Wednesday, 15 April 2015


When I started this sketchbook way back in August last year I had no idea how long it would take me to complete.  I filled it with an assortment of papers of many different types from pastel to drawing in lots of colours. 

I made it a rule to use each page as it came up, not skip to one I preferred, so that I could overcome the challenges of texture and media.

I soon discovered that I don't like too much texture with coloured pencils, it's far too intrusive and seems to have a strange effect on my technique making it much messier than usual.  This is on the smooth side of the paper below and I really felt the difference as I drew.

 The rough side of this particular paper Fabriano pastel paper gave me a lot of trouble trying to blend the colours while drawing this coffee cup of pretty spring flowers.  I don't think it liked being wetted either!
But this Ingres paper is gorgeous to work on with only a slight texture that's quite pleasing when it shows through the drawing.  It also comes in some gorgeous colours like mauves and rusts and greeny greys.

I follow a talented botanical artist who recently posted a blog about the origin of the colour purple which inspired me to try and depict a seashell using all my mauves on a lilac page.  If you're interested have a look here to find out how to make purple pigment from seasnails.

So I come to the end of another sketchbook that's been used on my travels, for the January challenge and to record the nature happening in and around my garden.
I can't seem to find where I posted the start of the book so here's the first page just to remind you of another of one of those lovely red papers!
We're off to England for a family visit tomorrow so I'll be busy in sketchbooks no 29 & 30 and hopefully I'll come back with lots of new things to share with you. 
A bientot and see you soon!


Saturday, 11 April 2015


Now I've finished telling the story of our visit to Sweden in 2012 I thought I'd add a few extra sketches from my journal. 
This is a copy of one of my favourite photos taken when I was 5, a year or so before we moved to England.  I'm the fairy on the left of Daddy and Christopher is the cowboy.  Rosi is the little sailor girl and the only one missing is Juliet as she was about to be born on the 23rd of December.  

This is something that I cherish, a heavy glass bowl made at the Orrefors glass works that we visited during the trip.  It's signed and numbered by the artist and was given to my parents as a wedding present in 1947.  They had quite a collection of different glasswares like candle holders and beer glasses that I also have and hope that they will pass on to my children and grandchildren in the future.  I recorded my entire collection in my 75 day challenge journal a couple of years ago. You can find the start of the challenge here.

Christmas starts early in Sweden with the festival of St Lucia, when girls dress in long white robes and wear a crown of candles.  There is a candlelight parade in the church and beautiful singing.
My Mum embroidered a rug to put under the tree and these figures are part of the decoration. 
 My granny gave me a pretty angel chimes candle holder and these are the cherubs that go round with the heat from the candles. 
Another strong Christmas memory are the pepperkaker, delicious spicy biscuits made with cloves and cinnamon.  I made them for my family and now my daughter has taught her girls to make them too so the tradition carries on.

One of my favourite artists is Carl Larsson and while browsing his book today I found a few pictures that perfectly capture the times in Sweden at the end of the 19th century.  They are almost a match for my own memories of 50 or more years later.  Here you can see one of the beautiful room heaters, exactly like the one I drew in my old cottage.

A picnic by a lake that looks identical to ours with the birch trees and all the children of the neighbourhood having fun in the water.

Midsummer has strong memories too and this reminds me of how all the girls and women collected armfuls of wild flowers to decorate the pole while the men cut the wood and got it ready for the celebrations.

Winter too is nostalgic and this is amazingly like our own yard, even the cottage on the left here has an outside staircase just like ours!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015


We finally set off on midsummer morning in the camper car to find my childhood summer home.  We parked in a village about 7 kilometres away and got out the bikes to use for the last part which was down narrow country lanes.  What a delight to be pedalling through the wonderful pine forests and beech woods, up and down the hills and past lots of pretty wooden houses.  Finally at the bottom of a hill and around a bend, there it was, just as I remembered it opposite a tiny lane leading to the lake.

