Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cheers to Potential and Possibilities!

Hofbrauhaus at Dusk  watermedia 12x9"

Sixty posts, twenty plus paintings, thirty some pages of color pencil 'sketches' and narrative to go with  them  for my sketchbook-fiction project  "A Day In The Life -In Blue Jeans with Gold Embroidery" and more on-the-go pencil sketches than any previous years makes me content with 2011 art-wise :)  This surely has been a year of experimenting for me with finishing an illustrated sketch/fiction book, yupo, deliberate washes and paint mixing, water brushes, field kits and working on patience! 

I am pleased to post this painting - done mostly with watercolors except the sky part where I used acrylics mixed with watercolor. The watercolor paper  was a 'test-paper' for colors by a young friend of mine who wanted to paint with me sometime ago. I pulled this paper out waiting for washes to dry on couple of Yupo paintings I was working on. I needed to keep my hands busy and away from the wet yupo. Using Masquepen Supernib I sketched free hand and then proceeded to play mostly with transparent watercolors in between the washes on Yupo. The reference was a photograph I took in Munich years ago.  The underpainting worked quite well, and I felt little stress since I was really  only 'playing' around. I am totally ignoring any problem areas in the painting and enjoying the smug feeling of rescuing a good paper :) 

So, here is to a brand New Year full of potential and possibilities ! 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Shifting Perspective

A Day in the Life -sketchbook project page 24 color pencils 

All the good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow 
-Grant Wood, painter. 

From the book 'The Creative Spirit' by Daniel Goleman, Paul Kaufman and Michael Ray ( companion book to the PBS special from early 1990s with the same title) on the importance of being 'open to insights from the unconscious mind in moments of reverie, when we are not thinking of anything in particular' :  

News of the Creative Past: Well, the creative spirit has struck again, this time on a cool evening in 1865. The chemist Friedrich Kekule has just discovered the elusive structure of the benzene molecule, a major breakthrough in organic chemistry.  Kekule credits his breakthrough - and we will have to take his word on this- to a day dream.

Mr. Kekule reports that after a long day of thinking, he was relaxing in front of the fire, just watching embers fly up in a circular patterns. He says he then became transfixed and fell into a reverie, and as he half dozed, he began to see the sparks dance in a snakelike way. Suddenly, the sparks formed a whirling circle as if it were a snake biting its own tail. Kekule says he then awoke in a flash with a new, accurate picture of the structure of a benzene molecule: a ring! 

So, is there a better way to solve my problem than stretch on the sofa, put my feet up and daydream? 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Magical Thing

Sunrise on the shortest day  digital photography 

Today is the first day of winter in the Northern hemisphere. But I like that today is the shortest day too :)  I shot this photograph through  the window pane with raindrops giving it a surreal feeling.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Patience Is Not Passive

memories of a bloom  watercolor on yupo  7x5.5"

Patience is not passive; on the contrary, it is active; it is concentrated strength. 
~ Edward Bulwer-Lytton

I have to fully agree with that quote! The little painting on Yupo took a couple of days and lots of determined patience on my part as I layered paint and waited; used a tooth brush to splatter some paint and waited;  dabbed with a wet tissue and waited; added paint in one section and took away paint in another. And repeated the process a few times!  I think finally I see the little plant in the sunshine with dried twigs and memories of a lush little field around it. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Incubation Of An Idea

A Day in the Life   page 23 Sketch Book Project color pencils

Another sketchbook page to the rescue for this post. Picking up on the text of that page - how do you solve problems?  When do you get your best ideas? 

I read today about 'Bed, Bath and Bus Theory'  -"’s the notion that the best ideas come when you least expect it, such as in the bath/shower, lying in bed or waiting for a bus." The article further stated that "we need two characteristics in particular to make incubation successful: patience and belief. Both of these are necessary for you to walk away from a problem that means a lot to you, that you really want to solve or that has a deadline."   The author of that article  Lucretia Torva concludes "One last thing to do. Assign this project to your subconscious. Literally tell your mind to take care of, then let it go. " 

I am glad to know that my coping mechanism of moving away is in a way looked upon as 'incubation of an idea' :) 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Mirror never Changes

Near Anish Kapoor's 'Cloud Gate' Chicago Millenium Park Digital Photography

The mirror never changes, but everybody who looks at it sees something different.

