Highlights of my trip to Ukraine - Part 2

I grew up in a small city of Khmelnitsky in Western Ukraine. There isn't much that's exciting about it - it's a regional center, it has a river running through it and its main industry is shopping. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1990s, jobs were scarce and local money quickly lost their value. The economy was in ruins. So a lot of people tried to make ends meet by reselling things, often brought in from a neighboring country. It was not uncommon to see a former white collar worker peddling Turkish bed linen or Polish shoes. Several marketplaces sprung up around the city and one of them grew to enormous proportions. This is now the 'tolkuchka' or 'tucha' - third largest marketplace in Europe (the nicknames refer to how crowded and cramped it gets and how you get pushed around when you're shopping). 

There are, of course, good things in Khmelnitskyy, like this little art gallery we wandered into.

There are, of course, good things in Khmelnitskyy, like this little art gallery we wandered into.

Symphonic rock at a Ukrainian music venue.

Symphonic rock at a Ukrainian music venue.

There is a concert hall. A friend took us to a symphonic rock concert there. The music was okay, but sitting in the second row from the stage and watching the action with a sketchbook in my hand was fantastic.

So that's a little bit about my town. Let's say I was not sad to leave when I moved away to architecture school in Odessa (which is all the way on the other side of the country). But there is one thing this place has that I can't find anywhere else.

Enter Lara. Psychology professor, artist, writer, the most constant thing in my life (other than, arguably, my parents). My best friend. 

Lara in her kitchen. She bravely sat for me, while also talking up a storm :)

Lara in her kitchen. She bravely sat for me, while also talking up a storm :)

We met at the art school. She was 13, I was 12, and four hours a day three days a week we were together. We share love for art, creativity, humor and reading. She is way better at understanding the mysteries of human interaction. I am better at...math? She likes cats, I'm a dog person. She likes pastels, I am into watercolor. 

Where it all began: me with my friend Larisa, aka Lara, next to the building of our art school.

Where it all began: me with my friend Larisa, aka Lara, next to the building of our art school.

Lara is one of the main reasons I wanted to go back to Ukraine. We kept in touch through the 13 years I've been gone - good ol' snail mail at first, emails which she could only read at her university library computer, endless iterations of messengers and social networks. I would call her with a long distance call card and promise I would definitely come. Next year. 

And then I wouldn't keep that promise because transatlantic travel is expensive and children are little. 

So this time was surreal for both of us. I couldn't believe I did it, she couldn't believe I was really there, breathing the same air. It was amazing. We both worried that somehow, through distance and time apart, we became different people and those people would not connect. But we did connect - it was as if we only saw each other last week. 

Good friends like this are a treasure - I hope you have one, too. And if you don't, find one and build that relationship. It really can be something that sustains you and holds your head above the water when times are tough. Also, it's extra nice having a shrink for your best friend ;). Highly recommended for you creative types. 

Highlights of my trip to Ukraine - Part 1

This October will mark 14 years since my family and I crossed the ocean for the first time and moved to the United States. It is not an easy thing to leave a life you built and start again, from scratch, in the unknown. And the older I get, the more respect and awe I feel for the immigrants who risk everything in hopes of a better life for their children. It's a big deal.

The beautiful roof structure of the San Francisco International airport.

The beautiful roof structure of the San Francisco International airport.

I was not happy to leave Ukraine and move who-knows-where when I was 22. It made no sense to me, and it was scary and it was stressful. I kept on a brave face but I felt like I was kidnapped and brought to this foreign country against my will. I was not forced into anything, of course, but at that point in my life, I just didn't know I had other options.

So, for the last 13 years, I've wanted to return. The significance and meaning of this return morphed over the years into something mystical. A pilgrimage. A return of the Jedi. A prodigal daughter homecoming.

And then, this May, I did it. My husband tagged along and I'm sure if was very different for him. For me, it was surreal. After such a long time, you begin to wonder if everything you knew from the life before even exists.

We flew out of San Francisco and into Istanbul, with a long layover there and then an early morning flight to Kiev. A similar arrangement on the way back - except, we had a few more hours of daylight to go glance at the Blue Mosque and the outside of Hagia Sophia. I did not have the time to sketch any of that. But during the first layover, I sketched a funky chandelier made out of a car tire and some rope. That's something, right? :)

A funky chandelier at a Turkish restaurant

A funky chandelier at a Turkish restaurant

On the whole, I expected to sketch so much more than I actually did. The trip was 10 days from leaving our house to arriving back to it, with a day and a half spent just on sitting in an airplane. Sure, you can also sketch while on the plane. And I did. Once:

Nunavut - Canadian Arctic Archipelago, apparently.

