Sunday, April 15, 2018

Explorations and Expressions

Abstract watercolor  4x6" by Meera Rao

In 'Art and Fear' the authors David Bayles and Ted Orland write : "The dilemma every artist confronts, again and again, is when to stick with familiar tools and materials, and when to reach out and embrace those that offer new possibilities"   They then conclude:  " In time exploration gives way to expression"  And I find that I thrive on explorations.  I love the journey that the different paths - the various materials, methods and styles take me on.  When I am working without being trapped by a desire for perfection, I discover a different expression of my art. As I proceed on this long journey I strive to find the right balance :) 

This art work is available at the fundraiser auction  Maury at the Market  for Maury Elementary School in Washington DC.  Mobile bidding: April 13-19; Live and Silent Auction on April 21 at Eastern Market, North Hall. 

"Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting,
experience treacherous, judgement difficult"

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Haiku In Red

Haiku in Red  watercolor by Meera Rao 

colors burst swirl spill 
flow in harmony 
splash a visual poetry

~Meera Rao~

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

To Color Or Not To Color

Trying background colors for sketches by MeeraRao 

'Sketching is a continuous source of learning 
rather than a string of performances'
~Paul Laseau~

I wanted to jazz-up the sketches I did a few days ago and decided to just color-in the background with a single color to give it a more finished look.  Below are 'before' sketches.  I still am not sure what to think of this experiment ! 

'Before'  sketches 

'Drawing is putting a line around an idea.'
~Henri Matisse~

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Sketching on the Go

Unisphere, Queens NY watercolor and pen sketch 5x7" by Meera Rao 

It was a beautiful sunny day after the snowfall from the first day of spring Nor'easter.  But it was too cold  for me to sketch outside so I resorted to taking photos with my phone and did this much later.  I plan to paint another larger one that has big vast  sky and smaller Unisphere because thats what I was attracted to in the first place. 

I recently bought Escoda Versatil #8  and a set of unknown brand #4,8,12 synthetic sable (this is a set that also came with a bamboo brush holder that was a surprise! ) watercolor travel brushes that I am very happy with.  I have ruined a couple of brushes that were in my travel kit when I lost the plastic brush protectors very early on and wanted these brushes whose caps act as long handles when screwed on :)  I still like my waterbrushes best for sketching away from home - no water containers to juggle!

Coffee Shop  Queens NY watercolor sketch 4x6"by Meera Rao 

I think this is my first sketch in a coffee shop with pen and ink and watercolor --the whole deal with no pencil sketches at all!! I realized too late the gel pen is not waterproof. It took me about 30 minutes or so to finish the sketch. I also sketched the barista on my Sketchclub app - will have to pull it out of the app one of these days :) 

Subway Commute  NY,  Gelpen 4x6" sketch by Meera Rao 

On our way to the Unisphere and the Queen's museum I sketched these two fellow passengers. This was a breakthrough for me to sketch in pen, in public and complete it before my stop came - about 15 mins or so.  I always hesitate to sketch people openly in public as I am not sure how I would feel about being sketched by someone ! But I think I am seeing the benefits of those #oneweek100people challenge - I am a bit more faster and confident in committing to mark making.  Working on more polished look of the pages is my next goal.

I have been doing more sketching these days because all the traveling means not been much studio painting time.  Hoping all this practice will show up when I take up my regular brushes again! 

Friday, March 16, 2018

More #0neweek100people

Day 5 #oneweek100people by Meera Rao

Day 5 #oneweek100people by Meera Rao

So, I did it :) Sketched 100 people in one week - rather 7days!  On day 5 I had time to pull out my watercolors and paint the people freehand without pencil sketching them. I had done 50 by day 5 but had to put it aside and wait a couple of days before I could finish the rest. The ones below were done mostly in airports during a trip this past weekend.  I am especially tickled with them as they were all done in pen in my little (5x3") sketchbook - except the last batch of ten. No safety net of going for the eraser and I could not toss the ones that did not cut the mustard.  I learned to sketch fast, remember features or poses as my subjects were not always sitting or still :) Now I want to experiment with more color, brushes  and not just fine line pens. 

Day 6 #oneweek100people by Meera Rao

Day 6 #oneweek100people by Meera Rao

Day6 #oneweek100people by Meera Rao

Day6 #oneweek100people by Meera Rao

Day 7 #oneweek100people by Meera Rao

Day 6 #oneweek100people by Meera Rao

Day 7 #oneweek100people by Meera Rao
Day 7 #oneweek100people by Meera Rao 

Thursday, March 8, 2018


Lady Water Bugs  #oneweek100people Day 3  3-7-2018

I am trying to squeeze in time to sketch people this week.  Yesterday was day 3.  I returned from helping out with the water testing and did a quick sketch of my fellow volunteers :) 

International Women's Day #oneweek100people Day 4  3-8-2018

As today is International Women's day I decided to do a quick sketch of some notable women for day 4.  Hoping I will get some time later today to do more. 

