PAINTING & ILLUSTRATION
When I saw a film poster about this movie I knew I would want to see it. Not only because of Willem Dafoe playing the main role. As an art lover and painter myself, I am inspired to read the biographies of other painters to discover their lives, the challenges they had to face and the red vibrant color of their passion that they pursued notwithstanding the pain, hatred, poverty or other circumstances.
Willem Dafoe as Van Gogh
First of all, I must say the choice of Willem Dafoe playing Vincent was a controversial one. Van Gogh died at the age of 37, while Dafoe is 63 at the moment.The age gap would seem too big at a first glance. Still, I think he did a great job in the movie. When you compare Vincent's photos and his autoportraits to Willem Dafoe, you will see a striking similarity. Dafoe was able to show the emotional side of Van Gogh together with his great passion to paint. He was true in his role. His physicality (and similarity to van Gogh) and expressiveness of his gestures, feverish eyes and attitude create a memorable interpretation of how Van Gogh truly was.
What's the movie about?
Let's start from the title. Maybe you didn't know but Vincent Van Gogh created a painting entitled "At Eternity's Gate". You can see it below.
I think it can be a hint in interpeting the movie, which shows the decline of Van Gogh' s sanity, which eventually leads to his death in a young age.
The film is not a typical biography drama. Many of the biographical facts were skipped. The movie focuses on the time when Van Gogh came to Arles, to the south of France to find new vibrant colors of the southern mediterranean to employ in his paintings.
We observe his every day struggle to pay for the room and food (his younger brother Theo was sending him money). In the small city of Arles the locals didn't appreciate his painting, which they regarded as strange, twisted or bringing in nothing new.
We see his friendship with Paul Gaugin, who called paintings of Van Gogh "sculptures", because of the thickness of applied paint. Also, the relationship with his brother Theo was portrayed as a loving and caring one. I am sure Vincent must have felt bad, knowing that his younger brother supports him financially and that he was not able to sell any of his paintings to support himself.
Van Gogh's painting of Eternity
"At Eternity's Gate" is a feast for your senses. Beautiful paysages, forests, nature, southern light - it's all in there. What I particularly liked about this movie is that it shows the process of painting. That it focuses on showing the passion, the thrill, the urgent need to paint, whcih can be compared to the need of drinking water on a desert.
Van Gogh through his painting work tried to stay stane and at the same time release his inner demons. He had frequent eposides of depression, paralyzing anxiety and symptoms of bipolar disorder. It seemed that painting was the only way he could transfer his pain and emotions out on a canvas. It was an activity which soothed his pain, even just for a while.
Vincent produced 860 oil paintings and 1,300 drawings and sketches throughout his 37-year old lifetime. That's quite a number, don't you think? None of them was sold when he was alive. Only after his death the painter of dazzling yellows and hallucinatory blues became seen as a unique artist.
In 2018 one of his paintings was sold for over 7 mln euros. He is present in all art musuems worldwide and his history is taught at school and widely known.
Van Gogh said in the movie that a flat landscape is eternity. What he was later doing - he was transferring his own definition of eternity into his landscape paintings, which survived until contemporary times. Eternal paintings with eternity depicted.
I highly recommend you to see this movie and learn more about Van Gogh.
Drawing workshops in Kunsthaus Zurich
On 27th March I lead drawing workshops at Kunsthaus Zurich where we will sketch one of the portraits of Van Gogh, which he created during his stay in Arles. Hurry up! Last tickets are available here:
Last month, when the winter was in its full force, I organized a drawing session in amazing Kunsthaus in Zurich. Now, looking out the window I see snow again :)
Ha! I thought that after such sunny and warm days the winter is over, but we see it's not yet the case...
Anyways, getting back to the workshops. The main theme was sketching a human body, a naked woman on one of the paintings of Johannes Heinrich Fussli. Fussli always portrayed some beautiful though dreamy and scary visions. Sometimes with little monsters, like on this painting.
This time we had quite a large group of around 25-30 participants, who wanted to train themselves at sketching a human body.
