More paintings

Thought I´s post some more of my vacation watercolor trials. Yeah, I know, the paper buckled on this one. I´ll have to fix that one of these days. (It´s usually easy to get rid of the buckles, just spray the back of a buckled watercolor painting and lay it between two clean papers under a bunch of heavy books.)

Anyway. Painting this was almost magical. The whole scene was totally quiet where I sat, not even a boat passing by although the main fairway is between the two nearest islands in the picture. Everything was calm, and nothing, not even a little fish, rippled the surface of the water.

Just around the point of the right island, this funny little building is standing on the tip of the cliffs, maybe five meters from the water. It´s old, a bit decayed, and incredibly beautiful. (And no, it doesn´t lean like that, it was just me and my Moleskine Watercolor lying down while drawing it.) The two black wires are there to give some support in cold autumn storms. It´s got a sign on it saying ”Mind the cable”, there´s an electric wire going underwater from this little piece of architecture to the island across the sound. Why don´t they build things like this nowadays?

Standing by the little cable house looking out over the sea you would be able to see the island where I made the next painting. Don´t know the name of those flowers in English, but they made a formidable sea of pink among the rocks. I am totally in love with Quinacridone Magenta, so I´m always glad to find views like this, where I can use my fav color without having to invent a fitting subject for it…

Back from a long rest

The reason for the lack of posts here lately is the total absence of computers in my family´s summer house on an island just off the northern coast of Sweden. I´ve spent three weeks there, drawing, trying out my new tube watercolors and just being utterly lazy. I feel totally rested now, and since I´m back in Stockholm I thought I´d start looking after my blog again.

I´ll start with one of the watercolor paintings I did. I usually draw with an ink pen and then use watercolors on top, but during this vacation I´ve been practicing more “classical” watercolor painting, with just a few strokes of a hard pencil as a composition support before laying the colors on the paper. I brought a collection of different watercolor papers with me to the island, and painted mostly on these loose papers instead of in my sketchbooks.

Using tube watercolors – wet, not dried as in my everyday tiny watercolour box – was quite a revelation to me. It was easier than I thought, and funnier. I never really tried it before, thinking it would be too messy bringing the tubes with me. This time I´ve kept them in a tiny plastic box in my bag, together with a generously sized plastic palette, and it actually wasn´t that much trouble carrying them around. Mixing is as easy (or hard) as with dry colors, but the intensity of the colors comes easier with the wet paint. It´s faster too, since you don´t have to spend time solving the colors with a wet brush.

This is a view from the cliffs of a small island southeast of “our” island. It was sunny and windy, so the paint dried really fast on the paper. Good for me, since I tend to be a bit impatient with watercolors…

This was the first painting I did with wet tube paints. Considering that, and the fact that I haven´t been doing watercolor paintings in a very long time, I think it turned out ok. Funny thing, though, that I didn´t notice until I scanned it and saw it in small size on my computer screen: I´ve managed to get a bit of a fisheye view somehow. The horizon is crooked and the clouds look like they spread out from the middle. Don´t know how that happened.

Anyway, I´ll be back with more watercolors as soon as I´ve scanned them all.

Surprise landing

I´ve said it before – the strangest things happen in this town. This morning we woke up by the sound of a helicopter. Helicopters are not that unusual where we live, but having one right above our house at eight o´clock on a sunday morning is not part of our daily routines.

Suddenly the sound of it stopped. It didn´t fade, it just stopped. Meaning the helicopter must have landed.

We went out to check, and there it was. A big red ambulance helicopter, right in front of the fire-station about a hundred meters from our apartment. Don´t ask me how they managed to put that thing down between the station and a huge tree right next to it, plus a big road with traffic on it. I guess the pilot must have practiced landing a few times before.

I sat down across the street to draw this oddity, and after a while the crew came out and put on their gear, and the pilot called out to me and asked me if I was prepared for their taking off. “Sure”, I said and gave him thumbs up. So they started the engine and I tried desperately to look kind of cool and used to the situation but, man… I´ve seen helicopter lift-offs on TV and I´ve understood that there is WIND under a helicopter, but this was ridiculous. I was practically blown off the little power station I was sitting on. I´m glad I was able to hold on to the Moleskine.

