Andsmile Studio | Illustration

Getting real on Ig :)

freelance, lifeViktorijaComment

Here is probably the longest instagram post ever but I really wanted to publish it here too, for any of you who might stumble on it later. ;)

Getting real on IG! Couple of days ago talented illustrator @marloesdevee shared her story couple of days ago about where she came from and how long it takes to get somewhere and I was really inspired to share my story and hear more & full versions of your stories too! I absolutely love @instagram but it sure can give you a very skewed perception of reality. We think some people just pop up quickly but often there is A LOT of work behind it. Here is my long version of a story.. 

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Here is a video taken by my Dad, I’m 5 years old and obsessed by the fact that I was allowed to play with this massive set of colour pencils (lady who owned it is a designer)! I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember and I always loved drawing and was really encouraged by my family to express my creativity. At the age of 8 I went to art school, three times a week after normal school, we were taught art history, composition, painting, drawing and other subjects. I attended art school pretty much till I was 19 (with maybe 3 years break in teenage years when I decided not to draw ever again ;))). After graduating from art school and highschool I went on to study visual communication at University of Bedfordshire. It was a combined course with graphic designers and illustrators, it was fun experience and our teachers tried to make us experiment and explore. However for the last two years of the course we didn’t have an illustration tutor but guest illustration collective (trust me, sounds awesome but not the same thing :). After graduating in 2009 I ended up working in retail. It was in the middle of recession and I was lucky to land ANY job. But as time went by I couldn’t find any illustration work, any creative work, no side gigs, absolutely nothing. My fire started to fizzle and my dream of becoming and illustrator and drawing for a living from an inspiration and power and motivation became my frustration. It took me around 3 years to finally get the courage to make a leap, quit a full time job, find part time job and start figuring things out. It took me at least half a year to get to the grips before I started working on my etsy shop and I came up with a plan. That if I couldn’t find any creative work, I’ll try and make some work for myself. In 2013 I became full time self employed. And even though it’s a dream job it’s not an easy one. It can be financially stressful, also mentally challenging. I really want to draw more, I dream of one day illustrating a book and having an exhibition of my girls. It’s a journey and I have so many places I want to go with my work and sometimes admin takes over, sometimes running your own business has so many aspects there is not that much time to draw. So here it is.. a very long story and a bit of reality check from what’s happening behind cute pictures. I would love to know yours! What do you do? Where you come from? Where do you want to go? What would you like to share with the world?

<3 <3 <3

 

#gettingrealonIG

A Day Out in Kensington, Design Museum & The Churchill Arms

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Yay! New and gorgeous Design Museum is open! 

I loved visiting the old one behind Tower Bridge but it was a bit small and kind of felt that Design Museum needed more space to show off all the awesome things.

So the new Design Museum is big and absolutely stunning! Design Museum took over abandoned Commonwealth institute in Kensington, next to Holland Park and Kensington High St. The building looks amazing from the outside but once you enter it takes your breath away. It's spacious, interesting, colourful and bright! 

On the day we visited Fear and Love: Reactions to a Complex World & Beazley Designs of the Year as well as their permanent display Designer Maker User. WE ABSOLUTELY LOVED ALL OF THEM! My favourite has to be Beazley Designs of the Year, completely blew my mind of how many interesting, beautiful and smart designs and things happen in this world! 

As we were in that area we decided to pop into The Churchill Arms for a drink, I've passed it so many times and never entered! It's probably the most photographed pub in London, you know, the one covered in flowers! ;) And during festive season it's covered in Christmas Trees! 

Inside didn't disappoint too, really cosy and absolutely crazy interior, with all sorts of objects hanging from the ceiling and walls, with some Churchill memorabilia of course. Super tiny bar with great selection of drinks and super sweet staff. They also have a restaurant! It looked incredibly cosy and equally crazy decorated! 

