Monday, January 31, 2011

nijmegen, the netherlands

Well, it has been almost a month since we moved to the town of Nijmegen, The Netherlands, so I thought I would take a moment to introduce you.  First off...a little history.

Nijmegen is the oldest city in The Netherlands, although you wouldn't know by looking at it.  Unfortunately it was the victim of a horrific bombing on February 22, 1944 during WWII.  And the worst part is that it was bombed by the United States, who thought they were bombing a German town.

The Netherlands is almost completely at or below sea level, which is why their symbolic windmills are so prevalent.  The windmills were designed to pump water out of the lowlands.  Supposedly The Netherlands is also known for their peanut butter...but I have yet to figure out why.  I'll get back to you on that one.

Alright...onto the fun stuff.  Here are some photos we have taken since we arrived, followed up with a quick video of the wonderful River Waal that runs through Nijmegen (with a sneak peek at Mr. Dirksen Dabbles!).

Our flat is the two windows surrounded by orange tiles

Outside a building in our neighborhood - Botten Daal

Outdoor chairs at the cafe we frequent

A car I wouldn't mind owning

A good example of Netherlands architecture...and beer - Amstel.

Just some tile work

Another cafe near our flat

Grote Markt - City center of Nijmegen

This mural cracks me's of people growing potatoes, making frites (french fries), and handing them out, but they are from medieval times, which makes it that much more awesome.


Modern Architecture, to replace the ruined old

Oh, and did I mention marijuana is legal here?  This is a coffee shop (which sells pot, not coffee).  To get a coffee, go to a cafe.

Buildings that line the river Waal

Nijmegen Train Station

Fantastic art

Impressive bridge

The Waal

Related Articles
Netherlands Workspace - A peek at where I get some painting done
Moving On - What am I doing in Europe anyway?  Get caught up here.
Louvain, Louvain - A video of the Belgian neighborhood I lived in 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

and the not so good

I shared a painting on Monday of a pair of eyes that I thought came out pretty well.  In that same post I mentioned I had some less than successful paintings during that same session.  And in the interest of being an honest artist, I thought I would share them with you.

My goal was to focus on the human face, which is something I have never done, so your forgiveness is much appreciated.  I, once again, started without looking at photos or a model, which I think might have been a mistake.  I had a pretty hard time, as expected, with the facial features looking at all correct or interesting. 

Well, enough they are:

To me, this one is just outright embarrassing.  Is it a man? a woman?  a person?  are they smirking at me?  are they stoned?  I don't even know.
I think we can agree, it's not much better up close ;)

On the other hand, I actually feel like this style could be improved on and made into something good
I actually had the face looking different, it looked horrible, so I washed over most of it.  Kind of ended up looking emotional, which I think is a good thing.

So, there you have it.  I think I will try again, maybe this time with a good study of the face through photography.  I would love to hear any tips people have for dealing with the face.  I'm completely open to new experiements!

Related Articles
Painting Eyes - See the successful painting for this session
Watercolor Lessons - Another less than perfect painting and the lessons I learned from it
Watercolor Beginner - These face paintings made me feel like I was back in the beginning again!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

p[art]nership - how to hang art on a small wall

Today we welcome Carolina to the p[art]nership series, who writes her own interior design blog Carolina Eclectic.  I truly enjoy her style as well as the personal way she writes.  The p[art]nership series is all about how art relates to interior design and fashion.

Hello, Dirksen Dabbles readers. I'm so excited to be here:) My name is Carolina Saunders and I'm going to share some thoughts on how to use art on a small wall. 

Personally, I find small walls exciting because they are a great excuse to let loose and be truly creative. I like to approach small wall space in two ways, by either pushing the limits, or showing restraint. They can be the equivalent of the over-the-top powder bath or they can be a quiet place of rest. 

The first approach I like to call, GO BIG or GO HOME! Take all those things you really love and display them in a bold fashion. Its a misconception that a small space has to be decorated with small things only. By using either, very large art or a large collection of art, a small wall gains importance and doesn't feel like an afterthought.

The second approach is the exact opposite of the first. Show the utmost in restraint. Think of an art gallery. When a small piece is installed all on its own, you are forced to stop and look more thoughtfully.  The unique qualities of the art piece have a chance to speak to you. As a disclaimer, I would add that when using the restrained approach, don't assume that this only works for expensive pieces of "high art". Use a small photo or delicate little sculpture that grabs your attention. 

