California Poppies: Super Bloom of 2023

California poppies are extraordinarily bright and cheerful flowers - very much representing the essence of the California sun for me: I love it but sometimes it is too much. I cherish the instantly recognizable color of both flowers and the rest of the plant, the delicate wrinkles of the petals, the fingers of the leaves, and the hats of the seed pods. I love how flowers open and close based on the amount of sunshine they are getting, how you can always find a variety from warm yellow to burnt orange if you look for them, how they dance in the wind, and how shadows change colors with that dance. How you see them in the wild and an urban setting - still wild. NASA published photos of fields of California poppies visible from space. I didn't have a chance to check that out but my friend Suhita Shirodkar took me to some amazing hills down south: covered in so many versions of that orange!
We sat in the grass and painted both the hill and individual flowers. A Black Tailed Jack Rabbit (which is a hare) ran past - just a few feet away from us. Lots of people were on the hill - some drawing too! We came for the poppies but talked about so many other flowers covering the hillsides - the variety of their hues. And how we approach the endless task of learning all the names of plants that we see. It was a magical day when crayons were starting to melt in the sun but you could still enjoy a bit of a cold breeze in the shade. I wondered how long the poppies will last but then realized that there is always one or two even in the middle of August heat - if only you are patient enough to look for it :) 

Nonagenarian update: found some drawings from 1948.

Little things from the everyday moments with our nonagenarian. Visiting Doctors. A sunflower seed from her birdfeeder grew into a plant almost as tall as she is. When the seeds matured she left them for the birds to feed on and then cut the stalk so that the bottom was preserved. There is now a cucumber plant growing next to the stalk and the plan is to use it as a support for the cucumber vine. The rose bush woke up and brought up 17 buds. Some new books in russian and in Ukrainian. She was sorting out some old papers and found her sketches from 1948 - enjoy!

Drawn reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. April 18-22, 2023.

April 18-22, 2023. Days 419-423 of war.
This week we spoke about many Ukrainian words. My practice now is to write down all the expressions and words that I am not sure about and (before looking them up) - discuss them with my parents. So far this is an exciting process as they laugh a lot at my mistakes but also talk a lot about where I might find that or this expression. And they mime many words to help me guess what they mean :) We spoke about their experience learning languages and how different teachers at different times had different approaches to the process. 

The weather is changing a lot and sometimes it affects their mood and health quite a bit. But of course, news from Ukraine, the war, and the status of all the family members and friends are ever present in our conversations. Kharkiv got bombed again. Artillery shelling of the suburbs continues. Tulips are coming out of the ground - and the city is planning to plant lots more in May. Chestnut trees (not far from my parent's home) are beginning to think about blooming. War or not war - the spring is in Ukraine. Mom says: we need to work to improve: the state of our physical bodies, our language, our mental state - and our souls of course. 

Art and War in Ukraine. Part 6. Illustrators Telling Stories

I've been thinking about how to share the war-time works of illustrators and comic book artists from Ukraine for some time. The issue of course is that of language - many things would be lost without the text. Then two comics appeared in the New Yorker and New York Times - both by Zhenya Oliinyk and I decided to start there and just gather some of the comics that stayed with me the most and share them as is - in hopes that pictures will help with the missing language bits.

So here you are - Six Ukrainian illustrators that are creating art about the war and whose work I wanted to share. 
For me, the weirdness of the shapes, deceptive simplicity, and lack of facial parts that would be expressing emotions make the subjects of these drawings only more real and close.

Anna Ivanenko
I noticed the range of textures overlapping colors first. Then I noticed the faces and hands and it just hit me. I think about those faces and hands often.

Jenya Polosina
Jenya Polosina and Anna Ivanenko run Studio Seri/Graph.
Jenya's works speak to my sense of being simultaneously connected and disconnected to the horror and truth of what is happening in Ukraine. For me, grainy textures and distorted views make it possible to continue looking at images so filled with pain.

Julia Tveritina
For me, these illustrations feel very personal. Julia lives far away from Ukraine now but her pain is very visible even when from a great distance. I love unwrapping her detailed, layered, and very colorful illustrations made based on photos and accounts of her family and friends in Ukraine. 

Mari Kinovych
Illustrations are made with straightforward colors, dynamic lines, and interesting points of view. For me, they are bursting with feelings. 

Potapenko Iryna
A series of colorful and sincere drawings about actual everyday life during the war. Done with lots of humor, kindness, amazing optimism, and unstoppable conviction that Ukraine will prevail against evil. The series of "Stories from the Basement" became a book:

Spring Outings

I got to see some animals! 

Watching kids in any museum is often as entertaining as watching whatever I came to see. Having a drawing companion is a super bonus!

