Sunday, 29 September 2019

A Little Perspective

Hello everyone. 
I haven’t posted anything new here on my blog in a while, so I thought now is as good a time as any to share some more paintings I created.

A couple of months ago I was driving in my car and I was listening to music on my iPod. The song that played was Gehenna by Slipknot. I noticed a passage in the lyrics that resonated with me: 

“Free my severed eyes”

And this really got me thinking. How in a way it would be pretty awesome if one actually could remove ones eyes and have them flying off and upwards, but still being able to see with them. we would get a completely different view over what is, a totally different perspective on what is going on. And so the following painting was born.

She is not actually crying from sadness, I was aiming at showing an overflow of emotion that is released through her tears. She does appear to be sad by just looking at her, but she must not neccessarily be sad. She is releasing a flock of flying eyes in order to gain a different viewpoint, or perspective, on whatever it is she is currently mentally invested in.

And would it not be great to have a little flock of eyes as pets? I know I would love it ;-)

I thought my kids would be put off by the painting but on the contrary. I was telling them I was thinking of painting a large flying eye, and one of my sons had the idea to make it a unicorn eyeball. 
So I did...

You could also call this an intergenerational piece, as my son participayed with the idea, and I painted it using some paints from my grandmothers palette...

The unicorn eye looked too good and angelic to be true though, I felt it needed some sort of a counterpart. I was reminded of the concept of shoulder angels and shoulder devils that seem to influence our decisionmaking sometimes.

This idea of gaining a different perspective and looking at a problem or a thought from a different viewpoint is still very strong with me and a very important part of my toolset to manage anxiety.

But the best thing? All of this is based on me hearing the lyrics to the song wrong! I posted the link to the song with lyrics, and you will notice that he does not sing “free my severed eye” but “free my severed heart” instead. I think I simply got the message I needed to hear at the time; and I still hear “severed eyes” everytime I listen to the song ;-)

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Upcycling a lost matrioshka doll

About two or three years ago, on a parking lot, I found a nesting doll. Not the whole set, just the littlest inside doll, the one that lives at the very heart of a set of nesting dolls. The poor thing was wet from the rain, the paint peeled off in flakes and it looked quite battered. I picked her up and affixed her to my dashboard with bluetack. Maybe one day I might give her a new coat of paint?

She has been living on my dash ever since, until a few weeks ago. This is her:

Not too bad one might think, but this is the true extend of the damage I found her with, the paint was all flaky.

To make he surface suitable for painting I sanded off all her old paint and gave her a good clean to get rid of all the dust.

Now, a few layers of acrylic paints and white posca pen later...

Say hello to Maddy, the shy little octopus girl...

She has the most pleasant and kind personality, in no time at all little Maddy made a friend: Armand has been with me for a good while as well. He was made by a friend I met over on, and he immediately took a shine to the little Octopus girl. Now the two of them have a great time watching me drive the kids around from their prime position on my dashboard ;-)

DIY Sketchbooks

I had lost my creative motivation over the last couple of weeks. 
I was sick with a headcold and a cough, most of my family were also sick with the same, and to top it all off the outside of my house turned into a building site. We urgently needed to get exterior insulation and for that some of my windowsills needed to get demolished... the jackhammering noise was unbelievable (but neccessary)!

I just could not get myself to paint or even just draw something, when by coincidence (yes coincidence) I happened to pass my local art supply shop and of course I went in. They had just gotten some Canson Imagine Mixed Media paper pads in stock, my favourite smooth mixed media paper! And the big A3 size pad was also quite good value so I went for it.

When I feel down it always makes me happy to make a book. The process contains a lot of repetitive tasks and movements and I find this very calming for the nerves and for the mind.

Here are some great tutorials that cover the basics for sewing the signatures and folios together with different stitches, they are by Sea Lemon, and here is her Coptic stitch sketchbook. These two really form the basics for all my diy books.

The first book I made is an A4 size book, with hard cardboard covers. I used printed papers and some pretty duck tape for the outside and the inside covers.

The spine with the stitching.

And the inside of the cover, with some Roald Dahl themed paper...

