Monday, June 26, 2017

Wandering Artist: In Conversation with Rehane

Poochi Venkat invited me to join him for the program curated by Avis Viswanathan at The Wandering Artist. I was not sure what to expect, which was great. All I was told was the place is an interesting spot for hosting workshops including programs that I was attending that evening. Avis Viswanathan also hosts a monthly program at Odessey called the Bliss Catchers. It features conversations with folks who have taken the road less travelled and have made it their own. These interactions in my opinion are very important to help us stay grounded, stick to our dreams, and plod on inspite of the pressure to be materialistically accomplished in life. 

Rehane's journey in the fashion world, one would consider is a privileged one. Her father was in the Indian Foreign Service and that enabled the family to become a global citizen since they travelled a lot. Rehane herself was born in Paris and educated in Rome, and now married and settled in Chennai. However, she did not have it easy either. Her parents divorced when Rehane was 15 and she made the decision to live with their father, which also included her youngest sibling Saba. It was a lonely period I gather to grow up without the love of your mother, but it was a conscious choice and she went through with it. At the most important juncture of her life, she received the news her mother had been murdered in the most tragic circumstances and this made international headlines. When she was asked about how she coped with the loss, Rehane matter-of-factly says that she never had any bonding with her mother after their separation. So while she felt sad, it did not emotionally wreck her. 

In the world of fashion, she had to make her mark. One of the most important takeaways for me in this conversation was her response to tailoring fashion to different regions. Chennai is considered conservative, Bombay and Delhi, probably more fashionable and so on. So how does she manage to make it work in Chennai! She makes an important point about being a global citizen. Since she has lived everywhere, making a move to Chennai was like any other city. It did not hinder her thinking nor did she think the city had limitations. Instead she worked with what she was offered and what she could find. In keeping fashion relevant to the times, her answer was bold and hard hitting. She said, "Your work should be relevant to you, not to the world. Everything has a market. Everything."

In my own journey as an artist, I am sometimes consumed by self-doubt about my work. Are oils more commercially accepted than watercolors? Is realism still relevant? I am not ready for abstracts. I love art. So it shall be. I continue on this journey of self-discovery as an artist, on my own terms, at my own pace.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Calvin's Cloud

Don't grieve. Anything you lose comes around in another form.


Sunday, June 04, 2017


Meeting acclaimed artist Senathipathi was a dream come true. I was offered the opportunity to accompany Poochi Venkat to meet the acclaimed artist at the Cholamandal Artist Village. I knew I could not pass this one up. As I stepped into his office, I felt I was walking into a dream. The walls were adorned with beautiful ink drawings and acrylic works, depicting Ganesha playing the Veena, Hide and Seek, and other famous themes for which Senathipathi's work is known all over the world. 

He gave me a lovely tour of his works including those of his children, who are artists and metal sculptors in their own right. His warmth and hospitality made a huge impact. He showed his canvas, the medium, the use of a simple ink pen and bottle of ink, which form the base for his ink drawings; and the white texture and knife painting brush to make the canvas base for the acrylic works. 

His use of black struck me. Black is a solid, overpowering color, which I feel in my limited experience, should be used intelligently. Senathipathi, with his every stroke had captured the bhava, or the spirit of his characters, be it mythology, love between a man and woman, or mother and child with the use of black predominantly. His characters expressed every rasa in each canvas: Insecurity, playfulness, affection, intimacy.

What I really loved was the relevance of his works. It will resonate for generations to come. Any one at any point in time across the age divide will always feel connected to his painting. 

I would love to visit him to watch him at work and maybe, when the time comes, afford one of his paintings to go on my wall. You can learn by listening, by watching demonstrations, or by simply being in such great company.

In that short interaction of an hour, I knew I wanted to pursue art more than ever. As Ludwig Van Beethoven quoted, "Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine."

Today, I experienced it.

Make good art.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Monday, May 29, 2017

Juggling Priorities

I have been trying to get a better handle on all the activities I am involved in. Over time, I realized there was too much on my plate and I got worn out. My art classes are going on full swing and I'm trying to keep the pace with my classical guitar class as well. I am committed to my art more than ever. I just finished two watercolor paintings, which I absolutely enjoyed. I took this photograph of a tree in Autumn, while in Philadelphia. Maybe the group exhibition we are planning might pull through, but no one knows for sure. 

