Friday, December 25, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Needles and Brushes

When I first started painting I was still an avid needlewoman - sewing, knitting, crocheting and embroidering something or other all the time. So it was only natural that my pincushion came to be captured on paper in watercolors! It doesn't get much use these days but I still have a bag of knitting that I drag around everywhere, and I always stop to admire beautifully crafted and embroidered works of all kind. I also have closets full of materials, yarns and books on needle arts. Recently I purchased a book that combined my two interests: "In Praise of The Needlewoman, Embroiders, Knitters, Lacemakers and Weavers in Art" by Gail Carolyn Sirna. The book has in one place works of artists like Vermeer, Chardin, Velasquez, Monet, Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot, Renoir, Dali and others who have 'sought to capture the needlewoman's quiet concentration and artistic endeavor.'

Here is a touching poem by Hazel Hall :
All the tired women
Who sewed their lives away,
speak in my deft fingers
As I sew today.
Handy Helpers watercolors, 15x15"

Monday, December 14, 2009

Paradise Again

Bird of Paradise, is painted in watercolor (9x12") on Fredrix Watercolor canvas. I first painted and exhibited it more than 2 years ago. The paint sits on canvas and the watercolor washes can be lifted very easily with a moist brush. Since I had not sealed the painting, the past few days I have been playing with it all over again, lifting and adding paints and making changes. When I started this post, I thought I was done with it, but who knows!!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Gladiolus: Strength of Character

The past few times I was at a particular store, I have been tempted to buy a package or two of bulbs that promise beautiful crops of Gladioli in spring and summer. We planted them a few years ago, but the rabbits loved them so much and munched on the tender shoots that hardly a bloom got a chance to show off its beauty. I would like to try again but am not sure I care to supply those rabbits with expensive gourmet treats!!!

The bulb packages reminded me of the painting above that I did some time ago as a still life exercise that called for quick contour sketch with a pen and literally splashing some paint on. It was great way to just get down to draw and paint and leave hesitation and indecisiveness aside.

And below is a poem "Gladiolus: Strength of Character " by Emily Dickinson who as a gardener knew her flowers well.

We never know how high we are
until we are asked to rise
and then if are true to plan
our statures touch the skies --
The heroism we recite
would be a common thing
Did not ourselves the cubits warp
for fear to be king.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Art and Life

Yesterday started out as a foggy morning in Chicago and I captured the skyline as I walked to the Art Institute of Chicago. I spent most of the day wandering through their collection of Indian Art, before venturing to check out the new "Modern Wing" building and art work there. The contrast in the individual works in the two sections had me musing about 'art' in general, and about creativity, skill, aesthetics, and emotions. Definition and evaluation of art is definitely neither easy nor clear cut!

I am always in awe of the skill, talent, beauty and spirituality expressed in the sculptures from ancient India and yesterday was no different. Its interesting that the oldest part of this current museum complex was opened in 1893 in conjunction with the World's Columbian Exposition, to host the World's Congress of Religions. A century later, Swami Vivekananda's inspirational speeches during that conference on tolerance and universal acceptance are still very relevant.

I also enjoyed Caravaggio's stunning painting Supper at Emmaus on loan from National Gallery of London. The special exhibit Apostles of Beauty: Arts and Crafts from Britain to Chicago had innovative designs of Morris, Ashbee, Strickley, Wright and others and was fun to see. In the modern wing, I admired the impressive collection of art by Dali, Kandinsky, Matisse, Miro, O'keef and Picasso. I left feeling humbled but inspired and determined to continue my meager attempts at creating my kind of art!

S. Michigan Ave, Chicago. Digital Photography

Friday, November 20, 2009

Flower Power

It has been a week now since the storm raged through our area. We saw some flooding on the roadways, experienced power outage and no phone connection for over 24 hours, and now are left to deal with lots of debris in the yard. Thankfully we did not have to contend with much damage to the property or life around here. Yesterday as I continued raking and picking up the yard, I was pleasantly surprised to see clusters of clover blooming and a few dandelions sprinkled around the lawn. We still have some clearing to do but as the annual Thanksgiving holidays approach, I am reminded of all that I am grateful for.

I still have not managed to get any painting or sketching done in the past few days and am dipping into my dwindling collection of finished paintings! The Bouquet in watercolors was done with no sketching and from a still life set up. I really enjoyed painting the flowers impulsively.

