Philosophy and a cave
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of philosophy and science. Mighty interesting! And bound to find its way into my journal.
One of the concepts I ran into last week was Plato’s allegory of the cave. It basically says we human beings are poorly capable of seeing outside of our own truths when we don’t even know that what we know is just “our truth” and not THE truth because we only see our point of view, not aware other points of view exist. In other words, we project everything we see onto the screens of our truths. Although Plato explained all of this with a cave. Below is a video I found that explains it better than I have. English speakers can ignore the Dutch subtitles.
Journaling and processing
One of the reasons journaling is essential to me, is that it helps me process things I learn. I’ve developed the ambition to write a book and I’m in the middle of doing a lot of research for it. Hence the philosophy and the science I’m reading. Philosophy theory is relatively new to me. Although during my only year as a law student I did study philosophy of law. So sometimes I vaguely recognize names and theories. But it’s only now that I’m sucking it in like a thirsty sponge. The way I learn is by relevance. If information is relevant to me, I learn with the speed of light. Especially when I take the time to sit down with my journal and get going intuitively so that whatever’s entered my mind can find a place to settle down.
The settling-down part is a little smoother for philosophy than for science. I’ve a true alpha-mind, so science is hard for me. The biology part I’ve been reading was surprisingly okay, but now that I’ve come to the physics and chemistry part…oh boy…I have to focus and go full throttle. But overall, I think I’m getting it way better now than in high school when it all felt very abstract and I managed to blow up an ammeter. Whoops!
So, ammeters out of sight and only a journal to concern myself with, I found myself working on a page I’d later call “Projection”, after the allegory of the cave. At first I was pleased with it. This is what it was:
This snake had been sitting on my desk for a few weeks. And when I’d stuck it onto this page, I quickly felt the desire it’s so often a symbol for – a seduction. Just think of Eve, the apple and the snake. And of how a snake symbolically often represents a fallus. In that sense – the snake already being a strong symbol on its own – it HAD to be on a page of projection. Because with the aids of a strong symbol I could tell a story of different truths.
So, after painting the woman and drawing the projected snake, I was done. Or so I thought. I even published it as an illustration for my reflective journal post on debetekenis.nl.
But as snakes so often do in myths and fairy tales, this snake kept calling me. The page wasn’t done. The projection wasn’t finished. I left my journal open for a few days and then suddenly I saw it. The projection needed to come full circle. I needed the woman to see herself projected in the snake, which was easy to imagine because the outline of the snake already has such feminine curves. So the solution was a quicky:
Once I saw what the page needed, it was a quick and easy job. And now, the page is done!
For this page I worked with simple supplies and techniques. I used (Schmincke Horadam) watercolor for the background and the painting. The snake was a clipping from a magazine I found in the paper bin. And the ink lines and lettering were done with a black unipin fineliner. All done on watercolor paper, 140lbs.
Lettering à la moi
Now someting about lettering. Lately, hand lettering is THE hype and so I turn away from it. Don’t get me wrong, I love beautiful lettering. Part of the awesome Book Art fair I visit every year is about calligraphy and it’s always interesting. It’s just that when someting becomes a hype, I’m outtathere!
A few weeks back I was invited to a hand lettering workshop and kindly declined. You see, hypes bring about standards; norms of how things should look and how they should be done. And everybody is pretty much doing the same thing. To be honest I was tempted for a little while, because my handwriting is not the fairest. But then again, it’s MINE. As is all about my visual journals. Every pages oozes me or an aspect of myself. Why standardize it to a hyped norm?
I’ve been getting questions from students in the past and people who want to pick up visual journaling. They are ashamed of their hand writing. Such a pity… You see, it’s important your story’s told. YOUR way…your words, your experiences, your thoughts, your visuals, your touch, YOUR hand. If your hand writing is hasty, well, then I know you are a bit hasty by nature. If your handwriting is meticulous and super precise, then your audience knows part of you is just that. If anything, YOUR PERSONAL handwriting adds to your story, just by being yours as it is.
