I'm travelling into a new way of working, a new country, a new language, and a new hobby which I'm passionate about. Come with me for some of the journey...

Friday, 9 November 2018

Autumn Watercolours

Hello all!  Apologies for the long silence here - no words or pictures for ages.  It's mostly being busy with other things and my mental energy being engaged with future plans, and partly just that slight slump which arrives as winter creeps towards us, the lack of light as the clocks go back, and that feeling of preparing for hibernation.

Before we end up in full on winter, I thought I ought to fulfil my promise to share some of the autumnal watercolours I dabbled in during my recent stay in the Czech Republic.

If you missed the glorious tree colours and landscapes which inspired me, do go and enjoy some Czech Autumn Splendour.

These are by no means "finished" paintings... they're all watercolour sketches and experiments and part of the learning curve.

There was a sneak peek of this first tree in my previous post, but here it is in full.

I got the little music book at the bric-a-brac stall in the market of a neighbouring village.  It's not a large book - about 7.5 x 5.5 inches - so the music is tiny.  It's for people to study or follow along with the score, as opposed to playing from it.

I'm afraid neither of those activities was on my list... it was all about the paint!

Lots of old book pages are very porous, sucking up moisture, but there's a slight sheen on these, so you do get quite a lot of play with the paint.

Once the first layer had dried, I added some more leafy splendour and some delicate splatter.

I was travelling very craft-light this time.  Just a small box of watercolours, some charcoal, a pot of gesso and a couple of ink pads (Vintage Photo Distress and Coffee Archival)...

... and the only stamps I travelled with were my own set of autumnal quotes (PaperArtsy EAB04 The Autumn Edition).

I figured that if I had time for any crafting, it was likely to be autumnal...

I love how the glow of the leaves still reveals the music underneath.

Some slightly deeper ground shadows, and some more detailing on the trunk, and I decided it was best left alone.

In the previous post, you saw some of the glorious countryside near to where I'll be migrating to - but of course all you really need to do is step outside the back door.  This is the view from the terrace at the back of the house.

And this is my very quick and rough attempt to capture the colours I could see as I sat sipping my coffee one morning, looking down into the garden, past the neighbour's house (on the right) and shed (on the left), across the valley to the hills beyond.

It's a double page spread in the Strathmore Visual Journey 5.5 x 8 journal - on cold press watercolour paper.  (I had that with me too.)

One of these days, I may try some sketching before I start, but this was just paint to paper.  I know the perspectives are maybe a little skewed, but it was the mood as much as anything else I wanted to try to grab, and particularly the glow of that plum tree.

I like the sunlit glare of the white wall of the shed - though that tree is definitely not in the right place.  Ah well, artist's licence, right?!

This one is really very rough and loose, even at the end - though in some ways I like the very earliest, roughest sketch most of all.

When I tried to get too precise, I liked it less, but there was a definite lesson learned about being braver with my darks.  I added the extra shadows and deep darks after I'd looked again properly.

They give the whole thing much more depth, and as a result a better glow to the white wall, and for a first landscape from life I don't hate it completely.  It's good practice with the watercolours and with looking, but not my favourite thing to do so far.

And finally, an imaginary stand of trees, again in the Strathmore journal...

I like it when it's coming from my imagination - then I can't beat myself up for getting it "wrong".  It is what it is.

These ones were also paint to paper, but there's a bit of added pen work later on, using my dipping pen and walnut ink (oh yes - I had brought those too... not as light in my packing as I'd remembered!).

Again, it started with a very loose bit of watercolour washing and daubing, and I gradually added more detailing as layers dried.

I love the drift of golden colour into the sky - all done by the paint itself, of course, just doing what watercolour does.

But it seems a good reflection of the soaring spirits I experienced every time I looked across the valley, or we drove through the changing colours of the Czech landscape.

I do like the detail of the penwork (and I really enjoyed doing it)... 

... and the shadows under the trees seem to work pretty well.  Of course there had to be splatter.

I'm not sure it needed the quote, but I quite like having it there.  And after all this is Words and Pictures.

And the autumnal glow of the trees makes me almost as happy on the page as it does in real life, so that's a win.

Oh look, I've just found a lovely panorama of the view from the terrace... here you go!  This was a week or so later - the plum tree's leaves have mostly fallen, and the hedge has been trimmed, but the trees in the valley are starting to show their best colours. Try clicking on the photo for the full screen effect.  

