Reaching a new level

2019 is drawing to a close, and now it is probably a good time to take a look back to it and evaluate what kind of a year it actually was. Did I do what I planned and achieve what I wanted? Did I even know what I wanted to do or achieve?

In some ways 2019 has been an excellent year. It has most certainly been a year of continuous study and development. I did the Sketchbook Revival Challenge in spring, Ignite video challenge and Fine Art Summit now in November and I’m finishing the last weeks of the Small Works challenge as we speak. All these challenges taught me different things – both about artistic techniques and about myself. I understood that although I can do it, I do not enormously enjoy painting canvases. I discovered that I’m able to get over my self-consciousness and do video. And that I do like doing abstract warm-up exercises in my sketchbook, but even there i feel somewhat of a fake doing them. Abstract in my case seems to come from the surface and not from the depth.

I couldn’t speak about 2019 without mentioning that it was the year when I discovered Domestika. Domestika is an online education platform with courses by well-established creatives, and it’s in Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish, but I don’t even care. As long as they have the automated subtitles it works for me, and I daresay it’s the best art education I’ve ever had. Many of the ‘specialties’ that I’m interested in like watercolor and portraits are simply not available here in Athens on the level that I’m interested in. So, a big up for online education!

In other ways this year has been a bit strange, as for perhaps the last 6 months I’ve felt stuck. Stuck in a sense as if I was just about to finish a level in a video game and I had just stopped in front of the last puzzle and solving that puzzle would take me to the next level. And that puzzle turned out to be HARD. All the challenges and education this year was part of the process of solving this puzzle – how to continue? What kind of artist am I? What kind of work do I really want to do?

And last Saturday, the last day of November, I solved it. The synthesis came to a close, the process came to a completion and I solved the puzzle. I know now where I’m going and I’m looking forward to the new year and the new level.

I have an Etsy store! – updated

 

etsy screen

UPDATE. Actually I have decided to phase out the digital clipart and focus on paper products, which I feel are more ‘me’. So, right now there are already three sticker sets and the two Scarecrow President zines available and next week I will add some posters. It will be a part of my New Year’s resolution this year to get this little store going.

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Somehow I’ve never mentioned here that I also have an Etsy shop where I sell zines and digital clipart! Well, this mistake is about to get fixed right now.

I’m in the process of re-working the clipart sets, so there are bigger and better sets on the way soon.

Link to the shop here: BonaramisArt

About the benefits of life drawing

I’ve now been organizing open life drawing sessions here in Athens for over 2 years. It’s been a slow but steady progress – from 1-2 people the first year to 5-6 on the second and now occasional bursts of 10+ alternated with 1-2. It still puzzles me that in the city the size of Athens there seems to be no tradition or knowledge about this type of life drawing classes. Even the usual word for quick sketching, the French “croquis”, denotes a certain type of architectural drawings here.

About half of the crowd we draw are foreigners – people who are familiar with the practice and actively looking for this type of sessions. The Greeks who take it seriously have either studied abroad in art schools where a strong base in live drawing is expected or professional artists who find it useful. From the rest I still get the question that’s really become a pet peeve of mine: “What’s the use of life drawing?” What I hear is a sportsperson or musician asking: “Why should I train?” “Why should I practice?”

If an artist wants to be any good, to reach a level of mastery that is higher than plain mediocre, she needs to practice. Practice constantly and practice with thought – ideally with a teacher who can point out the weaknesses – but if that’s not possible, with a critical mind, pushing oneself to new areas if the old ones are getting too comfortable.

What does this training finally achieve? It achieves to build up a full 3D model of a human body in your mind, a real moving body that allows you to draw believable dynamic figures from fantasy and eliminates a great deal of need for references. Once you have this model, you can focus on it and make it move as you wish, then freeze it in time and draw. That’s what live drawing practice can do for you. It sets you free.

 

Portraits, and more portraits

Human faces are fascinating things. You can draw them for years and still find them fascinating and fresh. Technique needs to be shaken up now and then though, as that is surely something that can get boring after a measure of repetition.

I was honestly planning to do the Inktober challenge this year as well ( I almost completed it last year). However, things did not go exactly as planned. I did three black-and-white pieces… and it started to bore me. The strange thing is that my “inherent” (yes it is strange to call it that, but I’ll explain) style seems to be different from the style I’m quite frequently trying to do. Meaning that my brain pushes clean linework, more attention to details, etc etc and yet, those times where I’ve just gone about making a piece without much thought, it’s always coloured, rather loose – even painterly, or mixed media and collage, layers of different media on top of each other.