At a Book Talk #oneweek100people Day 2  3-6-2018

At a Book Talk #oneweek100people Day 2  3-6-2018

On Day 2, I was at a Book Talk and sketched a few people from the audience.  The room was quite dark and it was challenge to see what I was sketching! 

At the Dentist Office  #oneweek100people Day 2  3-6-2018

At the Dentist's I tried to memorize the scene as I my teeth were being cleaned :) I surreptitiously took a photo in the waiting room and did the sketches at home from blurry pic -- and took my liberties with the colors ! 
At the Gym  #oneweek100people Day 1  3-6-2018
At the Gym  #oneweek100people Day 1  3-6-2018

As I worked out at the gym on day 1, I watched intensly and tried to commit to memory the scene before me. Again, I had a blurry photo to help out with some details as I sketched later at home. 

Watching Oscars -warm up for #oneweek100people   3-6-2018

So far I only have 29 sketches plus five I did as warm up watching the Oscars for an hour or so.  So this year it has been slow and I might have to take a few extra days to sketch 100 people! Anyway, I am sketching something every day :) 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Best View

The Daily Commute  watercolor ink India Art Journal 2017 by Meera Rao

I distinctly remember the fear and excitement when I was a little girl looking out the open train car door as the world zipped by.  I only traveled a couple of times on train when I was young which made the trips quite memorable.  This commuter train was moving slowly past the station.  The little kid in  white uniform shirt with school backpack and the lady sitting right next caught my attention along with the many passengers crammed in! The overcrowded dusty train cars on an overcast day made an impression on me. 

This is the last sketch in my little homemade accordion watercolor journal from my short trip to India in Nov 2017.  Below is the photo of the completed open journal. There is a sketch behind the bell that I could not include in this shot. I started the sketches during my trip and used reference photos once I returned to complete them with watercolors.  

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Clear View

Window Cleaners  India Sketchbook 2017 watercolor by Meera Rao 

These three young ladies were part of the train cleaning crew. It was a bright sunny afternoon and I loved the play of light, colors and shadows as they chatted and worked. They had a assembly line of sorts going - one squirted water, one had a bunch of newspaper she was using to wipe it off with and the third lady had a long handled glass cleaner to finish the job. Once inside though, I found those windows were not clear enough capture the scenery with my camera! The trains are workhorses and it is a tough job to keep the trains clean as they chug along with barely enough time between rides. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Never A Dull Ride

 Autoricksha Ride India Sketchbook by Meera Rao 

Life is never dull on the streets in India.  The variety and number of modes of transportation and the  kind of loads they carry,  how many passengers they manage to cram into those vehicles is always a surprise ! Over the years I have photographed and sketched many interesting scenes - and I know I will find new ones on my next trip :) 

During my last trip, I saw this precarious looking two-wheeler -somewhat small and a cross between a bicycle and a motorcycle. The passenger was holding two sheep/lambs in his arms!  The the scene outside the autorickshaw and the view of the inside of the richly decorated brand new vehicle made for an interesting outing on that particular day. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Cry Me A River

Hanging Onions watercolor India sketchbook by Meera Rao 

Member of the Allium family (Lily Family),  onions claim nutritional as well as medicinal benefits and play a prominent role in Indian cooking.  There is always a bunch, two or more hanging off the window in my brother and sister-in-law's kitchen :)  This is probably the biggest bunch I saw during one of my trips and I had to sketch it.  

By the way, the compound allyl sulphate which is produced when an onion's ruptured cells are exposed to air is responsible for producing tears. To reduce the production of this compound, chill the onions for half an hour or so before cutting to reduce the activity of the enzyme. My Mom was the only person I know who never teared when she chopped onions!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Directing Attention

Bell by the Door  watercolor and ink by Meera Rao

Ringing of the bells during Puja (worship) is an important ritual for Hindus whether at home or at temple.  We ring the bell at the temple when we enter and then as we leave.  A small  hand held bell is rung when 'aarati' (or light) is shown to the murthy (idol of deity).  The light flames  and sound vibrations wake up the senses, clear the mind of distractions and help direct the attention to pray and meditate. 

I love this particular ornate bell that graces the entrance of my brother's home.  During my last visit in November, one afternoon I sat by the steps near the door and sketched it.   

