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Padstow harbor and three ships

Cornwall has been a subject of quite a few of my pieces. It is one of those magical places that I wish to visit once. A place where the Mediterranean colors, warmth jump at you and wildly wrap you in its arms. A place where the open ocean’s depth is matched only by its ships’ mesmerizing audacity and dare. And although the weather is quite changeable and you’ll find everything from the bright sunshine to the darkest storms, it radiates an energy that is unparalleled. Every time I look at Kate Whiston’s Instagram posts I wish I was there running with her dogs. So until I do get to this wonderful corner of England I’ll do the next best thing: I’ll run wild with my fantasies and my paintings.

Last year I received a commission to paint a painting of a Cornish harbor. I looked through hundreds of reference images, but kept coming back to this one by Kate that just spoke to me the instant I laid eyes on it. The picture just summed up for me everything that I love in Cornwall, and everything that warms my heart and brings a smile to my face.

Something I loved about the original picture were the cars parked at the edge of the quay. It is that little something that you almost miss, almost take a pass at, but which ends up being so important. I wanted to reflect that same thing: just a hint of color – reflection perhaps – but something that adds interest to the harbor overall.

 

The dissipating line of trees — with its play on dark and light greens – plays a trick on the onlooker. It guides the eye toward the building and then right back again to the ships. Just as the ship will not have a quiet night out on a stormy sea, the observer will be in constant voyage around the scene.

 

The warm morning light, as it reflects off the main ship in the picture and the buildings behind it, radiates such energy in the piece!

 

I loved painting this part of the painting! Playing with the lights and darks; the shadows creeping up on a wall or hiding behind the bow of the ship. Playing with a rope that hangs in the dark, then comes to light, then goes back into hiding again. Or figuring out the many colors a reflection could actually have on a window.

 

I am convinced if such beautiful waters existed back in ancient Greece Narcissus would not have looked at his own reflection, but the ripples and depth of the bay. I’m afraid, however, he would have suffered much the same fate; for I – the mere mortal that I am – cannot stop staring at it either!

 

Padstow harbor with three ships (37 x 40 cm)

I had such an amazing time painting this picture! I had a Christmas carol playlist on repeat (lucky for Mr.AP he had his earplugs), an unusual but cheery December sunshine outside, cup after cup of Rooibos tea and lots and lots of inspiration. I played with textures, colors and brushes like I’ve never done before. Once the paint started running down the canvas and I just looked at it transfixed because it was just the most beautiful turquoise color I have ever seen.  And I think the experience was this amazing because I was able to let go and not think of the would of should of could of but rather just paint. And I swear with every stroke of the brush I felt the playful caress of the Cornish breeze.

 

Dusk falling on Padstow

Some time ago my father and I had some true DIY time together and made some frames for canvas I had lying around. As we were sawing the frames, chipping away, small pieces of framing material fell off. I quickly put them together and suddenly had the cutest little canvas in my collection. When I decided to paint the Padstow scene, this is the canvas that I immediately wanted to use.  For two reasons actually.

For one, I really wanted to work on a smaller scale this time around.  I wanted to see whether the technique, the style, or the brushes I used until now had to change. Also, I recently read Will Kemp‘s post on material addicts, a highly recommended read might I add. I felt quite uncomfortable, because yes – I have to admit – I am guilty as charged. So as per his recommendation I started thinking of using and adapting the minimalist approach: using just two brushes for the entire painting. So with these thoughts in mind I started my minimalist acrylic journey. Gulp!

padstow harbor acrylic painting
Padstow harbor

Padstow harbor ship acrylic

Padstow harbor water acrylicAll in all I have to say the experiment was quite invigorating. The fact that I was only using one round an one flat brush actually made me focus more on the qualities I could achieve with these.  I found myself being more aware and creative with what I had and focusing less on what I did not. The different strokes I thought I could not have I did get at the end. And with all of this came speed. I found the picture coming together quicker than I expected. My thought process had to keep up with my hands in fact. And one of the advantaged of getting the speed is that I did not have time to obsess about one particular part of the painting. So as much as I thought the water in the Cornish harbor could not be surpassed in its reflections and its beauty, I think I might change my opinion. For the color, the playfulness and depth I achieved here is what truly makes this scene in Padstow one where I could loose myself as much as I am sure I would loose myself in the real life beauty of Padstow itself.