Nunavut - Canadian Arctic Archipelago, apparently.

This looked like Greenland to me...but it turns out, it's a Canadian territory by the name of Nunavut. Live and learn!

Sketching at Istanbul airport. I made the drawing on the plane and then applied water to it on the ground (Drawing made with water-soluble LePen).

Sketching at Istanbul airport. I made the drawing on the plane and then applied water to it on the ground (Drawing made with water-soluble LePen).

After Istanbul, we spent a day in Kiev and took a train to my hometown of Khmelnitskyy. I stayed with my best friend...this was also so strange and so wonderful. We met in art school, when I was 11 or 12 and have kept in touch ever since. She is now a psychology professor, married to another psychology professor. She kept trying to feed me. Everything. At once. Apparently, Ukrainian love is expressed with food!

Maidan, the main square of Kiev.

Maidan, the main square of Kiev.

Ah, and the food. I have never been big on household tasks, including cooking, so I visit my mom if I feel the craving for some yummy Eastern European food. But having unrestricted access to cherry strudels and potato pancakes and Ukrainian cheesecake was amazing. 

Strudels and tea at Lvivski Plyatski in Khmelnitskyy.

Strudels and tea at Lvivski Plyatski in Khmelnitskyy.

One of the little cafes we visited in Ukraine was also a language club. Which is kind of a perfect combination of uses - study the irregular verbs all you like, while sipping coffee or a special "healthy smoothie" and nibbling on a "zapekanka" - Ukrainian cheesecake. Or strudel. More strudels in my life, please :D

Cafe Ola - a cafe and a language club.

Cafe Ola - a cafe and a language club.

Some people, undoubtedly discussing important linguistic matters while I sketched them. 

Some people, undoubtedly discussing important linguistic matters while I sketched them. 

Julia Kay's Portrait Party, round 2

What is Julia Kay's Portrait Party, you ask? Well, you could go to the source and read all about it, but I'll give you a synopsis: it's a group on Flickr.com, made up of artists all over the world, who paint/draw/sculpt/create likenesses of other members of the same group. We share images of ourselves with each other and anyone can pick anyone else and make a piece of art (or a simple doodle) out of it. In short, it's a blast.

A while ago, I began participating in the group and a lot of my paintings of other artists were also part of my self-imposed a-portrait-a-day challenge. About half of all of the portraits I had in my solo show, FACES, were Julia Kay's Portrait Party portraits.

So, life went on and I occupied myself with other things. The Party also went on, new artists joined and left, members met in real life, held exhibitions and live portrait events, Julia wrote a book. And recently, I started feeling the itch again. The result are these portraits, done in a sketchbook or on a random piece of cardboard, with pen, watercolor, and in one case - white-out.

Claudia for JKPP


Philip for JKPP


Jan for JKPP


Julia Kay for JKPP


Teresa for JKPP

A painting, and also some thoughts on the year past

First things first - I'd love to share with you another one of my floral paintings on Yupo. Take it as my visual New Year gift to you if you want. Enjoy it, breathe it in, feel it. This one is called "Reverence" - because, as I was painting it, the white flower was almost nodding at me, in an old-fashioned greeting and sign of honoring the other person. And I, in turn, was filled with awe and reverence for the simple beauty I was experiencing.

"Reverence" - watercolor on Yupo mounted on board. Click on the image to learn more.

"Reverence" - watercolor on Yupo mounted on board. Click on the image to learn more.

Now, on to some reflections on the year 2016. This end of the year summary post is actually one of my favorite kinds to write. I like thinking in broad terms and I always discover something good I forgot to acknowledge! 