Angry Skies

Now that the spring is really here I went back and scanned some sketches that I did during the crazy winter month when we had a whole bunch of atmospheric rivers wash over the Bay Area. With all the water that we got California is enjoying a super bloom this spring and hills are wonderfully green all over the area. 

Top: gouache, bottom - gouache, color pencils and ballpoint pen. Royal Talens Art Creation Sketchbook.

Drawn reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. April 10-16, 2023.

April 10-16, 2023. Days 411-417 of war.
This week was filled with various important occasions in Eastern Orthodox Church - none of which we follow but some of my grand and grand-grandparents were following in their time. This started a whole chain of memories - how great-grandma would take my Mom for a walk to "look at the lights" but had to make sure not to go to church as it would create some serious problems for the careers of Mom's parents. The kinds of "Paski" (Easter bread) she was making. Colorful eggs, painted eggs. How my father's family avoided all mentioning of religion completely and how he suddenly became quiet when I asked if he remembers anything. 

We spoke about spring arriving in Kharkiv and how people are sending each other photos of flowers and the first green shoots. Many places that people usually go to during these first warm weeks (and on Easter Sunday in particular) are off-bounds. For example, many cemeteries and parks on the outskirts are still not clear from the results of bombings (many cassette bombs don't detonate until someone walks by) and mines that were left by the russian army.

This week our Ukrainian language conversations were based on me asking a bunch of questions about words that I found in literature and wanted to get a better understanding of small differences in meanings. My parents went for their walks and watched some interesting lectures that brought us conversations about viruses, time, and chronobiology.

Spring Hike in California: Painting Greens with Gouache

Spring in California is moving slowly but is gifting us some magnificent days!
I got a chance to look at the hills that are very green and paint them with gouache. I am slowly moving to a better gouache palette - but this super fast option still is the best solution for sketching on a hike!

Drawing with Friends: Stanford University with Jenny Adam

One of the great things that resulted from putting my art online is a community of friends. I made a lot of wonderful connections with people over sketching - people all over the world! And with most of them, I never met in real life - however, when the opportunity presents itself I jump at such an occasion. That is what happened this spring when Jenny Adam - an urban sketcher, designer, and illustrator from Hamburg was visiting California. 

Suhita Shirodkar (@suhitasketch), Uma Kelkar (@umapaints) and Jenny Adam (@ronkiponk) invited me to join them at the Stanford University where we spent some time sketching, walking and talking together and ended up almost running out of time - hence my last sketch (or others sketching) was super fast! See a photo of all out works in a "throwdown" - below.

Process shot and final spread - from the quad:

Jenny also has a Domestica Course "Modern Urban Sketching Techniques with Mixed Media"
and together with Eleanor Doughty (@herbcoil) she runs a free monthly online sketching gathering where people draw from google maps: A Street View World Tour.

Drawn reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. April 3-9, 2023.

April 3-9, 2023. Days 403-410 of war.
This week my parents were determined to do at least one walk a day despite some crazy weather and managed to do so every day. Mom tried making a ponytail and I tried to sketch her to show it. We talked about how we name colors thinking that we all mean the same thing but in truth, we all have our own set of names for colors. I reported about our spring and some interesting outings - an art show, a nature museum, and the animals we visited. They gave me more new Ukrainian words to ponder. We talked about friends who are returning to Ukraine and the obstacles that they are facing. 

Video flip-through my Sketchbook #147

I've uploaded a video of a flip through my sketchbook number 147 to my youtube. Some screenshots below. Many of my flowers make an appearance there, a whole story of a pink and purple bouquet. My parents (portraits of war in Ukraine), experiments with stencils and printmaking and of course - gouache. A barrage of sketches from everyday life.

This was a 8" x 10" softcover alpha sketchbook from Stillman & Birn. I worked in it from December 13, 2022 till February 10, 2023 and it gained 300 grams of weight during this time!

Spring at the Google Headquarters: The Joy of Gouache!

A few weeks ago I got to play with some new materials from Cretacolor (big fat pencils and crayons!) and a new for me gouache from lascaux - all thanks to Lauren Sunila - a Brand Manager at MacPherson’s
And what is the best test for any new drawing tools? A trip to paint and draw on location!
On one of the very first warm days of this spring, I jumped at an opportunity to join my friend at the new Google buildings. We were short on time so all of these are basically painted from around the same spot. Buildings themselves are mind-bending architectural wonders (I cannot wait to visit one of them inside) - so to get some respite from the hard-to-follow architectural structure I painted green hills and a creek too. 
I loved the coverage and smoothness of lascaux gouache a lot! This is not acrylic gouache - it reactivates with water very nicely! I used three different tools to paint with it (including my finger - which is a good test as some paints cause skin irritation - but none in this case!). Both wet and dry brushing was a joy with these paints. I hope to get my hands on more colors to make some special mixes to take with me in the field next time!