The Bouquet watercolor 11x5"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Amazing Beauty

Its barely four in the afternoon but its dark and stormy outside. We are bracing for a sever nor'easter here. says a nor'easter is winter's most ferocious storm and Wikipedia calls it a macro-scale storm . True to its description we are already experiencing coastal flooding, high surfs, hurricane force winds and lots of rain! The movie "The Perfect Storm" was based on a true story of a swordfishing boat Andrea Gail that was caught in one in October 1991 -based on a book by the same title by Sebastian Junger. We are hoping and praying for minimal damage and flooding as the storm passes by this area in the next two days.

I took the above photograph couple of months ago as the sun was going down by the beach. The same scene today in sharp contrast is violent and stormy. And yet, its truly amazing that there is still so much beauty in mother nature's fury!

Digital photography

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Exciting Challenges

Autumn is always an occasion for harvests and celebration. Every culture has festivals around it. This past weekend though, I was part of a celebration - a harvest of different kind. Our son and daughter-in-law completed the New York City Marathon in 4:22:10!!! After months of grueling training they ran a terrific race showing grit, determination and grace. We happily chased them around the course -in Subways, fortunately for us! We caught up with them at four different points, waved our banners, and screamed our hearts out as we cheered them on! I am grateful that the weather was just perfect and wonderful. We are all in awe of them and very proud too!

In Harvest -mixed media, 8x10", I learned to be patient and persevere as I mixed watercolors, color pencils and graphite to bring out form and texture. This is one of my early works and I remember finally feeling a little confident and enjoying the process as things began to take shape on the paper!

I have been away from blogging, sketching and painting for the past couple of months with my various trips and other things -in general, life coming in the way and taking time away from my art :). I plan to get back to it in full swing soon.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Brilliant Hues and Vibrant colors

Today I read that the combination of warm wet spring, typical summer conditions and sunny warm autumn with temperatures above 32F in the cool evenings is ideal for brilliant foliage colors. And Biology of the plants also plays an important part too in giving the leaves their brilliant hues and striking vibrant colors - carotene in the leaves are responsible for orange and yellow colors and xanthophyll for yellow of leaves. Besides these, there are three other pigments that help the foliage coloration -anthocyanin are responsible for blues, reds and violets; tannins give brown color to the tea, chestnut barks and the fall oak leaves; the flavones are what make the yellow of the sumac, tea and onions. If the cell fluid is acidic we see more reds otherwise it will lean towards blues. What a spectacular show mother nature provides us every year ! And as always I am so grateful that I get to enjoy these displays and marvel how it all comes together.

I tried to capture a bit of that beauty in Glory Days (watercolor 9x11"). I used layering, splattering and wet on wet to duplicate on paper what nature seems to do so effortlessly! I had found the leaves and mushroom in a puddle of water that was reflecting the blue of the sky. My sun glasses also deepen the colors and in the end, the walk I took on that beautiful fall day was not only a feast for the eyes but also nudged me towards trying the combination of colors in my painting. I always bring my special finds home only to find them teaching me again and again that all things change and its their nature.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Change is The Only Constant

I walk for exercise and try to put in 10,000 steps a day on my pedometer. Fall is one of my favorite times to go on long walks and enjoy the various stages of changes the vegetation around seems to show off. I usually come home from my walks with a collection of leaves all sporting different shades of red, yellow, orange and green. The painting above Changes (11x14") in watercolor was a lot of fun to finish as I experimented with my stash of leaves and various techniques.

Speaking of fun, check out this video on fun theory on how fun can change people's behavior. Who knew Fun theory was serious business for some!!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Taste of the Tropics

Weather and skies have been a major part of our India trip so far! Chennai was HOT with a only a couple of showers that really didn't cool the temperatures down much. And we have been caught in torrential rains for three days because of late Monsoons in Bengaluru. Here is a glimpse of Chennai sky taken from the terrace. The coconut trees always make the scene really special for me :)

Taste of Tropics Digital Photography

Sunday, September 13, 2009

So, Who is the Real Me?

'Guest' done in mixed media (24x30") was started by pouring paints in shades of red, yellow and blue. Then various shapes were isolated or added with a pen. The saved areas of white were used to paint features of a face. I then used crayons, acrylics and watercolors to embellish the different elements. Finally I used gouache to tame some of the colors and bring coherence to the painting. On the whole, as I unnerving as I found it, I also in a way, really enjoyed the process of building a painting on the go, rather than having a finished concept in my mind and working towards it. I named it 'Guest' as I felt I had put aside my usual way of working and thinking and paint as if someone else was doing the work.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Eenie meenie minie moe

