Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Lost In Time

Lost In Time watercolor sketch 2015 8x5.5" by Meera Rao

It was a tiny tiny shop. There were clocks and watches in various stages of repair on the work surfaces and walls.  He was totally absorbed in his work.  I had about half a dozen wrist watches that had stopped working and wanted to check if any could be revived.  I had been told they were not worth the time and trouble in my town in USA.  He had worked his magic on all except one when I returned to pick them up a week later.  He was so humble, unassuming and hesitated to charge next to nothing to have them ticking again. He was someone who was at peace tinkering with the clocks and watches!!! Please check here for another sketch of a different clock repairer in a similar tiny shop from my 2013 sketchbook.  

His sketch is the first one from my trip to India this summer. I am finally getting around to photographing and uploading the sketches.  I used a 44 page 5.5x8" Strathmore Visual Journal with 140 lb watercolor paper.  I sketched on one side only and needing more than a day or two to sketch and color each one as my days were quite busy.  Soon after I returned, I had to make another trip back as my Mother-in-law passed away. She had lived a full life for 93 years. And, I would have never discovered the joy sketching and keeping a journal daily had it not been for my stays with her every summer for the past four years to take care of her. I hope to pick up the habit of daily sketching once again  - may be make it my New year's resolution to get back into wonderful world of creativity.

Time changes everything 
something within us
which is always surprised
by Change.

~Thomas Hardy~

Friday, October 30, 2015

A Rare Special Opportunity

Admitted to US Supreme Court Bar May 2015 9x13.5"  watercolor by Meera Rao 

"Photography is an immediate reaction, drawing is a meditation"
~Henry Cartier-Bresson~

No cameras or cell phones are allowed in the United States Supreme Court and I was really grateful to my sketching ability to capture the exciting moment when our son was admitted to the Supreme Court Bar earlier in the year. I was happy the security let me take my sketch book as practically nothing was allowed into the courtroom. I desperately hoped to do a decent sketch of the event. 

As we had to wait in the courtroom for about half an hour before the court session began, I quickly and roughly sketched the columns, the big table, the nine chairs, the drapes, the flags, backs of lawyers and others connected with a couple of cases whose decisions would be announced, and the dozen or so inductees waiting in the courtroom to be sworn in.  Once all the justices came in and sat down, I got to work to get a quick likeness of each of them -- and yes, Justice Thomas really did lean back on his chair and spent the entire time looking up at the ceiling.  As I am short and was sitting up-close towards the front,  I could barely see Justice Ginsberg over the big wide table! Below is the sketch at the end of the ceremony:

US Supreme Court Ceremony sketch 5x12" by Meera Rao

Later, there was a reception and a meeting with Justice Ginsberg -who was eloquent and passionate about gender equality in the talk she gave to the attorneys newly admitted to the SC Bar.  She also generously answered all the questions from the inductees. During our tour of the building, I took a photograph of the model of the court room to help me complete the sketch. 

The final painting was done on handmade watercolor paper (rough, 270gsm) from India. I drew directly on the paper and outlined it in ink to capture the excitement I felt when I first sketched it on my little sketchbook.  

A work of art is a world in itself reflecting senses and emotions of the artist's world. (Hans Hofmann)

Monday, October 12, 2015

What I See Depends on What I Look For

What I Saw 1 photography by Meera Rao

What I saw 2 Photography by Meera Rao

What I Saw 3 Photography by Meera Rao

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Welcome Retreat

Shade Shack  Photography by Meera Rao

 A green canopy
majestic silent elegant 
no hot sun 
no cold rain
the little blue shack
a welcome retreat.
~Meera Rao~

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Way of Life

Embracing The Ephemeral India 2014-15 Moleskine Japanese Album(large) Sketchbook By Meera Rao  

"The real voyage of discovery consists not on seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes"
Marcel Proust. 

