The Devil’s Blacksmith

I did something unexpected and exhilarating, I did the English narration of a teaser video for a documentary film my friend is making. The film is about an Austrian blacksmith who has discovered the century old secret of making the hinges of the Notre Dame cathedral’s portal. A secret which earned a blacksmith the name The Devil’s Blacksmith in the middle ages. The teaser video is one in a series that was made to call the attention to the cause and help raise funds for the post production of the documentary film (more information can be found here).

I did not plan on doing something like this, it was quite unexpected in fact. My friend asked me if I’d do it, and almost as soon as I said yes, he showed up on my doorstep with two huge suitcases. The suitcases ended up containing (excuse me here, because I know nothing of these technical intricacies) the stuff with which we did the recording. Several laptops, pedals, thing with flashing lights and buttons (I told you!) and a huge microphone converted our cozy living room into a recording studio in no time. I felt like JLo all of a sudden. The spotlight was definitely on me.

I never narrated anything in my life. OK, if reading a fairy tale to my nephew counts as narration, then I have some experience. But this was quite different. What was it like, you are asking? It’s strange when you are told you have to face the microphone and read at the same time, but the dang thing is covering your view. It’s also strange to hear that my “p”-s sound like I’m spitting. And it’s even stranger to rethink how you pronounce that “p” and come up with another way of doing it so to avoid that spitting sound. And the frustration because you are recording something for the 10th time because you keep laughing at yourself. But all in all, it was an amazing experience! I loved every minute of it! 

After the recording session was over my friend left without me hearing what the end result sounded like. So when he sent me the above teaser video, I was amazed. It took me a couple of seconds to realize that this is my voice. I realized I never heard my recorded voice before, which is strange considering I gave speeches and held trainings as part of my job for years. It is also strange to present a part of myself to the world which I feel is quite personal and which I never have before.

So what’s next you’re asking? Today I heard the wonderful news that the documentary  film is going to be presented at the prestigious, New York based Robert A.M. Stern Architects’ firm in December. My friend has asked me to help with the narration of the version he is preparing for the viewing. Cannot wait to do this!!! Will have to work on those “p”-s, though.


A quay in watercolor

I have never studied art, painting or drawing. Everything I do I learned on my own by either experimenting, through books or the good ol’ internet. I’m a classic self-taught artist, if you will. So there are tons of new techniques, tools out there which I have never experimented with. One of these is the brush pen.

Ever since I saw a tutorial on urban sketching I was mesmerized by this new (to me) tool. I was intrigued to try it, because it seemed like it would bring a new and exciting element into my world. The endless possibilities of using it as is or wetting it down, the variety of the strokes and that element of calligraphy it promised were all tickling my fancy. As I have recently received a set of watercolor brush pens, I thought there are no more excuses, I will have to give them a go!

Padstow quay
Experimenting with watercolor brush pens
Padstow quay at high tide

I have to confess, I have an Instagram crush, Kate Whiston. She lives and works in Padstow  (one of the dreamiest places I know and which has repeatedly crept into my artworks) and takes the most amazing photos of her home town. I love all her pictures! So there was no question that I would use one of her recent ones as an inspiration to experiment with my brushes.

The brush pens are so beautiful! The colors are incredibly vibrant and come off onto the page true to color. For a very first, shy little sketch I am happy with the outcome. But what I have realized very quickly into my first little experiment is, that this is a completely new tool, medium, and I cannot (should not) use it as any old marker. The pliability of the brush head, the quality of the pigments are all calling for it to be used as a true watercolor (hence the name). I will have to experiment a bit more with adding water and blending, washing out the colors. And for that this sunny weekend, and Kate’s new posts are all providing me with the most incredible inspiration.


A guarded whisper

I don’t know about you, but when I look at an artwork that depicts people I always have this eerie feeling that the person in the painting will come to life. I have this vision of the figure turning around, staring me right in the eye and starting to talk. Maybe I’m guilty of having seen too many sci-fi movies (although is there such a thing as too many?), or maybe my fantasies are just naturally this vivid. Who knows! But the same thing started to happen when I drew this woman.

Woman whispering detail
Woman whispering – detail

When I started out with this drawing (you can read more about it here) I knew I wanted it to be in motion. I wanted the drawing to have movement, but not just in her hair as if it were blown by the wind or dragged by the sea. I had this vision of the figure blowing something that is in her hand. I was considering a dandelion at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt it was just not right. And then I remembered the filigree I used in the first sketches of this drawing. And once I started, the mystery just engulfed her.

Her gaze is fixed into the distance and is whispering her enigmatic thoughts into the wind. I feel I cannot stop staring at this woman. I find myself trying to catch her eye and attention. I want to talk to her and ask millions of questions. To hear her thoughts. But most importantly, to decipher that guarded whisper that is leaving her lips. But she just won’t turn around. It is such a weird feeling!

Woman whispering
Woman whispering

I really like this drawing. I feel it is more characteristic of who I am right now as an artist than the drawing I currently have for my header. But before I make the big switch – and if I may be a bit enigmatic with you – there are further changes that I’d like to make to this blog. And for that you will have to wait for a couple of more weeks. So please be patient for a little while, but do come back and see if you can catch her eye.

The mighty Potato Frog

For the last two weeks I’ve been struggling. Struggling to concentrate or do anything. It’s my friend K’s fault! She gave me the most amazing book for my birthday and I have been shaken, enthralled and swallowed whole by it. I read a lot, but not too many books have had the effect that Mariam Petrosyan’s The House, in Which… has had on me. I cannot put it down and when I do, all I can think about is The House.