I must say the participants first looked scared, but not because of looking at the little monsters in the painting, but more of the drawing challenge to draw a body in such a position. Under my guidance, we learned how to break down the body into geometrical figures and start from that.
The participants learned how to:
1) draw a human female body
2) sketch the right proportions
3) add shadow and light to the drawing
Everyone had a great learning time and enjoyed this special event within Kunsthaus walls. I was happy to have you all there and give you my instructions plus the feedback on your drawings
The next drawing sessions are coming twice a month on Wednesdays. Are you wondering if to attend?
Buy your ticket here:
Do you write down your goals and dreams? Do you move towards them? Or you simly prefer to sip your coffee, write your goals in a beautiful golden notebook, listen to countless coaching videos on how to finally make your dreams true and still not move your finger towards them?
In January in Zurich (time flies! it's already 20th Feb) we were learning how to grab the wheel of the ship called life and how to fulfil our dreams. The Feng Shui technique helped us to achieve that.
What is the Map of Dreams?
One could argue that it's a vision board, but actually it's something more. You create a visual plan, map of the goals you want to achieve for this year. You do it in accordance with Feng Shui principles, so your map is divided and organized into 9 sectors. Personal happiness, love and relationships, wealth and other important areas in our everyday life.
The workshops were aligned with my coaching method of creative expression and psychological questions. I must say some participants have realized that some things in their life are not the way they would want them to be and this was quite a challenging moment for them. Life always brings you what you are ready for. If you see your unhappiness in your job or with your boyfriend I congratulate you. Awareness is the first step to change.
It was an amazing workshop and a real pleasure to meet these wonderful ladies!
Dreams don't come true. You make them true.
Thanks for stopping by and please share if this has value for you.
As an artist myself I am always curious to learn more about the most famous figures from the art world. This time I was in Malaga, the birth place of Pablo Picasso and his home for a couple of early years. If you ask me, I actually never understood the phemonenon of Picasso. I prefer other types of art and Picasso was not entirely to my taste.
Humans disfigured in cubic shapes. No proportions. No depth in the eyes. No psychology of the human soul. Picasso never showed any of these. Instead, he developed his own style, so different than that of any other artist living before or after him. Picasso was an artist who rethought the history of painting and thus revolutionised the fundamental and previously untouchable principles of representation. With Picasso I think it's like with red wine. You must grow to appreciate it.
Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga on 25.10.1881 to a middle class family. Picasso's early life was no different to a life of a normal child. He lived at Plaza de la Merced in the tenement house in the city center.
His first words as a child were "piz, piz". His childish attempt at saying "lapiz", the Spanish word for pencil. From the age of 7 Picasso received an art education from his father, who was a painter himself. The windows of their apartment were facing Plaza de la Merced, where Picasso's father used to take his inspiration to paint pigeons. Currently their apartment serves as a museum which also houses Picasso's Foundation.
Nowadays you can still feel Picasso's spirit at Plaza de la Merced. Posters of his art, tourists queueing up to enter into his museum, people feeding the pigeons at the children's playground. Picasso was born not in a hospital, but in this very apartment. It looks like back in those days and when you're there you can imagine how Picasso's family life looked like.
What's interesting is that Picasso got his family names after both of his parents. His mother Maria Picasso Lopez and his father Jose Ruiz Blasco. Pablo used two surnames: Pablo Ruiz Picasso. I found this quite interesting. Maybe it's a Spanish tradition that the child takes the names after both parents. Eventually, he was using only her mother's surname: Pablo Picasso.
PICASSO AND ART STUDIES
Picasso traveled a lot and lived in many places: Malaga, La Coruna, Barcelona, Madrid, Paris... What about his education? Did he have a diploma in arts?
Well, he attended a famous art school in Barcelona when he was 14 and then there were art studies in Madrid, but he never graduated. So, like the majority of well-known and outstanding artists, school was not a priority for him. He followed his own path which led him to become one of the greatest figures in the history of art.
What captured my attention when I was visitng his museum in Malaga were the feminine portraits. They are not so brutal and screaming like "Guernica".
Instead, they have something subtle and erotic, which I felt captivated by. Picasso had hundreds of women. But actually, he had complicated relationships with them. Sometimes you can see beautifully presented women in his art, like the one above, and sometimes you see just distorted female figures...Breaking the rules of figurative art and portraiture...I think this quote can summarise Picasso both as a man, and as an artist.
"Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist"
How to make a sea painting?
For many artists painting sea is far away from being a piece of cake. Sea is not a standard, immovable object. It changes all the time and is in constant movement. That's why it's more challenging to capture its essence and depict it on a paitning.
Let's start with a very basic question: what color is the sea?
The color of the sea will always be different, depending on a range of elements such as weather, its depth, how much wave action there is, the color of the sky... It can be pitch black at night, pastel blue with strong sun and greenish if it's a bit muddy. Therefore, the first key to understanding how to paint the sea is observation.
1) SUITABLE COLORS FOR SEA PAINTING
If you don't have sea in the place where you live, then go and check out a river or a small stream. Notice how it behaves, how it flows, what colors it has.
The color of the sea will change with times of the year and weather conditions. To paint water, you will need a palette of blue shades. The best ones to start are:
- Prussian blue
- Cobalt blue
- Mint green
A hint: white color is very important when painting the sea. It will help you to sculpt the waves and add a bit of depth to your painting. Sometimes I also find using silver a good idea. Imagine the sea waves sparkling in the sunny weather. Silver and gold can make it happen on your painting.
2) HOW TO PAINT A SEASCAPE?
We already discussed the palette and the observation as the point of departure for our sea painting. Now, let's get down to the process of painting. When painting sea you need to remember about its:
- flow - the direction in which the water flows, its movements
- color - the shades it has the moment you see it
- rhythm - patterns the waves make
All these elements will help you to depict water in a 3D shape. Do you have your canvas or paper ready? Let's start, then.
A) Draw the horizon line
Simply draw the horizontal line. You decide how much space of the canvas the sea will take. The other part will be the sky. Naturally, you can add some mountains or maybe some pieces of land with buildings on the horizon line.
B) Add the lightest colors first
When painting your sea put the lawyers of the brightest colors first. Then, it will be easier to add new darker colors onto it. If you do the contrary, it will be difficult to brighten up the sea and sculpt the details. Start with bright blue, light turquoise and white.
C) Paint on the darker colors
Now it's time to dip your brush in dark blue colors. That's how you give depth to your painting. You can play a bit and add some layers on the lighter shades. The colors will mix on the canvas and this can bring about a lovely effect.
D) Sculpt the waves and water depth
Waves are like mountain ridges. With a difference that they move. But on the painting you depict them 'frozen' in their movement. Therefore, imagine that waves are like small hills on the surface of the sea. Use white and silver to sculpt their ridges. Add white wherever you see the bubbles and foam.
E) Learn from the greatest masters
Ivan Aivazovsky is one of the greatest masters of marine art. He created truly spectacular paintings of seascapes that capture the beautiful, shimmering essence of the sea waters. One of the best to potray the nature of the sea.
When painting the sea don't forget to go with the waves. Pursue your own style. Make it your sea. The way YOU perceive it. This is what makes it unique for others. Your individual point of perception.
How often do you travel? I guess you go on holidays or business at least once per year. Those of you who like to do some art - I have some good news for you. Why don't you get out of your comfort zone and do some urban sketching? Sketch on the go, with minimum art supplies at hand.
1. WHAT IS URBAN SKETCHING?
Urban sketching is an amazing form of art that can be pursued by any artist, no matter their level. It is drawing the world around you, documenting in with your pencil. Seeing the world with your own eyes. You can sketch in a park, in a museum, on a street or at a cafe. Wherever you find a place to sit :)
It is such a relaxing activity!
