Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Art is a Verb

Memories of a bloom 3 watercolor on Yupo 7x5"by Meera Rao 

Memories of a bloom 2 watercolor on Yupo 5x7" by Meera Rao

Memories of a Bloom  watercolor on Yupo  7x5" by Meera Rao

Three paintings so far with the theme: 'Memories of a Bloom.'  I posted all three here just to see how they look as a group. It felt strange to paint #3 just as fresh spring blooms were popping up in the yard! Memories of a Bloom  and Memories of a Bloom2 were painted earlier. Yupo as I have mentioned so many times before, is a great medium to play with to see how to work out compositions, color and values without much hesitation - it is so easy to wipe off part or all of the painting and start over when things don't quite work out!  And as I rework my paintings I see that there is much truth in the quote from one of my favorite books - Art and Fear - Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland : “To the critic, art is a noun. To the artist, art is a verb.”  

As promised in an earlier post, it is time to tag blogs for the Liebester Award which Aparna from Warli Soul generously passed on to me. Liebster is German for dearest, beloved or favorite. This award is bestowed on blogs with less than 200 followers but deserve more attention :) Please check out these wonderful artists! : 

Rajeev Mohan's Spalsh of Color  
Lisa Graham's Lisa Graham Art
Kathy Staicer at Katsart

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Nanas - Excellent Fruit

Pineapple watercolor on yupo 6x8" by Meera Rao

I bought a pineapple last week and it sat on the counter for a few days ripening slowly.  I sketched it in graphite first and then in watercolors. It took a lot longer to do the detailed pencil sketching than the paintings as I didn't do any pencil drawing of the fruit for either of the watercolor pineapple paintings.  I used waterbrush pens for the smaller pineapple. I think sketching them in pencil and then with the waterbrush pen was definitely good practice- by the time I painted it on yupo I was familiar enough with the fruit. But I guess no sketching ahead may also explain why it is a little plumper in this version :)  I also experimented by misting the yupo painting with alcohol to get the texture. 

watercolor sketch with waterbrush pen 5x3" 

We call pineapple as ananas in my mother tongue Kannada.  I just found out that "In the scientific binomial Ananas comosus, ananas, the original name of the fruit, comes from the Tupi word nanas, meaning "excellent fruit",[8] as recorded by André Thevet in 1555, and comosus, "tufted", refers to the stem of the fruit."  Tupi is one of the languages from South America and the pineapple plant is indigenous to that area.  I am sure, even though I am not aware of it, there is an interesting story as to how the fruit with it's name came to be a familiar crop all the way in southern India :) 

graphite sketches 5x3"

Monday, March 12, 2012

Winter Abundance

Winter Abundance digital photography by Meera Rao 

I saw these berries weighing down the holly tree branch on my walk last week. For some reason the birds have not found that tree yet.  I understand cold winter frost makes the otherwise poisonous berries edible for the birds. 

Taking the photographs often is a lesson or practice sessions for me in how to compose, to get closer look at vast range in colors, light-shadow and variety of textures.  Sometimes I wonder though whether the camera makes me lazy about really paying attention to all that because  now I can just go back and refer the photos whenever I have a doubt, erasing a compelling reason to really observe for long or commit to memory much of the details......  

My curiosity lead me to research how and in what way photography changed paintings, in style and subject matter.  I came across some very interesting information in an article 'Painting and Photography'  written by Nancy Roth for : Photography arrived at a point in the history of European painting when Romanticism, as embodied in the turbulent fictions and exotic allegories of figures such as Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), was widely admired and commercially successful; realism, the painting of immediate visual experience, was beginning to coalesce into an oppositional movement, championed by the brash young Gustave Courbet (1819-77). Neither of these painters saw photography as a threat to painting. They, and others later, quickly embraced it as a means of referencing such details as facial expression, ephemeral light effects, and motion. Delacroix even wrote in his journal that ‘if a man of genius should use the daguerreotype as it ought to be used, he will raise himself to heights unknown to us’. Some painters, notably Edgar Degas, Pierre Bonnard, Edvard Munch, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, themselves became accomplished photographers. It was rather the popular Salon painter Paul Delaroche (1797-1856), celebrated for the technical precision of his work, who reportedly declared, on seeing his first daguerreotype, "From today painting is dead "   

I am so glad he was wrong :) 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Power of Choice

Garuda Puppet  watermedia  22x30

So how long does it take me to complete a painting? - I started Garuda fifteen some years ago at the very first workshop I had signed up for.  We went to an antique shop and I sketched an Indonesian puppet in pen on a full sheet of Arches watercolor paper! Each participant then picked three colors from a basket to use as underpainting.  I ended up with Opera, Phthalo(more like acid)green and Aureolin yellow :)  Too meek to protest or cheat with tamer colors, I tried to do my best by really diluting the paints but still ended up with a very garish start. I remember very well trying to save the whites around the face of the puppet! But I never even attempted to complete the piece. Over the years, I could not discard it --the paper was too expensive, and I did not want to admit defeat! 

Yesterday I pulled out the piece. All my reference photos were lost somewhere in my studio. I decided to plunge by boldly covering the space and underpainting behind the puppet with opaque blue gouache. Things already looked better! Except for the face, the arm, and the hands, I glazed the background designs with a thin wash of ultramarine blue --that subdued the colors and pushed it back. I then defined some of the shapes with indigo violet, some with yellow ochre, remembering the  batik textile designs from the Indonesian island of Bali. Feeling a bit adventurous, I defined the eyebrow and the beak with a mix of opera and phthalo green. I finished by glazing the arm with yellow ochre and one last thin glaze of ultramarine blue on everything but the face and arms. I am pretty pleased with the rescue - mainly because I learnt so much in the process! Funny thing is that, all this took about 4 hours! And I really wish I had a 'before' photograph.

This painting session was the exact boost I needed desperately yesterday.  During the past month I had received one too many rejection notices for shows and someone from the artworld even questioned my commitment as an artist. As I thought through my experiences, I suddenly realized how far I had come in the fifteen years and how much I enjoy what I do. And talk about serendipity, I came across the wise words about 'social validation and false merit metric of prestige' at Brainpickings :What you should not do, I think, is worry about the opinion of anyone beyond your friends. You shouldn’t worry about prestige. Prestige is the opinion of the rest of the world.[…]Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like. - (Paul Graham on How to do what You Love). Tucked in the same site, TED talk by Alain de Botton about 'ideological fallacies of success.' was also just what I needed :)

So, I would like to really thank all of you who visit my blog and validate what I do here! I also  especially want to thank Aparna from Warli Soul for the 'Liebester Award' she gave me. Liebster is German for dearest, beloved or favorite. This award is bestowed on blogs with less than 200 followers but deserve more attention (-Serendipity again!) In my next post, I shall pass this along :) Meanwhile, do check out her beautiful 'Warli' art. 
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