Urban Sketcher

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David Hockney exhibit in Cologne

Posted on Dec 23, 2012 in Cologne | 0 comments


On December 22, we went downtown Cologne to see the David Hockney exhibit A Bigger Picture at the Museum Ludwig.

I had looked forward to seeing this show for the last 8 months, ever since I discovered Hockney’s newest work and had pre-ordered the exhibition catalogue on Amazon back in March or April. I was seriously considering flying to London while I was based in Berlin to see this exhibit, but then found out it was going to be touring Cologne over Christmas, where I was going anyway to visit my relatives and friends.

I had been a long-time Hockney fan and was thrilled to see his prolific output of traditional landscapes with his own edge after his return from L.A. to his native England. I read the catalogue, I watched the DVD. I feel a kinship with his approach to drawing and am inspired by his drawings, paintings, iPad sketches, videos, and his take on perspective.

But at the exhibit, I was amazed what I was drawn to: his charcoal drawings, his sketchbooks, his videos, and his giant printouts of iPad drawings — rather than his large paintings. The paintings had appealed to me the most from looking at the catalogue, but at the exhibit they felt almost too big and too rough.

After building up our hunger at the exhibit, we had a wonderful meal of greasy “Rievkooche”, the Cologne word for “Reibekuchen” which means potato cakes. They are served hot-fried, with cool apple sauce on the side for dipping.







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Travelling to Cologne with Jeff

Posted on Dec 22, 2012 in Berlin | 0 comments

On Dec 21 we hopped on the ICE Berlin-Cologne to visit family for Christmas. I have 10 days off work now! I probably won’t post much until the New Year unless I feel an urge to pontificate.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!

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Ku’damm and Liquidrom Sauna with Jeff

Posted on Dec 21, 2012 in Berlin | 0 comments

On Dec 20, we had lunch with Nina, saw the new restaurant she is decorating with artwork, and walked the Ku’damm in chilly-to-your-bones damp weather.

After being miserably cold all day, we gladly escaped to the Liquidrom Berlin from 8pm until midnight, a cool urban sauna featuring a huge bar, and a live DJ being piped in underwater at the relaxing saltwater pool lit up by moody lounge lighting where we drifted on foam tubes between sauna cycles, listening to the chill music. Amazing.


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Pergamon Museum and East Side Gallery with Jeff

Posted on Dec 20, 2012 in Berlin | 0 comments

On December 19, Jeff and I visited the world-famous Pergamon Museum of ancient art, and the East Side Gallery, a section of the Berlin Wall decorated by over 100 artists after the Wall came down. We also came by Schloss Charlottenburg and had a small lunch and a large dessert (Austrian Kaiserschmarrn!) at Brauerei Lemke.



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Reichstag and Berlin city tour with Jeff

Posted on Dec 18, 2012 in Berlin | 4 comments

The Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag by Sir Norman Foster and the bus ride with rainy windows lent itself to experimenting with abstract photos. I had so much fun, it should be illegal.

We also visited the Museum at Checkpoint Charlie, a cluttered, sometimes repetitive, but always emotional and gripping exhibit.

Brandenburg Gate detail

German Reichstag details

German Reichstag details

German Reichstag details

German Reichstag details

View from Berlin bus through rain

View from Berlin bus through rain

View from Berlin bus through rain

View from Berlin bus through rain

View from Berlin bus through rain

View from Berlin bus through rain

View from Berlin bus through rain

View from Berlin bus through rain

View from Berlin bus through rain

View from Berlin bus through rain

View from Berlin bus through rain

View from Berlin bus through rain

View from Berlin bus through rain

View from Berlin bus through rain

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Willkommen in Berlin, Jeff!

Posted on Dec 18, 2012 in Berlin | 0 comments

Heated coat at Lucia Christmas Market, Berlin

Jeff was a good sport to get into the heated coat at the Lucia Christmas Market. We went there after dropping off his suitcase, so he could get some fresh air and a Wurst for dinner, in spite of his jetlag. Some women suggested that he wasn’t looking very relaxed in that coat, so we decided to get him some Glühwein to help with that problem.

Jeff has arrived! I didn’t do much on Monday, partly because I went to bed at 6 a.m. and slept until 12:30 pm as a result, and then had to leave for the airport at 4:15 pm to meet Jeff’s 5:00 pm flight arrival; and partly because I was so excited to see him.

Let’s be honest, the reason I am able to enjoy myself so much here, both the temporary solitude and the adventures of exploring a new city, is that I have a wonderful man in my life who is always there for me, even when I am far away from him. He has had my back by taking care of the household while I am away, in addition to his extremely busy job and other commitments. This is not something I should take for granted.

I have a lot of fun things in mind for us while he’s here, but hopefully he will get to choose what he wants to do, and enjoy a well-deserved break from work. I am going to do my best to make his winter trip to Germany a wonderful experience.

German sausages at the Lucia Christmas market, Berlin

Pork steak and sausages are being prepared at the Lucia Christmas market.

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A German movie night

Posted on Dec 17, 2012 in Berlin | 0 comments

Glühwein at the Berliner Christmas market

Yet another cup of Glühwein at the Berliner Christmas market.

