Stepping into the Twenties
When I say ‘the Twenties’ I’m reminded of “The House of Elliott”, the Charleston, Art Deco, sleek and ornate knee-high party dresses and half short hairdos that were flat over the head and then curled back up from the neck to the ears. The decade is often referred to as ‘The Roaring Twenties’. Political and international relations were complicated after World War I and economic highs and lows followed eachother up with stroboscopic velocity. And in the mean time women burnt their corsets. began to wear their skirts above the knee and many refused to spend their lives serving their household any longer and began to look for a more fulfilling existence.
We human beings have a tendency to think that the time we live in is the most dangerous time ever or that we are more advanced now than ever before. But when we look through history, we can see that events actually come and go in waves and things happen over and over again. Thus far I think we’re just lucky to live in this century in this part of the world. Yes, the media bring us heartbreaking news from all over the world 24/7 and when you spend a lot of time on social media, you can drink heartbreak on micro level 24/7 as well. We see more, we hear more, we know more, we share more. And news comes at the speed of light. If you’re not careful, you can see world news happening live.
At the same time one century ago newspapers were fighting for more independence. Good journalism was independent journalism which did thorough research and which heard both parties in dispute. That quality of press we are losing. It’s overpowered by the shouting of social media, it’s disabled by fake news and even more by the uprise of deep fake news and political developments all over the world are sawing the feet from under the reliability of the press if it helps their selfish cause. Never before has humanity received such a huge bulk of information on a daily basis and never before have individuals had such responsibility in estimating which news is true and relevant to them. So, even though history repeats itself, some things change and new players join the game.
How will these Twenties turn out for us? What will the history books say about our new decade in a hundred years or so? Who knows. Roaring I have a feeling it will be. But I am starting with a HUGE step in making things more simple. Calmer. And yet, roaring in another way.
I wish you a roaring decade too, a decade in which you can free yourself from your metaphorical ‘corsets’ and wear your skirt just as high or as low and you like. And that just like the women in the Twenties of a century ago, you may find fulfillment in your life the way you like it.
Here is how I am starting my Twenties:
If you’ve read my last blog post, you know that due to a human mistake in hospital I got super bad news and walked around afraid and frozen for a month last November. In the end it turned out it was a mistake and that actually, I was more than fine. But a confrontation with the fragility of one’s existence changes something inside forgood. It brings a clarity about life that no thinking can do. Wubbo Ockels, a Duch astronaut, once said the same about having cancer and knowing he was going to die. He said that life became better, clearer. There was an immediate clarity about what really mattered. And the rest…dust in the wind. It’s true. I’ve dropped a lot of “excess baggage” during that month.
Work-related “excess baggage” that I’ve dropped is online teaching. I don’t mean to make it sound disrespectful or worthless, for I have loved doing it and building up relations with people from all over the world, on the foundations of a shared passion for artistic expression. But after years of pinballing about the course of my life, I realised it just isn’t what I want to do anymore. The online climate has changed to 100% commercial and as a result offers less and less space for real outsiders. So outsiders go elsewhere. I’m going elsewhere. But even more importantly, deep down inside I want to progress in my own art and write my book(s). I’ve gone back and forth between the decision a lot in the past years (as you know…), but this time it’s for real. I’m no longer teaching online and I’m taking down my online courses.
What does it mean for you as a student?
So, if you’re a student of mine, this will have consequences for you. If you’ve purchased one of my online courses, you will find them gone in the second week of April this year. If you want to keep the course materials, please make sure you download the videos and pdf’s before then. You can also download the course page as an HTML file to have an itenerary for the course.
The “Art for Life” course will remain accessible online, albeit on a hidden page that students must have the link to. I will migrate my Art for Life videos to a new location soon, so I’m apologizing up front that in reconnecting the videolinks, there may be a few hickups on the course page for a few days, while it’s being reconstructed somewhere this month or in February.
So, to the work table it is! For a new project!!!