Thanks so much for stopping by today.  I have finally made it back into the craft room for the first time since my return, so I'm hoping that will trigger some more making to share with you soon.  And I'll be round for a catch up too... I've been missing you all!  Have a lovely weekend, whatever you're up to, and I'll see you soon.

I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.
Nathaniel Hawthorne

I'd like to join in with Paint Party Friday - a gathering I've always admired from afar, but haven't really been "painty" enough to play along much before now!

Monday, 22 October 2018

Czech Autumn Splendour

Hello all, and welcome to one of my travelling posts.  There's a little bit of autumnal watercolouring to come soon, but this post is in celebration of the extraordinarily beautiful autumn I've been enjoying here in the Czech countryside.  The weather has been beyond glorious - sunny and mainly very warm.  The cold has only just set in in the last couple of days, and this morning a beautiful frost spread itself across the fields in the sun to contrast with the blaze of treetop colour.

There's still a while to run on this month's Autumn Splendour theme over at A Vintage Journey, so consider this post a little bit of extra inspiration to come along and play!

I've been having a pretty busy time of it, laying the groundwork for relocating here some time next year (some of the metaphorical eggs I mentioned hatching in my slightly cracked recent Box of Eggs).  So I'm afraid if any of you are hoping to see me in action on major dollshouse work in Cestina's Small Worlds museum, you'll be disappointed (though there is a tiny touch of dollshousing to enjoy at the end of the post). 

As it happens, these particular trees are just twenty paces from the museum itself - this is a "road junction" here in the small town of Bavorov!

Just opposite that is Kostel Bavorov (Bavorov church), the largest village church in South Bohemia.  There's been a church on this site since 1370, but it's been restored and added to over the centuries, particularly after a major fire in 1649, and again at the start of the 20th century.

In between the architectural planning, and sourcing of tiles and toilets and so forth, Cestina and I have been driving (and occasionally walking) through the countryside with jaws dropped open at the glories on display, whether that's fairytale pine tree forests...

... or glowing leaves catching the sunlight and taking your breath away...

... or best of all the two in direct contrast with each other. 

Sometimes, we've simply been en route to another flooring shop or bathroom supply store...

... although even then we sometimes took the long way round on the way back, just to admire the views on offer (with me shouting "stop the car!", every now and then when I couldn't bear to leave a scene unrecorded).

I tried playing with the panorama function on my phone, but of course everything ends up smaller when you add a panorama to the blogpost because of the formatting.  I'm hoping that by clicking on it you might get a full screen version.

When I first got here, several weeks ago, everything was still gorgeously green.  So in our earlier trips to the DIY and builders' suppliers in larger towns, it all looked very different.

The Czech Republic has a vast system of freshwater ponds for breeding fish, conceived and constructed in the sixteenth century, so everywhere you go you see wonderful rybníks (ribneek - with a touch of a roll on the r) set amongst the trees and rolling hillsides. 

These photos are of a rather large rybník - a glittering expanse of water, too wide for one photo (I hadn't remembered about the panorama thing at this point!).  We simply had to stop the car and get out.

As you stand there in the silence (only a very occasional car passing), and beautiful fir trees behind you on the other side of the road, you hear frequent deep sploshing sounds as the surface of the water is broken by a huge freshwater carp leaping into the air.

Now that I think about it, I think we encountered that particular rybník on one of our days out, rather than on a working drive.  We'd headed over to the lovely town of Třeboň (good luck with the pronunciation on this one! It's sort of Trrzhebon - the hard t, then a roll on your r at the same time as making the zh sound, e as in eggs, and then bon as in bonbon, but with a little nyuh sound built in to the final n)...

It happened to be the weekend of the Václav holiday.  The feast day of Václav (Vatslav, stress on the first syllable - known to us as Wenceslas), patron saint of the Czech nation, falls on 28th September.  It's celebrated across the Czech Republic as a state holiday, also commemorating Czech statehood.

Fetes or festive markets (known as a pouť - vowel sound rhymes with oat, and it's a soft tchyuh sound on the end) are held in celebration, if not on the day then on the nearest weekend.

As it was Saturday 29th, we bumped into Třeboň's pouť, and spent several happy hours browsing the stalls and listening to traditional folk music - though I seem to have completely failed to take any pictures of any of that!

