Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

May a year full of splendor unfold for you and your family!

And on a lighter note- which one are you? - " An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves " -Bill Vaughan.

Butterfly  watercolors and color pencils  12 x10 1/2 "

Monday, December 29, 2008


This past weekend we went to Washington DC to visit the Smithsonian Arthur Sackler Gallery's special exhibit "Garden and Cosmos: The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur" The 60 newly discovered 17th century paintings are from the collection of the royal court of  Mewar-Jodhpur.  They were commissioned and completed for the various Maharajas. The paintings are surprisingly large and tackle the ideas of cosmos especially the challenging concept of 'Brahman.' Not much is known about the artists but scholars have discovered they were hindus as well as muslims. The details and colors are exquisite and the difficult concepts are handled with care and imagination. 

I painted  Illusions  in watercolors and color pencils (size 11 x 14") a few years ago soon after I started listening to lectures on Vedanta, Bhagavad   Gita and Upanishads at the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam.  I was attempting to illustrate the often given example : confusing  snake and rope-  as a way of explaining the illusionary world we live in.  I used one of the photographs of a snake charmer from our various trips to India as a reference.  

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Letting Go

I am always anxious when I am working on portraits. Trying to capture at least a small part of the essence of a person on paper is a daunting task. Again and again I come across the advice :Let go - enjoy the journey and don't worry about the outcome. If only it was easy to follow!

Just today I finished reading a wonderful book of essays "Learning from the heart- Lessons of living, loving and listening " by Daniel Goltlieb. He expesses at one point "Personally, what I want is 'not to want' ." I know the feeling. What makes it powerful is that Gottlieb "happens to be a quadriplegic". -as the blurb explains - "which makes him somewhat of an expert in self-acceptance. And while he says his condition has taught him to listen, learn and care deeply, one senses Gottlieb is a born mensch and a man with a big heart. Warm, wise, compassionate, humble and often funny, he displays not a shred of self-pity or false modesty. Best of all, his message has the unmistakable ring of truth to it: love rather than change yourself or anyone else. “Trying to change others is about intolerance, which is at the core of so much enmity. We cannot find peace unless we are trying to help others find peace also.” I highly recommend this book. I loved the way he explores and reflects on what it means to be human. Its Bhagavd Gita and Buddhist philosophy in action and very timely advice.

Lost in Notes II is done in color pencils on black paper. Its a painting of a street musician that I really enjoyed listening to in Seattle, Washington on a summer night. I painted it a few years ago and later gave it away as a gift.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


 These ducks along with some geese are a familiar sight by the trail I go walking regularly.  They swim around  the lake so gracefully and yet you know they are kicking away underwater.  The ducks  project such peace and harmony as they go about their daily business. Watching them eases my stress, calms my anxiety and soothes my emotional turbulence.  The ducks like the lotus stay dry and the water washes off its feathers. I guess we just have to look around and there is lesson to learn everyday. 
'Website' is done in graphite and color pencils(size 14 x16").

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Today I watched a documentary "Dalai Lama Renaissance." Forty of the West's leading, innovative thinkers in their fields met at Dalai Lama's residence in Dharmashala in Northern India to discusss the world's problems and to see how they could solve them. What happened there was a transformation - most notably of their egos. Dalai Lama's simple message was that people all over the world only want happiness and 'secular ethics' together with compassion is the way to go. Thats a journey everyone was invited to take to bring about greater consciousness and understanding. 

Lotus - in Hinduism and Buddhism represents beauty and non -attachment. It grows in mud but floats on the water and remains unaffected by either the wetness or the mud. We are urged to live in this world without attachment to our surroundings. Lotus is also a symbol for the centers of consciousness -chakras - in the body.  I painted Lotus in watercolors on masa paper as a part of the series of paintings I created for my November show on India and on Mandalas.  I noticed that I had missed including it in the slide show on my earlier entry - so here it is :) 

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

December Gifts!

Its amazing to see some flowers still blooming in December -especially after a hard frost.   We have a bunch of  purple and yellow pansies, white snapdragons, red camellias and even a few white and pink roses lending color to the winter landscape in our backyard while everything else is brown or bare. I find it truly inspiring to see such resiliency and beauty in these harsh cold winter months.
 The Snapdragons were painted a while ago in watercolors - freehand with no sketching. 

