Thursday, 1 March 2018

It's been a while

It's been a while since I've been here, and in the mean time, not only another year has ended, and a new one begun, but spring is almost upon us as well. Not that it feels much like it at the moment. It's the coldest it's been this winter, -6 degrees Celsius max yesterday, and today it0s snowing like mad. It's not that I haven't done anything in these past three months. I've been working through a couple of online classes, doing some lunchtime sketching at work, but none of it particularly share-worthy. And my energy level has been about as low as the temperature at the moment, making it a struggle to pick up a pen at all in the evenings and at the weekends. But hopefully, things will pick up again soon now.

At the weekend in any case, I felt inspired to pick up my (new) pen for a quick pre-lunch sketch, before the pepper and courgette went into my curry.

I've started a little illustrated recipes book almost four years ago, but haven't added a lot of recipes. I don't like to cook. I only cook because I want to know what's in my food and don't want to eat processed and ready meals. I don't enjoy it, so cooking has to be quick and easy, something to get over and done with so that I can spend the rest of the time doing something I actually enjoy. Because I'm such an uninspired cook, I usually don't know what to cook. And that's why I've started this book. So that I have a number of quick and easy recipe ideas at hand. And while I don't enjoy the cooking itself, at least I had some fun drawing the recipe. I first started cooking this delicious Thai Yellow Curry a few months ago, and when I cooked it this Sunday, I realised that I had forgotten to buy a tomato, and I couldn't remember how much fish sauce went into it - was it one table spoon or one tea spoon? So I decided to spend the afternoon adding the basic recipe to my little book. Hopefully, more recipes will follow soon.

In January, N and I spent a lovely holiday together here in Switzerland. Lots of relaxing and going for walks in the area, but of course we also had to go on a day trip to the mountains for my birthday. This time we decided to head to the canton of Wallis, to Zermatt. From there we took the train up to Gornergrat at 3100m. There isn't really much you can do up there in winter, if you're not skiing, but it was a quite mild day with lots of snow, sunshine and a deep blue, cloudless sky, and so we ended up spending about 4 hours up there anyway. The views all around were absolutely spectacular. 29 mountains over 4000m, the Monte Rosa massif with Switzerland's highest peak, the Dufourspitze (4634m), the alps second largest glacier, the Gorner Glacier, and a few more, and of course the star of them all - Switzerland's most iconic mountain, the Matterhorn.

Matterhorn from up Gornergrat
Monte Rosa Glacier and Border Glacier with Dufourspitze
What else? After I stopped going to Swedish classes a year ago, I wanted to learn something new and I found this fun app Duolingo. For the past few months, I've been doing my (almost) daily lessons (they only take about 5-10 minutes) and I can now say that Ik spreek een beetje Nederlands. Well, I guess it's a bit of an exaggeration, it really is only a tiny number of (not always very useful) sentences. It will definitely be quite a while until I can read my copy of Jip en Jannecke. Until then, I just look at the beautiful illustrations by Fiep Westendorp. But it's great fun anyway.

And then here's a film I want to go and see at the cinema - Ex Libris: The New York Public Library. Hopefully one day I'll have the chance to actually visit the library itself, but until then, this films looks like well worth watching. And as a librarian, I guess it is a bit of a must :)

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Inktober 2017 - The End * and a bit about inks and nibs

This post is long overdue, the end of November is already in sight! I must admit that the air went out completely for the last couple of days of Inktober. But I wanted to fill this sketchbook, and in the end I did. Here's the last two drawings.

I enjoyed drawing every day. Well, most of the time. It can be difficult to fit in time for drawing during the week when you have a day job. I am constantly trying to do some drawing in my lunch breaks, and while I think it's a lot better to draw for only five minutes a day than not at all, I also find drawing for only five minutes a bit frustrating at times. I'd prefer to spend a bit more time on drawing.

