First Semester at the Sketchbook Skool


Danny Gregory and his friends founded Sketchbook Skool earlier this year and I signed on for the first semester called The Beginnings. The semester lasts for six weeks and each week we have a different teacher and, of course it being a skool, homework. I thought I would be past homework as I just left my PhD. dissertation in but I guess not. I’ll be posting my homework here so you too can see it. Besides, posting it everyday will help me to turn drawing into a habit. So here goes. Our fist assignment was to draw everyday and this is what I drew on Monday:


He, a Finnish wrestler Rami Hietaniemi, was on Monday’s newspaper on the front page of the sports section. He had just won silver in the European championships which is quite an achievement for a guy who lost feeling in his fingers on one hand after some medical mishap. He was told his wrestling days were over just like his everyday career as a builder. But guess he didn’t hear that. When I saw the photo I immediately thought that if I were the casting director of the HBO series Vikings I would be in the phone calling Hietaniemi and asking if he would be interesting in appearing in the series. I think it’s a silly show in many ways but, boy, would he suit its aesthetics! He even has the haircut for it!

Danny G. himself was our first teacher and he had filmed a few videos showing his sketchbooks and a demo for the first assignments. I followed his example and used a brush pen (Faber-Castell PITT’s indian ink dark grey) and sumi ink for this one with some watercolour for contrast. Interestingly the paper worked really well with the inks but the watercolour did not sink in so well. Ach, well. Live and learn. I like how the picture turned out. Danny’s demo was really helpful and using the brush pen made me slow down so that I thought more about the line and less about the picture. But what I liked most was Danny’s comment on not to mind too much whether the picture is perfect or not: after all, it has been filtered through me and it is my human imperfections that show up in it. You can see how the shoulders and the arm are a bit too big but that is how I experienced the photo, I guess, as a picture of a really big, powerful guy.

BTW, the title of drawing is the title of the article, “Quite a Bloke”. Or something like that. Äijä doesn’t quite translate into English but it means both an old man but also a manly man.

Water under the Bridge

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Like I said in the previous post, it’ been a weird winter. All the snow seems to have gone to the North America, and all we had were the leftovers. Instead of snowing we got rain and that meant winter floods. We did have snow on Christmas Eve but by Boxing Day it was all gone and the river running through our small country town was brimming with water, so naturally I had to go and have a closer look. The river Lestijoki had been running high all autumn but now it had reached new heights and so some flood water was running above or on the ice sheet. There were patches of some open water under the bridges and other parts of the river where the current is stronger, but otherwise it was dull brown water on snow white ice.

I had our dog, Kili (named after the dwarf in the Hobbit), with me and he tried to rescue branches and sticks from the river while a draw this. Clearly the little rascal has a much higher tolerance for cold water than I.

The bridge in the picture is know as “the old dairy bridge” (see in picture for the Finnish version). It’s pillars are made of large cut stones and they are sloped on the upstream side to stand the pressure and impact of ice floats during spring floods – though usually the ice just melts away with very little drama. I personally haven’t seen a proper flood with lots of ice since I was about 5-6 years old and it now seems that I won’t get to see one this year either. That one time I remember it was spectacular: we watched how the ice flooded fast down the river carrying with it rowing boats that had been left too close to the river and even small sheds. What a sight it was!

Maybe next year.

Summer Memories: The Myriad Variations of Dandelions



Oh, dear. It has been quite a while since the last post. No excuses but procrastination.

It has been a really lousy winter up here: no snow but rain and utter darkness until last weekend practically. There was snow on Christmas Eve but by the evening of Christmas Day it was all gone again. So we managed to avoid black Christmas – that’s how we call one without snow here – even if just barely.

It get’s really dark here in Finland when there is no snow. There is only a little daylight: the sun rises and sets within hours. Wet ground and vegetation and the low-hanging clouds eat out all light but if there is even a tiny bit of snow on the ground, it reflects the light and brightens up the world. The wet and dark, melancholy conditions have also meant that I haven’t felt like drawing much at all so I don’t have any new drawings to share. Well, to be honest, I do have a few but I need find the energy to scan them first. In the mean time, here’s some less known knowledge about dandelions.

A dandelion is a dandelion, right? Nothing much to it. A common weed. A nuisance even.


