Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 30 "Art Every Day Month" - We did it!

Wow, what an amazing month it's been! This is the first year I've participated in Art Every Day Month and it really has been a great challenge to create some kind of art each day. I feel it's really moved me forward, I am really starting to learn to draw now (hooray) as well as trying out some other skills and I feel energised to continue the journey. I'm now looking forward to being able to spend a bit more than a day on some projects and really getting to grips with my illustration course.

Well done all the other AEDMers - here's a little papercut for you all!

p.s. if you want to keep following my work and creative musings, then please "like" the Drawn To Creativity facebook page:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Day 29 "Art Every Day Month" - Birds on a Wire

I love all of the amazing leaves growing up the walls in Munich. Here are some I found recently that look like beautiful exotic pink birds on a wire. Nature's art is always my favourite.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Day 28 "Art Every Day Month" - Happy Birthday Papercuts

After my previous disaster with reverse lettering (see Papercut Trial and Error), I thought for my next papercut, I would keep it easy and simply freehand cut letters into paper. Perfect for some unique birthday cards, don't you think? Happy birthday Karen and Sarah!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Day 27 "Art Every Day Month" - Linocutting fun!

Since doing some research about 20th century British illustrator, Edward Bawden, for my illustration course, I've been dying to try out some linocutting.  In fact, linocutting and its predecessor, wood-cutting, are mediums that most of the great artists from Duerer to Picasso have used alongside painting and drawing. So I bought myself a little lino cutting set and thought it would be a great way to produce some handmade Christmas cards.

I can't show you the full final result yet, as I don't want to spoil it for the recipients, but here's a little sneak peek:

Here's the process.

1. Work out your design on paper, then draw this onto the lino. Make sure the design is in reverse (I check in the mirror)

2. Then, using special lino cutting tools, cut out all the bits that you want to stay white. You're basically carving out your picture to create a stamp. I recommend using a special linocutting worksurface, which has a corner to hold the lino in place and a lip to fit over the table. This will help avoid injury if/when the knife slips. Also always cut away from you, turning around the lino, if necessary.

3. After cleaning it up, roll the lino ink (I used black) onto the lino, press down a card or piece of heavyweight paper on top of the lino. Then hold in place while you use a spoon to rub the back of the card/paper.

4. Carefully lift off the card/paper and let dry.

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have all the prints you want (if you are doing lots like I did, you will need to regularly clean up the lino, so it doesn't get all clogged with ink).

I really enjoyed this process. I did nearly 40 prints and every one came out slightly differently. I hope the recipients will enjoy their little piece of unique Christmas artwork.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Weekend Foodie: Live Long Soup

OK, so I can't promise that by eating this soup you will live to 100, but sweet potatoes really are a superfood, packed with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory nutrients and blood sugar regulating nutrients. It is therefore no surprise that the people of the Japanese island of Okinawa, who are the longest lived (and healthiest) people in the world, live off a diet which includes a significant amount of sweet potatoes.  Both the lentils and the sweet potato are complex carbohydrates, releasing energy slowly into your system (low GI).  Sweet potato is also a great source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene which is not destroyed by cooking). Vitamin A is vital not only for healthy skin and eyes, but also for the immune system and prevention of cancer cell growth.  The spinach added at the end (to keep it's iron content) will help support your kidney and liver function as well as helping you avoid fatigue (Tip: if you feel tired a lot, upping the iron in your diet can really help - include vitamin C to help your body absorb it). Oh, and I did I mention this soup is souper-douper easy to make ('scuse the pun!)?

Ingredients (for 2 servings):

1 cup red split lentils
3 cups vegetable stock
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
a bunch of fresh spinach and herbs of your choice, e.g. basil, parsley

Put all the ingredients, except for the spinach and herbs, into a pan, bring to the boil and then simmer for around 10 minutes until the sweet potato is soft. Take off the heat, add the chopped spinach and herbs and give it a whizz with a hand blender (if you don't have one, a potato masher will do the job). That's it!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Day 25 "Art Every Day Month" - Winter Sketching

Art Every Day Month has really inspired me to get drawing. I'm less scared of it now and happier to just get out my sketchbook and have a go.  Here's a couple of sketches I did today:

The first is me in my winter get-up. It is completely imaginary, not from any reference (other than an impression of how I probably look going around town). I like the idea of doing a series of these with this character, on my bike, at the market etc. etc.