I made two of this size sketchbook, one I gave to another member of my art group. And by coincidence her previous sketchbook was full just a day or two before I gave her mine; sometimes it feels good to be in the right place at the right time :)

I also made a couple more, smaller sketchbooks. I had found a lovely tutorial on how to make a small watercolour sketchbook with a leather cover, and the pageblock could be removed and replaced. If there is one thing I look for in sketchbooks and journals it is the reuseability of the covers. Travellers notebooks are right up my alley, fully customisable to whatever I need. This is the sketchbook tutorial I used as inspiration for the following books.

So I got out my remaining hard cardboard for the covers, fabric and I also cut some more of the Canson paper. I made 3 books in total, one with a blue japanese style fabric with a crane bird on it, the girl this book was intended for had drawn crane birds before. Then a lovely fabric with whimsical sun and moon designs, again aimed to fit the interests of the intended recipient. And I also had enough fabric of this left, that I could make another book for myself. 

This is my own little one from the front

and the back; as mentioned before this cover was made with left over fabric and ended up a little offcentre.

This journal was built to have an interchangeable paper block inside and so needed a little something to connect the front and back cover. I used a little fabric trim with insect design, the strip of trim is attached to both covers and the paper block is not; you will see that in the next picture...

This next picture allows you to see the inside of the cover with the trim holding the covers together and also the elastic that keeps the paper inside the cover.

And then the paperblock and the covers separately. I personally love most methods of binding that allow me to reuse the outside and replace the inside at will and use any paper I choose.

I hope you enjoyed my newest scetchbook process, and if you are a recipient of one of them: Happy Arting !

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Homemade Shimmer Watercolours

I have to admit, I cannot not try out stuff I come across on the internet. And I also have to say that I absolutely love glitter, and shimmery effects, I am a fan of all metallic colours.
So I had a look at a few videos -because that is where one learns new skills these days- to check out what minimal basics I would need to make my own shimmer paints. It makes me feel good whenever I already have all I need at home and not have to buy extra supplies.
One very good starting point might be Oto Kano , she has a youtube channel and she makes her own watercolour paints, there is Denise Soden with her channel In Liquid Colour who looks at pigments and colour compositions with great detail, and then I also found this video here, showing the very basics (2 ingredients) needed for watercolour paints. The guy in the second video has a lengthy calculation about how much money he could save by making his own paints, and while I do agree that it can save you good money, it might also mean that you end up with copious amounts of one colour that you might never use up on your own.
Of course I dove into my stash of art supplies to see what I could come up with and behold ! I found several little jars of mica pearlex powders... and I do have a couple of tubes of watercolours. What I did not have was a free small palette or spare tin, or clean halfpans not yet spoken for. And if I do not have a palette I am going to make me one...

All it takes is some elderly tupperware and some hot glue.

My first colour to try out was Quinacridone Gold, one of my favourite colours. In the picture I have the Quin. Gold by Schmincke, but I really used the one by Winsor and Newton, the two companies use different pigments to make this colour. This is good to know in case I run out of one in the middle of a painting...

The pearlex mica changed the shade of the gold from Yellow to a bit of a greeny hue, but I managed to get a nice little shimmer into my paint. I had already picked out a few more combinations, being careful to match the shade of pearlex to the colour, a list of my pairings will be at the end of this post.

Getting messy with paints, powders, spatulas and swatch cards. I am loving this... :-)

And these are my finished paints, a little collection of 10 shimmer paints, more or less successful. The yellow did not turn out as shimmery as hoped and neither did the Magenta in the top row. I did not yet get to try them in a painting so they might still turn out interesting.

And here the finished swatchcard, I took pictures at different angles to show the shimmer effect where it is noticeable.

And here is the list of paint/pearlex pairings:

1. W/N Quinacridone Gold (Pr206,Pv19,Py150) + 665 Sunset Gold
2. W/N Winsor Yellow (Py154) + 641 Orange Pumpkin & 651 Pearl White
3. W/N Quinacridone Magenta (Pr122) + 642 Salmon Pink
4. W/N Winsor Violet (Dioxazine) (Pv23) + 664 Reflex Violet
5. Schmincke Neutral Tint (Pr122,Pb60/Pbk7) + 646 Mink