The family Taraxacum contains innumerable species, subspecies and apomict microspecies. (Apomixis is a form of parthenogenesis in plants.) A Finnish field manual of plants lists 500 common forms of dandelions in Finland. The following are the most common ones of those 500:

crocodes, balticum, suecicum, fallicinum, fennobalticum, hjeltii, norvegicum, brachyceras, tornense, proxinum, falcatum, pseudofulvum, fulvum, isthimicola, rubicundum, marginatum, limbatum, scanium, croceum, praestans, sagittifolium, maculigerum, naevosum, kuusamoënse, cochleatum, chrysostylum, perattenuatum, galeatum, crassipes, triangulare, revalence, laceratum, pulcherrinum, biformatum, litorale, subhuelphersianum, obtusulum, pallidulum, remotijungum, ostenfeldii, canaliculatum, penicilliforme, speciosum, septentrinale, subpenicilliforme, cyanolepsis, tenebricans, sublaeticolor,  porrigens, laciniosum, alatum, ingens, ancistrolobum, pallescens, croceiflorum, piceatum, sellandii, pallipedes, expallidiforme, xanthostigma, latissinum, fasciatum, longisquameum, patens, kjellmanii, obliquilobum, involuvratum, altissimum, subcanescens, hamatum, tumentilobum, reflexilobum, pectinatiforme, retroflexum, murconatum, adiantifrons, amplum, ekmanii, hamatum, cordatum, lucescens, glossocentrum, semiglobosum, angustisquameum, multilobum, imitans, lingulatum, dahlstedii, puolannei, aequilobum and polyodon.

So there you go. The easiest way to tell apart different kinds of dandelions is by the shape of their leaves. And, interestingly, I friend of mine told that the more serrated and rugged the edges of the leaves are, the stronger and more bitter the taste. A crucial piece of information if you are collecting leaves for a salad. And you can use the flowers for mead!

You – if you live in the Northern Hemisphere – have months before summer so there is plenty of time to learn to identify different varieties of dandelions. And they will be everywhere in your neighbourhood this summer too. And an endless subject for those of us who draw.

Life on Seabed



I’m a bottom crawler. I live on the bottom of the sea. Ach, well, I don’t live in the sea but on land that used to be sea some thousands of years ago. You see, we all are still living in an ice age. The Querternary glaciation, that started about 2,58 million years ago, is still on. We’re just living in a interglacial period, the time between glacial periods when the continental glaciers are at their maximum. So, ice age was not something that happened a long time ago.

The last glacial maximum ended about 11 000 years ago and that’s how long the Finnish landscape has been free of the contenental ice sheet even 3 to 4 kilometres thick. And that is the reason why I am living on an ancient sea floor. All that ice pushed the Earth’s crust down creating a kind of a dent on the crust. When the ice slowly melted away and the ice sheet retreated back towards the north pole, water filled that dent creating a sea. Once free of the weight of the ice, the crust begun to rebound. Post-glacial rebound it is called. That means that every year the land here rises from the sea a little and the actual landmass of the country increases. It’s not much, approx. 5 mm per year, but give it enough time and it will change the face of the earth around here.

So where I now live it used to be sea about 3000 years ago and you can still see it in the landscape. It’s pretty open and level up here. There are small ridges left over by the retreating ice but between them it is rather flat. If you know what to look for, you can see where the ancient beaches have been, and here and there you can see how the now gone see has arranged the sand that once was at the bottom of it into wave like dunes.

I love the openness. The sky is vast, almost limitless. Clouds are the main feature of the landscape and since we are still pretty close to the sea (a bit over 20 km) we get a great variety of clouds here. There are types that you see only during summer and those that herald snow in the late autumn. Even the slightest change in the cloud coverage changes the light, and suddenly you have a completely different mood over the landscape.

The two sketches were made of the roughly same view along our daily dog walk. Nothing much in landscape changed in between except for the sky. The white things in the picture below are huge round hay bales wrapped in white plastic to preserve them for winter feeding. We call them dinosaur eggs – not quite lovingly.


Seaside at the Peak of the Season



Well, not quite. The sea is still quite chilly in June up here but when the wind is right – blowing from the sea and pushing warm surface waters landward – and the sun heats up the shallow waters in the small bay in Ohtakari, it can be quite enjoyable. We didn’t swim there when I drew this. We just had an extempore picnic on the beach with our dog Kili (a white miniature Schnauzer and named after the dwarf Kili from The Hobbit since he is a dwarf Schnauzer he needed to a dwarf name, right?) for the first time. He did have a blast. Lots of sand to dig and room run about. He wasn’t that keen on swimming at first back then but these days he is happy to jump in.