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Ojibwa Indians believe that a dream catcher changes a person's dreams.  There must be some truth in that. Since painting the  Crab Pot Dream Catcher, I have had a deep desire to not only paint more but to also to share my art.  Here I am a few months later with my blog :) .  The view through the crab pot  was a challenge to paint -rust and all.  I took plenty of artistic liberties and am pleased with the results. 
Crab Pot Dream Catcher, watercolor  18 x 14 1/2"

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Going to Temple is a daily ritual for many in India. You can see the gopuram of the temple round the corner in most neighborhoods and if you don't have the time to go inside and offer a prayer, its not a problem. Often you see cars and bikes stop in front of the temple gates just for second or two and after quick bowing of the head, they scoot off to their daily chores. I did that fairly regularly during my college days :).

For the past year I have had the ritual of visiting a special website  and I start my day by giving rice. Actually  I test my vocabulary or art knowledge and for every correct answer I click on, they donate 20 grains of rice to the UN World Food Program. It feels pretty close to visiting a temple - I feel blessed to be able to share in a small way every day.
Temple is done in watercolors and color pencils on masa paper.  15x 11"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Daily Walk

I love to go on walks and I try put at least ten thousand steps on my pedometer everyday.  Where I live its a celebration when it snows and that happens only a few times each winter. I don't know if I could walk outside on a regular basis like this lady was doing at Grant Park, Chicago. The red canopy on the stroller, the little dog,  bare trees, white snow and long shadows made a wonderful winter scene. This was a fast, loose painting with no sketching. 
Daily Walk  - in watercolor on masa paper.  8x10"  

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mix and Match

This is a mixed media piece. I used collage, acrylics, watercolors and crayons and made up things as I went along. size: 11x13"  Even though I mix watercolors, color pencils and graphite very regularly, and love the effect of crayons with watercolors, adding collage and mixing them all up was a good experiment for me. I had to stop and let things dry, and settle every so often so was able to tackle laundry and cleaning in between! 

I am grateful that I am able to upload images again --never did find out why it refused earlier. Another mystery to add spice to my life  :). 


 Past two days I have spent more time trying to figure out why my images are not uploading than on my paintings.  Its been frustrating because its been next to impossible to reach blogger help.  Anyone  know what error message bX-rezyks means? An art blog without pictures is just sad.  Hope to be back soon. 

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Honoring Life

Above is a photograph I took at the Spertus museum in Chicago. The museum showcases Jewish culture, heritage etc. As I walked through the corridors of the various museums this week, I realized the issue of  'Ethics' looms large in the museum world.  But then I read about the disappearing Buddhas at Taxila Pakistan, through a friend. Now, I wonder how do we all go about honoring the lives, the cultures and heritages the world over and not just in museums.       

Friday, December 5, 2008

Highlights from the Art Institute

Two  lions stand guard at the steps of the Art Institute of Chicago. I loved the way the morning sun was shining on one of the statues. 
 I spent my last day in Chicago exploring a small part of their vast collection.  Special exhibition on Henri Cartier-Bresson and the Art and Photography of Paris was celebrating the centenary of the birth of the famous photographer.   Drawn to Drawings is a peek into the sketch books and preparatory drawings of Italian artists of Renaissance and Baroque periods. I also was able to see an hourlong  performance  Voices- what artists have to say.  Salvodore Dali was portrayed by an actor - offering insight into his art through readings from Dali's  letters, journals, documents etc..  along with the a slide show of his art.  I think on the whole, it was worth putting up with the famous bitter cold and the gusty winds of Chicago. 

Beauty and Wonder

Another day in the City and my senses are in a state of surrender..  The beauty of the snow flurries, reflections in the puddles, the  science and intelligence in the CT, MRI images of the inside of the body at RSNA, dancing waters at the McCormick Place, Space-Time show on the elegance and wisdom of the Universe  at the Adler Planetarium, feast for the eyes, tongue and stomach at the Green Zebra with 'old' friends all attest to the fact that we are all spiritual beings in a material world and the whole of life is art.  I feel totally overwhelmed, utterly inadequate, deeply satisfied and completely spiritual.  I sound sappy but I hope I can hold on to this feeling of wonder for a while. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Stark Beauty

The dark long shadows are so beautiful on the sparkling white snow.  I walked across the road to the Grant Park and spent a good part of the morning trying to capture the beautiful shapes. Above is one of my attempts. 
Chicago is also famous for public art -  Agora   by Magdalena Abakanowicz is a sight to see and I trekked on the snow to take a few more photographs.   By then, having been gloveless for a while for the sake of art, I had to escape from the cold! I spent the rest of the day at Spertus Museum. The museum building is unique and has won awards for its architecture. They had a special commisioned art Consider by Ranbir Kaleka. Its a very untraditional and hauntingly beautiful 'video painting' memorial on the holocaust.  On their changing gallery Twisted Into Recognition Cliches of Jews and Others explores the ways images, expressions and objects depict stereotypes. Its a multimedia exhibit by various artists - on the whole very powerful.  Now I have one more book to read - a memoir  The Girl From Foreign by Sadia Shepard.  It promises to be an interesting story about mingling of religions and cultures. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Looking and Learning

I flew in to Chicago last night and am looking forward to visiting the Art Institute of Chicago and a couple of other museums while my husband is busy attending a conference.  Its bitter cold here and there is a beautiful blanket of snow covering everything. The photograph is the view from our hotel room this morning.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Truth Alone Triumphs

In between reading The Art Thief  and some sketching for a new painting,  I decided to try another little freehand calligraphy with the saying - satyameva jayate  - Truth alone triumphs. The samskrita saying is taken from Mundaka Upanishad and is on the Indian National Seal.  The piece was supposed to be an  exercise in  spontaneity - to help me loosen up a bit .  I have ways to go :)
Truth Alone Triumphs watercolor and pen & ink 8x12"

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Art Thief

I haven't drawn, sketched or painted today.  I spent some time  earlier this morning framing one of my finished pieces. I am spending the rest of the day reading the book "The Art Thief"  by Noah Charney  :).    The blurb on the back of the book  by Steve Berry, author of  the Venetian Betrayal  reads " A vivid marvelously readable look at the world of stolen art. The fascinating tale keeps you constantly wondering -does this stuff really happen? " I still have quite a few pages to go ...... but I am enjoying the suspense.  Lots of art-history and by the way, which would you rather own-  an Old Master or an abstract Modern Art? 

And once again, since I probably will not pick-up the paint brush today,  I am posting a painting from my collection -- Iris in watercolors. 8x11"  - I painted it freehand from life.  

Friday, November 28, 2008

Mid-day Shadows

These past couple of days, the horrific incidents unfolding in Mumbai have cast long dark shadows on the day of Thanksgiving here in the US -far away yet very close with our blaring radios and TV. In art, play of light and dark makes for some beautiful art.  But these terrorist shadows bring us only tears, despair, anger and frustration. I pray for peace. 
I am not sure its in good taste to post any painting but here it is anyway -one of my attempts at capturing the beauty the Universe so generously offers us always.  Mid-day Shadows  in watercolors and color pencils 7 1/2 x 91/2 " 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Noble Thoughts

Today I tried to paint and calligraphy  again.  I changed the strategy - decided to do  free flowing lettering, changed the illustration , composition and style.  The saying is from Rigveda.  I remember seeing it growing up in India in Bhavan's Journal that my Grandfather used to subscribe to. I have always been impressed how a few thousand years later it still rings true.   

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mindfulness and Compassion

I need to incorporate more of both mindfulness and compassion into my life.  I spent the day writing a verse from Rig Veda in calligraphy and then illustrating it.  When the project was almost finished I see a glaring mistake-  after all the planning, measuring, copying and recopying, checking and rechecking I had managed to completely omit a word in the very first line. The whole thing had to be trashed --no way to salvage any of it!  So, now I am trying to convince myself that it was a good practice session and  I can move on to painting the real thing.  

I get to dip into my collection  and post a painting I did a year ago - Coconuts in watercolor; 7 1/2 x9 1/2"

Monday, November 24, 2008

New Ritual

So, now I have a new ritual -- checking on my blog :).  I am grateful for all the support I have received from my family and friends. Its been great to find brand new 'art friends.'   What a powerful incentive this is to get on with creating new paintings. There is an urgency now to get paint on the paper.  I am still pondering, planning, figuring and checking my ideas and compositions for my next project. I also know that once I start the process, things have a way of taking new twists and turns !  Peppers from our garden, a glass bowl and lots of photographs ended up as  Red Pepper and Glass Bowl  done in color pencils. 

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Painting Everyday Things

Today I went to see "American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell" at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Va.   Its a rich, wonderfully curated exhibit on Rockwell's artistic legacy. Its amazing to see how much research, detail and preparation went into each of his paintings. His large oil paintings are a treat to see. Rockwell makes the everyday scenes seem exotic.  My favorite is the very powerful "Southern Justice."  

Her Passion  is my humble attempt to paint my dear Mother-in-law on one of her rounds in her small garden.  Its done in watercolors and color pencils. 

Friday, November 21, 2008

Teaching and Learning

As I prepare a lesson plan for my one and only student who comes every Friday afternoon, I find that I am the one who is really learning. I am mostly a  self taught artist and as I try out the lessons before I teach, I find there are a lot of ah-ha moments for me.  Today's lesson is on contour drawing which I always enjoy practicing.  An old mini singer sewing machine turned out to be a good subject. 

What is Art For?   an article by Daniel B. Smith on last Sunday's New York times Magazine section has to wait until  later today. 

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I was painting furiously for my show these past couple of months and left a mess in its wake. So yesterday I spent the day clearing all the clutter as much as possible from my 'studio'. Now the mat cutter and its parts are stored away for next time. All the mats and frames I didn't use gathered and put away so I don't trip over them. Color Pencils and paint tubes are back in the appropriate boxes and sorted out just so. I have to organize my things often since I am never successful in maintaining order. Everything somehow gets out of its place and spread out in no time at all.

I am back to searching for new subject matter for painting. Its always exciting and frustrating and a bit scary - expectations for the next painting are always high. I love to read and research besides going through my photographs and sketches when I am deciding and preparing. Here is an article I came across yesterday about Art and Visual Research : "Scientists did not invent the vast majority of visual illusions. Rather, they are the work of visual artists, who have used their insights into the workings of the visual system to create visual illusions in their pieces of art. We have previously pointed out in our essays that, long before visual science existed as a formal discipline, artists had devised techniques to “trick” the brain into thinking that a flat canvas was three-dimensional, or that a series of brushstrokes in a still life was in fact a bowl of luscious fruit. " And then there is M.C. Escher's art.

While I contemplate my next piece, I have selected a painting from one of my previous shows to share (thats the point of this blog anyway!) Bullock was painted a couple of years ago in color pencils. His serene expression and resignation to his lot in life was a challenge to capture on paper. I found him in IIT Chennai doing the rounds delivering water in the campus still decked up in paint after the 'pongal' festivities.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

show off time

I saw the Bangle Peddler in Bangalore this summer.  He was walking around the neighborhood selling glass bangles. Something about him made me get out of the house, have a conversation and then take a few pictures-- which I later used in painting this The Bangle Peddler in Color Pencils.  The door to door selling is fast vanishing from the landscape in India.  The dignity he possessed and the pride he took in his job were refreshing. I hope I have done justice to his portrait.  

A New Adventure

Finally I have decided to post. I have been very hesitant and feeling very unqualified to do a blog. I saw an exhibit by Botero at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art last week and realised I only have to answer to myself.

Right now I am especially pleased with my little show at the local public library which generously offers a wall to an artist a month. That has been my primary showcase motivating me to draw and paint so I will have all new pieces for each show every year. For this year's show the focus turned out to be on India - scenes from our various trips and on mandala creation. The Buddhist monks visit our area once a year and I am reminded once again of beauty and impermanence of the world around us. I paint mostly in watercolors and color pencils, often mix the two and my subjects are varied - anything that catches my fancy. This time I experimented with using Masa paper for my paintings on scenes from India giving them a batik look.
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