Photo essay: The Temple of Literature, Hanoi, Vietnam

The Temple of Literature in Hanoi is dedicated to Confucius , and was the site of Vietnam’s first university, dating back to 1076. Back then, only those of noble birth were admitted, but the mid-1400s brought about a new age, where gifted students from around the country were allowed.

Stunning, breath taking, awe-inspiring… none of these quite do it justice, nor do my photos. But hopefully they’re enough to pique your interest and encourage a visit if you ever find yourself in Hanoi 🙂






Back to school: Art journal classes with Koosje Koene

One of my new year’s resolutions this year was to take some classes and learn something new just for the hell of it. Something I just wanted to find out more about and learn just because. When I was younger, I spend a lot of time writing and drawing. And painting, and making 3D art, and sewing things together… I was a very creative child. As I got a bit older, I still wrote, but the visual arts dropped off.

This year, in my attempts to get back to the real me, I wanted to get back into drawing again. My auntie is a wonderful artist herself, and once she found out it was something I was trying to get back into (she’d bought my so many pencils and pastels and sketchbooks when I was younger!), she had so much encouragement, which was an enormous help. She even brought some of her sketchbooks along to a breakfast date we had a while ago to show me how she worked on the road (she travels a lot, too). With that bit of extra encouragement, I also decided to bite the bullet and sign myself up for an art class, which has just come to an end!

I came across Koosje Koene’s Instagram page a while ago and admired from afar – I loved her style and how she combined some realistic elements with some more fun stuff. I followed the link to her website, and found that she ran some online art classes, which was what I eventually signed up for. She offers a few classes, actually, but the one I went with was the “Art Journaling Class;” a four week online group class with like-minded souls from all around the world, learning from Koosje’s online lessons and videos.

The idea behind the class is to help you keep a daily journal, but with art as well as just words. We covered pencil and pen drawings, water colours and coloured pencils, shadowing and lettering techniques, and quite a bit more. The big advantages for me in doing this class online rather than in person was
a) I could fit it in at my leisure, instead of trying to get to a class in a set place at a set time every week – life is crazy and it’s a lot less pressure when you can do the class on Tuesday one week instead of Monday if need be; and
b) For someone with anxiety, it’s so much less pressure being able to work at your own pace!

The other great thing was that everyone else signed up to do the class were really lovely and supportive – each week gave us the opportunity to upload the pieces we’d been working on for. There were never any nasty words, just helpful comments and advice, which was very much appreciated. Also, because the other students were of all ages from around the world, there were lots of different ideas and perspectives, which made it a lot more valuable, I think, than taking a class with 10 other people from the same city as you.

The pictures throughout this post were some of the pieces I worked on throughout the 4 weeks, and I’m happy to say that I am definitely keeping it up now that the classes are done. I’ve also put together a little notebook with paper for both writing and drawing to bring to Vietnam with me, because a piece of advice from my auntie’s really struck home; she said that she likes to take time out when she’s travelling to grab a coffee and just sit and draw a while, because you notice SO much more, which means that sketch is going to evoke so many more memories than that quick photo you’ve snapped.

Even though I’ve always loved to draw, I’ve lost a lot of confidence having not made time to do it regularly, so this was the perfect class for me; very supportive and self-paced, back to basics, and very fun. The other big problem for me is my tendency toward perfectionism; you have no idea how many pages have been torn out and entire books discarded because something was “wrong.” Learning to embrace the quirks and “mistakes,” and to stop procrastinating out of fear my work won’t be perfect were the greatest lessons I learnt, and are far more important than colour theory and how to shadow objects. If you’re the sort of person who often says “I wish I could draw,” this is the kind of class for you 🙂 It’s given me the confidence not only to start drawing again, but I’m on the look out for some more art classes now! Any recommendations would be much appreciated, it anyone has any!