The beach in Ohtakari is a proper sandy beach. It’s usually rather quiet there since most tourists go a bit further north to Kalajoki where they have the longest beach in the country. This was drawn at the south end of the beach where the bay ends with a small stony point with a birdwatching tower on it. Right behind the path leading to the tower begins the Finnish defensive forces’ artillery practice range. We live good 25 kilometres away from Ohtakari but we still can hear the pounding when they practice.

It was a perfect day, sunny and warm. Now, at the beginning of November, it’s not that warm anymore. I stumbled upon this video about a winter storm in Ohtakari two years ago. Not so warm and cozy. Our picnic beach is entirely taken over by the waves but you can see the tower in my sketch around 0:25 (‘Afternoon’).

My Heroes: Leena



One of my creative heroes is Leena, my partner’s cousin. Not only is she one of the kindest persons I know, she has her own style of everything pink and cute (or kawaii, as they say in Japanese). It makes finding presents for her rather easy and fun! One Christmas we got her this über cute, pink bling-bling ornament for the tree. Sadly I can’t remember what kind of a figure it was but it was pink with lots of sparkle. To keep things in balance and to prevent her pink Christmas tree (surprised, you shouldn’t be) from becoming overly pink, we gave her partner a glass squirrel. A very cute too but brown. But don’t be fooled by all her pinky, fluffy stuff. She’ll kick your butt in action games on Wii.

Leena makes these awesome, creative and happy cards for every occasion she can think of. It’s so much fun to wait for her card to arrive when it gets close to my or my partner’s birthday to see what she has come up with this time. Her cards always bright up my day! Thanks Leena!

But what I admire in her even more is her courage to be true to herself and her style. It’s a rare thing in this world.

I did the page last summer on the Saturday of our traditional summer family reunion at her dad’s place at the seaside. Lots of sun every years and lots of loitering on the beach. The others were playing a board game called Carcassonne but I had had my fair share of the game for that day. A great game, don’t get me wrong, but I decided to go through Leena’s amazing stash of arts and crafts stuff. There I found these stamps. I really liked the ones with cartoon-style Japanese motifs – especially the lanterns – so I printed some images on the right-hand page. On the left I freehanded one stamp of a series of birds that were really pretty and poetic. The spread felt a little empty or too still so I added the ‘stains’ to spark it up. Really enjoyed doing this and leafing through Leena’s stamps. There were so many beautiful ones I would have liked to include!

Creative Heroes: Tommy Kane & 23thorns



I happen to think that aardvark is possibly the funniest word of the English language. Yeah, yeah, strictly speaking it is not English but borrowed from Afrikaans ‘erdwark’. In Finnish it was know as maasika, ‘earth pig’ which happens to be a direct translation from Afrikaans, until the Committee for Mammal Names decided that it was misleading since the animal is not related to pigs at all. In stead, they suggested, it should be called termiitiikaivaja, the termite digger, which certainly does make sense except that aren’t there other animals, absolutely unrelated to aardvarks, that dig for termites too? I don’t know what Spock would say about this, but it doesn’t sound only logical to me.

I drew the aardvark after a picture in 23thorns’s amazingly funny and informative blog about life in South Africa. Now, of course, I can’t find the exact post about the critter, but he shared some really interesting information on the matter. You would guess right from looks of the critter that aardvarks are not runners but did you know that they can dig like no other? Even 2 feet in 15 seconds! Thanks to you, 23thorns, I have learned a lot about South African (wild) life that I previously had absolutely no knowledge about! I need to buy you that beer some day.

The other creative hero inspiring my drawings in this style is Tommy Kane, an artist (yes, you are!) from New York. I love his free flowing, quirky drawings. And the little stories he tells! Hihii! I also like the fact that Tommy is not afraid to take stand but posts drawings with political and other opinions. Check out his Vimeo account too. I like especially this one about his trip to Vietnam. So thank you, Tommy, for helping to loosen up my expression. Seeing your stuff always lightens up my day. :) Would by you a beer too but you don’t seem to have a button for it on your blog.

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