Oh well. You learn something new every day. Next time I won´t be wearing a wide skirt.

The Beany

I´ve recently had the pleasure of reading artist and illustrator Michael Nobbs´ little paperback journal The Beany, issue #3. It´s a bright red little gem with a lovely drawing of a Citroën 2cv on the cover, and the inside is as usual filled with Michael´s own writing and drawings.

I´m very impressed by The Beany, it contains so much in spite of it´s limited size. Michael Nobbs writes about what goes on in his life, and nothing is too big or too small to end up on a page here. You get to read about everything from journeys he´s made, favourite drawing tools, tea with his mother and much more, and at the end of this issue is a very useful list of 75 ways to draw more. Together with Michael´s charmingly relaxed drawings this is a very personal and inspiring publication. Reading it feels a bit like peaking into another person´s life, or rather like being allowed to read their diary (and who doesn´t love that, honestly?), with the bonus of having it illustrated.

Michael Nobbs seems to have the ability to see the value of everyday life, and he finds it well worth drawing and writing about. To me, reading The Beany has the effect of a little vitamin pill with inspiration, showing the way: “it´s all there, right in front of you – just see it and draw it!”

Take a look at both The Beany and Michael´s blog here.

(The image of The Beany is © Michael Nobbs)

Lamy Safari

A few days ago I got my second Lamy Safari fountain pen. I bought the first one in January, and I´ve been using it every day since then (no, I´m not kidding), so I thought I´d say a few words here about this favourite drawing tool of mine.

The first of my two Lamys is an Extra Fine nib, and I use it together with Noodler´s black ink. I want to be able to use watercolors on my drawings, and I had to look for quite a while before finding an ink that is waterproof but still doesn´t ruin fountain pens. Noodler´s is the only one I´ve found so far, and it is great to work with. Jet black, nice flow and ok price. (A bottle isn´t exactly cheap, but it lasts a long time.)

The Lamy Safari is incredibly nice to draw with. It makes a smooth even line and for a fountain pen, it´s got a fairly flexible nib. Harder pressure gives a thicker line. Although I don´t recommend not caring for your pens, I have never cleaned it so far. I just keep filling it up with ink when it starts to run out, and keep using it. It has never skipped a line and the ink has never dried in it, it just seems to go on and on.

As I like to draw with a thin line, the Extra Fine was my first choice. In my pen case I usually have another ink pen too with a little broader nib to fill in black surfaces and emphasizing certain lines in my drawings. When the last one of those non-fountain pens dried up I decided to replace it with another Lamy, only this time with a Medium nib (and a happy yellow barrel). If it turns out Medium doesn´t do the trick I´ll just get the Broad nib to replace the Medium with. That´s a very practical detail with the Safaris – you can change the nib if you feel like it. Just pull it straight out and replace it with another. Hardly anything you´d choose to do very often, since black ink is kind of… well, black and all over (and waterproof in this case), but the possibility of changing nibs is good. And economical – you don´t have to get a whole new pen if you´re not satisfied.

I´m very pleased with the Safari (you didn´t get that until now, right?). It´s the most expensive pen I´ve bought so far, but it´s been worth every cent (or öre, as we say in Sweden). I can really recommend to try one out if you are an ink pen kind of person.


It struck me that most of what I´ve been drawing the last two weeks has been from a distance. I never seem to get close to things these days. So today´s outing with the Moleskine Watercolor didn´t include any watercolors at all, just a concentrated look at the grass right in front of me in a park near home. Quite interesting, really. And a challenge to draw.

A messy little watercolor project

Sorry folks, but here comes another nerd-post about art materials. If you feel that customizing watercolor boxes may not be your cup of tea, then stop reading now or you´ll be suffering from total boredom very soon.

I have a small watercolor box that is almost always with me. It´s a quite usual model, a metal box with room for twelve half pans of colors. There used to be a metal holder for the pans in it, but I got rid of it long ago to fit more (and bigger) pans in there.

Lately I´ve felt the need to start using tube colors instead of pans. I want to be able to use a bigger palette when painting at home and with two different palettes it´s cheaper to use tubes for both than to maintain the pan system for one and buy tubes for the other. Also, the pans in the pocket size box were slowly sliding around in spite of the double-coated foam tape I used to try to keep them in place and I have been looking for a solution to this little but annoying problem.

