Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Shaping that Artwork

Strewn watercolor and ink on Yupo 8x8 by Meera Rao 

See with one eye 
Feel with the other 
~Paul Klee~

I am always amazed how often during the painting process I feel my work is on the brink of collapse. And that often gives me the freedom to try out new possibilities. I feel I have nothing to loose.  I take on the challenge of seeing if there is a way out of the hole I have painted myself into ! In Art and Fear the authors David Bayles and Ted Orland write: "Look at your art and it tells you how it is when you hold back or when you embrace. When you are lazy, your art is lazy; when you hold back, it holds back; when you hesitate, it stands there staring, hands in its pockets. But when you commit, it comes on like blazes"  

Of course, I have a long way to go! Meanwhile, with brush in hand I explore - balancing my feelings of competency and inadequacy, fear and courage, passion and desire. It is a special moment indeed when I discover a different ending.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Off Season

Off Season  watercolor on Yupo 8x8" by Meera Rao 

During crabbing season, I see watermen in small boats cruising the waterways in our little town during the early part of the day pulling up crab pots and placing empty ones in their place. When a pickup truck stacked with crab pots passes me while driving, I often hope for  traffic light to turn red so that I may stop right behind that truck to snap a photo :).  I have known about their hard lives, seen photographs and read wonderful articles in our local paper.  This time when I passed this stack of crab pots in a yard, I had to paint it. My other painting of a crab pot can be found here

I had not thought much about crabbing as such until I came across this stack. Turns out, this year the season was from March 17 to November 30.  There is a "Chapter: Pertaining to Crabbing " in the website for Virginia Marine Resources Commission.  It covers in detail  license requirements and "daily individual, vessel and harvest and possession limits, time limits, season limits, peeler pot limits and peeler and softshell crab minimum size limits for commercial and recreational crabbing in Virginia."  My research showed that Chesapeake crabbers already supply up to a third of the blue crabs eaten in the U.S, but issues of overcrabing and climate change looms large in their future.  I read that last year the season was shortened by 16 days and bushel limits for the entire month of November was also reduced. This is a huge reminder how interconnected our whole world is !!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Whispered Words

Whispered Words watercolor and ink 4.5x4.5 by Meera Rao 

Every year when November /Thanksgiving day rolls around, the air infused with the idea of importance of giving thanks.  All the scriptures and the wise though advice us to lead a life filled with gratitude for things small and big every day all year long. The Bhagavad Geeta emphasizes that our life and being is eternally indebted to the whole Universe and that we should express our gratitude through every single act, word and thought.  When we see and acknowledge how we are connected to the whole Universe, we learn to value all life and and the world around us. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying:  “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”  The choice is clear.  

In this little painting I tried to express that thought by weaving the words into the composition- a reminder to embed that thought into my life. 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

10th Blog Anniversary!!!

Silence Isn't Empty watercolor and Ink 4.5x4.5" by Meera Rao 

Today is the 10th anniversary of my blog!!!  498 posts to date :) What a wonderful adventure it has been.  My art and blog have nurtured each other. I have basked in the warm support of all who have taken the time to read my blogs, to leave comments or to follow/subscribe - for that I am ever grateful.  As I have indicated on my comment form,  it is the viewers who complete the circle of creating art :) As the Thanksgiving Day approaches, I am reminded of my privilege to share my art and I am extremely grateful for this opportunity.  Thank you all :) 

"Silence isn't empty" - It is full of answers is a small painting 4.4x4.4" (framed 9x9)  I am excited that it, along with Haiku in Red  and Thinly Veiled has been selected by Juror Carolyn Thompson Dudley for the Charles Taylor Art Center, Hampton,  Miniatures and Small works by Tidewater Artists Exhibition.  The exhibition dates are Dec 8th 2018 - January 20th 2019 

Thinly Veiled watercolor on Yupo 4.5x4.5" By Meera Rao 

Haiku in Red  watercolor 6x9.5" by Meera Rao 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Enchanting Alchemy of Art

