During my childhood I used to love to weave the palm fronds into little snakes, bracelets, finger rings, boxes etc.. Growing up in coastal Karnataka, it was normal to see screens and mats made with the palm fronds used on buildings for temporary shade or protection from elements. Tents made with these mats are common when there is a celebration or gathering happening. I saw this fellow weaving a number of these on a side street a few days before the Goddess Chamundi festival. Below is a photograph I clicked of the screen in use -- normally even the roof is made with these screens even though here a tin sheet is being used. I sketched an ornate tent 'Mantapa' last year - check it out here. I also found a flicker group that has a collection of photographs of objects made from weaving the palm fronds the world over! - much more sophisticated than my humble efforts as a kid!
Woven Palm Frond Mats Photograph By Meera Rao
Below is the sketch of an ornate door frame of an old building in a narrow street in Mysore city center with a 'wicket' door within it. The open small door gave me a glimpse of a couple sitting in a small shaft of sunlight and chatting. The teal blue paint against the massive carved wooden door made quite an impression. I wondered about the secrets and stories this ancient structure was hiding!
India Sketch Journal 2013 Aug 7 by Meera Rao
I, of course have to include the shot of the page from my sketch book with both these sketches :) :
On one of my walks in the city, I came upon this amazing set up of a weaving stand right by the road side in front of a closed store. There was a ditch right there and a couple of bamboo poles were laid across to cross it. There were bamboo ladders and poles tied around to help with the weaving as the screen/mat that was being woven got bigger! There was even a bright blue tarp for shade. The stones as weights on the weaving 'loom' are quite simple and innovative as well. This link shows that the technique is an ancient one dating to BC! I was so taken by the whole scene that I decided to devote two days of sketching and give the loom part with the stones its own little sketch :)
India Sketch Journal 2013 Page 30by Meera Rao
“A weaver who has to direct and to interweave a great many little threads has no time to philosophize about it, rather, he is so absorbed in his work that he doesn't think, he acts: and it's nothing he can explain, he just feels how things should go.”
The 'windy month' brings out the kites and kids. The stores stock colorful kites of various sizes. A favorite after school activity for some is making their own kites. Regardless, many spend hours trying to launch their kites- inexperienced as they are- in hopes of seeing their homemade or store bought kites fly high in the sky.
India Sketch Journal Aug 2 by Meera Rao
As the rains continue, and the temperatures dip, the blanket peddlers roam the streets. I had to peek out of the balcony to figure out what their loud calls were for and what is it that was being sold now! I do appreciate that even now blankets, vegetables, household items, toys are sold by peddlers roaming the street --it is always nice to have the market come to you !
For us wind, rain etc are just different kinds of weather but check out this TED talk video on Art made of Storms by Nathalie Miebach - She "takes weather data from massive storms and turns it into complex sculptures that embody the forces of nature and time." The talk opens with a sculpture and musical scores. It is fascinating to see and hear her explain how science, art and music intersect creatively for her. “Weather is an amalgam of systems that is inherently invisible to most of us, so I use sculpture and music to make it, not just visible, but also tactile and audible.”
I would have to say this is one of my favorite pages from my sketch book. The scene from the market and the billowing hammock cradle made from a saree hanging off a tree in the park really captures the sense of diligence and the extra mile that parents go for the sake of their children.
India Sketch Journal 2013 July 31 by Meera Rao
I was tickled to see the three children doing homework under their father's vegetable vending cart in the market. The cart also shaded them from the evening sun. It was interesting to see that as the children worked their father was seriously 'studying' his cell phone :) Parents know that the only way for the children to overcome poverty is through good education and as this scene shows they make sure their children do their work.
Just today I came across a fascinating article on Mumbai's privately owned circulating libraries -mostly in the center of the city in tiny little shops. Here is an excerpt from that article"Poor Little Rich Boys: The art of the Mumbai Circulating Library' in 'The Comic Journal' by Ryan Holmberg : "Online searching turned up more than a dozen scattered across Greater Mumbai, some of which are actually in the heart of the city, near railway stations and major intersections. These latter seem to be mainly older businesses, hanging on since the 1950s and 60s. I am also told that, out in the suburbs, a number of “paper marts” – paper recycling shops – have begun doubling as lending libraries, redirecting not only junk books and magazines that come their way, but also cartons of cheap remainder books. " What follows is an riveting account of a couple of those libraries. I also loved the photographs that accompany the story.
India Sketch Journal 2013 Aug 1 by Meera Rao
One day suddenly out of the blue the park near our flat was taken over by squatters from northern India who had journeyed all the way south obviously looking for work. For a few days no one else could use the park as they had pitched their tents, and had made themselves completely comfortable! The smell of outdoor cooking wafted through the streets. The neighborhood was in a crisis, police were summoned and as suddenly, they pulled up the tents and departed leaving behind much garbage and a park in shambles. That is when I found this saree hammock cradle that some parent had made for her baby, empty and billowing in the wind.
