When a girl discovers Jane Eyre

Art journal page by Mandy van Goeije of the discovery of Jane Eyre by her daughter

When Jane Eyre reaches the heart of a teenage girl…

She barged starry-eyed into my studio, jumping and dancing around… Mr. Rochester had asked Jane Eyre to marry him after all! To the utter satisfaction of my daughter!

It was nothing short from touching to see my teenage daughter swoon over a romantic novel dressed in a death-metal t-shirt. The contrast couldn’t be greater. A true moment to capture in my journal…

As it happened, my prancing daughter came at the exact right time. I had just bought the Art Bundle for Good for a proper amount of inspiration which contains Carla Sonheim’s 365  that I had just started (of 2017, mind you, behind the link you can find the 2018 version). I had just opened the first prompt, which was ‘pink clouds’. What better to catch with pink clouds than love? Or the romantic notion of it in the eyes of a teenager. I mean, I wasn’t going to crush her swooning heart by enlightening her over what was yet to come for Jane. She’s only halfway in the book, so this can’t be it…yet. But the moment was too pretty to let it pass by without recording it and the pink clouds fit perfectly.


Blockx Watercolor Review

Today I have another watercolor review for you! Another Belgian brand called Blockx.

I heard about this brand of watercolor paint for the first time on the Handprint site. In my video review I say I read that these were one of MacEvoy’s favored paints. But I remembered wrong. I just re-read his review of this paint and unfortunately he doesn’t seem very fond of this paint at all and seems to have had a dispute with the manufacturer (an exchange of e-mails, which MacEvoy published on his website as well). At some point in time, though, I read a very praising review about Blockx watercolors, but unfortunately I can’t remember where. I do remember, however, that this enthusiastic review made me very curious. And I was extra charmed to find it’s a Belgian brand. I’m a Belgian quarter-blood, you see…

Blockx paint sampler a must!

A few weeks ago I received a sampler of the full range of Blockx watercolors, which is a really great product to test their paints with. Unlike the Daniel Smith and Horadam samplers, Blockx provides ample paint to both paint a color chart and have enough left over to use in a painting. Not just a dot, but a rather thick line of dried up paint. It is great fun testing a whole range by paint manufacturers and it comes in quite handy when you want to order new paint. Paint colors differ…differ in names, but even differ in color when the same pigments are used.

For Blockx, I particularly and strongly recommend ordering the sampler before ordering paint colors. I know Blockx is an expensive brand outside Europe, so you want to be sure to be picking the right colors. And some of the color names might be confusing if you’re used to working with brands like Schmincke Horadam, Winsor & Newton Artists’, Daler Rowney , Daniel Smith, etc. Some colors do not match the names I was used to and that might be the case for you as well. Also, you will find some colors to be rather similar, so you will want to test those for their characteristics in mixing and texture before buying.

Overall impression

The overall impression is that these paints remind me of Old Holland watercolor. They are incredibly densely pigmented. A little too densely for some, even, perhaps, if I think back of the comments I got on the Old Holland paints that some people found a little too heavy to handle and hard to control.  Blockx watercolor paints are VERY intense as well in the same fashion. They may be expensive outside Europe, but I have a feeling they are still good value for money for they can be diluted heavily and still maintain color strength. There are lots of single pigment colors in this range, so they are great for mixing.

The impression I got from the first color chart I made, was that many colors are intense, but seem a little dull. So, I swatched them again for video on a whiter sheet of watercolor paper to bring out their intensity even better. Below you can see the difference. You can enlarge the color charts by clicking on them.

The first chart was painted on Schoellershammer No.10 watercolor paint and turned out a lot duller than I’d expected. This paper is a natural white fine grain:

color chart Blockx watercolor Schoellershammer No. 10

color chart Blockx watercolor Schoellershammer No. 10

The whiter paper I chose is Terschelling hot pressed watercolor paper by Schut, paper I use a lot. The colors came out a little brighter, but some colors like the turquoises still didn’t gain more liveliness, unfortunately. On this white paper my scanner had trouble representing the oranges very realistically, though. So the swatches from Indian Yellow to Pyrrole Vermillion are in reality much more orange and much more vivid. The rest of the colors are pretty accurate.color chart Blockx watercolor Schut Terschelling hot pressed
color chart Blockx watercolor Schut Terschelling hot pressed

