Rogues in my garden.

We are having a lovely wet winter so far and I found some rogue visitors in my garden: mushrooms are growing on my succulents!!!

Internet was full of helpful suggestions like "may be a sign that your succulents need better-draining soil or a less-humid environment" or "That means the soil microbiology is super healthy" or "Mushroom won't harm your plant - but it is usually a sign of soil that is too organic. That may be a bigger problem". There was also discussion as to how to get rid of them and if. 

I decided to sketch the situation instead of continuing down that rabbit hole on the internet :)

Reading Notes: Secret World of Slugs and Snails

I read about this book from by David George Gordon in a couple of different places (but forgot to write down where) and then Austin Kleon mentioned it in one of his posts and after a short wait for a library hold I had a lovely little tome of snail and slug knowledge in my hands: The Secret World of Slugs and Snails: Life in the Very Slow Lane. One thing I would like to tell you right away - it reads like a good mystery! Popular science book with a layer of humor, poetry, and lots of amazing references and interesting drawings full of character.

One of the main things I made notes on while reading this book were other books referenced in the text - see below (I mean - who does not want to learn "How to Attract a Wombat"? Or page through "Adventures with a Hand Lens:? or learn what is "Gardening for Independence" or what happens "When Snails Come to Paris"? :) 

Lovely illustrations (by Karen Luke Fildes on instagram:karenlukefildes) reminded me of one of my art heroes - Hannah Hinchman and her wonderful book "A Life In Hand" (here is a youtube video Danny Gregory put up about this book). And I ended up digging into all sorts of things in biology (did you know that snails use copper to bind oxygen in their blood?), linguistics, and nature history (different words for science that studies shells and those who live in them: conchology and malacology) and statistics (Numbers and percentages of dextral and sinistral shells). 

I will enjoy following the trails that this book left for some time :)

Drawn reports in the form of the portraits - Two Years of war in Ukraine. February 24, 2024.

Above are all the portraits of my parents that I drew during the last two years of war in more or less chronological order starting on February 24, 2022. 

It's been two years since the unthinkable happened and the war became a part of the everyday life of my parents. And through them it became a part of our lives. From the horror of the first weeks to the endless bombings of Kharkiv (that continue till today). Escaping the city to live in a small town: befriending cats, learning to live without their home of many decades. My parents faced the cold and dark winter when russia started destroying power infrastructure and agreed to move outside Ukraine and lived as refugees in Europe until at the very end of last year they became refugees in California. Two years of war and a long long time away from where they thought they would be. So many dark, horrific stories from these two years, so many losses. So many people lost much more than anything my parents experienced yet it all adds up to one big pain and loss but also strength to oppose the evil and courage to fight it with everything. We saw so much kindness from people all around the world during these two years.

I wish this time was over and we could invite all our friends and supporters to celebrate our victory and freedom with good borscht in Ukraine. One day. But today the war is not over - and we still need all the help.

If you live in the States please consider writing to your elected officials and support unblocking and increasing military aid to Ukraine. 

Every note counts.

Find your senator:

Find your representative:

Write to your president:

In my letters I ask that they you do everything in their power to unblock and increase military aid to Ukraine. This is a fight against world evil and we should do everything to help those on the front line. 

I also opened a fundraiser through Facebook to collect money through Nova Ukraine - an organization whose work and people I know personally. These are people who are organizing aid in Ukraine and helping Ukrainian refugees in America. 

Please consider donating here:

I organized all my war-related posts (including a month-by-month journey my parents took) in this post:

Winter Europe Trip: Madrid Museums

We visited a whole bunch of museums and historical sites on this trip, however museums of Madrid were the ones I spent the most time preparing for and where I drew the most. 
In Prado, I was excited to find a Museum guide and map in Ukrainian and marked my plan for everyone in our group so that they would know where to find me (follow along!). Goya is always a hit and this time I went not from earlier works to the late years but in the opposite direction and it created even a bigger contrast and wonder. In the Naval Museum, I drew some figureheads and spent my time finding the best depiction of the sea (there were quite a few spectacular ones!). We also went to the home and museum of my art hero Joaquin Sorolla, found his works in two more museums, and visited a little but fantastic exhibit "Sorolla's Summers" on its last day in Madrid. I ended up painting a "bunch of Sorollas" in my sketchbook as I could not stop thinking about all the light that he saw! 

Plant Eviction

I bought this little garden-in-a-pot (a concept I enjoy) and sketched it a couple of days into its stay on our kitchen table. But very quickly my allergies informed me that the hyacinth is not my friend and in fact is a serious enemy. It filled the whole house with fragrance and despite some effort put into denial, I had to evict the whole little garden outside. Where there was a lot of wind and rain and... well, I did not draw it after eviction. But it is getting a lot of watering!

Winter Europe Trip: Toledo, Spain

One of the destinations out of our Madrid hub was Toledo. This was my second visit to this glorious city (the first one was with my Mom in 2011 - here is my blog post from that one: The time we spent in Toledo did not disappoint despite quite a bit of rain and too-big-a lunch! Another city I would like to see through different seasons and visit again :)

Sketching with Friends: San Francisco

This weekend I finally met one of my online friends in real life! Wonderful Marie-Hélène Brohan Delhaye and I connected through Instagram, then through Urban Sketching and Uma Kelkar, and then Ukraine, and then just through the sheer joy of sharing a journey of documenting our lives, experimenting, working with direct watercolor painting and the glory of using color.

Marie-Hélène traveled through California and we met on a glorious sunny day on the top of the hill in San Francisco. The four of us - Suhita Shirodkar, Uma Kelkar, Marie-Hélène, and myself were sketching, chatting about art supplies, catching up on world and family events, exchanging plans and hopes for the year, petting dogs, and swapping greetings with passers-by. The best thing? It felt like we do it all the time - this sketch and chat together - even though this was the first time we did it in real life with Marie-Hélène :) I enjoy having friends at all distances and making them in any way imaginable - but to see them in real life, hug them, and tell them in person that they make my world better is not always possible. When it is - I celebrate!

Photo of all of us - by Marie-Hélène.

Winter Europe Trip: Madrid, Spain

The second part of our trip was centered in Madrid. 
We arrived on the very first day of the year and experienced a super quiet and empty center of the city. This presented some problems (food?!) and a lot of opportunities to be the only people on the streets. We enjoyed the ghost town while hunting down some basic supplies - and after about 22 000 steps we had bread, eggs, salt, and oil :) 
The weather was grayer and colder during this part of the trip, with some rains and glorious fog but a good guide through the city gave us enough stories to keep moving from one historical site to another, and I found more gardens and fountains to fall in love with :) 

Winter Europe Trip: Drawing on the Trains

I already praised public transportation after returning from this trip since this was a wonderful opportunity to draw people. But I also tried to draw scenery from the windows of my moving trains.

Drawing is always an exercise in visual memory, selection and interpretation but when the train is going 150 miles per hour it becomes a challenge of a different scale. I cursed a lot and was not happy with anything I drew - but now that I am back home these little sketches altogether bring me a lot of joy and memories of rides through Spain! So - public transportation is amazing - I would never draw these from a moving car :)

January Amaryllis Update

Some time in December I reported that my Mom and I are growing amaryllises together. Hers advanced much faster and I kept mine in a dark and cool place while I was away on a trip - but moved it to a sunny spot when I returned. It took some time but Amaryllis made a spectacular entrance in January (and it still goes on - but that I will show later!) Here are some of my January observations of how the flowers opened up one by one: