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!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanks Giving

To be honest, this is the hardest week for me to be away from family in America.

I miss the Thanksgiving holiday. There's nothing like it here...the smells, tastes, sights, and sounds of what the family camaraderie, football, and big meal are all about. No gifts showered on any one person. Just being together and eating the good food that's become our traditon. And being thankful, of course.

So, while I picture you there around your tables of plenty, surrounded by family, I will concentrate on something else. One thing for which I'm thankful, over and above which is everything else I cherish here and count dear. One thing I'm picking this holiday to draw attention to and simply say "Thank You:"

Last week I read this from Jimmy Wales, Wiki founder:

Google might have close to a million servers. Yahoo has something like 13,000 staff. We have 400 servers and 95 staff.

Wikipedia is the #5 site on the web and serves 454 million different people every month – with billions of page views.

Commerce is fine. Advertising is not evil. But it doesn't belong here. Not in Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is something special. It is like a library or a public park. It is like a temple for the mind. It is a place we can all go to think, to learn, to share our knowledge with others.

When I founded Wikipedia, I could have made it into a for-profit company with advertising banners, but I decided to do something different. We’ve worked hard over the years to keep it lean and tight. We fulfill our mission, and leave waste to others.

If everyone reading this donated $20, we would only have to fundraise for one day a year. But not everyone can or will donate. And that's fine. Each year just enough people decide to give.

This year, please consider making a donation of $5, $20, $50 or whatever you can to protect and sustain Wikipedia.

And without blinking an eye, right on the spot, I donated to Wikipedia. Do you know why? Because I use it almost every day of my life, sometimes more than once. I couldn't do a lot of what I do without them.

So, here's one huge THANK YOU to Wikipedia, without which many of us would still be in the dark.

And THANK YOU to you, too...each and every one of you...without whom this blog would also be in the dark.


Monday, November 14, 2011

On Top of Our World

First up (yup), is my Vision and Verb post today about School Spirit. Actually, it's more about arch rivalries. You know, like MICHIGAN against Michigan State (sorry Ruth), or against those dang inedible Buckeyes horse chestnuts you want to chew up and spit out of your mouth!

[Sadly, the recently reported sex scandal at another of America's great universities was disclosed after I had drafted my piece. It could have happened anywhere, of course. Please know I grieve with all the victims who are part of this very sad story.]

But now, today, how many times have I shown you something about our Grote Kerk just two blocks down the street from us here in Gorinchen, Netherlands! Inside or out, it's as much a part of our lives here than just about anything.

Does it surprise you, then, that it took us almost TWO years to finally climb it's majestic (and crooked) tower! It so happens that every second Saturday in September, in all of Holland, is Open Monument Day. Over 4,000 historical buildings and sites are open to the public free of charge in order to encourage interest in them. It's one of those times when you'd be stupid not to take advantage of the day, whether in your own city or elsewhere.

We had always planned to climb "our" tower, at €2 pp. It didn't matter how much it cost. But we never got a "round tuit," as we say. This was our chance to finally just do it!

Notice the short tower entrance door. Match that with the tall-tall Dutchman!

True to all the church towers I have climbed in Europe, we spiraled our way up to the first level.
It's good "management" to have those resting spots on the way up.

On that first level, our tour guide opened a floor trap so we could look down to the ground entrance. THAT was worth the entire day because of seeing the prayer vials I had seen the previous year.

Also on that first level is a rooftop-level viewing platform outside the tower.
It was fun to spot all the landmarks so recognizable to us by now:
the two windmils, Dalem Port, the water tower, Merwede River, Rehoboth Church,
sister-city Woudrichem across the river, Loevestein Castle, etc., etc.

At the second level, we found the clock and bell contraptions!
How things work has always been a total fascination for me.

Did I mention we had as many kids on the tour as adults?
And several of them had their own cameras, taking pictures just like the rest of us.
I loved how the kids were part of this education, seeing how things work!

That second and top level, just above the tower's clock, gave us another POV (point of view).
New landmarks included the Merwede Bridge, our firehouse (bottom center),
and even where I went to school last year (image above the firehouse).

Then I zoomed in on our street.
The top-right image gives a ground's-eye view of where we live at our senior-living complex.
Pay attention to the church a block away, to which I'll return in a minute.
See also the hanging paint can, one of my favorite art objects in the city (bottom right).

BTW, while we're up there, have you ever had a voyeuristic eye like mine?
The rooftops of Gorinchem and how some people live!

Once down on ground level, we were on to another open monument, but stopped first to chat with some friends passing by in the market square (where the Grote Kerk stands!):

The top friends are from where we live. I play Rummikub every Friday with the gentleman.
The bottom lady with Astrid is the mother of Astrid's best friend (my wedding witness).
It's a small world after all!

Across from where we met our friends is our favorite flower shop,
standing next to the Gasthuispoortje (Guest House Port) from 1391.
See how short they were back then! Even I duck by instinct.
It's also known as the Hugo de Groot port, where Hugo escaped from the Loevestein castle jail
in a bookcase. Long story, I guess. But that's the fun of some history.

In between the Grote Kerk and where we live two blocks away.... the Waterstaatkerk from 1836,
the Roman Catholic church that is now an apartment building.

Because of Open Monument Day, we were able to go inside without a key,
something we've wanted to do since living nearby.
So that's what a church looks like once renovated for apartments!
At least it's not a prison.

There you have it. Our city where we live, from the top of our world! Did I mention that I love where we live?

And now, another reminder about my School Spirit post at Vision and Verb....