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Goodbye Berlin

Posted on Feb 14, 2013 in Berlin | 1 comment

Cheeky saying in Berlin

“The hole that we leave behind replaces us completely.” Kind of true, when you think about it. Sort of existential, a bit cheeky, and so very Berlin.

For the last week or two, I have been aware that I have to leave here soon. I’ve been walking around the streets of Berlin, looking at everything with a tinge of sentimentality.

I’ve been able to create a new life here: I have made friends, learned more about art, and have seen and experienced a lot of new things. And now I have to leave all of this behind to go back home to Vancouver to my old life. Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to going home to Jeff, to my comfortable bed and my more ergonomic computer desk. My shoulders, back, and legs are killing me from sleeping on a cheap foam mattress, sitting hunched over a laptop, and walking the crooked cobblestone streets of Berlin most days. I desperately need to get back to what I exaggeratedly call my “health care team”: my massage and physio therapists, my dentist, my doctor.

But I walk around and think: Next week when I’m gone, those yellow subway trains will continue to spit out hordes of young people at Eberswalder Strasse Station all night, ready to have a great time and to experience Berlin. Concerts will play until 1 or 2 a.m. and then people will get a bite and go out clubbing around 4 a.m.

There will be line-ups at the Berghain, that world-famous, quintessential teutonic temple of techno, where people will be face-controlled by a former East German punk. DJs will spin tunes in almost every bar, people will be chilling out and mingling and sometimes, they will come up with new ideas. German, English, French, Spanish, Japanese and other languages will drift in the air. Clubs will be open from Friday night until Monday morning continuously. The graffiti outside the Berghain will still read: “Don’t forget to go home.”

Berliners will still complain about not getting paid enough, not getting good work, about real estate prices and rents going up and about government cutbacks. They will flood the museums and galleries and concerts and bars and Christmas markets. They will still eat their currywurst outside at -10 degrees and have a smoke afterwards.

There is no doubt that I still have a romantic impression of Berlin, even though I have lived here for 3 months. But the fresh air of limitless possibility and improvisation I have breathed here, has been real, and rejuvenating. Berlin is like a young person: poor in material things but rich in ideas and plans, inventing herself anew every day. Sure, she may complain about not having enough money or support, but she’s got freedom and opportunity. And I’m pretty sure she knows these are the best days of her life.

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Last day in Berlin with the Luminous Pariah

Posted on Feb 13, 2013 in Berlin | 1 comment

Of course I didn’t really spend my last day in Berlin with the Luminous Pariah. Just like you, I have to make do with this video. Although I did want to say hello to him. After all, he’s from Seattle, so we’re practically neighbours. But apparently he’s originally from Alaska and knows a thing or two about fishing, which will become clear to you if you watch this video. Take that, Sarah Palin!

The video above is the same routine he performed between the two periods of modelling for us sketchers at Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin on Sunday. I was thrilled to see a man on stage for a change. The ladies are always wonderful too, but I say yay for Boy-lesque!

It’s such a wonderful, creative world out there when you seek out artists and performers, and Berlin’s got a large chunk of it.

So on February 12, I did a bit of work and then had the last sauna visit of this Berlin stay at Meridian Spa in Spandau. See my sketch below.

On February 13, I packed, cleaned, and also went to Berlin Mitte once more for last-minute shopping, mostly to buy small gifts for a few people.

I have a post prepared for my departure day already; stay tuned!

At the Meridian Spa in Spandau, Berlin

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Saying goodbye to my Berlin friends, Katrin and Nina

Posted on Feb 12, 2013 in Berlin | 0 comments

Painting by Katrin Merle

This beautiful painting is by Katrin Merle and she made it for me! We exchanged art before we said goodbye. I am going to frame this and hang it up at home.

February 11 was a low key day. I had planned to go to the Berlinische Galerie once more, with Katrin, but she was sick and I was tired, so I stayed home too and caught up on some work and blogging.

Blogging every day, selecting and editing photos, writing and editing text and captions, has been far more work than I had imagined (about 1 to 2 hours per post, I am not kidding!), but I was determined to keep it going. When I am back in Vancouver, I can read up what I did almost every day, and then additional memories of how I felt or what I did that day will come back more easily.

Already I am realizing that November/December felt like a different era than January/February. I was new here and in a state of constant excitement. I wasn’t able to sleep much, but I woke up early and had time to make art in the mornings. The first five weeks, when I was completely on my own here with no visitors, were probably my best time.

Christmas was spent with Jeff and visiting a lot of people, in January I travelled to Leipzig and to my friend E. in Worms, so I was either visiting or had visitors, and my precious alone-time was over.

I am definitely hoping to do this again, and in the not-too-distant future. Maybe in a year or two, if I can afford it. Maybe just for 6 weeks or 2 months, with a visit from Jeff in the middle again, but less separation time for us. Because I do miss him painfully by now.

But to continue my daily report: In spite of being sick, Katrin came over briefly anyway to do our art exchange, and we had a coffee at Manolo, then said good-bye. I wish she lived closer, I don’t have a friend like her to go sketching with in Vancouver, and most importantly, she is a great person.

