Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Drawing diary: May

If I keep up this pace, I'll be catching up on my drawing diaries forever! I really should try to get them out more quickly. What's putting it off is that the scanning is a lot of work. But I enjoy sharing my drawings and adventures with you guys, so that's no excuse. Here is my entry for May!

I spent plenty of hours painting in May, especially when I was in Sweden with my family for two weeks. However, the month started out on a sad note.

A goodbye to Saartje the stealth poodle

In the beginning of May, just a few days before we went on holiday, we had to say goodbye to our most beloved four pedal family member. Saartje had reached the respectable poodle age of 15 as healthy as can be, but suddenly got really ill, probably a brain tumor. For half of my life she was there, and it is hard to explain how much comfort this small family member gave us. I don't want to go into too much detail here, but she is sorely missed.

Being black, Saartje looked really bad on pictures (black hole effect), so the drawing of her I made last year in Sweden is extra precious to me.

Early May drawing and painting

This is probably not news to you, but one thing that can really ease my mind is drawing and painting. So that's what I did.

Three things I made

Black-gray feather (above, right) - Remember how I dramatically failed at colour blending my succulent plant drawings the previous month? Well, I failed spectacularly, again! I was trying to make the gray teints change gradually, but it doesn't look like that at all. I'm giving up on it for now, because I've tried everything that I can think of. I will just find other creative solutions when dealing with gradual colours in marker drawings.

On the plus side, I do like what the feather actually looks like, even if the effect was not quite what was intended.

Tulip in green vase (above, middle) - I used two different watercolour brands for this one, just because of the colours that they had available. Well, I won't do that again! I did the red flower with Winsor & Newton, and the rest with Talens water colour. As you can see, the Talens has less colour and looks look-through. The pigment quality and amount of the brand is just much lower. I hadn't realized this until I used both in the same painting.

Red tulips (above, left) - I really love how this one turned out! It's by far the best watercolour painting I've ever made. My mum really loved it as well, so I gifted it to her for Mother's Day.

If you don't recognize the flowers as tulips, don't worry! I waited too long with drawing them, so they were almost withered... again.

Then it was time to depart for Sweden, in a strangely empty car.

 What's in my suitcase

Holiday in Sweden

The first thing I did was draw all my clothes that I was going to take with me. This seemed like a fun way to start practicing my water colours, and it also forced me to get my stuff packed in time (I really dislike packing for some reason)! I got the idea from Kay over at My Open Sketchbook and Fran Meneses' YouTube channel. Be sure to check those out if you haven't already, because their illustrations are super inspiring.

My family was a bit puzzled by that I was drawing clothes, but whatever!

I love drawing and painting when I'm on holiday. It's relaxing, and it forces you to look around for beautiful things. This time, I decided to work on my watercolour skills. I bought a small journal with watercolour paper to take along.

Watercolour journal: Sweden

I'm not used to painting in a journal, but it was actually quite nice. The journal barely takes any space at all when travelling, and the paper was great for watercolour, almost as good as an official watercolour block. The pages only slightly curl around the edges, and you can use both sides without the other side shining through.

Now it's time for some Sweden pictures and nature nerding.

One thing I love about being abroad are the supermarkets! There are always so many products that you can't find at home. Above you see some icecream and sweets we bought when passing through Denmark.

When passing through Malmö (Sweden), we bought this huge bread at St. Jakobs Stenugnsbageri. I really loved the place. All bread was handmade and you could see the bakers at work, folding and kneading the dough. And there was so much of it! The shop was stacked with all kinds of bread. There was also a cafe attached, which was a lovely place to sit down and draw.

Our cottage was in the same spot in Skåne as last year: at the edge of a nature reserve. I love the landscape, and found many cool plants. (For instance the blooming Equisetum sylvaticum or bospaardestaart/skogsfräken above.) Because we were earlier than last year, the orchids were still around and we saw many bright yellow fields with blooming rapeseed or koolzaad / raps (Brassica napus).

