Inspiration and hard times We can all do with an inspiration hack at the moment, can't we? It's not easy, feeling inspired with an outerworldly situation going on around you or even very close to you. And yet, worrying doesn't solve anything. As long as you take...
How to keep your mind sane in this surreal time?
If you’re even the least bit like me, I bet the current news and quarantine have raised your stress levels at least a bit.
Being kicked out of your daily routine and having to refrain from social contact isn’t easy, but if we all keep to ourselves for a bit, we can help this corona crisis pass as quickly as possible. So, it’s never been more important to keep your head and heart light and clear than in a global crisis like this one. And even better…we can even use this time to add something valuable to our lives.
Whatever happens, today Spring has begun. And if anything, let this Spring be the symbol of hope and a promise of the better, sunnier times that are ahead.
But how do you keep your mind sane when you feel bored, stressed, annoyed, afraid or overwhelmed?
You keep busy.
You get creative.
And you go outside.
Even if you’re not allowed to go further outside than your own garden, than the little patch of green outside your apartment, than the road to the supermarket…in your closest vicinity you can still go outside. And where there’s an outside, there is nature. Even on balconies or in sidewalk cracks!
So…I propose a challenge!
Observe the nature that is your Little Big World for 10 days. Closely.
It’s super interesting.
It’s healthy to catch some fresh air.
It helps clear the mind.
It strengthens your sense of being connected with the world.
It’s great to do with your family.
It’s lovely to share.
So it’s a wonderful way to connect.
1 e-book, 10 days in The Little Big World
Join me and
and go outside!
Join the challenge now and join the facebook group. The coming weeks you will find more free inspiration there to stay active, creative and happy!
Important: when going outside, keep a distance of at least 1,5 m from anybody who doesn’t live in your house. Even on the beach, in parks, in playgrounds and in forests!!!!!
Lots of love, Mandy van Goeije
If you’ve been following me online, you may remember that sometimes the Universe really does deliver. A few weeks ago, two more wishes were spontaneously fulfilled. Sender? The Universe.
This year I quit online teaching in order to focus on my own art and writing. It felt as a big step to let go of such a big portion of what I used to call ‘work’.
What I needed, was a thorough studio clear out for a good start and overview. I had so many drawings and paintings stored that I couldn’t even open and close the drawers anymore. And on close inspection, it turned out my chest of drawers was in a near-death state. As I wasn’t very energetic myself since some virus had clutched my system, I sat down across my drawers a little feverishly, trying to think of a way to get new ones without a budget to spend.
Within 15 minutes the phone rang. My father-in-law was clearing out the attic of his work place and he had a steel cabinet with drawers for paper. Did I want it? You bet I wanted it. And the next day, when my husband went to help get it down and move it over here, I got another great call. They also found a fine professional, tilting drawing table there, the exact right size for my studio. Did I want it?
DID I WANT IT?!?!?! After my happy dance for the steel cabinet I had realized I needed to reorganize my studio to fit the giant piece of furniture in. And with that I’d realized I could do with some extra work surface for my watercolors to dry. But again, no budget, no extra work top. And there it suddenly was and I was doing another happy dance!
You know, I don’t really believe there’s a bunch of gods in the clouds, or even just one, who’s got things planned for us. Most times you just have to work really hard to get it and be inventive. But don’t you feel that sometimes the coincidence is so striking that for a little while you would like to believe it could be true anyway? Getting these perfect pieces of furniture for my studio, for free, just when I wished them…it felt like a warm and encouraging hand backing me up and urging me on. It felt really, really good.
After some firm lifting and shoving, I reorganized my studio and I’ve begun to work. First I finished a painting I’d started a long time ago and then chose another one to finish. That one’s almost done. And I went to a lecture about local folk and fairy tales. It was amazing and super inspiring. I will tell you all about that in another blog post some time soon. But what I can say is that it has inspired me straight into my sketchbook that I can’t wait to show… But for now, just a little new-worktop view of my watercolor work on my new drawing table.
Normally, when the whole world goes woowoo over something, I tend to back away and withdraw from the discussion. Usually there’s so much debate and sensation that hard news facts are tough to find anyway and so I try not to. But this time with the Corona virus it’s different. The news has come to my back yard since the virus has reached our town this morning. An anonymous employee from our local hospital’s been tested positive. Ouch.
