Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Most Difficult Part

Blue Blooms watercolor on Yupo 7x5" by Meera Rao

I don't know the name of these flowers but when I saw them a few weeks ago  in a bouquet I had bought, I pulled out my watercolors, a small sheet of yupo and just painted them free hand. It was very gratifying to just relax, trust my instincts, simplify,  and concentrate on capturing the essence of what I was seeing. Painting a simple blue flower - nothing more.  I liked the resulting Zen like  quality of flower with white space around it.  

Just this morning I was looking for one particular book in my library. I stumbled across "Complete Sumi-e Techniques" by Sadami Yamada. I had forgotten I owned it and had not opened it in years. Sidetracked from my search, I started flipping through it and read about yohaku or 'white space' the unpainted area : "the importance placed on this area in a painting  is considered equal, and sometimes superior, to the actual painted area."  And : is the intimate relationship between the concept of 'color and 'space' that makes perfection  possible"   The 'painted' part is considered as 'fullness' and the blank space as 'emptiness'  with both combined to bring balance and create beauty.  

The author writes: " When asked what was the most difficult problem in painting, Ike-no-Taiga, a great master of the Edo period, pinpointed the importance of white space by simply answering, 'the unpainted area is the most difficult part'

I love how an important composition element is explained in spiritual terms and that what to leave unpainted is a challenge experienced by artists all through the ages.  The other thing the book  emphasizes is hours of practice :)  

Friday, February 22, 2013

When I Gaze at Orchids

  Orchids watercolor on Yupo 8"x8" by Meera Rao 

Even though the world is filled with 
When I gaze at one orchid
I can forget 
all my problems. 
Song Sunam

The Orchid flowers blooming on the plant on my coffee table give a sense of floating in the air as they  hang tall on a long stem! They come up to my eye-level (I am not that tall !) and I feel like they are  watching my every move! Painting them on yupo was delicious fun but it took me forever to correct the colors in the photo and make them match my painting! The colors and details are much more subtle, vibrant and delicate in the painting - some day I hope there won't be such a steep learning curve with using the camera and computer.  But today's achievement is that I learned how to work with layers in Photoshop.  I hope I will remember how the next time I want to use it! Tomorrow I should spend as much time in the studio painting!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

Lessons From Keeping An Art Journal

India Art Journal Oct 26-Oct 28 2012
This is the last page of my India Art Journal -- four months and 124 sketches later. I am incredibly happy with the way the journal evolved through my stay in India. Now it surprises me as to how  unsure and hesitant I was to commit to such a project before my trip! 

I had finally gotten the courage a few days before I my trip to India in June 2012  to come to keep a journal of my stay there. It then took a few visits to the art store, going through the catalogs etc before I settled on Strathmore Mixed Media Visual Journal (5.5"x 8") 34 sheets/68 pages, 90 lbs wt. paper. I calculated that it would give me just enough space to do 124 vignettes at sketch a day, four sketches to a page and three extra pages in case I mess up :) I still have one blank sheet  at the beginning and end of the journal! I shared one sheet with a young nephew. 

My sketch kit consisted of Koi watercolor sketch box, two  waterbrushes(one Aquaflow and one Koi), pilot G-7 pen , one graphite 4B pencil and a knead-able eraser. All this fit neatly into a plastic zippered bag ( that  pillow covers that I had purchased a while ago came in. ) I added a small box of 12 oil pastels in India. 

India Art Journal Oct 26 2012

By the time this last page came along, I was quite relaxed and confident about sketching. Nothing like sketching each and every day for four months straight to feel comfortable with drawing.  I knew by then not to expect every sketch to be a masterpiece, not to judge but just sketch every single day. I was attempting all different subjects knowing that each only had to fill in a space of 2.5"x 4". My plan was very simple.  I think keeping it small, and not worrying about size or orientation also helped me just draw. I worried and wondered only about the subject each day-That was the only decision I had to make and I didn't follow any theme.

India Art Journal Oct 27-Oct 28 2012

Even with my busy schedule of keeping a house, cooking, entertaining, marketing, caring for my m-i-l, etc... keeping aside time to sketch each day was something I did for just myself and I always looked forward to it. This 'sketching time' was very crucial to keeping an art journal every day.  Sharing my sketches made it special, made my activity legitimate and made me accountable to my intention. In the end it meant a lot to my dear Mother-in-Law too that I had made time to sketch every day!  Looking for subjects meant I was seeing the world around with new eyes and developed a deep appreciation for the beauty in everything.  I noticed things in new light.  In retrospect, keeping an art journal was the best decision I had made as a part of my journey.

India Art Journal Oct 28 2012 (India) by Meera Rao

Since returning, I have tried to sketch or draw or paint something almost everyday. I don't have a compelling reason other than I should and that has not worked very well!  I wondered and worried if I would be able to draw and paint in bigger sizes or even have enough patience to work on a large piece.  I am happy to announce that I did complete a full sheet painting that I am very  pleased with ( I will post a photo soon!)  

India Art Journal Oct 28 2012 (USA) by Meera Rao

Next, I am hoping to combine my blog posts on the sketches with the vignettes from the art journal and put a book together.  Meanwhile I can't wait to dream up another project to work on! The finished journal is a big boost to my confidence and a wonderful memento of my four months in India. 
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