Besides taking my own art further and finishing my book I’m working on another big project. A graphic novel!!! I know! VERY scary! I’d never thought I would do that, but maybe you remember I was working on another book as well? Well, in the end it felt like that book didn’t want to happen in words. Then this summer I took an online comics writing course. Just to have a passtime during the heat. But the course hit me straight in the heart and woke up a super strong flow of energy and a whole new form of my story popped up. So this fall I’ve quietly been working on some test pages and at the moment I have three pages ready. I’m aiming at about 240 pages, so I have a long way to go. But I like it. I love putting my teeth into it. And I love the community I’ve found and that is very supportive in the process. I’ve always read comics, but it never came to mind that perhaps I could make one myself one day. So I had no idea how to go about it professionally. Because it actually really is a profession, writing comics. And there’s a huge amount of things you have to keep in mind while doing it. But I love everything about it. I’m juggling a bit to find the right rhythm of working on three projects at the same time. I tried assigning different days to different projects, but that didn’t work. So now I’m assigning parts of the day to each project and so far it seems to work! So, secretly I’m very happy that the holidays are over and now I can hit the throttle and get on full speed!
Will I share?
Of course I will share my art. And actually, I have to start selling it, because I’ve come to the deplorable point where my drawers cannot contain any more new art, so a little pile is now beginning to form on my printer. In the light of ‘excess baggage’ I’ve promised myself I’m going to build a webpage to sell my art and try to be more disciplined with sharing art that is for sale. And I’m looking for a few art shows to take part in this year.
Change nouns to verbs
So, all in all there is a lot of work to do and I’m finally feeling the full throttle to get it done. The thing is…in making plans or writing down the things you want, it’s a wise idea to think in VERBS, not in NOUNS. You see, I wanted to be a writer, but I had trouble writing. I wanted to be an artist, but I had trouble making art. I never wanted to be an online teacher, but with great collaboration propositions coming by, I taught online. But if I want to get my nouns on the book shelves in libraries, book stores and living rooms, and on people’s walls, I need to get my verbs straight first! And that is exactly what I’m going to do. No, correct: That is exactly what I am already doing!
Illustrate Your Life
Oh, and before I forget…I haven’t been active in it lately, but I did set up a Mighty Network this fall, to see if I liked the platform for community building (I really dislike the lack of privacy on fb). It’s called Illustrate Your Life and it’s a place for autobiographic art, so art about your life. So it’s really a place for visual and wordy stories. You’re welcome to join. You can do so by clicking this link:
If you’ve read my newsletter till the end…thank you and I hope you’ve enjoyed it. I’ve included some images of recent personal work that I did the past weeks. I couldn’t let Bowie’s birthday go by unnoticed, of course. And those watercolor faces…sigh…they are just such great fun to do. That castle in the clouds? I was trying out new gouache that I didn’t like (Caran d’ache) and then I just HAD to go back to my designer’s gouaches because they look so beautifully velvetty. But I didn’t know what to paint, so I went on Instagram and let myself be inspired by the first flat-colored castle illustration in gouache that I saw. I love little exercises like these in my sketchbook. Even though they are not “my art”, they do give me a lot of satisfaction at the end of the day…
I hope you find a lot of satisfaction in your days too….
Everything in life comes in seasons.
Everything comes and goes.
Literally every single thing.
I’ve known this for as long as I can remember.
But I only truly began to understand
when one day along the shore
I found hundreds of dead serpent stars,
Being close to a nuclear plant
first I thought that perhaps
the water had been poisoned.
But looking the serpent star up in a book
I learned that they come in seasons
and go in seasons too, in masses.
It is that time of year again.
The end of the year has come
although my end-of-year
has been here
for a while.
Last October Doc called
to bring very bad figures
and four weeks before we knew
if the news was as bad
as the figures said it was.
Confronted with the fragility of being
and the horizon as close as the tip of my nose
Little held importance.
The ground beneath my feet
felt like quicksand.
My year was over.
Late November Doc calls:
the figures were wrong.
I was more than all right.
A stiff drink
The horizon back where it should be,
in the distance.
I could breathe again.
In the quicksand
most had lost meaning.
So I gave myself time
to get out
And moment by moment
time brought clarity, order, inspiration and energy.
So I am beyond ready for the new year.
And have been.
I long for my work.
It’s been long.