Enchanted City  mixed media on wood 6x6" by Meera Rao 

Trapped mixed media on wood 6x6" by Meera Rao 

Color is the keyboard,
the eyes are the harmonies,
the soul is the piano with many strings.
Artist is the hand that purposefully plays
touching one key or another
and sets the soul vibrating.
~Wassily Kandinsky~

It is always a lot of fun painting with the  mixed media Pebeo oil based liquid alkyd colors.  I continue to be amazed  at how 'Prisme' gives honeycomb effects that reveals itself only while drying -so to be patient and give it time to divulge its' secret.  I am still astonished when the hammered effects of 'Moon' with textured pearl finish is unveiled instantly.  I love the glossy transparent and luminous 'vitrail' colors; and the smooth enamel effect with lacquer finish of the 'ceramic' paints. And mostly, I am totally enamored by the exciting mix of art and science: using the chemistry of these liquids to paint, to bring about different effects and looks.  I wish the photographs showed even more clearly the wonderful textures and dimension of the art works. 

Enchanted City and Trapped were done on wood panels by pouring paint and deliberating on when and how much to manipulate the paints by keeping in mind their reaction styles and times.   On the whole,  it has been exhilarating to attempt to conquer the fear of the uncertainty and abstraction :) 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018


My Art at the Poquoson Public Library October 2018 

My Art at the Poquoson Public Library October 2018 

I am excited to once again show my art at the Poquoson Public Library for the month of October. It is always a great feeling to be afforded this opportunity to display my paintings. This year my paintings have been mostly 'Explorations' of various scenes, ideas and media. I brought out some of my favorite paintings from years past as well as many new pieces for this show.  If you are in this neck of the woods please do stop by the Library :)  Just realized that unknowingly I seem to have taken a two month hiatus from blogging  but I am happy to be back ! 

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Showing My Art

Gentle Sway  14x10" watercolor by Meera Rao 

It's catch up time with regards to a few different places my paintings have traveled to :)  Gentle Sway in watercolors  a painting of a boatman in Zhujiajiao, a Watertown near Shanghai, China, has been juried into the Virginia Artists 2018 Juried Exhibition at the Charles Taylor Arts Center in Hampton, VA. The show will run from Aug 18- October 7.  My 'Thank you' to Juror Seth Feman, Curator of Exhibitions and Photography at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, VA.  

'Sunrise in the city'  Honorable mention, Peninsula Watermedia Society Juried Member Show Stryker Art Gallery, Williamsburg, VA. 

'Hurricane'  Also at Pennisula Watermedia Society Juried Member Show, Stryker Art Gallery, Williamsburg, VA 

"Sunrise in the city" received an Honorable mention at the Penninsula Watermedia Society of Virginia juried member exhibition.  The show will run May 21 -Aug 24 2018, at the Stryker Art gallery, Williamsburg, Va.  

I was featured on 'The Mind of an Artist' June blog spotlight at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop website:  http://www.chaw.org/blog/mind-artist-part-xxviii-meera-rao.  My painting above 'Haiku in Red'  was in the annual  Capitol Hill Art League exhibition "Winners' Circle" at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, Washington D.C. July 20-Aug 18 2018. 

Sound Reflections 2 and Sound Reflections 3 at Dr Halim's office- CHAL Juried show "Celebrate"

Two of my paintings Sound Reflections 2 and Sound Reflections 3 have been juried into Capitol Hill Art League exhibition 'Celebrate' and the show is at Washington D.C. July 13-September 7 2018. 

Magnolia in #directwatercolor  by Meera Rao

I received this photo of my painting "Magnolia" done in direct watercolor freshly matted and framed in its new home in New York state :)  I am so happy it is bringing joy everyday !

'Gift of Friendship' watercolor by Meera Rao 

'tulips'  watercolor by Meera Rao 

"Our Town"  was an Art Exhibit and Sale at Frame of Mine Gallery at Washington D.C. curated by Photo Artist Karen Cohen. It showcased affordable DC Themed art by 10 Women Artists.  My two painting "Gift of Friendship"  - painting of a Pagoda and Cherry Tree (Blossoms) - the famous gifts from Japanese citizens at the Tidal Basin, DC  and "Tulips" hung there July 2- Aug 2  2018.  

