Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Rooftop Sanctuary

Rooftop Sanctuary watercolor and ink by Meera Rao

There was someone else on the next rooftop - reading, enjoying the scenery, the peace and quiet of the morning as we were exploring the Sri Rangam temple complex.  This was definitely the place to be as the hubbub down below picked up. Looking around at the scene with almost a bird's eye view, I felt exhilarated and energized. It made me wonder if the lone reader had also found a respite from the throngs of devotees, shopkeepers, tourists  that were starting to congregate in the sprawling temple complex below. Did he do this everyday and if this different vantage point helped him gain a better understanding of any situation he encountered? Did he come up there to tap into higher awareness? I am pleased that this sketch brings back the wonderful memories of that morning to me

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Shadows Dancing In Morning Light

Gopura: Shadows dancing in morning light  pen and ink by Meera Rao

My cousin told us about a staircase to the roof of one of the buildings in the Sri Rangam temple complex tucked away in an obscure corner. Of course we had to check it out ! The view from the roof was stunning. On one side was one of the 7 Gopuras.  I loved how the morning light lit the Gopura and the long shadows of a couple of people in the courtyard. 

I kept erasing more than I was drawing when I started out.  In frustration I decided to abandon the pencil and go with the pen and commit to the lines. I was surprised and pleased how the sketch started flowing after that. I used a brush pen with black ink to work on the shadows - my plan was to paint with watercolors to complete the sketch. My hubby who is usually my best critique, at that point checking on the progress said ‘I think you should stop after this and not add color’  I am happy I did :) 

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Gopura : First Sighting of the Temple

Gopura ink and watercolor by Meera Rao 

Early morning walk to Sri Rangam temple before the shops lining the narrow road opened, before throngs of devotees filled the street is  a special memory.  The gorgeous tower with colorful intricate carvings is imposing. This is first of  21 Gopuras / towers in the 156 acres temple complex composed of 7 concentric walled prakaras/enclosuresThe temple sits on an natural island surrounded by River Cauvery and Colenoor.  There is so much to see and admire. The scene was a challenge to sketch and I can’t imagine the engineering skills that were necessary to construct such an architectural wonder about 9-10 centuries ago ! - Such  symmetry, intricacies and works of art. The Shrine itself though is mentioned in the ancient historical stories and mythologies we all grew up listening. Please go to the temple website to see and read and may be even plan a visit this wonderful place. 

Monday, October 5, 2020

Meditation on Beauty

Sri Rangam Temple courtyard -ink and watercolor 9x7”  by Meera Rao 

 Early morning at the temple waiting for our guide, I soaked in the sunlight, and the serene quiet before the hustle and bustle of devotees and tourists took over.  I was mesmerized by the awe inspiring elaborate carvings on the massive temple structures and the bright colorful painted embellishments.  

Not knowing where to start, I spent time admiring the details, and figuring out what I wanted to sketch- there was so much beauty all around!  The guide was late in arriving and I was able to sketch out a few pillars and one of the many many smaller temples within the Temple complex,  saving the watercolor wash for later.  

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Travel Sketches : A Gift to Myself !

Festival Cart all decked up, Pen and watercolor by Meera Rao 

I have sketches from my trip in January and February to India and London that I somehow forgot to post.  But then, unfortunately I also have ignored this blog in the past month and have to make up for it !! I am hoping to  relive the travels that we were able to enjoy just before Covid quarantine as I post these sketches ! 

When in India we visited Sri Rangam and Tiruchirapalli in the state of Tamil Nadu for a family event and I spent a couple of hours sketching at the temple premises. The temple which is many centuries old occupies an area of 155 acres (63 ha) with 81 shrines, 21 towers, 39 pavilions, and many water tanks integrated into the complex making it the world's largest functioning Hindu temple. We were lucky to get a great tour even in the limited time we had, courtesy of my cousin Vrinda and her husband Ramanan who have published a wonderful book of photography and temple history "Sri Rangam: Bhooloka Vaikuntam".   

This is the Festival cart all decked up ready for the major festival next day. The huge wooden structure is elaborately carved and decorated with colorful, embroidered cloth curtains and flags. I sketched it as we waited for the start of another festival ceremony the evening before. It is one of the few times I have sketched under the watchful eyes of a small crowd of  devotees who were also lined up and waiting. As I balanced the sketchbook  in one hand and drew standing up in the dim light of the setting sun, I could hear comments and some approval as the sketch evolved :)  I had just enough time to complete the pencil drawing and did the watercolor wash at home.  I included the father and daughter in the drawing for scale to highlight the massive structure ! 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Nature Journaling :Phenology Wheel

Nature  Journaling Phenology Wheel-Covid Journal for May by Meera Rao 

I made this Phenology wheel in May because I always wanted to do a nature journal that way.  I did it on printer paper bigger than my Journal so set it aside in a watercolor pad. Out of site meant out of mind until I picked up that pad couple of days ago.  I then right away photographed it for the blog, before it slipped from my mind again ! 

