A total lunar eclipse: lessons learned

There was a total lunar eclipse on May 15th, and I went to see it (and sketch it). I learned that:

  1. The moon was read indeed but in order to appreciate the changes of the eclipse I would probably need some special equipment.
  2. White flashlight is a hazard to my eyes and the eyes of many others (next time I will bring my sketching in the night hat with the green light built it).
  3. And there were so many interesting people to sketch - I should have done that - but instead, I spent a good part of the hour meandering in the park and sketched the moon in black and white. 

Daily reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. May 10-14. 2022

We did not have a chance to do a video call for a couple of days, but we spoke on the phone and I asked Mom and Dad to draw each other so that we would not have such a large "gap" in their portraits:) 

Here is what they sent me:

May 13-14, 2022. Days 79-80 of the war.
Mom found some asparagus, and we are discussing ways to prepare it. Volunteers brought a lot of preserves and household items - very thoughtful! There is a cat that started visiting them regularly. 
My parents got a haircut - one of the neighbors is a professional hairdresser and is trying to make some money by visiting people at home. Gas is hard to find (and it is very expensive) so her services are advertised through the volunteers and neighbors, and then she catches a ride if someone is going in the way of her potential clients. They are telling me stories from their childhoods and childhoods of my brothers and me.

Recent Project: Live Illustration

I had an amazing time sketchnoting (visual representation of the verbal delivery of content or exchange of ideas). during the event at the biotechnology company, DayTwo

I drew live during the presentations and meetings and used both analog and digital formats to capture my notes with words and, more importantly - images. Analog sketchnoting was done on large paper and digital form became some images and short animations which summarize the content of the meeting in a fast and easy-to-digest form. Here is an example of the characters that appeared in my illustrations of the meetings. 

I also personalized some swag for the participants of the events. 

We finished our adventure in the kitchen of a @charlesvollmar - a popular chef of Epicurean Exchange. The team, led by Chef Charlie, created a wonderful spring Italian meal and I sketched them as they worked. The result was a concertina sketchbook filled with the team busy preparing a dinner and a wonderful feast which we shared to celebrate the end of the event.  

Daily reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. May 5-7. 2022

May 5, 2022, Day 71.
There was a lot of discussion about meds and medical offices but Mom ended it with the sentence "how can you talk about our health when this is happening around us". I tried to remind them that keeping up with the medications is helpful too as this way they will not require extra resources and we switched to the conversation about Mom's quest to conquer her smartphone. Patience was needed for all.

May 6, 2022, Day 72.
A long list of things that were accomplished - the trash was taken out, they took care of some shopping, banking, etc. It exhausted them by noon. There is a new member of the family in Kharkiv - a little black puppy that was found abandoned crying and was taken in - but a lot needs to happen for it to become a true family member. Politics is high on my list of not discussing with parents and they usually respect my wishes but today "they had to tell me".

May 7, 2022, Day 73.
There is a meme that is circulating with president Biden photoshopped in a famous painting "Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks" by Ilya Repin. There are two versions of this painting - one is russian museum in St. Petersburg and another is in Kharkiv, Ukraine in the main art museum. Ilya Repin was a famous painter who was born in Chuguev, near Kharkiv. We talk a bit about the books from parents' childhood. Dad keeps complaining that he needs a haircut and new meds.

Daily reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. May 8-9. 2022

May 8, 2022, Day 74.
Mom tells me a story about the tax that was introduced after the war (then she corrects herself - previous war). It was a tax on trees, and many people removed trees from their properties to avoid paying taxes. And many villages became bare and much less pretty. The tax was later removed and people planted trees back but the culture was changed in many places, and it says a lot about people who chose to keep the trees and people who removed them as soon as the tax was introduced. We come back often to the cultural differences in decorating houses and streets and to food preferences and the way how people in russia and Ukraine chose what to grow in their orchards and backyards. 

May 9, 2022, Day 75.
It was a cold day, and they are wearing extra layers. Adjusting medications, and discussing food. They read to me a poem I never heard - together - it always surprises me how many poems they know and read together. The day was filled with taking hundreds of photos of beautiful spiders that can be found in the flowers. They also were making a fruit punch. Mom thought that she was the one making it, and Dad thought that he was the one making it - both were adjusting it multiple times "to fix". They say it is very tasty.

Daily reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. May 2-4. 2022

May 2, 2022, Day 68.
Some days I don't make too many notes. This day has "30 eggs were purchased and that the magnolia tree was about to bloom". And I shared some stuff about a pretty package I got from France. Mom commented that her portrait is not very successful but encouraged me to not give up and draw next time. 

May 3, 2022, Day 69.
Dad lists all the places that were hit in Kharkiv during the last 24 hours. They tell me a story about a dog that \people found and took to an animal shelter only to realize that it was a scared sick wolf. I don;t know if it is true but I am glad that there are people who care about dogs and that there are, apparently wolves in Ukraine - I thought they were gone. Parents got some interesting fish for dinner - I never heard about! 

May 4, 2022, Day 70.
Magnolia opened up completely and Mom is taking hundreds of pictures. Mom is learning to use a smartphone and her obsession with the magnolia flowers means that she is making a lot of progress. There were some scary moments in Kharkiv again - some rockets fell close to where the family is - but all are ok. After the conversation I found a note about daffodils and poodles and have no idea what we were talking about to get to that topic. 

Vyshyvanka Day!

Every year on the third Thursday in May Ukrainians around the world celebrate a Vyshyvanka Day! Vyshyvanka is an embroidered shirt. There are as many kinds of vyshyvankas as there are recipes for borscht! And since I shared my borscht with you - here is me - celebrating this day. Embroidered shirts, kitchen towels, pants, jackets, vests, anything actually - are a proud Ukrainian tradition, an art form, a way to keep history and connect generations, not to mention that this is a wonderful way to mend things or hide a borscht spot on a shirt ;) In short - it is a way to show that you care. 

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.