So, that is a quickie lesson on my eclectic approach to art and design. My hope is that, above all; when decorating your home that you don't get tripped up by rules. Remember to make your home a comfortable and meaningful place for you and your family to enjoy. 

Related Articles
p[art]nership - Vintage Fashion Portrayed in Art - An amazingly thoughtful look at how artists create pieces including vintage fashion
p[art]nership - How to Hang Art - Some general tips on proper ways to hang art
p[art]nership - Hanging art in a Group - What to do with lots of art pieces

Monday, January 24, 2011

painting eyes

When I am painting with my preferred medium, acrylics, I almost never do the human form.  I believe this is why I have been focusing on human shapes lately with my watercolors.  It is such different material that I simply have to do a different subject.  

Until yesterday, I had been focusing on larger pieces of the human form.  Either the entire body, head to foot, or possibly the torso as a whole.  Yesterday I decided to paint a face.  And it kinda sucked.  Then I tried again, and it still kinda sucked.  But...then I tried to get more specific and focused just on the eyes.  And I think I like it.

I am especially a big fan of the blending in the iris's and pupils.  I used more water in them to get that effect, while leaving the eyebrows and eye lid shapes a bit thicker and more under control.

Question for the readers:
Often times I like to share some less than successful paintings with you all so you can see  the true journey of an artist.  I did not share my unsuccessful face paintings today, but am wondering if you enjoy seeing this type of painting in general.  Let me know...I aim to please!

Related Articles
Nude Watercolors - See some of my human form watercolors
Female Figure Art - A look at my first attempt at figure art with watercolors
Netherlands Workspace - See where I get to do my painting these days

Saturday, January 22, 2011

finding motivation

It is a major dream for most artist to have all their time and resources free to create art.  For most, this means not having a job other than being an artist and also the financial stability to buy supplies to create.  

I am also missing my acrylics...

I have to admit, that I am pretty much living that dream.  I temporarily am living in Europe and move every three months, which means I do not have a job.  Although I am not at all financially rich, I have enough to go out and buy supplies when I need them.  I feel blessed to have these realities in my live, however...

I am truly struggling with motivation to create.  My lack of motivation is coming from a few different areas.  They include,
  1. Lack of a structured schedule - Ever since I can remember, I have either had school or a job to give me a well balanced schedule.  This is my first attempt to live without that...and it's hard.
  2. A decrease in social outlets - Four months ago I left everyone I had ever met.  I believe social interaction is a great way to grow energy.  My lack of regular social activity is making me a hermit.
  3. Lowered creativity and inspiration due to laziness - I easily fell into a rut of laziness and since then have felt very few sparks of creativity.  You would think being in a new world would be a chance of overwhelming inspiration, but you still have to seek it out, which takes energy.
This is where I'm at.  So far, I don't have the answers to fix my problems, but I shall not despair.   There are a few solutions I have thought of recently that I have yet to implement.  They include,
  1. Watch less television - i believe it actually robs us of energy, creativity, and motivation
  2. Exercise more - to increase energy
  3. Write things down - that may spark inspiration
  4. Go outside - to see people, to breath fresh air, and see new things
Although these all sound easy, I know they will not be for me.  Once I get over the major hump of laziness, I believe I will really prosper.  If you would like to read some really helpful articles about these topics, visit one of my favorite blogs, Happenchance.  Here are a couple of my favorites:

I will try to use you all as a tool of accountability.  If you are feeling any amount of this lack of motivation, let me know, and we will work together.

Related Articles
Art in Leuven - Maybe I should use this post to inspire me!
Photos for Inspiration - Or maybe I can complete this challenge
Does Sleep Aid Creativity - I definitely know I am getting enough sleep...maybe too much.  Are you?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

tamarak ridge woodworks

I am super excited to introduce you to a couple of new friends I've met.  Julie and Aaron struck up a conversation with me after I used their product in this post about hanging artwork.  Since then, we have gotten to know each other and I just couldn't keep them to myself.  

Julie and Aaron own the Etsy shop TRwoodworks.  I have always found people that run a shop together very intriguing, so I asked them a few questions about themselves and about their shop.  Enjoy!

