Monday, November 28, 2011

'A' is for Astrid of All Trades

Did I ever mention that in my past life (the week before Christmas in 1993, to be exact) the condo building in which I lived burned to the ground. I lost almost everything, which is probably why it wasn't hard to part with much when I packed up and moved to the Netherlands 2 years ago.

However, it's precisely because of that fire that I have been determined to preserve as much of Astrid's artwork online as possible. It's only taken me two years to do it but here it is...the best representation of what her mind and hands have accomplished in her adult years.

To begin with, the school system in Europe is not like in America. Kids start specializing much earlier and, at age 16, Astrid was ready to start. She had wanted to be a carpenter since age 10, but no school in Holland at that time allowed girls into their program. An employment agency recommended Window Dressing as her next best option because it required carpentry in its coursework.

So at age 16 Astrid started her economic and technical training at NIMETO in nearby Utrecht for the next 4 years of her life. This was where she did most of the following artwork, during 1971-75, preparing to be a window dresser. (She graduated in June, 1975, and then flew to America in August, where she spent the next year of her life, at age 21. But more on that later.)

Remember poster paint? We're talking about the early 70s, before the internet, when Astrid had to mix all her colors by hand and figure out how light interacts with them.

All 4 of these color palettes are made by hand and took hours of mixing paint.
Dry paint looks different than wet paint, she says, and had to be taken into consideration.

Assignment: Use only two colors, purple and white,
and make a drawing with all the color variations in between.

A simple assignment tells you amazing things about color!
Again, only two colors (blue and yellow) but look how together they make the new color green.

What thrills me about this drawing is that Astrid was on the Dutch national youth softball team when she was 16-17 years old. Later,when she was 23 she was the catcher on a ladies softball team that had an exchange program with the Grand Rapids, MI, team. So Astrid actually played softball in my home state (Grand Rapids, Holland, and Petoskey) long before I knew she existed!
(Astrid did this as extra credit, using the colors white and green.)

It's a small world after all!
Assignment: Design a game. Astrid decided to make wood puzzles of national flags.
She was always interested in America and lived there for a year after she finished school.

Assignment: Come up with a theme and make variations of it.
Astrid loved downhill skiing at that time in her life and chose that theme.

This is a line drawing the teacher gave them.
Assignment: Make it into a block/cube and design anything you want.

So Astrid made up her own horoscope signs!
Not all 12 signs are represented; some are variations of the same symbol.
(click to enlarge and see if you can guess the signs)

Assignment: Pick an object and design something from it.

Pen & ink creations were varied.
Assignment: The shoe drawing was an ad for a magazine.
The bottom-left design was all one line, without lifting the pen from the paper.

Architectural perspective is always a part of drawing, of course.

In perspective, the horizon line is always important.
How you see something from above or below is different.

Remember, this is the 70s. No AutoCAD!
Astrid says it was the tools she loved using for this project more than anything else.
(Sorry for the poor quality, all from photos I took.)

Assignment: Add something to your perspective.
How about colored pencils (they never used felt pens)!

Assignment: Take an Old Masters painting and simplify it.
Include the artist's name in your design.

Assignment: Pick a berry and do something with it.
Astrid first did the pen & ink design from which she created a needlepoint pattern.
She says she was just an "average" student and needed extra credit.
So she also stitched the pattern she created.

Assignment: Try watercolor painting for fun.
Astrid said it was very difficult for her, which is why she didn't finish it.
She didn't have the time then to master it. Maybe when she retires, she says!

Assignment: Make a linoleum cut.
Since it was Christmas time, she even used it for her Christmas cards.

Assignment: Design one animal and use the same characteristics on 3 others,
for a child's room. Aren't they cute! :)

Then came the 1975 final exam, in both designing and drawing:

Assignment: Design the logo and everything needed for a new imaginary shop in town,
Uilenborg = Owl Village.
Wrapping paper, logo, truck signs, even shopping bags!

Assignment: Take a picture from a magazine and use 3 techniques for drawing it.
Then incorporate it into your own design (top design against the flag)
Because Astrid was going to the U.S. 2 months later, she chose the Marlboro Man.

How's that for an education! And all of it to prepare her for Window Dressing, which she did for 14 years, from 1977-1991. Nine of those years she had her own business and worked for herself:

She did it. Her schooling paid off!
Notice that her specialty was men's clothing,
in Amsterdam, Hilversum, Den Haag, Rotterdam, Arnhem, Leidschendam, and Nijmegen.

