Saturday, December 28, 2013


Friendship, watercolor, 28 x 38 cm
This is based on a picture of my mother and Sunny, taken several years ago, when the dog was still alive. He was not allowed to climb on the sofa, so he cheated by getting in my mom's lap when she would sit on the sofa. Of course, he was too big to fit in her lap, so his hind feet would still be on the floor - cute and somewhat funny.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Two portraits

Dreaming, watercolor  38 x 28 cm
Confidence, watercolor 38 x 28 cm
These portraits are based on images from magazines that were not entirely the conventional pretty face in an artificial pose. Of course, even I couldn't hide the fact that both women were quite pretty :)

Below is a picture of the enchanted crystal trees we have all through the area. This is the only positive thing about the freezing rain storm on Saturday, which left hundreds of thousands of people without power, heating and hot water for days.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Having a coffee

Self-portrait with a coffee, watercolor 38 x 28 cm
We, artists, have the option to paint ourselves as young and good looking as we want. This portrait is based on a photo from my last year's vacation. I didn't bother with small details like wrinkles and fine-lines :)

I'd like to share some recent observations with paints. For years I have been using DaVinci artists watercolors, as their price is at least twice lower than W&N. I have read different reviews, which confirm the high quality of DaVinci in terms of light-fastness and concentration of pigment. Lately, when I ran out of some pigments, I decided to try Winsor&Newton artists colors, to see how they feel, as they seem to be considered one of the best brands in watercolor painting. 

After using them for a couple of months, I am quite disappointed. They seem very gummy. When I reach to pick some pigment with my brush, it doesn't come out easily from the blob.When it eventually does, I have to work it for quite a while into a homogeneous substance. Even a very short time in the palette dries the pigment and makes these problems worse. Also, at least with the colors I've tried, it seems that the pigment is not so concentrated and I need more color to get the desired saturation. The W&N colors I have been using are Burned Sienna, Raw Sienna, Brown Madder and Cerulean. It seems to me, that the gum in the paint is too much and this is causing the problem. I wouldn't presume to give advice on which brand is better, but for myself, I will stick with the paints that I am used to, and that cost less, as an added bonus.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Tea Culture

These are several scenes from Turkey, where contrary to popular belief, the national drink is tea, not coffee. You can buy this strong black tea in a small curvy glass practically everywhere - from restaurants and cafes to road-side boots. And everyone there drinks it. I quite liked its taste and still make it at home now and then.
In the small towns men do not gather at the pub, but rather at the tea house. This is where they discuss politics and the latest football game while playing backgammon.
The Tea House 1, watercolor 38 x 28 cm
The Tea House 2, watercolor 38 x 28 cm
Serving tea, watercolor sketch
Two men, watercolor sketch

Saturday, November 23, 2013

At Peter's Restaurant

At Peter's on Eglinton, watercolor 38 x 28 cm
Yesterday we had lunch with friends at a restaurant, which attracted me with its style and design. There was something retro in it - wicker style chairs, stained glass, beautiful chandeliers, waiters wearing bow-ties... I had to try painting it

Monday, November 11, 2013

Another walk in Sofia

Cafe by the Theatre, watercolor 38 x 28 cm
Boulevard Ruski in Sofia, watercolor 28 x 38 cm
There are some really beautiful old buildings in Sofia, which I have been noticing more lately. The cafe in the park in front of the National Teatre has this typical European atmosphere, which one cannot find here, in Canada. For some reason, ambiance is not a priority for the cafes and restaurants here. I like the character of the European cities and that's why I enjoy painting these city scenes.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Grand Bazaar

Kapali Carsi 2, watercolor on Arches CP, 38 x 28 cm
Kapali Carsi, charcoal sketch
The busy galleries of Kapali Carsi - the grand bazaar in Istanbul - is not an easy subject. I wanted to convey the abundance of shapes and colors without getting bogged down in fussy details. So, I started with a charcoal sketch to establish the areas of light and dark. Then painted it a couple of times. This is the second version, which came out a bit fresher and with better positioning of the figures, but not significantly different from the first version. As it happens usually when I repaint something, there is a different picture in my head, but my hands keep doing the same thing all over again.