1.  How did you meet?

Believe it or not, we are high-school sweethearts! This May will be our 18th anniversary, and we're still best friends (seriously!). 

2.  What part of the world do you hail from?

Aaron is a west-coast kid: Oregon, California, and Alaska. Julie will be the first to tell you she is southern and proud of it! She's from the Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina. But now we call Montana home and we love it. But Julie turns the heater up too high, so we had to start a business to pay our electric bill!

3.  What are Aaron's duties with the business?  What are Julie's?

Aaron's duties with the business are whatever Julie says. Ha ha! Just kidding. We're a good team. Aaron handles all the woodworking (building, finishing, etc) and Julie handles the business side (paperwork, convo's, etc).

4.  I love the colors you use on your shelving units.  How do you choose them?

Actually, we found our colors by what we call a happy accident. We stumbled on these neat little paint pods at the hardware store, and Julie has been addicted ever since. The brighter and funkier, the better!

5.  Aaron, where did you learn your woodworking skills?

I took a woodworking class in high school, and that's where it all started. Over the years I've done many things, served in the US Army and even drove 18-wheelers with Julie, but I kept coming back to woodworking. I love it. I've worked for other people doing cabinets, flooring, furniture building, and now, after three years of working two jobs to pay for my shop and build my business, I finally work for myself! 

6.  Julie, since you do the business side of things, would you consider yourself an organized and detail oriented person?

Hmmm, let's see, NO! Maybe I shouldn't say that; I might scare the customers! But I'm learning to be, and I’m enjoying it. I really love doing the convo's. What can I say? I love to talk! It satisfies that part of me. And I love it when people say we have good customer service. I get all warm and gooey. It’s a big goal of ours.

7.  Have you created any unusual custom pieces?

Oh yeah! Unusual is our middle name! Aaron just finished a bookshelf/cabinet that is 8 feet long by 6 feet tall and almost 2 feet deep. He made it so it could be one solid cabinet, or you can separate it into 3 cabinets. The cool thing is, when you separate them, if you didn't know they were supposed to go together, you'd never know! They just look like 3 separate cabinets that you can put in different rooms in your house. He has skills (as his wife, I get to say that!).

8.  Are there any new products we can expect to see at TRwoodworks?

You know, we don't want to spill the beans, but we have a really exciting new addition to our product line. All we can say is, it's for kids and we hope to have it listed on our Etsy site by the end of January. A shameless teaser trailer; keep an eye on our shop

Tamarak Ridge have also been kind enough to share a fantastic discount for Dirksen Dabbles readers.  If you use the discount code DIRKSENDABBLES at their shop, you get an extra 10% off any purchase!  Check them out today!

Related Articles
p[art]nership - Hanging Artwork in a Group - This is where it all started :)
A New Friend I Want You To Meet - Another great friend, met online!
What I Bought - Women - Showin' some Etsy love...some of my actual purchases from Etsy

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

p[art]nership - vintage fashion portrayed in art

Today I would like to introduce everyone to Ana, who is joining the p[art]nership series. I have been following her fashion blog since my days in Boston.  Ana also makes some amazing knitted fashion accessories, which you can find here.  The p[art]nership series is all about how art relates to interior design and fashion.

Hi everyone, I'm Ana from Toil & Trouble. Thank you Bethany for inviting me to write about art and fashion on your blog! I really enjoyed the challenge of taking a somewhat academic approach to this, and I hope you enjoy it too!

As the great art movements ended and the artistic process became something much more individualized rather than communal, I think it's become a bit harder to see the correlation between trends in fashion and fine arts. We might not have the overarching ethereal vibes of Art Nouveau or the boldness of Avant Garde, but on a much smaller scale, I think art and fashion still intersect.

The beauty of this blog age is that it has given everyone a potential voice. We get to see what "normal" people are doing in terms of fashion and style, and see the work of less famous but equally talented artists. This, to me, is the place where you can see many of the underlying passions of our generation. The one I wanted to talk about today is classic forms and vintage, an undeniable trend that started among the "normal" people and is filtering its way up into high design.


