Hakone Gardens: playing with new inks and nibs

I went to paint at Hakone Gardens with a friend. Suhita and I spent some time catching up, drawing, and playing with some new sketching toys. One of them is a brass nib from Kakimori (I thought it is just an obtuse nail when I first saw some images - but now I know that it is hollow inside and has some grooves on the sides as well. You can see this nib and how it compares to other tools in this video. As a result, it has a very varied width of the marks that can be made with it and a liberating time without re-dipping into an inkpot. Between trying a new nib, then playing with some shimmering inks, and other pens and pencils, it was a day to experiment! 

So after I finished a sketch, I took a picture and then added water over it. And I am not sure it worked as I hoped - but it might be due to the astringent blue color that resulted from adding water. See both images and let me know which one works from your point of view.

And here is another mixed media piece from the same outing - it is impossible to see the shimmering ink but you can see how it changes color as I kept drawing. 

Painting the Gardens

Another gouache adventure - this is one of my favorite gardens in the neighborhood. It is in full bloom now but I noticed that I say that many times during the year - perhaps I should track once what is blooming when there. Right now roses and irises and foxgloves are dominating the picture. You can see my gouache set-up in one of the photos - I am constantly tweaking things and right now trying some collapsable brushes to see if I can make my plein-air set smaller.

Daily reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. April 29-30. 2022

April 29, 2022, Day 65.
There is a moth in the house and it is teasing Dad - he's trying to catch it and is "running after it" (he walks very slowly these days with the aid of walking sticks or a walker - these jokes are one of his ways to talk about his limited mobility. It was a laundry day and Mom spent some time taking pictures again - there is an apple tree that is about to bloom. Mom says that the only way to survive is by holding on to each other.   

April 30, 2022, Day 66.
This is a day when we remember my Mom's Mom - so we talk about her a bit. Our daily routine of calling and texting everyone to check on them continues. During our video calls, my parents and I compare news from all the family and friends. In normal life, the first of May would be a day for a picnic, a day to see the forest after the winter, or check out fields that are becoming green: we called it "go outside the city". But forests and fields are now filled with mines. And Kharkiv is shelled continually - for 66 days straight.

Daily reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. April 27-28. 2022

April 27, 2022, Day 63.
Dad talked mom into giving him a haircut and is bragging about it (he worked on it for many days). He complains that he shaved and we did not notice.There were some loud noises nearby and all loud noises freaked them out but we managed to change the subject quickly to the etymology of the word kantor (I have no idea what the connection was). We also discussed the book of contemporary author that they suggested for me as a good read in Ukrainian (Prohasko "Bo Take"). Mom found a bunch of horsetails near their place and is fascinated by them. We discuss how old these species are and how they should remember dinosaurs. 

April 28, 2022, Day 64.
Mom gave Dad a haircut - he thinks it is too long, and she thinks it is too short. I am glad they spent half a day working on it. Mom found a spider in a flower and spend a the rest of the day taking pictures of it. Dad is happy that they got a parcel in the mail and lists all the things in it - Cayenne pepper is mentioned several times. We talk about different parts of Kharkiv and the situation there and report to each other on the news about different friends.


I love peonies and found out about range of varieties only when I visited NY Botanical garden years ago. Every year I try to discover some peonies in our neighborhood and visit them. This bush was planted just a couple of years ago and so far it was the very first one to bloom in each season. These peonies have an amazingly hard to reproduce gentle yellow color and no fragrance. I visited them with my gouache palette and painted the bush and some separate flowers. 

Daily reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. April 25, 26. 2022

Kharkiv is being shelled every day by russian army since February 24, 2022. 

April 25, 2022, Day 61.
I tried to liberate myself from the confinement of the spread by sketching on separate sheets of paper and ended up with the same result I think. But it gave me the freedom to try this new ink and brush - it is slower to write with a brush - so I did not make as many notes. They reported on what food they got and what kinds of tasty things Mom made with it. And that sunrise was especially gorgeous and they were taking photos of it.

