Amaryllis Update in Nine Sketches

Growing an Amaryllis from a bulb was our first project together with my Mom since my parents arrived in California. I wrote about it in December and then in January, then Amaryllis appeared on the first page of my Sketchbook 155 and now I collected the remaining amaryllises from my sketchbook - up until the day it went to live on its own in the wilderness! Some of these were made with gouache, some with watercolors, some with acrylic markers, some with ink and flex nib pens, some were painted with fingers or scratched with knives. Some notes to accompany sketches. 

Did I see the Northern lights?

I saw in the news that an unusual solar storm was happening and by the end of the day was cautiously excited about the possibility of actually seeing aurora borealis on my doorstep. The idea of setting appropriate expectations is something I've been working on for some time so the plan was to "just take a late night stroll near the bay as if this is just a regular thing for me to be in a park in the middle of the night". First things first - the park was pretty packed and there was enough light to walk on the path :) Secondly - at half past midnight without any special equipment and with the application of consciously reined in imagination the sky looked lit from all the cities below and yes, there were some amorphous clouds with a possibly different shade of color (I saw red). They were moving a bit (as clouds do) and there were a couple of strangely vertical parts of the clouds. That is my honest review. With a sketch done on location
But with a little phone magic, I dot these photos.
Did I see the Aurora Borealis? 

Drawn reports in the form of the portraits - An Update - May, 2024.

An update on my parents - who are refugees from Kharkiv, Ukraine and have been living in California for a few months now. Life as a refugee is one of making endless adjustments with a constant reminder that what you actually want is far away and wrapped in painful thoughts no matter how you turn it around. It is not an easy path for anyone but with the help, things get to a better place.

California provided insurance for my parents and we are making rounds to see doctors - which has not been possible for them since the beginning of the war in February 2022. My parents walk every day - exploring the streets nearby. There are lots of new plants to identify and learn about. So far my library is the main source of books for them but we are going to take a trip to a public library this summer. 

I participated in an online drawing event - pencils4tea with them. You can join from anywhere in the world via Zoom and people draw each other and each portrait is timed with a piece of music. Mom did not want to be drawn so I turned off her camera. But we drew for an hour side my side and it was a lot of fun - Mom did not have enough time to finish a drawing sometimes (see below) but I think with a little practice she will ace all the portraits. Dad enjoyed some music (whistling, little chair dancing and even singing) and did not enjoy some other pieces (eyebrows knitted, grunts) and I think he played a chess game online parallel to this all.

Following news from Ukraine is very hard for them - it is a complicated situation where they cannot do anything but so want to! Many of their friends are still in Kharkiv and the situation is not getting simpler around the city. More family members joined the army. Worry for the country and its people mixed with worry for the family are weighing on my parents a lot. 

But last week we had some really good news from Kharkiv too - a few days ago my parents became great-grandparents for the third time :) We all wished a little one to grow up in peaceful times.

few sketches to illustrate this all:

Mom's portraits from the Drawing Session:

A trip to the Iris Garden!

Irises are one of my favorite flowers (though after I typed this I paused to list other favorite flowers for myself and now am over a dozen). For a few years now May means an outing to Nola's Iris garden! Suhita ( joined me this time again and we had a chance to look both at the flowers as a field of color on top of the hill and as individual beauties. I tried my new resist crayon and went from some very quick studies to a longer landscape piece to some more detailed portraits of the flowers - wondering about names for these colors and how to find a balance between trying to depict a spirit of the iris and a feeling of the flower that others can recognize later. 

Here are some process photos. And a couple of little videos I posted on Instagram - where you can hear birds and see the sketch with resist and where you can see more of the garden.

I wish the iris season was longer! Perhaps I still have a chance though :)


This year everything seems to be blooming at the wrong time for me - but I got to spend some time with this lovely dogwood tree before it lost all the flowers. There is one pink dogwood that I hope to draw but it might not work out as there is construction where I would be standing :) The best viewpoint is often in the most awkward place. But I will try - wish me luck!

Drawing Night Life (via Street View World Tour)

This month the Street View World Tour was drawing nightlife! I was late to join drawing a bar in Berlin but like this drawing the best of what I did. We also traveled to Paris for the last two locations. Neon influence by Anni von Bergen @annivonbergen who was a guest artist.

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, Boats, 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!)

On My Table: Beginning of May 2024.

April was a month full of events for me - and many opportunities to paint outside! I already shared some: an outing to paint a white orchard, a grassy hill, a long-awaited meet-up with friends with a trip to see redwoods, painting a wisteria tree, a baylands outing, a solar eclipse, and a trip to the ocean. But there are also many more that I am going to share soon: an outing to paint dogwood, an afternoon with lilacs, and a couple of trips - so all in all April was a great month for painting outside!

And on the first of the month, I snapped this picture trying to tell a story of where I am. In short - I am in too many places at once. Just before I made this photo I tried to sharpen my airpods in a pencil sharpener only to try and put my finger in it a few minutes later. Hence a band-aid and blood on the page. But looking back at my sketchbooks through the years I see that April and May are always months when things speed up more than I want them to so I am hoping that things will follow the seasons and by the time there are matilija poppies in my neighborhood I would be slowing down a bit.

No detailed comments on the pencils this time - I am putting together a separate post on that!

Follow-Up on my Pink Bouquet

Last week I shared my sketches of a lovely pink bouquet that my friend gave me - and later realized that there were a few more sketches I did of the parts of the same flower and branch arrangement that I wanted to share. I learned the difference between different versions of the Cercis plant that people commonly call redbud. And I tried to capture the colors of the prickles of the Eryngium. Little notes on some neighborhood colors and tools and techniques that I was trying are all around these pages.