In a Padstow state of mind

Sometimes when you go on vacation a place can leave its mark in you. Whether it is the general atmosphere, the beautiful scenery, the lovely people or the food you enjoyed so much, but you know deep down if there is an opportunity, you want to go back. You must go back. And there are times, when you didn’t even leave the house and have the same experience.

Cornwall Padstow harborEver since I painted the Cornish harbor I had such a feeling. I tried to pinpoint what it is exactly that is causing this intense feeling, but it is futile. I am simply and utterly in love with the water, the sky and the colors… oh well, everything in Cornwall! I feel I cannot get enough of the little Mediterranean wonder that somehow, inexplicably ended up in the British Isles. And maybe, just maybe this feeling is contagious, because anyone who has seen my painting in person seems to be mesmerized by it as well. So one thing I know for sure, I will go to Cornwall one day. Until then, however, I will continue to explore it as much as I can through art.

To do this I started to do my research. I looked at many websites, many pictures, but the original harbor that I painted was beckoning so hard, that nothing else seemed to satisfy my hunger. The original tutorial did not mention the place, so I continued my quest. I stumbled across it by chance at the end, and found that the area that I was looking for is called Padstow.

There are so many beautiful places, pictures that my heart started aching. Like a real glutton I wanted to draw and paint them all at once. I know I must show some restraint (for the time being), so I ended up choosing one that really spoke to me. The color of the sky, that incredible warmth that it radiates is something that I want to capture.

I am at the beginning. The sketch is ready. I now must decide how I will approach it, what colors I will choose. Oh, I cannot wait to go to Padstow!

Little mouse on a boat

Each year I try to make something really special for my husband for Christmas. I’ve painted for him these last two years (see the posts here and here), so I thought I’d do something different this time around. That’s when I saw Ann Wood’s post of a little paper mache boat for the little mouse I’ve made a couple of years ago (see post here). Since little Percy is still one of our favorite stuffed creatures, and… well, in all honesty, as soon as I saw the pattern my brain (and all remaining senses in it) clouded up, and all I could think about was I WANT TO MAKE THIS!!!

I was commissioned to paint a painting for Christmas (more on that in an upcoming post). I knew I had to dedicate lots of thought and energy into it, which – with everything else in my life – was not going to be easy. So I figured, since I really love hand crafts, and I fell in love with this little project, making it could be the little meditative pause I need in between painting sessions. And how right I was! For when I felt my brain screech to a standstill after hours of painting, nothing could have freshened me up more than this!

Every new ship needs its captain, therefore a new little creature was born to us.

 

The mast of the ship is connected to a piece of cork that is glued to the bottom of the boat. The mainsail is tied to the mast using a beautiful bow. As it should be!

 

How much room does the pirate-mouse have in the boat? Well, he doesn’t have much room to run around, but he sits in there quite comfortably, thank you for asking!

 

The backstay is attached to the stern with a big button.

 

The original design called for a wash of blue watercolor to imitate the water. I chose to make some waves as part of the paper mache boat itself. I think it turned out so nicely! And the name? I christened the ship after a famous restaurant chain. I pride myself in being as creative in the kitchen as with art. And Mr. AP is my number one fan for sure!

 

A flag with skull and bones completes the pirate ship. I embroidered the design free-handed onto a piece of black felt.

 

Ricardo, the pirate-mouse  is made from a piece of vintage wool I had lying around. His nose and stomach are made from felt and his ears are lined with pink silk. He has a shiny beaded eye. And as for his arms, he lost them in the fiercest of battles mouse history has ever known. But don’t worry, this does not stop him. He is still the most formidable and feared pirate of them all!

