May 26, 2021

A trip to a magical place.

Suhita (Suhita Shirodkarand I went to the magical garden and forest to visit Gay (Gay Kraeger) and we hiked, laughed, sketched, and talked and it was so wonderfully normal. I am glad to have this again in my life. 

May 19, 2021

Illustrated Recipe: Three ways to cook beets and three salads to make with them!

Beets are a great addition to a salad when they are raw but they are amazingly versatile when cooked! These savory and dessert salads are in constant rotation in our household!

Apr 14, 2021

Apr 12, 2021

What is on my table? End of March 2021.

These are things I found on my table on the last day of March - they are spilling into April projects and there are even more layers of things on the table now!

Apr 7, 2021

Mar 29, 2021

Grateful: Noise-Canceling Headphones

Noise-canceling headphones are an amazing invention! They are interesting to draw - worn out, torn, twisted. But still capable of creating a wall around me when I want it there - so I mostly keep them on my head :) 

Mar 26, 2021

I have a secret way to watch painting classes.

I am a big fan of taking classes - there is an absurd number of them on my radar, I start many, finish some but I recently realized that there is a secret that helps me get more out of the learning. 

And that secret is: going back and watching the video without commentary. By cutting audio out of what I am focusing on I can notice the movements of the brush on the page, patterns of brushstrokes, and see as the painting comes together in phases. It gives me a different perspective.  

I got this way of watching videos from working with kids. No matter how much you prepare your instructions, how you plan the class, kids can listen to you talk only so much and they move at their own speed. But DOING will get them GOING. When you work with them side by side - the dynamic changes. That is when you can sync with them when they pick up your little tricks and use them in their way, on their projects or modify in some new and interesting ways and then you learn from them.  

So this week I was super excited about taking the latest of many classes from Shari Blaukopf.

It is called "Luminous Colour for Sketchers" and it is exactly that - an amazing opportunity to learn about making your watercolor sketches sing with light. And this class builds on her wonderful book "The Urban Sketching Handbook Working with Color" that came out almost two years ago. 

Shari is showing in detail how much water and how much paint goes into each mixture and how she makes colors luminous by mixing them on the page. There are many close-ups where you can see details very clearly (images below are screenshots from one of the class videos).

With Shari's class on my second pass, I slowed down the video, turned audio off, and tried to predict which area the brush will go to next, think about what I would do, and compare it to what she does.

I watched this class as if I was a kid - mimicking what is going on on the screen/page, mocking with my own interpretations, running ahead, then slowing down. I imagined that it is me making those color decisions and moving brush. 

And it was a lot of fun!

Mar 18, 2021

Illustrated Recipe: Layered Chicken Rice Pilaf

Layered Chicken Rice Pilaf! This is one of the staples in our household though we change the number of carrots and raisins based on the season and we used to make it with other dry fruits and nuts and not only raisins. But right now this is what's in my oven. Also - I like adding all sorts of spices to the rice - but since it changes every single time there is no way to put it in the recipe :)

Mar 15, 2021

One Week 100 People: 2021

This challenge was organized and curated this year (again) by Liz Steel and Marc Taro Holmes. The idea of this little race is to give your people-sketching skills a boost. 

I think about it as an opportunity to remind myself how much I enjoy sketching people - even when they are not too excited about it :) 

Most of the people I interact with these days I see on the video calls - so I've done some of those:


And I did most of my work from the crazy-wonderful collages of Pelle Cass - trying to follow the story that he is weaving through the mash-up of these sporting events. I had a timer every time and did my best to look at the image more than at the paper. I tried find some rhythm in the way I re-shuffled figures for my collage, looking for simplified bodies.

I also found some people to draw from real life:

All in all - I did more than a hundred but I hope to work completely from life next year. Goes without saying that I miss the days when going to a cafe or library or standing on a street and sketching was easy and simple and something I would do in between other things. 

Mar 10, 2021

Sketchbook #132 Flip-Through

I shared earlier sped-up version of this video on my instagram - and this is a normal speed flip-though.

