Year end challenge

Happy New Year!   I havent been painting regularly and hence not been blogging either.  I hope to change all that this year.

I’ve known for a while now that I needed another jump start and decided to take a leap by signing up for Karin Jurick’s year end portrait challenge.  Read more about it on her blog.

Karin Jurick Portrait Challenge 2009

I didn’t get the likeness I was looking for ( Sorry Andrea! ) but I’m hoping it will help me continue with painting regularly in 2010 : )   One thing that this exercise reinforced is the fact that I definitely need to go slow in the early stages : )  It’s been fun though.  And if you paint too I recommend you sign up for Karin’s regular challenges.

It’s been great fun heading off to Karin‘s Different Strokes from Different Folks blog to check out the entries as she was posting them.  A lot of hard work on her part through the year but this challenge required all of that and more right through the holiday season as there were 180 participants!!   Thank you Karin for doing this again.

8″ X 8″ Acrylic on a linen canvas panel.


Tip : Spot the Flaws with Flipped Images

Here’s a tip on using your computer to spot your drawing/painting flaws.  I was too lazy to grab my camera and take photos of two recent drawings that i did and used the webcam and Photo Booth instead.  What i got was the images reversed and what I saw was a whole bunch of flaws glaring back at me 😀  This is another tool that I will use to spot mistakes in future.  I’ve put a the two examples side by side for you to see.  The first in each set is how you would view it and the second the mirror image.

Photo Booth flipped 1

2nd attempt flipped 2

Didn’t want to go around holding paintings in front of my laptop webcam and googled only to be reminded that flipping images is easy on a mac 😛  Use Preview and use the Flip Horizontal command under the Tools Menu and off you go.  The two below are of a portrait that was started recently.
no name - wip flipped

Pattern : Illustration Friday

Pattern. Face after face. Follows a pattern, a formula.  Actually it is more like a guideline.  First to learn then to forget. I didn’t get that when I was learning it. How was I supposed to forget? The eyes to be centered from the top of the head to the chin and so on. I’m taking it into account but it’s not such a conscious decision anymore, more a part of the background conversation.   I remember talking to myself while positioning his ears though.

no name - wip

Today, thanks to Ed Terpening, I saw a video demo of  Peggi Kroll-Roberts showing her guidelines for these patterns. It refreshed my memory and I realised that I need to allow for more space below the nose upto the chin :D.

You can see more videos, read about this workshop and see Ed’s beautiful paintings on his blog.

Work in progress 12″ X 16″ Acrylic on Canvas


I’m on week three, day two of the twelve week journaling programme from Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artists Way“.   All kinds of thoughts and ideas are bubbling into my head and spilling over into the notebooks filled with my out of practice, illegible handwriting.  I’m not so sure I’ll be able to decipher them at the end!

Billy Joel’s song Honesty is for the thoughts currently milling about in my head.   I was thinking about honesty as related to what i put on my blog about my work.  Would love to get your opinion and if you dont agree with the two options I’ve given leave me your suggestion under “others” or as a comment.

Doing this exercise for the second time having gained immensely from it the last time – inspite of not following instructions.  This time I’m trying to do it right.  I have to thank my friend, Rajika for introducing me to the book in 2005 and to Julia Cameron for the incredible advice.  Thank you!   And if you havent tried it it’s an exercise well worth going through.  Take the time to do it.  You wont regret it.

In search of a perfect model

There are a few subjects that I never tire of repeating and one of them is of my husband sleeping.

It all started when I began looking for a model to practise my newly acquired life drawing and painting skills. I needed one who’d be able to hold still for a pose, like the ones we had in college. Since I was just getting the hang of things it seemed wise to also look for someone who was not fussy about the results, available at short notice and on a regular basis. My husband fit the bill perfectly but didn’t share my delight when I told him about my find. All that he had in mind after a hard day at work was to unwind.


Never one to give up easily I tried to catching him unawares when he was watching TV or reading.  He has some sixth sense and would begin to fidget and on being discovered if i asked him to hold the pose for the length of time I needed ( read hours)  he’d complain.   He used to say that he could feel me staring!  I was only trying to be carefully observant.  There are many incomplete sketches as I was too new to incorporate the changes in the pose into my work.

