Viewing: art

Paris museums: Modern art at Centre Georges Pompidou

Once you’ve ticked the obligatory tourist boxes, Paris really begins to open up. Though it’s within walking distance of the Louvre and the Musee D’Orsay, the Centre Georges Pompidou seems to get only a fraction of the crowds that besiege its neighboring museum heavyweights.

None of those for me this time around. I decided to dedicate an entire afternoon to the Centre Pompidou’s high-tech urban architecture and vast collection of modern and contemporary art.

Paris Centre Georges Pompidou

The most striking thing about the building, obviously, is the glass-encased escalator that snakes up and across the facade. Architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers designed the building so that all facilities for public movement and technical equipment would be funneled (their word was “centrifuged”) outside, leaving the inside floors completely free and usable.

Paris Centre Georges Pompidou with stroller

Because I had Tala with me in a stroller, I didn’t get to ride the famous escalators. Boo. But that’s okay. What wasn’t okay was wrestling with the effects of a nasty oyster, leaving me in a less than ideal mindset to, ehem, digest all that modern and contemporary (and, let’s face it, hard to understand) art.

So there I was with a baby, dashing to the bathroom every half hour, soaked in a cold sweat and feeling pukey. But never underestimate the power of art to penetrate even the worst of oyster-induced agonies. Here are few of my favorite works from the museum’s collection, and—I’ll save the best for last—the most spectacularly unmissable thing about the Centre Pompidou.

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Hand lettering project: Sketches to final artwork

Yesterday, I blogged about the hand lettering class on Skillshare that’s been my main creative outlet this fall. I shared the inspiration behind the phrase I chose to work on, which was a song lyric from the ’80s fantasy film Labyrinth.

Today I want to show you how the inspiration I gathered evolved into sketches, and eventually, into a final inked drawing. Letterer Mary Kate McDevitt goes through these steps in detail and packs lots of tips and tricks into her video lessons. So I highly recommend signing up for the class if you want to learn more about the whole process!

After soaking up visual inspiration, it was time to prop up my mood boards in front of me, put pencil to paper and warm up by trying out different styles of lettering.

Lettering warmups

I hadn’t drawn anything in months, so my first warmup (on the left) was painful. Personally, I found my first attempt quite atrocious. “Que horror!” I thought to myself in dismay while rubbing my aching hand. “Maybe hand lettering isn’t for me?”

But soon I discovered why it’s called a warmup—muscles need to loosen up and get used to producing letters. If you look from left to right, you’ll see my succeeding warmups improved. After a few tries, I was able to start playing around with elements from my inspiration boards, like gems, jewels and floating or tumbling letters.


The next step was to sketch small, quick thumbnails to try out a few possible layouts. At this point, I decided to contain the entire phrase in a tilted globe to convey the idea of a turning world.

Rough sketches

Then I chose the most promising thumbnails to refine and develop in more detail.

Refined sketchThis was my first detailed sketch. Patience is not one of my virtues, so it still shocks me to think I spent almost three straight hours working on this—drawing, erasing and redrawing, over and over again. I like to obsess over little details (something my watercolor teacher hated), so drawing all these tiny jewels felt almost therapeutic for me.

Final pencil sketchOnce I reached a refined sketch that I was happy with, I laid a sheet of tracing paper over it and retraced it (no way was I going to draw the whole thing from scratch!). Thanks to feedback from Mary Kate and my Skillshare classmates, I knew that everything south of the banner was pretty solid—I just had to work on the top half of the globe to make the words more readable and fit together better.

After lots of trial and error, retracing and redrawing, it was finally time to commit—to do the final inking.

Oh you turned my world you precious thing final

And here it is: my final inked hand-lettered quote! I want to print it out and put it up in Tala’s room, so I’m eyeing Mary Kate’s class on how to add color, texture and finishing touches.

It all seems easy when I sum everything up in one post, but this took more effort and time than I expected—an hour here, two hours there, carved out and compounded over weeks. I wouldn’t have been as patient if I hadn’t watched the videos of Mary Kate developing her own artwork with such care and attention to detail.