-Harold Kushner

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Inadvertently Omitted...

A Day in the Life..... page 22 Sketchbook Project color pencils 

'not intentional, not on purpose, not conscious'  -- it is the definition 'not conscious' that stings! And it is not the first time this has happened - and not just in art either. I felt so very disheartened.  It truly represented a 'Day in The Life'.  I decided to  force  myself to consider this as a set up for a new twist in my Sketchbook Project ! This time my 'inadvertent omission' had created three empty pages right in the middle of a book with a planned narrative and a challenge for me to somehow resolve it and to incorporate  new ideas into the story line.  I did not want to just tear the pages - a self imposed constraint to be a bit creative to compensate for my slip; to be grateful that it is a small mistake in the scheme of things,  a way to assuage my guilt for not being mindful....

What do you do when mistakes 'happen' in your work? Do you despair and scrap the whole project? Do you change it? Do you cover it up? Do you start over? Do you call it divine intervention and move on?  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fall Colors

Persimmon  watercolor sketch 3x5"

Persimmon another view watercolor sketch 3x5"

My neighbor has a persimmon tree that I can see from one of our windows.  Over the past few weeks, the persimmons turned deep juicy orange and now the leaves are gorgeous yellows and oranges.  She gave me four fruits last week and I really wanted to paint them.  I even took pictures to capture their fresh ripe colors. But before I realized, three disappeared as after dinner treats :) The leaves on last  remaining persimmon have dried and almost fallen off! So this morning I quickly sketched and painted the last remaining persimmon in my little sketch book with the  Aquaflow waterbrush pen and transparent colors (top) and a mix of transparent and opaque colors (bottom). 

I read that in Chinese culture when the persimmon appears as a symbol, it denotes an energy which would remove the obstacles and allow things to proceed smoothly.  I definitely need that energy now! I have not been painting much these past few weeks as we are getting the inside walls of our house painted (almost done!) We had to move furniture and other belongings from all the rooms, shifting them from one to another and back again. Now I am trying to wade through the 'stuff' we have accumulated over the years as I decide which ones should be put back. The plan is to cull clutter and give away as much as possible -- which I am finding out is a lot easier said than done. And I just added two more paintings to my stack! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Attach A Silken Thread

Pomegranates and Spider Web  digital Photography

Natural History
E.B. White

The spider, dropping down from twig,
Unfolds a plan of her devising,
A thin premeditated rig
To use in rising.

And all that journey down through space,
In cool descent and loyal hearted,
She spins a ladder to the place
From where she started.

Thus I, gone forth as spiders do
In spider's web a truth discerning,
Attach one silken thread to you
For my returning.

My heart felt ' Thank You ' to all my 'blog friends' who return and encourage my efforts in my art, my photography and writing  as I finish  three full years of blogging.  Tomorrow will be my blog anniversary and I am grateful for your support :)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Playful Art

A Day in the Life -sketchbook project page 21 color pencils

I always wonder how and who came up with original recipes and cooking methods for various dishes.  How and who concocted the very first delicacies? or the herbal remedies? The cough syrup herbal remedy that my aunt made for me was a wonderfully powerful one that relieved me of my incessant hacking  during my trip to India in January.  I do hope that these recipes and knowledge don't get lost as the world moves towards new and improved technology.