So here is whole book in all its glory :) I am very pleased with the way my second sketch book from last year's India trip turned out. Took me a while to post them!  Ever since four years ago when I decided to keep a sketchbook/journal while I spent time in India each summer taking care of my mother-in-law, I found life and surroundings reaching out to me in generous ways.  The daily vignettes I sketched and painted helped me remember more than what I saw every day with my new 'sketching eyes' ! The sketches are not perfect - I found remembering a quote from Salvatore Dali : "Have no fear of perfection, you will never reach it!"  let me just enjoy the process! 

The format of the Japanese album let me decide how many panels to devote to each idea as I sketched along.  The cream color of the paper did not bother me but I did not like the feel of the paper- it did not take watercolor washes well. My first sketchbook from last year was a smaller Moleskine Japanese album which I posted from July 29 2014 to November 30 2014 in my blog. This year I used Strathmore mixed media journal with 140lbs watercolor paper for one sketch book which I will start posting once I get back to US.  I hope to fill up a second book this year - a multimedia 340 gm USK Sennelier accordion book -- may be then i can decide whats the best sketch book for me or my favorite way to sketch :) 

Monday, August 24, 2015


Waiting - India Sketch Journal 2014-15 by Meera Rao

Quite often while the main streets are congested and busy, the side smaller streets are quieter and hold unexpected scenes! The 'jataka' - quaint very colorful, highly decorated horse drawn carriages can still be found in cities like Mysore and are loved by the tourists ! I love to photograph and sketch them.  The side streets are where they rest and recoup between rides. I have not ridden on one since I was a child and just might try again soon! This was a windy day and the two ladies were trying to hold on to their flying/flowing sarees and hair !

Anticipation - India Sketch Journal 2014-15 by Meera Rao

The lanterns for the festival of lights "Deepavali" were crammed into this tiny store.  There were all different sizes, colors, hanging, stacked one top of another, in boxes, bags, in every nook and corner of this store.  They were also a few traditional clay lamps in boxes as well, along with packets of sparklers or firecrackers.  There was so much color, shapes and textures,  I had a hard time deciding where to start - it was indeed a challenge to sketch it!  

This is the last panel of my second, larger accordion sketchbook - and the scene is from my unexpected short trip back to India last year. This is the only panel from that trip and it was a few long months before I picked up the sketchbook again to finish the coloring, tinting and lettering etc. (hence 2014-15). 

The sketches are done in Moleskine Japanese Album(large) in watercolors and pen. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Service to the Devotees

For Sale - India Sketch Journal 2014-15 by Meera Rao

Festivals and devotees means an opportunity to sell - from beetle leaves for 'puja' or pleasure to colorful plastic pots, earthenware and sundry household goods galore. The streets are lined up with vendors who anticipate a brisk business around holy days. 

Devotee will get Hungry! India Sketch Journal 2014-15 by Meera Rao

And of course, there has to be freshly made mouthwatering delicacies! A simple stove, couple of gas cylinders, a big black cauldron with hot oil, a pot or two and some utensils are all that was needed for this enterprising cook to open a stall by the footpath! The smell of hot 'pakodas' was inviting and a line was forming even before the first batch was out of the oil! If only I could have scratch and sniff strip right here to complete this vignette!  

Mehendi For the Lady - India Sketch Journal 2014-15 by Meera Rao

A few tubes/cones of 'mehendi' paste and this fellow was in business drawing beautiful elaborate designs on the hands and arms of ladies eager for the stunning look.  I stopped to chat and found out the girl was a muslim bride happy to be taking advantage of the opportunity around a Hindu festival to have 'henna' done couple of days before her marriage ceremony. 

The sketches are done on Moleskine Japanese album (large) in watercolors and pen. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Making the Mundane Sacred

Blessed Vegetable stand  watercolor India sketch Journal 2014-15 by Meera Rao 

During the festival season in Mysore, every vendor gets into the spirit by decorating their little section of the footpath. On a quiet Sunday morning walk, I spotted this red onion stand with an elaborate huge 'rangoli' design on the road itself next to a tree turned into a shrine. With a lot fewer vehicles and pedestrians, the stand by a 'petrol bunk' (gas station) could not be missed.  The rangoli done in white powder on the road stretched to the median line!