Occasionally it feels like a dilemma – should I follow one or the other? Or try to conjoin them into an amalgam? I’m still not sure. Perhaps the artistic style is simply the reflection of my way of being – interested in a multitude of things, a natural generalist. Nevertheless, during the years the main interests have crystallized, become reasonably clear; the rest, while still there, has resumed lower priorities. Hopefully the style follows the same route – sheds the unnecessary and keeps what should be there.

 

Designing for the future: trends we need to consider now

We live in interesting times. This goes for technological development, societal currents, politics… more or less everything seems to be coming loose, floating weightlessly, hovering without any clear direction. Design is no exception to it. So, as curiously enough I was invited to participate in the Design Blogger Competition organized by CGTrader, I’ll use the chance to throw in my two cents. My bias is clear – I love paper, I love handmade things and I’m bored stiff with the current trendy web design. Luckily there seem to be promising times ahead.

It seems to me that there are three main design currents at the moment gathering strength.

First of them is the return of the handmade. The slick perfection of vector lines and the cold clinical minimalism are getting boring. We’ve seen them over and over again and now we want something real, warm and human. Imperfect even. So there’s an increasing amount of hand-drawn textures being used to make web design look like something hand-made, edges are left uneven, color overlaps unfixed, mistakes are made on purpose. Hand-made infographics are used to show statistics, hand-drawn illustrations and comics to humanize the legalese of official documents. Stop-motion and claymation have and will continue to have a steady niche.

Second is an increased focus on tactility. This one I’d predict mostly for books and stationery. As a paper-lover, I’m well aware there might be a degree of wishful thinking in it, but I believe that there’s a momentum to it. Paper goods will become even more luxurious and offer the buyers something that the web cannot – tactility. Printed books will start to regain their status as beautiful objects of desire and works of art, embellished by quality materials and luxury techniques like embossing. Steve Jobs understood this aspect well in his time, deliberately designing Apple products to be nice to touch and hold. However, this would apply for hardback special editions, not all books.  Popular paperbacks will probably still struggle against digital versions.

Third is a desire for authenticity that is starting to tear away at the superficial perfection of the modern web design. In a way it’s the underlying reason for the two previous ones. We want something raw, something real, unadorned. Thanks to the current canon of good web design and readily available templates most websites look interchangeable, more or less the same with the same stock photos, same layout, similar writing style. I believe that web design will see a phenomenon akin to Dogma movement in filmmaking, one that will concentrate on the pure essence of information and strip away everything besides bare necessities.

 

*As already noted above, this blog post is a part of Design Blogger Competition organized by CGTrader.

No such thing as creative block

How easy it is to fall out of a writing habit – especially after solemnly promising to myself to continue writing more often. All of a sudden there’s all this other work to do: comics to prepare, illustrations to finish, paste-ups to colour, and all these things sneak past writing on the priority list and writing plonks lower and lower until it’s left out altogether. Then one fine day you stumble over it as it lies on the floor not forgotten but definitely neglected, pick it up and say: all right then. And here I am.

I’ve been getting tired of music lately. An important reason for this is surely that I hardly ever change my playlists – I’m almost sure that the playlist on my iPad is more or less the same since I first uploaded it in 2011. Minus the songs I’ve gotten tired of along the way and deleted. In a way it’s an inevitability – I cannot concentrate when I listen to something new, so I’m bound to those old favourites. However, sometimes it’s good to take a break, give the ears some rest and clear the mind. So, I’ve been listening to a number of writer interviews instead.

It started with Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech that I’ve already mentioned; also commencement speeches by Peter Dinklage and J.K. Rowling. These three I can listen to on repeat. After listening to them for a while I got curious about what else they’ve said – so I listened to some interviews with Neil Gaiman and his wife Amanda Palmer and then moved on to J.K. Rowling.

From J.K. Rowling on to Stephen King (whose generous swearing often results in viewer discretion warnings on his videos), John Grisham (who still sounds more like a lawyer than a writer), Lee Child with his dry British wit and Janet Evanovich, whose books I haven’t read, but definitely will now as she turned out to have a delightful sense of humour. Something that struck me as a common thread in several of those interviews, was that these writers do not believe in writer’s block.

Why not? After all, it’s an established part of the myth of the tortured genius – one day the sacred milk of the muse runs dry and the creator suffers, needing to create, yet being unable to do so. All they can do is wait and hope for some new drops – or a stream – one day.

Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Do I believe in it myself? No.

There is another common trait all these writers share which, I believe, is the main cause of this disbelief. All of these authors are from working-class backgrounds. All of them have had periods in their lives that they have either spent in poverty or just on the brink of it. All of them have held other jobs besides writing. A drive and desire to write that is strong enough to overcome these obstacles indeed does not and cannot know creative block. It only knows it cannot afford it. A step not taken is a step back as the road ahead can be like a treadmill to those starting at the bottom, a current running in the wrong direction. For someone used to doing things it needs to do to survive regardless whether it wants to or not, the sheer pleasure of creation is so great that it becomes impossible to see it as anything but joy. Add to it a solid work ethic and here you go.

And yes, I’m from a working-class background too.

Best value for money watercolor papers

Paper

How it looks What it is Where to get it & how much it approximately costs
 fabriano-hot-press Fabriano Hot Press (smooth)

140 lbs/300gsm

Size – almost A4

They sometimes have it at Batis, block costs about 6-7€
 winsor-newton-heavy-cartridge Winsor & Newton Heavy Cartridge paper (smooth)

100 lbs/220 gsm

Available in A3, A4, A5

Always available in Plaisio, prices according to block size from about 5€ to 9€
 daler-rowney-sketchbook Daler – Rowney sketchbooks (a type of cold press, some texture)

109 lbs/160 gsm (thinner than others!)

Available in A5, A4, A3

They have it in Art Center, price about  4-9€ pr sketchbook depending on size. Something similar is available in A4 (shop next to Art Center), but the covers is either blank or says A4. Price should be similar to Art Center.
 fabriano-cold-press Fabriano Cold Press (some texture)

140 lbs/300 gsm

A bit larger than A4

Sometimes available in Batis, price was under 10€
 cotman-cold-press Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Colour Block (cold press, some texture)

140 lbs/300 gsm

A bit larger than A4

Always available in Plaisio, price about 7-8€
 canson-xl-aquarelle Canson XL Aquarelle

(cold press, some texture)

140 lbs/300gsm

Available in A4 and A3

They often have it in Art Center, A4 block is about 9-10€. The block has 30 sheets (more than any other), so still a good price.
 canson-mix-media Canson Mix Media (rough, very textured)

140 lbs/300gsm

A3, A4 A5

I think they have this type in Iralu, an A4 block costs about 10€, but has 30 sheets.
 fabriano-extra-rough Fabriano Extra Rough

(interesting texture, possible to use pencil)

125 lbs/270 gsm

A3, A4

They often have it in Batis and Art Center, price is under 10€ for A4 block.
 winsor-newton-acrylic Winsor & Newton Acrylic Pad (originally not for watercolour, but gives interesting effect, canvas textured)

140 lbs/300 gsm

A5, A4, A3

Always available in Plaisio, prices about 5€ to 9€ depending on block size.

*** With this one, name of the producer is not important – if the cover says ‘CANVAS TEXTURED’, it’s the right kind.

 allilografia Letter paper (very thin, but works great with ink and also watercolour)

A4

Sold in Ftinopolis on Athinas, in the basement. Price 1€/block
 reporters-notebook Reporters notebook (very thin, brownish paper, but white is also available). Works great with both ink and watercolour.

About A5 size

Sold in Ftinopolis on Athinas, in the basement. Price 0.50€/block

 

 

List of art supply stores in Athens – updated April 7/2021!

***I’m in the process of adding individual posts about all the shops, have re-checked all links (the ones no longer working are shown as unclickable) and added new shops to the list!