One such field was right next to our cottage. I couldn't remember this from last year, because by then it must've already ceased blooming. Rapeseed flowers are extremely bright: looking at them almost hurts your eyes. I was lucky to find a teint of yellow that did just that at an art supply shop in Ystad.

Now I had bought my first cube of watercolour (the rest of my watercolour set I inherited from my grandfather; I'll post a picture of it at some point), I needed to try it out. I soon found out that painting watercolour landscapes is really hard! The picture to the right took me three afternoons of painting, and it's really quite small.

I think landscapes are hard because you need to work with perspective and need to add lots of depth, and for that you need many, many layers. Shadows are something that I haven't figured out how to do yet. /Sigh

I see a lot of illustrators using watercolour in a kind of 'drawing' way: to paint small objects and people. Personally, I've found that much, much easier to pull off. (So if you're just starting with water colour, starting with objects is definitely a tip.) I hear it takes years of practice to get good at painting landscapes - I'm not surprised by that at all.

Here I found a really cool plant I'd never seen before: fältsippa (Pulsatilla pratensis). It doesn't grow in the Netherlands, and I had only seen its nephew Pulsatilla vulgaris (wildemanskruid) once.

Our cottage in Sweden wasn't far from the Baltic Sea. You could collect the most beautiful stones at the beach. The boys were more interested in throwing them at the sea, bouncing them on the surface as often as they could.

One of our day trips was to national park Stenshuvud. This place strongly appealed to my inner archaeologist and botanist. On top of the cliffs, the remains of a huge prehistoric hillfort were barely visible. It was easy to understand why it was built just there, because you had a magnificent view of both the sea and the hinterland.

I had also never seen so many different biotopes in one place, and because of it, we saw a huge variation in plant and wildlife.

The tree to the right was completely covered in huge ivy branches. It looked really cool. The tree itself, however, was most likely less delighted by its company.

I've run out of pictures! I hope you've enjoyed this lengthy account (sorry). Messing around with water colours wasn't easy - I'm still not sure if I have the patience for it - but I'm mostly happy with what I made and it was definitely good practice. And Sweden itself was just really amazing, as always. Since I also speak the language a bit, every time I return strangely feels a bit like coming home.

Credit of the photos of me and the one of the huge bread goes to my brother. I'm thankful I could borrow his camera again, so you don't have to suffer through my crappy phone pictures!


  1. Nice drawings. So pity that Saartje has gone. Such a friendly dog! Did you know that Florens was very affraid of dogs except Saartje. Now he likes dogs!

    1. Hi Liesbeth! It seems Saartje was a great advocate for her species. Marinka was really fond of her as well (and it was mutual), and Conrad now even *wants* a dog (he used to be a cat person). Her legacy lives on. :)

  2. *hugs* I am so sorry to hear about Saartje. Loosing a beloved pet is heart wrenching.

    I love your tulips too and your landscape. I think you're doing really well with watercolor. I'm starting to pick at it again after taking a small break.

    I found your post entertaining to read, so thank you for sharing so much. :)

    1. Thanks for the kind words. We miss Saartje, but she had a good life and that comforts me. And I'm happy you like the results of my watercolour struggles! It takes so much time and effort. I still hope that will get better in time - but I will have to keep practicing to find out.

  3. My condolences. My family always had dogs and it never gets easier when one of them dies. The best we can do is give them all our love and try to make those last moments as comfortable as possible for them. :(

    As for the drawings, I love the tulips. They came out great. :)

    Color-blending does sound challenging though.

    Cool idea with the journal and I like the illustrations on it. :)

    The food from your trip looks delicious. Wish I could experiment it. Specially that bread!

    The place you stayed for your vacation looks like it was a relaxing area. Also, I didn't know stones could come in so many different colors naturally.

    Thanks for sharing your drawings! :)

    1. We could say goodbye to Saartje at home and she was really peaceful in her last moments - for that, I'm thankful.

      I'm glad that you like the tulips! As for the colour blending: I forgot to mention that's something that I find tricky for markers especially. For water colour I have it under control (as you can hopefully see!).