Alright, so, some exciting things happened last year:

  • I went and got a job. There are many sides to this, both good and not very, but overall, I feel that it was a good decision. Architecture is the right fit for me and doing it full time allows me to do what I love while growing my skills and expertise exponentially. And it comes with a paycheck ;)
  • On the other hand, my husband quit his job. And just as I was gingerly enjoying being the other parent (the one who goes to work and doesn't do anything around the house), he bought a retro video games store ,What can I say, the other-parent thing was good while it lasted ;)
  • For the first time ever, I got published in a book. Two glorious spreads in "The Art of Crayon." Pretty happy about that!
  • Along the same lines, I saw a magazine publication with my editorial illustrations and a nice interview write-up about the artist come to life in 2016.
  • Two covers of the English Teaching Forum. Also kind of cool :) A subscriber from Equador reached out to me after seeing the art on the cover. Little moments like that are the best part of putting your art out there.
  • Jung Katz published an interview with me. If people keep doing it, I'm going to have to start a binder or something :)
  • I led a paint night for a local non-profit. It was fun, and my limited experience with acrylics was enough to make it a success!
  • I participated in a couple of local art shows and several life drawing sessions. Definitely something I want more of this year.
  • I learned something new. That's actually the understatement of the year. I learned a ton of stuff related to my architectural work - but I also took a guitar class. I'm signing up for the next session, so look out there ;)
  • I went to see Iron and Wine at the Gundlach Bundschu Winery. If none of this made sense to you - don't worry about it. If it did, you know it was awesome! More live music in 2017, please.
  • My girls started preschool. It was a tiny bit scary, like any change involving my kids, but everyone adjusted just fine. The highlight of 2017 will be Katia entering kindergarten. Oy.
  • We saw the ocean and snow and mountains and vineyards and orchards. I'd like to do more of that this year.
  • Katia broke her arm. The year before, it was her leg. I wonder what next...
  • I had an ice cream sandwich for the first ever. I'm not talking about Klondike bars. I'm talking about two soft, fresh oatmeal cookies with a scoop of yummy ice cream in the middle. There is no way back.

So there, highlights of my 2016, in no particular order. No resolutions for the new year - I don't like those. I will sit down and make a SMART goal or two in the next couple of weeks. What are yours resolutions or goals? How was the past year for you? If it was good, may 2017 be even better. If it was bad - hey, there's no way but up! Happy New Year!

How learning watercolor is like learning guitar

I recently began taking an evening guitar class. I signed up on a whim, though I've always wanted to know how to play guitar. As the start date got closer and closer, I thought about cancelling. I felt apprehensive about doing something I was a newbie at, in a room full of people who must have been better than me. I worried about not being good at it. I didn't want to look like an idiot!

Quick sketch from a Renaissance Faire.

Fast forward several weeks, and I can sort of play a song, and I know what a key is and how to use a capo. This is light years away from where I started!

Why am I telling you this? Well, I couldn't help but think that learning guitar is very much like learning watercolor. It felt awkward to be a student and it gave me such appreciation and compassion for those of you who are trying to learn any new skill, and the tricky art of watercolor painting in particular. It's hard. It takes courage and persistence

So here are some morsels of wisdom to help you through a painting class or your own practice:

1. Don't expect a masterpiece.

Seriously. If you're taking your first couple of classes, be kind to yourself and lower your expectations. You will learn amazing things and have beautiful ah-ha moments but you won't paint like your instructor just yet.

2. Practice a lot.

This is the one thing that will make you better. And it also the one true barometer of your passion for this new thing you're learning. 

Another sketch from the same Renaissance Faire. I recorded a bit of it, see here.

3. Keep doing it even when you are bad at it.

Everyone gets discouraged when what they are doing doesn't turn out well. My guitar sessions would drive me crazy if I were an outside observer. They do not sound like I know what I'm doing (I don't) or the way you imagine a talented friend softly strumming while you are relaxing to the soothing sounds. Same thing with painting. Most of what you're doing at first looks bad. You don't have to show it to anyone but you have to keep doing it.

This one is an earlier sketch. I cringe when I look at the linework here. The 'hairiness" of the line often comes from hesitation and fear of making a mistake, and then you inevitably make a mistake, and then you try to correct it. Which, overall, ends up looking bad. The solution is accepting your mistakes and letting them be. Which translates into confidence, which looks like a nice, clean line. Theoretically speaking ;)

4. Embrace discomfort.

I am a proud owner of three left fingertip calluses, and a developing pinky callus. Those are achieved by pressing the strings against the fret (which, while your fingertips are still soft and sensitive, hurts). When it comes to learning watercolor, the discomfort is mostly in your head. Any progress, however, demands that you get uncomfortable. Are you used to coloring within the lines? Let the paint bleed all over them. Are you scared of painting wet-into-wet? Bite the bullet and do it at your next painting session.

