A city’s historical center

As casas do colonial

I sure hope you like the colonial Portuguese style of colorful, baroque houses as much as I do…because here are some more, and I suspect there will be months and months more of these confections.

As casas do colonial

We took the train into João Pessoa the other day, and walked around the city’s Centro Historico. This is where the city was founded in 1585…not at all near the beaches on the coast, overlooking the Atlantic ocean, but a good way inland, along the sleepy banks of the Rio Paraiba, where ships could dock and load up on sugar and extremely valuable brasil wood coming from the interior (hence the proximity of the railway to the Historical Center).

As casas do colonial

Unlike Olinda, with its very narrow streets and its air of a museum and residential area, the “wedding cake” buildings of João Pessoa are actively used as business premises.

As casas do colonial

At seeming variance with the vivid colour combinations, the frilly plaster mouldings, and the wrought iron balconies, the businesses housed in this area are mostly hardware and construction supplies, industrial spare parts, automobile parts and garages.

As casas do colonial

And while there are pockets in the area where the houses have been restored and done up to please the tourists and to live up to the bright images in the brochures, most of the buildings are succumbing to a slow decay. On some streets, entire house blocks have not been touched since the houses were built, 500 years ago. These houses are stripped to bare brickwork. The roofs are gone. The doors have been boarded up (sometimes the entire house has been filled in, with rubble and concrete, to discourage squatters). Trees grow inside the houses, vines creep up the once-ornate baroque facades.

DSC_0051

And much as I love the candy-coloured houses restored by money from benevolent societies in Switzerland and the UNESCO, I am more affected by the untouched buildings that stand as they have since they were built.

As casas do colonial

As casas do colonial

I think of what glorious, grand homes for the wealthy Portuguese traders they must have once been, and what an amazing little city João Pessoa must have been at the height of its commercial and political eminence, when it was the “CBD” of the state, and not just a patchily preserved wreck, propped up by historical societies.

As casas do colonial

About schizzograffia

The ABOUT page on schizzograffia is finally up…click on the image to view larger

An acquired hand

copperplate envelope
I know a lot of you won’t believe me, and will think I’m being humble, but I have the worst natural handwriting in the world. In primary school, I and a mischievous boy called Francisco (incidentally, my childhood nemesis…when I was 7, I chased him with a knife and got into a lot of trouble) were held up to the class as examples of incorrigible, unreadable scribes. Never stated, but plenty implied, was that our penmanship indicated psychotic tendencies.

I could not have cared less about penmanship when I was 7, but as I reached the end of high school my terrible handwriting distressed me. I had fallen in love with literature, and was nursing small dreams of becoming a writer, but the cheap notebooks filled with my first essays, poems, and stories—written in my demented, unlovely hand—fell woefully short of my belletrist ambitions to pen flourishing and graceful pages, worthy of the British Museum’s archives…

I taught myself how to write. I bought a dip pen and a set of roundhand nibs, and used them every day…even at university. I probably presented a ridiculous image, sitting in the library, writing notes in italic with a dip pen and a bottle of burgundy ink…there must have been sniggers, and lots of eye-rolling. *sigh* Whatever. We are so affected when we’re young. But my college notes are fabulous; I have them still.
mail art MK

Using a dip pen has become second nature to me, so it’s not such an affectation, anymore. This doesn’t mean that my real handwriting has changed, though. Give me a ballpoint or a felt tip pen, and my handwriting is as illegible, psychotic, demonic as ever. It hasn’t been transformed, only concealed.

It was always the kind of pen that made the difference. Fussy pens, like dip pens with calligraphic nibs, or those very fine, delicate points on expensive technical drawing pens, have to be held a certain way, manipulated slowly to avoid damaging them, have to be used correctly or they won’t work at all. Their finicky temperaments impose order upon my handwriting.

A copperplate doodle sheet posted by salman on The Fountain Pen NetworkNow I am teaching myself Copperplate script. I bought the strange-looking Mitchell’s Copperplate Elbow oblique nib at work, and have been using it at every opportunity…copperplate To Do lists, copperplate journal entries, copperplate appointments in my datebook, copperplate letters to friends (and their addresses on envelopes)…

I have barely started, and already I can see that I will need an oblique nib holder, because the Mitchell’s Copperplate Elbow, while set at the right angle for Copperplate, is not as flexible as I’d like it to be. I have a Gillott’s 303 and 404 nib, they’re so springy-sproingy that it’s like writing with cat’s whiskers (and it’s the difference between the superfine point of the nib, and how far apart the tines will spread when you apply pressure, that make for some of my favorite Copperplate examples on the internet) but the nib has to held at an oblique angle to the lines on the page to get the thick-and-thin areas in the right places.

