Stepping way back from the pixels

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Be the most brilliant color of the box. Gouache on paper 6 by 8, for sale

“I have stared long enough at the glowing rectangles of computer screens. Let us give more time for doing things in the real world… plant a plant, walk the dogs, read a real book, go the the opera.” -Edward Tufte

(Quote stolen from the book “Steal like an artist” by Austin Kleon)

I was one of those who made clean and neat and fun designs. Many of them. And many of them I never got to touch because they never saw a daylight via a printer. They were stuck as pixels on a screen and sometimes stayed like that all the way to a client.

The colorful streamlined illustrations were lifeless. Something was missing. To much brain work, too little soul work involved.

I had a long and productive relationship with my computer that came to and end. Very unexpectedly and I started to use my hands more, my body more. I became mobile again. And the best thing was that I really really felt alive when doing this long forgotten activity.

I love my computer and everything but sometimes it made me feel so empty. Feeling robotic, cheating with shortcuts and missing out somehow. I know now that I was missing out on experiencing making art. Don’t get me wrong, it is just my own personal experience from an artist’s point of view.

So I picked up a paint brush one day and decided to see how it felt to paint the designs what I used to create on the computer. And that required bending, turning, standing up, finding the right angle, finding the right paper, colors, paint and textures.

It required time. And many trips to the art store. No more color dropper or copy paste. No regrets, and I know I will never be able to leave creating with my hands and go back to the screen.

Please share if you relate!

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We all like free, don’t we?

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Hi, I´m opening up an Etsy store soon. 

I´ve been thinking about this quite a deal lately, so it is important to voice my thoughts here in the open. I might be dead wrong, but all worth trying. You can tell me if I am steering my small business ship off a cliff or if I’m doing a worthy thing, for you, and for me. Please be kind and do, I’m new to this thing!

It is important for my customers to feel treated like human beings, not monkeys or numbers. Unfortunately, it has happened to me, quite a few times and it’s disappointing. Period! So if your name will be spelled wrong or your print has a ketchup stain on it, money back guarantee, pinky promise! 

Yes, the customer is really important, (and so am I otherwise there would be no nice product). This also means that I will take some extra steps to make the actual experience of buying prints from me a worthy one. By worthy, I mean I won´t let you feel like you´ve done the dumbest mistake possible on the internet and therefore give all other creatives, including myself that are selling out there a big, black eye.

 One thing for certain is that when the product will be handed to you, it won´t be in a wet envelope. I´ll make sure your print will be received as a print specified on the site, not from a Kinkos copy machine or on a piece of a napkin. And it will be done in a timely manner. Like few days or so! I’ll do my very best to make you happy with your product, and hopefully you will visit me again in the future, and I get to serve you and your community. 

(And there will be some nice freebee involved) Until next time… 

Preparing the online store

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A lot of people have been asking me if my work is sold as prints, and the answer has been ehhh… no.

It might be some self esteem or insecurity issues that comes with being a freelance designer and illustrator not doing this promptly until now, but like a friend said, “get over it”. And she´s right. It´s my livelihood, my income, at some point, I have to get it out. And this is a beginning, a place where people can buy my work.

So after some thought I decided to take that online store avenue idea and make it really happen. The first step has been to scan and print and hang some examples of my work that will be available. The next, order some killer paper. I mean the best, the silkiest, the most vibrant, the best. So stay tuned, my dear.

Oh, and I promise to offer a great customer service, too!

The lovely and personal creative process

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I have a large canvas staring at me, primed and sanded, ready to be tackled with acrylics. Acrylics want to do their own thing, and it is a trial and error to figure out the best solution each time, the best flow, what pigments to apply to them and each and one color has it’s own characteristic in flow and consistency. It requires patience (hard), physical work (hard) and a lot of time to finish a larger painting, so I’ve found the method of recovery: to work on a new smaller ones on watercolor paper with soft and gentle quality gouache (I fell in love with Holbein) when done.