I spent many hours trying to figure out how/what I wanted to illustrate in the wheel. There were many tries before the template  felt 'good enough'.  In the end it all hinged on the size of the wheel- four sections, one for each week (9 days the first week since there are 31 days in May) and I decided to concentrate on a nature find, moon phase and something fun for each section. I noted temperature highs and lows for each week and in the center noted the coronavirus cases for May in our little town! I tracked down average rain fall, average temperature, humidity, sunset/sunrise times foe may1 and 31.  I did not have any trouble filling the sections each week.  The bread is in there because its sour dough made from 'scratch' harvesting 'yeast' from air :) 

Sheltering in place has meant lots of time to really observe nature in my backyard. And it is so much fun :) I have always known much goes on out there but this is the first time I have been recording some of them a little more diligently! Last year for my Virginia Master Naturalist class, I started nature journaling and have found it very satisfying. Because it was just regular printer paper I used color pencils, not watercolors. I saved the template for the wheel, so I may try again soon may be for another month or on pie piece for each month in a year  :) 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Fleeting Vignettes


Showing my art at Poquoson Public Library 

       Showing my art at Poquoson Public Library

Showing my art Poquoson Public Library

Sixteen of my watercolors "Fleeting Vignettes"  are on exhibit at the Poquoson Public Library for the month of August.  In June I participated in the #30x30directwatercolor challenge to create 30 paintings in 30 days in direct watercolor without sketching ahead of time.  I would call it a success as all these sixteen paintings were from that exercise! And I even sold one painting so far :) 

I made myself paint values, shapes and entertain only a few significant details. Pushing to finish a painting a day with no preliminary drawings forced me to be very mindful of sweet spots,  compositions, and especially values. I found myself sifting through my reference photos trying to find those that I could paint without sketching (or sometimes with minimal perspective dots or markings) ahead of time. I discovered to my surprise I was not painting with abandon and it was nerve wracking at times. I definitely painted some subjects I would not have considered before and was pretty pleased with the results! I painted on 100% cotton rough watercolor paper I had bought in India couple of years ago and it was fun to see them all lined up at the end of the month and see my accomplishment. Even though I was exhausted by the end, the challenge I feel was a very worthwhile to participate in. Because of sheltering in place, I ended up framing them all myself!  

I am so glad Marc Taro Holmes started the challenge. This is my second time participating in the month long challenge which in my case extended a week beyond a month to make up for missed  days I could not help.  Surf on over to my Instagram @artbymeera to see all my 30 paintings or to the facebook group  #30x30directwatercolor (link above) to see all the attempts by hundreds of participants.  If you are in my neck of the woods, please do stop by the library and check out the paintings.  I am donating half the price of sold paintings to the Food Bank.   

Monday, July 13, 2020

Regret & Meltdown!

Regret Mixed media By Meera Rao

I am very excited that Regret was one of 29 works selected for the Capitol Hill Art league show 'Meltdown' by Juror John Coppola, former Director of the Office of Exhibits Central at the Smithsonian Institution. 

Juror John Coppola’s Statement: “Edgar Degas pointedly said, Art isn’t what you see. It’s what you make others see.  In selecting works for this exhibition, I focused on submissions that made me–and I hope, those who see the exhibition online–look at our current state of affairs in all its complexity and uncertainty from differing points of view. Hats off to the CHAL artists who pushed through the pandemic and social unrest to create art.  Frankly, it was better than I did: My drafting table is cluttered with notes and sketches for work I never quite got to. Thanks both to the Capitol Hill Art League for inviting me to jury “Meltdown,” and to the participating artists who got me to re-engage with art!”

I attended (my first ever) Zoom Art Reception for the show on June 27th ! The paintings can be seen on the online gallery Capitol Hill Art league website. There is also a short video clip of Juror's statement at the reception. Interestingly, the theme for the show was chosen over a year ago before all the pandemic chaos!  

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Geese and Goslings

Canada Geese color pencils by Meera Rao

A pair of geese have been a presence in our neighborhood over the past few years. They arrive early spring and I am assuming it’s the same pair! They dine all around our and our  neighbor’s yards and leave droppings everywhere :) This year though one day in May, they came as a family with tiny four fur balls of goslings in their midst.  I still don’t know where their nest is.  They always have the goslings in the middle with at least one parent on very high alert!  The goslings are growing up fast and now are rounder and taller even though still have downy feather. They seem to be eating machines. I have watched them for a few weeks now and sadly there are only three goslings - never have found out what happened to the fourth one :( It is a lot of fun to watch them all eat, move and lounge around as a family. We usually postpone yard and garden work when they are out and about as they get very territorial - Besides, we don’t want to be chased by a goose ;) 

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Don't Lift That Pencil!

Self Portrait single line graphite by Meera Rao 

This self portrait is my entry to our local art group @ctvisualarts's art challenge prompt for continuous line drawing.  This drawing with 6B pencil was probably my 10th attempt! I took a selfie, moved it to Procreate app and did line drawings on it a few times trying to figure out the movement of the line to draw the face.  Next I tried drawing on paper with a micron pen, then about three times with a brush pen before trying with the pencil and drawing very very slowly!!!I liked that with the 6B pencil I could go back over lines lightly or dark without lifting the pencil :) I backtracked several times. As I became comfortable with the shapes, I started taking liberties and simplifying the lines. There is something to be said to drawing the same thing several times to get it right. Sometimes though I wonder will that compromise spontaneity and freshness? In the end I am pretty satisfied with the results of my umpteenth try :)    

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