When abstract news becomes reality
A hospital’s not a good place to work when infected and I sure hope she’s not infected anyone else. But looking at the statistics of the past week, I’m holding my breath. And I’m wondering: are the government doing enough to stop the virus? We are such a wee little, but super crammed country; shouldn’t we just go in lock down for a fortnight? I know it would cause unbelievable practical discomfort and the economy wouldn’t flourish from it either. But turning to the statistics again, it looks like we have a serious outbreak going on in our country and thus far the percentage of casualties seems to be between 1% and 5%, depending on what figures you count. How far do we take it, keeping our lives ‘business as usual’ when many lives will be at stake?
The value of news facts
Earlier this week I reposted a Belgian article on facebook that seemd to put things into perspective a bit. It was written by a journalist who said amongst others that the number of casualties in China is likely to be high due to chemical smog that normally covers cities like Wuhan and that probably renders people more likely to become seriously ill. Over here in the West the virus looked more like a regular cold or flu. Unfortunately the death toll in Italy rose dramatically yesterday, raising the percentage of casualties to almost 5%, compared to China’s 3,5%, leaving no room for thinking oneself safer in the West. So the one bit of ‘news’ that I shared hoping to provide a little reassurance, wasn’t correct either. I hate that and I’ve removed the post.
Incomplete or silent ‘facts’
I believe It’s these contradictory ‘facts’ that makes situations like these harder to handle. We are told it’s ‘just a normal flu, no worries’. But then in Italy in one day over 130 people die from it. Oops, not ‘just a normal flu’ then, we guess. But there’s no comments from experts and officials. In fact, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment have toned down their frequency of reporting to just once a day, This causes more unrest for some as many local health institutes keep reporting new cases, like the one in my own home town today, which was reported before the official number came out, but was not taken into account and won’t be in the totals before tomorrow. It makes one wonder, how many more numbers like these are there really then?
Sadly, the only news I heard on the radio about the Corona Virus today is that the European share markets have crashed. Not that we now officially have 321 confirmed cases of Corona in our stamp-sized country. I had to look that up on a designated website. And, as I wrote above, the number isn’t definitieve. More cases are already known. And we’re still awaiting the outcome of random tests done on a large number of hospital employees in a highly-infected area of our country where Carnival festivities might have spread the virus big time
Why the fuss
Yeah, you’re right. I’m fussing. But for good reason. Normally, being the type of heart patient that I am is of little concern. I’m hardly ever worried about heart-related stuff. With the Corona virus, I am. A serious lung infection can be a very serious problem for me. Normal flu can cause that too, but it’s rare. And I’m especially scared since this year picked up EVERY little virus that floated by. So I’m thinking: a late hibernation or some hermitting? Not that I can keep the virus out of the house with a family going to school and work. But one can reassuringly fool oneself a bit, no? I mean, I know for a holy scientific fact that painting with watercolor actually strengthens the body’s defense mechanism against viruses. So painting a bit more than usual wouldn’t be too bad, right? 😉
So, what to do when nervous or afraid?
When I’m uptight about something, I tend to scribble in my sketchbook and very often it’s little drawings with criticism on how our world works. (See another example here.) Being a little angry is easier than being scared, I guess. It just feels good ranting with watercolor. But also, my visual rants make sense. Like the one I did this morning: if it weren’t for globalisation, the Corona virus wouldn’t have spread as quickly or even at all. It’s business men and tourists who imported it into Europe. And then it’s the holiday makers who went to Italy who spread it all over.
It’s from mud that lotuses grow
Out of the greatest horrors come beautiful things, they say. And I’m hoping that a Corona virus pandemic-in-the-making like this one – although I believe WHO doesn’t call it a pandemic just yet, at the moment – is going to make people think about it. About how we live. About what we think is normal and what we take for granted. Is it really that normal that we travel the world all the time? If anything beautiful already came out of this virus, it’s that big cities in China that are normally covered in thick chemical smog now have perfectly clean air. Is it normal to sacrifice people’s health for big-time manufacturing? And how much is our economy worth versus the lives of people? What is an economy when it consists out of so many sick people anyway? And what is an economy for? For the market economy itself or for people?
