Stepping into the Twenties

Stepping into the Twenties

Stepping into the Twenties When I say 'the Twenties' I'm reminded of "The House of Elliott", the Charleston, Art Deco, sleek and ornate knee-high party dresses and half short hairdos that were flat over the head and then curled back up from the neck to the ears. The...

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End of Year

End of Year

Everything in life comes in seasons.
Everything comes and goes.
Literally every single thing.

Serpent stars or brittle stars in hand

I’ve known this for as long as I can remember.
But I only truly began to understand
when one day along the shore
I found hundreds of dead serpent stars,
thousands, even.
Being close to a nuclear plant
first I thought that perhaps
the water had been poisoned.
But looking the serpent star up in a book
I learned that they come in seasons
and go in seasons too, in masses.

It is that time of year again.
The end of the year has come
although my end-of-year
has been here
for a while

Abstract landscape in Nitram liquid charcoal

Last October Doc called
to bring very bad figures
and four weeks before we knew
if the news was as bad
as the figures said it was.

Confronted with the fragility of being
and the horizon as close as the tip of my nose
time stopped.
Little held importance.

The ground beneath my feet
felt like quicksand.
My year was over.


Late November Doc calls:
the figures were wrong.
Human fault.
I was more than all right.

A stiff drink
The horizon back where it should be,
in the distance.

I could breathe again.

beach in Zeeland

In the quicksand
most had lost meaning.

So I gave myself time
to get out
And moment by moment
time brought clarity, order, inspiration and energy.

So I am beyond ready for the new year.
And have been.

I long for my work.
It’s been long.
I’ve missed it.

But first
we have a few festive days ahead
closing the year past
welcoming the arrival of a new.

Art supplies to experiment

This year I had a very special end-of-year celebration: a package of art supplies with stuff that had been on my wish list for a long time. I made a little video of the unpacking. I intend to do little (or big, knowing me) art videos about them.

Liquid Charcoal

What I was most curious about, was liquid charcoal because I thought I might combine that both with drawing and watercolor techniques. I got a 50 ml tube by Nitram and my first try proved it was different than I thought. I filmed my second try and compared it to Daniel Smith Lunar Black to show the difference. And then I filmed a little demo, sharing the experience. I haven’t yet finished the editing of the demo (X-mas holidays have a way of being busier than you think beforehand), but I do have a first video for you about some of the characteristics of liquid charcoal now:

New Year

I’m about to wrap this blog post up, but with the New-Year’s celebrations ahead I first want to wish you a very festive New Year’s Eve.

happy new year's illustration by Mandy van Goeije

And of course I wish you a very happy and fulfilling 2020. That you may find your true desires and a way to fulfill them…

ps: general notice

This blog post has been written according to a new plan I’ve had for my blog. Due to social media I haven’t spend much time here lately and that’s a shame, because this is such a me-place that I’d like to live in it as my online home more. So I’m going to blow life back into it. If you’d like to be kept up-to-date about my blog posts, you can either subscribe by RSS or via Bloglovin’, or you can sign up for my newsletter and then you’ll receive word of every new post in your mailbox automatically.

The Superstar Generation

The Superstar Generation

The Superstar Generation by Mandy vanGoeije
The Superstar Generation, ink, charcoal and oil crayon on paper, © Mandy van Goeije, 2019

Some images speak for themselves, so let me not ruin it by writing about it.

How waterproof are my inks?

How waterproof are my inks?

At the moment I’m completely into waterproof ink because I’m drawing and writing a lot of Tanka. It’s something I like to do when I have a lot on my mind. Limiting myself to just a small number of lines, a small number of syllables, forces me to boil my thoughts down to the essence and that’s incredibly calming. And at the same time it’s a huge catalyst for creative thinking.

My illustrated Tanka are poetry in words and image. Sometimes they complement each other, sometimes they are a translation of the other, sometimes they change the other into something new. I love the intricate simplicity of the process.

