End of year, Tanka and some neat Inspiration

Dear readers,

we’ve come to the end of this year…already!
Time is rushing by so fast I feel its velocity might toss me off the planet sometimes.
Gosh…almost 2018 already! High time to review, look ahead and fuel our minds with a little, or no…a lot of inspiration ♥

LIVE workshop Writing and Illustrating Tanka

Two weeks ago, I taught the LIVE workshop Writing and Illustrating Tanka. It was a great success…I’ve never before had a group work so diligently and quietly. Teaching online is great, but teaching LIVE and seeing the immediate response was very fulfilling as well. The moment that little blush appears on a cheek is priceless! It sure is worth doing again.

Here are some photos and Tanka of the day, with kind permission of my students:

We spent the day in a cabin in a lovely garden. A little less picturesque in winter than in the summer, but nonetheless a nice place to be.

We spent a day of color and word play and I’ve never seen a group of students work so quietly for so long.

The results were colorful.

And it was so enjoyable to see how every one of the students worked in their own style.

I love teaching art classes that don’t go from A to Z. I like to invite people to make the lesson their own, their work their own. I’m one of those teachers who is proudest of those who don’t really listen… 😉

Besides a lot of color there were also a lot of lines, some abstract, some more illustrative.

And as always the power of visual communication was great!

I will do a post about the Tanka that the students wrote that day another time. They’re in Dutch, so they deserve a little special treatment before I post them here.

Art Supply Swap and Bullet Journal Vlog

Yesterday I uploaded a new vlog on YouTube. I had received a lovely bullet journal to review from Mint Printcess that I wanted to show you guys. And the weeks before I had swapped some art supplies with Claudine. She was keen on the markers I didn’t use at all and another thing or two. And she gave me the oil-based art supplies she never worked with. It’s so cool to have all this new stuff without slaughtering your piggy bank for it. And our fingers are itching to get started with them!


It is a really good idea to clear out art supplies every now and then. It seems so much fun having a lot of them. But sometimes it just reaches that point where they weigh on you instead of inspire you. And that is the time to say goodbye to some of it. I know that everytime that I do, I feel that much better and more inspired because of it…and as you can see in the video, swapping is a great way to do it!

What’s in store in 2018?

For me, this past year has been one of self reflection. I love teaching art. But something else was tugging at my sleeve that I couldn’t shake off. I am not yet going to spill all the beans because it’s in a premature and fragile stage. I’ve decided I’m going to dedicate (most of) my time to writing the book I’ve been working on for two years now. I had planned on doing it side by side with online teaching, but in reality it felt a little like doing both half and that didn’t feel right. So, for now I will not be launching new online courses and write my book instead…(although I’ve already felt a new surge of dynamic energy and inspiration straight after taking my decision, so who knows what might pop up this year anyway!?)

I will keep making and sharing art. And I will certainly keep uploading new art supply reviews and process videos on YouTube. I just love connecting that way. And besides, what better way to cool down a steaming mind, right? I have welcomed more than 1.000 new followers on YouTube this year and have found it to be a really great social medium.

My wishes for you…

This week I attended the funeral of a man over whose loss nobody mourned. People mourned over the grief he’d caused during his life and the things that they’d missed from a father, a grandfather, a brother, an uncle, a brother-in-law. In a way it was the saddest funeral I’ve ever attended in so many layers of grief.

And still we can learn from people like him, whose example we shouldn’t take (which is exactly why). So let’s do the exact opposite of what this man has done throughout his life. What I wish for you is this:

I wish for you to feel gratitude during your life…during big moments, but even more so during the wee daily moments we tend to take for granted. Life and everything in it is not a right…it is a gift.

I wish for you to look your loved ones in the eyes and take a little moment to feel what they mean to you. Look at them. And SEE them. What do you mean to them?

And I wish you a sniff of courage to tell your loved ones what they mean to you. Thank you, sorry and I love you are the six most important words and also the six most forgotten words between two people. Make sure you feel them. Make sure you say them. Make sure you receive them.