One weekend I had a home assignment.  I need to paint from life.   On discovering that my husband was sleeping I ran and fetched the easel and set it up beside the bed.   There was no time for preliminary sketches or anything like that.  I jumped right in hoping he’d hold the pose for a short while.   And he did.   I liked the way the piece turned out.  I also liked the spontaneity of it all.  Painted in one session as I knew I wouldn’t catch the same pose again.

After that I made several sketches of him sleeping and a digital painting or two too.  After a while we moved cities and I stopped drawing from life relying more on photographs as references for painting.  I found that in photos my models held their poses beautifully for as long as I wanted and at any time of the day or night.  Always in the same clothes and in the same pose upto the nearest mm.   Perfect!

A week ago we were once again living in one room in a hotel.  I took quite a few pictures to use as reference for a series on Ramesh sleeping.   My paints are all packed up and therefore all i could think of was painting.  My trusty wacom was handy.  I quickly uploaded the pics and chose one to do a digital painting with.   Unfinished like a lot of other work that I do but I still like it.

An offering

I was quite busy during the run up to my first solo exhibition and had stopped painting a couple of weeks before. When I came back home, from the opening on a high, all I could think of doing was to start painting again. I got down to it only a few days later on the 31st. This painting just flowed… upto this point 😀 It was extra special not having a need to finish it quickly! A hectic social calendar, a trip to India and then a photo book project ensured that it still stands incomplete on my easel.

An offering - wip

Almost all my paintings have “names”  and this one is called “An offering”.   Today while doing some research on the flower and it’s properties I found some interesting information.

The Bangla month of Ashar began June 15, but only now has the rainy season truly arrived: the kadam trees have blossomed and, in the streets of Dhaka, boys are selling kadam flowers.

Kadam is also available in India and is a flower associated with Krishna.   Here in Bangladesh it is said to usher in the monsoons.  The flower has a lot of medicinal properties too.

Kadam (Anthocephalus cadamba) is traditionally believed to bring happiness and prosperity.  source.

I’ve resurrected this post which had been in draft mode for a while now.  The flurry of activities that keeps me away from painting continues.  We move to Colombo shortly having spent 3 and half happy years here in Dhaka thanks to wonderful friends.  Today the packers have put away all my paints and brushes.   It’s going to be a while before I’m all set up in a new studio.

I know I’m being overly sentimental but moving does that to me.  Here’s wishing you all happiness and prosperity!

Printmaking at Charukala – 1 – Lithography

Time is short and I should be packing but I’ve been sneaking across to the art college to take a few prints. After I was told that there will be a drought as far as printmaking is concerned in Colombo, I couldn’t stop myself.

Rokeya Sultana, a well known artist and a friend teaches at the Charukala Institute of Fine Arts and arranged for me to work there for a few days. The added excitement was that I had her for company as well as two talented and upcoming artists, Anis (woodcut) and Ujjol (lithography) for technical advice and help taking the prints. How could I resist an offer like that?Litho

The plan was to work through for 3 days, making two woodcuts and two lithos.  The woodcuts would be my first and the lithography process a special treat.  It is still done using limestone blocks brought from Germany a long time ago.  Charukala is one of the few colleges in the world that continues to use these blocks making it a rare opportunity.

I’ve now been there for 8 days with a few days off in between but still two more are needed to get somewhat done.  I’ve cut it very fine since the packers arrive tomorrow.  And if they take longer to pack than planned, I’ll have a few incomplete prints on hand.

Initially there were big plans to do something new and different from what I’d done earlier.    Designing a piece using photoshop to collage and compose, take a photocopy and then transfer that onto the stone.  In the end I just wanted to learn the process and began with a freehand drawing on the stones.  My friend Jayant had given me this beautiful reference of two monks sitting on the top of a hill talking and looking out into the distance.  I’m calling it “Old Friends”.  For the second stone I used a reference of Fatima that I was familiar with.  After the drawing I added a tusche wash to get tones.  What I learnt subsequently was that I should not have used both the litho crayon and tusche wash over the same area for shading as all those areas would lose the lines and the tones and turn into a flat colour.   I also learnt that it’s not WYSIWYG.  I wish I could do a couple more to put the learning into use.