 Resplendent  watercolor on Yupo  at Artist's Choice, Capitol Hill Art League, Washington D.C. 

I had pulled the painting "Resplendent" out of it's frame and redid a part that was bugging me.  I was  then happy to have it grace the walls for the Capitol Hill Art league annual Members only Artist's Choice show June 14 - July 14 2018.

"Exuberance"  Cover photo and featured inside 

A pleasant surprise was in the mail in early June : My painting "Exuberance" is on the cover (and also  inside highlighting Miniatures and Small works by Tidewater Artists) of the Hampton Arts Charles Taylor Visual Arts Center 2018-2019 season booklet with calendar of events.  I am very  grateful for all the opportunities to showcase my art! 

Monday, July 30, 2018

Ni Hao Part 13 Shanghai By Night

Shanghai Skyline Financial District At Night View from the River  Watercolor&Ink by Meera Rao  

Bund Old Shanghai Skyline Night view from River  Watercolor and Ink by Meera Rao

The 2-page spread of Night View 

The Night River Cruise was a wonderful light show! Our guide informed us that all the buildings are required to participate and show their loyalty. It is a big tourist draw and thousands fill hundreds of  lavishly decorated cruise boats.  The ride started at dusk and lasted close to two hours. We oohed and ahed at the magic of millions of colored blinking and dancing lights that changed and morphed every other second ! 

Buddhist monks checking their  phones at the Financial district  Sketch by Meera Rao 

Earlier in the evening we walked around the area where I saw many buddhist monks enjoying the city lights and scenes just like us.  A couple of chefs taking a break down an alley near the Food Mall caught my eye as we were searching for a place to eat. 

Pause In The Day #DirectWatercolor #nosketching by Meera Rao 

Below is a straggler sketch of an Incense burner from Imperial city at Beijing- one of our very first stops during this china trip. I painted it much later as a part of the #30x30directwatercolor challenge and therefore got left out of the earlier post on Beijing. I decided to include it in this last post on my  travel sketchbook.  

Incense Burner At The Imperial city, Beijing #30x30directwatercolor #nosketching By Meera Rao 

I had a couple of really beautiful ticket stubs that I decided were the just the right thing to grace the front and back covers of my sketchbook.  The front cover is the part of the ticket to the silk museum in Shanghai.  I used gold gel pen to write the title. 

Cover of China Travel Sketchbook Journal By Meera Rao 

The outside back cover is the ticket stub from the Sun Moon Temple at Guillin. 

Back Cover of China Travel Sketchbook Journal  by Meera Rao 

I decorated the back  inside cover with the business card for the resturant where we enjoyed delicious fresh hot Dim sums and a couple of beautiful wrappers from some chocolates I bought and enjoyed :)  

Inside Back Cover of Sketchbook Journal.  By Meera Rao 

Thats the end of my journal sketches but I hope to paint a few more full scale paintings in the next few months :) 

再見中國  Zaijian zhongguo- bye bye China  for now!!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Ni Hao Part 12 Shanghai Yu Yuan Gardens and Zhujiajio Water Town

3 Toed Dragon on Garden Wall , YuYuan Garden Shanghai watercolor b  Meera Rao 

YuYuan gardens in Shanghai is over 400 years old. It is located near the Tourist mart and City God Temple in Old Shanghai.  The Breath taking gardens, elegant buildings,  koi ponds etc are an oasis of beauty and calm ! It took Pan Yunduan, a minister in Ming Dynasty 18 odd years to build and he designed it as a place for his parents to enjoy in their retirement.  The legend goes that the Emperor was jealous of the beauty of the gardens, and especially of the dragons that graced the walls since dragons were the symbols exclusively belonging to Royalty.  He sent an agent to check it out and may be confiscate the garden but Pan Yunduan managed to convince him that the garden dragons had only 3 toes and were not the perfect four toed royal dragons. He apparently broke the fourth toes on the garden dragons just before the agent's arrival ! 