We stopped and parked our bikes and walked along the verge to peep over the hedge.  The garden was full of trees and shrubs making it hard to see the cottage from the road so we walked up a track around the back of the house for a better view.  As luck would have it the owner was in the garden so I asked if he would mind me taking a few photos.  Of course, he said,  and when I explained the purpose of our trip he invited us in to see the interior as well.  He was very interested in my memories of the cottage 55 years earlier and in my impressions of the improvements he had made.
I picked the harebells in the sketch above from the grass outside the cottage in exactly the same place as I'd picked them when I was a little girl.

We toured the cottage and when we got to the main bedroom I was quite amazed to see the traditional heater still there.  We had seen one of these at Skansen in Stockholm and I had wondered why it had struck a chord with me, now I know why, it had been part of the furniture of my childhood!  It's a lot bigger than it looks in the sketch, being ceiling height and the owner told us that one of these in an older house nowadays can increase the value considerably. 
The water pump was still in the garden but now it was only used for plants, not like in our days when it was our only source of water and had to be collected for all our drinks and washing.

We said goodbye to our new friend and set off towards the lake, a short distance down the lane and on the way we passed the farm gates where I saw this collection of milk churns.  One of my morning jobs was to go and collect the milk from the farmer in a small billy can and this is such a nostalgic sight that I wonder if one of those rusty cans was there 55 years ago!

We finally saw the lake spread out before us with it's calm blue water and birch woods reaching to the edges.  When I was small we came down here to take our baths and I remember the sight of our little family with Mum pushing baby Rosi in the pram and Chris and I carrying our towels and soap.  The jetty still looked the same and the water felt just as cold!  We spent a little while here soaking up the atmosphere but as it wasn't too warm and starting to rain we decided eventually to set off to our next destination, but promised ourselves to return and park the camper here for a few days the next time we come to Sweden.
One of my strongest memories is of going into the woods with my father to collect different wild foods.  In summer there were wild strawberries everywhere followed by the blueberries and later on the canterellas appeared. My dad was very good at cooking the mushrooms with scrambled eggs and I can almost smell their wonderful fragrance as they cooked. 
All through my life, whenever we've gone to walk in the countryside I have been looking out for these three things.  I've been lucky on a few occasions and the children always used to joke with Bob that mum's gone off hunting magic mushrooms again or filling her mouth with wild things!

Here's a sketch of my Dad's photo of the cottage as it was originally.  The old walls have been replaced with new red painted wood, the porch has been enlarged and the outside stairs are no longer needed as the entry to the bedroom has now been opened up from the inside.  The woods behind the cottage have been cleared and more summer homes have been built, one of them is probably right on top of our old toilet that we had to use as there was no running water in the cottage.  Mum used to tell a story of going up there one night and encountering a moose in the dark!
I do hope you've enjoyed my trip down memory lane, it's been fun for me too, reliving this trip of a lifetime.

Monday, 6 April 2015


At last we set off to go to Norrkoping, the city of my birth where my parents had met and married while they were working there in 1946.  We found our campsite on the edge of the city in a lovely parkland setting by a river only a couple of kilometres walk from the centre. The walk through the park took us past several places I remembered from my father's photos, including the outdoor swimming pool but this sketch of the waterside was quite news to me. I had no idea that the city had such an amazing complex of canals which channelled the flows to produce hydro-electricity. The city planners had cleverly arranged suspended walkways around the sides of the buildings so that you could walk right above the rushing streams with their deafening noise.

One of the iconic buildings is the 'Flat Iron,' a former cotton mill which now houses a fascinating museum of industrial and domestic history over it's 5 floors.  Many of the other waterside mills have now been converted into office and university buildings so that the population has an opportunity to enjoy the sight of the water as it rushes over the weirs while they go about their business.  The other half of this sketch depicts the mid summer pole decorated with wild flowers which is a large part of the summer celebrations.  I can remember collecting daisies and cornflowers to weave into the wreath for the special day.  We were lucky to be able to see the school children in the park on Midsummer's day dancing around the pole and reciting the traditional poems as they went.