 

Happy Sailing!

Making this little boat was such a pleasure! I had the most amazing time preparing the skeleton of the boat, then being covered up to my ears in paper mache paste. Looking for the perfect fabrics for the sail, the patches and the mouse. It was truly therapeutic after the intense periods of concentration I had to put into my painting sessions.

There are just two things that I’d warn you about if you decide to give this project a go. First, if your fingers are sticky with the paper mache paste don’t scratch your eyebrows. You’ll glue them together and it cannot be removed… or if you try it will leave a bald patch for all to see (sigh). And last, but not least, if the intended recipient is in your vicinity you will not be able to squeal with joy or laugh with pleasure each time one of the little pieces is finished. And this, my friends, is really hard on any soul!

 

 

 

 

Creative block and scruff shaking

Just like writer’s block will hit any journalist or novelist, so thus creation block hit a painter or the crafty one. When the before mentioned activity is an integral part of how you make your living you are in trouble. But when it is your hobby, you could just wait it out, right?. Unless there is some type of pressure looming in the background. What sort of pressure, you might be asking? Well, for example if you decide to do something creative as a gift. Especially if there is no plan B and the date is fast approaching. Gulp.

When I decided to paint something special for Mr.AP’s Christmas gift I had a plan. One that I came up with well before the big date. And then I found myself 2 weeks before the occasion and no gift to speak of. And then a week before… I don’t know what happened, I just couldn’t get myself to start the paining. The entire project felt too overwhelming, I guess. I envisioned something and I was absolutely, 1000% sure I would not be able to do it. So I felt like the whining kid who just goes on and on with the excuses… but no result. Well, two days before Christmas I thought to myself, enough is enough! I grabbed my virtual scruff and shook myself real hard. It is not easy to tell yourself to get it together, but it worked!

painting-stages
Padstow harbor with yellow ship – stages

What was really interesting to discover is that with all the pressure the limited time gave me I did not have the opportunity to question what I was doing. I mean the sort of paralyzing intellectual analysis that stops you in your track and doesn’t allow you to continue. I had to leave all that behind and just go with my instinct. And that felt so good! It felt liberating and exhilarating; like the feeling that I get when I look up at the night sky and fireworks keep exploding above me. But all this on a canvas.

At the same time I was so mad at myself. Mad, because I realized that painting – especially with acrylics – was put on the back burner for a really long time. For almost a year to be exact. And it made me angry because I felt  that doubt and just plain whining deprived me of the joy I could have had. So I decided to hold that virtual hand above my neck as a threat of a good scruff shake to come.  To tell you the truth, it doesn’t feel that good. But if this is what it takes to get myself out of the creative block, then it is only a small price to pay.

 

Wishing for sunshine… and a ship

I don’t know about you, but I am convinced people either like hot or cold weather. I am definitely one for sunshine and warm breezes. So when it was -18°C/-0.5°F this weekend (yes, you are reading correctly and no, this is not a typo!) I should have been devastated and panicky. Yet my heart felt cheery and warm. Mainly because I kept imagining myself on the dreamy shores of Padstow with lots of sunshine and ships.

padstow-w-yellow-ship
Padstow harbor with yellow ship

I fell in love with this part of England back when I painted my first Cornish harbor painting (see my post here). Then I discovered Kate Whiston’s Instagram account and I became addicted. Whenever I wanted to feel free, warm and happy I would scroll through the pictures and imagine myself there. I already made a quick sketch once. But then one day I saw this harbor with deep blue waters and a yellow ship and I immediately knew this would be perfect for the painting I wanted to make for Mr. AP for Christmas.