"Flaming Petals" was an experimental watercolor painting. We had visited the Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Garden in Washigton D.C. and of course, we took lots of photographs of the colorful water lilies. When the time came to paint I couldn't make up my mind and choose one color for the lotus so I decided to try a different color for each petal and was very happy with the result.
Flaming Petals watercolor 24 x 30"

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Captivating Cappadocia

Cappadocia located in central Turkey is a surreal wonder of nature and human ingenuity. Whole cities, some dating back to 2nd century BC to Roman, and some later to Byzantine period - thrived in undergrounds or in the wondrous and most dramatic volcanic tufas and chimney rocks. Please check here to see a collection of photographs and a video of the amazing area. We stayed at a cozy, small and aptly named 'The Village Cave Hotel" at the village of Cavusin near Goreme. The ancient ancestral home of the owner, one among the many many cave dwellings in the area had been converted to a small cute comfortable inn - and has a super chef and a couple of cute resident cats as well. The sketch above does not do one bit of justice - but is the scene from our room looking into the other side, into the dwellings that belonged to the owner's mother's family. The owner later took us on a tour of the area and one morning we hiked for hours the beautiful Red Valley, Rose Valley etc., gorged on the tastiest wild mulberries and apricots right off the trees! I hope to paint the scenes and attempt to capture the beauty on paper soon.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Zen of Seeing

"I have learned that what I have not drawn I have never really seen, and that when I start drawing an ordinary thing, I realize how extraordinary it is, sheer miracle. " ~Frederick Franck, The Zen of Seeing: Seeing and Drawing as a Meditation.

I have been following 'urbansketchers' for a while now -admiring and learning a lot about sketching and making drawings on the go. I decided to apply that to my sketches from Turkey. To my simple pen and ink sketches I added color with a dozen pastel and color pencils I had packed and was pleased with the result. It was exciting to discover a new way of sketching for me and will help me keep up with my art as I travel to India to visit my family for the next month and a half. The sketch above is a simple quick rendering of the scene at Anadolu Kabagi on the Bosphorous Cruise by the traditional ferryboat along the waterway that divides Europe and Asia. It was wonderful to sit on the deck taking in the beautiful summer day and just watch the scenery as we savored the authentic Turkish yogurt from a vendor who got on board at one of the stops.

This is my 100th post and I thank all of you who have visited my blog and encouraged my efforts. I really appreciate you spending your time with me here and am grateful for your comments. I do hope you will continue to stop by and let me know how I am faring. Once again my hearty thanks to all!!!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Thrill of the Search

This past week when I was in New York city, I was constantly scanning for things to photograph or sketch. I get excited just anticipating a scene that may capture my fancy. The only risk is I will drain the battery in my camera clicking away constantly! But mostly when I am least expecting, an interesting subject unfolds. I have discovered that being present in the moment opens up so many possibilities. I was listening to the guide inside the Radio City Hall when I unexpectedly caught another tour participant silhouetted against the window. Opportunities are endless and all I need to do is look.

Silhouette Digital Photography

Monday, August 24, 2009

Music in the City

Washington Square Park in New York city is lively and vibrant especially in summer. I am enjoying a few days here in the city and was able to sketch this musician while listening to the wonderful music he was playing along with his two fellow musicians. It was a treat! Hope to visit a couple of museums and also sketch some more before I head back home tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Small Wonders

The close up photographs of the bees and butterflies that I clicked in the past few days got me wondering how and what do they really see in a flower. So I googled and discovered that "The worker bee's eye is a very complex organ with 6,900 facets, known as ommatidia each carrying out separate visual processes. Each one of these acts like an individual eye, and they stand aligned together, rather like straws in a bucket. Each one ends in a small convex, transparent lens. These lenses form the outer, glassy and oval-shaped surface of the eye. As well as the two compound eyes on either side of their head, a bee also has three simple eyes atop its head. Its estimated that these latter three are used to measure the strength of the light. The bee's eye is superior to the human eye in two respects: it can see ultraviolet light and perceive the plane of light polarization." The miracle of nature - the smaller the creature, the more complex its anatomy and structure!!!

"Just because you can't see something doesn't mean its not there" -So started an inspirational TED talk by Willard Wigan who creates art so elaborate, so tiny and so unique that they are mounted on pin heads or the eye of a needle and you have to see them through a microscope. Check his amazing video here as he explains that since his sculpture is so small he has to work between his heartbeats!

