Yellow Chrysanthemums and managing expectations.

I got this beautiful bright pot with yellow chrysanthemums to brighten up a series of gray days when we had non-stop rain (which I loved by itself but it does not mean that I can pass by an opportunity to bring home chrysanthemums!). And I thought that I will paint them every day. In reality, I did not sit down to paint them even once! They appeared in a bunch of "I have two minutes" sketches though :) I did not crop one of the sketches so that you can see that some of these are done not in my sketchbook but in my pocketbook (or on scrap paper) :)


They are still in full bloom - so I might get more serious (or not :)

Drawn reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. January 16-22, 2023.

January 16, 2023. Day 327 of war.
Some of the conversations happen during dinner times and some of the dinner conversations run wild and hot - Dad was explaining something to me and was much closer to the screen, talking with his hands a lot. I managed to edit huge hands out of my sketch but only after we finished our video call I noticed how much smaller Mom is here. We talked about the venn diagram between being smart and being cunning and went into the abyss of the topic of whether pieces of art and literature can be used as sources of historical knowledge. 

January 18, 2023. Day 329 of war.
I did not write much during this conversation as we were troubleshooting all sorts of everyday life things: fridge, ventilation, email, hearing aids, Mom, Dad, computer, headphones, iPad - in short - some days equipment just does not want to talk to you, same with people.
January 22, 2023. Day 333 of war.
My Dad recommended I try eating salted herring with bananas and Mom told me all about cats and the weather. Both of these conversations meant that both parents are doing fine. We went over the list of relatives (there are some important birthdays of great-grandkids coming up!). Dad was discussing ways of fixing his cane with me. 

Art and War in Ukraine. Part 4. Mistograf - a family of urban sketchers from Kharkiv.

"Mistograf" - is a family of architects and urbanists. Tanja and Jaroslav and their three kids (Yulia, Olya, and Marko) were living in Kharkiv, Ukraine. When the war with russia began on 24th of February, 2022 they, together with their parents, spent 5 days hiding in the basement of one of the buildings in the center of the city. They left Kharkiv for Lviv on a train that was filled to the brim with people and pets. Since then they made a camp many miles away from home in a tiny village in the Mountains of Ukraine. From there they travel and tell stories about different cities of Ukraine, how they lived before and how they live during war.
Despite everything that is happening in Ukraine this family kept drawing through whatever was happening to them. They were drawing while hiding in the basement (when Kharkiv was shelled many times a day). They were drawing through evacuation and then moving from place to place. Without much materials at first but never stopping they drew parts of Ukraine as they moved through and then after they settled a bit, they started traveling around Ukraine sharing their stories with others in the form of bi-monthly zines/newspapers. 
I love that kids contribute to these publications and maps are my favorite images for a long look but even from a quick flip through the pages you get to know both the place and the family a bit. I enjoy popping up on their youtube where you can see some videos from the travel and events and how Tanja and Jaroslav create works together. Mixture of drawings from life with cartoons and comics, use of text in sketches, interesting notes about working on location, interviews with locals - all can be found there. Also, Mistograf's work is an example of how people brought their Ukrainian language to a new level and they inspire me in their writing too. 
They have a whole series now - covering the cities of Chernihiv, Zhytomyr, Sumy, Odesa, Ivano-Frankivsk, and small cities of the Lviv region and there will be one about Kharkiv - but that is a story for another post! 
Right now you can read these in Ukrainian but there is an English version for Ivano-Frankivsk and others are in the works. 
You can learn more about this amazing family of artists and sketchers at the English version of their site:
https://www.mistograf.com/en - you will find ways to support them via PayPal or Patreon (and on the site as well). 

I have a bulb situation on my table - part 2

Here are some sketches and notes from a couple of weeks after the beginning of the process. Three different bulbs are drawn as they display different levels of enthusiasm. I scanned these pages before and after adding the color as I am simultaneously trying to have more black and white works and have more color in my sketchbook. Which - if it would work the way I want does not contradict one another but I am at the messy stage of the process. 




I have a bulb situation on my table - part 1

I enjoy growing plants from seeds and bulbs and clippings. Just watching them grow day by day can change the whole dynamic of the way winter transforms into spring for me. In anticipation of this I usually get a bulb or two and this year I got three and then one more but I forgot which one was which - so it was (and still is) an experiment with a surprise. Two of my bulbs are stubbornly refusing to start growing but others are on a roll! Here is a sketch from day one of the whole process this season. 




Drawn reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. January 9-15, 2023.

January 10, 2023. Day 321 of war.
Rain in California made it to the international news. I tell my parents about atmospheric rivers in theory and how they look from inside the car on a highway and outside my window. They also had rain for two days and did not go for their walks and now their mood is affected by it. I try to convince them that their age has nothing to do with the interconnection between the weather and mood and ask them to go outside even for a tiny bit. They nod and smile.

January 12, 2023. Day 323 of war.
Mom says: there are so many wonderful people around us! And dogs! And cats! And it's been a constant in our lives! 
We talk in Ukrainian mostly during this conversation. It means that I make mistakes and they correct me and I get tired and distracted. But they know me well and to keep me on track they give me new words to learn - one of them is a wonderful expression for squeezing/purging. After I write it down they tell me that I should use it to describe my relationship with my constant switching to russian language. 
January 14, 2023. Day 325 of war.
This conversation happened after the tragedy of Dnipro. We try not to discuss details of tragedies during our video conversations - but go through the list of family and friends. Kharkiv was without power and water after the attacks on the same day but everyone checked in as being safe. Mom tells me about her memories from the vacations in Crimea when she was a kid. 


