At the beginning of 2020 I took some moments to look back at last year and realised what a year it has been in terms of learning. Besides my usual hustle-and-bustle of designing prints and patterns, I made sure to try new things. And it wasn’t really that I had to make sure – the things came my way and wanted to be learned.
At the turn of the year I was really intrigued with Chinese brush painting. The brushes, the way of making strokes, the motifs, lots of flowers. I even made it my 100 day project, until well into September.
I painted flowers, fruit, landscapes, animals.
As I love travelling, I started painting more in my travel sketchbook. I also tried two new mediums – acrylic ink and and gouache. Our travels took us to Marrakesh, Albania, Ibiza, Fuerteventura and everywhere I painted.
With all that traditional painting, I also wanted to improve my digital illustration skills in Procreate on the iPad. I made it my Inktober challenge, everything was done digitally with ink brushes:
At the turn of this year I started painting really loose watercolour florals, let’s see where it leads!
I always trust my creative whispers and where they might lead me. This is just a little glimpse of last year, as I am more active over on Instagram.
Hello from Tirana, the capital of the country the Albanians themselves call Shqipëria! We are starting our summer trip around the country in this laid-back and more-modern-than-one-would-think city and get a first taste of the feel, food, people – and scenery. This quick sketch is from our funicular ride up the Dajti Mountain with spectacular views of Tirana and right behind the mountains, before the sky starts – the Mediterranean Sea.
A pile of Kilim rugs seen in the Old Bazaar street in Krujë. If you would like to stock up on these traditional handwoven wool rugs, this town is the place to do it in Albania. They are brightly and beautifully displayed hanging outside the shops, and if you go inside you can see the looms where they are still made in the authentic Ottoman technique.
How to paint a sunset without making it look kitschy is one of the mysteries of painting. A sunset can be so beautiful and breathtaking in real life and then in an attempt to paint it – pure cheese. But still, on our last night in the mountains of Krujë, while packing for travelling to the coast the next day, I was stopped in my tracks for the view from the balcony of our hotel room, the spectacle of colours above the settling darkness, the sun dipping into the Adria some 20 kilometers away, and I had to paint it – cheese or not.
From a sunset in the mountains of Krujë overlooking the Mediterranean, to a moonrise at the sea with the view of the mountains in Vlorë the next evening. Vlorë is Albania’s second largest city at the coast and its bay seems like the Albanian version of the Copacabana. We mingled with the sun- and sea bathers during the day and then at the blue hour the promenade came alive and buzzing with everybody strolling around, from babies to old ladies dressed in black. And when we had just sat down for an after-dinner-ice cream at a café, a perfectly round and glowing moon emerged from behind the mountain like a big surprise. What I can say after a week here, Albania is full of surprises and totally different from all my meager expectations.
Travelling in a new-to-me country like Albania means seeing, trying and learning new things, some of them out of my comfort zone. All the places we visit, the way of transportation, the food we eat, the people we meet, the language (did you know that Albanian is not related to any other language?), and all the little things. Also in my travel sketchbook I am stepping out of my comfort zone. I have not warmed to gouache before, I always preferred the flow and unpredictability of watercolours that seemed to come naturally to me. Gouache left me not happy with the results and I didn’t enjoy the painting process. BUT, painting in my travel sketchbook I started to appreciate the advantages of gouache, the possibility of layering and mixing different consistencies of paint, its flatness and kind of vintage-y look. Without further ado, here is my first gouache floral. Flowers I saw in Krujë, painted in Vlora (of all names). And speaking of names, I have just learned that they are Petunias.
Another Vlora floral, in the same Mediterranean colour palette as before.
The road to Himarë. After two hours of the bus (German 1970s based on the interior design, and a very careful driver) slowly winding its way through the Ceraunian Mountains, we reached the highest point of the Llogara Pass (1027m) and were then rewarded with spectacular views of the Albanian Riviera. Leaving the Adria behind it now becomes the Ionian coast. If Ionian Sea sounds Greek to you, you’re right, you can the see the island of Korfu at the horizon.
A cobbled alley up the hills of Himarë, on the way from our apartment down to the beach. You can’t deny the Greek influence, as the Greek minority of Albania lives in this area of the Riviera. We are spending a couple of super relaxed days here, without a worry in the world, just sun, sea, food, sleep, repeat.
