I can't believe that six weeks have passed since I last wrote on my blog! A lot has happened in the mean time and I have even more to tell you. New online course, e-book AND project launch! This coming 3 April an Art Bundle is launched that I've created a totally new...read more
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.
Hello dear readers,
I’m back! I hopped on the back of Spring and flew back with it to the virtual lands to share new work with you,
For starters I made this video review of Nila Colori watercolor paint. I received this paint months ago, to try and review. And it’s been such remarkable paint that I needed a little time to experiment with it and to form an opinion of it. The paint grew on me, what can I say?
This super elegant set of paints came in last fall/winter. I felt immediately attracted to the package, which is super lovely and fits the theme of ‘natural pigments’ very well.
The set in the wooden box contains 8 colors, but I was sent the other 4 colors as well. I will glue those into this box to keep them all together.
The colors of this paint are lovely, but differ from a ‘standard set’ of paints like we know the travel kits from better known brands. There is no really bright red or blue in the set, so the mixing chart of this set looks really, really different.
The colors reminded me of Autumn, which is normally my favorite season of the year (except for this year when the dark season has way outstayed its welcome).
As you can see, the colors are very much alive. Most granulate or form some kind of bloom as a texture and that looks amazing. The granulation is different than in other colors, but lovely nonetheless. The colors are beautifully transparent and flow wonderfully, so they seem perfect to me for layering, just like Sennelier paints and M. Graham paints.
Not just the wooden set was packaged beautiful, but the single pans came in lovely little paper ‘bags’ as well. And all carry this beautiful logo. All in all I love the way this brand packs its products. They’re all so well taken care of and are a pleasure to the eye and hands the moment you get them home.
This blog post is a very short version of my video review below that I made earlier today. In this video you will see a live swatching demo and a lot more information about the paint and the way it behaves on paper. Happy watching and see you back soon ♥
This charming set of Nila Colori watercolors can be found at: https://www.nilacolori.com/
Their facebookpage is right here: https://www.facebook.com/nilacolori/
And their Instagram can be found here: https://www.instagram.com/nilacolori/
Do you remember that last September Lori sent me this wonderful Altoid / chewing-gum-package test kit of M. Graham watercolor paints? Here’s the little video I made about it back then:
Thank you so much, Lori, for your kind gift. I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to try these paints!
Back then I hoped to review the paint soon because I was particularly curious about this paint of which I’d read such wonderful reviews. But a lot happened in the following months and I only got round to reviewing this wonderful paint today. But not after doing a painting with them to try these magnificent paints before I’d review them. This painting is called “Seeding” and it is for sale in my shop, here.
Someone asked me what I mean to say with this painting and when that happens, I find my mouths quickly half open, ready to ventilate what I see in it. But then I find myself torn. Isn’t it much more important to let the viewer see their own story in it? I really prefer the latter, feeling that my own interpretation would only limit the freedom with which the viewer can behold a story.
So, even though I’m not spillig the beans on the little story I meant to paint, I can say a little about the conditions under which I painted this little fellow. I intended to record the M. Graham review yesterday, but the duvet of clouds was so heavy and grey that I felt all color had been sucked out of the world. Any filming would have required artificial lighting and as you can guess, that is no way to film the swatching of watercolor paint. It contaminates all the colors with flares and whatever hue the light throws onto them mixed with whatever your camera picks up of it. I was a little gutted because in spite of my planning, it seemed I could not film my review.
Looking at this guy, I can’t help but wonder if he took over my aggrevation and was longing for the blue skies and the sun, for the return of light and colors, just as much as I did. The plant he sits on clearly couldn’t wait for it either and has already begun seeding. Real-life nature around me can’t wait either. This morning on my walk I saw the first crocuses of the year! Even though they were only a frail lilac, I almost felt like jumping for joy. Yay, spring is on its way! I can’t wait!
For “Seeding” I used both these wonderful M. Graham watercolor paints and the Sennelier Pagoda Indian ink that I’d been dying to try and I’ve found it is really good.
M. Graham Watercolors Swatching and Review
I absolutely love the M. Graham Watercolor paint! It is 100% to my taste, but I shan’t give all away here yet. You can see all about it in my video review. Of course I swatched all the colors Lori sent me and did a few tests with it to see how these paints behave. Here goes:
Here is the color chart I made in the M.Graham review video:
I have tried to manipulate the scan as little as I could but still give a proper representation of what these swatches look like. Please keep in mind that should you buy colors, colors may differ from what you see on your screen. Despite careful color adjustment (individually for all swatches), they may come across very different on your screen due to the defaults of all different screens and our individual settings. More information can be acquired in my video in which I comment on the colors so that you may find more clarity on them.
I hope you enjoyed my review and if you’ve painted with these watercolor paints then please let me know what your experiences are. And even more…should you have any experience with their gouache, I’d love to hear about those! Those are the next I definitely want to try and get my hands on…