Then I caught a subway to the University of Fine Arts to see the graduating class exhibit with Nina, but the students were already dismantling it when I got there. Nina and I then had a beer at “Diener”, an old cafe where boxing fans used to gather, near Savignyplatz. She graciously gave me more suggestions on how to work on technical stuff in my art, so I will have to try and visit an art supply store tomorrow and pick up some things. And hopefully she will visit me in Vancouver.

Then we said a rushed goodbye at the S-Bahn because my train was there right away.

Both Katrin and Nina have been great to get to know and I can honestly say that I’ve made two new friends in my three months in Berlin, which is pretty amazing.

University of Fine Arts, Berlin

At the University of Fine Arts, Berlin.

Diener Bar Berlin

Diener Bar Berlin, an old dive bar for boxing fans. The walls in here are full of photos of famous, semi-famous people, and boxers. I am just borrowing this photo from the Unlike City Guide, but they didn’t credit it properly so I can’t link to the photographer.

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Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin — the Picknick Session

Posted on Feb 11, 2013 in Berlin | 1 comment

Dr. Sketchy's Berlin No. 34 Picknick Session

Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin No. 34 Picknick Session — with the Luminous Pariah and Marlene von Steenvag.

Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin took place on Sunday February 10 at the Kookaburra Comedy Club on Schönhauser Allee 184. I was very happy about this extra session since I hadn’t expected to catch another Dr. Sketchy’s before my departure from Berlin.

Starring The Luminous Pariah & Marlene von Steenvag, the two performers were fantastic models and actors. I tried some new things in my sketches, trying to capture these models’ bigger-than-life impression by using wild colours and shapes.

After the 3-hour sketching session, Nina, Peter, Stef and I had drinks at Café Chagall, a pleasant faux-French dive bar across the street, then I went to meet my friend B. and her husband M. at Belluno at Kollwitzplatz for pizza and another glass of wine. They are leaving on Monday morning, so we had one more pleasant evening together, then said another good-bye.

It was a great day.

Dr. Sketchy's Berlin No. 34 Picknick Session

Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin No. 34 Picknick Session.

Dr. Sketchy's Berlin No. 34 Picknick Session

Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin No. 34 Picknick Session.

Dr. Sketchy's Berlin No. 34 Picknick Session

Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin No. 34 Picknick Session.

Dr. Sketchy's Berlin No. 34 Picknick Session

Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin No. 34 Picknick Session.

Dr. Sketchy's Berlin No. 34 Picknick Session

Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin No. 34 Picknick Session.

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My friend B. and her husband M. come to Berlin

Posted on Feb 10, 2013 in Berlin | 0 comments

Eberswalder subway station

Eberswalder subway station. I sketched this as a souvenir for Katrin, and she gave me a painting. I had been hoping for an art exchange of this sort and was glad she suggested it.

I don’t have any more house guests, but my old best friend B. from grade 5 and her husband M. have arrived in Berlin for a weekend away from their three kids, to have some couple time, to tour Berlin, and to visit me. They came by at 11:00 a.m. for a chat before sightseeing, and before we knew it, it was 2:00 p.m.

They left to see a bit of Berlin while I went to Manolo, a coffee bar at the corner of Schönhauser Allee and Danziger Straße and Kastanienallee and Pappelallee and one other street, to sketch the Eberswalder Strasse subway station for Katrin.

In the evening, I had B. and M. over for dinner and we had another good talk.

I must say, I caught up with many friends and family in the last three months, made new friends like Katrin and Nina, met many other nice people, spent a lot of quality time sketching in coffee shops all over Berlin, saw a ton of art and cultural events. It’s all good.

My three months here have been even better than I had hoped.

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Sketching session at SowohlAlsAuch Cafe with Katrin

Posted on Feb 9, 2013 in Berlin | 0 comments

Sketch of view from SowohlAlsAuch Cafe

Sketch of view from SowohlAlsAuch Cafe.

Brunch and sketching with Katrin, experimental play at Ballhaus Ost in the evening “The Black Glass” in English, troupe from Atlanta.

Berlin hot chocolate

Berlin offers some pretty good hot chocolate drinks. This was my afternoon treat at Cafe SowohlAlsAuch. Doing my best to make it look bigger than my head.

Katrin sketching

Katrin sketching at SowohlAlsAuch. You can see how she draws a fairly reduced line drawing, then adds life by adding colour.

Katrin sketching

Katrin sketching at SowohlAlsAuch. You can see the more final-looking colour now.

"Sowohlalsauch", Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg

Here is Katrin’s final drawing. Click on it to see her Flickr page.

Berlin window shutters

Berlin window shutters at a bar. So true.

Seeing a play at Ballhaus Ost

Seeing an experimental play at Ballhaus Ost in my neighbourhood.

At Ballhaus Ost

At Ballhaus Ost. Somehow, art is always around you here in Berlin, and it’s not always just the officially sanctioned stuff. This was just sitting in the stairway at the theatre. Apparently nobody will steal it either. Art lives here!