 

L'aquarelle with Le Pen

Well, peeps, time is slipping right through my fingers, and it's already, technically, fall. Which, of course, you couldn't tell if you were judging by our 100 F Sacramento weather. So, here's some visual memories about the summer and an update on my so very professional life.

This curiously shaped fruit caught my eye in my parents' garden, on a hot summer afternoon. Watercolor, Le Pen in Pentalic sketchbook.

I distinctly remember feeling, back in the beginning of the year, that there was no way I would have any less time to paint when I traded full time motherhood for a full time job outside the home. Boy was I wrong. 

The truth is, I don't necessarily have less time, but, rather, less energy. How is this possible? Did I sell the sacred nap hour-and-a-halves for lunch hours? And when does the intense drive to not do anything unless prompted by the kids when I get home from work end? 

The only thing that works now is going somewhere with the sole purpose of making some art, like figure drawing sessions or plein air paintouts. Maybe I need another self-imposed art project deadline?

A coworker of mine brought this big basket of fragrant lemons to the office. I took the basket outside in the sun and sketched it over lunch!

Meanwhile, even with my lackluster participation in the art world, things are happening. I recently participated in an Art X Architects show at the Sparrow Gallery here in Sacramento. My art made it onto the covers of publications and the pages of an online magazine. I debuted as a contributor to a actual real book that I can even hold in my hands (The Art of Crayon, link below). There has been at least three interviews with me published in the last year. The ball is, inexplicably, rolling, even though I'm very busy working on a different ball altogether. 

(Hmm...now I'm thinking about the dung beetles :D. Are you?)

Don't get me wrong, I love my job. I like being back on track to an architect's license. I like being able to provide for my family and grow in my career as an architect. It has been a very steep and exciting learning curve these past several months.

(The dung beetle, stubbornly pushing the ball up the steep hill)

And, the very shortage of art-making time tends to activate my creative hunger. It's good to take a step back and evaluate my goals in art, not driven by the necessity of making money. I get new ideas that I want to explore...I just don't know when. Maybe it's time to write the "How to Paint with Kids And a Full-Time Job" blog post!

Until then, do check out The Art of Crayon book. It's beautiful.

Into Light

Today, yet another variation on the tulip tree theme. The technique in this one was:

1. Wet the whole surface (even though, because it is yupo, it doesn't stay uniformly wet. Water pools in some areas and leaves others practically dry).

2. Apply liberal amounts of watercolor paint. Here, I used quinacridone red, cobalt turquoise, quinacridone gold, and phtalo blue (See more information on the colors on my palette here).

3. Wipe most of the wet paint away with a "thirsty" brush. 

"Into Light." 6x6" watercolor on Yupo mounted on board. Click on the image to learn more.

"Into Light." 6x6" watercolor on Yupo mounted on board. Click on the image to learn more.

What's a "thirsty" brush, you ask? It's any brush you want, but it has to be:

1. Dipped in water and

2. Squeezed out, either using your fingers, a rag or a paper towel. 

Basically, it's a brush that is not dry, but is primed with water. It is perfect for picking up the paint you might not want on your painting. I like to use round brush for that but any shape you prefer is fine, too.

The closeup above shows how much paint there was initially. This is a spot which I left alone after putting paint down.

Closeup below: areas where I wiped the paint off still have ghosted traces of the colors that were applied. I really like this effect in Yupo.

Water Lily, a quick lesson in color and values.

This one is quite possible one of the more restrained color palettes I've ever used in a painting. I am typically drawn to complementary color schemes, in one way or another. Here, everything is, well, analogous.

(Quick Color Theory 101: complementary colors are those you find directly opposite each other on the color wheel. Analogous colors are neighbors on the color wheel).

"Water Lily." 6x6" watercolor on Yupo mounted on board. Click the image to find out more.

"Water Lily." 6x6" watercolor on Yupo mounted on board. Click the image to find out more.

Most of the weight in this little painting is being carried by value contrast. The white of the flower, interrupted only here and there by subtle echoes of the background colors, is the main character. It is clearly in the spotlight.

(Quick Values 101: "Value" in a painting has to do with how light or dark a shape is. Value contrast happens when there is a big difference in lightness/darkness of adjacent shapes: light shape on dark background or dark shape on light background are two clear instances of value contrast).

Here's this painting in black and white:

Removing color makes it a lot easier to see what is light and what is dark. Ancient technique of underpainting in grayscale or sepia takes advantage of this. We artists tend to get overexcited when we get to play with color and often forget about values.

A couple of details:

My favorite "invasion effect" happening where the petals of the lily meet the dark waters of the background. The yellow area has hard edges by contrast.

My favorite "invasion effect" happening where the petals of the lily meet the dark waters of the background. The yellow area has hard edges by contrast.

Really like this closeup. The white of the paper is shining through the transparent washes.

Really like this closeup. The white of the paper is shining through the transparent washes.

Kindness, a surprise

I can't decide if people in general are good or bad. I typically assume they are inherently good but I am also genuinely surprised when they treat me with kindness. It's a paradox that I'm sure makes perfect sense to a psychologist. Or a philosopher.

Why try to determine their goodness or badness anyway? Why draw the line between the good guys and the bad ones? Is it because you aren't sure which one you are? Maybe that's why children are so interested in figuring this out. Maybe you just need to know on which side of the line you belong.

It is rarely that simple, of course. Lines get blurred, good guys do bad things, bad guys turn out to have a soft side. And yet, somewhere on a very basic level, you choose a side. 

Me, for example. I think I'm a people optimist. 

"Cactus Optimist." 6x6" watercolor on Yupo. Click here to learn more.

"Cactus Optimist." 6x6" watercolor on Yupo. Click here to learn more.

Now, about cacti.

I still remember the first time I saw a spectacular bloom on an evil-looking cactus. I had no idea those things were anything but ugly and dangerous. I saw it while walking past a neighbor's front yard and I had to stop and just stare at it. It was beautiful, it had a tender pinkish color and it was surrounded by buds that promised even more gorgeousness in the next several days. They stayed blooming for weeks. 

Sure, it was the same ugly untouchable cactus after its blooming season was over but ever since then, I paid a second of attention to it when I passed it. This bad guy had a secret, and it was a good one. I became a cactus optimist.

But hey, cacti are easy. People though...people surprise me with kindness. Does that mean I actually believe they are mean? Or perhaps it is my beliefs about myself that is muddling the water here...Do I secretly believe that I am not worth a kindness?

Hmm...Psychologist, like I said. I need one :)

 

P.S. This painting is actually a variation on a theme: here's the same thing six years ago.

Decadence, or too much of a good thing

Here's a curious thing: my mind firmly associates the word "decadence" with delicious dark chocolate and lava cakes. Variations of word "indulge" and "crave" usually accompany these visions. Thanks, people who write marketing copy and create ads.

From Merriam - Webster online dictionary:

Decadent adjective dec·a·dent \ˈde-kə-dənt also di-ˈkā-\

  1.  :  marked by decay or decline

  2. :  of, relating to, or having the characteristics of the decadents

  3. :  characterized by or appealing to self-indulgence <decadent pleasures>

"Decadence," 6x6" watercolor and metal leaf on Yupo mounted on board. Click the image to learn more.

"Decadence," 6x6" watercolor and metal leaf on Yupo mounted on board. Click the image to learn more.

So...why am talking about decadence anyway? Well, this painting here has a certain rich and deep flavor...An opulence, a chocolatiness. It is like a full-bodied red wine with notes of blackberry that lingers on your tongue. Or an intoxicating sweet aroma of exotic flowers after dark.

It is like reading poetry

slowly,

out loud,

to a lover.

It is so good it must be bad for you. Go ahead now, click on these close-up details. I zoomed in on the most deliciously decadent parts.

Indulge your visual senses, you know you want to ;)

Into Shadows

...And now, back to yupo and the wonderfully luscious color! This painting was based on an impression of tulip tree flowers, with clear blue California spring sky peeking through. We had this beautiful dwarf tulip tree in front of the kitchen window of our previous house. The flowers were a lovely shade of pink but in the shadows, they took on darker, meatier tones. That, and the irregular, unique shapes of the clusters caught my attention.

"Into Shadows." 6x6" watercolor on Yupo mounted on board. Original painting sold. Click here to view print choices.

It's a curious color scheme and an interesting technique. I started very wet, with the breezy blue and luminous yellow and then...did a kind of a watercolor impasto: put the purples and magentas down in a very thick consistency. This produces the "invasion effect" (I just came up with that term), where the areas of greater wetness "invade" the less water-saturated ones.

I reeeeeally like the organic textures this gives me. Yum! And by the way, this technique is a big secret, so...you know, only share it with your best friends :)

In other news, I recently did some printmaking (blog post coming) and I'm looking for a "day job" in architecture. So if you know any architects in Sacramento, please beg them to hire me as an intern :) .

And that's all for now,

Yevgenia

Some Sketches for Creative Live's "28 to make"

If you are following me on Instagram (you should), you may have noticed some sketchy stuff going on lately. I sketch often, so it was really a no-brainer when I received an email invitation from Creative Live to sketch some more. Of course I would like to!

Prompt 1: Draw your beverage.

This first sketch was easy, because pretty much at any time, I have a cup of tea going. Especially when I'm feeling flu-ish and cold-ish, which is a lot in the last couple of months. Hence, my cup of tea with a slice of lemon floating just below the surface. In my favorite mug with detail of "A Slice of Earth" printed on it (you can get one for yourself here)

Prompt 2 - Draw a houseplant.

Next one was a bit of a challenge. Your regular houseplants without flowers do not excite me in the slightest. And I only have two of them, both miraculously surviving orchid plants. Which are not currently blooming. So I spiced things up with an orange LePen and played with a cropped composition. The weird worm-like roots spilling out of the pot helped, too :)

Prompt 3 - Draw some album art.

This one needs some explaining. When I think about album art, I think of my dad's vinyl collection (all left in Ukraine when we moved to the U.S., along with our books). And among the Pink Floyds and the Beatles, there were audio productions of children's stories, and among those, my favorite was this 1976 radioplay/musical adaptation of Alice in Wonderland by Vladimir Vysotskiy. I listened to this at night, before falling asleep. And I loved the gatefold sleeve it came with.

Here's also my album art sketch of one of my favorite music records:

Finally, the last prompt I did was 'draw what's inside your bag.'

I am at an awkward stage in life, between a diaper bag and ...who knows what. I have a gym bag, a going-to-the-library book bag, a camera bag, a plein air bag. But I don't have a go-to purse that would contain all of my essentials. Usually, I just bring my wallet and my keys, and if there's a chance that I might be able to steal some sketching time, I bring a sketchbook. So...I sketched my keys.

Compare and contrast this to my keys in early 2010:

No house key, because we were living at a friend's house back then, while shopping for our own house in the high desert. The little key was probably for a safe with important documents that I didn't want to get lost in the move. And of course, my American Institute of Architects membership card, proclaiming undying love for architecture (which is a topic for a whole 'nother blog post). Until then,

Yevgenia

Breathe

This painting is part of a mini-series of abstracted white tulips that was born out of simple, everyday beauty that made me stop breathing for a bit.

I had a bouquet of these flowers for a week or two, and with every passing day, they transformed. From tightly closed buds to shy, one-eyed teasers, to graceful crowns and then, fantastically contorted white birds, until finally, their papery petals fell down.

Their white bodies caught afternoon light and became stark against the shadows, luminous in the light, translucent in the many subtle variations of colors that they reflected. Never before have I been so captivated with white things (hmm...maybe that's what the title of the series should be, "White Things?" Sounds so very contemporary and controversial and all kinds of sociopolitically charged).

'Breathe' watercolor on Yupo mounted on board. 6x6." Click the image to learn more and buy.

'Breathe' watercolor on Yupo mounted on board. 6x6." Click the image to learn more and buy.

I was really taken by these flowers. There wasn't any red in the background but somehow, the intense, passionate red paint seemed to me the one and only choice.

I sometimes worry that painting flowers is not classy. Too obvious, too overused in art, like pretty girls. That there should be more angst and more depth and more message to my art. Because I do have enough angst and depth.

But when you look at something and it touches your heart, without any physical contact, it feeds your hunger for beauty and you forget to breathe - how can you not want to share it? This is, then, the message: I saw this beautiful white thing, it filled me with wonder and happiness. Share it with me :)

Scotland, Brechin, High Street.