So should you practise hand lettering? Well, if you like it, by all means. But if you like journaling more…nehhh…then skip it.I for one will probably love your pages more for it.
Long time no journaling
Gosh, it’s been such a long time since I was here and since I’d journaled. It sounds like a boring cliché, but I was busy.
Before I tell you about what’s been keeping me so busy, let me start by sharing the journal page I finally got to do last night. I’ll post some process photos too.
Except for a scribble and a doodle here and there, I hadn’t journaled much, so it felt a little uncomfortable at first. I had no idea what to journal about. Where to start? The past months a lot of collage work passed by on my timelines and they’d left an itch, so it had to be something with collage. I dragged out my drawer with clippings and scraps of painted paper, took a set of watercolor paint and simply sat down. The first ten minutes were restless, but as always when I show up and simply start rummaging through my supplies, when I stick to it, eventually something comes up. The fish came up first….then the lines and then the thinking stopped and this began to happen:
Yesterday I once again became very much aware of how important it is to show up to journal. In fact, showing up and allowing the process to happen, is way more important than the end result. And I’m not just saying that as an advocate of journaling. You see, I’ve been so busy lately that when I woke up in the morning, it felt as I’d been dragged from the underworld. I was so, so tired. I tried to take good care of myself, but nothing really worked. Then yesterday I finally sat down to journal and guess what?! This morning I finally really woke up feeling as if I was waking up. I didn’t feel dragged out of nowhere…I felt good and ready to start the day. That was no coincidence. It was a good reminder of how important it is for me (and probably for you too) to take the time to journal. It helps me rest and relax on a very deep level that I can’t achieve in any other way. Storytelling is not just a tool from the teller to the outside world. A journal is a channel through which the storyteller can tell him- or herself their own story, which is calling out to be heard. The journaling teacher had just forgotten her own teachings and ignored her screaming stories for a bit… Practise what you preach, eh? *cough*
So, as I write in the first paragraph it was the fish that came up first. I think they were on scraps of gift wrap paper. They immediately whispered ‘subconscious’ to me and for some reason this theme got me hooked, so put them aside and gave the spread a blue background.
Time to think
When the theme was fixed, I needed time to think, Inspired by the colorful collages I’d seen lately, I decided to go for a border involving a lot of gold, black and neon pink (too bad the scanner won’t show the neon here, it really pops and I love it!). A simple, decorative job like this creates time and space in my mind to ponder on the theme…or to just see if anything comes up. Because at this time I still really have no clue what direction this page will be going. In other words: a story from within has announced itself and I’m getting ready to sit down and listen.
By the time the spread had a colorful border, I had put together the story of this theme. I think at this stage it is often about becoming aware of why this theme got to mind when rummaging the clippings or preparing a journal page. When a theme comes up, usually there’s a story deep down inside waiting to be heard. Something you may not be acutely aware of during the day, but when you make a little time and space, it’s hoping for you to sit down and listen. These fish were in the water for me, hence the blue page. And because water symbolically represents the subconscious, it felt as if there were more at home in it than I am and the thought made me uneasy. Which is when I found the monkey, the thermometers, the face and the odd gate-like piece of scrap paper. And somehow they began to ring bells and form a story… So this next photo is not about composition. It’s about composing and how the story gradually forms when you let it happen.
The story comes full circle
As the elements of this page gradually found their place on this spread, the words came. They’re poetic words rather than me having really had this dream about these fish. But it’s an image of something I’ve felt in the past few weeks of being so busy that I lost touch with myself a bit that became visible in the translation of this feeling into these lines:
Last night I dreamt
of fish who could better swim
the deeps of my unconscious
a frightening dream
with all the deep pools
I carry in me…
What my page is telling me
The reason I believe journaling is so important, is not just because it’s fun to do or to make pretty images. Journaling is most valuable because it can help us listen to whatever that little wise voice inside of us has been trying to tell us for so long. I had been so busy that I had totally failed to hear it. The consequences of which were that I slept really bad and that I grew more and more tired – a kind of fatigue that can’t be slept off. Showing up for my journal last night was actually sitting down to listen. To practise what I’ve been preaching for so long…to listen to your inner self…to make room for it. So what my page and the process of making it tell me, is way more important than how pretty the end result is.
