Little trick for protecting your nails against ink stains

Some jobs leave your hands and nails dirty. Sometimes for hours, sometimes for days. Cleaning a fountain pen for example. Painting with your fingers. And many many more. Some people are completely fine with it. Some are not. Some are one thing one day and another on another. Whichever camp you are from - here is a little trick that I (sometimes) remember to do: 

A very pink farm outing

Some time in October Suhita and I drew a pumpkin patch at the Cosentino farm in San Jose and agreed to come back when the trees would be blooming - and that is what we did on one lovely March morning. These peach trees have one of the most pink flowers I've ever seen and I was overwhelmed with the pinkness so much that I started using pieces of torn pink paper to map out some of the bloom on the page! It was one of the brightest days this year after lots of rain and all the sun just made everything pop up more! The bees were all over the place, farm workers were doing their thing, and Suhita and I followed the adventures of two little lizards on the trunk of a tree in front of us. 

Below you will find some process photos as well as a portrait of the lizards and a version of a sketch that I digitally altered - I wonder if it is better or worse - let me know!

As I was looking at the scan and all the pinkness on the page I tried adding some whine digitally - version on the right. What do you think - it is better?

Grateful: a new hiking adventure!

The other day my friend and I took a long lunch hour and spent it in a place I thought I knew pretty well - a campus of Stanford University. But I was wrong: there was a LAKE I did not know about and a bunch of hiking paths that I'd never seen and some jackrabbits, wildflowers and an amazing view! We found a good spot to eat and sketch and then hurried back to work - what a gift!

I taped this drawing into my sketchbook next to some drawings I've done from memory after a little hike on the other side of the hill. 

Nonagenarian update: spring is here!

Little things are a sure way to keep track of time with our nonagenarian. There are new leaf buds on the rose plant. Nasturtiums are out - she grows the fiery ones! I hope to get a small plant when it gets to the viable stage as one of my spring-summer plans is to draw so many Nasturtiums (Tropaeolums) that I would feel like I had enough. I have yet to track different colors but even if I manage bright orange ones out of nonagenarian favors it would be great! The fig tree put out lots of leaves and there are 8 fruits (actually they are inverted flowers) and more are coming. Herb plants keep her salads fragrant and I plan to introduce an idea of growing some green onions. We try to stay on top of getting the correct cheese selection stocked in the fridge and take care of the appointments for her eye health and I've been tasked with finding new books - the request was for "something modern". 

A bee turned me into a grumpy left-handed human for a bit.

Recently I was stung by a bee. I am quite sure that it was a bee and not a yellow jacket - I see them by the side of the pool sometimes. I did not see this one - I reached out to take a breather, felt fire take over my pinky, and heard myself curse. It's been a while since my last bee-stinging experience was personal. I've been around many cases when my little Benadryl+pain management pen helped others and I knew how to talk someone through what is happening when it might stop hurting this much and how a promise on some ice cream helps. But I did not have the medicine with me this time. Self-talk quickly turned into self-observation. I was surprised by how outraged I felt at this act of a fair case of self-defense, how I cataloged all the tingling and swelling and numbness and pain, and how much time I spent checking if the bulge was gone and if I could fold my finger. How much I knew that this is blown out of proportion if taken in any sort of perspective. And how real it was at the same time. And I ended up drawing it. But since it was the right hand that was affected - I drew this whole page with the left one. 

And while I drew my shirt I realized that it needs to be patched - which is something that I decided to draw next :)

I never know if orchid is real or fake.

I always avoided orchids - both as plants and subjects for my drawings. To thrive for a long time they require greener thumbs than I have. And to draw them I had to believe that they were real and not plastic - they always look artificial to me :) 

But recently I was exposed to a different approach: think about orchards as a long-lasting bouquet / composition - not as a living plant. And with this thought in mind, my parents got two lovely orchards as presents. Personal exposure to the roots and leaves allowed me to believe that these are real plants and not fake ones and I ended up drawing them :) With real pleasure - not a fake one :) 


One Week 100 People: 2024

This challenge (#oneweek100people) was organized and curated this year (again) by Liz Steel and Marc Taro Holmes. The idea is to give your people-sketching skills a little boost. There are no rules apart from what is in the name of this challenge. I did not set any specific rules for myself except to try and sketch people every day during the week and see how many I would end up with - no pressure to get to the number was my thing.

After I started with some passers-by whom I saw in the window on Monday I realized that I lived in the wrong place to find so many subjects and quickly devised a plan: I scanned my weekly plan for things that I planned to do anyway but which had a potential of seeing people and introduced a little extra time to those activities for sketching. Some of it was in person, some or online, some involved attending a lecture, some watching a sport. And I also looked into my options for aligning this with an idea of finding like-minded people - this is how I ended up joining pencils4tea on Thursday and Suhita's substack group on Friday. 

you can see all the results below - however number I got to I am happy to count this as a successful challenge - I drew more people, made a bunch of mistakes and tried to correct some and had fun along the way :) 

Magnolia season is upon us!