As you can see in these charts, these colors are tad different from brands that are really strong in transparent glazing colors like Daniel Smith and especially Sennelier, for instance. Blockx have quite a few semi-transparent colors and quite a few fairly opaque colors, like the cadmiums. There’s no judgement on whether that is good or worse. I’m just a hopeless fan of vivid, transparent colors because I work with glazes a lot, so for quite a few colors my personal preference lies with more translucent colors. More about that in my video. Where their behaviour is concerned, these paints were SO intense that swatching them didn’t give me a good impression of how they will behave in a painting. I would have to work with them first before I can say something sensible about that.

Video review

In this video you can see me swatching the paint and commenting on it.  So, grab a cuppa…or a meal (you know by now that I’m always a bit wordy when it comes to colors…) and enjoy!

Some more Blockx reviews online

If you like reading a bit more about these paints, you might find the following reviews interesting: ArtDragon86 reviewed a small half pan set here,  Jane Blundell also made a color chart of the full collection, which she shows here.

Isaro…what a discovery!

Do I have something exciting for you! Or at least for me it was! A few weeks ago I received a set of ‘testeurs’, dot samplers, of the Belgian Watercolor and Oil paint brand Isaro. I had not heard of them until a few days before then and was very excited to try out, review and demo this paint…

It is SO rare for me to find a paint that surprises me still. I know I run the risk of sounding pompous here, but I know a lot of paints and I believe that I know some of the best. There are still good paints out there that I don’t know. But rarely do they end up straight in my list of favorites.

Isaro watercolor demo paintin by mandy van goeije

And oh boy…if I were restricted to using only this paint, I wouldn’t make too much of a fuss about it. It is truly wonderful paint. I could paint with it all day any day…

But I’m spilling way too many beans for you now. Go make yourself a good meal and a nice cuppa and sit down for my videos to discover what this paint is like. I sat down for them and it resulted in a gobsmacking 1,5-hour set of videos. I promise I won’t be offended if you watch them in ten-minute periods.

Unfortunately the Isaro webshop is offline for maintenance right now. Maybe a good thing for my piggy bank… There is still information to be found online about this wonderful paint, though:

If you are interested in the painting technique I demonstrate in the demo video, you will find an online watercolor workshop available here: “The Lady in Watercolor and Mixed Media”

The Isaro website can be found here. At the time of writing – 12 April 2018 – it is temporarily offline for maintenance, but do check it out! They are probably back online when you read this post. And on Jane’s site I read they have videos on their website of the manufacturing process, which is always spellbinding to watch. To get in touch, their facebook page and can be found here.

And when I was looking for more Isaro links I found that Jane Blundell also did a review about the paints. I wish I had seen this before doing my review…then I would have known the pigment numbers…but alas… At least you got an open-minded and spontaneous review of the paint. Jane seems to like these watercolors too… And I was right about a good many pigments, I see… I’m really on the verge of becoming a pigment snob. I have friends who are the best and who call themselves tea snobs. I fear they might be right about that. But I also fear I am becoming a pigment snob…or a watercolor paint snob at least.

Hello again! And hello Spring!

Hello dear readers,

I’m back! I hopped on the back of Spring and flew back with it to the virtual lands to share new work with you,

For starters I made this video review of Nila Colori watercolor paint. I received this paint months ago, to try and review. And it’s been such remarkable paint that I needed a little time to experiment with it and to form an opinion of it. The paint grew on me, what can I say?

nila colori watercolor paint - set - wooden package - colors - reviewed by mandy van goeije

This super elegant set of paints came in last fall/winter. I felt immediately attracted to the package, which is super lovely and fits the theme of ‘natural pigments’ very well.

The set in the wooden box contains 8 colors, but I was sent the other 4 colors as well. I will glue those into this box to keep them all together.

nila colori watercolor paint - mixing chart - color chart - reviewed by mandy van goeije - weld yellow -

The colors of this paint are lovely, but differ from a ‘standard set’ of paints like we know the travel kits from better known brands. There is no really bright red or blue in the set, so the mixing chart of this set looks really, really different.

nila colori watercolor paint - mixing chart - wooden set - reviewed by mandy van goeije

The colors reminded me of Autumn, which is normally my favorite season of the year (except for this year when the dark season has way outstayed its welcome).