Batis – Stournari 29 (Exarchia) – Their Facebook page
Art Center – Stournari 37 (Exarchia)  http://www.art-center.com.gr/ (Greek and English)
– Their Facebook page
Plaisio – Stournari 19 (Exarchia) https://www.plaisio.gr/zografiki-diy.htm
A4 – Stournari 35 (Exarchia) (Χαρτοπωλειο), – http://www.a4papers.gr/ – Their Facebook page
Markolefas – 28 Oktovriou (Patission) 36 & Solomou (Exarchia) (Χαρτοπωλειο) http://www.markolefas.gr/ (only in Greek)
The Paper Place – Kolokotroni 27 (Monastiraki) – https://www.thepaperplace.gr/ (Greek and English)- Their Facebook page
Art & Hobby – Praxitelous 31 (Monastiraki) https://art.hobby.gr/ (only in Greek and English)
– Their Facebook page
Avio – Ilidos 57 & Polygiroi (Ampellokipi) https://www.abio.gr/index.php/el/proionta/catalog/category/835-ilika-zografikis-%26-agiografias (only in Greek)
– Their Facebook page
Antoniadis – Zaimi 12 (Exarchia) http://www.artantoniadis.gr/ (Greek and English)
– Their Facebook page
Paper1 – Em. Benaki 25 (Exarchia) (Χαρτοπωλειο) http://www.paper1.gr  (only in Greek) – Their Facebook page
Loukias (Legakis Mixail kai Sia EE) – Bouboulinas & Vasileos Irakliou (Exarchia), phone 21 0822 5082
Nikolatos (Χαρτοπωλειο) – Tzortz 12 (Exarcheia) https://nikolatos.eu/ (only in Greek)
Art-time – Ipeirou 5 (Exarchia), http://www.arttime.gr (Greek and English) -Their Facebook page
Revolt – Kinetou 2 (Monastiraki) http://revolt.gr/ – (only in Greek, but product names and categories in English) Their Facebook Page
Fat Cat Spraystore – Pittaki 6 (Psirri) – Their Facebook Page
Paco Art Center – Gymnasiou 30 (Nea Ionia) (they also have another shop in Koropi, see website), http://www.pacoartcenter.gr (in Greek and English) – Their Facebook page
Hartorama – Pelasgias 25 (Peristeri) (has other shops in other parts of Athens also, see website) http://www.hartorama.gr (in Greek and English) – Their Facebook page
Hobbywood – Irakliou 167 (Nea Ionia) (has another shop in Egaleo, see website), http://www.hobbywood.gr (only in Greek) – Their Facebook page
Paperworld – online shop, sends everywhere in Greece (also has physical shop on Crete) http://www.paperworld.gr (only in Greek) – Their Facebook page
Helidonis Art & Hobby – online shop http://www.helidonis.gr (only in Greek), sends everywhere in Greece, – Their Facebook page
PanChroma – online shop https://panchroma.gr/ (in Greek and English), Their Facebook page 
Art & Colour – online shop https://www.artcolour.gr/ (only in Greek), sends everywhere in Greece (also has a physical shop in Kavala), Their Facebook page 
Rothko Art Supplies – Thessalonikis 121 (Moschato), online shop https://www.rothkoartsupplies.gr/ (only in Greek), Their Facebook page
Atlantis Art Materials – online shop http://atlantisart.gr/ (in Greek and English), sends everywhere in Greece (also has a physical shop in Thessaloniki), Their Facebook page 
PaperMarket Ferousi – Tsamadou 9 (Piraeus), online shop https://www.papermarket.gr/ (only in Greek), Their Facebook page
Artmie – online shop https://www.ergaleiazografikis.gr/ (only in Greek), sends everywhere in Greece, Their Facebook page

 

Picture tells a thousand words and yet costs less?

Something I’ve started to wonder about recently, as I’ve been scouring the web in search for sites where to submit work – there is a reasonable number of sites that accept written submissions (like short stories, poetry, etc) and pay for the accepted pieces. I’m yet to come across a page that offers similar conditions for submission of illustrations and frankly starting to question whether they even exist.

Which brings up a question – how come? Why is the value scale so tilted towards written word that a drawing is literally worth nothing, although in many cases it can communicate complex concepts just as well or even more efficiently? In fact a drawing can be worth less than nothing, considering that many well-reputed competitions charge an admission fee of approximately $25.

An article from the Irish Times that I came across a few days ago referred to a similar topic – illustrators of children’s books in Ireland not getting proper recognition for their work as all the laurels were endowed upon authors. The idea here is not to diminish the authors, but simply to have them share the limelight with the illustrators. Judging by the article, most authors wholeheartedly agree.

I actually believe that it was here in Greece that I saw illustrators’ names printed on the covers of children’s books for the first time, because I remember noticing it as something unusual. Whether this symbolic recognition also translates into practical rewards, is of course a different question altogether.

 

I have tried in my way to be free…

Yes, I know… the title is shamelessly borrowed from Leonard Cohen, but as his music is my faithful companion these days, there’s no way around it. I have been stuck with the idea of painting for some time now. Nothing seems important enough to justify using one of my few remaining canvases. There is nothing eternal I  seem to be able to express on a single square of canvas. There have been ideas, indeed, yet on a second glance they always reveal themselves to be cliche, boring, trivial, already done by someone else. And so the painting materials  have just sat there … until yesterday.

I checked Illustration Friday for their this week’s topic. It was “Tape”. Tape. Unusual, considering that usually they have something more in the lines of “Aquatic”, “Exploration”, “Summer”, etc etc. But the oddity of the topic moved something in the mind, some of my own old works surfaced, some works by some others… I had tape. Different kinds, in fact. A quick rough sketch of an old couple – an old man sitting, bent over, with an old woman next to him, with her hand on his shoulder. Perhaps my grandparents, perhaps some others. A piece of cardboard, black tape, paper tape, ripping, pasting, occasional swearing… the old couple was there no more, two old women had taken their place. My grandmothers, of course, they always are when I draw old women.

And it was good, as it came from the heart. Neither forced, nor  called for, it had simply been waiting for the right medium. This must be a form of freedom – simply letting go.

two-old-women_web_smaller

Here is another, older one about my grandmothers.

two-grandmothers