Drawn reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. October 24, 2022.

October 18, 2022. Day 243 of war.
It's been over 240 days since my parents heard the first russian artillery firing at their home city of Kharkiv, Ukraine. With the winter knocking on the door and russian terrorism ruining civilian infrastructure and leaving people in Ukraine without power and heating, the list of choices for my parents got shorter and shorter. 

They left the country a couple of days ago and are now refugees in Europe. Many things are up in the air but at the moment they are safe and have a place to stay, electricity, water, and internet. A new cat is trying to befriend them :) I will post some updates once in a while but for now, I am happy to report that they are working on not being afraid of airplanes and mastering a “thank you” in a new language.

Video of a Flip-Through Sketchbook #144

I made another video flip-through of a sketchbook I recently finished. When I make these videos, I am reminded that revisiting your notebooks is as important as making them :)  Sometimes I find things I don't remember making at all :) Or things that I want to make more of. Sometimes I see that something is not as bad as I thought. And sometimes not as good. But it is fun to flip through these :) 

Immigrants from all over the world

I collect treasures on my table (some I pick up myself, some are given to me), and this is what I tried to sort through recently. Almost all of these are not California natives - but rather immigrants from all over the world! 

I will walk to say hi to some Australian trees this week and, perhaps, collect more of these to make another spread of treasures :)

Urban sketching with a friend

On a lovely sunny day, Suhita and I sat down to draw this building in Palo Alto. I was enamored with the fence but first a truck, then a bunch of cars parked in front of the building - so we kept a distant view and tried to get a feeling for the whole large plot of land with a warm-colored house that had two separate stove pipes and a cork oak growing in the front! 

These are two takes from the same point of view. One in gouache and another done with stencils, printing techniques, and some black and gray ink washes. 

Drawn reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. October 18, 2022

October 18, 2022. Day 237 of war.
On this day my parents went for a walk as the weather was very nice. There is one leaf left on the catalpa tree - last time there were three. The mulberry tree lost all the leaves in the middle. A rocket flew above their heads. Mom did not notice it, and we are glad. Her hearing aid lives on the table - she says it is a marvelous invention and leaves it there. She is planning the next chapter of her memoirs, and Dad is reading some poetry. Power was on only for a few hours in the evening. 

I am drawing some sunflowers, making prints trying to make sure that people remember that the war continues. 

My Tools Update

Here are a few new tools that I am using daily, all recent finds that I would like to share.

The first one is a very nice white paint marker from MICADOR. It was a present and I could not find a link. But it has very nice coverage and I am always looking for a really solid black and really strong white.

Note on the image above - where it does not look so great: the paper in this wonderful Cappuccino Sketchbook from Hahnemuhle has some quirks when I scan it. It is not really suitable for wet media but I know that I can overcome it by accepting some backing and working on different papers to be glued in later. But the color is so inviting - it looks much better in person (not to mention the lovely sleek surface that I am enjoying when I use a nice pen). That slickness is the reason why some materials are acting weird - like this paint marker that suddenly got a metallic shine and more transparency on this paper. 
The second new tool is a removable tape from Scotch. It is a scotch tape that does not damage (so far) my paper when I attach it on the wall and it does not damage my paper when I use it as a masking tape for painting. I find it a little unusual to have transparent masking tape as I paint over it and then have to search by feel to remove it all - but so far the paper is not torn - and that is what counts!

The third new find is a Twist Top Squeeze Bottles (1oz) with Dispensing Caps. I filled one with the glue (that I dilute a bit) and another one with the white gouache - my fourth recent discovery: a caran d'ache white gouache eco.

Having a more liquid than usual material allows me for better coverage on large surfaces and in tight spots - which is helpful with glue. But it is an even bigger win for gouache - actually four wins: 

(1) A paint that is more liquid means easier mixing. 

(2) An ability to work with smaller, more precise, and sometimes more springy brushes. 

(3) It gives me more control over how much paint I add. 

(4) In this container, it means that the paint is not contaminated - white always stays white.

This bottle closes securely so I can carry it with me on location and the construction of it is such that dropping it or flipping it over does not result in a spill. 
I can squeeze some fresh paint directly on my palette. 
I can paint with the top opening or make a puddle on the page and then disperse it with some tools or brushes (it feels amazing to push paint with your fingers - give it a try if it's been a while!).
I can apply some paint directly onto my paintbrush. 

I think this little bottle will find a home in many of my kits - might become a sister to my water spray bottle (which as I recently learned, sometimes is called an atomizer).

Fall Flowers: Dahlias or Chrysanthemums?

I picked up a bouquet at the local farmer's market and enjoyed it for two whole weeks - as a splash of color during the early morning or an incredible shape of a shadow when the sun is high, as a glowing presence during sunset hours. I did not draw it as much as I thought I would but some pages of my everyday sketchbook are recording its presence.

