May 30, 2014

A Perfect Day

Yesterday was perfect: sunny, warm (20 degrees), and the air was saturated with the perfume of the bird cherry blossom. My favourite time of year, no contest, when the summer is just starting and everything looks promising.

We stopped at Råneå, a village north of Luleå, which I have never, oddly enough, visited in the 23 years I have lived here. And why not - it is so quaint! Perhaps it is just too close, and we have so many other pretty places fit for outings that we never think of it.

We took a short walk around the church, where they have two standing stones each having been autographed by a king, Gustav VI Adolf (and his wife Louise), and his father, Gustaf V, respectively. It was hard to get a good photo of the church, as it was surrounded by trees, and I just had my 40mm lens with me.

We ended up at a table outside the village inn, and had pork fillet on a plank. I caught the husband on paper, looking smug as a cat in front of a bowl of cream. Or a Coke, as it happened.

And today it is raining, and raining, and raining...

Next Generation

Circle of life: one member of the extended family falls away (ok, he was a dog, but we are nothing if not inclusive) and another joins. Finally, we made it to go visit Eleonora the New Niece, who is almost one month old. Her job is sleeping and eating and she does it so well! And she has inherited her father´s long eyelashes.

May 29, 2014

Wishful sketching

A quick sketch tonight over fika. Not perfect, but a fair likeness to the mum-in-law, I thought. Except, says the husband, she looks twenty years younger. Nothing wrong with that; some wishful drawing.

May 27, 2014

Sad News

Our little friend, Emil the Dachshund, is no more. So sad, his little heart stopped beating last night. He really was the happiest, friendliest dog ever. Our thoughts are with his "matte", his "husse", and his dachshund sister, Vanja.

May 26, 2014


I have decided to use only graphite this week, to practice my drawing. I didn´t have enought time, but made two fast sketches anyway, one outdoors; at about 10 degrees and a mean wind on top of that, I didn´t last very long. Should bring gloves, always...  I took some marsh marigolds with me instead (got my shoes all wet) and nailed down a very fast impression of them before dinner. I probably haven´t picked wild flowers since I was in fourth grade or something. I´m sure this is great therapy!

In one of the books I bought (probably the one by Thorspecken) it says that a sketch is by definition something unfinished; it is made to explore something. A sketch is finished when the artist is done with it. It is not an end but a process. I try to remember that and fight the instinct to over-work it.

May 25, 2014

At the Ballot Box

Today, we went to the ballot boxes to vote in the election for the EU parliament. The result is disheartening, as the populistic, xenophobic parties have been very successful all over Europe. They seem to be getting around 7% of the vote here in Sweden. The Greens are also getting less support in Europe as a whole, but are gaining ground here in Sweden. It´s all about the jobs, all about the economy, and I suppose it is understandable. I just wish there was a more long-term vision, that one issue wouldn´t drown out another. What good are jobs and money if we have no clean air to breath and no fresh water to drink?

I drew this from memory: a young family introduced their toddler to the voting process in a very playful way; the presiders totally played along.

Dedicated To My Art

The weather report said cloudy but no rain, so we set out to Bälinge mountain again, ready for a few hours of birdsong and peace. Naturally, it rained, but not too hard to make a fire and eat some sausages. Between light showers, I tried to do some sketching while the husband skulked about with the camera.

Most of my sketches were failed experiments badly damaged by the rain, but at least I think I learned something. And I felt really rested when we got back - even my eyesight seems better after walk in the woods!

May 23, 2014


I just realized it is exactly one month left until we go on vacation. I have decided to draw my way through our trip to England, and as warm-up exercises, I have decided to do at least one drawing and post it on the blog every day. Just to keep the pressure on a bit.

I am experimenting both with drawing what I see, and drawing what I remember, and the drawing on the left is a mix of both - a cartoonish self portrait and a study of the hand, in action, as it were.

I have just discovered water brushes, which can be filled with ink or watercolour mixes, a wonderful little tool, but not as easy to get a hang of as one might think. My drawings look a lot different now, I think, from when I was younger, and I´m not sure why. Perhaps it´s a question of taste and perception, more than anything. Perhaps I am also a bit braver.

