Archive | March 2010

Zazzle – another way to be creative

Last weekend I installed my new Photoshop Elements 8. I don’t know why, but I am always a bit afraid of installing new software on my laptop, but everything was nice and easy. And of course I had to try it out.

Normally I put the results of my photo processing activities on flickr, but somehow my inner creator told me to do some zazzling. “What’s that”, you may ask. Well, is an online platform on which you can put your photos on mugs, mousepads, postcards, greeting cards, stickers, magnets and other things, and then offer those products for sale.

Some time ago I had created my first greeting card, and now I’ve added some more products. It is really fun. Searching for the proper image and enhancing that takes most of the time. Uploading it and putting it on a range of products is the result of half an hour (including the time you need to think about which product you like to design – for example there are different kind of bags to chose from).

For me, the fun I have while creating the objects is the main reason for zazzling. Of course I won’t cry if somebody decides to order one of my postcards, bags or magnets…


Contrast in Nature. Photo: Ulla Hennig

It is the contrast which caught my eye – the contrast between the white fluffy things and the straight lines of the twigs.

Authors I enjoy – Dorothy Sayers

Allow me one sentence as a kind of preamble: This is my second book review I’ve ever written. I even think this is not a book review – these are just some thoughts I want to share regarding an English author which has me in her grips for some days now. I would be very glad if those written down thoughts will prompt you to read one of her books, even if I run the danger of getting thumped on my head for making you spend money on a book you won’t like. But maybe you will like it or them?

A long time ago I  read all of Dorothy Sayers’ crime novels. Now I am rereading them again – in English. Reading one novel after the other (I began with “Strong Poison” and have now “The Nine Tailors” and “Busman’s Honeymoon” on my desk) I am more and more convinced that however brilliant the translation into another language may be: Those books must be read in English.

Dorothy Sayers lived from 1893 to 1957. The leading character of her detective stories is Lord Peter Wimsey who uses his sharp brain to solve murder mysteries, supported by his manservant, Mervyn Bunter. Although they are on different social levels the relationship between both men is full of mutual respect. There are even moments of tenderness without words, for example when the time has come for the  murderer to be hanged, and Peter Wimsey is feeling guilty of being the cause for his death.

In “Strong Poison” Wimsey meets his love, Harriet Vane, in the courtroom – she is accused of having killed the man she lived with, and of course he manages to prove her innocence. Let me quote the beginning of the book:

“There were crimson roses on the bench; they looked like splashes of blood.
The judge was an old man; so old, he seemed to have outlived time and change and death. His parrot-face and parrot-voice were dry, like his old, heavily-veined hands. His scarlet robe clashed harsh with the crimson of the roses. He had sat for three days in the stuffy court, but he showed no sign of fatigue.”

Wimsey’s familiy is not very happy about his relationship with somebody accused for murder and not on their social level. This may sound strange to us living in the 21st century; but in the society of the beginning 20th century in England this was a fact – that people kept to themselves. Wimsey’s way of speaking is definitely ‘upper class’,  but his way of treating people on lower ranks is one of kindness and respect.

In “The Nine Tailors” he and his manservant Bunter have to leave their car on New Year’s Eve because it broke down. Fortunately they find their way into a village nearby, where there are wined and dined by the parson. The parson’s big goal is it to ring in the New Year with nine hours of Treble Bell Majors, and one of the ringers is struck down by influenza. So Lord Peter Wimsey has to have a go, one lord among 8 people from the village. Of course there is a dead body found later on, and of course Peter Wimsey solves the mystery of his death, but it is the atmosphere in this village deep down in the Fens which kept me reading on and on.

Whereas in other detective stories the focus is on action here I have the impression that Dorothy Sayers put the focus on the atmosphere, the social setting, the people, some lovable, some shown with their weaknesses. And this is what makes me love her books.

The Shoals of Herring

“Shoals of Herring” is one of my favorite folk songs.

  • It is on a record which I brought home from England in 1975, after having spent one wonderful year there as an assistant teacher, so it brings back memories of that time (long, long ago!).
  • It is sung by Ewan McColl, a famous folk singer (he wrote “Dirty Old Town” as well)
  • It tells us about the fishermen’s daily life, their hardships but also their pride in doing their job
  • It tells us about a time long ago, when there were lot of shoals of herring and herrings were poor men’s food – today herrings are a luxury.

Dry leaves

dry leaves

Dry leaves. Photo: Ulla Hennig

Spring has arrived in Berlin with milder temperatures. I can feel it in my nose too, because the pollen of the hazelnut and the alder are flying through the air, and those of the birch tree are waiting to attack.