During Inktober, I planned my evenings to fit in an hour or so of drawing. That is a habit I really wish to take away from this challenge, even though I have already sorely neglected it this month...
What I can definitely do without, though, is having to scan, edit and post the drawing every day. When everything worked out and the drawing turned out alright, it was fine. But when it didn't, it became stressful. There have been days when I spent more than an hour altogether on one drawing that just didn't work out only to then make a five minute one afterwards to post.

What I really liked about the challenge was the focus on a particular medium. It made me try out all kinds of different inks and nibs, and I really enjoyed drawing with dip pens. I got my old nibs and inks out, and bought some new ones too.

My favourite inks are the Rohrer & Klingner Ausziehtusche (Drawing ink). I especially like the bistre. The Zeichentusche (Calligraphy ink) is nice too, and comes in a great variety of colours. All of them are water proof.
Sennelier inks are lovely too. Their India ink, or China ink, as it's called, is a nice deep black. The colour ones have a glossy sheen if applied thicker.  There's some very nice shades of browns, including bistre and burnt sienna, which are very different from the R&K shades of the same name.
I like the Winsor & Newton India ink, but I'm not a great fan of their coloured ones, to be honest. I only bought the two browns, peat brown and nut brown, and I have to say, I can't really see the difference. Maybe as a wash, but certainly not in a line. I used them with a paint brush as a wash, and it didn't really work that well either. For me, they are just too transparent.

There are so many nibs that it can get a bit confusing. Even more so to identify them (a magnifying glass is very helpful here!) and remember which one's which once you put them in a pen holder. I looked for both drawing and mapping nibs, and I discovered that although some seem to be from different manufacturers, they are actually the same. The 'Manuscript' nibs I bought in England turned out to be the same as the 'Standardgraph' nibs I got here in Switzerland - they are both 'Leonardt' nibs.

To make things easier, I made two reference sheets, one for inks and one for nibs, which I glued into my studio journal. While there's a great variety of beautiful pen holders for the larger nibs, unfortunately for the smaller ones, there seems to be only one - a simple red wooden one. As many of the drawing nibs are the smaller ones, you quickly end up with a whole bunch of almost identical looking pens. I used Washi tape to distinguish them so that from now on, I know exactly which nib is which. Hopefully, this will help me use them a lot more from now on.

I also went through all the nibs I already had at home, tried each and every one out and threw away the ones that didn't work form me. Among the keepers are these specialty nibs: the George W. Hughes Redonda pen that gives a double line, and the two Speedball Steelbrush nibs that are great for lettering.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Inktober 2017 - Week Four

We are nearing the end of the month, and with it, the end Inktober challenge. Only a couple more days to go. I'm not complaining when it's over, this week, it really is becoming a bit of a struggle now.

Day 22: Dip pen & ink

Day 23: Ink

Day 24: Brush pen, pen

Day 25: Fude pen

Day 26: Fude nib fountain pen

Day 27 & 28: Dip pen & ink

Thoughts and insights:
  • Our brain and how it works is absolutely fascinating. And slightly scary...
  • Drawing with dip pen and ink is so different than with pens. Somehow it makes you draw differently. And it certainly looks differently. Or is that just because of the ink?
  • The same colour can look completely different from one manufaturer to another. Just look at Rohrer & Klingner's and Senneliers bistre. Both are nice colours, though
  • It's useful to make some sort of ink colour charts for reference
  • It's also useful to find a system to remember which nib is which...
  • It's becoming a bit of a struggle now. 

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Inktober 2017 - Week Three

It's the third week of Inktober and I'm still keeping my daily drawing habit up. In fact, it's becoming easier, and more and more day, I'm looking forward to the evening, when I can sit down and draw.

Day 15: Dip pen & ink

Day 16: Fineliner pens

Day 17: Pens

Day 18: Dip pen & ink

Day 19: Pens

Day 20:

Day 21: Dip pen & ink

Thoughts and insights:
  • Did I mention that I love dip pens?
  • Crosshatching is a bit like watercolour - it looks easy and simple, but it's not
  • I wish I was better at drawing from imagination and didn't have to rely on reference images
  • But then I guess that's part of trying to get into the daily drawing habit
  • Because of copyright reasons, it can be really difficult to find reference images for some subjects
  • Some drawings therefore just have to remain practice pieces only, without being shared
  • But then, not everything always needs to be shared
  • It's all about practice in the end
  • And about enjoying it

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Inktober 2017 - Week Two

Another week of daily drawing.