However, when I decided to share these images a question struck me - were these Dahlias (as I thought) or Chrysanthemums? And, as it often happens, it put me on a whole new track of searching for information and hence I am publishing this post a good 5 days after preparing it :) 

p.s. these were dahlias. I now know what to look for :)

Laundry Treasures

I used to collect a large treasure trove from the laundry - but these days the family is better about things we leave in the pockets. Yet you might be surprised to learn how many of these are mine - care to guess? :)

Drawn reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. October 10-15, 2022

October 10, 2022. Day 229 of war.
It was a hard day. russia launched a massive wave of strikes targeting cities across Ukraine. A lot of civil infrastructures were damaged and many people were left without power, water, and connection. Many killed. As soon as some ways of communication started working we exchanged news of family and friends, and then miracle city workers restored power and I was able to talk to my parents on video. Today I heard stories of grown-up people, kids, cats, and dogs being very scared. But I heard even more stories of people helping each other to get to the shelter, supporting each other with hugs and food, and songs and stories. Of people giving money to support those who need it most and to support resistance to this evil. Stories of kindness, generosity, and action on those feelings. And that is why we will prevail.

October 12, 2022. Day 231 of war.
Power is still not available during large parts of the day and phone connection is spotty. But we had enough bandwidth to have a video call. We talk about some books in Ukrainian and Dad is singing me songs. But recent attacks visible from the window shook everyone.

October 15, 2022. Day 234 of war.
Despite power still being available only during parts of the day, the overall mood is better. Mom is back to writing memoirs and making soup. Dad is back to trying to talk to cats as he used to talk to dogs. We talk about interesting Ukrainian last names, go over friends and family, and remember some people from their past.

Simple Stencils and Masks: An Online Class

In collaboration with Etchr Studio, I created an online class where people were able to follow along with me making a stencil-based image in a sketchbook. After the demo part of the class, I answered some questions and later saw some wonderful works that people created with this technique! 

Here are some stills from the class:

You can take this class in as a recording here: Simple Stencils and Masks

Sketching at the Almaden Lake: Stencils and Gouache

I went to Almaden Lake in San Jose to sketch with Suhita (@suhitasketchin the middle of a very hectic week and it was a much needed reset on many levels! 

Here ate two takes on the same eucalyptus tree. First one is done by using stencils and printing in my sketchbook with the details added with ink and brush. Second is a gouache interpretation of the same scene. 

And here is a look down at the Almaden creek: I started with the stencils to make large shapes and finished with gouache. 


Drawn reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. October 5-9, 2022

October 5, 2022. Day 224 of war.
A conversation filled with laughter - good weather, no bad news on that day. Mom tells me about her daily routine: up at 7, brush her teeth, monitor blood pressure for them both, and take pills. Then breakfast and feeding cats. Then phone calls to all the friends and relatives. Then turning on the TV to listen to the news. Working on memoirs, checking on all the plants, and making lunch. More memoirs, more phone calls, emails, reading, dinner, video calls with me, or more tv and conversations with people. Reading before going to bed. Her kindle is acting up and she is using Dad's which is acting up too. They miss their home and bookcases - they have a large library on various topics. 

October 7, 2022. Day 226 of war.
Dad is telling me about his exercise regime. Mom is telling me about the newspaper that she was publishing with two of her childhood friends when she was in elementary school. We laugh at a new meme - it is a Ukrainian language pun. It brings us to talking about some Ukrainian songs (with singing and chitchat about recipes mentioned in that song). There was a big commotion: a stray male cat wanted to enter the territory and two cats who now think that my parents are their humans loudly protested. The intruder is gone. We go over the list of friends and relatives, and some of the conversations turn serious. I ended up drawing parents rather sad.
October 9, 2022. Day 228 of war.
Parents are reporting that the weather has changed to fall completely. This is a conversation filled with memories. Mom remembers times when she did not have lipstick but wanted to use something and used blush on her lips - the result was a disastrous peeling. They talk about how there were no or almost no clothes for babies when my brothers were little but I got some "real ones". Still - lots were made by hand for me as sizes were non-existent. They remembered a song that they liked and sang parts of it to me. We had a good time walking down the memory lane: dogs, kids, and parents were remembered fondly. We did not talk about the war at all.  

San Jose History Museum and Park

History San Jose has an attractive collection of historical houses that were transported to a lovely park setting from all over the city. Most are carefully restored (though one was wonderfully dilapidated and became the first one to be sketched of course!). I went there to sketch with Suhita and Cathy on a lovely Tuesday morning when there were very few people in the park but a lot of activity in preparation for Halloween! 