There are tiny green buds on the bushes, very tiny ones, and you have to get very close in order to see them. But they are there, and when the weather stays like it is at the moment we will have green leaves in two weeks or so.

So I thought I might capture some remnants of winter with my camera, and I found those dry leaves.Well then – good bye, winter!

My New Pastels

My new pastels. Photo: Ulla Hennig

For almost one week I now have been the proud owner of a big box of pastels. Last Friday I had a wonderful dinner together with my dear neighbor at the Italian restaurant around the corner. She does some painting with oil (but only in spring and summer when she can open the windows in her flat), and I told her that some time ago I used to to some pastel painting in a course. All the paints and materials were cared for by the man who taught the course – so I did not have any pastels at home.

She smiled at me and told me that she had a big box of pastels which she did not need anymore – she had found out that pastels were not “her thing”. And the following evening she gave me the box. She did not want any money for it, but she accepted two dinner invitations…

And now, on the coming weekend, I will dive into the world of pastels. I can imagine just trying them out – laying different colors on the paper, mixing them with my fingers, getting a feeling for them. And finally – maybe – taking a photo of my efforts! With spring finally having arrived in Berlin my inner creative me definitely wants an outlet!

St. Patrick’s Day

Screenshot of Squidoo lens

Screenshot of my Squidoo page

Today Irish people all over the world celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Of course music plays an important part in the celebrations. Whether or not you are Irish you can enjoy Irish music, Celtic music or Irish Folk.

The Dubliners are my favorite Irish folk band. So I created a squidoo page about them with  selection of their finest songs, songs about love, women, booze and the Easter rising.

Enjoy the music, tap your feet, raise your glass, sing along – have fun!

Facebook and Twitter

After rediscovering my Tumblr I am now discovering Facebook and Facebook fan pages. In fact I built a Fan Page called ArtandMusic with the focus in my squidoo pages on art history, artists, composer and music history. But I am also showcasing art blogs, photos of paintings and drawings. Whereas my Tumblr is a rather accidental collection of web pages which are of interest to me, ArtandMusic is to offer bits and pieces to the public which is interested in those two fields. At least, that is my intention, and I hope to be able to deliver.

After this  piece of shameless promotion I want to share some thoughts concerning Facebook and Twitter, and I am very interested in getting your opinion on the subject.

  1. Whereas Twitter is loud and noisy Facebook is some kind of quiet conversation with dear friends. With Twitter you enter a pub, and you know a lot of people, and they are talking. You say “hi”, and there is an exchange of words, some of which are going a bit deeper, but then conversations turn to other subjects.  It is nice, and often you get a lot of interesting information.
  2. I have got the impression that Facebook gives you the chance to “dig deeper”, especially when you are following a fan page (or fanning a page?). You can re-read what somebody said, and you can comment even a day later. One of the fan pages I am a fan of is “The Writing Space“. If you hop over and have a look, you will see what I mean – the pace is much slower, but it goes much deeper than it would be possible with Twitter.

However, this is just my humble opinion. You are invited to join the discussion: Where are the differences between Facebook and Twitter, and what do you prefer and why?

Caravaggio, a colorful character

I had my difficulties with the Group Writing project over at Middlezone musings: “What I learned from Colorful Characters”. Not that I don’t know a colorful character, there’s one definitely among my friends, but writing about my learning experience in connection with this dear friend of mine would have been quite a personal affair, and I did not want that.

So time went by, and I could not find anything sensible to write. On Saturday my inner muse suddenly attacked me and at the end of the weekend I had produced a Squidoo page on the Italian artist Caravaggio.

Now, if that was not a colorful man I don’t know what colorful is! He lived at the end of the 16th century in Italy, and instead of celebrating man in his beauty like Michelangelo did he painted man as he saw him on his daily walks through the Italian suburbs. He was the first to paint a “Sick young Bacchus” (you will find the painting on the squidoo page) – either sick from a disease or sick from drinking too much. One of his last paintings shows the victory of David over Goliath – David holding Goliath’s head in his outreached arm. The face of Goliath is a self-portray of Caravaggio.

He painted the scene on the year he died. He had murdered a man in a brawl and had been outlawed. Some art historians say that in portraying himself as the “bad guy” he wanted to get the permission to return to Naples.

What did that teach me? Well, I learned that a man can be a great artist and a questionable character at the same time. Would he have been the same great artist had he lived a “normal” life?