And by the way if you sign up for The Churchill Arms newsletter you get a code for a free drink, thank you very much! :)

 

 

You can walk to Design Museum from Earls Court, Holland Park Tube Station, High St Kensington or Notting Hill. You can also cycle there or hire a bicycle and have a nice park ride. Visit Holland Park & Kyoto Garden (it's beautiful!), pop in to Churchill Arms for a drink, walking distance to Notting Hill, all the museums at South Kensington or Serpentine in Hyde Park. 

Watercolour & Ink Portraits

live drawing, Process and art supplies, eventsViktorijaComment

I've been drawing live portraits at events for over a year now and it took me some time to figure out which materials work best and produce the most striking results in 10-15 minutes, dry super fast, are small and portable. 

Here are my tools for live drawing:

Fabriano Hot Pressed Paper or Cass Art Watercolour Paper

Palomino Pencil

Kuretake Brush Pen or Pentel Brush Pen (both fabulous brush pens)

Carbon Ink (fill in the old cartridges)

carbon ink cartridges (they will fit any brush pen, it did all of mine 

Kuretake Watercolours (set of 36)

Fine Tec Metallic Watercolours

Schminke Burnt Sienna

Raphael Brush

Kuretake Water Brush Pen

And this is how it all looks in action! :)

 

 

Watercolour Portrait Painting Workshop

freelance, events, workshopViktorijaComment

Around a month ago I taught first Watercolour Painting Workshop. I've done other types before but never with watercolours.

I chose to teach with Kuretake watercolour set because it's my favourite set of watercolours and I truly believe they are one of the best on the market. Selection of 36 beautiful colours, all vibrant and really beautiful pigments. What I loooove love LOVE about this set is that they have an amazing selection of reds, yellows, greens, blues but also some really shiny metallics, YUM! 

The workshop was held in a beautiful photography studio, with one wall of windows so there is A LOT OF LIGHT and it is such a joy to be painting in such a beautiful and light space. It makes all the difference, especially this time of the year, when it's so dark outside and not enough natural light to paint.

It was an absolute pleasure to teach the workshop to a such fantastic bunch of people and to see how people approached the same subjects, used the same materials and the way everyone worked.

It was an interesting mixture of complete beginners, professional illustrators and designers and people who paint for joy. 

The results were sooooo different! There were all sorts of techniques and approaches and a lot of beautiful colours & patterns and I really loved everyones work. 

Next workshop is on the 3rd of December in the same studio full of light. We'll be using Kuretake Watercolours, brush pens, cold pressed water colour paper. For more information and to purchase the ticket, click here.

I would love to meet you and paint with you! 

Art Supplies Love

Process and art suppliesViktorijaComment
illustration andsmilestudio art supplies

I often get asked about what kind of art supplies I use. This tends to change, I love trying new things and have a mild (well, quite severe actually) addiction to art materials. 

For the last 3 (maybe even 4, omg!) years I've been using Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolours. I have the 36 colour palette, with a beautiful variety of reds, yellows, greens, blues and even some shiny metallics! The paint is very thick and has a lot of pigment. It's a bit more creamy than usual watercolours, so it kind of feels like a mixture between watercolour and gouache.

I use two types of brushes. My absolute favourite brush is Raphael Kolinksy Sable (size 6), it holds a lot of water and allows you to create delicate details or broad washes, it's a beautiful brush so look after it and wash after using (don't use to paint with gouache, only watercolours).

And the second type of brush I use is brush pens! woop woop! When I can't fill in a jar with water or just want to paint from the comfort of my sofa. I've tried many different brands but couldn't really see much difference between them, they all are excellent at what they are supposed to be doing! Set of three pentel water brush pens or try medium size Pentel water brush pen or Caran d'ache brush pen (it has a cute button too :)).

To sketch, add details or achieve beautiful varied lines I always go for Pentel Brush Pens, I always have one with me. :) 

Another thing which I always carry with me is Daler Rowney Ebony hardback A5 size sketchbook. I've been using them for the last 9 years and absolutely love them.

Recently I've been experimenting with gouache more and more. I do love Winsor & Newton but I invested in this beautiful set by Holbein, lovely selection of incredibly bright colours. Really a joy to use! It's worth every penny.

When painting with gouache brushes get ruined super fast, so what I do is pop to my local art store Jacksons' art and find whatever they have on sale (they had absolutely amazing brushes for a £1!!!) :), so I would recommend doing just that. 

Ok, paper!!! Well, I've been using a few different types. Bockingford is one of my favourite papers. Hot pressed paper is super smooth and velvety. Cold Pressed has beautiful texture and a bit of a tooth. Also Fabriano hot pressed paper (and cold pressed :) is an absolute delight to paint on! But if you really want to treat yo self.. get Arches Cold Pressed or Hot Pressed paper, Arches are considered one of the best watercolour papers in the world (the price does reflect that too :)). Cass Art have pretty awesome paper and for a great price too! But if you aren't sure which paper you like and need more go to a store and touuuch it! :) Jacksons Art is an amazing place to pop in, so are Cass Art Stores (Islington branch has better selection than their smaller branches). 

What are your favourite materials? 

An Ode to I N S T A G R A M

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Hello, 

My name is Viktorija and I'm an instagram addict. I downloaded the app the second day it came out and LOVED it instantly. 

My first instagram post, promising huh?! :))

My first instagram post, promising huh?! :))

It was October 2010, I was working full time in luxury retail and wanted to break through into illustration world. Who would have known that the door which will let me do what I love for a living will be opened with help of a peculiar app to share your daily snapshots? 

Here is my instagram story as told in September to Brighton Etsy Team members (thanks for inviting me guys!), this story will be interconnected with advice I'm always happy to give but through the years I find it hard to balance all the aspects of my business. So sometimes the instagram & social media part suffers a bit.

Things I've learned from 6 years of using instagram (and using instagram to build my freelance career).

It might sound obvious to some people but it took me a while to figure it out and actually apply to practice.

As an example from my experience: I started making shrink plastic badges to attract more people to my shop and to spread the word about my work. It's kind of hard to sell prints and postcards (market is saturated), so nice to find a niche. Instagram was my main platform to promote products and to show how they came to life, how I did what I did, the process, behind the scenes. The way I shared things came from an honest place of enjoying the process and need to share! Luckily some wonderful people found my posts interesting and they followed and stuck around.

But I always knew that in the long run I wanted to draw and to build illustration career. And that instagram was helping me to make that a reality. It was a portfolio of sorts and also a fantastic way to spread the word, meet people. So in my case I started to offer portraits, listing them as a product in the shop. Because until we tell people what we offer and what we want to do no one will know, no one can read our minds. 

So think about where you are going, what do you want to do in the future, where do you want to be and have that big picture in your mind every day, every post. 

A bit of contradiction, oops! But hey, life happens, shit happens, fun days happen, we change our minds and sometimes we just can't figure stuff out. So don't be scared, KEEP GOING! There will be days when you feel lost and not sure of what you are doing or what do you want to do or how to get somewhere etc.. just let these thoughts be and keep doing what you love, keep posting, keep snapping, keep making, stay inspired, let go of expectations. We can't be and feel the same way everyday. I go through weeks of ups and weeks of downs, different aspects of my business require different amount of attention and sometimes I just can't handle everything. And it's ok to take time off, it's your business, your instagram account, your rules and your decisions. It's ok and you are doing great! 

Things to remember

  • Things change very fast with instagram (or any internet based business), so embrace the change and be ready for it (also diversify your income).
  • Experiment, try new things!
  • There are as many opinions about instagram as there are people using it
  • But I think the most important aspect is E N J O Y what you do, people will love things which come from a genuine place and I think people really feel if something is not really true or is really tortured (and also what's the point of doing something you hate or feel is a burden?) 
  • PLAN!!! Have a schedule, collect photos, ideas and posts. Think for some time in advance, not word for word but at least know what you'll be posting to keep you going for super busy days or for when you just don't feel like posting.
  • Be kind, make friends, have fun! :)

Inspiration. Part 1. An Ode to Stationery

commissions & collabs, Process and art supplies, inspirationViktorija1 Comment

Where do you get your inspiration from? AAA! That question makes me want to run away, scream really loud and eat crisps in a corner. That's the initial reaction. But once I start digging deep into my process I kind of enjoy exploring that inspiration and stuff and actually it's quite hard to stop (love over thinking and over analysing, woop woop! ;). 