As if all of that was not enough, hold your horses....there's the rest of her life, of course....

In 1971 (before technical school) she took a Van Gogh postcard and did her first (and only) oil painting.
Try anything once! But for her, it took too long to patience for it.

She took a silkscreening course while in America from 1975-76.
She was with the Mennonite Church in their exchange program, working as an au pair,
and wanted to do something creative in the evenings.

The family crest on her mother's side intrigued her at age 12, so she drew it.
(In that regard, this belongs up at the top of the page, doesn't it!)
Do you see the 'hart?' We've been connected since the beginning of time!

In spare time, there was always freelance graphic-design advertising to do.
Again, this was long before internet tools. All by hand.

Sometimes she made the props for freelance window displays.

She made logo designs for friends, cards for wedding and baby announcements,
as well as her own year-end greeting cards.

See the two pen and ink designs on the right (above)?
They are part of this book below, printed by a local book dealer in 1984.

Add book illustrator to her repertoire.
(Her married name was Frieling for 27 years.)

Did I mention calligraphy?

I did calligraphy in my day but nothing ever like this!

Who takes a box-making workshop like this just for fun?! (1988)

And just to say she did it, she first knitted slippers
and then a fisherman sweater (1991-2).

All of that was before I met her!

In the 4+ years since we discovered each other on our Shutterchance blogs (August 31, 2007), I have watched her do other accomplished things.... tennis, with her son Jeroen and best friend Ingeborg.
And oh, she has her own machine to string rackets for friends. Pocket money!

I watched her make this Pirates of the Caribbean float for their city's 1025th anniversary in 2008.
Her ladies soccer team helped her but basically she built it.
Guess who got to be Cap't Jack Sparrow!
And guess which float won First Place among the 30 that entered!

This was the model she built for the women to reference as they started!

Full circle, back to what she always wanted to do, you've already seen her carpentry skills.
Our apartment is full of her craftiness and creativity.
She can even sew curtains and well as grow orchids!

She can also play the clarinet in an orchestra...and sing in a choir!

But what binds us more than anything is her photography, which was our first bridge at Hart & Soul (mine) and Picturit (hers). After Astrid found me in 2007, she then read every post I wrote from here at In Soul since 2005...just to get to know me. And that was with English as her second language!

They say you should continue doing in your marriage what first attracted you to each other.
As long as we can, we will, loving our photo hunts wherever we go, near or far.

Did you ever wonder why I married her? Well...she's just so darn cute! :)

Coincidentally, Astrid is our guest blogger at Vision & Verb today, bragging on her son Jeroen! (Add teacher to the list.) Remember when I wrote about her mom's talents? There's a real apple orchard here!


  1. Yippee!

    You weren't lying when you said I would be blown away by Astrid's talent! Really remarkable and gorgeous work. I so love the unfinished watercolor, even as it is. All of this, such a wide spectrum, even calligraphy, which is just fantastic. And even knitting!

    She reminds me of another woman who went to art school! I am reminded of Lesley's long, sleepless nights with projects. And she, too, knits now.

    It is sad that Astrid could not go into carpentry then, but now she is fulfilling that too. Truly she is incredibly talented. And the ways you support each other's expressions is inspiring!

    Congratulations to you both.

  2. What a beautiful retrospective. So much creativity, so much beauty -- the mind boggles! You two are so lucky to be together. You seem a great complement to each other.

  3. WOW! I'm absolutely speechless!! So much talent here. I just love how she interpreted her school 'assignments'. And - yes - all drawn by hand!! I can so relate to all of this. WOW! I'm so glad you've taken on this project to preserve her 'art' forever. WOW!

    Thanks for's reminding me of all we can (and I once did) do by hand.

  4. Ruth: Believe it or not, the watercolor medium is my favorite, so if she decides to tackle it again once she retires, I'll be thrilled.

    And yes, you understand all of this, not only because of Lesley but because of Mom and G'ma Olive...and Dad, too. I feel like 2 family trees have been connected in our marriage in deeper ways than first meets the eye. We truly understand each other and what "this " is all about.