I’ve missed it.
we have a few festive days ahead
closing the year past
welcoming the arrival of a new.
Art supplies to experiment
This year I had a very special end-of-year celebration: a package of art supplies with stuff that had been on my wish list for a long time. I made a little video of the unpacking. I intend to do little (or big, knowing me) art videos about them.
What I was most curious about, was liquid charcoal because I thought I might combine that both with drawing and watercolor techniques. I got a 50 ml tube by Nitram and my first try proved it was different than I thought. I filmed my second try and compared it to Daniel Smith Lunar Black to show the difference. And then I filmed a little demo, sharing the experience. I haven’t yet finished the editing of the demo (X-mas holidays have a way of being busier than you think beforehand), but I do have a first video for you about some of the characteristics of liquid charcoal now:
I’m about to wrap this blog post up, but with the New-Year’s celebrations ahead I first want to wish you a very festive New Year’s Eve.
And of course I wish you a very happy and fulfilling 2020. That you may find your true desires and a way to fulfill them…
ps: general notice
This blog post has been written according to a new plan I’ve had for my blog. Due to social media I haven’t spend much time here lately and that’s a shame, because this is such a me-place that I’d like to live in it as my online home more. So I’m going to blow life back into it. If you’d like to be kept up-to-date about my blog posts, you can either subscribe by RSS or via Bloglovin’, or you can sign up for my newsletter and then you’ll receive word of every new post in your mailbox automatically.
Some images speak for themselves, so let me not ruin it by writing about it.
At the moment I’m completely into waterproof ink because I’m drawing and writing a lot of Tanka. It’s something I like to do when I have a lot on my mind. Limiting myself to just a small number of lines, a small number of syllables, forces me to boil my thoughts down to the essence and that’s incredibly calming. And at the same time it’s a huge catalyst for creative thinking.
My illustrated Tanka are poetry in words and image. Sometimes they complement each other, sometimes they are a translation of the other, sometimes they change the other into something new. I love the intricate simplicity of the process.
But I do need really good waterproof inks to make them. Last week I had trouble with my go-to black drawing ink when all of a sudden it started to bleed when I colored my drawing with watercolor. And as it happened, an artist on facebook told me that her ink was really, really good and waterproof, so I ordered a huge bottle and tested it when it came in yesterday.
Here’s a video of my waterproof ink test for you. I thought you might like to see what I found out…
– Winsor & Newton Black Indian Ink (#030)
– Talens drawing ink neutral tint (715)
– Talens Indian Ink
– Talens drawink ink black (700)
– Diamine Onyx black fountain pen ink
– Mont Blanc Permanent black
– Micron Pigma fineliner 03
Read more blog posts:
Storytelling with a message
Making art, to me, is visual storytelling. Sometimes it is literally a way of telling a story that already exists. And sometimes it is a way of unearthing a story that lay hidden somewhere in my subconscience, somewhere in my fingers, somewhere in the shadows. I love painting both kinds and I find that as a natural process I often alternate between the two.
Where numbers become symbols
This weekend I did a painting for which I let myself be inspired by both a message I wanted to pour into the image and the symbols that led up to this painting.
The starting point was that it was a birthday gift for somebody’s 69th birthday. At first I chuckled a bit about what I could do with a soixante-neuf theme. If ever I could do something cheeky, it was with this age. But thinking of who it was for, I realized that we could have this chuckle some day later this year. For now, a more important and heartfelt message wanted to be told. The only question was ‘How?’
Where the visual works
The thing with heartfelt messages is that you don’t just tell them. Not all of them. Some, you just don’t blurt out. This was one of those. “Hey you need some balance, dude!” Imagine that as a way of saying congratulations… No matter how lovingly, heartfelt and caring such a remark can be intended, that is not necessarily how they come across. And this is where I find visual language extremely helpful. In the first place, when I draw or paint, it really comes straight from the heart without interference of any white noise from my opinions or reasonings. And somehow what comes out knows its way to the heart of the beholder. So it’s a much more direct heart-to-heart way of communicating. And in the second place I’m just more sensitive when saying things with images than I am in words. But having decided on doing a special painting still left me with the questions “What?” and “How?”