One thing I always felt inspired by is STATIONERY! Even as a little kid I enjoyed notebooks, paper, pencils and my Dad's technical drawing set (it had several compasses, lots of funky metal things and it was stored in a beautiful velvet case). Choosing a Diary for a new school year was better than Christmas! And of course... drawing paper, sketchbooks, pads, notepads.. ohhh! A lot of my friends in art school said they could draw on a napkin, toilet paper or newspaper. They couldn't care less. And I was envious of their freedom & I felt like a spoiled brat needing beautiful paper and the perfect pencil. I thought I might grow out of it, teach myself to be less of a paper/tool snob. Nope, that didn't happen. But what happened is that I embraced the addiction. And the addiction is now fuelling my inspiration, creativity, work and in the end is bringing me money! 

andsmilestudio illustration, girl in blue jungle

In the beginning of summer I heard from MARK + FOLD, they were kind enough to give me one of their beautiful hand bound sketchbooks to fill with whatever I fancied.  Usually I hoard sketchbooks & notebooks, the more I like them the less likely I am to use it. So this time I was actually forced to start using the sketchbook I liked the most. It felt terrifying and liberating at the same time.

mark + fold and travel kit by andsmile studio

 

I instantly felt in love with the texture of the cloth/cover. It's very tactile and made me want to pick up the sketchbook more, which led to drawing more, keeping it always in my bag and getting it out as soon as I had a minute or two. 

The paper was quite thin and very smooth. I was a bit worried about how much paint it would be able to take and was pleasantly surprised that despite being quite thin and delicate it could handle all the paint I wanted to layer on it! And I did some thick paint pages there! 

I took the sketchbook to V&A with my sister when she visited, to a cute plant caffe in East London and even ordered a beetroot coffee to match the drawing (purely for a photo), I took it on a mini holiday to Cornwall, I took it to the parks on the picnics with cider and strawberries and spent many weekend mornings playing with paint on the pages of the sketchbook. 

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It really inspired me to create work I wouldn't have created and it encouraged me to draw more. That's the point of a great sketchbook, right? I'm a big believer in spending money on something which makes you happy. And beautiful paper and cloth bound sketchbooks is something which is making me happy & inspired! 

andsmilestudio illustration viktorija semjonova girls in pink and blue
andsmilestudio illustration viktorija semjonova girls in pink and blue

Here is the final result of a sketchbook.

They are inviting everyone to share the contents of your sketchbooks & notebooks. And I really love seeing insides of someones notebook, so please do share! :) #pageturnerproject

MARK + FOLD kindly gave me the sketchbook but my review of their sketchbook is my opinion. I am really in love with their beautiful products. :) 

What inspires you?

Painting holiday snapshots with P&O Ferries

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It's been amazing two weeks working with P&O Ferries on a super fun giveaway! Anyone could tag #POferriesXandsmile on their holiday snapshot and they would be in chance of winning an original painting by me! Woop woop! :) There are 7 winners in total and it was such a pleasure to see everyones holiday snaps and draw the winners!

Thank you so much P&O Ferries for organising such an amazing giveaway and thank YOU to all of you who entered!

And the best news are that P&O Ferries are collaborating with 3 amazing illustrators in the next weeks, so keep an eye on their social media and you can find more information on P&O Ferries Blog!

Update on 100 Days project

freelance, commissions & collabsViktorijaComment

I started 100 days project earlier this year around April but life & work got in the way and I had to put it on hold when I had around 30 days left. 

I really enjoyed painting each day when I could find time and decided to finish the project.