What do you think of my attempt at hand lettering? I’d love to know!

Creative space: NDSM-Scheepsbouwloods

Scheepsbouwwwwhat? No, it’s not a Dutch tongue-twister (or maybe it is, when you try saying it ten times fast). Today I wanted to share more of the awesome venue of my *ehem* totally low-key, intimate birthday brunch. It’s called the NDSM-Scheepsbouwloods, which translates to NDSM Shipbuilding Shed or Hall.

(By the way, if you want another tongue-twister, NDSM stands for Nederlandsche Dok en Scheepsbouw Maatschappij, or the Dutch Dock and Shipbuilding Company. Let’s just stick to NDSM.)

NDSM-loods typography

“Shed” or “hall” are modest ways to describe this immense industrial space. Part of the former ship yard NDSM-Werf, this 100 by 200-meter hall was taken over by a foundation called Stichting Kinetisch Noord, which envisioned it as a creative hub. They built basic structures and gave free rein to the tenants—artists, set builders, theater groups, events companies, all creative people—to finish them and thus control the design and budget of their studios, workshops, even homes.

The results are some pretty awesome creative spaces—10,000 square meters of them. We didn’t have time to explore the entire complex, but we did have a few minutes after brunch to take a little peek.

Amsterdam Noord NDSM-loods art installation
Amsterdam Noord NDSM-loods office
Amsterdam Noord NDSM-loods office deco

This portion of the NDSM-loods also houses a 2,000-sq. meter skate park floating seven meters above the ground. Seems like a really cool place to skateboard!

Amsterdam Noord NDSM-loods floating skate park

It wouldn’t be Dutch without the ever-present bicycles. These black, single-speed city bikes are kind you’ll most commonly find in Amsterdam, called oma fietsen (granny bikes).

Amsterdam Noord NDSM-loods black bikes

With an oma fiets, so there’s no hunching over like you would on a mountain bike. It makes most Amsterdam cyclists look relaxed and laid-back while on their bikes… well, until they curse you, give you dirty looks or run you over. Bike rage exists, people, and it lives in Amsterdam.

The one with the high crossbar is a men’s bike, while the one with the low-slung crossbar is a ladies’ bike—because it wouldn’t be becoming for ladies in skirts to swing their leg over a high crossbar to mount a bike. Also note the number of locks—two heavy chains per bike is pretty standard around here. I’ve heard it said that a bike is stolen in Amsterdam every 9 seconds!

Amsterdam Noord NDSM-loods industrial initials typography

We found our initials lying around the NDSM-loods. Type-spotting is always fun!

A significant portion of the NDSM-loods is dedicated to youth activities like theater performances and exhibits, and some of the tenants build sets for theaters. We saw a few glimpses of that here.

Amsterdam Noord NDSM-loods theater set

I love creative spaces like these. When we lived in Singapore, it seemed like something was always being bulldozed over to make way for a shiny new “hub” for something or other—a youth hub, a technology hub, a cultural hub, you name it. Man, just typing the word “hub” brings me back to those government briefs trumpeting one hub after another. And did they really become those buzzing centers of creative energy? You tell me, I don’t live in Singapore anymore.

Creative spaces like the NDSM-loods, and the NDSM-Werf in general, appeal to me because they have an authenticity and character that speaks of resourcefulness, a kind of fighting spirit. They speak of creativity that doesn’t simply come from throwing money at something (although money helps!). It may not be perfect, but it sure is real. And that’s what makes it more than just very cool.

JR’s Inside Out Project in Amsterdam

I discovered the street art of JR a few months ago while visiting Berlin. After seeing his large-scale paper pastings in Berlin, I became interested in his work and hoped that one day I might be able to participate in one of his art projects. So this weekend I was thrilled to find JR’s Inside Out Project in Amsterdam, right in my own neighborhood!