The second is a sketch I did of some of the elements of the Christmas markets in the Marienplatz in the centre of Munich. The elements don't all fit together, not all the details are there and I had to work quickly as my hands were frozen stiff from the cold, but I think I'll try to do little sketches like this every day to provide me with references to work from for more "final" pieces.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day 24 "Art Every Day Month" - Old Photographs and a bit of Photoshop magic

I'm busy today digitally restoring some old slide photographs of me and my brothers and sisters when we were little. The dust marks are incredible, and a bigger task to remove than I intially thought. I'm making progress, but I don't want to spoil the surprise for my siblings, so instead, here's a piccie of toddler Lia in the snow, altered in photoshop to reduce it just to the basic lines that make up the image.  A bit cheesy, perhaps, but I kind of like it (and the process is certainly quicker than zapping thousands of specs of dust).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Day 23 "Art Every Day Month" - One Liners

One-liners are a classic drawing exercise. The idea is to draw the whole image in one line, without lifting the pen from the paper until the drawing is done. It forces you to really think and see how all the elements of a particular form fit together in a two-dimensional space.  So I thought I would have a quick play with it this morning, using my poofy dress lady from yesterday as inspiration.

I drew her a number of times, each time starting at a different point in the image. Each one was completely different to the one before.

I probably could have gone on all day, but these were my favourite two.

You don't get a perfect picture, that's not the point, but I think it's pretty amazing the likeness you can get with one line.

Picasso was a master of the one-liners - here's a daschund one-liner by the man:

This is also a great one to try with kids.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day 22 "Art Every Day Month" - Inspired by Fashion

Today, I headed to my local library for the first time since moving to Munich. I'm lucky in that my local library happens to be the main city library. And it really is a treasure chest. As soon as I located the art section, I knew I could get lost there for days. I didn't really go with any particular research in mind, I was just trying to escape the noise of the renovations in the apartment below me.

The first book that caught my eye was a huge tome about Manolo Blahnik. As I've previously dabbled in fashion illustration, but always struggled with feet (they are really hard - as are hands), I thought it might not be a bad thing to get some practice drawing shoes and feet.

I started off using pencil with this advert for Barney's New York, a photograph by Steven Meisel featuring Linda Evangelista draped over a sofa with a Manolo hanging from her finger (this was also good practice for face and hands). I forgot my eraser, hence the sketchy lines.

Then I moved onto shoes proper.

As I got more confident, I just got out my brush ink pen and made these exaggerated drawings, finishing them off with coloured pencil.

 While I was in a fashion-y mood, I had a go at copying this illustration by Tony Viramonks for Valentino (so Eighties!):

Finally, given my soft spot for the Dior New Look (see my 50s Revisited shoot from last year), I grabbed a Dior book I had seen on the returns trolley and created this illustration from one of the photographs (if you look closely, you can see the pencil prep work - it's a good idea to draw the body before you put clothes on it).

I just adored the big poofy dress!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Day 20 "Art Every Day Month" - Learning by copying

They say you learn by copying. How true this is. I am working on the first exercise of my illustration course which is to find out about a historical illustrator and then prepare some work in the same style. I have chosen Edward Bawden, a prolific British illustrator who did all sorts of work ranging from advertising, textile design, ceramics design and book covers. He did a lot of work using lino cutting. I'm going to have a go a lino cutting very soon, but first I wanted to really get more of a feel for Bawden's style. So, using black pen, I copied a small head-piece illustration by Edward Bawden for the 1935 Kynoch Press Note Book. It appealed to me because of the dynamic lines of the train darting across the page and the humour in the image. You can really sense the wind caused by the train rushing past the platform blowing the commuters hats off.

What I learnt is that it's one thing to look at a piece of artwork, but quite another to study and then and replicate the same lines and shapes.  It really does make you see in a different way, looking at the negative space, the angles, the placement of the various elements of the page and the interaction between them all. It's definitely the best way to learn about an artist.

Here's my version:

And here's the real thing!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Weekend foodie: Tasty Kedgeree

Kedgeree is something my mum used to make a lot when we were younger. She's Irish, so I'm not sure it was the authentic version, but it was definitely tasty as well as nutritious. Somehow a bunch of ingredients that individually don't sound that enticing come together to make a really delicious and easy to make supper. It's also a great one for a "store cupboard" supper when you haven't got much in the fridge. Here's my version:

Ingredients (to serve 2-3)

1 cup brown rice
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large filet of smoked mackerel (in Germany I buy this tinned)
2 eggs
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp curry powder
small handful of parsley
(optional - handful frozen peas)

Cook the rice according to the packet instructions. Boil the eggs, then put in cold water, peel and slice. Gently fry the onions in a little sunflower oil with the turmeric and curry powder.
Chop the parsley.  Once the rice is cooked, add to the pan of onions, flake in the fish and add the chopped eggs, parsley and peas. That's it!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Day 18 "Art Every Day Month" - Self Portrait (left and right handed)

Self portraits. Hmm, yes, we don't like doing them do we? But they are a great exercise for drawing skills, so I thought I'd have a go today. I did one first with my right hand (my dominant hand), and then another with my left hand. Both using charcoal pencil and both using a "cheater" blind contour technique. Blind contour is where you draw while looking at the subject matter, not your paper. It teaches you to draw what you see, not what you think should go on the page. A cheater blind allows you to look down every now and then, but 80-90% of the time you stay looking at the subject while you draw.

