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.

Refilling my tombow fudenosuke brush pen.

Posted: Apr 29, 2019 | | Labels: , , ,

I've been using tombow fudenosuke for some time now - it's a great workhorse - easy on any paper and with a varied line width and waterproof ink it just worked as a very simple tool to put in a pocket lately. But it ran out of ink right before my trip and I did not have a spare one - so I tried refilling it with Platinum Carbon ink and it worked so great that I now keep doing this every time the ink starts to look a bit off!

These photos and a quick sketch will fill in the blanks of the following instructions:
  1. Pull out the back cap from the pen (use pliers) 
  2. Get some ink into the syringe
  3. Gently (drop by drop) add some ink to the foam core that sits inside the pen (you can also take it out and add ink that way - but I kept it inside to keep my hands relatively clean). You will not need a lot of ink to saturate the core.
  4. Close the cap and see how your pen writes now!
  5. If you overdid it with the ink there will be a bit of leakage from the tip. I left my pen sitting on a paper towel for a bit of time and it soaked all the extra.

Steps 1 and 2:
 Step 3.