As you can see, the colors are very much alive. Most granulate or form some kind of bloom as a texture and that looks amazing. The granulation is different than in other colors, but lovely nonetheless. The colors are beautifully transparent and flow wonderfully, so they seem perfect to me for layering, just like Sennelier paints and M. Graham paints.

nila colori watercolor paint - single pans indigo, mayan green, carbon black, stil de grain - reviewed by mandy van goeije

Not just the wooden set was packaged beautiful, but the single pans came in lovely little paper ‘bags’ as well. And all carry this beautiful logo. All in all I love the way this brand packs its products. They’re all so well taken care of and are a pleasure to the eye and hands the moment you get them home.

This blog post is a very short version of my video review below that I made earlier today. In this video you will see a live swatching demo and a lot more information about the paint and the way it behaves on paper. Happy watching and see you back soon ♥

This charming set of Nila Colori watercolors can be found at:
Their facebookpage is right here:
And their Instagram can be found here:

New painting and M. Graham Watercolor paint review


Seeding - watercolor mixed media painting by Mandy van Goeije

Seeding – watercolor mixed media painting by Mandy van Goeije

Lori’s gift

Do you remember that last September Lori sent me this wonderful Altoid / chewing-gum-package test kit of M. Graham watercolor paints? Here’s the little video I made about it back then:

Thank you so much, Lori, for your kind gift. I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to try these paints!



Back then I hoped to review the paint soon because I was particularly curious about this paint of which I’d read such wonderful reviews. But a lot happened in the following months and I only got round to reviewing this wonderful paint today. But not after doing a painting with them to try these magnificent paints before I’d review them. This painting is called “Seeding” and it is for sale in my shop, here.

Someone asked me what I mean to say with this painting and when that happens, I find my mouths quickly half open, ready to ventilate what I see in it. But then I find myself torn. Isn’t it much more important to let the viewer see their own story in it? I really prefer the latter, feeling that my own interpretation would only limit the freedom with which the viewer can behold a story.

So, even though I’m not spillig the beans on the little story I meant to paint, I can say a little about the conditions under which I painted this little fellow. I intended to record the M. Graham review yesterday, but the duvet of clouds was so heavy and grey that I felt all color had been sucked out of the world. Any filming would have required artificial lighting and as you can guess, that is no way to film the swatching of watercolor paint. It contaminates all the colors with flares and whatever hue the light throws onto them mixed with whatever your camera picks up of it. I was a little gutted because in spite of my planning, it seemed I could not film my review.

Looking at this guy, I can’t help but wonder if he took over my aggrevation and was longing for the blue skies and the sun, for the return of light and colors, just as much as I did. The plant he sits on clearly couldn’t wait for it either and has already begun seeding. Real-life nature around me can’t wait either. This morning on my walk I saw the first crocuses of the year! Even though they were only a frail lilac, I almost felt like jumping for joy. Yay, spring is on its way! I can’t wait!

The first crocuses of 2018

For “Seeding” I used both these wonderful M. Graham watercolor paints and the Sennelier Pagoda Indian ink that I’d been dying to try and I’ve found it is really good.

Seeding - watercolor mixed media painting by Mandy van Goeije

Seeding – close-up

M. Graham Watercolors Swatching and Review

I absolutely love the M. Graham Watercolor paint! It is 100% to my taste, but I shan’t give all away here yet. You can see all about it in my video review. Of course I swatched all the colors Lori sent me and did a few tests with it to see how these paints behave. Here goes:


Here is the color chart I made in the M.Graham review video:

M. Graham watercolor color chart for video review by Mandy van Goeije
Click to enlarge

I have tried to manipulate the scan as little as I could but still give a proper representation of what these swatches look like. Please keep in mind that should you buy colors, colors may differ from what you see on your screen. Despite careful color adjustment (individually for all swatches), they may come across very different on your screen due to the defaults of all different screens and our individual settings. More information can be acquired in my video in which I comment on the colors so that you may find more clarity on them.