      I was really surprised with the colours of the stones, too! They were super colourful when they were under water, but when the water evaporated they lost their colour. I took some of them with me and plan on polishing them. Hopefully they will keep their colour that way. :)

  4. I'm sorry for your loss, Rav. Losing a beloved pet is hard.

    As for the artwork, I love it! Especially the watercolor journal!

    1. Thanks for the support, Redbeard. It will take a while to fill up the watercolour journal (it's really most practical for travelling, and I don't do that very often), but I would love to one day. :)

  5. Nooo, not the stealth poodle! :(

    I really like the look of that feather, even if it didn't come out as you intended.

    And I love that you are geeky enough about plants to take a picture of yourself with one you haven't seen before. XD

    1. Haha, yeah, I just had to get a photo taken of me with the plant celebrity! :D

  6. I also miss Saartje :(, he always was so happy to see me :).

    I love your paintings, they are amazing. It is hard to pick a favorite one, they are all so beautiful, but I guess it would be watercolour landscape painting, it is super nice! Ah and the video is super cool, it is a fun way of showing your pictures :).

    1. Thank you!! :D I have mixed feelings about the watercolour landscape. On the one hand it's the painting that took the most hours to complete, and I'm really happy with how the lighting turned out. On the other hand, I don't really like what the branches and leaves of the close trees look like (a bit kitsch) and I'd have liked more depth in the foliage. But I can go on and on criticizing what I made. I'm just glad you like it and I hope I will get better when I practice more. :)

      The video was actually the first GIF I made and it wasn't very hard! If only I had written down how I did it, so I don't need to google it again next time... -_-

  7. Wonderful drawings and photos. So sorry to hear about Saartje. It's so sad to lose a pet after so many years. However, you must have some precious memories. Keep well.

    [Not been in SWTOR or LOTRO for weeks as been working on book release and playing early access of Conan Exiles - have our own server as well.]

    1. Thanks, Roland! And congratulations on your book release. :)

  8. So beautiful! And I'm so sorry for the loss of your poodle. It's always so hard to say goodbye to pets.

    I absolutely love your travel journal! I think you captured things beautifully, and I love the variety of illustrations in it!

    1. Thanks for the kind words. And cool that you like the travel journal! It felt like it was going sloooowly, water colour just takes much more time than markers or pencils (at least for me). But it does have that special feel to it. :)

  9. Beautiful work Rav! Your watercolor paintings turned out amazing - it can be challenging to paint small details when working with water. I also love the packing list art idea! I'll have to try that next time I travel.

    1. Thank you so much! It was even worse than usual because some hairs were screwed up in my smallest brush. Halfway my vacation I finally mustered the courage to cut them off and then it worked fine again - should've done that a lot earlier. :)

  10. As you know, I've been going through losing a pet too this year. I'm so sorry about your Saartje *hugs*

    I absolutely adore your drawings! The tulips and the stones are my favourites, simplistic and detailed at the same time :) And what a fun idea to draw the clothes for your journey!
    I really should try to do a drawing journal next time I'm travelling, it seems way more fun than only having photos.

    1. Thank you so much! I really liked keeping a drawing journal, because it's really nice to just sit somewhere, enjoy the surroundings and draw. And of course it's nice to have the drawings to look back at later. That said, I really enjoyed your gorgeous Northern Sweden photos, so don't stop making those! :)

  11. Hugs for Saartje. So sorry for you and your families loss.
    LOVE your watercolor journal! It's gorgeous. I love collecting rocks, so that page immediately spoke to me :) The nature scenes are also wonderful.

    1. Thanks, Jessica. You make me blush! I loved painting those rocks. I took them home. I should polish them soon - they lose their vibrant colours when dry (they were wet when I found them), so my hope is that they retain them when polished. It's a nice remembrance of fun times. :)


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