The process is usually the same. Quick sketches (few of them) and then I choose the one I like and work on it in terms of composition and layout. Then the wonderful moment arrives when I apply the first brushstroke to the paper. There is nothing like that moment. Then I usually go through the U curve, hit a bottom sort of at some point, and go positively up from there! And usually towards the very end I make the inevitable stupid mistake, for example lay my hand into a wet spot and smudge my almost finished painting! Something that can be easily avoided but seem to be inherent to my painting method (sigh). Anyways, I hope you enjoy the rest of this lovely, rather cold Monday.

My Etsy store is open!

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I’m happy to announce that my Etsy shop is up and running 24/7.
There you can find beautiful original, yet meaningful prints of animals, birds and plants and reproduction of my original art for a great price.

Besides from brightening up every living space and bringing joy and liveliness into your surroundings, I’ll promise to offer a great customer service.

Please come and visit my store on Etsy, ErnaKristin
Happy Sunday!

Botanical sketches

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I am working a a series of paintings and patterns from my botanical sketches drawn on my last trip to the Central Coast of California. And I also add some colorful little things that I like to surround myself with.

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The way we see and feel

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I think we all look at the same things but we see them differently.

A beach, an ocean, a plant life: I see a scene as a layers, layers of forms. Some are neatly placed in the front, some are in the back. I see interesting compositions, others just run along the horizon in a classic and quiet way. Some are very pattern oriented. Some of the plants are light as feathers, others rounded and clean like golf balls. Some leaves form interesting shapes, almost perfectly rounded like coins, others are sharp, potent and some form spirals. Then there are collection of colors, I see some complementaries, some shades of grays and greens.

This is my process of translating drawing into a painting, and I don’t draw what I see. I draw more like what I feel. A drawing is like a piece of music, it has different a structure, sounds and tones.

What do you see and feel in your creative experience?

The infamous U-Curve

Being at peace with the painting.

I almost invariably have those moments when I want to shred what I create to pieces. Those moments are bad. And I just got out of one yesterday.

The moments of the first brushstrokes are moments of where It feel happy and excited, I sing a little tune in my head. I’m definitely in my element. I thank my DNA’s for the gift of creating and to express it. But after a few hours, sometimes days, almost always, the unavoidable happens. The painting forms an independence and a life on its own at some point. And no matter what, it won’t obey or agree with me. The paint won’t flow were I want it to flow. The shapes won’t turn right. The colors are off. My hand are unstable, lines are shivering.

Some people call it the U-Curve, meaning, going down the the “U” and hit the bottom of it – sometimes really hard. And emotionally, you follow. Crashed and burned. Before you know, you’re in a war with your beloved painting. The garbage is the next destination.

No matter what, these defying moments are so very frustrating. But thankfully I’ve never thrown anything away because I’ve almost always had a return moment where I go towards the top of the U, sometimes slowly. But one thing I must do is to step away. Taking a break is a mandatory for the survival of the artwork, sometimes for few days. A painting absorbs frustration just like the color. Maybe I’m just hungry or tired or too caffeinated. A good walk and a deep breath always helps. too. So eating and resting can restore the sanity. Sometimes I just have to start a completely new project. Then I can return to previous painting and we’re friends again.

And to remember that I wrote on my desk: Love the rubbish, love your sketches too. It’s just mine to choose whether it’s going to be beautiful or not.

Little Paintings

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I have been sketching every day and – yes, I dare to say it, painting every day, as a matter of fact, little paintings. Painting is an accidental habit that took over computer design. As it stand today, painting is my primary tool of design. I also design on my computer, but I have decided that I want my career to be primarily working with my hands.

I find it hundred times more satisfying to use actual paining tools, draws actual lines instead on using those wondrous, speedy little vectors in illustrator. Also, I think the imperfection in outlines is what makes it come alive when done by hand. I can’t stop admire it. Yes, alive is the key word here in my believe.