But I do need really good waterproof inks to make them. Last week I had trouble with my go-to black drawing ink when all of a sudden it started to bleed when I colored my drawing with watercolor. And as it happened, an artist on facebook told me that her ink was really, really good and waterproof, so I ordered a huge bottle and tested it when it came in yesterday.

Here’s a video of my waterproof ink test for you. I thought you might like to see what I found out…

Included inks:
Winsor & Newton Black Indian Ink (#030)
Talens drawing ink neutral tint (715)
Talens Indian Ink
Talens drawink ink black (700)
Diamine Onyx black fountain pen ink
Mont Blanc Permanent black
Micron Pigma fineliner 03

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Storytelling with a message

Making art, to me, is visual storytelling. Sometimes it is literally a way of telling a story that already exists. And sometimes it is a way of unearthing a story that lay hidden somewhere in my subconscience, somewhere in my fingers, somewhere in the shadows. I love painting both kinds and I find that as a natural process I often alternate between the two.

"Balance" - man side up - watercolor and color pencil painting, © Mandy van Goeije 2019
“Balance” – man side up – watercolor and color pencil, © Mandy van Goeije 2019

Where numbers become symbols

This weekend I did a painting for which I let myself be inspired by both a message I wanted to pour into the image and the symbols that led up to this painting.

Early thoughts

The starting point was that it was a birthday gift for somebody’s 69th birthday. At first I chuckled a bit about what I could do with a soixante-neuf theme. If ever I could do something cheeky, it was with this age. But thinking of who it was for, I realized that we could have this chuckle some day later this year. For now, a more important and heartfelt message wanted to be told. The only question was ‘How?’

Where the visual works

The thing with heartfelt messages is that you don’t just tell them. Not all of them. Some, you just don’t blurt out. This was one of those. “Hey you need some balance, dude!” Imagine that as a way of saying congratulations… No matter how lovingly, heartfelt and caring such a remark can be intended, that is not necessarily how they come across. And this is where I find visual language extremely helpful. In the first place, when I draw or paint, it really comes straight from the heart without interference of any white noise from my opinions or reasonings. And somehow what comes out knows its way to the heart of the beholder. So it’s a much more direct heart-to-heart way of communicating. And in the second place I’m just more sensitive when saying things with images than I am in words. But having decided on doing a special painting still left me with the questions “What?” and “How?”

"Balance" - woman side up - watercolor and color pencil, © Mandy van Goeije 2019
“Balance” – woman side up – watercolor and color pencil, © Mandy van Goeije 2019


Sitting down to think about things rarely brings solutions. In this case my purposeful thought process hadn’t taken me much further than chuckling over the images in my mind that popped up when I thought about 69-happy birthday cards. Difficult concepts always come under the shower, in bed or when I fold the laundry. Actions like that may not seem very sacred, but what they do, is that they disconnect my thinking brain for a moment. And that is often all it takes. I have little notebooks everywhere in the house so that I can quickly jot down these ideas that pop up.

In this case, I literally shot up on waking up with the realization that seen visually 69 is a sort of Yin and Yang symbol. You see, when you shove the 6 and the 9 together and press them into a circle mold, they will more or less form a Yin Yang symbol…THE symbol for balance. Eureka! It clicked in all corners. It was a visual 69th birthday wish AND I could bring my heartfelt wish of balance across.


The moment I know what to paint, acceleration kicks in. The buzz I feel when I can see the visual story in my mind, is great! Then it’s just a matter of finding the time and space to sit down, gather my stuff and dive into a few wonderful hours of painting.

I painted this painting with the wonderful set of granulating watercolors I shared here.


The painting and the message were very well received. And without my knowing, it turned out the painting, the symbol clicked in even more corners than I’d been aware of. The person who I gave this to, turned out to have made much use of it in his time as a trainer because it meant so much to him. See? Sometimes all it takes to get a really good idea, is to get out of the way and let the laundry, some sleep or the shower perform its magic. 😉

Drawing Table Hack

Drawing Table Hack

Photos + Video

Slanted worktops save the day. And the Neck!

People who draw a lot know that the neck and the shoulders need to be spared. Working on a flat surface inevitably causes problems in the long run. And still all artists know the pain because many of us don’t sit behind slanted drawing surfaces enough.

