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.  

Monday, May 1, 2023

Friendship Blooms

Floral friendship Cards  watercolor By Meera Rao 

I painted these cards back in January during my trip to India/London. They were for my friends whose almost lifelong association has been a bright spot in my life. All four of us met and spent the day together once again in person after almost fifty years. These flowers were all in bloom in the garden in Bengaluru. I feel a part of me is always in my paintings and it felt just right to paint these for my friends as a token of my appreciation. 
The past few months, though sketching regularly, I have been remiss about  posting on my blog. The trip changed my routine and getting back to it is something I need to work on! I do post often on Instagram @artbymeera.  But I like posting on my blog as it makes me write down my thoughts.

Oleander watercolor by Meera Rao

Fuchsia watercolor by Meera Rao

Gazania watercolor by Meera Rao 

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Bidding Good Bye to 2022

Sunset Photography by Meera Rao 

“For last year’s words 
belong to last year’s language. 
And next year’s words 
await another voice.
 And to make an end 
is to make a beginning.” 

~T.S. Eliot~

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Star And Warrior

Brand New Baby Grand Daughter watercolor by Meera Rao

The baby is a year & half and finally I get around to post this little sketch from 2021!!  At least I did sketch it more than a year ago. I love it that this is being posted on the 14th Blog Anniversary! I wish I had a better image. I hope I will sketch many more as she grows up to fully realize her wonderful potential. 

Smithsonian Engagement Calendar Week 15 2021

The Kiowa Battle dress c 2000 by Vanessa Jennings (Kiowa/Pima) is "similar to those worn by female relatives of the warrior members of the Ton-Won-Gah, or the Kiowa Black Leggings Society. The yellow patches with the horse heads indicate a Vietnam War veteran from the US Army's first cavalry." I actually had not paid any attention to this photo on the opposite page in the upcycled sketchbook - the Smithsonian Engagement calendar 2021- while I sketched my grandbaby. It is one of the very few times I totally ignored the image in the engagement Calendar until it was time for me write about it in the blog :)
Star Magnolia from Japan At the national mall 

We planned the visit to DC to coincide the cherry blossoms in full glory. As we were walking around checking out various pockets of cherry blossoms around the National Mall area, I came across this marker on on of the star magnolia tree marking the gift from Japan many many years ago! 

Smithsonian Engagement Calendar Week 15 2022

"The strappy petals of Magnoliastellata's flowers give this tree its common name- the star magnolia. Endangered in its native Japanese range, it is commonly planted in gardens for its beauty." And I found this one near the Capitol grounds.   

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Cycle of Life


Studying Skull Anatomy drawing pen and ink by Meera Rao 

I did not realize that I had been away from my blog for more than a month. I have been busy though with various projects and sketching almost daily. Some of it I post on Instagram as @artbymeera. Please send me a request in Instagram if you would like to follow and check my posts :) This month I am participating in the Inktober challenge. 

I am still plugging away at my sketching the pandemic years project! It just happened that this particular week  in March/April, I was watching various videos and studying the anatomy of human skull to help me improve my portrait drawing and painting skills.  For this sketch, the reference was by Vladimir London.  It definitely pairs well with the mask pictured for the week in my Smithsonian Engagement Calendar 2022 upcycled to 'Sketching the Pandemic' art journal. It is 'Bo nun amuin' mask helmet c1960 from Baule people Cote d'Ivori, Africa. The caption reads:  "The mask, carved from a single block of wood, combines a forest buffalo's massive horns, a snake, and crocodile's menacing and toothy maw to represent a powerful bush spirit. Meant to be worn horizontally on the head, these masks were donned by costumed dancers while performing at the funerals of elder men. 
Smithsonian Engagement Calendar 2022 Week 14 March 27-April 2

Cherry Blossoms at Washington DC. ink and watercolor by Meera Rao

Every year we try to visit Washington DC to admire the cherry blossoms around the Tidal basin and all over the city. Last year  we were there during the peak blooming time. I was surprised to see the all the people who ventured out (including us) ! Most wore masks where there was a crowd and  enjoyed the outdoors. The profusion of delicate pink blossoms is a sight that is awe inspiring. 

Smithsonian Engagement Calendar 2021 Week 14 March 28-April 3

 'Little Hills in April' c1923 -Color aquatint etching on the opposite page of the Smithsonian Engagement Calendar 2021 week 14 is by Beatrice Levy.  The Smithsonian coordinated a 1932 exhibition of her art that included this artwork prepared using three color intaglio plate printing system. It is now in the collection of National Museum of American History. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

If Then She Can

#ifthenshecan sketch pit markers and ink by Meera Rao 

When we went for our walk in the National Mall in Washington DC, I came across a few orange life like statues scattered around Enid A Haupt Garden by the Smithsonian Castle. Turns out, #ifthenshecan-the exhibit “is the largest collection of statues of women ever assembled together, to be installed on and around the National Mall. The 120 life-size 3-D printed statues are of a diverse coalition of contemporary women STEM innovators and role models leading a variety of fields, from protecting wildlife, discovering galaxies, building YouTube platforms, to trying to cure cancer.” 

I had picked the two statues by the castle entrance to sketch because they were the first ones I came across! Yasmina Pressller PhD is a Soil Scientist and an Educator, and Jessie Rack PhD is an Ecologist, Environmental Educator and. Naturalist. These statues were  among the many in the Garden. Later when I got home I read that during the opening weekend earlier in the month, visitors were able to explore all the 120 statues placed in the castle, garden and AIB.  Starting March 7, select statues were then spread out to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and National Air and Space Museum along the National Mall through the end of the month.  #IfF/THEN is an initiative of the Luda Hill Philanthropies designed to activate a culture shift among young girls to open their eyes to STEM careers.

Smithsonian Engagement Calendar 2022 week13 March 20-26

I think it’s pretty interesting that the photo in the Smithsonian Engagement Calendar 2022 week 13 is from an Smithsonian traveling exhibit that explores how another minority in USA, Latinas and Latinos have used baseballs to chase their dreams, challenge prejudices and build communities.  The photo is of Filipe Alou baseball card 1963, produced by Topps Company Inc. 

Northern Mockingbird ink and graphite by Meera Rao 

We have a sunroom and glass doors, windows on the back of our house and have taken care to not have birds crash into it. Unfortunately once every few years a bird does fly into it the glass and gets stunned. This mockingbird stayed still for an hour or so on the deck and then slowly recovered and flew off. I watched the bird to make sure it was ok and sketched - as it is not often I get to see a live bird sit still for any length of time. 

Smithsonian Engagement Calendar 2021 week 13 March 21-27

The 54-48 million years old bird fossil pictured is on the left in the Calendar is of Primobucco mcgrewi from Green River Formations WY - now at the National Museum of Natural History. According to the information in the book  “The fossil from Cenozoic era is an extinct relative of modern Coraciidaerollers, so called for the intense rolling dives they perform to attract mates and intimidate threats to their territories. Unlike its descendants Primobucco mcgrewi had shorter wings that would have made such aerial feats impossible”

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Backyard Bird Bulletin

Camouflaged Baby Birds in the Nest watercolor and ink by Meera Rao

I have to catch up with my postings - I am a year and some months behind with posting the 2021 sketches and about 20 weeks late with 2022 sketches! But I am sketching :)  

I always get excited when the sketch of the week serendipitously matches the concept shown in the Smithsonian Engagement Calendar that I have repurposed for sketching the ongoing pandemic years!! For this week it is birds and nests.  It is not a surprise that spring days means I will find a nest or two tucked away in the trees and bushes in the yard.  I am not sure if the four baby birds I saw in this nest in the holly tree are Carolina wrens or Northern Mockingbirds - both were near by chirping away. So I am sure there was another nest near by as well.   I was being very careful not to disturb the chicks or alarm the parents but hearing the birds call insistently I guess that did not work!  

Smithsonian Engagement Calendar 2021 week 12 March 14-20 

The hand colored lithograph shown in the Calendar is by John Gould(1804-1881) from Smithsonian Libraries and Archives: Campylopterus delattrei  Plate 42 from A Monograph of the Trochilidae, or Family of  hummingbird, vol 2, 1849.
"The five volumes of Gould's 'A Monograph of Trochilidae feature breathtaking illustrations of hundreds of hummingbird species. Gould was a prolific British ornithologist known for identifying 'Darwin's finches.'  For this book Gould drew and lithographed all the plates with British printer Henry Constantine Richter (1821-1902)"

I hope some day I will be able to check out the lithographs in person! 

The Osprey Returns!  Ink and watercolor by Meera Rao 

I had marked on my calendar to check for Ospreys' arrival and they migrated up north a week earlier in March. They started work on their nest right away, finishing it within two days. They nest on the same post in the river every year.  They had to build the nest from scratch this year as the nest from past years had been blown away in one of the storms earlier in the year.  I was delighted to find the Osprey in its perch on the pine tree in yard where they regularly enjoy their meal of freshly caught still alive wriggly fish held securely in the claws.  (Unfortunately, we lost that tree couple of weeks ago in a storm and now his/her new perch can't be seen from my kitchen window.) 

Smithsonian Engagement Calendar 2022 week 12 March 13-19 

The Red eyed tree frog Agalychnis callidryas , digital photograph by Steve Paton,  November 2019 is from the collection of Republic of Panama Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.  "Red-eyed tree frogs distract predators by flashing their bright red eyes, orange webbed feet, and blue and yellow racing stripes. whether they survive habitat destruction is another story, one in which Smithsonian research plays a leading role."  I doubt though that the fish the osprey catch get any kind of warning signs before they are scooped up!

Saturday, July 16, 2022

'Girl is Not a 4 letter Word'


Ukrainian Soldier with blue and yellow sunflower in her hair

sketch by Meera Rao from a twitter photo

Smithsonian Engagement Calendar Week of March 6-12 2022 Week 11

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Ukrainian Ministry of  Foreign Affairs noted on twitter that more than 15%of the regular Ukrainian Army are women. Girl is not a 4 letter word!!! How true - these women are taking their unique feminine qualities to a tough fight. Who knew then there is going to be so much destruction and blood shed ? I pray for a peaceful resolution for Ukraine and for the rest of the world.  

The skateboard is a prototype designed by Cindy whitehead in 2013. "Professional skater Cindy Whitehead designed this skateboard with just the right blend of edginess and bling, showcasing her original artwork as the signature product for her 'Girl is not a 4 letter word'  brand. Geared toward women and girls, her products were among the first from a woman-owned company to offer inclusion in the male-dominated sport of skateboarding."

Phyllis Wheatley pencil drawing -copy by Meera Rao 

Smithsonian Engagement Calendar Week of March 7-13 2021 Week 11

When I saw the photo of 'Poems of Phyllis Wheatley'  I realized I had never read any of her poems and knew very little about her. So I went googling her and her poetry. This is probably the first time, my entry in the Smithsonian Engagement Calendar is not by chance but by design. I also found a drawing of her done 50 years after her death at the National Museum of African American History and Culture- I used that sketch as my reference wondering the whole time if it was really her! The Poems of Phyllis Wheatley is from 1909 and is displayed in the museum. "In 1773, Wheatley became the first African American to publish a volume of poetry, which she did while enslaved in Boston. A version of the poet's portrait by enslaved artist Scipio Morehead(active 1770s) is depicted on the cover of this 1909 edition of her poems."

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