It's hard to find 30 spare minutes a day to do something and sooo easy to waste those 30 minutes! 

Cornwall getaway

life, commissions & collabsViktorija1 Comment

Helloooo lovely people of internet!

How are you? Any holidays planned for you guys? Have you been somewhere lovely?

Me and my husband went on a mini break to Cornwall. I've never been there before and couldn't wait to visit after seeing so many beautiful photos!

bude, cornwall, illustration by andsmile

Maksim (my husband) found the CUTEST little caravan in Bude, which was completely booked up for the whole of August apart from three nights where we were free too! We booked the airbnb, rented the car and off we went (stocked up with playing cards and raincoats just in case).

We don't get the chance to be in the nature often enough and waking up in this beautiful garden, surrounded by the forest, flowers, birds, bees and tons of butterflies was pure magic. I really enjoyed first moments in the morning, drinking coffee and soaking in all the beauty and quiet (and I mean REALLY quiet) moments. By the way these photos are taken on my iPhone and I didn't add any filters or make any adjustments. The weather was truly glorious and it seems that the grass is really greener in Cornwall! We spent the first day at  Summerleaze Beach in Bude. 

Colourful beach huts, lots of cute dogs, ice cream, wind, salty air. What else can you wish for?!

In the photo is actually Bude Sea Pool, semi natural pool which is filled with the water from the  sea at high tide. It was soooo magical!!! Really blew our minds! We had a fantastic swim there! Can't remember the last time I was swimming in the sea (probably 5 years ago) but I grew up by the sea and sometimes I really miss being near the water and feeling fresh salty sea air on my skin. 

Thank you so much Bude! We loooooved you!!! 

 

iPad pro + apple Pencil

Process and art supplies, freelanceViktorija1 Comment

I've been using iPad pro + apple pencil since January and hada few people ask me questions about my experience.. so here is a very long answer! :) Hope you find it interesting or useful.

There are a lot of things I absolutely love about iPad pro but I do have to say that I use both my wacom and photoshop + computer and my iPad pro + apple pencil. I use them for slightly different things and they both have pros and cons but today I want to talk about iPad pro! :)

I've been using it since January to draw commissions/portraits & some new designs for prints, business cards and just for fun.

It's PORTABLE! First and very important thing about iPad pro is that you can take it with you everywhere! Comparing it to my wacom cintique with numerous wires, computer, ports, need to be plugged into the socket of course it's a huge benefit and was very important for me to be able to work from my sofa, library or a coffee shop if needed.

Ability to draw directly onto the iPad. Never before I was able to draw directly with a tablet, I would usually start with a paper sketch and then go from there. Maybe it's their amazing screen technology which is so smooth and doesn't feel too glassy, maybe it's the fact that you can put the iPad on your lap or table and turn and tilt as much as you like (the same as you would do with your sketchbook & paper) or everything together. But if feels very nice to use apple pencil on iPad pro. It glides smoothly and very naturally, it imitates the feel of drawing on paper, it's hard to imagine or explain but it's a pleasure to use and it's possible to create a drawing from start to finish on iPad & even sketch!  Apple pencil is a thing of beauty too, perfect lenght and weight, not too thick, just perfect. It feels so good in your hand, muuuuuuch MUCH nicer than any other tablet pen (which are usually rubbery and very thick).

It is possible to finish a drawing/portrait/illustration on iPad pro but all the apps give you an opportunity to export the file in your preferred format (my would be .psd) and you can do any tweaking, prepping files for print or anything else in photoshop (or just back up your files!).

I use Procreate app for iPad. Adobe Draw is also an amazing app (vector drawing app, great fun!) and Adobe Sketch is very very good too! A lot of these apps get frequent updates and get better and better everyday. Both Procreate and Adobe Sketch allow you to use layers, so it gives you room to play and of course export files to photoshop later on.