Here's how they came out:

The right handed one probably is a better likeness, but I actually prefer the style of the left handed portrait. I seem to be less hard with the pencil so it's a lot looser and somehow I look more relaxed!
This is a fun exercise to do. It only take 5 minutes and all you need is a pencil, a piece of paper and a mirror. Or if photography is more your thing, have a go at taking your own picture, using a tripod and the timer function. You'll learn a lot!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Day 17 "Art Every Day Month" - Munich Rooftops

Today was a momentous day for me in that, after much procrastination, I finally got started on my distance learning Illustration course. Why the delay? I don't know, perhaps it just all seems a bit daunting, perhaps I'm too busy with Art Every Day Month and life in general. Anyhow, today was the day. So for the first exercise I started researching some 20th century illustrators, Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious (google them, their stuff is really cool). They have inspired me to try out some linocuts/woodblock printing. But for now, as I don't have those printing tools to hand, I thought I would have a go at another ink line drawing, this time of the rooftops here in Munich.

Although very different to linocuts, ink drawings have the similarity of distinct strong marks, marks which, once made, can't be erased. I'm not overly thrilled with the final image - I think I still really struggle to draw from photographs (I'd much rather be out drawing from the real thing) and I still have problems with perspective, but that's the great thing about Art Every Day Month, you just get on with it, get your stuff out there and keep on learning.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Day 16 "Art Every Day Month" - Painting with Light

"Light painting" is a technique I like to play with every now and then when I'm out at night with my camera, so I thought I'd have a play with the technique for today's AEDM. Basically, it just involves setting the camera at a slow enough shutter speed so that you can move the camera around while the shutter is open and "paint" with the available light. It works best if you are somewhere with some bright areas of light, like streetlamps or car headlights. For the ones below, I just took the shots from my balcony, which faces onto a courtyard. The available light came from the lit up windows of the other apartment blocks.  If you try this, do be prepared to look like a raving loon waving your camera around in the dark, but your reward will be some pretty cool abstract art.

Technical notes: These were taken on manual at ISO 640, f.3.2 with the shutter open for 3.2 seconds. I then cropped to a square format and made adjustments to the colour balance and contrast in Photoshop.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Days 14 & 15 "Art Every Day Month - Papercut trials and tribulations

To quote Brittany Spears "Oops, I did it again". Messed up, that is. My little brother turned 30 today, so I came up with the idea of making him a piece of birthday art to celebrate this milestone. A papercut, I thought, would be ideal. I have cut paper before, for stencils and to rescue some art gone wrong, but this was the first time I had done a papercut purely as an artwork in itself. And I definitely learnt some important lessons along the way.  Here is the final piece.

But here's the tale of how I got to that, which started many hours before...

I decided the easiest way to do the papercut would be to draw my design in reverse on the black paper, using yellow pencil. That way, when turned around, you wouldn't see any of the pencil marks. Obviously it was important to ensure that all the parts of the design connected up, so this took a little bit of time to plot out. I decided to create a border of fairy lights and connect up the words and the lights with some balloons.

Feeling very chuffed with my design, I set about cutting it out using a scalpel on my cutting mat. Against my nature, I was very patient and careful with this process, knowing that if I made one mistake,  cut too far, then the papercut would fall apart.  2 hours later, I had cut out all the negative space from the design, so I turned it around to see what it would look like against a white background.  Horror!!! The "y"s, the "d" in "birthday" and the "3" were the wrong way round!

All that work, gone to waste. I couldn't give my brother this pathetic messed up papercut for his birthday. So (after a break to get over it all), I set about making another one. As most of the cutting work had been in the fairy light border, I decided to salvage this, cut out the lettering and re-do the middle part. This time, I checked my design in the mirror before proceeding further.

Satisfied that my reverse design would work once turned around, I then cut out the negative space around the lettering and the balloons. Then I glued the border and the lettering onto a piece of matt heavyweight photographic paper. Hooray, success at last!

So I think the moral of that story is that if you are doing a design in reverse, check it in the mirror first!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day 13 "Art Every Day Month" - Handmade Tea Towel

If I was charging the hourly rate I used to charge as a banking lawyer, this might be perhaps the most expensive tea towel every created, since it took me nearly 4 hours to make (that's around $2000 in "lawyer" time then). OK, so I am not an experienced sewer. That's actually an understatement. This is my first sewing effort with my very first sewing machine. So most of those 4 hours were spent working out how to set up and use the thing. But I learnt a lot. As well as learning how to wind my bobbin, insert it correctly, thread the top thread and pick up the bottom thread, I also learnt that I hate sewing. Can't stand it. Really, it's one of the most stressful things I've done since spending 3 hours working on a loan agreement to then have "the system" go down on me and lose all my work. But the biggest surprise of all? I was actually so chuffed with the end result that I'm willing to put myself through it all again! So I shall persevere and see if it gets easier and less frustrating the more I do it.