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My fellow Berlin Urban Sketchers are on TV!

Posted on Feb 8, 2013 in Berlin | 0 comments

A Berlin TV station interviewed four of the Berlin Urban Sketchers last week and followed them around for about 4 or 5 hours as they sketched different scenes around Berlin.

Here is the less-than-4-minute video segment that resulted from that day which was shown on TV here in Berlin on Feb. 7.

It’s a great souvenir for me because these are some of the people I have been sketching with here in Berlin: Katrin, Omar and Peter. I have not yet met Laura.

I would like to point out that the sketcher from Canada, which Omar uses as an example of people who just contact him out of the blue to meet up for sketching, is most likely me!

To learn more about the Urban Sketchers, visit our main blog which showcases sketches of everyday life from sketchers from all over the world.

Berlin subway signage

Berlin subway signage.

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A long overdue art day

Posted on Feb 7, 2013 in Berlin | 0 comments

U-Bahnhof Schlesisches Tor, Berlin

U-Bahnhof (subway stop) Schlesisches Tor, Berlin

Life drawing

Life drawing. Coloured in Photoshop. Trying something different.

The last 12 days have worn me out. My friend for 8 days, then my cousin for 4 days, both arrived with lots of tourism-energy wanting to cram in as much as possible, and me playing a bit of tour guide.

I have to admit, I took a deep breath once the visits were over and went back to some art-making with a vengeance. Socializing and art-making do not go together. When I visit with people, my artistic pursuits get pushed aside. I just have to be aware of this. Making art, or not making art, is a daily struggle, and there are so many things in life that are working against art-making time.

This does not mean I didn’t enjoy my visitors, I very much did and I felt I deepened my relationships with both of them.

But I inserted a big art day as soon as my very last visitor left. On February 6, I went to a 3-hour life drawing session in Kreuzberg, then spent 2 hours in -1˚C cold sketching the subway station Schlesisches Tor with Oona Leganovic afterwards.

Aaaaahhhh — a good day.

Life drawing

Life drawing. Coloured in Photoshop. Trying something different.

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Visit to Neues Museum, then V. leaves Berlin

Posted on Feb 6, 2013 in Berlin | 0 comments

Neues Museum, Berlin

The Neues Museum, Berlin, which houses the bust of Nefertiti, has a light-hearted section on the Nefertiti cult — various impressions of the famous lady, including one by Donald Duck. It’s not permitted to photograph Nefertiti herself, so this will have to do. You get the drift.

All we do on V.’s last day is visit the amazing Neues Museum. Just wow. All the museums on the Berlin Museum Island are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and when you see them, you know why.

We spent almost 3 great hours in the museum, then had another currywurst lunch. Around 2 p.m. we had to zip to the airport where I said good-bye to V. I felt that we had a great time, but he was my last house guest and now I look forward to one more week on my own without sharing my tiny apartment.

I meander around the neighbourhood at bit on my way back, do some work, then go to a life drawing session at Danziger Strasse in the evening.

Berlin street art

Berlin street art.

Alte Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

Alte Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.

Neues Museum, Berlin

Neues Museum, Berlin.

Neues Museum, Berlin

Neues Museum, Berlin.

Neues Museum, Berlin

Neues Museum, Berlin.

Neues Museum, Berlin

Neues Museum, Berlin.

Neues Museum, Berlin

Neues Museum, Berlin.

Neues Museum, Berlin

Neues Museum, Berlin.

Neues Museum, Berlin

Neues Museum, Berlin.


Life drawing.


Life drawing.


Life drawing.

A childcare centre in Berlin

Building graphics at a childcare centre in Berlin.

Building number, Berlin

Building number, Berlin. Just cool typography.

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Another sightseeing day with V.

Posted on Feb 5, 2013 in Berlin | 0 comments

Considering that V. did not arrive with a sightseeing agenda, but wanted to just drift and see what caught his fancy, we did a lot.

We had breakfast at home, then visited the Reichstag, the DZ building by Frank Gehry, Hotel Adlon, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Potsdamer Platz, Sony Centre, had lunch at a Vietnamese place in Potsdamer Platz Arcaden, later coffee and cake at the famous old Cafe Kranzler. V. attempted shopping in an Italian store on Ku’damm but ran into an Italian, non-German speaking salesman. V. had his other famous currywurst at Konnopke. In the evening we watched the Hannah Ahrendt movie by Margarete von Trotta at the Kulturbrauerei Kino. And I worked a little bit.

Elevator at the Berlin Reichstag

Elevator at the Berlin Reichstag.


My button says “Das war schon kaputt”, meaning “It was already broken.”


The famous KaDeWe (“Kaufhaus des Westens” / Department Store of the West).

Cafe Kranzler

V. and I had coffee and cake at Cafe Kranzler, one of the old famous Cafes of Berlin.

Hannah Arendt movie poster

Hannah Arendt movie poster.

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