Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Moved by Compassion

Bodhisatva  sketched at the Chicago Institute of Art by Meera Rao 

on the path 
to Awakening
a merciful guide
moved by compassion
~Meera Rao~

Information about the statue of Bodhisatva 

I have badly sprained my ankles and on my trip to Chicago in a way it was a blessing in disguise. Normally I spend hours in various galleries trying to catch a glimpse of all the wonderful art. But this time I did not walk around the museum ( I know I missed some fabulous exhibits).  I decided instead to sit and sketch something at the museum. 

I had always been attracted to this statue which is close to the entrance of the museum leading to the exhibits on art from India, Tibet, Korea, Japan and China etc.  I slowly hobbled over and sat on a bench across the statue and took my time sketching with pencil and eraser.  The guard came around a few times to ask if I was ok and if he could help me find anything - I am sure he was checking my progress and making sure I was doing what I said I was doing! None of the visitors stopped and chatted though I noticed some paused close and long enough to satisfy their curiosity :)   

While I sketched it sitting down, the photo of the statue was taken standing up just before I left.  I gave the red wash to the background later - did not dare take my water brush or the small watercolor box in the museum. 

Bodhisatva sketch in pencil and watercolor 5x5" by  Meera Rao

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Most Powerful Declaration!

Filigree Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture  
Photography by Meera Rao

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Photography by Meera Rao  

Collage of Photos by Meera Rao 

The new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is a must see for all ! Last week after a day spent at the museum,  my worries for the future feels differently in light of the faith, hope and resilience that is packed in the deeply moving exhibits. As the New York times article filled with photos of the museum eloquently puts it  : "In the spirit of Langston Hughes’s poem “I, Too,” their message is a powerful declaration: The African-American story is an American story, as central to the country’s narrative as any other, and understanding black history and culture is essential to understanding American history and culture."  

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America. 

Langston Hughes

Monday, October 24, 2016

Lines Shapes Color Light

East wing Calder  ink and watercolor 5.5x8" by Meera Rao

"Colour are light’s suffering and joy."

~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe~

The East Wing of the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC reopened recently after extensive renovations and I had a great visit. This sketch was my second attempt to capture on paper the huge open room. The trademark glass ceiling by I M  Pei was the challenge I had to face! I had to slow down, first figure out the overall shape and then draw it section by section.  Photographing the ceiling and studying it every time I got confused helped me finish the sketch.  I think I spent so much time figuring out the ceiling that I lost steam for the rest of the sketch ! But I am pleased that I stuck to it :) 

The Color in a New Light exhibit at Natural History Museum in Washington DC

Name a topic that links science, history, art, and culture. How about color? - a small exhibit on Color in A New Light at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum covers this : Two Glass cases in the lobby were crammed with goodies: an anthracite coal, samples of  dyed silk, dyed ostrich feathers from long ago, Sir Isaac Newton's book Opticks, or, A treatise of the reflections, refractions, inflections and colours of light...London, 1704, Albert Henry Munsell's Atlas of the Munsell Color System [Malden, Mass.: Wadsworth, Howland & Co., Inc., Printers, ca. 1915] Gift of Binney & Smith, Inc., makers of Crayola Crayons and a lot more from the Smithsonian Library.

 "Journeying through the collections of the Smithsonian Libraries — from chemistry to catalogs, from colorblind tests to couture — we might see color in a new light." reads the explanation.  I spent an hour looking and reading the explanations. There is a great digital tour of the exhibit on their website to see up close things in those cases and read about them.  It is truly fascinating! 

From the book: Spectrum Analysis :Six lectures  By Henry E. Roscoe

Explanation of the spectrum from the book  Spectrum Analysis by Roscoe

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Show And A Poem

A sampling of  my paintings at the Eno Wine Bar, Washington DC 
August and September 2016

I am excited to have about 20 paintings on exhibit through Sept 30, 2016 at the Eno Wine Bar, Four Seasons Georgetown location : 2810 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC.  Please stop by and enjoy their great selection of wines or pop in for  delicious lunch and check out my paintings :)  

I am also honored that in June poet Mary Rua Felix was inspired by my painting Dreamer (Lower right corner in the photo above)  to write 'A Sea Goddess?' when it was on display at the Charles Taylor Art Center at Hampton, VA.   

Poem by Maria Rua Felix  inspired by my painting 'Dreamer' 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Beautiful Beginnings!

Sunrise watercolor on Yupo 8x10"  by Meera Rao

I will never forget this scene. The bright orb rising behind the dark line of trees drenching the sky and water in shades of glowing yellow gold, deep orange with touches of juicy crimson leaving no traces of the last night around.  Once again, a perfect new beginning !

When I come across glorious natural scenes, I soak it in and often don't dare even try to paint it. How can I ever capture the beauty and the feeling of spirituality that I sense? Should I even attempt? I slowly added colors and shapes willing my impressions on to the paper.  I photograph the sunrises often but I was pleasantly surprised that I really 'felt' this sunrise when I started to paint!  The colors, the scene, the mood may have changed in fractions of seconds as the dawn emerged but the essence has stayed on in my minds eye.  

Sunrise watercolor on Yupo 8x10"  by Meera Rao

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Rock Paper Paint!

Abstract Landscape watercolor on Mitz Terraskin Stone Paper by Meera Rao 

I was given a sample of Mitz Terraskine stone paper by an artist friend and I set out eagerly to experiment on it  knowing very little about how paint behaved on the paper and not researching its unique qualities beforehand. I did not sketch anything on it and had a vague idea of a landscape design for composition. I discovered the paint floats on the paper like on Yupo, takes time to dry and is therefore a bit unstable and easy to get mud if I was not careful. The surface is not quite as smooth and slick as Yupo and has a faint tooth to it. Painting wet on wet, tilting paper to blend the colors gave layered effects and some unexpected results when the paint dried. Spritzing with water and alcohol in the sky area brought on wonderful texture. Paint can also be scratched off without ruining the paper. I found the paint texture on the Mitz terraskine stone paper had a bit of matt finish to it on drying.

After completing the piece, I found a great source of information on Cheap Joe's web site  on their product information page. In the manufacture of this environmentally friendly paper no water or bleach is used and it is therefore acid free and archival quality.  It is made from rock and resin, very tough, cannot be torn or creased and does not damage easily- though I did not test it! It is a multimedia paper and can be used with oil, acrylics or watercolor. The paper can bend nicely and can be stretched like a canvas on stretchers. Pencil and graphite marks do not erase well.  Joe Miller used 'paint-erase rejuvinating sponge' to take some paint and watercolor pencil marks off the paper in his video demonstration. In another demonstration by D.D. Gadjanski, granulation medium was used with watercolor paints to get some beautiful texture.  So watching those videos, I learned about two products I was not aware of before :)  On the whole painting on Mitz Terraskin stone paper was a bit of a fun challenge and I hope to work on it in the future. 

Abstract Landscape watercolor on Mitz Terraskin Stone Paper 5x7" by Meera Rao

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Growing an Idea

Cabbage Concerto in Red Again  mixed media 10x15" by Meera Rao 

Sometime in the past few years, I had started a painting - there was some watercolor and a collage of rice paper (see below). Until earlier this year it was buried in my pile of unfinished paintings.  Even after staring at it for too long, I could not remember my plans for it.  By then it did not really matter anyway! 

watercolor background with rice paper collage 

The colorful lettuce growing in our garden gave me an idea and reminded me of a painting I had done many years ago. After mulling over for a few more days I thoroughly enjoyed painting a much smaller more colorful version of that painting 'Cabbage Concerto in Red' which has found a home with a friend. Exploring the same subject and coming to it from a different place was a fun exercise.  The title for the first painting was courtesy of my son who was in high-school then! I wrote about it here.

Colorful lettuce in my garden

”I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them.” -- Picasso.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Passage of Time

Whiling the Morning Away watercolor and ink by Meera Rao
India Art Journal 2015

Under the shades of huge trees in parks or elsewhere there are always elderly men mostly in crisp white shirts, wearing traditional white "Dhoti" (click on link for simple version) or western style pants sitting and whiling away their time - keeping up with friendships, resting after their daily walks, discussing world affairs and may be just fighting off loneliness. I saw this group daily while out on my errands and had to record it :)  

I feel a pang as I post this last sketch from my 2015 summer journal from India. The past four summers I went to India to take care of my Mother-in-law and started sketching daily as a way to keep up with my art. I compulsively sketched almost every single day when I was in India - something sadly I don't seem to be able to do now. As my Mother-in-law passed away late last year I won't be staying for extended period in Mysuru this summer. 

During those stays, I filled five sketchbooks with around 250 sketches - the first year I had done 124 sketches -small 2.7x4" in Strathmore 5.5x8" Visual Journal watercolor 140lbs- one for every day of my stay. It was easy to keep up with daily sketching as my only concern was to sketch every day! 

The second year feeling ambitious, instead of four sketches on the page like the past year, I decided to draw bigger 5"x4" sketches. I ended up with half as many sketches as most could not be completed in the allotted time each day. I had to resort to sketch one day and finish water-coloring them the next. 

The year after, I was a bit more adventurous filling in two Japanese style moleskine accordion sketchbooks - not restricting myself to any particular size within the sketchbook. I still finished around 40 vignettes. 

It was harder to sketch everyday in 2015 - I managed about 22- 5.5x8" sketches taking two to three days to finish each  - even working on the last few after my return as I unable to sketch on many days during my stay. On the whole, keeping the sketchbooks was definitely one of the best decisions I made.It helped see a bigger picture of life. I noticed and experienced things differently and the many fast disappearing vignettes of daily life are now not just only in my sketchbook but are etched in my memory.   

The past few months though I have spent more time reading and looking at art than picking up a pencil or paintbrush. Now finally I am beginning to feel an urgency and renewed enthusiasm to shake off my lethargy, to get back to sketching and painting every day. 

Artists don't get to work
Until the pain of working is exceeded 
by the pain of not working 
~Stephen DeStaebler~ 

Whiling the Morning Away 5.5x8" watercolor and ink on 140 lb Strathmore visual Journal

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Simple Times

A Tire, A Street and A Buddy watercolor and ink by Meera Rao
India Art Journal 2015

Simple times and carefree days.  I watched them roll the tire back and forth down a quiet lane, laugh and squeal in delight. Pretty soon they had mastered the art of keeping the tire rolling without a break. I was a witness to a sealing of friendship, memories in the making and developing skills and imagination :) Definitely 'just playing' is really a lot of 'work' as well! 

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation." 

 A Tire, A Street and A Buddy 5.5x8" watercolor and ink on 140 lb Strathmore visual Journal

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Under the Mid-day Sun

Under the Mid-day Sun watercolor and ink by Meera Rao
India Art Journal 2015

To work under hot mid day sun is just plain hard work.  These two ladies were making plaster cast and clay statues for sale by a busy road side. They are migrants who traveled from northern states  to south in search for a better living. They had taken over the sidewalk, set up tents and a business. It is a difficult ethical problem - shouldn't the city evict them for blocking the roads for pedestrians like me who now have to walk on the edge of the road  with traffic whizzing by or do you applaud them because they are entrepreneurs  trying to make a decent wage by working and producing. For now, the only solution I saw was to capture them in my sketchbook.

Under the Mid-day sun 5.5x8" watercolor and ink on 140 lb Strathmore visual Journal

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