Every change begins with questions
I know I tend to be a bit idealistic and the impact is probably not going to be that great. I mean, the moment this virus has drifted past, I suspect life will pick up just like it was before and people will want to forget and treat themselves to….a nice holiday in Italy, or somewhere else, to forget the stress. But even if the masses don’t feel a nudge to think about things, I know many people do feel it. However, nobody seems more concerned than our teenagers. Kids talk about the Corona virus and world-wide and politically related issues ALL the time. Kids watch the growing numbers ALL day, EVERY day. Kids are drawing question marks at a normally running society when a potentially lethal epidemic is spreading. Again it’s the young who are asking the right questions.
When bad things happen, we should stop to think what we can learn. I did not write this article to spread fear. I’m just an artist and I observe what I see happening and I stop to think. I’m aware that a new virus poses a challenge to ‘officials’ and ‘experts’ because it’s not yet known what a virus can and will do and how it will evolve during its outbreak. The last SARS virus turned from vicious to relatively harmless by itself.
But at the same time, when trying to prevent a national or global panic from happening, I believe it’s imporant to provide facts constantly. And I believe it’s important to explain why certain measures are taken and others are not. The much used phrase “we rely on the advice of our experts” doesn’t really generate trust. And lastly, I believe that being part of nature means that we will be challenged over and over again. We won’t be able to stop things like viruses from happening. But we can learn to deal with it better and to ask ourselves questions about how the world works and to realize that it is us who make the world go round as it does.
March has already come, so it’s been two months that I’ve been focusing solely on new work. Or rather…I’ve also been reorganizing my studio due to some new arrivals and I’ve been doing some online updating. You will read all about it here.
Shifting Focus for New Work
It wasn’t before I sat dow in my studio, realizing I was really no longer teaching online that I became aware of how much my focus had been on the outside world in the past years. I was always making stuff I felt I could use to teach or to inspire others. Rarely was I deeply and fully immersed in my own work, my ow process. After my decision, all of a sudden it had to happen now. It took a few weeks to straighten my thinking and adjust to a new flow.
Mixed Media as a Flow Starter for New Work
For starters, I grabbed a canvas board my mother-in-law had recently given to me. Either I had to store it in the attic or work on it straight away. Not knowing where I was in my mind, I figured I might as well throw in some paint and find out. Here is the result:
It was liberating to work with mixed media again. The materials themselves drag a whole different style of work from my hands, but I love it nonetheless. After this one I did a lot more new work, some of which I’ll share below. But first I have two important things to share:
Besides reorganizing my studio, I’m also in the process of reorganizing my online presence. For starters, I’ve created a brand spanking new art-only Instagram account: @mandyvangoeijeart. That’s the account to follow if you’re interested in my art. The old account will remain active, but contains more random and personal stuff. I felt I needed a clean slate to gather all my art to browse in one glance. I’m filling it up with really great pics of my older work and my latest work and it’s beginning to look really nice. For now I’m updating both accounts with my art, but in the future all of the new art will go to @mandyvangoeijeart.
I’m doing the same thing for facebook. No new account was needed there, but I’m turning the art page art only and my personal profile will be what it should be: personal. Since I’m not really enjoying facebook much of the time, I might even turn that account to ‘private’. I’m going to be communicating through my blog anyway. That’s home, after all. So, if you want to follow me on facebook, make sure you follow my Mandy van Goeije Art page.
FINAL CALL for online students
VERY important for my online students: if you’ve purchased one of my online courses, make sure to download all course materials before April because early April the online courses will be taken down. Only Art for Earth will remain accessible online through the links and pages given in the Art for Earth package. For all other online courses this really is the final call. Once the courses go down in April, materials can no longer be accessed, so this is the last chance to download the course videos and pdf files. Hurry!
New work: Watercolor
The first watercolor piece I did this year was “The Unlikely Couple” above. They were incredibly great to paint. The left figure was already there and then a whole lot of color. But his companion soon came into the picture when I sat down with my paints and brushes.
The second piece I did is also an older piece that I’ve finished.
The HOW surprises people
Of this painting I posted some process and close-up photos on Instagram. It is with those close-ups that people realized there is no quick technique or trick to paint textures like these. It really is hard and patient labour of laying down layer after layer and painting minute detailing with the finest brushes available. Paintings like these take days. This one about 40 hours. But I love it, though, because to me, it brings out more than ‘just another face’. With that many layers, every face turns into a character, a story. It’s a pity that watercolor is so hard to photograph and scan…the digital image never quite captures the liveliness and depth of the colors, but I think you at least get an idea here.
Is gold always bling?
What I also love to do, is to add gold to paintings like these. Watercolor on high-quality paper is a very matte medium. So adding the gold is not so much about adding sparkle or upping the decorative value; it’s much more about adding contrast. Not just in color, but in matte versus shine. To me, it makes it more interesting to work on too because adding the shameless glam requires a whole lot of tweaking of the tender watercolors to make sure they balance out against the bejeweled boldness or else that will take over the painting.
Gold equals exclusivity indeed
The golden paint makes paintings like these exclusive in one go because pigments like these can by no means be reproduced. So when you buy a painting with such golden elements, you know absolutely for sure that you are getting a unique and original painting.
Speaking about buying art…since I was teaching online I hardly put any effort into selling my work. Well, I will now. I am working on the construction of an online sales page. I will let you know when it’s ready. If you can’t wait because you fall in love with one of my pieces, you can always contact me personally. All the pieces on my instagram account @mandyvangoeijeart are available unless stated otherwise. At the moment many are stated unavailable because I added some older work too to add content, but I’ve lots of work that’s available that I will keep adding from now on. And I’m making new work too, of course.
So, this was my Springtime update. It’s not really Spring yet, but with the trees in my garden blossoming and the crocuses and vincas blooming…I call it Spring! The next update won’t be long because I’ve already got it lined up for publication.
So, happy Spring (or Fall, down under 😉 ) and till soon!
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 decade is often referred to as ‘The Roaring Twenties’. Political and international relations were complicated after World War I and economic highs and lows followed eachother up with stroboscopic velocity. And in the mean time women burnt their corsets. began to wear their skirts above the knee and many refused to spend their lives serving their household any longer and began to look for a more fulfilling existence.
We human beings have a tendency to think that the time we live in is the most dangerous time ever or that we are more advanced now than ever before. But when we look through history, we can see that events actually come and go in waves and things happen over and over again. Thus far I think we’re just lucky to live in this century in this part of the world. Yes, the media bring us heartbreaking news from all over the world 24/7 and when you spend a lot of time on social media, you can drink heartbreak on micro level 24/7 as well. We see more, we hear more, we know more, we share more. And news comes at the speed of light. If you’re not careful, you can see world news happening live.
At the same time one century ago newspapers were fighting for more independence. Good journalism was independent journalism which did thorough research and which heard both parties in dispute. That quality of press we are losing. It’s overpowered by the shouting of social media, it’s disabled by fake news and even more by the uprise of deep fake news and political developments all over the world are sawing the feet from under the reliability of the press if it helps their selfish cause. Never before has humanity received such a huge bulk of information on a daily basis and never before have individuals had such responsibility in estimating which news is true and relevant to them. So, even though history repeats itself, some things change and new players join the game.
How will these Twenties turn out for us? What will the history books say about our new decade in a hundred years or so? Who knows. Roaring I have a feeling it will be. But I am starting with a HUGE step in making things more simple. Calmer. And yet, roaring in another way.
I wish you a roaring decade too, a decade in which you can free yourself from your metaphorical ‘corsets’ and wear your skirt just as high or as low and you like. And that just like the women in the Twenties of a century ago, you may find fulfillment in your life the way you like it.
Here is how I am starting my Twenties:
If you’ve read my last blog post, you know that due to a human mistake in hospital I got super bad news and walked around afraid and frozen for a month last November. In the end it turned out it was a mistake and that actually, I was more than fine. But a confrontation with the fragility of one’s existence changes something inside forgood. It brings a clarity about life that no thinking can do. Wubbo Ockels, a Duch astronaut, once said the same about having cancer and knowing he was going to die. He said that life became better, clearer. There was an immediate clarity about what really mattered. And the rest…dust in the wind. It’s true. I’ve dropped a lot of “excess baggage” during that month.
Work-related “excess baggage” that I’ve dropped is online teaching. I don’t mean to make it sound disrespectful or worthless, for I have loved doing it and building up relations with people from all over the world, on the foundations of a shared passion for artistic expression. But after years of pinballing about the course of my life, I realised it just isn’t what I want to do anymore. The online climate has changed to 100% commercial and as a result offers less and less space for real outsiders. So outsiders go elsewhere. I’m going elsewhere. But even more importantly, deep down inside I want to progress in my own art and write my book(s). I’ve gone back and forth between the decision a lot in the past years (as you know…), but this time it’s for real. I’m no longer teaching online and I’m taking down my online courses.
