Monday, February 5, 2024

Recording Memories

Me And First Born Pen and ink by Meera Rao

Sometimes I wonder what’s the point of sketching and then recording it in the blog.  Doing the covid diaries, I have recorded moments that looking back now, I could have easily forgotten and dug up memories that brought me joy. Now publishing in the blog after two and three years later brings some amazement to me!   This was a memory from years ago and yet now fresh - and refreshed again ! 

Week 20 Smithsonian Engagement Calendar Pandemic journal 2021 

The photo in the Smithsonian Engagement calendar 2021, upcycled to pandemic diary/journal 2nd year in a row, is by Elinor Cahn: East Baltimore Documentary Survey Project c.1975Gelatin silver print Smithsonian American Art Museum.  Cahn was one of the several photographers involved in the National Endowment for the Arts 1978 East Baltimore Documentary Survey Project, which aimed to capture the realities of life in a multiethnic community. 

Week 20 Smithsonian Engagement Calendar Pandemic journal 2022

 My sketch for this week is of the mural Pool House Blues by Anickan Udofias at the William H  Ramsey Aquatic center by the Eastern Market at DC.  I have learned a lot about various artists and history, science, archeology etc. through the photographs in the Smithsonian Engagement Calendar and also by the art I saw in and around various places I visited during those days.  The poster shown in the calendar photograph is for Richard Norman’s 1922 movie.  The movie featured “Bill Pickett(1870-1932), a famous cowboy and a rodeo performer of African and Native American descent.  Pickett created the technique of bulldogging( also known as steer wrestling) featured in the film. The film itself is presumed lost, as only fragments have been found”. 

Sketch of the mural ‘Pool House Blues by Anickan Udofias’
Sketch by Meera Rao 

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Birdbath Adventures

Birdbath Silhouette photography by Meera Rao

We had to take down our birdfeeders a few years ago. During Covid pandemic stay home days we installed a simple bird bath, It has given us so much pleasure ! Some birds fly in and out taking quick sips of water.  Red winged black birds love to dip and shake vigorously. Mourning doves like to linger in small groups. Chickadees and Cardinals are always busy and don't stay long. This year January has been very cold and the water often freezes. I started to heat water indoors in my kitchen and then pour hot water to loosen and thaw the frozen water. I then check to make sure water is not hot. Usually in a matter of minutes the birds seem to notice and happily visit to sip! This photo was taken the first time I did it this year when the I saw the steam rising and a silhouetted bird against the early light from the sunrise.

Its a fine morning
oh the glorious sunrise
and water for birds

~haiku by Meera Rao~

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Manholes and Memories

Smithsonian Emgagement Calendar sketching the pandemic 2021 week 19 May 2-8 

Manhole Mandalas photocopy of miniature paintings from  accordion album sketchbook

The wonderful side benefit of very late postings from my 2nd and 3rd year of sketching the pandemic days is that it reminds me things I have done and places I have visited that I almost have forgotten about !!  That weekend 2021 I was inspired to pull together different manhole covers from places I had visited ( yes, I notice interesting manhole covers wherever I visit !) I sketched and painted about 20 in a mini Japanese accordion sketchbook.   I photocopied one side and put it in my Smithsonian Engagement Calendar up-cycled to my sketchbook ! Uncannily, it paired  well with Alexandra Agudelo’s ‘Molly bowl’. The bowl embodies her ‘use of pre Colombian metal working techniques of batado in which a sheet of silver is placed between two hard surfaces and struck with a hammer in order to manipulate the material without welding’. For her ‘They evoke vessels used in ancestral rituals.’ 

National Museum of the Marine corps ink and watercolor  2022 week May 1-7 

In 2022, on May 2nd we visited the National Museum of Marine corps in Quantico, Va. We pass it all the time on our trips to and back from Washington DC but never did take that exit. The magnificent building evokes the scene of soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima. An exhibition of 50 huge and absolutely stunning watercolors by the artist Mary Whyte of ‘We the people:Portraits of Veterans in America’ drew us to finally take the exit from the highway.  It was a memorable exhibit by an artist I had always admired. 