I probably wouldn’t pick Copperplate to begin using dip pens and nibs…go for Roundhand, or Italic, first, and when you’re comfortable with using a nib, you can venture into the fancier scripts. It will be many years of writing in ‘plain vanilla Copperplate’ before I will feel game enough to tackle the sort of scrolling and ornamental work you see in this video:

Zero the One: Muse and Tools for Wildish Creatives

So proud of my friend Kat’s evolving blog, Zero the One…it’s got a new look, stunning photographs combined with fun fonts and design, light-flooded videos featuring creatives and thinkers that she has met on her travels (and at home, which happens to be Rome…a historically rich seam for creative mining), and a brave, beautiful, distilled raison d’être:

We are shameless artists, seekers and movers who care about epic shit.
And a good story (that we live out).

Muse and Tools for Wildish Creatives

The blog’s official re-launch is this October. Get inspired!

Jennifer Orkin Lewis, via Lisa Congdon

7.1 & 2 by Jennifer Orkin Lewis

Jennifer Orkin Lewis’s Daily Sketchbook Paintings…oh, to do something like this on my travels! Or even just to do something like this, at home, every single day, without losing the plot or getting distracted, or letting laziness take over!

What a fabulous journal she’s got! I drool over every page. In an interview with Lisa Congdon of Today is Going to be Awesome,  Jennifer says that she spends just thirty minutes on each page. Thirty minutes! I look at any one of her journal pages, and I know I would struggle to do it within two hours. But maybe that’s because I don’t paint a journal page every single day. Duh.

These 365-day projects, though I admire them like crazy in others, have just never worked out for me…my good intentions and initial enthusiasm about a project are built on such weak foundations. Oh, well, that’s not quite accurate, I have managed to make a pot of coffee every morning for the past 16 years of my life, or something like that. (Now that’s something to think about…perspective shift! Convince self that art is coffee, and that I will kill someone if I don’t do it! LOL)

*sigh* You know I only posted this to satisfy a preposterous inner need, right now, to be Jennifer Orkin Lewis…as though sharing someone’s amazing work will allow a little bit of the achievement to rub off on me…vicarious blogging. It’s lame. :)

Daily Sketchbook Paintings 7.1-20 | August Wren.

Art Crush : : Sveta Dorosheva


Ukraine-born and Israel-based artist Sveta Dorosheva is one of just two or three artists I follow on Béhance. Over the years her work has been consistently rich, ornate, delightful, meticulously drawn, and tells such wonderful stories! She’s like Ivan Bilibin, Harry Clarke, Katsushika Hokusai and Hieronymus Bosch rolled into one.

In her latest post she shares 6 or 7 huge collages of her sketchbook and diary pages. It is such a treat to see so much creativity in one place, it’s kinda overwhelming! But don’t stop there…please look at all her projects—she draws some of the most beautiful women, and the costumes are to die for. There is so much to look at and love…medieval ladies, Persian miniatures, the Tarot, steampunk, calligraphy, flapper girls and the Art Deco, lovers through the ages, fairytales…her creativity and her imagination are top-notch. Most of her illustrations are drawn by hand

Clicking on either image will also take you to her Béhance projects…

And I just discovered, tonight, that she has a Society6 shop! The chance to own something with her work on it makes me feel a little giddy! I just don’t know which one to choose!

Painter, Painter

I love abstract painting…probably because it is so much harder to do well, because there is nothing familiar, recognisable to comfort the viewer or fool her into thinking that she understands anything about the work or the artist behind the work.

It is paint dancing on its own, when paint is not being coerced into parading as something else…like a tree, or Magritte’s treacherous image of a pipe that is not a pipe (because, hello, it is paint). I’m still amazed when I meet people who will discuss a painting of something as though it is that thing, and not a skin of paint dried on canvas. Reminds me of the simple folks in the Philippines who would throw drink cans and rubbish at a movie screen when the bad guy appeared…

“I’m very interested in when something coalesces, so when something that could feel random and chaotic stops feeling like that and feels balanced, and at ease with itself, when it stops being cacophony and starts being rhythm and music…”

I’m very interested in that, too. Counting the days till the Mermaid I work for comes back…

Some mid-week inspiration

I’m working five days a week for the next month and a half, while my manager takes her much-deserved annual leave. That means precious little time to do anything like play or dream…especially as I’ve also had a stall at a craft market every single weekend in a row this May. That means the most I can do to satisfy my creative hunger is to read a few blogs, gaze longingly at the beautiful things others are doing, and pine for the days when I can stay home half the week, again, and explore my own ideas, turn things nimbly over as I work them with my hands, or stroke paints onto a surface and build a world where there never was one.

Dinara Mirtalipova’s website is such a beautiful place to wander…she’s an illustrator,

a pattern designer,

and all-around maker of beautiful things…

whose style carries some of the folk art qualities of her native Uzbekistan, and yet definitely feature both a quirky and sophisticated take on those traditional patterns.

Just the kind of wonderful inspiration I needed this evening, as I enter the long dark tunnel of full-time work…and yet also triggering a deep yearning in me to be free of these everyday responsibilities and back in my own dreaming and playing space.

I discovered Mirdinara via the uppercase magazine blog…always a good place to go for excellent design, beautiful photos, fabulous artists and tons of inspiration.