Sitting down to think about things rarely brings solutions. In this case my purposeful thought process hadn’t taken me much further than chuckling over the images in my mind that popped up when I thought about 69-happy birthday cards. Difficult concepts always come under the shower, in bed or when I fold the laundry. Actions like that may not seem very sacred, but what they do, is that they disconnect my thinking brain for a moment. And that is often all it takes. I have little notebooks everywhere in the house so that I can quickly jot down these ideas that pop up.
In this case, I literally shot up on waking up with the realization that seen visually 69 is a sort of Yin and Yang symbol. You see, when you shove the 6 and the 9 together and press them into a circle mold, they will more or less form a Yin Yang symbol…THE symbol for balance. Eureka! It clicked in all corners. It was a visual 69th birthday wish AND I could bring my heartfelt wish of balance across.
The moment I know what to paint, acceleration kicks in. The buzz I feel when I can see the visual story in my mind, is great! Then it’s just a matter of finding the time and space to sit down, gather my stuff and dive into a few wonderful hours of painting.
I painted this painting with the wonderful set of granulating watercolors I shared here.
The painting and the message were very well received. And without my knowing, it turned out the painting, the symbol clicked in even more corners than I’d been aware of. The person who I gave this to, turned out to have made much use of it in his time as a trainer because it meant so much to him. See? Sometimes all it takes to get a really good idea, is to get out of the way and let the laundry, some sleep or the shower perform its magic. 😉
Photos + Video
Slanted worktops save the day. And the Neck!
People who draw a lot know that the neck and the shoulders need to be spared. Working on a flat surface inevitably causes problems in the long run. And still all artists know the pain because many of us don’t sit behind slanted drawing surfaces enough.
I was one of those. And since I work with watercolor a lot, I don’t always want a slanted work top. I don’t want any wet washes to run down into other wet washes. Not all the time at least. But the Storytelling course I’m in at the moment has put me into drawing mode. And whether it’s on paper or digitally, I really needed my work surface to climb up a little.
Not just a matter of perspective, but perspective matters
Also, working on a slanted worktop improves your view on your work. The perspective simply changes when you hold your work surface upright, or more upright than flat. If you’ve never noticed, it’s worth a try to draw one and the same thing once on a flat surface and then on a slanted work surface. You’re bound to see a difference!
Work with what you have! Until it doesn’t.
I like to work with what I have if I can. So, I took out my Reeves A2 workstation, which I always have at hand. It provided a slanted work top allright, but it had become a little rickety after about 12 years. And also…my pencils would keep rolling off…bounce on my desk…and then onto the floor. It would break so many leads. Super annoying. And costly too, considering last week two Luminance pencils fell onto the ground and broke their leads. Which was when I needed a solution INSTANTLY!
So, something new then?
An art store I order from regularly had beautiful drafting tables on sale. They were functional, kinda slick and had awesome options for storage on the sides. I immediately imagined all my problems solved. Only…I didn’t really have space for another table in my studio. And I didn’t want to get rid of my wooden reading table, nor of my piano or of the bird. Then I figured I could saw a piece out of my desk and shove the new drafting table right in there. It was an option. But then again…working with watercolor so often…my gut feeling said ‘no’.
Not old, not new…hack time!!!
When the gut feeling says ‘no’, other things start stirring. And I noticed that the storage trays I noticed on the sides of the drawing tables were also for sale without a table. They weren’t cheap. And way too big for my Reeves workstation. But if I could cut it in half and fit it to the sides of my drawing board…..?! I ordered one to see if it would work and then noticing the weight of the tray I realized it would be too heavy for the rickety workstation. So I took out the wooden stick that held it together and replaced it with a round steal 8mm beam And my husband screwed a small wooden beam on top of that to spread forces over left and right stand equally. It had made the table so strong we could sit on it!
The Cherry on the Cake
The next day the storage tray arrived. It looked amazing. Super sturdy, heavy and high quality. Great! Only, the cups in it didn’t swivel the way I had expected. Although that turned out to be no problem at all. And the metal saw went through it much more easily than expected and a little sanding paper took away any sharp edges. So within no time I had the perfect drawing board on my desk and my desk was still in one piece. Also…the tray comes with foam art supply holders. I felt they were too big for my liking. No problem. We sharpened the meat knife and that too went through it like butter.
