Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Tranquil Beauty

Water Lilies watercolor  22x30" By Meera Rao 

tranquil beauty
in the water, out of the mud
 untouched by neither
a creative light
~Meera Rao~

Wishing everyone a tranquil, beautiful, creative 2020 untouched by the muck around.  

Check here for importance and symbolism of lotus flower in Hinduism, here for its role in Buddhism,  here for its place in Chinese culture, here  for information about Lotus in religious art in Eastern religions, and here for its significance in ancient Egyptian culture. What a special flower !!! 

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Fury of Fire, Wind and Water

Fury of Fire, Wind and Water  20x16" Mixed media by Meera Rao 

This painting titled Fury of Fire Wind and Water  is a visceral response to the fires, tornadoes, and hurricanes in the recent past.  I am acutely aware of the awe inspiring, fear inducing chaos,  destruction and surprising beauty in the fury of the moment as the elements go about altering the landscapes and lives. Nature is demanding we pay attention to the delicate balance and vulnerability all around.  Are we? 

Fury of Fire, Wind and Water  20x16" Mixed media by Meera Rao Mixed Media Pebeo paints. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Fiddleheads and Frost : Nature photography

Fiddleheads photography by Meera Rao 

The above photograph was taken earlier in the year.  I saw the  beautiful Cinnamon Fern Fiddleheads at the Nature Conservancy site at Piney Groove Preserve in Waverly, VA during a field trip for the Virginia Master Naturalist class.  We had gone to see the successful restoration of the Long Leaf Pine forest and come back from near extinction of the Red Cockaded Woodpecker.

Frost photography by Meera Rao 

The frosty leaves were in my backyard glistening in the morning light when they caught my eye early in spring.  

The Fiddleheads was the winner of the Plants and Fungi category and Frost in the Macro and Night Category in The Peninsula Master Naturalist Photography Contest in July -August 2019.  It was an honor to have these photographs voted as the winners!  

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Fire Burns Blue

The Fire Burns Blue watercolor with pen and ink by Meera Rao 

Last week my brother informed me that the book 'The Fire Burns Blue - A History of Women's Cricket in India' co-written by my niece Karunya Keshav and Sidhanta Patnaik is among the five books short listed for Best Non-fiction work 2019 in India!  Proud Aunt suddenly remembered that  she  had sketched the book soon after Karunya gave it her in January during visit to India :)  I had shared a photo of the sketch with her,  but had somehow missed posting any of the sketches from that sketchbook on my blog. 


We are all incredibly proud of Karunya and that her book is vying for honors with the likes of Ramachandra Guha, Rajmohan Gandhi, Raghuram Rajan and Shantha Gokhale! Go get your copy from Amazon and read all about the stories of extraordinary women who while competing in 'the gentleman's game' made history. And all the while as one of the players said : "We play because we love this game"

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Sketchbook Time

Chrysler Building  pen and ink by Meera Rao

I have too many sketchbooks going on at the same time, and I have sketches tucked away in them that I have missed posting. These three are from my Pentalic traveler 5x8".  

We were in NYC first Sunday in  November cheering our daughter's NYC marathon run! A clear view from hotel room window of the iconic Chrysler Building was hard to resist sketching.  I pulled out the sketchbook onto the windowsill and took my time drawing.  From the 34th floor window of the hotel I could clearly see the sculptures on the 61st floor of the Chrysler building which I had not noticed as eagles till I started sketching ! I was reminded of this quote by Frederick Frank : 

Drawing is the discipline by which I constantly discover the world. 
I have learned that what I have not drawn, I have never really seen, 
and that when  start drawing an ordinary thing, 
I realize how extraordinary it is, 
sheer miracle!
~ Frederick Frank~

Pirate Days watercolor and pen Meera Rao

These two sketches are from Arrrtober Fest at the Mariner's Museum in October. While volunteering for the Peninsula Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalist booth, I sketched this little totally adorable kid in his pirate costume. He was determined to put the rings on the boat 'masts', and made his own luck by slinging it from all around the game mat :) 