Anyway, here is the tea towel, complete with (very proudly) mitred corners, a ribbon loop, decorative  edging on the bottom (which I had bought at a cute store in Vienna) and an appliqued strip of contrasting fabric on the top.  I also thought about adding a pear "stamp" with some fabric paint, but I think 4 hours is enough time spent on one tea towel!

As much as I'd like to give you a "how to" guide, I really don't think I'm the person to be giving sewing lessons. Well not just yet, anyway...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Weekend foodie: Spiced Roasted Autumn Vegetables & Chickpeas

Here's a great recipe for packing in your 5-a-day veggies. In fact there are 7 different vegetables here! As both the sweet potato and chickpeas are a great source of fibre and are low GI carbohydrates, you won't get that glucose high and subsequent crash like you do with ordinary roasted potatoes. Also, if you've not tried fennel before, I highly recommend you do. When roasted like this, it becomes beautifully sweet and really adds a different dimension to the roasted vegetables. It's also a fantastic source of vitamins A and C, iron and calcium.

Ingredients (serves 4):
*1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into approx 2cm pieces
*1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
*1 small red onion, roughly sliced
*2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
*1 yellow pepper, sliced
*olive oil
*1-2 teaspoons of mixed herbs and spices (I used a blend including turmeric, cardamon, nutmeg and rosemary, but experiment with whatever takes your fancy)
*punnet of tomatoes
*1 can chickpeas, drained
*(optional) some cooked spinach (I use the frozen spinach portions, just heat them in a pan for a couple of minutes)

1. Heat the oven to 200C/350F.
2. Put the sweet potato pieces, fennel slices, red onion, crushed garlic cloves and sliced yellow pepper into a large roasting tin. Drizzle with a good glug of olive oil, sprinkle over the herbs and spices and rub in with your hands, mixing up all the vegetables. Cook in the pre-heated oven for around 30 minutes, stirring every so often.
3. Add the tomatoes (pierce them first to make sure they don't explode!) and the drained chickpeas and cook for a further 20 minutes, or until the veggies are soft and have started to brown.

I felt like a bit of green was needed, so I mixed in some cooked spinach at the end. But parsley would be another option and another good source of iron.

P.S. I always recommend using organic ingredients where possible. I'm just not a fan of chemicals in my food.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Day 11 "Art Every Day Month" - Poppies (Lest We Forget)

For Armistice Day, I decided to paint some poppies. Inspired by Mayja Isola's designs for Marimekko, I took a very free, almost childlike approach to creating my poppies, with three layers, two different reds, then a flesh coloured tone and finally a black stigma. I used very simple brush strokes (or more like brush blobs). It was amazing how the poppies started to come to life with each layer.
It's very humbling to think about how many lives were sacrificed for the freedoms we take for granted today so this is just my small way of remembering.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Day 10 "Art Every Day Month" - Viennese Cafe and Street Scene

Inspired by my new pens, I thought I'd have a go at using them to recreate a couple of photos I took Vienna - of the trams and of a beautiful cafe we went to. I'm not overly thrilled with either of them - they are a bit rough and sketchy but I'm just pleased that they vaguely resemble the original photos. I'm looking forward to practising more with the pens and seeing where it leads me.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day 9 "Art Every Day Month" - Winter Echinacea

The best thing about participating in Art Every Day Month is the opportunity to try out a different medium each day. Today, I bought myself some new toys - an ink "brush" pen (like a fountain pen, but with a brush head) and some all-sorted grey artists pens. After trying out a few different subjects, I plumped for this dried out echinacea plant on my balcony. In summer it was a beautiful vibrant pink and although it's lost all colour now, I think the dark stems, crispy petals and spiky heads have a delicate sculptural feel to them. I thought it particularly suited the monochrome palette of my new pens.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Day 8 "Art Every Day Month" - Inspired by the floorboards (yes really!)

I'm a great believer that inspiration can be found wherever you are. I saw this small imperfection in my floorboards and thought "I wonder what that could be made into". So I sketched it out using charcoal pencil, then turned it around and I saw a little person taking a dip in a pond. 10 minutes later, there's two of them, having a moonlit dip in a lake!

1. Inspiration

2. Turn around - what do you see?

3. Complete the scene

You can do this with anything - holes in the pavement, cracks in the wall, peeling paint, ink blotches, paint blobs...