My friend chose this book very carefully. And as hard as it is to cater to the literary taste of another person, she hit my bulls eye with this one. The writer’s words paint such a vivid story of a disabled children’s boarding school that I feel part of it. Of the struggle of the individual, the fights of the collective, the clashes of the rules, the sparkles of good and the damp blanket of evil. I find myself thinking about it all the time.  And no wonder, because it is not only the author who is playing with me, but K, who has chosen to hide puzzles and games among the pages for me.

One of these tasks that I had to perform was to draw. To showcase the drawing I would have done on the wall of one of the notorious rooms in the school. Now it is quite different to live and breath the story, and quite another to be asked to become part of it. To become one of those suffering character that painted his hopes and desperation on that wall. I thought a lot about it, but the thinking did not help. When I closed my eyes I did not see anything. And then I thought I’d just pick up my brush pen and see what would happen.

Potato Frog
The mighty Potato Frog

The bed was the first thing that appeared. Then I wanted to draw a whale that was about to swallow it up whole. Like the one that swallowed up Jonah. Then instead of a fin horns and spikes started to appear. Before I knew it he had mighty arms, claws and legs bent, ready to jump. This was me. The other scribbles were the ones I imagined were already there, drawn by the other kids who are my roommates.

K laughed when she saw it. She immediately christened it Potato Frog. At first I though it was an insult. But the more I think about it, the more I like it. The creature looks scary at first, ready to eat you up and take you to the fiery netherworld. And then again, when you think about it, it is as vulnerable and fragile as the kids in the story.

I can report that I passed the test. I am not sure what lies ahead in the book or in the puzzles that K has hidden for me. All I know is that I cannot wait to find out!

Woman whispering

I have been thinking about having another drawing for my blog header. I already made a little doodle, sketch which I wrote about here. But with all the commotion of this summer somehow this project slipped to the bottom of my priority list. Looking at the date of my post I’d even say some dust has settled on the drawing. The thing is, even though I have not touched the drawing, I have been thinking about it ever since. I have been collecting ideas, adding elements here and there in my mind, and I think I found what I was looking for.

Woman whispering
Woman whispering

Although my style, my techniques, my freedom in exploration has changed considerably since I first started exploring art, the initial love affair I had with women with wind blow hair has remained. The playfulness of the wind, of the rays of the sun on the strands of hair is something that fascinates me to this day. Therefore, I thought it would be important to take this inner voice seriously and see where it would take me.

So here she is. Bare and vulnerable, as she is just coming to life. And yet I already have her hair flowing and moving like the sea. Some might think that red is a very harsh color, even one that brings on thoughts of fire and devastation. But the thing is, for me red is life. Red is the color that brings vibrancy, the color that lives and breathes energy. I love this color, and I cannot dream of anything else that would represent me, my inner most soul better than this color. From here I’ll continue and see where she wants to go. I’ll just have to listen very closely to what she whispers into my ear.

What is a year?

Usually we stop and reflect on our deeds (or lack thereof) at year end. Ask anyone, I am definitely one of these people (you might even find a post about it here). However, when I realized that a year had passed since I first ventured into the scary realms of this corner of the internet called blogging, I stopped in my track. It was not the end of the calendar year, but an important milestone in my life. It took me, however more time than usual to be able to put what I felt into words. For there was a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions that I didn’t quite know what they were. In fact it took me a week long hiking trip in the wondrous woods of the Bükk to finally get it.

A year has passed, and I gotten a year older. But as not only the second, but the first number character flipped – from 3 to now 4 – it got a bit strange. Strange, because I started hearing the “Oh, believe me there is life after 40” jokes and I just didn’t get it. I felt nothing of the worry, anxiety that others told me I should. Hiking in the quiet forest, hearing nothing but my panting while climbing the mountain I had plenty of time to think and reflect. And that is when it hit me: I never felt more alive, more happy and more like I am in my own skin then right now, when I did turn 40. And the why is right here, written all over this little diary I now call my blog.

From left to right: Still life with fork, Lake Balaton – Keszthely, Still life with lemons and a glass, Angels on glass, Lake Balaton – Swans, Notre Dame, Still life with lemon and vase, The City Hall – Stockholm, Still life with lemons.
Selection of drawings from The 100-Member Kitty Band series.
From left to right: Saint Anne with savoy cabbage… (detail), Szentendre, My Camino, Poppy, Cornish Harbor, Coneflowers, Szentendre (detail), Poppies, Padstow Harbor (detail)
From left to right: Family Frost, Bunny, Rooster, French Hen, Scrummage the mouse, The Gardeners.
From left to right: finger puppets, e-reader cozy, owl keyholder, mobile cozy (detail), sock monkey, mouse applique, airplane mobile, Grumpy the cat, The Little Mole’s Trousers – Treasure Seeker Card Game.

In a short year I turned from an avid social media recluse to someone who has found her voice in this realm. From someone who thought of art as chachkies a year ago thinks of it now as one of the most important things in her life. Through the rediscovery of my love for creating art I found unexpected techniques, materials, tools. I found long forgotten sets of pencils, pastels, even a box of oil paint so old it solidified to a rock right in the tube. Art has put down its foot in my fantasies and dreams so hard in fact, that it has solidly shoved out Excel files and Power Point presentations, my demons from them.

But something I was not expecting is that what I make is somethings others would find inspiring. That there would be more than 700 of you out there who read this blog on a regular basis. I cannot be thankful enough for the friendships I’ve made through the blogging community. The inspiration, ideas we’d share, the discoveries they’d initiate. I never in a million years thought that a musician who inspired me would actually find the drawing I dedicated to her and post it on her Facebook page. So when more and more people around me at this age start turning inward and lose their footing and inspiration in life, I think I found mine. And so something that started on a whim, something I did not expect to last more than a week is now here to stay. Hope you stick around with me for more!