Yay, I did a Virtual Paintout! Just couldn't miss this one. I'm not even an Anglo-Saxon brand of American and yet the British Isles have always beckoned me, like a misty-eyed siren. Both across La Manche and now, the Atlantic. I know, I know, it's silly and all-to-easy to romanticize the places you've never been to, but come on. Men in skirts? Castles and ruins everywhere? Friendly lake monsters? What's not to feel romantic about? ;)

My favorite music bands? Brits. My favorite beverage? Not coffee.

"High Street." 11 x 13.5" pen and watercolor on hot press watercolor paper. Click for more information.

"High Street." 11 x 13.5" pen and watercolor on hot press watercolor paper. Click for more information.

You'd think I watch the Downton Abbey and read about the Royal Family. No. But I can't wait to see 'Sherlock, the Abominable Bride'!

So, there. I'm an anglophile. I have a soft spot for you British people. I will, one day, be the American tourist on your street. You will tell me by the sketchbook and watercolours, and by the odd mixture of American and Slavic accents. Sit and sketch with me. Until then,

Yevgenia

Golden Poppy, watercolor on Yupo

Well, unlike many of my online artist friends, I didn't do the January edition of the 30-Paintings-in-30-days challenge (too much on my plate). But I will indulge you in a series of posts with my last series. 30 days is about how long it took me, too!

If you had an opportunity to see these at the Blue Line in Roseville, thank you! If not, sit back and enjoy the luscious, fluid and vibrant paintings just as I did creating them. 

  Watercolor on Yupo synthetic paper mounted on board. 6x6." Click on the image to learn more.

 

Watercolor on Yupo synthetic paper mounted on board. 6x6." Click on the image to learn more.

This one is a California (Golden) Poppy. I like the level of abstraction I was able to achieve here and I'm still swooning over the yellow paint that spread into the dark areas. 

Golden poppies were an exciting discovery for me 12 years ago, when I moved to Sacramento, California, from Ukraine. I have never seen them before or thought that flowers could have this wonderful, rich orange color. Poppies in Ukraine are red. And they have a different shape. And when they dry up, you can harvest them for poppy seeds or use their seed pods as rattles.

So, anyway, California poppies still feel a bit exotic to me. Even after 12 years. Maybe that's why I painted quite a few this time around. More to follow :)

Starbucks on a Sunday

I have very few "rituals," as they are known now (formerly "habits" ;) ) One of them is drinking tea first thing in the morning, with toast and, ideally, some reading. This has become harder and harder to accomplish after I started a family. I'm a proper introvert, I have to have alone time. If I don't, I become cranky and crabby and innocent bystanders suffer.

So I decided to make more room in my days for alone time. I get up before everyone and have my breakfast in peace, jog, work, think. One of these mornings, I jogged to the nearest coffee shop (which turned out to be a Starbucks, of course) and sketched. It was pure bliss!

If you're an artist, you may be wondering what is this light blue line that bleeds a mixes with paint. It is my absolute pleasure to introduce to you Le Pen. I love them.

How to paint with kids at home (Part 2)

I feel superior to people who have less than three kids. It's just what it is. Having three kids, for example, gives me a legitimate reason to not go to events I don't want to attend. On the flip side, of course, it also makes it a lot more difficult to attend events I want to. But I digress.

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Today's post was prompted by my discovery of Marissa Huber and her series of interviews with artist moms. I often feel alone in my daily struggle to 'make it' - both as an artist and as a mom. I know that on the outside, I look successful in both - but it does not come easy. And it seems that there are so many successful artists who either have no family or are retired from 'real jobs,' with their kids by now independent. And that the really good moms devote their every waking hour to raising kids and keeping the house, with no time or energy left for any pursuits of their own.

So it was very exciting to read Marissa's interviews with real-life women artists who have real-life small children.

How do they do it, then? Well, here are some tips based on my own experience and some I'd like to borrow from Marissa's guests:

1. Adjust your expectations. I still occasionally get frustrated when I count on an hour of uninterrupted creating time and it doesn't happen. So, don't set yourself up with unrealistic expectations. If 5 minutes at a time is all you can get, get it!

2. Have a schedule. Kids respond well to having a structure to their day. And you will, too. Right now, for example, we have nap time for Katia (3.5) and Ella (2), around 12-2 pm. This gives me a block of time to work (or take a nap, whichever seems more pressing at the time :)

3. Learn to say 'No' to some things. No, you don't have to be the PTA president, remodel your bedroom and make art for a show all at the same time. Pick what is most important to you, based on your values and goals, and go for it.