Moon Gate, YuYuan Gardens, Shanghai Ink and watercolor by Meera Rao 

Jade Rock Natural Sculptures, Yuyuan Gardens, Shanghai #directwatercolor #nosketching by Meera Rao 

Fengsheng Bridge Zhujiajio Watertown  Watercolor (2 page spread) by Meera Rao

Zhujiajiao, Water Town situated about 50 kilometers away from Shanghai is worth the drive. 1700 years old Watertown in Qingpu District, south of the Yangtze River, Zhujiajiao,  is known as “The Venice of China” It features lovely waterways, curved rock bridges, old streets paved with stone, and over 10,000 buildings dating back to the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties (1644-1911).  We took a leisurely ride in one of the old style boats with a boatman with a old fashioned cone hat :) Look for a proper painting of the boatman in a future post. It just was juried into the Virginia Artists show at Hampton VA!

Fengsheng Bridge Zhujiajiao Watertown  Watercolor by Meera Rao 

Fengsheng Bridge Zhujiajiao Watertown  Watercolor by Meera Rao

Yuanjin Buddhist Shrine  #directwatercolor, #nosketching by Meera Rao 

We walked the old city streets, and checked out the Chinese medicine shops, ate freshly cooked dumplings.  The old city is still a charming and 'living' city even though it now caters to hordes and hordes of tourists!!! The Watertown is very picturesque and I hope to paint a few more paintings from the hundreds of photos I clicked :) 

Entrance to Shanghai Zhujiajio International watercolor Biennial Exhibition gallery and Office 

Plaque Explaining the Exhibition

Painting by Nicholas Simmons at the Gallery 

As we were walking around, I suddenly noticed that one of the buildings was the Shanghai Zhujiajio International Watercolor Biennial  Exhibition office and Gallery ! I was very excited to go in and check it out. There were still a few paintings from the last Biennial show that I recognized right away - by the wonderfully talented Nicholas Simmons,  Alvaro Castagnet, and a few others as well as their current show with 35 paintings by Herman Pekel.  This was the icing on the cake of this trip :) 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Ni Hao Part 11 Some Everyday Scenes

Rental Bike with a solar panel ink and watercolor by Meera Rao

I noticed little things affected welfare of mind, body and daily living. There were dozens of bikes or some places just a solitary one with QR codes on the handles parked on the sidewalks. They are easy to rent  with just an app on the smart phone. People ride them to their destination and leave them by the sidewalks when they are done. The bikes are then ready for the next person (with an App on the phone) ! 

Country is Home ink and watercolor by Meera Rao

There are panels with cute illustrations and sayings on walls along the sidewalks all around the cities. I wondered if they were advertisements. We were told that they are government sponspored and convey pride for the nation and civic duties of the citizens. Once again I used my translation app to read this panel.   

Buddhist Lamas at Temple Gate  #directwatercolor #nosketching by Meera Rao

Buddhist temples are oasis of beauty, calm and quiet in the middle of the buzzing cities.  We saw groups of monks, visitors and devotees paying respects, praying or just enjoying the premises.  

Daily Tai Chi Practice #directwatercolor #nosketching by Meera Rao

Daily Tai Chi Practice #directwatercolor #nosketching by Meera Rao

The parks and gardens are lush and lovely. In all the parks in every city, many people - mostly retirees, get-together in groups or singly to practice Tai Chi or other martial arts, exercise to music,  give mini concerts, enjoy ballroom dancing,  take care of babies and children, play board games, walk and talk or meditate!  

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Ni Hao Part 10 Guillin

Li River Cruise watercolor 2 page spread by Meera Rao

Mountain Peaks by Li River  Left page watercolor By Meera Rao

Mountain Peaks by Li River  Right page watercolor By Meera Rao

We reached Guillin in the late afternoon as the flight was delayed by a couple of hours. The guide in Xian joked that they say CAAC - 'China airlines always cancel' - but at least we were only delayed;). Beautiful Guillin apparently was China's first city to develop tourism after 1949. 