Five Years of blogging :) To each and everyone who has visited or followed my blog, left comments, and given me your support -- a very big heartfelt THANK YOU! As I say in my 'comments' section, viewers complete the cycle of creating art. I am always grateful for your comments, critiques, shout outs or suggestions :)
I always debate whether to add to the stereotype vision of India about 'cows on the street' every time I decide to sketch a cattle or two (actually five out of 78 sketches this year and five out of 124 in last year's journal!). Unlike in western countries the roads are happily shared by different kinds of vehicles, pedestrians, and various animals. This is especially true in the old part of Maisuru where many households still have cows - except they let those cows loose to graze around the neighborhood. Mostly the cows are very calm and mind their own business but every now and then when the streets get busy and there is not much room to share, I get very nervous - be it an autoriksha, bus or a cow coming the opposite way but on the same side of the road as me !!!
India Sketch Journal 2013 July 30 by Meera Rao
This beautifully battered brass coffee filter pot in a coffee shop at one of the modern malls was almost as tall as me. Coffee powder is packed into the top half of the pot with a filter in the middle. When boiling water is poured over it, thick coffee 'decoction' slowly drips to the bottom part. Add a couple of tablespoons of this decoction to boiling hot milk, mix in sugar, pour with pizzazz into tiny stainless steel tumblers making sure there is lot of foam on top and you have delicious 'mysore coffee' to savor. Check here for a sketch of steaming cup of Indian filter coffee from my Art House Library Sketchbook Project and here from my India Sketch journal 2013 to know more about coffee history and culture of southern India.
Here is a look at the page from my sketch book journal:
"Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are."
~Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste, 1825
French gourmet & lawyer (1755 - 1826)
India Sketch Journal 2013 July 27 by Meera Rao
These little fluffy chicks were definitely very new to the world, still wobbly on their legs when I saw them by the roadside. Mother hen was doing her job well keeping a watchful eye over them. I enjoyed watching them instinctively scratch the earth looking for something to eat.
India Sketch Journal 2013 July 28 by Meera Rao
As mangoes start getting scarce and price goes up, the fruit lovers all have a tough time deciding how many to buy and how much to pay! There is also the fact staring right at you that these may be the last of the mangoes until next season and no one wants to say good bye to those fruits yet! This is where there is huge argument about need and want :)
The man who can smile at his breaks and grab his chances gets on.
I was impressed to see the entrepreneurship of this man --he had himself a bicycle tire patching business with only a few inner tubes hung on a tree trunk, some simple tools spread on a sheet under a tree! And of course, he was busy with his little cell phone while waiting for customers. Every time I went past his spot on the sidewalk I hoped he had enough people stopping by so he could earn enough!
India Sketch Journal 2013 July 24 by Meera Rao
She may be living in a shack by the roadside, selling pots that she and her family members crafted right there- but she had a place to sit comfortably - a two seat bench discarded from some automobile and again a cell phone to keep her busy while she waited for customers. What I also noticed is that her surroundings were spic and span, and the recycled materials used on the tent were very neatly assembled and tied together. I admired the relentless resourcefulness!
Whether it is protection from evil eye or hungry cows and goats, there is a way to safeguard what you cherish - be it magic, superstition or a practical solution!
India Sketch journal 2013 July 21 by Meera Rao
These red masks of fierce looking faces with horns and a scorpion on the tongue can be bought on the road side from migrant artisans who camp on the sidewalks, establish a workshop and a set up a retail outlet right there :) The whole family pitches in to make the masks from molds to which they pour plaster of paris or clay, paint and then sell them in various sizes. The masks are bought to place on houses, buildings, and new construction sites. What caught my eye was that the sidewalk makeshift enterprise selling talisman masks had a classic talisman of its own - that of seven green chili peppers and lemon hanging so that no evil eye is cast on this thriving business ! Please do click on the colored phrases above and you will be able to see my sketches from my art journal 2012 :)
India Sketch journal 2013 July 22 by Meera Rao
This is little sapling by the roadside had its own fence to fend off the hungry cows and goats that wander the streets. The effort was worthwhile as the plant still had its leaves and was showing signs of growth! The tragedy sometimes is that the sticks from the little fence can also disappear - to be used for kindling by someone. I was attracted to the geometry of the lines, the organic shapes of the leaves, the colors and had to record it in my sketch book.
Break time from Shoe Shine Watercolor on Yupo 5"x2.3" by Meera Rao
Beverage Service Watercolor on Yupo 3.5"x4.3" by Meera Rao
"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see"
I have three small paintings on Yupo in "Small Works: Miniatures by Hampton Roads Artists " The show will run from October 12-December 1, 2013 at the Charles Taylor Arts Center in Hampton, VA. All the pieces had to be 20 square inches or under and it was fun to once again paint on yupo after months of only sketching in my sketchbook/journal! I am always amazed how vibrant and brilliant colors remain on the yupo unlike regular watercolor paper where the colors dry lighter than what goes on. I also love how the differently the textures and details show on the yupo.
All three pieces are composites of my sketches, photographs and my imagination. So when I came across the quote by Edgar Degas, I chuckled and knew I had to include it here! Laundry is of course a scene from India, Break timefrom Shoe Shine is a scene I still see in some airports in USA and the Beverage Service is from one of my airplane trips :) I was pleasantly surprised and pleased when all three were accepted for the show. It is a beautifully curated exhibit with many wonderful pieces in all media. If you are in that neck of woods do drop in and enjoy the creativity on display.
This corner florist really brightens up the dusty drab sidewalk with colorful and fragrant flowers. I was impressed by what a brisk business he had making flower bouquets and arrangements. All he had was a bright blue tarp and a little shack with blue paint to match. But it made for a lovely corner lifting my spirits every time I went by on my errands! I decided to sketch it on two days giving the corner and the shack its own space in my sketchbook :)
Often I see men carrying a decorated shrine on their shoulders and on a pilgrimage. They depend on the good will of shopkeepers and others for their meals as they walk toward their destination, a holy place or temple, as a personal penance. I am not sure which deity he is carrying as the fresh flower decorations completely covered the icon.
2013 India Sketch Journal July 17 by Meera Rao
This personwas carrying a load of a different kind -- a cooking gas cylinder - to appease a different desire - that of the stomach. It was uncanny how both had a look of determination as they walked.
Road side shrines dot the streets - some are just a small niche in a wall, or a small platform with an idol under the shelter of a tree, and some are little structures built with stones and bricks as proper miniature temples as in the sketch above. These don't have a priest but the neighborhood community members take care of daily cleaning, adorning it with fresh flowers and keeping it spruced up. As always, these shrines are reminders of the spirituality, gratefulness for the benevolence of the Universe. Here is a sketch of another shrine from my 2012 sketchbook if you are curious.
2013 India Sketch Journal July 15 by Meera Rao
Sewing Mends the soul - Author Unknown
There is such heavy demand for electricity that routinely people in India experience power outages. Bigger stores and offices have their own generators for times likes these but the little mom and pop stores like the tailor shop in the neighborhood still operate old fashioned sewing machines etc that don't require electricity to run. They can run their business and earn a livelihood. Check out the tailor using the old fashioned sewing machine here and a sketch of the UPS (universal Power Source) here
2013 India Sketch Journal Page 20 by Meera Rao
Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don't unravel ~Anon.
In India all living things are looked upon with gratitude since time immemorial. Many trees and plants are held as sacred and used in religious ceremonies and many others are cherished because of their medicinal and health benefits.
2013 India Sketch Journal July 13 by Meera Rao
The Peepal/Aswatha/Bodhi tree -Ficus religiosa - is one of the most sacred trees in India. Worshipers of different faiths whisper their desires and tie either yellow or red thread, cloth around the tree trunks in hopes of seeing it realized. Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment under this tree. The leaf is dried and used by artists as a canvas with beautiful images painted on them. My niece caught me on one of my walks doing a double take to pick up a leaf on the road side -- and here it is sketched in my journal.
2013 India Sketch Journal Page 19 by Meera Rao
Shigekai - Acasia Concinna - literally 'hair fruit' is another tree which is considered to have medicinal properties and the fruits, pods, leaves barks are dried powdered, made into paste and then used as soap or as hair care. It does not lather much but is considered very good for skin and hair. I remember once when we had moved to a new house the yard had a Shigekai tree and I tried to use it to care for my hair - not much success I might add :( Now I see that there is a shampoo available with my name on the bottle except unlike the lady pictured, I have short very curly hair!!!!
India Sketch Journal 2013 July 12 2013 by Meera Rao
A cart by the road side, a few fruits or vegetables and a whole day to sell them makes one a shopkeeper. They tout the freshness and how special the produce is by mentioning where its from. Absence of price tags means changing prices depending on the customer -- regulars get a break while novices and others are an opportunity to make a bigger profit :) But it is a hard life and as the poses of the vendors show they catch a nap or rest any which way they can.
India Sketch Journal 2013 July 11 2013 by Meera Rao
Lots of tropical vegetables are now both grown or available here in the USA but as I mentioned before something about the tropical soil and weather, they definitely taste different (better!) in the tropics. I remember when growing up teasing my grandmother when sighed as to how vegetables from certain villages tasted better than others and it is ironic that now I have come to the same conclusion !
India Sketch Journal 2013 age 18 July 11-12 2013 by Meera Rao
I enjoy painting in watercolors, color pencils, graphite and mixed media. I like to paint everyday things, scenes, ideas that capturen my imaginations, explore them through realistic, expressive, impressionistic or abstract styles. I also enjoy photography. I try to bring to my art the philosophy, heritage and the tropical colors of India and the spirit of adventure and experimentation I find in my now home here in the USA. My goal is to paint often and have my blog as a place to share my adventures.