I hope you have a wonderful Easter weekend.

My story is seldom told…

Gouache on paper, 5 by 8    Inquiries at erna@ernakristin.com

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Delighted at this very moment.

I´ve been painting every day. Rather sporadically, but really making little paintings or patterns every day for few days. Some people go to a retreat, a nail spa, to Vegas or to Disneyland to get rewarded, I paint.

Doing work with real pigments and brushes on paper and sometimes canvas is something I want to do for the rest of my life. In a broad perspective that is a really a long time, looks and sounds daunting, but if I can do it a little every day – for the rest of my life, I can see how I can maintain my peace of mind. That´s all I want to do. Cubicle – no; instructor – no; on the computer day in day out – no.

Every time I make a painting, I go through memories of someone I know the entire painting, and therefore, the painting has already reminded me of that someone.

Dots dots dots

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Finally got moved into my new apartments and got a basic setup for my watercolor/gouache paintings. I’ve been doing patterns lately. My sketch book from last year is so packed with ideas and this is one of them that I wanted to execute for a long time. I have such an affection for repetitive patterns. This one started as a couple of clouds that ended up as flowers.

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Happy New Year!

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This is my very first painting in 2015, from a design I started in the summer. And while the year passed, I was alone in my house because I wanted to do what I love to do the most, to paint, to listen to good music, and paint some more! And got it done. It was my goal to finish at the beginning of the new year. For me, a perfect ending and exactly how I wanted to enter into the new year.

My year will positively be filled with creative energy and joy.  Something I am determined to cultivate every hour, every day. I certainly have few goals, and a new website is one of them. A weekly post is another showing my processes and end results. I have many ideas for paintings and designs, and they are as well on my to – do list.

Anyways, I wish you all happy, prosperous and creative 2015.

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Little Terrarium

Gouache on paper, 8 by 10 inches

I painted this one for Lilla Rogers “Global Talent Search. The theme was Little Terrariums, and we were given unlimited freedom for interpretation which was super challenging, as the subject itself.red birds, pink birds

My life has been so hectic, so full, and I managed to complete the assignment while cat sitting in San Francisco, and this painting took full 15 hours. Needless to say, my back hurts.

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When I went to Kinkos to scan in the art work, the result of the image scanned in 300dpi, was terrible. So I delivered the piece as a very rough, pixelated image, which was a bummer, cause it’s very refined and I wanted the details to stand out as much as possible. And I spent a lot of time on it!

But I had fun with it, and I completed, and I am already working on my next one.

Drawing and journaling in Las Vegas

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Traveling. Currently high up in a hotel room at the Trump hotel here in lovely Las Vegas. The view is brilliant and the weather is strange,  overcast and only 95F, unusually cold at this time of the year, according to locals.

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Loving my sketchbook and the process so much, I barely want to go out. The shows and the shops and the tourists will still be here, I wont. Everything is new to me in a visual sense. Even the bare construction zone 47 floors down.

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Going backwards few days, I was hypnotized by the Mojave desert, and at a certain time, close to midnight, the heat reached 107 degrees. The desert was a perfect wonder that night and we passed seemingly hundreds of hundreds of white wind mills.

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Few days ago I was home in California, admiring the view of the new Bay Bridge from Treasure Island. Wondering how it might look like from Berkeley, the famous college town. Maybe something like this with it’s lush vegetation and diverse architecture.

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Bright but not gloomy

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imageAnother promising semi-fogged day here in a lovely San Francisco neighborhood.The house sitting is over tomorrow and I was able to pull off three small (9*12in /27*37cm) gouache paintings during my staying here. One I redid because the colors didn’t turn good. I wanted them bright but not gloomy.I thought I had abandoned my Icelandic inherent color palette of greys while ago, but it must be the fog here that’s interfering with my color choices. But this one started on this piece of paper and worked it’s way to itself. Sort of.