While we were sketching this old fire station, a park ranger drove past in a little cart and waved to us with a bright smile and a coffin in the back of his cart. For this sketch I will share two variations - first is a cleaned-up version - with all my notes removed and some mistakes (not all - but the most glaring) corrected. But since truth is a complicated thing I am sharing another interpretation which is also truthful - but not about how the building looks like - I lied about that. This rendition is truthful about me and my sketchbook. It has my mistakes and my notes - this is how I will remember this building and the day enjoying a conversation, lovely view, and doing what I love - with friends. 

There were at least two stray cats - one was guarding the dilapidated house and you can see it in my sketch if you look carefully (Cathy later found out it was an old tankhouse) and another was a lovely shiny black cat who passed by us while we were sketching the poet's home. I think I saw another cat but I was running out of time and chose to finish the sketch instead of investigating the cat situation. By that time the sun came out and I managed to get yellow paint all over myself :)

Pentel Pocket Brush Pens with Color Inks

In honor of this being an Inktober month (I am not doing it this year) I wanted to write about one of my all-time favorite tools for drawing, writing, sketching, and painting tools. This is one of the "desert island" must haves for me: the Pentel Pocket Brush pen. It comes with lovely black color ink and has a wide range of thicknesses that you can pull off with it. It works great even on the first attempt, but you can take it to a new level if you take the time to get there. And it is virtually indestructible. I drew most of my badgers with one and it is still alive and used almost daily! (and for every 455 of published ones I probably drew 10 not published at least!) 

Lately, I tried it with gray and sepia inks (pre-filled cartridges sold by Pentel) but when I saw it with an actual color in Austin Kleon's newsletter - I knew that I would be experimenting with this myself. I chose Higgins Pigmented Drawing Ink in Yellow and Blue and loved them so much! 

And then I added Carmine Red and now I have a classical triad. But I decided to dilute the ink with some water as both blue and red were too overpowering.

Truth be told I am thinking about mixing some of these colors to make more (orange in particular!!) And I am also trying different inks - but this triad is already a winner for me!

Here is a quick sketch I just did with it:

p.s. I miss doing inktober and drawing badgers :)

Current tools and my Hybrid Watercolor/Gouache palette

I prefer writing in my sketchbook to typing hence if you want to know details - click on the image to see it larger.  And if anything in unreadable or needs more info - I will try and answer all questions!

Drawn reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. September 27-October 1, 2022

September 27, 2022. Day 215 of war.
We talk about how some language nuances and expressions are lost now due to the changes in technology and how we use it. Mom brings us some examples with the phones and computers and some mishaps that happen to her. She says: "it is not bad or good. It just is." And in the simplicity of that expression, there is so much about her that am starting to laugh without apparent reason. Dad reports that Mom's cat doesn't purr for him - only for Mom. We go over news from all the friends and relatives and note that this year many important dates were missed or greetings were sent late. Such a hard year. 

September 29, 2022. Day 217 of war.
My parents are reporting that the weather is good and will be even better - old wives' summer is in Ukraine. We do not discuss the idiocy of phony referendums but are going over the list of the friends and family members. Conversation turns to the old Singer sewing machine that belonged to my great-grandma. We laugh when we get confused by who calls what century previous. Dad tells me that he removed all his attempts to make it electric and brought back to the "original state" and that I can "finally" have it. He is trying to convince himself that tea will help him as much as painkillers and tells stories about all kinds of Nobel laureates to stop me from expressing my opinion on the subject. As it is a custom for us - I show them what I drew, and they give me their opinions. This time Dad says that he looks like "grandpa Borya" in my drawing, and this sends us into a conversation about another relative who is unknown to me.

October 1, 2022. Day 220 of war.
A conversation about bicycles with Dad and fat cells with Mom. Somehow fat cells lead us to Archimed and Anacondas - I lost the transition but it had something to do with the concept of dieting and the fact that fat cells cannot disappear. In our conversations Mom sometimes adds some things to the memoirs that she is writing. On this day she told me about an old biology station on the river near Kharkiv and how she saw the whole life cycle of the polyphemus moth there during one summer holiday. How beautiful all the stages were and how some moths were considered abnormal. They were the prettiest. We talk about our summer vacation on river Vorskla many many years ago and how we were picking raspberries. 

On My Table: First Days of October 2022.

A few words to add to the picture:

1. I found a new masking tape which I enjoy as it is very gentle on the paper - it is a Wall-Safe Tape from Scotch which I got off amazon

2. Snow Leopards are for my new collaboration with Etchr - this will be a live video class on October 11th at 9 am PST - you can participate in it as it happens or access it later in a recording.

3. I just refilled my hybrid watercolor/gouache palette - and wrote down all the names of all the colors - so I plan to make a post about it this week, as well as about my new colorful pentel pocket brushes filled with bright inks!