Mar 8, 2021

Recipe: Mushroom Soup

Mushrooms are amazing - they are not plants and they are not animals - they belong to their own kingdom of Fungi and the part that we eat is what a huge and very happy organism produces - a fruit. I love drawing mushrooms, looking at them, learning about them, gathering them - and eating them too. This is a soup that I make out of dried mushrooms or fresh ones. 

Mar 4, 2021

Anniversary, sketching and friends.

I've been thinking about upcoming anniversary of the beginning of all the things that defined last year of our lives: pandemic, lockdowns, new social norms. And one of the last "normal" things I did before this happened was go on our annual "blooming mustard and trees" outing with Suhita. So almost exactly a year to the date after we went to the same spot and sketched the field and garden again, talking and sketching side-by-side, we met again. Masked and all - but it felt almost normal. So nice!

Here is a link to a blog post I did about the same outing in 2019:

Check out Suhita's Instagram for her amazing long panorama of this view.

And here are my sketches from 2021:

Mar 1, 2021

My sketchbook video set-up: what currently works for me.

I enjoy watching other people flipping through their sketchbooks and paint, be that a slow step-by-step or a timelapse of a longer session. And I wanted to share more of my process too. But I did not enjoy making these videos because it would take a long time to set-up before and a long time to put away after the video session. 

I tried different solutions and here is what works for me pretty well now: I can keep this on the table and it takes only popping my phone in the holder and adjusting of lighting situation to start making a video!

Feb 28, 2021

What is on my table? February 2021.

Things that were happening in February, things that will happen in March - sketches, notes, doodle pages used as protectors in my sketchbook (gouache smudges if you carry your sketchbook everywhere and surprisingly enough even these days I carry it a lot!). Masking tape to mark area on my table for the video I was recording. 

Feb 24, 2021

Sketchbook Page: New Beginnings

A couple of weeks ago I wanted to re-pot some of my new tiny plants and while I was looking for soil I found a bulb! It had a very pale hint at wanting to grow into a real plant so I put it in some water and added to the story of my day - along with quick portraits of the repotted tradescantia and my notes of the blues that I carry in my gouache palette.

Feb 22, 2021

Recipe: Eggplant Caviar

This is a wonderfully simple dish that my grandma used to make: she called it caviar - probably because of all the seeds (from tomatoes and eggplants) that are visible in this spread.  

Feb 19, 2021

Grateful: The science of vaccines and people who help each other.

I am very grateful for the science of vaccines. And to all the people who work tirelessly to make this pandemic end and help us all survive through these times - in myriad huge and visible or tiny and subtle ways of everyday life. 

Our nonagenarian got both shots of the COVID-19 vaccine - and we are looking forward to the times when we will worry less. 

Here is my sketch record of the shot #1 

And this is shot #2.
She got a "COVID-19 vaccinated" pin and proudly attached it to the cardigan that she knitted herself. 

Feb 12, 2021

Recipe: Forshmak (Jewish and Polish versions)


Both of these are old recipes from two parts of the family. Polish version takes more time and I personally prefer Jewish one - but in any case it all starts with the salted herring and goes from there! Enjoy! Oh and it looks like some people spell it as Vorschmack!

Feb 9, 2021

Three tricks I use when I work with Ackerman Pen (tuning and minimizing ink spills)

I love flex nib pens and having a portable option was always an interesting idea for me. I got my first Ackerman pen in 2008 and had a long and complicated yet wonderful relationship with it that ended abruptly when I tried to get fix it with plyers. 

I got another pen in 2016 and enjoyed it quite a bit until I got too tired of having inky fingers.

Naturally, I kept the pen in rotation (I have a whole system of doing it) but somehow this particular pen was  being overlooked (it was easy because I keep it in a separate ziplock bag with a paper towel inside - because it... well it used to leak) and with time the nib got glued to the body of the pen and to the overfeed by the dry ink. Pretty soon I saw that I would need a proper cleaning/rescue operation to make it work again and I never could find time for that. Both the quarantine and enthusiasm of friends who were playing with their pens helped me to find my way back to this wonderful (and somewhat temperamental) instrument. 

I would like to document what I learned both for my future self and to see if this might help someone to  make it work better.

My pen is Manga G Pump Pen with an overfeed. 