Christmas Break Inspiration

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, happy Yule and a really great New Year’s Eve!!! That you may be sparked with inspiration and that all your wishes may come true ♥

I’m leaving you with some wonderful inspiration for you this X-mas/End-of-year holiday, hoping you will be able to enjoy some creative time to let your sparks take the shape of art…

If you feel inclined to close the year and welcome a new one, I can highly recommend these for a moment of reflection:
Susannah Conway’s Unravel Your Year
Susannah Conway’s Find Your Word
The Year Compass in many languages

A super endearing video about a little boy making the most touching clay art dolls:

Paulus Berensohn isn’t with us anymore, but he’s cooperated to do this wonderfully inspiring video:

And if this video makes you hungry for more, you could check out To Spring From the Hand, a documentary about him, his life and his work

If you feel like Art Journaling a lot at the moment and if you’re crazy about music, my friend Marit’s Top 2000 Blogparty may be just what you’re looking for! Go check it out here!

Then this lovely video about Journaler Kolby Kirk and the Muir project:

A peek into some really lovely sketchbooks by PearFleur

Have you ever tried this painting technique yet? It’s really nice to do and brings lovely, unexpected outcomes. You can do it both with fluid acrylics and with watercolor paints:

Well, that’s it for now…I’m stretching out for some holiday fun and relaxing the next couple of weeks. Meeting up with friends, having family over, beach walks with dog planned and just a whole lot of cocooning to refuel and get started with the next year. How are you spending these holiday weeks?

Love and many hugs, Mandy

a Tanka illustrated: #6 every day raindrops…

Summer has fallen and my Tanka couldn’t but follow…

English translation of the Tanka:

every day raindrops
on the map – it’s sunny now
beckoning me out
but I find my feet frozen
in the work I have to do

The skies have turned a dull kind of heavy and specks of blue light up the world only every now and then. The wind is blowing us the first tidings of approaching winter, so it’s chilly. Sitting at my writing desk where the heating can’t reach me, the cold of the wall grips my calves and stiffens my feet to a point where it hurts. To loosen its hold on me I now have a little blanket by my side and when I feel the icy hand caress my legs, I cover them with softness and warmth. I must look like a granny bent over her writing desk. If only my room looked like a Victorian parlor and a fire were burning in my hearth.

Sometimes it’s not so much the cold itself as the grey that stops the warmth inside of me. Or my blood freezes when I get caught in my work and sit still for too long. If only my long walks could free me from the ice cold satyr then. But most times these days one moment in silence will bring the nay with the gentle ticking of my weeping window.

Yesterday I had planned to do a mighty bulk of work. There are some preparations I want to do for my LIVE Writing and Illustrating Tanka workshop for 9 December. And I wanted to finish preparations for a big project I want to work on after that. Not even mentioning that I have so many Tanka left to illustrate for which my fingers are itching and so many illustrations that are crying out to be united with a Tanka. I other words, my hours were filled to the brim and beyond.

And then the sun shone. So brightly, so merrily. It made my feet itch for a walk…my nose itch for a sniff of decaying summer and my ears itch for the sound of the geese gathering in a field nearby. A friend hopped by and when she set out on her walk, I felt caught between the sun and my pen. Afraid to let a rare moment pass me by, afraid to fall irreparably behind with my work.

While my angel and devil were fighting their battle on my shoulders, the war was won by my writing desk. I put on my granny garment, hoisted up my pen, feasted my eyes on the bleak powder blue sky and bright gold of the leafless stems waving hello in my garden and set to work.

LIVE cursus Tanka Schrijven en Illustreren

Lijkt het jou ook leuk om Tanka te schrijven en te illustreren? Dat kan!

Op 9 december aanstaande vindt de ééndaagse workshop Tanka Schrijven en Illustreren plaats op een rustieke locatie in Zeeland. Op deze pagina leest u meer.

Some collage practise and weekend inspiration

It’s time for a little bit of weekend inspiration and an update on what I’ve been working on.

The past week I’ve been practising my collage skills. Inspired by the work of Sara Fanelli, I finally got started on a collage journal, something I’d been planning to do for I don’t know how long.

Sara Fanelli‘s website can be found here, but I got my inspiration from Google images. Great work, right?

Andrea d’Aquino‘s website can be found here and here’s information about her inspiring book (including a lovely sneak preview video) Once Upon a Piece of Paper.

And then there is a little bunch of lovely collage inspiration for your weekend….

A really great idea for a weekend project…a super great collage project!

So….I hope that despite my fatigue you will enjoy yourselves with this week’s vlog and inspiration boost because right now I’m going to bed…catch up on some lost sleep…

Have a colorful weekend! Sleep well tonight…(I know I will!)

a Tanka illustrated: #5 So high…

I’m still working on my series of illustrated Tanka. I searched for a way to combine writing poetry with my art work for years and now it feels like I’ve found it. The more I write, the more ideas are growing, the harder my fingers are itching. I made some time this week to do practise my collage skills (see my Facebook and Instagram accounts), but I still kept up the Tanka.

English translation of the Tanka:

heaven is so high
that it seems impossible
to collect its stars
and yet I do, one by one
I take them into my dreams

LIVE cursus Tanka Schrijven en Illustreren

Lijkt het jou ook leuk om Tanka te schrijven en te illustreren? Dat kan!

Op 9 december aanstaande vindt de ééndaagse workshop Tanka Schrijven en Illustreren plaats op een rustieke locatie in Zeeland. Op deze pagina leest u meer.

Storytelling with Tanka + Illustrated Tanka#4

English translation of the Tanka:

four paws are walking
to the horizon with me
I never get there
no matter how much concrete
slides past under my two feet

Storytelling is majorly important in art

Without a story, art is basically just a pretty (hopefully!) picture or a display of skills. Nothing wrong with pretty pictures, but personally I want more. And I know I’m not the only one. It is in the stories we share that people read or see a reflection of their own. It is through stories that we connect. Most artists strive for meaningful art. If we really want to connect with our audience, storytelling is the key element in our work.

Short poetry as a great tool for storytelling

Most times in art the story isn’t portrayed or told literally. It often appears as a metaphor. But when told with style and cut down to the bare essentials, story can be integrated into a piece of art. For any kind of art, and especially in a visual journal, or art journaling, upgrading our skills in a very concise form of using language can be a major asset. Micro storytelling does not only prevent us from losing the essence in a tsunami of words, but also, it helps boil down our minds to the essentials, making our art more focused and condensed and therefore stronger.


Simply put, Tanka are a spin-off from Haiku. It is probably put a bit bluntly, but let’s not make this too complicated for now. Haiku are short poems that consist of 3 phrases having 5 -7 – 5 syllables. Tanka have two added phrases of 7 syllables each which give them just that little bit more space to really tell a story. There are no strict rules as to rhyme, style or content. Writing Tanka is about rhythm, form, feelings and thoughts. They are often a fragment from life…a tiny captured moment. It doesn’t have to be complicated academic “literarararity”. Writing Tanka is a matter of learning to feel the rhythm of your words. Once you get the hang of it, writing Tanka becomes addictive.

Freedom within limitation

I’m so glad that every now and then I jot down quotes that mean something to me. I’d never heard of Tawara Machi, but one day I read an interview in which she said about writing Tanka:

“Freedom lies in the limitation of the form.”

I couldn’t find the interview on the internet anymore, but the words remain true nonetheless.