We collected a street map from the tourist office and found our way to Strymansgaten where my parents had bought their first apartment.  I was able to match up with the 60 year old photo I'd copied and to get Bob to take a new one with me standing in  the same place as my Mum all those years ago.  If you want to see the original photo go to the link here to have a look.  We walked all around the city looking for the hospitalgaten where I assumed the hospital might have been but all we could find was the job centre!

This is a Dala horse,a typical Swedish symbol, originally made by the carpenters in the winter using offcuts of wood.  They come in all sizes and several colours although the red is traditional and I couldn't wait to get myself a new one as my childhood one was lost long ago when I grew up.  My parents had a collection of at least 6 sizes which also seem to have disappeared.

Everywhere you go in Sweden you'll see sights like this, even right at the edge of the city there are lovely walks trough birch woods like this one sketched on green tinted paper. I'm beginning to realise my love of these beautiful trees stems from my childhood when we were surrounded by their delicate leaves in summer and the wonderful silvery trunks in the winter.

Our visit to Norrkoping lasted a few days and while we were there I had an amazing encounter.  Being an arty type I can never resist looking at art materials so when I saw a wonderful display in a shop window I went to investigate.  I got chatting to the charming lady in charge of the shop and discovered that she was English and came from a town only 10 miles from where we had lived in Surrey.  I explained the reason for my visit and that my father had worked for Dunlop in the city in the 1940s to 50s and was amazed when she told me her older sister had married a young man who also worked there.  We exchanged email addresses and promised to keep in touch after my return.
 By the time I got home a couple of weeks later I found an email from my new friend Jacquie, telling me about her sister. Can you believe that she had worked as a secretary for my father in London in the 1960s and married one of his trainees who was eventually posted to Norrkoping to take over my Dad's job!  We found out that Jacquie also knew some of my parent's old friends when I sent her a copy of an old photo of their group.  I have made a new friend who I now keep in touch with on facebook.
In the next post I'll take you to see the country cottage where we spent all our summers.

Saturday, 4 April 2015


We spent a fantastic week at Kalmar and one of our days out was a visit to the island of Oland which we could see in the distance from the campsite.  There is a bridge joining it to the mainland which we crossed before driving all the way around this long narrow island famous for it's windmills.  It's mostly agricultural but the capital of Bergholm where we finally stopped for lunch is the summer home of the Swedish royal family.  The town is very laid back with wide streets, lined with wooden houses as well as many richly decorated mansions on the outskirts and in the woods which we strolled through in the afternoon. The marina there was very interesting too with several visiting boats, one from as far away as America!

All too soon it was time to say 'ayeu' to Per, the friendly owner of the camp and move on to our next stop at Stockholm.  Here I had booked us a place at the camping-car park on the edge of the city.  It turned out to be on one of the islands which make up this beautiful capital.  Although a large bridge went overhead it wasn't too noisy but there was very little space between each of the vehicles in the park.  Lucky I booked as it was full by the evening and people were being turned away.  We set off to explore as soon as we had settled in and found the walk along the water's edge to town fascinating with it's houseboats and waterhotels as well as the wonderful view across the water to the town hall.

There is so much to see in Stockholm we had to choose a small selection to see as too much museum visiting is exhausting.  Plus it's always good to have a reason to come back again.  One of the best visits was to the open air historical building museum called Skansen.  It's the largest of it's kind in the world and custom built on one of the other islands  in the archipelago.  All of the buildings there have been taken from their original places and reconstructed in a lovely landscaped park.  Each house has it's own guide, dressed in the costume of the particular era, who delighted in telling us all about the history and life of their building and having their photos taken with us.

 We spent the whole afternoon looking in all the different houses and shops and of course I took lots of photos as there just wasn't time to sit and sketch as we went around.  I think it would take me at least a month to do it justice!
We also visited the Vasamuseet while on the museum island which is a display of a ship brought up from the seabed from about the same era as the Mary Rose in Portsmouth.  This ship has been wonderfully restored and there 7 levels where you can see each part of the boat as well as the artefacts they found during the excavations.  We spent the whole morning there going from the keel to the mast and taking in the amazing history.  They even had displays of the skeletons of the sailors on the top floor!

