Update on my Parents - Refugees from Ukraine - May, 2024. The war is still going on.

An update on my parents - who are refugees from Kharkiv, Ukraine and have been living in California for a little over 6 months now. This week my parents celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary. Here is how they spent their 50th wedding anniversary and 49th anniversary - both during the war. Here is a little portrait of them. We gave then a new pan for borscht and a bouquet of basil. 

This was also a week when a horrible attack on Kyiv Children's Hospital happened. Attacks are happening every day all over Ukraine and my parents are in touch with the family and friends who live with daily air raids, lack of electricity, and the reality of losing someone you know often. It is tough for them not to be able to do much but they try to support people as much as possible by calling, sending messages, little funds that they have after payments for the electricity and water in their apartment in Kharkiv, and trying to support me by being as positive and healthy as they could - they do their best.  

Since my last update on my parents in May of this year lots of things happened. Not too many things changed dramatically but little shifts here and there are visible to me. During daily walks some new connections were established: there is a policeman with a black labrador who lets my Dad play with the dog regularly. There is an elderly couple whom they meet every day - only one of them speaks English a bit - which matches the situation my parents are in. Their encounters consist of slow, animated walks and talks for two people and awkwardly silent slow walks for two others. My Dad pauses for a whole 5 seconds when I ask him about learning English - instead of immediately going into a conversation about their home in Kharkiv. There is a plum tree and grapefruit tree on the street, and the whole system is developed around when to go for a walk before street cleaning clears the fruits - so that they would not go to waste. There are books that I brought Mom to read and she is back to reading several at the same time. 

My parents learned that if something is standing on a street with the sign "FREE" it is free to take and are now participating in the whole exchange economy - leaving things and picking up things almost daily. This is how an exchange of chairs and tables was facilitated and the latest item is a huge tripod (???). I have no understanding of how they carry things with the limited mobility situation - but they are surely having fun. Many plants were brought from the street too and I am planning to sketch their little patio garden. There are wisteria, nasturtium, and morning glory grown from seeds, succulents, and geraniums from the neighbors. There is a mystery about a fruit that is hanging above their patio too - I hope it is not poisonous - it will be hard to convince Dad to not try it when it is ready... :) Multiple visits to doctors are teaching us all lessons in patience and shades of honesty. 

A Cooling Trip to Point Lobos State Park!

A trip to the Point Lobos State Park is always on my list of fun things to do - no matter what season we are in. But during a summer heatwave which we experienced for over a week, it was a necessary respite :)  
As expected, it was much cooler in the park - in fact most of the time it was a bit too cold to leisurely sit and sketch plus the number of people was even more than usual - so most of the time I spent hiking - and had only a few short stops to sketch. But one little color sketch made it in addition to some ink lines.
Pelicans, harbor seals, sea lions, sea otters, and an amazing super bloom of coastal flowers! 

A Trip to the Zoo (Sketching FAST!)

I got a chance to visit the Oakland Zoo and had a great time trying to capture moving animals. 

I witnessed a training session of the Elephant (her name is Osh) - the handler would spread her arms and the elephant would show her ears. And the training of the geriatric male colony of fruit bats - the trainer showed her palms with the fingers spread and the fruit bat would open up its wings. I believe this is so that an accurate assessment of the state of the animal can be made and not for the benefit of the public - but the public definitely enjoyed the show. There was a lion who was hiding so well that only a baby who was looking in the most obscure place was able to notice a tail - and we followed a happy scream and also saw a tail :) 
It was a hot day and many were hiding in the shade - some of that shade looked so inviting that I would not mind hiding there myself. Perhaps in a Hyena exhibit? Or with gibbons! (there is a baby gibbon at Oakland Zoo!) 

Poppies - experiments!

Poppy season (moving from California Poppies to Flanders Poppies to Matilija Poppies) left me with all sorts of experimental thoughts this year - some things will come out next year when I face these challenging flowers again. Some are becoming an exhibition which I am pitching to show locally. And here are some of the results that I am ready to share:

How I Did Not Participate in a Challenge

For several years in a row, I enjoyed participating in a #30X30directwatercolor challenge. It was created several years ago by two unstoppable artists Uma Kelkar and Marc Taro Holmes. The original rule was that during the month of June, one would create 30 sketches with watercolor but without any help from the line-making tools (pencil, pen, etc.)  I've enjoyed bending the rules to work in gouache and did this challenge for several years in a row concentrating on a solid block of work done in a short period - like an art sprint in the middle of the year! 

In 2017 I did 30 tiny gouaches, in 2018 I did 30 drawings made with 20 brushstrokes or less, in 2019 I did 30 mini gouache paintings, in 2020 I did a bunch of interiors and virtual traveling from photos and livestreams, I was traveling to Ukraine in June 2021 so I skipped that year and the next year the war entered our lives.

This year things did not align for me to do this challenge however I did the next best thing I could: I kept the challenge on my radar:

1. During this June I tried to follow the #30x30directwatercolor hashtag on instagram and check out facebook group to comment on some of the works that others were making. I looked at what goals people were pursuing, and how they were managing to keep the rhythm (as anyone who did even a week-long challenge knows, there are always ups and downs in motivation, quality, and support in any challenges). 

2. Every time I had a little bit of extra time and/ or energy - I tried to do something in the spirit of the challenge - even if it was a tiny thing. 

The way I think about challenges - they are great but sometimes too much of a commitment for a particular person or time of their life. So one can "try it on" while they are happening - as you would try a shirt you might want to buy sometime in the future. It surely is different from doing a whole thirty drawings. But you might get a feel and perhaps even jot down some ideas for how to make it joyful and sustainable when the time comes and you are ready.

Here are some of my June examples - I've shared Jacaranda sketches and poppies before - but adding them here as an example for this particular conversation.