Below is the first attempt
Kapali Carsi 1, watercolor on Arches CP, 38 x 28 cm

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


These are two scenes from Sofia, the city where I grew up. The park in front of the main building of the Sofia University is done by a sketch that I did on site a few years ago. I added more figures to liven up the scene. The other one is based on a photo. 

I am so eager to do city scenes now, knowing how to simplify and complete them in less than an hour. I'm going through my photos from previous trips and picking scenes with nice light and shadows.

Spring at the University, watercolor on Arches rough 38 x 28 cm
The Military Club, watercolor on Arches CP 28 x 38 cm

Sunday, October 27, 2013

... and the last two days

The workshop finished a few days ago, but I've been busy catching up with a whole lot of things, including work. So, here I am again with the second part of the story.

I really liked the workshop and learned a whole lot. I also hope that it helped me gain more confidence. Despite that at least half of the group were professional artists, I found that I din't suck, in fact I was doing quite well. 

Unfortunately the weather during all four days was quite cold. Alvaro was disappointed that we can't go to the hustle and bustle of downtown Toronto and decided to settle for the centre of Oakville, where the workshop was taking place.  It was so cold and windy that everybody was freezing, even Alvaro himself, who doesn't seem to care much about the weather.  

Alvaro painting en plain air in the cold
... and the result
The scene that he chose to paint...
One of the most amazing things he did was to paint the classroom. We all wondered how he will simplify the rows of tables and all the clutter on them. He used a few lines and some dripping water through them to create the tables. Then a few spots of bright colors and some scrapes with a credit card finished the task. The focal point was the group of people around the easel at the top of the painting. This is one of the main things he was constantly emphasizing - pick a focal point and make the painting about it, put your brightest, lightest and darkest colors there. Simplify the rest by blurring, omitting, dry-brushing, etc.

Alvaro with his painting of the classroom
One exercise we did was painting figures in a loose way. Turned out that I don't suck at it and Alvaro, who can be pretty critical, liked my little humans below
Blaga's figures
in the process of painting a night scene
Due to the non-cooperating weather, he ended up painting a few demos from photos. This is the next best thing, because one of my goals was to see how he interprets actual scenes. 

Blaga's version of "Paris in back-light", watercolor 38 x 28 cm
This is one of the paintings from photos that we did on the last days. For the first time I used rough paper, which makes smooth washes harder, but dry brush is much easier

What else did I learn:
- big brush, small piece of paper;
- start with an under-painting of a very smooth wash. Cross-hatching the brushstrokes helps to avoid straight lines in it;
- values are the most important thing!!! It is ok to use black (neutral tint) when you need it. Also, white for highlights. Forget the stupid rules!
- back-runs, "cauliflowers", spills, spatters, all these things that happen with watercolors, give it character. Learn how to use them, instead of avoiding them;
- don't paint the scene as you see it, change it as it suits you

So, now I plan to re-do a few of my previous paintings, applying my new knowledge....

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

First two days of Alvaro's workshop

The first day we didn't do any painting ourselves, yet it was maybe the day when I learned the most. Watching Alvaro in action is so inspiring. He makes it all seem so simple. At times he creates something looking like a total mess and in a few minutes the mess takes a fully meaningful shape of people, cars, whatever... 
One of the demos he did was to paint the parking lot of the place, where the workshop was held. A seemingly dull and uninteresting place. But he wanted to show us that everything could become a worthy subject. That story is illustrated in the next three photos

Alavro painting the parking lot. He often has this smile while painting, like he really enjoys it. Or maybe, he's imagining us wondering "What is this mess and how will he be able to get out of it!?" , while he very well knows how he'll do it.

This is the view from where he stands. Of course, at one point a few people passed by, got in a car and drove off. That got into the painting, together with the white house and the red car.

I cannot post a proper picture of his painting, but I think it should be ok to show you the result from this angle. A typical Alvaro painting full of life and atmosphere.  He absolutely made his point.