4. Adjust your process. This may be working smaller, switching to a more kid-friendly medium, and moving your art headquarters to the kitchen island. Some stolen creating time in your living room is better than no creating time in your studio.

5. Make art with (or alongside) your kids. This one looks better 'on paper' than in real life, but I hear it is an option. Unless I'm just sketching, I need to be in a state of mind that is completely different from 'OMG, is she about to fall out of the chair?' and 'Oh no, too much mess!' So, it works better with older kids who may possibly allow you to dip your toes in your 'zone.'

6. Do the sketchbook. That sketching I mentioned above, it can be a mom-saver. Just do it.

7. Go hang out with other artists once in a while. Attend a meetup, go draw a nude or paint some plein air. You don't even have to talk. Just being in company of other creative souls will recharge your batteries. And get you out of the house!

8. Take the kid(s) with you. Yes you can!

9. Hire a babysitter, if you can, or get another family member to watch the little ones while you work. This, of course, really depends on your situation, but is so worth it!

10. Stop comparing yourself to others. This is really the same as my first point. Do what is right for you at this point in your life and hang in there.

That's all. Go forth and create now :)

More gorgeous flowers!

Here's what I've been up to. After a short break from September's 30 paintings in 30 days project, I took up another 30x30 marathon, this time with a show at a local art gallery at the finish line. I continued my theme of flowers on Yupo and refined my process to a point where I became very comfortable with it. I feel like the next step should be growing these florals larger and abstract-er. Maybe sometime soon.

Closeup of a watercolor on Yupo in progress.

It was fun playing with water and paint and fine-tuning this series. I get so dorky-excited when I watch the paint ooze and mix on the surface and create amazing organic textures. It makes me happy every single time :)

Working on this many panels in a short time created some logistical challenges. This last move left me without a studio and I get to be all kinds of creative around the dining room and living area. So, these ledge shelves from Crate & Barrel were my solution to the drying and storage issues. Well, not so much drying, since I usually keep watercolors on Yupo flat until they are dry, but these shelves do keep them all nice and away from forces of nature (like my kids).

I got six of these, three on each side of my dining room window.

And they are great at forcing me to step away and evaluate, hence the fact that some of the paintings above do not exist anymore. Or, rather, exist in a more metaphysical way, underneath something else. This should make the job of x-raying my paintings after I'm dead more interesting :)

Another curious part of this project was mounting it on a 41x41" board (the gallery's idea). I wasn't so sure about it at first but loved how it turned out. If nothing sells, I will welcome the whole panel back with joy. It is beautiful.

The show runs through Jan. 9, 2016 at Blue Line Arts Gallery (405 Vernon Street, Suite 100 Roseville, CA). Reception is on December 19, 7-9 pm.

Zinnia Color Pallete

Miss me yet? I've been taking a break from painting...by painting walls, hanging shelves, and in general being a DIY star. I have to say that a painted wall is so much more satisfying than a temporarily clean floor.

(This is sort of the color of my kitchen walls now. It's a bit less saturated and peachy, more of a cool terra cotta, which Katia insists on calling "pink")

I'm also taking the time between the challenges and shows to work on an ongoing book illustration project and...well, to hang out with my kids :)

On the wave of my renewed interest in interior design and decorating, I am happy to share with you the next image in the series of color palettes based on my paintings:

A striking floral built around reds and pinks with an exciting accent of light blue and chocolate brown! How about that?

(The original painting above can be found here, and a print of it here)

Does beauty make you happy?

I picked up another bunch of flowers yesterday. This time, I went with white tulips! As I was unwrapping them at home, I read something on the packaging about how having flowers in your home generates happy-feeling vibes. Duh! Of course it does :) I am sure there is something about surrounding yourself with beauty that makes you happy. How can it not?

Beauty is the promise of happiness. Isn't this why we buy flowers and collect art?

And so, the beautiful September and its 30-paintings-in-30-days are over. I have a few paintings to show for it, which, along with some cool, fall-worthy weather, makes me happy!

Here they all are...Colorful memories of summer. Sunlight and breeze condensed into small square jewels. See all of these original paintings here or, if you prefer a more affordable option, surround yourself with beauty with a little help of my flower prints!