Drawing Table Hack : 1 Reeves workstation + 1 Studio Designs Storage Tray in two halves = wonderful!

I was one of those. And since I work with watercolor a lot, I don’t always want a slanted work top. I don’t want any wet washes to run down into other wet washes. Not all the time at least. But the Storytelling course I’m in at the moment has put me into drawing mode. And whether it’s on paper or digitally, I really needed my work surface to climb up a little.

Not just a matter of perspective, but perspective matters

Also, working on a slanted worktop improves your view on your work. The perspective simply changes when you hold your work surface upright, or more upright than flat. If you’ve never noticed, it’s worth a try to draw one and the same thing once on a flat surface and then on a slanted work surface. You’re bound to see a difference!

Work with what you have! Until it doesn’t.

I like to work with what I have if I can. So, I took out my Reeves A2 workstation, which I always have at hand. It provided a slanted work top allright, but it had become a little rickety after about 12 years. And also…my pencils would keep rolling off…bounce on my desk…and then onto the floor. It would break so many leads. Super annoying. And costly too, considering last week two Luminance pencils fell onto the ground and broke their leads. Which was when I needed a solution INSTANTLY!

Metal Storage Tray, foam inset and mesh swivel cup + Reeves A2 drawing table

So, something new then?

An art store I order from regularly had beautiful drafting tables on sale. They were functional, kinda slick and had awesome options for storage on the sides. I immediately imagined all my problems solved. Only…I didn’t really have space for another table in my studio. And I didn’t want to get rid of my wooden reading table, nor of my piano or of the bird. Then I figured I could saw a piece out of my desk and shove the new drafting table right in there. It was an option. But then again…working with watercolor so often…my gut feeling said ‘no’.

Not old, not new…hack time!!!

When the gut feeling says ‘no’, other things start stirring. And I noticed that the storage trays I noticed on the sides of the drawing tables were also for sale without a table. They weren’t cheap. And way too big for my Reeves workstation. But if I could cut it in half and fit it to the sides of my drawing board…..?! I ordered one to see if it would work and then noticing the weight of the tray I realized it would be too heavy for the rickety workstation. So I took out the wooden stick that held it together and replaced it with a round steal 8mm beam And my husband screwed a small wooden beam on top of that to spread forces over left and right stand equally. It had made the table so strong we could sit on it!

Metal Tray storage on the side of the A2 Reeves workstation with the cut foam inset for copic markers and the mesh swivel cup. On the left small drawing chest with inks, cellphone holder and water.

The Cherry on the Cake

The next day the storage tray arrived. It looked amazing. Super sturdy, heavy and high quality. Great! Only, the cups in it didn’t swivel the way I had expected. Although that turned out to be no problem at all. And the metal saw went through it much more easily than expected and a little sanding paper took away any sharp edges. So within no time I had the perfect drawing board on my desk and my desk was still in one piece. Also…the tray comes with foam art supply holders. I felt they were too big for my liking. No problem. We sharpened the meat knife and that too went through it like butter.

Only one problem left to sort. Can I pick your brain a little?

The only thing I’m looking to fix now, is a little something to hold my ink and small water jar horizontal. Working on it! But if you have a good tip…it’s more than welcome!

Video time!

Absolutely wonderful new Watercolor Paint: Aquarius

Absolutely wonderful new Watercolor Paint: Aquarius

Watercolor face I did with the Aquarius paints, Queen of Hearts

The Discovery

A little while back I ran into the Jane Blundell’s blogpost about Aquarius watercolor paints by Roman Szmal. I had never heard of the brand before – which isn’t crazy, for more and more brands keep popping up in the watercolor hype – but I felt Jane’s enthusiasm and got enthusiastic. I contacted Roman Szmal and he sent me a beautiful set of paints.


What makes these paints stand out in the first place, is their price considering that real artist pigments are used. At the same time they are as affordable as student quality paints. So, the next logical question would be: are they any good?

