For some reason, self preservation becomes my first response to any kind of uncomfortable situation. Life in the city after a full year in the Jungle became too difficult to handle. Unaware of how deep I had sunk in, one fine day I reached close to the breaking point. It seemed easier to banish every societal facade and take time off to recover from the emotional damage I had done to myself unknowingly. A week far away from the chaos of the city within the shell of my hermitage, I had recovered the energy and the zeal to go back and face everything that I ran away from. That’s when I thought of the hermit crab, a member of the living world who looks for a shell appropriate for its size and need to protect itself and go on living.
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.
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.
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.
Tadoba National Park is one of the jungles I have on my list to visit. It isn’t open all round the year and that’s what makes it difficult to approach because before you know all of it is booked for the winters. And visiting a jungle in unbearable heat is not an option I would ever consider. So Tadoba visit stayed in the list and got pushed down until I was approached to work on an advertising based presentation for newly set up eco-friendly resort. The group of Red Earth resorts have been around already in Kabini, Karnataka and Wayanad, Kerala for a while now. As the content for the presentation poured in, I had one more reason added to the Tadoba visit. A stunning place and must visit place!
My recent work using coloured inks was the Brown Fish Owl and the finished artwork gave me the confidence to use them to paint birds. Not all bird sketches may look appealing in monochrome.
The first bird that came into mind to experiment further with coloured inks: a Toucan. Colorful birds with colourful beaks! While looking for pictures on instagram and google, I looked out of the window and spotted a bright orange bird on a tree outside the house. An extremely skittish bird, the orange minivet was flying and hopping around branches. In an instant, the far away toucans from a different continent and hemisphere took a back seat, and came home the Orange Minivet.
Living in the jungle has its ups and downs. Jungle is equivalent to wildlife in my case. And that includes the feathered ones apart from the gentle giants visiting us on and off. A stream right outside the gate rises to life in the monsoons. There is a steady flow through the year but it reaches the life-disrupting levels when the god of rains shower the blessings too much on us. Unlike the previous years, this monsoon has been overwhelming for us as well as the water levels in the stream. The rains bring along a whole new ecosystem to our doorstep. The area around stream is teeming with fishes and frogs and algae and snakes and everything else one can imagine associated with a wet ecosystem. Our winged resident is found stationed on one of the tree branches around the stream where direct access to the preys in water is available. The Brown fish owl is a permanent resident around the property but the flowing stream gets the big bird out into our sight.
Rotring pens with the limited coloured inks don’t make it a smooth run for any art piece but I did manage to get the colours that I desired. On a 5.5 X 8.5 inches sheet, this piece took me about 12 hours to finish.
Started on a whim, my love for stippling work has grown much deeper. I loved the outcome of the first piece (Bob Marley) and gave the tiger a shot. I didn’t understand the most important thing about stippling – patience and concentration. Those days I couldn’t focus on a single thing until the end because I had to multitask. The job demanded it then. But as and when I started working on different pieces, my attention span increased and I was loving the end results. That doesn’t mean I haven’t had moments where I wanted to give up half way through a sketch. And I realised later that if I let a sketch be without completion, I found it difficult to go back to it. I hope someday I finish the half done sketches that are lying on the side.