Up-close and Personal color pencils on 11x14" on hot press paper.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Invocation by Design

This week it was my turn with the 'painted prayers.' I made simple and small 'rangoli' for friends who are getting ready for pooja celebrations. The first photograph shows three made on plates using different lentils/dals etc. The other two are on wooden boards. I roughly sketched the designs with a erasable marker on the plates. My friend Sudha helped me fill in with the grains and lentils. The designs on the wooden boards were done the traditional way using dots to plot out and then painted with white acrylic (the middle two) and chalk (last one). The links for my other posts on the age old custom of rangoli, mandala and explanations can be reached by clicking on the title of this post.

Traditionally, Rangolis are created in color or with just white rice powder as invocations to deities for protection and blessings. The rice powder also stops the ants etc by the door too! They vary in designs, form and style from region to region. They are painted daily or on special occasions by the alters, by the front door or gate, or anyplace a ceremony is to be held. Stephen H. Huyler's books Painted Prayers: Women's Art in Village India and Meeting God: Elements of Hindu Devotion are good references on rangoli. I embroidered a rangoli to hang in my living room when we first purchased our house - my way of having a rangoli in the house all the time :). I feel blessed to be a part of the sacred ritual that brings balance to the daily existence.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Flying Colors

This painting is an experiment I tried last week. As I was rearranging my art papers and paints, I came across a sheet of landscape painting where I had been experimenting with pouring the paints a couple of years ago. I remember well that I was trying a lake scene and was no way close to getting it right! I never like to throw away anything and visit the stack of 'unfinished' paintings when I want to just play around.

As I stood staring at it I realized the white patch in the paper would work well as the beak of this toucan -photographed by Roy Taft in Honduras and on the cover of march april issue of Audubon magazine I was getting ready to recycle. I had some acrylic paints I wanted to try and this seemed like a good way to use it on top of the watercolors. I embellished the background from the original painting adding leaves and branches and used watercolors, acrylics and color pencils to paint the toucan. I always use my own photographs and sketches but decided to do this exercise as an experiment in working out problems in a painting. In the end, yellow is the only acrylic paint I used -it covered the blue of the lake from the watercolors and helped define the feathers on the toucan's body. I really enjoyed converting the old painting and gained new confidence in experimenting and not giving up. And, some day I would like to visit Honduras and see the wild flying colors!

Wild colors mixed media 11x 15"

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Painting A Prayer

To witness the concentration, reverence and the skill with which the Buddhist monks construct a Mandala is a mystical experience. For the past ten years, every summer, we have had the privilege of looking into the Tibetan Buddhism and culture as the Monks spend a week paint and then ritually deconstruct a mandala. 'Rangoli' from India, Buddhist Mandala, Native American sand paintings all speak of yearning of the soul for enlightenment and I feel, are really painted prayers. Mandala Meditation is one of my attempts to capture that spiritual language. I originally posted this as one of the paintings in a slide show of my paintings last November, but decided this week, in honor of the Monks who are back in town, to post it by itself. You may check my other posts and paintings on this topic here. I am looking forward to watching the prayers unfold this week all over again.

Mandala Meditation, color pencils 11x14"

Friday, July 31, 2009


Over the years, I always admired the photos I saw in National Geographic and other nature magazines. Yesterday, when I managed to capture this bee in our garden I was ecstatic, to say the least! I am so very happy to have been at the right place, at the right time with the right equipment.

Happiness digital Photography.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Butterfly Kiss

We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever - Carl Sagan

I watched this butterfly less than an hour ago kissing flowers right outside my kitchen window and shot this picture through the glass pane since I didn't want to disturb its morning dance. I love these butterflies even as they lay eggs on my favorite dill and parsley plants in the herb patch and the resulting caterpillars get good and fat as they gorge on them!!! I am in awe as I witness the cycle of change.

Butterfly Kiss Digital photography

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mystical Dance

Daylight, full of small dancing particles
and the one great turning, our souls
are dancing with you, without feet, they dance.
Can you see them when I whisper in your ear?
- Rumi

The Dervishes, followers of the Melvana Rumi, a 13th century mystic, Sufi poet and philosopher perform a 'Sema' ceremony where they whirl and dance (check this video for a glimpse of the ceremony) as they aim towards spiritual perfection. The whirling dance and accompanying Sufi music is quite mesmerizing and transfixes everyone in the vicinity. All over Turkey, there are performances of whirling dervishes most evenings for the tourists - done very respectfully. The ceremony ends with a quote from Quran: "Unto God belong the East and the West, and wither over ye turn, you are faced with Him. He is All-Embracing, All-Knowing"

Whirling Dervishes color pencils 12x9"

Monday, July 27, 2009

Where the East and West Meet

Merhaba! We just returned from a week long trip to Turkey - spending the bulk of our vacation in Istanbul, the city of two continents. The minarets and the domes telegraph the exotic and the excitement that is buzzing just beneath the skyline. The digital photograph above is of the view from our hotel, taken at sunset the day we landed. Over the week, we soaked in the long history, the amazing architectural splendors, the vibrant culture and the beauty of the place. We spent the bulk of our time in the 'Old Istanbul' a UNESCO designated World Heritage site packed with so many layers of wonderful things that we barely scratched the surface. A copy of Lonely Planet Turkey and Noble Prize winning Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk's Istanbul -Memories of a City helped me get better acquainted with the place.