Smithsonian Engagement Calendar Pandemic year 2022 sketchbook 

The painting the Smithsonian Engagement Calendar is by Elmer Wachtel of California spring landscape c. 1920. 

Monday, December 18, 2023

Conservation, Traditons And Imagination

Smithsonian Engagement Calendar week 18 2021, April 25-May 1

Up a tree  pen &ink and watercolor by Meera Rao

When your grandchild climbs trees and has special adventures the same week that 'the Panda on a tree' photo  (by Conner Mallon 2019) is in my upcycled Smithsonian Engagement Calendar 2021, - where I had been  chronicling  the second year of pandemic memories  - its a special feeling :)  As cute as the panda is, it is clear who in my eyes is the cuter one.  The panda was at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute - on loan from China- as an ambassador for conservation. 

At the Hirshhorn Museum Yayoi Kasuma exhibit ink and Meera Rao 

Smithsonian Engagement Calendar week 18 2022, April 24- May 3

A year later, as seen in my sketch for the same week 18 in my third year of sketching the pandemic year memories -in the Smithsonian Engagement Calendar 2022, we were still wearing the masks when in crowded interiors even after having vaccinated and boosted !  The Kasuma exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC was psychedelic with colors, dots, lights and mirrors!  

The photo for week 18 in the Smithsonian Engagement Calendar 2022 is of a piece by Jiyoung Chun's Joomechi art  "Whisper Romance_His Tear'" :  "Joomechi is a unique Korean traditional handmade paper technique that uses only hanji (Korean Mulberry paper),water and the artists hands. It creates  strong, textural surfaces that sometimes appear printed. This work is about the love God showed humans by sacrificing his only son on the cross."  

Both artists reach into their imagination to produce unique works! And I keep dipping into all the sketches and paintings that are tucked in my sketchbooks, and studio :) 

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Doing Our Part

Black Gold  ink and watercolor by Meera Rao

Smithsonian Engagement Calendar Week 17 2022

The COP28 going on in UAE has been in the news these past few days and it is by chance that my long delayed posts on earth day found an opportune time to see the light of the day! We do try to practice 'reduce, reuse and recycle'  as the playful illustration in the commemorative poster in poster for Earth Day in New York  April 22 1990 shows. My husband is always very proud and happy to use the 'black gold' from our compost bin in our garden. All the vegetable and plant waste from my kitchen and garden go to the bin to be composted-

 something we have done for many years now.  Serendipitously it  was also the week a batch was ready for the garden and I was happy to record it in my upcycled sketchbook : the Smithsonian Engagement calendar that became my covid diary !

The caption for the calendar photo credits Seymore Chwast for the poster which is now housed in Cooper Hewitt Design Museum.   Inscribed in her tablet are the words "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" 

Iris Blooming  pen & ink  and watercolor by Meera Rao 

Smithsonian Engagement Calendar Week 17 2021

Last week for the first time we went into the Ripley Building of the Smithsonian Museums and saw a print of the painting of Julie E Packard by Hope Gangloff hanging in the hallway.  I recognized the painting from using the 'Smithsonian engagement Calendar 2021' as my upcycled covid diary :) It reminded me that I was behind in my blogging and posting even though I have been busy painting and sketching regularly. 

 The write up in the calendar notes :" Julie Packard (b 1952) has dedicated her career to preserving ocean life. In 1984, she helped found the world -renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium."  This portrait is hanging in the National Portrait Gallery.  

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

End of Something is the Beginning of Something Else


Ganesha  Mixed Media by Meera Rao

Ganesha  Mixed Media 2x2x3/4" by Meera Rao

I have been experimenting with using empty mint boxes, used up metro cards etc. in my art explorations.  Here I upcycled an empty Trader Joe's mint box into a travel altar with the image of God Ganesha using watercolor, color pens, washi tape(for the sides). The challenge was to draw a 2x2" miniature Ganesha to fit in the box and that required a few tries! In the end it was a wonderful feeling to recycle the box into a meaningful work of art. As I was starting the project, I was reminded of a quote by Fred Rogers of Children's  Educational TV shows : 

"Often when you think you are at the end of something,
You are at the beginning of something else " 

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

VWS Signature Membership

The blog anniversary came around again on the 17th of this month - An anniversary almost forgotten. I am thankful for 16 years of blogging. But unfortunately, this year has not been conducive for posting due to sundry reasons. Meanwhile the big news is that I was awarded the signature membership to Virginia Watercolor society at the VWS Annual show in Williamsburg Contemporary Art Center. 

I ponder, draw, paint
brush color on wet paper
and a lily blooms
~Meera Rao~

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Introspection and New Beginnings

One Vain Line pencil by Meera Rao

These sketches and photos are from my Smithsonian Engagement Calendar upcycled to pandemic diary year 2 (2021) and year 3(2022). I am way behind in posting and now determined to pick up and continue!   

 'One Vain Line'  is a self portrait sketch done in one continuous line for a challenge in 2020 which then was in a show at the Charles Taylor Visual Arts Center in Hampton.  I decided to frame it with the torn edge of page showing.  That was the week I was assembling the matt and the frame for the show. I took the above photo to check and see if framing it like that will work - I think it does :)  For the art journal I did a reduced size photocopy of the original sketch and glued it to the page.

Smithsonian Engagement Calendar Week 16, 2022
April 10-16 2022

The photo in the Smithsonian Engagement Calendar 2022 is "Guardian" 1990 Silver Gelatin print by Earlie Hudnall Jr. Its from Smithsonian American Art Museum.  "In 'the Guardian' a father enfolds his young daughter as they stand along a street reflected in the mirrored lenses of his glasses. The American flag tucked behind his ear suggests that in addition to warmth and affection, he is passing on a sense of community and patriotic pride."

'Visu kani"  in watercolor, ink  and silver pen By Meera Rao 

April 14th is 'Visu' celebration of the start of the 'New year' in many communities in India that follow the solar calendar.  A 'kani' is assembled in the puja room near the alter, the night before with seasonal fruits and vegetables, fresh flowers on a plate with dry uncooked rice and a mirror in the middle that is decorated with jewelry. First thing on the morning of Visu after waking up, we light the lamps and look at our own face surrounded by the abundance from nature. This is to symbolize the wealth, prosperity and health we wish upon our selves in the coming year. Looking at our face in the mirror surrounded by the fruits, flowers, vegetables and jewelry is also a reminder that we are all part of the same nature and are one with the universe.  It is also to affirm that we need to be good stewards of the nature to prosper.    

Smithsonian Engagement Calendar Week 16 2021
April 11-17, 2021

The work on the opposite side is the page 'Bound Console' is by Rachael David- from the Smithsonian Craft Show.  

I am hoping this post will reset a new beginning for my routines and I get back to blogging regularly !

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Eco Art Art Box : Celebrations

Sri Rama-Sita Kalyana by Meera Rao 

I made this box as a 50th Wedding anniversary gift recycling an empty mouth freshener mint box :)  I used watercolors, micron pen,  markers and Pitt pens to draw and decorate the Sri Rama Sita Kalyana (wedding) portrait.  I used different Japanese washi tape with gold accents for front and side covers as it was for a golden wedding anniversary! Back cover was a simpler Japanese washi tape. It was a challenging yet fun project that I did past December but forgot to post it. 

Eco Art Box Front Cover

Eco Art Box Side

Eco Art Box Back Cover

I found this beautiful quote on love said to be from Ramayana. But I could not find the original. I will grateful if anyone can enlighten me about it and please put it in the comments. 

 Blow O Wind, to where my loved one is.
Touch him and come touch me soon.
I'll feel his gentle touch through you 
and meet his beauty in the moon.
These things are much for the one who loves.
One can live by them alone:
that he and I breathe the same air
and the Earth we tread is one.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Always Watchful

Watchful watercolor by Meera Rao


'Watchful' is coming back home after four months gracing the wall at the Hill Center Galleries at the Old Naval Hospital in Washington DC.  This was a direct watercolor painting with no sketch done ahead of the time. I was pleased to be able to paint the likeness without a sketch :)  Once again in June will be the month long challenge on direct watercolor painting! Hope to participate and sharpen my skills. I also force myself to paint larger than in my usual small sketchbook. I can only fit a small sketch book in my handbag.  

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