April 20, 2015

Moving on

Well, times they are a-changing, and suddenly I find myself with a new set of priorities, motivations, and goals in life. More good news on that later, I hope. Until then, I´m attempting to clear my desk, so to speak, finish a few things that I promised to do, simplify routines, and soforth. One thing is the blogging.

I have decided to continue all my blogging on "One Sketch a Day" and simply shoe-horn everything I like to write about into it, so nothing much will change, I think, except for the location. Also, I am leaving Blogger for Wordpress, which right now feels a bit weird to use, but I imagine I will learn it, as I once learned to use Blogger.

Hope you will see me there: One Sketch A Day.

April 9, 2015

A Walk on the Ice

I was this happy even after finding out that
my camera was useless.
My sleeping pattern is all messed up, but the bright side is that I am much more awake than I normally am during daylight hours. This gave me a smashing Easter day on the ice with the husband - also probably one of the last days the ice was safe to tread; spring is coming fast and early this year. I brought the nice camera, but failed to remember the memory card, which was still stuck in my computer. "That´s a new one", said the husband, but I couldn´t be very miffed - it was too much of a glorious day for being grumpy for more than a split second. The husband had his iPhone, which takes very nice photos, and I had my watercolour sketchbook, which I got out when we found a warm wall against which to take our small picknick of tea and cookies.

The ice road going from the northern harbour. 

Can´t have skaters tripping on dog poo. 

Our lovely resting spot, a boathouse near the Bergnäset bridge.

A slightly wobbly panorama from our spot.

The bridge.

The steel works far away. As you can see, there is no Easter holiday rest for those who work there, the steam comes from the coke manufacturing.

Luleå from the southern harbour. 

This old crane is a museum piece and a very distinct part of the skyline.
 Had to draw.

In several places there were kick-sleds (Sw. spark) offered on loan. They call these spots "sparkings" (as in spark + parking). 

Had to take a turn, it´s been ages. You can get quite speedy on these! 

April 5, 2015


Yesterday, we went to dinner at the cousin-in-law´s place, out in the country and quite a ways inland, where there is still full winter. I had the camera along, but of course had chosen the wrong lens for photographing birds; they have a bird-feeder outside the kitchen window and what a great twitching opportunity! Only the great tits (talgoxe) are plentiful where we live, more rare are the bullfinches (domherre, which is the archetypal Christmas bird), the willow-tits (talltita), and the snow buntings (snösparv). There was even, I think, a greenfinch (grönfink), though very far off. Also, twilight was falling pretty fast. Luckily, I can tweek quite a bit with this camera, but see in the dark it can not.

Bullfinch and great tit.

How can you tell a willow-tit from a marsh-tit (entita)? According to my bird-book, they are almost identical exept for the song- apparently the marsh-tit sounds like he is sneezing while the willow-tit sounds like a tease. The best clue, however, is where you are: pine-forest: willow-tit; deciduous forest: marsh-tit.

Two male bullfinches having a row.

A female bullfich trying to find a seat.

Snow buntings - in the snow.

The very distant greenfinch.

April 3, 2015

Easter Greetings

I may be a bit late with my Easter greetings (or am I too early? Easter is actually a sad holiday, wishing a Happy Easter seems somehow wrong), but I do want to wish you a very satisfying holiday, doing whatever you do. 

May it involve cute bunnies, chickens, and eating many chocolate eggs in good company!

April 1, 2015

The Spaceman and The Sock

You may not be into knitting, but I recommend that you read this post if you are the least bit dorky and nerdy. I should say that this blogger´s thing is to make people pose with the sock she is always knitting, else it might make little sense. I particularly found the last paragraph absolutely hilarious, about starting a new sock for this very special occasion.

I love the Yarn Harlot and have followed her since 2007. Her genre is knitting humour. It exists because of her.

March 23, 2015

The Wordless Skill

"If art has entered a Post-Skill Movement, so has the rest of life. There was a time when we had a different relationship to our hands, when simple skills of coordination required serious investment, and education was focused on the physical process. Our technology literally takes these skills out of our hands. Who cares about penmanship anymore? Just learn to type. What we lose in this, however, is that specular relationship to our bodies, the direct encounter with the material world sans prosthesis."
So writes MB Goodrich in this article on the art of shaving in Salon, and it made me think of something that recently happened to me. 

As you may or may not know, I am posting a sketch every day, as a promise to myself to practice at the art of drawing and improve my skills. There is nothing like a bit of pressure, and I am fairly good at putting some on myself. Sometimes, I have forgotten to do that drawing, and one night, I had already gone to bed when I remembered. It was a bit chilly, so I just reached for a handheld mirror and a piece of grey-tinted printing paper (I sleep some nights in my study, so these materials are pretty close to hand) and did my drawing lying down under the duvet, more or less. 

For a drawing that was initiated by a sense of duty, once I got into it, I executed it with some care, and was fairly happy with the result. I put some highlights in there, and so far, it´s the only time they have worked really well for me. I published, and felt pleased. 