    Thanks for noticing. :)

    Karen: It really does boggle the mind, and I keep saying that since day one. We do seem to complement each other, feeling very lucky. In that regard, it's fun when others notice. Thank you!

    Marcie: Speechless is a good word and is one that describes how I feel about all of this. Seriously. I know you can relate to the "by hand" part, as well as the architectural stuff.

    And that reminds me, maybe you TOO might consider preserving your repertoire like this?!

  5. Thank you for showing all this Ginnie!
    Astrid really accomplished something and it is nice you took the time to show us all this.

  6. Wow! Astrid is so talented, she really does have an artistic streak in her.I can now see where her son gets it from for sure. I can also see why you want to preserve it all, not only because of the awful fire you had, which will have lost you many treasures, I am sure. It is also worth showing, her talents are excellent! :-)

  7. I always knew Lady P was talented but this is just amazing!! I am now in total awe :)

  8. A creative person is creative and they don't stop creating. You just can't cover it all, but it was nice (for Astrid as well) to dig and unearth the old stuff. The course that she did then reminds a lot of the modern Graphic Art courses - content wise. Somewhere in July, Janco Haymans taught me 'painting with light' photography. He is a final year student in a course combining Graphical Art and Photography. Extremely interesting.

    Hah, we even get Menonites once a year. They come and study stuff in Africa and we provide boarding for a couple of weeks.

    I enjoyed the revealing of Astrid :-)

  9. Wim: Thank you for stopping by to support Astrid. It will mean the world to her!

    Linda: Thank you so much for stopping by to support Astrid. It will mean the world to her!

    Bill: Now you know what I feel almost every day of my life! Thanks for commenting here, which will mean the world to Astrid!

  10. Louis: I knew you would love seeing this part of Astrid. And you are so right about this creative process never stopping! Now you know why she's always blowing me away.

    Those Mennonites sure do get around, don't they? :) If they would have sponsored her for longer than a year, she would have stayed in America.

  11. Astrid's work is amazing Ginnie, all of it unknown to me and I am left feeling full of admiration for her.

  12. Chris: I knew you would love seeing this, since she's your "little sister." :) Admiration is a good word. I get to admire her every day of my life, and I do.

  13. Thank you so much for taking time and create this wonderful archive of part of my life.
    Sometimes I look at things I made and then I wonder how I did it.
    It took me hours and hours of mixing paint, checking the right colours etc. etc.
    Creativity is within me.
    It humbles me to read all the comments so far.
    I put in a lot of love in my work ......and paint and ink......
    Once I am retired I will pick up aquarel painting again and I might finish what I started, I still have the brushes and the paint.
    Thank you MLS for this wonderful post.
    (and you are right, if I could have found a sponsor for longer than a year in the USA... I would have stayed)

  14. This work is absolutely amazing, I know Astrid is a great photographer but to now learn she has this wonderful talent is something else, and of course, for me, the icing on the cake is finding out she is a chorister, just like you have been. Perhaps we should make up a trio when you next come to England:)

  15. Astrid: You know how long I have talked about doing this! I'm just glad I finally did it. I'm so proud of you. And because watercolor is my favorite of all mediums, I may just hold you to picking it up again once you are retired. Wouldn't that be something!

    Brian: Don't you love finding out new things about the people you know! Believe it or not, I found out most of this after I had already fallen in love with her. :)

    And who knows...maybe we could be a trio one day. :)

  16. I can't tell you how impressed I am with your ode to Astrid's artistic talent, Ginnie. To see the work she has done throughout the years presented in such a loving and appreciative manner is wonderful. It is indeed a marvelous thing when a person can find such joy in another's passion and share that with the world.

    I think you both hit the mother lode when you found each other.

  17. Beverly: Your words touch me deeply and I thank you. It did take a lot or work and time to put this together in a way that made sense to me, but it was one of the most enjoyable "projects" I've ever done. I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of her accomplishments. The British "gobsmacked" is one of the best words to describe how I feel.

    I love your last line. It brings tears of joy to my hart & soul!

  18. Beautiful, creative, and talented art work in many forms and you presented very artistically yourself.

  19. Tim: Thank you. It was such a joy to compose this piece in honor of her good work!

  20. What amazing and wonderful talents, and what a touching way of showing your love for your soulmate.

  21. Anne: Thank you. Thank you. Astrid will appreciate this from you, as do I!

  22. WOW WOW WOW!!!!! Ginnie I had to come here first once I got a split second. AMAZING!!! This makes me want to see her work in person like NOW!

