Urban sketchers´symposium in Amsterdam

I had the great honor of being one of the workshop instructors at the Urban sketchers symposium in Amsterdam in 2019. As usual, four days of fun, meeting old friends and making new ones, and drawing together, alongside discovering a new (to me) city.

The 33-37°C made the workshops a bit sweaty, but everyone stayed positive and worked hard anyway. Luckily, my workshop spot at the Montelbaanstoren offered a bit of shade here and there, which kept us from getting grilled in the sun.

It is always such a boost to teach at these symposiums, I consider myself a real lucky duck for getting the opportunity. The learning environment is a dream for a teacher – everyone is there to learn, determined to pick up something to get better at what they are doing, and everyone is supportive and generous with sharing and discussing their work. And best of all – I think I´m the one who learns the most! I always come home from teaching urban sketchers workshops filled with energy and inspiration and with lots of ideas that I´m eager to start working on.

Meeting my fabulous workshop groups, seeing Amsterdam, going out night sketching old Citroëns, eating good food and hanging out with good friends made this symposium another unforgettable sketching event. Forever grateful to everyone who participated and everyone who volunteered to work during these fantastic four days!

The summer house 2019

I spend some time at the summer house every year, and of course try to find time to draw while I´m there. Sometimes I feel like I must have drawn everything interesting on the island already, but nope. As soon as I pick up the pen, I see new interesting things to draw. Or, I draw the same things as before, and find that they are just as interesting to draw this time around.

The house itself is a must, almost every year. It is a tough perspective challenge, but fun. Managed to squeeze in the neighbour´s house too, this time.

I brought my old Kremer pigmente watercolour box this year, almost forgot I had it, but had lots of fun rediscovering the colours. I find Kremer pigments quite lovely to work with, but a little different from many other brands of watercolours I´ve tried. Some of them are a little bit… looking for a suitable word here… chalky? with an almost dusty feel to them when they´re dry, almost like pastel crayons. But in a good way. (I´m not a fan of dry pastels…)

A boat or two usually slips into the sketchbook every year too. It sort of goes with the territory on an island.

Also, almost every summer, I renovate one or two windows. The house is old, and the window frames need a lot of TLC. This year I took a little time off the sanding and painting to draw a bit of the process. Those seemingly boring and untidy things that we usually don´t even waste a cellphone photo on are often the most interesting drawing subjects. I quite like this one. 🙂

Drawing insects

Every year I teach a course in scientific illustration at work, and one of the assignments that my students have is to draw an insect from close observation, trying to find the most suitable angle, the clearest way to depict the insect to make a clear description of the species. For this purpose, we have the pleasure of being provided with a little treasure box of insects from the Natural history museum of Stockholm.

After the course, before I hand the box back to the museum, I usually take the time to draw the contents in my sketchbook. The beauty and details of these little creatures is marvelous and so interesting to observe.

Dessiner Liège 2018

A nice surprise landed in my mailbox recently – the book put together from the Drawing Liège event in 2018. So pretty, with drawings in every technique and style you can imagine.

So happy to have some of my drawings in it, and very pleased that my panorama of Liège was printed on a long fold-out page. Don´t you just love it when printed books are made with that little bit extra love and attention to detail, to make you want to flip through them again and again? 🙂

The origins of the Sleepers

Sometimes it´s fun to take your sketches a bit further, to see what you can do with them in another medium or as an idea for other works. The watercolours I did last year of people sleeping in puddles of watercolours are one of those little projects.

They all started with this sketchbook page (below) that I drew during several occasions when my train to work was late. Central station in Stockholm (and, I guess, train stations everywhere) is always full of people waiting, and sometimes the wait gets long, and some of them fall asleep.

I find sleeping people an interesting subject to draw. A body in rest is so different from a body standing up or moving about. The proportions change because the body sinks into itself, and it gets tricky with folds on clothes and bags and stuff that these persons keep close to them. Intricate and fun to draw!

And I thought, what if these folks had something softer and more cushy to sleep on than the wooden benches of Stockholm Central station? Hence the watercolour clouds.

Choosing a rough grained watercolour paper gave the opportunity to experiment a little with granulating pigments, which I think lends the clouds more body and life – plus the bonus of being incredibly fun to play with.