Speaking of innovations and creations, I watched  TED fellow Aparana Rao talk about her unique interactive art projects that are steeped in surprising, playful and humorous ideas.  Check it out and see why I want one of her high tech art installation 'shy pygmies' ! I am totally fascinated by her mix of art and technology - her fun 'uncle phone',   delightful 'drunken man', the intimidating expanding cube, and cute tired oil blob. Actually I am in awe of her imagination and innovation! What a wonderful way to infuse art with 'humanity' that begs one to respond and interact. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Stash and Search

A Day in the Life - Page 20 Sketchbook Project Color Pencils  

"The great question is not whether you have the best nut, but whether you are content with your nut." (Bill Squirrelspeare)  

I hoard  quotes and am so ecstatic when I can pull out a perfect one from my stash :) I also have over 15,000 photos in my newest laptop, similar amounts an older  desk top and too many prints from 'film' years. With a digital camera I take way too many photographs with abandon and am very hesitant to delete the so-so ones.  Quite often I know I have a reference photo I have clicked for what I want to paint. But when the best cataloging system I have is  'I know I took a picture....' ,  I think I am like the squirrel who finds something wherever she looks :) Usually, in my photo-album searches, I stumble across something else I like and the next thing I know I am off with a new idea.

By the way, check here and here  if you are curious about squirrels and nuts  :) 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Dancing in the Light

Dancing in the Light  digital photography

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
 -Albert Einstein

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Making Waves

Making Waves watercolor 4"x4"

Unruffled watercolor 4x4"

Splash of color watercolor 4x4"

These ducks were entertaining a toddler who was shrieking with joy as the birds swam gracefully in circles in a small fountain early last spring.  I watched the birds and the child for a long time and took many photographs. Later, it was pure joy for me to paint the colorful ducks and the water using watercolors. The challenge in the paintings was to capture the different textures of the birds, the fluidity of the water and a hint of reflection. My aim was to make the ducks sparkle with color. Each painting was a unique discovery of beauty of nature, of colors and patterns.  

These are miniature paintings and the top two - "Unruffled" & "Making Waves" were selected for "Small Works" exhibit at the Charles Taylor Art Center in Hampton, VA along with my other miniature "Slow Sunny Day. The show opened today and will run through December 4.  

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bobbing colors and Shadows

A Day in the Life - Sketchbook Project page 19 color pencils 5x7"

I see this little shed with these colorful buoys behind a high fence everyday as I drive or walk by it near the end of our street.  The arrangement and number  of buoys keeps changing - yesterday there were only a few but this past winter when I was on my walk, the sun was at just the right angle on the full display of vivid objects.  Through the seasons, I observed how the number of buoys, angle of light, the time of day changes the shadows making for exciting shapes and colors. All this helped me change the arrangement the way I felt comfortable with as I sketched. 

I had an 'ah-ha' moment when I realized that I 'draw' outlines of the objects  but I have to 'paint' shapes and values! Shapes in right color & value with lost and found edges essentially complete a painting save for a few accents! So now I know to focus my efforts in future paintings on the refinement of interlocking shapes in my composition, making highlights blend, anchoring the shadows so objects pop out.  Most of writing and painting is observing and thinking and seeing the relationships :) 

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Surreptitious Scion of Summer

Mushrooms Digital Photography

These gorgeous mushrooms are some of the specimens I photographed a few days ago on my walk.  I was trying to ID them and was sidetracked when I came across two wonderful TED talk videos on mushrooms, their usefulness and their new role in the modern technological developments.  Paul Stamet holds numerous patents and in his TED talk, outlines six ways mushrooms can save the world. He has fine tuned cleaning polluted soil, making insecticides, treating smallpox, ridding carpenter ants and termites etc. using mushrooms.  His 'Life Boxes' are a surprising way to renew the soil! He 'seeks to rescue the study of mushrooms from forest gourmets and psychedelic warlords.'  It is a treat to watch his talk . I am amazed by the potential that is hidden in these life forms! I also found out that 400 million years ago they were giant three feet tall mushrooms called Prototaxitis  and their fossil can be found in Saudi Arabia!

"Are the mushrooms the new plastic?" is the title of the TED Talk by Eben Bayer. ' Eben Bayer is a product designer and he 'reveals his recipe for a new, fungus-based packaging material that protects fragile stuff like furniture, plasma screens — and the environment.'  I have new respect for these nature's wonders and recycling system.  