    OK - I've accepted I won't be traveling but wow Astrid is amazing and I know one day we will meet eventually..

    I just love her oldest work plus the photography the most, oh and the wood work! If she lived here, I'd have to put her to work (paid of course)..

    It brought back some memories of my art class from K to 6th grade. I did some of this stuff too, but just not as well.

    Astrid, your work is amazing. You have so much talent.. I love it!

    I'm happy more people get to appreciate online too!

  23. ET: I know, Jen. I know. I feel this all the time, whenever I happen to see something of hers. I grew up with a mom and dad who were very talented in similar ways, so I see her as being a part of my family long before I ever knew her! Thank you.

  24. What a wonderful tribute you've given Astrid. She has certainly worked hard to create this body of work. You've shown us that her talent shines as brightly as her smile. She must be as proud of her work as you are of her. Really terrific tribute, Ginnie.

  25. Cuidado: Thank you, dear Mary, for leaving this comment, which means the world to both of us. I think my pride in her helps her believe how good her work really is! My doing this brought tears to her eyes...and that tells you what kind of person she is!

  26. wow, i'm totally in awe with what astrid can do. what an amazing talented person. wish i could meet both of you someday.

    what a delightful post ginnie. i love all of astrid's works.

  27. PC: I know, Maria. I know. She really is amazing! Don't be surprised if one day we do meet each other, based on how much we all love to travel. Wouldn't that be fun! :)

  28. I would so much like to meet Astrid. (and you, of course!) What a talented lady! I've tried lots of those projects too, but on a much much smaller scale than your dear Astrid. I hope you haven't embarrassed her by your enthusiasm!

  29. Sham: I would very much like to believe that one day you'll meet both of us and, of course, we you. I'm holding out for such a day. :)

    No, I didn't embarrass Astrid. But I did bring many tears to her eyes. Mine, too.

  30. What a multitalented lady is our Astrid! It is amazing how many genres of design and artwork she has created and produced, I in particular like her calligraphy studies and her photography we are witnesses of! This collection is a love-ly homage to her - a very fine composition! I wished Astrid could have worked in this her artistic area for a longer time, but sometimes it is also good to have a hobby apart from the working tasks. I am sure there are quite more talents Astrid has been gifted with -but we don't know yet...

  31. Philine: You are so right on every count! I was around artistic people all my life at home, but this takes the cake! Thank you for stopping by here to comment, dear friend. It means the world to us both.

  32. My goodness! Ginnie, this is an amazing thing that you've done for Astrid but how could you not? We are all so lucky to know of her many, many astounding talents ~ this lets us know more about you both and I thank you for sharing. Brava!

  33. WS: Thank you for your kind and generous words, Susan. Let's just say it was a labor of love for me! I can picture you doing the same for/about Larry...and he for you!

  34. Oh my... I am absolutely gobsmacked to borrow one of your expressions! What an amazingly talented woman Astrid is... I sat here in open-mouthed awe over the color palettes and then continued on down the page to find myself continually delighted at the varied expressions of her talent. (I too did calligraphy for awhile but nothing close to as perfect as the examples you've shown of Astrid's calligraphy. And now I think it is time for me to donate my calligraphy supplies and realize that I will never get back to it because I simply don't have the patience to do the work required to develop the skill approaching hers.)

    The Pirates of the Caribbean float is amazing... that must have been such fun. I hope Astrid got to be Cap't Jack but it is hard (even large size) to know for sure from the photo.

    It is clear to me that you and Astrid have a lot going for you as a couple... both incredibly talented and both are so appreciative of each other in every way. No wonder you have so much fun together! (I left her a note on her V&V post.)

    If you send me your snail mail address, I will send you and Astrid a Christmas card this year. Of course, considering how far behind I am with everything, it may not arrive until 2012. :-)

  35. Victoria: I knew you'd be gobsmacked! And yes, Astrid was Cap't Jack Sparrow. All the women agreed she deserved that honor since she did most of the work. She loved it, of course.

    Thank you for all your encouragement of us. We really feel we were made for each other...and keep pinching ourselves. We're so lucky.