Revisiting the vintage garage

Volvo fire engine

I have been revisiting the veteran garage near where I live every now and then during the last year or so. This is a place where (mostly) retired firemen repair vintage fire engines, and it´s been so much fun to have the opportunity to pop in and draw there whenever I can.

Ambulance TLC

Apart from sketching while these guys expertly fix these old beauties, I get to overhear their funny banter, watch some pretty nifty problem solving and have real nice conversations over coffee.

Volvo fire engine

Also, I get to enjoy these incredible cars. There is just something so great about the curves of older cars, and drawing them is like taking your pens and colours out for an adventure. I don´t know how many times I´ve had to measure properly to be able to believe my eyes about the proportions of these cars – drawing them is like laying a big jigzaw puzzle and hoping it will fit in the end, or solving tricky math problems.

And of course it´s a joy to see the cars go from near ruin to mint condition over time. I so love the fact that there are enthusiasts who keep old vintage cars alive and kicking. (Also very happy that I´m not doing the job…)

Painting with slush

Old Volvo truck, Värmland

Every winter I suffer from sketcher’s abstinence. It gets too cold for drawing outdoors, the ink in my fountain pens stop flowing, and watercolours freeze on the paper surface. Some years I just give up, and try to find nice environments and interesting subject matter indoors, but after a while it is not quite enough. I tend to look for spaces and situations when I draw, not just things.

The last few years I have been trying to find reasonable methods to go out sketching in spite of low temperatures, but without freezing my fingers off. Pencils always work, of course. Especially the carpenter´s pencil, which is thicker, and therefore easier to hold with mittens. Alcohol is also a neat solution to be able to work with watercolours in cold temperatures. Not drinking it (although that might help too, I guess, to a certain extent), but mixing it in the watercolour water.

Painting in the cold

This works reasonably well in temperatures just below the freezing point. What you need is uncoloured alcohol without flavouring, that you mix in your water. Cheap vodka has worked for me. I usually start mixing 50/50 (which doesn´t say much, since the vodka is about 40-45% alcohol to begin with), and then add more alcohol depending on how cold it is. Trial and error.

I avoid using my more expensive watercolour brushes for this, but have an old squirrel mop that works fine. Depending on temperature I am sometimes painting more with slush than with dissolved liquid watercolour, but it usually works out in the end. Sometimes I get these really cool random crystal patterns in the washes – one of those cool surprises that only watercolour can give you.

Inktober 2018

The last few years I have participated in Inktober, a drawing challenge where you make an ink drawing every day for the month of October. It was started by illustrator Jake Parker, and is now a world wide drawing happening.

Every year, there is a list of prompts you can use to help you get started with your drawings, which is both fun and challenging, but in 2018 I decided to drop the list and go for portraits from movies instead. I figured I needed some portrait practice.

I used a full sheet of Arches satin 300 gsm watercolour paper, a fountain pen (Namiki Falcon) filled with black De Atramentis document ink, and three waterbrushes filled with different dilutions of the same ink.

And so I paused a movie each evening to draw a face, each one placed randomly on the same paper. Fun!

On the last day of the month, I realised there was quite a lot of space left between the portraits, so I decided to fill it with portrait painting quotes (there are quite a few funny ones, if you look for them).

In the end, this might be the weirdest composition on a sheet of paper that I´ve ever made, but I had a lot of fun doing it, and got a lot of portrait practice in the process.

I wonder what I´ll for the next Inktober…

Skröna – a very long sketchbook

Skröna (Tall tale) is a long sketchbook with pencil drawings concerning a summerhouse I share with my extended family. I worked on it for most of the spring in 2018, and it was exhibitied at Vårsalong (Spring salon) at Norrbyskär´s museum in June the same year.

I used all kinds of pencils and graphite for this book, and had a lot of fun with the Portuguese graphite product Artgraph by Viarco (you can see it in the video clip below). Like painting watercolours with graphite, and leaves a matte graphite surface when it dries. Fantastic material.

It felt like a great bonus to be mentioned in the local newspaper´s (Västerbottenskuriren) article about the exhibition, with one of my drawings included.