Winter Europe Trip: Granada, Spain.

Like many cities, it is impossible to see the city of Granada in one day. And it is even harder when you take into account that the famous Alhambra is part of the trip to Granada. Tickets to Alhambra are notoriously hard to obtain and we ended up not visiting the site. I was bummed at first but to tell you the truth now I am glad. We had only one day for the city on this trip and it was filled to the brim with so much beauty that I am not sure there was any place left for Alhambra! We saw it from the outside - framed by marvelous Sierra Nevada Mountains. And now there is a "must-see" reason to return to the gorgeous city of Granada in the future. 

Drawn reports in the form of the portraits - war in Ukraine. January, 2024

January, 2024. 

The last post about my parents on this blog was at the end of November - that was the week when my parents arrived in the United States. Since then we all worked on getting used to their new life as refugees in California: they got medical insurance and found a little free library nearby, met some cats, dogs, and people. But Ukraine is always on their mind - especially this week when Kharkiv was bombed several times. One of the bombs hit one block away from their home and where other family members live now. My relatives wrote to me "Windows survived but it was very very loud, we are writing to you from the hallway where walls are protecting us in case the windows would not stand the next bomb".

When the first photo account of this shelling arrived I realized that the place that was destroyed was where I stood to paint the street across just a few years back. Below are photos of my sketching process and a photo from the night of the bombing. I was standing between the trees in the night photo - looking to the right. 

It is hard to connect to the reality that is now on the streets where I grew up. But we must look - if this evil is not stopped it will spread further and more would be lost. 

These are the days when aid to Ukraine from the USA is needed more than ever. Yet it has been put on pause since November of 2023. If you live in the USA I urge you to contact your elected officials and support unblocking and increasing military aid to Ukraine. 

One of the things that I learned from this war is that small actions of everyday people add up. Every note counts.

Find your senator:

Find your representative:

Write to your president:

Here are words from my letters: 
I ask that you do everything in your power to unblock and increase military aid to Ukraine.
This is the only road consistent with maintaining a rule-based international order that our country's economy and well-being are critically dependent on.
And here are my parents: the day after they saw the photo above. 

Winter Europe Trip: Cordoba, Spain - Part 2

Cordoba Part 2: Animal-related notes about the city :) (links to all the parts of the story are at the bottom of the post)

On the very first day of walking through the streets of Cordoba, we wandered inside an old abbey where on the wall there was a stuffed crocodile of undetermined age. It looked exactly as my jet-lagged body felt and in my mind became a mascot for this brilliant city. An actual city logo unfortunately does not have a crocodile - but some geometric designs and palm trees - you can see it on the sketch from the horse show below :)

On many many walks around Cordoba, we saw so many wonderful dogs who looked very comfortable as if this was their city - that I ended up taking lots and lots of pictures and sharing them daily on instagram during my trip. Some ended up in my sketchbook as well. 

There were also lots of "cat sanctuaries" throughout the city - places with many really well-cared-for cats. And we saw some people climbing the wall to position food closer to them.

One of the evenings was dedicated to seeing a horse show which Cordoba is famous for. No photography is permitted there - I am not sure why. But it was too dark for good photos anyway and I had fun drawing some gorgeous animals in motion! Some of the tricky poses that were demonstrated during this show I was later able to identify in art museums. It was an interesting thing to compare - thinking about the royal sitting on a horse after seeing what an actual person on the back of a horse that is walking on hind legs looks like. 


Winter Trip to Spain: Organizing Images, Notes, Sketches and Posts

I started posting about my recent trip to Spain without a plan or organization and pretty quickly became overwhelmed and discouraged since there were so many things I wanted to remember, share, and draw from photos or memories or my sketches... but only so many hours in a day exist and time started to slip away and with it, my memories and enthusiasm started to fade. But I found a way back and this post is for my future self - here is how to not do everything at once :) 

As you can see I put together a rough map of what I wanted to talk about and roughly connected that to what images I had defined as most important to remember what I wanted to tell. Added some screenshots of scans and photos, some notes, and connected those to my mind map - and very soon things started to line up in order. Here are posts about this trip:

  1. More from the trip (winter 2023-24, Spain)

Winter Europe Trip: Cordoba, Spain - Part 1

Last week I started my report about a trip to Spain over the holidays with my sketching tools and before that, I posted a bunch of people sketches celebrating use of public transportation on this trip.
This week I will show you a city which was a base for a big chunk of our trip: Cordoba.
This was the only city on this trip where I feel like I had a little taste for real life in it. It probably was a false assumption but the city quickly started to feel familiar. There was something very grounding in the way that with every day my ability to find a way was getting more intuitive (despite a jet lag), how I started to understand architecture a bit and see how streets grew in time. By the end of the week, I had a favorite wall, tree, bakery, and dog park.
I saw myself running in this city after meeting lots of runners on the streets. I enjoyed identifying the abundance of birds by the river. I did not get tired of many happy orange trees all around the city - just fruits hanging on the trees - everywhere! A very blue sky - dear to every Californian's heart - and amazing light everywhere :) Good selection of apples in stores. Embarrassing use of my Spanish at a local supermarket and how I felt at peace by the end of the conversation despite it. So many things I wanted to draw (but not enough time) - my phone is exploding with photos I took! A Roman bridge over a river that was mighty once. Completely mind-boggling, beautiful mosque that I cannot wrap my head around. And three things that I saw in other cities but somehow I keep going back to the Cordoba version of them: 
  1. Pavement as mosaics with the river stones - enchinado pavement.
  2. Patios - gardens inside the homes. How so much greenery can fit into even the smallest space, how much diversity in plants, and how these gardens are framed by the walls, floors, sky, and amazing ornamented gates and window decorations. And flower pots! 
  3. Tiles - everywhere little and large tiles with beautiful ornaments or pictures, stories, or just colors. On the floor, on the walls, on the pavement, on the bottoms of the balconies, on the sides of the windows - everywhere!

More from the trip (winter 2023-24, Spain)

Saying Goodbye to the Christmas Tree

The holiday season is magical and is actively celebrated with an eclectic set of traditions in my family. The magic of light is central and for many years one of the main sources of light in December was this tree. I drew it several times before we packed all the lights up this weekend.

Creating Options for Holiday Cards.

I enjoy making and sending Holiday Cards each year. Whatever you celebrate - the change of year is a great reminder for me to get in touch with people. Some years I am more prepared than others :) This was a year when for various reasons I thought I might forgo the whole thing altogether. But in the end, I started slowly - with a plan, moved from my options A to C going through the lists, and ended up with a bang: a little experimental project at the end of the year which was joyful on so many levels!
Below are some of the notes on the project with a couple of examples of the last part of the experimental cards that I sent out (the ones that I knew could arrive late because recipients know that they are coming - no matter how late I send them out (and some are still traveling:) 
After I sent my Holiday Greetings in the newsletter, via email, etc., and posted on social media, I got a bunch of questions about how I made the owl (bottom left below). And the answer is - I mixed a lot of techniques and it was a wild experiment! Details are in the last image of this post.

How the year is starting for me

This year an art-related part of my life is starting slowly. Part of it is that I just returned from a trip and between jet lag, cold, and piles of things that were waiting for me on work and home fronts there hasn't been much time to jump into large projects. Another part of the reason is that I am taking a slow dive into my travel sketches and collecting them all in one place to share - which takes quite a bit of time, is a very joyful activity - and I don't want to rush it. (Hopefully, I will share my travel sketchbook next week). Nonetheless, little moments of everyday sketching are happening - be that a mud painting in the forest, an avocet portrait, or experiments with a new tiny gouache set, every day is a day to draw!

Winter Europe Trip: Sketching Tools

Below is a sketch report of everything sketching-related that I took with me on my trip to Spain over the holidays. I did use almost everything once but there was a very short list of tools that I used regularly. Mostly because on-location sketching was often super speedy (I was following a guide with my group), there were quite a few train rides and I worked a lot from the photo references and notes later. Having options felt good though. For example, I took only basic pens on my summer trip (UniBall and Ballpoint) and this time around I enjoyed having calligraphy pen at my disposal (one of them decided to stop working after a flight but that is why I had two :) Having a limited palette of markers and pencils in my "daily" selection of tools forced me to improvise and simplified some decisions. And chisel nib was super handy for doing fast coverage and details with the same pen. 

Public Transportation is Amazing!

I spent quite some time in various modes of public transportation during my recent trip to Europe. And while at it I sketched people with the joy of someone who is rarely in a position to see strangers snore on a train. Notes about my experience this time: the higher the class of the ticket the fewer sketching opportunities. Also: I saw an abnormal number of people in their pajamas in airports. 

Growing an Amaryllis with Mom

This year I remembered to get a bulb with an Amaryllis plant and I got two - one for myself and one for my Mom. Sharing these experiences short-distance is one of the exciting things in my life after my parent's arrival to California

Here are some of my first recordings about my bulb:

And some of the photos of Mom's Amaryllis. I am hoping that she will start drawing soon too - but for now - she takes lots of photos :)