More Sunflowers? Why, yes!

sunflowers watercolor and ink illustration  

There is something about compositions with two objects that intrigues me. I'm sure at some point in my art or design education, I was taught to not put two of the same thing together - something about symmetry and boredom and lack of focus. And yet I keep painting these pairs. Maybe I like the challenge of breaking a rule and attempting to make it not boring. Maybe having two objects gives the image a kind of a tension, charge, energy, as the shapes pull in different directions and vie for attention. What do you think?

A Portrait A Day 60 - Audition for Shakespeare

audition for shakespeare a portrait a day 60 young woman speaking watercolor painting 12x9" watercolor on Canson Montval paper (which, it turns out, not only allows you to wash away paint very easily but can, with equal ease, get the paint smeared off during normal handling :/).

This one is based on one of the 600 or so photos I took at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire last weekend. The girl was auditioning for Shakespeare. Not sure what exactly she was reading - first of all, I couldn't hear her very well, and second, I read most of my Shakespeare in Russian.

We've been trying to be a bit more active last month. Went zip lining in Big Bear at the beginning of May (that was also our wedding anniversary)  and also to the Renaissance Faire last weekend. Both were quite fun, although I think I liked zip lining better... It was a rare kid-free outing and there were only two more people minus the guides with us. I'm all for less people = more fun!

Here's yours truly dressed up for the Faire and wearing one of the wonderful masks that were for sale there. I intensely wished I had more money to spend.

renaissance faire girl wearing corset and mask

More pictures from the Ren Faire in my Facebook album.



Oceanside Days of Art 2011

oceanside california church watercolor painting Oceanside is one of those things that I must confess I did not appreciate enough until I had to leave it. Going back there for two days of art fair was a treat (and getting a break from watching the ball of energy that is our son 24/7 was nice, too ;))! The show itself went ok - with gas and babysitter, we almost broke even. At least 50% of all the visitors at our booth were artists or art students. I was quite glad to explain my techniques and share my knowledge with them, along with receiving some tips back from them.

I met a couple of old friends and was amazed to learn that they follow my work and read my newsletters. It made me feel wonderful :) THANK YOU!

I also made many new contacts, including these fantastic artists:

Igor Koutsenko (who presented us with a poster of his woodcut Victory II, St. George on a motorcycle :))

Annie Aldrich (who lives in Big Bear Lake and makes amazing ceramics pieces that I was really hoping I would have made some money to spend on)

Catherine M.S. Cowles (who makes light fixtures to die for)

- and many more talented Southern Californians. It was worth it just for the opportunity to be there among all those creative people.


The painting above was done using a not-so-popular method of working from a black-and-white sketch made on location. The idea is for you to be there and experience the surroundings while making an abbreviated version of what you see. Your sketch, then, gives you a framework, a recorded idea that you interpret drawing from your memories and intuition rather than reproducing a photograph. This painting could have been much better, of course, but I like it :). Here is the sketch it was based on:


Just for comparison, here is a plein-air painting of the same church that I did in 2009. This one belongs to my "how not to paint in the future" bin.

oceanside church watercolor

And to complete your Oceanside experience, Decemberists :)

Virtual Paintout - Romania

ink and watercolor aquabord painting romania bucharest 6x6" Ink/watercolor on Ampersand Aquabord. Location is in the city of Bucharest, Romania. Check out the other entries at the Virtual Paintout Blog! They're getting better every month.

Romania shares a border with Ukraine, where I am originally from. Virtually "walking" the streets of this beautiful city made me a bit homesick - which, I must admit, I have been for a while now... I know there isn't much point to it, the country where I grew up is not the same it was seven years ago, the people have changed, grown older, and we don't even talk anymore - and yet I can't help it. Something will always pull me towards that place on the other side of the world.


Virtual Paintout December 2010 - County Clare, Ireland

ennis ireland watercolor and ink painting street Ink and watercolor on Ampersand Aquabord, 6x6". Location is the city of Ennis, County Clare, Ireland. My husband was quite surprised that out of all the beautiful meadows and seashores and sheep and cottages that I could have found in Ireland, I somehow picked this street view. Well...I like the meadows and cottages, but my heart just aches for the narrow streets lined with old buildings, each and everyone different from its neighbors, with small shops on the ground floor and huge chimneys sticking out of their roofs...The feel of old Europe. Ireland has been my dream vacation spot for many years now and some day I will go there.

You can view all the other entries in December Virtual Paintout here. To my surprise, there is one pastel painting of the same street looking in the opposite direction!