For another of our days off, I'd asked if we could visit the Šumava (that's a soft Shhh at the start, and a dark u as in put, with the stress on the first syllable).

The countryside is lovely around here, but we're also just a 45-minute drive from the Šumava National Park where, as we discovered, the sheer breathtaking beauty of the landscape goes up several notches!

I've only managed to capture a tiny part of the wonders of this Urwald, or primeval forest - a Šumava Google image search will make you gasp.  (The very first photo of the post is from here.)

On the other side of the Czech/German border, it's known as the Böhmerwald or Bayerischer Wald, so you may have come across it under that name.  Our whole day's driving took us round only a tiny portion of the park.

These final photos are all from the stop we made at a conservation park within the National Park, a wolf enclosure near Srni (yup, just those letters all in a row on your tongue in pretty much one syllable).

At the foot of the mountain/hill (undecided, but it was pretty big!) there's an information centre tucked amongst the trees.

Then you make your way up the steep hillside, zigzagging through the trees on very well-maintained paths.

Along the way there are wooden boards with information about wolf habitats, or wolf paw prints, or wolf food preferences (please don't pick me!)...

... and there are benches so that you can pause to enjoy the view (and catch your breath if necessary).

Signposts keep telling you you're on your way to the wolf enclosure...

... but there were times I thought it the whole thing might be a hoax just to get you to take some exercise by walking up a mountain.

I didn't really mind though, as the trees were making my heart sing, and I had the whole place almost to myself all the way up.  (Cestina wasn't up for the ascent.)

Eventually though, the promised "skywalk" appeared between the trees.

A huge area of the mountainside is cordoned off for the wolves - they will hardly know that they're confined, I'm sure. 

Over the top of their habitat, right amongst the tree tops, there are wooden walkways...

... and shelters maybe six metres or more above the ground...

... (with more information boards about wolf behaviour and life cycles)...

... from which you can peer down onto the forest floor way beneath you in the hope of spotting the odd vulpine shadow weaving between the tree trunks or over the rocks.

I had no luck all the way along the skywalk, but where it opened out onto a platform at the far end, there were more people gathered (maybe ten or twelve), and some of them were staring fixedly at a point amidst the rocks.

As the mountain is steep, you are looking down the hill in one direction from the platform...

.... and in the other direction it rises away above you.  Pretty much at eye level there he was... a wolf, dozing in the afternoon sun.

He was tucked in amongst the branches and stony outcrops - so well camouflaged that you could hardly see him unless he moved... 

... and when I look at the photos I tried to take, even I can barely spot him, so I'm afraid you'll just have to go there and see for yourselves.

But it was utterly magical to see him, living as close to in-the-wild as possible, and basking in the sun, much as I love to do myself.

And even if you don't have the luck to see a wolf, I think it's worth a visit just for the forest walk and the skywalk amongst the tree tops...

... especially given that all it costs is the couple of pounds to park the car... (and this photo was taken in the carpark, pretty spectacular in itself!).

Well, I think I've probably kept you quite long enough.  I decided early on in the post-writing that I'd save my autumn watercolours for another day...

... but I did promise you a little trip into Small Worlds.  You may remember the Tudor Tavern from 2014... 

... and the addition of my first dollshouse dolls - characters from Shakespeare's Henry IV plays - a couple of years later.

In my imagination the tavern was definitely The Boar's Head Tavern (as written in the Shakespeare plays), but at the time it was going under the sign of The Lion.  After the dolls arrived, Cestina decided it was time to sort out the discrepancy... 

As you'll see if you visit my Pinterest Signs board, it used to be customary to hang more than a mere picture outside your pub or shop, so, with the help of a sawn-off plastic farm animal pig's head, repainted and with added tusks (craft flower stamens), Cestina has created and hung the Boar's Head sign.  I love him!

I hope you enjoyed this diversion around the Czech countryside.  I'll probably be on my way back towards the UK by the time you read it (via a brief stay with friends in Germany)...  I'm very reluctant to leave but needs must.  Hope you all have a great week, and I'll see you again soon.

Jak se do lesa volá, tak se z lesa ozývá.
The way you call into a forest, that's the way the forest echoes back.
Czech proverb
I guess our equivalent might be 'you reap what you sow'... more practical, but less poetic!