Saturday, January 27, 2018

For Safe Travels

Ganesha on Dashboard watercolor 7"x5" by Meera Rao 

Almost every vehicle in India has an idol of the owner's favorite deity stuck on the dashboard for blessings and safe travels for the driver and passengers.  They come in all different sizes, styles and colors tailored to individual tastes.  I came across an article recently that there is an "Unique campaign"  going on now where  "deities in car dashboards being equipped with accelerometers, lending them pre-recorded voice."  urging the drivers 'to slow down or drive safely.'  According to the company Droom that sells these pre-fitted idols, " India is the 3rd country in terms of deaths due to road accidents and stands at the 67th spot in terms of number of Vehicles per person. There is one death every four minutes due to a road accident in India. Moreover, 20 children under the age of 14 die every day due to road crashes." and ".. our idea comes from that sweet spot between technology and a razor sharp insight on the Indian driver. We thought we could make the Indian driver listen to us. After all, god was on our side!"

This particular abstract green marble sculpture is of Ganesha, the remover of obstacles though not fitted with a accelerometer! It became the first sketch in my India sketchbook from my trip last November. I used Indian handmade watercolor paper that I cut to 7x30" and folded into an Japanese style album. It was the first time I was using that paper which is heavy and rough and took a while to get used to. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Cool Inspirations

Jan 7-12 2018 Sketchbook by Meera Rao

The cold, the snow, the ice and more bone chilling cold! There was a huge cascading ice that formed from a water leak in one of the faucets from the school across our house.  For a week I watched it form and grow so I had to put it on my sketchbook. I escaped one day to the National Gallery of Art and next day to the National Postal Museum - best way to get color on gray days ! The mango from the grocery store supplied the taste of summer and lifted the spirits.  The squirrels were busy in the backyard and I caught one enjoying the snow to quench the thirst, I suppose.  

I finally discovered what that Victorian looking 'post' by the Lincoln Park was - the Police and Fire call Boxes from long ago.  Apparently this particular call box had missed its chance to become a "Art on Call" box in 2000.   Do check out the article and the videos on these 'call boxes'.  There is history in every corner in DC! 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Leafing Through

Meera Rao
Leafing Through Photograph by Meera Rao

This month I have my art on exhibit at three different galleries: 'Sunrise In The City'  in watercolor in the Capitol Hill Art League Juried exhibition at the Hill Center Galleries in Washington DC; three of my mixed media experiments in 'Small Works and Miniatures By Tidewater Artists' at the Charles Taylor Art Center in Hampton, Va; and my photograph 'Leafing Through'  in the  Capitol Hill Art League's 'Artists' Choice'. 

Sunrise in The City  By Meera Rao  at  Hill Center Galleries, Washington DC

Sunrise in The City , watercolor By Meera Rao

I am often told "you work in different media!" which makes me wonder if I should concentrate my efforts on one medium. Over the years as I play and experiment, I feel, to quote Alfred Stieglitz " The goal of art was the vital expression of self."  For me, it is as if each piece has its own distinct personality that seeks to expresses itself through me.  And somehow each medium lends to the understanding and use of another.  Dabbling in different things keeps me unstuck and for that I am grateful.  Thats permission enough.  

Gratitude  ink on handmade paper by Meera Rao
on exhibit at Charles Taylor Art Center, Hampton Va

Last Stop (NYC Rabbit Hole) mixed media on NYC Metro card By Meera Rao
on exhibit at Charles Taylor Art Center, Hampton Va

Exuberance mixed media on photograph by Meera Rao 
on exhibit at Charles Taylor Art Center, Hampton Va

“Here’s to freedom, cheers to art. Here’s to having an excellent adventure and may the stopping never start.” 
― Jason Mraz

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Taking Chances in the New Year

Collage of sketches Jan 1 -6 2018 

The first week of drawings followed the "not every drawing needs to be a finished work of art" tip. So I filled the pages with bits and pieces of things in my day forcing me to be mindful about my surroundings and experiences. 

Sketch book page by Meera Rao

The excitement of a new sketchbook and trying to figure out how I wanted to sketch each day had me experimenting this first week with a visual journal model. I tried mini sketches the first three days - but soon discovered that was not easily sustainable over long term !

Sketch book page by Meera Rao

I also discovered this book takes only very light watercolor washes -- so I soon resorted to graphites, Prismacolor and brush pens.

Sketch book page by Meera Rao

I tried to add a quote some days to jump start an idea for the page-- as William Faulkner said " Take chances. It may be the only way you can do anything really good."   Looking at these pages, I feel I should give more thought to how to compose each page, to the writings and penmanship as well. But right now I am just sketching and hoping to keep up with it every day!

Sketch book page by Meera Rao

The past three days, I experimented with just one sketch each day to capture the essence of the day.  The 'Bomb cyclone' has meant very frigid temperatures but fortunately there was only an inch of snow in DC where we spent the week with our grandchildren. I sketched them doing a fashion show,  their art work,  toy etc.. Cooped up indoors with them, my husband and I supervised their melted crayon art, sketched with them.  I also was a scribe for their illustrated books :) 

Finally, this post is a start on my ambition of more regular posting on the blog.
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