Friday, 28 August 2015

Jessie Swimming

Blog 34

As this is the last week of August, I wanted to write about one of my summer paintings. “Jessie Swimming” is a 24" x 30" acrylic painting of our first dog Jessie, a Golden Retriever, during one of her favourite activities. She is so happy in this wet element, her wild doggy paddle splashing the water all around her. This painting, which hangs in our hallway, brings back a lot of happy memories. While she loved the swimming, Jessie always hated it when we put her floppy ears up with a clip after the water fun so they would dry faster. Without this little trick, she would often end up with a nasty ear infection.

Jessie was my first dog while my husband had grown up with several dogs. We adopted Jessie right after we moved into our first house to help me overcome my extreme fear of dogs. She possessed all the qualities typical for her breed. She was very smart, loyal, and extremely friendly. She was the perfect dog to help me deal with my fear. I was quite nervous around her at the beginning but if you see me now, you would never guess that I had not been a dog person all my life. She loved to play, but even more to please. Therefore, she was easy to train, and as we did not have kids yet, we focused all our energy on her.

She loved to retrieve everything you could think of, usually carrying a branch the size of a small tree during our walks. My husband taught her many tricks but the best was to pick up her poop bags and to throw them into the garbage can. This was always a big attraction for everyone we met.

She also really loved water and went swimming whenever she saw a chance. She even had her own little pool in our yard. Every time, we went to my in-law's cottage, she went swimming with us. We usually tried to combine it with a game of fetch because otherwise she would try to swim to one of us, often leaving us with big scratches from her nails. We had so much fun together. I only realized how much I cherished these moments after she died.

I was very sad that our second Golden, Candy, the sweetest girl you can imagine, had none of the typical Golden characteristics. For the longest time, she was a cat in a dog's body. Our Australian Shepherd Alex was the one who slowly transformed her into a dog. However, even though he liked water, he never ventured into areas where his feet did not touch the ground – until last summer. Since then, he just loves it. He does not care whether the water is cold or warm, he just runs right in. He has never been in the water with us so far. I hope he will join us for a swim this September, when we will go to my in-law's cottage again. It would make me really happy. If not, that is OK too. I like to watch him swimming, seeing how much he enjoys himself.

I hope you enjoyed my anecdote. Do you have a pet who loves or hates water? Maybe, you would like to share a funny story with us, either in the comment section of this blog or on my Facebook ( or Google+ page (

Friday, 21 August 2015

Sketching for Fun

Blog 33

Last summer I wrote a blog about the ease of drawing especially during the summer months. You do not need a lot of equipment and you can do it almost anywhere. When I wrote that blog in July 2014, I had just gotten into the habit of taking a sketchbook with me everywhere I went. To read the 2014 blog please go to , then scroll down to the blog from July 18, 2014.

If you know me personally, you know that I cannot keep my hands still. You will hardly ever see me just watching TV, or just sitting patiently in a waiting room, in a bus or as a passenger in a car. For longer trips, I bring a whole assortment of things to do. I also have a book in my car in case I have to wait longer than expected for someone at pickup time or for a meeting. However, when I am without my car, I do not want to carry something heavy along. A pocket sized sketchbook and a small refillable pencil are perfect to stick into my purse. Sketching also helps me with my motion sickness, at least to a certain degree.

Nowadays, I take out my little sketchbook in a restaurant while waiting for my meal, during a bus or train ride, and even at the theatre in the dark. We have front row tickets so it is easy to see the whole stage. I do not finish every sketch. Sometimes, my subject moves too much or gets off before I am done. Sometimes, I just cannot get the essence of what I started. Often, I am not too happy with my sketch at first but when I look at it at a later time, I realize that I usually captured some essential parts, even if the perspective or proportions are not correct. Most of the time, it is a nice reminder of a person or event – almost like an entry in a journal.

When I start to sketch, my sole intention is to practice my skills. Therefore, I am quite relaxed about my creation. If I am lucky, I capture the essence of what I see. The sketches are usually not meant for anyone else to see or to be published. So in this blog I make an exemption and show you a couple of my latest sketchbook entries.