6. W/N Quinacridone Gold (see above) + 660 Antique Bronze
7. Schmincke Burnt Umber (Pbr7) + 660 Antique Bronze
8. W/N Quinacridone Magenta (see above) + 643 Pink Gold
9. Schmincke Phthalo Blue (Pb15:1) + 647 Sky Blue
10. Schmincke Neutral Tint (see above) + 651 Pearl White

I love how the two Neutral Tints look completely different now with the different mica powders in them, the Mink has a little secondary green shine to it. It will be fun to paint something with them.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Watercolour Goodies Part III

And finally I can post the main event of my watercolour goodies series: my Grandmothers 36 halfpan Schmincke watercolour palette.
I could not narrow down a manufacturing date for these tins, but I did learn that Schmincke is still selling these on their webpage, the product code is still the same, probably all that has changed over the years are the included colours.

Inside I found 34 colours, most of them in halfpans, but not all of them the original Schmincke colours or even in labeled pans. Well, that tells me my Grandmother used this box a fair bit, enough to have used up pans and also to warrant some customisation. In the next picture you can see I swatched them all out and if I found a colour name, number or even brand on the halfpan I also took a note of it.
Reactivating all of these beauties was highly exciting and enjoyable, two came back to life in a very strange way. One of the reds in the top row on the right was really grainy and needed a lot of paint to even come up as a colour, and another one reactivated like a sponge. It expanded (like a sponge) and I could take the paint out of the pan centre, but the rims of the paint inside the pan were also of a spongy texture. You can see which one I am talking about in the next picture, top row, 5th paint (orange) from the left.

In the previous pictures you could see the palette all nice and cleaned up, but before I went to cleaning it with a toothbrush and toothpaste, I took samples off every colour that had been mixed on the palette, the last paints out of this tin to have been used...

I was starting to wonder how I could possibly pay homage to the scope of colour and in a way heritage wealth I had been given, so I decided to make a giant swatch card for this Schmincke palette as well. Also I am planning to be using all of these colours so I do want to get a good idea of what they are capable of...
It did not occur to me how big of a swatch card this would have to be until I had the grid all marked out with 1/2“ squares  and ready to be labelled with the paint names insofar as I knew them. (Pay close attention to the mixing area in the tin on the right, I will reference this picture later)

But too late now to back down, so I got started slowly but surely.

Even cleaning out the samples from the mixing trays provided me with what seemed like endless entertainment. For the most part the colours flowed so nicely together and culminated in the most beautiful swirly marbeled effects.

Getting there very, very slowly. This is my progress after about an hour of swatching...

But it was so absolutely worth it. I needed several sittings to complete my colourchart, getting faster towards the finish because there were less and less colours to swatch. To help me keep an overview over which colours I was currently doing, I marked thicker lines between the colours of the rows of halfpans and also around the squares with the original shades.

Remember the mixing trays in the earlier picture? I thought I had it as clean as I could get it, but after hours of swatching and mixing paint samples in the same spots...

So that was my gift of my Grandmothers watercolours, I hope you all enjoyed the report of my swatching process, most likely it is much more exciting to do it yourself than to just read about it. 
As a little treat I wanted to share a last little surprise here. In my Grandmothers collection were several halfpans with not enough of paint in them to hold on to them and sometimes there also was no colourname. What made 6 of them special however were the pans themselves: they are made from glazed white porcelain, with the name G√ľnther Wagner stamped into the bottom. He was the head chemist, and later owner, of Pelikan. He gave the company its logo with the Pelikan and her chicks that helped me date one of the tins I showed you in my first post. I have not found references anywhere online as to when porcelain halfpans would have last been used or sold by Pelikan, but I can tell they are old and I will definitely cherish (and of course use) them ;-)

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Watercolour Goodies Part II

So welcome to part 2 of the short but sweet watercolour goodies series. Today I will show you my Grandmothers small travel palette and also some tins of surplus or refill paints. I have to also mention that these small palettes and pieces are somewhat „edited“, by my mother as well as myself. My mother was sorting through all these paints some years ago, fitting into spare tins whatever did not have a fixed place in a palette or was left over, then as I received the paket, I also sorted through them. What colour I could not identify and wasn‘t enough of there I cleaned the pans out and keep them safe for future use, but more on the pans later.

