30 June 2015


The high point, literally, of our day in Spandau - which is at then end of the U7 line that we usually use on the way to elsewhere - was the view from the Julius Tower in the Citadel -
The old town, seen from on high
The citadel - a renaissance fortification, surrounded by a moat - is seriously big and the tower is quite high -
You go up a central spiral staircase to a solid brick floor, and then the stairs hug the walls reassuringly -
The fortress is well worth the 4.50 euro entrance fee - there's a museum of the history of the city of Spandau, which was a Prussian garrison and in the 20th century developed various industries. And there's a cannon museum, in the parade hall -
Many more photos from there ... another time perhaps.

Spandau also has the Gothic House, which has been inhabited since the 15th century and now has a museum with an astonishing collection of models of buildings
built from kits - Anker Steinbaukasten - a toy craze dating back to the 1880s and still available today.

A late-19th century kitchen in the museum -
The Gothic House has some original features, such as this mural -
It also had an exhibition of the local art group, including this "Seidenfaden bild" by Helga Laessig -
As well as watching huge ships (and small boats) going into the locks, we did a bit of shopping (and eating and drinking) and all in all had a very pleasant, relaxed day. 
 If you want something a little "different" when visiting Berlin, try Spandau...

Drawing Tuesday - Bode Museum

Where better to be on a rainy miserable day than in a museum? For five hours I drew and drew "old things" - made between the 2nd and 14th century.

First to the "early Italian" room, lured by the orange dress against the blue walls -
This little statue, possibly St Luke, appealed to me -
Two blind drawings, the longer pose, then back to the scribble-page for adding a different view -
Into the Byzantine rooms, attracted by these columns -
which would require craning of neck to draw, so I moved to something at sitting-down level -
 A chancel screen carved of marble in Constantinople in the 12th century -
I loved the animals and the vines, and it turns out, from the guidebook, that the animal motifs represent death (the bird of prey landing on the back of the deer, the foxes after the hen) and the vegetation represents the tree of life - so it was appropriate to have a "secular" piece like this in a church.

And I loved drawing these, using "any old felt-tip pen", starting with the side with the deer - by the end of two hours, the fox on the left rather got away from me, but I'm glad he did. Filling in the border got a bit tedious - there's a schema, but there were variations, and at one point there seemed to be an entirely different stonecutter imposing his own ideas -
This bit of carved marble, with its interlacings and motifs, proved surprisingly hard to get to grips with -
The dogs, with their huge tails and tongue, caught my attention, first for a line drawing in pen and then for something "more careful" with a pencil - 
and pencil again, without too much erasing, for the entire thing, kept under control by starting with the grid of small deep circles -
I'm trying to be patient, be a bit careful, and to persevere. 

In another room of earlier works, this "tomb relief with prayers and a boat" from Egypt, 2nd or 3rd century -
Pencil again, looking at tone. After lightly sketching the main shapes I started at the left and worked across -
At this point (four hours had passed) I was starting to see both shapes and tones more clearly, and was utterly losing track of real time, even though I noted the time when I finished each drawing. The boat and prayers took 40 minutes.

Back to pen for this "fragment of tombstone with eagle and aedicula", Egypt, 7th-8th century -
 It took 20 minutes (I thought the museum would be closing imminently) - but no, it stays open till 6. I was ready to stop, though, and quickly added a bronze votive altar, about 6" high, from 3rd-4th century Egypt, and a silver spoon from the Memphis Treasure (6th-7th century) -
 and a quick look at some Coptic textiles in a drawer -

and home in the rain.

29 June 2015

Food (and drink)

Warning: this post contains, indeed consists of, photos of meals. Do we all take photos of our food when we're on holiday? Meals make important memories, so I'm putting mine here, in addition to mentions of sociable breakfasts, Mozartkuchen, strawberries, asparagus, and possibly the odd glass of beer recently.
Favourite home-cooked meal - mediterranean veg pasta

Favourite meal out (so far) - schnitzel at Romantica, right next door

Pakora "starter" on the sunny corner, yesterday evening; shared, we found it made a meal.
You can just about see the makeshift, but sturdy, step into the restaurant

Favourite vietnamese, in the next block, with its duality of sauces

Sitting outside the ice cream place, next door to the vietnamese

Another sunny corner and a nice carafe of picpoul

A quick beer in the corner of the forest

Blinis went down a treat in Prenzlauerberg

Today's deluxe Monday morning breakfast - note the takeaway coffee from
across the street, what luxury! - with the Today programme
 on the ipad. Tarts and cakes were saved for later.
The countdown to departure is on; I am getting sad about leaving and find myself taking lots of photos of the neighbourhood. Still, we have a good two days left ... and cake to come home to, today.