This page is telling me that in all my hard work I must not forget to take care of that inner self or otherwise the deep pools of my subconscious can be waters I can drown in.
What I had gotten lost in…
So, what’s been keeping me so busy that I forgot to listen in? Well, I’ve set up a Dutch website “De Betekenis” , which literally translated means: The Meaning. But what’s really fun, is that I like to spell it ‘de beTekenis’. “Teken” means ‘sign’. And a letter is also a ‘teken’, But ‘teken’ also means ‘to draw’ (as in art). So there we’re getting full circle with the name I chose for my website, because what I want it to be about is about finding and giving meaning by the aids of words and visual language.
I very much wanted a Dutch site for my LIVE courses and to make deeper stuff better accessible for the Dutch. Most of us speak English well, but sometimes people miss subtleties that I feel are important. The site will have a slightly different focus than this website and blog, which will be about my art mostly. But at the same time future courses I’m working on will definitely have a chapter ‘Meaning’ in them relating to the topics I’m working on for ‘de beTekenis’.
The website kicked off with a month of reflection for the month of November. So every day I post a prompt to reflect on and listen to your inner voice. Since the dark days have come on this hemisphere the overall theme is ‘Light and darkness’. The blog is in Dutch, of course, but if you like, you can take a look. I haven’t tried yet, but who knows what google translate will do. I’m sticking to a Dutch-only version this year, but if you’re interested in an English version, let me know. I might be able to pop in a translation next year…
Have you ever reread your old diaries?
A gruesomely hot and long summer is behind us. And I’m so glad. How did you get through? The Viking blood I must have in my veins was seriously uncomfortable in the heat and I did little more than read 21 books. I’m so glad we did a staycation this year and didn’t position ourselves in an even hotter place. But in hindsight I’m also actually grateful for such a ridiculously hot summer, because I normally never take the time to bulk read anymore. And that’s such a pity, because in one word, it was lovely.
This weekend I dug up my old diaries from the attic and after I’d carefully manipulated the locks to open, I was plunged back in time. Thirty-four years back in time. What a tumble. I’ve always considered my diaries to be a treasure – something to cherish. This little journey down Memory Lane was my first time savouring it.
My First Diary
I remember getting my first diary as if it were yesterday. We were on a holiday in the Belgian Ardennes and I had fallen ill. My parents went shopping and I had to come, but stayed in the car. After some time I was woken from my slumber by the sound of running footsteps that came near. When I looked outside, my brother stood by my window, holding a little paper bag with something in it.
That little white silky paper bag with the blue line drawing of the historic town made me feel better in a heart beat. Slow, feverish movements prolonged my curious enthusiasm. I took ages to carefully remove the tape from the paper bag because it could keep and protect whatever treasure it was holding again after opening, I don’t know if this memory accurately recounts the slowness with which it happened or if the memory itself is played half speed in my mind.
When I could finally reach into the paper bag, I pulled out a dark green diary with a golden lock and two tiny golden keys. Fever or not, my heart fluttered for joy. A diary! My first diary! With a golden lock! There was nothing in the world I loved doing more than reading and writing. And this diary…it felt as if I’d been given the world.
Down the Rabbit Hole
So I wanted to read my old diaries again. I must have kept the keys somewhere. Being so dear to me, I know I did. I even remember putting them away in a little red chintz purse, along with all the other keys of my diaries and secret little trinket boxes. Only, I do not remember if and where I’ve kept the chintz purse. So with a small collection of found and crafted micro tools I set out to do some locksmithing. And hurray! There was another flutter in my heart when I managed to open my first diary. And then the next. And then all the others. I could finally open worlds that had been locked for decades. My journey down Memory Lane could begin.
Art Journaling avant la Lettre
Reading my old diary was often endearing, sometimes hilarious and insightful all over. My attempts to write a phonetic kind of English in my first diaries sent me into a few fits of laughter. And what I was really surprised to find out, was that I was art journaling avant la lettre by illustrating many of my entries with a drawing. I had totally forgotten about that. But even in my very first diary I made illustrations, like the one below. At the time I was very concerned with the great famine in Africa. I collected money for charity to help. And I wrote about it in my diary. To illustrated my point, but I think even more to explore such a huge, inconceivable and incomprehensible disaster and process my emotions, I drew a starving child.
The text I wrote is a bit endearing. Especially since I now have kids of my own and have witnessed their attempts to comprehend the world they live in and deal with the sorrow, fear and confusion they’ve felt about some events. Reading back this entry made me want to hug my little self and tell her I was proud of her for caring and actually trying to do something about it, carrying the burden as little as I was. Below the following photos of the pages you will find the literal and unpolished translation of my entry.
Sorry I don’t know the date, but that’s okay, right? It was and is One-for-Africa day today. I donated ten guilders for Ethiopia. They’ve got around 15 to 16 million guilders. Hey, I remember the date again it’s in the top right corner. The class council won’t even give money for Africa and the famine. There will be a photo in this diary + everything about Africa.
PS. the date’s on it too. READ IT.
Important: it’s attached to this page. It’s about the famine in Africa. See other side.
I find it terrible, really, but I don’t understand it very well yet. That’s why I gave money to people who do understand. I don’t know what to think about it, which bugs me. The rich countries should be ashamed for letting it get this far. They’ve seen it coming for years, but oh no…they don’t do anything about it people there are skinny as hell. Do they think they’re doing a good job? All questions one can’t answer. It’s just so terrible. People there eat only once a day and poorly too. Imagine it were you, you woudn’t be doing too well then. I…I even have desert, I get presents I get everything. but in africa oh no. It’s very important that people learn calculus etc. But those people can’t. Only of doctors there aren’t too few and medicine like antibiotics etc. I’ve seen gruesome things on TV and read horrible things. By the way, Rebecca is very unpositive she won’t even give money for Africa, well that’s not normal. Rebecca herself eats candy like nobody ever has.
This is a child from Africa [see illustration] who suffers from malnourishdisease. He is fat because there is air in his tummy. They are very thin too, they don’t have the strength to fend off flies. They have buttocks like a little piece of paper hanging down. You can see his ribs too. Awful, isn’t it. I have given 10 guilders to Africa. In Africa that’s around 100 guilders. You can’t say I’m hungry, only I feel like eating, because we don’t know hunger they do, that is the difference. The mothers have little breasts hanging down like pieces of lead. Every 1 to 2 seconds 1 child dies – with 200 children per day and 200 per night that’s 400 every 24 hours. We must not complain. We are healthy, extremely fortunate because if not, we’d be unhealthy too. I’ve written about the famine in Africa. They eat milk and biscuits and bread, or die. One million or more people have already been killed by this disaster, there is bound to be a girl among them who’s called mandy. Horrible, isn’t it? We are all greedy, there are corpses by the road and in towns and villages. People are moving to different areas where there is still food.
PS: I hate having to write this
Found Perspectives in Rereading
It’s strange, reading back my childhood emotions and unbudding understanding of the world. It’s like seeing my young self from three perspectives at the same time. There is the retrosprect with which I look back to that time, for as far as I can recall. Then there’s the naive perspective of the girl herself and the words she left behind and the pictures she paints with them. And finally the perspective that surprised me a bit, is the parental perspective that I strongly felt in reading my diary. I kept thinking of my own girls when I read these old pages, feeling very motherly and protective towards little me.