What does it mean for you as a student?
So, if you’re a student of mine, this will have consequences for you. If you’ve purchased one of my online courses, you will find them gone in the second week of April this year. If you want to keep the course materials, please make sure you download the videos and pdf’s before then. You can also download the course page as an HTML file to have an itenerary for the course.
The “Art for Life” course will remain accessible online, albeit on a hidden page that students must have the link to. I will migrate my Art for Life videos to a new location soon, so I’m apologizing up front that in reconnecting the videolinks, there may be a few hickups on the course page for a few days, while it’s being reconstructed somewhere this month or in February.
So, to the work table it is! For a new project!!!
Besides taking my own art further and finishing my book I’m working on another big project. A graphic novel!!! I know! VERY scary! I’d never thought I would do that, but maybe you remember I was working on another book as well? Well, in the end it felt like that book didn’t want to happen in words. Then this summer I took an online comics writing course. Just to have a passtime during the heat. But the course hit me straight in the heart and woke up a super strong flow of energy and a whole new form of my story popped up. So this fall I’ve quietly been working on some test pages and at the moment I have three pages ready. I’m aiming at about 240 pages, so I have a long way to go. But I like it. I love putting my teeth into it. And I love the community I’ve found and that is very supportive in the process. I’ve always read comics, but it never came to mind that perhaps I could make one myself one day. So I had no idea how to go about it professionally. Because it actually really is a profession, writing comics. And there’s a huge amount of things you have to keep in mind while doing it. But I love everything about it. I’m juggling a bit to find the right rhythm of working on three projects at the same time. I tried assigning different days to different projects, but that didn’t work. So now I’m assigning parts of the day to each project and so far it seems to work! So, secretly I’m very happy that the holidays are over and now I can hit the throttle and get on full speed!
Will I share?
Of course I will share my art. And actually, I have to start selling it, because I’ve come to the deplorable point where my drawers cannot contain any more new art, so a little pile is now beginning to form on my printer. In the light of ‘excess baggage’ I’ve promised myself I’m going to build a webpage to sell my art and try to be more disciplined with sharing art that is for sale. And I’m looking for a few art shows to take part in this year.
Change nouns to verbs
So, all in all there is a lot of work to do and I’m finally feeling the full throttle to get it done. The thing is…in making plans or writing down the things you want, it’s a wise idea to think in VERBS, not in NOUNS. You see, I wanted to be a writer, but I had trouble writing. I wanted to be an artist, but I had trouble making art. I never wanted to be an online teacher, but with great collaboration propositions coming by, I taught online. But if I want to get my nouns on the book shelves in libraries, book stores and living rooms, and on people’s walls, I need to get my verbs straight first! And that is exactly what I’m going to do. No, correct: That is exactly what I am already doing!
Illustrate Your Life
Oh, and before I forget…I haven’t been active in it lately, but I did set up a Mighty Network this fall, to see if I liked the platform for community building (I really dislike the lack of privacy on fb). It’s called Illustrate Your Life and it’s a place for autobiographic art, so art about your life. So it’s really a place for visual and wordy stories. You’re welcome to join. You can do so by clicking this link:
If you’ve read my newsletter till the end…thank you and I hope you’ve enjoyed it. I’ve included some images of recent personal work that I did the past weeks. I couldn’t let Bowie’s birthday go by unnoticed, of course. And those watercolor faces…sigh…they are just such great fun to do. That castle in the clouds? I was trying out new gouache that I didn’t like (Caran d’ache) and then I just HAD to go back to my designer’s gouaches because they look so beautifully velvetty. But I didn’t know what to paint, so I went on Instagram and let myself be inspired by the first flat-colored castle illustration in gouache that I saw. I love little exercises like these in my sketchbook. Even though they are not “my art”, they do give me a lot of satisfaction at the end of the day…
I hope you find a lot of satisfaction in your days too….
Everything in life comes in seasons.
Everything comes and goes.
Literally every single thing.
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,
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.
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
Little held importance.
The ground beneath my feet
felt like quicksand.
My year was over.
Late November Doc calls:
the figures were wrong.
I was more than all right.
A stiff drink
The horizon back where it should be,
in the distance.
I could breathe again.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Some images speak for themselves, so let me not ruin it by writing about it.