Drawn reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. August 22-28. 2022

August 22, 2022. Day 180 of the war.
Six months ago people in Ukraine were living their life: working, raising kids, spoiling grandkids, dreaming about vacations, and choosing their paths for the future. My parents were planning to wash windows in the spring and get the whole family together for the summer holidays.

That life is over.
August 23rd is Kharkiv City Day and August 24th is Independence Day in Ukraine. Despite the six months of the war, lost lives, millions of people displaced, and many horrible wounds, both Kharkiv and Ukraine are standing strong. And my parents are still planning to wash those windows and get us all under their roof one day.

August 25, 2022. Day 183 of the war.
We did not talk on the day when Ukraine celebrated Independence Day (August 24th). My parents together with the whole country expected some new horrible acts from russia and unfortunately, many people died on this day when the train station was attacked. Even more distressing was information about Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. This is a fear especially felt because they lived through the Chornobyl disaster. So many conversations on this day were very somber. But my parents jumped at the opportunity to help me find some synonyms in Ukrainian and we had a chance to discuss some questions from the memoirs that my Mom is writing now.

August 27, 2022. Day 185 of the war.
Another attack on Kharkiv and more concerns about the upcoming winter. My parents talked to me about some of their friends who were much older than them. We talked about places in Kharkiv that we remember because of these people and how grateful they are to have that connection between generations throughout their whole life. 
Mom got quiet and then said: the beauty of evolution is in the fact that there is no one right answer, there is no ultimate good - all can do something, all can choose something. 

Drawing at the Benefit Concert in Support of Ukraine.

I had a chance to see my friend, listen to some very interesting, beautifully performed music, and draw it all. This was a 2nd Annual Masterworks Benefit Concert for Ukraine at the Union Presbyterian Church of Los Altos. Works by Mozart, Poulenc, Krol, Muczynski, Ewazen, Bacos, Stoner, and Di Marino were performed by:

Colby Bond, Clarinet
Jamie Mulfinger, Flute
Braydon Ross, French Horn
Kristal Schwartz, Harp
Jung Yeon Kim, Piano

Short but engaging and informal commentaries that were given before each piece made this performance extra special. 

Thank you, dear friend, for the invitation - and your support for Ukraine! 

War in Ukraine: Guide Through Posts on this Blog.

War in Ukraine.
There are many posts connected to this subject on my blog these days and this is a hub to organize different subjects connected to the war and provide a way to navigate through them.

Kharkiv, Ukraine is a city where my parents grew up and lived their whole life. We are a multinational family and we spoke and continue speaking russian language within my family, which is why most of the notes surrounding portraits are in russian. I try to put a summary of each conversation in English when I post it here.
I used to draw my parents during our video conversations but when the war began on February 24, 2022, we switched to daily video calls and I started drawing them during every call and then sharing with the community online these portraits and notes on their day-to-day activities. These portraits are my War Reports in the Form of Portraits. We talk about Kharkiv, Ukraine, family, language, news, everything, and anything. These are real humans whose life was uprooted and I hope to give people a chance to see it in this form. Our conversations continued during their evacuation out of Kharkiv and  7 months later, out of Ukraine, as my parents are now refugees in Europe.
Some of the things I do:
Donate: novaukraine.org - This organization is doing important humanitarian support for people in Ukraine and in Kharkiv in particular. 
Attend Rallies and Events: a good source for the upcoming events is stopputin.net
Make Borscht not War.
My road to the Ukrainian Language (with links to music, podcasts, and some learning resources). 
Good sources to understand some history behind the conflict:

Ukrainian Language

I am working on making my ability to communicate in Ukrainian better. 

Below are some steps that I am taking - it would be interesting to look back at this (which is a reason for many things on this blog:). 

