Monday, 27 April 2015

Birds in spring

The weather outside is perfect for the moment: not too hot and not too cold. I'm eating my breakfast on the balcony every morning now, and it is just so nice!!

Some things from my studio:

Page from my square art journal. A Gull in muted browns and blues. I have already started in this on canvas, and the background is almost done. Acrylic, watercolour and collage. 

Long tailed tit. I painted this same tit a couple of years ago, but now I got a new idea for it. All brown with some pink cherry blossoms. Also this one I have started on canvas already, and the background is almost done. Will show you progress photo when I have drawn in the bird on it.

This one is an experiment that I am liking so far. Canvas is 30x20cm. So far only collage and acrylics. I think I will paint a small trio of tree sparrows on it and call it the tree musketeers… We'll se.

This canvas (30x20cm) has gone through some changes, and I'm not sure were it is headed. But thats what fun with experimenting: sometimes you just end up with something that isn't really working, and sometimes you hit the jackpot. But you won't know if you don't try… I was planning a blue tit on this one with silhouettes of flying birds against the 'forest'.

This will become another Long-tailed tit with spring blossoms. 25x25cm. Not sure about the eggs in this one, but lets see how it looks once the bird is there.

Now it's movie time with my hubby, see you next time!

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Visiting Xi'an

I finally got around to go through my photos from my trip to Xi'an. I travelled to Xi'an together with three of my good friends: Kim, Rain and Blair. We spent 2 whole days there, one day for the city itself, and one day to see the terra-cotta soldiers.
Xi'an is the capital of Shaanxi province almost in the middle of all of China. It is one of Chinas oldest cities, and it has been the capital of the 'Middel Kingdom' for many more years than both Beijing and Nanjing put together. It is in Xi'an that the Silk road started (or ended, depending how you look upon it), but today it is most known for the unearthed army of terra-cotta soldiers that were found in the 70-ties. Because of the silk road, islam was first introduced to the Chinese people in Xi'an, and there still is a big population of muslims in the city today. The chinese muslims however are very 'chinese'. I don't know how to explain it otherwise. The women cover their hair and you cannot get a beer or pork dishes in a muslim restaurant. But aside from that you don't see or feel the islam in the city. Even their mosque is build like a beautiful old traditional chinese temple. You do however find great lamb dishes with delicious spices, and I could have stayed many more days there just for the food!!
I have a lot of photos, so lets get to them. I only had my iPhone with me, so the quality of the photos are not the best, but they should give you a taste of Xi'an!

The bell tower of Xian. Unfortunately it looks a little bit lost today as they have build one of the city's biggest roundabout around it.

Street in the evening.

I found an art store.

The drum tower of Xian. Around the whole first floor of the tower they have bigger than man-sized drums that monks still use today on special occasions.

The night market. Absolutely packed with people. Buzzing. And totally amazing with all its smells of food and spices.

The night market has become a tourist attraction, so of course you also find a lot of stores selling stuff.

And food!! Lamb skewers. One word: Delicious!!! We walked around and almost ate our way through the night market. We tasted a little bit of this here, and a little bit of that there… Amazing!

After a lot of walking we found this special parlor before heading home to the hotel and the bed: a fish-spa for your feet. My right foot was obviously better tasting than my left...

Next morning was our full day of seeing Xian. We started with walking out to find some thing to eat for breakfast, and then we continued walking the whole day.

Steamed dumplings.

Dried fruits and nuts. Doesn't it look beautiful?

Rain looking at the goods.

Kim at the mosque.

The mosque was set in a beautiful garden with many small houses and gates. The actual praying hall was the last house in the garden, just a small open room with carpets on the floor. The only sign of it being a mosque and not a temple was the absent of any buddha figures or ancestor shrines. And on some of the houses you could see some arabic writings next to the chinese characters.

It was very peaceful, and beautiful in spring greens.

We also found an indoor market that was much less crowded than the outside one.

Fried crab on a stick.

The night market during the day. We ate lunch at a muslim restaurant that served us a Xian specialty: lamb with soaked bread in a soup.

Basket shop.

After lunch we headed straight for the south gate of Xi'an and up on the city wall. The old city of Xi'an is surrounded by a brick wall that is almost 14 km long, 12 m high and I would say as broad as well. It makes an excellent walkway for sightseeing around the city. Inside you have the old city, outside you have the modern city.

Pingpong on the outside.

Local market on the inside. Tomatoes to the left and pineapple to the right.

It was not high season when we were there, so it was peaceful and not too many tourists on the wall.

We had luck with the weather, sunny but not too hot.

We walked on the wall for at least 2 hours, and in that time we only covered a quarter of it. At the east gate we went down in search for some food and a chair. Our feet were aching at this point. Before going to bed we sought out a foot massage parlor and treated ourselves to a foot massage.

Chinglish. What happens when you trust google translator...

The next day we had the terra-cotta soldiers on our schedule. First we visited a factory that makes soldiers in the same way that the original soldiers were made.

For souvenirs they make small models of the big soldiers.

Burnt and ready to be sold as memory for us tourists.

They also made traditional chinese clay figurines and furniture, and they sold paintings and what nots.

This is a painting done with thread, and I thought it quite inspirational for me.

After the factory it was time for the real deal. This is the foot soldiers from pit 1, the biggest part of the army. Next to this was pit 2 with the cavalry and archers, and after that pit 3 with a small group of the generals in their chariots. Altogether they estimate that there are over 8,000 soldiers in this terra cotta army with 130 chariots and over 500 horses. It was discovered in 1974 by a farmer who was digging a well.