Aaartober Fest Lady Pirates watercolor and Pen Meera Rao

The ladies in the next booth were also dressed up for the occasion and I quickly sketched them  before the gates opened for the festival goers. I think I am getting a little more comfortable sketching in the public these days :) 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Small Works at Charles Taylor Visual Arts Center

Central Park  acrylic on NYC-MTA card by Meera Rao 

Grand Central Station acrylic on NYC-MTA card by Meera Rao 

Central Park, Grand Central Station - both acrylics on New York Metro cards and Figure 2, watercolor on Yupo will be on exhibit at the Charles Taylor Visual Arts Center Small works Exhibition in Hampton,  December 10 2019 to January18, 2020.  Holland Wentz Etheridge is judging the show and a big thank you to her for selecting three of my art works. 

I continue to  use the expired MTA cards as canvases for tiny paintings.  This is my way of  bringing awareness and curtail environmental damage by upcycling the plastic cards that would otherwise end up in trash and landfill. Painting on tiny cards in acrylics is a daunting task and has pushed me out of my comfort zone but has been a very satisfying experience. These days I always leave some visual markers to draw attention to the card's previous life. 

I am aware that the MTA by the end of 2019 is planning to test the next generation fare-payment cards, phasing out these cards that have  expiration dates. That makes these NYC MTA paintings my special small contribution to environmental conservation. 

Figure 2 Watercolor on Yupo

I am happy to have this painting also included in the show ! Painting watercolor on the slick non-porous, acid-free, pH neutral  synthetic polypropylene  'paper' Yupo is always challenging and fun. It stretches my skills and challenges my creativity as I manipulate the paint that is not absorbed by the paper and sits on top of the surface. The surface calls for experimentation and fresh directions, building up nuances that are unique to Yupo. The translucency of the Yupo gave the Figure that particular aesthetic I was looking for. I think it helped tell the story yet keep her secret. 

If you are in Hampton do stop by and visit the Small Works Exhibit - you will find 450 wonderful art works by 140 artists :)  

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Another Anniversary Rolls Around !

"Buffalo Journey"  Color pencils by Meera Rao 

Eleven years, 521 posts, and over thousand supportive comments.   My first post  was about my show at the Poquoson library, my experiments and explorations.  I am happy I am still at it :) And now I post again with renewed interest and energy. 

Buffalo Journey  in color pencils is from that first post ! The cattle were on their final journey- being taken to a slaughter house and their faces made an unforgettable impression on me. 

I am so very thankful for this platform to share my art. I am grateful to all who have taken the time to visit, comment or cheer me on since that first blog post. Thank you ! 

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Showing My Art at Poquoson Public Library 2019

 My Paintings at the Poquoson Library October 2019

My Paintings at the Poquoson Library October 2019

Tell your own story
you will be interesting 
-Loiuse Bourgeois

Today I am posting on the blog the wall display that has been at the Poquoson Library for the month of October. It has been really wonderful to get updates from the staff at the Library about how much they and the patrons have been enjoying the art. This venue is a special opportunity to happily show my explorations and experiments of the past year :) 

The library is a special place for me - I absolutely fell in love with libraries many years ago when I first moved to the USA. I was in heaven - to be able to browse through the stacks and check out just about unlimited books and materials !!! I went on to graduate school for a masters degree in Educational Media with certification in Library.   

This month flew by before I realized I had not posted anything on my blog :(  I am finally off the 'boot' and walking on my own two feet! I hope to back into the rhythm of life and start posting again every week.  I have been painting and sketching pretty consistently and hope to extend that to showing my art as well.  

Thursday, September 12, 2019


Repurposed 12x16watermedia by Meera Rao 

One day in April while on my daily walk (before the fractured foot!) I came across a lush green plant growing inside an abandoned and marooned falling apart boat . I just loved the resilience of the plant and the colors still hanging on to the boat.  There was so much drama  and beauty! Nature never hesitates to creatively repurpose  :) 

I used transparent watercolors, casein, and watercolor pencils. 