Maybe, this will inspire you to just give sketching a try. There is inspiration all around you. It could be a beautiful flower, a nice fresh peach, or just an interesting shadow. Keep it simple. Just by observing what you are sketching, you will remember the event or subject more clearly - even if your sketch does not turn out at all. Have fun. There is no right or wrong way to sketch something. You could develop your own creative shorthand to remember what you saw, create doodles or cartoons instead of realistic interpretations. To tell you the truth, I never thought I would have so much fun and be courageous enough to sketch in public. Only since I stopped comparing myself to others and accepted my sketches as training exercises have I filled more than just one sketchbook.

If you enjoyed this blog and would like to get more information about what's going on in my business, I encourage you to sign up to my monthly newsletter on my website The newsletter is published on the last Wednesday of every month. When subscribing, you will automatically receive my free eBook “I Am Ready To Paint But Where Do I Start?”.

If you know someone who might also like to read my blog, please share it. Thank you in advance for helping me to reach a bigger audience.

Friday, 14 August 2015

One Zentangle A Day - Book Review

I created all the art works in this blog getting inspired by the book.

Blog 32

Three years ago, my supervisor asked me if I would be interested in promoting my Famous Artists art courses for kids in the upcoming summer camp “Doodle'n'Draw” and I did not hesitate at all to accept this offer. For my regular four week sessions, I determine the artists we will study before posters are printed for the promotion of the course. This way, the parents and children know ahead of time which artists' works we will be working from. On the other hand, in my 10 to 12 week drawing course, I only prepare the first class, then ask my students what they would like to draw. It is their course, and I want them to enjoy the things we are drawing because if the like a subject, they are much more eager to participate and also more successful. However, for the camp, I did not know what the kids were expecting. I was also aware that I would not be able to support everyone in the group of 20+ children the same way I can do it during a class with up to 12 students. Therefore, I decided to start the week with a warm-up exercise of doodling.

While I was browsing for ideas, I saw the word “Zentangle” for the first time. As I always like to be well prepared I wanted to find out more about this new trend. I wanted to know the difference between a doodle and a Zentangle. A bought a couple of books in preparation of the camp, one of them was “ONE ZENTANGLE A DAY” by Beckah Krahula (ISBN 978-1-59253-811-9). I did not use the book for the camp as I was sure that the 7 – 12 year old children would not be able to calm themselves in a big classroom setting to follow the strict method of Zentangling.

The mindfulness and complete focus on the creation of the design that stays within a fixed format and with a prescribed method of using repetitive patterns is the big difference between the Zentangle and a doodle. Doodles are generally created while you are otherwise occupied, e.g. during a not so interesting class, a meeting or during a long phone conversation. The doodle is done without full attention.

I did not even look at the book after that for a long time. However, whenever we go to the cottage with the whole family, space is an issue. In general, the car is so packed, that my painting gear does not fit. Instead, I usually take some pencils, watercolours, and a sketch pad. The last two times, I also brought the book. I am not too worried about doing a design each day. I just work through it when I feel like it. I wanted to try out the approach of learning new tangles for every exercise to increase my repertoire of patterns, and see some examples of interweaving the pattern so make the designs more interesting.

I have been following Krahula's instructions and enjoyed the many suggestions and examples. However, sometimes, I had a hard time understanding her explanations, or I had to look for definitions of terms in a later section of the book. In addition, some of the step-by-step illustrations of the tangles miss steps or the steps look different than the final tangle. While I see all the names of the different tangles, I will never be able to remember them, nor do I feel it is necessary to create beautiful pieces.

The list of materials for Zentangling is thorough, and the descriptions for the use of the different kinds of pens, pencils, watercolours, markers, and pastels very useful. However, I got annoyed when the author explained the difference between Zentangles which are done on the 3.5” x 3.5” official Zentangle tile and Zentangle inspired art (ZIA) which is done on a different surface, or in a different size or shape. A nice marketing scheme to increase the sale of the official products!

