It is never too late to be what you might have been – George Eliot

I struggle with everything…everything. Drawing the right lines, painting the right blends, using the right brush strokes. I am constantly in a state of self-admonishment, because,I yearn for that perfect sweep in my hands to finally overtake the hesitations, which end up halting a process, begun confidently…but frozen somewhere. That freeze is contagious to the canvas, contagious to the every other life task or thought..

I can only tell myself, its not late to still redeem a hesitantly drawn crooked  line, that it can be salvaged, that in the end, even that will have its imperfect beauty…

I guess that explains both the cause and effect of the etching and painting that I made above.

A giant fish is engulfed in large waves, under a night sky…I used only a particular shade of deep blue. I have painted over some parts, to emphasize the waves…

 

 

Autumn

This oil, made with  Autumnal leaves on the foreground, helped me learn about bringing about distance and perspective, as the foreground and background had to be clearly established..The textures on the trees behind, the hanging branch in front, the blurry shadows of the foliage and the lake, receding into the distance, all were challenging and a great learning experience.

Artists can colour the sky red,because they know it’s blue -Jules Feiffer

This red sky in oil, reproduced from a photograph, was delightful to make. There were large swathes of red and orange paint liberally fanned across the canvas. The yellow sun was literally made by wiping away a small circle in the center and filling it with yellow..Silhouette details of the row of camels and the man, were only made, once the background dried up completely.

Artists can color the sky red because they know it’s blue.  – Jules Feiffer.

Jules Feiffer, an American cartoonist and satirist of much fame, to whom these lines are attributed, illustrated the most fantastic book for children. – The Phantom Tollbooth.The book has been written by Norton Juster.

I’d like to lay out the plot…and then my own thoughts.

It tells the story of a bored young boy named Milo who unexpectedly receives a magic tollbooth one afternoon and drives through it in his toy car into the Kingdom of Wisdom, once prosperous but now troubled. There, he embarks on a journey to return to the kingdom its exiled princesses—named Rhyme and Reason—from the Castle in the Air. In the process, he learns valuable lessons, finding a love of learning. The text is full of  wordplay, and many events, such as when Milo unintentionally jumps to Conclusions, an island in Wisdom.

Beginning with Expectations, a pleasant place where he starts he meets the Whether Man, who speaks a lot. Milo daydreams and gets lost in Doldrums, a colorless place where nothing ever happens. Finally after overcoming much, including the Mountains of ignorance and the spelling bee, he is able to finally re-establish the princesses, Rhyme and Reason!

 

By the end of the story, however Milo wakes up, and the next day…finds a note instead of the phantom tollbooth..’for Milo, who now knows the way’. The magic tollbooth has been sent to another child to help him find his direction in life.

This wonderful story has been lauded as a thematic story on the need for education.

I’ve often wondered, how badly we need a phantom tollbooth to actually help us to learn…to continually challenge us…learning never ends..Every time I pick up the colours and brushes, I know this…till then…I will hug tight, my phantom tollbooth….

And its not just learning, but living, experiencing, escalating into the next sphere of awareness..a phantom tollbooth is a conduit to those reaches which seem to constantly nudge at our seams..to break many barriers, perhaps to reveal intricate patterns and processes and possibilities, not known..How much we want to give our soul back to rhyme and reason…to bring the castle in the air, to a workable, practical, reasonable and palpable reality…

 

 

‘Here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten us into’

With the amount of faux pas that I keep making when i work and try to keep covering it with paint or pastels ..I find a lot of comfort and empathy with the above duo!!

Stan laurel said many endearing things..one, I quote below, as something that directly makes light of every dark situation!

‘Humor is the truth; wit is an exaggeration of the truth. ‘

Another of his confoundingly profound lines…

‘I had a dream that I was awake and I woke up to find myself asleep.’

You can lead a horse to water but a pencil must be led – Stan laurel

 My second experiment with oil finds a lot of resonance with the famous comedian Stan Laural’s words… for this endeavour was extremely laborious. It involved kicking myself in the head many times to do and redo brush strokes to get the right effect..

This oil painting , essentially done with blue hues was rather challenging …It involved painting various textures..ice, snow, water, clouds and the foliage of the tree..

WS Merwin and some pop art

” Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.”

