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Sketching as an Antidote to Insanity

Marcy calling home, ink & watercolor
Marcy calling home from Mom's porch, ink & watercolor

It wasn’t an easy weekend in L.A. visiting family but sketching really helped me to avoid going completely bonkers. There were some lovely moments: walking on the beach in the misty morning with my sister Marcy, taking a tour with Mom and Marce of an historic house (now a museum) in Santa Monica where a huge retrospective of Milford Zorne‘s amazing paintings were on display (more about that in another post).

Mom cooking stinky cabbage, ink & watercolor
Mom cooking stinky cabbage, ink & watercolor

My 85 year old mother doesn’t cook much anymore, but she got inspired to make Pracas (sweet and sour meatballs in cabbage).  But despite not having some of the ingredients or being able to see the recipe in the cookbook well enough to follow it, and despite the jar of ancient fossilized onion flakes she substituted for the actual onion in the recipe (demanding that I use a sharp knife to break the clump up so it could be extracted from the jar), and the house stinking like cabbage all afternoon, dinner wasn’t that bad, really.

Guy sleeping holding his boarding pass; hanging out at Mom's
Guy sleeping holding his boarding pass at Oakland airport; hanging out at Mom's
Grateful for my pen & sketchbook
Grateful for my sketchbook

It’s amazing how sketching can calm my nerves and put the whole dysfunctional family thing at a distance while still being physically present.

Josh reading
Josh reading

It’s really good to be back home.

19 replies on “Sketching as an Antidote to Insanity”

Glad you’re back and glad you survived the dysfunction and the cabbage. And I’m always glad to see your fun watercolor sketches. Lots to be glad about here ;D.


Wonderful sketches, Jana. I especially like the one of your Mom in the kitchen. Something about the gesture of that one feels so “real,” if you know what I mean. So present in the sketch.


Great sketches, Jana! I love the one of your mother, just feels like I can hear her muttering while she’s cooking.

Your persimmon painting is AWESOME!!!! The colors just sing!


Nice sketches, Jana. Yes, sketching and drawing is a great antidote to insanity (I first read antidote to sanity, which makes sense too!!) If only one could sketch through the days…


Jana, these sketches are absolutely adorable. They are so lively and I think far better than photographs could ever be because they reveal all the love you have for your family despite nearly going “bonkers”. How good I understand what you mean here. Family can really be very nervewracking….
I wished I could better describe what’s this strange difference between photos and sketches but there is something there photos cannot reveal. It might be that photos alienize the person, making it conscious to the person being watched and immediately some mask is coming up, putting the person in some sort of disguise. While sketches normally take more time to finish, the person being sketched forgets about being watched – so movements are natural and the whole behaviour is not falsified…
I hope you can understand my babbling about this…never mind…
Greetings, Petra


Hi Petra, Not babbling, and I agree about sketching being better than photos
even if they don’t capture a likeness. Some of these do, some don’t. My
mother saw a few of the sketches and said she didn’t think they were very
good (“not your best”). But I think they captured something of a likeness
and a lot of feelings about the difficulties some of my extended family
members are having and the complicated relationships between us all. Thanks
for visiting and commenting and for your nice holiday e-card!


Just discovered your blog and I love your work. These people are great. I totally agree with the fact that sketching can really calm your nerves! Off to look at more of your wonderful blog!


Oh, my, Jana, how did I miss this? Yes. Filled 26 pages in my sketchbook during my week with my in-laws. It was GRIM. (They’re 86 and 87, so I can relate to that as well.)

I suspect ALL families are at least somewhat dysfunctional, but this took the cake. I’m STILL a bit depressed. (Of course we’re also getting daily updates, sometimes 3-4 times a day.) I KEEP SKETCHING!


Hey Kate, Yeah sketching is such good medicine for most ailments, including
dysfunctional families! And sometimes just drawing the crazy-makers makes
them seem more lovable. Jana


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