View of Blue Mosque digital photography

Friday, July 17, 2009

Color More than Skin Deep

I recently read two very interesting articles in 'Science Daily' about colors in bird feathers. According to Yale university researchers 'some of the brightest colors in nature are created by tiny nanostructures with a structure similar to beer foam or a sponge.' One of the paper's authors also explained that better plumage meant better mate :) In the second article " Birds: Feather color more than skin deep" a team from Spain reported on how the red feathers get their color: " the red carotenoids that give the common crossbill its red coloration are produced in the liver, not the skin, as previously thought " Even though I don't need to know these facts at all, I appreciate nature's ingenuity as I try to reproduce on paper the beauty of the birds, the flowers and other wonders.

In "tourist attraction" done in watercolors (15x12"), I tried wet on wet for textures and color variations and changes. I choose some colors from references and others from my imagination. The colorful birds and the flower needed the dark background to shine and that only came about after many days of pondering! My apologies for the reflection in the photograph - I didn't notice it until I posted it on the blog.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

No direction But Beauty

Today's 'Writer's Almanac' listed among the day's birthdays Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda and Thoreau. I love their writings. When I was photographing this painting this morning, that bit of information I had read earlier triggered the memory of a poem 'Water' by Nerudo. Below are the last few lines from it :

Water is different,
has no direction but beauty,
runs through all dreams of color,
Takes bright lessons
from the rock
and in those occupations work out
the unbroken duties of the foam.

I painted "Golden Beach" (watercolor, 9x12") on Fredrix pre-stretched watercolor canvas. I ordered the canvas from Cheap Joe's. It is a 100% cotton artist canvas already coated with gesso for water-based paints. I found it a bit difficult to work on that surface even though or may be because it was very easy to take the paint off. I tried the canvas to see if I could get away from framing expenses but I think the painting still needs to be sealed since I found the watercolor paints on it comes off too easily when it is not sealed or under glass. I have not tried any spray sealants yet as I don't feel confident about spraying it evenly without any pooling or dripping since that would defeat the purpose! So, it is waiting to be resolved and I welcome any advice or suggestions :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Another Season

This is a small (5x9") painting I did on a whim couple of days ago on a piece of leftover paper. I used watercolors and watercolor pencils dipped in water to paint it. Because of the size of the paper, I had to simplify the scene, be selective and put in just enough elements to capture the essence of the landscape that is a familiar sight in rural India. I can see a lot of things I should /could have done differently but I think I also see a simple, quiet solitude in the scene.

I went in search of information and tips on landscape painting today and came across a good article in the Smithsonian Education web site. I will be going back there for more reading and learning. And, of course, I will keep on sketching and painting. Its comforting to know that even Paul Cezanne felt "Painting is damned difficult- you always think you've got it, but you haven't."

Another Season watercolors and watercolor pencil 5x9"

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Declaration!

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness."

Happy Fourth!

Boston, MA. Digital photography

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Over the past few years, one of the things I have been really amazed by, is the dramatic colors of the water and sky during sunrise and sunset. It is a most wondrous sight - and changing every second with no two ever alike. Sometimes they look so surreal, I feel no one will believe it unless they see it with their own eyes! This scene 'Fishing' (watercolor, 12x16") is from a vacation by the sea sometime time ago. I never saw these people actually catching anything and I think this was morning meditation in disguise.

Speaking of colorful and dramatic, Artist David Lobenberg has created a blog dedicated to what he calls "Self Portrait Global Love In." He issued a challenge to artists to share their self portraits in that blog. Its packed with wonderfully creative self portraits by artists from all corners of the world. He has generously given his time and efforts to put up the site. My painting from the post "One of Many Faces" is one of self portraits in that collection. The self portraits are dramatic, colorful and wonderful as, I am assuming, the artists themselves :)

Fishing Watercolor 12x16"

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Golden Spiral

Last week when I was on my way to a friend's house, I came across a small garden full of sunflowers and was surprised they were already in full bloom. I had been reading "Divine Proportion- PHI in Art, Nature and Science" by Priya Hemenway and drawing the 'golden spiral,' studying the use of golden-angle, -proportion, -section, -ratio, -rectangle, etc. in composition in art through the ages. I am fascinated by how pineapple, sunflowers, daisies and strawberries appear to form two systems of spirals radiating from the center - a pattern created by Fibonacci numbers. On further research, I discovered that "The fibonacci numbers are named after Leonardo of Pisa, known as Fibonacci, although they had been described earlier in India. The Fibonacci numbers first appeared under the name 'matrameru' (mountain of cadence), in the work of Sanskrit grammarian Pingala (Chandah-sastra, the Art of Prosody, 450 or 200 BC). Prosody was important in ancient Indian ritual because of an importance of the purity of utterance. The Indian mathematician Virahanka (6th century AD) showed how the 'Fibonacci' sequence arose in the analysis of meters with long and short syllables. Subsequently the Jain philosopher Hemachandra(c.1150) composed a well known text on these. A commentary on Virahanka by Gopala in the 12th c. also revisits the problem in some detail." WOW! In a strange coincidence, there is also a site called 'Sunflower Revolution', which does fundraising for Parkinson's and has links to latest research etc. Ever since my Dad was diagnosed with it I go there in search of information.

So, I decided it was time to post this painting 'Sunflowers' (12x10") in watercolors and water color pencils. It was painted from a still life set up. I like the way the colors in flowers turned out. I would like to paint another with only the bloom when the lone sunflower plant our back yard blooms.

Sunflower 12x10" watercolor and watercolor pencils.

Monday, June 22, 2009

One of Many Faces

Last week, when I was almost done with this self-portrait, my husband took his first glance at it and said "no, this is not you. That look is a very rare expression. You always have a big smile" Since then my smile has been even bigger -if thats possible.

I started sketching using a mirror and then used the camera eye on my computer to snap a photograph so I had a reference photo to use in completing it. I tried warm color for underpainting on the hair and eyes and cool on the background before finishing with black grape as final layers. Some day I will try again with my big smile :)

One of Many Faces color pencils 9x12"

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Colorful Life

I am always inspired by the patterns and colors in nature. These hydrangeas blue, pink and in-between are all from a single plant from our backyard. I have been photographing them and admiring the nature's color palette. I am aware that alkaline soil colors it pink but its still an amazing sight to see the range in those blooms. There is also a wild species of Morning Glory snaking down the edge of our yard whose blooms are light pink to white in the morning and they turn blue later in the day. One thing I have learnt from all this that there are no absolutes and not to be afraid of experimenting with color combinations in my art.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hanging Fire

This afternoon, against my better judgement, I spooned onto my plate a big dollop of special red hot chili mango pickle that I had brought with me from India during my last trip. I really love the taste even if my mouth invariably is on fire, my eyes water and my sinuses start clearing up in a hurry. Its an indulgence I occasionally give in to. I remembered reading that peppers crank up the capsaicin content for self defense and fully appreciated the creativity behind the evolutionary weapon! Two days ago I was excited when my husband brought in first four shiny green Jalapeno peppers of this season, from the garden. Over the years I have also enjoyed painting (in color pencils) the peppers. I love the bright red color of the ripe peppers. Hanging Fire (16x12") is painted in watercolors on hot press board. I carefully misted the paper with water after painting the peppers and the basket with geraniums.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Learning to be Spontaneous

I thought having a blog will make me paint and draw more on a regular basis. But procrastination is a habit hard to drop. So, today's post is  'Star Climber' (watercolor, 14x11") -painted a few years ago. I learn something new every time I pick up my brushes to paint. I still vividly remember that I was delighted to discover the power of  'artistic freedom' to change and imagine my own background for the clematis.  I really wish I can instinctively carry over the lessons I learn learn from one session to the next.  

Today I came across a series of short but informative  'artworks' videos on How Stuff Works. The topics range from The Last Supper, Van Gogh to Lava Artists in Hawaii. Watching, studying, and reading about art is both an excuse to postpone my own painting and acquire new ideas and insights. And when I do get to painting, its exciting to try out and uncover my version of those ideas and insights. Happy results though are not always guaranteed!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Gift of Vision

I encountered these goats on our last trip to India while visiting my Uncle in the countryside. We had to wait for the herd to cross a very country road. It was a hot summer day with the sun blazing in full glory. In this painting  I have tried to simplify the scene and show the heat, sun and the docile goats on their daily walk. Now it is framed and stays leaning against other paintings in my dining room waiting for a chance to hang somewhere. 