I decided to build permanent compartments for the colors, and found an excellent plastic material for this in a trash container just around the corner (it´s not always a bad thing to live on a building site). I cut the plastic into strips, two to fit the length of the box, and five to fit the width. Then I cut slits into these to be able to assemble them into eighteen compartments. (I hope the images help to get the idea here.) Then I glued it all into the box with silicone (the kind you use when you build kitchens and bathrooms – totally waterproof), making sure there were no holes between the compartments, to avoid colors leaking in to each other. A bit messy, and the finished result is not a pretty sight, but then it wasn´t the sight I was after, it was the function. And after it dried for a couple of hours, I was ready to put the colors in.

Now, watercolors are expensive, and of course I couldn´t just let my pan colors go to waste. So I poured water into all the pans and waited for the colors to dissolve, then I shovelled them over to the new compartments in the box. It was messy like crazy but then they dried just fine (except Schmincke´s Phthalo blue, which took at least a week). When they run out, I´ll just fill them up from tubes.

Now I have the perfect watercolor palette for everyday use. It fits into my pen case, it can be refilled from tubes, it gives each color a bigger surface than the half pans (about the same as the bigger pans, only square), which makes it easy to fill the brushes with paint.

This image shows my current setup of colors (bigger if you click it, of course). I´m quite happy with them, I don´t feel like I need any more colors. I do have two empty compartments in the box, but I´ll just let them stay empty for now.

I sometimes wonder why I do these things… It took time, it was messy, I got Scarlet Lake over the whole kitchen, I went mad a few times, I cursed the silicone tube at least twice, and before I had finished the whole project I was ready to just go out and buy myself a new box and throw the old stuff in the garbage. But as much as I like buying and trying out new art materials, I can´t help feeling very loyal to the stuff that I´ve had for a long time, and that has served well over the years. It felt better to rebuild this old box and keep it working, than to throw it out for something shiny and new. I´m glad I did it. But I would perhaps not rebuild it again in the near future…


Another Moleskine Watercolor day. Been experimenting a bit with colors as well as drawing techniques. Another drawing is up at the Drawing Club today, have a look here.

Time to draw

My summer holidays has begun today, and my bike was waiting impatiently for me this morning to take it out on a ride. So I packed my brand new Moleskine Watercolor and the Lamy Safari pen and my new (or at least rebuilt) watercolor box (featured in a blogpost near you real soon) and let my red Peak take me downtown for some sushi, coffee and drawing. Lovely! I´ll be doing this a lot this summer. Well, maybe not the sushi, that would turn drawing into an expensive habit. The whole day was great, with sun, perfect temperature and nice views.

On my way home, I suddenly saw a fire hydrant in use for the first time ever, and since these thingies were on the EDM challenge list a few weeks ago, I had to draw it. We don´t have the cute above-ground models in Sweden, they are all hidden under the pavements here, with a neat little red sign on the nearest lamp post telling how far and in what direction you´ll find water. I had to hurry drawing it, though, because as soon as I had begun drawing, a lady (yeah, no fire fighters… how exciting is that?) came along with a huge heavy tool and turned it off. Two minutes later, she came back again and took the whole fire hydrant with her and walked off with it. The strangest things happen in this town…

Watercolor Moleskine

Oh joy, I finally got my hands on a Moleskine Watercolor Notebook today. I wasn´t even looking for one, and still, there it was in a store I never would have guessed to find it in. Nice! I bought the big one, and stopped twice on my way home to try it out.

Unfortunately, stupid me didn´t have my watercolors with me, since I´m in the middle of rebuilding my watercolor box (of all the little projects you can spend your time on…) and couldn´t bring it along. I had to add the color when I got home. Still, I did put the paper in this little Moleskine treasure to the test with my Lamy Safari pen in a park, and all went well. In spite of the grain, the pen and ink behaved lovely on the surface. No fibers got stuck in the nib, and the ink didn´t feather at all. No complaints there!

The only problem now is that I am already working in a sketchbook of a similar size, only much thicker than the Moleskine, and I have promised myself not to start new sketchbooks until the old ones are full… Hm. How annoying.