Procreate have a great selection of brushes, they work perfectly for my style. And people often sell or offer a lot of their own brushes on Procreate forum. As I mentioned before you can export files in any format. Now the app lets you choose your DPI and any size you like. It works really fast too. At the moment you can't import multi layered .psd files but you can import flat images. Also if you save your file as .png with one transparent layer (or flat layer) you can import that too (like if you have a very nice line work, you can scan it in and then work on it in Procreate!) :) One nifty feature is that you can export a video of your work automatically, I'm really in love with this one, Procreate! :) I blogged about it here.

If you are planning to use iPad pro + apple pencil as a replacement for any tablet than you can do it with the help of astropad app. I know a few people are using it that way. However it didn't work for me. I understand I am spoiled and biased with my amazing access to wacom cintique but astropad is not fast enough and does not replace the actual tablet. It doesn't give you the speed the ipad pro gives on it's own or when you use wacom in photoshop. Buuut saying that astropad + ipad pro + apple pencil work for tweaking things in photoshop & doing some basic design work, I did see some amazing illustrators using it that way to draw too (with a bit of lagging but it does work! :). And hopefully things will get better in the future, that would be simply awesome! :)

Wacom tablet + photoshop + Kyle's Brushes is my laptop set up for drawing and it's pretty amazing but iPad Pro + apple pencil + procreate are completely different. Both can be used to draw, just you know.. in different ways! :) My dream set up would be to have some of the amazing Kyle's brushes for iPad pro apps (pro create or any of the adobe apps), hope that will happen some time in the future! ;)  

So to sum it up.. It's portable, pleasure to use, great apps, good fun + if needed files can be exported and finished off in Photoshop. But just imagine the picture, you grab your iPad pro + apple pencil, go to a caffee, grab a seat & a cup of coffee and do some work. Or another scenario, you are tired, it's raining outside and you just walk over to your sofa, snuggle under the blanket and do some commercial work.. cool, huh? I'm a huge fan of iPad pro + apple Pencil and procreate app and it's absolutely worth the investment, AMAZING tools (and not just because you can work from your sofa under a blanket.. promise!)

Here are some things I drew in Procreate app with iPad pro + apple pencil.

Workshop!

freelance, workshopViktorijaComment

This July I taught a fun (even if I say so myself) portrait drawing workshop at We Built This City at Carnaby St, London. 

andsmile workshop

I love drawing people. I am curious about how we are all different and wonderful at the same time, about what makes us special, what we think about a person without really knowing them and how  that perception changes once you get acquainted. 

I've been drawing people I think always, we all tend to go into head/shoulders phase and I really love doing that, so no surprise I started taking commissions for portraits. I'm not sure how many exactly I drew over the last three years but I would say A LOT. 

My process always starts with looking and finding out how that person makes me feel, how they look like to me and how can I translate that very special thing about them into my style. I think a lot about that (sometimes without even noticing) and I think I accumulated quite a lot of things I wanted to share with people and decided to do a workshop.

It was such a pleasure when the workshop of 12 spaces sold out within 3 days, I was sooo excited to meet everyone & have some fun while drawing people! 

We did some black & white head/shoulder portraits with a tiny spot of colour. It was absolutely amazing to meet all the people and see them create absolutely aweeeesome portraits!!! They were all so good at it! And I truly hope everyone enjoyed their time, they were such curious and talented students. :)

Here are some tools we used on the day & I can't recommend them enough.

Brush Pen (if you don't want to splash on the more expensive one, try this one, it's fun & awesome to use!)

Brush Pen (if you are ready to spend a bit more money, this brush pen is absolutely amazing!)

Paper

Or a lovely sketchbook

for some colour:

Pigment Markers (which we used at the workshop, yay!) 

or some watercolour

I hope it was the first workshop of many more to come. I'm busy organising & finding venues for more portrait drawing workshops. Would you want to attend one? Or maybe you would like to suggest not a portrait drawing but other type of workshop you'd like to attend? 

Please let me know in the comments or

to be the first one to hear about upcoming events & workshops! :)

Columbia Rd Flower Market

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One of my happiest places in London is Columbia Rd Flower Market.

