Looking closely

Today I’m happy to share a few more pictures from my recent visit to the Botanical garden. The picture above was taken through the glass at the back of the greenhouse (which is not open to the public at the moment due to COVID-19). Glad to see the cacti and succulents are clearly thriving with the reduced human presence;-)

In the outdoors part of the Botanical garden I took my time looking closely at the myriad of different species to spot some interesting details. I love the texture on the back of this leaf. It looks to me like a map of Amsterdam with wonky little canal houses on both sides of the leaf-nerve roads.

As always, I was on the lookout for colour combinations that catch my eye. These pinkish young leaves are lovely and I like how they gradually turn green as they mature.

I also liked the delicate simplicity of these pointy leaves, just a slightly lighter colour than the green around them and not quite symmetrical.

Focused on ferns

Last weekend, I was happy to come across some bushy ferns on my walk in a park in the West of Amsterdam that I was exploring for the first time. I love ferns and enjoy every opportunity I get to practice capturing the beauty of their fronds (which I have learnt is the name of the large, divided leaves on ferns).

The orange-brown tips of the leaves caught my eye as I walked down the path, such a lovely autumn colour. I love how each tiny leaf has minuscule symmetrical lines.

On looking closer I was intrigued by these intricate dark grey rows which seem to be made of small beads. If I’m not mistaken these are the core of the frond before it opens outwards with the leaves.

From the front, they look like a multitude of fingers hugging each other tight one last time before unravelling. I’ve mostly come across ferns that uncoil from a circular shape (so poetically named the fiddlehead), but had never seen a fern growing this way. If anyone knows the name of this species, let me know as I’d love to find out more about it!

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For more ferns, take a look at the ferns in the Botanical garden in Cologne and winter ferns in the forest near my home-town.

Colourful succulents

One of the reasons I love the Botanic garden in Amsterdam Zuid so much is the amazing collection of succulents and cacti. Because of Covid-19, the greenhouses are currently closed to the public, but luckily there is still a huge collection on display outside. There are so many different species, all more beautiful one than the other, so I tried to pick out a few that caught my eye.

The succulents seem to have thrived thanks to the very sunny indian-summer we had lately, and there were some intriguing flower stalks and plenty of vibrant flowers.

Along with the symmetry of the thick leaves, I can’t believe how well-coordinated the colours are, like these golden-brown and grey ones with pastel green at the very centre.

Or how the tip and edges on the leaves are bright pink. It’s as if a child had taken a paint box and simply combined their favourite shapes and flashy colours, and the result is so playful!

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For more pictures of plants taken on previous visits to the Botanical garden in Zuid, take a look here, here and here 🙂

Bursts of colour

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I rarely buy cut flowers because their social and environmental impact makes me cringe. Usually I am content with my many potted plants or, if I really crave a burst of colour, a small bouquet of wild flowers picked on the fly.

However last week I treated myself to a large bouquet with a clean conscience at Lokale Bloemetjes, a self-pick farm next to the CSA where I get my veggies from in the West of Amsterdam. It was wonderful to stroll through row upon row of different flowers, grown without chemicals, taking the time to observe each one before deciding whether or not to add it to my bouquet, all the while knowing this supports a local business contributing to increase biodiversity.

Once back home, I sorted the flowers by similar colours and popped them inexpertly into glass tomato-sauce jars that I had lying around and they’ve been doing an amazing job at brightening up several corners of my flat on these first rainy autumn days.

Dreamy colour palette

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #189

Last week, on a quiet Friday morning I went for a walk with my Mum and her partner at Marly-le-Roi. We did our usual round through paths beneath the tall trees and then they chilled on a bench while I went to explore the place that had caught my eye.

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Whereas the grass is yellow and dry through most of the parc for lack of rain, there is this large dip teeming with young trees, waving reeds and wild flowers.  I made my way around it slowly admiring the gorgeous colours and variety of plants.

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At one point I stepped on a dry branch close to the side and startled something.  I just caught sight of the backs of a couple of deer bounding away before they disappeared into the thick of the reeds, leaving no trace.

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I love the colours of this little eco-system, the pastel pinks and silvery greens combining with the light reed tops and darker greens of the shrubs.  This space is so lush and wild in contrast to the highly symetrical layout and trees trimmed in cone-shapes of this part of the parc. I am glad that these little of bushy pockets remain for the wildlife to take shelter and thrive.

A list of small pleasures

For today’s post I am thrilled to have collaborated with the illustrator Eva Polakovicova (Eva Pola Illustration & Design). She created these lovely illustrations to accompany my words, working by hand  combining her stencil technique and colour inks.  She did a wonderful job of capturing the joy of these small pleasures, and I am in love with this gorgeous colour palette♥

You can find out more about Eva’s inspiration and this technique in the interview we did back in January.

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #182

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Watching little groups of sparrows come to drink water on my balcony

The sound and smell of white wine evaporating from risotto rice

Lying down at the end of the day and relaxing into my pillow, knowing there is still time to read a good book

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Opening the mailbox and finding a postcard or an envelope from someone I hold dear

Having no plans and letting myself fall asleep in the sofa in the afternoon without setting an alarm

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Cooking with radish leaves and carrot tops and feeling like there is twice as much food and no waste

The smell of rain on the garden after a long dry spell

The lovely feeling of fatigue after several hours of walking or cycling in nature

Impressions from the Amsterdamse Bos

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Last Friday, I went for a long walk in the Amsterdamse Bos  to enjoy the lovely afternoon sunshine and magic hour.  I ambled without destination or time-pressure, taking time to breathe and looking closely at the plants along the way.  Spring has done wonders since I took photos there on a cold windy day back in the early days of confinement in March.

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The wild flowers and purple grasses are popping up everywhere, brightening the path with their delicate shapes and burst of colours. I took a break to write my ‘Late-Afternoon Pages’ on a bench by the water, accompanied by the clamorous song of countless birds perched in the trees all around.

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There were plenty of new leaves showing off beautiful patterns and colour combinations. It felt so relaxing to wander without haste for several hours, enjoying the softening of the light, until my stomach started to rumble and I decided to make my way home, the sun low in the sky.

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Greeting card action for charity is still on-going – find all the details here and don’t hesitate to reach out:)

 

 

 

Colourful drawings

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WHAT LIGHTS YOU UP? #2

Over the holiday, I spent a lovely creative morning with my sister Johanna, who loves to draw detailed colourful pieces. Together we came up with creative ideas to photograph her drawings both in the garden and around the house. Then we had a nice chat about her process and what inspires her. It was a pleasure to spend this quality time together  experimenting and talking about creativity. I’m happy to share this moment with you!

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How did you start? How did you come up with the idea?

I started drawing when I was 18, back when I was in art school. The teachers taught me how to draw figuratively, but no one taught me how to draw abstractly. The first time I drew in this style was during a lesson when I was bored, and I played around with drawing abstract blue and gold lines and I felt very proud and happy about the result. I developed my own style of drawing from there. I use essentially felt-tips and sometimes Chinese ink, as well as HB pencils and water colour paint, on sketching paper.

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How did you learn this skill?

It was something very natural to me. I followed my creativity and learnt by myself. I use shapes and colours.  From time to time, I draw with a draft, but that’s very rare. Normally I just the put the felt-tip on the paper and let my imagination take over. I realise that when I draw with a draft, the result is more precise and I enjoy that process. It also happens that I develop a theme over two pieces and they are my favourite drawings.

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Where do you find your inspiration?

I would say my inspiration is my life, as well as a stronger force which gives me inspiration. I also have favourite artists like Laura Hornart, Kandinsky and the impressionists like Monet. The shapes and theme of nature, as well as the colours inspire me. I draw my feelings and my way of seeing the world that surrounds me.

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What effects have your pieces had?

Drawing has a positive effect on me.  It makes me happy to see my new drawing at the end. It helps me forget my problems and it is something that I can always grasp. A friend of mine says I inspire him with my drawings and then he draws too. Sometimes we draw together. During a difficult time in 2010, I overcame my sadness by filling notebooks with little flowers.

When I sold some drawings in front of a book store, people said my work looks like the theme of the sea and that it was very pretty, and they wished me good luck with my drawing.

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How does this work impact / interact with other activities you do?

I think it goes well with my dancing classes and piano lessons, because they are all artistic activities and they complement each other. Listening to music while I draw makes me feel relaxed. The type of music influences the type of drawing, if I’m listening to soft music I’m going to draw something more poetic and with round lines.

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Any ideas for what you plan to work on next?

Since a few weeks I have planned to draw a dandelion, the fluffy part that blows away with the wind representing little hearts. It is a risky drawing, because I feel it is quite complicated so I haven’t started yet. It’s a challenge for 2020.

I would also like to sell my works in person to unknown people and see their reactions.

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Some closing words? Where can we find your work?

Thank you Fanny for this interview which enabled me to reflect on the process and my art. You can find my work on Instagram.

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To read the first interview of the series WHAT LIGHTS YOU UP? featuring my other sister Helena, click here🙂

Positive procrastination

With Paolo we’ve been joking recently about how many random things I can get done when I am procrastinating from doing my writing assignments.  I’ve been found baking spontaneous apple pies for instance, cleaning the bathroom or sorting out and tidying the attic (something that was on my to-do list for at least 6 months).

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When I’m feeling blocked and just can’t seem to find the way to start writing, I try and remember that taking a walk, while it does not contribute to getting words on the page, is generally a good cure for break my mental resistance. In the worst of cases, I tell myself that even if I still don’t write afterwards, I’ll have at least stretched my legs and gotten some fresh air.  In the best cases, I come back with a sliver of a new idea to work on.

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Saturday afternoon was one of those days, so after sitting frustrated for a while and uselessly distracting myself by reading other people’s writing, I decided to go out and catch the last of the afternoon light.  I set myself the challenge to attempt to capture the colour contrasts in that lovely low autumn light. So with my ISO set high, I looked around for bursts of colour to photograph while trying to hold my camera as still as I could.

 

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When the light faded and the cold got to me, I headed home, clear-headed. I even saw a beautiful pink sunset that I would most likely have missed were I staring at my computer screen.  My inner-critic probably also got a bit frozen, because it left me enough space to sit down and start typing when I got back.

Mushroom season

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #150

In the past few weeks, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying mushroom season, not so much for eating them as for observing them.  I am blown away by the sheer number of different types I had the chance of coming across, from the typical red ones with white spots that you see in cartoons to the sponge mushrooms, from clusters of tiny mushrooms on a mossy tree stump to orange ones pushing up from the ground, from ones that look to me like bread buns straight out of the oven (like these two photos from a lovely walk this week the Amsterdamse Bos) to wise mushrooms that stand mindfully, unphased by what goes on around them.  I’m very grateful of the diversity of nature that keeps on surprising me and especially for having had some quality time lately to be outdoors and wander, without being in a rush, eyes peeled for these astonishing shapes.

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