The beach at Himarë. At this beach nearly everybody brought their own parasols, put them in the sand and enjoyed a couple of nice hours in the shade, interrupted with the occasional dip in the Mediterranean. At siesta time, and even later overnight, they were just closed and left there, waiting for the next day. I loved the random geometric patterns they formed.
Going down the Albanian Riviera deep south, the vegetation almost becomes tropical. In Sarandë there are palm trees, banana plants, cacti and the occasional Monstera, probably most of them man-planted, thriving in the mild Mediterranean climate.
Paradise Beach in Ksamil, at the deepest southern end of Albania.
The village of Ksamil was built in the 1960s, as a temporary place to live for the workers of the surrounding state farms for citrus and olives. Local people still remember the clouds of lemon and orange fragrance that would fill the village in spring. Within the last couple of years, the beautiful beach with its tropical feel has changed from an insider tip to the most crowded place at the Albanian Riviera in summer. But you can still see a lot of lemon and olive trees around, like these in the garden of our guesthouse.
We have left the Albanian Riviera and are heading back to Tirana, with stops in Gjirokastër and Berat. This page says goodbye to the beautiful coast and is inspired by our evening walk – called xhiro here (pronounced like the Italian giro) in Sarandë. Not in the painting – the hundreds of well-dressed people that are taking part in this Albanian tradition.
Berat is called the ‘town of a thousands windows’ and it is easy to see why. Due to its historical Ottoman houses climbing up the hill to the castle, Berat is an UNESCO world heritage site. Its fairy tale atmosphere really charmed me and yes, we climbed all the way up to the castle fortress, in midday heat.
In April our family went to Marrakech for a week and the city of colours, noise and smells that has inspired so many didn’t fail to disappoint, from an artist’s and textile designer’s view.
On our first day here we got lost in the colourful souks of the old Medina, had the first taste of tajine, couscous and whisky marocaine (green tea with mint), marveled at the evening extravaganza on the main square Jemaa el Fna – and I got a henna tattoo I was not planning to have.
It was only my second day in Marrakech and I started drinking whisky in the morning, at lunch and in the evening. It’s not alcohol though in this Muslim country, but the national beverage – green tea with fresh mint.
Part of the Art Deco villa in the most stunning-stopping-you-in-the-tracks blue in the Jardin Majorelle 💙🌴It used to be the painting studio of Jacques Majorelle amidst the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen. Later Yves Saint Laurent became the owner of the gardens, with plants from all parts of the world in perfect harmony.
The city at the blue hour before sunset. It was quite a magic view from our rooftop restaurant, with the snow-covered Atlas Mountains clearly in sight, a golden light, the muezzin’s evening call and lots of birds suddenly flying over the city.
There is a saying in Marocco: If you only have one day left to live, spend it in Marrakech. If you only have one hour left, spend it on the Jemaa el-Fna. It is the main square in the middle of the old Medina and it really comes to life around sunset. A hundred food stalls make it a buzzing open air restaurant with smoke rising from the barbecue and hundreds of lights as decoration. There are live musicians on the square, dancers, gamblers, snake charmers, henna tattoo artists and … thousands of people flocking to this place, locals and tourists alike. It is a sight to behold! The UNESCO made the Jemaa el-Fna part of the world’s intangible cultural heritage.
This is another sunset view of the main square Jemaa el-Fna with the Koutoubia Mosque in the back. Its high minaret tower is a good point of orientation when you get lost in the souks and alleys of the Medina as it will always bring you back to the Jemaa el-Fna. We were standing on the rooftop terrace (together with dozens of other people) of one of the surrounding restaurants to have the best view of the evening extravaganza.
When you travel with children and especially when you walk around sunny cities for hours you often need an incentive to keep them going. And what could be the most popular of them all – ice cream, of course! In Marrakech we found a great cafe with Italian style ice cream, and they also had locally flavoured ones like date and fig. We went for mango, mint and chocolate.
Marrakech is called the ‘Red City’ for a reason, all the buildings range from a light ochre to pink and crimson. During our time there we only saw blue skies, and the bright North African sun gave it an extra shine.