The Inside Out Project is a global participatory art project launched by JR when he won the TED Prize in 2011. Instead of taking photographs of people and pasting them in different location all over the world, as he normally would, JR invited the public to share their portraits as a way of standing up for something they cared about.

Since then, more than 130,000 people in over 108 countries have taken their own portraits, sent them to JR via the Inside Out website, and received large format posters to paste in their own communities. Most of them are groups that have used the Inside Out Project to make statements on everything from LBGT rights and violence, to dreams and memories. The Inside Out Project has also sent traveling photobooth trucks all over the world, most notably this year at Times Square in New York.

This weekend, the Inside Out Project came to the Unseen Photo Fair at the Westergasfabriek in my neighborhood park.

Inside Out Project by JR at Unseen Amsterdam

So cool! How could I not participate?! So on Saturday afternoon, Marlon, Tala and I queued up at the Inside Out photo truck to have our portraits taken.

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Bonnefanten Museum

One last post about our weekend in Maastricht! I couldn’t move on without mentioning our visit to the Bonnefanten Museum, a contemporary art museum near the up-and-coming Wyck area of town. We were lucky that admission was free that day!

This distinctive bullet-shaped building, designed by Italian architect Aldo Rossi, stands out in contrast to the medieval architecture of Maastricht. It makes the Bonnefanten Museum hard to miss along the banks of the Meuse (or in Dutch, Maas) river.

Bonnefanten Museum Maastricht

When you step inside, abundant natural light and a three-story airwell welcome you, together with a regal, winged marble pillar—the Birth of Venus by sculptor Luciano Fabro.

Bonnefanten Museum Venus

Entering the main building, a monumental staircase shows the way. As a mother with a stroller, I’ve effectively kissed my monumental staircase climbing career goodbye. Fortunately, the Bonnefanten Museum has ample, roomy lifts—way better than the newly renovated Rijksmuseum, which I personally see as a curse for anyone on wheels.

Bonnefanten Museum main staircase

The Bonnefanten Museum’s permanent collection houses early Italian, Flemish and Dutch paintings, as well as medieval sculpture, together with contemporary art. An innovative art lease program allows one to rent works from its collection from as low as €5 a month for six months. So first world!

What I found most interesting was the temporary exhibit that was on at the time of our visit. The Big Change: Revolution in Russian Painting, 1895-1917 features contemporary art from the period leading up to the Russian revolution and the downfall of the Tsars in 1917.

Elsewhere in Europe at around this time, the Impressionists were shaking up the art world. So I expected to see a lot of Impressionist paintings. But instead I found a pleasant surprise.

Ilja Masjkov Self-Portrait with Petr Konstjalovskij

I’ve never really seen Russian contemporary art before, and I have to say I loved these paintings. So vivid and intense, moody and mysterious.

Bonnefanten Museum Russian paintings

One of my favorite pieces was a painting by Pavel Filonov called German war, in reference to the First World War. This is just a partial detail, but this complex work gave me goosebumps. To me, it was the mud of the trenches, broken bodies of soldiers, jarring explosions, glimpses of sky amidst the ashes, fragments of half-remembered faces from home, all captured in one immense canvas.

Pavel Filonov, German War 1914-15

At the end of the exhibit, this installation by Marta Volkova and Slava Shevelenko recreated a Russian dacha, or a traditional countryside summer cottage.

Marta Volkova & Slava Shevelenko, Dacha Landscape 1

In this dacha landscape, surrounded by the scent of pine wood and trinkets from home, the artists share how four paintings from the pre-revolutionary period changed their lives. It’s a beautiful, vivid way to share a personal story: by setting it in a little piece of Russia itself.

Marta Volkova & Slava Shevelenko, Dacha Landscape 2

The Big Change exhibit closed on the 11th of August. I feel lucky to have caught it before it ended!

Stedelijk Museum

My visit to the Berlinische Galerie with Tala last June gave me the confidence to try something a bit bigger, closer to home. One weekend, Marlon and I took the baby to the Stedelijk Museum, the Netherlands’ largest museum of contemporary art and design.

