Covent Garden Art Shops ✏️🎨

London has so many stunning Art Shops and first instalment of some of my favourite places to visit is Covent Garden Area.

First stop:

L. Cornelissen & Son is one of the oldest art shops in London, it’s 5 minutes walk from British Museum (Holborn, Covent Garden or Tottenham Court Rd Stations). It’s small, filled to the brim with traditional materials, has lots of drawers for you to look through and squeaky floors. It’s enchanting and you are bound to find some inspiration as well as some great art materials there.

Second stop:

London Graphic Centre is a huge shop covering everything from art materials to stationery to cool bags and DIY. I remember coming here as a tiny baby student illustrator on a day trip to London and feeling like I’m in paradise. To be honest nothing has changed much, art shops are still my happy place. And here you can find everything you wish for.

Third stop:

Monmouth Coffee is an inspiration. They started selling coffee in the 70’s and haven’t changed much, stayed true to themselves, trends just caught up with them. Sometimes I feel this is a beautiful parallel to finding your style in illustration, just do what you believe in and don’t worry about trends, listen to your inner voice. Thank you Monmouth Coffee for teaching this important lesson and making the best coffee. They are an institution and are worth a visit, especially if you are walking around Covent Garden between many many tourists and need a quiet break and some energy ☕️

Fourth stop:

Choosing Keeping exquisite stationery shop which moved from Columbia Rd to this central location and expanded. They sell everything from scented inks to japanese papers to pens, pencils, notebooks, paperweights and all kinds of beautiful stationery in abundance. It’s a very beautiful shop with knowledgable staff and absolutely worth a visit.

If you would like to watch my little video tour of these places you can find it here:

Please see my Art & Stationery Shop map of London (with some coffee shops and other special places to visit), map will be updated regularly and if you end up visiting some of these places thanks to my tips, please let me know!

Source: https://youtu.be/9hCfL4EZY94

Oslo Weekend Guide

Oslo was a place I always wanted to go, but I didn’t know what to expect or had a very clear idea of what it’s going to be like.

I fell in love with Oslo from the first Hei Hei 👋🏼 It’s such a beautiful and grand city but it’s so calm, charming and not showing off at all (because when you are that cool and amazing you don’t need to do that, right?!) and I hope to visit it again in the future.

I had just over two days to explore this beautiful city, love for coffee, art and people watching and so with some googling, friend tips and asking locals here are my favourite things to do in Oslo on a weekend trip.

 
Oslo guide by viktorija
 

🎨 Astrup Fearnley Museet

Contemporary Art museum located beautifully next to Aker Brygge it’s a joy to walk towards it. The building itself is spectacular and is facing the sea. It’s one of the most impressive Contemporary Art museums I’ve ever been. The permanent collection features Frank Benson, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Francis Bacon & David Hockney (it rotates but some of the more popular pieces are always on display).

 
 

However what really blew my mind was temporary collection, exhibition I visited was called Sun and Spring in January - Next Generation in Contemporary Norwegian Art. A lot of them are women and their work is amazing (art & feminism, some of my favourite things). My favourite were Mercedes Mühleisen with a video projection // installation, Miriam Hansen & Constance Tenvik.

 
 
 

The space is incredibly inspiring so after soaking up all the art I got myself a cup of coffee and sketched overlooking beautiful sculptures and the sea.

 
 

🎨 Munchmuseet

The scream was not there but I went to see The Swan Princess (Russian Art 1890-1910). Being russian I grew up seeing a lot of the paintings in books, fairy tales, learning about them in school but I never saw them in person (I was born and grew up in Latvia), so it took me only a trip to Norway to explore that art and connect to that part of my identity. The exhibition intertwined Russian art of that time with Norwegian contemporaries in such a beautiful and human way. Curators explicitly wrote in the exhibition description that it was their intention, to bring people closer together through art in current political climate. I would love to visit museum again and see more of their view.

🎨 The Vigeland Park

Beautiful park filled with works of Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland. The park is so spacious and works as a perfect backdrop for the stuning amount of work and epic scale/quantity of Gustav Vigeland sculptures.

 
Vigeland Park
 

✏️ Lush Dive

Stationery shop. They have absolutely everything and of the best quality. I left with some sketchbooks, pencils, pencil grips, pencil sharpener and came in just to have a browse.

 
Lush Dive Oslo by viktorija
 

☕️ Supreme Roastworks

Excellent coffee. I mean.. they do LOVE coffee in Oslo, it’s drank mainly black and filter and that’s the way I love it. Majority of places offer fantastic cup of pour over and are happy to chat to you and ask what kind of coffee you like.

☕️ Tim Wendelboe

Is an establishment and I’ve heard about it before. I was recommended a cup of coffee based on the weather conditions and it was one of the nicest coffee’s I’ve ever had. Also while having a coffee outside and enjoying the sunshine a stranger approached us and asked to look after his dog while he bought coffee. Got a coffee and a dog for 3 minutes, not guaranteed it will happen to you but worth a try?



Places for walks and sightseeing:

🎵 Stop by Opera, it’s a fabulous building with incredible architecture inside and out.

👩🏽‍🎨 Walk around Grünnerløkka (you are guaranteed to end up there, super trendy area with lots of cute things to see and river to walk by).

🏰 Akershus Fortress

👑 The Royal Palace

🌊 Aker Brygge

🐶 Do some dog spotting, there are so many cute and friendly dogs and also cats.




🎨 For this trip and that sketch session at the Astrup Fearnley Museet I used:

📓 Corner Sketchbook from Present and Correct

✏️ Caran D’ache Luminance Pencils. I love how creamy and non water soluble they are. They come in a variety of different colours and are perfect on their own or add texture to paint.

Hope you liked my guide.

Have you ever been to Oslo? Are you going? Would love to hear what other places would you recommend visiting?

Packing light: Art supplies

I'm the kind of person who packs clothes & personal belongings in 15 minutes for the trip and then spends a couple of hours deciding on which sketchbooks and art materials to pack. But I after many trips to museums, parks and holidays I perfected my traveling set up.

I consider myself to be a light packer. A couple of years ago I traveled for 16 days from London to Brussels - Amsterdam - Riga - Stockholm - Copenhagen - Berlin - Paris - London with a kanken standard sized backpack and on my last trip I was going to Ghent & Amsterdam with my brompton bike and a large kanken. So when choosing art supplies I'm balancing taking things which don't take up too much space but are the materials I enjoy using the most

Packing light, how to travel with your favourite art supplies. Gouache and pencils in the palette. by viktorija semjonova andsmilestudio

 

My art set up now consists of: 

Miello Palette: it has a small tray which you can take out and rubber around the edges, so when closed it becomes airtight. I prefer using gouache these days and taking many tubes with me is not an option. I've tried just squeezing the paint into plastic travel sets but gouache dries quickly and then when a lot of walking and traveling is involved it just crumbles and goes all over the place. This palette keeps gouache wet for around one week and a half. So I squeeze pea size of all the colours and I have all my favourite paints with me but they take nearly no space.

Holbein Gouache: an extra tube of white or any other colour I use a lot. 

Pentel brush pen: fill in the barell with water and no fluff with finding the jar/water, whip it out of the bag and you are ready to paint.

Blackwing Pencil

Pencil Sharpener

Eraser

Caran d'Ache Luminance 6901 Pencils: I enjoy adding some texture and patterns using these pencils

Nahe plastic pouch: they come in different sizes and shapes and perfect to keep all the art supplies and sketchbook in one place. I have one A5 size to put everything in and then a smaller one for pencils, paints, brushes.

Sketchbook one of my favourites is Daler & Rowney Ebony in A5 size. But I love MARK + FOLD (really lovely thin paper but it takes so much paint).

My Travel Guide to Ghent

I first heard of Ghent when I was reading about Ghent Altarpiece and Jan van Eyck, second time I've heard about Ghent when my sister told me she is moving there.

 
 

I was lucky enough to visit Ghent 4 times in the last 3 years and had excellent tour guides (my sister and her Ghentian boyfriend). 

Ghent is one of the largest cities in Belgium (Flemish Region) and it is also the cutest (obviously my subjective opinion). Around 10-15 years ago it wasn't one the tourist map but now it's called a hidden gem. And it is a gem indeed but not so hidden anymore. 

In July the city is at it's busiest as they are hosting Ghent Jazz Festival. There are a lot of universities, art schools and Conservatorium, so lots of students and art which adds to a really nice atmosphere. Apparently it's the only European city with a socialist mayor and residents are super happy (it seems) about the way and quality of life. It's big enough to have all the fantastic things like music scene, art, concerts, exhibitions, places to eat and drink but also it's small enough to be affordable, the town has it's own herd of sheep which roam freely by the canals, central Ghent is accessible only by public transport and bikes (so no traffic jams, no parked cars in awkward places). 

 
 

Ghent has such wonderful atmosphere, it's stunning, beautiful old buildings by the canals, after every turn you can find a postcard worthy view, everything is a little slower, no one is rushing anywhere, people stroll and cycle leisurely, drink coffee, beer, talk, it feels that the city is for people to enjoy life and the city itself. It's big enough that after visiting it 4 times I feel like I just started exploring the place and would love to come back and see more. People are kind and lovely. Here are some of the things to do in Ghent.

St. Bavo's Cathedral (yes, you guessed it. To see Adoration of the Mystic Lamb // Ghent Altarpiece! The Cathedral is so beautiful inside too, absolutely a must visit).

Museum of Fine Arts

S.M.A.K Municipal Museum of Modern Art

Design Museum

Huis Van Alijn Museum of things that (n)ever pass (it is adorable museum and I really enjoyed visiting it)

Het Belfor van Ghent

DOK

Explore Patershol area (so so so beautiful, full of beautiful tiny houses, nooks and crannies)

Take a boat tour, the city looks even cuter from the boat

Cycle around. Ghent is a cyclist paradise. You can cycle along the canals or around the city. 

Definitely eat some waffles (c'mon, I had to say it, right?!)

Try Ghent Noses (sweets which are sold on a square by the Castle). Ghent noses are a local delicacy, super sweet sweets. ;) They are sold by two vendors (in adorable green carts) and some time ago the rivalry peaked over who's noses were better or who could be in a slightly better spot ended up in an actual fight and it's the funniest story (I've heard it from Warre, my sisters boyfriend, and as I was googling to confirm the details came across this little video, it's so sweet!)

Try some beer (Belgian beer is delicious and selection is enormous)

Have some fries 🍟

coffee and food.jpg

Moor&Moor - excellent coffee, adorable shop, yummy food

Full Circle ☕️

ORcoffee ghent ☕️

Peaberry Coffee Bar ☕️

Barrazza 🍻  has seating  by the canal and some tables inside (with the same wonderful view) and fairy lights (one of the loveliest spots for an evening drink)

't Gouden Mandeke 🍻 by the canal if the weather is fab, or inside if less so. 

I must say that if you are after a view and a drink, Ghent has so many beautiful places, I'm sure you'll stumble upon many of them.

Balls & Glory 🍝  meatballs & veggie alternatives

Souplounge cheap and soup (soup! :)

Uncle Babe's  if a 🍔 is your thing

Eat some fries (🍟 THEY ARE THE MOST DELICIOUS FRIES//CHIPS IN THE WORLD, OK?!)

All the flea markets

Koperhuis one of the cutest interior design shops I've visited (next to Huis van Alijn) and just across the canal of Barrazza

Dille & Kamille small chain of kitchen (and some household) goods, must visit, the cutest, I dare you to leave the shop without buying anything

Schleiper (Art Supplies Store) 🎨✏️

Ydee Design Shop very cute design shop, next door to the Art Supplies store, Moor&Moor, Balls & Glory and Dille and Kamille. 

Last but not least is bij' De Vieze Gasten is a community cultural centre (please correct me if I'm wrong). The cutest little cafe with delicious food, beautiful yard with trees and mosaic, concerts and THE MOST AMAZING THRIFTSHOP! Don't get me started on it. Furniture, books, kitchenware, clothing, everyyything! I left with three scarves and a handmade skirt for €4, my sister left with a dress, skirt, couple of shirts, cardigan and a creamer for €15 (geometric, colour, bold, cheap!). I would highly recommend stopping by if you are at least into one of these things.

Sleepstreet (one day I'll stay here, for sure! Just look how adorable this place is!)

Cute place with gorgeous views

Convent

Room in an old house (which I actually stayed in) it's central, building is super old and full of character and I'm pretty sure the house was haunted (ok, maybe not but still).

And while you are enjoying your time in Ghent or dreaming of enjoying time in Ghent, full of beer and fries, watch this wonderful BBC documentary The High Art of the Low Countries

Enjoy your trip! ;)