April 26, 2022, Day 62.
Good day - lots of jokes! Dad was making all sorts of creatures for me from a piece of aluminum foil and we were playing a guessing game. A relative called and informed him that the witches of Ukraine are working on stopping the war. We discussed that we have all sorts of religious and spiritual views in the family but we - together with all progressive mankind - are wishing lots of professional success to witches if they can stop the madness of the war. 

Sketchbook Covers - the end of sketchboook #141

I like making my sketchbook covers special! Sometimes it happens at the very beginning, sometimes I add stickers, glue, and paint on the cover as I work in them.  And sometimes it is something that I do as a way to say goodbye to a sketchbook - like it was with the latest one - Sketchbook # 141 - with a crocodile!


I tried making crocodiles cute and I tried to make them scary, I tried to make them thoughtful and humorous - but they turned out to be what they wanted and only a handful of these I like:

House with the roses

This house was not the one I planned to paint. The wind and bright sun were driving me mad. And roses proved to be as hard to paint as I remember. But I enjoyed this outing with my almost empty gouache palette and a wonderful, inspiring company very much!

Daily reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. April 23, 24. 2022

Kharkiv is being shelled every day by russian army since February 24, 2022. 

April 23, 2022, Day 59.
On this day, we talk about colors a lot. Mom remembers watercolors that my grandpa was sending as a very special gift to his uncle, we talk about the names and chemical sources and formulas of different colors. Both of my parents are chemists (Dad is physical chemist, Mom biochemist) and they talk about chemical reactions, old chemical labs that they had a chance to work, how some of the experiments they did early in their careers would not be allowed now. But somehow it all goes back to colors again.

April 24, 2022, Day 60.
April 24 marks two months since the world turned upside down for many millions of people. Two months of daily shelling of Kharkiv. My parents are doing ok. It is relatively quiet where they are now, they can go outside without being afraid of russian artillery. They are still having hard time sleeping through the night and are constantly worried for the remainder of the family in Kharkiv. And friends, of course. And neighbors. And about their grandson in the army. About all the family and friends that are now displaced. Today is a Greek Orthodox Easter, my parents are atheists, but we always enjoyed the holiday: the communal cooking and eating, candles, traditional painting of the eggs. My parents made pancakes with the apples that volunteers brought a couple of days ago, and their neighbors invited them to an Easter feast.

April 25, 2022, Day 61.

On My Table: End of April 2022.

On the last day of April, I finished another sketchbook. And these were things on my table. Favorite fountain pen with the beautiful brown ink, lovely color pencils (super expensive but oh so lovely to draw with), gouache, moomins, and remains of another animal illustration. 

Daily reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. April 20, 21, 22. 2022

Kharkiv is being shelled every day by russian army since February 24, 2022. 

April 20, 2022, Day 56.
There is a black cat that is now visiting my parents daily. They say that the cat has too much of an attitude. He sprayed the door repeatedly and stole food from the dog. They sang me some songs from my childhood and taught me some new Ukrainian words. Mom repaired some clothing - so the day counted as productive.

April 21, 2022, Day 57.
Many hard things were discussed, and the mood was strange. My mom said that the weather wasn't so bad as the clouds were higher than yesterday. To which my Dad replied - it was only in your eyes that they were higher. But they got some fresh bread which was very tasty (they both are bread connoisseurs and eat it with everything - including pasta). And some cheese and even some oranges - and it was a good mood adjuster for them.   

April 22, 2022, Day 58.
On this day conversation turned many times to their home. They miss it a lot. Little things just slip through in the conversation. They tell me that they made a cabbage soup - vegetarian. And then - "to fight the vegetarianism", they opened a can of patte. War is weighing them down a lot on this day but Mom found the very first grape snail and one of the trees started to bloom - so overall there are many things to be grateful for.