In the past I’ve experienced that it pays to do away with excess art supplies. It relieved me from a burden I hardly realized I was carrying and made room for a huge flow of inspiration. It goes completely against our modern consumerist minds, but working with WHAT WE HAVE is endlessly more inspiring than possessing or allowing ourselves EVERYTHING. It simply leaves more room to BE. Working within limitations sets the brain into action. You see, our grey matter absolutely loves solving problems. So when we decide to use Tanka to write our story, our brains are immediately activated. I imagine it must be something like this:

  “My story in Tanka? Hell no! Too few words! How am I going to fit ALL of my story into THAT few words? Can’t be done! But must! Think! Let me think! How can I do this? Hmmm…I’ll need to boil this down to the very essential….”


The very essential! That is what Tanka – and any other limited form of writing or art making – help us find. And whatever text it is we’re writing or whatever art it is we’re making, if we manage to capture the essence of what we want to express, the world will be waiting to see, read or hear it.

Tanka and Illustration are a match made in heaven

Because Tanka don’t allow us to say EVERYTHING we want, it leaves room to expand on our story in the visual. Or to give it a complete twist. And the other way around, if we make a drawing or a painting, we sometimes want to add just those few words to it, to make the story whole or bend it over backwards. Tanka are an amazing and satisfying tool for that.

LIVE Tanka Workshop upcoming

On the coming 9 December there will be an in-the-flesh workshop Writing and Illustrating Tanka in Dutch in the Netherlands. (more information if you click on image below)

a Tanka illustrated: #3 Some days… + Weekend Inspiration

Before you know it, it’s already weekend again. So on this fabulous Friday I wanted to share some of the things that have inspired me in my work lately or that I feel can be inspiring for a great weekend.

But, before I do that, I want to share with you Illustrated Tanka #3. It’s called “Some Days” and it’s really an art journal page. It was one of those days where I felt completely obstinate for no reason. One of those days…I bet you know the feeling.

English translation of this Tanka:

Some Days

I have a problem
with my own authority
even. I don’t like
having anyone tell me
what to do. Not even me.

Tanka #3 was a reversed Tanka. First I drew the illustration and then I noticed how the lines were revealing my foul mood, making a wonderful theme for a Tanka. It’s miraculous how we give away so much of ourselves in a few simple and abstract lines. Adding the words made my story of that day feel so complete. It is this golden combination of text and image that I love so much and feels incredibly rewarding.

Weekend Inspiration

I thought it would be nice to share some of the things with you that inspire me or that I see passing by on facebook that I’d like to share. To spend a lost moment in the weekend, perhaps?

“Song of Solomon” by Kate Bush from the album The Red Shoes. In this song she sings:

“Write me your poetry in motion,
write it just for me
and sign it with a kiss”

I know in the song it means something else, but illustrating poetry to me is exactly THAT…poetry in motion…capturing the mood of the poem by the movement of my fingers, hand, wrist and arm. So often when I set out to make an illustrated Tanka these words sing through my mind…

Some lovely illustrated poems by Joanna Tilsley.

Stop Motion version of That Time of Year by William Shakespeare.

The children’s poem story The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt and Tony DiTerlizzi (not very good quality, but amusing nonetheless).

A little peek into the illustrated version of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself by Allen Crawford.

A really nice series of illustrated poetry by Venkatagiri Rao.

Have a nice weekend!

a Tanka illustrated: #2 For those willing to see…

I’m still writing and illustrating Tanka’s. Partly in preparation of my LIVE workshop on 9 December – for which there are still a few seats available, see the link below – and partly because I’m working on a series. One of my latest Tankas is this one.

English translation of the Tanka:

For those willing to
see, the earth is scattered with
treasures. These jewels
will only reveal themselves
to those who’re willing to stoop.

LIVE cursus Tanka Schrijven en Illustreren

Lijkt het jou ook leuk om Tanka te schrijven en te illustreren? Dat kan!

Op 9 december aanstaande vindt de ééndaagse workshop Tanka Schrijven en Illustreren plaats op een rustieke locatie in Zeeland. Op deze pagina leest u meer.

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


Online Workshops:

I’m a guest teacher at:

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