Inspired by that demo, on the way home I observed the shapes of cars in back-light and in the evening painted this study.

Blaga's cars in motion

The second day we painted Paris from pictures. He demonstrated painting each city-scape and then we tried to imitate the master.

My version of Rainy day in Paris was all wrong. The value of the buildings was too strong and the foreground was a mess. Alvoro looked at it, grabbed some white and in a few brushstrokes fixed the buildings. Then he spattered some cerulean on the right, which made the mess much more acceptable. The painting still sucks, but I'm saving it, as it has Alvaro's touch :)

Blaga's version of Sunny Day in Paris - I'm happy with this one
Two more days to go
to be continued...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Berries and buildings

Berries, watercolor 24 x 21 cm
Berries, watercolor 24 x 21 cm
I picked these berries during a walk the other day and while the streets scenes below were not "cooperating", I painted the berries just for pleasure.

Back in January I found out that Alavaro Castagnet would be giving a workshop in the fall close to Toronto. This must be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I signed up immediately. I admire Catagnet's style. Back when I started painting, his works showed me that watercolors can be as vibrant and colorful as any other medium, and even more beautiful. I have been excited for months. But as the workshop approaches, I get more and more anxious. Am I going to be up to the tasks? Am I taking up the spot of someone better who would have benefited much more from the experience? Well, there's no going back now. It is next week and I have to try to make the most of it!  

Maybe after that I will be able to paint the cars in these boulevard scenes in a less childish way...

The boulevard, watercolor 38 x 28 cm
Hotel Bulgaria, watercolor 38 x 28 cm

Saturday, October 5, 2013


Dahlias, watercolor 15 x 25 cm
White Dahlia, watercolor sketch, 15 x 15 cm
Two Dahlias, watercolor 38 x 28 cm
Dahlias in a glass, watercolor 38 x 28 cm
I have been trying to find inspiration in these flowers, still blooming in my yard. They proved challenging to simplify. Maybe I get distracted by their little yellow faces, smiling at me...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

More from Andalusia

Seville at night, watercolor 40 x 30 cm

Andalusian  white village, watrecolor 25 x 30 cm

Monday, September 16, 2013

Granada's old town

Granada's old town, watercolor 56 x 33 cm
Scenes like this one, with clusters of houses, have always seemed too complex and intimidating to me. I wanted to challenge myself to try and simplify the view. I was a bit too shy with the values, so the whole painting came out too pale, but it is a step in the right direction....

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Night in Seville

Night in Seville, watercolor 54 x 42 cm
Night in Seville, watercolor 30 x 25 cm
Two versions of the same night scene. The top one, which was the second one, I painted after watching one of Castagnet's videos I have. This really helps me loosen up my style and to paint faster. Well, not as loose or as fast as the master, and by no means as good :)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Flamenco dancers

Flamenco dancers, watercolor sketch
One more memory from Andalucia, and another quick sketch. I'm not thrilled with the composition, but I like how the female dancer turned out. The deep and sad flamenco singing really caught my imagination. No way to paint a song unfortunately :)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Music is in their blood

I've been doing these quick direct sketches and really enjoying them. When I don't do a pencil drawing, I feel that I'm really just sketching and the result is much looser and more spontaneous.
Flamenco guitarists, watercolor sketch
With the first one I did everything wrong - started with the figure in the back and had to leave white space for the white of the foreground figure. But in the end I quite liked the result.

Street musicians, watercolor sketch
The second doesn't have a particularly good composition, but I remember I liked the music these guys were playing.

Accordionist, watercolor sketch
The first attempt on this subject produced a man with such an enormous head, he looked like a cartoon. This is the second try.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Figure sketches

I did these small sketches directly with the brush, without pencil drawing, so there are some problems in proportions. But I so enjoyed painting them. Although, I took  the reference photos in the andalucian villages, these people could be anywhere along the Mediterranean. 

Man sitting, watercolor sketch

Man standing by the wall, watercolor sketch

Man standing 2, watercolor sketch