I need a still life set up, a photograph or two, a landscape or a model to look at so I can draw or paint. I do an abstract every now and then but mostly I use some kind of physical reference to paint from. None of my paintings are larger than 40" though most are much smaller.  I still have most of the paintings I have created.  When I was younger, many mornings we did a  fresh  but simple 'rangoli' on the front yard by the door with the rice flour or chalk. I didn't think twice about sweeping it off the next morning. Every 'navaratri' festival, my grandmother had us all help her make a big rangoli with colorful flower petals. We were a bit more attached to these elaborate creations wanting it to last longer. Now, every August, I admire the Buddhist monks diligently paint a sand mandala slowly, taking a full week to finish it- only to deconstruct it couple of hours later. Check this link to watch Peter Donnaly in Christ Church, New Zealand create beautiful masterpiece on sand every  day by the beach and and offer it to the ocean as tide comes in.  All this has me reflecting - what does it mean to create, share, hold on or let go? 

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Spring Romance

This pot sits right outside our kitchen window sill reflecting  the afternoon sun. I love the shapes and  how the leaves and the flowers glow.  I hope to paint this some day but right now I am happy with the photograph. 

The spring also brings a few mallard duck couples to our backyard.  Some have great luck and see the ducklings swim away but more often we find broken egg shells strewn around by raccoons who found the nest or the little ducklings get swooped up by the ospreys.  

Speaking of romances, there is a Harlequin Cover Art exhibit in New York city celebrating the 60th anniversary of Harlequin.  Check out my daughter's video review of the exhibit  here.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Process and Product

My son directed me to  an article in New York Times on cover art created for the June 1st issue of  New Yorker magazine using iPhone Brushes application by artist Jorge Columbo! I don't know if I will be able to master the application or it will make me a better artist to have a sketch book so handy but I liked what  Mr. Columbo said in the article  that no one notices he is drawing. And that would be a big plus for me because I am not comfortable drawing in public and I have not been good about keeping my resolve to sketch something everyday.  So I have one more reason to justify my newest  'want' -to switch to the latest handy dandy cell phone :) 

Reading the article reminded me about my experience with painting in public.  Rhododendrons in watercolor (24"x14") has a story attached to it. In painting this still life set up, I used the basic watercolor brushwork, with minimal pencil sketching.  I enjoyed painting the flowers and the leaves but didn't get to finish the painting for sundry reasons. And as it sat on my desk waiting,  a guest  made a very critical remark about the still 'under construction' painting. I felt crushed. Meanwhile the set up didn't last, of course, and I hadn't taken any photographs of it either.  Couple of years later, trying to conjure up a vase, with the stinging remark still lurking in my memory, very hesitatingly I added a few strokes and washes, and was pleasantly surprised at the end result. Its been framed and hanging since then reminding me to enjoy the process and be true to my instincts in my art. 

Monday, May 25, 2009


I painted this bright eyed boy from a series of photographs taken by my daughter during the Chinese New Year parade (watch her video here) in New York city.  I combined elements from three different photographs, even flipping the shadows in the background from one to match the direction of the sun on the boy. I glazed the background of painting with a light wash of purple to bring out the young wide eyed parade participant.  

Today is my special 'photographer's' birthday and I wish her a wonderful, bright eyed fun ride in her life's parade :) 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Flower Power

Today I stumbled upon an interesting article on Van Gogh's art and some scientific experiments in the archives of Discovery Magazine website. Apparently 'honey bees that had never encountered real flowers favored Van Gogh's sunflowers over floral works of other well known artists.' That is impressive! The BBC piece that sited the study further elaborates that ' A bee's favourite colour is blue, he (Professor Lars Chittka) added, which is associated with high-nectar flowers. This could be why the bees were strongly drawn to the blue "Vincent" signature in Van Gogh's painting, as well as the blue blooms in A Vase of Flowers, and a light blue square in Still Life with a Beer Mug.'

I don't think my flower paintings have that power to attract the bees but I still enjoy painting them. In this piece, I used permanant masking fluid to show the bright Indian sun shining on the flowers.

Flowers in the Sun watercolor 14x11"

Monday, May 18, 2009

Rain or Sunshine?