The Flower Vendor and her stall watercolor India sketch Journal 2014-15 by Meera Rao 

This flower vendor was giving her thanks to the goddess in her small stall turned into a shrine decorated long strands of colorful garlands. The blue plastic tarp tent was a good backdrop for the colorful flowers! 

A Streetside Shrine -unfinished  watercolor India sketch Journal 2014-15 by Meera Rao 

This was the beginnings of what turned into a elaborate shrine by one more vendor. It is so much fun to walk around the city checking out all the different ways the vendors try to show their devotion and give thanks to their favorite deity.   

And an important notice and plea for help:

Please sign this petition at Change.org and get wallpart.com off the internet and off the business it is trying to do- sell artwork as posters without the knowledge and permission from the artists. Search your name/website on their webpage and you may be surprised you are being duped and compromised :( I came across the site via another blogger who posted about her works being stolen. I was shaken up to see all the pictures from my blog being offered at $5.59/poster!  

P.S:  I discovered this morning that it is best bot to even go to that site to check -- but be sure to sign the petition! 

I thought long and hard if I should continue to blog then decided to post but work towards getting wallpart off the internet.  I am hoping to alert other artists, photographers, art enthusiasts, customers and make them aware of this problem. Please spread the word about protecting artists and our work. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Public Declarations!

Public Declarations  watercolor by Meera Rao

Huge billboards that dwarf people, vehicles, buildings and mighty trees decorated with thousands of tiny light bulbs that glow in the dark occupy major and minor intersections of the roads in the city during the festivals. These particular ones celebrate the Goddess Chamundeshwari, the patron deity of the city of Mysore along with that of Saint Raghavendra Swami.  They provide magnificent backdrops for all the parades and festive atmosphere.  Right around the corner from these bill boards are very very crowded flower, fruit and vegetable markets, where one can find just about anything for the right price :) I took the liberty to clear the streets of people and vehicles in my sketch book leaving only a a few to give an idea of scale and also a better look at the billboards! 

From my 2014-15 India sketchbook/art journal  :Embracing the Ephemeral in watercolors and ink on Moleskine Japanese Album (large)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Joyous Festival Processions

Musicians Heralding A Parade watercolor sketch by Meera Rao

Street parades and processions during festival season is a common sight.  In the southern India it is often lead by musicians playing Nadaswaram or even saxaphone,  mridanga and dolu -drums playing joyful hymns. The ensemble is called 'valaga.' They are followed by elaborately decorated floats carrying various deities. 

Hitching a ride with the Deity watercolor sketch Meera Rao

Children enjoy riding on the back of the ornate floats and being a part of the parade.  Prominently displayed on the floats are the names of the sponsors.  The floats are called 'vahana' and they carry the images of  deities. Devotees sing and dance as they slowly make way thru the streets. Here a vehicle is decorated with a pair of 'swans.'    

Vahana with Ornate silver Horses watercolor sketches Meera Rao

'Silver horses' decorated with flowers, silky materials and ornaments hide a car/truck that is carrying another deity! The sponsors take great pride in making sure their 'vahana' stands out in the procession. On the whole it is a fun diversion and joyous occasion for kids and participants and but a major traffic headache for some others :) 

The sketches are part of my sketchbook "Embracing the Ephemeral" done on Moleskine Japanese Albums in pencil/pen and watercolors. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Embracing the Ephemeral

Yakshagana Performance  watercolor sketch by Meera Rao

 "Embracing the Ephemeral" is the title of the this series of sketches on Moleskine Japanese Album sketchbook 5 x 8 1/4" I started end of last summer while I was still in India with my m-i-l.  I stopped working on it when my mother passed away and only recently picked it up again, determined to complete the last few panels, text and lettering. I wanted it finished before my trip to India again this summer :)  