  36. She really has tons of talent - I am so impressed. I am in awe of her carpentry talent, and her photography is so beautiful. What a lovely idea of you to preserve it all (those animal drawings are super cute!!). When I saw her box it reminded me that I did a bookbinding class in school when I was 13 or 14 where we also did boxes - I so loved this class, but never thought that I could actually be talented in that way and all of it went dormant for almost 40 years... And you know what? She IS cute!

  37. Carola: What a nice surprise to see you here, lauding this incredible lady. Thank you. I had so much fun putting this all together. I can just imagine all the things you, too, did from youth on. You haven't lost your touch!

  38. Ginnie, I'm utterly astounded by the beauty of Astrid's work, and intrigued by the connections among her various media. Carpentry, graphic design, calligraphy - there is a certain talent that links them all. I suppose it has to do with visualization, the ability to "see" and manipulate space.

    That's what makes window dressing such an art. Form, color and design are gathered together and brought to life by crafts such as carpentry, all to tell a story. I always wished I could be one of the people who created the marvelous window displays during the Christmas season - now I know someone who did!

    How wonderful that you two found each other, and can appreciate each other's talents without being threatened by them. And, even more wonderful that you shared such an inspiring story with us!

  39. Wow, wow, wow! You are one gifted person Astrid. I'm speachless. What talent, they are all beautiful!!!
    And Ginnie, you are so giving in many ways, and just this one task you did exemplifies it profoundly.
    I love you both, Bob in Atlanta

  40. SA: I love the connections you've made among Astrid's various media, Linda. Visualization is clearly at the crux of it all. If you can visualize something, you can almost always make it happen. That was true for me when I made sports jackets for my ex-husband years ago.

    I'm so glad we can rejoice in the talents of others. I'm so inspired by Astrid and feel very honored to have her in my life. Thank you for seeing it!

    Anon: I'm so glad you finally saw this, Bob, because I knew you'd be blown away. It was my joy and honor to present her to you like this. :)

  41. Pen and Ink is my first love when thinking about visual arts. There is something so personal about it. And her watercolor... Um... why are we our own worst critic? It is wonderful and I would love to see more of this from her! The bottom photography is .... just ... Wow.

    And was that you as Captain Jack? And what did they do with that magnificent float when the parade was over... I hate to think it was torn apart!

    Such an amazing talented lady!

  42. I know I left a comment here weeks ago, but it must have vanished in the ether. Anyhoo, Astrid is an artist to the core and she was wise to seek rigorous training to give her a strong foundation. My favs: Uilenberg, the giant pencil props, and I'm green with envy when I see her calligraphy.

  43. DB: Thanks for coming back again to leave a comment, Diana. That means the world to both of us. That Astrid is something else, isn't she!!! :)

  44. This is such a loving post, showcasing Astrid's amazing talent! A true artist! BTW, the nearest art supply store to me here in San Francisco is called "Utrecht Art". Your reference to it was only the 2nd time I've heard the name, I didn't know it was a city in Netherlands. I thought it was a SF based store so I had to look it up, turns out it started in NYC in 1949 by 2 brothers, one in NYC and the other in Europe...I'm guessing Utrecht!

  45. Mad: Thank you! How fun about that Utrecht store. Who would have known! It's a small world after all. :)

  46. I'm surprised that I had not commented on this post already since I've seen it earlier, but better late than never, right?

    Astrid's work is superb. And what a variety! Fantastic. She really can be proud over her projects! Stunning!

  47. LCT: It means a lot to Astrid that you have commented here. Thank you from us both. You can bet that I am very proud of her!

  48. I am way behind again because of my trip but also because I have been and still am sick. Astrid is an artist through and through – she is very creative and so very talented – the lady can do anything! I could not believe the colors – the lines - the depth – the perception – wow! How about the calligraphy… she could sell her work for sure. On top of that she can make things like furniture… and floats… and sings… it’s hard to believe that such talented a woman exists. She is such a sweet person too – both of you are, really – you are so well matched. I loved this post.

  49. Vagabonde: Again, I'm so sorry you are sick! But thank you again for catching up here at my blog. That means the world to me.

    In the meantime, Astrid really is something else. One day you will meet her! She's even better in person. :)

  50. Oh my! I'm speechless! :) Such an amazing creativity! Wonderful talent, Astrid! Again: Wow!

  51. Sil: It'll mean a lot to Astrid that you commented here. Me, too! :) Grazie.