Day 8: Pen

Day 9: Dip pen and ink, and pens

Day 10: Pen

Day 11: Dip pen & ink

Day 12: Dip pen & ink

Day 13: Dip pen & ink

Day 14: Dip pen & ink

Thoughts and insights:
  •  I figured out how to change the setting on my scanner so that it now scans the entire page. Yay!
  • Stippling is so much fun with a dip pen!
  • Inks are so versatile, you can use them for drawing, washes and even mix them together
  • I love dip pens!
  • So many different nibs! I'm going through the ones I have, adding ones, and throwing out the ones that don't work for me. No point hanging on to them. I only want what works
  • An excuse to go to the art shop :)
  • Drawing every day is good, but finishing and posting a drawing every day is quite stressful.
  • But I'm not giving up
  • Done is better than perfect

Friday, 13 October 2017

A walk in the (Tier)park

A visit to the nearby wildlife park is always a great way to spend an afternoon. Many years ago, the park started to rebuild the outdated enclosures of the past to make them bigger and resembling the animals' natural habitat. This means that you not always see the animals. Which in turn means that there's always a good reason to go back again and again. Because you never know what you are going to see. All of the animals are, or have once been, native to this country.

The horses are some of the few animals that you always see. They are part of a programme that re-introduces the wild horses in Mongolia, where the became extinct decades ago. We were lucky to get to the fox enclosure at feeding time. A family of five, two adults and their three youngsters. Seeing a bear is always a privilege. My favourite anmials, though, are the moose, which this time were too far away in the woods for my camera this time.

But even if you don't see that many animals, a walk in the park (and a hot chocolate in the café/restaurant) is always a pleasure. There is so much else to see, if you look closely, and for every season, nature has a special display. And autumn is certainly one of my favourite, even if it was a bit early yet for the full autumnal colours.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Inktober 2017 - Week One

I'm taking part in the Inktober challenge this year, for the first time. It's been around for a few years, and I've wanted to do it before, but something's always come in between. Usually holidays. Which, of course, is a nice thing, like last year, when I spent the first week of October in art retreat in Scotland (I can't believe that that was already a year ago!), and the second relaxing in lovely Dorset. But this year, there's nothing on in October, my holiday is already over, and it's high time to get back into a regular drawing habit.

I decided to start a new sketchbook for the challenge. I went through my (far too big) stack of new sketchbooks and found a Strathmore one, about A5 size, with thick mixed media paper that should take bottled ink and ink washes, and with enough pages for 31 double spread, should I decided to do that. To prepare for the challenge, I did a warm up page on the last day of September.

Front/Warm up page: Pens

Day 1: Pens

Day 2: Dip pens, brush, inks

Day 3: Pen

Day 4: Brushpens

Day 5: Dip pen and ink

Day 6: Dip pen and ink

Day 7: Dip pen, ink, pen

Some thoughts on the first week:

  • It's good to try out something completely different
  • Sometimes it takes a LOT longer than you thought it might, and it's perfectly okay if you don't finish it in time
  • Some inks just don't work very well on (certain) paper. It's worth taking a bit of time to try out what works and what doesn't
  • Bottled fountain pen inks make lovely washes
  • Even if it looks like rubbish at one stage, don't give up but keep working until it starts coming together. It usually does
  • Some days, it just doesn't work, and that's fine. Just splash some ink on a page play around instead
  • Dip pens are great to draw with, it's fun trying out the different nibs and inks
  •  Finishing a drawing, then scanning and posting it every day is had work, and sometimes it might just be too much
  • My scanner is driving me mad, it tries to scan individual images instead of just the entire page, and I don't know how to change that
  • The most important thing is to draw, and to have fun