First one up is my Grandmothers travel palette. She would have bought all these paints in the 1980s to early 90s, and she did go outside and do a good bit of plein air painting. She also visited the Zoo frequently to paint and draw the animals. In a later post I might share a watercolour painting she made in a museum, it shows a small egyptian statue. 
Well, point is, she had a travel palette...

And all cleaned up inside, with paints reactivated and sampled, ready to go once more. Some of the colours came with labels and names/numbers, and I tried to identify them as much as I could.

Now I had to see what this little palette was capable of...

I have to say I have never seen such a very, very neutral palette. And some of the colours are highly granulating and very opaque, almost like modern gouache paints.

Next is a little vintage (?) tin with more goodies inside!

Yes, I guess this tin is old enough to be labelled „vintage ;-)
It contains Schmincke (some Horadam) watercolour tubes. They are still soft, and of course I had to check them out. In some the paint had hardened just inside the srew top, but a little water and a toothpick sorted that problem, good thing that watercolours never really dry out permanently. And I have to admit that I really like that Cerulean Blue.

This following one is a bit of a toughie. In a way it could be said that in this tin are all the „leftovers“. But most of them are full pans, and were presumably bought as full pans, so leftovers is not quite accurate. I really had trouble figuring out how to view this one, until I learned that this tin was filled by my mother with whatever did not have a place anywhere else. And then I also put in one or two leftover half pans, so colourtheme wise this one is a little all over the place.

Some of the colours are really nice, I do like the two intensely coloured blues, and the yellows as well as the darker of the two reds. I have no idea what colour the majority of these full pans are. When I got them they all had some fluff growing on them, and when I reactivated them I did so with really hot water from my kettle.

AsI stated, this tin is a little all over the place when it comes to colour scheme. That did not stoo me from swatching all the colours out with each other, and taking notes for future reference.

I am aware that, since I do not know most of the colours names, when the pans run out, the colour is gone. So I will take careful note of the ones I like the most and see if I can find a close match to them in the future.
Also I am very much concerned about the paint formulations. During my research I found references to colours having been discontinued due to „labelling regulations“. Well, I get the manufacturer doesn‘t want to admit any toxic ingredients in their paints, and I also know that at least the majority of modern watercolour paints do not contain the likes of lead and real cadmium and such toxic materials any more. But my colours are a little over 20 years old and a lot can change in formulations during that time, it will be good to remember this when painting and not stick brush tips or handles into my mouth or dump my paint water into my vegetable patch. 
I really have to come up with some nice motif to paint with these goodies...

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Vintage Treasure

Happy New Year everyone.
I sincerely hope your year started as well as mine. My Mother was sorting through some stuff recently and she found my Grandmothers old watercolours.
I started experimenting with watercolours and have heeded good advice from 

John Muir Laws

on how to „pimp“ a small travel palette and optimise the colour choice in it. So my Mother sent me my Grandmothers watercolour stash and oh goodness what a treasure. It is so much, I am going to split everything into several posts to really do it all justice.

First up is a student watercolour set made by the company Pelikan, this is a set that has been used in schools in Germany, Pelikan was a german company  founded in Hannover (my hometown) in about 1830s, and when I grew up  they were a standard school supply manufacturer.

I was trying to date this tin, but even with the serial number inside I could not find a proper timespan during which this tin would have been sold in shops. But what I found was some information about the company logo. On this page I found out that the logo was customized several times, the amount of Pelikan chicks in the nest was adapted to the amount of children the company owner had! Even though it doesn‘t give accurate information what years these changes took place, the logo was „streamlined“ from 4 chicks to 2 chicks in 1937, then even later down to 1 chick.

My tin has 4 chicks so I know it was made before 1937, my Grandmother might have had this in school.

I took out all the little tin pans and set them aside to allow the paints to soak up a little bit of water; in the meantime I set to work with water, a soft toothbrush and some toothpaste. I think the tin cleaned up quite nicely. I loved to see that the travel palettes back then were set up the same way as today: the paint section can be removed for extra mixing space...

And of course I had to try them out. The paints are still so beautifully vibrant, and they feel much nicer to work with than any modern pupil quality brand of watercolours. The only one to reactivate a little lumpy (gritty?) was the lovely purple on the bottom right. And what I would call a Sap Green today was called French Green Imit.

I can hardly wait to paint a proper little picture with these colours, but that is for another post...