Only one problem left to sort. Can I pick your brain a little?
The only thing I’m looking to fix now, is a little something to hold my ink and small water jar horizontal. Working on it! But if you have a good tip…it’s more than welcome!
A little while back I ran into the Jane Blundell’s blogpost about Aquarius watercolor paints by Roman Szmal. I had never heard of the brand before – which isn’t crazy, for more and more brands keep popping up in the watercolor hype – but I felt Jane’s enthusiasm and got enthusiastic. I contacted Roman Szmal and he sent me a beautiful set of paints.
What makes these paints stand out in the first place, is their price considering that real artist pigments are used. At the same time they are as affordable as student quality paints. So, the next logical question would be: are they any good?
Yes. These Aquarius watercolor paints are absolutely very good. And the collection is wonderfully big with lots and lots of beautiful pigments to choose from.
Upon receiving the paint one things stands out immediately: the wrapping. Every pan is wrapped in a piece of non-sticky paper. And that in its turn is covered with a wrap of watercolor paper on which an actual sample of the color has been painted. Seen together in a box that offers a tremendously luxurious feel. And when choosing colors, the real swatches are extremely helpful.
As you can see in the image above, this is a wonderful set of colors. Literally ALL of these are lovely as can be. And some colors in this set are typically colors I never use, but have begun using since I got this set. There are of course the wonderful Mineral Violet and Shadow Violet. These colors that hold contrasting pigments have done miracles for Daniel Smith too. But a more unlikely lovely color is the Caput Mortuum (2nd row from the bottom, 1st pan on the left) which has a pinkish/lilacish undertone and some heavy dark particling, which makes it an outstanding color to use in skin tones, shading and landscapes when you are looking for some unpredictable texture. And the sap green is the most beautiful one I’ve ever had. And the orange on the top right of this image is nothing short from gorgeous. And…oh well, I could go on like this for quite a bit because I love this paint. Just look at the video at the bottom of my page.
I’ve been asked if these paints compare to Yarka / White Nights. To some extent, but these are brighter and more vibrant, in my experience. And especially over time some colors remain more vibrant and strong. Personally I would choose these over the White Nights anytime. They are heavily pigmented and allow immensely good for layering.
They are different from paints like Horadam in that the pigments are perhaps a little less finely ground. But in my experience that is an assett of this paint rather than a setback. It give this paint its own character and since the colors are lovely and vibrant, to me it’s just a big plus. Especially in work in which I paint a lot of texture. This is absolutely artist grade paint.
In the top photo you can see what this paint does on cold press watercolor paper and still creating texture. That’s pretty marvellous. But in the next photo you can see how a smoother image is also very well possible with this paint and looks smashing and vibrant in colors. And the layering in this one was just perfect!
The one point of attention with these paints is that when you get them, some colors can be very sticky. To me personally it’s not a problem, but some colors may need a little work to unwrap. Roman Szmal gave me the advice to rip the paper wrapping off very quickly. Then it should not stick as much. I recorded two videos of this paint. The second is a swatching video that I’ll post below in this article. But the first was a very long live video I did in which you can see me unwrap the paint.
First I’ll give you the shorter swatching video. And after the video you will find a list of addresses where you can order this paint.
The Aquarius watercolor paint pans by Roman Szmal are available at the following stores:
Directly from Roman Szmal’s facebook page
Wrapping it up? (we’ve just unwrapped it!)
This paint has been on my desk from the moment it arrived, so I’m looking for a better container to keep it in. Because the fact that it’s been at hand for so long is the best proof of how happy I am with this paint. I have not once felt the need to put it away and grab one of my other sets.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and I’m curious to hear if you’ve got any experience with this brand of watercolor and if so, what experience that is. Perhaps you even have photos online of your work?
I think you all know by now, but to be sure I’ll mention that there’s no affiliate link between me and the manufacturer of this paint, nor with any of the online shops I’ve mentioned. I review these paints honestly and merely from my own fascination with and love for watercolor paints.