Old friends - print

10 prints have been taken with variations of the first colour. I’m not sure how many will survive once the other two colours are added on. You always lose a few to registration problems etc.


While we were taking the prints we had a visitor. I recognized him as the model from one of Kuhu’s life drawing sessions and introduced myself. He was very interested in what we were doing, looked at the stone from various angles and then wandered off without saying a word.  Fatima is posing for the Sculpture students and she too dropped by to see what I was up to.

The last two times I did not record the process.  Even this time it’s been a bit spotty but I thought I’d share what I do have here.  I havent take shots of the cleaning, grinding process or the stone before working on it.  If I can remedy that I shall update it here.

There’s a very nice write-up on lithography on wikipedia.  For a better understanding do read that first and then have a look at the images below. I’ve put a small excerpt for the impatient folks : )

Lithography (from Greek λίθος – lithos, “stone” + γράφω – graphο, “to write”) is a method for printing using a stone (Lithographic Limestone) or a metal plate with a completely smooth surface. Lithography uses oil or fat and gum arabic to divide the smooth surface into hydrophobic regions which accept the ink, and hydrophilic regions which reject it and thus become the background.

First you prepare the stone by grinding it with a flat stone and lots of water.  Then you draw / paint on the stone with crayons and use tusche for the washes to create the oily areas which will accept ink .  You can vary the tones using lighter or darker washes – less or more fat in this case.

Litho Litho Litho

The first image is of the stone after the litho crayon drawing (glass marker can be used too) and tusche wash.  Then the stone was prepared with a thin layer of gum arabic and left to dry for 24hrs.  Oil repels the gum arabic and it gets onto only those areas which are not greasy.  The next day a mixture of gum arabic with a few drops of acid was applied to the stone to etch it.  The acid only eats into the area where the grease is and the other areas are protected by the layer of gum arabic.  The image on the right shows the etched stone after it was cleaned using turpentine.
Litho Litho Litho
And then the ink was prepared on a flat surface and rolled onto the stone.  The stone was sponged repeatedly almost alternately using gum arabic (wait for it to dry) and then plain water to ensure that the ink did not catch in areas it wasn’t meant to.  The first image shows Ujjol rolling the ink onto the stone on the press bed. The second is of the inked block ready for a print.   If you see the process of printing you’d never believe that you’d get a properly registered print!  The 3rd shows Ujjol pulling the print.
Litho Litho Litho
The first pic is of the first print and the last of the 7th or 8th print.  With each inking the block pulls in more ink and the print gets darker.  To reduce the speed of darkening, Ujjol used gum arabic several times before each print.  I’ve put the stone with the original image for you to compare.

I’m still hoping to be able to go back for a few more variations to these prints.  Three with a pale, flat transparent colour on her body and then three with it over the whole stone.  I want to try and capture the colour of the stone.  Still considering other variations for the remaining few 😛

Update : July 26, 2009Found a link to a 1968 film on making woodcuts on the blog Woodblock Dreams and one on making Lithographs on Youtube.  Both very good and definitely worth a look.

After the prints with the first colour were taken the stone was washed with an alum mixture and prepared for the next colour. I painted out areas that were not to receive colour with a gum arabic liquid mixture. The areas without gum arabic were etched once more with a mild nitric acid mixture.


Then the stoned was wiped down with a bitumen mixture and then it was removed with turpentine.


A pale yellow colour was prepared and thinned down heavily with medium to give the colour transparency. The remnants of the bitumen mixed in to give a lovely brown colour which unlike the black colour lightened with every print taken.


A 3rd colour was put in to get the colour of the stone for the background.

Shaky : Illustration Friday

Shaky beginnings.   Test prints of my first two woodcuts.   I still haven’t been able to wrap my head around the fact that what is positive in drawing is negative in relief prints. I’ll get there someday 😛

For the first piece I’ve mostly followed the wood grain and I like the feel and flow.  Like a child I was happy to be able to incorporate the face that I could see in the grain.  The specs are of course an addition and so is the mouth but the rest of the profile was “found”.  I truly enjoy the freedom of doing as I please.