Monday, September 9, 2019

Bone-afide Good Story!

My Gucci Boot!  watercolor and ink By Meera Rao 
Change afoot 
Bone-afide good story
Even with a Kneerover,
fractures are still what they are cracked up to be!
Brace-ing myself for a few more days 
before I am
foot-loose and fancy free
Till then Lame  jokes & puns 
keep me hopping around! 
Funnbone and humerus acting up ;) 

It is has been almost six weeks since the 5th metatarsal on my left leg broke - a "dancers' fracture"(it doesn't care that I am not a dancer!) I keep busy sketching, painting, reading, surfing the net, napping and coming up with puns! So far I have done two sketches recording my status- one of my 'kneerover'  and yesterday of my feet in their respective 'boots'. I am walking with 'boot' more and more now- using the kneerover  only when I get tired. 

My New Wheels pen and ink by Meera Rao 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Next Stop

Next Stop  Acrylic on NYC Metrocard by Meera Rao

Our Son and Daughter-in-law renovated their home and covered a wall of one of the rooms with NewYorker Magazine covers.  So I surprised them by painting on a metro card from my collection of expired cards from various trips, mounted them on canvas ready to hang in that room  on another wall :) 

I find great satisfaction from painting on these cards that otherwise will end up in trash.  I love  the 'Next Stop' for this card is on a wall instead :) 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

VMN Nature Journal: Plant walk

Plant Walk Nature Journal by Meera Rao 

Going on nature walks always leaves me very humbled.  The beauty and variety in nature is just mind boggling!!  I know nothing about almost all of them but I am totally in awe of it all.

I noticed the tiny Partridge berry plant for the first time during the plant walk arranged by the VMN Class. I had seen the Lady slipper Orchid Cypripedium acaule before but studying it up close and reading about it I discovered that native Indians named them Moccasin flower and used the roots medicinally as a remedy for nervousness, tooth-pain and muscle spasms!  

Plant Walk Nature Journal by Meera Rao 

I sketched these at home mostly from photographs I had taken during the walk as there was no time to observe and draw during the walk.  I kept the samples of the grass that our instructor had used to show the difference. 

Plant Walk Nature Journal by Meera Rao 

During the plant walk for the VMN class, I also learned "Sedges have edges, Rushes are round and grasses are hollow - what have you found? "  

Plant Walk Nature Journal by Meera Rao 

Learning to distinguish among Sweet gum, Sycamore and Maple leaves was an interesting exercise! I still need to look at the tree and its vicinity for clues to identify them! I had discovered 'seeing eyes' when I first started keeping a journal during my trips to India and now keeping a nature journal I am learning to be much more observant of small details! 

Monday, July 8, 2019

VMN Nature Journal : Mateson Trail

Matteson Trail Nature Walk  color pencils by Meera Rao 

Matteson Trail Nature Walk  color pencils by Meera Rao 

These sketches are from my VMN Nature Journal.  Most days I walk for my exercise especially if it is a beautiful day.  On this particular day right at the start of the trail I stepped on  sweet gum pods that were littered all over, slipped and fell. I still walked about a mile and back and that was not a wise thing to do considering my weak many times sprained ankles. Back at home, nursing the ankles, keeping them elevated, I kept busy sketching the few things I had collected and photographed. 

Friday, June 28, 2019

VMN Nature Journal - Pine Grove Nature Preserve

VMN nature Journal by Meera Rao 

The field trip in April to Pine Grove Nature Preserve maintainted by the Nature Conservancy filled four pages of my journal. Endangered Red Cockaded Woodpecker Picoides borealis and the long leaf pine are their main focus and efforts to restore both the species are in full swing. I took a lot of photos and notes and worked on the journal at home. 

I was fascinated by the Bluets Houstenia caerulca - the beautiful tiny blooms littered the forest floor. Until the field trip, I was ignorant of the jelly like Spotted Salamander eggmass in the vernal pools.  One of the cohorts caught a Spring Peeper frog and we saw the little guy upclose :)   

Spotted Salamander Eggmass photo by Meera Rao

VMN nature Journal by Meera Rao

The Cockaded Woodpeckers in the nature preserve are one of the last breeding population in Virginia and the restoration efforts are bearing results.  The male has a small red speck on each side of his head/cap.  These birds nest exclusively in live pine trees! 

