Weddings are the most confusing yet overwhelming times in any and every Indian family. And when you are not the bride/groom, the gifting business becomes more of a burden than a pleasure. We have moved away from the traditional gifts of clothes, jewellery and household items but cast away onto an island of uncertainty when it comes to modern day wedding gifts. As individuals, we have grown so apart that except immediate family, one doesn’t know what the bride or the groom would like. So I chose the straight forward approach to this kind of a situation which is ask the recipient. Knowing well that I was in that situation a little over a year ago, and somebody asking you point blank about a wedding gift is not an easy question to answer. To make my cousin’s life easier I gave her multiple choices followed by the question. She picked few and I narrowed down on the most convenient one.
Few months later, at the wedding, I met the groom. I was very proud of my little sister for being so right about the choice of gift. The groom seemed to be swooning over macaws more than his bride. Two days after the wedding, he was busy exhibiting his love for the colourful birds of the South American rainforests than his bird. So I thought if I gave a sketch of a macaw to them, may be he will continue his head-over-heels business with both the colourful birds.
The Macaw took 40 hours to come alive at 12 X 16 (inches). Rotring pens are not always the easiest or the kindest tools to handle but they have stood by me all along. The results have mostly been better than what I expected. I hope the macaw brightens up the newly wedded couple’s home 🙂
Accessories that my father gifted when I was 7 years old and ever since I haven’t been able to thank him enough. For a few years, it was entering the ring with him right behind encouraging me. My adulthood saw us far apart from each other. I didn’t understand the real reason of the gloves until much later. It was always him telling me that life will punch you down millions of times, find a way to get up and punch back.
I have no qualms in admitting I am a stationery hoarder and the compulsive to desire to buy stationery has stuck to me for over a decade. I thought over a period of time this obsession would fade away but that didn’t happen. Now that I have been drawing, I take that as an excuse to buy any and every kind of paper, pen and paints. Though paper hadn’t been my exclusive medium for a long time. Fabric painting had a separate corner in my heart for a long time. Irrespective of tshirts, shirts, kurtas or sarees, I loved to throw in my bit and tamper with the plainness of the fabric. Though I haven’t done this in a while but here are few that I attempted and they came out as good as I expected them to be.
The toughest subjects for me have been human faces. After so many animals and birds in stippling, I have developed a comfort level with wildlife portraits but human portraits intimidate me to an extent that my hands freeze before moving onto the next line. There are certain images though that I find compelling enough to pick up the pencil/pen and draw. The following is one of them which I bumped into while scrolling down my Facebook wall one of the days. A friend of mine had put up this pic from his trip to Manali and that loving look on the face just made me pick up the pencil to draw the face. The series of rings in her ear and the gentle smile with the wrinkles of experience was irresistible.
There are many such reference portrait photos that I have collected over the last decade that I would like to draw but haven’t yet gotten to it. Sometime I will get over the fear of human faces and get to it.
Red munia or strawberry finch, as the name suggests, is a striking red sparrow sized bird found in tropical Asia. The males and females are generally a dull brown colour with multiple white spots. The male develops this red breeding plumage and white streaks under the eyes during the monsoon months in the South of India. The pairs build their nests together using blades of grass, feathers, pieces of charcoal etc. In this piece, the male is seen carrying a ruffled feather from the surrounding to build its nest.
Few months ago, I was on a full fledged drive to work on improving my colour senses. What better subjects to choose than birds. A friend had come back from Costa Rica and I jumped at the chance of drawing a Toucan from his pile of photographs. Bright colours and the unusual beaks make them unique. With limited colour inks available, I got on with it. There are places where colours didn’t come out as expected but I was still close to it.
“Swar hi Eashwar hai”, said the maestro first thing that evening. That literally translates to sound is God. Because sound is omnipresent and it’s the most honest form of expression. And we choose to call it music. His music speaks of the life long surrender to God and understanding of music.
He laments the present generation of musicians and the youngsters who pick up an instrument only so that they can perform and chase fame. They fail to understand music but use it as a means to an end. As Ustad says a lifetime is not enough to understand and grasp the seven notes of music.
An evening with Ustad Amjad Ali Khan transports you deep into the world of music. It feels like one is floating through the surreal sub atomic world where time and gravity are non-existent. The evening was a rush of memories of all the Indian classical concerts I had attended since the age of 5. Art in the form of dance and music has been there through every up and down in my life. And same was true for this evening with the maestro during one of the toughest and darkest phases of life.
I am not the only ‘artist’ in the world who is unsure about my work. Thanks to a very supportive social circle, I have managed to keep myself going when it comes to art. But that was always a hobby. It took me by surprise when I got a call from a corporate to work on creatives for the festive season in different states of India. I wasn’t sure if they had called the right person to begin with. And once that was clarified, I moved onto to worrying about the briefing and if I was ever gonna make art that they would like.
The first creative I was working on was for Kerala, I made my calls to all possible friends I could remember to check on something unique from the state that they relate to. And I sent across my ideas to the client. We did a lot of back and forth for two weeks and finalised the base drawing. It was time to fill in colours.
Then came the call- the client liked the drawings but not the way it was coloured. I wasn’t sure what they meant by that. Alas! the opportunity slipped by.
Couple of years ago, a friend suggested I take up the Inktober challenge. I had no idea what that was and I went looking for anything that had a #inktober on Instagram. That looked like a super cool challenge and I decided to take it up. But three days into the month, I ran out of steam because I had no idea what I could do with those prompts and if I want to go by my own prompts, I should have planned it well. Bottom line – I didn’t think I had the creativity nor the motivation to take up such a commitment.
Inktober is about 50 days away. Irrespective of what the prompt list looks like, I want to complete the challenge this year. So as a practice I started making ink sketches of scenes all around me or some from memories.
These scenes somehow get etched in mind the moment one decides to sketch them but doing them all on a black and white and shaded style gives you a different feel.
All this while, I have used marker pens with consistent flow of ink. And my dip pen with all the different nibs sat in the drawer all these years patiently waiting for me to pick it up and admire the value of it. So here it is. The rediscovery of the dip pen.
The uneven lines, the inconsistent flow of the ink and the imperfections of inking a memory or a view on paper is exciting at a different level. I hope the dip pen doesn’t have to go back to its box for another couple of years without being used.
More to come later…
Needless to say, my favourite medium has been pen and ink. Almost five years ago, that whimsical morning led to a handmade paper and a fountain pen. And I have been trying to experiment with various styles- few successfully and others not. One of the first was this hatching and cross hatching rendered still life study. I didn’t do it from real life but from a photo reference in a book that I was referring at that point to learn the basics of drawing. Clearly, I have a long way to go.
A couple of years gone by and I started attending an illustration course during which I again gravitated towards pen and ink. I started looking up reference images and came across an artist’s work that I thought I could copy and learn the basics from. And I did learn a lot about finer detailing by copying her style and her work.
This drawing of a boat was done on one of the days when I was over stressed with work and an upcoming conference and pretty much sleep deprived. I woke up few hours earlier than my usual time and ended up drawing this. Lines, hatching, crosshatching and scribbles…. I experimented pretty much everything in this piece.
After lines and scribbles, the obvious one to try was dots and that led to stippling. I started the weaver bird with lines and finished it with dots. Weaver bird because they take me back to my childhood. At my grandparents’ house, there were enough of them building nests and breeding in the garden. Surprisingly I never thought of drawing anything then despite the variety of birds visiting the house but now – 20 years later I want to ink all of them.
Hoping to go back to pen and ink for more and more drawings and exploring more styles than just stippling.