It was the emperor Qin Shi Huang who build this army to protect him in his afterlife. He died 210-09 BCE.  His tomb lies behind the army at the foothill of a mountain. Unfortunately the army did not last long, just a short time after the emperor died, his enemies found his 'army' and destroyed most of it. (The emperor's tomb itself though is thought to be undisturbed, and today it is forbidden to excavate it.) Today they are piecing together the soldiers carefully by hand one at a time. The soldiers were fully painted in livid colors before buried, but the paint flakes of in a matters of minutes after they come in contact with the air, so they are not unearthing more of the soldiers before they find a way of conserving the paint.

Our trip was only for a long weekend, but it felt like we were there for much longer. It would have been fun to have had a step counting device on during our walks in and around the city. At least our feet could give testimony of how much we moved about. It was a very eventful and colourful couples of days, and we had so much fun together! It felt like visiting the 'real' China, and I can highly recommend Xi'an as a destination to visit instead of Beijing or Shanghai.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Friday already. I know I have said it before, but man does the time fly!! It felt like it was just yesterday that I came back from a weekend in Xi'an (capital city of Shaanxi province). I haven't even downloaded my pictures yet. But we had a hilariously fun weekend there, some friends of mine and me, and I will write the next blogpost about it with lots of pictures!

Today I want to share this link from last week:

It is an art-journal tutorial I made for the website, and it is now online.

This week I have been planning new paintings. I did paint a little on the flying barn-owl I'm still working on. After being away from it I finally saw what has been bothering me with it, and I think I got the problem fixed. Now I only need to paint the final details. It is always the last finishing touches of a painting that take the longest for me. It is like I loose interest in it when it is almost finished, and I want to go on and start new paintings. Anyone else that feels the same?

I have a new 'mini-journal' I started to use for small fast sketches. Just to jot down ideas in a matter of seconds so that I don't forget them...

Some spring blossoms would be nice now when I have just been able to admire them outside.

I think that white color on brown paper looks quite delicious!

After the small sketches I started working on my ideas a little bigger in my 'normal' journal. The seagull is still waiting to be cut out and glued in...

The finished page of the Azure-winged Magpie. Now it is time to start preparing the background on a canvas for this one.

11 newly stretched and gessoed canvases. This makes me so happy! (that sounds a little bit weird, doesn't it? But I know that all my fellow painters will understand! ;) )

And last my studio today. Such a beautiful sunny day with perfect light!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Tourist in Shanghai

I didn't remember what I wrote about last without checkin. I got a little dishearten about writing about being a tourist in Shanghai as this post was suppose to be about, since I lost all my photos in my camera. When I took the memory card to upload the photos to my computer it said that it was empty… Either the memory card is getting old and unreliable, or I have pushed some wrong buttons… But it has lasted long and through many adventures!! The camera has been several times to the great wall of China, travelled back and forth between Finland and China, travelled to Japan, South-Korea, Hawaii, Micronesia and been taken down about 20 times under the water to more than 20m depth to document our underwater adventures, and so on… So if it time to buy a new memory card or even a new small 'point-and-shoot' camera, it has more than earned to get retired!

On a much happier note: I just spent the last weekend in Rizhao where we celebrated a dear friends birthday for 3 days long! And tomorrow I will be leaving for a few days to Xian and look at the terra-cotta soldiers. Life is good!

So. Being a tourist in Shanghai. I spent two very happy weeks in beginning of March in the company of my parents who visited us here in Shanghai. I got some photos from my mother to replace the ones I lost, so here I will now post photos taken during those two weeks. The weather was mostly nice, but being Shanghai we did get some rain as well. We walked around a lot, visited the Aquarium, ate a lot of great food, took a boat ride on the river and just spend time together!

View from the Bund onto the new skyline of Shanghai. The new Shanghai tower is really huge!!

Shanghai tower up close.

And again together with the 2 older towers.

View over Shanghai from the 'bottle-opener' building as we call it. From the 91 floor. This is on a very 'clear' day with low pollution.

One evening we took a boat ride on the river. Shanghai was quite spectacular from the river when all the lights were on. View to the Pudong side.

The Bund, old Shanghai skyline.

Elevated roads running like a spiders web throughout Shanghai.

Street market.

Tianzifang. A very cozy and nice area with hundreds of small shops and restaurants and bars in an area where they have preserved some of Shanghais old small houses.

Yu Garden. Beautiful buildings and garden, but it has become such a tourist 'hellhole', that I rarely go there.

If you are a car lover, then Shanghai is a great place to live in. Everyday you can see Maserati's, Lamborghini's, Ferrari's, Bentley's, Rolls Royce and so on… These two 'opposites' parked next to each other looked so funny I had to take a picture!

Metro. Avoid at rush hours!

Coming home in the evening.

Street kitchen boiling broth. Every part of the animal is still used here so nothing goes to waste!

We ate a lot of different foods. Beijing duck, spicy bbq from inland country and Shanghai specialities to name just a few. Here in the picture hot pot. You get a beautiful broth/soup to the table, and then you order food that you like and boil it yourself. I love it! Especially if the weather is chilly outside!

Happy Hour in our 'headquarters', our regular bar that I had to take my parents too so that they know what we speak of when I tell them that we went to HQ!! *smiley*

I have loads of photos from the aquarium. Here are three of the ones I like the most. 

If you look closely you can find Nemo and Doris!!

Jellyfish. I also had a lot of photos from the big tank with all the sharks and such, but as the tunnel through there has curved glass, the photos didn't come out great.

Over ground and outside spring has come.

Meanwhile in the studio I still have to finnish the two owls. After my trip to Xian I just have to sit down and get the last layer done on those. I have been painting on some new backgrounds, pictures of that next week!

I wish you all nice and warm spring weather!