Yes. These Aquarius watercolor paints are absolutely very good. And the collection is wonderfully big with lots and lots of beautiful pigments to choose from.


Upon receiving the paint one things stands out immediately: the wrapping. Every pan is wrapped in a piece of non-sticky paper. And that in its turn is covered with a wrap of watercolor paper on which an actual sample of the color has been painted. Seen together in a box that offers a tremendously luxurious feel. And when choosing colors, the real swatches are extremely helpful.

The set of Aquarius watercolor paints I got and tested.

Smashing colors

As you can see in the image above, this is a wonderful set of colors. Literally ALL of these are lovely as can be. And some colors in this set are typically colors I never use, but have begun using since I got this set. There are of course the wonderful Mineral Violet and Shadow Violet. These colors that hold contrasting pigments have done miracles for Daniel Smith too. But a more unlikely lovely color is the Caput Mortuum (2nd row from the bottom, 1st pan on the left) which has a pinkish/lilacish undertone and some heavy dark particling, which makes it an outstanding color to use in skin tones, shading and landscapes when you are looking for some unpredictable texture. And the sap green is the most beautiful one I’ve ever had. And the orange on the top right of this image is nothing short from gorgeous. And…oh well, I could go on like this for quite a bit because I love this paint. Just look at the video at the bottom of my page.

In comparison

I’ve been asked if these paints compare to Yarka / White Nights. To some extent, but these are brighter and more vibrant, in my experience. And especially over time some colors remain more vibrant and strong. Personally I would choose these over the White Nights anytime. They are heavily pigmented and allow immensely good for layering.

They are different from paints like Horadam in that the pigments are perhaps a little less finely ground. But in my experience that is an assett of this paint rather than a setback. It give this paint its own character and since the colors are lovely and vibrant, to me it’s just a big plus. Especially in work in which I paint a lot of texture. This is absolutely artist grade paint.

In the top photo you can see what this paint does on cold press watercolor paper and still creating texture. That’s pretty marvellous. But in the next photo you can see how a smoother image is also very well possible with this paint and looks smashing and vibrant in colors. And the layering in this one was just perfect!

Buglady painting with Aquarius watercolors and Kremer gold


The one point of attention with these paints is that when you get them, some colors can be very sticky. To me personally it’s not a problem, but some colors may need a little work to unwrap. Roman Szmal gave me the advice to rip the paper wrapping off very quickly. Then it should not stick as much. I recorded two videos of this paint. The second is a swatching video that I’ll post below in this article. But the first was a very long live video I did in which you can see me unwrap the paint.


First I’ll give you the shorter swatching video. And after the video you will find a list of addresses where you can order this paint.


The Aquarius watercolor paint pans by Roman Szmal are available at the following stores:

Kunstburg (NL)

Poland and online

Nordic region


Spain and worldwide

Directly from Roman Szmal’s facebook page

Wrapping it up? (we’ve just unwrapped it!)

This paint has been on my desk from the moment it arrived, so I’m looking for a better container to keep it in. Because the fact that it’s been at hand for so long is the best proof of how happy I am with this paint. I have not once felt the need to put it away and grab one of my other sets.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and I’m curious to hear if you’ve got any experience with this brand of watercolor and if so, what experience that is. Perhaps you even have photos online of your work?


I think you all know by now, but to be sure I’ll mention that there’s no affiliate link between me and the manufacturer of this paint, nor with any of the online shops I’ve mentioned. I review these paints honestly and merely from my own fascination with and love for watercolor paints.

What’s on My Desk?

What’s on My Desk?

A second blog post in two days?! I must be on a roll again after such a long period of quietude…

For today’s post I let myself be inspired by my friend Marit Barentsen who takes part in “What’s on Your Workdesk“. I was a bit tired of working on an illustration assignment and browsed a bit until I felt lit up by Marit’s post. So I figured, why not? I love peeping into another creative mind’s happy place, so why not share mine?

I hope you like a goofy post like this. Personally I love seeing the creative stuff others work with and the projects they are working on. And the places they sit down and do the work, of course. How about you?

mandy van goeije portrait


life book teacher mandy van goeije