VMN nature Journal by Meera Rao
We saw the different kinds of pines and saw and felt the differences in the varieties of pinecones.  The controlled burning of the forests are a necessary part in the growth of Long leaf pines and in turn the cockaded woodpeckers.  

VMN nature Journal by Meera Rao

We learned to identify coyote foot prints and scats.  We also heard many different birds but saw a few Brown headed Nuthatches Sitta pusilla which love pine trees! It has a high pitched 'kit-kit-kit' vocals. It was also the first time I noticed a colony of British Soldier Lichen' Cladoria cristatella  - since then I have seen them in a few places around here ! 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

VMN Nature Journal Eco Art

Endangered Bog Turtle colorpencil and graphite by Meera Rao 

One of the options for our nature journal during the week we studied Ecology in The Virginia Master Naturalist Course was to create Eco-Art.  I researched endangered species in our area and discovered that the Bog Turtle Clemmys muhlenbergii,  at 4"in size -N. America's smallest turtle, was placed on Federal Endangered Threatened Species list on Oct 1, 1987.  It lives in the spring fed wetlands, including herbaceous sedge meadows and fens bordered by wooded areas. Sunny open areas of wetlands provide the warmth needed to regulate its body temperature and to incubate its eggs.  The soft Muddy areas allow the turtles to escape from predators and extreme temperatures. The sketch of the turtle in the journal is same as its real life size -4" :) 

Endangered Bog Turtle acrylic on NYC Metro Card By Meera Rao 

The Bog Turtles had been placed on the endangered species as they were being collected illegally for pet trading, and also because of loss of habitat due to draining of wetlands, urban development and encroachment of invasive plant species. To highlight its precarious situation, I also painted the turtle on an expired NYC Metro card - the green one with the human finger on the circular target. Let us all work to make sure the Bog Turtle thrives in its natural habitat. 

Friday, June 14, 2019

Nature Journaling and Virginia Master Naturalist

Backyard Birds (1-8) graphite and color pencils by Meera Rao 

The past few months, every Wednesday and a couple of weekends each month were taken up with classes or field trips. Three days ago-Tuesday was graduation and now I am a member of Virginia Master Naturalist - Pennisula Chapter :) I loved every minute of the course learning about Virginia's rich and varied natural wealth. 

One of the requirements was to keep a nature journal.  After a class on local birds, when I decided casually for that week's entry in the journal, to sketch the birds I see in my backyard, I was in for a big eye-opener.  I thought there would a dozen or so birds that visit or live in my backyard as I had never really kept count until then. But as I started watching more closely, and listing them, I was pleasantly surprised! I pulled out the binoculars and my bird book and was excited to see the variety as I identified them one by one.  It took me a more than a couple of weeks to do these quick sketches.  

Backyard Birds (9-12) graphite and color pencils by Meera Rao 

I stared to see the difference between different finches and warblers; sparrows and Carolina wrens; Barn swallows and Purple Martins; the many different gulls, Vultures and even crows!  So many 'black' birds - starlings, Ravens, crows, blackbirds, Purple martins, cowbirds,  orioles, even an Eastern King Bird! 

Backyard Birds (13-18) graphite and color pencils by Meera Rao 

I am beginning to recognize the different bird calls - but that is proving to be harder than I thought! It has been great fun to discover the wealth of information available on line to help with that.  

Backyard Birds (19-24) graphite and color pencils by Meera Rao

I used color pencils and graphite to sketch these as the paper in the journal was too thin for watercolors.  I had decided to use the journals we were given at the start of the class - I had to spray the drawing with  a coating of Krylon clear varnish to fix the graphite and color pencils to keep the sketches from smudging and paper from curling.