A week later I ran into a friend who apparently looks at the drawings sometimes, and he complimented me on my skills. But, he said, that self-portrait you made, and he tut-tutted a bit, meaning that it wasn´t very good. You do not look like that, he said. 

I had to go back to it to see what he meant. Ok, so it looks like a person looking down at something, very attentively. I agree, not my prettiest face and certainly now how a man a bit taller than I would see me. But it never occured to me that this was a representation of me or that anyone would consider it somehow representative of how I view myself. For me, this was, and is, a pretty successful drawing, the subject being irrelevant. At another place in the article, Goodrich writes this about having to learn your face while shaving with a straight razor:
"Young women, too, learn their faces when they start to use makeup, but unfortunately they learn to see their faces for their flaws. But shaving is almost clinical. It’s about gradients and textures—materiality rather than image."
Drawing does that to your self-image, too, makes your gaze upon yourself clinical. The judging comes later, and is focused on the drawing, on whether or not I succeeded in transfering what I saw to the paper. That chin, is it a double chin? That line, is it a wrinkle? Words don´t come into it, it´s just the eyes speaking to the hand. (If you are a typist you know how this works: you can work at a manuscript, typing away at speed, while thinking about what to make for dinner.) Most adjectives are judging, either in themselves or in relation to the context in which they are used. 

I am pretty chuffed I have come to a place in my life where I can do this. I was pretty proud of this drawing before, I am even happier about it now. 

March 20, 2015

Solar Eclipse!

Ok, so I was not prepared. I don´t know what I was thinking. I have seen eclipses before, and this is what I have done: poke a small hole in a piece of cardboard or similar, then project onto a surface and watch the thing happen. I don´t want to look into the sun, even with special glasses, it seems unhealthy. But I thought I would photograph the projection, anyway. This was the setup and if it looks awkward it is because this was the only place where the sun shone in between 10 and 12 today. It´s my stove. (It occurs to me now that I might have been able to catch it on our second floor, shining on my laundry, but as I said, I was not prepared.)

That´s just a lowly envelope taped to the kitchen ventilator and a
black plastic box turned on its side.

I got two reflections. 

This was the best photo I got, at precisely 11 o´clock. Then it occured to me that I have a camera of some ability in my hand. Perhaps I could photograph the sun?


Well, with some hurry I first dug out the tele lens and put that on, which gives me 200 mm, turned to Manual and set the shortest time I could, a 1/6000 of a second, the smallest aperture, 32, and set the exposure down as much as I could from that. That worked a bit better, but still pretty fuzzy.

Then it occurs to me that I have a tripod. (It´s been a while since I took photos, as you can tell.) That makes one heck of a difference.

Slightly astigmatic, but kinda interesting.

Here I activated the delayed exposure button, to minimize
the handshake effect (in spite of the tripod).

But what really made it good was this little setup. Those are two sunglasses taped onto the lens. You take what you have, right? That took care of the astigmatic effect (I´m sure it has a name, but I don´t know what it is). I got this fairly sharp image at about 11:15, så the eclipse maximum was over, but still pretty good.

I didn´t get this close with the lens, but chose the RAW format and then
cropped all the photos later in Silky Pix. 

Also kind of interesting, a plastic paper towel holder reflected the sun onto the ceiling, and you could see the eclipse in the reflection!

After the eclipse. 

And below are photos of the last half hour of the eclipse. I got more light effects in the end, after the cloudiness cleared up completely. You wouldn´t think clouds would be good on an occasion such as this, but they helped, actually.


March 16, 2015

Sign Language Music

I don´t watch the Eurovision Song Contest, but I´m glad the Guardian reported on this, wouldn´t have wanted to miss it! Again, proud to be Swedish.

Studio 54

The Guardian has this gallery of photos by Swedish photographer Hasse Persson, from the infamous nightclub Studio 54 in New York. The nightclub was sold in 1980 or 1981 and lost some of its glamour, but continued to operate to 1988 or 1991 (the facts depend on what source you go to).

I actually went there in 1983. Kind of. I was one of a plane load of Swedish foreign exchange students, about to be transported to small towns all across the US, having a few days of assembly and preparation in New York. One of the girls was determined to go to Studio 54 and I, and two others, joined her late one night in a taxi that let us off on the other side of the street. It was, in my memory, a rather grey, dull street, and there was a quiet queue in front of a rather unassuming entrance. We stood there, meekly, our shoulder bags cluched in front of us, for ten minutes or so - I guess the three of us hangers-on were waiting for the girl in charge to take an initiative; remember, we were only 16 at the time.

In the end, we walked back to the hotell without even crossing the street. Just as well, I think. I don´t suppose Bianca Jagger, Brooke Shields, and Andy Warhol still went there anyway. Or that they would have let us in. On the way, we saw the steam rise from under the street (massive ambience!), bought an unexpectedly salty pretzel (still don´t like them), and just gawked.

And that´s all there was to that.