It was raining when we landed and the route to town was amazingly picturesque with lush green covered mountain peaks shrouded in fog all around. After  checking  into the hotel we went to explore the city by walking around.  There was a beautiful little Buddhist temple not too far and as we entered the premises they started their evening chanting and prayers. We watched and waited till the rituals were done - this was our first time watching and participating in Chinese Buddhist prayers and rituals. We then went over to the canteen next door - but unfortunately they were cleaning after the lunch session and would open only at 6 for dinner - an hour away. 

We decided to buy some bananas to snack on ( my google translator came in really handy! ) and find a bank ATM. The lonely planet guide book had high recommendations (one of two places mentioned in the book for places to eat!) for an Indian restaurant started by a man from Darjaleeng, India : Kali Mirch in the town square tucked behind Sheraton Hotel. With that as our guide we went searching and finally found it after someone recognized it as ‘indo canteen’  in an alley that was all colorful and lit up with festive lights  and lined with many many tiny restaurants.  The interesting thing in China we  have discovered is that everything and everyone has a English and a Chinese name - most locals know only the Chinese names - even English is ‘yīngyǔ’ in Chinese.  Btw- The food at Kali Mirch was excellent :) 

Cliffs by Li River  watercolor by Meera Rao

The next day our guide drove us to a wharf an hour away and we took a river cruise down a very tranquil Li river to see the mountains all around - it is a very beautiful and serene journey - even with a looong line of small cruise boats  filled with tourists making their way down the river! The hotel had packed us boxed lunches and there was plenty of tea served throughout the journey as it was a four hour ride.  Every inch of the journey was a digital moment - everyone was oohing and clicking away - I realized very quickly that photos just couldn't capture the awesome peaks all around - growing more mysterious by the minute with fog and drizzle. The twenty Yuan bill of Chinese currency showcases a painting of these mountains.  We passed  high cliffs,  rice paddies, quaint little villages, fishermen on bamboo rafts, water buffaloes and horses grazing by the banks. 

We got off at Younshu and again elbowed our way thru a narrow passageway packed with vendors shouting and hawking off the goods while thousands of tourists from the cruise boats tried to make their way to buses and cars and other means of transportation back to their hotels ! We tried our bargaining skills and did a little bit of shopping ! “You shop like Chinese ladies’ we were told by a vendor ;) 

Entrance to Guillin Tea Research Center watercolor by Meera Rao 

Hat Rack in the Walkway watercolor by Meera Rao 

We toured an organic tea plantation on our way back, saw demonstrations of Chinese tea fermentation of green, white, black teas. We tried out the huge stone grinder/rollers used in crushing and oxidizing  the tea. We posed for photos wearing the classic cone shaped hats as we watched ladies carefully picking tea leaves in surrounding tea plantation.   Of course, we were treated to another session  of tea ceremony - this time we tasted Osmanthus, white and Pu'er teas unique to that area. 

Evening we were on our own and this time we went back to the temple canteen ( again lonely planet recommendation) and had the best Chinese vegan buffet- tried all kinds of noodles, dumplings , steamed buns, vegetables , pickles and many varieties of fruits!! Two days in a row dinner was excellent for us us vegetarians and vegans!  We ventured out for more little shopping for Chinese-English children's books for grandkids at street side stores. Thanks again to the google translate app we were able to find what we wanted in a small stationary store:)

The sun and Moon Twin pagodas  

Last day in Guillin,  we had till noon  to ourselves - so armed with a map we went to see Sun and Moon Pagodas in the Shan Lake that could be reached by a scenic winding path from the hotel. The two pagodas are connected by a beautiful underwater tunnel. We climbed 8-9 floors up each pagoda  for gorgeous views from above.  We even managed to visit The South Sea Pearl Museum and Showroom before heading to the airport for our flight to Shanghai. 

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