Backyard Birds (25-30) graphite and color pencils by Meera Rao 

There are a few other varieties of ducks other than mallards that visit the river but those will have to wait! I saw on the iBird page for our area that there are about a hundred more varieties/species that have been seen and identified.  I am excited to watch and learn more about all these birds :)

Backyard Birds (31-36) graphite and color pencils by Meera Rao 

There is always so much drama that is going on with the backyard birds. And now the butterflies and dragonflies are out flitting around :) 

Monday, April 15, 2019

London Days Part 10 History is Never Dull

Ornate light pole by the Thames River Promenade 
Watercolor by Meera Rao 

I was fascinated by the ornate light poles by the Thames River during our walk on the promenade on the banks  opposite side of the London Eye. It is a beautiful stretch with parks on one side and river on the other. We walked past war memorials all the way up to Big Ben -which was undergoing renovation then. There are huge trees along the street and Thames with 'Sphinx benches' under their shade to sit and watch the river as well as the buzz of city life.  

Of course there is history, controversy and more behind these lamps. From the website Paul Dobraszczyk Rag-picking History : 'Built in stages between 1862 and 1874 by the Metropolitan Board of Works, the Thames Embankment transformed London’s riverscape by reclaiming marshy land next to the river and constructing wide carriage- and foot-ways and a high granite retaining wall, stretching over three miles in total.' After much deliberation 'a dolphin lamp designed by George Vulliamy, architect to the Board of Works'  was chosen.  Please hop over to the website and check out rest of the designs, photos and more juicy factoids :) 

Skylon Marker  watercolor and ink by Meera Rao

A small shiny  marker on the footbridge over the Thames River sent me googling  'Skylon' and 1951 Festival of Britain.  Of course, even the smallest objects around the city have interesting history :) 

From Wikipedia : The Skylon was a futuristic-looking, slender, vertical, cigar-shaped steel tensegrity structure located by the Thames in London, that gave the illusion of 'floating' above the ground, built in 1951 for the Festival of Britain. The former location of the Skylon is the riverside promenade between the London Eye and Hungerford Bridge. Skylon was removed in 1952 when the rest of the exhibition was dismantled, on the orders of Winston Churchill, who saw the Festival and its architectural structures as a symbol of the preceding Labour Government's vision of a new socialist Britain. According to The Guardian  : The original Skylon, built in the last year of the postwar Labour government and immensely popular as a futuristic shape, was vengefully scrapped, cut in pieces and sold as ashtrays by an incoming Conservative administration. 

These are the last two sketches of my travel sketchbook from last September - finally all posted in the blog!  

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

London Days Part 9 Hanging Flower Baskets

The Woodman at Highgate watercolor by Meera Rao 

I loved the flower boxes and hanging baskets all over London.   We came across this charming pub often as we got in and out of the nearby tube station.  I preferred taking the bus over the trains just so I could see the beauty of the flower boxes on various buildings - even though it took us longer to get from place to place :) 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

London Days Part 8 Cattle Trough

Cattle Trough  watercolor and ink by Meer Rao 

When I came across this opposite the public library on Queens Ave in Muswell Hill, London, I just assumed it was for flowers for neighborhood beautification. Then I saw the inscription on the sides: 'Metropolitan Drinking Fountain & Cattle Trough'  it said on the long side and had this inscription on the short side: 'In Memory of the late David Kidd of Leyton.'  There was also a notice that confirmed its present status as a planter maintained by the local Association- and a request to enjoy the flowers but not take any of the plants. 

Upon googling, I discovered the fascinating history of these troughs and what lead to the government takeover of the water supply for the citizens from private suppliers, paving the way to the modern sewer and water systems. According to Wikipedia 

The Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association was an association set up in London by Samuel Gurney, a Member of Parliament, and philanthropist and Edward Thomas Wakefield, a barrister, in 1859 to provide free drinking water. Originally called the Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association it changed its name to include cattle troughs in 1867, to also support animal welfare. In 2011, as the Drinking Fountain Association, it began to support the Find-a-Fountain campaign to map the UK's drinking water fountains.  