Some beautiful lines from the American Poet WS Merwin  (Separation)

I had been wanting to make the use of strong fluorescent colours and strikingly bold patterns..very characteristic of pop art….also known for screaming out more than colour and pattern on the canvas…but also emotion, sometimes to the point of extreme…some would even find it comical and unreal..And thats where the appeal of this kind of art is…

The girl in the picture is probably an attempt of all that…as also the emotion that Merwin so poignantly speaks of…

I used warm colours on her face,cross-sectioning it with warm shadows to emphasize her distress.

 

 

 

 

As people are walking all the time, in the same spot, a path appears – john locke

My first oil on canvas, was fraught with a lot of difficulties…thankfully I was guided very ably through this process…As I learnt, through this particular one, oil painting requires layers and layers of paint…one on top of the other…Everything in these medium is simply made by differing brush strokes. Blue skies with gradient achieved with flat sweeping strokes…undulating landscapes with various other brushes and colours…

A rather tough one…

These lines of John Locke are inspiring as the process of learning can be only laborious and much often we seem to thrash about wildly before finding clarity. John Locke put forth the idea of tabula rasa and that human beings are born with an ’empty slate’ and how experiences that they gather help them to learn and gain knowledge…

http://scienceiscool25.blogspot.in/2009/10/tabula-rasa-blank-slate.html

Much of my learning in art has always been from this blank state and only with much effort and mistakes, have I been learning how to use colours, pencils and now, stepping into paint….

 

 

Portrait – Natasha

This portrait is of my friend Natasha . It is made with colour pencils and was among my first attempts at doing colour portraits. It was quite challenging. I made this from a photograph and it took a long time to get the expression right. The details of the hair and skin tone took many reworkings with different colours and strokes. Working with colour pencils is rather laborious.

When you have nothing else to say…

“Hathiyar daalne ki wajah ye bhi hai,

Pasta qad , raqeeb se jhuk ke lad na saka”

I confess I did not understand the meaning of these words when they were first told to me by my very close friend Natasha, one afternoon..as we spent time, talking and working together. These moments with her, have always been very close to my heart, as they are peppered with sublime thoughts and insights, passing from one to the other.

On a particularly abject day, as I raved and ranted about my concerns and anguish, she spoke these lines..In her usual patient way, she explained, that one can only fight back a circumstance or a person , till the extent that it does not allow you to lower yourself in self esteem.

 

I put these lines into a pastel background with warm colours, using inks and brushes as well as a stamping texture. Reds converging into a bright yellow center brings attention to the text in the middle.

I asked a friend last evening, to help me with  a literal translation of these words, as I feel that its sublimity can be understood only then.

“These two lines belong to a treasure box that is urdu poetry. At no other point in time, this verse could have been more relevant, than it is today.It conveys a mood that is lamenting and loaded with weariness.

Sometimes we give up, not because we are weak, but because we are emotionally exhausted..because we want to end  our suffering..because we don’t want to stoop too low to the level of our rivals, just to win a point.

‘Raqeeb’ is an urdu word that means a rival, especially in the context of love. ‘Pasta-qad’ literally means ‘of low height’ which can also translate into ‘of low stature.. ‘Jhuk’ literally means ‘to bend down’ but in the context of this verse, it means, ‘to stoop low’  “

(translated by Qazi Murtaza)

 

 

 

 

“In a forest of a hundred thousand trees, no two leaves are alike. And no two journeys along the same path are alike.” ― Paulo Coelho, Aleph

This tree drawn with black ink pens and the merest of brush strokes , took a lot of time. i initially wanted to fill it in with with only foliage of various types. But the idea of a tree, teeming with little life forms , slowly seeded in and soon enough…it was covered with a lot of details which were quite educating to draw and make! The beehive, snake, cat atop a branch, apples dangling in bounty,a peacock revealing its feathers in cascading glory..a small owl perched in a branch with oranges. There are birds in the tree’s undercover and vines dropping down…an anthill

All in all, all of the elements of the tree belong to different little realms. perhaps  different types of trees itself…yes..this is a tree out of my imagination..diverse, multifaceted, hidden with life and teeming with it…no two parts are the same…perhaps such kinds of foliage do not grow upon trees..and I haven’t seen an anthill on a tree either…

Yet, I wanted life to course through it..somewhere with birds and insects or a snake…or with large bold leaves or a confusion of small clustered ones..

This is my tree of life..where nothing is alike…and like life, every journey is different..