Overloaded with flamboyant people, cute puppies, tourists, crazy characters, tiny cute shops and the most beautiful flowers it's a perfect place for inspiration.

I always aim to arrive there early on a Sunday to avoid crowds but never manage to do that. So I just squeeze along the crowd, marveling at flowers, listening to flower sellers, deciding what to buy, usually I change my mind a few times and go back and forth. By the end of the market I dive out of the crowd and walk 4-5 minutes to a quiet coffee shop Caffein or Hackney City Farm for a coffee, spot of drawing & just enjoying slow moments of taking life as it goes. :)

A selection of prints based on my visits to Columbia Rd Flower Market can be found here.

Betty In Bloom

lifeViktorijaComment

Last week was incredibly stressful for many of us and I'm no exception. With everything that is going on in politics and the world. It's hard to stay optimistic when our future depends on people who don't seem to care and now it feels more real than ever. I'm lucky to be living in London around so many like minded, tolerant, open minded and open heart*ed people. Saddness and gloom is almost tangible in London's air and you can probably hear some hearts breaking into smaller pieces once the referendum & politics are mentioned.

However yesterday provided a wonderful sanctuary in the shape of Betty's magazine New Issue Launch party and their 5th Birthday

The venue was filled with incredibly stylish people dressed in floral prints, to match the theme of celebration and new issue - FLOWERS.

Gin & drinks with edible flowers, Vicky's Donuts with sweetest petals, incredibly beautiful hand painted cookies, flower wall and all that in a company of fabulous people.

Happy Birthday Betty magazine! Thank you for such lovely celebration of flowers, magazines and fabulous people and for bringing a bit of joy and love into our lives!

 

Girls & flowers are my favourite thing to draw (and after recent events it's my favourite distraction from the real world), I couldn't resist drawing some of the sweet girls I saw yesterday.

Adventures in Ghent!

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Couple of weeks ago we went to visit Ghent in Belgium to listen to my little sister play at her violin exam (she played with so much passion, love and skill our bias hearts exploded :)).

I've visited Ghent twice before and was so happy to be back. To see my lovely sister & to spend time walking around tiny streets and soaking in the beauty of this ridiculously gorgeous city.

We stayed in a tiny airbnb 5 minutes away from the city center, it was full of character (and I think ghosts). The house we were staying in was built around 16th century and there are lots of older houses in central town, some were built in 17th century some later but they all have one thing in common they are all soooo beautiful and colourful!

Another thing I love about Ghent is abundance of coffee shops! There are a lot of adorable tiny caffe's to drink some really good coffee, enjoy life, look at passers by.. So purely as a research we tried quite a few coffees. :)

And of course because we were in Belgium we had to try some fabulous Belgian beer. And again we were spoiled for choice both of beer & places to try it at. My favourite of course were the ones by the canals, where you can sit down, sip delicious beer and look at tourist boats looking at you looking at them. :)

This time we visited Het Huis val Alijn which is a folk museum, telling a story of Ghent and it's inhabitants. And of course all the amazing indie shops& places to eat. It's my second holiday since becoming a vegetarian so I wasn't quite sure what kind of food will be there to eat. I had problems in Prague (way too much tempting herring and all kinds of sausage). But Ghent was a delight! Every single place we went to had a fab vegetarian & vegan options, which were actually super delicious and well cooked (no massive cheese blobs or mushroom risottos).

There are always so many beautiful dogs there too! I can't believe just HOW many dogs there are in Ghent. But we were told that apparently Belgians tend to have more pets than any other nation in Europe, so that explains everything.

Of course if you venture outside the old town and into the suburbs you can encounter many of the wonderfully ugly belgian houses. I'm absolutely in love with them! And been a fan of the book & twitter account for Ugly Belgian Houses for ages, so my sister gave me the book as a present.. awwww, we had something to read on the way back.. :))

Bedankt, Gent!

You were wonderful as always. I hope we can see each other soon?