Having done all that housecleaning on Saturday, I took Sunday off to do whatever I felt like.

I can’t express enough how wonderful it is for me to have these days here in Berlin to myself, and to have the choice of doing EXACTLY what I want. No obligations, no commitments. What a utopia. I know this won’t last, it can’t last, and it doesn’t have to. Life comes with its commitments to other people and activities. But the commitment to oneself is often shortchanged. I would encourage anyone reading this to give yourself the gift of a day just to yourself once in a while. Solitude is completely underrated in our culture. It can be scary at first. Suddenly you have to listen to the constant chatter in your own head. You may have to confront yourself. You may have to realize who you really are. It can be unpleasant at first, it may take a while, but in the end, you will realize that you are just fine. At its best, it is in solitude where one can experience some of the most amazing hours of one’s life. That has always been true for me.

Red caviar canapé at the Berliner Weihnachtsmarkt

Red caviar canapé at the Berliner Weihnachtsmarkt

So much for solitude. I headed straight for the Berliner Weihnachtsmarkt on Alexanderplatz which was brimming with people. I felt happy walking through the crowds, experiencing my deep, satisfying solitude. A Glühwein stand beckoned. I did not walk idly by. “Ye shall stop for Glühwein when it is on offer and Ye have gold in your satchels to trade for it fairly.” Next I came upon roasted almonds, and a red caviar canapé at a Russian booth, both of which went down well with the Glühwein. I stood at a table and watched the skaters on the ice rink in the middle of the Weihnachtsmarkt. The rink was cleared and an Austrian Zamboni-type vehicle came out to smooth the ice. The machine made me think of my far away country and I got a bit glühwein-sentimental about Canada.

Deutsches Historisches Museum Berlin

At the Deutsches Historisches Museum Berlin. I have to admit, I am no history buff. But I’ll take this knight in shining armour. Awesome.

After the Glühwein was tippled, I walked to the German Historical Museum to visit an arts fair. At my age, gender, and disposable income, I am the perfect target market for arts and crafts markets in museum courtyards. I saw about 50 different pieces of jewellery, hats, scarves and wooden or metal decor like candelabres or vases or bowls that I would gladly own. I did not buy a single item, but took about 20 business cards of crafts and jewellery stores with me. There may be one pair of earrings coming out of this as a souvenir. Jewellery is small and light. But relatively expensive.

As I overheard a woman yell at her about 5-year-old daughter as she tried to drag her past glittery knick-knacks at the Weihnachtsmarkt: “Wir können nicht alles kaufen!” (“We can’t buy everything!”)

Shop window display

This was a window display at a big brand name, I won’t even mention which designer because I don’t want to inadvertently provide free advertising. It was just fascinating how much more interesting the display was than the rather dull, black clothes.

I had hoped to make it to one more more museum, but decided to take it easy and instead went to see a German movie titled “Sushi in Suhl”. It’s loosely based on the true story of a famous chef in former East Germany who runs a successful restaurant. He becomes interested in Japanese cooking and starts making Japanese dishes with the limited means and decor available to East Germans at the time. Even soy sauce was hard to come by. But his restaurant was a success and started attracting the negative attention of his local superiors. The fear was that certain aspirations were created in people with all that exotic food. At the same time, the East German government was trying to improve diplomatic relations with Japan, and the reaching-out across cultures represented by this restaurant suddenly becomes an important diplomatic tool for the government. Conflicting emotions abound, and the movies wastes no opportunity in delivering cultural and political satire.

The contrast to Western economics highlighted by this movie is great; the desire in our economy is always to create and promote aspirations, not to squash them.

Although I wouldn’t say it was the most amazing movie ever, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s of a certain genre that I like: one of those quaint, quiet foodie movies with the message that good food will melt hearts and bring people together.

Now I have this inexplicable appetite for sushi.

Acud theatre in Berlin

Acud Kino. I went to see a German movie here. An old, somewhat run-down building, two small theatres on the 3rd floor, with a small bar, all very casual. I liked it there very much, a nice change from the giant Something-Plexes.

Acud Kino courtyard

Acud Kino courtyard.

Staircase in the Acud Kino

Staircase in the Acud Kino. This brought back memories of I don’t know what, but run-down urban buildings are familiar to me from growing up in Germany.

German movie Sushi in Suhl

The German movie Sushi in Suhl.

Cigarette dispenser, Berlin

Cigarette dispenser. These have become digital now and can check your ID, but they still exist in Germany.

Old cigarette dispenser, Germany

This is the old kind of cigarette dispenser I remember from childhood in Germany, revamped to dispense games.

The artist's building on Kastanienalle at night

The artist’s building I showed in one of my very first posts on Kastanienalle at night.

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My day of being a hausfrau

Posted on Dec 16, 2012 in Berlin | 0 comments

I don’t really have much respect for housewives. Surely that was, and in some cultures, still is the way a patriarchal society keeps women under control and from being exposed to ideas, and from freely roaming the world. Obsessive housekeeping in our culture, in my view, is often just an excuse to procrastinate on living your life to its full potential; there is no pleasure or glory in it. I will grant that it’s a slightly better waste of time than surfing the web obsessively, which I have been known to do. But on Saturday, November 15 I spent most of the day cleaning the apartment in preparation for Jeff’s arrival here on Monday, December 17. He is coming to visit me!