Unfortunately the weather wasn't so good and when it rained all the day we wanted to look around the rest of the city we had to give up at lunchtime and take shelter.  We decided to move on a day early as we really are country folk and 3 days of city life was enough for us!  We took the road south and found another campsite right by the Baltic sea where we spent an idyllic afternoon and night at Trosa.  We were allotted a wonderful plot on a raised area with our own deck to sit out on where I painted this lovely view.  The village we visited the next morning was a delight too and we have promised ourselves to return one day to stay for longer. 
Here is a sketch I did on that wet afternoon in Stockholm.  Sweden is famous for it's crispbread and the range of varieties is incredible.  I remember from my childhood how my parents always took crispbread rather than bread with their supper on weekday evenings and when I went to Sweden I finally understood.  There isn't a lot of fresh bread so this is a good alternative and of course I had to buy one of each sort to try and to bring home!  My favourite had whole sunflower and pumpkin seeds all over the top, yum!
Next stop is Norrkoping where I was born and the excitement was growing as we drew nearer this place I had only seen in my father's photos.

Thursday, 2 April 2015


When I was planning this trip of a lifetime I did a lot of research into towns and campsites so that we could travel easily without worrying where we would be staying. I booked each one in advance too as I thought that being the summer it would be very busy but I was wrong, until midsummer all was very tranquil.  I was so pleased to have found this camp about 15 kilometres from Kalmar, right by the sea on a beautiful wooded peninsula.  We were able to cycle in many directions to explore and this little vignette caught my eye as we cycled along a country road.

We went to Kalmar on the Sunday and found a beautiful clean town with old walls, a castle and a lovely church in the centre which we spent the morning exploring.  What a shame all the shops were shut, I would so have loved to do a bit of browsing!  (Bob was pleased though!) 
This page shows a few of the other places we visited, including the Orrefors glass factory where we bought ourselves a vase to celebrate our 40th anniversary.

As we were camped at the water's edge we had a ringside view of the creatures that lived in the reeds.  These dragonflies were almost tame, coming to sit on my green clogs to sun themselves.  While out walking along the shore one evening Bob spotted this big wooden box and when we went to take a closer look I saw a dried up shell attached to the outside. We realised it must be some sort of nesting box when we saw another with a half emerged nymph which gradually opened it's wings as we watched in amazement.  I carefully took the empty shell back to camp so that I could draw this sketch later. 
When we arrived home a few weeks later I found a dead dragonfly that must have got trapped in our boot when the doors were open.  It's now safely stored in a little box so that I can draw it again sometime.

Everywhere we went in Sweden we were delighted by the wild flowers growing at the roadside and even the middle of the dual carriageways were full of colourful blooms.  Under the birch trees the cow parsley was like a froth of foam covering the ground and deeper in the shade the wood anenomes
were abundant. It was wonderful to see masses of cornflowers at the edges of the cornfields too!

I painted this view as I sat next to the camper car one afternoon, in fact it goes further to the right but I couldn't get it all under the scanner.  The weather was very pleasant while we were in Sweden and although a few clouds passed over it was never too cold.

The camp at Kalmar was a haven for birds and I spent quite some time watching a pair of Great crested grebes building their nest in the middle of the reeds right in front of our plot.  I was waiting to see their courting dance but  unfortunately missed it.  As you can see in the sketch there were lots of other birds to watch too!

A family of swans passed every day at the same times with their brood of cygnets and the heron flew past regularly flapping his enormous tablecloth of wings.

I pre-painted a few of the pages in this watercolour sketchbook with acrylic ink so that I could have a bit of variety in the drawings.  I used the acrylic as it is permanent and wouldn't pick up when I painted over with watercolours or the inktense pencils I took with me.  These fishermen's cottages were right at the end of a lane and we had been hoping there might be a cafĂ© we could use for our lunch but this part of the country is wonderfully unspoiled so we had to cycle all the way back to camp instead! 
The colour of the buildings  is very typical of all the rural houses we saw and I really like the way they contrast with the green of the trees and grass.  I can just imagine them in winter standing out against the white of the snow too.