28 June 2015

When paintings overwhelm

Overwhelmed by the many, many paintings in the Gemaeldegalerie, I found myself standing in the middle of room after room looking around to find just one painting to look at more closely. Often it was one of the "quieter" paintings, rather than something with lots of figures and action, referring to a story that I might not know. (Labels had the barest details, no helpful background information about the content.)

This one caught my eye because of the dark shape - a woman shrouded in her shawl -
Giovani Gerolamo Savoldo (1485-1548), The Venetian Woman (Mary Magdalene), 1535/40
 It was the start of a collection of brown-ness: shot silks, satins and velvets ...
 Alas, details for some paintings are missing from my notebook.
 With this one, the attraction was its fragmentary nature - torn canvas put in a frame -
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), fragment of portrait of Virginia de Vezzo [his wife], 1624-6
The criterion for the collection stretched to brown fur -
Francesco Ubertini (Il Bacchiacca, 1494-1557), Bildniss einer Frau mit Pantherkatze
[puts me in mind of surrealist Leonora Carrington]
And have you been noticing the sumptuous frames?

Really looking...

Having this list to hand would have helped with looking closely at those "busy"pictures - it comes from kinderart.com but you don't have to be a teacher or child to use it -


  • Describe what you see.
  • Describe the artist's use of color. How many colors have been used?
  • How has the artist applied the paint?
  • Describe the texture.
  • Describe the lines in the work.
  • What kinds of shapes do you see?


  • Is your eye drawn to any particular area of the painting?
  • Is there an element that stands out in the composition?
  • Is the composition balanced?
  • Does the work make you think of movement? How does the artist show movement?
  • Does the painting look flat or does it give a feeling of depth or space?
  • Where might the artist have stood while painting this picture?


  • What kind of mood or feeling do you get from the painting?
  • If you could imagine yourself within the painting, how would you feel?
  • What sounds would you hear?
  • Why do you think the artist choose this particular subject to paint?
  • What part of the landscape, building, person, animal etc. most interested the artist? Why do you think so?


  • Find an interesting painting. Why is it interesting to you?
  • What do you like or dislike about the work?
  • The more you look ... the more you will see.

With little time to look at a painting, it's likely that our first response will come from the "judgement" category - I "like" or "don't like" the painting. The times I've participated in the National Gallery's Friday lunchtime "Talk & draw" sessions, for which it's a good idea to arrive rather early, have been enhanced by the change to look and look at the painting-of-the-week. Even without concrete questions; sitting there, you can make your own agenda - "find all the red"; "find all the yellow"; what's going on in the foreground, the background; how is that group of figures related; what are the figures looking at.... Etc.

27 June 2015


That's the old Tempelhof airport building in the background; hoeflichkeit=politeness
(waste bins in the street are very entertaining)

There are also tiny orange streetcleaning vehicles are called Lilliputz (putzen=cleaning)

There's an U-bahn station called Onkel Toms Hutte, named after a housing estate
that was named after Harriet Beecher Stowe's book (pommes=chips/french fries)
If German puns are your thing, have a look here. Let's move on...
Flowery street in the sky...

"Farbe muss gesehen werden", said Walter Benjamin, "colour must be seen"
 ... would he have enjoyed this "farblosigkeit"?
 Some enlightenment for walkers along Am Kupfergraben ... can't find out how or why they are there...
"If anyone can do it, it's not art, and if one can't do it, then it's definitely not art."
Karl Valentin also said "Kunst is schoen, aber macht viele Arbeit" - art is lovely, but makes a lot of work

"The eye is the best tool for finding out the questions one must ask" - Peter Hauser (who he?)

"No one in the world gets to hear such rubbish spoken as the pictures in a museum" - Jules de Goncourt
and  "One waits and one always arrives late" - Peter Hauser again

26 June 2015

You're never far from the sewing scene

We had walked past this shop on Crellestrasse before -
This time there was a basket of Stoffreste outside, and nothing gets my attention quite like fabric remnants. Guenstige Preisse, what's more! I chose the pink one and went inside to pay
and, as you do, fell into conversation. This was the first sewing shop I'd seen, I said, which got a surprised reaction - "Berlin is in the grip of sewing fever, there are shops everywhere!" - well, we'd been avoiding the shopping areas - "That's probably a good thing." (Oh dear, was it my paltry purchase that marked me out as (a) consumption-adverse or (b) poverty-stricken?)

Volksfaden [love the similiarity to Volkswagen] is a lovely little shop and if I lived here I'd be a regular customer, making bright and cheerful things.
 In addition to fabric it has buttons, ribbons, patterns, magazines...
 ... and a proper big old typewriter ...
"Sewing like crazy!"
Volksfaden stocks knitting yarn, too, And in the back room were four sewing machines in zingy (if black and white can be zingy) fabric covers ... note to self: use something really nice from copious stash to make zingy dustcover for sewing machine (incorporate a bit of the "souvenir" pink fabric).