Kickstarting the day
I am currently refurbishing my website and to be honest, it’s quite a boring job and I long to paint. But since both websites and painting are time-consuming activities, the painting will have to wait a bit. A few days I crept behind the computer early in the morning and soon ended up in search of matches or other sticks to keep my eyelids from falling shut. So I needed a little something to wake the whole of me up before I did some work that actually feels like work. And lo and behold, I chose collage.
Here’s two collage pages I did yesterday and this morning:
These collages were done in the grey-black book I bound almost two years ago for the purpose of practising collage. It’s odd how sometimes books lie wanting and abandoned on a shelf for a long time. I mean, I did a few collages in it, but then I forgot about it somewhere along the line. Now that I’ve picked up this book again, doing these quick postcard-sized collages, it’s so much fun. It really helps wake up my system to do some more tedious work. Speaking of which, I have procrastinated enough by writing this blogpost, I think. I’d better head to the backend of my website, do some more brushing up and get the job done. 🙂
If you feel triggered to dive into collage as well, you can find some inspiration perhaps, in the work of:
And the winners are….
Michelle M. Heindl
Congratulations!!! Please e-mail me your names and addresses through my contact form on my website and you will be sent your watercolor package asap!!! Have fun painting!!!
For those who didn’t win…better luck next time and check out the video… 🙂 There’s more in store!
When granulation becomes a style
Over the years my watercolor painting style has varied greatly in appearance. But underneath the variety really boils down to three branches: I do stylized illustrated Tanka in ink and watercolor; I do illustrations based on preconceived images making use whatever medium I feel needs to be in it, but I mostly do watercolor paintings in which I work with a rough idea in mind, but then let the paint form the basis to work from and let the work grow from there. And to make that happen, I like to use all kinds of media mixed and granulating watercolor paint. I just really love the textured look a colored surface gets when painted with a granulating paint. They make paintings feel more lively. That being said, granulation is a skill to learn. The results are most beautiful in a balanced image.
A collection of granulation
A few weeks back I decided to make a collection of good granulating paints and keep them all in one tin. Here’s the collection I have composed thus far. THUS FAR, because…as you can see, there are eight vacancies. Eight empty pans! That’s not tolerable, is it? So my question to you is, which granulating paints do you think should be added to this set to complete it? A good color chart with pigment information can be found further down this post.
What IS granulation?
Granulation is a characteristic in the paint that makes the pigment particles flock together in micro-heaps or sink straight down onto the paper while the water flows on. So when the paint dries, you can see an uneven spread of color in the area that’s been painted. There are two kinds: real granulation, which can actually leave tiny areas uncolored and a flowering sort of granulation, which causes an uneven spread of color. Both can be really, really nice.
Artist vs cheaper quality & granulation
Granulation works best in artist grade pigments due to the heavy load of pigments in the paint, which makes this characteristic come out best. And because more expensive, pure pigments are used. Cheaper paints tend to be made with cheaper pigments and most of those have an ink-like feel, which means their color spreads out evenly. Many student grade paints have no granulation at all, some only in cheap pigments.
The most affordable watercolor paints and fluid watercolors are made with dyes rather than pigments, so they don’t granulate at all and instead the result of using those is an even, inky look. It can be lovely too, mind you. Granulation is not a must. But to me it is a perpetual source of fascination and inspiration.
Other ways of achieving texture in watercolor
Granulation can also be achieved by granulation mediums, although the effect of those will never be the same as the use of a good granulating pigment. You will see texture happen, though, so it is certainly worth a try. Other really great texture effects can be achieved with salt, alchohol and plastic wrap too, for instance. So if you don’t own granulating pigments yet, but do love texture, then by all means, experiment!
This morning I did a color chart of my granulating set of watercolors while having a coffee. I figured I might as well make it a cosy moment together…
As you can see, I already have a rather extensive collection of granulating paints, but it will not surprise you that I’m always curious for more. There are just so many lovely watercolor paints out there. I’ve been very curious about Daniel Smith Primateks, but I know other manufacturers use many of those pigments too, naming it differently. And I know that every day more and more small paint makers join the game and some offer really lovely paints, or so I’ve heard. So should you have any suggestions, you’re more than welcome to leave a comment. And if any of you perhaps know granulating yellows an reds, I’m extra interested!
today I have something really nice to start the New Year with, a giveaway! But before I start, I want to wish everyone a very inspired and colorful 2019, of course!
A few weeks back I was asked if I’d like to unbox a Watercolor studio kit and give away two. I was a bit hesitant at first because I always work with artist grade paints myself. Not out of snobbery, but because artist grade paints each have their own character, which I use to create my art. The more affordable paints don’t have the characteristics I’m referring to.
Affordable paint for starters
But should I always just review artist grade paints then? Pigments are interesting, of course, but making art doesn’t require the most expensive supplies at all. And besides, the amount of questions I get about more affordable paint alone, says ‘no’ too. When you start out painting, what matters, is to become familiar with the joy of painting and to learn the feel of water and color. That doesn’t require artist quality at all. In fact, pigments will only confuse and probably frustrate beginners. But that being said, you also don’t want to start with a set from the toy store. There is a difference between affordable paint and garbage. Art supplies need to work well, feel comfortable and ooze color.
So I took a look at this watercolor studio kit and the first impression on their website was good. The instruction video looked inspiring and the paint didn’t seem too bad at all, but really nice affordable paint instead. So, I did the unboxing. As you will know from me by now, the video is a bit wordy, so I’ll stop talking here, so that you can watch the video. But not before I let you know how you can partake in the giveaway.
Simply leave a comment below this blogpost BEFORE 30 January 2019.
Preferably with a username that links to somewhere I can contact you or an e-mail address or something. Or…keep an eye on my blog and YouTube channel, because on that day I will post who the winners are. I will draw the two winners at noon CET, so Amsterdam Time.
- Intro talk until 9:48
- Unboxing at 9:49
- Swatching and first experience at 23:32
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.