Mornings, I used to be a part of a run group, but the timing and lack of sleep combined with the humidity brought everything to a screeching halt. It happens every time. This is one area where dedication is still required. My eating habits are a lot better now. I have cut down on unnecessary binge eating, which adds to unwanted calories. Eating mindfully, savouring each bite is also important. So I chew and eat slowly rather than gulping down food. My colleague has challenged me to a fitness routine that involves intermittent fasting, giving up coffee which is as difficult as quitting smoking. Two months ago, even without the exercise regimen, just with a slightly demanding diet, I was told I rocked the look. A month's break recovering from a viral fever and vacation killed it in no time. I am back to square one. So I'm taking up this challenge not to prove my colleague wrong, but tell myself as much as I am a foodie, I can still have a regulated moderate eating pattern. I think it is important to acknowledge certain quirks of your personality before you can even start making the change. 

I just had two Karachi biscuits and a block of home made chocolate. I need to learn to say No. So plan from tonight is to go easy on carbs and load up on protein with a 40 minute moderate work out. Let's see how it pans out. I am also considering gifting myself a fitbit to keep a 10,000 step goal, which roughly works out to 7 km everyday. 

Next on the agenda is zeroing in my trek for this year. Last year it was the beautiful Valley of Flowers in Uttarakand, and this year it could be Hampta pass in Kullu or Roopkund in Garhwal, Himalayas. One of my lifetime goals is to visit the mountains on a trek every year. I also met likeminded friends from my trek last year. It remains one of the most life changing moments.

Make Good Art.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Calvin's CLoud

Don't alone practice your art, but force your way into its secrets. Art deserves that; for it and knowledge can raise man to the Divine.

Ludwig Van Beethoven

You Were a Part of That Group Right?

I am not one for encouraging herd mentality. It has not been easy. I had moved from my earlier run group to another run closer to home that offers basic training. Yes, I am starting from zero. Even run groups have rearranged themselves with new members, some have stayed back and yet others have moved on. Somehow the mindset alone seems frozen while everything else around seems to adapt.

Atleast two of them have asked, " Hi, how are you? How come you are in this group? Were you not a part of that group?". Naturally, I had to tell them about my commitment to getting up early in the morning for a fitness regime and then getting home on time to get ready for work. So accessibility is key. At this time, I am still on track. I wake up; do my core workout with a warm up 2 kilometer run. After an hour's routine, we all head back to our respective lives.

There was only one person who encouraged me to come back for running and infact thought it is possible for me to aim for a full marathon in December at the Wipro Marathon. No other questions asked. 

Why can't we have more people like that who rise high with their thinking and focus on what matters most? How does it matter which Group I belong to as long as I am able to stay motivated? 

This is what I told her, "I joined this group since my other run group moved to a farther location. Anyway, it does not matter which group I belong to as long as I stay healthy and am running."

Yet again, when a former running-mate called me after hearing the news of the move, she wanted to do the same too, but needed the courage to tell our former trainer that she wanted to train closer to home and then join my current training group. Does this not surprise you? It almost sounds silly that moving from one herd to another causes so much anxiety, especially, when the purpose is different and there are no strings attached.  

When you have the generosity of mind, you encourage people to explore and enrich themselves, and not hold them back. My art teacher encourages me to attend other art teachers' sessions to understand different styles and approaches to the subject. He does not feel insulted in any way.

What nurtures one's mind and heart? Is it books, friends, travel, experience, or is it just how you are?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Playing C Major, G Major, and A Minor with Metronome at 100

After two long years, I finally played a melody from C Major and G Major, and my favorite of all, the prelude from A Minor with a metronome  4/4 tempo of 80 and then 100. My teacher signed-off all three songs on an excellent note. Every class, his first question starts with, "Did you practice?" and for the longest time, my answers have been wobbly, much to our disappointment. 

Today, it was a moment of glory for both my teacher and me. He quietly handed me a book of songs from Grade 1 to Grade 5. It was the moment I had been waiting for. Earlier my teacher told me I was not ready. 

I start Grade 1 exam preparation in classical guitar next week. This is only the beginning. A consistent dedicated practice will transform you not as a student, but as an artist, as a classical guitarist. You may not even realise it. Therein lies the beauty.

This is no different from my art class. 

The first question my art teacher asks when I step into class is always the same; "Did you practice some shading?". My answers were no better and that always upset him. I started practicing drawing and shading from Anatomy Lessons from the Great Masters. Every class, I try and show him one piece of completed work for his review. The results were obvious to both my teacher and me. Each oil painting I worked on has improved leaps and bounds. Its unimaginable. 

In both cases, perseverance as you stumble and fall is an important quality to nurture. Never let that erode your confidence or your sense of self. Building on it piece by piece, with patience, a little bit of love, until you achieve the proportions without giving in to despair comes with time. I am working on it.

Today, I speak and feel as an artist. Painting the Red Whispering Bulbul and see her come to life has been a work of joy. Art is so meditative. 

When you become one with your art, your soul completely surrenders. The artist no longer plays. Its the soul that sings.

Make Good Art.

Calvin's Cloud

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.
Thomas Merton