Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Sketching the Pandemic Year 2020 week 50

Sketching the Pandemic Year 2020 week 50 Dec 6-12 

The shirt pictured in the Smithsonian Engagement Calendar 2020 for week 50 is from Harlem Globetrotters from 1960s. It is at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  The caption reads: ‘Although founded in Chicago in the 1920s, the Harlem Globetrotters name helped identify them as a black team. While barnstorming through the Midwest, the team developed many of the comedy routines that would lead to their international fame.’  Mushroom is a ‘fungi’ that is why I paired it with the Harlem Globetrotters  -  fungi /fun guy - get it ?  ;) 

Mushrooms  Watercolor by Meera Rao 
I  found this beautiful, colorful mushroom in our backyard. I loved the colors and it’s shape. There was only one mushroom of that kind. Even after looking through guide books I was not able to identify it definitively. I was not aware that taking a spore print might have helped with the identification. I have since then been reading up on mushrooms/fungi and in awe of their underground network as well as their role in the ecosystem. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Sketching the Pandemic Year 2020 week 49

Sketching the Pandemic Year 2020 week 49 November 29-December 5 

‘Richard Avedon’s eye catching posters of the Beatles- created at the height of the band’s fame- became icons of youth culture in the 1960s. This psychedelic portrait of John Lennon (1940-1980)-[ offset lithograph on white wove paper] appeared on the cover of a special issue of Look magazine in 1967 that chronicled changing times in a tumultuous decade.’ 

That is the explanation in the Smithsonian Engagement Calendar 2020 for week 48, and my colorful sketch for the week chronicles the unexpected fun I had with my granddaughters during the ‘shelter at home’ year.  We met via video chats. I quickly learned from them how to use all the different fun features :) We giggled and role played for hours. I am forever grateful for the silver lining that shone through during those dark pandemic days. Even though I am thankful that they are back in school, busy with their lives,  I really miss those video chats and the time we spent together chatting, reading, playing away happily. 

Sketching the Pandemic Year 2020  Video Chat fun by Meera Rao 


Thursday, September 30, 2021

Sketching the Pandemic Year 2020 week 48

Sketching the Pandemic Year 2020 week 48 November 22-28

The beautiful Yuit (Siberian Yup'ik) carved Eskimo ivory flatware (1920-23) from St.Laurence Island, Alaska, in the Smithsonian Engagement Calendar 2020 pairs nicely with our Thanksgiving dessert plate :)  We had a simple thanksgiving dinner for just the two of us but we are still so grateful for this loaded dessert plate courtesy of our many friends! Sharing even during the pandemic shelter at home days added that wonderful rainbow to our lives. 

The Dessert Plate watercolor by Meera Rao 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Sketching the Pandemic Year 2020 Week 47 Nature’s Calligraphy

Sketching the Pandemic Year 2020 Week 47 November 15-21

‘I think I will never see a poem
 as lovely as a tree’
~Joyce Kilmer~ 

My husband and I try to walk everyday and record 10,000+ steps. Every few weeks we get the urge to go somewhere different and change our routine a bit. As always, Nature, during the covid shelter in place days,  has been a source of magical moments and I have been documenting my joys, awe and surprise in small ways.  This particular day last November, we came across this tree with beautiful vines by the water looking like nature’s calligraphy.  Then I saw the photo for the week in the Smithsonian Engagement Calendar 2020 - Adel Ibrahim Sudany’s cover art for One Sky,2018 Album by the Rahim AlHaj Trio. The caption for that photo reads : ‘Sudany’s painting for One Sky echoes the statement of humanity’s oneness found in the music of Iraqi oud players and composer Sourena Sefati, and Palestinian American percussionist Issa Malluf. Sudany is an Iraqi designer, calligrapher, and professor of Arabic Calligraphy at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany.’   

I feel a beautiful tree like that may have inspired the writers long ago to create flourishes and calligraphic styles! 

Nature’s Calligraphy watercolor and ink by Meera Rao 


Monday, September 20, 2021

Sketching the Pandemic Year 2020 week 46

Sketching the Pandemic Year 2020 week 46 Nov8-14. 

Deepavali, the Festival of Lights is celebrated in India and by Indian diaspora all over the world.  It is a five day festival around the New Moon day of lunar month of Karthika (October/November) observed by lighting of rows of Deepas/ Diyas/lamps, puja/prayers/worship, exchange of gifts, wearing new clothes, sharing of lots food and sweets, and of course getting together with family and friends. The festival is a celebration of good over evil, knowledge/enlightenment (light) over ignorance(darkness), While the stories behind the celebrations vary from region to region within India, the essence remains the same - cherishing the inner light, hope and restoration. 

It just so happens that I am lucky to have been born on one of the days of Deepavali festival- and in addition to my actual Gregorian calendar birthdate, my family also celebrated it on one particular day during Deepavali. So it is a very special festival for me! I sketched a festive ‘rangoli’ on the page using the age old dot system (this one has 5x5dots scheme) 

Rangoli for Deepavali by Meera Rao 

The photograph in the Smithsonian Engagement Calendar 2020 for that week is of William James Aylward’s American Schooners, Old Harbor Marsellie, 1919 Charcoal and Watercolor on paper. ‘Aylward was one of eight artists commissioned by the U.S.Army to join the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe during World War 1. Having grown up around the docks and shipping of the Great Lakes in Wisconsin, he here adeptly captured American schooners docked in the harbor of Marseille, France. 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Sketching the Pandemic Year 2020 week 45

Sketching the Pandemic Year 2020 week 45 Nov 1-7 
Smithsonian Engagement Calendar 2020 #repurposed 

What could be more appropriate for this week than the gavel presented to Susan B Anthony at an 1888 meeting of the National Woman Suffrage Association, an event marking the 40th Anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s rights convention in the United States ?  I spent twelve days around the Presidential election helping out with the Virginia Voter protection hot line. Hoping and praying to have a woman, who happened to be a woman of color, of Indian heritage, as Vice President, wanting to see nation back on right track, I had written and mailed hundreds of postcards over the preceding months.  Of course, Democracy cannot ever be taken for granted and all of us have to make a commitment to be engaged and keep it going.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Sketching the Pandemic Year 2020 Week 44

Great Blue Heron by the deck watercolor by Meera Rao

This Great Blue Heron Ardea  herodias is in our yard almost everyday! It is either busy fishing by the waters edge or staying in shade by the bushes grooming or ‘meditating.’  Scanning for the heron whenever we come out the back door is a habit now as we don’t want it to get spooked by us - though these days it accepts our presence in the yard :) This particular day it sat nonchalantly very close to the deck. 

Sketching the Pandemic Year 2020 Week 44  October 25-31 

Pictured on the facing page in the Smithsonian Engagement Calendar 2020 is ‘Xenacanthus, a freshwater spiny shark that lived in rivers and ponds during the Permian Period, 294-290 million years ago, preying on fishes, reptiles, amphibians and perhaps even large land carnivores that ventured close to the water.’ This Xenacanthus skull cast is on display with fossils of other aquatic creatures in the Hall of Fossils- Deep Time at the National Museum of Natural History. 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Sketching the Pandemic Year 2020 Week 43

Sketching the Pandemic Year 2020 Week 43 

I first came to know about Lincoln Park after our son and his family moved to DC. I liked the green space in the middle of the city block and was intrigued by the two statues in the park. But I have cringed every time I saw one of the the statues ‘The Emancipation Statue’ of Lincoln and a free slave at his feet. (Oops!  I just noticed my spelling mistake in sketch !) So it did not surprise me in October 18, 2020 when we were visiting, that there was a raging debate about replacing or removing the statue. As everywhere else there was a fence around the statue and notes were left on the fence by people expressing their opinions or supporting’Black Lives Matter.’ On our walk that day, I saw in  one of the old red fire and call boxes near the park, a prototype of replacement sculpture that showed Barack Obama and Lincoln, with miniature flags flanking the two presidents. Unfortunately,  I do not know who the artist is. 

Replace the Emancipation Memorial 

 When I went to sketch it later in the Smithsonian Engagement 2020, I was tickled to see the photograph for the week. ‘36 Takeouts, Groceries, and Restaurants in Wards 7 and 8 Washington DC, 2018’ by Susana Raab.  A photographer at the Anacostia Community Museum, Raab cataloged urban stores in the neighborhoods east of Anacostia River in Washington DC. Lincoln park is ward 6. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Sketching the Pandemic Year 2020 week 42.

Ripe Bitter-melon Pod with Red Seeds watercolor by Meera Rao 

Often, we miss picking vegetables from the plant because they are well hidden and we don’t see them till they are ripe and bright! That’s what happened with this bitter-melon (a delicacy!).  When we finally picked it off the plant, I placed it on a shiny stainless steel plate and decided to let it dry in the sun.  It soon burst open exposing the bright red seeds against bright yellow-orange fleshy insides. Of course, I had to sketch the beauty :) 

Sketching the Pandemic Year 2020 week 42 October 11-17

Nature’s color selections are amazing. The bitter-melon looks like it’s competing with the Scarlet Macaws (Ara macaw)on the opposite page in the Smithsonian Engagement Calendar 2020 for week 42. According to the write up on the page, the digital photo of the Macaws was taken by Sean Mattson, in July 2016 at Coiba National Park, Panama Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. They are nearly extinct in the mainland but ‘lead a boisterous life on Panama’s Coiba Island, the largest landmass in the Tropical Eastern Pacific. The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute runs a research station on the neighboring Coibita Island, providing scientists with access to fauna, flora, and coral reefs in this park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.’

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Sketching the Pandemic Year 2020 Week 41

Sketching the Pandemic Year 2020 week 41 October 4-10

The photo on the Smithsonian Engagement Calendar 2020 for the week of October 4 is a colored planographic print of Le Tricolore balloon1874 at the National Air and Space Museum. “Claude Jules Duruof (1841-1899) became one of the aeronaut-heroes of the siege of Paris when at 8 am on September 20, 1870, he flew a balloon out of the city. This lithograph, signed by Duruof, shows his balloon Le Tricolore. In 1873 he and his wife ascended in it amidst threatening weather. When the crowd questioned their courage, he remarked, ‘Let us show then that we are not afraid to die.’ The pair disappeared into the mist and were forced down and presumed lost. Their rescue by an English Rescue boat was much celebrated.”

These balloon travels though pale in comparison to the Monarch Butterfly migration which is a unique and amazing phenomenon. They do a two way migration like birds do. Some fly as far as 3000 miles to overwinter in Mexico. The eastern population of N.America’s monarchs overwinter in 11-12 mountain areas in the States of Mexico and Michoacán from October to late March. Monarchs can fly 50-100 miles a day and take up to two months to complete the journey.  As I watched the butterfly emerge from the delicate chrysalis, it’s wings so dainty, I marveled at the nature’s miracle. Slowly as the sun rays warmed its wings the monarch butterfly stretched and took a couple of hours to get ready to fly off  and continue its adventure! 
Just Emerged Monarch Butterfly by Meera Rao 


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