2. WHERE TO URBAN SKETCH?
Choose a location you like. It can be a museum or a place you wanted to visit. While I was in Paris this October, I decided to stroll around Paris and do some sketching spontaneously in the locations I liked. My only requirement was a place to sit as I don't like sketching standing. Around the Louvre you have many stone benches. You can sit there, pull out your sketchbook and start drawing what you see around. The Louvre with the pyramides was just amazing. A perfect sketching target.
3. TOOLS NEEDED FOR URBAN SKETCHING
To keep it simple, what you need is something to draw with and something to draw on. You don't want to carry heavy tools with you, do you?
When I travel I usually take a black ink pen and my sketchbook size A5. That's it. You can take a pencil and a rubber as well. They are as light as a feather, so no worries about carrying them around with you.
Many people like to sketch with pencils first, so that they can erase mistakes or change the way they first drew something. That's always okay. Remember to be comfortable with the tools you have chosen - whether that's a pencil or pen or some watercolor pens.
My sketch of the Eiffel Tower I have done with a black ink pen on a simple white paper sketchbook.
4. HOW TO SKETCH?
What if my sketch is crooked and does not resemble 100% the thing that I sketched? Well, this is something all beginners worry about.
How to deal with this?
1. SKETCH IS NO PHOTOGRAPHY
Remember this it is your sketch, which is not a photography of a building or of the Eiffel Tower. It is not supposed to be exact and to look like a photograph.
Focus on what you see. In urban sketching you don't sketch from your memory, but rather you focus on what you see. The more you focus the better you will get.
Think about proportions. See them. Then, reflect them in your drawing. The far-away buildings will never be of the same size as those in the foreground.
Be imperfect. This is what you can call your personal style. It's your imperfections in the way you draw that make your sketch unique and personal.
This autumn scene I sketched in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. A very charming place to visit and to relax among the flowers and trees. They have a beautiful fountain there, which is called the Medici Fountain. They have chairs to sit on (the green ones, wow! only in Paris :)).
Last but not least: enjoy it! Sketching should be natural. It's not a competition and it takes a bit of time to get better in it.
I hope this post was insightful to you. Don't forget to share it among your friends. Thank you!
Happy urban sketching,
Autumn is breathtaking in Paris. It was one of my dreams to travel there and see the Parisian trees losing their colorful trees with the romantic Eiffel tower in the background. My dream came true and last week I was in Paris. The city of love, the city of lights, the city of art...
When in Paris, I decided to take up drawing lessons and wholly indulge in the process of creating art. Even when you're already an artist - there is always space to learn something new. I searched some art classes and I found a great atelier! I signed up for 'life drawing', which means drawing a person sitting on a chair (or changing positions). During the class, it was a French woman. Naked.
I must say, I have never drawn a modeling naked woman before. It was my first time. As I detail-oriented person, it was quite a challenge to sketch just the basic shapes of a feminine figure, without focusing on too much details, like eyes or face. The lesson was amazing and there were many local French artists participating.
The atelier is called "La Villa Bastille" and is led by an artist and teacher - Patrick Fouilhoux. A man of great personality, a good teacher and wonderful artist. He welcomed me very warmly in his studio, which looked French and professional. It is conveniently located by metro stations Bastlle and Gare de Lyon.
The class lasted two hours, which passed by so quickly. All the participants were so focused and engaged in sketching that we forgot about the existing world :) Art is like meditation. You focus on the process and nothing else matters. Patrick gave me some guidance and instruction. You could tell that he is a talented artist and with one line he could correct my drawing. He taught us how to perceive human body and how to convey this perception onto paper. Life drawing is all about perception and the way of seeing things. If you learn to see a human body in geometrical shapes - then you know how to draw it on paper.
Here are a couple of my drawings from the class.
The drawing class was an amazing experience for me. It made me realize (again!) that art is something I truly love and believe in. It was also an excellent opportunity to exchange some thoughts with local artists and breath in the French art atmosphere.