This year blooming schedules of magnolias are all over the place - many trees that used to greet me with the first flowers during Christmas-New Year time are just now getting the first flowers but other trees are in the peak of their bloom. Despite all this confusion, on the very first sunny afternoon, we got after the great rains of March Suhita and I got out to paint magn

Daylight saving time begins and I celebrate it and suffer from this collective jet lag

I was always a big fan of changing clocks twice a year. I voted to keep it in California (the opposing side won but we are still doing it!). I know the statistic and logically understand why this anachronistim is bad for people in general - from cardiovascular risks to disrupted daily routines and increased level of stress. But it is a part of how I see my year unfold. 

This year though the switch to daylight savings time feels like a collective jet lag. I searched in vain where I recently read about jet lag being caused by soul not being able to flight as fast as airplanes and hence needing extra time to catch-up to the body (was is the snail book?). On the day when we adjusted all the clocks in the house (see below) I read Wendell Berry's essays about relationships between nature and humans and his thoughts on what a good life is. He writes about the jet lag: "I felt present in my body but not in my mind .... as though my mind was still somewhere in the sky over the North Atlantic, hurrying to catch up". So this year as my mind is catching up to my body I am thinking about changing my mind on the whole "summer time" as it is known in Europe.

But on the other hand I will have more light during evening walks. It is a signal to plant new flowers and clear signs of winter from my tiny garden. This switch reminds me to start finding time to go outside during a tea/snack time and I begin dreaming about strawberry season. And in the fall the time change means beginning of a baking season and wintering plans. So perhaps this whole rant will be forgotten tomorrow :)

Drawing Boats (via Street View World Tour)

This month the Street View World Tour was traveling all over the world to draw boats!
I've missed the wonderful company of this bunch of drawing people and will try to sketch with them more regularly this year. 

If you are not familiar - A Street View World Tour is a fun, no-pressure gathering hosted by Jenny Adam and Eleanor Doughty via Gage Academy. You can learn more about these monthly free events and about these locations at the links above. 

My previous participations include a trip to Kharkiv, Ukraine where I was the guest artist, Drawing Sky HolesKenya, and Hawaiian Foliage. (I am quite sure that I participated in a few more but I am not sure I ever posted about them - will try to find and add to this collection!)

Rogue garden and ink shopping plans

A little while ago I reported on some fungi growing on my succulents - well, those are gone (thought we had a lot of rain so they might be back). But I realized that the area near my place where I "deposit" bulbs when they are done blooming in my patio garden became a garden by itself! 

I think more might be coming - but this is a report as of early March :) 

The lovely purple ink in these sketches is a Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa (iron gall) Ink. It will kill your fountain pen within 24 hours but it has such a great range of tones and works so well with fingerpainting that I cannot stop using it. I carry a little vial and apply it directly on my pen and I am seriously considering getting a gray-blue version of this iron gall ink from Rohrer & Klingner - called Salix though a close contender is For Gray Document Ink from De Atramentis. I just finished a bottle of that ink and it was a glorious waterproof ink suitable for both drawing and writing.

Painting Sunsets.

We had some dramatic skies between rains and I kept hoping to catch either light or color or movement - sometimes with a camera, sometimes with pencils, sometimes with paint smudged with fingers and scraped with nails. The last one was the only one that worked actually. You can see some process photos below too - they will tell you a story of how fast both light and color were running away from me!

On My Table: Beginning of March 2024.

February had an extra day this year but it did not help with the feeling that the time is moving too fast! A big illustration project supposedly got installed - but I am yet to see it in real life to share. I had some wonderful chances to see friends (Uma had an exhibit) and paint with them this month. I got some exciting gifts to play with too - see the new watercolors below! (Marie-Hélène stopped by San Francisco on her tour through the USA - and we had a chance to finally meet each other in person!)  

It's been quite windy outside and all my tables are covered in tea mugs and treasures that I find on my walks between rains. 

After reading some lovely books I got a slight obsession with snails - one of the resulting drawings ended up on the cover of my current sketchbook number 155.

There is a lot of printmaking happening and you can see some new tools and detritus of some stencils there too. And Magnolia season is here! I have yet to get out for a full magnolia-centered painting session but I've prepared some colors! 

My search for a perfect black pencil continues :) 

And stickers are works of Heather Ihn Martin (who now does ceramics too!!) and Matthew Forsythe


Drawn reports in the form of the portraits - Dad's Birthday - February, 2024.

This is Dad's third birthday during the war. His first birthday since arriving in California. My plans of a picnic in the park with a big sky and some interesting birds to observe fell apart because of unexpected heavy rain. But we ended up in a lovely local cafe - eating some crazy croissants (Dad got one with onions!) and drinking some unusual coffee (Cedar and Smoke for Dad). The cafe had a handicapped sitting for him too - which I thought was a good part of a present but I am not sure he was glad to get a reminder of his limited mobility. We talked about all sorts of things and I even got to sketch them by the end. Getting used to a life of refugees is not easy, a new country is not easy, but they are trying hard!