The Stedelijk reopened in September of 2012 after an eight-year renovation, with a new visual identity and somewhat controversial new architecture. Personally, I can’t help but think “bathtub” or “kitchen sink” every time I pass by, and I know I’m not the only one!

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

But once inside, it’s easy to appreciate the rethinking of the entire space.

Stedelijk Museum lobby2

Parts of the old brick building from the 1890s are still visible in the lobby, successfully merging the past and future.

Stedelijk Museum lobby1

Shall we step inside?

Stedelijk Museum ticket

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Berlinische Galerie

After Tala’s birth, I find myself approaching things that I used to do pre-baby almost as if I was doing them for the first time. Whether it’s going out on a date to traveling, part of me is now more cautious and curious—can I still do this or that thing that I loved to do? How will that experience change for me now that I have a baby?

So I really wanted to visit a museum while in Berlin. Marlon and I love museums—as boyfriend and girlfriend, we used to have sketching dates at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore, and we always try to include a museum in every city trip that we do.

We love art museums in particular. An art museum seems like a quiet and contemplative temple, where silence is required for the thoughtful consideration of art. You never want to be the mom with the screaming baby anywhere, much less in a cavernous space that’s prone to echoes. But, inspired by Jenni Fuchs’ awesome post on kids in museums, I decided I had to try.

Berlinische Galerie

For my starter museum-with-baby visit, I chose the Berlinische Galerie, a museum of modern art, photography and architecture in Kreuzberg.

Berlinische Galerie-foyer

It’s a beautiful space, all cool, white concrete, definitely a good one to be in on a sweltering summer day. With just two floors, it’s a small and manageable museum, perfect for a few free hours in Kreuzberg.

Berlinische Galerie architecture stairs

Some of my favorite works from the museum’s collection included Emilio Vedova’s Absurd Berlin Diary, which was like walking in a landscape of paintings that had been freed from walls.

Absurd Berlin Diary by Emilio Vedova

At the time of my visit, the collection showed 100 years of art in Berlin, from 1880 to 1980. Turn-of-the-century Berlin was almost innocent in its art…

Lying Nude (1889) by Lesser Ury

Lying Nude (1889), Lesser Ury

… but the two World Wars changed all that.

Berlinische Galerie The Conformist-Mourning Mothers

The Conformist Turned Wild (1920), George Grosz & John Heartfield;
Mourning Mothers (1948), Fritz Cremer

The belle epoque of languid, glowing nudes disappeared, and the broken soldiers and mourning mothers of wartime took its place. I was struck by how politically charged the art became, and what a dark and complex history Berlin’s artists had to wrestle with. Another layer of this amazing city, peeled back and revealed for me to ponder.

I savored a couple of good, contemplative hours in the Berlinische Galerie—and when Tala started to cry, I didn’t get any dirty looks from anyone! I just sat facing a wall without any art, facing away from people, and nursed her in that cool, white space. It was pretty relaxing, actually. On my way out, one of the museum staff even helpfully pointed out the changing room for me to use.

So, museum with baby: check! I think I have the confidence to attempt a bigger one next time. The newly renovated Rijksmuseum, perhaps?

Street art sightings in Berlin

I never really paid attention to street art until I went on a graffiti walking tour in Granada, Spain, seven years ago. Since then, it’s become one of my favorite things to discover and photograph when I travel.

Luckily for me, Berlin is a street artists’ paradise. When my friend (and ex-neighbor) Giova blogged about her street art discoveries in Berlin, I was inspired to share some of my own street art sightings from my Berlin trip.

Berlin street art Schlesischerstrasse

I didn’t have to go very far to see some really cool pieces of street art. The terrace of the Nhow Hotel (where we stayed for the week… come back on Monday for more on this hotel!) features street art on original segments of concrete from the Berlin Wall, making a sort of promenade along the river. These were a couple of my favorites, especially the black-and-white warrior—it reminded me strongly of indigenous tribespeople (Mangyans?) from the Philippines.

Berlin street art Nhow Hotel terrace

But it would be cheating to just post street art from our hotel right? Then it misses the point of being street art. Venture further afield after the jump!

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Free art prints for the nursery

The nursery project continues!

We received quite a few cards from friends when my baby was born (ah, what graciousness can be enabled by a postal system that actually works). I used to have them taped up to the wall next to her changing mat, and noticed that Tala really liked looking at them during diaper changers.

After reading that babies like faces, I decided to replace the cards with something a little more useful to her at this stage of development. The thought of real people’s faces pasted on my wall creeped me out, so I figured art and illustration was the way to go.

An online art project called Feed Your Soul helped me curate this mini art gallery of faces for Tala. This site features a free downloadable art print every month, from artists and illustrators invited to contribute by Jen Wallace of the blog Indie Fixx.

Free art prints for nursery

I first found this online art project after Googling Rinske Dekker, an illustrator and Etsy seller I discovered at Dutch Design Week. Rinske’s free art print from is on the right, next to the flower-crowned girl by Croatian illustrator Irena Sophia.

Irena Sophia and Rinske Dekker art print free download

I loved the fairytale quality of this illustration by Laura Minco

Laura Minco free art print

and the dreamy colors of this girl with her head in the clouds, by Laura Amiss. I don’t know why I gravitate more towards female figures… all our figurative paintings at home are of women, too.

Downloadable art print Laura Amiss

With some of my favorite cards from friends, plus our friendly felt unicorn, Tala’s little art gallery is complete. She loves looking at it, and she’s even started trying to touch some of the prints. It will be fun to update it every now and then with fresh finds.

Though the project ended in 2011, the Feed Your Soul page has lots more free downloadable art prints to choose from (not all of them are this girly). So you can download and print your own mini art gallery, too!

Countdown to Kleine Fabriek

A few months ago, I signed on as one of two booth managers representing the Philippines’ own googooandgaga at a trade fair called Kleine Fabriek in Amsterdam. (Read more about this art-driven children’s wear brand, and how I got involved here.) That means when I get back from Iceland, I’ll need to hit the ground running… because the day after I get back is the weekend of Kleine Fabriek!

Googooandgaga Kleine Fabriek invitation

I love receiving packages in the mail, don’t you? In the runup to Kleine Fabriek, I’ve been receiving them nonstop over the last few weeks. Angelique, googooandgaga’s brand partner in Europe, has thought of everything. From her, I received my half of a trade show kit that includes business cards, catalogs, invitations, double-sided tape, sample sizes, even a cute little dish for collecting business cards, and more.

Angelique's trade show kit

From Audrey in Manila, I  received samples of googooandgaga’s latest collection for boys…

Googooandgaga new collection for boys

… and for girls. Cue the baby pangs!

Googooandgaga new collection for girls

I also met up with Willem-Jan, my co-manager, which was a lot of fun. It turns out he lived in the Philippines for six months… and LOVED it! He stayed in Mandaluyong, near Jose Rizal University, which is as local as you can get—far from where most expats would dare to live and just minutes where my family used to live, in fact. Willem-Jan’s stories about being the strange white six-footer taking the jeepney and boxing at the Elorde gym on Shaw Boulevard cracked me up, and  his evident enthusiasm and fondness for the Philippines warmed this Manila girl’s heart.

The ability to attract such enthusiasm, whether for art, children’s clothes, or the Philippines itself, speaks volumes about the kind of business googooandgaga is. I think it’s a reflection of the passion AJ and Audrey put into their product and brand—love and madness, as they would say.

I’m so excited for Kleine Fabriek, and proud that I get to be part of bringing an awesome Pinoy brand there!

P.S. How do you like the Instagram-ish feel of these pics? I’m trying out Rollip, a website that lets you apply vintage filters and effects to photos, no iPhone or Instagram required. Check it out and let me know if you like it.