March 13, 2015

Wanting to look like someone else

Here is an interesting project that I just found. The blogger Nell Frizzell, a British journalist, is - using whatever she has at hand - making doppelgänger portraits of herself, trying to resemble celebrities, painted portraits, and sometimes herself as young or even her father. It really drew me in, and it makes me realize that however much we try to copy someone´s style or dress too look a certain way (some seem to think a hairstyle can radically alter a face), in the end, we will look like ourselves anyway. Our own face and body are the strongest ingredients we bring to any new look we try, and it´s just as well to try to make friends with them.

March 11, 2015

Dream workplace

Ok, so being a kindergarten teacher is really not my dream job, but if I got to work here, I´d love to do it! I imagine a place like this will make everyone happy and eager to work. Every kindergarten in the world should look like this; the UN should write a declaration about it!

March 8, 2015


What is going on? We are barely out of February and I can already see the lawn in our yard. Only weeks ago we broke the snow record from almost 50 years ago! Driving is hazardous, the roads are full of potholes, both temporary (ice) and permanent (the roads crack from all these weird temperatures). The school children have been on sports holiday and most of them have had little to ski on.

But! the sun is shining, and I am up and running in the daytime, trying to change my hours to be fit and sharp for a special thing I´m doing later this month. That´s the thing about working nights - you must plan any serious daytime activity well ahead. It´s just that I keep loosing all my routines; the light in the morning is so glorious I sit down to play with paint instead of doing the stuff I´m supposed to be doing. I have found some really good sources of information on paint and an excellent filmed workshop, explaining what I´m doing wrong, so now I´m practicing for the summer trip when I´m expecting to do so much more interesting sketches than last summer.

I am slightly pleased about my watercolour sketch of the heron I photographed two summers ago (two? time flies, doesn´t it?). Not because it´s perfect, but because I made it after figuring something out that I didn´t understand before. And guess what? Sketching is tiring. I guess I must burn a lot of calories doing it, and hopefully I´m keeping dementia at bay (one must think about these things, right?).

March 3, 2015

Flying Saucer Retreat

When I was looking at photos from last summer, I came across this. It´s a piece of furniture, of a sort, and I seem to recall that I saw it when we passed one of the department store floors leading up to the roof café of John Lewis in London. We don´t usually hang out in department stores, so perhaps these are everywhere, what do I know.

If I had a garden, I would definitely want one; a safe haven from all those mosquitoes and gnats and gadflyes and wasps (I was stung last summer by a wasp who lay down in bed with me, did I mention that? I passionately hate all flying, stinging creatures). If I planted a flower bed around it, it would look like a landed flying saucer. That would sooo appeal to me!

February 26, 2015

Pencil Art

Oh. My. God. Is what I thought when I saw this. A whole new definition of pencil art, don´t you think (says I, who have been buried in the wonderful book "The Pencil" by artist Paul Calle for weeks)? I particularly enjoyed this one.

Thank you, Faith is Torment.

February 20, 2015

Blog Tip

I really have to recommend this blog, where artist Nina Johansson is "trying to rediscover her sleeping imagination". She is doing well, I think! Very inspiring. There is also much to see at her regular blog.

Wish I could draw like that!

February 18, 2015

The Land of Childhood

There is an interesting exhibition at the art gallery right now, by Lotta Söder, who works mainly in glass. She is from around here originally, Skellefteå more specifically, but has lived and worked in Gothenburg for most of her life, returning last year to Umeå to work on this project, which she calls "SPÅR - en forskningsresa i Barndomslandet" (= TRACKS - an expedition in the land of Childhood). The story is, according to the leaflet, a dream about a winter landscape, with a bear and a fox as helpers in the struggle to pull a sled up a hill. Söder wants to use her glass to create an image of the frail and the strong, light and ice, triviality and sanctity.

There is a quote from Sara Lidman, the author (also from Skellefteå): "Det finns en närvaro, en kännedom från födelseorten, så oförneklig som den egna huden." (= There is a presence, a familiarity with the birthplace, as undeniable as one´s own skin.) This collection certainly has a strong taste of personal experience, but at the same time, anyone who grew up in a snowy landscape will know it, as Lidman says, in their own skin. The boots, the jacket, the mittens, which Söder has rendered in glass mosaic. It brings that Chinese princess burial suit to mind, if you remember.

I am attracted to glass, and a bit apprehensive about it, too, as it is so fragile. Every time someone brings a graal or something to the antiques roadshow and it is appraised to thousands and thousands, I can hardly watch as they pick it up - I keep seeing it on the floor, smashed to pieces; a nervous tic, that. Söder´s glass seems a lot more sturdy, for some reason, perhaps it´s the unusual shapes. Here, for example, she has made four pairs of skis from painted and printed glass. If you want a pair on your wall it will cost you 16.000 SEK (in the neighbourhood of 2000 USD or 1700 euro).

I have come back a few times to these objects, which are, to my mind, the most interesting ones on display right now. Perhaps it is that combination of memories, the fragility of the glass, and the burial associations of the mosaics. Memories can be both defining and elusive, and in later years I have returned to this over and over again, for different reasons. I have become more and more convinced of the necessity to forgive, forget and move on, and I see people having trouble with that, not least because of social media, which is a great tool, but which can also be one hell of a shackle.

You can read more about the artist (in Swedish and English) here.