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On the bottom it reads and reminds keep it simple, oh boy, what a mental and visual challenge. Just like life itself.Hovever, I’ve already moved to my next project. No stopping except for a brief lunch and one coffee break until dinner.

Have a wonderful, creative day, and like the teabag this morning  said, “let things come to you.”

Oh thou magnificence.

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I am in San Francisco.  Everywhere I look I see sort of amazement. People chatting in the coffee shops, reading the papers, taking their dogs for the morning poop. Yep, magnificence in all its glory.

Then, below the hill the trash is flying around and people pushing shopping carts, yelling at each other, greeting, hey bro, whats up?
Some are playing music in a hope for a a change. Quite good, I think to myself.

Honking horns, street sweeping, cable buses, insane bicyclists.
The smell of fried meat coming from the Taqerias, filled with irresistible aroma. Oh, help me…

I see magnificent cypress trees swaying in the cold wind coming from the Pacific, succulent flowers and plants of different sorts. I see butterflies dance in front of my nose, playing sort of hide and seek.

I also see the smallest of magnificene.
Restless, moving slowly on a leaf, the catepillar is waiting to break free and expand, soaring up to the sky away from the restrictions that it was born into. I agree on that.

San Francisco, I love her so much.

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The Catepillar
gouache on 10*14 in. paper

On the process of creating

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I woke up early this morning, grabbed some necessary coffee and headed for the Bernal Hill, that is surrounded by a friendly, laid back neighborhood called Bernal Heights in San Francisco.

There, in a secluded dog park area of the hill I found a bench and sat down and watched the morning fog roll in and out with a spectacular view of the city.

I opened my worn out sketch book and started to draw few lines not really knowing my direction, but hoping to get some of the city’s atmosphere on the paper. A little painstaking but off I went.

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I spend a lot of time on sketches,
and I don’t draw everything I see.
To me, they are purely informative. Not really meant to be pretty, but mainly for me to develop and capture an essential idea, theme, composition or a pattern.

I get my idea down with few lines, I start with an axis, planes and create relationships between them to get the content somewhat organized.

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Bernal garden

I work fast. Often when I start it feels heavy to begin. But I can’t think my way into fluidity, I have to earn it by putting the pencil down on the paper!

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And sometimes lines take life on their own. And sometimes I don’t know if a sketch will end up as a finished piece of design. Most of my work has an unknown beginning, but every sketch has its potential!

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The magic of sketching

When I was in high school my art teacher emphasized and re- emphasized the use of a sketchbook, with a pencil or a pen, of course. While waiting for a bus, on the bus, or on the toilet, if applicable. 

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In those days, I thought sketching a lot was a quite a discipline he was asking us to do at all times. But underneath, I was afraid of it. Afraid of making mistakes. Afraid of the unrefined. Afraid of what others would think of me!

Well, it was obvious that if I was ever going to be pleased with anything I ever did, I had to overcome the fear of the unsettled. And the only place to start is on the blank staring page in the sketchbook. And off I went.

The fear is just like being afraid of the boogie man under the stairs, it has no reason.
Today, I don’t execute any work without a good amount of sketchwork. If I’m not feeling up to it I better get going because you will settle in to it. And to me, the real reason for doing creative work today is:
a. To please myself
b. To make money,  and if someone else gets happy, that is a big bonus.

But most importantly, sketch. It’s like nurturing and your vision to a full grown idea. Alter it, add to it, and shape it to your liking. And at some point, it will tell you when to stop or move on to the next one.

If you’re avoiding this very necessary aspect of creating for yourself or a client:
Start with thumbnails of your idea. The more the better.
I use 11 by 8 in. sketchbook and make a lot of sketches. I use colored pencils because the give me a great flexibility of softness/hardness of lines and a great shading ability.
This process also allows my ideas to develop, often in a completely surprising direction. It seems like the more I let go of preconceived ideas,  the happier I am with the outcome.

A portion of my last painting, see previous post.