  1. I downloaded a dictionary on my phone, computer etc. (including the offline versions) - I am using Google translate and "star" the words that I think should be in my active use. My goal is to look up at least one word a day. I also write down new words in my pocket notebook and have a document going on my phone/in the cloud - for new and useful words and expressions. 
  2. In my daily news intake, there is one source that is totally in Ukrainian and I spend my time reading headlines out loud in my head. And, obviously - articles if there are any that I would like to read. But the daily goal is to go over the headlines.
  3. I found all the books in Ukrainian that were in the house and now I included reading in Ukrainian in my reading life. I started (and am still going through) the children's books or books adapted for children first. I plan to re-read books that I read at some point and hope to get to them next - before I start on literature that is new to me. (I tried - it was slow and discouraging). 
  4. I listen to videos and podcasts. These vary a lot and are often emotionally drenching. But there are many topics - like literature, economics, and science that are not as emotional and give me access to contemporary Ukrainian language and topics. Here are my favorite: Книгосховище, Літературні Балачки, Харківські Історії, Українські Казки, Буде тобі наука, Простими словами, та ось гарний епізод про перехід на українську. If you have an English speaker who wants to try and learn some basic words, a good place to start would be Ukrainian Lessons Podcast
  5. I listen to Ukrainian songs (and sing them when nobody is around :) - to practice getting words out of my passive vocabulary onto my tongue and to work on my phonetics). Here is my spotify list of Ukrainian Songs. It is a big pile of whatever I noticed, without order to sort later, ever-changing. 
  6. I found a good site with the words for many of the songs from my list: https://nashe.com.ua/  as I try to learn some of the songs by heart (as poetry). And I read some poetry. 
  7.  I follow this language marathon for some interesting subjects and might take their course too: https://www.instagram.com/shymanovski/
  8. I write in Ukrainian: letters to people in Ukraine, all communication with volunteers and companies in Ukraine, and Ukraine-centric projects that I support. I also found some accounts on Instagram which which use Ukrainian language. I read, and I write some comments regularly. 
  9. Quite a few of my friends with whom I always communicated in russian language switched to Ukrainian. And even though some offered me to keep russian as the main language I do my best to respect their choice and we communicate in Ukrainian. I often stumble or misuse words, other languages keep getting mixed up and sometimes I forget and switch to russian completely - but everyone I spoke to so far is patient with me and helps me get better. 
  10. We try to use Ukrainian in our everyday life within the family. It is always educational with my parents as they are fluent and enjoy reading poetry or telling me about some obscure words. It is frustrating for the parts of the family that have only the basics knowledge. And it is just plain hard. But it is getting better. 
I am looking for / would like to hear from you about: 
    • an electronic dictionary for my kindle; 
    • a place where I can buy electronic books in Ukrainian; 
    • a lists of books / authors to read, podcasts to listen etc.
    • more songs for my playlist;
    • what else would you recommend?

This post originally included a background of where I grew up, how come I am from the Ukraine but my first language is russian, some family history, and the story of Ukrainian language. As I wrote all of that I realized that many topics need extensive citation and many topics are tumultuous right now because of the war and how much havoc it wreaked on the world and individual people. 

So I decided to leave all of that in a draft to which I might return one day. 

Independence Day in Ukraine

August 24th is Independence Day in Ukraine. This year it is an especially important date as the freedom of the country is under attack from russia. I drew sunflowers to celebrate this day. 

Drawn reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. August 16-21. 2022

August 16. Day 174 of the war.
This was a hard day for Kharkiv and we mostly talked about it. Five separate areas of the city were shelled, with many casualties. My parents told me about the phone calls - checking on all the friends and relatives. And just supporting each other. They talked a little about their home and the weather. And how little things start to point to the approaching end of the summer. 

August 19. Day 177 of the war.
The news of the day was about another shelling of the city, one of which ended up one block away from their apartment. But the windows are intact. Life goes on. There are many concerns, uncertainties, and resolutions about the upcoming school year. This all brought up many memories of their parents. Somehow to me, they looked more lost and more determined at the same time. 

August 21. Day 179 of the war.
Almost six months since the war has begun. I drew my parents and then decided to try and not add words to this image - instead, I have a separate page filled with lots of notes about our conversations and some more sketches. There were so many big and small memories and stories on that day - we tried not to concentrate on the approaching date but talked about music and recipes. Apparently, they can sing parts from Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev together. And they suggested I put apples in my vinaigrette salad. It was another day when I learned something new about them! 

My personal tips and tricks to stay sane on instagram

There is a lot to say about algorithms and social media but I will not go into the vortex of sharing my opinions. I will share some things that help me:

  1. I have folders on Instagram and lists on Twitter. 
  2. I opt-out of promotional content when possible (aka suggested posts).
  3. I made my Instagram stream contain those I follow only.

I had a 4th hack for Facebook, but it is broken now. When I find a way around it, I will post it too. 

And here are detains:

I created lists on Twitter and folders on Instagram. There I collect people or posts by the subject matter. For example, I have a list of the "epidemic-related" accounts on Twitter. And another one for local news. I collect things that inspire me in another thread. On Instagram, I have a folder where I save things that I want to draw, and another one, with humor/cartoons. There is a folder for everything I want to save related to the war in Ukraine. I collect quotes/expressions that I want to remember or find interesting to talk to people about. There is a folder for color. Materials. Recipes. Books. Music. And many others. The idea is that a) I can find things that I saved b) I can get a dose of tailored inspiration - and there is a finite amount of stuff there.

Opting out and de-personalizing targeted ads is a multi-step process and it is changing often - the proper way to do this is to do a research and adjust settings on your phone etc. But a simple (and very powerful - at least for the short run) thing that you can do is next time when you see a "suggested post" in your stream of posts on instagram - in the upper right corner of that post tap three vertical dots and opt out.

And the best present is adjusting your stream to those you follow only - in the app on your phone, on the hole screen there is an instagram logo in the upper left corner. Tap on it once and a n arrow appears to the right form the logo. Tap it and choose "following" - I think you will need to do it every time you restart your application. But this converts your stream to a chronological collection of things posted by the people you actually followed. Here is a screenshot that might help:

Drawing and Painting Well-Chewed Pine Cones in my Sketchbook

I found some extravagantly chewed pine cones on my walk and spent some time drawing them, painting them, then drawing on top of all of that, and then drawing some more. This is an example of how my sketchbook page is developed over time and also an example how I can make a few interesting lines, then ruin them but keep working and then bring it together to be a part of my sketchbook. This is the final result (actually the really really final result is at the very end of this post as I added a little piece I made later on this page).  

and a video of how it all begun:

I was not able to stop after I turned my camera off and there is a timelapse of the second part of the process on my instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/ChaHdTQJpnj/

And this is a really really final page from my sketchbook:

Drawn reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. August 9-13. 2022

August 9. Day 168 of the war.
We had some interesting exchange of news about preparation for the new school year on both sides of the ocean. I learned that teachers in Ukraine from the elementary school level to the university level are all getting ready (our family has lots of teachers). It sounded surreal to hear about cleaning classrooms and discussing lecture plans but it also sounded hopeful. My parents had some disagreements as to what to do with the ground-nesting bees that they found. We talked about the fact that the Ukrainian army is by large supported by volunteers and how we can support them. It was a good day. 

August 11. Day 169 of the war.
Some hard news from Kharkiv again - more buildings were destroyed, and more people were left without windows. Fires after the hits. But all people survived on this day. We discussed ways to help and support those we know and can reach. And back to how to support volunteers who take care of those who don't have support.   

August 13. Day 171 of the war.
A day with some hard conversations - as we are trying to navigate the inevitable approach of winter. The mood was somewhat somber as there is no clear and simple answer. Life, as it was, is broken but now it looks like it was perfect and it is hard to let go. Mom's blood pressure is off but she hopes that it will get better soon - "it definitely will get better when we win" - she says :) For now, I think pills will have to do the work but I assured her that we are working toward the victory.

Little changes in the green.

I noticed a very slight shift in she shade of greens around me. So far, this summer was very nice. The hottest part of the year is still ahead of us - as we have at least two more month of summer weather. But on my walks I noticed that some greens are getting yellower. 

This has nothing to do with this attempt to tackle a complex branch of oak leaves with acorns. At first I really did not like how I started this sketch but I kept going and looking and trying to connect some things and separate others. And then I noticed some little parts where I know that I paid attention. I am glad. 

The fun of making a promo video

I've made a promotional video recently for the class that Uma, Suhita and I are running in September. I used Instagram Reels to put it together as we mostly are promoting this on instagram. And because Instagram has a bunch of things built in - I was able to string together a series of still shots and short videos, add music and text and all of this without special software. It was a lot of fun, a lot of frustration, and I learned a lot. 

This is a post for me to remember the fun and the lessons. I will start with this overview of my table after the video was completed:

I knew that I wanted to give the right feeling for the class that we are running. We are building it around the idea of creating iterations as a way to learn to see and then as a way to make things. We are opening up about some of the processes that we use to get from what we see before us to what you then see on the paper or on your screen. So not a clean and pretty instagram feed - real life mess and making what you have into what works for you. 

Here were the steps for my process (with the lessons in parenthesis):
1. I made a list of things that I will need to say in the video - on a piece of paper. (Type the text at this stage next time)
2. I collected all my materials on the drawing table and started making short videos (having phone fixed in the same spot was a good idea, taking stills between the videos was a good idea)
3. I wrote the text using some of the techniques that we will be doing in the class (next time plan how the text will go on the page before you run out of space and, perhaps use fewer techniques / runs - to save time BUT the play and spontaneity of this part carried me through some of the tedious stuff later - so maybe not). 
 4. I cleaned photos and videos and uploaded them all into one folder with all the portraits, pictures from Asilomar etc. (next time I should select photos in advance - there were way too many gorgeous views of Asilomar and I lost quite some time trying to select "the right one").
5. I uploaded all the videos and photos onto my phone and then put it all together using Instagram. (Next time I will use post-its to plan the sequence so that making changes is easier than copy-pasting in the text file. Having music pre-selected was a great bonus but unfortunately I was not able to download the video with music).  

Here are stills of some bloopers that did not make it to the vinal video :) Just imagine some laughing and cursing :)
Here is the final reel (without the music - which I liked because there was the sound of ocean and a beat). (and a link to the one with the music: https://www.instagram.com/p/CgxqSH6gi2w/)

Real Cucumbers!

Real cucumbers - with a prickly, thick skin, with a bitter, darker end, and with so much taste in a salad! In my sketchbook - painted with watercolor and gouache and some wild brushes. I got them from someone who grows them (Thank you, U!) and enjoyed painting them, not to mention eating!

And here you can find a real-time video of me painting these with my watercolor + gouache combo portable palette that I am still fiddling with.  

Drawn reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. August 2-6. 2022

August 2. Day 159 of the war.
We had some serious conversations on this day. I got tired of my Dad evading my questions and asked Mom how she survived with him for so many years together when even a simple question does not get a straight answer. She very seriously answered me that she is never bored with him and that he mostly behaved on this day - so he needs to get his "joking energy" out of his system during our call. Dad immediately changes the subject and tells me that he is training Mom to train the neighborhood cats. Mom reports: it goes quite well - they listen to me while I have food in my hand and tell them to follow me.

August 4. Day 161 of the war.
Mom tells me who called on this day and all the news from different parts of the family and all their friends scattered around the world now. Dad reports on his schedule and progress with the exercises that he is trying. He is playing a lot of chess online these days. We started playing during some of our video calls and then stopped because I felt that we are leaving Mom out. But Dad continued to play online and I am glad he found a way to keep going. He stopped playing chess several years ago when one of my aunts - with whom they used to have epic chess battles - died. He was refusing to play ever since - even with the grandkids. But now he plays - and it tells me that despite everything that is happening in his life, some wounds can heal. 

August 6. Day 163 of the war.
There was no air raid warning for them on this day - it is a good day. They tell me about the new cat that is now visiting their cat and trying to win my Mom's heart. They teach me different words for different drinking vessels in Ukrainian. And sing me a Ukrainian folk song.

Sketching at the Farmer's Market!

People sketching is not quite back to my sketchbook life - there are many reasons, main one being pandemic. It first caused the lack of large spaces filled with people and then changed all the routines. So when the opportunity presents itself - I jump on it! This quick visit to the San Jose farmer's market with Suhita was a chance to draw some colorful produce - and people. And I found some mushrooms which I am always happy to draw :)

Lankaran Acacia Tree in Gouache

I had a sunny afternoon outing to paint this gorgeous tree. It has many names - from Lankaran Acacia (this is the most familiar for me) to Albizia julibrissin, the Persian silk tree or pink silk tree. You might know it from the fan-like flowers that go from yellow to white to pink and cover the whole tree. The tree is not too tall but has a large canopy and often branches make it into an interesting shape to paint. I usually know where the tree is from afar because of a lovely distinctive fragrance that lingers even when the flowers are dry, ochre and cover the floor. I think gouache is a perfect medium to paint it!

On My Table: First Day of August 2022.

I took this photo on Monday August 1 and dove into all sorts of my “new month rituals”. 

Drawn reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. July 27-31. 2022

July 27. Day 153 of the war.
I did not draw Dad because he was in a different part of the room - talking to a guest. Mom reported that she fed all the animals - including a wild hedgehog who stopped by almost every day. He had a bit of an accident and got stuck in a jar but managed to get out. She is reminiscing about all the people who are gone from her life and says she missed them dearly. But glad that they don't see this ugly war. How long will it take to rebuild the country and the mind?

July 29. Day 155 of the war.
The previous day was very hard - horrible news and such a heavy heart. But they are concentrating on the fact that after the rain they were able to fix the internet and their neighbor stopped by, the cat brought another mole, and thee collected another half-a-cup of mulberry.
July 31. Day 157 of the war.
We had an unusual conversation with another family member joining in on the video call. Parents were explaining to us why is it that butter dough is tastier if you bake it after putting it in the fridge. I want to ask them some hard questions, and Dad immediately makes it into a joke asking me what kind of conversation I want to have - and then he goes into explaining to me the difference between three French verbs for different kinds of talking. Mom corrects his explanation in the middle. They end up singing a song and I stop asking my questions. We talk a bit about weather-related events in the world and Mom says - how nice it is that nature does not depend on people - it will survive without us very well. I leave them plotting how to buy and carry a watermelon (it is too heavy for either of them - but I think they have a plan :)

Sketching with a friend

I went to sketch with a friend this week. It was pretty warm, the squirrels were running around us, the shade left our bench pretty quickly. But we had a good time - exchanging some news on the kids and parents, dismaying at the current state of the world, discussing latest set of favorite sketching tools and some plans. I picked up a branch of interesting-looking seed pods on the way home. These oaks are asking to be sketched again!

New Sketchbook - my rituals.

With time I accumulated a bunch of rituals around beginning and ending of my sketchbooks. For exmaple - I always put a number and the date I started it in the beginning - immediately after I crack it open. Then I add my name and contact information on the inside cover too. I usually record what are my favorite tools on the first spread. This is always helpful when I want to remember "what was that color that I liked" 

And I also like to weigh my sketchbooks - at the beginning and at the end - to see how much stuff I added (how I add stuff is described in this series of posts: Part 1 is about the reasons for adding all the layers to my sketchbooks and Part 2 is about the evolution of it. Part 3 is about materials that I use and has more examples).  And this post will show you some weight gained on the covers: https://blog.apple-pine.com/2022/05/sketchbook-covers-end-of-sketchboook-141.html

It's a fun way to measure how much happened in this period of time, an attempt to take an objective measurement of something that is quite subjective.

Here is a short video about beginning of the Sketchbook number 144. I will make another one - when the sketchbook is finished to let you know how much it "grew".