Sketching While Waiting

Last couple of weeks I had a bunch of scheduled and unscheduled appointments. So here is a fresh installment of little notes and sketches done while waiting. Famous California rains made it into many of these, even washing one of my watercolor sketches off completely (see below). There is an update on nonagenarian (some routine tests and eye shots), fixing the tire and then fixing it again, waiting with the rain and waiting for the rain. All of these are done on either scrap paper/envelopes or my pocket Strathmore drawing pad with uniball vision rollerball pen (gray body) which works even when the paper is soaked! 




More gifts from all the rain and wind

Some trees are clearly showing signs of wanting to start the blooming season, but winds and rain brought more leaves for me to sketch recently:



Wind brings gifts: magnolia seed pods

With all the rain and winds I 've been finding lots of treasures to draw. Magnolia seed pods have a special place in my sketchbooks - always. Here is one of them. I painted it with gouache and you can see some parts of the process here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CnS0MaWKkkc/



Ocean at night

I visited Pacific Ocean at night and it left an impression. Uping which I drew another impression. And another. 



Drawn reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. January 2-8, 2023.

January 2, 2023. Day 313 of war.

Mom is talking to me by herself - holding an iPad on her knees so the angle is unusual. We talk a lot about the results of 2022. Mom says - "we had a lot of pluses this year - more than last year for sure". To my surprised face, she says: there were so many horrible things and really hard moments and so many of them could have ended so much worse - but did not. Every morning can be counted to pluses! 

She found an iris on the street and now visits it daily on her walks. 

January 3, 2023. Day  314 of war.
We go over all the friends and relatives - holidays are the time to get in touch and there are many updates that we exchange. It is cold in Ukraine. And hard when there is no light and heating, air raids continue. About half of the people on our "list" are displaced. 
My parents are bringing new words for me to learn in Ukrainian every time we speak. They miss their books and dictionaries a lot and argue about some spellings and meaning. But they are glad to be in a safe and warm place. 
January 5, 2023. Day  316 of war.
They tell me about things that they saw on their walk - dogs and cats are prominent features, as are plants and birds. There are some unusual Christmas decorations that they noticed - made with sticks and thread, lichen and moss - very interesting. 
January 8, 2023. Day  319 of war.
Since there are so many animals around them and I am losing track of all the stories, so I asked for the names of the main characters. And today they delivered - one dog is called Conrad and another Nessit. Mom is asking permission to pet them every day and Dad does not. Cats are still without names but Mom thinks that since they do not come inside the house they can be just called "cats" for now. 



Video flip-through my Sketchbook #146

Video of a flip through my sketchbook number 146. Portraits of war, experiments with stencils, printmaking, some notes on my plants, people sketching, a mushrooming trip with some ocean views mixed in. Also - gouache and everyday life sketches.



This is how the "it is about to rain" looked like a few days ago.

A heavy wind with some crazy gusts brought some amazingly bright leaves between the rains. I painted this quickly as some leaves flew away, and some got duller with more rain. I used some gouache as I would use watercolors to paint this.




On My Table: First Days of January 2023.

January started with heavy rains flodding highways, and winds that moved furniture and scared birds. Many plants came inside to survive these atmospheric rivers and rain bombs. And I got a new tool for watering them - a bottle with a long nose - it teaches me patience and precision. 

I started growing a few bulbs but not sure what some of them are. 

A vertical pencil case is very handy because it has a loop that allows me to attach it to my belt/pants for drawing outside. I promised a review of my pencils and hope to make it one day!

My paint rug was too colorful to remove from the desk :)  

The current portable gouache kit fits in a pencil box - I carry a limited number of colors (see the photo for the current favorites) and an old pencil tin works as a mixing area.

Some surprisingly-colored acrylic inks make their way onto my table lately - though I am yet to use them alone. 

And my blotting paper is always inside my sketchbook. It is just a couple of sheets of good watercolor paper which I tape together with artist's tape to allow for a flexible closure - and I use it as a bookmark and as a way to safely close my sketchbook on a wet sketch. 






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

December 27, 2022. Day 307 of war.
We talk about differences between different artists and how Dad's personality matches his favorite Pieter Bruegel (Dad adds - the elder - the kids are always lesser artists!) and Mom (politely) says "he is great, his kids were great too - but Hieronymus Bosch is so much crazier!" Then they go into particular paintings and I frantically search online for images to follow the conversation :)

December 29, 2022. Day 309 of war.
Weather, health, and blood pressure were dominating our conversations on that day. But I entertained them with the description of my tire repair process (which I sketched). I tried to make it interesting but Dad knew about all the "really cool equipment" that I was drawing and whispered to Mom what I would be telling about next. 
December 30, 2022. Day 310 of war.
We are getting close to a New Year Ever, which means that we talk about the hard work of getting results of this year on paper and the impossibility of making plans. But also how, despite everything, we are doing both. Based on how much more paint I spent on Dad's portrait and how I drew his hand, I was trying to get some answers out of him without any results. But I did not write anything from that part of the conversation. The big thing is that my parents went for a walk again - after a few days of not feeling well enough - and it is a huge mood lift for all of us. Intentionally choosing a frame for whatever is happening is what I will practice more this year.


Happy New Year 2023!

I hope it is a better year than 2022 was. 


Year in Sketchbooks - 2022.

I started 2022 in the middle of Sketchbook #138 and I am not working in Sketchbook #147. It means that in 12 months I finished about 10 sketchbooks. I have over 160 portraits of my parents in them - documenting our conversations from before the war than through the first artillery sounding in Kharkiv and through everything that happened during the next 311 days. 

Taking a stock of everything that happened this year is very personal, hard, and sensitive and I will not be sharing much here. I’m glad that I sketched through all. And very grateful for all the support I received online and in real life - I hold it all inside me when I look into 2023. Thank you!

p.s. Here is one plan I want to share: I hope that at the end of 2023 I will be able to make a "year end results" post like I did in 2021