Smiles and Laughter
What also surprised me is that there were moments of uncontrollable laughter. Sometimes it was the wit of a kid with an explorative mind who doesn’t even recognize boxes, so has no concept of how far outside the box she’s thinking, the way only children can. At other times it was the naivety in the grave voice that totally missed the mark but could blissfully indulge in ignorance.
The page above is a perfect illustration of childhood inventivity. I can only imagine what I must have thought when one day my finger bled and I saw my diary. There must have been a lightbulb moment where I put the two together and decided to leave a mark. The text says: “My real blood fingerprints”. It makes me wonder about the inventivity of my own kids. Will they too have been fascinated by that little red drop coming from their fingertip and will they too have made a fingerprint in their curiosity about it? Have you?
Curious. That word pretty well sums up what my diary shows I was like as a child. I examined my entire world and never hesitated to learn and discover something new. The last page I’m sharing is another piece of evidence for it. My first attempt to write English, two years before I’d have my first English class. So, it’s a bit of a puzzle, since it is the fully phonetic version of the title of a popsong (to the ears of a 9-year old Dutch girl), Can you figure out what my favorite pop song was at the time? It’s the orange words…
Further Down the Rabbit Hole
The journey down Memory Lane has been moving and interesting. And this is just my first diary.I can’t wait to see what’s in the others. There are many more left to read and there is lots more to share from them.
And reading my old diaries I wondered, have you ever reread your old diaries? How old were you when you got yours? What kind of things did you write down? Do you have a favorite? A treasure? With a lock? Please, feel free to share your diary experiences in a comment below. I’m looking forward to reading them.
Hello dear reader,
Are you still there? Or did you melt this summer? Boy, was it hot, wasn’t it? The area where I live is normally cool since it’s close to the sea. But this summer all that once was normal, evaporated in the heat. The viking blood in me (which is by no means a scientific truth, but certainly a felt one 😉 made this year’s staycation a very literal execution of that verb. I didn’t do much more than just ‘stay’ in front of my fan and move as little as possible. One really great side effect of the heat was that I read over 20 books this last summer. And I must have fantasized about emigrating to Iceland, Newfoundland or Greenland at least a thousand times…
Book Binding Itches
Ironically the last days of the heat wave – which were the hottest – I felt like getting into action. I had felt art journaling itches, but hardly had any blank pages in my art journals anymore. I had ordered huge packs of watercolor paper, though, and had lots of book binding supplies lying about so, the flaming days and the cool days after have been about creating new art journals. My mind is still trying to wake up from this summer’s slumber, but it can do so comfortably in a whole new collection of blank journals that I already feel at home in.
It began with an antique key…
The book above here is My Chest of Life, locked with an antique chest key I’ve had since I was a teenager, without having a clue what it came from. Of course I didn’t! It came from nothing. Its purpose was yet to be met. It was the key to my journal all along! The book’s made of watercolor paper, the cover also. I’m leaving it blank. In loving it, it will stain, smear and be contaminated. But so are we, throughout life. What this book will look like in some time and in years, will be a reflection of the marks life leaves on us too.
Holly Hobbie inspired blue blanket…
Then there is this blue book “Wishing for the Cool to Come” that is also made of watercolor paper. But for this one I collaged the cover with all kinds of blue paper to make it reminiscent of some Holly Hobbie images I remember having as a child. And then I added a little button + elastic band for closure. I love books that have some form of a closure. It adds to the privacy and confinement of the little world inside. I love that. It’s like being inside a pod…
Little Darlings to grow fond of…
And this must be my little darling… It’s made of a little old book I had lying about. The title freely translated from this archaic Dutch one is something like ‘On Your Own Two Feet’, which I find so fitting for a journal. Because isn’t the whole of life about growing up? I mean, we’re never finished growing, are we? This book too has a closure, mounted on a little scrap of horse leather I had lying about. The insides of this book is of course watercolor paper. I’ve been asked to sell, but this is one of my darlings you know? This one feels like my own to the core of my bones.
