Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Sketching and Watching

Wright Brothers National Memorial,  Kitty Hawk, NC  watercolor 5.5x16.50" by Meera Rao 

Almost a month ago, we went to Kitty Hawk to Wright Brother's Memorial National Park to see the Eclipse.  It was a memorable experience. It was awe inspiring to check out the sun with the eclipse glasses. I also took along my colander and caught the eclipse through its holes.

Colander Eclipse Shadows  Photo By Meera Rao

I also made a pin hole camera with a box and poked a lot of different sized holes to look at the eclipse.  Where we were it was only 90% eclipse and we did not experience the darkness- only the temperatures dipped and it felt like cool evening !

Eclipse thru pinhole camera Photo by Meera Rao 

While I was waiting for the eclipse to start,  I sketched and painted the Wright Memorial. I also took some artistic license and moved their building and the markers closer to the Hill just so I could fit them in the paper :) If I had thought about it and really planned it right I could have sketched the memorial a bit more to the left. But adding the other buildings and  markers was an afterthought. It took me about an hour to sketch and paint. 

Wright Brothers National memorial, pen and watercolor  5.5x16.50"

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Eteched in Color

2017 India Japanese Album Sketchbook By Meera Rao

Temple Domes 2017 India Japanese Album Sketchbook By Meera Rao 

Flower Vendor and keeper of chappals 2017 India Japanese Album Sketchbook By Meera Rao 

Mysuru Nandi 2017 India Japanese Album Sketchbook By Meera Rao 

Baggage 2017 India Japanese Album Sketchbook By Meera Rao

Passing Time 2017 India Japanese Album Sketchbook By Meera Rao

The Japanese Style USKbook Sennelier Multimedia 340 (6x4" opening to 6x39") is where I sketched and painted vignettes of my trip to India earlier in February.  I was trying to have a theme but it slipped my mind while sketching the last four panels. It just happened that I used two panels per subject in this book. I sketched them during my trip but applied the watercolors later. 

I started with the view from balcony of my brother's house.  The temple is right across the road. The colorful Temple Domes though complicated were fun to sketch but hard to paint.  I had used two panels to sketch. Unfortunately while painting, the wash settled on the crease between the panel. The paper tore along the fold so I had to resort to clear tape to hold it together.  I also reinforced the back og the crease. It was my first time using this particular brand of sketchbook and the detailed sketch was not the right one to get used to the paper.  But I think I captured the colorful busy-ness of the domes! 

Devotees often buy coconut, flowers and fruits as offering to the Deity when they visit the temples. The vendors line up the entrance to the temple and sell small baskets filled with bananas, fruits and flowers. Many vendors also have a side-business of keeping an eye on devotees' footwares for a fee as visitors are not allowed to wear their shoes and 'chappals'  inside the temple. Just leaving them outside without supervision is not a good idea!

This massive Nandi (bull) carved out of a single stone, is 15' in height and 24' wide. It sits on the way to the Chamundi Temple which is on top of the Chamundi Hill in Mysuru, Karnataka. We were visiting the day before a major festival and there was scaffolding around to assist in decorating the statue with flowers, sandlewood paste and red Kumkum.  

The last four panels depict railway platform scenes. I came across the lady sitting crosslegged surrounded by boxes and bags. Perhaps she was moving to another city!  Passing time while waiting for the train, the man was sitting in the shadow of a huge tree that was left undisturbed in the middle of the platform! The three kids were climbing a pole for a better look at whatever grabbed their interest.  I decided to leave the people unpainted to show that the scene remained the same while the players the changed  :)  

The Japanese Style USKbook Sennelier Multimedia 340 (6x4" opening to 6x39"  India 2017.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Paintings and Sketches Show and Tell

Week3 sketches India 2017

Above is the third of my sketch pages from my trip to India earlier in Feb.  These were the sketches I was doing for my grandchildren :) I have couple of more pages of sketches and a Japanese style sketchbook that I am yet to scan - I just forgot once returned and plunged into my daily life here ! 

Poquoson Library artist of the Month Aug 2017

Poquoson Library artist of the Month Aug 2017

Poquoson Library artist of the Month Aug 2017

This year's collection were a surprise to me too as I put together the show for our local library.  I discovered the past year  I experimented with mixed media, collage and photography :) 

Resting Photography by Meera Rao

Resting, my photograph taken in India ,  just  returned home  after being a part of the show "Artist as Photographer" at Charles Taylor Art  Center in Hampton, Va. 

Finally, today is the opening of a group show at Velocity in Washington D.C. where "Dreamer" (shown on the flyer) and "Guest" will share the wall space :) 

Monday, July 31, 2017

A Tree for Life

Week 2 India 2017  sketches by Meera Rao

It was an exercise in seeing things with fresh eyes as I tried to think of things that my grandchildren might find interesting and different.  I note this as week 2 - but halfway through week-, I was sketching on different pages  trying for some organization.  So this page has mostly things coconut :) - the tree in the front yard and various things I encountered in daily life. We mainly know coconut used in cooking as coconut milk, coconut water, and coconut oil but coconut tree is a goldmine -every part of the tree is versatile and useful -- roots used as dyes,  leaves woven and used as thatching and awnings,  for brooms, trunks for buildings, in parquet flooring, coir from husks for ropes, mats; shells for various implements, as kindling, in arts and crafts etc etc. I sketched only a small fraction of those things.  

Friday, June 30, 2017

To Travel Is To Discover

Travel Art journal Week 1 Feb 2017  12x16"  by Meera Rao

These are sketches from my trip to India in February -- I did these in brushpens, ink and watercolor for my grandkids and emailed the jpegs every few days. These sketches were just little vignettes of each day that I thought they might enjoy. I also kept another small Japanese accordian sketchbook. 

Listening to the news of travel ban decision from Supreme court, I suddenly remembered my sketches - that we were at Washington DC Dulles International Airport departing on our long planned trip to India on that day of the initial Travel Ban Executive Order. We were anxious, so we drove to the airport well in advance of the departure time and fortunately had a smooth flight out.  The departure terminals only had people traveling out but there were lots of loud demonstrators by the arrival gates protesting the ban and many brave volunteers who were there to offer help for the stranded passengers. After our return I got busy and the sketch books got put away.  Looking back, these sketches were my way of dealing with the anxiety, uncertainty and excitement of travel.

To travel is to discover everyone is wrong about other countries.
-Aldous Huxley 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

An Act of Faith

Library of Congress Washington DC  sketch by Meera Rao

“A library implies an act of faith which generations, still in darkness hid, sign in their night in witness of the dawn."
~Victor Hugo~

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Tracks and Lines

Tracks and Lines Near Union Station DC  pen & watercolor 8x5"  by Meera Rao

I don't know what this building is. I see it as the train pulls out of Union station DC on my trips to NYC. Everything about the building - the color, the structure, the look and all the wires crisscrossing was just the invitation for me to sketch and paint it.  

There are so many scenes I see in passing on my trips that I just to itch to sketch - but most of them pass by too fast for me to photograph, let alone sketch.  What do artists do in situations like that? Resort to imagination?  Make a special trip by foot or car back to those places leisurely and sketch? Add one more to my stories about one that got away?  I was finally able to take a few blurry photos of this building as the train sped past it and used those, my mental notes and impressions to sketch and paint.  Last week when I passed it again by train I was pleased - I had captured the scene to my satisfaction :) 

I came across an article in Artists Network  on Sketching On The Go by Bill Silvers with this tip that I really like :
"Try sketching while traveling in a car. My favorite time to sketch is while traveling in a car. As my wife drives, we pass a house. The outer shape is quickly noted. We drive on?there's a group of trees. I place those trees behind the house. Look at that?a differently shaped building. I place it so that the first one overlaps the second. There, a telephone pole; a car, etc. As object is added to object, I try to get them in an interesting overlap. Working directly in watercolor may be impossible during a car ride, but when I get home, I take out my sketchbook and lay in the colors and tones as I remember them. If it doesn?t work, I can change it or do the sketch over. After all, the beauty of the sketch is it's only a sketch!"

Do you have any tricks and tips for sketching on the go? Please do share them in comments below - I am eager for more ideas !

Monday, May 1, 2017

Distance From Origin

A Stone of Hope watercolor and Ink 5x8 by Meera Rao

It is funny how I have inventory anxiety and then feel pangs of separation as I let go a painting that finds a new home!  I am a jumble of emotions feeling grateful and excited that someone else liked the painting enough to want it and a twinge of apprehension that I might never see it again :) Last month, A Stone of Hope, a sketch of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial at Washington DC  was auctioned off at a fundraiser for my granddaughter's school PTA.  I am grateful to be able to give back to the community in my own small way. 

Distance From Origin  colorpencils  by Meera Rao

I was honored to be invited by Katherine Thomas, an artist friend by way of the cyber world, to participate in doing a page in the Sketchbook Project "Distance From Origin"  via the Brooklyn Art Library. The sketchbook had already traveled to :Ohio, USA; Kent, England; Colorado, USA; and Nasum, Sweden.  I used color pencils to sketch a view of the NASA Langley (Lunar)Landing Impact Structure from my backyard.  It was my interpretation of the theme 'Distance From Origin' -man exploring the universe, the light and heat from Distant Sun burning up the early morning fog. And all this captured by me, who was of course quite a distance from my origins :) I wished the sketchbook happy travels and sent it back. Check out talented Katherine Thomas's FaceBook page and also the special page she created for the project 'Distance from Origin' to see where in the world that sketchbook traveling to!  

Altered States TAA Portfolio show Mixed Media By Meera Rao

My mixed media paintings on photographs have been juried into the TAA Portfolio show at the Suffolk Art Gallery in Virginia.  The theme of my portfolio is "Altered States."  The  show will be up from April 29-June 4.  At the opening, I was pleasantly surprised to see that two paintings already had red dots :) My wish for all my paintings is for them to give happiness and pleasure from whatever walls they grace ! 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Fingers At Play

Sitar Artist sketch by Meera Rao 3.5x5.5

Tabla Artist sketch by Meera Rao 3.5x5.5

A milestone for me yesterday. I loved watching, listening and sketching the two artists live at a concert.  I am really pleased with the results. I used just pencil and no eraser- I knew I had two hours to practice my sketching! The lighting was a bit of a challenge- but I did not mind. These two are the last and the best of 2-3 sketches I tried of each musician. The hands were the hardest as they were flying ! I tried multiple sketches of hands only before I could get them somewhat ok. I wanted to capture the joy and intensity I saw in the artists -I think I managed that along with the likeness :) The wonderful concert by Kushal Das and Ramdas Pulsule so nourished my soul! They really played their heart out. 

Sitar Artist sketch by Meera Rao 3.5x5.5 graphite
Tabla Artist sketch by Meera Rao 3.5x5.5 graphite

Thursday, March 16, 2017


Day 1-sketches 1-7/100 by Meera Rao

I took up the challenge #Oneweek100sketches2017 organized by Marc Taro Holmes  who blogs as 'citizensketcher' and Liz Steel.  Sketches 1-32 were from my own photographs - photos that I wanted to paint and saw this as an opportunity to practice sketching before I attempted to paint them.  I could not go out and sketch people live because of lots of other things I was busy with.  These sketches were breaks I was taking from doing those other things - mostly unpacking and getting things in order after a long trip to India.  The sketching also was an opportunity for me to put my feet up and rest the slowly healing ankles from a bad fall back in October of last year!!! I also felt safe working in the privacy of my home while working on improving people sketching skills. 

Day 1-sketches 8-14/100 by Meera Rao

Day 2-sketches 15-23/100 by Meera Rao
These 9 sketches were of scenes that I had seen during my trips to India begging to be sketched! I encountered them during my daily errands and had not yet sketched them out.  

Day 2-sketches 24-32/100 by Meera Rao
Lots of people in India take public transportation --buses mainly and can be seen waiting at the bus-stand. Bus stops are like airports these days where passengers are mostly waiting, some people watching or chatting or on their digital devices :)  

Day 3-sketches 33-63/100 by Meera Rao

On this day, I received a poster in the mail from the UN Refugee agency. I was reminded of the devastation facing so many families around the world and the chances they take for a chance at safer, better life. This particular boat load had only men filled to capacity. I know for sure there are other boats filled with women and children making similar perilous journeys. Sketching them was emotionally draining making me wonder what it was like to be fleeing like that! And I stopped at 100 unable to sketch the rest of the people in the boat.

Day 4&5-sketches 64-100/100 by Meera Rao

Boat People 2-Page spread by Meera Rao

I only sketched using a #4B pencil.  I had planned on using watercolor but liked the sketches as they were. I did not time myself but did not spend more than 45 minutes at a time each day. My sketch book was 12x16" and the two page spread was 12x33" .  I am pleased with the sketches and felt sure of my lines and marks the more I drew.  I quickly learned less is more! My goal was to draw 100 people, draw without overthinking every line like I seem to do while I sketch people. I wanted to work on getting the proportions and perspectives correct, and draw people in all different angles, sitting, standing, walking, crawling, front, back and sides :) 

This was a challenge I really relished by the time I was done with 100 people! 

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