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


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,


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,



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,


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.


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!

Stop and smell the (yellow) roses

Things may have gone a little wild here. I had a plan. I covered the whole surface with yellow at first, and went ahead wiping out highlights and adding shadows. Which resulted in a rose-looking yellow flower. But it lacked something. So I added splatter. Wrong move. I scraped some areas. Eeek, even worse. I got frustrated and put the painting away for a while.

When I came back to it, it still looked bad. So I wiped most of the painting off and reworked it completely, with bold brushstrokes and exaggerated color. This is the beauty of a failed painting: it's already bad. You are unlikely to make it worse, and you might just make it better!

And hey, from a few feet away, it does look like a rose :)

Purple Iris, courtesy of Trader Joe's

And I'm back! All better and ready to make some more fabulous art :) The 30-in-30 challenge is about over but I'll give it an honest effort until it is. Today, I have for you a very much abstracted close-up of an iris:

I picked these lovelies up last week at a Trader Joe's, which is currently my favorite place to get flowers. Apparently, this is a "beardless" iris, as opposed to a "bearded" one. The bearded irises are the ones with nice big ruffles. These are more plain and it was actually a bit of a challenge to find an interesting angle and crop - but I am pleased with the way it turned out.

On a whim, or maybe guided by the mysterious internal artist-sense, I added some gold leaf to the focal point.

Purple and gold, after all, are perfect together!

In other news, I recently received an Honorable Mention in the Watercolor Artists of Sacramento annual show (judged by Michael Reardon). Pretty happy about that. This is the painting that brought me another ribbon:

Let's Get Things A Little Bit Messed Up

There's been a lot of monkeywrenching going on here and I have not been able to paint since Friday. Katia, my 3-year-old, broke her leg two weeks ago and is now sporting a pink cast. Ella, the 1-year-old, caught a stomach flu over the weekend, then promptly gave it to Katia. So it's been a rough few days (and nights).

30 Paintings in 30 Days is, therefore, on hold. Instead, I'm posting something I found while going through my old sketchbooks. These are some notes I took while watching a Charles Reid DVD.

And to illustrate these points, a sketch of my living room that I 'messed up" by allowing the red paint from the other page bleed onto it. And how about the not-quite-correct perspective? Lines intersecting where they shouldn't? Embrace it all :)

Orange Zinnia, third try.

I think this one passes the quality inspection :) Same flower as yesterday, but I decided to go with a completely different view and composition. I like this a lot better.

As I do when I am stuck, I created a couple of thumbnail sketches with composition ideas. They help me think.

There really isn't a good reason to not do them before every painting (other than maybe being completely spontaneous). Each takes a couple of seconds (these are about 1.25" square) but has the potential to give you the clarity you are after.

I liked the bottom right one (which was the last sketch I did) and began the painting with it in mind. And then I turned the flower around and opened it towards the viewer. Nothing wrong with changing your mind :)

8x8" watercolor on Yupo mounted on panel. Click on the image to view more details and buy.

8x8" watercolor on Yupo mounted on panel. Click on the image to view more details and buy.

Speaking of changing minds, I did another Periscope today, painting this. And you can see me changing directions many times throughout the process. I put paint down, and a couple of minutes later, I wipe it off. I believe it's part of the process and it's important to allow yourself the freedom to change your mind. Painting is a form of thinking.

The Periscope replay is available for 24 hours, so until around 1 pm PST tomorrow (I am @YevgeniaWatts on Periscope). I will also include this one, in a high definition video, in my future online class.

Orange Zinnia, this will be.

So here are try #2 (top) and try #1 (bottom), and I'm not happy with it. The central composition that worked well in the Envy Zinnia, doesn't cut it here. I'm also not so keen on the flower and the background taking up roughly the same amount of space. So I'll give it another go later today or tomorrow, with a different composition. It's a good thing you can wipe Yupo (almost) clean.

Orange Zinnia watercolor on Yupo.

Painting on Yupo in progress.

I do feel that there is something in the combination of the dark blue, intense orange, and white/neutral areas. I like it. So the plan is: same color scheme, different composition. Verdict tomorrow :)