I think my smile tells it all :) If you have a chance to be in Paris and you'd like to take up a drawing lesson - don't hesitate to contact Patrick.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Comments are always welcome.
See you next time,
The Kunsthaus in Zurich is the largest art museum in Switzerland. Believe it or not, it even overtook Basel. It's definitely worth to check it out. Doesn't matter if you're a museum geek or not. Kunsthaus is so versatile, that for sure you can find something for yourself there.
Kunsthaus houses not only the collection of well-known artists such as Claude Monet, Picasso, Chagall, Giacometti but also local Swiss contemporary artists. You have the rooms for sculptures, prints and drawings, photography and video collection. If you prefer classical painting genre then you can head stright to level 2 of the building.
I simply love this place and lately have paid it yet another visit. This time I wanted to spend some time admiring Monet's "The water lily pond with irises" paintings and the motivation, which stood behind it. An enormous effort, which only few could understand or go through.
Did you know that Monet while painting the waterlillies was in his old age and that he was suffering from a serious eye disease, which prevened him from seeing well?
That's the reason why his water lily pond got more foggy and abstract in the last years of his life. The waterlillies in Kunsthaus are from Monet's last years of life. Can you imagine to pursue painting when you cannot see well anymore? Even only for this reason Monet is a genius for me. He didn't give up and he was doing what he loved to do until the last days of his life. A remarkable man.
"The water lily pond with irises" is, in fact, a huge painting. It has 2m x 6m and Monet sacrificed a couple of years to paint it (1914/1922). Apart from the painting, he was a keen gardener and found a great pleasure in working in his garden in Giverny. He planted many flowers and loved to make his hands dirty in the soil. As to the water lilies painting in Kunsthaus, I think we can suppose that Monet got an idea for this painting some time in May. The irises flower only for a relatively short period in May. He must have been charmed by the blooming irises and then the idea for the painting was born...
Claude Monet once said:
"Water Lilies is an extension of my life. Without the water, the lilies cannot live, as I am without art".
To see Monet you don't have to head to Paris. If Zurich is closer to the place where you live go to the Kunsthaus. Simply hop on a tram or take a pleasant walk through Zurich Old Town to get there and have a small tet-a-tet with Claude Monet's water lillies.
A tip: every Wednesday the admission is free of charge :)
Check out my art commentary about Monet, straight from Kunsthaus:
Thanks for stopping by!
September is a special month. Leaves slowly turning yellow and brown, wind blowing stronger with every puff. It's the time when summer is gone, but winter has not yet come. It's the time to harvest the summer crops, literally as well as spiritually.
Autumn has an incredible influence on me. It's my favourite part of the year, where I create most of my art.
Children go back to school, but what about their parents and other grown-ups? We also go back from the paradise island of summer retreats and holidays back to normal life again.
Today in Zurich it was quite cold and windy. Summer weather has left us abruptly and left space for autumnal proximity. I sat down over a cup of coffee, turned on nocturnes of Chopin and started to draw.
I often think that our existence is a school of life. But this time what we learn is not maths or biology, but love, hatred, happiness, ups and downs... With no teacher but other people and ourselves. A school where not everybody manages to graduate from. Sometimes we are faced with the same 'lessons' over and over again until we finally understand something and are able to move on.
School of life provides us with many changes. A new job, a new partner, a new place of living. Autumn is the season of change. We can observe it by the changes happening in nature. Are the changes we face in our lives like leaves falling off the trees? We are so much afraid that they are gonna fall off and that we will be left with nothing, with bare branches sticking out of a tree trunk. Yet, we all realize that after autumn comes winter, and then spring and summer again...And the trees blossom again with green of their leaves and sweet smell of their pink flowers.
Marcus Aurelius in his "Meditations" wrote:
"The work of universal nature is to translate this reality to another; to change things, to take them from here and carry them there. All things are mutations, but there is equality too in their distribution. All is familiar: no cause then for fear of anything new".
Let's not be afraid of changes. They are nothing new, just leaves changing their color and form.
My new illustration "Autumnal proximity"