Padstow harbor with yellow ship - detail with red ship
Padstow harbor with yellow ship – detail with red ship
Padstow harbor with yellow ship
Padstow harbor with yellow ship – water detail
Padstow harbor with yellow ship
Padstow harbor with yellow ship – water detail

The depth of the water’s blue hues captivated me like nothing else before. It felt like a deep well, an abyss I could fall into and never find the surface. One into which I happily and greedily want to jump into. And then the yelllow ship, which no matter how many times I look at it, brings to my heart the warmest and happiest feelings. And there lies the dilemma: which should I choose, the depth or the surface? All I wanted to do was capture this contradiction, this longing on my canvas.

Padstow harbour with yellow ship - water detail
Padstow harbor with yellow ship – water detail
seagull-detail
Padstow harbor with yellow ship . detail with seagull

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-harbor-watercolor
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.

 

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.

drawings
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.
drawings-2
Selection of drawings from The 100-Member Kitty Band series.
paintings
From left to right: Saint Anne with savoy cabbage… (detail), Szentendre, My Camino, Poppy, Cornish Harbor, Coneflowers, Szentendre (detail), Poppies, Padstow Harbor (detail)
crafts-1
From left to right: Family Frost, Bunny, Rooster, French Hen, Scrummage the mouse, The Gardeners.
crafts-2
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!

The game is on

My husband’s favorite gifts are those I make for him. From picture-books of our vacations to paintings of harbors we could (should) one day visit, these are the things that really move him. So for his birthday this year I had the same vision: to make something really special for him.

One of our favorite pastimes together – besides watching the good ol’ Sunday football match -, is playing board games. We love so many, from the easy family ones to complex strategy games. But all of these have one thing in common: they have a board to play on (hence the name), and will usually take at least 1 – 1,5 hours to play. Hence this pastime is a weekend pastime only. So I thought I’d make something that will expand our options, a card game. One that could be played in less time, and thus more often.

Well, easier said than done. I think I spent the last three months thinking about options, ideas. I thought I had something I liked one day, which I threw out as worthless the next. There were lots of instances of doubt, very a few moments of clarity. At the end I decided to take the concept of a card game we played a lot as kids and spice it up with something extra. The game I used as inspiration was Hearts. And the spice, the cartoon we loved, Zdeněk Miler‘s Krtek, the little mole.

In the cartoon the little mole had four main pals: the hedgehog, the frog, the rabbit and the mouse. Since I was to create a stack of cards in four suits, I thought it would be perfect to use them. I found a picture that I liked with the five friends and used the image of these to create the playing cards. playing cardTo make sure they were not see-through (and there was not going to be any cheating) I glued the pieces of paper onto a light blue cardboard. Then I cut them to size. All 60 of them. One by one. Even though I used a brush to apply the glue, by the time I was finished my fingers were covered in one sticky goo. Thank goodness for water soluble formulas!playing card protectorI decided that I’d use a protective sleeve for these cards. I knew that as we played with it it was going to show signs of wear pretty quickly. I mean, the materials I ended up using would not be too durable on the long run. The only issue I had was that as I cut the cards with scissors (and not in the best light conditions, might I add), they were not exactly even. So once I was putting on the sleeves, I had to cut the odd one millimiter off here, the 1,5 millimeter off there.playing card stackBut in the end it was worth it! The cards are pretty nice. I feel the sleeves will protect them from anything… OK, no drinking and playing, please! But putting the joke aside. The cards are easily shuffled, and they have the sort of slip that you are used to when playing with cards that have a plastic coating. They are not even and perfectly square, but that is what adds that second layer of spice to the game. playing card stackCreating the cards themselves was the biggest effort in the creation of this card game. There were so many of them, sometimes I felt they were multiplying themselves as I was gluing them together. But the end result is everything I imagined it to be: functional, playful, and that vintage feel that reminds us of our childhood. So what does the entire game look like? Well, I decided to leave you with a bit of anticipation. As if it were your birthday… So come back and see its box and all of its accessories in Friday’s post. See you then!

 

 

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