The plan had been that my two favourite German teenagers would visit me this weekend from Osnabrück, E. and M. (you know who you are!), but it didn’t work out for them to make it here. But we will visit them right after Christmas. This meant I didn’t have to clean up during the week for the girls, but could push my cleaning into this weekend. I felt efficient to get it all done on Saturday so that I would be able to take Sunday off to just have fun.

Sink plug before and after cleaning

I had to dig deep to find an image to go with this post. You could also say that I scraped the bottom of the barrel. Now you are thinking I should have really put a plug in that one.

For a change, I did not turn on my computer on Saturday at all. I washed all the floors in this place and the complete bathroom (lots of scrubbing on flooring and tiles to get ground-in dirt off). I took the icky living room rug around the corner and tossed it into a commercial washer (I had already shaken it out a couple of weeks ago, and a lot of dirt had fallen out, including an old sock — yes, it’s one of those really shaggy carpets and the sock was stuck somewhere under it). I scrubbed a filthy bathroom sink plug that was so clogged with old deposits and grime that it didn’t let much water through even when in the “up” position (I had considered throwing it out and buying a new plug, but that turned out hard to find, and once I started cleaning it, I realized it was clean-able. Amazing how throwing something away is NOT always the best option. I admit I often want to throw something out before I consider fixing it. Luckily Jeff doesn’t let me do that). I did a couple of loads of laundry so it would be dry by Monday evening, I wiped tops and fronts of cupboards and closets. I made room for Jeff’s bathroom stuff and clothes.

I don’t want to make this place sound awful, it really is a nice quality building and apartment with nice finishings in an amazing neighbourhood and close to the city centre. It just probably never gets cleaned that well between all the short-term renters that stay here. If I was a short-term renter here for a few days or even two weeks, I wouldn’t bother cleaning much either. But being here for three months is different.

I would totally rent here again. I am already thinking, “How can I do this Berlin thing again?”

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Sketching with Omar Jaramillo at Café St. Oberholz

Posted on Dec 15, 2012 in Berlin | 0 comments

Sketching with Omar at Cafe St. Oberholz

That’s Omar on the far left — he looks distorted because of my eye’s wide-angle view. He is much better-proportioned in real life.

On Friday, November 14, I met Omar Jaramillo from the Berlin Urban Sketchers at Café St. Oberholz. Check out the cafe’s light-hearted blog (the site comes in both English and German) where they show objects that people have forgotten in their cafe and make fun of them. I think there’s a 94%-chance this is all invented, because the lost-and-found objects seem too interesting to be real. Or else they must have a witty writer or team of writers on payroll. This cafe is Hipster-with-MacBook Central. I like to made fun of hipsters, but I keep going to where they hang out, I am a graphic designer, I have a Mac, I write a blog, I give up.

Omar and I had a nice chat and a drawing session. I had slept badly and was tired, so towards the right side of the drawing, I started to fade and scribble hastily. Omar gave me some input and encouragement to put a bit more effort into the right guy’s black shirt. Thanks Omar! Omar has a beautiful minimal sketching style, he looks at negative spaces between subjects and carefully chooses placement of colours across the page.

Omar has a connection to the Berliner Zeitung; apparently they saw some of my sketches and are planning to publish three of them between Christmas and New Year’s. I sent the high-resolution files to Omar and he passed them along. I asked him to buy me a copy of that issue because I will not be in Berlin over Christmas. Exciting!

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The Urban Sketcher strikes again

Posted on Dec 14, 2012 in Berlin | 0 comments

Kaffeehaus SowohlAlsAuch, Berlin

I had a very good breakfast and two coffees at Kaffeehaus SowohlAlsAuch. It was a very late breakfast, and I stayed for almost 3 hours. I probably spent over 2 hours sketching this very detailed view of the cafe. I realize some of the perspective is decidedly wonky, but that’s OK. There are no mistakes in art ;-). And all the cups would slide off the tables if they were this wonky in real life.

On November 13, I had a low-key day. After the mid-day sketching session at the cafe, I did some shopping for groceries and Christmas gifts, successfully procrastinating on some work I should have been doing.

Girl's dress, Berlin

I enjoy walking around my neighbourhood and looking at the boutiques. Things are definitely upmarket though. This little girl’s dress is a designer parent’s dream, no doubt, but it costs around €90.

Elisabeth, Empress of Austria

Elisabeth, Empress of Austria. Since I don’t have a TV here (thankfully), I have some time to explore shows on YouTube, including old German movies. Obviously I could watch these from Canada, but I have TV shows and Netflix movies to watch there, and I am not on a nostalgia kick as I am here. So I’ve watched a couple of the old “Sissi” movies dramatizing the already dramatic life of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria. Or rather, romanticizing. Still, I enjoy the costumes, colours and romance of a good old “Schinken”. See the link to the YouTube video below.

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