And if you can name these mushrooms, please leave a comment and let me know  :) 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bursting Colors

Bursting colors watercolor on Yupo  5x7"

For the past few days,  after  the relentless rains finally stopped, my walks on the trail have been especially  delightful with mushrooms of all sizes, colors and variety popping up just about everywhere! These colorful ones were peeking out through a mess of twigs, grass blades and rotting leaves. I put my small camera below the mushrooms close to the ground to capture the colorful specimens!  I am grateful that I slip my little camera with me whenever I get out.  I did not want to disturb them or pluck them out even though I would have liked to sketch them from life. Upon a bit of research I think they are a variety of Hygrocybe punicea  and probably not poisonous. 

I was not planning on filling up the paper with color but somehow got carried away! I loaded my brush with transparent colors, and used, brushstrokes, crushed paper tissue, and misting for texture. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Poetry of Lines of Shapes

A Day in The Life.... Sketchbook Project page 18 Color pencils 

Our little town still has above ground telephone and electric lines and there are always mourning doves or purple matins etc. sitting on the wires - quite often a conference of them! I love to watch them as they fly away and come back following some private code of their own.  I was very pleased to draw a simple sketch of those birds and incorporate them into my Art House Co-Op Sketchbook-Fiction project narrative.  While working on the project  I really learned the poetry of lines, forms, shapes and colors in sketches. And I realized that to be a true artist I need to follow Irwin Greenberg's advice, " Draw everywhere and all the time. An artist is a sketchbook with a person attached. "   :) 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Different Perspectives

Hanging Beauties  6x4" watercolor

Delicate Beauty  4x4" watercolor

Lately I have been hearing again and again how we should shut off all the technological distractions like cell phones, computers, iPads, television etc and concentrate only creating. But is artistic creativity only confined to the traditional platforms? In today's society, what is the artist's responsibility for showing different perspectives; for using various newer media in creative ways for making a statement; for helping the world learn to empathize?  A TED Talk by Artist Raghava  KK    "Shake Up Your Story" shows off  his children's book idea for iPad. The brilliant creativity he displays  showcases how to expose children to various perspectives on morality, culture, religion etc in a playful, kid-friendly way.  What a wonderful way as an artist to open minds.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

First Light of the Day

Sunrise By The Water Digital Photography

He who is here in the human being, and he, who is there in the sun, are one and the same.” (sa yas-cayam purushe, yas-chasavaditye, sa ekah).
Taittireeya Upanishad

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Summer Dreams

The Day In The Life...sketchbook project page 17 color pencils

My Fiction/sketchbook project  The Day In the Life -In Blue Jeans with gold Embroidery is digitized and online  at the Art House Co-op website :)  I will still slowly put the pages on this blog too but this lets you look/read the whole thing with one click

Now, looking at all the scanned pages in one place, I really long for another goal to work towards! These days I find between catching up on housework,  some garden tending, getting the house repaired, repainted and rearranged, my art time has really eroded. I also have a few wonderful new art books that I am thumbing through that have ideas and techniques that I can't wait to try! And then there is the new Adobe Photoshop that I just purchased and waiting to be mastered. I have to find some extra time - any ideas and tips for me? 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Rideable Art

Rideable Art  digital photography Mysore  Aug 2011

Think of bicycle as rideable art that can just about save the world 
-Grant Peterson

Monday, September 5, 2011

Field Experiments

Watermelon and berries  sketching with Aquaflow brush with watercolor tube paint
At the Gate sketches with Aquaflow brush, tube paint, Pilot G-2 pen
Ready to Board  sketch with Aquaflow brush, tube paint, Pilot G-2 pen

I had purchased a Aquaflow waterbrush just before my unexpected  trip to India last month. I made myself a small field box by putting a blob of paint each of cool and warm reds, blues, and greens, aurelion yellow, raw umber, burnt umber into an old small flat Celestial Seasoning Tea box measuring 3"x2"x1/2" . The brush, the box and my sketch book (5x3"), a Pilot G-2 pen were packed into a quart size ziploc bag and fit in my purse neatly. 