The fascination with vintage silhouettes and classic shapes started showing up on style blogs all over the world over a year ago, and now we can see that the voice of the every day person is affecting "high design" - now, Vogue is sporting longer hemlines and classic silhouettes and discussing the comeback of vintage. The shapes of pants and trousers are changing, and along with skinny jeans, high-waisted trousers are everywhere. Not to mention the breton stripes, which are still incredibly popular.

One place we can see this happening in art is in the work of Michael Kirkham. In the illustration above, the woman is wearing a longer hemmed A-line skirt, standing in her kitchen, with a sewing machine and loaf of bread on the table. To me, this looks back to the old Cult of Domesticity (as a side note - how do you feel about the artist being a man and creating this type of image?).

In this other illustration, we find the classic breton stripes and the high-waisted pants. So in an attempt to connect myself to this artwork, I tried to replicate this look with pieces from my own wardrobe.

Jan 18, 2011 Guest Post

I wonder if the economic conditions are part of the reason for this fascination with the past . Maybe we are yearning for the "good old days" and the "better times." It seems like when the economy is booming, the focus shifts forward. This is just my own theory though - what do you think?

Related Articles
p[art]nership - An overview of what this series has and will include
p[art]nership - Hanging Art in a Group - The very first article of this series
p[art]nership - How to Hang Art - A second lesson and great tips about hanging artwork

Monday, January 17, 2011


I wanted to have something big happening during January to really jump into the new year.  And guess what?!  That big news is here.

I am proud to announce that my Dirksen Dabbles Shop now has a brand new Clearance Section!  This section is home to several paintings of many sizes and styles, but the best part is the discount.  Each painting has a discount of 30, 40 or 50% off!  Those are some serious price reductions!

Below are a few of the paintings that are in this section, but not all of them.  To see the full collection and the discount each painting has received, visit the Clearance Section today.  And don't forget to check back often...I will be changing percentages and adding paintings on a regular basis!


Related Articles
Baby Paintings - A look back at when I introduced small paintings to my shop
My Shop...In A Shop - Another milestone for Dirksen Dabbles, when I had my paintings for sale in beautiful brick and mortar store!
Promote Yourself - Facebook - Tips on how I promote my artwork on Facebook

Saturday, January 15, 2011

written artwork - little women

Photo Courtesy
Lousia May are pretty awesome.  I do not believe I could think of a more perfect book for a mother to read with her young daughters than Little Women.  I actually hope that I have daughters in the future…just so I can read this with them.  

Louisa May Alcott has brought together an ideal balance of feminine grace and strength with the story of a mother and her four daughters.  The characters go through a realistic journey of joys and trials ranging from the minor to the major.  With each circumstance there are small lessons of how to live in a way that can be fulfilling and also proper and respectful to other people.  As boring as this may sound, it was quite entertaining and heartwarming.

I had a chance to re-watch the movie based on this book, starring Susan Sarandon and Winona Ryder, after reading this novel.  I have to say that I was pretty disappointed, especially with the representation of some of the characters.  I know they feel the need, but why, why do they always have to make each character beautiful or handsome.  Sometimes books clearly say that they are not, and movies obviously feel that it is not good enough to include a “normal” looking person.  Oh well, we all know this is true about movies, so I suppose I should just accept it. 

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to women of all ages :) 

A list of what's to come, and what has already been explored.

My Written Artwork Journey Explained here

  1. Animal Farm - George Orwell
  2. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
  3. Emma - Jane Austen
  4. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
  5. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - Tennessee Williams
  6. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
  7. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson
  8. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
  9. The Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer
  10. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
  11. Nineteen Eighty-four - George Orwell
  12. Death of a Salesman - Arthur Miller
  13. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
  14. The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
  15. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
  16. Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
  17. Pickwick Papers - Charles Dickens
  18. Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
  19. The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
  20. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
  21. Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
  22. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
  23. Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
  24. The sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway
  25. Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
  26. Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
  27. Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  28. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
  29. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
  30. Crime and Punishment - Fedor Dostoyevsky
  31. Watership Down - Richard Adams
  32. Doctor Zhivago - Boris Pasternak
  33. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
  34. All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque
  35. Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle
  36. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
  37. The Red Badge of Courage - Stephen Crane
  38. Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe
  39. Tales - Edgar Allan Poe
  40. Diary of a Madman and Other Stories - Nikolai Gogol
  41. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
  42. A Farewell To Arms - Ernest Hemingway
  43. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen