Dendrochronology is a really cool idea - one of the first concepts that I was introduced to when my parents talked to me about science, history, math, conservation, ecology, aging and family history.
I use it too when I talk to people of all ages - it's such a simple and personal thing - to touch the past on the tree stomp! 
So naturally, I try to count the years every time I see a tree stump, I draw one every time I have time for it and one of these days I will get myself a petrified tree with rings - just need to find "the right one". 

And here is a really cool example of how the idea of a tree rings is used to represent data - in this case 200 Years of U.S. Immigration. Check it out - I am part of one of those green dashes. 

Wisława Szymborska

I discovered Mary Oliver through the recommendation of a friend a few years ago and since then became a collector of little bits and larger pieces that I loved and many that I felt I did not grasp but with time they would open up for me and I will grow to understand them. Mary Oliver's passing last week plunged me down the rabbit hole of reading her poems again and one of the places where I got lost (in a good sense) was
There I found a name of a new for me poet - Wisława Szymborska. She was a Polish poet, essayist, translator, and recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature. She was alive in the wonderful sense of this word - and I think
I am sitting by a large pile of books I've already absorbed - many have both English and Polish texts side by side and I find it immensely pleasurable to read poetry like this. My Polish is almost non-existent - it's based on my Ukrainian origins, movies, songs and a couple of visits to Poland. But it's enough to touch a little bit that illusive another dimension of the language, feel how words are formed and how they sound.

I love persimmons :)

This is not a secret - I love persimmons. I love to eat them when they are crunchy (not astringent!) and when they are slimy, I love to touch their shiny geometrical shapes and look at their colors, I love how skin becomes transparent skin (very ripe persimmon) and the way calyx is made of folds and waves inviting me to experiment with all sorts of mediums to draw them.
This was a great year for my persimmon-related joy as I got to share it with many friends - painting and drawing them from October through December - and here is a bunch of persimmon-related pages from my sketchbook!

Making Paper Cut Sketches is a Lot of Fun - Try It!

I regularly draw at kid's activities - and often these are really good, intense life drawing classes. But doing that several times a week for several years gets to you and you start thinking up new ways to practice - so I've picked up some color paper and scissors and now challenge myself to make a paper cut-outs of the movements and poses.

I made a folder with all of the sketches done with scissors:
A couple of technical notes: 
1. Scissors. I love victorinox knives but the scissors were killing my fingers after one class - so I got small scissors from my sewing kit (these actually have rounded tips - I want to try some sharp scissors too soon. 
2. Using smaller pieces of color paper was a great idea as I often have to rotate the paper and even fold and move it quickly to catch the shape of the movement and dealing with the large paper was just ugly (and wasteful).
3. Carrying ziplock bag for all the tiny pieces of paper that are leftover saved me from extra cleaning after the class.
4. Having a glue stick and some extra pieces of paper with me gave me a chance to compose some of the pages right on the spot and it felt more like a complex scene made right there rather than a bunch of quick gesture sketches.

I want to try:
1. Some unusual scissors
2. Exacto knife
3. Making more compositions with the holes (negative space) left after I cut out a figure
4. Making multi-part pieces (I tried it with the cello and it did not work well but I think it's worth experimenting.

Project Based Learning: Spanish Language

When the new school year started last fall my kid began to learn Spanish - and I decided to learn with him.
I am interested in how people learn in general - so whenever someone is ready to talk about it I jump on that topic - and if you have good recommendations for books and sites - please send me links!
One of the things I've been trying with my learning is try a project based learning process (I loved this book and follow it's author Lori Pickerton Twitter for inspiration). The idea is that you don't follow curriculum that someone created but rather you find a real world project and make it happen with whatever means that are available to you and while you are doing that you are bound to learn a variety of things.
So I decided that I will pursue my study of Spanish utilizing what I enjoy - drawing in my sketchbook. And that is how I've been making slow but steady progress on my vocabulary.
I've created a little character and it's adventured paired with my knowledge of other languages help me remember. I am also doing some Duolingo time and getting briefs on different subjects (grammar and such) from my kid. So far I've drawn over 50 pages and enjoy the process a lot!
Like with every project (and learning in particular) there are ups and downs and after whole 30 days of doing Inktober with these I took a little break and had hard time restarting the practice - but like with everything - by starting small and JUST STARTING - I got back on my horse - or should I say caballo?
Here is a screenshot of a whole bunch of the images and link to a Flickr folder where you can see all of them.

I've made a whole bunch of new friends on social media while posting these on Instagram and in general try to keep a two-a week pace now - feel free to follow along #learningspanishwithsketchook

Work pants and my fight for pocket equality.

I recently realized that my work pants need some mending (when my phone fell through the pocket and hit my foot pretty painfully) and decided to draw them instead (I mended them after drawing :)

I've had issues with people who don't believe in my right to have pockets form a very young age and my parents resolved to get me boy's pants pretty much most of my childhood. Not much changed in the last few decades. Contemporary women's pants have ridiculous pockets which can fit a credit card or 1/3 of my hand. But never a pen and a pocket sketchbook. I always loved the words Pocket Sketchbook - it's a sketchbook you can put in your pocket, take it out and draw and then put it back in. That is if you wear a man's clothing or if you make your own adjustments to your favorite pants!

I got these pants a long time ago and they were perfect except for the lack of front pockets (back pocket was (and still is) quite nice). I wore them on my daily activities until one day - while climbing over a fence with my kid - I ripped them for good!

But between several relatives and my undying love for these pants and pockets, they've been improved with three handy additions and went back into regular use. 

I recently saw a beautifully drawn data about a study of the size of pockets - which brought scientific and visual support to my claim that mainstream women's clothing does not have real pockets - only decorations. While looking at this data I had some historical questions and found an article about The Bewildering and Sexist History of Women’s Pockets which led me to a truly wonderful discovery of Rational Dress Society as it lists attributes of "perfect" dress as:
  • Freedom of Movement.
  • Absence of pressure over any part of the body.
  • Not more weight than is necessary for warmth, and both weight and warmth evenly distributed. 
  • Grace and beauty combined with comfort and convenience. 
  • Not departing too conspicuously from the ordinary dress of the time.