While working on the piece the title that came to mind is “Blind and drowning”    I sent it to a friend  to get some feedback and she saw something in it that I hadn’t but then it became crystal clear.  And then I looked and some more!!   The differences in what we saw reminded me of the TAT test that I had taken  in business school.

The TAT is popularly known as the picture interpretation technique because it uses a standard series of 30 provocative yet ambiguous pictures about which the subject must tell a story. In the case of adults and adolescents of average intelligence, a subject is asked to tell as dramatic a story as they can for each picture, including:

  • what has led up to the event shown
  • what is happening at the moment
  • what the characters are feeling and thinking, and
  • what the outcome of the story was

Source : Wikipedia

If you dare. let me know what you see 😀

Test Print - 1

Test Print - 2Test Print - 1


Check out many more interpretations on

I’m back & the Dhamrai Rath Yatra

It’s been a long break.  I have been around and looking in but things have been moving at a hectic pace.  Since the last post, I’ve had a solo exhibition, a holiday, a finished SoFoBoMo project, rounds of farewell parties for friends and for us as we move next month to Colombo. I’m back and will be posting regularly again.

Dhamrai Rath

Yesterday we went to Dhamrai to watch the Jaganath Rath Yatra.   It is 20km from Dhaka yet it took us two and half hours to get there.  Unfortunately, we were not able to stay to watch the event as I had a dinner engagement.  But we did get to see the Rath (chariot) and the crowds had started coming in and was building up as we were leaving.

Dhamrai Rath Yatra

I was told that eventually there were huge numbers and no place to move.  People after filling the street were lining  terraces, balconies and roofs of the buildings along the route too.  In a way it was better that we left when we did as else we’d never have made it back home in time.

Dhamrai Rath Yatra

There was what seemed like a lot of  police bandobast when we first got there but in all made sense when were heading back and after seeing the pics from last year here.

There are stories and stories built around this event and once such is that it rains on this day every year – tears shed by Madhavi returning to her in-laws home and it did this year too!  You wouldn’t have believed it if you’d felt the heat and seen the sunny skies in the morning.  It was nice and slushy when we got there but the puddles dried up quickly in the heat.

Dhamrai Rath Yatra

Dhamrai is famous for it’s temples, old houses and bronze sculptures, made using a rare process – the lost wax casting technique.  It also has an annual Rath Yatra, a procession in which a chariot takes Lord Jaganath (Krishna), his brother Balaram and his sister Shubhadra to visit his aunt who lived a distance of 2km away.

Dhamrai Rath Yatra

Dhamrai Rath Yatra

Dhamrai Rath Yatra

The chariot is pulled by devotees as it is considered to be very auspicious.   There are huge crowds and many brave these to get closer and at least touch one of the ropes that are pulling the chariot if not actually taking a turn at pulling it themselves. In earlier years, people would arrive a few days before and there would be a fair to keep them busy. This year there were just a few and they were waiting inside the temple for the event to start and some had knotted hair and dreadlocks!

Dhamrai Rath Yatra
Dhamrai Rath Yatra Dhamrai Rath Yatra

Originally there was a 6 storied wooden chariot to take the deities on this journey but this was burnt down in 1971.  It was replaced by another smaller two storied chariot soon after.  While this one is not as elaborate the crowds still gather in unbelievable numbers to be a part of this occasion.

And if you didn’t know, the word juggernaut is derived from the name of this event. In the past, the crowds pulling the chariot and the devotees trying to reach out and volunteer to pull the chariot led to some accidentally falling under the wheels and being crushed to death. Once the wheels were in motion and these 6 storied high heavy wooden chariots pulled by hundreds of people it was difficult to stop them in time. Sometimes these events resulted in stampedes which again were difficult to stop or control. This led the British to coin the word juggernaut, an unstoppable force.

More from wikipedia about the Rath Yatra and on the word juggernaut.   And you can read more about the Dhamrai event and see the pictures of the huge crowds here.    And you can see a selection of about 30 from the 400(!) I clicked on flickr.