June as a month of mini gouaches

June was the month of 30x30directwatercolor challenge which was hosted this year by Marc Holmes (who created this challenge a couple of years ago) and Uma Kelkar. A whole bunch of people worked through 30 days of June without using lines with the watercolors (visit the FB page!), and I did the same with gouache.

Things that were helpful:
1. Having a mini gouache kit (se photo below) ready in my pocket most of the time so that even 5 minutes while running errands might give me a change to make a tiny sketch.
2. Not having either pencil or pen in that kit to avoid temptation.
3. Separating painting these little gouaches from all other stuff (after a few days the idea of doing something else in my sketchbook was too inviting)
4. Organizing some time to paint something in a completely different technique or with different materials.
5. Setting my expectations low enough so that even a couple of strawberries would work as a subjects or a very fast and wet in wet sketch of the flowers would still count. Ultra small size paintings (1.5" x 1" literally). Some days are like that and I have to be OK with it in order to survive.

Things I wish I did differently:
1. I think having more people and pets as subjects would be a lot of fun.
2. I think I would enjoy working on larger pieces next time.
3. I think next year I will try and do it with watercolors actually. Gouache allows for corrections through it's opaque nature and it took some edge of the challenge for me.

See how I did this challenge last year:

here is my very portable gouache kit:

I learned something about the tulip trees...

I love tulip trees (Liriodendron) - the shape of the leaves most of all probably. Large cup-like flowers with intricate shapes and crazy pattern, a lovely set of colors. The almost cone-like seedpods. Pointy remains of seed pods that make a naked tree look even more interesting than just a naked tree. The shape of the overall tree - it's awkwardness without leaves and might with them. How much shade it gives. The fact that they are related to magnolias.

But one thing always bothered me - the sticky sap on some of them. But not on others. I never could figure out the pattern, then remembered to search online and...

"Tulip tree aphids (Illinoia liriodendri) commonly feed on the underside of the tree's leaves early in the growing season. Aphids feed on tree sap and cause pale, yellow spots on leaves and may also make leaves curl or pucker and distort blooms. The insects ingest more sap than they need and secrete the excess as honeydew, which leads to sooty mold."

Report About My Urban Sketcher's Workshop: "The Joy of Gouache"

I had the honor of running one of the 10 Urban Sketchers workshops in the Bay Area this year. We gathered near the Menlo Park library on a lovely sunny weekend in April. The title of the workshop was "The Joy of Gouache" and that is what we did: enjoyed some gouache.

USK Workshop "The Joy of Gouache" 4-27-19
Each participant received a small sketchbook and an airtight gouache palette (just like the one I am using every day) with testing amount of gouache paints. I brought all kinds of things for people to try - from pens and pencils to brushes and viewfinders, different kinds of toned paper and additional types and colors of gouache.

USK Workshop "The Joy of Gouache" 4-27-19

I shared the way my plein air gouache set-up works and demonstrated some techniques and did all the exercises with participants.

USK Workshop "The Joy of Gouache" 4-27-19
It was a great experience - to have this amazing group of people who showed with lots of enthusiasm and worked hard on all the exercises I laid in front of them. I came home charged with lots of ideas for new gouache paintings and workshops!
(most of the photos here are by workshop participants)

Why palm trees get a haircut?

Posted: May 8, 2019 | | Labels: , , , , ,

I love unkempt palm trees and never understood why people insist on this intrusion into the life of a tree. Recently I found out that the reason is that rats and raccoons live in those crazy trees and I loved it. Though now I think twice before I park myself to sketch under one of them :)

I saw a group of people singing while trimming palm trees once. They were working in harnesses, using large machete knives and were laughing and keeping the rhythm of the song with their work. I hope all of the palm trees are getting a haircut with songs and laughter.

Caterpillars under a huge oak tree.

Posted: Apr 30, 2019 | | Labels: , ,

I recently was sitting under a huge oak tree and sketching with my friends Suhitasketch and Teaandmarmalade. At some point, Suhita pointed these beautiful caterpillars sitting on her sketchbook and soon I counted over a dozen on our table.

After a quick search, I found out that these beauties are Western Tussock Moth

They are actually pests and chew through a lot of oak tree leaves in the area. Stanford University is fighting them by releasing microscopic worms (predatory nematodes) and spined soldier beetles, as well as power-washing trees and surfaces where eggs are laid and cocoons are left.