I also found out that the troughs that have survived over the years are mainly granite and they are mostly now planted with flowers. Cast iron or Zinc lined timber were also in vogue - but were too easily damaged.  The write up was really fascinating - amazing how any one thing can have so much history and be a part of the culture of the place! 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

London Days Part 7 : A Whole Lot More Than Crumpets and Tea

A Whole lot More than Tea and Crumpets  watercolor and ink  Meera Rao 

London surprised me with its wonderful offerings of Vegan and Vegetarian food. That made our outings so much more enjoyable. Of course, there was Indian food but almost every restaurant had vegan and vegetarian options. Even a Fish and chip place near Westminster had a delicious vegan dish to order! Street food wise, 'Horn OK Please' near London Eye had yummy vegan/vegetarian options and very tasty south Indian Masala Dosa :) I was amused to find Karma Cola as a drink option most everywhere - had not encountered that brand before.  The red Coca Cola bucket with condiments was at a Pizza place that happily for me had vegan Pizza on the menu. Supermarkets too had many ready to eat vegan and vegetarian selections in their aisles. So, at-least in London, British food was definitely eclectic. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

London Days: Part 6 Street Art and Fine Arts

National Gallery of Art - Trafalgar Square  watercolor by Meera Rao

There is art right outside the National Gallery of Art too.  Many street artists come early, stake out a patch of concrete to draw on the 'civic space' in the Trafalgar Square. They draw with chalk, with coins; do performance art as living statues. There are musicians singing, playing instruments. You can get your portrait done in pencils, charcoal or pastels.  A few are political protestors broadcasting their cause via street art. All this definitely adds color and character to the square making the gray day a bit more lively!  I admired their drive to create art that would be gone at the end of the day while also hoping to earn a few pounds from tourists or catch the eye of a patron. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

London Days Part 5

Trafalgar Square  Watercolor By Meera Rao 

The day we were at the Trafalgar Square was cloudy and cold.  Since we were there early in the morning there weren't too many people around. The imposing and 145' tall Nelson Column  was built in 1843 to honor Lord (Admiral) Horatio Nelson who died at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The British won that battle against the French. The Trafalgar Square itself dates back to 1830. I read that the four lions guarding were made by melting the defeated French  Navy bronze cannons.  I found an interesting connection there to the United States : "In Trafalgar Square there are also various statues of well-known people such as George Washington, given to the English by the State of Virginia. The statue is placed on cement brought specially from the States, as Washington had sworn he would never set foot on British soil again"  

I am sorry we missed -by a day or so- seeing the 'Please Feed The Lions' an interactive sculpture by artist and designer Es Devlin, who is known for her innovative projection-mapped sculptures that fuse light, music and technology. There was a companion red lion on the square and visitors were encouraged to 'feed' words to the lion which was then mixed with others' words and 'roared' out to the public, and displayed in light on the Nelson column at night.  Check out the Lonely planet link to it here.   And a video of it here. 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Connections: London Days Part 4

Connections watercolor by Meera Rao 

'Red' is everywhere in London lending color to gray days. The red buses of course brighten the roads as they travel. There is a red mailbox in every neighborhood. The rows of red telephone booths in a street corners are a common sight. The black FreeWifi/telephone booths are new additions highlighting the evolution of how we connect these days.  I read that there is great controversy about this latest connectivity 'box' - is it making London into a smart city or letting a few giant companies track your movements throughout the city with the ultimate goal of monetization?  

Friday, January 25, 2019

London Days, Part 3

Alexandra Palace watercolor by Meera Rao

Alexandra Palace is an entertainment and sports venue in London, located near Muswell Hill.  "The People's Palace" is fondly referred to as "Ally Pally", and serves as a public centre of recreation, education and entertainment; North London's counterpart to the Crystal Palace in South London. It has beautiful gardens and facilities for  fun paddle boating. 

Birds Trees and Flowers  watercolor by Meera Rao

I sketched some magpies that were hopping around,  a row of trees, and some flowers while sipping  hot tea by a cafe on the grounds of the Alexandra Palace. 

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