Around the blue hour in our favourite rooftop restaurant that we found on our trip to Marrakech. My original intention was to keep it mostly in a blue-yellow-contrast as that was so stunning, the yellow lamps and the evening blue sky, but then the painting started a life of its own and became quite colourful.
As a pattern designer there was no way of not seeing all the tiles and mosaics in the city. This particular patterned staircase I saw coming downstairs from a rooftop restaurant in the old medina.
The Jardin Majorelle is famous for its electric blue Art Deco house, but not so many people know about Villa Oasis, located deeper into the gardens, where Yves Saint Laurent and his partner actually lived. The villa is not open to the public but from what you can see of photos online, the interiors are beyond amazing. Its outside look is pretty amazing too, but it was a beast to paint, all that greenery and details! I took it step by step, painting it for 30 minutes a day and decided to stop at this point. #dreamhousegoals
I am very happy to show you three designs of mine that became products by American gymnastics activewear brand Plum Practicewear in 2018. ‘Icebreaker’ became part of their winter collection, ‘Waikiki’ was in their summer Coastal Craze collection and ‘Jubilee’ turned out to be a tropical bestseller from their Back to School collection.
I really had fun with this year’s project! And I really made a page every day.
I loved seeing nature further unfold in May and June for the second part of the project and tried a couple of new techniques. Hand painted watercolour was my go-to-technique, but I also tried tighter illustration styles and some designing on the iPad. One of the best new tools was getting Chinese calligraphy brushes for painting with watercolour.
The last 11 days were painted while travelling in Georgia (the country, not the state ;-). My travel sketchbook was not as able in absorbing watercolour and making it flow like my regular sketchbook and this challenged me to try different styles of painting – inspired by the Botanical Gardens of Tbilisi, breathtaking hiking in the Caucasus, rainy days at the Black Sea and the hospitality and beauty of the country and its people.
Here are all 100 days put together in a video. Can you guess what my most depicted flower was?
Peonies, closely followed by poppies. I thank everybody who followed along and encouraged and inspired me on the way. I can only repeat how much fun I had and that creating something new every day, whatever my circumstances and mood was like, become so much of a new habit, that I decided to continue. I used to think that I can only draw every day on vacation, with new inspiration and more time at hand. But I can fit in 30 minutes a day at home and it makes a difference in my creative flow. The more you create, the more you create, creativity can’t be used up. But as I also have the attention span and commitment capacity of a fickle teenager, I decided to do weeks of … I have already done a Week of Leaves, a Week of Sea & Sand and a Week of Procreate. All my explorations can be seen over on my Instagram. To more daily creating!
I have the privilege of being used to seeing my designs on apparel and activewear (even though that great feeling never gets old), but seeing a design on stationary was a first-timer for me. The Planner Society licensed my banana leaves print for their ‘Palm Springs Kit’. I love this whole tropical-plants-on-green-vibe!
And isn’t cute seeing your own design on wash tape?
And then there is a little pouch, page flags, stickers and more. Just scroll through:
Real eye candy, the whole kit is stunningly put together. I hope scapbookers are having a whole lot of fun with it.
It’s the third year in a row I am taking part in the worldwide #100dayproject. After last year’s digital explorations on the iPad I went back to paper and handmade. I chose a topic I wanted to further practice and that are an eternal classic – flowers. And I even though I love them and thought I was a flower-kind-designer, my portfolio really lacked in that category. It was also the perfect topic for spring as I could watch nature unfold and blossom during this time (April 3 – July 11).
I wanted to give myself full creative freedom – drawing, painting, photography, printing, loose, detailed, sketchy, abstracted, minimal, stylised, digital, exuberant, exotic … whatever!
I have a strong tendency towards watercolour, bur also worked with markers and pen/ink. There is some tropical days, but mostly you can see the progression of nature in spring: from magnolia to lilac to poppies and roses.
What I learned last year and learning again – one idea a day is enough and then just to sit down and work on it. I give myself half an hour – most days are faster, some are more elaborate. It is always to surprise how my daily moods affect my pages, some days are harder, but is always worth it. And another surprise – seeing them all together, it is not possible to say which were the hard days. You can follow my daily flowers over on my Instagram account @cathringressieker.