I really enjoyed trying out my 'field sketch box kit' at the airports mostly and found it fun. It took some practice to get a feel for the brush which has a store of water --to figure out how much to squeeze as you paint and how to blend the colors!  I also now know to add a sponge or couple of paper towels to the kit. I played around with sketching first and then adding the colors  as well as putting down the colors first and then defining with the pen. Except that by the end of the trip, some of the paints mixed with each other (airplane pressure issue?) and there was a small mess in part of the box, the kit was a successful experiment. 

Fig  Salvia  sketches with Sakura waterbrush Koi watercolor field sketch box

The sketches of the fig and the Salvia was done at home couple of days ago with the Koi Watercolor Field sketch Box and the Sakura waterbrush that came with it.  The field box has 24 mini pans of paint, 2 sponge strips, a mixing tray that fits neatly to the side when opened, and room for the dis-assembled brushpen. The lid can be used as a mini easel for the watercolor paper that I cut fit into the space between the lid and the mixing tray.  I could hold the field box in one one hand and paint with the other, making it a neat field box. The box measures 6"x4"x1" when closed. I am not too happy with the waterbrush that came with as it kept loosing hair and it took me a while to figure out that I had to twist it to the right to loosen it as opposed to turning to left as I instinctively do ! I was afraid I was going to ruin the brush even before I had a chance to paint with it!!!  I am really looking forward to using my field kits regularly and hope all the sketching will make a difference in my studio paintings :) Please let me know how you approach sketching on the go.   

the set ups :)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Messages for Life

A Day In the Life -sketchbook project page 16 color pencils 

Once again, I am given a new perspective on life - life that is exceedingly fragile, unpredictable and where change is the only constant. We were away in India coping with the untimely, unexpected loss of my  husband's beloved brother when we read about the earthquake that shook our area. Two days later, it was hurricane warnings and evacuation orders for our area as we landed back in USA, hours before the airport closed  due to inclement weather. 

We were lucky to wait out Hurricane Irene at our son's house just far enough from the dreaded path. I fretted and watched the Weather Channel with memories of Hurricane Isabel's destruction too clear in my mind, bracing for the worst but hoping and praying for a miracle. I am thankful for our wonderful neighbors and friends who generously secured our house and yard as Irene furiously spiraled her way up the Eastern seaboard. In the end, Irene spared us - our town, our house and our yard is intact. We drove back home on bright beautiful dayafter and  now only have to clear a bit of debris. And we did not loose power, water or gas service.

For days, sorrow, worry and fear has gripped my heart as I struggled with the uncertainties of life. Now, I am forced to learn to appreciate every single moment; to not take anything or anyone for granted; to be just grateful.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Foliage for a Dream

A Day in the Life... Sketchbook Project page 15 color pencil

In the peak of summer if trees look like these, it is definitely cause for worry!  When I was working on my Art House Sketchbook Fiction Project earlier in the year, the trees were still bare and looked nothing like the lush green ones I see outside now.  From my first Fall and Winter in the USA many many moons ago, I have never ceased to be amazed by the bareness of the trees when the temperatures dip and seasons change. I still wonder if the very first people ever knew that the trees would burst back into life in a few months.  

'The place is all awave with trees,
Limes, myrtles, purple-beaded,
Acacias having drunk the lees
Of the night-dew, fain headed,
And wan, grey olive-woods, which seem
The fittest foliage for a dream. '

-Elizabeth Barrett Browning 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Balcony Seats

Balcony Seats Digital Photography

'Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.' 
Rabindranath Tagore 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Mini Sacred Pause

Slow Sunny Day watercolor 2.5"x6.5"

When I was in Istanbul two years ago, this scene by the square near the Blue Mosque caught my eye. I can't remember what she was selling as she sat there on that very sunny hot hot day. The square was quite crowded with pilgrims and tourists but I saw how the lady watching the child and the child joyfully chasing after the flock of birds were each in their own world.  In this miniature, I choose to paint just that. It was a challenge to paint small and only some of details but I loved the process. 

I read the other day in a article "Sacred Pause" written by Hugh Bryne and Rebecca Hines :"In the midst of daily life there are simple ways to take a “mini sacred pause,” bring awareness to what is alive here and now, and relax into presence" Doesn't it look like the lady and the child know how to integrate those mindful principles? As it is life is very fragile - we definitely need to take and appreciate these 'sacred pauses.'

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Seven Links Project

Hanging Fire watercolor 16x12 

Here it is, 'Hanging Fire' selected by my husband as my most beautiful  painting for my Seven Links Project. As mentioned in my previous post,  The Seven Links Project is courtesy of Crystal Cook who tagged me to post seven links in my blog for

Your most beautiful post
Your most popular post
Your most controversial post
Your most helpful post
A post whose success surprised you
A post you feel didn't get the attention it deserved
The post you are most proud of

The idea behind the project is "to unite bloggers(from all sectors) in a joint endeavor to share lessons learned and create a bank of long but not forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of the day again"  

I could never settle on any of my paintings as my most beautiful one (being partial to all of them (-: ), so,  I finally asked my husband for his pick.  I agree with him that the peppers in Hanging Fire look gorgeous in their luscious red. Please let me know what you think is my most beautiful painting -- I know that is  a very subjective selection !

Resplendent  Watercolor on Yupo 11x14"

Resplendent on Yupo is definitely my choice for 'your most popular post'  if going by the number of hits it gets every single day.  The blogger picked it as my most popular post for the side bar! This painting gave me confidence to continue my experiments on Yupo paper.

Ignorance mixed media 12x15" 

'The post you are most proudest of '  has to be my mixed media painting  Ignorance.  That particular day I had picked up one of my failed paintings of a street scene of a town in India to see if I could salvage it.  Listening to the news about wars in various parts of the world, I started  a collage  on it from torn pieces of rice paper from another failed calligraphy attempt about "Truth alone triumphs.' I was guided by a photograph from one of the newspapers from couple of months before that had etched in my memory - even today I see clearly in my mind's eye the dark figures in a chaotic city scape with blue smoke from a bomb blast.  I am proud of how I channeled my frustration with the violent world out there, my failed paintings and brought together various mediums and styles to express myself.  I am also proud that my daughter within minutes of my posting the painting e-mailed me to ask me if she could have it!

Collateral Damage  water media 9x12 

'Collateral Damage'  surely qualifies for  the 'your most controversial post'.  I consider it controversial for the artistic liberties I took in painting the  disaster caused by the Gulf oil spill. The scene is from my imagination and I closed that post with the thought :  'My hope is that the message doesn't get swept away in the debate about realistic depiction'.

Sketch of a sculpture, white Prismacolor pencil on black paper

The honor for 'A post whose success surprised you' goes to Negative Drawing  showing the sketch of a sculpture done with white Prismacolor pencil on black paper.  I am pleased that I was successful in sketching the sculpture from Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, VA  as well as how according to Stats it has become the second most popular post on my blog!

'A post you feel didn't get the attention it deserved'  goes to Show-off time :

Bangle Pedlar  color pencils 14x10" 

I wavered between Bangle Pedlar and Mandala Meditation - both color pencil portraits. I settled on Bangle Pedlar  from my second blog post but very first post of a painting  -a portrait in color pencils. I guess it is understandable that I never got any feedback on the painting as my blog was still very new :) The painting hangs in my living room and always elicits a happy reaction from all who see it.

At the Art Institute of Chicago digital Photography

As for the 'most helpful post', I would like to think that all my posts are helpful in some way as I strive to include a link or two or some information that one might find useful or worthy of contemplation :)  I consider  my post on 'Universal Acceptance' most helpful - as my attempt at shining a light on how important it is to accept one and all and find  unity in all our diversity.

Now, I pass the Seven Links Project challenge on to :

I really enjoyed doing this challenge - wonderful way to go back and see how my blog and my artistic abilities have evolved  :) 
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