I captured this scene last month in Boston.  I had walked about a mile or so from our hotel to the Museum of Fine Arts and arrived a few minutes before the doors had opened for the day. While waiting outside I caught the flags fluttering in the wind high above  with the bright morning sun shining behind it.  The past few days its been raining heavily here and the only sunshine I saw was in the photographs! I echoed the away message from my niece in London : 'who stole my sunshine?'  Our garden of course, looks very lush, green and happy and even though blooms on the Azalea plants have  lost all the petals due to the heavy rainfall, the roses are in full glory.  I was reminded of a saying: Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Best Buddy

Mr. Bones, as his blog (here) shows is very special. I have been working on his portrait for a while now, trying to figure out how to paint his black shiny coat and those soulful eyes. I did a light underpainting with different colors -peacock green and  ultramarine blue on his body and touches of pumpkin orange on his face before using black grape. I am very happy with the final piece and I hope Mr. Bone's best buddy will also think so because his birthday is very special to me too :).

Mr.Bones color pencils 12x9"

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Six Degrees of Separation

We have a patch of cactus growing by the bedroom window.  It usually gives a spectacular show of yellow flowers after a good rainfall in spring.  We have been having monsoon like rains this week and I see the buds popping up all over the patch.  As I was researching  the name and variety that was growing in our yard, I discovered that cacti are part of the plant order Caryophyllales which also includes plants like beets, baby's breath, spinach, amaranth, tumbleweeds, carnations, rhubarb, bougainvillea, buckwheat, chickweed, knotgrass etc. I still don't know the name but I full of wonder and amazement at the nature's bounty. 

After the Rainfall  watercolor on hot press paper. 15x11"

Monday, May 4, 2009

Windows to the World

I have been sketching animal eyes the past couple of days and its been really helpful. My resolve about drawing something in my sketchbook everyday, I am sorry to note,  does need a good shot in the arm.  But right now, I have a sneaking suspicion that  I am not making up lost time, rather using sketching as an excuse to avoid starting my next project!  I have the outline done but still debating if it should be watercolors or color pencils.  I know that rather than procrastinating, I should just plunge in and get my stuff done
'Windows to the World'  graphite 7x9"

Friday, May 1, 2009

To Life!

As this photograph shows, Boston this past week was a reminder how life itself is mix of old and new. Blooming flowers were shaded by just budding  bare trees. Cool evenings reminded us of the traces of winter still lingering. I walked everywhere, even sketched a bit, soaked in the beauty of spring and also reconnected with a couple of friends.  It was somehow fitting that the one play we watched   'The Buddha, In His Own words'  conceived and brilliantly performed as a one man show by Evan Brenner spoke of  change as the only constant and the impermanence of everything. 

When we returned home two days ago, for about half an hour I was frantic looking for my house keys, imagining them to be left behind somewhere in Boston! Fortunately they were buried deep in my suitcase while I and searched for them in my purse.  Today I stumbled upon a wonderful story in New York Times (via about a couple who found a camera while traveling in Scotland and with online tools and cyber sleuthing found its rightful owners. Its really heartwarming to know that good samaritans are sill around! To Life! 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

On Display

Here is the collection of my work since last November that are on display at the Poquoson Public Library this month. I am always pleasantly surprised how much different a painting looks once its matted, framed and hanging! 

We came to Boston yesterday and its beautiful here with daffodils, tulips, cherrie blossoms, and dogwoods   just blooming everywhere and the trees full of  yellow green tender young leaves.  I am looking forward to visiting the various museums and also being outdoors just enjoying the spring.  I have been clicking away with my camera but won't be able to share the photographs on the blog yet since I forgot to pack the cord to upload them to the computer. The changing seasons definitely gives me a new appreciation of the world and life all around me.     

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Trial And Error

'Magnolia'  (watercolors 11x14") done about ten years ago when I was still learning to handle paint, was a breakthrough for me.  Magnificent magnolias were in bloom in a friend's garden, and  I had attempted to paint one blossom. I was not at all pleased with  the results.  In my frustration and disappointment, I took the painting to the bathtub,  washed the colors out and let the sheet dry. When it was a barely wet to the touch, I went over part of the painting wet on wet and added back the colors slowly adding details only to the flower and nothing else. I left the lower right corner pretty much alone except for splattering some paint on it. After all these years, I still struggle to leave part of white of the  paper alone, and often have to resort to washing the paints off  to get the desired effect. I guess therefore my technique is paint, wash, and paint again :)

I have been asked about how I painted the textures and 'underwater look' in my earlier post 'Painted Pebbles.'  After drawing the rocks, I rubbed lightly a white crayon on parts of the rocks  and rest of the drawing. The wax in the crayon resists watercolors and the white shows through.  For algae, I dipped a dry sponge in various colors and tapped it on some of the rocks. I used a toothbrush to splatter colors around. One fun technique was to transfer pictures using gesso which is explained here very clearly.  I cut a small piece of sunday color comics and used regular gesso (matte) for that.  Hope this is helpful. 
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