I went to our local art-shop and asked what new products have been introduced in the graphite section. The sales person advised me to have a look at Derwent’s Graphitint. He assisted me with trying out the pencils on different art papers. I was sold on the spot. I should keep a better eye on new tools. Too often I see horribly bright and plastic stuff being introduced at the checkout of artist shops. Thus I have adopted a strict policy of ignoring promotions. But these Graphitints were almost hidden, very decently stored between loads of other pencils. The modest colours, timid character, and humble attitude of these pencils charms me! This is not a review and I am not affiliated to Derwent; I am upgrading my knowledge and tools, which is a good and nice thing to do. May I ask my fellow artists what are your most recent added tools and what new products do you happily work with? What are your favourite tools anyway? Currently my favourites are Derwent H pencils; perhaps Graphitint will join the list.
I found some clippings of mistletoe on the estate of Oostbroek, a small Dutch estate in the centre of the province of Utrecht. As Valentine’s Day is approaching mistletoe is harvested and on sale in Dutch flower shops. Mistletoe is traditionally related to love; ‘Kissing under the Mistletoe’ and hanging it above your bed on the 14th of February for inviting your true love to appear in a dream. The belief of dreaming about your true love due to being close to a plant, holds three interesting elements. Firstly; plants have powers, although that is a bit of a no-brainer as we love to drink our coffee and tea, use herbs for cooking, and take them as medicine. Secondly, mistletoe is a powerful plant. In anthroposophy it is used for its anti-cancer properties. Maybe that was known long ago too as it is believed that druids harvested mistletoe ritually, with a golden sickle, for blessing their livestock (writings of Pliny the Elder)). Mistletoe, a hemi-parasitic plant, that grew on oaks (sacred to the Celts) was preferred. The last element that is hidden in Valentine-Mistletoe traditions is about dreaming and truths being communicated through dreams. Although we dismiss dreams as nonsense nowadays, in the past dreams were evaluated for truths and inspiration. It was a matter of separating the wheat from the chaff and for that there were wise elders to consult. Coming across mistletoe is special. It seems to say: ‘I am defying winter’. Even a sceptic can not ignore a spring coloured plant growing in a greyish midwinter landscape.
I am advised not to send my Vinculum Amoris (‘Bond of Love’ Horses with Swans and Hares cards) or Valentine’s cards as Valentine’s gifts outside the EU because they won’t make it before Valentine’s Day. My Vinculum Amoris and Valentine’s cards & embroidery are at at Etsy. Of course, my Vinculum Amoris Horses and Mandarin ducks keep their symbolism and meaning despite passing the Valentine’s Day deadline because they are about love, friendship, and loyalty. One might hope love stays on our minds the other 364 days of the year.
My booklet ‘Birds, Butterflies, Fish & Botany’ is very low in price at the moment on Amazon.co.uk. Seize the opportunity! You won’t regret buying this booklet with 13 of my drawings and texts. My art friend Sybille recommends it especially for those who need to stay home due to being ill as my booklet takes the reader outside admiring Birds, Butterflies, Fish & Botany.
The same counts for a book made by my art friend Judy Barends. She recently published a lovely book with her watercolour artwork. Thematically there isn’t much difference between Judy and my work, as we both find great pleasure in drawing and painting Nature’s treasures. However, when inspired, Judy grabs for her watercolours, and I open by box with my coloured pencils or oil paints. Judy’s text are poetic and mine are more like stories; both our booklets are observational nature journals. For Judy’s book, go to her website.
Mandarin and Wood ducks nest in tree cavities. The female doesn’t feed her ducklings because that is too much work compared to having a nest on water level between reeds. There is another bird that doesn’t feed its young. Lapwings don’t feed their chicks but for other reasons. Lapwing chicks are born on a field that lies fallow, which means they are very vulnerable to predators. Parent lapwings use all their energy to guide and defend their chicks. Feeding would lead predators directly to the cute fluff balls.
There is another difference between lapwings and mandarin and wood ducks, apart from lapwings being meadow birds and the other two are waterfowl. Lapwings both take care for raising their young in a coordinated manner. When danger is detected one of the parents will call out orders (mainly ‘For the love of life, freeze and remain still!’) while the other parent will cleverly distract or lead the predator away from the chicks.
The male mandarin and wood duck, both being such handsome drakes, can’t do that, they wisely stay away from the mums and their ducklings. Should the extraordinary colourful daddy of the family take part in feeding the ducklings, he would draw too much attention to his reproduced and fluffy DNA. For a female mandarin duck to be married (yes, for life) to such handsome fellow comes with a price.
I have made a few Mandarin and Wood Duck cards, with a full colour inlay. They come in protective cellophane and a seal sticker. There are at my Etsy, but you can contact me too via the contact form. (scroll down).
Sashiko is a form of decorative reinforcement stitching from Japan that started out of practical need during the Edo era. Sashiko works with modern and traditional patterns. ‘Wind Blown Grass Motif, or Nowaki’, is one of my favourite patterns. Nowaki stands for a late autumn (fall) wind-storm in the countryside, or a typhoon, especially one that blows from the 210th to the 220th day of the year. Sashiko’s Wind in Grass is a static and repetitive pattern, yet it charms.
The last time that I enjoyed looking at the wind playing with grass was during my summer holiday. I was standing in front of a window of a holiday cottage and noticed how the wind was playing with an ochre coloured field. The light was so special because it cause waves of wind to colour the cereal field deep ochre with silvery patches. Swirling patterns kept me wondering whether the wind was sending me a message, an unidentified written message in the most elegant but quicksilver characters that were erased as soon as they were written in the tall grasses.
I liked making a ‘Wind Playing with Grass’ display that is closer to my experience in which the wind was writing a message, playing with the grass. I remembered that I tried to ‘get’ the message that the wind was writing in the grass, but of course I couldn’t. Or maybe I could. I concluded that the wind wrote, with in silvery waves, ‘Happiness’ in all possible languages in that mesmerizing field of cereals.