the atlas will be perfect for trying some of her tips in. You may want to check it out yourself. It's over here. There are other free journaling workshops over there too. Have fun!

Monday, May 2, 2011

April Collages

April has come to a close. Can you believe how fast the time goes? It's May already! With the close of April also comes the close to my April Collages. I made ten in total, which is not bad considering how little real studio time I had the past month. I already showed you three and here are the remaining seven.

I really enjoyed making these and they have given me all sorts of ideas. Like, what if I made these kinds of collages and added stitching? Or what if I made paintings after these collages where instead of paper I would make the shapes with paint? That's the cool thing about trying something new, it leads to even more things to try out. Artsy  people are never bored as long as they keep experimenting!

What I also really liked was starting my studio time with a regular exercise. It was like flexing the creative muscles. I now have set up a sort of new routine because of this. Whenever I have several hours in the studio I start with half an hour of a self imposed challenge like the April Collages. And after that I spend half an hour on things like preparing backgrounds with gesso or doing other prep work. Right now I am gessoing the papers of the altered atlas I am making, which is rather tedious work if you do it for too long. A half hour a day goes a long way however and after spending the first hour of my studio time on some sort of routine like this I am all ready to get busy with the 'real' work, whatever project I may be working on at the time.

Anyway I have decided to continue the 30-minutes-of-practicing-something-followed-by-30-minutes-of prep-work routine and for May I am going to be drawing! To not have to think too much about this (What should I draw?) I am using the challenges of the Every Day Matters group. It should be fun to see what will come out of that.