May 22, 2014


I have been feeling rather dull and empty for a few weeks now. A bit tired out, I suppose, with not enough sleep and too much worry. I notice that the worry mode slips over into everything and after a while I can´t look at anything without seeing a pending catastrophe. I have woken up every day this week from a nightmare: too much to do, I fumble with everything, am delayed, and find myself trapped in different settings. I find that if I´m not attentive to it, I can easily build up a kind of war inside.

The best way to put a stop to it is to engage in something interesting. I am very excited about three books I ordered last week, when I was recovering from my illness. I am really determined to draw more - I have also discovered that drawing is a great way to exercise mindfulness.

The books I got are "Compendium of drawing techniques" by Donna Krizek, "Urban sketching - a complete guide" by Thomas Thorspecken, and "Sketch your world" by James Hobbs. What I am after is something like this, something that has more to do with a point of view, an experience, rather than just depicting something. The camera can do that so well.

I have been trying to practice every day. I find that it is really fun to revisit old school books from my childhood (there are actually some still on the shelves, belonging to the husband, who rarely throws anything away, unlike me) and draw the illustrations. To the left is a lady demonstrating how to pay with a check (remember those?) and a selection of portraits from a chapter about "us" - the children in society. There is probably something jungian therapy-like going on here...

May 21, 2014

Officially Spring!

I haven´t been out much lately for health reasons (a dreadful stomach flu gave me four days of quarantine) and as it happened, these were the days when spring finally arrived. Today I  brought the camera along on an errand and managed to get a few snaps of the delightful green veil of baby leaves that now adorn trees that were bare only a week ago.

In Scandinavia, we have what must be described as a cult of spring. After a long, cold, dark winter we all ache for it, and it can just explode in a few short days. This is the season of the white nights.

A pair of great crested grebes.

The birch, with catkins.

Marsh marigold.

Bird cherry buds, ready to pop.

One pile of dirty snow still lingering under a tree...

May 12, 2014


Last week, I made some errands and walked into town from the opposite direction of what I usually do. It was a lovely day, you can really feel that spring is in the air, although the ice in the northern harbour had not yet gone (it might still be there, I haven´t looked).

I passed the municipal graffiti boards, which are subject to some debate. Do they promote a destructive and non-desirable subculture or are they a way to encourage the creative and frustrated youth? The police doesn´t seem to like them, nor do the conservatives. The left generally supports the graffiti boards and advocate that more be put up. But I suppose for many, the attitude comes from an "if you can´t beat them, join them" point of view, which isn´t really genuinely supportive. And how can you be supportive of vandalism, which much of graffiti is?

Painting on walls isn´t part of Swedish culture at all (though there are some rare examples of it), and some probably think any mural is graffiti. In other countries, the attitude is very different, in Switzerland for example, we saw incredible paintings all over the old town, many of which were religious in content. In a culture like that, perhaps painting on walls isn´t as oppositionally charged as here - but I really don´t know (and of course we did see some graffiti there).

My personal attitude is that as long as it is made with taste and style (which is subjective, of course, and all according to my own idea of what that is), I´m all for it.


May 11, 2014

What I Don´t Want To See

I have so little time to do anything worth blogging about, as the mum-in-law is going in and out of hospital like a yo-yo. But, I am trying to find time (it´s very relaxing!) to draw, which I have decided to do more, and I thought I´d post this little comic type reflection for you. I don´t have a working scanner, unfortunately, so a photo of a page will have to do. Just a sketch, anyway. (And yes, I just noticed a mis-spelling. My treat!)

May 8, 2014

Student Art Exhibition

Anna Kryvoruchko´s ink drawing.
The other day I went with a friend to look at Folkhögskolornas vårsalong (= the Spring exhibition of the folk high-schools) at the regional museum, which is a jury assessed collection of artistic works by art students from the folk high-school at Sunderbyn and the Swedish-Finnish folk high-school. The jury is made up of teachers and representatives from the museum. Every student has been allowed to enter three works, and there has not been any particular theme or any particular requirements on techniques. With a few exceptions, the exhibition is mostly made up of paintings.