Grungeing the hell out of loveliness…
And do you perhaps remember this one? I made this cover almost two years ago and then bound the little book with album rings. And I hated it! Album rings can have their function, but they’re not for my journals. So I took them out and replaced the ugly patterend paper I had inside with fine watercolor paper. And I added a little backing sheet of hand colored paper to the cover to add some more pizzazz and grunge. I used coffee to stain that sheet of paper and boy, does this book smell like coffee! This one must be perfect for morning pages 🙂 I might have to call this book “Entangled in Waking Up”.
When old meets new and journeys on…
One of the books that emerged on the hottest days of this year was this one, “Journey”. I used hiking map paper for the covers and bound the watercolor signatures inside with Coptic stitch. But then the book didn’t feel ready to me. It needed a closure. I needed especially this book to be a confined world of its own. So I started looking for something that would fit the book. The map is from somewhere in Germany. Rummaging about my house, I found in the inheritance of my husbands grandfather a little spoon from Cologne. It was perfect because I immediately saw it holding a leather band. Only, the scoop pointed up way too much. So I doubted and tried to find something new. Deliberated with friends and everybody had a different idea for this book. But the little silver-plated souvenir spoon kept lingering in my mind. Wouldn’t it just be awesome to prolong my husband’s grandfather’s journey by uniting it with this book and setting it free on yet another journey? So I decided to hammer the scoop down and that was the best decision ever. This book is now one of my favorites. It is perfect in every way. Size, contents, binding, closure…and story. Don’t you just love it when a story already begins even before a book is opened?
When trees turn into books…
And finally I must show you this little green darling. Oh, this book! This has really been a neglected project. But a dear one. You see, we used to have an apple tree in our garden. It gave us baskets full of apples. Way more than we could eat, so we shared with neighbours, family and friends. And we had apple sauce and apple pie for weeks. But one day, the tree got sick and it dropped all its blossoms and then all its leaves and then it died. We took it down and as a keepsakes I cut off a few branches and sawed them into thin slices. And here they are. I found plywood made from fruit trees, mainly apple, and attached them onto it. And then I gave the book a binding I don’t know the name of, but was once given when I studied Book and Publishing as being a local binding method in the middle ages. Only, back in the days, such books would be covered with leather after this stage (Horrifying little fact: back in the days some really cruel people of power had books bound like this in the human skin of those condemned to death. I once saw one in a library. I sure wouldn’t have liked to be the bookbinder of that book!) and I left the binding bare in sight. I love how the long stitches really finish the book. Because in truth I had planned to cover the entire cover with these slices of apple wood. I remember I kept the other slices….SOMEwhere. But there are so many somewheres, aren’t there? And I sure didn’t find the right one….. So with these extremely long stitches I literally worked around that problem. And now I just keep looking at this book because it too has become a darling.
Ah, the luxury…
So, on a hot day this summer I started out desiring A new blank journal. And today I have six. And guess what? I still have itches… Book binding is painstaking, time devouring, difficult at times and usually a puzzle. But little else is more fulfilling than a new row of gorgeous blank books on my desk. It makes me feel so rich.
Binding these lovelies has been a great start of the year for me. How do you kickstart yourself after such a long and hot summer?
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.
A journal page that happens when your daughter reads Jane Eyre for the first time. The starry-eyed girl barged into my studio last night: “Yes!!!” She yelled, “Mom! Mr. Rochester asked her to marry him!!!” 😊😊😊 I can’t help but feel curious about how she’ll respond to the further unfolding of Jane and Mr. Rochester’s history…poor girl. But let’s keep her swooning for now…nothing cuter than a girl in a death-metal t-shirt on cloud 9 about a good book! #janeeyre #romantic #cloudnine #cloud9 #kiddiscoversenglishliterature #chicklitavantlalettre #artjournal #artjournalpage #kunstzinnigdagboek #mixedmedia #talens #mandyvangoeije
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.