While you can follow most of the daily pattern with some basic equipment, you can spend a lot of money if you want to try out all the materials used for the exercises.

All in all, you get a ton of inspirations, even with regard to 3D creations. When I went through the book, I loved all the delicate patterns, and look forward to trying out the rest of the zentangles in the following chapters. I will definitely not buy all the equipment suggested but will modify the exercises to use the materials I already have at home. For me, it is all about adapting the exercises to my own style, and to use the materials that help me to express myself. This does not mean that you should not try new equipment but get comfortable with some basics first before you invest tons of money in materials that will end up somewhere at the bottom of a drawer, never to be seen again.

Have you already worked with this book or can you recommend another book? Do you enjoy the relaxation from doodling, or Zentangle inspired art? How do you feel about the many names of the different tangles? Do they matter to you or do you just enjoy the different patterns? Do you use the technique to relax? Please share your thoughts with me.

Friday, 7 August 2015

The Phenomenon of Adult Colouring Books

Blog 31

This week, I just resumed my daily tasks after a wonderful staycation with two dear friends from Germany. Thinking of a blog theme for the month, I decided that August would be a good month to write about some creative outlets for the vacation season and beyond.

If you are an avid reader and have checked out what is trendy at the moment, you probably have seen many articles about the seemingly surprising rise of adult colouring books. After all kinds of forms of doodling this is now the new sensation. I am not surprised. When I helped out in the daycare of a gym a couple of years ago, we always put out colouring pages for the kids. However, not only the kids had fun colouring. Often, we, the caregivers, coloured some of the pages with them. And even some of moms who came in after the workout would occasionally pick up a crayon.

Since Johanna Basford, a Scottish artist and commercial illustrator, had her adult colouring book “Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book” first published in 2013, it has sold about two million copies worldwide. “Secret Garden” and the follow-up, “Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest and Coloring Book,” are the two best-selling books on Amazon in the category of Colouring Books for Grown-ups.

Colouring books for adults have been around for a long time, but the success of Basford's and many other successful artists' adult colouring books have created a huge new industry category. Due to their beautiful illustrations, the coloured creations often are posted on social networks. This helps spread the trend as a bigger audience is reached. Suddenly, everyone wants to participate in this new activity, and to share the finished drawings.

However, this is not the only reason for the huge success of the adult colouring books. Colouring can relieve stress and anxiety. You do not have to worry about whether or not a drawing will turn out but can totally immerse yourself in picking out colours according to your mood to create little masterpieces. The often geometrically soothing patterns increase the relaxation effect. While you are colouring you can unwind, clear your mind, and relieve anxiety.

Some critics, however, find fault with the directed and restrictive activity that cannot compare with the creativity that comes from creating something from scratch. While this is true, creating an artwork might be very stressful for beginners until they realize that it is all about the process and not about the result. As an instructor I have seen a couple of people who were so intimidated by the white canvas and their own perfectionism that they blocked their own success. It is not fair to compare the creation of art with the colouring of printed patterns. While painting or drawing require a lot of practice to succeed, colouring is accessible to everyone, no previous skills or instruction required.

Whether you are already very creative or thought that you are just not the artistic kind of person, I am sure you will be addicted to colouring while enjoying your favourite beverage or bridging the time before an appointment. There are so many different adult colouring books on the market that you will have a hard time deciding on one.

Are you worried that you will not have the colouring book on hand when you are running errands? No worries, thanks to apps like Colorfy you can use your smartphone or tablet for digital colouring. Colouring on a mobile device does not only have the advantage that you can easily erase your image, you can also try different colour combinations. Once you are done, you can share your creations with ease on the different social media sites so that your friends can admire them.

Are you are already an avid fan of this new trend? Or are you one of the critics? Have you bought some colouring books and can make some recommendation? What about colouring on your smartphone or tablet, have you tried it? I would like to hear from you. Please leave a comment to get the discussion going.