When We Stayed in Lisboa - watercolor on Aquabord, step by step

hostel room lisbon portugal ink and watercolor on aquabord painting This is another commission that I got through It is an 8x10" ink and watercolor on Aquabord painting of a hostel room in Lisboa (Portugal).

ink drawing on ampersand aquabord

Step 1 - Ink drawing

hostel room lisboa portugal ink and watercolor painting

Step 2 - color. I could  have easily stopped at this point and I'm still wondering if I should have.

hostel room ink watercolor aquabord interior painting

And step 3 - detail and deeper values. After finishing, I sprayed the surface with clear gloss fixative and brushed on two layers of gloss varnish. While Aquabord is not my favorite surface to work on, it is extremely easy to frame (or display without frame if it's cradled) and, enhanced by gloss varnish, the colors on Aquabord look vivid and rich. Ampersand Aquabords

A Portrait A Day 44 - Christina - step by step

This painting was a commission I got through Etsy's custom requests section - Alchemy. It is a Christmas present for the person depicted. I do hope she will like it :). Since it was a custom request, I worked a bit bigger than usual (this is an 11x14, which makes her face a lot bigger than life size) and finally found use for my tube of Payne's gray (I never use it otherwise). The client said that the resulting painting was "exactly what she envisioned" - which is nice. But if you are at least a little familiar with my work, you know that working in grayscale must be pure torture for someone who loves color so much! I can't say that it was torture - and I even kind of liked it before adding the red lips - but I promise you, the next post will have COLOR! :)

This is probably not the most interesting painting to show step-by-step photos for, but I made this anyway so that the client could keep track of where I was in the process. Here they go:

christina sketch
christina sketch

Step 1 - the idea sketch. We decided on showing a bit more of her face and neck. I did the grayscale first, then added the bright red lips, and then, wanting more color, I tried adding a bit of pale color. I wasn't sure at this point if I would add the pale color in the big painting or not.

day 44 christina step 1
day 44 christina step 1

Step 2 - the drawing...what usually takes the most time. I skip this step in my portraits-a-day but I felt that I need to do a drawing here because the face was so much larger than life size. I used the grid method to establish major points in the drawing.

christina step 3
christina step 3

Step 3 - wet-into-wet. I liked it quite a lot at this point.

child peeking out easel

Oh yes! Meet my new easel! It's a Richeson Academy Lobo and I love it so far (as does my son, who thinks it's an excellent play gym).

christina step 4
christina step 4

Step 4 - more detail, deeper shadows

christina step 4
christina step 4

Step 5 - the red lips!

christina step 5
christina step 5

Step 6 - the final version, with some areas corrected, deepened and more detailed.

Here it is.. Here are also the holidays, my family, more commissions, and a lot of material to post. Hopefully, I will find the time for a couple more blog posts before the New Year, but if not - Merry Christmas and see you in 2011! :)

Manhattan - Virtual Paintout

A very quick wax crayon and watercolor on yupo, 10x10". I definitely could have used fewer lines!

And a very dead day at a very local arts&crafts fair. It was their first day of the first year running the fair, and it was a Friday. And we got a thunderstorm by the end of the day - something that almost never happens here in the desert. Everybody at the fair is hoping for a better tomorrow, and me...I'm just enjoying a break from being a stay-at-home mom.

A portrait a day

I had a fabulous idea yesterday: what if I paint one 30-minute portrait a day for a...week? I would have 7 paintings, 3.5 hours of painting practice, and possibly an unnoticeable improvement in my work. What if I do a month? 30 days x 30 minutes gives me 15 hours and 30 paintings! Tangible, eh? You can even do a show with 30 portraits. And then I was looking for a good number of days to commit to, between a month and a year. I found the number 206 - which is the number of bones in the human body. It ties nicely to my focus on portraits and will also remind me to turn to my anatomy book more often. Here is the math (and prepare to be impressed :) : 206 days x 30 minutes x 1 painting = 6180 minutes, or 103 hours of painting, and 206 portraits to show for it!

So here is the project: I will paint 1 portrait every day for the next 206 days!

I will post the results here. I also invite you to join me in on this journey if you would like to improve your painting/drawing skills or just need something to work on. The rules are these:

1. The project will run for 206 days. I started yesterday Sep 2nd and will continue until March 27, 2011. Feel free to join at any time and continue for however long you decide to. You can do every day like me or every week, or twice a week. It's up to you. For best results and for peer pressure, I recommend every day ;)

2. I will paint both from life and from photographs. Right now, my sources are my own photos, those of my friends and relatives, Julia Kay's Portrait Party, WetCanvas reference library, and Flickr Creative Commons. If you would like me to paint from your photo, please email it to watercoloredhands AT

3. I can paint the same person more than once, use any technique and any size. If taking pictures is your thing, I welcome photography, too.

4. I intend to spend 30 minutes plus/minus 10 on each painting. I found that for watercolor, it makes sense to break the 30 minutes in 10-minute intervals  to let the painting dry in between - and to give me an opportunity to step away and take a look at my work from a distance. Plus, I can rarely have 30 minutes straight of uninterrupted me-time. So, the idea is to spend 30 minutes total a day.

5. Art is not about following the rules, so...take it easy :)

Depending on how it goes, I might post other people's submissions here or include links, or maybe create a Flickr group.  I also intend to take an occasional video of the painting process and post a mini-lesson on anatomy for artists.

And so, the question is, " Can you find 30 minutes a day to spend on something that is enjoyable, useful, and is NOT physical exercise?"  ;)