I hope you enjoyed my review and if you’ve painted with these watercolor paints then please let me know what your experiences are. And even more…should you have any experience with their gouache, I’d love to hear about those! Those are the next I definitely want to try and get my hands on…

Weird Ink Magic in my Illustrated Mini-Journal

I’ve just finished this week’s illustrated Dear Diary mini-journal and I can’t help loving this super simple process of recording my days. I really like working within limitations because it makes me boil things down to the essence and that helps simplify life somehow. When I scanned this spread I realised I also had the second week to show you guys yet. So, here goes…

Mini-journal spread of week 2

So here’s my week 2 spread. The pages are only 8,0×11,5cm in size, so you can imagine the space I have to record daily affairs is rather minimalistic…especially the Saturdays and Sundays. But still…that limitation really helps being creative. It is impossible to go all artsy fartsy here. It’s even hard to ‘design’ anything when you work on one little rectangle a day. But I still love trying to capture some of the essence of it. These spreads may not mean much in the eye of the reader, but to me they hit home straight away, remembering all of that day in an instant.

Spread of Week 2 of my illustrated mini-journal by Mandy van Goeije

Spread of Week 2 of my illustrated mini-journal by Mandy van Goeije

On the top right corner you can see the outline of a flying parakeet. My budgies flew for the fist time that day. What you can’t see on the scan, is that it’s filled out with a holographic transfer foil that I tried for the first time…bought at Xenos. It wasn’t a big success, but that may well have had a lot to do with the deplorable quality of the paper in this journal. And that poo on the right bottom corner (how convenient a spot for a turd at the bottom, right?)? Well, that was when our Giant Schnauzer was a little over-enthusiastic and tried to run right through me instead of around me and with his velocity and weight, he bumped me off my feet and I keeled over with my right knee straight into a deer turd! How’s that for a soft landing! 🙂 Fortunately, it hardly smelled at all…thank god they are vegetarians (besided the occaisional bug that didn’t get away from an eaten leaf quick enough…).

Week 3

Spread of Week 3 of my illustrated mini-journal by Mandy van Goeije

Spread of Week 3 of my illustrated mini-journal by Mandy van Goeije

This was the week of great insights. I’m not getting into the details because I’m pretty sure it’ll bore you out of your socks. What’s ultra Eureka for one may be a dead bore to another, right? But I kinda liked how I managed to get a watercolor face I painted this week in extreme miniature in this journal. Didn’t expect that! Then there’s that little scribble of our dog that I did on the fly that I’m not too chuffed about, although it captures his ultra-happy enthusiasm spot on. And it’s only 1.2 cm in height, so it’s not too bad, I guess…

Me, the soup tureen

And that pot of soup? Well, I am a HUGE soup fanatic! When I was a little child, my grandmother used to lovingly call me her soup tureen…and I even inherited hers. It’s ugly, but the story attached to it means so much to me that it still conquered a place in my living room. But anyway, soup…I cook pots of soup very regularly and I tend to toss everything into it. I like to make them really well-filled with loads of veggies and meat or fish. I have roots in Flanders where they have a ‘soup’ called “Waterzooi”, which would literally be translated into “Water Mess”. It is a good broth usually made of chicken with good chunks of vegetables in it…a whole pile of them in a soup plate and on top of that pile you will find half a chicken breast or a leg…whatever’s been cooked in that broth. Some restaurants add potatoes and nearly all add cream, although by now there’s a huge variety in recipes. But that is the way I make soup. A good broth from meat and bones or fish and bones with lots and lots of fresh-cut vegetables and meat. I don’t always add cream. I’ve discovered I like it better when I first take out the cooked meat, then add one or two kohlrabi or one whole celeriac AND a whole bunch of pak choi and fist cook that and blend that to a silky smooth soup and THEN add finely cut vegetables like carrot, celery, parsley, spring onion, leaks, cauliflauwer, etc. And once that’s cooked, I add back in the plucked meat/fish. And that is just SOOO good. One good pot makes really awesome lunch meals for myself for 5 days. My recipes are never the same and they depend very much on whatever’s left over or in my fridge, but in my experience, it’s always good. Soup is simply always good… 🙂

Weird discoveries

Soup’s a process anc so is my mini-journal. In the process of working in this mini-journal – within the limitations of the miniature size and the bad quality paper – I’m making some really odd discoveries, one of which you can see in this little video I made to show you…images speak louder than words, right?

Swatching, demo and review of Faber Castell Art Grip Aquarelle watercolor pencils

Last Summer I went on a holiday to France travelling light. I had only brought some Bruynzeel Design watercolor pencils with me. But, as it goes, when I was in an art store, I wanted to buy something new as a souvenir from France. I chose to supplement my travel-set of watercolor pencils with some Art Grip Aquarelle pencils and chose a fairly nice set of colors on their own:

Mandy van Goeije's collection of Faber Castell Art Grip Aquarelle watercolor pencils

Faber Castell Art Grip Aquarelle watercolor pencils. Mind the short one(s) – more about those in the video.

Faber Castell Art Grip Aquarelle watercolor pencils in my visual diary

In all honestly, I didn’t expect much from them, expecting them to be school quality. When I first tried them on my Cangini Filippi Paros notebook I had brought with me, that seemed to be true. But later it turned out the paper had played a massive role in the disappointing quality. Later at home I tried again in my visual diary / art journal. And it turned out these color pencil do an impressive job with layering to the point where you can fully saturate your paper to give it a super satin feel:

"The End of Narcissus" - visual diary / art journal page done with Faber Castell Art Grip Aquarelle watercolor pencil by Mandy van Goeije

“The End of Narcissus” – visual diary / art journal page done with Faber Castell Art Grip Aquarelle watercolor pencil by Mandy van Goeije (click on image for high resolution full size image for detail)

I really love the feel and look of this page, material-wise. Image wise is probably only meaningful to myself since it is a story from my life. But if you can picture satin, you can picture the feel of this page.

Faber Castell Art Grip Aquarelle Video watercolor pencil review

To show you a little more about the pencils, I did a swatching/mixing/demo/review video. This review is not sponsored by Faber Castell!

Faber Castell Art Grip Aquarelle Color Chart

For further detail in the color chart, click on the image below for the high resolution full size image:

Faber Castell Art Grip Aquarelle watercolor pencil color and mixing chart by Mandy van Goeije

Faber Castell Art Grip Aquarelle watercolor pencil color and mixing chart by Mandy van Goeije

Demo image

This is a scan of the little demo image I painted in the video:

Small demo painting with Faber Castell Art Grip Aquarelle watercolor pencils by Mandy van Goeije, done for YouTube videoreview

Small demo painting with Faber Castell Art Grip Aquarelle watercolor pencils

It’s painted on cold press Fabriano watercolor postcard paper, 140 lbs. Other supplies used are the Uniball uni pin black waterproof fineliner 0.7mm.

As you can see, the background ended up a bit stained by the way I painted the watercolor pencil and in the face you can see the red pencil marks a bit. Due to the grain of the paper you can still see some color pencil texture after wetting with a brush, especially in the face.


Concluding, here are the pros and cons of the Faber Castel Art Grip Aquarelle watercolor pencils (to my experience):

– mid-price and affordable
– hard oil-based core perfect for detail
– great layering capacity
– little dust
– fairly strong coloring capacities
– great for combining with watercolor
– also make great color pencils without using water; absolutely great for coloring books

– breakage while sharpening, but that may well be the result of a broken core due to transport; I haven’t seen this complaint anywhere online
– takes quite some hard work to lay down thick layer of color

I highly recommend these watercolor pencils for any kind of work. They are much harder than wax based (water-) color pencils, but in that lies their quality. I like to alternate between hard and soft pencils in one drawing, often.


Hi and Welcome! I’m Mandy.

I’m a Dutch artist, art journaler and teacher and I am a passionate visual storyteller. It is in the stories we share that other people read or see a reflection of their own. It is through stories that we connect. That’s why I make art.

I help people use art and language to tell their stories and show them it is the stories we carry that make us unique. They determine how much we allow ourselves to heal. By looking at all of them, those in the light of our lives and those tucked away in the shadows, we can find strength, healing, joy, relief and confidence.

People talk a lot, but opening up to the essentials is something altogether different. In our own unique visual language we can do so safely. And I go to any length to help people do so, because…“What’s wrong with being personal anyway? Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.”
– Meg Ryan in “You’ve got Mail”

Read more about Storytelling in Art and about my story

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mandy van goeije is a guest teacher at life book 2017
mandy van goeije is a guest teacher at art journal summer school 2016