Musician with Chande Watercolor sketch by Meera Rao

The first few sketches are from when I went to watch the classic art form of Yakshagana at the Jaganmohan Palace Art Center at Mysore.  The last sketches in my earlier smaller Moleskine Japanese album were of this palace as I was waiting for the show to start. Click on these links to check them out:  A Palace for Art  and  Time is Life

Musician with Maddale  Watercolor sketch by Meera Rao

Yakshagana, literally Song of the Celestial Beings is an expressive art form: poetry, dance, drama, music and storytelling with elaborate costumes. Accompanying musicians are called "Himmela" - there are  usually atleast two artists playing the drums Chande and Maddale - very crucial to set the mood and a Bhagavatar, a singer narrator with cymbals in his hands.  Together they enact stories from the epics and mythologies, dispense morals and spiritual teachings too.  Always the good is victorious over the evil. 

Jumping and Whirling watercolor sketch  Meera Rao

The elaborate costumes and face paints 'Vesha' clearly indicate who the actors are playing.  Even though now the performances are indoors, and last only a few hours, until a few years ago they were all night outdoor affairs with climax happening around 4 or 5 am in the morning ! I remember attending only a couple of them when I was a school girl, dozing off most of the night and woken with a start when the drums beat with vigor! The jumping and twirling by the actors are spectacular. My brother and I would try to emulate them for the next few days! Check out this link for a taste of the art from a 2-hr performance in Washington DC by a visiting troupe.  Traditionally all parts were performed by male artists only but now there are all female troupes too! More information on Yakshagana can be found here. 

Rajavesha watercolor sketch by Meera Rao

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Creating And Sharing

Horseshoecrab2  color pencils by Meera Rao

My work Horseshoe crab2 has been selected for the Hill Center Galleries 2015 Regional Juried Exhibition that will run from June 25 through September 29in Washington DC.  I was super excited to read in the acceptance letter that 'Juror, Mark Leithauser, Senior Curator and Chief of Design for the National Gallery of Art, selected a distinctive group of pieces from a very large field of entries -- 500 pieces from over 100 artists.'  I am grateful and looking forward to the exhibit!

Equally satisfying was the wonderful interaction I had with elementary school students in our little town at their annual Arts Festival.  I had cut up a couple of my abandoned paintings into bookmark sized strips and had the students personalize them with their art work on top or the back with color pencils as they wished.  For most of them having a background already present meant no fear of the blank paper :) - they were very happy to create on top of it. They were excited at the challenge of incorporating the colors and patterns into their own design. 

Few others decided they wanted a to decorate both the sides and made use of the learn to draw reference books! I had so much fun with them - helping them understand art is what they decide to create and is very subjective.  They also saw how to recycle art :)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Lone Starling

Lone Starling photography by Meera Rao

a lone starling
no murmuration 
no aerial ballet 
etched with gold
 white sparkles
 shimmering iridiscent

~Meera Rao~

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tropical Heart

Tropical Heart watercolor 30x22" by Meera Rao 

This is a full sheet painting I completed some time ago but forgot to post  :) It was in the Peninsula Watercolor society show 2014  and is now at the end of six month hanging at the Hampton Convention center.  This painting was a challenge I took on - to paint full sheet after only sketching in 5x7 sketch books for four months in India! Painting those shadow backgrounds and layering paint on the banana heart was fun. I also learned how much easier the process is if I have all my values figured out ahead -since mostly I paint first and figure out a plan as paint ! I really loved the process and all I can say is that sketching everyday definitely improved my drawing skills!!

"A slow sunny day" watercolor 2.5x6.5" by Meera Rao 

On another note, my painting "The slow sunny day" won 'the award of excellence' at the TAA miniature show -- really surprised and pleased as it is also one of favorite paintings.  I am grateful for the judge for boosting my confidence :) No matter how many times I tell myself  'just paint' there is something to be said about being noticed! 

Just recently I read "The Art Mistakes: Unexpected Painting techniques & the Practice of Creative Thinking"  by Melanie Rothschild.  The book is about losing the fear of mistakes and to have confidence in one's own abilities. I liked what she had to say about creativity  : "Of all places, art is a spot where mistakes should be considered honored guests." I am grateful that a copy of this book was gifted to the Poquoson Public Library  by the Friends of PPL in memory of my mother who was indeed a very creative person. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Hot About Chili Peppers

Red Peppers in Glass Bowl color pencils by Meera Rao

My color pencil piece 'Red Peppers in Glass Bowl' was selected for "Food For Thought"  show sponsored by the Capitol Hill Art League. I am grateful that Juror Bonny Wolf  has helped me to be a part of the DC area artists as we slowly make a home there.  The peppers were from our garden a few summers ago and though it took me quite while to complete, it was a fun piece to work on.  I really loved combining the abstract and realistic style in same painting.  

By the way here is a fun fact from a Smithsonian article "Whats so hot about Chili Peppers"  : According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American now consumes 5.9 pounds of chilies a year, more than the per capita consumption of asparagus, cauliflower or green peas.

If you happen to be in DC area before April 16,  please do stop by and enjoy the show :) 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Most Magical Love

Just Arrived watercolor by Meera Rao

Almost a year after the bundle of joy arrived, I finally got around to painting my newest grandchild. It was pure joy to paint and I wondered why I was hesitating for so long!  The First grandchild still steals my heart but this little one has me completely smitten and in love all over again :)  Who knew grandchildren give you totally new perspective on life ! 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Nature's Calligraphy

Nature's Calligraphy Photography by Meera Rao 

nature's calligraphy 
  brushed with morning glow 
glazed by soft mist
a veiled secret

~Meera Rao~  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sound Reflections

Sound Reflections 3 watercolor by Meera Rao

Procession of people full of exuberance, in colorful costumes, playing music with shiny instruments stopped me on my tracks.  It was a beautiful sunny day and the first thing I noticed were all those reflections in the instruments. I was fascinated how the colors and reflections vibrated on the polished metals.  The need to capture the moment was immediate  :)

Sound Reflections 2 watercolor on hot press by Meera Rao 

These are two miniatures I painted along with Sound Reflections1  All three were in the  "Small Works- Miniatures by the Tidewater Artists " show at the Charles Taylor Arts Center in Hampton from Oct 25-Nov 30 2014.  

If you wait for inspiration you'll be standing on the corner after the parade is a mile down the street.
~Ben Nicholas

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"Catoptric Bends of Lighted Sound"

Sound Reflections 1 color pencils 4"x4" by Meera Rao 

This is one of my three pieces that was selected for the "Small Works- Miniatures by the Tidewater Artists " show at the Charles Taylor Arts Center in Hampton from Oct 25-Nov 30 2014. ( I know I am way late in posting! )  Poets were invited to write a poem inspired by the artworks in the exhibition and the Arts Center hosted a poetry reading on Oct 30th in the galleries. Below is the poem by Dave Lego and I am thrilled that my piece inspired him  :)  The link on the title of the poem should take you to the audio recording of the poet reading his creation.  Please let me know if the link does not work -- I have been working on embedding mp3 links on my blog which has been harder than I imagined.  My heartfelt thanks to Dave  for this poem.  

Sound Reflections 1

catoptric bends of lighted sound
golds and bronze, greens and blues
bright brassy banded all around
a field marches to rousing hues

hear the crowd in white-bleached stands
hear teenagers shouting loud approval
hear percussion, horns, marching band
hear Americana just being youthful

batons spin air from majorettes
pom-poms shaking pretty cheerleaders
believing it's as good as it gets
with play-by-play from a loudspeaker

half-time show a steeped tradition
for a hundred years or thereabouts
you may think of a better addition
but truth is, i have my doubts

© Dave Lego 2014-11-25

ekphrastic for 2014-11-30 at
the Charles H. Taylor Arts Center
for Meera Rao's "Sound Reflections 1"

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