While many of the students are clearly very gifted, there were very few works that really made an impression, I thought. My favourite is probably this doodle-like ink drawing, washed with coffee (which makes such a wonderful sepia colour, I think): "Jag drömmer efter sagorna mor läste för mig" (= My dreams, inspired by the fairytales my mother read to me) by Anna Kryvoruchko. You can see more of her stuff here. It has an emotional energy that I like very much, and a lot of contrast, which I am always drawn to. Unfortunately, it was mounted behind glass and hung across from a window, making it very difficult to photograph without getting a glaring reflection obscuring the image. This is the best I could do.

I was also charmed by a collection of mini-watercolours by Linn Winnerstad, entitled "Story of my life", a series with frogs. Very cute. She is a member of the cooperative Studio 31.

I very much like this watercolour by Sanna Annala, "Jullov" (= Christmas holidays). I image it is the mother after two weeks of having the kids in the house with new toys. It has true feeling in it, I think, real vitality.

This sculpture, "Moment 5" by David Skarpsvärd was another rather impressive piece, made from ceramics, concrete and metal. Next to it is "Cybernetic organism" by Johan Reimers. I find that many of the younger artists are more influenced by pop culture (in which I include goth, manga, vampyres, sci-fi, television, and new age religiosity), while many of the older artists seem more inclined to work therapeutically with situations most people can relate to. Yes, that is a portrait of Benedict Cumberbatch (as Sherlock) in the background, by Oskar Lindblad.

Only two works were in-your-face political, I thought: a painting by Felix Holmström commenting on the housing shortage (which is becoming acute and troubling, actually) and Joakim Hegsund´s painting "Ukraina". Of course, I totally forgot to snap both of them, but hopefully the links work (both were featured in the local press).

May 7, 2014

Superpowers & The World

How to spice up your landscape photographs. Oddly, I feel very moved by this.

It makes me consider the fragility of the ecological balance versus the superpowers of human civilization, which is somehow also juxtaposed with the helplessness of the individual, all in one single figure. Simple idea, but executed you realize how many layers there are to an image like this.

Not so odd then, after all. Clever, beautiful, communicative art. By Benoit Lapray.

May 6, 2014

May 5, 2014

In The Moment

This is a failed photograph, one that in no way captures what it looked like or gives any impression of how I felt. The moon itself is too small, too bright, and the context is too mundane and drab. But I take the camera out of my bag anyway, knowing this will be the result. Why? It is an act of worship; a moment of stopping every other activity, gazing up at that moon and being aware of nothing else. That presence is a celebration; a moment of perfect gratitude.

May 4, 2014

April Weather In May

Snowy afternoon drive.

Winter view again - taken at about 02.30 (no more dark nights). But the last of the ice on the lake melted away yesterday!

May 1, 2014

May Day

Usually, I sleep through most of May Day, but this year, I had to get up and go to the pharmacy for mum-in-law, so I was up and running just after lunchtime. At 14:30, I ran into the traditional May Day march, which I haven´t seen for years (being a mostly nocturnal creature). It´s been a lot in the news lately about some local branches of the Social-Democratic party cancelling their marches due to lack of interest, election year as it is, and it was nice to see so many people out, after all. I had a mind to join, but had to get to the pharmacy before closing time (which was early because of the holiday).

When I got out, they had come back and there were speeches and singing of the Internationale, and even dancing; perhaps mostly to keep warm, as it was pretty cold - even some snowflakes in the air.

What many probably don´t know, is that May Day is a commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket Massacre in Chicago, when workers had gathered to demonstrate in favour of the 8-hour working day. We have come a long way since, but there is still so much wrong with the world.

Walpurgis Night

I was getting ready for Walpurgis Night photos: people gathered around large bonfires, eating hotdogs and candy, drinking coffee and beer, singing and dancing and waiting for the fireworks. When we got to the university, there was no bonfire, and just a few brave souls trying to create Walpurgis atmosphere with the help of a small grill on a parking lot. Sad, really. What is happening? I´m not sure.

However, fireworks had been advertised, bigger and better than usual, to celebrate the 30 years jubilee of the Pyrotechnical Society at the university. We took a walk and when we came back there was quite a crowd. And we got some fireworks. But something must have gone wrong, because they were cut short, and never got started again. Which was a shame, since the weather was perfect and the sky was clear.