1. When my pen was stuck and gunk glued the nib and to the body of the pen nothing seemed to work - no soaking, waiting - nothing. That is when the $2 solution from Goulet pens - a simple rubber grip - saved the day. Here is a picture and a short video of how I use it:

2. When my pen was leaking a lot I experimented with how far the nib and overfeed are extending from the body of the pen - it is a friction fit and the rubber grip helped me aligning the parts with greater precision. As a result, I know pretty well where my nib and overfeed should sit - notice on the photo below how the hole in the overfeed is aligned, and how much of the nib is covered by the overfeed. This helped with extra spillage of the ink a lot. And it is something I adjust almost daily because it slips and some inks are more slippery than others.

3. The third trick is about taking the cap off the pen. I knew about it before but forgot. There is a tiny hole in the cap which is covered by the metal clip. You need to have it open when you put the cap on and when you put the cap off. But keep it covered while you are not using the pen. If you forget to move the clip aside and this tiny hole is covered it would create enough suction to get half of the ink from a fully inked pen out. And that is a mess that makes me keep this pen in a ziplock bag with a paper towel inside. Because of course I regularly forget to turn the clip. 

Feb 8, 2021

Grateful: Internet connecting people.

I have many thoughts on the technology and freedom and all sorts of influence platforms and devices have on my attention as an individual their effect on the society at large. But I am eternally grateful that I don't have to wait for months or weeks or even hours to send a letter or receive an answer or share a picture. And I am so grateful that I can see my friends and family and talk to them and draw them in real-time. Though only some of them are OK with me drawing while we are talking or sharing whatever I draw - so you will see me mostly sharing these faces - of my longest-running subjects and never wavering supporters - my parents. So this is a double-grateful post :)  

Feb 5, 2021

Recipe: Lobio

I had so much fun drawing the borscht, and it inspired so many lovely online and offline conversations that I decided to draw more from the kitchen lore of my family - here is Lobio! 

Jan 29, 2021

What is on my table? January 2021.

Imagine you just walked into my studio in the middle of the day - this is a typical January 2021 table mess view: recently revived ackerman pen that made my January a very inky month, pencil sharpener (I found it in my drawer) that is working really well for some finicky color pencils (thick luminance pencils for example), gouache palette and notes and sketches on a project I am working on. 

Jan 28, 2021

Recipe: Borscht

There are many wonderful spellings of this word БОРЩ in English but I will stick to this one: BORSCHT. It is a very tasty Ukrainian beet soup, winter version of which is eaten warm. I will draw the cold one when it is more appropriate for the season :)

I drew this for my friend Suhita and she followed this recipe to make it and liked the result - so it is proven to work :)

Jan 25, 2021

Grateful: Sketching with friends online

During the times when going out to the library or cafe to sketch with friends is not an option I sketch with friends online. 

It is not a meeting. There is no agenda, no rules, obligations. It is a very low-key event that happens almost every week and I am very grateful for it. 

I just have a standing appointment with myself to be online at certain time, sometimes I am alone for 30 min - drawing. But usually Suhita Shirodkar joins me and sometimes others too. And for half an hour or so we can talk or be silent and just be together doing the thing we love - drawing.

In the past we sent each other photos of streets to draw, we tried live cams of different places, tried finding places on google street view or mapcrunch to show each other places we know or to find a completely new places we've never been to. 

Lately we've been using the to find a location to draw. You can read more about this simple site in the New Yorker's article here. I miss the snow (this year especially) so I've been looking for windows with the snow lately. 

Jan 17, 2021

Grateful: libraries

There are many things that are making life more complex these days and many things that are genuinely helping with that. It means a lot for me to look at things that are helping, so I wanted to pay them more attention and tell you about what helps me.

Here is one - my city library is working! (There will be a separate post about it as I want to draw some things for it - so not today). But in addition to my library, the system of the union of libraries works too! It means that I can order books from over 70 libraries around California and Nevada. For free. They will be shipped to my local library. And I can keep these books for 21 days with the possibility of renewing for another 21 days. Did I mention that it is free? I've been on a binge - hoarding bags and bags of books to look at pictures, learn new things, try new authors, read new poetry. 

Here are some of the libraries that loaned me books this week: